Friday, February 28, 2014

Patiently, Patiently....O Lord, How Long?

Friday, February 28, 2014
When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.                     John 12:9-11 (NRSV)
You’ve been there; don’t tell me you haven’t. 
You just stopped at the grocery for a couple items.  You’re there for a stick of gum, three bananas and a half-gallon of milk, and……..look at that mother of all lines!  There are thirty-two checkout counters and only 3 are lit up!  If you go home without that milk there will be no peace in the house, and you’re not really into spending the next 25 minutes developing a deep and meaningful relationship with the tattooed guy ahead of you, or the odd-smelling one behind, so you are busy trying to remember if there’s a pasture on the way home where there might be a cow to milk.

Then the unimaginable good thing happens…

Another line is about to be opened, and the cashier is looking right at you, pointing to the counter two rows over; she gives you that unmistakable “over-here-get-out-of-jail-free-you’re-next-smile.  You clutch the milk and bananas and do your best Olympic high jump over two toddlers clinging to their mother as you knock over two candy racks and a video display in your dash for freedom.  But you’re not quick enough!

A lady with three tons of groceries in two carts cuts you off and sweetly smiles as she informs you I believe I was next in line

Now, you’re a Christian; that should mean something at this point, but these bananas are going to be overripe if you don’t get out of this store in the next thirty seconds.  And, besides, the woman must be Satan’s sister; everyone could easily see that you were next in line….and, who does she think she is...if she was really a nice person she’d let your milk and bananas go first. 

Rewind to 33 AD.

Lazarus is minding his business dying…then the gates of heaven. Suddenly he not only loses his place in line, he’s yanked out of the line altogether….Lazarus, come forth!

A few weeks later he and Jesus are the center of attention.  That is….they’re at the top of the Sadducees and Pharisees “hit list”.  Lazarus thinks to himself, “How fair can this be?  I already died once; I had Paradise in view, and this time they want to hang me”!

Reality check

There’s always something bigger going on than you think!  Whether it’s being patient with the obnoxious person who takes your place in line at Food Lion, or trying to make sense of the Lazarus syndrome (“now you’re in your body…now you’re not….back in again and the religious leaders want you dead”).

The lady at the grocery store didn’t have a fish symbol or Jesus bumper sticker on her car (I watched as she pulled away). 

(Oh, I forgot to mention it was ME doing that Olympic Toddler-jumping move.)

The question still lingering in my mind two days later is, did I blow the moment with my lack of patience?  Was there something bigger than overripe bananas at stake here?  Was this a divine appointment?  Was I trashing an opportunity to be a Lazarus-kind of witness to a weary woman trying to get home to her six hungry kids?

(On the odd chance that weary lady is reading this – I’m sorry I wasn’t more gracious;   you met the human Russell yesterday.  I was doing a good job of hiding the Jesus you should have seen.  You really were next in line…my line of people Jesus wanted to love and hold.)

Today…for you

Join me in a prayer?  Lord, next time help me be ready…patiently!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Consecration and Conflict

Thursday, February 27, 2014
Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”  (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)  Jesus said, “Leave her alone.  She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”   John 12:3 - 8 (NRSV)

In one totally unashamed act of worship Mary defined Christian discipleship.  She brought what may have been the most expensive gift she could ever lay at/on Jesus’ feet – her spikenard perfume, and her heart’s devotion.  

Warren Wiersbe wrote: 
Mary’s example of devotion is one we should follow. She gave her best; she gave lavishly; she gave in spite of criticism; she gave lovingly.[1]

Of course, when people act that way, falling at Jesus’ feet in total surrender, lavish praise and loving worship, criticism and conflict cannot be far behind.  And how telling is the fact that Judas’ criticism centered on the cost of Mary’s gift – the money.  Isn’t it always about the money?  Judas said nothing about what wonderful praise was heaped upon the Son of God – only a high sounding (low motive) shot about wasting resources.

Notwithstanding, Mary’s gift filled the house with a sweet fragrance, and that is the whole point:  our unselfish gifts of praise are what linger in heaven, no matter who condemns us on earth.  Mary wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair seemed scandalous to earth-bound minds, but Jesus set it right; he said …leave her alone.  And “right” it has stood for two thousand years…and on into eternity.

Good Story…what about us?

