“Happenings” With God…

I know… It’s a peculiar title, but there is a story to tell…

This summer, we knew that we wanted to visited my brother and his family, who live in Ireland.  There was no guarantee that they would be living there after this fall.  We also knew we wanted to give our kids an amazing learning experience.  Plus, we have only a few more years while our oldest kids are even home to travel with us.

Once we decided to give it a try, we had to plan around my brother’s schedule, and our own schedule.  Plus, there was weather to think about, most cost-effective times to travel, and finally preparations to make.

We had to buy Passports for the kids, and thankfully, I began the process as soon as we decided to travel this year.  We would wind up traveling two months before we had originally planned.

We also applied for our business credit cards and began the process of making all our necessary purchases on the credit cards so we could earn the many points for booking flights.  As a result of these cards, we were able to gain 180,000 miles plus our over 40,000 miles we had at the start.  That gave us 220,000 miles, which translated into plane tickets for our entire family, rental car, and a hotel.

On top of that, my husband just “happened” to Google for cheap plane flights one day and found us unbelievable rates for flights to Ireland.  We were able to book flights for $1000 total for all 7 of us to fly to Ireland!  We actually could have gone cheaper, but we paid for $200 extra to insure our kids would have seats next to us.  After we booked, the amazing deals quickly disappeared, as the 747 Boeing issue happened, and Norwegian Air no longer offered amazing deals from the little known airport in Stewart, NY.  It’s just as if God saved that deal just for us.

When we booked our first AirBnB in Ireland, it seemed like an amazing deal: an entire house for less than $80/night and breakfast!  Plus, it had WiFi which is almost unheard of in rural areas in Ireland.  Within two weeks, our reservation was cancelled.  At that point, very few options were available.  Hotels were costly and booked.  Very few AirBnB’s were available — especially for our family size.  We then found an AirBnB which “happened” to be only 5 minutes from my brother’s home.  Plus, the host gave us 20% off.  It had WiFi, had plenty of room for our family, and had breakfast items.  We were thrilled!  The first place we had booked was 45 minutes from my brother, and later, we would find out what a nuisance that would have been.

When planning our trip, we had a range of about three weeks we could work with so we began to plan the order of our trip, based on cheapest costs.

As we planned, we realized that once you get to Europe, there are many cheap flights from country to country so we decided to make this the trip of a lifetime with our kids.  We used points to book flights from Ireland to Germany and to book our rental vehicle in Germany.  Once in Germany, we found an AirBnB that was central to four countries so we could take day trips and visit them all.

We stayed in Austria and from there, drove to Switzerland and Lichtenstein one day.  Another day, we drove to Germany.  Finally, we spent a fantastic day touring in Austria.

The best flights were then to take a flight home from Paris back to NY.  That meant that our daughter got the desire of her heart to see Paris.  We used points to book our flight to Paris and our hotel in Paris.  We then used public transportation to get around Paris.

As we prepared for our trip to Europe, I was incredibly excited but also scared.  I knew that things could go wrong when you are novices traveling in a foreign country, and we were attempting this with five kids and no travel agent.  I remember praying, “God, I just need to know you are with us.”  I knew it was a silly prayer as I knew theologically that God was with me.  In response, I remember God kept giving me the verse in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

It was amazing how many ways God showed how He was looking out for us!  For example, originally, we were trying to find a place to stay in the center of Paris but couldn’t find anything reasonable.  We just “happened” to find the hotel with our travel points, and it happened to be close to the Eiffel Tower but outside the city.  Little did we know when we planned our trip, that demonstrations would be occurring the day we flew into Paris, and that it was a good thing we stayed outside the craziness.  By the next day, the demonstrations were over, and we had a perfect day to tour.

When we flew into Germany, while we waited to get our rental vehicle, my husband just “happened” to be standing next to a guy who told him that we needed to buy a special pass before we crossed into Austria to avoid fines.

We just “happened” to plan a “staycation” at our AirBnB on a day that I wound up with a fever and was glad to have a quieter day to recover.

