Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Scairdycats…

Posted: August 20, 2013 in Uncategorized
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35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40He said to them,“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”41And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

I’ve been reading the gospel of Mark lately.  You should too.  I love all the kittens.  Like these:

but u sed

You too?!  I know.  Why?  Because, kittens.

Right?  Of course.

Okay.  That’s fun.  But really, there’s no kittens in the gospel of Mark.  I think they’re pretty much limited totally to the gospel of John- because he’s all about Love and stuff.  Mark’s kind of in too big a hurry all the time to be snappin pics of kittens.

But seriously though.  I read this passage this morning and it was like a brand new experience.  I’d read it before of course.  Everyone knows the story about Jesus telling the wind and the sea to simmer down.  Do you ever read the bible, store the data, and totally not really get the point?  Like, you’re take away is… “uh, because…. Jesus?”

But I think this time was different.

We’ve got these “experienced” fishermen out on the lake, going to the other side.  I can’t help but mention that they left at dusk.  You know, when EVERYBODY gets in their boat and shoves off.  Course, maybe it’s not THAT weird, being fishermen and stuff.  But I also noticed that they’ve just had an encounter with “the crowd,” who keeps following them everywhere.  And I can’t help but wonder if they were looking to make a discreet exit under the cover of darkness.  But anyway, there.  I’ve mentioned that.

So, they’re working their way across the lake, and a huge storm comes up, so huge that the size of the waves is such that they are cresting over the top of the boatside.  But meanwhile Jesus, tired from a big day of miracles, and exasperating encounters with dull disciples, is … fast asleep in the bottom of the boat.  Where all that cold water is sloshing around.  Weird.

So, cut to the guys at the oar, and panic abounds.  They decide that they might be in over their heads, and decide they better get the honcho on the case.

And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

He wakes up, and gets right to the business of settling down the storm.  “Peace!”

And there was a great calm. . .

Sounds like a nice night to be on the water.  NOW.  And Jesus turns to his shipmates, and proceeds to rail.

Have you ever asked yourself what he was so upset about?  I just did.

It seems reasonable, doesn’t it?  I mean, big storm, big waves, water in the bottom of the boat.  Middle of the night.  Death.  Yeah, I’d be a little freaked out.  But Jesus doesn’t seem to agree.  I mean, what does he expect?  That since we’re in the boat with Jesus we’re safe?  Nothing bad can happen?

I don’t really think so.

Here’s what I think: I think that Jesus wasn’t rebuking the concern they had for the danger they were in.  They were in legitimate danger.  He rebuked the fear that made them totally freak out.

In John’s gospel, Jesus promises that the world will hate us if we follow him, because it hated him first.  He says that “you will have trouble in the world.” But then he says: “TAKE HEART!  I have conquered the world!”  I think *that* is what was irritating him in the boat.  The disciples were afraid.

* * *

I love the 23rd Psalm.  It’s beautiful and poetic.  It’s tranquil and yet conquering.  But my favorite part slides by almost without being noticed.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Can you guess which part is my favorite?

    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Jesus says earlier in John that he is the good shepherd.  I’m sure that this Psalm of David wasn’t far from his mind, nor the minds of his listeners.  The comfort for me is in the fact that God leads us along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  I think Jesus was rebuking the disciples not for responding to the storm- it WAS dangerous.  But they doubted their wellness.  They were panicked.  WHY?  Jesus asks, “where is your FAITH?”  But the object of their faith is God.  The very best shepherd.

And the really good news isn’t that He’s a good shepherd either.  Nope.  It’s that he will always BE OUR good shepherd BECAUSE IT’S HIS REPUTATION THAT’S ON THE LINE.  Not because we’re great sheep.  Even if we are.  And even if we’re not.  But because if he didn’t lead us in paths of righteousness, he wouldn’t BE a good a shepherd, and that’s just not who he is.

Hopefully, next time I’m in a storm, and the waves have my whiskers all wet, I can go to Jesus, and tell him I need him.  And I won’t be scared.  I won’t be, as James says, double-minded, being tossed about this way and that way like a wave on the ocean.  Hmm.  I wonder if James ever went on a three-hour tour with his older brother, the wind-whisperer?

