Like Father, Like Son, Like Grandson

Genesis 27

1When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

“Here I am,” he answered.

2Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. 3Now then, get your weapons—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. 4Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like* and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing* before I die.”

5Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, 6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, 7‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ 8Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing* before he dies.”

11Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin. 12What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

13His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

14So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18He went to his father and said, “My father.”

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

19Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.”

20Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied.

21Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

22Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. 24“Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

25Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed.

28May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine.

29May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

30After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

32His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

33Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

34When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

35But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39His father Isaac answered him,

“Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.

40You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” (Genesis 27:1-40, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Genesis 27, we encounter a situation that demonstrates how our character traits seem to pass on to the next generation.

If you remember, Abraham was not always as honest and faithful as his reputation might suggest. In Genesis 20, Abraham deceives Abimilech, telling him his wife Sara is actually his sister out of fear that they will kill him to get her if they knew she was his wife. I wrote about this passage in my post “Old Habits are Hard to Break”. This wasn’t the first time Abraham had resorted to deception to alleviate his own fears.

In Genesis 25, Isaac also deceives Abimilech (likely a different ruler with the same name due to it being years later). He claims his wife Rebekah is his sister because he fears that because of her extreme beauty, the locals might kill him to take her if they believed she was his wife.

Now, a few chapters later, Isaac is an old man and he can no longer see. He invites his oldest son Esau to go and kill some wild game and make a delicious meal for him so that he can offer him, his oldest son, his blessing, something that was standard in the Ancient Near Eastern culture.

But Jacob and Rebekah have other plans. Jacob has already enticed Esau, his older twin to sell his birthright for a cup of lentil stew and now, with his mother’s help, he deceives Isaac into giving him the blessing that would normally be given to the older son. In this way, Jacob is establishing himself as the heir instead of Esau.

A few things stand out to me as I read this passage. First, it’s interesting to see that Esau has selective memory. He claims that Jacob had deceived him to get his birthright when the truth of the matter is that Esau didn’t care enough about his birthright and willingly gave it to Jacob in order to satisfy his hunger.

The second thing that stands out is that character traits like deception can be passed along to those around us whom we influence. Rebekah, who saw the deception of her husband in Genesis 25 is a willing accomplice, even the author of the deception that Jacob perpetrates on his father Isaac.

Because of this act, Jacob ends up fleeing his home, out of fear that his brother will kill him. This act takes him away from his family for many years.

Fortunately, Jacob is able to re-write his own story, as all of us are. This one incident doesn’t end up defining Jacob. Instead, God ends up giving Jacob a new name (Israel) and a new destiny, the patriarch of a new people who would be God’s chosen people.

Reflection

What character traits, good or bad, have you picked up from your family?

How can you ensure that you limit the negative traits you pass on to your kids?

What are some incidents in your life that haunt you and tend to define you?

How can you allow God to rewrite your story so you are not defined by that one negative circumstance?

 

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

A Prophetic Psalm

Psalm 22

1My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant?Why do you ignore my cries for help?

2Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

3Yet you are holy. The praises of Israel surround your throne.

4Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them.

5You heard their cries for help and saved them. They put their trust in you and were never disappointed.

6But I am a worm and not a man. I am scorned and despised by all!

7Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying,

8“Is this the one who relies on the LORD? Then let the LORD save him!If the LORD loves him so much, let the LORD rescue him!”

9Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you when I was a nursing infant.

10I was thrust upon you at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born.

11Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me.

12My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!

13Like roaring lions attacking their prey, they come at me with open mouths.

14My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.My heart is like wax, melting within me.

15My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

16My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.

17I can count every bone in my body. My enemies stare at me and gloat.

18They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments. (Psalm 22:1-18, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Usually when I read the psalms, I think of poetic arrangements that communicate lament or praise from the author. I often try to put myself in the shoes of the author and imagine similar circumstances I may have experienced. I seek to lament with the psalmist when he laments and rejoice and praise God with the psalmist when he praises God.

On the surface, Psalm 22 may look like a typical psalm of lament or anguish but upon deeper reflection, it turns out to be so much more. I don’t usually think of the Psalms as prophetic, but Psalm 22 provides a number of verses in which David’s experience ultimately foreshadows the experience of the Messiah.

