ALL I AM: Trinkets and Treasures – Genesis 25:29-34

April 10th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

ALL I AM: Trinkets and Treasures    Genesis 25:29-34

December 26, 1919, a decision was made that definitively shaped two organizations for the next 85 years.  Harry Frazee sold one of his best players.  His name was George Herman Ruth—you might know him as “The Babe.”  For $125,000, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, sold the rights of George Herman Ruth (the Babe) to the dreaded New York Yankees.  For the next 85 years, the Boston Red Sox lived under “The Curse of the Bambino.”  Babe Ruth, at the time, was a pitcher, but he started dabbling in hitting and the year before he was traded in 1919, he hit 29 home runs, which wasn’t all that bad for a pitcher, even back then.  Once he was traded to the Yankees, he started to play every day.  The first year he played for the Yankees, he hit 54 home runs and drove in 135 RBIs. He followed that up, in his 1921 campaign, with 59 home runs and 106 RBIs.  He went on to be one of the most prolific baseball players of all time.  He took the Yankees to the World Series seven times and won it four times. Hit 714 home runs, hit .342 over the course of his career and was elected to the Hall of Fame with more than a 95% election rate.  He was a pretty decent player it turned out!  You read back through it and you go well, why in the world….Harry Frazee, why in the world would you sell the rights….he didn’t even trade him, he just said I need cash, that’s what I need.  I need you to give me $125K and you have the rights to the Babe.  Why in the world would he do that??  If you go back and read about Harry Frazee, he was not only the president and CEO of the Boston Red Sox, but he also dabbled in Broadway theatrical productions.  Those weren’t doing so hot at the time and he needed cash.  So he traded the Babe for $125,000 in cash in a loan for $300,000 and for 85 years it haunted the Boston Red Sox.  He made a decision that was based on the immediate and he failed to see the way the long-term might play out.

This happens all the time.  It happens to us as people, this happens in sports as we see with the Broncos and the Rockies….we see it happen.  It also happens in the business world.  Let me introduce you to another person.  His name is Ronald Gerald Wayne.  You may not have heard about him, but he was one of the three founders of Apple.  He couldn’t stand working with Steve Jobs.  After only a few weeks on the job after starting this company, he sold his 10% of his Apple stock for $800.  Don’t feel too bad for him, because he went back afterwards and he knew it would be a sticky point, so he renegotiated and they paid him another $1500 to waive any rights to coming back to receive any money from Apple.  Really, in the end, it was $2300, so don’t feel too bad for him! Just in case you’re curious, Ronald’s 10% of Apple today would be worth, roughly, $70 billion!!!!  A decision made in the short-term that influenced his life in dramatic ways over the long-run.

This is not just a sports problem, this is not just a business problem, we see it play out there, but this is a human problem.  Every single person in this room—there’s not one person that stands outside of this—has the potential and the temptation is on the table to trade the things that we hold most dear for things that are, in the end, invaluable.  Things that don’t add up and things that don’t matter.  We call this, physically, nearsightedness.  We’re unable to see beyond, sort of, our very scope, what’s right in front of us, to see a little bit farther down the road, but nearsightedness isn’t something that just happens with your eyes.  It’s something that happens in your heart, also.  Where we make decisions that we act on in the moment and then regret in the long-term.  It’s not something outside of any person in this room.  It’s a temptation, and maybe one of the greatest temptations, that we face not just as followers of Christ, but as people.  To make exchanges that are, in the end, to our own detriment.

The book of Genesis is going to invite us into a narrative that draws this point out.  Turn with me to Genesis 25:29-34.  If you were with us last week, we started a series on the life of Jacob.  We mentioned that Jacob had a number of things from the get-go working against him.  He was the second born in a first-born society. He was a gatherer when people and communities valued hunters.  He was not loved by his father in a patriarchal society where the father’s will and what they wanted sort of ruled the day.  So Jacob started off “0-3.”  We’re going to pick up his story as he starts to….we said he lives up to his name “Jacob.”  The name he’s given (Jacob) means “heel-grabber.”  It could also mean cheater or swindler or used-car salesman—you don’t want to buy his car.  He’s that type of guy.  This is just for free, but the names we’re given, we often end up living up to.  The things that people speak over us, we embody and we live out and Jacob is going to do that.  {Look at Genesis 25:29.}  Once when Jacob was cooking stew, {That was sort of one of his things.  He enjoyed a good pot of stew.} …Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted.  And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)  {Just a quick timeout.  In the Hebrew, there’s all these word plays going on with this idea of “red.”  Esau’s red hair; Edom meaning “red”; the Edomites live in a land that’s really red and hilly, sort of clay.  That’s what they want you to draw out.  They want you to see that Esau is an earthy guy, in every way, shape and form.}  Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.”  Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”  Jacob said, “Swear to me now.”  So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way.  Thus Esau despised his birthright.

What an interesting five verses.  You get some insight into the dynamic of the family.  You start to see that Jacob is going to live up to his name of being sort of shady — you want to clutch your purse a little bit tighter when you’re near him, right?  If he wants to make a deal with you, you assume you’re not getting the better end of this deal.  He’s preparing a pot of stew when his brother comes in from hunting for the whole day.  He’s just absolutely famished and Jacob says to him, “Hey, I’ve got food for you, brother.  It’s just gonna cost you a little something.”  The whole narrative revolves around this idea of a birthright.  Now, there’s two things you need to know about a birthright back in this Hebrew culture.  It had two things attached to it:  1) it had a physical promise attached to it.  When the father died, whoever had the birthright would typically get two-thirds of the property.  They get two-thirds of the land, they get two-thirds of all the animals they had, they get two-thirds of the money that they had….  Jacob, as the younger brother, would have gotten a third.  You have to read the story in light of that….so you’re buying a cup of soup for a third of the property.  Even if you don’t have all that much, that’s a bad deal, yes?  Unless it’s just some amazing stew!

Second thing that’s attached to it: (physical, one) the spiritual heritage, the spiritual seed, the spiritual lineage, the pre-eminence in the family…..that the direction you went was the direction that the family followed.  All of that was attached to a birthright.  As that starts to add up in our minds, we should question, even more, Esau…..like, what were you thinking?  Esau, why would you make that deal?  Esau, what was going on in your heart, what was going on in your mind that would cause you to trade such a great treasure for what would end up being just a trivial trinket in the end?  Something that just vanishes, is gone right after you’re done eating it! Esau, why would you do that??  I think the narrative is here in order to ask us the same question.  We’re not bigger than this, we’re not better than this, are we?  We don’t have our haloes on too tight this morning to say, “Listen, we would never make that call,” because we trade the trivial and trinkets for treasures all the time, don’t we?