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Have you ever seen a cultivator?

hand cultivator

It’s pretty wicked looking.  To me, anyway.  If I’m dirt, that’s a pretty intimidating device.  Not sure why, but it reminds me of the life-sucker from Princess Bride- you know, the thing they hook up to Wesley to suck life out of him.  All the way till he’s *mostly* dead.

I’ve been reading the Gospel according to Mark lately, and the last couple of weeks have been focused on the parable of the Sower and the Seeds.  Or, more to the point, the Parable of the Seed and the Four soils.

Allow me to summarize if it’s unfamiliar by name.  Jesus is telling a story about people.  He says, a sower goes out and sows his seed.  Some falls along the path, but the ground is hard, and the birds come and take it away so that it doesn’t take root.  And then some falls on rocky soil.  It takes root, but when the heat of the day is on it, it withers and dies, because the soil is shallow.  Then some of the seed falls amongst thorns.  It grows, but the thorns quickly choke it out, and it does not bear any fruit.  Then there is the seed that falls in good soil.  It takes root, grows, and in due time, produces fruit, 30, 60 and even 100 times what was sown.

So we’ve differentiated between 4 different landing zones for the seed.  The Sower is not really discussed in any particular detail, nor the seed.  Jesus goes on to explain to his dullard friends what he *really* meant.  He says the seed is the word of God, and the different soils represent the different kids of hearts that receive the word sown by the Sower.  The Path represents those for whom sin has so hardened their hearts that they turn from the word immediately- Satan snatches it up before it can grow.

This makes me sad.  Sometimes when I hear a word of truth- a word that is convicting me directly I squirm and sweat a little.  I get that icky feeling that I know I have to confront this.  I know that there have been seasons of my life where I had given myself permission to feel like this, talk like that, act in this way to such a degree that I honestly didn’t really feel that bad about it.  I know that this dimension, affected so deeply and radically by sin, which is simply alienation from God and from perfection (or as the bible calls it, Shalom)- that this dimension is so filled with the power of sin that God’s spirit REALLY does have to struggle to crack through the stone heart.  It’s amazing to think about- that the God of the universe has to exert the same force that created black holes to penetrate the human spirit and win his heart!

…the God of the universe has to exert the same force that created black holes to penetrate the human spirit and win his heart!

Imagine the sadness God must experience- the profound sadness of a child not simply turning away from a parent, but disowning and rejecting him.  Calling him evil.  This is the timelessly unending and yet immediate daily reality for the sovereign God of the universe.

Then there’s the rocky soil- a place where the seed takes root, but is shallow, and is burned by the sun.  It’s a simple, skin deep kind of root.  The kind that burns off like the fuel I drown my charcoal briquettes in.  Apply a little bit of fire, and poof.  It’s gone.  Maybe this person’s heart experiences a little ribbing when his friends find out that he’s giving Jesus a try.  Little bit of fire- poof.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

And the thorns.  We all know about thorns, don’t we.  I mean, lets face it, Christian or not, anybody who’s ever had a goal has faced thorns.  Maybe you wanted to overload in college.  Or lose weight before spring break.  Or learn how to play an instrument, speak a foreign language.  Pray.  Submit to authority.

But the worries of life, and the desire for things crowded out the seed, and it never produced any fruit.

This person never got to experience the “now” aspect of God’s kingdom.  They never experienced the pure joy of brotherhood, of accountability, of sharing the serenity of God’s faithfulness and how good He is.  They never experienced the nearness of God’s kingdom.  And, frankly, some would say they never really knew who Jesus was to them, and will be for all of us.  I don’t know.  That’s not for me.  Then, finally, the good soil.

Which brings me back to the cultivator.  Take another look at that thing.  Teeth.  Spikes.  A really crazy mad looking rake.  Guess what the big difference between the good soil, and all the others?  You got it.

