Archive for May, 2014

Genesis 30:9-13 – BUT WHAT WILL OTHER PEOPLE THINK OF ME? 

My head shouts “Who Cares!”, but my heart whispers, “You do, stupid”. (Image Created by Ross Cochrane)

My head shouts “Who Cares!”, but my heart whispers, “You do, stupid”. (Image Created by Ross Cochrane)

All of a sudden she is here, arguing with me. When I question her motives she turns and says “Don’t kid yourself. You care about what others think of you! You think happiness is being liked by others. Everybody does. What will my wife/husband think? What will my parents think? What will my friends think? What will my work colleagues/boss think? What will they think of me if I disagree with them? I’ll be un-cool. I can’t be caught wearing that!”

With a look of resignation she says, Whether I like it or not my status is based on what people think of me. I live my life for their recognition.”

She frowns and confronts me, “Although you must resent it at times, if you are honest with yourself, you feel better about yourself when you have a following on the internet of people who like you, a social acceptability rating. A younger Gravatar. A little more hair.”  

Before I can object she shoutsSo stop judging me! People need a little help in what they think about me. The first impression. It is up to me to manipulate that, how skilful I am to control those impressions. I deserve it. 

How stupid it would be to think that I don’t need anyone’s approval but my own. I don’t live life in a vacuüm. I need you to love me. I won’t ask you outright, like you do on Instagram and your blogs, but I secretly want to know “What do you think of me?” 

Now with tears in her eyes she pleads “I need your approval. It’s a game of chance. If I’m lucky, I’ll win. I don’t have low self-esteem, as long as you respect me. I accept myself if you do. I love myself if you do. I forgive myself if you do. I make my own decisions if you approve of them. I am happy, complete, fulfilled and loveable as long as that’s what you want. It works better that way. I fit in. I’m accepted and acceptable and likeable. You do like me, don’t you?”  

Then, before I have time to reply she is gone as quickly as she came. I find her again in the pages of Genesis as I continue to read…

She has already been blessed with children of her own, but now Leah becomes concerned that Rachel might have an advantage (Genesis 30:9). When she discovers she is no longer able to have children, she wonders whether she will be accepted.

So without too much trouble Leah convinces Jacob to take her servant, Zilpah, and sleep with her. Zilpah’s child will legally belong to Leah. Zilpah doesn’t have a choice. Human trafficking seems rife in this dysfunctional family. Leah names the child Gad which seems to mean “good luck or fortune.” I’m not so sure it was for Zilpah. 

She enters a game of chance and luck and neglects her destiny. Leah, did God withhold more children from you deliberately? Have you failed the trust test? When my life seems barren what do I do? Manipulate my circumstances on the chance that I’ll be loved?

When Zilpah bears a second son, Leah names him Asher, or “happy.” Happiness in the midst of mutual jealousy between sisters is false. I want to help Leah to see that true happiness is found in her relationship with God, not in a competition with Rachel and not in compromising her trust in God in order to gain approval from others.

But Leah says, “What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me” (Genesis 30:13 NLT). There is no mention of God’s celebration of her son. Does Leah know that her thinking is dysfunctional and distorted? Do I? Or am I so concerned what others think about me that I forget my relationship with God. John speaks of the religious leaders as those who “…loved human praise more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43 NLT). 

The story of Leah helps me find my security beyond human recognition, social-acceptability, status, and appreciation. Security based on human praise is so fragile and so easily lost. It is a game of chance. God invites us to find our self-esteem and happiness, not from others or from ourselves but from a relationship with Christ. He knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us. He invites us to a fruitful life, based on His Truth and a recognition of His blessings. It is not dependent on what others think about us. Trusting in Christ enables us to live beyond our insecurities. 

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 30:4–8 – WHEN LIFE SEEMS BARREN, AVOID THE CIRQUE DE LA CULTURE! 

