The Battle Has Already Been Won

I grew up playing sports from the time I was 3 years old.  My dad coached little league and would take me to the practices.  His team would practice on an old playground at the three-story red brick school-house in our little town of 200.  There was no backstop so any foul ball or missed ball from the catcher was my to snag.  I have vivid memories of Dad asking me to grab a bat and taking my first swing of the bat.  I remember hitting it to him and he threw me out, but it is still as real as when he happened many years ago.

The many teams I played on won our share of battles, but rarely knew the outcome of the games before we played.  It was only during the games that you would get the feeling of being victorious or defeated.  What if we had known that every battle or game had a foregone conclusion before it was played and that outcome was that you were going to be victorious.  That is the goal anyway, isn’t it.  Not to lose but to win.  Whether it’s a baseball game or a battle of two powers, the goal is to win.  Total victory.  Total domination.  Total submission.  Win.  That is the goal.

Thousands of years ago, God had the same thought in mind when He heard his children crying out to him in Egypt.  They had gone down to Egypt to get food because of a severe famine in their land and stayed–for several hundred years.  Unfortunately, the land they lived in turned them into slaves and they began to cry about their misfortunes and situations.  God heard them and promised to bring them out of Egypt and promised to give them a land of their own where they would be safe and free from slavery.  You can read their plight and freedom from slavery  in Exodus and Numbers.  God said he would give them victory from the enemies of the promised land, but they didn’t believe him, so the men 20+ years of age all died over a 40 year time because they didn’t believe that God had given them victory.

Fast forward 40 years where all the men 20 years and older had died in the nation of Israel and they are at the same place ready to enter the promised land again with a new leader, Joshua.  Joshua sends in two spies to specifically look at the first battle they will encounter, Jericho.  The spies go into Jericho and connect with Rahab, the harlot who tells them about the mindset of all people living in Jericho.

She said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:9-11 NIV)

God had given them success and victory before there was ever a battle, but they didn’t experience this truth for 42+ years because of their focus on their own power or lack thereof and not on God’s power.  They (all the men 20+ old who died) could have had it all and could still have lived, had they trusted in God’s power versus their own power.  They never got to experience God’s promise because of their unbelief.

How many times has God-given us a promise in the bible for our personal lives and yet we never experience that promise because of our focus being on the circumstances of live versus the Power of the Master in charge.  Frankly I don’t want to even think about that because of the unopened gifts I could have had if I would have only trusted Him.

On this journey we have a choice daily to put our trust in Him and His power to realize His promises for our lives or to trust in the power that causes us to miss out on the abundant life He offers.  I do know what my choice needs to be and choose to pursue that choice daily.  How about you?

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Things Will Get Worse

We have all been in situations where we call out to the Lord to help us in getting out of the dilemmas we have put ourselves in.  It may be a job that is very stressful and we are asking God to give us another job.  It could be a relationship that we are in and are wondering what to do next.  We are looking for a savior to get us out of our entrapment.  We are looking for an easy fix to move us to less stressful circumstances.

The last thing we are looking for is for the circumstances of our lives to get worse. We worship a holy God that wouldn’t allow us to go farther into troubled times would He.  I’m asking these questions because in my daily reading of the bible, I came across a passage that made my mind go to this seemingly troubling thought, “Things often get worse before they get better.”  It’s a story of God coming to Moses in the wilderness and calling him to go back to Egypt, the place he had run from after murdering an Egyptian soldier forty years earlier, to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.  After being in the wilderness for 40 years, Moses had lost all his courage and confidence as a leader for change and had placed himself on a shelf of “not being able to be used for God”.  If you had murdered someone could you find yourself in a similar situation.  When we make mistakes that are found out by others, it is easy to place ourselves on that shelf because of feeling that God couldn’t use a broken vessel like that.

Fortunately God is in the vessel repairing business as he wanted to use Moses.  But listen to the call God gives to Moses.   “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (Exodus 4:21 NIV)  God is calling for Moses to go back, but he is saying that Pharaoh will not listen to him and things will get worse for the people before they get better.  After this call by God, Moses and his wife had a heated argument and they split–she went back to her father and Moses went to Egypt.  After reading further along in this story, it did in fact get worse for the Israelites.  They had been making bricks for the Egyptians and the Egyptians were furnishing straw.  After Moses came, they had to go and get straw and still keep up their quote for bricks daily.  It became worse for them before it became better.

Habakkuk is a prophet in the Old Testament who was experiencing difficulties and cried out to the Lord.  God answered him by saying that things were going to get worse before they got better.  It doesn’t make sense that if we want God’s help, things oftentimes will get worse before they get better.  Unless you put this perspective with what James 1:2-4 where James says for us to consider it joy when we encounter various trials in our lives.  Trials are specifically designed by God to build our faith and produce endurance in our lives.  It is in the difficulties of life that our dependence on God is molded and purified.