Is the seed different?  Nope.  Sower?  Nope.  Just the ground.  The path has never seen a cultivator in it’s life.  The rocky soil?  Nope.  That rake in the back is for picking up rocks and whatnot.  The tines on the wheel are for the thorns and weeds.  All in all, I’d say it looks like an altogether unpleasantly, disturbing instrument.  And I think that’s the thing.  The ground needs the tiller to cultivate the soil to prepare it for the seed.  It’s worth mentioning that the process of cultivation is ongoing.  Ain’t no “one and done” kind of deal.  That ugly, spiky wheel rolls over the good soil over and over again, constantly pulling up the weeds and rocks, constantly turning the rain-soaked soil into loose, workable dirt.

How does cultivation happen?  Abide.  Jesus shares in John 15.  He says that the one who abides in Him will bear much fruit.  How much?  Like 30, or 60, or 100 times what was sown?  Maybe?  Maybe.  So the time we spend with Jesus is the time He spends picking weeds, plucking the rocks and stones from the flesh of our souls.  The torments and worries- he plucks them away.  And he nurtures the soil- painful at times, but rewarding, as the sun is able to warm us, and the rain to water us, with nothing to steal away our joy.  Our joy being the pleasure of experiencing God’s kingdom and salvation now, and forever.  This isn’t to say really that Jesus is a torture device.  If that’s what you read- I humbly apologize.  But God is a farmer- he plants a vineyard, he cares for it, builds a threshing floor and digs the winepress, and builds a wall around it.  Why?  To keep the soil good and workable.  And he uses tools and time to do the job of making rocky, thorny, packed down soil into loose, clean, workable soil.  Are you ready to receive the seed?  Are you submitting to the plough blade?  Or the tines of the cultivator?

If you are experiencing pain outside of the context of salvation- if you are not a follower of Jesus, and are experiencing deep, chronic pain- spiritual pain- you are in Hell.  Right now.  This is the foyer of the kingdom of dark.  But God desires to grow you!  He will even spread the seed of his word on you!  Farmers don’t drop seed on the road, friend!  It’s a waste!  But God- He will sow anywhere and everywhere.  Receive his word-  the Kingdom of God is near you!  He will faithfully tend you and make you to grow and produce a harvest!  The soil needs to be broken though.

Maybe you are a believer, and like me, you have experienced drought.  The ground is cracked and stiff. Rocks poke up from the frosts, and the thorns are the ONLY thing that seem to grow under this sun.  Submit to the rake and cultivator.  You will loosen up, and the seed will sprout.  He is faithful, and he’s got a bit of a green thumb.

EAT MY BODY.

How’s that grab ya?  Yeah.  I kinda get that too.  

Roman Catholicism holds to a stream of orthodoxy that maintains that a physical transformation happens to bread and to wine when used and blessed as a sacrament of worship.  Small wafers literally become the physical body of Jesus, and the wine literally becomes the blood in his veins. 

Other lines of thinking, like the Lutheran tradition, hold that a spiritual transformation happens- that somehow in the spiritual dimension of existence, the bread somehow, mystically, becomes the body and blood of Jesus.  That it’s spiritually imbued with the manifest body and blood.  

There is another, third line of thinking that has been popular for some six hundred years- that much as God instructed to take the Passover feast every year to remember the Exodus from Egypt, and God’s display of power over Pharaoh- that Jesus instituted a new kind of feast for the purposes of communal memory.  

 

 

Over the years, since the advent of my faith in Jesus, I’ve felt an odd sort of relationship with the feast of remembrance.  There’s a lingering mysticism that I felt inadequate about.  Maybe you’ve shared that experience too.  Like, you’re supposed to have some kind of visceral, spiritual experience that is just beyond what can be described.  Like there’s some kind of holy visitation that should happen every time I take part in the sacrament of communion.  

 

If I’m being honest, I’d say that is not typically my experience.  

 

You hear the story read from a liturgical device- the story of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples on the night of his betrayal, the teaching that Jesus was preparing us for his crucifixion, and how we should understand it.  That we must eat of his body, and drink of his blood to be part of this new kingdom- if we are to be reckoned as one of “his.”

 

Then you get up, shuffling through the too-thin aisles and move slowly through a que, until you arrive at a station of sorts, where you are given a small, small piece of “bread” and a small, plastic cup, filled with grape juice- “this is the body of Christ, broken for you, Sean,” and “This is the blood of Christ, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”  Do you look them in the eye?  Do you stare at the elements?  