Here’s what the passage would have us examine in our own lives — the reality that nearsightedness (an inability to see beyond our immediate circumstances) causes us to trade and exchange the deepest treasures that we hold for trinkets, for things in life that will vanish, that won’t deliver on their promise and that aren’t good on what they say.  {Will you look up at me a second?}  There is always somebody in your vicinity with a pot of soup ready for you!  There is!  It’s the reality of the world that we live in.  In Genesis 4:7, in the very beginning of this story, it’s going to say sin is crouching at the door.  Ready to pounce on you, ready to destroy you.  You’ve never woken up in the morning and not been involved in a war.  You haven’t.  And so many of us, whether it’s sexually or relationally or in our job, we trade treasures for trinkets all the time.  And it ends up haunting us and it ends up making us angry and it ends up just wearing on us.  Listen to the way that Jesus said this (in John 10:10):  The thief {…and there is a thief of your soul and of mine who would love to steal and kill and destroy. That’s just the truth friends.} …comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.   This is your birthright, friends!  Life is your birthright.  Salvation, as a follower of Jesus, being born again in Him, is your birthright.  Hope is your birthright.  Joy is your birthright.  Goodness is your birthright because you are a follower of Jesus.  The temptation will always be on the table for us to trade the things that are most dear and most important and most valuable to us for things, that in the end, don’t deliver on the promises they make.  I think this one concept could radically change our lives….that if we were able to say yeah, nearsightedness (the inability to think outside of the moment) causes us to trade treasures for trinkets and treasures for the trivial….if we were able to come to terms with that, it might just change our lives.  It might.

Imbedded in this passage are three ways that Esau gives into what I’m going to call the “treasure thieves.”  We all have them.  There’s all things that go on in our hearts, our souls, our minds, that potentially lead us down the road, that we will trade the treasures in our life for trinkets.  I want to draw out those three in hopes that it might help us get a little bit clearer view of our own hearts and the world we live in.  Look with me again in Genesis 25:29 — Once when Jacob was cooking stew {Don’t you just get the picture that he’s wearing his Martha Stewart apron and he’s like hey, buddy brother, how are you?  Esau comes in from an unsuccessful hunt, but still his ginger Chewbaca hair just flowing in the wind.  He’s covered in beautiful red hair, comes in the from the field….}  ….Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted.  And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!”    He keeps on talking about red stew.  What Esau thought was that there was meat in the stew and what he’s eventually going to find out is that his brother’s going vegan on him and it’s just lentils and he’s going to be highly, highly disappointed, as if it would have made any difference if there was lamb or venison in the stew anyway.  He thinks there is and there’s not.  He comes in and he is exhausted.  In the Hebrew this word carries with it this idea of both physical exhaustion…..so in the New American Standard /New International translations they used the word “famished.”  In the New Living Translation, they use the words “exhausted and hungry” and it carries with it this total depletion of any natural resources.  That’s where he’s at.  Did you know that when you’re hungry — physically, emotionally, spiritually — you are at your most vulnerable point?  It’s no accident that when the Enemy comes to tempt Jesus, he does it after He’s been fasting for forty days and the text in Matthew 4:2-3 explicitly says that Jesus “was hungry.”   What the Enemy wants to do is to feed on and he wants to play to the hunger, the appetites that we have, the cravings that we have, the desires that we have.  He wants to feed those and sell us a lie — if you had just a little cup of soup, then you’d be okay and that would sustain your life and you need that and you deserve it and you should get what you deserve.

Here’s Treasure Thief #1 — Craving.  In the New Testament, they would oftentimes translate “desire” with the word “lust.”  We typically think of that in a sexual manner and there is a lust that is explicitly sexual in nature, but this idea of lust is simply this: It’s a craving that we have, a desire that we, and a way to fulfill the desire that makes us a promise that it doesn’t intend to be good on.  So, lust, in a sexual manner like looking at pornography….we hope this is going to satisfy this desire and it always leaves us empty.  Lust, in a monetary fashion:  We think the newer, the brighter, the shinier, the more advanced…..then I’m going to be happy.  The things we lust after and the things we go for and the things that we desire, always make promises {look up at me just a second}….they always require a payment that far exceeds anything it can deliver.  So, the lust for someone outside of a marriage makes a promise, but when we step into that the bottom falls out on us and we’re left going well, it made a promise and it didn’t deliver.  After Esau sells his birthright, he is angry, he’s upset, he walks out of the tent going man, I wish I would have never done that.  The question that you should be asking is Ryan, how do we start to train our hearts and our souls and our minds so that we’re not just driven by the things that we crave?   That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked that.  Let me give you two ways: one, is start to be a student of your heart. For every single person in this room, we are tempted by different things.  There’s different shiny, sparkly things that we are drawn to.  Start to figure out what you’re drawn to. The hungers that you have, the things that you chase…there’s a temptation on the other end of that and it’s making a promise that it has no intention of keeping.  Be a student of your heart.  Secondly, I would say it like this:  combat your cravings by counting your blessings.  Here’s what Esau loses sight of and it causes him to lose his birthright.  He loses sight of the fact that there, probably leading up to this day, has never been a day in his life when he was on the brink of starvation.  He loses sight of the fact that God has been faithful and that God has been good.  When we are hungry, in the physical sense, we start feel like we need something to satisfy, but when we’re hungry in a spiritual sense, we start to give our lives and our hopes and our dreams and our heart to things and put them on the throne that simply will never fulfill what they promise.  They just simply won’t.  So we combat our cravings by counting our blessings:  God, you’ve been good.  God, you’ve been faithful.  God, you’ve forgiven every wrong; I live under your grace and under your mercy.  You are absolutely amazing!  You’re glorious!  You are good and you call me your child…..   We start to combat cravings by stirring our affection for Jesus, that’s what we do.

Not only that, we engage in a fight for contentment.  Have you noticed that contentment is a fleeting value in our culture?  I was perfectly fine with the iPhone 5 until the iPhone 6 came out.  And then I’m holding the (5) and going what is this garbage???  You expect me to use this?  I could never use that!  Here’s what the Apostle Paul would say about contentment:  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Phil. 4:11)   He goes I’ve learned it!  I had to approach contentment as a student saying, “Teach me how to be content,” which means that we may deprive ourselves of things at times in order to learn, in order to grow.  When you count your blessings, you combat life’s cravings.  You always do.  I don’t focus as much on what I need when I recognize all that I already have.  That’s true for all of us.  So we need to go about this in a little bit different way.