We just “happened” to be upgraded to a larger van in Germany, which at first seemed like a nightmare.  The upgrade wound up being a huge blessing, as it provided ample space for luggage and extra wiggle room for our kids with so many hours in the van.

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We just “happened” to get a rental van in Ireland with extra room for our luggage — something that is uncommon.

When we tried to leave Ireland, the rental place tried to accuse us of damaging their van.  Thankfully, my brother had warned us beforehand that this is a common practice and how to handle the shysters.

We just “happened” to be touring St. Gallen, Switzerland, when there was a street festival with special music and foods.

We just “happened” upon gorgeous historic blocks in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and in Innsbruck, Austria.

We just “happened” to have gorgeous weather for the days we toured the various cities.

My husband just “happened” to catch a thief trying to pickpocket his phone in Paris.

There were so many blessings — so many ways that God showed that He truly was with us!

Traveling as a family was incredibly special!  The timing was also perfect as our oldest three were a huge help with luggage, keeping an eye on our things, and helping to give piggy-back rides to our littlest member.  Plus, our littlest people are not napping, potty-trained, and able to walk a lot.

The kids did amazingly well with missing hours of sleep while traveling!

Highlights from our trip were the opportunities we had to minister to people in various countries.  One situation happened in Ireland.  We were walking through the extensive gardens at Bunratty Village and came upon an elderly gentleman that had fallen.  There were staff on-site, and they thought the gentleman had broken his neck.  I asked if I could pray for him and then asked the gentleman.  I was given permission.  After praying for him, the staff had tears in their eyes and thanked me for praying.  I was thankful that I could help to bring comfort and peace to the poor gentleman!

The second situation was in Paris.  There are many homeless in Paris, but in this particular encounter, my husband and I, individually, both felt strongly from God that we were to stop and reach out to the fellow.  We did stop and talk to the guy and were able to encourage him, help him a little, and pray with him.  It was definitely a moment that we will remember.  Our kids graciously were okay with us taking the time though they were exhausted, and it was late.

In preparing for our trip, we discovered some items that made our trip easier.  They are the following:

We used this great little zip-up pouch to hold all of our passports:

We used this great pouch to hold all our electronic cables and chargers:

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We used this inflatable neck pillow:

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We used this battery pack for charging cell phones when touring all day:

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We used this converter for helping with mainland Europe and also in Ireland:

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These were great for hours on the road and on flights:

 

This was handy for keeping our money and important tickets safe:

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We used one checked bag.  The rest was carry-ons that needed to be very light as each flight had different weight requirements.

Here are some of our favorite pictures:

Ireland:

Lichtenstein:

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Switzerland:

Germany:

Austria:

Paris, France:

 

Why Our Freedom Will Always Come By Way Of The Cross…

Freedom Rock

(FreeImages.com/KimberlyV)

As I was praying this morning, the Lord put on my heart two actual spirits that are an issue in this current age. The one is the spirit of rebellion, and the other is the spirit of wicked imaginations/impurity.
At the same time, God has also been calling me into greater holiness within my own life.
A number of years ago, God was not focusing as much on holiness within my life though the healing He was bringing me was definitely connected to His holiness.  At that time though, I was not at a place to focus on just holy living.  I had to first focus on God and my understanding of Him and relationship with Him had to change.  Back then, I needed to know that God loved me unconditionally. Without that heart revelation, I would only be living from human moralism which results in pride, judgment, shame, and/or guilt. So long as I lived independently from Him because I did not understand the unconditional aspect of His love, I would be living to gain His approval and thus living apart from His grace and power. I would be trying to live from my own self and blinded by it. God had to completely change my understanding of Him and my relationship with God before I could move forward in my walk with Him.
Now that I understand in greater measure how much God loves me, when He reveals areas that need to change, I don’t hear condemnation. Instead I hear the voice of my loving Heavenly Father who adores me enough to call me into greater intimacy with Him, and greater intimacy will result in my desire to let go of anything that hinders my soul and is not coming from Him.
God has been lovingly showing me the “little” areas that need to change. I think how easily it is to excuse those, but then, there is the verse that says, “…the little foxes spoil the grapes.” It’s the little sins that we excuse that are what bring us into bondage and set us up for failure in the bigger areas.
Last weekend, I was talking with a lovely woman, and she said that God first raised her up to understand her position and inheritance as His beloved daughter, but now, God is asking her to go “low.” I, too, have been hearing that. My desire is to have a heart attitude of obedient yieldedness to God, where I allow Him to renew my mind and to heal me from within. 
Going “low” simply means that I am living in a heart posture of yielding to God and complete rest in Him.  My heart becomes like a finely tuned instrument that responds to every note that He plays so that “our” unique melody is heard.
Freedom never comes from going our way and doing things our way. Freedom is only found in the cross of Christ and what Jesus purchased for us.