In verse 1, for example, David utters the very words that are expressed by Jesus on the cross in Matthew 27:46, when he cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”

In verse 7, David’s words accurately describe events that occurred in Matthew 27:39-43, when soldiers mocked Jesus after his arrest and onlookers jeered at Him during His crucifixion.

In verses 14-16, David accurately describes details of a crucifixion, such as extreme thirst, asphyxiation and the trauma to the hands and feet. These verses are all the more amazing because crucifixion as a means of execution was not known until Roman times.

Finally, in verse 18, David’s description of clothes being divided and dispersed by the casting of lots is fulfilled in Matthew 27:35.

All of these events were fulfilled by people who would have had no knowledge of the prophecies concerning Jesus. Yet their actions were accurately described over 1000 years earlier by the very man through whose lineage the Messiah would emerge.

David is not fearful of sharing all his emotions when he pens his words. He is honest with God when he’s sad, lonely and angry. Yet he praises God in spite of his circumstances and in the case of this psalm, his words foreshadow the emergence of the Messiah, the one who ultimately experiences everything David is feeling as he writes those words, yet emerges victorious as the Savior and eternal King!

Reflection

What has been your experience in reading and reflecting on the Psalms? How have they helped you to connect to God on a deeper level?

What is your response to the verses in this Psalm that are Messianic in nature, as they predict events that the promised Messiah would endure?

How do these verses strengthen your faith in the Holy Scriptures as an accurate revelation from God?

 

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

 

 

That Feeling of Panic

Luke 15

8“Or suppose a woman has ten valuable silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and look in every corner of the house and sweep every nook and cranny until she finds it?9And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her because she has found her lost coin. 10In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.” (Luke 15:8-10, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few years ago, I had to take my car in for a recall issue. On my way to the dealer I stopped off at a county e-waste facility to drop off a number of used electronic items for recycling.

When I arrived at the e-waste facility, the guy working asked me to stay in the car and he would retrieve the items out of the trunk. I didn’t think anything about it, until I arrived 20 minutes later at the car dealer.

As the service technician grabbed my keys to pull the car into the service bay, I went to the trunk to grab my backpack and computer so I could do some work in the waiting area while my car was being serviced. But I quickly noticed that my computer was not there.

The computer had been in a zipped sleeve next to my backpack. But it was gone. It was at that moment that panic set in as I realized the e-waste worker had grabbed my laptop with all the other electronic waste items.

It was Defcon red in my mind as I thought about losing my computer, which would have been expensive to replace, not to mention all the data that I would have lost forever.

I called my wife who dropped everything to come and get me. That took 15 minutes. I was clenching my fists and my stomach was turning inside out as we drove back to the e-waste center as fast as we could. That took another 20 minutes.

When I arrived back at the e-waste center it had been over an hour since my computer had been accidentally mistaken as e-waste.

I explained my situation to the worker and he asked me to wait a moment while he went to look and see if the computer was still there.

A few moments later, I saw him walk toward me with the computer, still in its zipped sleeve, in hand.

The sense of relief and elation that I had not lost my computer with all of its contents was almost too much to handle. I was so happy and overjoyed that it took quite a while for all the nervous energy to dissipate.

In this passage from Luke, Jesus tells a story about a woman who loses some valuable coins. She goes through the whole house, turning everything inside out and upside down until she finally finds the item of value. She’s elated that the item she thought was lost has now been found.

Jesus uses this illustration to give the listener a slight glimpse into the heart of God. When people turn to Him and put their trust in Him, beginning a relationship with Him and becoming a part of His family, He is elated.

I often think of God as being somewhat stoic and devoid of emotion. But that’s not the case at all. God’s love for you (and me) is immeasurable. And so when someone decides to turn to Him and become a part of His family, He is euphoric. That which was lost (separated from Him) is now found and there is joy in heaven as a result!

Side note: the e-waste worker, upon handing my laptop back to me, told me that if we had arrived any later, my computer would likely be gone as a truck was scheduled to arrive any minute to haul everything away!

Reflection

When have you lost something valuable or important (keys, wallet, money)?

