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South Fellowship Church

Legacy | Genesis 48:21-22

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The sum of what we deposit into the lives of others becomes our legacy!

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21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” – Genesis 48:21-22

Whenever we go over to a friend’s house, my daughter immediately makes herself at home by taking off her shoes and socks and jacket. She has a way of depositing things in every corner of the house, making it quite the undertaking to find everything when it’s time to leave. When it’s time to depart, we give the instruction like any other parent, “Go find everything that you brought with you.” That works about 1% of the time, but we keep hoping. Inevitably, we get home and realize that we’ve left socks, jackets, and one of our children over at our friend’s house!

That’s the way life works, too. We’re always leaving things behind. In every conversation, we leave something behind. Whether the conversation is laced with encouragement or drenched with envy. Whether the interaction is sealed with a smile or a scolding glance. Whether infused with compliment or criticism. We always leave something behind, and eventually, the sum of what we deposit into the lives of others becomes our legacy!

As Jacob’s life is coming to a close, he wants the people closest to him to grasp the things most important to him. He delivers these in a way of blessing as he prays over his family. He reminds his family how God has provided every step of the way. He recounts God’s faithfulness to His promises. And he reassures them of God’s continuing presence just as God continued with him. Jacob knows that he is leaving this world, but he’s confident God will remain present! He intentionally sets up time with the people he loves most to ‘leave some things behind.’ It’s the way legacies are made and it’s the way important lessons are passed down.

As Jacob reflects on his life, he sees God’s faithfulness at every turn. Take some time today and reflect on God’s faithfulness in your life. Listen to Never Once by Matt Redman and soak in the reality that you, too, have ‘never walked alone.’ May this faith and confidence be the thing you leave behind every day and in every circumstance.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
– Lamentations 3:22-23

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By Ryan Paulson

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Legacy | Genesis 48:21-222016-07-01T05:00:32-06:00

Hindsight | Genesis 48:15-16

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Looking back helps you see how God is actively involved in your life.

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15 And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” – Genesis 48:15-16

Jacob reflects back on his life and can see God’s faithfulness. God went before his grandfather, Abraham, and walked with his father, Isaac. And, at the end of Jacob’s life, he can say with confidence, “God has been my shepherd all my [whole] life long” (Genesis 48:15). Of course, there were times when Jacob did not sense closeness with God or believe God would come through. Yet, when he looks back, Jacob sees God in every situation. Like a shepherd, God watched over him, prodded him, coddled him and directed him. Jacob even recalls how the “angel” wrestled with him and delivered him.

Unfortunately, with all the noise around us, it can be difficult to reflect and even more difficult to remain present. But for all of us, hindsight is 20/20. We can see God’s faithfulness after the fact – but only if we’re looking for it. When you look back over your life, do you notice God’s faithfulness? Can you name times when God has been your shepherd – prodding or protecting you? Looking back helps you see how God is actively involved in your life. Plus, reflecting will help you recognize and experience God in the present, too.

We all want to experience God and his character, not just recognize him in hindsight. Today, take time to listen to Eric Nevin’s podcast and hear how everyday believers are experiencing God – both in hindsight and in the present. Allow these stories to help you reflect back on God’s faithfulness in your story too. Feel free to return to this resource anytime you need encouragement in your walk with God.

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
– Hebrews 12:1-2

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By Yvonne Biel 

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Hindsight | Genesis 48:15-162016-06-30T05:00:38-06:00

Unexpected Crossing | Genesis 48:14-20

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One of our greatest frustrations in life revolves around unmet expectations.

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And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn) … 17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” 20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. – Genesis 48:14, 17-20

Joseph positioned his boys exactly as he wanted them. He situated them according to the customs of his day – the older under the blessing of the right hand (the better blessing) and younger under the left-hand blessing (sorry for all you lefties out there, but this blessing was not quite as good). Since his father was old and his health was failing, Joseph helped the old man out by having the boys stand in the right spot. He had Manasseh stand in front of Jacob’s right hand and Ephraim stand in front of his left. All Jacob had to do was raise his hands to give the long-awaited blessing to his grandsons. But, much to Joseph’s surprise, Jacob crossed his hands. The sight took Joseph off guard. But, it wasn’t a mistake. For Joseph, it was an unexpected crossing and defiance to the way he expected things to work. But for Jacob, it was exactly as he intended to give the blessing.