Our freedom had a cost, and the cost was Jesus.  

 

Am I Still A Good Parent If I Messed Up?

 

“Am I still a good mother if I have messed up?”

Growing up, I dreamed of being a mother and raising many babies.  It truly was what I wanted.

I almost wrote, “It truly was all I wanted.”  It’s interesting how a simple defining word can change the meaning of a sentence.  Sometimes, I hear the timid apology in the middle of the sentence — the attempt to justify the fact that I can be content with simply being a mother.  Even, the word “simply” though is diminishing the impact and importance of the calling to be a mother.

As many mothers can testify, there is nothing simple about being a mom and raising children.  In fact, parenting will involve every part of you — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

There is no job that has brought me to my knees as much as raising children — five people that I am responsible to help shape into whole, healthy individuals.

There is no job that requires me to be so selfless, so giving, so patient, so wise, so gracious, so humble, so forgiving, so creative, and so loving, above all else.

Then, you factor in that we are all still a process of God’s grace.  We still mess up at times.

When we mess up as moms, which we all do at times, the question some of us ask is, “Are we still a good mom?”

Most moms want to be the best mom to their kids.

It’s interesting how we complicate parenting  — how I complicate parenting…  There are definitely life skills my kids need to learn, but sometimes in the pressure of all the other details, I forget the most important two things my kids need above everything else: to be generously loved and to know how much God generously loves them.

I have a dear friend who is such a beautiful reminder of this truth just by how she lives.  Actually, I have two friends like that.  One mommy friend has seven children, but she wildly loves her children and lets them know that every. single. day.  My other friend has two kids, and I just love to hear how she speaks life and love into them every. single. day.  These two moms get it.  They don’t feel the pressure to run their kids to this activity and that activity.  Instead, they do things like let their kids play in the dirt, splash in rain puddles, cuddle with a pile of books, pet animals, and ride bikes.

Somehow, in our desire to be the best mom, we have so often turned parenting into a list of places to take our kids, activities to plan, and paid lessons for enhancement.  We spend our time chauffeuring our kids instead of actually engaging with our kids.

As a mother of older children, there is an adjustment that happens.  They do have more activities, and they don’t want to cuddle on our laps or play in dirt any more.  Yet, teens still need time just to sit and chat.

What our kids want more than anything else is our love.  

My one friend (I mentioned earlier) also wrote in her Instagram account, #kissingontheporchswing, that our kids also want to know they are liked and loved. 

I wonder if our constant driving from activity to activity is conveying the wrong message?  Does our busyness allow us to relationally connect with our kids?  Does our busyness somehow inadvertently convey to our kids the wrong message that somehow we don’t want to simply be with them?

It’s actually okay to simply like to be with our kids — not that there’s anything simple about it.  It’s that we are content with motherhood.  We are fulfilled in being a mother.

I am entering the autumn season of raising some of my kids, and I am feeling it.  I miss those days of playing in the rain with my now oldest kids, sledding down hills with my once-little boys, and watching them play for hours in the dirt and with bugs.  Those were wildly, crazy days — insanely exhausting and emotionally-depleting days.  Those were also days when my kids were happy with the simplest things.  Those were the days of sweet, innocent childhood and when all that my kids wanted was my love.

What happens though if we have not been always loving?  Are we still a good mom? There are some reading this who have truly messed up in big ways.  Your kids are now adults and expressing all their emotional baggage from the ways that maybe you messed up in your parenting.  Your heart aches for healing and the ability to forgive yourself.