Look at the way the story continues.  There’s another Treasure Thief that Esau encounters.  Verse 31.  Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.”  Jacob is going to say to his brother, Esau, there’s a limited time offer.  For you and you only.  This is the way our world operates.  If they can get people to make spontaneous decisions, they can get them outside of the things that they value and cause them to walk down a path that they don’t want to walk down.  Jacob does the same thing to his brother — You’ve gotta make this decision, Esau, and you’ve got to make it NOW!  Here’s the truth of the matter, friends, very rarely do we make decisions based on short-term information that we are happy with in a long-term world.  If we make decisions based on just the immediate and based on what’s just right now, we will be disappointed in the long-term.  We have a society that just preys on this.  Apps like Tinder where you can spontaneously hook up with somebody and give a piece of yourself away….you can do it spontaneously.  You walk through the mall and you need to buy….this deal is ending….it’s a limited time offer….act now!  What are they doing?  They’re preying on….alright, I don’t want to miss the deal and I’m going to engage spontaneously in a way that’s going to end up leading to my detriment long term.  {This is for free…}  Never forfeit a future blessing for immediate fulfillment.

I can remember when I was about ten years old, my grandparents gave me a stack of savings bonds.  I’m like awesome, $1200 in savings bond.  This is great!  When I became a teenager, I was like let’s cash these bad boys in.  I need some money.  I would like to go do some fun things with my friends.  I told my dad that I wanted to cash in the savings bonds that my grandparents had given me for my birthday.  He’s like wonderful, let’s go see how much they’re worth.  I’m like — it says $1200, that’s how much they’re worth, Dad.  He goes they’re not worth that YET.  We went in and found out that they were worth something like a few hundred dollars and I had a decision to make….am I going to trade them in now for $300 or am I going to wait long term for $1200 later? It’s the choice we all have to make on a daily basis.  Am I going to live my life leveraging eternity, leveraging the things that are most valuable to me, or am I going to sell out and settle for less than Jesus intends and has purchased for me to settle for?  Jesus talks so much about values.  Listen to what he says in Mark 8:36 — For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?    He goes listen, you’re chasing after things that, in the end, really don’t matter.  They’re all just going to fade away.  Spontaneity is one of the ways we feed into this forfeiting our soul.

I’ve wrestled with it as a parent because living in a spontaneous culture and having a phone in my pocket, most days and most times, it buzzes all the time.  And it buzzes at the most inopportune times.  It buzzes when I’m having a conversation with my seven-year-old and then I have a decision to make.  Am I going to engage in a spontaneous decision or am I going to embrace a strategic one?  Am I going to answer right now?  And tell my son, in no uncertain terms, that whoever is on the end of this is more important than you?  Or am I going to decide what’s really important in my life and am I going to build my life around the values that I hold?  We live in a spontaneous culture and we hold spontaneity in our pockets and for so many parents I see them, I see us, I see me choosing spontaneity over the things that are really valuable.  Here’s what we have to do: we have to learn how to ask better questions.  We have to learn how to see down the road a little bit to go alright, if I enter into this relationship, where does this lead, where does this go?  If I leave this job at this time, where do I end up and what happens?  If I do this in the marriage, where does that eventually take us and where do we land?  It’s a lack of vision that often leads people to make spontaneous decisions.  It’s a lack of vision for their life that often leads people to make spontaneous decisions.  So what do we do?  Instead of spontaneity or impulsiveness, what if we were people that clarified the vision for our life and then made decisions based around the vision that we have?  What if we were people who knew, this is what I want the marriage to look like, so therefore I’m going to take intentional steps in order to get there?  What if we were the type of people that said listen, I want to develop character in my life, so I’m going to enter into spiritual disciplines with the goal that God might, through His Holy Spirit, work in me and develop character in me?  Esau only sells his birthright because he has no vision for the way that God will use him in the future.  It’s the only reason he does. It’s the only reason people enter into relationships that they’re ashamed of, make bad business deals….it’s the reason…it’s at the heart of so many of the mistakes we make.  Impulsiveness only controls people who lack intentionality, who lack vision, who lack clarity.  Listen to the way the author of Proverbs puts it (Proverbs 21:5) — The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty {spontaneous} comes only to poverty. 

Here’s one of my encouragements from this morning — take some time and write down what is your vision for your life.  What are the dreams God has put in your heart?  Where do you want to see your career go?  Where do you want to see — if you have kids — your parenting go?  Your marriage go?  Where do you want to see your character, your attitude…..what is your vision that God has given you for your life?  Write it down because impulsiveness controls people who lack clarity.  Impulsiveness is one of the thieves of your joy and the treasures that God has so graciously put in your life.  Please don’t give them up for a spontaneous decision that you end up, in the end, regretting.

I had the opportunity, this week, to meet with a man named Jeff.  He’s Dr. Jeff and he lives up in Conifer/Bailey area and he’s been without shoes for six years.  Not in Hawaii….Conifer!  That’s not exactly a warm winter.  I had the chance to sit down with him and I asked him, “Jeff, what’s the deal?  Why are you without shoes?”  He said — I was helping kids in Cambodia and I saw a few girls playing on the dump.  They were playing on the dump and they had no shoes.  What I found out was that either their parents sold them or they were taken against their will, but they were involved in slavery.  People take their shoes in order to make it harder for them to run away.  I made a commitment to the Lord that I wouldn’t wear shoes for an entire year. At the end of that year, I went to put my sock on and (I can’t explain it to you) I couldn’t get my sock on.  God spoke to my heart and said there are three ways I will eventually put shoes on.  1) God tells me I can wear shoes again.  2) Every single girl is rescued from sex slavery.  3) I die.  He started to unpack for me his ministry, which is called Joy International and they rescue victims caught in sex slavery.  It is AMAZING!  He showed me a video from just this last week of a girl who is twelve years old, whose sister was going to sell her into sex slavery.  She had no idea.  Jeff’s organization steps in at the very last second—this undercover sting operation—and they save this girl’s life!  Jeff said, “Ryan, I can’t stop.  I will NOT stop!  This is God’s mission for my life.”  I started to think about him and I thought, “How many of us would benefit from ten minutes of sitting down and praying God, what’s your dream for my life?  What do you want to use my life for?”  I don’t want to sell my birthright.  I don’t want to sell my calling.  I don’t want to sell the platform, any sort of influence that you’ve given me for a cup of soup.  And someone’s always ready with a cup of soup, friends.  If we don’t have a clear vision of — God, this is where you’re leading me and God, this is the vision you’ve given to me for my life, we are going to settle for so much less than He wants for us.  Impulsiveness always controls people who lack clarity.