Roller Coaster Merry-go-round. Image created by Ross Cochrane using Morguefile photos and Paint.net

WELCOME TO THE CIRQUE DE LA CULTURE. Does Jacob have dementia? He’s in his 90’s, doesn’t seem to remember God’s promise of blessing and he seems to have given power of attorney to his wives. It seems he is running away from home to join the Cirque de la Culture (the Circus of Culture).

MERRY-GO-ROUND. He is insecure, unable to make decisions for his own life and family. Jacob seems to listen to everyone else’s blueprint for his life, submissively complying with his wife’s plan, just as he had to his mother’s plan years before. He has already submitted to Laban’s proposal by working for another 7 years in exchange for marrying Rachel. He is obeying everyone but God, ignoring what God has established for a healthy marriage and conforming himself to the behaviour and customs of those around him.

ROLLER COASTER. Rachel’s plan, born of envy and jealousy, may have tempted him into immorality, but this could have been an opportunity for Jacob to do the right thing. Instead, sin is a roller coaster ride with this family, plunging them from soaring heights and turning their lives upside down. The Circus theme park they have entered has no safety standards and leaves behind a string of damaged lives.

CHAMBER OF HORRORS. Rachel’s plan is for Bilhah, her servant/slave, to become a surrogate mother. No choice. Just given. We are not told, but for Bilhah, the abuse must have been frightening, the loss of respect must have been humiliating, and when she becomes pregnant to Jacob and bears a son, the grief of losing him must have been traumatic. Bilhah presents him to Jacob because he legally belongs to Rachel and Jacob (at least she is able to remain with him as her son is raised by his adopted family). Rachel, not Bilhah, names him Dan. Bilhah has no rights even to name her own child.

HOUSE OF MIRRORS.Rachel names Bilhah’s child Dan, meaning “Vindication”. Rachel says, “God has vindicated me! He has heard my request and given me a son.” It seems, in Rachel’s distorted thinking, that God has judged her by not giving her children, but now He is vindicating her to be worthy of children through her surrogacy parenting plan? Do I really expect God to agree with my plans when I violate His? Is she praying or trying to manipulate God, Jacob and Bilhah? There has been no mention up until this time that Rachel has even acknowledged God’s part in her life. Now she dishonours Him by saying that He favours her sin. This mirror is totally distorted!

STRONG WOMAN. Few people have heard of Katie Brumbach.Katie was a circus performer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for many years and could easily lift her husband above her head with one hand. Katie’s father offered one hundred marks to any man in the audience who could defeat her in wrestling. No one ever succeeded.

Rachel is also a strong woman wrestler. Jacob submits to Rachel’s skill at manipulation concerning her plans for Bilhah. Bilhah has another son with Jacob. Again she must give him away to Rachel. Rachel names him Naphtali, which means “Wrestlings.” She says, “I have struggled hard with my sister, and I’m winning!” Here is the root of Rachel’s motivation; having children is a wrestling match with her sister. Is this about having children or winning at any cost?

God has already promised Jacob descendants. Perhaps what drives Rachel’s plan is that she wants to be included in God’s promise. Unfortunately it prompts her to act recklessly and attribute the results to God. It is our faith and trust in God that pleases Him, not ill-conceived presumption and certainly not trying to attach God’s name to our sin. Hebrews 11:6 “… it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.” 

Who is the Ringmaster of this circus? When my life seems barren, my circumstances present to me an opportunity for me to trust in God for fruitfulness. He is not a genie in a bottle giving us whatever we request. He is the Ringmaster, not of the cirque du soleil (the Circus of the Sun) but the Cirque du Fils (The Circus of the Son) and the Cirque de la Foi (the Circus of the faith). As Ring-master He co-ordinates the various events of my life with incredible skill. I need His help to juggle my time on earth successfully. 

Fortunately, God hasn’t finished with Jacob and Rachel yet. Or with me. He is able to turn cursing into blessing, to forgive sin and enable me to have eternal life with Him as I trust in Christ and a fulfilling life on earth as I serve Him (John 10:10). He is able to use your gifts, motivations, abilities, personality and experiences to the full, not to please the crowd, but because you were created for such a time as this. 