What did it feel like as you searched earnestly for the item?

What feelings did you experience when you found the item (if you did find it)?

How do you tend to think about God and His emotional response to you choosing Him? 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Was it Immoral for God to Ask Abraham to Sacrifice His Son Isaac?

Genesis 22

1Later on God tested Abraham’s faith and obedience. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

2“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you.”

3The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son Isaac. Then he chopped wood to build a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place where God had told him to go. 4On the third day of the journey, Abraham saw the place in the distance. 5“Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the young men. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

6Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the knife and the fire. As the two of them went on together, 7Isaac said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son,” Abraham replied.

“We have the wood and the fire,” said the boy, “but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

8“God will provide a lamb, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both went on together.

9When they arrived at the place where God had told Abraham to go, he built an altar and placed the wood on it. Then he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar over the wood. 10And Abraham took the knife and lifted it up to kill his son as a sacrifice to the LORD. 11At that moment the angel of the LORD shouted to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m listening.”

12“Lay down the knife,” the angel said. “Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld even your beloved son from me.”

13Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering on the altar in place of his son. 14Abraham named the place “The LORD Will Provide.” This name has now become a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:1-14, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Genesis 22 is one of the most controversial and objectionable passages to critics of Christianity (and Judaism).

The big question people often have from this passage that can cause doubt and skepticism has to do with this: why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? This seems immoral.

The problem with this thinking is that we are looking at it from the vantage point of our modern day morality. We KNOW that it’s wrong to sacrifice your own child. When we see or hear of religious groups or cults that practice this, we cringe in disgust, precisely BECAUSE we know that this is wrong.

But Abraham lived in a different time and a different culture than we do. Earlier in Genesis, we learn that Abraham came out of Ur of Chaldea. In this Ancient Near Eastern culture, child sacrifice was actually quite common as a means of appeasing various regional deities.

So when the Lord asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham would not have had the same visceral reaction that we have today. From Abraham’s perspective, this was an expected act of allegiance to the deity.

So why does God do this if it’s wrong?

God does it precisely to show Abraham how different He is from other so-called gods. He asks Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test of faith and loyalty but then He shows Abraham that He is completely different from how the people in that culture perceived deities. Human sacrifice is not His way. God provides a substitute so that Isaac is spared. This encounter also foreshadows the gospel message – we are spared and an innocent lamb, Jesus, is sacrificed in our place.

In our current culture, God does not need to ask us to sacrifice our child to show our loyalty because He has already revealed His nature on this issue.

So if someone claims that God is asking them to sacrifice their child as a test of faith, or for any other reason, we can be certain that it is NOT the Lord who is making the request, but likely the devil himself!

For more on God’s view of human sacrifice as a form of worship and appeasement, see Jeremiah 19:4-5 and  Jeremiah 32:35.

Reflection

In the past, how have you reconciled or explained this passage to others who object to it as being “immoral”?

What would you say to someone who claims God is asking them to do something that seems to go against Biblical morals and ethics?

What questions or doubts do you have about God’s character or Biblical passages? How can you gain awareness and understanding of those “sticky” passages in order to strengthen your faith?

 

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

A Tree With No Fruit!

Luke 13

6Then Jesus used this illustration: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. 7Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s taking up space we can use for something else.’

8“The gardener answered, ‘Give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. 9If we get figs next year, fine. If not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In the first house we owned we had a tangerine tree. It was awesome. There’s nothing like fresh squeezed tangerine juice.

When we moved to our current location, I dreamed of having a tangerine tree so we could have fresh squeezed juice just about whenever we wanted.

It took a couple of years to clear some of the bushes and get the back yard exactly the way we wanted but we finally bought a dwarf tangerine tree and planted it in the corner.

The first year there was no fruit, but I figured, it was still growing. The next year, it looked like it was ready to start producing as I could see a couple of tiny tangerines beginning to grow.

And then we got a puppy.

If you know anything about puppies, they like to chew things and one of the things our dog chewed on was that tangerine tree. I put some mesh wiring around the base of the tree to keep the dog from destroying the tree but I wasn’t sure if it was too little too late.

Lo and behold, the tree was saved and it began to grow back (see photo on top left). But it’s been almost five years since then and we still haven’t seen one piece of fruit.