If we’re honest, one of our greatest frustrations in life revolves around unmet expectations. We are caught off guard when God crosses his hands in our circumstances, too. Yet, this is the beauty of the gospel. As Jesus steps onto the pages of history, he does so with his ‘hands crossed.’ He makes audacious claims like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God.” He tells us the meek will inherit the kingdom, the first will be last, and the servants in God’s kingdom will become the greatest. In many ways, the reign of Jesus is a ‘hands-crossed’ type of reign! It’s a subversive and revolutionary.

There are many times I’ve prayed back to God, “Father, did you intend to cross your hands like that? Can’t you straighten them out and do things the way the world does? His consistent answer is, “No, I intended to cross my hands like that – but thanks for your input.” As you spend intentional time with God today, use this prayer by explorer Sir Francis Drake. He penned these words in 1577 as his way of embracing the ‘hands-crossed’ nature of God, and stepping into the flow of how God works in His world.

 

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

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By Ryan Paulson

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Unexpected Crossing | Genesis 48:14-202016-06-29T05:00:02-06:00

Blessing | Hebrews 11:21

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To offer a blessing is to evoke God’s sovereign goodness on someone else’s behalf.

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By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. – Hebrews 11:21

A blessing affirms goodness into the life of another person. It isn’t just words. It’s actually proclaiming the desire of your heart – from the very center of your will – for another person. Yet, at the same time, humbly admitting your inability to carry it out. To offer a blessing is to evoke God’s sovereign goodness on someone else’s behalf. Therefore, to truly offer blessing, one must be directed toward another person as well as convinced only God can carry it out. Both freely flow from a depth of faith in God and hope for someone else’s future.

To think, Jacob, the deceiver and swindler became a man who blessed others. Isn’t that ironic? The man who was scheming to take blessing is now offering blessing. And, not only that, he goes down in history with this on his resume. The author of Hebrews recounts the stories of old and Jacob is named as one who blesses. This one verse is packed with rich history. Every word is carefully chosen to tell Jacob’s story.

Jacob’s life of deceit became a live of faith. On his deathbed, he demonstrates his sincere faith with a deep desire to bless his grandchildren. In a posture of trust, Jacob leans over the head of his staff, bowing before God and entrusting the future of his child and his children’s children into God’s care. Jacob worships God by changing from his lifelong posture of receiving blessing to giving it away. As an act of worship to God, decide how you might bless someone in your life today. You could send a note, offer a word of encouragement, spend time in prayer for someone hurting, or simply offer a smile and a kind hello. Be creative and sincere in what you choose – knowing your action is as much for God as it is intended for the other person.

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
– Proverbs 3:5-6

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By Yvonne Biel 

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Blessing | Hebrews 11:212016-06-28T05:00:03-06:00

Labeled | Genesis 35:16-21

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Jacob doesn’t let this moment define his son’s destiny.

 

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16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. 17 And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” 18 And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20 and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. 21 Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. – Genesis 35:16-21

Perhaps you’re like me and label your bookshelves, or at least you find it helpful when someone else does. I’ve got specific labels for the mini library in my office and they help me know where to house and find the books I’m looking for. But, there are times when I have to make a decision as to how a certain book should be classified. Does the book fit more is under leadership or discipleship? Then I decide and place the book accordingly.

We face a similar challenge regarding certain events in our lives. We tend to categorize these events, but sometimes they don’t quite fit into just one category. Was it comedy and tragedy? Was it pain or formation? Was it a trial or a blessing? Often times the answer is, yes! It certainly was for Jacob. He was holding a newborn son, and burying a wife he dearly loved. Before Rachel died, she asked to name her son, Ben-oni which means, “son of my sorrow.” This was a fitting name to describe the circumstances of his birth. However, Jacob refused to label his son out of his present sorrow. Instead, Jacob chose the name Benjamin, which means, “son of my right hand.” He doesn’t let this moment define his son’s destiny.

Both parents saw the same event, but they didn’t label it the same way. Rachel saw the pain and sadness of her labor leading to death. Jacob was able to acknowledge this reality, lament it, but refuse to label it as such. He chose to see a promise underneath the pain. We have the same choice every day. How will we label the things that happen to us? Which category will we use to define them – pain or promise? As a simple reflection today, note a time in life when you labeled something out of sorrow – like Rachel did. In contrast, note a time when you decided to label something like Jacob – recognizing promise underneath the pain.

 

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

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By Ryan Paulson

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Labeled | Genesis 35:16-212016-06-27T05:00:39-06:00

Recommitment | Genesis 35:14-15

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God’s goodness is what frees Jacob to lay down his life once again.

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14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. 15 So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel. – Genesis 35:14-15

Jacob returns to the place where he can hear God’s voice again. This time, he’s ready to receive his new name – “Israel” and re-establish the town name – “Bethel.” In that place, Jacob hears and receives God’s spoken word, and as a result, he decides to set up a pillar of remembrance to offer his worship back to God. He begins by gathering stones and carefully positioning them one upon the other. Then, he takes out his most valuable liquids and begins to pour them out until the stone pillar becomes drenched with his sacrifice.

For Jacob, hearing and receiving God’s spoken word becomes a catalyst to renew his devotion to God. Jacob builds his altar of stones in a place where he hears God’s voice. The pillar Jacob builds is in remembrance of the promises God has given – the things he’s heard God speak. His pillar isn’t a declaration of how faithful he’s been or how determined he’ll be. It’s a remembrance of how good God has been to him. God’s goodness is what frees Jacob to lay down his life once again.

We, too, have those places where we most clearly hear the voice of God. 2 Peter reminds us of the voice of God – both in the person of Jesus and in the words of Scripture. Today, we have the privilege of opening up God’s word to hear his voice anytime we want; and we’re invited to receive and dwell in the lavish promises and faithfulness of God. Read 2 Peter 1:16-21 as a reminder of your accessibility to God’s spoken word. Then write down one promise from God’s word you need to receive today.

 

The Lord is not slow about His promise,
as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,
not wishing for any to perish
but for all to come to repentance.
— 2 Peter 3:9 NASB

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By Yvonne Biel 

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Recommitment | Genesis 35:14-152016-06-24T05:00:51-06:00

Remember | Genesis 35:9-13

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Remembering helps us mature by receiving the truth in a new way.

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9 God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him.10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13 Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. – Genesis 35:9-13

Nestled in the region of Paddan-aram, lies a small town called Luz – the very town Jacob renamed “Bethel” after God appeared to him there (Genesis 28:10-22). That warm night when Jacob stopped to get a little shuteye on his escape route, he envisioned an enormous ladder reaching to the heavens filled with angelic beings both ascending and descending the ladder. The Lord was standing on the top rung declaring his character and reestablishing the promise made to Jacob’s father and grandfathers. And that warm night, Jacob saw how every square inch of the earth was drenched in God’s presence.

Now, it’s nearly thirty years later and Jacob finds himself in the same region, being reminded of the same promises. As the Lord strategically takes him back to a physical place, the Lord helps him remember. Again, Jacob is reminded of his name change, which occurred ten years earlier. Again, the Lord declares his character and of the promises made to Jacob’s ancestors.

This happens in our lives, too. We come back around to starting points in our journey with God. Sometimes, it feels akin to regressing; like we’ve returned to the same old things we hoped to have moved beyond. But then, God gently reminds us, we don’t have to start over. God will build on the promises he’s already given. When God invites us to return to these starting points, he’s inviting us to remember – it’s one of the most powerful actions in the life of faith. We remember, not necessarily because spiritual maturity hasn’t taken place, but because remembering helps us mature by receiving the truth in a new way. Take a few moments now to praise God for your starting points with him. As you remember where you started, God can help you see how far you’ve come.

 

Remember these things,
O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
I have blotted out your transgressions
like a cloud and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
– Isaiah 44:21-22

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By Yvonne Biel 

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Remember | Genesis 35:9-132016-06-23T05:00:09-06:00

Press On | Genesis 35:5-8

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As we choose to follow God, our commitment will inevitably be challenged.

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5 And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. 6 And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7 and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. 8 And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth. – Genesis 35:5-8

Jacob has already begun his journey to Bethel – the place God calls him to go. After burying the foreign gods and changing his clothes for the long journey ahead, we drop in on Jacob’s story along the way. The narrator comments on several aspects of this journey. First, we notice God’s protection. Jacob and his family make it safely to Bethel because God sends terror on the surrounding cities. Undoubtedly, Jacob is strengthened as he sees God’s hand of protection so vividly.

Nevertheless, although God protects them from the other nations, God does not spare them grief. During this same journey, there is a death in the family. It would be easy to overlook this detail because the narrator presents it in such a matter-of-fact way. However, tragedy is never easy to bounce back from and we should consider what impact this event had on their journey. Imagine the decision to leave Shechem and travel thirty miles with a sick nurse. Then, upon arriving at your destination, she breathes her last. Certainly a wave of gloom rested upon this family along with a second wave of uncertainty.

As we choose to follow God, our commitment will inevitably be challenged – through pain or doubt or simply because the journey takes longer than expected. For Jacob, the death of his mother’s maidservant stirred up many questions and decisions to be made along the way. Jacob had a choice to make. Would he sit in his grief blaming God for less than perfect protection along his journey or would he press on resting in God’s sovereign provision along the way? As you enter a new day, listen to Oceans by Hillsong and let this be your anthem to trust God no matter what comes.

 

Not that I have already obtained this
or am already perfect,
but I press on to make it my own,
because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
– Philippians 3:12

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By Yvonne Biel 

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Press On | Genesis 35:5-82016-06-22T05:00:34-06:00

Repent | Genesis 35:1-4

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Repentance involves saying no to something in order to say yes to God.

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2 God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. – Genesis 35:1-4

When God re-appears on the scene, he invites action. God doesn’t want Jacob to settle for Shechem, so he tells him to “arise” and go further – toward Bethel. Bethel signifies a time of life and vitality, when Jacob recognized God’s active hand in his life. But, before Jacob can get back a season of livelihood, he must do a few things. First, he is to put away his foreign gods, second, purify himself and third, change his garments. Only then can he move toward Bethel. Although God grabs Jacob’s attention with the command to “arise,” there is something very important he must do before he begins his journey – repent.

Often when we hear God’s invitation toward something new, we think we’re ready to jump all in. We believe we’re totally ready to obey and follow him – wherever he leads. Yet, we, like Jacob, must first heed the essential instruction to repent. Repentance involves saying no to something in order to say yes to God. It requires making a decision to agree with God and turn from whatever may hinder our journey with him. The only catch is that we need to know what to put away, what needs to be cleansed and what needs to change.

It’s exciting to get up and go, but it’s harder admitting where we’ve gone wrong or where we need God’s cleansing touch. It’s easy to move. It’s harder to change. Yet, God invites repentance as the first gracious step toward the place he has called us. Take a few moments now to ask the Lord to search you for whatever keeps you from moving toward your Bethel. Allow yourself to agree with whatever he reveals to you. Then, as your day allows, physically change your clothes as a symbol of God’s cleansing and your deliberate decision to follow him today.

 

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
– Psalm 139:24

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By Yvonne Biel 

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Repent | Genesis 35:1-42016-06-21T05:00:08-06:00

Drift | Hebrew 2:1-4

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If we’re not paying attention, we inevitably drift. 

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1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. – Hebrews 2:1-4

Jacob grew up in a family of God-fearers. Although he’s a born trickster (Genesis 25), he knows of God and observes his parents both follow and fail in their walk with God (Genesis 26). When Jacob runs away from home, God appears to him personally in a dream (Genesis 28) and several years later, he encounters God face-to-face as he wrestles with him throughout an entire night (Genesis 32). You’d think these up-close encounters with God would establish an intimate relationship between them and a connection that would produce incredible fruitfulness. But, as we keep reading, not much has changed.

Jacob does some work to restore his relationship with his brother, but his daughter is defiled, his sons commit murderous acts, his family worships carven images and he’s still referring to himself as “Jacob, the Deceiver.” It seems as though Jacob’s one-off encounters with God were not enough to prevent spiritual entropy. Finally, God reappears on the scene telling him to get up and make some needed changes to get back on track.

If we’re not careful, we, like Jacob, get caught up in the stream of life and easily forget what happened in our last encounter with God. If we’re not paying attention, we inevitably drift. We wind up downstream and it’s only when we look back at the shoreline when we realize we’ve gone adrift – feeling lost, dissatisfied or in a tangled mess. Today, whether you feel in-sync with God or adrift, think about what characterizes a life of vibrant faith for you. Identify one area you need to pay greater attention to – so not to drift this week.

 

You have abandoned the love you had at first.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen;
repent, and do the works you did at first.
– Revelation 2:4-5

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By Yvonne Biel 

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Drift | Hebrew 2:1-42016-06-20T05:00:42-06:00
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