A question:

When is the last time you followed Mary to Jesus’ feet?  Have you ever given something away – extravagantly, lavishly, and you just loved the giving…simply because of the love in your heart for Christ? 

And perhaps it is also right we ask the other question:

Has it been too often you followed Judas into that room?  Have you criticized the spontaneous worship of others?

Today…for you

Can there be a more perfect setting than the upcoming season of Lent to engage in “giving-up” Judas-criticism in favor of Mary-praise?

Got any alabaster boxes around the house?






[1] Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament, © 2003, Quickverse, a division of Findex.com, Inc.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Art of Division

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Let me describe for you a worthless and a wicked man; first, he is a constant liar; he signals his true intentions to his friends with eyes and feet and fingers.
He is always thinking up new schemes to swindle people.  He stirs up trouble everywhere.  But he will be destroyed suddenly, broken beyond hope of healing.  There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that hurry to run to evil, a lying witness who testifies falsely, and one who sows discord in a family.  Proverbs 6:12-19 (NRSV)

It’s a pretty odious list – lying, killing the innocent, plotting; but note the Hebrew mind presents this list as if building a mountain.  The peak of the mountain would be what the Lord hates most, #7 – sowing discord in a family.  I call it the “art of division”.

The phrase brings up the picture of a worthless man with a broadcast spreader, showering words of flattery, deceit and misdirection over people who should be cooperating for good.  These are “weed words” designed to divide friends, co-workers, neighbors and nations.  Instead of sowing confidence and truth among people, a worthless person divides and weakens.

…and God says he HATES that!  

And whatever God says He hates has a tendency to run into trouble…big trouble!  

Today…for you


Someone once said, taste your words before you spit them out.  Good advice!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ears Open - Heart Straight - Eyes on the Road - Sure Foot

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
My child, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Do not let them escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.  Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.  Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.  Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure.  Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.     Proverbs 4:20-27 (NRSV)

The advice of Mother or Father to a child should carry the kind of weight and wisdom Solomon shared with his children – that which he’d learned at his father, David’s knee.  The wisest man ever shared with his son how “guarding his heart” was the greatest and most urgent requirement for living a godly life.  Can it be said any plainer than that?  Unguarded is unprepared!

My first-ever practice with our high school football team demonstrated to me what can happen if you are unguarded.  The coach wanted me to catch a pass.  I’d rehearsed the “moves” in my mind…four quick steps off the line, zig left, cut right, up the field for a touchdown; I was going deep! 

The defensive player guarding me let me take the first step forward and then knocked me on my blessed assurance!  I was concentrating so much on my fancy footwork and the praise the coach would heap on his best new wide receiver…I never saw it coming.  There was no touchdown for me, only a great lesson about being “unguarded” (and a ringing-in-the-ear headache)!

Remember what Solomon said:

Ears open – listen to wise advice and poor advice with heart mind and soul, but make sure you are prepared to separate the wheat from the chaff; weigh advice carefully!

Heart straight – don’t be easily thrown off track; know your goals and stay on course.

Eyes on the road – concentrate; distractions will sideline you if you snooze!

Sure foot – recognize evil for what it is and stick with truth.

Today…for YOU

Guard your heart and hearth.  

Life is indeed a tough teacher, but it’s more than just the elements and chance occurrences of circumstances.  There is also the enemy, Satan; he is “roaming about, seeking whom he may devour”. (1 Peter 5:8)


Don’t be unguarded; put on the full armor of God!


