Archive for July, 2014

Genesis 30:35-43 – RICH DAD RICH KIDS

Speckled Bark. Image by Ross Cochrane.

Speckled Bark. Image by Ross Cochrane.

It’s almost as if Robert Kiyosaki, author of the best-selling book Rich Dad Poor Dad, has been reading God’s business plan for Jacob. I can almost hear him saying to Jacob, “Sooner or later you will have to learn that the moral lesson of your rat-race work-life demands that you become more an entrepreneur than simply an employee. Putting wealth into Laban’s hands with little or nothing to show isn’t what is intended for you. You are intended for blessing, and to be a blessing. You were not destined for exploitation by a greedy and corrupt uncle.”

God invites Jacob, and me, to take the risk of faith rather than be pushed around by life. He always has! We stay where we are unless we make opportunities by taking a risk. But not just any risk. A blatant opportunist who has taken careless risks all his life, Jacob is about to develop a faith literacy and be schooled in honesty rather than take the path that comes so easily to him – deceit and taking advantage of others.

Jacob is working for his uncle to pay off a 14-year-old debt, accumulated by the acquisition of his wives through a shonky business deal. He has no asset base for financial security. Jacob’s assets are not to be found the vague promises from a deceitful man who won’t pay him a wage.

How do you build your asset base? Kiyosaki would say “Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, income producing real estate, notes, and royalties from intellectual property.” Jacob chooses stock because it’s all he understands and he’s been in bonds to his uncle for far too long. He’s still taking notes on royalty and intellect as God invites him to come under His authority and wisdom. God will awaken the financial intelligence inside him, although His method is a little unorthodox.

In order for him to secure all that God plans for him he has to have new ideas. He is still teachable, so he takes a course on faith – buys the latest videos and books, attends the seminars on what God is saying – well OK, maybe not videos, books and seminars, but he knows that he will have to own God’s promises rather than simply wait for Laban to pay him.

His assets are his faith and his family, so he starts to develop a plan for investing in the secure promises of God, minimal risk to Laban, but maximum opportunity for Jacob and his menagerie of wives and children. Honest accounting and investing; he hasn’t tried that before. So he makes a new deal with his uncle – “I’ll look after your flock of plain coloured animals but keep any new-born speckled animals to build my own flock.” His uncle agrees. Plain coloured animals normally produce plain coloured animals. How can Laban lose?

But then Jacob gets weird… Although this seems such an odd thing to do I can only suppose that God is in it… Jacob strips away some of the bark of tree branches and exposes the inner wood in stripes and places them in the drinking troughs as if this will make a difference in producing striped and speckled animals? (Genesis 30:37-39). Now I’m tempted to say Jacob has reverted to superstition, but I know, God does some weird things with branches and rods and staffs (Exodus). A branch makes an axe head float in 2 Kings 6. Moses’ staff becomes a snake in Exodus 4:14 and was used in other miraculous events. Aaron’s rod budded and was included in the ark of the Covenant as a reminder for faith (Hebrews 9:4). God used a bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness as a symbol for expressing healing faith (Numbers 21:6-9).

Does God use the chemicals from the stripped branches in the troughs to change the DNA of Jacob’s breeders? I doubt it. If nothing else, these branches serve as a symbol of faith for Jacob and a witness to Laban, even if it doesn’t do anything for the sheep. Could it be whenever Jacob sees them he prays for speckled sheep? When the sheep look at them they ignore them, drink the water and mate and do what sheep do. There’s no magic or superstition here, just an opportunity for the outworking of a miracle.

So Jacob becomes very wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, male and female servants, and many camels and donkeys, even if they are a motley bunch. You won’t find “Stripping bark from branches” in a chapter of any of Robert Kiyosaki latest get rich books. In Genesis 31:5 (NLT) Jacob says “… the God of my father has been with me.” (see also Genesis 31:10-13). 

Philippians 4:19 NLT invites us to understand that “… this same God … will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Rich Dad Rich Kids.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:25–35 -PLEASE RELEASE ME, LET ME GO! 

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

I hear the old long-playing (LP) record droning on even today, and my Dad’s voice singing above it, “Please release me, let me go…To waste our lives would be a sin…” I watched my Dad waste his life in work that promised him a management position but kept him waiting on meagre wages until he was too old to care.

Jacob wants out. He says to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country.” Home to my own country. I have a promise to pursue. Let me explore it’s implications before I am too old to care.

Laban is a wealthy business person but spiritually bankrupt. God and Jacob are his good luck charms. As God unfolds His truth and reveals His character even to Laban, Laban understands it only through the eyes of potential fortune. “Please listen to me,” Laban replies. “I have become wealthy, for the Lord has blessed me because of you. Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it” (Genesis 30:27-28 NLT). 

So you finally admit it. All of a sudden you want to get generous and give me what is owed. No, old man. It won’t work. Not this time. You don’t want me to stay because I am your much-loved Son-in-law, husband to your daughters. All you want is to accumulate more wealth. Watch it uncle, your greed is showing.

Jacob is willing to leave with nothing. The promises of God are more reliable than yours, uncle. All my life I have heard my mother, my father, you and your daughters persuading me to be involved in your plans for my life. I have played the part of a deceiver and been deceived. I have always felt like a sheep in a pack of wolves, but this old lost wether is not willing to be taken by you this time. I have already worked for you for fourteen years, Laban. But I have heard the voice of the Shepherd calling me home, words of destiny in the silence of my heart. If I stay it will be at the request of His voice alone.

“Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care.” This is business language and he still speaks of his wives as the commodity that he has earned by his work for Laban. Not a romantic bone in his body. You’ve had a good deal. I’ve got Rachel even though you tricked me. We are even. Now feel a little pain yourself. Maybe even enough pain to agree to a deal before I go.

“You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done. But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?” (Genesis 30:29-30 NLT).

“What wages do you want?” Laban asks again. (Genesis 30:31 NLT).Finally, old man. I knew you would get to a deal, but this time you’ll have to do things my way even though one day you may wish you had let me go. “Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. Here’s the deal, uncle. Take it or leave it. “Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. …” (Genesis 30:32 NLT) Let them be a part of a different flock and take them away to be looked after by your men.

Let’s start with a clean slate; with a flock that consists of only single coloured animals. Let me look after that flock. Most of the sheep are pure white and most of the goats a dark chocolate-brown. You’ll get a good deal, uncle. You can keep all your existing flocks. But this time there’ll be no room for deception. No cheating! So uncle, here’s the deal. I get all those born from your pure, plain coloured flocks that are spotted and speckled as well as any black sheep that are born from your flock (Genesis 30:32). “Give these to me as my wages. In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.” Take the deal! I’ll trust God and you trust in your greed. 

“All right,” Laban replies. “It will be as you say.” Jacob, you’re a fool. What are you trying to do? You know that plain sheep produce far more plain coloured animals than speckled ones. You’ll only end up with a few animals, if any. You really will need some divine intervention. So Jacob and God go into partnership.

“Please release me, let me go … to waste our lives would be a sin” (Engelbert Humperdink). The story of Jacob invites me to be released from my own deception and the sin that so easily entraps me and to make a fresh start. We are to be released from wasting our lives and from allowing others to govern our lives instead of God. We are to take the risk of faith with nothing but hard work in our hands, and live in the expectation that God “is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NLT). “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all Your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NLT).

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:22-24 – HOW TO OVERCOME THE REGRETS OF YOUR PAST

HOW TO OVERCOME THE REGRETS OF YOUR PAST

HOW TO OVERCOME THE REGRETS OF YOUR PAST

Regret, like an old injury, seeks to restrict your present and to destroy or control your future.

Confronting regret is like doing battle with a street fighter. He wants to dominate and cut you with a switchblade so that you bleed before you even have the chance to pray. He’ll badger you into doing yet another round and you’ll see the faces of those you have disappointed and hurt in the crowd that gathers. There’s no place to go.

You’ve done battle with regret before but this time you know you must think differently in order to overcome him. You may need to refuse to fight, apologise and seek forgiveness. You may need to spend some time admitting the harm that you have caused until the crowd makes room for you to move on. Rachel comes humbly before God with sin in her hand and places it, with her wounded heart, at God’s feet.

Something changed that day. A breakthrough of faith and the response of God’s mercy. God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children (Genesis 30:24 NLT). At long last, Rachel conceives and gives birth to a son; Joseph (and later Benjamin is added to her family). The mandrakes (love apples) she acquired from Leah had nothing to do with this pregnancy (Genesis 30:5); God hears Rachel’s prayer and gives her a son (Genesis 30:23-24).