 

Too late- people are waiting behind you.  You grab your little piece of “bread” and your itty bitty cup.  You follow the person in front of you and shuffle your way back to your place in the hall.  And… what?  Do you pause, and reflect?  Do you toss it all back?  

It’s awkward.  Sorry, it is.  Maybe that’s the introvert in me.  Maybe it’s “sin”.  I don’t know.  But it’s always felt strange to me.  

 

But yesterday, something occurred to me. 

It occurred to me that maybe the depth and hallow of the experience isn’t really the point.  I realized that when I reach into that plate, when I pull up my little cup- I can’t help but remember.  I know that will never be “just another piece of bread.”  Everytime I put my hand in that dish, I am making a public declaration: The Gospel is true.

 

Because it’s been so deeply entrenched, by years of repetition, I will never reach into that plate wondering what I’m doing.  Whatever happens, whatever the bread looks like, tastes like, feels like- I know that I am admitting to every person in the room, and to myself, that the man named Jesus of Nazareth was everything He said he was.  Is.  Whatever.  

 

I am standing in a great throng of people, bridging across centuries, and admitting that the world needs a miracle.  

 

That’s all.  I don’t believe the bread performs a miracle.  I don’t believe that the bread somehow works it’s way through my body with glitter and wind-chime sounds and little sparkles, performing magic or something.  I believe that if nothing else happens but me remembering everything I’ve learned about Jesus: that he walked the earth, spoke with people, washed feet, healed illness, and rose from death, then it has likely done everything it was ever intended to do. 

He didn’t say that you had to do this to get to heaven.  He didn’t say that you had to do this to be saved, or healed.  He didn’t say “do this, and I’ll speak amazing, unspeakable, unsearchable truths into your heart…” He just said “Do this in remembrance of me.”  

1 John 2

 3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.

John 13

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 14

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.

John 14

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

This weekend I heard a message on the letter 1st John, chapter 2.  The gist of the message was to offer confidence in our salvation.  How do you know you are saved?  What tangible evidence is there available to us that our commitment to Christ is genuine and firm?  The answer given in this weekends was that we can have confidence in our salvation and commitment by the evidence of our obedience to Jesus’ commands.

I think there’s more though.  A significant portion of what I heard this weekend was that we can know that we’re “saved” by the depth and consistency of our obedience- that our obedience is a sort of guarantee and proof.

I suppose that is true.  But I would say that doesn’t offer encouragement of salvation, as much as it offers encouragement to be attentive to the lives we are living- not a bad thing.

But if it’s encouragement you’re looking for- if you are truly questioning your salvation- let me ask this: what do you want to be saved from?

I want to be saved from meaningless-ness.  Oh God!  What if life is meaningless?  That is the very darkness that makes up my nightmare.

If all you care about is what happens after you die, you must have a pretty good thing going.  Or it’s been awful for so long that you’ve grown callous to it.  But let me suggest that evidence of salvation is found in your obedience to Jesus’ commands.  Not because it is proof of something that is coming, but because Jesus’ commands, Jesus very way of living IS our salvation- begun NOW.

An elderly John is writing from his memories of life on the road with Jesus.  He is the last one left, the last man on earth with memories and experience of God in the flesh, born of a woman.  And in his little letter he remembers the words of Jesus, preserved in the testimony of his life with Jesus, the Gospel of John; “Love one another.  As I have loved you so you must love one another.

Jesus commanded us to love one another.  This was the essence of Jesus’ message, year after year; the Kingdom of God is near!  When someone gave him the answer he was looking for what did he say?  “This person is not far from the kingdom!”

As Jesus washed the feet of the disciples on the eve of his betrayal, He told them, as I have served you, so you must serve each other.  This is the ultimate picture of life in the Kingdom of God!  This is salvation, fleshed and blooded!

So, what if the comfort we receive is more than a promise of better things?  What if the comfort is the beginning of the better things?