Monday, February 24, 2014

An Unfair and Lying God

Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?  Job 2:10b
We teach our children to trust God.  But then, when something tragic happens, or if we pray and don’t see the result we’d like, our trust turns to temper, and God is at fault. 
The story you will hear was written by a college student; she was assigned the task of arguing from the unpopular side of a controversial topic.  It is entitled “An Unfair and Lying God”.  It is a good paper; I only take one exception…it is not really the Unpopular side, it’s the side exhibited by even Christian believers.
While lying in the labor room, anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child, I prayed for God to take away the horror and pain I was experiencing.  At least six hours had passed since my prayer, and the pain had increased tremendously. 
I silently prayed, Please God, take away this pain, or let me die.  God did neither!  He let me lay there and suffer.  I wondered what I had done for Him not to come to my rescue as the healing, comforting God I’d been told about for so many years.  After my daughter was finally born I asked my husband, a respected and religious person, “Why do women have to suffer tremendous pain in childbirth?”  He piously answered, “Because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”  He said, “God said, I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.  In pain you shall bring forth children.” (Genesis 3:16). 
I choked at hearing those words.  I thought, to myself, Why do I have to be cursed because Eve disobeyed?  She picked one apple from a tree that God had told her not to touch. 
I decided God was acting like an unfair, angry child that didn’t get His way.  Someone took something of His that He didn’t want touched; so, in spite he cursed mankind.  I didn’t know Eve, and I wasn’t there when she picked that apple. 
In Genesis 1:29 God said, “He gave us (mankind) every plant yielding seed on the surface of the earth, and every fruit-bearing tree; and it was to be our food.  He lied, and punished both Adam and Eve. 
I have delivered two more children since that time, and God must still be holding me responsible for Eve’s defiance.  
God surely is an unfair God!
Every Sunday morning in church parents take their tiny tots to their Sunday School rooms to learn of God’s love.  Many times I can hear the children singing songs of how Jesus loves the little children, and that God is love. 
In the Bible Genesis 7, there is an exact account of God’s unfairness.  He arbitrarily chose a family, and told them to build a large boat in which they could live.  He told them how to stock it with food, and directed the choice of animals to take along.  When their boat was completed they took up residence, and sealed the door.  And when God was sure they were safe, He caused a great flood, drowned the world, and every living thing in it.  Children, puppies, kittens, tiny birds, Grandmas and Grandpas all perished.  Obviously, God sets the rules.  If we don’t play by His rules, He destroys us.  I ask you, is this a fair God?
There’s an interesting story told in the Bible Exodus 20, of God speaking to a man called Moses.  He supposedly gave Moses and set of rules for people to live by that will cause their lives to be richer and happier.  He said “Children, honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land God gives you.” 
That didn’t work well for a friend who was brought up in a Christian church.  She attended every class and meeting at her parent’s request, was very respectful, and loved them intensely.  Karin obeyed their every command; she died the summer of our Junior year in high school.  Despite her loud screams and frantic cries for help, God chose not to save her from drowning.  Where was God?  Why wasn’t He there to help her live those long numbered days He promised to give her for obeying her parents? 
That promise was just another lie! 
And speaking of lies; if the Jews are God’s chosen people Genesis 12:1-3, why were they persecuted, and put in captivity in Egypt?  Why was Hitler allowed to brutally torture, and bake them in ovens like Thanksgiving turkeys? 
Where was God then?  Why didn’t He hold true to His promise of Genesis 12, and rescue these people?  Lies, lies, lies.
A New Testament verse states, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  Nonsense; any meek person I have ever met has been withdrawn, abused and walked- over. 
Another verse says “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” Matthew 5:10.  Most often persecution ends in death; who cares about being blessed if you’re dead?  Why can’t we be blessed while we’re alive? 
I’m confused.  The Bible says that God said Satan is the author of confusion.  But I’m confused with what God was supposed to have said.  Wow!  What a confusing lie!
How many times have we heard prayer requests for terminally ill people?  How many times, to our knowledge, have those terminally ill people been cured? 
As encouragement to pray, God said, “Ask and it shall be given to you, for everyone who asks receives. “ Matthew 7:7.  I have asked God for things, and never received them.  I’ve prayed for health, and remained sick.  I’ve prayed for money, and remained poor.  Do you suppose He forgot His promise?  Liars often do, you know!
My children, who are now grown, and professing Christians, often ask me to pray with them.  I agree most of the time to pray with them because I like to support their needs.  I know their requests won’t be granted because too many times God has proven Himself to be an unfair liar.  Just as He turned away from the nation of Israel, and allowed them to suffer, He‘ll turn away from my children.  Like many other professing Christians they are waiting, standing by for God to fulfill His promises to them.  But I know the truth; I know God is an unfair, lying God. 
So I tell them, “Be not anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[1]
What can you say to a person whose faith has been kicked from pillar to post, clobbered by life at every juncture, lives with pain and heartache, and has come to the cynical conclusion that God, if He really does exist, is unfair, untruthful and uncaring? 
This morning we take our text from the oldest book in the scripture, Job.  And with this texts there are some answers we can give to the oldest question known to man, Where is God when I hurt…And why do I have to hurt anyway?

