We Are Family

we are family 3  From the very time of his birth, Jacob’s life was set to be a tapestry of trial. His very name means “supplanter” or “deceitful”. He was a twin, born grasping his brother Esau’s heel in what seems to be a fight to be first. Of course, being first born in ancient Hebrew culture had very significant meaning and carried with it certain birthrights. But Jacob did not come out first. Making him, even if by only a few seconds, the younger brother.

But when opportunity came, Jacob took the advantage and conned Esau out of his birthright; though it seems Esau did not take his birthright seriously at this point in his life. Jacob and Esau are, perhaps, the classic example of sibling rivalry. Esau being the outdoorsy, sportsman type while Jacob was mild-mannered and more domestic. Their parents, Isaac and Rebekah, didn’t help matters much, as Isaac clearly favored the more traditionally manly Esau, while Rebekah had preference for Jacob, her baby.

The Bible doesn’t go into great detail about their family life but, we can probably imagine Isaac and Esau spending time together outdoors – hunting, fishing, camping, and so on while Jacob stayed home spending time with his mother around the house. Perhaps we get our best glimpse of parental favoritism when Isaac becomes old and nears the end of his life. That is when he instructs Esau to embark on a hunt so he can make some wild game stew, Isaac’s favorite, and a meal after which Isaac will pronounce his blessing on Esau.

Rebekah, desperate to secure the patriarchal blessing for Jacob, overhears the conversation and launches a plot to deceive her own husband into blessing the younger brother. She hatches her deceptive plan with Jacob’s obvious consent and, while Esau is still away hunting, they make a goat stew, form an elaborate disguise for Jacob, and send him in, pretending to be Esau. Isaac suspects a problem, but instead of coming clean with the deception, Jacob navigates his way through his father’s inquiries, completing the con job. Isaac, being too old to see for himself, is convinced and offers his blessing to Jacob.

Of course, Esau eventually comes home with the wild game, only to uncover the web of deception that occurred in his absence and cost him his birthright. I do not quite understand how the blessing works, but it is apparent that once given it cannot be revoked, and though given in deceit it still had force of law. Esau wept bitterly and experienced great sorrow. Eventually, Esau’s sorrow festered into deep resentment and he began to launch a plan to kill his younger brother, but Rebekah sends Jacob away to his uncle Laban.

Those of you familiar with the story know the family dysfunction did not end there. Jacob goes to the land of Laban, falls deeply in love with Rachel at first sight, and seeks to make her his wife. He asks his uncle the price for her hand in marriage and agrees to work seven years for Laban so he can marry Rachel. After the seven years pass by, Laban throws a marriage feast, after which he gives his daughter to Jacob to be his wife. There must have been some alcohol involved, because Jacob apparently doesn’t notice (or perhaps in a drunken stupor loses the ability to care) that it is Laban’s older daughter Leah that he sleeps with.

After confronting Laban over his trickery, Jacob ultimately takes Rachel also as his wife and agrees to work for Laban another seven years. At this point, I’d like to say the pattern of destructive behavior finally came to an end, but it would continue, seemingly ad infinitum. Leah and Rachel experienced sibling rivalry of their own, ultimately leading to even more sexual sin as they both have Jacob sleep with the personal servants. And the twelve children that result from this cavalcade of corruption find their own sibling rivalries that ultimately see their brother Joseph sold into slavery. And this family dysfunction ultimately leads to the entire Hebrew nation becoming slaves in Egypt. Talk about far-reaching consequences!

But perhaps young Joseph ultimately sums it up best when he tells his older brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20) And the point of me recounting all of this is simply to point out that, at one time or another, all of us have experienced some amount of dysfunction in our families. We live in a fallen world and such chaos must be expected. As painful as conflict with our loved ones can be, we can be confident God is present within us and able to carry us forward. In fact, as Christians, we can bring the light of Christ to our family situations.

