February 18, 2011

Today you should read: Genesis 35:1-28

Has there ever been a time when you felt God calling you to a higher level of devotion and it completely freaked you out? I’m not talking about Him calling you to have a quiet time. Let’s be honest – the God of the universe is worthy of our time and attention. The type of devotion I am talking about is one that calls you to sacrifice, to completely change a habit, and maybe even to rearrange your schedule based upon what He desires of you.

To a certain extent, this is what is going on with Jacob and his family. In verse 1, the text makes clear that it has been a long time since Jacob has met with God at Bethel. Evidently, some things had shifted in the life of Jacob as well as in his family since his first visit to Bethel. Jacob senses God’s call, and a closer look at his family leads us to ask some questions…

1) Verse 2: Jacob calls his family and all those who were with him to put away foreign idols
Question: Why were they worshipping idols?

2) Verse 2: Jacob calls his family and all those who were with him to purify themselves and change their garments.
Question: Why did they need to be purified?

So I ask you…

1) Are you worshipping any idols? Here are a few that I have to destroy daily: TV, Facebook, books and knowledge, praise of man, freedom (being a guy who does what he wants when he wants), and many more.
Hear me clearly: I am not saying these things are bad in and of themselves. But when they become a God-substitute – when I know that God is calling me to act according to His voice – these things become idols.

2) In what ways does your devotion to Christ need to change?
The question I ask myself is this: “Do I find my complete satisfaction in Christ alone?” The only way I will be able to destroy idols is if I seek Him and savor Him for all He is as Lord and Savior of my life.

Now it’s time to dig in. Jacob was called by God to return to Bethel. This is a big deal. Jacob’s devotion during his first experience with God at Bethel is drastically different than it is at this point in scripture. God is calling him back to radical and fearless devotion to Himself and Him alone. This journey back to Bethel signifies a new chapter in Jacob’s life which more closely resembles the type of faith that he had the first time at Bethel.

Today’s Walk-Away:

– Is your passion for Christ as steadfast and unshakable as it was when you first put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior?

– Is God calling you to a higher level of devotion and, if so, what does this look like in your life?

– What idols in your life need to be destroyed?

– In what ways does Jacob’s leadership (calling his people to get rid of anything that distracted their thoughts from God and to purify themselves) impact you?

Posted by: Zach Monroe

February 17, 2011

Today you should read: Genesis 34:1-31

I have to be honest and say that I may not be the best person to give a correct perspective on this passage. I have two sisters, and the thought of some man raping one of them and then coming to my dad and asking if he could marry her makes me mad even as I write this. I would want to go on a rampage and avenge her honor like Liam Neeson in the movie Taken. I would want to make him suffer; I sympathize with Simeon and Levi and can’t blame them for wanting justice.

However, as I put emotion aside, I begin to ask myself, “What does God say about justice?”

Romans 12:19-20 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Simeon and Levi wanted justice and decided to take matters into their own hands, but the Bible is clear that it is not our place to take vengeance… it is the Lord’s. Sin cannot be made right by more sin; it only causes further pain and problems. In Simeon and Levi’s case, their actions brought trouble on their family by making enemies with the Canaanites and Perizzites.

The same can be said of us. It is easy to look at our enemies’ sin and judge them. However, we must not lose perspective because Romans 3:10-12 makes it clear that “there is no one righteous” and “all of us deserve condemnation”. The only reason any of us are justified is because Christ took our punishment. In many ways, when we look at our enemies, we should see a reflection of ourselves and our hearts should break for them. Justice is the Lord’s, and because of His love for us, He took His wrath out on His Son so that anyone who believes in Jesus will be justified.

Remember today that you are not righteous – He is. Let that thought break your heart for those who you may consider your enemies.

Application:

• If someone has wronged you and you are harboring hate for them, ask God to help you forgive them

• Ask God to break your heart for them

• Look for opportunities to share Jesus with your enemies

Posted by: Chad Wiles

February 16, 2011

Today you should read: Genesis 33:1-20

Unfounded fears…

In this chapter we see the last leg of Jacob’s journey back home. We see Esau embrace his brother Jacob. We see Esau accept Jacob’s gift…and we see Jacob, still the deceiver, having no intention of following Esau.

