Please Pass the Blessings
The story of Jacob sounds like a soap opera, yet God was in the midst of it. Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and grandsons of Abraham. Before their birth, God told Rebekah,
“Two nations are in your womb … and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).
Jacob tried to be first from the beginning, grabbing Esau’s heel as he was born; thus his name means heel-grabber.
Jacob was also a good cook, and it was for a bowl of his stew that Esau traded away his birthright as the eldest son. Later, Esau took two Hittite wives who were a grief to his parents. Rebekah then helped Jacob trick Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. When Esau planned to kill Jacob, Rebekah convinced Isaac to send Jacob away to find a wife among her relatives.
Genesis 28:10 tells us, Jacob went out from Beersheba. Often, when you take that first step of faith on a journey, God meets you there. Jacob dreamed of a ladder from earth to heaven—and there God spoke to him.
Although he fell in love with Rachel, Jacob the trickster was tricked by his Uncle Laban into marrying her older sister first. The two wives were bitter rivals, involving their servants in a race to have children—twelve sons total. When Jacob finally headed home with his family, he didn’t know if Esau still wanted him dead.
He wrestled all night with God, who said,
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).
If life had been easy, would he have persevered and prevailed?
The key is that Isaac had blessed Jacob:
“May God Almighty bless you and give you many children. And may your descendants multiply and become many nations! May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings he promised to Abraham” (Genesis 28:3-4 NLT).
This was God’s plan. The blessings God gave Abraham were passed to Isaac, who bestowed them on Jacob. Through him came the twelve tribes of Israel, then the Messiah.
So this Thanksgiving, give thanks for what God has done, then pray over your family and bless them all. Pass along the wonderful blessings that God has freely given to you. As Galatians 3:14 says,
“Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham” (NLT). God bless you.
The Time for Radical Action Is Now
by Alex Crain, crosswalk.com
“…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”- Romans 8:13
Aron Ralston’s grisly experience during a climbing expedition illustrates a spiritual truth that makes me wince. If you aren’t familiar with the story, take a look at his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (© 2004 Simon & Schuster), which is a detailed tell-all of his ordeal that occurred in late April 2003.
The experienced 27-year-old outdoorsman jumped into his truck that spring morning, bringing just enough food and water for the day. He took off by himself, driving 150 miles south of Salt Lake City to his favorite spot—a remote canyon area that used to be the hideout for wild-west outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
By afternoon, he was suspended seventy-five feet high off the canyon floor—climbing in a crevice that was just a few feet wide. It was a near perfect day. But then without warning, a boulder suddenly broke loose from the rock wall above him, hurtled down and trapped Ralston’s right arm against the wall, completely crushing his hand. At that instant, Aron’s hand—one of his greatest assets—had now become his greatest liability.
Five whole days passed as he tried various ways to free himself—all to no avail. His efforts to chip away at the boulder with a pocket knife only made a small dent. Rigging up a pulley system to move the boulder proved fruitless.
Finally, a moment of decisive clarity came. The thoughts came fast and furious: he could break his forearm, cut through the muscle with his dirty pocket knife, detach his arm, and use a piece of rope as a tourniquet.
Aron explains that he was driven by “some sort of autopilot” as he went about the gruesome task of amputating his own right arm just below the elbow. After he was finished, Aron lowered himself down and began trudging slowly in the direction of his truck. Later, he stumbled across two hikers who used a mobile phone to call in a rescue helicopter. Amputating his right arm was a radical act, but it was one that saved his life and reunited him with his family.
God calls us to deal with sin in our life in a way that is surprisingly similar. The Bible doesn’t offer a laid-back, live-and-let-live approach at all. It’s so radical, that we don’t really like hearing about it or talking about it. Recall what Jesus said in Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” While Jesus was not literally talking about physical amputation, He was saying that sin’s deadly effects call for extreme measures. Even though it hurts, we must rid sin from our lives. In fact, our eternal destiny hinges on how we deal with sin.
Really? Well, why else would Jesus talk about hell in the same breath that He talks about how we are to deal with sin if He didn’t mean to teach that our eternal destiny hangs in the balance? Clearly, it’s a matter of preferring one destiny over the other. Outward behavior indicates what the heart primarily loves. If Aron Ralston had stayed there on the canyon wall with his hand pinned down by the boulder, he would have died. But because he was willing to kill his hand, his life was saved.
The same goes with us as we deal with sin. It really comes down to what we value most. Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The world may tell us to laugh about sin, to lighten up about it, to tolerate it, and just let it be… that it’s not idolatry; it’s not an issue of worship. God says the opposite is true.
Streams in the Desert – November 23
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Thou hast shewed thy people hard things (Ps. 60:3).
I have always been glad that the Psalmist said to God that some things were hard. There is no mistake about it; there are hard things in life.
Some beautiful pink flowers were given me this summer, and as I took them I said, “What are they?” And the answer came, “They are rock flowers; they grow and bloom only on rocks where you can see no soil.” Then I thought of God’s flowers growing in hard places; and I feel, somehow, that He may have a peculiar tenderness for His “rock flowers” that He may not have for His lilies and roses.
The tests of life are to make, not break us. Trouble may demolish a man’s business but build up his character. The blow at the outward man may be the greatest blessing to the inner man. If God, then, puts or permits anything hard in our lives, be sure that the real peril, the real trouble, is what we shall lose if we flinch or rebel.
—Maltbie D. Babcock
Heroes are forged on anvils hot with pain,
And splendid courage comes but with the test.
Some natures ripen and some natures bloom
Only on blood-wet soil, some souls prove great
Only in moments dark with death or doom.
God gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.
“The workers served faithfully … Other Levites … were put in charge of the laborers of the various trades. Still others assisted as secretaries, officials, and gatekeepers.” – 2 Chronicles 34:12-13 NLT
The people of Israel were divided into twelve tribes with many families and individuals – all with many opinions. Yet, as this passage reminds us, they functioned as one at times.
We see how each tribe had specific functions. And each performed their assignments without resistance. Individuals accepted their roles and worked diligently without complaining.
This was possible in part because there were “energetic” leaders (TLB) who could motivate the people to do their part without rivalry or competition. These men could unite the people and encourage them to function to the best of their abilities.
Having been led and directed by wise leaders, the people in each tribe then found it easier to focus, to do what they did best, and to do their specific assignments.
This is a picture of how the body of Christ should function. Each person should recognize that he or she has unique skills, has been given unique gifts and abilities, and has unique responsibilities.
Believers should respond without any sense of competition or rivalry. We should not resist the work we have been called to do, but we should function with energy and excellence. Encouraging leaders can foster efficiency, cooperation, and unity with proper direction.
Ask God to show you clearly your specific mission in the body. Be ready to use the resources and gifts He has given you to serve Him. Seek to fit together with other believers.