Finally, verse 32.  Look at this last Treasure Thief:  Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”   Now, we often read the Bible and we want to read the Bible literally because we feel like that’s probably the best way to do it, but there’s sometimes you shouldn’t read the Bible literally.  There’s sometimes you need to read the story and hear what’s going on and make an interpretation based on what they’ve told you in the context of the story.  So, Esau says, “I am about to die.”  Is he about to die?  No!  How do we know this? He’s been hunting all day and it takes anywhere between 45 and 61 days to die from starvation!!  It’s just a fact.  He FEELS like he’s going to die…..  We went on a family bike ride yesterday….I’m reading this and thinking that it’s every dinner, right?  This is AFTER dinner…..I feel like I’m going to die!  I’m starving here!  That’s strange — wish you would have eaten ten minutes ago.  {Sorry, I’m sharing my issues now, those are my problems.}  We’re on a bike ride yesterday and my son comes up to me and goes I’m dying of thirst.  We’ve ridden a mile!  Flat ground.  I give him a water bottle…..    We do this all the time.  Here’s the thief of treasure that Esau encounters — Exaggeration!  We do this ALL the time, don’t we?  Think of the way you think and process things oftentimes.  In a marriage, we use words like “often” and “never.”  We use those ALL the time!  {That’s an exaggeration there.}  Oh, she never does this….   He never does that….  They ALWAYS do this……   What are we doing?  We’re exaggerating.  Look at Esau’s life.  He says “I’m about to die” in order to justify.  I’m justified in making this decision because I’m on my death bed.  What good is a birthright to me if I’m six feet under?  What am I going to do with the land?  What am I going to do with the money?  What am I going to do with the spiritual heritage when I’m dead??  We do it all the time.  We do it with marriages.  We do it with our morality….we justify making really bad decisions because well, they didn’t hold up their end of the deal.  Or listen, my boss is a jerk, so on his time and on company time I’m going to look for another job.  I’m going to just cut a few corners and I’m not going to do a great job.  Why?  Because they treat me absolutely terribly.  Some of that might be true, but my guess is that a lot of it’s in your mind.  I hear this often:  Christianity is in such terrible shape. This is the worst it’s ever been!  The only problem with that is…..HISTORY!!  It’s no where near as bad as it’s ever been.  Is it fair to say we see a moral decline?  Absolutely, we see a moral decline.  Is it the worst it’s ever been?  Just go back and read a little bit about the way Christianity started in the heart of the Roman Empire, where if you were a follower of Jesus, you would be covered in tar, lit on fire, put on a pole in order to light up the Emperor’s night parties.  There’s as many as two to three thousand followers of Jesus crucified on crosses outside of Roman cities on a single day.  We often exaggerate in order to justify.  We’re going to get angry about this, we’re going to get upset about this, we’re going to do this in response…..all I’m saying is are things great?  I think things have been better, absolutely.  Is it as bad as it’s ever been?  NO!  We need to keep in mind history.  We need to keep in mind the global nature of the faith that we’re a part of, so when we say we’re followers of Jesus, we understand that there are followers of Jesus all around the globe who don’t have nice, warm buildings to meet in.  They don’t have PowerPoints to put up slides….that they are giving their very lives because they are followers of Jesus.  When we go oh, it’s terrible here, they look at us and go tell us more about that!  How bad it is!

We need to keep in mind history.  We need to keep in mind geography.  We need to keep in mind theology, friends.  When you hear people exaggerate about the state of Christianity in the United States of America, I just want one verse to come to your mind — it’s a promise Jesus made — I will, if all of the conditions are right and all of the politics go your way and you have all the resources you need, build my church!  Some of you know that’s not it!  It’s just simply this:  I WILL, in the great seasons and the terrible seasons, in the light, in the darkness, in the joy, in the pain….I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!  And you can sink anchor into that!  Exaggeration starts to stir in us this whining.  We lose confidence in God.  We lose boldness in ministry and we forfeit joy on the journey.  That’s what happens!

Pain has this tendency to just cloud our vision of reality.  It happened to the prophet Elijah.  If you want to read about it it is 1 Kings 19:14, 18.  He says to God, “God, I’m the only one left.  This is terrible.”  God {my paraphrase} says, “Hey, Elijah, will you stop your whining?  I’ve got 7,000 others, you’re going to be just fine.” Exaggerated pain often leads to an inequitable exchange.  I’m hurt….this is the worst it’s ever been…therefore, I’m going to make this decision.  But the antidote is:  Engage in your present reality.  Truth is your best friend.  It is.  Things may not be as good as they used to be, but they’re not as bad as they could be. Engage your present reality, but keep an eternal perspective. This is Paul’s charge to the church at Corinth: So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, {If anything, that’s an understatement.  He’s getting beat up.  He’s spent days and nights on the open sea.  He’s spent time in jail.  And he goes listen, our outer bodies are wasting away….} ….our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corin.4:16-17)  He says: Don’t exaggerate the pain.  Elevate your perspective and engage the eternity that God has promised to you.  That’s his command.  When we exaggerate we just enter deeper and deeper into our own personal narrative of what’s going on and it often causes us to sell the things that are most dear to purchase things that will evaporate in time.

If you go back and read this story, there’s only two characters in it — you have Jacob and you have Esau.  I always wondered why Esau didn’t get a second opinion.  It’s sort of a big decision.  Or maybe shop the market a little bit……hey, someone’s willing to offer a cup of soup for my birthright.  I’m willing to give you a lamb or…..at least engage a little bit.  He just goes in hook, line and sinker.  Why?  Because it’s only those two and they’re looking at each other.  That’s it! If you were to ask somebody else hey, do you think it’s a good deal for me to sell my birthright for a cup of soup?…my guess is, if he had any good friends, they would probably say–I think that’s a terrible deal!  Which is why it’s so important that we live in a community of faith, friends.  It’s why it’s so important that if you’ve walked this road and are farther down the road of faith than other people that you share your story.  That you’re honest….these are some of the things I’ve done, these are some of the decisions that I’ve made, these are some of the Treasure Thieves that I’ve engaged in and that I’ve found and….so you share your story so that some people who aren’t quite as far along in the journey can benefit from some of the wisdom that you’ve gained along this road of faith.

The reason God calls us to live in community…..  I was frustrated this week and was sort of spinning myself around in circles.  I said to my wife, Kelly, {which I do maybe once a week} “Hey, am I crazy?”  She looks at me and says, “YES! Yes, you are.  You need to settle down and take a deep breath.  Go on a walk and I’d love to talk to you afterwards.”   We need people like that in our life, don’t we?  If we isolate, we can exaggerate with the best of them.  This is the worst it’s ever been….they never….he never….she never……   We start to feed that lie and eventually we sell the things that are most important to us and we justify it because of the deep pain that’s in our soul.