This passage from Luke reminds me of my tangerine tree. I’m about ready to toss it out and get another tree, perhaps one that is more fully developed – one that I know will yield me the fruit that I’m so often craving.

Henry Cloud appeals to this passage to illustrate what he refers to as “The Growth Model.”

When you’re thinking about growth and development, Dr. Cloud says there are three ingredients that are necessary: grace, truth and time.

In this example, the tree is not producing fruit. That is the reality. The owner wants to chop it down and put something else in its place, something that will produce fruit.

The gardener urges the owner to give the tree “one more chance”. The gardener wants to intentionally apply these 3 necessary ingredients for growth to see if the tree will respond and begin to produce fruit.

The time is the extra year. What is the truth in this scenario? The truth is the special attention gardener promises to give the tree.

But what is the grace?

We often think of grace as unmerited favor – the free gift of salvation that is given to us by Jesus through His sacrificial death on the cross.

In this illustration, the grace is the fertilizer. It’s the ingredient the tree cannot provide for itself that comes from an outside source.

Like that tree, we also need grace, truth and time in order to grow and develop. Truth is reality. It’s the realization that we have an issue or problem we need to work through.

Grace is the ingredient that you cannot provide for yourself. It may come in the form of support or motivation or help from someone else.

If we have appropriate levels of grace and truth in our lives applied over time, we can experience grow. We will be like the tangerine tree, producing sweet fruit that is evident and enjoyed by many!

NOTE: For a real life example of how grace and truth helps promote growth and change, read my post from December 15 on “Discipleship and Change Through Coaching.”

Reflection

Which of the three elements do you need in your life to experience growth in an area where you may have struggled to see improvement?

What are some areas of your life where you’ve struggled to experience real change?

How can you apply the principles from this passage to help you see progress?

 

Photos by Dave Lowe

 

 

Old Habits are Hard to Break

Genesis 20

1Now Abraham moved south to the Negev and settled for a while between Kadesh and Shur at a place called Gerar. 2Abraham told people there that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. So King Abimelech sent for her and had her brought to him at his palace.

3But one night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you took is married.”

4But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent man? 5Abraham told me, ‘She is my sister,’ and she herself said, ‘Yes, he is my brother.’ I acted in complete innocence!”

6“Yes, I know you are innocent,” God replied. “That is why I kept you from sinning against me; I did not let you touch her. 7Now return her to her husband, and he will pray for you, for he is a prophet. Then you will live. But if you don’t return her to him, you can be sure that you and your entire household will die.”

8Abimelech got up early the next morning and hastily called a meeting of all his servants. When he told them what had happened, great fear swept through the crowd. 9Then Abimelech called for Abraham. “What is this you have done to us?” he demanded. “What have I done to you that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? This kind of thing should not be done! 10Why have you done this to us?”

11“Well,” Abraham said, “I figured this to be a godless place. I thought, ‘They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ 12Besides, she is my sister—we both have the same father, though different mothers—and I married her. 13When God sent me to travel far from my father’s home, I told her, ‘Wherever we go, have the kindness to say that you are my sister.’”

14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen and servants—both men and women—and gave them to Abraham, and he returned his wife, Sarah, to him. 15“Look over my kingdom, and choose a place where you would like to live,” Abimelech told him. 16Then he turned to Sarah. “Look,” he said, “I am giving your ‘brother’ a thousand pieces of silver to compensate for any embarrassment I may have caused you. This will settle any claim against me in this matter.”

17Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and the other women of the household, so they could have children. 18For the LORD had stricken all the women with infertility as a warning to Abimelech for having taken Abraham’s wife. (Genesis 20, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Genesis 20, we find Abraham resorting to one of his old habits – deception. Abraham, fearing the locals, convinces his wife to go along with his story that Sarah is his sister, which is technically true, but still deceptive because Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife.

If you’ve followed the story of Abraham, you know that he did the same thing with the Egyptian Pharaoh in Genesis 12:10-20.

In both cases, Abraham feared for his life, thinking that if people knew Sarah was his wife, they would kill him to get her.