I was struggling with this very question the other day because I am not the perfect mom.  I tried to be the perfect mom for so long, but that whole description is a false one.  There are no perfect parents.

Some of you don’t feel you are bad parents, but you wonder if you are a good parent.  “Am I a good mom?”  What defines good though in the sense of parenting?  There are some obvious good and bad parents, but what about the parents that are doing a lot right, trying their very best, mess up, fess up to their kids and to God, but still sometimes mess up?

I was asking God this question, and He spoke to my heart this truth: “Your children will be given the opportunity to experience my grace just like you have.”  In other words, God was telling me that just like God has given me His grace for the areas in which my parents were not perfect, He will also give my kids the grace to heal in the areas that I have failed them.  

The reality is that we all need grace.  We need to repent of our idols of perfection which are pride and fear-based, and we need to first recognize that we need Jesus.  We need His grace.  We need it for us and for our past wounds, and we need it for our kids.

Our kids need grace and need to see us live in the reality of grace — that it’s not perfection we idolize, but it’s grace that allows us to repent, to change, to forgive, and to release.  It’s grace that allows us to be okay with the healing process that God is doing within us.  We don’t want to stop or force the healing process before its ready because of our own impatience.  We don’t want to be in love with a “perfect work” instead of the Perfecter of our lives.

Jesus, alone, is Perfect.  True perfection is only righteous-based, and that is something Jesus alone can do within our lives.

…So, repent, release, forgive, and heal, but this is a work that only God can do in your life.  Let Him take control of your healing.

 

Hearing God And Knowing His Will…

Stethoscope

(FreeImages.com/AlaaHassan)

Perhaps one of the biggest questions Christians have today is, “How do I know the will of God?”

Some believe that they should just wait for an open door (and hope that it is God’s will).  

The problem with that philosophy is that not all open doors are necessarily for you to walk through.  The Bible even says that “Broad is the way that leads to destruction…”  In other words, there is an easy and “open path” that might not be the right path that God has for you.

Without diving into this topic too deeply today, I wanted to share a conversation that I had with one of my kids (a teenager) this morning.

My child wanted permission to do something.  Because I wanted to give him more responsibility in the decision-making process, I replied: “Your Dad and I are not always going to be around to tell you what to do. You need to begin to exercise your ability to hear. In order to follow Him, you have to know how He is leading.”

This child then expressed that it is difficult to always know what God is saying. I encouraged him to read his Bible and to listen to what God is saying. I also told him this important truth: “If you want to hear from God, then you need to be ready to obey Him immediately and fully.”

I share this because I wonder how many times we, as adults, have struggled over what we are to do next, and the issue is not with God’s desire to speak with us. The issue is with our desire to actually listen and obey Him. Let me repeat that.

The issue is with our desire to actually listen and obey Him.

Sometimes, that next thing we are to obey is to repent of a wrong heart attitude on our part or to release forgiveness to someone else.

Repentance and forgiveness are two important keys to unlocking our ability to hear.

Sometimes, it’s repenting of a lie that we have come into agreement with that is blocking our ability to hear. So often lies about God will cause us to not listen because we are afraid of His answer.

2 Corinthians 10:5

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

We can give “lip service” to wanting to know God’s will, but if we are afraid of His answer, the reality is that we often are not actually asking Him.  We are merely hiding behind suggestions and pretensions.

Isaiah 29:13

13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Matthew 15:8-9

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[a]

The issue with not hearing God’s voice is a matter of our willingness to even hear. 

Our willingness to hear is often connected with our trust in God.  Trust in God is always connected to the truth of our understanding of the heart and character of God.  If our view of God is twisted in any way, our trust will be affected.

Hebrews 11:1

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Hearing from God is about our willingness and yieldedness to Him. It is not about some “magical formula” for hearing.  Let me repeat that.

Hearing from God is about our willingness and yieldedness to Him.

The Word of God will always give you the foundation for hearing because it will help you to recognize the voice and tone of God. Sometimes, the voices we thought were God were other people falsely misrepresenting God to us. Sometimes, the voices we have heard are from the enemy of our soul, and sometimes, the voices we have heard are from our own destructive self-talk.