Here’s another thing- we confess the necessity of God’s Spirit for man to do anything greater than base evil.  If we are in obedience to Jesus’ command- THAT is evidence that the Spirit is active and living in our lives.  The Spirit of God Himself, living in your flesh and mine, doing the good works that Jesus commanded, that James said was evidence of living faith.  Any good that you perceive yourself as having done?  Evidence of God’s Spirit in your body.  Living itself.  Living the community of the Trinity in the flesh of your body.  The life of the Kingdom.  In you.  THAT is comfort that you can take even during a season of distance, dryness, even a season of willful disobedience.  You may have grieved the Spirit by harming the unity of Christ’s body, but that does not have the power to kill the Spirit.  He is still there.  Your salvation is still intact, because your salvation is based on the strength of God.  Not you.  Not your will or determination.  Not your works.

You can be comforted by the evidence and appearance of your obedience.  Not because you’ve accomplished or achieved your salvation.  Or even proved it.  Who are you proving it to?  God?  No.  You prove it to yourself.  Fine.  But it is not your strength achieving obedience.  It is in fact your submission to the strength of Spirit dwelling in you.  It is you falling back into God’s power.  It is the Spirit’s strength rising up clothed in your body, your person.  That is the power of salvation, the deposit of the Holy Spirit, the eternal life that you gained upon confession of Jesus as risen and the Son of God.  It is more than a promise of salvation- it is the beginning, the first steps in your new, saved, meaningful life.  Congratulations.  You will never, ever suffer meaninglessness.

Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man, 
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
     and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
     which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
      Whatever he does prospers. 
Not so the wicked!
     They are like chaff 
     that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
     nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, 
     but the way of the wicked will perish. 

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of wicked,
or stand in the way of sinners,
or sit in the seat of mockers-

Father, God;  You have established a way that is good.  You have designed and created a way that gives LIFE, and does not rob it.  Your way of life breathes peace, relief and freedom.  Anything else breeds contempt, jealousy, lust, insecurity- in short, not-life.  Death.  Father I desire to LIVE.  Keep me from temptation and deliver me from evil, that I might LIVE, and not be dead.  

***

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

Father, turn my heart to your words.  You are plainly visible to the one who looks in to see you.  Remove my agendas.  Remove my ambitions.  Remove all the veils that keep me from experiencing you in your words.  I desire to know your language.  I desire to lean on you, and know you as ‘papa’, not just “Father.”  

***

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Almighty God; I desire to be the person you made me to be.  I desire to do what you purposed me to do!  You have planted me near your stream- given me your word.  Now I draw near to drink up your word.  I ask that you use it to nourish me, and grow me.  Make me healthy on the inside.  Make my leaves green on the outside, looking beautiful, and spreading health.  Make my fruit heavy and prolific.  May I produce the fruits that you have planted me to produce.  You have grafted me into your tree- make me a fountain of your fruit. 

Help me, God, to trust in your timing.  I desire fruit now.  I ask you for fruit now.  But I must wait for you to open the buds, to feed the blossoms.  To bring the bees and add to the pollens, that the fruit is perfect and good.  God, feed me, rest me, pollinate me, and harvest the fruit!

***

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Righteous God- no one who plants desires to see waste among His produce.  God I plead that my life would be one that is fruitful in a satisfying way.  I thank you that you have created a path in Jesus for me to be acceptable in your presence.  May I serve as a light and a path, that those around me can come to stand in the judgement along with Jesus.  

Teach me to see wickedness in my life, and to be happy and satisfied to watch it blow away, separating itself from the good things of my life.  Teach me to hand all things up to you, and allow you to separate the fruit you desire to keep from that which you do not.  

***

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Holy God, you watch over the righteous and the wicked.  Thank you for your wisdom, care and provision.  Thank you God for the promises you have made, and kept to restore the ways of LIFE that you designed in the beginning.  Thank you God that You care for that which You have made and that you are destroying wickedness and death, and each heartbeat brings us closer to the day when the final victory is won.  Amen.

Genesis 49

1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; 
listen to your father Israel.

Michael Simpson wrote a book some time back, an amazing, mind-altering book, called Permission Evangelism.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet him and talk with him a few times, when he’s visited my homechurch, and I continue to be amazed at how God has revealed himself to Michael, and at how Michael has been able to share that experience into other people’s lives- into their experiences.