So on this journey, it is good to note that the circumstances we find ourselves in will get worse before they get better, but God is there and will give us the way of escape if we continue to trust him.

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I Cannot But God. . .

As I was reading in Genesis this morning, I came across a passage about Joseph that hit me differently than in the past years that I have read it.  Joseph was one of 12 brothers of Jacob.  His birth order was 9th of the 12.  Joseph was the first of two sons born to Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife and was the favorite son of Jacob.  Obviously, the other brothers were jealous of Joseph favorite status.  Joseph didn’t help their attitude toward him when he would brag about his dreams where his brothers,mother, and father would be bowing down to him.

The jealously hit its height when Joseph was sent by Jacob his father to make a report on his other brothers who were out in the fields tending the flocks.  The brothers sold him into slavery to get rid of this arrogant punk and this favorite son they despised.

While in Egypt he was sold to Potiphar and was a servant for a time, but was accused by Potiphar’s wife of trying to sleep with her (she actually wanted him to sleep with her, but he wouldn’t), so he was put in prison.  Over the course of time he interpreted the king’s wine taster and baker dreams, and both of the dreams came true.  The wine taster was raised up to again work for the king, but the baker had his head cut off.

Pharaoh had two dreams, one about ugly cows eating healthy cows, and the other fat grains and thin grains on one stalk and the thin grains swallowed up the fat grains.  No one could interpret Pharaoah’s dreams, but the wine taster remembered Joseph who in prison correctly interpreted his dream.  The wine taster revealed this forgotten experience to Pharaoh.  Joseph was summoned, cleaned up and new clothes put on him before he was taken to the king.

When he was asked about interpreting dreams, Joseph surprised me by saying, “I cannot do it.”  (Genesis 41:16)  Think about that for a minute.  Joseph throughout his life bragged to his brothers about how superior he was.  He was his dad’s favorite child.  He had a special robe that was made for him by his father.  Where is the ego?  Where is his lifting up his gift of interpretation?  This is his get out of jail card, and yet he says, “I cannot do it.”  What happened to the arrogant boy?  What happened to his feeling of being favored and blessed?

Being sold as a slave and having to be a servant, the lowest on the totem pole impacted Joseph in a significant way.  Being put in prison and having to work his way up to being respected took its toll on his perspective of his own life.

Joseph finished the statement, “I cannot do it. . .” with, “. . .but God will give Pharaoh the hander he desires.”  “But God.”  The Christian life is a life of cutting away our self, our thoughts, our desires, our attitudes, our accomplishments, and replacing “mine” and “I” with God.  God takes us through tough times in life to cut away our self and our ego so that He can be glorified through us.  What would happen to all of us if we began to see that we can do nothing apart from God.

On this journey we all want to emulate certain characters in the bible like Joseph, but are we willing to go through the fires of trials in order to get there.  As John the Baptist so appropriately put it, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

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Building Resentment Part III: Irrational Choices

Have you ever been in a situation where your anger got the best of you?  Someone said something to you or did something to you and you went off on them?  Have you been driving and someone cuts you off?  You take their driving personally and want to get back at them?  Or someone is behind you and demonstrates impatience at how fast you are driving?  Do you intentionally slow up to push their impatience to a more intense level?  I think that most of us have something in our lives that is so personal to us that when someone pushes that something, it pushes our anger to a point where we potentially lose it.  We may react to them by cutting them down.  We may react by an action to get back at them.  We may do nothing at the time, but stuff it and cause it to fester inside and react later.

In the case of our two sisters we have looked at, Rachel and Leah, Rachel was resentful to her sister for taking her to-be-husband and being the first to have relations with him.  The resentment was further cemented in Rachel’s mind when Leah over a period of 5-6 years had four sons with Jacob and she was unable to get pregnant.  She gets angry at her husband for not giving her any children and Jacob is befuddled by her accusation because he knew that only God could give children.

The irrational choice she made came when she decided to give her servant Bilhah to Jacob so that she could have children through her.  “Here is Bilhah, my servant.  Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” (Genesis 30:3)  Over the course of time, Bilhah brought forth two sons, Dan and Naphtali that were supposedly Rachel’s sons, but they weren’t really.  Throughout the next several chapters, Dan and Naphtali were never mentioned as having been Rachels’ sons, but were always under Bilhah, Rachel’s servant.