Ultimately, hearing from God is about relationship with God first and foremost.

John 10:27

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

Letting Go of Shame…

Freedom

(FreeImages.com/DavidSimmonds)

How is it possible that a Christian woman who strove to live her whole life to follow Jesus and who could write a research paper and preach countless sermons on the grace and salvation of Christ could not seem to let go of shame?

It does not matter whether the shame was over some major sin or whether it was over feelings of inadequacy and the failure to live up to a standard of perfection.  All that matters is when you feel overwhelmed by shame — when its weight seeks to crush your soul.

Have you ever cried out repeatedly for this burden to be removed, had people pray with you over the burden, and been able to name it and its cause but still not been able to let go of it?

Sometimes, the greatest challenge of a Christian is not in knowing the truth because we often know it; it’s in the living it out — the believing it.  As I have written in countless blogs over the years, what we believe is actually what we live — not what we profess with our mouths but what we profess with our lives.

I remember that Sunday, worshiping the Lord — my heart overwhelmed by His Presence.  Within that atmosphere of the holy awe of God, He began to speak to me.  What I first saw with my spiritual eyes was Jesus holding out His hands to me.  I then “heard” (in my heart) Him speak to me: “[my name], are you not tired of carrying your pain?”

I had grieved plenty for my sin.  It was not a question of repentance.  A wise friend pointed out to me that I seemed to feel like I had to really grieve — to really prove my repentance.  She recognized that I was putting the work of forgiveness back on myself — by my ability to repent or the measure of my repentance.  Subconsciously, I was thinking that somehow I had to reach some high standard of repentance before I could be free.  Of course, I new theologically this is not true, but what I knew did not matter as much as what I actually believed and lived.

I was trapped by my shame — overwhelmed by the pain of my imperfections.  The only thing good enough was perfection to me, and I could never measure up.  In fact, I failed abysmally at this standard and thus walked with crushing shame.  The crazy thing is I knew the truths behind all this!  I knew not to idolize perfection, and in fact, I had experienced breakthrough in this area before.  The thing is, I still had more breakthrough.  I still had an area where I could not experience freedom because I was still not ready to let go.

I thought I was ready.  I cried out to God for release from this burden on several occasions, but I did not understand the root of my bondage until Holy Spirit revealed it to me.  That Sunday when He showed me His hands and asked me if I was tired of carrying the pain, He showed me that I was carrying the pain of my failures because I was trying to punish myself.  

When there is an area where we cannot seem to walk in victory, there is always going to be a lie at the root of it and often an area of pride surrounding this.  Why do I say this?

  1. Because truth overcomes: “… and the truth will set you free.”  
  2. Because pride sets us in opposition or resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit and to the work of grace (God’s power and righteousness made available to us) within our lives.  “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  

If you are struggling in an area of consistent failure, ask yourself what the lie is or where there is pride attached to that area.

Without realizing it, I was trying to “serve penance” for my failures by holding onto my shame.  I wanted punishment so I refused to let go of my guilt.  This was all happening without me even realizing this is what I was actually thinking and that this was truly at the root of my problem.

Pride was all over this.  Pride will always cause you to resist forgiveness, grace, freedom, and the kindness and goodness of God and others.  Pride is independence at its heart and the desire to be your own savior, your own protector, your own provider, your own perfection.  It will lead to this odd combination of hating yourself because you are unable to measure up to your own standards of perfection and yet operating independently from God and others.

Note: Independence from God and others is often related to the mistrust of God and others.  That mistrust often stems from hurts experienced.  Lies entered our minds on the heels of that trauma, and we accepted those lies in our pain and confusion.

Once I was finally ready to truly let go of my shame, I was able to simply surrender it to Jesus.  As simply as that, He took the shame and pain from me — never for me to see the shame and my failures again.  Instead, what He spoke to my heart was that He would bring “beauty from ashes” and that He would redeem it all.  Someday, He would show me what He had forged from the ashes.

Friend, I know that I was led to write this today because someone is reading this today who needs to be set free from an area of failure.  I don’t care how big or how small the failure is, the only way to be free is to be set free.  “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

What Are You Seeking?