Last time Michael was in town, he preached an awesome message of God the Father’s love and affection for us.  He gave a testimony about his journey towards discovering and accepting that love.  He had this crazy idea that God loves us through other people.  That our experience of some one person’s love for us is actually the experience of being loved by God, Himself.

He used a great image to help illustrate the concept:  He said God looks into this mirror- He is love, and His reflection, the image of his love, is in this mirror.  Imagine that God has shattered this mirror now- it’s in billions of little bits, each little shard showing a small size view of the whole- the image of God’s love.  And He puts that little shard in each person- each act of love you experience from somebody is a shard- a piece of God’s love for you.

Or at least that’s what I remember him saying.  Whether he said it exactly that way or not- the image is embedded in me now.

When Israel/Jacob gathers his boys around his bed, he delivers this massive, epic blessing(slash)curse.  But what he’s doing is speaking into his son’s lives his experience of God.  He’s handing over the shards to each boy.  Every little “prediction” is somehow a reflection of Jacob’s experience of life with God.  God has shown him at some point in his own life some aspect of himself in creation, and Jacob’s sharing that.  In other words, we see in his blessings the experience of Jacob with God- we see who God has been to Jacob.

In Reuben, God gives evidence of strength.  God gives.  That stands to be said.  And Reuben lives with excellence in character and power.  But we also see how rebellion is rewarded, when the strength and excellence are removed.  Jacob is showing that God is inclined towards blessing first- offering good things first.  When we take those gifts for granted, when we abuse the gifts, then they are subject to review, or retraction.  But God starts with the blessing.

Simeon and Levi are case studies in wisdom and self-control.  Or the lack of it.  God has shown Jacob that reaction, anger and violence are not strength.  God does not value strength as the world understands strength.  God does not value the short-sightedness of quick reactions.  

With Judah, again, Jacob repeats the forceful insistence of God’s blessing!  Judah has kept favor in his life, and the blessings of God are about to open up on him and his family.  Jacob has experienced this same kind of overwhelming flood.  The intensity of God’s affection and the abundance of his pantry is unrivaled, and it is poured out on us.  

There is also in this blessing the subtle reminder of the very first promise of God- to send a deliverer, a conquerer, a king who will not disappoint.

In Zebulon, Jacob tells of God’s harbor.  He speaks of how God has been a safe place to dwell.  A place to hide.  A place to regroup and rehabilitate.

Issachar gains insight from Jacob’s experience of life with God.  It has been difficult.  There have been moments of great effort, of confusion, of not being in control.  But though it has been difficult, it has always been a good place, and worth the work.

Dan.  For Dan, Jacob has a reminder- God’s justice doesn’t always come from the front.  Sometimes you don’t see it coming.  But it’s there.  And if you are riding on something other than the righteousness of God, sometimes the Justice that comes can cause the rider to fall.

In Gad, Jacob has experienced a sort of redemption.  Jacob tells Gad that sometimes it seems like a loss, sometimes it seems like a storm that will sweep you away.  But as it is written, joy comes in the morning.  There will be times in your life, in your experience when the onslaught seems to overwhelm, but you will revive your strength, you will arise again.  You will not be beaten.

Jacob has experienced richness and pleasure in God.  It’s interesting to me that Asher’s blessing isn’t so much to experience that richness, but rather, he will serve it to others.  A blessing in it’s own right.  Is it not gratifying to be a source of immense pleasure for somebody else?  That is the blessing Asher receives, and it speaks to Jacob’s experience of pleasing God, and being a source of pleasure!

Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fauns.  What an image!  Jacob is drawing on the experience he has had of being at peace with his creator within His creation.  Beautiful and resplendent!  Serene and prolific.  There is freedom, and LIFE.  And it grows.  It expands.  It continues.

And Joseph- the blessings for Joseph are almost too overwhelming.  He is a climbing vine, a source of envy for others, strong despite attack from outside, calm, not intimidated.  He is in the arms of the Mighty One, He is within the crook of the Greatest Shepherd, and his foot rests upon the Rock of God.  He is the recipient of all the blessings of God, “Blessing of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb.”  I’m pretty sure that’s about everything.

