Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cheater!

Recently Tiger Woods has been in the news, not for his game of golf, but for his game of infidelity. Come to find out, he was rarely alone on his around the world golf tournaments, while his beautiful wife was home with their two kids.

Well, he wasn't the first to be unfaithful in the most spectacular way. Come to find out a the Bible contains some true life stories that would make your ears ring...

Genesis 38

Judah and Tamar

1 "About this time, Judah left home and moved to Adullam, where he stayed with a man named Hirah. 2 There he saw a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua, and he married her. When he slept with her, 3 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and he named the boy Er. 4 Then she became pregnant again and gave birth to another son, and she named him Onan. 5 And when she gave birth to a third son, she named him Shelah. At the time of Shelah’s birth, they were living at Kezib.

6 In the course of time, Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry a young woman named Tamar. 7 But Er was a wicked man in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord took his life. 8 Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, “Go and marry Tamar, as our law requires of the brother of a man who has died. You must produce an heir for your brother.”

9 But Onan was not willing to have a child who would not be his own heir. So whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he spilled the semen on the ground. This prevented her from having a child who would belong to his brother. 10 But the Lord considered it evil for Onan to deny a child to his dead brother. So the Lord took Onan’s life, too.

11 Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Go back to your parents’ home and remain a widow until my son Shelah is old enough to marry you.” (But Judah didn’t really intend to do this because he was afraid Shelah would also die, like his two brothers.) So Tamar went back to live in her father’s home.

12 Some years later Judah’s wife died. After the time of mourning was over, Judah and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went up to Timnah to supervise the shearing of his sheep. 13 Someone told Tamar, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”
14 Tamar was aware that Shelah had grown up, but no arrangements had been made for her to come and marry him."

So far so good. Custom was that a brother would step in and help his brother's wife have children. It was important to have heirs, family continuity, keeping the farm and estate going.

Tamar had bad luck with two of the three brothers. Judah has reniged on giving her his remaining son.

So she has a plan.

"So she changed out of her widow’s clothing and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. Then she sat beside the road at the entrance to the village of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. 15 Judah noticed her and thought she was a prostitute, since she had covered her face. 16 So he stopped and propositioned her. “Let me have sex with you,” he said, not realizing that she was his own daughter-in-law.


“How much will you pay to have sex with me?” Tamar asked.

17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” Judah promised.

“But what will you give me to guarantee that you will send the goat?” she asked.

18 “What kind of guarantee do you want?” he replied.

She answered, “Leave me your identification seal and its cord and the walking stick you are carrying.” So Judah gave them to her. Then he had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant. 19 Afterward she went back home, took off her veil, and put on her widow’s clothing as usual.

20 Later Judah asked his friend Hirah the Adullamite to take the young goat to the woman and to pick up the things he had given her as his guarantee. But Hirah couldn’t find her. 21 So he asked the men who lived there, “Where can I find the shrine prostitute who was sitting beside the road at the entrance to Enaim?”

“We’ve never had a shrine prostitute here,” they replied.

22 So Hirah returned to Judah and told him, “I couldn’t find her anywhere, and the men of the village claim they’ve never had a shrine prostitute there.”

23 “Then let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah said. “I sent the young goat as we agreed, but you couldn’t find her. We’d be the laughingstock of the village if we went back again to look for her.”

24 About three months later, Judah was told, “Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has acted like a prostitute. And now, because of this, she’s pregnant.”

“Bring her out, and let her be burned!” Judah demanded.

25 But as they were taking her out to kill her, she sent this message to her father-in-law: “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?”

26 Judah recognized them immediately and said, “She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t arrange for her to marry my son Shelah.” And Judah never slept with Tamar again.

27 When the time came for Tamar to give birth, it was discovered that she was carrying twins. 28 While she was in labor, one of the babies reached out his hand. The midwife grabbed it and tied a scarlet string around the child’s wrist, announcing, “This one came out first.” 29 But then he pulled back his hand, and out came his brother! “What!” the midwife exclaimed. “How did you break out first?” So he was named Perez.[a] 30 Then the baby with the scarlet string on his wrist was born, and he was named Zerah."

Judah's behavior was outrageous!

The Bible is full of real people. Living real lives.

And experiencing God's mercy, forgiveness and leading through it all...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Power of Words


The Power of Words

I took a training recently about words. The choice of words. The power of words. One statement jumped out at me. "Your experience when you say words is different than the experience of the person recieving the words."

Take a famous musician. They sing the same songs night after night on tour. They must get so bored with the words they sing sometimes. Even if they made the song up themselves.

But the audience loves the words! They sing along in unison. Sometimes, watching a concert I wonder - why don't you all stay home and save your money? You have obviously heard the song before! You have memorized all the words. What is the experience of going to hear someone sing a song you know by heart?

Oh.. the power of words.

So God talks to Jacob today. Gives him instructions. A huge promise. And changes his name. So everytime ANYONE talks to him, he is reminded of his destiny...


Genesis 35

1 "Then God said to Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.”

2 So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. 3 We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.”

4 So they gave Jacob all their pagan idols and earrings, and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem. 5 As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family.

6 Eventually, Jacob and his household arrived at Luz (also called Bethel) in Canaan. 7 Jacob built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (which means “God of Bethel”), because God had appeared to him there when he was fleeing from his brother, Esau...

9 Now that Jacob had returned from Paddan-aram, God appeared to him again at Bethel. God blessed him, 10 saying, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.”[a] So God renamed him Israel."

God could have called him - "Screwup", or - "Conniver". How about - "Cheater", or maybe "Break yo daddy's heart!"
Instead, God renamed him "Israel" - "He who strives with God".