When we experience resentment, we often find ourselves making irrational choices that never pan out the way we intended.  Rachel was so desperate to have children that she was willing to give her servant to her husband and allow her servant to sleep with him so that she could have children.  But they were never called her children.

When resentment isn’t dealt with, it creates complex choices that oftentimes are built on irrational thought.  The journey that God calls us to is one where resentment needs to be cut away from our minds and hearts.

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Skiing In Flagstaff

Skiing In Flagstaff

It was 50 degrees in Flagstaff on Saturday and the skiing was wonderful. That man-made snow is the best

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Building Resentment Part II: Misdirected Accusations

Resentment is a very interesting feeling.  The Merriam-Webster defines resentment as a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.  It is not one those feelings that come and go, but persists in a person’s life and continues to grow in intensity as we focus on the wrong that has been done.

As we continue to look at the life of Rachel and Leah, Rachel’s lover and soon to be husband was given to her older sister.  As I mentioned in the earlier jlog Rachel had resentment to her father and to her sister.  As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that the resentment focused primarily on her older sister.  In Genesis 29-30, Rachel was the loved sister and Leah was the one left out.  So in the course of time, God gave Leah, the older sister, the ability to conceive and give birth to 4 sons with Jacob, but Rachel was childless.  That covers about 5-6 years  at least where Rachel was seeing her resented sister being able to bring forth children, while she is childless.

I remember in my early years of life, my late wife Cynthia and I were not able to have children.  She went through 10 major and minor surgeries, but none of the surgeries produced biological children.  I remember sitting in a young couple Sunday School class and hearing couples announcing that they were pregnant (not the husband mind you) and were going to have a baby.  It was a bitter-sweet experience because I was pleased for them, but experienced bitterness for not being able to have children of my own.  I remember seeing people who were having children over and over and not being able to care for their children, and here we were wanting children so desperately and not being able to have any.  God provided us with three wonderful children through other means, but I can relate to what Rachel was experiencing.

The backdrop of this story lays the foundation for what Rachel decided to do.  She wasn’t able to have children, so she lashed out at her husband.  “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister.  So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die.’  Jacob became angry with her and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who had kept you from having children?’” (Genesis 30:1-2)

Rachel’s anger and resentment became directed at Jacob, her husband.  She was assuming that he was the one who had the ability to give her children so she told him to give her children or she would kill herself.  Her accusation to Jacob, caused him to become angry directed her anger at the person that could give her children–God.

It becomes easy to accuse anyone and everyone who come into our vicinity for the emotional hurt we are feeling.  If we take this root to try to resolve our resentment, it will only grow in it’s intensity.  Our accusations of others causes those relationships to pull away from us and disconnect.  The more resentment we feel, the lonelier we get.

On this journey, resentment is not a road that will produce positive experiences for us.  We need to deal with and resolve this resentment before it grows and matures.

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Building Resentment Part I: The Start

Have you ever been in a relationship where it seems that resentment between you and another person seems to build over time.  It is always someone you have connection with.  It may be a spouse, or a sibling, or a parent.  It could be a neighbor or a long- time-friend.  The relationship didn’t start out with resentment between the two of you or you would have never connected with them.

Resentment starts out like a little splinter in your finger.  If you’re like me, it is too painful to dig it out with a knife so you just let it stay there.  It isn’t that big and it’s not that painful so it just stays there.  Over the next couple of days it turns red, but it’s no big deal.  It begins to throb and you can count your heart rate by the throbbing.  Puss sets in and you begin to focus all of your attention on the splinter in your finger.  Resentment is similar in relationships.  It often begins with an unresolved issue between two people, but the issue is never resolved.  It seems that you can let the issue go, but over time the issue begins to build in your mind.

Take for example the relationship Rachel had with her older sister in Genesis 29 and following.  It’s a story of Jacob who is running away from his brother Esau who wants to kill him for stealing his birthright and the blessing from Isaac, the father.  Jacob meets Rachel and falls in love with her immediately and wants to marry her.  Unfortunately Rachel’s father says no unless Jacob works for him for 7 years.  Jacob does that because he loves Rachel so much, but the father tricks Jacob on his wedding day with Rachel by putting Leah, Rachel’s older sister, in bed with Jacob and not Rachel.  He wakes up in the morning and is furious.  Think how you would feel if you were going to marry someone and the night of your wedding your father gave your sister to your lover.  I would be furious with my father, but would have some resentment to my sister for sleeping with my fiance.  It is a complex story, but you can see how resentment becomes the seed between Rachel and Leah, as well as between Rachel and Laban, her father.

On this journey in order to deal with and resolve resentment, you first have to identify the source of the resentment to stop the resentment from building.  Left alone as we will see, resentment can become ugly.

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