Pastor Ross

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor - Image created by Ross Cochrane

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor – Image created by Ross Cochrane

 

 

 

 

 

JEALOUSY

by Ross Cochrane

Envy sees a world of better things
She vies against a sister with protracted claws
And leaves her grieving, graceless, loveless, insecure.
Self flaying tail of pain, flings it’s stings.
Hateful, harmful hooks take hold and cling. Her jaws
Will maul trust and make truth a prisoner.

Poor in counsel, jealousy lays blame,
Inciting Cain to kill, closing heavens doors,
Her sick soul still seeks a shameful cure.
Yet victory for her will still remain
Unsure.

Genesis 30:1-3- CHECK MATE

Jealousy's Pawn - Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

Jealousy’s Pawn – Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

She begins the game by attacking her husband, who is standing nearby. She is jealous of Leah, her sister, whom she now considers an opponent. She blames Jacob for not concentrating. She needs his support. She is running out of time and patience! The game will be lost! Rachel pleads with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1 NLT).

Rachel has chosen the black and God has made the first move, but she seems to think that she is playing against Leah. She is ready to make her first move, but her strategy is flawed and will serve only to achieve short-term advantage and place her emotions and marriage in danger.

Focused on more than simply achieving equality on the board, Rachel feels she must develop a counterplay to unbalance Leah’s position, to neutralise her gains. She does not know how to lose graciously and she feels that her sister has put her at a disadvantage by bearing children while she remains barren. She knows that she must manoeuvre her resources and bring into play some “interferences” and “underminings” to gain a tactical gain and she is willing to make whatever “sacrifices” are necessary to achieve “check mate”.

The game has reached a critical level even at this early stage. She is flustered, not considering the consequences of her action. She refuses to see the big-picture. She is not aligning her actions with God’s strategy for her life. Her next move is too hasty and unexpected, unconventional, wild, crazy!

“Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.” (Genesis 30:3 NLT)Move the pawn! But Rachel, you can’t have Check Mate in one move!

When your thinking is distorted then nothing is learned from the failures of history. Instead, they are repeated. Like Sarah, Rachel tries to manipulate the hand of God by giving her maid to Jacob in order to obtain children. Like Hagar, Bilhah is the Pawn moved around the board by Rachel.

Afterall, surrogacy is an acceptable tactical custom of the day, like polygamy, or multiple sexual partners. I guess things haven’t changed. One commentary suggests that this is why Laban provides his daughters with maids; as a back-up in case his daughters had no children; pawns in a game of Chess! Bilhah will never have full rights as a wife and mother. She is owned and her children are owned.

Today, we would call it human slavery and trafficking. For Rachel it was a part of the strategy, an ill-considered move to gain short-term advantage over Leah. Jacob is also playing the part of a pawn. Why doesn’t Jacob object? No complaints from Jacob. He’s in his 90’s and sleeping with three and soon four young women. He’s suddenly not interested in asking God about it. For Jacob and Rachel, there is an erosion of faith and trust concerning God’s promises. Neither of them seem concerned enough to pray. Doesn’t Check come before Mate? 

Without God, life is lived like a game of chess where we try to remain in control and determine the moves we play, but ultimately we lose. Each move we make effects the lives of those around us and their moves influence ours, but our selfish choices can seriously damage relationships. 

Rachel does not accept responsibility for her actions nor does she consider the consequences of the moves she makes. The invitation is to stop treating life like a game of Chess and begin to look for God’s perspective, His strategies, His plans and take His purposes for our lives into consideration. 

The strategy was planned from the beginning of time; Jesus experiences the jealousy of the religious leaders of his day and just as they think they have defeated Him, He makes His move. They are astounded. Slaves of sin are set free. The pawns have become royalty. Death defeated, sin forgiven, sacrifice sufficient! Check mate! The white King wins! He invites us to share in His victory. 

Pastor Ross