Throughout the Bible, Abraham is regarded as a great man of faith, and yet we see him resorting to deception on multiple occasions in order to protect himself.

What are we to make of this?

First of all, Abraham is not innocent. Abimelech pleads his innocence to the Lord, to which the Lord replies, “I know you are innocent….that is why I kept you from sinning against me.”

Secondly, Abraham does not demonstrate much faith in this situation or the situation in Genesis 12. In both cases, Abraham resorts to deception because he’s afraid that the locals will kill him because of Sarah’s beauty.

Yet Abraham had been promised by God that he would become the father of many nations. In fact, God changes his name from Abram, which means “exalted father”, to Abraham, which means “father of many”. In addition, God had promised that his wife Sarah would bear him a son and it would be through that son that his covenant promises would emerge (see Genesis 17).

If Abraham was such a great man of faith, why does he resort to deception to save himself? Wouldn’t a man of faith tell the truth and trust that the Lord would provide? Wouldn’t a great man of faith trust the Lord to save him from the locals instead of taking matters into his own hands?

The reality is that Abraham was just like us. We often see Abraham taking matters into his own hands, as he does in this situation and also when he decided to father a child through his wife’s maid, Hagar, instead of trusting the Lord to provide a child through his wife.

The story of Abraham gives me hope to know that I don’t need to be perfect in order to receive God’s blessing. Abraham doesn’t always demonstrate faith and he often falls into old sinful habits, but he’s regarded as a great man of faith, not because of these incidents, but because of how he responds to the Lord’s leading and direction and how he finishes his life.

Reflection

What are some of your old habits that you are prone to fall back into?

In what kinds of situations do you find it difficult to trust God for the outcome?

What steps or habits can you implement in your life to ensure you are regarded as a person of faith?

 

Photo by Basil MK from Pexels

 

God Wants You to Get Married

The Daily DAVEotional

Luke 9

57As they were walking along someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you no matter where you go.”

58But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”

59He said to another person, “Come, be my disciple.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

60Jesus replied, “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.”

61Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

62But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”


At the end of Luke chapter 9, someone tells Jesus he will follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus then lays out some requirements for truly following Him.

The first thing he says, in verse 58, is that “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.”

What’s he saying? Jesus is saying that following Him may be uncomfortable and will require sacrifice. Are you willing to give up a life of comfort and ease in order to follow me?

Another person responded to Jesus’s call to discipleship by saying he wanted to first go home and bury his father. Jesus responds, in verse 60, saying “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.”

Is Jesus against family responsibilities?

No. It’s unlikely the person’s father was already dead for if he was, the man would not likely have been there in the first place to interact with Jesus. What the man was really saying is that he would follow Jesus at a later date, when life circumstances are different. Jesus responds by saying that following Him means making Him a priority over everything else, including family.

Finally, a third person says he will follow Jesus but only after saying goodbye to his family.

Jesus responds by saying, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Again, Jesus is not against families. He’s merely pointing out that following Him means enduring to the end.

What does this have to do with marriage?

Well, if you’ve ever been to a wedding ceremony, it’s traditional for the officiant to lead the participants in an exchange of vows. Usually, the official will ask each participant if they will commit themselves to the other person and stay committed through a variety of life’s conditions, including:

    • For richer for poorer (sacrifice)
    • In sickness and in health (priority)
    • ’til death do us part (endurance)

Notice that these conditions are the same conditions that Jesus set forth as necessary to be His follower. If you want to follow Jesus, it will take sacrifice; He must be your priority and you must endure to the end.

If you think about it, Jesus is asking us to marry Him. Not literally, of course. But to be a follower of Jesus carries that same level of commitment, dedication and intentionality.

Reflection

What do you think about the idea that when Jesus invites you to follow Him, it’s like He’s asking you to marry Him?

Which of the three conditions Jesus lays out for following Him do you struggle with the most?

What would keep you from committing yourself to Jesus in the way He invites His true followers?

 

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

A Contradictory Psalm

The Daily Daveotional

Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

1O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?

2How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.

4Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

6I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

(Psalm 13, NLT)


In this Psalm, David cries out to the Lord as his soul is in deep anguish. He feels defeated by his enemies and he feels abandoned by God.