1.             YOU CAN SAY: I SUFFER WITH YOU

The story of Job is perhaps familiar.  We see a man of wealth, position and respect.  In fact Job was the cream of the crop.  And he was honest…an all-around good guy!  In the space of only a chapter and a half we find Satan has gotten God to agree to let him test Job, to see if Job’s loyalty was only a matter of gratitude for all the materialistic blessings of life.  The test would be to take it ALL AWAY
So everything went; the business, the houses, even Job’s kids were wrenched form his life by an accident.  The only thing Satan left him was his wife.  (An early church father Chrysostom wondered in his writings why the devil left Job his wife, and answered with the suggestion that he considered her a scourge by which to plague him more acutely that by any other means.) 
Just when it seemed things just couldn’t get worse, Job comes down with a good case of dermatitis.  Actually, the word used has been connected with much more than what is commonly acknowledged as boils.  The word suggests leprosy, Egyptian plague…which checks with the symptoms Job describes:
Breeding of worms 7:5, horrible dreams 7:14, sensation of choking 7:15, fetid breath 9:17, corrosion of the bones 30:17, blackening and falling off of the skin 30:30.
If all that isn’t enough, Mrs. Job casually suggests suicide. 
Although Job’s friends have been generally referred to as his tormenters, I believe they had just the medicine he needed at first.  THEY JUST SAT WITH HIM…SUFFERING!  Sometimes that is all we can do.  Sometimes that the BEST we can do!  The world will avoid the sufferer. 
We may have nothing we feel we can say to help the suffering – in fact there is precious little that will help in a lot of circumstances.  But we can be there; we can suffer-alongside.  That is the ministry of the Paraclete, God’s Holy Spirit, the One who is called-alongside.

2.             YOU CAN ALSO SAY…SUFFERING WILL CHANGE US. 

Suffering is one human activity that will always produce a change.  You never come out from a valley the same person; only God remains the same.  As one theologian put it We are not looking at essential divinity, but at possible humanity.   We are faced with what we CAN BE when we are forced to undergo an experience of suffering. 
An infant honey bee is sealed in a cell in the comb with enough food to last until maturity.  When the supply is gone, it’s time to get out.  The struggle the young bee experiences in wriggling out of the cell rubs off the membrane that covers its wings, making it possible to fly, once free.  If something happens to the wax cover that seals in the young bee, and it is not forced to struggle its way out, it will be unable to function as a worker, and the other bees will sting it to death.  Struggling, suffering prepares us to participate in life. 
The Psalmist (119:71) knew what suffering was for,
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes.
Suffering will indeed change us.  We come into this world like a rough block of marble.  In time we may become a statue of great beauty, but it does not happen without the Master’s chiseling and hammering of grief, struggle and disappointment – the whole range of sad experiences which fill life so full.  These are the tools of the Great Artist!

3.             MOST OF ALL YOU CAN SAY...GOD LOVES US

This, perhaps more than any single thought, was what Job clung to in the darkness of his trial when he was tempted to turn,
A LOVING LOD ONLY LETS WORTHY THINGS
HAPPEN TO THOSE WHO LOVE HIM
Romans 8:28 is what I cling to, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” 
The things that happen may not be so good.  But according to the absolutely dependable Word of God they are bringing about something good!  What is that good something God is working on?  Most often it has to do with bringing me closer to God. 
WHERE IS GOD WHEN I SUFFER?  He is as near as my next breath, drawing me closer to him!  I am prone to wander and forsake the God I love.  I know that’s inconsistent, but that is who you and I ARE!  We were created for fellowship with God.  And when something threatens that fellowship God will move heaven, earth and anything else that keeps us apart.  He tries us, tests us, and when we resist and whine and run the other way He sometimes breaks us…..BECAUSE HE LOVES US!
·        Abraham was tried severely, with the life of his only son. 
·        Paul labored with a “thorn in the flesh”. 
·        Jesus, even the perfect Son of God “was made perfect through sufferings.” 
Old Job would have been just another rich guy in long forgotten history had his life been a bed of roses.  In every affliction God is working out good for His children. 
So, angry unbeliever….wounded and discouraged saint….you ask,
ISN’T GOD UNFAIR? 
AND YOU GET AN ANSWER:  YES!  DEFINITELY YES! 
In all that God has given man his very life and breath, and that God has provided for every need, including the struggles of life to make him strong – man has turned against God! 
And this God, UNFAIRLY returned love for hate, died for man, making provision for our eternal salvation.
That is certainly the most unfair transaction in all eternity!