You will find what you are seeking.

What are you seeking?

What you seek will orient the direction of your steps.

This applies in good and bad ways. If you are seeking trials, you will find them. If you are seeking offenses, you will find them. If you are seeking failure, you will find it. If you are seeking arguments to disprove something, you will find it.

On the other hand, if you are seeking God, you will find Him. If you are seeking evidence that He exists, you will find it. If you are seeking acts of kindness, you will find it. If you are seeking reasons for which to be thankful, you will find it. If you are seeking unity, you will find it — at least in your own heart.

What you seek after will also direct where you position yourself in action and attitude.

Body language experts know by watching the direction of a person’s body — especially their feet — they can tell whom that person trusts and/or likes the most. Words can say one thing, but their bodies might dictate another reality.

Want to know the heart of a person? Look at where their feet are headed.

(Thoughts the Lord gave me this past Sunday and that I shared with my kids…)

A Political Statement…

Areas where there is great contention or disagreement are areas of great importance.

You may disagree strongly with someone on the matter being contended, but never forget that there is more at stake than merely fighting over ketchup versus mustard.

There is always a reason and a major foundational truth being battled over that causes huge differences in opinions.

It is in these matters that we must not disengage, discount, or avoid difficult discussions. It is in these matters that we must know why we believe what we believe and be willing to stand on that critical belief with honor (within and towards others). Learn to disagree and stand for truth without needing to belittle someone else in the process.

If you stand on truth, you don’t need to “strengthen” your position by belittling or disrespecting another.

Learn to just stand on the truth; it’s fully capable of holding you up on its own.

More Lessons To Be Learned In Genesis… Jacob Returns to Bethel

Altar

(FreeImages.com/DianeJabi)

During this school year, I have been doing an in-depth Bible study on the book of Genesis with my CBS group.  Though I have read it many times throughout my life, I never cease to learn new things with each additional reading.  Once again, I was not disappointed.

In Genesis 35, we find the account of Jacob returning back to Bethel.  Returning to Bethel is significant because this is the location where Jacob first encountered God. 

Before Jacob and his family returned to Bethel, he first gave several very specific commands to his family.  Each of these directives has a significant correlating spiritual analogy.

1. First, Jacob tells his children to “Put away the strange gods from among you.”

Surrender your idols.

What “idols” or lies (anything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God) do I need to surrender to God in order to move into a place of greater intimacy and encounter with God? 

Idols are anything that agitate my trust in God and divert my devotion from God.  They can be a relationship, a circumstance, a diagnosis, a conflict, a trial, a tragedy, a loss, a goal, an occupation, a comfort, something or someone that I love more than God, etc…

2. Second, Jacob tells his household to purify themselves.

Purify yourselves.

This is speaking of repentance and cleansing.  The Word cleanses us.  Repentance is required though for the cleansing to occur.  Without repentance, it’s like standing next to a shower but not actually getting in and using the soap and shampoo.  Holy Spirit is like the water, and the Word is like the soap and shampoo.  Not perfect analogies, but you get the point.

Ephesians 5:26

26 that He might [a]sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,

Hebrews 10:22

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 3:19

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

James 4:8

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

3. Third, Jacob tells his family to change their clothes.

Change your “garments.”

There is so much significance to this!!!  The old garments of sinful behavior, shame, guilt, and condemnation need to be cast aside so you can put on the garments of His righteousness.  

You cannot wear His righteousness when you are trying to wear your own faux imitations.

Isaiah 61:10

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Zechariah 3:4

Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”

Ephesians 6:14

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

 

After Jacob’s household had followed his instructions, they proceeded to Bethel.  Bethel is the place where Jacob had previously encountered God.  See the following passage that speaks of this first encounter:

Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob’s Vow at Bethel

10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep[a] you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”

18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place [b]Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a [c]tenth to You.”

Genesis 31:13

13 am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ ”

Before returning to see his father, Jacob traveled to the place of his initial encounter with God.  He moved/positioned himself where God would appear.  Bethel means “House of God.”

