Blurred Vision

Genesis 31

Drama seems to follow Jacob everywhere. Maybe some of you guys can relate. Esau. Isaac. Rachel. Leah. Laban. When is he going to get a break?

For the first time Jacob acknowledges God’s hand in the events of his life. God sightings are everywhere as he recounts his ongoing struggle with Laban. Jacob sees himself as an innocent victim, a pawn in the hands of his diabolical father-in-law. He sees his actions as totally legit, and if not for God’s intervention, he would be without wives or children, homeless and penniless. Yet we’ve followed Jacob’s journey. While it’s true that God has been working behind the scenes providing for and protecting Jacob, most if not all of his troubles are of his own doing…deceit, manipulation, cheating, lying, partiality.

Laban paints himself out to be a nice guy. According to him, he loves his daughters and is generous to a fault. He’s really the victim as his flocks and herds have been “stolen” and his daughters and grandchildren kidnapped. Not at all the Laban that we know.

Like Jacob and Laban, many of us also have a very different view of ourselves than what others perceive. Sometimes we see ourselves as the hero in the story, while others see us as the villain. We are totally justified in our responses. Conflict isn’t our fault…we are just addressing the wrongs done to us in totally appropriate ways, right? Whatever anger we display is righteous anger, and whatever consequence we receive is undeserved. Yeah, right.

Sometimes it’s the other way around. Others see the good in us, but all we can see is our failures. Both views are from a very earthy perspective. And both views impact both our own sense of self-worth and the way we interact with others.

But God sees us from a very different perspective. He sees us as His image-bearers. That means we have infinite value. Each and every one of us. God sees and God hears…and God cares. If you don’t know Him, today is the day. He’s gone to incredible lengths in His pursuit of you. He’s sent His Son, the One He promised way back in Genesis 3.15 would crush the head of the serpent, giving His life in the process to pay the penalty for our rebellion and provide the way back to a relationship with our Creator God.

If you do know Him, then you are His child, a son or daughter of the King. That is what defines you. It means that you don’t have to look for self-worth in relationships or titles or jobs or school or accomplishments or things…all will let you down eventually. Your worth is far more precious than that. It means you can say no to things…people, temptations, situations…that attempt to redefine you. God is faithful. We see Him working in Jacob’s life behind the scenes. He’s working in your life too.

I pray that we might get a small glimpse of the way God sees us this week…unlimited value and unlimited potential…because if we did, it would change everything.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Satisfaction Guaranteed?

Genesis 30.

Another day in the drama which is Jacob’s life…his love-at-first-site romance with Rachel has turned into a complicated soap opera where relationships serve only to further the selfish ambitions of the actors involved.

Each of the major players (Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Laban) are looking for satisfaction…we could call it meaning or significance or fulfillment…whatever. They are pursuing things, relationships, that they believe will give them satisfaction. And like a mirage, the closer they get to it, the less satisfying it is. The story feels very earthy with nary a mention of God. Everything seems very ordinary. And we’re tempted to ask the same question we asked last week, “Where is God in all this mess?” He’s still at work… through the mess…to bring about His purposes.

Even in the ordinary, the extraordinary is going on. We see God’s extraordinary grace at work in the provision of twelve children. He even remembers Rachel. Each child is a gift from the LORD. We see His extraordinary grace at work in providing exceedingly for Jacob to the chagrin of Laban. We see His extraordinary grace at work because through this very messy situation He will bring about the nation of Israel who will carry forward His redemptive purposes. Our day-to-day activities may seem very ordinary, but when God is at work it’s always extraordinary.

Jacob and crew are neck deep in the mess that they’ve created…many of us are in the same boat. We are neck deep in the messes we’ve created. Can’t blame anyone else. Some of us are still looking for satisfaction in things or people that cannot satisfy…anytime we attempt to find fulfillment, satisfaction, meaning in life apart from a relationship with Jesus, it’s a mirage. It’s destined to bring disappointment, despair, depression. Just ask Robin Williams. World famous comedian. Academy award-winning actor. All around good guy…but it wasn’t enough. Any pursuit that doesn’t have a kingdom focus…“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”…will leave you empty. But one that starts there…“and all these things will be added to you” satisfies at a soul level. You may feel like you’ve blown up your life, made such a mess of things that you wonder whether or not there is hope this side of eternity. The good news…there is. God is not done. He’s not done with Jacob’s story, and He’s not done with ours. He can and does work through our messes. Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Laban. His grace abounds. And we can experience His grace knowing His amazing love for us.