[1] Written by Mrs. Elizabeth Brownworth, May 1988

Lament

Monday, February 24, 2014
Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.    Psalms 80:3 (NLT)
The Psalmist saw Israel in shades of gloomy gray!  Psalm 80 is part of a corporate lament expressing the grief and sorrow connected with defeat and exile.  Israel is pictured as God’s vineyard, broken-down and left in ruins.  (Seems perfect for a Monday, eh?)

The choices for Israel were all scary (aren’t they always that way when you’re not in control?):
          1.      They could accept their captive status and live the life of slaves…forever defeated and entirely unlike beings created in the image of God.

          2.      They could deny anything has happened and live in memory of greater days…forever a caricature of the conquering children of God.  (This is the Emperor’s New Clothes option – confident in their minds that the good days are on the way back, but, in reality, impotent and naked before the world.)

          3.      A final scary option:  totally abandon themselves to God’s choices for their future by confessing their sin and humbly waiting for God’s strength to revive and/or restore them to what He wanted.

God’s people of the exiles were corrupted spiritually long before their political captivity began.  It’s no small leap to figure out that, to reverse the process, first a spiritual healing would have to take place; then (if God approved) a political revival could begin.

In conversation yesterday (Sunday) with a church member we discussed the lament of today’s church.  With something like 4 of every 5 churches in America rated as either declining in membership, or simply “just holding-on” there is plenty of wailing to be done. 

In the United Methodist Church the term “revitalization” is the current watchword.  Bishops and other leaders proscribe “indicators” of what a revitalized church (local and global) will look like.  Like captive Israel of old, revitalizing – claiming our spiritual heritage and strength is something of an “Emperor’s New Clothes” issue, because re-vitalized presupposes anyone really knows what vital looks like.  For a denomination that’s been in decline for half a century, that’s a sobering thought.

Is there any GOOD news?

There’s always good news.  And whenever it takes hold, this Good News (Gospel) is a fresh wind of revival.  But it’s always on God’s terms

“Turn us again to yourself, O God.” 

Throughout the last two millennia, whenever the people of God have decided to lay aside their “Emperor’s rags” and stand naked in the hands of Almighty God, the Spirit of God has moved among us, changed us, and set the world on its ear. 

I wonder if we’re capable of doing that in our Mainline denominational machinery?  I wonder if we’re capable of doing that in our focus groups and caucuses?  If not – and I truly wonder if God really wants that anyway – then it would be good news indeed for a fresh wind of revival to come bubbling-up from outside the walls of the church buildings.

Today…for YOU

Is there any “fresh-wind” of God’s Spirit blowing through your life?  Psalm 80 is a good place to lay down the rags of slavery.  

Let the revival begin.



Title Photo:  https://blog.spu.edu/lectio/out-of-the-depths-onto-the-heights/

Friday, February 21, 2014

Holy Heart; Healthy Heart

Friday, February 21, 2014
When I was a little guy, I’d come in from playing rough-'n-tumble with the guys; Mom would send me to the bath.  I'd run the water, sit on the edge of the bathtub, wet the end of the washcloth, and clean a little spot right in the middle of my forehead.  I could then announce with a clear conscience that I'd washed.  Mom would say, "Get real!"

Reality says that if you are not 100% clean you are still dirty.  In a spiritual sense you are never clean, simply by quitting one or two bad habits and going to church; that is reformation.  If you get rid of all the bad habits, go to church all the time, go on mission trips, sing in the choir and give all your money – that is incredible reformation.  And it still isn't enough; in fact, it's not even what God wants, or what He requires! God requires a transformation.  Your heart must change before your actions mean anything! 

How do you do that?  How do you change?  YOU don't!  Christ does it in you!    

There is a principle of love that says you love what the one you love lovesPaul says to get rid of all that shopping-list of bad things, but our problem is that we love those things; we have a base nature that tends to get worse, not better.  

The only way to get rid of all those bad things is to love the opposite.  