The spiritual application is, Are you positioned (do you intentionally put yourself) where God’s Presence is?  Do you regularly spend time in the “house of God”?  Does this “house” have the tangible Presence of God that is welcomed?  Does it reveal Him, and lead you into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God?

Not all houses “house” the Presence of God.  Some are empty tombs, enshrining the past but not bringing His life into your present experience.  Jesus lived thousands of years ago, but He still is very much alive today!

As soon as they arrived in Bethel, Jacob and his family did something very symbolic.  They built an altar.

Altars speak of sacrifice, yielding, and worship.

The following verses highlight the concept of sacrifice:

Titus 2:14

14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Romans 6:13

13 And do not present your members as[a]instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Jonah 2:9

But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.”

Hebrews 9:14

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without [a]spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Luke 9:23 Take Up the Cross and Follow Him

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross[a]daily, and follow Me.

(Note: This passage is not talking about a literal cross, typically, but it is referring to the daily ways we must choose to die to our wills and our flesh in order to serve God and others.)

Philippians 3:8

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

John 12:24

24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much[a]grain.

(Note: This is again referring to “dying” to our flesh.)

Matthew 16:24

Take Up the Cross and Follow Him

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

1 John 3:16

The Outworking of Love

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Philippians 2:17

17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Philippians 2:5

The Humbled and Exalted Christ

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

The implication is that yieldedness is the place where God loves to meet us.

He met His people at the altar.  He still does today, except we are called His “temples.”  We are the dwelling place where “altars” or sacrifices to Him are to be made.  This does not mean empty rituals of religious repetition out of obligation.  This is referring to heart-felt yieldedness to God, knowing Who He is and knowing how much He loves us.

Sincere and passionate devotion is what should inspire us rather than religious obligation. 

The question is, “Are our temples merely empty tombs, enshrining the past, or are they a place where God’s Presence is welcomed and where daily sacrifices are being made — sacrifices of yieldedness and allowing Him to purify us?”

 

The place of sacrifice was on the altar within the temple.  We are God’s “temples,” and the altar is the inner “sanctuary” of our hearts.  Our hearts are the place where we yield a pleasing “sacrifice” to God.  This is where we choose to yield to God, to sacrifice our fleshly/sinful desires, and where we pour out our devotion before God.  True, authentic devotion always starts within the heart of a person.

In the Biblical account, we find that as soon as Jacob and his family make their offerings, God’s Presence appears.

As soon as God appears, He does the following actions:

  • He blesses Jacob.
  • He calls Jacob by his new name, Israel, which means “Prince.”
  • He confirms the promises that He had given to Jacob/Israel in the past and to his forefathers.

As we see throughout Genesis, God is always faithful to keep His promises.  He is faithful because He is faithful.  

God’s encounter with Jacob is not fearful, hateful, or condemning.  Instead, it is a time of restoration, blessing, calling Jacob into his true identity, and confirmation of God’s character and His faithfulness to oversee the fulfillment of His promises to His people.

God calling Jacob by his new name is significant.  Names represented a person’s identity and purpose.

What names has God called you in the Bible and personally?  Those names are to reveal your true identity and true calling.  They are your prophetic destiny.

Jacob’s new name means “Prince.”  God also tells us that we shall reign with Him as co-heirs with Christ.

Romans 8:17

17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

1 Peter 1:4

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

Revelation 2:26

26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

Revelation 3:21

21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

It is so interesting to note that God calls Jacob/Israel by His prophetic name and into his destiny after Jacob seeks and then encounters God.

If you are needing greater clarity concerning a situation or relationship, there is encouragement in this lesson to seek God, to put aside “idols” and lies in your life, to remove off the old works of the flesh or your own attempts at “righteousness” apart from God, to enter into his House, to yield yourself to God, and to wait on Him.  God responds to those who seek Him and yield to Him.

God then gave Jacob renewed confirmation that clarified Jacob’s identity and purpose and then poured out blessings to provide and protect Jacob on his journey.  Remember, that what God speaks actually begins to happen.  His Words are creative in nature.  God’s blessings were actually speaking the blessings into existence.