One cannot give a blessing that he has not himself experienced.  How could he describe it?  How could be have the strength and wherewithal to offer it, had he no grasp of it himself?

These blessings show Jacob’s experience with God.  Jacob’s experience with God gives us insight into God’s character.

And God’s character has not diminished or changed since Jacob’s lifetime.  All the blessings above are still available, still a part of God’s cornucopia.  He paints in your life with the exact same palette of colors.  The same selection of brushes.  And the Artists desires to paint the same sorts of paintings.  In our lives.  

What are the shards in your experience?  How have you been loved?  How many shards of that first image of love have you looked into?

Genesis 46

1 So Israel set out with all that was his,  . . .   2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you . . .”


On the road again!  It seems like all of the really amazing things happen to Jacob around the periods of traveling and transition in his life.  And every time he goes somewhere, there’s a vision.  And the vision is always a reminder and assurance of the only promises God ever seems to really feel compelled to make.

In Genesis 28, Jacob was making a “strategic extraction” after he found himself persona non gratis amongst his brother.  I’m sure he was a little scared at the time, because he left with nothing more than a staff and directions to Taco Bell.
But on the way, he has a dream and God astonishes Jacob, telling him “14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,” and “15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
In Genesis 31, a few pages and 20 years to the right, Jacob is making another “strategic extraction” after hearing his brothers-in-law making some not-so-neighborly remarks in his general direction.  He has more than he arrived with, and can’t move with his typical ninja like stealth.  But God comes, again, with a vision and an assurance that though the times are different, and the circumstances are (a little bit) different, His promise remains the same.  He says to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Later, God again tells Jacob to move.  He directs Jacob to leave Shechem (where, by the way, there are a LOT of very angry guys waiting to heal up), and move to Beth’el.  God gives Jacob a new name, Israel, and attaches His ongoing promise to proliferate Jacob’s family to that new identity.  “11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f]; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”

And now, today.  In Genesis 46, Jacob is reveling in his own prodigal son’s return.  A son who was dead is alive.  And an invitation is before him to move again.  God revisits him, repeating the old promise, reassuring Jacob.  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

God’s promises to Jacob, regardless of Jacob’s life, regardless of Jacob’s destination, have always been the same.  “I will make a great nation of peoples from your family.”  And “I will be with you.”

God’s promise to me, and to you, isn’t really any different.  It isn’t really any less objective either.  Because it’s God’s promise to us, not the other way around.

He may not be planning to “make a nation” out of your family.  But He does have some function, some purpose, some reason for you.  Some point to your existence.  You have some unique place in the universe that nobody else can adequately fulfill or perform.  And it’s a God-level, Jacob-like degree of ultimate importance we’re talking about.

I don’t think that God’s promises are really all that different from one person to the next.  He promises over and over in Jacob’s life to prosper him- but it is so that he can succeed at God’s purpose for him (which is to make a nation of people- so think lots of name-bearing off-spring.  Like boys).  And He promises over and over to “be with you,” to Jacob.  Repeatedly.

And not just when times get tough.  Not just when times are good.  Not just when Jacob is a good boy.  Usually when he’s not.  This guy, though in his old age seems submitted enough- has led a life of fighting, of friction, of trouble-making, and “strategic extractions.”

This is the God I’m meeting not just in Jacob’s life, but throughout the entire book of Genesis.  That promise of prosperity to fulfill God’s purpose, be it to build a boat, build a people, restore the integrity of His creation- it is repeated in every generation of humanity.  And ours is no different.  Because God is no different.

The God I’m meeting in Genesis made something amazingly, very good.  And He liked it.  He made so many special things, but he made one thing in particular, and gave it something particularly wonderful.  Us.  He said, “Now, let us make man, in our image.”  Everything else was according to its kind.  But this- this will be different.  It will be in our kind.

And when things got sideways, God didn’t give up.  He didn’t give up then, and he’s not given up now.  He says, after Eve had disobeyed, that One will come who will smash the serpent’s head.  That’s a promise.  And he makes that promise in every generation.