May we be a people, who, in the midst of our messes, is able to trust Jesus to work through our messes to bring about the incredible destiny He has for us, and may that spur us on to love and good deeds, finding satisfaction in Him and loving in crazy ways.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Looking for Love

Genesis 29

In this tangled tale of romance, lies, deceit, love at first sight, spurned affections, costly misguided pursuits…it’s easy to ask, “Where is God in all this mess? Is He still in control?”

This story should serve as a warning for us who claim to follow Jesus of what happens when we live as if His presence and His prerogative have no impact on and really have no business in our lives. We live in the here and now with no thought of eternity. The daily pressures of life have pushed out any sense of connection to the God of the universe. We are missing out on the incredible destiny He has in store for us. A destiny He wants us to realize every day…to play a part in His redemptive plan for the nations, to impact the valley for His kingdom.

So where is God in all this mess? He is still seated on the throne. He is still working out His purposes…even in situations where our bad choices would seem to threaten them. Jacob is at the right place at the right time to be introduced to his kinsman. Although not his choice, God provides the right girl on his wedding night. He doesn’t override Jacob’s decisions…he allows him to make mistakes and reap the consequences. [God is not mocked…we reap what we sow.] God’s presence is evident in His orchestration of events, His love and grace are demonstrated in the boys He gives to an unwanted wife, seeking Leah’s affections as earnestly as she did Jacob’s.

And in our mess…when the world seems to be breaking apart at the seams – war in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, Ebola outbreak in Africa, border challenges, unrest in Missouri, the unthinkable in a nearby church, not to mention our own struggles with health or finances or safety or whatever…God is still on His throne. He hasn’t lost control of His world, but He’s allowed us to make our foolish decisions, starting with our initial defiance. Wanting to write Him out of the script, we face the consequences of our own sin and rebellion. But God is still at work. He’s able to bring about His purposes in spite of our transgression. His presence is still with us. His love and grace demonstrated in His relentless pursuit of us…pictured so perfectly on the cross, price was no object in securing what He desired.

So whether you feel like you’ve been duped like Jacob, spurned like Leah, pursued like Rachel or came out on top like Laban, the gospel is good news for you. God’s not done. He delights to bring life from death, order from chaos, beauty from ashes, to restore what the locust has eaten. He’s a God who can and wants to transform your life.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Unexpected Encounter

Genesis 28

The story’s simple, yet profound. God’s grace. His amazing grace. Jacob has no hope of earning it…all his scheming, all his wrangling, all his attempts to secure what God had promised, God’s blessings through his own efforts…seem to have backfired. Alone in a dark wilderness, Jacob got what was coming to him.

And then God showed up…everything changed. The ordinary became extraordinary. Any place becomes Bethel…any rock a sacred pillar. Have you had that kind of encounter with God yet? Abraham and Isaac’s faith weren’t enough…Jacob had to have his own encounter with God. That may be one of the most difficult things as a parent…I want so much for my boys to share my faith. But it’s not until it becomes their faith that their faith journey with God begins. And as a parent I don’t get to dictate what that faith journey looks like…only God does.

Likewise for students, your parents’ faith isn’t enough…you have to have your own encounter with God. You have to experience the ordinary becoming extraordinary.

When God shows up, He not only transforms us…death to life, son or daughter of the King… but He also transforms our earthly journey from a touring expedition into a sacred pilgrimage. After encountering God’s presence, Jacob’s life is never the same. Although he is on the same journey, he is now more spiritually aware. Just by becoming aware of God’s presence our chartered paths are transformed. We are on the adventure of faith, a wild, dangerous, unpredictable ride…going where we never thought we would go, doing what we never thought we would do.

Initial God encounters happen when we have a collision with Jesus. He is the link between the earthly and heavenly, the physical and spiritual. He is our only means of being restored to our Creator God. Only He could crush the head of the serpent. He lived a perfect life, died a bloody, horrible death, and was raised again the third day proving that He had conquered both sin and death…so that we too might conquer sin and death through faith in Him.

Having believed, God encounters should be a daily occurrence…the ordinary becoming extraordinary. But for too many of us, the wonder and mystery, the danger in following Jesus has become routine. We no longer see the extraordinary. It’s just any place and any rock. God wants so much more for us. He wants us to encounter Him afresh and experience life He called us to…this wild, crazy adventure of faith. He wants us to see every person we meet as an eternal soul that will spend eternity either with Him or apart from Him. He wants us to join Him on His rescue mission…pulling folks out of the fires of hell.