In Genesis 1, God spoke, and it happened.  We see this same occurrence throughout Scripture.  When God says something, it isn’t just a “maybe” or “if then…”  It’s a promise that has creative power attached to it.  When the Creator speaks, matter and energy respond to His voice.

 

The Infinite

If you can earn it, you can take credit for it and therefore pride in it. If it is completely unattainable — too lofty for feeble attempts — then we are humbled and full of deep gratitude and overwhelming love for the One Who earned it for us when we were completely unworthy of it.

How attainable is infinite perfection and the infinite God?

A measure of goodness/”perfection” might move us ahead of another human but compared to the infinite, it is as nothing.

He is either a god whose goodness is limited and thus attainable, or He is a God of infinite goodness so that the One cannot compare to anything else.

Random Collection Of Notes

Beach - soft light

(FreeImages.com/GavinMills)

As I was organizing my Bible study bag and journals, I pulled out a stack of random notes I have taken during messages — quotes I liked and thoughts God gave me during the sermons.  There are so many powerful nuggets within these notes that I decided to share them with you in this format.  Enjoy!

Jesus as Jehovah Jireh

  • Gen. 22:14 — Provision of the sacrificial lamb on Mount Moriah — Similar location thousands of years later, Jesus becomes the final sacrificial “lamb” at Calvary.  (Note: Mount Moriah and Calvary are within same territory.)
  • Jesus was the first/final provision — the “first fruits.”  All provision comes from and through Him.
  • Note: Jehovah Jireh means “God, our Provider.”

Joseph’s Integrity

  • Joseph walked in integrity, regardless of his circumstances.  Read Genesis 37-45.
  • Some of us are making excuses for our poor choices because of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.   Contrast this with Joseph:
  • His circumstances did not decree his character.  They revealed it.

The Bride/Church & Marriage

  • Typically, the bride moves towards the groom in the marriage ceremony.  She is entering into a covenant with him.  He has invited her (why he symbolically stands at the front).  She is responding to his invitation and moves towards him.
  • The marriage covenant becomes a commitment to two people to become one.  The key words here are commitment and one.  There is a critical mindset here of choosing to be committed.  There is sacrifice woven into the meaning of commitment.  To be committed means you must sacrifice something of yourself to carry out the “mission” or purposes of the thing to which you are committing.  It means that two people must intentionally choose to make decisions that are for the best of the unit and for each other — rather than just what benefits one partner.
  • Oneness implies two merge into a new unit that is stronger together and operates in unity.  This unit benefits from the strengths of the two and bolsters the weaknesses of the separate individuals.

Mary, The Alabaster Bottle, and Worship

  • Mary poured out her alabaster bottle at the feet of Jesus.  Another Mary pours it on His head.  One shows the recognition of His sacrifice and humanity (feet speaks of service).  The other shows recognition of His authority and “kingship” (the head is what you crown, and in Biblical times, the head of a new king was anointed with oil to recognize his new position/authority).  These Mary’s were prophetically acknowledging Jesus’ earthly sacrifice and ministry, His death to come, and His kingly authority and position.  Some of the ingredients in the Alabaster bottle were also used to embalm the body of a dead person.  The alabaster bottle was symbolically recognizing all of these important aspects of Jesus.
  • Perfume comes from crushing specific herbs and oils to produce a specific fragrance.  This represents how Jesus’ “crushing” on the cross (death/sacrifice) becomes the sweetness that God smells when He smells us.  His “perfume” covers us so that God smells His Son — not our sinful nature.  We are no longer “sinners” but saints.  (In other words, in position and inheritance, we are now sons — full-heirs of the promises of God — and no longer servants to unrighteousness.)

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [a]homosexuals, nor [b]sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were [c]sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

  • The alabaster bottle was extremely valuable and costly.  By pouring it at the feet of Jesus, Mary was recognizing the value of Jesus to her.
  • The alabaster bottle represents worship.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are able to pour back at His feet.  Our worship/praise is to reveal His worth to us.  Within worship and praise is this undeniable meaning of receiving and releasing.  We receive what He poured out on us, and we, in turn, pour it back on Him.

I have stacks of more notes, but here is a good start.  🙂