11 Then God said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! 12 And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from the place where he had spoken to Jacob."

I have named this blog - "God Almighty Speaks to Me."

Words have power. Even moreso when they come from God Almighty.



14 Jacob set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to him. Then he poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil. 15 And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God had spoken to him there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Consequences of a Broken Relationship


Jacob had cheated his brother. He ran for his life, penniless, under the threat of death.

Now, 20 years later, he is coming back. He has made his own fortune, and is hoping his brother has forgotten the past.

3 "Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom. 4 He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, 5 and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me.’”

6 After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” 7 Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. 8 He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.”

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! 11 O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. 12 But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’”

13 Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau: 14 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 15 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. 16 He divided these animals into herds and assigned each to different servants. Then he told his servants, “Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds.”

17 He gave these instructions to the men leading the first group: “When my brother, Esau, meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ 18 You must reply, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us.’”

19 Jacob gave the same instructions to the second and third herdsmen and to all who followed behind the herds: “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’”

Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” 21 So the gifts were sent on ahead, while Jacob himself spent that night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles with God
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel,[c] because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel,[d] and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

Genesis 33
1 Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.

5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.

8 “And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked.

Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.”

9 “My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.

12 “Well,” Esau said, “let’s be going. I will lead the way.”

13 But Jacob replied, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. 14 Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.”

15 “All right,” Esau said, “but at least let me assign some of my men to guide and protect you.”

Jacob responded, “That’s not necessary. It’s enough that you’ve received me warmly, my lord!”

16 So Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day. 17 Jacob, on the other hand, traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (which means “shelters”).

18 Later, having traveled all the way from Paddan-aram, Jacob arrived safely at the town of Shechem, in the land of Canaan. There he set up camp outside the town. 19 Jacob bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver.[e] 20 And there he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel."

Relationships!

They can be healed, with God's intervention, and large doses of humility and repentance.

But this one never got repaired. Even though Esau didn't kill his brother, they obviously still wanted to have nothing to do with each other.

Cross. Double cross. And double cross again.


Jacob came to his uncle Laban with, "a knapsack on his back."

Broke. Needing refuge. Needing a place to stay.

Why was he broke? Didn't he cheat his brother out of the family fortune?

Yeah. But then his brother threatened to kill him, so he ran for his life.

He is also looking for a wife.

Laban doesn't know any of this...

"After Jacob had stayed with Laban for about a month, 15 Laban said to him, “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.”

So Laban is concerned. Just because Jacob is broke doesn't mean Laban should exploit him. I mean, for the first three days, he is a guest. For a couple of weeks, he is a visiting relative. After a month? Well, arrangements need to be made. Time to negotiate.

16 "Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. 17 There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes,[d] but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”

Terms established. Contract signed!

19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days."

But Jacob is not the only conniver in this story!

21 "Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can marry her.”


22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. 23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)

25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”

Double cross!

26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. 27 “But wait until the bridal week is over, then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”

So Jacob does. He gives 14 years of his life to work for his wife. And he establishes himself as a force in the region. Has 4 boys with Leah, then the sisters began a jealosy squabble which leads to them giving their maids to Jacob to have children with. He has 6 more children with the maids, 2 more with Leah, and finally, 2 with Rachel.

Double cross again!

25 "Soon after Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country. 26 Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you.”

27 “Please listen to me,” Laban replied. “I have become wealthy, for[i] the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it.”

29 Jacob replied, “You know how hard I’ve worked for you, and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care. 30 You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done. But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?”

31 “What wages do you want?” Laban asked again.

Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. 32 Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. Give these to me as my wages. 33 In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.”

34 “All right,” Laban replied. “It will be as you say.” 35 But that very day Laban went out and removed the male goats that were streaked and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted or had white patches, and all the black sheep. He placed them in the care of his own sons, 36 who took them a three-days’ journey from where Jacob was. Meanwhile, Jacob stayed and cared for the rest of Laban’s flock.

37 Then Jacob took some fresh branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled off strips of bark, making white streaks on them. 38 Then he placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, for that was where they mated. 39 And when they mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. 40 Jacob separated those lambs from Laban’s flock. And at mating time he turned the flock to face Laban’s animals that were streaked or black. This is how he built his own flock instead of increasing Laban’s.

41 Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob would place the peeled branches in the watering troughs in front of them. Then they would mate in front of the branches. 42 But he didn’t do this with the weaker ones, so the weaker lambs belonged to Laban, and the stronger ones were Jacob’s. 43 As a result, Jacob became very wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, male and female servants, and many camels and donkeys."

Two men who appear to be all righteous and upright. And mostly they are. But behind the scenes there is a lot of subterfuge going on.

In the end, God blesses Jacob and takes care of him financially.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

From stone to diamond


From stone to diamond

Jacob was definately a stone. He was a conniver. Cheated his brother out of the family fortune with his mother's collusion. Created such a rift in the family that his relationship with his dad was never the same again. Had to flee from his angry brother and as a result never saw his mother again.

Yet in the midst of all his brokeness there was a passionate pursuit of God.

All mixed up. Not perfect at all.

But real.

Our church has a motto that gets repeated a lot. "No perfect people allowed!"

So here is jacob on the run. God meets him.

10 "Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

A wonderful promise from a loving God.

16 "Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”


18 The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. 19 He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although the name of the nearby village was Luz."


Jacob is on the way from being an ugly rough stone.

To being a beautiful diamond.

All was needed was pressure. Lots of it. And it is coming...

Jacob's response to God's promise was a contract of sorts. It is a laughable, really. "If you do this for me, God, I'll do this for you...

20 "Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”

But God accepted it, flaws and all.

Because after all, we are all on the way to becoming diamonds.

(All that is needed is a lot of pressure!)