Here’s how the story ends:  Jacob said, “Swear to me now.”  So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. {What the narrator of Genesis wants you to feel is this immediate regret.  I wish I wouldn’t have.}  Thus Esau despised his birthright.   The most valuable thing that he had, he ends up despising and selling for something that would eventually turn into just a trinket and fade away.  Here’s the deal, friends.  There’s always somebody with a pot of stew.  Always.  And we are always on the brink of, if we aren’t careful, forfeiting the things that are most valuable to us in exchange for things that will eventually fade away.  But the gospel is, the truth of who Jesus is, not ‘I want you to hold on to everything as tightly as you can,’ it’s ‘I want you to leverage the things that you have to make the most of the things that matter.’  In contrast to selling our treasures for trinkets, what Jesus invites us to do is to leverage everything that we have—-the good, the bad, the ugly, the things we’re ashamed of, the life that we have—-and bring it to HIS throne and HIS kingdom and say Jesus, you’ve got all of me! You’ve got all of my trinkets and I’m exchanging them for one thing — it’s the treasure of knowing you!  That I may be found in you, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in the Messiah.  Friends, when we see Jesus as our greatest treasure and we step into knowing Him in an intimate way, the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.  To quote Jim Elliot:  “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”   Let’s pray.

Before you go running out of here, I want to encourage you to take a moment and ask Jesus to search your heart.  Search us, Father, and know us.  Point out if there’s any offensive way in us and lead us in the way everlasting.  That’s our prayer.  God, is there anything we’re lusting over, we’re craving, that has the potential to lead us down the road of destruction?  Would you draw that out and remind us of the blessings that you’ve given us.  How good you’ve been and how good you are and how good you promise to be, Promise Maker/Promise Keeper.  Father, if there’s anything in us that wants to respond impulsively or spontaneously to fulfill an immediate need and forfeit an eternal blessing, God, would you cause us to think about what we really want for our life.  Give us great vision.  Give us great clarity.  Lord, would you help us to be people who engage reality?  Who see things the way that they really, truly are and all of the good and all of the bad, that we would be able to see that?  That we wouldn’t exaggerate in order to justify.  God, help us to engage reality, but to keep an eternal perspective.  For the people in here who are on the brink of making a trade that they’ll eventually regret—exchanging a treasure for a trinket—Lord, would you remind us of your goodness, would you remind us of your love, would you give us great wisdom that we might make decisions that will lead to our life and the joy of everybody around us and your glory.  That would be our prayer.  In Jesus’ name.  And all God’s people said…..Amen.

ALL I AM: Trinkets and Treasures – Genesis 25:29-342020-08-21T08:34:22-06:00

All I Am – Family of Promise

April 3rd 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

As a kid I used to love to hear my grandparents tell stories.  The grandparents on my mom’s side of the family (my grandfather specifically) had some stories to tell.  I don’t how many of them were true, but they were all intriguing, at least the first time around.  He used to share about his time in war in the South Pacific where his boots would have been wet for months on end.  He loved to share about meeting my grandmother in his parents’ flower shop.  She walked in the door, at the ripe old age of 18, and they got married.  He told stories about working for an engineering firm that was instrumental in landing one of the first shuttles on the moon. Visit https://www.auston.edu.sg/part-time-degrees-in-singapore/ for the best part time Degree in Singapore.   He claims that his name is on a plaque on the moon.  I haven’t been able to verify this, but we can only assume that it’s true.  My grandmother had some beautiful stories, too.  She told us…..Kelly and I were standing in her hallway one time looking at a picture of her passport when she came over from Germany as a grade-school girl.  She told us about fleeing Germany when Hitler was starting to rise to power and how her father had the intuition to see this coming.  He loaded his entire family on a boat, sailed across the Atlantic and got to the United States of America.  What my grandmother remembered about that event was that both literally and figuratively my great-grandfather refused to look back to Germany after he left.  On that boat, head straight forward, saying, “We are not looking back.  We are not going to be a part of that.”

I loved to hear the stories because, in many ways, the stories are what shape us as people.  The stories that we’re born into remind us that we’re part of something bigger going on.  That we’re part of something bigger than our own individualistic story.  We love individualism in America, but the reality is, friends, that all of us were born into a story far bigger than our own.  The more we remember that story, the more context we have for the life that God has not only planted us into, but calling us to live.

I wonder what it would have been like to be with Jacob and Esau around a fire to hear their grandfather Abraham tell a story.  I wonder what it might have been like for Father Abraham to sit down with his two grandkids.  He was 170 years old and they were 10 years old.  Who knows how much he remembered at that point in time, but you better believe all the stories were good and they were getting better.  I wondered if he talked about how God gave him a promise—that all the nations on earth would be blessed through him and that THEY would be blessed and they would be a blessing.  I wonder if he recounted that Genesis 12:1-3 covenant that God made with him.  I wonder if he took the boys and led them away from the fire where they could see the stars and I wonder if he said listen, God said to me, “Look up at me.”  (It’s a biblical term.)  And He said, “Look at the stars in the sky.  That’s as many as your descendants are going to be.”  I wonder if he recounted the fact that God promised him, at the age of 75, that he would become not just a father, but the father of many, many nations.  I wonder if he slipped in, “It took God 25 years to be good on that promise.  But He was.”

We’re shaped by the stories that we’re born into.  Think about it for a second.  How much of your life did you have zero control over?  Think about it for a moment.  The place of birth….where you were born, when you were born.  You had zero control over that, right?   Your physical appearance….you had very little control over that.  How tall you were going to be, the color of your hair (some of you have taken control over THAT.  That’s all right, no judgment here.).  The color of your eyes, the color of your skin.  Nationality.  You had zero control over.  Your parents — you had no control over who your parents would be and even if you were adopted, you probably had very little control over that.  Even your personality — studies show that your personality, in many ways, is simply wired into you….from the very breath you take.  You have a certain personality, a certain disposition that shapes the way that you see the world.  We want to think that we’re the captain of our own ship, the master of our own domain, but so much of who we are was just given to us.  It simply was.  Who we are shapes us.  The story that we’re born into shapes us.  Here’s going to be the testimony from the Scriptures about the life of Jacob.  Jacob is dealt a certain hand in life.  He’s given a certain personality.  He’s given a certain disposition and it shapes him.  But the story of Jacob is the way that God takes everything that’s a part of our life — the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the upright and the disgraceful — He takes it all and in this masterful, beautiful, way-more-creative-than-I-could-ever-be way, He takes all that we are and when all that we are encounters all that HE is, He starts to transform us and shape us and release us into everything that He dreamed we would be.  It’s this beautiful picture, the life of Jacob, of the gospel at work. The story that you’re born into, the family that you were born into definitely shapes you, but it doesn’t have to make you.  Jacob’s story is a testimony to us that where we start is not where we have to stay.  God is gracious and good and we are not bound by what we are given upon birth, but we are not free to ignore it either.  It’s all part of this beautiful masterpiece that God is weaving together through the story of our lives for the glory of his name.