May we experience the extraordinary life we have with our Creator God in new and fresh, powerful and transformative ways this week.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Unexpected Encounter, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Family Feud

Genesis 27

What do you want so bad that you’ll sin to get it?

From the reader’s perspective, this entire episode is a tangled web of lying and deception. We could ask, “Whose fault is this mess?” Isaac the failed leader of his family and despiser of God’s Word? Rebekah the crafty manipulator and deceiver of her husband? Jacob the liar, the cheater, the swindler? Or Esau the unbeliever? All are to blame. The sad thing is…three of these characters are believers. Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob are all recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant. They are children of the King of the Universe. They should know better. Esau is the only one acting in character…he’s acting like an unbeliever. We shouldn’t expect him to act otherwise, but the others behave even worse. Ultimately the failure of each character is their failure to trust God…that He could bring about what He had promised regardless of the circumstances. Too big a deal to trust God with. Have to take care of this one themselves, do what’s right in their own eyes regardless of the consequences.

No one is unscathed in this episode…except the LORD whose redemptive plan would move forward and whose purposes are realized despite the sin of the players involved. Jacob is the guy. God still works through imperfect people to accomplish His will. Our sin doesn’t thwart His purposes…His plan for us remains, but we still have to endure the consequences of our sin.

The deeper story is God’s grace…where sin abounds, grace super-abounds. Rebekah says, “Let the curse fall on me.” Think about that statement… That’s what Genesis 3.15 is all about, that God would one day send the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, to defeat the serpent giving His own life in the process. The innocent dying for the guilty. What Rebekah says with careless defiance, Jesus will echo with deep compassion, grace and mercy. He took on our curse…all our lies and deception, our murderous rage and defiance, our unbelief…so that we might take on His righteousness.

I don’t know which character you most identify with today…but know that the gospel is good news, not just for those who haven’t trusted in Jesus yet, but it’s good news for us every time we act out of character…like a child of the world rather than a child of God. May God’s grace spur us on to love yet more and more this week and to let go of our own questionable means to accomplish His ends.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Family Feud, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Like Father, Like Son

Genesis 26

The hero in our story today follows in the epic footsteps of his famous father. The covenant promises that the LORD made to Abraham are firmly in the grip of his son Isaac who shares the faith and character of his father.

When your entire life is wrapped up in one promise, when you’re life is spent looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise to you, how do you live? Abraham never stopped thinking about it. He left a legacy of faith for his son…faith and obedience. The promised passes to Isaac because of Abraham’s faithfulness and fidelity. It reminds us of the awesome responsibility that we have to pass on a spiritual heritage to our children. It wasn’t because of Isaac’s Sunday school teacher or youth group leader that he was receiving the promises, but because of his father. It should sober us as parents. That doesn’t mean that youth leaders or mentors or others don’t have a role to play…in fact, they can have a huge impact on the spiritual journey of the next generation, but the primary responsibility still rests with parents.

Abraham has taught Isaac how to worship, how to make decisions, how to listen to God. And he does. He actually does better than his father. But Isaac has also picked up from Abraham how to deceive and to fear. Isaac chooses wisely when his wife is barren, but not when he has to protect himself. He has the faith of Abraham – the exact same faith. He trusts God – most of the time. He has some maturing to do.

Isaac picked up some of Abraham’s bad habits…stretching the truth being highlighted here. Our kids are always watching… we’re hoping that they won’t make the same mistakes that we did, but unfortunately they often do…we do. Same with each generation. Especially with the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. How many of us get onto our kids for speeding when we model that behavior so well for them? Or how about their condescending tone with their siblings when they hear the same thing when we interact with our spouse? Our kids unwittingly pick up many of our habits…both bad and good.

What about you? As a parent, are you leaving a spiritual legacy for your kids? Are you intentional about building into them a life of faith? Could you say, like Paul, follow my example as I follow the example of Christ? Abraham had an incredible promise to pass on to his son…great nation, great land, blessing to all nations, and ultimately the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus. And though we may not be passing on the Abrahamic Covenant to our children, we have a promise. The hope of redemption. The resurrection of our bodies. The return of our King, Jesus. The new heavens and the new earth, a return to paradise. Life forever with our Creator God. Are we living like it? Are we preparing the next generation? Are we making choices that we want them to make? As a teenager, are you making wise choices in what habits you’re emulating from your parents? Are you walking in faith?

May God give us the grace to do so this week.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster