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Jacob’s Ladder

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Click here to read Genesis 30 on BibleGateway.com

 “So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.” – Genesis 31:9

specleWhen we first meet our good friend Jacob, he forces his starving brother Esau to fork over his inheritance before he gives him a snack.  Nice guy.  Then he bamboozles his father into giving him the blessing that should have belonged to Esau.  Even nicer. When his loving elder sibling understandably wants to throw Jacob in front of some stampeding buffalo, Jacob has to run to away from home, and right into the arms of his uncle Laban, a man who also never met a con he didn’t like.

After working for Laban’s ranch for a few years, Jacob decides he wants to start his own livestock business.  But how to start?  Resorting once again to his favorite artform – deception – Jacob asks Laban if he can have all the “imperfect” animals from the herds.  Both men agree to the terms, and then proceed to try to rip off each other.  Laban removes all the imperfect animals before they can breed, and  Jacob tries to tip the scales in his favor by having all the weak animals mate out in the sunlight, and all the strong animals mate in the shade.  Theoretically, this was supposed to ensure that all of the strong animals would belong to Jacob.

GENETICS SHMENETICS

Nowadays, we recognize that the amount of sunlight an animal receives has little to do with the type of offspring they bear.  (in fact, this story is often used by non-believers to mock the Bible.)  However, notice that Jacob himself comes to realize the futility of his action.  In chapter 31, Jacob tells his family “God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me.”  Jacob realizes that his efforts were pointless, and that it was God who was increasing his flocks.

Over the course of his life, Jacob began to rely less and less on his own cleverness, and more and more on God’s provision.  That’s how it is for a lot of us.  Getting close to God is rarely a single event, like they show in those well-meaning yet somehow uninspiring movies.  We make little decisions each day, and we look back and think “how did I get here?”  We start by going to church once a week, and then doing five minutes of devotions, and then ten, until one day we look around and realize that spending time with Christ has become the focus of our lives.

CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY

But it can go the other direction, too.  In surveys of prison inmates, many look back on a single small action – went to that party, told that one lie, shoplifted that little item – as the start of a journey to where they are now.  Almost no one starts off murdering – they start off stealing from their parents, then friends, then the local grocery store, and one day they look around and realize they’re a career criminal.  How does it happen?  That little decision in the beginning.

Today, look at your little decisions and where they might be leading.  Do you need to stop something before it starts?  Avoid that “coincidental” meeting at the water cooler with her; don’t leave that little thing out of that report; don’t “lose” that notice.  The little things may be difficult, but the longer things go on, the harder they become to stop.

The next time you look around, what do you want to see?

Click here to read Exodus 34 on BibleGateway.com

“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” – Exodus 34:26

machete_jugglingFor the most part, the Bible is fairly reasonable with all the commandyness. Don’t murder, don’t steal, keep God first, etc. Most of it is pretty straightforward. But every once in a while, you’ll run across one like the one today that makes you wonder if perhaps Moses misheard what God said, or couldn’t read his own tablet-writing. “Don’t boil a goat in its mother’s milk.” Was this really a problem in those days? And such a problem that it had to be placed right next to rules about sacrifices and honoring the Sabbath?

There are actually several theories about what exactly this command is about. Perhaps it was a common practice for idol worshippers to do that sort of thing. Or perhaps there were health concerns. Or some interpreters argue that this sort of thing violates God’s plan for parenting. Or maybe there was a goat shortage. Who knows.

But let’s step back for a second. If we approach is logically, there is nothing in this command that is hard to understand. It’s pretty straightforward, the words are comprehensible, and keeping this command should not be all that burdensome. The real question is “Why?” Why would God command such a ridiculous thing? Want the humbling and somewhat embarrassing theory?

Maybe to show us a little about ourselves.

WARNING – READ NO FURTHER

Admit, right now you’re thinking about how good it must taste to have a goat boiled in its mother’s milk. You may never had even thought about eating goat, certainly not boiling one, and using its own mother’s milk probably wasn’t even on your radar. But once God says, “hey, don’t do this,” you’re immediate reaction is to start pondering it.

Don’t feel too bad. After all, pretty much everybody in the history of ever has that drive, even the very first of us all. Adam and Eve had one – count them, one – rule to follow. Couldn’t do it. And don’t think it was just about how awesome the fruit was. If God had said, the only thing you can’t do is poop by the wall of the garden, Adam would have felt the undeniable bowel pressure to disobey sooner or later. It’s just who we are.

NEED TO KNOW

The real problem with this command is God leaves us hanging a little bit. We want to know what to do, why we have to do it, and exactly how long we have to do it before we can get back to doing whatever we want. But that’s not God’s plan. God’s desire is for us to trust him. Completely. The way a little child will throw themselves around with absolutely no doubt that Mom and Dad will catch them if they fall. That’s difficult for most of us.

Do we have to know why God tells us to do things? Do you trust God enough to not go there, be with them, or watch that, even if it makes no sense? Do you trust that God has a plan for your life, or your children’s lives, or the lives of others? Or do you get frustrated that God isn’t doing what you think he should in the way should as fast as he should? When you think about it, aren’t we demanding that God meet our expectations, rather than discipline ourselves to meet His? Maybe that’s why God is always talking about pride in the Bible – it’s the complete opposite of trust. That’s the struggle we all have.

Has God shown himself faithful enough in the past that you can trust him now?

Click here to read John 12 on BibleGateway.com

So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,  for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him. – John 12:10-11

Escalation picture

Everything grows over time. Seeds turn to plants, puppies turn to dogs, pizza turns to bellies, the garage sale down the street turns into the junk in your garage – they all start small, but soon push past their boundaries like milk boiling on a stove (seriously, what’s up with that?). Think about the last home-improvement project you started. You may have begun with the idea of replacing that shelf, but soon you had enough wood scattered around your house to build a deck. And not a small deck. A deck for the Titanic.

That’s how it goes. Things start small, but if you’re not careful, they quickly snowball out of control. That’s how it is with sin as well. Very rarely to people go from zero-to-mass-murderer in one moment. It’s little compromises and decisions along the way, and before you know it you’re driving a white Bronco in a slow-speed chase on national TV.

BETTER FOR ONE…OR TWO…OR…

Once upon a time, the Jewish religious leaders in the first century just wanted to embarrass Jesus. He was drawing people away from their teachings, so obviously something had to be done. Ask this rube some tough questions about the law and people will see what a doofus he is; problem solved. Unfortunately, Jesus turned the tables and the religiousites came off looking like toddlers with their hands caught in a bag of Oreos.

Next step: kill Jesus. Caiaphas, the high priest in Jerusalem, argued that it was better for one person to die than for the whole nation to suffer. After all, in their minds, the Pharisees were acting in the best interests of the people. The logic was simple – if the people followed God’s law, good things happened. If they didn’t, another nation (Rome in this case) would come and take away their freedom (or what little of it they had). It happened repeatedly in the Old Testament, so they can perhaps be forgiven for not noticing that the New Testament had started a few weeks earlier.

But sin always escalates. Checking out Victoria’s Secret at the mall? If you don’t stop yourself, soon you’ll be visiting those sites, and perhaps eventually even acting on what you’ve dwelt on. Underestimate on your taxes? Won’t be long before you “forget” about those few thousand dollars you made on the side. Once you decide to kill Jesus, you have to kill those who support him. In this case – Lazarus.

FOREVER WILL IT HAUNT YOUR DESTINY

Since people were lining up to listen to Lazarus talk about his trip to the afterlife, the opposition had to silence him, too. But it wouldn’t stop there either. After Jesus is dead, the disciples are next. Then the next generation of believers like Paul, Timothy, and Titus. Then the next generation, and the next, and the next. There is no end. Once you make a decision to sin, it’ll only get worse unless you turn around (“repent” in Bible-speak).

Fortunately, good can also be escalated. If you start out reading your Bible for 5 minutes a day, it’ll grown into 10. If you decide to give a few bucks to a missionary, you’ll give a little more the next time, and perhaps even end up going yourself. If you give a little in the offering this week, and a little the next, soon you’ll be surprised at how much you can give to God and still not starve. It all starts with a choice in the small things – which side of you do you want to grow? Wherever you start to put effort, the momentum will start to build.

What will you escalate today?


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