But by the end of the Psalm, David says that he trusts in God’s unfailing love, rejoices that God has rescued him and sings to the Lord because God has been so good to him.

On the surface, this Psalm seems like a contradiction in perspective. One moment, David is complaining that the Lord has abandoned him and in the next moment, he’s praising God for rescuing him and being so good to him.

Which is it?  It’s as if David is shifting back and forth between alternate universes in real time. Is he hallucinating? Is he disconnected from reality? Or is there some other explanation?

The truth is that David IS in anguish. He DOES feel abandoned. He DOES feel like his enemies are overtaking him.

These are real emotions David is experiencing and they are are all true.

But what is also true is God’s sovereignty, love and goodness. David recognizes these things too and is able to acknowledge their reality.

This is what Henry Cloud, in his book “Changes That Heal”, calls sorting the good and bad. People who do this well recognize that there is both good and bad in our world. They are able to deal with the reality that both exist in a way that doesn’t allow negative outcomes to become the consuming focus of their reality.

People who don’t do this well tend to go all bad if one little thing goes wrong.

What do I mean by going “all bad”?

Going all bad occurs when we allow a negative experience or circumstance to so consume us that we begin to project our negative emotion on all aspects of our reality. Our attitude and judgment is clouded in such a way that we can only see and focus on things that are negative while being purposely blind to any good elements in our reality.

David doesn’t do this. He recognizes the bad circumstances he’s in and he’s honest about his emotions. But David also acknowledges the good that still exists, namely, the reality that God is good and loving.

Reflection

What keeps you from being completely honest with God about your emotions? 

When have you gone all bad as a result of an undesired circumstance? What was the situation you were in and how did your emotions affect your perception of reality?

What do you think are some practical ways you can develop in your ability to sort the good and bad?

What are 10 things you can think of right now that are positive about your current life situation?

 

Photo of “Changes That Heal” from Amazon website – by Dave Lowe

The Whip of God’s Anger!

Isaiah 10

5“Destruction is certain for Assyria, the whip of my anger. Its military power is a club in my hand. 6Assyria will enslave my people, who are a godless nation. It will plunder them, trampling them like dirt beneath its feet. 7But the king of Assyria will not know that it is I who sent him. He will merely think he is attacking my people as part of his plan to conquer the world. 8He will say, ‘Each of my princes will soon be a king, ruling a conquered land. 9We will destroy Calno just as we did Carchemish. Hamath will fall before us as Arpad did. And we will destroy Samaria just as we did Damascus. 10Yes, we have finished off many a kingdom whose gods were far greater than those in Jerusalem and Samaria. 11So when we have defeated Samaria and her gods, we will destroy Jerusalem with hers.’”

12After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him—for he is proud and arrogant. 13He boasts, “By my own power and wisdom I have won these wars. By my own strength I have captured many lands, destroyed their kings, and carried off their treasures. 14By my greatness I have robbed their nests of riches and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs. No one can even flap a wing against me or utter a peep of protest.”

15Can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a whip strike unless a hand is moving it? Can a cane walk by itself?

16Listen now, king of Assyria! Because of all your evil boasting, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will send a plague among your proud troops, and a flaming fire will ignite your glory. 17The LORD, the Light of Israel and the Holy One, will be a flaming fire that will destroy them. In a single night he will burn those thorns and briers, the Assyrians. 18Assyria’s vast army is like a glorious forest, yet it will be destroyed. The LORD will completely destroy Assyria’s warriors, and they will waste away like sick people in a plague. 19Only a few from all that mighty army will survive—so few that a child could count them! (Isaiah 10:5-19, NLT)


Assyria is an ancient nation that at one time was THE biggest, baddest empire around.

As is typical of big, bad empires, they conquered other nations, took captives, plundered and slaughtered people and generally enforced their will wherever they went.

In this chapter of Isaiah, God describes the Assyrians as “the whip of my anger.” Its mighty military power is described by God as “a club in my hand.”

God explains that He is going to use the Assyrians as His tool to punish the Israelites, His people who have continually forsaken Him, despite many warnings about the consequences of abandoning the Lord for other gods.

After the Lord has used the Assyrians to accomplish His purposes, He explains that He will then punish the Assyrians.

