Sunday, March 31, 2019

Is It OK To Wrestle

Is It OK To Wrestle
April 1, 2019
Genesis 32:28  "Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.'"

Jacob was called a deceiver, a supplanter, one who was conniving and always angling to manipulate the situation. He was not known as a humble man or a gentle man but one who was a trickster, at least that was his typical fall-back behavior. Despite Jacob's typical disposition, the Lord still desired to use him intricately in His master plan to start the Jewish people. Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel, was the original Jew.  Before the Lord changed his name to Israel, the father of the Jews, the Lord tested his mettle, moreover the Lord wrestled with Jacob, or was it that Jacob wrestled with God?

Browsing Bible stories, you never read of a man who was audacious enough to wrestle with God. Moses was told to take off his shoes or hide his face in fear of the Lord.  Isaiah trembled in fear on the ground before the Lord. The disciples called Jesus "Master" out of respect for the authority, but not Jacob. Jacob was willing to fight, literally and physically. The Bible says that Jacob wrestled all through the night and when Jacob never submitted or yielded in the struggle, he was finally hobbled to end the battle. Jacob was not willing to quit, he never realized his place. No one ever wrestled with the Lord before, at least not in the literal sense; no one has ever been that bold. Was it a wise thing or a foolish thing to wrestle with the Lord? He was never going to win. Many people say the wrestling was a figurative battle, because it was all through the night, that it was really in a dream. Maybe he awoke and had been sleeping wrong on his hip, hence waking up with a limp.  And what were they wrestling about, why? There is never mention as to the reason. A wrestling match between men is typically to prove who is stronger, who is the alpha male, did Jacob really think he would win that match?

No one will ever know why the Lord decided to wrestle with Jacob in the first place, why he even entertained it. Maybe it was to teach Jacob to finally submit, to realize he was not the alpha male, leaving him permanently scared as a result. Some of you have scars on your mind and body, wounds that may have healed but not without leaving evidence of a battle permanently etched into soul. Those battles, they changed you, some for the good and others not so much. Jacob came away humbled from the fight, with every step that he took thereafter, walking with a limp. Did Jacob regret it in hindsight; was it worth it in the end? It changed Jacob, that's for sure; he was left with a limp and a new name, Israel.

Wrestling in life will certainly change a person; we are often mature or grow during the struggle. Sometimes it shows us what we can do and who we really are and sometimes it leaves us with a permanent limp. This is the same with the Lord as well. He is big enough to let you struggle with Him, knowing that it might be a process you have to go through to come out a changed person. But when you wrestle with God, battling through what you believe and why you believe it, be prepared for the Lord to win and be prepared to leave your old person behind. You will not be the same when you decide to wrestle through things with the Lord. If you have a problem, then dive into Scripture, ask the tough questions, have some heavy conversations with the Lord and wrestle through it. It will be a struggle and it may not be pleasant, but the knowledge and wisdom you should come away with could be the turning point for what the Lord has for you next, just like Jacob. It is OK to wrestle with the Lord, as long as you realize you will not win. When Jacob wrestled, it turned out to be a good thing, despite the battle wound.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 32:22-31

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Let the Prodigal

Let the Prodigal
March 11, 2019
Luke 15:20 3:11 "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for his; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

The story of the prodigal son is famous enough that it can be summed up in a few words. A man had two sons and the younger wanted his inheritance early. So the man divided up his property and the young son left to live in wild living and lost all his wealth. The young son finally came home, humbled, hoping his father might take him back as a hired hand, but the father rejoiced when his son came home and welcomed him back as a son. When the story if reviewed in the Bible, it is just a few short verses. No one knows further detail than this simple parable that Jesus told. The point of the story was the son returning and the Father welcoming him home, similar to the Lord taking us back. But a part of the parable is seldom discusses, the part when the father has to watch his son go, when the father has to let his prodigal son go.