She names him Joseph, which means either “to take away” or “to add” (POSB commentary). “God has removed my disgrace …” (Genesis 30:23 NLT). Rachel declares that God has taken away her reproach and added richly to her life. He has turned cursing to blessing. Some read this as referring to the disgrace of not being able to bear children, but no such disgrace exists except in the eyes of her culture. Rachel had much more in her life that was barren. This is a confession of a desolate existence lived without asking for God’s help, not only an account of her neighbours attitudes to her not being able to have children.

What do you do when your life is a trainwreck of regrets; jealousy and abuse and unfulfilled hope.

  • She agreed to marry an old man already married to her older sister.
  • She lived in a bitter jealous power play with her sister
  • She forced her maid servant to be a surrogate mother with Jacob so she could look good in the eyes of others
  • She trusted in superstitious love potions in order to bear children herself 

These choices only served to increase the barrenness between her and God. Our frantic search for happiness without God attracts the dry, famine producing winds that blow ever stronger with the power of regret. But now, as she submits to and is humbled before God, in the midst of her dysfunctional life, God answers her prayer and gives her a child. 

Joseph, her firstborn son, will remind her of the new life that issues like a newbirth as she trusts in God as her Saviour. Joseph will save his family from a terrible famine through the POWER OF FORGIVENESS. He will foreshadow a coming Saviour who will do the same for us. 

I may have to live with the consequences of my choices but I am reminded that there is no twisted dysfunction in my past that is too great for God to forgive, no damaged goods that cannot be redeemed and restored, no distorted perspectives that cannot be cleansed and re-viewed from heaven’s eyes, no regrets that can restrict my present or rule my future. 

Like Rachel “God has removed my disgrace” when Christ bore my sin upon the Cross. I can choose to live a life of grace and beauty as I trust in Him, today. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:19-21 – WHAT TO DO WHEN LOVE HURTS

What to do when love hurts

What to do when love hurts

As I greet him with a smile he looks at me with the confusion of dementia in his eyes and demands that I leave. “I don’t want to talk with you. I don’t know you?” I am a stranger to him, though we have talked as friends many times in the past. In the hall I meet a woman who is walking slowly with the help of a stick. I ask her if she is lost and she tells me that she has never been so insulted in all her life. “I wish all you nosy people would just leave me alone!” she says. I apologise and leave her to sit for a while in the foyer. Through the glass entrance door I see a woman sitting alone and crying. I talk with her about her husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. “He doesn’t recognise who I am anymore and pushes me away” she says, deeply hurt.

I meet people in aged care who experience times when they feel unwanted, excluded, unloved, or even neglected. Times when they feel misjudged or overlooked and sometimes they can choose to let grazes fester and become deep wounds; times when they know an aching emptiness as they see those they care for or love withdraw, reject and ignore them.

The unintentional wounds caused by those with Alzheimer’s disease are felt by those who have known the joys of relationship; those who have loved. It is not really true that love hurts. It is not being loved that hurts. Love is what heals a broken heart.

Leah is not loved by her husband, Jacob, and is vulnerable to the weeping wounds of such loss as he all too often neglects her for her younger sister, Rachel.

God in His grace chooses to give Leah another son to Jacob after a time of barrenness (Genesis 30:19-20) and her broken heart finds expression in the name of her son. She names him Zebulun, which means “dwelling” and “honour.” She chooses this name in acknowledgement that God has not forsaken her and honours her with a sixth son. But in the naming of her son, she also declares her desperate hope that her husband will honour her and finally choose to dwell with her exclusively.

She names him with the tears of her hurt that becry the absence of love “…now my husband will DWELL with me, because I have borne him six sons” (Genesis 30:20 NASB). She is the mother of Jacob’s sons but not the wife of his heart. He will sleep with her but his affections are reserved for Rachel. In her loneliness God also gives a daughter to Leah (Genesis 30:21). Leah calls her Dinah.

Is the desire Rachel and Leah have for children based on the hope of having a share in the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)? It seems that they have disassociated with God’s promises for what has become a race of jealousy; vying for the love of Jacob and the approval of others.

Rachel and Leah invite me to ask myself the difficult questions – “Are my motivations for a fruitful life based on God’s promises; His Word? Or am I involved in a power play for love and acceptance from others?”  

When you experience the absence of love, in whom will you place your trust? Jesus invites you to place your trust in Him, over and above all other relationships, and to find your identity as a person who is loved by God. 

Don’t misunderstand, close relationships with others are important on this journey we make with God, but my identity is shaped essentially by God’s intentions and not the expectations or neglect of others. The healing grace of God’s love gives me a perspective on all my other relationships in life and enables me to live as God intends. 

Pastor Ross