Why would He punish the Assyrians if they were simply God’s tool to accomplish His plan of destruction against Israel?

Verses 12-15 give the answer. The reason Assyria will be punished is because of pride and arrogance. The Assyrian king won’t acknowledge that He is subordinate to God and that the Lord was simply using Him as His vessel of discipline. Instead, the Assyrian king will embrace the belief that everything he’s accomplished is because of his superior nature over those whom he’s subjugated.

The king of Assyria will essentially make himself out to be a god as he mentions all the gods he has conquered from the various lands he now controls.

God reminds the listener that Assyria is no different than an ax, a saw or a cane. They are all just instruments that are completely useless unless there is an active agent to employ the tool for its purpose.

Assyria, at one time, WAS the big bad empire bullying all the surrounding nations of the Ancient Near East. WAS! Somewhere between 612 and 605 BC, Assyria was destroyed. They were overtaken by the next big, bad empire – the Babylonians, but not before God fulfilled His promise of using the Assyrians to discipline and punish His people who had forsaken Him.

Reflection

Under what circumstances are you tempted to take credit for actions and outcomes that are ultimately orchestrated by God?

The Assyrians were supplanted by the Babylonians, who were supplanted by the Persians, who were supplanted by the Greeks, who were supplanted by the Romans, etc. Why do you suppose empires come and go? What conditions do you think would be necessary for an empire to last?

What do you think is the difference between pride/arrogance/boasting and confidence and self-assurance? How can you ensure that you’re confident in yourself without being boastful or proud?

 

Photo by Jamil Kabar on Unsplash

Is God Against Construction Projects?

Genesis 11

1At one time the whole world spoke a single language and used the same words. 2As the people migrated eastward, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. 3They began to talk about construction projects. “Come,” they said, “let’s make great piles of burnt brick and collect natural asphalt to use as mortar. 4Let’s build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies—a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world.”

5But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6“Look!” he said. “If they can accomplish this when they have just begun to take advantage of their common language and political unity, just think of what they will do later. Nothing will be impossible for them! 7Come, let’s go down and give them different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

8In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the earth; and that ended the building of the city. 9That is why the city was called Babel, because it was there that the LORD confused the people by giving them many languages, thus scattering them across the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9, NLT)


Genesis 11 documents a pivotal scene in the advancement of the human race.

The text says that the people gathered together and began to talk about construction projects. The Lord responds by scattering the people, making them unable to accomplish their objective.

Is God against construction projects?

NO.

The first problem here is not that people are building things but that God’s stated command that people “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” wasn’t being fulfilled.

Instead, the people are congregating together.

It’s clear that some were aware of God’s mandate to fill the earth because it is stated that the reason they want to congregate together and build this tower is to “keep us from scattering all over the world.”

The second problem is that they were building “a monument to our greatness.”

There is no doubt that when people work together and put their minds to something, the possibilities of what can be accomplished are limitless. There is no end to the number of examples of human cooperation and ingenuity, including space exploration and sending astronauts to the moon, the development of vaccines and medication to combat disease, industrial and other technological inventions…the list goes on and on.

But one of the potential downsides of human ingenuity is the propensity of humankind to take credit for their achievements and forget the role God has played in our lives and in the universe. It’s as if the more we advance, the more enamored we become with ourselves. We become the center of our own universe as we begin to worship our achievements and magnify our greatness. In short, we become gods unto ourselves!

This is the ultimate form of idolatry and it’s rampant in our culture. Philosophically, secular humanism is the idea that puts man at the center of a society that excludes God. In a world without God, man becomes the ultimate authority on what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, and what is moral and immoral.

With people in control instead of God, what could go wrong?

God is not against construction projects and He’s not against people working together to advance human objectives, particularly those that benefit the common good. However, He IS against man making Himself god and putting himself at the center of the universe, a position that is exclusively reserved for God Himself.

Reflection

What are some examples of humanistic philosophy have you seen  in our culture today?

In what ways are you tempted to neglect God and “make a name for yourself?”

What steps or practices can you implement to ensure that God is at the center instead of you?

 

Photo by Viktor Jakovlev on Unsplash