The parable Jesus told never suggested the father begged and pleaded that the son would stay, the father gave the son the gift of a free choice. The father new he could not control his son, forcing him to do something he did not want to do, that would have made his son rebel all the more. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the son was given a free will to make all his own mistakes, possibly rebuking any wisdom from his father.  When I read the story in its entirety, knowing how the father rejoiced and welcomed him back, I know the father deeply loved him and missed his son. I know that watching his son leave was possibly the most painful thing he had ever experienced. The parable is always told from the point of the prodigal son returning, but no one ever discusses the father having to let his son go. Its not that the father is disowning his son, but allowing him the freedom to choose his own path, even if he has been warned that it leads to danger and destruction. I can only imagine the sleepless nights the father went through, wondering if his son was OK, if he was even alive.

The full parable references the Heavenly Father as the father in the story, that he welcomes his children home when they are willing to return. But no one ever discusses the heartache the children cause the father, the turmoil of watching them utilize their free will toward a path that leads to death. The prodigal son's father had to watch him go, had to let him go, and our Heavenly Father does the same thing. The Lord gives us a free will, warns us of all the paths, and then has to let us go if we want to go. I don't know which is more painful, the prodigal son being humbled on the destructive path or the father watching his son leave and knowing what is about to happen.

Your choices, Christian, do not just affect you, they affect those around you and oftentimes they break the heart of God. You decisions have caused the Lord so much emotional turmoil, possible more than you've experienced when making the bad choices. And yet, the Lord still chooses it this way, to love you as a child knowing you are going to break his heart at some point. Anytime you have made a bad decision in life or if you are going to make one in the future, the Lord has given you the freedom to make that choice; He has to let you go if you want to go. But know that He is standing there waiting, without sleep, in eager anticipation to take you back.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Pr 1:7, Pr 10:1, Pr 12:15, Luke 15:11-32

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis
March 4, 2019
Exodus 3:11 "But Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?'"

Moses was born when the Pharaoh was killing the Hebrew babies, so Moses' mother hid him. When Pharaoh's daughter found the baby, she paid Moses' mother to nurse him (she did not  know she was his mother). But Pharaoh's daughter had not named him Moses at that point. The Bible says that Moses own mother nursed him and then when the baby became a child, Moses mother had to give him to Pharaoh's daughter as her own son. It is likely that Moses was born under a different name, a name only his birth mother knew, a name Moses had never heard spoken. When Moses' mother gave him over to Pharaoh's daughter after he had been weaned, maybe two years old or so, Pharaoh's daughter named him Moses at that point and became his mother. Now Moses was raised in Pharaoh's household, clearly identified as a Hebrew but raised as an Egyptian, under the name Moses. He had two mothers, two names, and two cultures.

Some time in his adulthood, still identifying as a Hebrew, he killed an Egyptian to save a slave from being beaten. But the Hebrews rejected Moses as one of their own, they saw him as an Egyptian. Pharaoh now wanted to kill Moses for the murder, seeing him as a Hebrew  and a threat. So Moses fled. He was now rejected by both groups of people, with no family, not belonging anywhere. Moses fled into the desert and finally found a clan that accepted him, when Moses was married and had a son, he named him Gershom, meaning "I have become a foreigner in a foreign land." Moses did not know how to identify himself anymore, so he referred to himself as a foreigner. Needless to say, he was having an identity crisis

That identity crisis carried over into his relationship with the Lord. When the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush and told him to go back to Egypt to free the slaves, Moses argued with the Lord, saying he had become a nobody, not able to do anything for the Lord because he lacked a strong identity. The Lord's response was to re-direct Moses from referring to himself and refer to the Lord. It wasn't critical that Moses had a strong human identity, it was critical that Moses had a connection with the Lord. The Lord told Moses not to worry about his identity, simply to make sure that the Lord was with him in front of Pharaoh. In short, Moses' relationship with the Lord was far more important than Moses' personal identity. Moses was supposed to get his identity from his relationship with the Lord. 

In your own life, you are probably known by what you do or who some of your family members are. But the Lord wants you to be known as His child, known as His own from a deep and personal relationship with Him. If you have that, a rooted relationship with Himself, it does not matter what name your mother calls you or what family you come from, or what nationality you are born under. All that matters is that you are known for having a relationship with the Father. When you have that, you won't even desire to be known by anything else.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 2-3