Today’s “Walk-a-Way”:

Have you ever let an irrational fear take control of you? Have you ever made decisions in order to prepare for the effects of that irrational fear’s hold on your life? Have you even deeply believed that it was true?!

These fears are unfounded; they are not based upon any facts or sound evidence. Oftentimes, they actually contradict what God has promised us.

For today’s application, I want us to more fearlessly obey God. In Genesis 32:7, Jacob seems to reach the peak of his fear of meeting Esau. Listen to this: Jacob was scared even though God told him to go back, even though God said, ”I will be with you” in Genesis 31:3. Think about it: God told him what to do and promised him that He would be with him…and Jacob was still scared! If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “How could you be scared? God is with you! He promised to prosper you!” What a relief it must have been in Genesis 33:4 when Jacob’s fear proved to be unfounded. 

But think about this, church: God tells us the same thing. God promises us that He is with us! God gives us His word to make us “prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8), and if we would follow it, God would show Himself to be faithful to His promise. God instructs us in Isaiah 41:9b-10 and in Isaiah 41:13 not to fear and that He will be with us. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God did not give us a spirit of fear, yet we are still afraid to follow Him. We are still scared to obey Him. We are still afraid of the unknown. We still let irrational and unfounded fears cloud out God’s word, His promises, His instructions. We see Jacob even organize the pack traveling with him in order to prepare for his fears. How does that look in your life?

Here it is, church: choose to believe Truth. Choose to believe God’s Word. Choose to believe what God has spoken to you. Don’t let your feelings or your fears drive you; let Truth drive you. It’s what C.J. Mahaney talks about in his book The Cross Centered Life: “what you feel vs. what is real.” And what is real is that God is with you. What is real is that you are unconditionally loved and accepted. What is real is that God has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you” (Jeremiah 29:11). Believe Truth.

Posted by: Sam Cirrincione

February 15, 2011

Today you should read: Genesis 32:1-31

Jacob has just left Laban’s house and is heading home to Canaan. He left with nothing and now has a great abundance of stuff. God was faithful to him, blessed him, and watched out for him just as He had promised. As Jacob goes along his way, he runs into a band of angels. God was still looking out for him and protecting him.

Suddenly, big brother pops into his mind. Is he still mad at me? Does he still want to kill me? What will happen when he hears I am back in town? Fear grips Jacob’s heart, but God promised to take care of him. Jacob allows fear of man to usurp his confidence in God’s promises.

How often do we let this happen in our lives? We know God is for us (Romans 8:31) but we allow life’s worries and stresses to bog us down and block our view of God’s love and promises in our lives. Take some time today to look at some of these promises and remind yourself of God’s faithfulness.

1 John 2:25 – Luke 18:27 – Ezekiel 36:26 – 1 John 1:9 – Psalm 34:4 – Philippians 4:19 – Psalm 84:11 – 1 Corinthians 10:13 – Matthew 28:20b – John 14:2-3

Jacob’s fear causes him to try to take matters into his own hands. He separates his camp into two parties for protection and decides to send gifts ahead of them in hopes of appeasing his brother. He has heard from his servants that Esau is on his way to meet him and has a band of 400 men with him.

Jacob does not know what to do so he has only one option left: prayer. How often do we try to make things work on our own strength and, when it fails, resort to prayer? Prayer should always be our first option, never our last.

We then see a very interesting encounter between Jacob and God. God comes to Jacob in the form of a man and they begin to wrestle. Jacob doesn’t give up or give in; he struggles all night until daybreak. God touches his hip and puts it out of socket. He tells Jacob to give up but Jacob says he won’t until God blesses him.

God renames him Israel. Jacob realizes that he saw God face to face and is amazed that he lived through it, so he names the place Peniel. He limps on from there because God caused the sinews in his hip to snap. This is why Jews do not eat that part of any animal to this day.

Posted by: Robbie Byrd