Open to Genesis 25 with me and we’re going to dive into this story of Jacob.  His grandfather is Father Abraham. His dad is Isaac and this is the story of his birth and even at birth, we start to see the way God is going to take these fractured pieces and weave them into a masterpiece.  Gen. 25:19-28 — These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife.  And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren.  And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?”  {God, if you’re in this, why is it going the direction it’s going?}   So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”  When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb.  The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau.  Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.  When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.  Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.  

It’s interesting, at the onset, that the narrator wants to invite you into the story in order to see all the things that Jacob doesn’t have.  Jacob isn’t the firstborn of the family; he’s the second born in a firstborn culture. Jacob doesn’t have the affection of his father in a patriarchal society.  Jacob doesn’t have the skill set that would help him be the most productive citizen in the community.   Jacob, at the onset, is dealt a hand that we would go man, I’m not sure I’d want that hand that Jacob was dealt.  And yet, how many of us can relate to Jacob?  All of us can!  We all look at our lives and go man, I wish I was…..I wish I was a little bit smarter or I wish I was a little bit more athletic or I wish I had a little bit more wisdom or I wish I had a little bit more…..you fill in the blank.  We can all relate to Jacob.  But we can also all relate to the reality that where we start isn’t where we have to stay.  In all that Jacob WASN’T given, look at the way that the story revolves around the one thing that he was given, verse 23:  And the Lord said to her, “Two nations {That’s key–if you have your own Bible, you can circle that because the story of Jacob and Esau is bigger than just their story.  It’s a story of nations, of Israel and Edom.}  ….are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, {speaking about Jacob} the older shall serve the younger.” Jacob, in the midst of all that you don’t have, here’s what you have — a promise.  You’ve got a promise from God.  How many of you know that regardless of how much you have standing against you, or who you have standing against you, if you have God in your corner, you have the majority!!  That’s what Jacob’s life is going to testify of.  It’s going to testify of the power of a promise.  The reality for you and I, friends, is the same as it was for Jacob — God’s promise for us is greater than any opposition that stands in front of us!

A promise is an assurance of a future reality backed by a personal guarantee.  We are in the political season, so we hear people making promises all the time.  It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you fall on, there are candidates, there are people that want you to believe the things that they are saying and the words that come out of there mouth…..  Immediately, you go, “I’m not sure he can deliver on that.”  Right?  We live in culture, we live in a society of broken promises.  We read something like Genesis 25:23 and we lay it on — we’ve heard people give promises before.  We may have heard people give promises at an altar that weren’t kept.  We may have given promises that weren’t kept.  That’s the culture that we live in.  Promises aren’t usually all that good. {Look up at me for a second.}  When God makes a promise, He is good on keeping His word!  He is!  Every single time.  Jacob would have heard these stories….he would have heard Abraham tell the story about having his dad, Isaac, when he was 100 years old and Sarah, his wife, was 90!  Can you imagine having your grandfather tell THAT story?!  I wonder if he would have pulled him aside and said, “Yeah, God’s good on His promises, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.”  That may be where some of you are at this morning.  You’re going, Paulson, I want to believe you, but I feel like God’s given me a promise and it just doesn’t seem like He’s going to be good on that.  Well, let’s just look at the story of Abraham for a second.  Abraham got the promise when he was 75 and it took God 25 years to deliver on the promise.  And in between the promise and the provision was a whole lot of pain.  Was a whole lot of waiting.  Was a whole lot of wondering God, where are you in this?  The testimony of Scripture isn’t everything’s great if you trust Jesus and it’ll go exactly the way that you want it to. No.  The Scriptures would declare to you and to me that underneath all of the pain is a promise that God refuses to go back on.  And if you’re caught in the middle of the pain — in between the promise and the provision — if that’s where you’re at this morning…..maybe with a marriage, maybe with your kids, maybe in a job situation…..if you’re caught in the middle, what Jacob’s life declares is that God is always good on His promise.  The promise that God has for you is greater than any opposition that stands in front of you.

Abraham was a child of promise.  Isaac was a child of promise.  Jacob is a child of promise and YOU are a child of promise.  This is the way it says it in the book of Galatians:  But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin… {This is Paul writing to the church at Galatia saying everything was broken and everything was bound under sin and evil.}  …so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ {That’s how you step into the promise of God, friends.  That’s how you become a part of the promise.  That’s how you take hold of the promise…by faith in Jesus.} …..might be given to those who believe.  (Gal. 3:22)  The book of Galatians 4:28 would say that we ‘are children of promise.’  What does that mean?  That means that our lives have been redeemed by the grace and mercy of God.  That means that if God is for us, nothing can stand against us.  That means that NOTHING, not height, nor depth, nor angels, nor principalities or anything else in all of creation could ever separate us from the love of God.  That’s a promise!  It means He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.  It means that redemption is purchased, the grave is conquered, sin is destroyed and victory is yours!!  Welcome to the family!  You’re a part of this beautiful promise from the King of kings and the Lord of lords. WOW!!!

I don’t know about you, but I have such an easier time seeing the opposition in front of me than I do the promise given to me.  If I’m Jacob, I have so much an easier time seeing I’m the second born….I don’t hunt…I don’t fish….I don’t do this….and my dad doesn’t love me.  But, man, what Jacob’s life testifies of and what God’s grace drenches us in is the reality that regardless of what stands in front of you, God’s promise for you is greater, it’s stronger, it’s bigger and whatever gets your focus will determine your foundation.  I want to point our gaze to that this morning.  I want to build on that.  On Christ, the solid rock, I want to stand.  He is the promise that we step into by faith and it shapes our lives, friends.  It’s that same promise that Jacob had, where God took all the different pieces, all the disconnected dots, all the shady dealings and the squanderings and the cheating and the failure and He wove it into this story that in the end declared His glory.