When you begin to place your heart’s affection on Christ, the one Who died for you, your desire for the baser things in life will begin to grow strangely dim.

Today…for YOU

Where will your mind dwell today, earth….or heaven?


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kneeling With the Heart

Thursday, February 20, 2014
What does it mean to be a person who kneels before God?  Spiritually, kneeling is more than just an outward posture.  Kneeling implies placing one’s entire life at God’s disposal. 

Paul says we have "died" with Jesus, so we ought to be raised with Him.  The picture is one of being entwined as a rope's strands.  Anywhere the central strand goes, so goes the rest.  We have become submissive to Him.  We no longer respond to the things of the past; now we submit to Christ.  Every choice should reflect Christ in us.

In our culture we are taught to be assertive and self-sufficient.  But Christianity means dependency on Christ, submissiveness.  Our lives are hidden, or locked-up with Jesus.  It's a one-way door that brings us into the presence of God.

How do you feel about worship?  Not just in the church house, but a constant awareness of the presence of Christ.  Do you sense Him riding in the car, at work and when you're changing a diaper?  Is His imprint there when you go to the bank or a ball game?  A.W. Tozier said, "We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God."  Our measure of how our life is going as a Christian is that Christ IS our life.  

Today…for YOU
How “wrapped-up in Christ” is your life?


Title Photo:  http://heavenawaits.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/holy-prayer.jpg

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dysfunction in the Desert

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Then Laban declared, “This pile of stones will stand as a witness to remind us of the covenant we have made today.”  This explains why it was called Galeed—“Witness Pile.”  But it was also called Mizpah (which means “watchtower”), for Laban said, “May the LORD keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this covenant when we are out of each other’s sight.  If you mistreat my daughters or if you marry other wives, God will see it even if no one else does.  He is a witness to this covenant between us.     Genesis 31:48 - 50 (NLT)
The story line is “epic family turmoil”.  Jacob tricks his brother Esau out of the birthright and has to leave town in the middle of the night because brotherly love is not working for them.  Jacob winds up living with his uncle Laban, who carries on the tradition of being a deceiver.  This time Jacob is the one who is fooled, thinking he is getting Rachel for a wife, but winds up with the “not so beautiful” older sister, Leah (her name means “weak eyes”).

Fast-forward twenty years and Jacob is leaving town in the middle of the night again.  This time he’s leaving Laban’s lair with Rachel and Leah and their children and all the flocks and possessions Jacob has managed to skim off the top of Laban’s fortune.

Laban catches up with Jacob’s wagon train and demands to search the whole outfit for stuff that’s been stolen.  Rachel is sitting on top of the pile of stolen goods and fools her father into not looking under the camel saddle.  Everybody’s fooling somebody!

The scene ends with Jacob and Laban making a treaty; the pact is a separation agreement and calls God to witness between them and watch over them when they don’t have eyes on each other.  Nobody trusts anybody.  Talk about a dysfunctional family tree! 

Moral lesson:  Treachery breeds distrust…and rightly so.

It’s pretty clear from Jacob and Laban’s example, treating one another with anything less than truth and honesty leads to the emptiness of never being able to trust (or be trusted).  Treachery breeds more of the same.  Where’s the love?

How’s your family getting along?

Now…don’t answer that, it’s just a rhetorical question.  I already know the answer.  Your family is getting along better than you think – and worse than you let others see.  We all have our masks for public behavior (except on Jerry Springer). 

If you took the time to compare your family with Jacob, Esau, Laban and the lot, more than likely you could breathe a little easier about your situation.

But, before you close the door on ancient Jewish failures, consider what God did with the likes of Jacob.  From Jacob’s line came leaders of the Jewish nation, prostitutes, murderers, conspiracy and kings.  

And, about two thousand years ago, from that line a child was born in a cattle feeder.  His parents were nobodies – a simple carpenter and his teenaged fiancĂ©.  And the carpenter from Nazareth, descendant of Jacob the deceiver, changed time and eternity.

Today…for YOU

Don’t give up on your family.  God uniquely placed you in that group – delightful or dysfunctional – or both.  And He does have some plan that will work together for good when you take time to trust him.
Hang in there with that crew – you’re part of what makes them what they are, and what God wants to make of them.


Title Photo:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/naum/994514559/