I want to show you how he starts as a hope that it’ll be an encouragement for us today.  The narrative energy of the entire story of Jacob revolves around this one thing:  will God be good on Genesis 25:23?  Will He be good on his promise?  In the midst of all Jacob’s failings, in the midst of the things he does wrong, will God be good on his word?  A lot of us ask the same question, which is why this story speaks so beautifully to the place we find ourselves in as human beings.  Here’s the way that the story goes…he gets the promise in verse 24, Jacob is born.  When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb.  The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau.  {Quick time out.  Usually, we just fly by things in the Scriptures.  Just pause for a second and could we just picture this child.  This is ginger Chewbaca!!  Red, hairy.  If you’re Rebekah, are you not going, “Sweet Lord, what is that thing?!” And his brother, Jacob, comes out afterwards holding probably the hair of his heel, right?!}  Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.    Now, this is a firstborn society.  Everything in this culture is shaped around this.  The parents would give their estate to their firstborn.  He carries on the family name.  He gets everything and Jacob is the second born.  Which means that really, he’s born with nothing to his name.  I’m a firstborn; I love this.  I think we should go back!

Second thing about Jacob you need to know is his name Jacob.  It’s a great name, but back in this day names really meant something.  Jacob’s name meant ‘grabber of the heal,’ which he literally did.  It also meant I’m going to be on your heels and I am a scoundrel and if I’m in the same vicinity as you, you’d better clutch your purse a little bit tighter and if I try to sell you a used car, you probably don’t want to buy it.  That’s what it meant.  He was a shady character and he lives up to everything his name suggests and says he would be.  And this is the carrier of the promise of God.

Here’s what Genesis 25 would have us think about, have us dwell on, is that in the midst of what stands against Jacob, God’s promise still stands for him.  That’s the way God’s always worked. It hasn’t been about pedigree; it’s been about God’s providence.  Jacob’s the second born.  Jacob’s named Jacob. Jacob has the deck stacked against him from the get-go and he has only one thing going for him — God’s made him a promise.  And God is good on his word.  Here’s what Genesis 25 wants us to feel the weight of — God doesn’t operate in the way that human wisdom and ingenuity says he should.  Why does he choose Jacob instead of Esau?  WHY?  Because he wants you to know…I’m not operating in the way the world thinks that I should.  I’m not just going along with it.  I’m going to choose Moses, a guy with a stutter, to be my mouthpiece for an entire nation.  I’m going to dwindle Gideon’s army down to 300 before I go in and exact my victory.  I’m going to do things in a way that you would never have guessed, never have thought of, never of dreamed up…..I’m way more creative than you are. We look at the things that we lack in our life and God looks at the promise He’s put over our life.Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 — But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.  {I’m going yes and amen!}  God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.  God’s redemptive plan has always been about grace, not race.  It’s always been about the promise He speaks over a life, not the family that someone was born into.  Did you know you cannot be BORN a Christian?  You can be born into a family that follows Jesus and believe me, that gives you a great head start in worldview shaping.  You can be REborn a Christian, but you can’t be born a Christian.  Because God’s promise does not translate by flesh, it translates by the promise that we step into through the working of Jesus the Messiah.  God’s call on a person’s life has little to do with a pedigree and everything to do with promise.

Here’s the way the story continues.  Verse 27: When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field {Can’t you just see the picture of him?  All his fur is just blowing in the wind; he’s like muscles rippling. He’s manly.  Jacob is in the shadows.}  ….while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.   The picture is Esau is riding bareback on horses, taking animals down and bringing them back to his father, while Jacob is crocheting a sweater in the tent with mom!  Actually, what ‘dwelling in tents’ means is he’s a person who needs to stay connected to the community in order to sustain his life.  It means he needs other people in order to continue to be alive and Esau, on the other hand, with all his ginger fur flowing in the wind, is independent.  If he needs to live on his own, he can, he doesn’t need anybody else.  As you look at their lives, you go man, Esau has a lot going for him.  He can provide for himself, he can do what he needs to do, he can get the job done. He’s this picture of masculinity, in many ways, in this passage.  Jacob, on the other hand, is compared to him. Jacob doesn’t have a whole lot going as far as the narrator/author of Genesis wants us to believe, except that undergirding even his dwelling in tents is a promise that he holds.  And while he might not be the most productive, he is the one that carries the promise.  Friends, God’s mercy has always been greater than our merit.  God’s never chosen people based on what they can produce for him.  He has always been a God who exacts his grace and his mercy and his goodness over people who just simply don’t deserve it.  That’s great news!  That’s the gospel!  He’s not the best, he’s not the most manly, he’s not the most productive, but as Paul echoes in the book of Romans: For God has consigned all to disobedience…   {Friends, we are all in the same boat this morning.  Either God comes through for us or we sink.  That’s the boat.} …that he may have mercy on all. (Romans 11:32)  Jews and Gentiles alike.  That’s how He’s redeeming, that’s how he’s saving.

We live in a culture and a world where our value is based on what we produce.  If you work in a company, your value is based on how you contribute to the bottom line.  Typically, this happens in homes, unfortunately, it happens in marriages….value is tied to production.  What God wants you to hear this morning above anything else is you are loved simply because you ARE!  Not because you’ve earned anything.  Not because you’ve done enough good.  Not because of all the works that you have and the badges that you’ve earned.  None of that matters.  It’s simply by his mercy that He calls people to be his children.  That’s it!  Jacob’s life is a testimony of that.  Romans 9:10-12 is sort of a sister-passage to Genesis 25 and Paul the apostle, writing to the church at Rome, picks up this story and wants to make the same point:  And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue… {God had a mission.  His mission had a name.  His name is Jesus and Jesus is the promise of God.  What Paul is saying is that He was weaving together this grand story that would eventually culminate in Jesus.  He chose Jacob based on NOTHING that Jacob had done.} ….not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”    So, friends, as we sit here this morning, this should speak life into our souls!  Nothing that we’ve done has made us lovable in the eyes of God, which is beautiful news.  He loves you, not because of what’s in you, but because of the promise that you’re IN Him!!  In Jesus.  It’s Jesus’ perfection and Jesus’ work and Jesus’ goodness and Jesus’ name that purchases for you the affection of a holy God, a Father.  Jacob is called so that God’s purpose and election might stand so that he might say, “This is the way I work–not through merit but through mercy.”  He’s called because God wanted to call him.  All praise, glory and honor be to Him. God’s redemptive plan has always been concerned with grace, not pace.  Not how much you can do for God, but what Jesus has done for you.  For those of us who are imperfect this morning, that should be the best news we’ve heard all day, all week, all year, all of life.  Thank you, Lord, that it’s not based on what we do.  But it’s based on who Jesus is.

I heard this story awhile back of Warren Buffet, who at the time was the second-richest man in the world.  He had $44 billion and pledged to give 85% of it away to these five charities that he chose.  At the end of the interview, he’s quoted as saying, “There’s more than one way to get into heaven, but this is a great way.”  After I judged him a little bit, I thought man, how many of us do the exact same thing.  We just don’t have $44 billion, but we do the same thing.  God, if I do this for you, will you do that for me?  When I start feeling deserving, I know I’m operating based on merit.  When I start comparing myself, I know I’m operating based on merit.  When I get angry with God, I know I’m operating based on merit — God, you owe me something.  No, he doesn’t, but he’s graciously given you mercy.  That is the story of Jacob.  It echoes what Paul would say to the church at Ephesus: For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)  

Verse 28:  Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.  This is one of the saddest verses in all of Scripture as far as I’m concerned.  It’s this picture of parents playing favorites and it shapes the way that these two lives go and it shapes the conflict that really evolves into the story of Jacob and Esau.  Dad loves him some venison!!!  And Jacob can’t provide it.  So he (Isaac) chooses to give his affection, he chooses to place his love on Esau rather than on Jacob.  Is this the way our Father works?  That he withholds love from some?  Well, John 3:16 would say that He loved the entire world.  He loved the world so much that He gave His son.  We live in a world where not only is value based on production, but where love is given then taken away. Love is earned then it’s not reciprocated.  Here’s what you see in the story of Jacob: God’s covenantal faithfulness, or love that is over his life, is greater than and not contingent on the character flaws, the defects, the things in Jacob’s life that are just shady and downright wrong. God loves him because He chooses to love him.  If you’re a person of the promise, you know that God loves you, too!  Jacob’s life consistently displays that God’s sovereignty, not Jacob’s excellency, is what holds him and what keeps him; in the ups and downs and in the peaks and valleys of life, it is God’s grace not Jacob’s goodness that is the foundation that sustains him. Here’s why I think that’s great news for you — if indeed, God has chosen through Jesus to call you into the promise that He’s giving — and His promise is greater than any opposition that’s stands in front of us — if He’s chosen to call you into the promise of God, your failure will not extinguish his faithfulness.  You see it throughout Jacob’s life that Jacob makes some terrible decisions (horrible decisions, worse probably than you’ve made) and God sticks with him.  God is faithful to him.  God continues to say, “Jacob, you are my guy.”  It’s not because of race, it’s not because of pace, it’s simply because of grace…..my goodness is over you.  The faithfulness of God will not be thwarted by the futility of humanity.  It will not!  So if you feel like a screw-up this morning and that’s what’s biggest in your mind, that’s what’s going to shape your life, but I can promise you His promise for you is greater than any failure you’ve stepped into.  This is the beauty of the gospel, friends. When it’s by providence not pedigree, when it’s by mercy and not by merit, when it’s His covenantal faithfulness not me being a good boy or you being a good girl, we can rejoice in the fact that God holds us even as we fail Him.

Second, we can trust that my imperfection will not drown out his perfection.  He’s a good, good Father and you are loved by Him.  It’s who you are.  It’s who you are.  It’s who you are.  Friends, we are people of promise not people of perfection.  You’re a person of promise not a person of perfection and if we don’t get that, just like Jacob we’re going to be fighting to be loved our entire life, instead of resting in the reality that we are.  So we sing songs like — “Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer.  But this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom!”  It’s His covenantal faithfulness, not me being good.  “And can it be that I should gain, An interest in the Savior’s blood?  Died He for me, who caused His pain — For me, who Him to death pursued?  Amazing love!  How can it be, that Thou, my God, should die for me?”  It’s providence.  It’s mercy.  It’s his faithfulness to every generation.  Friends, when you and I are able to live in and to trust the promise of God, it frees us to walk in the power of God.  Sometimes Jacob’s life is going to display this beautifully and sometimes his life is going to be a train wreck, but at every part of his life and every twist and every turn, God’s promise will remain secure.  His promise will be good.

The story revolves around this question: God, even in the failings and even in the shortcomings and even when I don’t live up to what I’ve promised you, are You going to still be good on the promise you’ve made to me? Friends, here’s the answer…spoiler alert!  Jacob’s name is mentioned throughout the Psalms and the prophets and it’s said like this — the God of Jacob!  God is good on His promises.  He keeps what we entrust to him.  It’s about Jesus and His work, not about the family you were born into or the pedigree that you have.  Not about the merit that you’ve acquired and not about how good or bad you have been….it’s simply by His grace not your race; it’s by His grace not your pace; it’s by His grace not your goodness, so that all glory and all honor and all praise might be to Him!!  That’s the story we live in!!!!  As followers of Jesus, you were born into a story and your story matters, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you are part of the family of promise!

For 2000 years, followers of Jesus have been reminding themselves that although they were born into a family and they were born into a story, they were also reborn into a promise.  That God’s grace was sufficient for every single one of their needs.  As they came to the table, they remembered that they were invited to be part of the family of God not because of their merit, but because of God’s mercy.  They were reminded as they partook, as we will be reminded of today, that although we may fail — slash “WILL” fail — and come up short, Jesus’ love, provision and faithfulness to us is not contingent on us being good.  It’s contingent on Jesus being supreme.  We celebrate the cross this morning.  We celebrate the grace and mercy of our God.  As we come and take today, would you remember that you are part of a beautiful lineage, a family, that finds its sustenance and identity in the promise of God.  Let’s pray.

If you’re here this morning and you’re a follower of Christ, the table’s open to you.  If you’re not, I’d just invite you, as you’ve heard this morning, God doesn’t love you because you’re amazing and you’re awesome.  He loves you because Jesus has made a way.  He loves you because His mercy is over you, so the invitation this morning, regardless of how we walk in these doors, is that we would turn and that we would find life in the promise that He’s given in the blood of His Son.  If that’s you and you want to put your faith in Jesus today, I’d invite you to just turn to Him, run to Him, confess Him as Lord.  Father, we gather together to celebrate today.  To remind ourselves that it’s not based on what we’ve done, it’s simply based on who You are.  That regardless of what stands in front of us…..in this room we have so many things that we feel are insurmountable….but Lord, would you remind us today that your promise is bigger than any opposition that stands in front of us.  Father, as we come we do so as a family of promise, family under the grace and mercy that’s found only in Jesus.  So help us receive it and then, in turn, help us live it.  It’s in your name that we pray.  Amen.

All I Am – Family of Promise2021-01-21T22:22:16-07:00
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