You can read about Isaac & Rebekah and their descendants starting in Genesis 24. Most people think the Bible is a book about perfect people but it is anything but that. It tells the stories of imperfect people and how God interacts with them. Imperfect people just like you and I; and our imperfect families and friends. So if you find yourself struggling with dysfunction in your personal relationships, remember that when we are weak, when we struggle, often that is when God’s work in our lives becomes the most profound. As the psalmist wrote, “He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:23)

And as Isaiah wrote: “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!” (Isaiah 53:4) And the Lord told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

It is our sincerest prayer that you will find the sustaining power and love of our Lord Jesus in all areas of your life and especially in your trials. For His love endures forever!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Let’s Talk Turkey

Turkey 1   Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. (Psalm 95:2)

It’s Thanksgiving time in America. Time to enjoy my favorite meal of the entire year! How can you not love the smell of turkey roasting, pumpkin pie baking, gravy simmering? Add to all that stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and you have culinary indulgence with no rival. I confess to being a bit of a foodie, but regardless of the delicious meals I might experience at other times throughout the year, nothing can take the place of that special turkey dinner at Thanksgiving time. It is, and will continue to be, my absolutely favorite meal.

But the turkey dinner is really only a side attraction to this holiday. Thanksgiving Day is really a time to gather with family and friends and remember all we have to be grateful for and who we are grateful to. And in America, most of us have more to be thankful for than we can even begin to list. The Bible tells us to “be thankful in all circumstances” (1Thessalonians 5:18) so in honor of this splendid holiday I want to share with you some of the things I am grateful for. Since an exhaustive list is beyond the allowable space, I’m going with my top five (in no particular order!).

My wife. I have discovered that Donna isn’t just an extraordinary wife, she’s an extraordinary human being. Her kindness, elegance, grace, and consideration know no limits and she’s well-read, intelligent, thoughtful, engaging, and fun. We have so much in common that we easily find things to do together and spend as much time with one another as we can. On many occasions she has demonstrated her outstanding character and her loving demeanor, not just with me but with everyone she encounters. She is accepting of others, finds the best in people, and is always there when I need her. She isn’t just my wife, she’s my best friend and God’s special gift for me!

My parents. My father passed from this life earlier this year, but my mother and father were amazingly loving parents and I learned so much from them. I actually have good manners and can hold my own in virtually any social situation thanks to my mom. She taught me all kinds of social graces and the kind of respect for others that most of us want our children to have. My dad loved my mom and loved our family and was the finest example of a man I could ever imagine. As a teen I freely admit I was a difficult child, and I really didn’t get much better until about age 30, but my mom and dad never gave up on me and were always there for me. God chose the perfect parents for me.

My sobriety. There was a time where I was a rebellious, self-centered, obnoxious man who was rarely sober and not much good to anyone. I had an ego as big as the moon yet I was a coward to my very core. Without alcohol coursing through my veins, I couldn’t face the world and with alcohol I didn’t want to. That was my life at one time. It’s now been more than 27 years since I last took a drink. So many people have helped me along the way it would be impossible to name them all. And God truly has done for me what I could not do for myself.

My job. Not to show my age too much, but I have now worked in the plastics industry for 30 years. It’s perhaps not the most glamorous occupation, but I have been extremely blessed to work in such an industry. I have produced parts for trucks, tractors, mini-vans, heart valves, surgical equipment, hearing aids, windows and doors, motorcycles, and so much more. Along the way, I have had the privilege of working with some very talented people that help me learn and grow and make each workday as enjoyable as a work day can be. Many of these fine folks are more than coworkers, they have become lifelong friends. Praise God for the work He gave me to do!

Our Pastor. I am very thankful for Pastor Mark Henry’s seemingly endless energy and tireless efforts to minister to our congregation at Revive Church. He has an unwavering commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word that we might know and stand on the truth. And Mark’s servant spirit doesn’t stop at the doors of our little church, he is involved with several other ministries, both locally and internationally. Through his efforts, over 5 million people have heard the Gospel worldwide! Pastor Mark truly is a man of God sharing the Gospel wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. His conviction and energy are infectious and he is as fine an example to us as we could ever hope for. I always thank God for Pastor Mark.

It is written in 1 Chronicles 16:34, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” Without a doubt, my list could go on and on. I am blessed beyond anything I could ever have a right to hope for and I praise God for all my blessings. But almost certainly, the greatest blessing of them all is the grace and forgiveness that is available through Jesus Christ. The Bible reminds us that we are all sinners (see Romans 3:23) and I truly believe each of us knows this about ourselves deep down inside. But God doesn’t want to punish us for our sins (see Ezekiel 33:11 & 2 Peter 3:9) so He made a way for us by sacrificing His very own Son that we might be saved.

Of all the things we have to be thankful for, salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ is the only one that will be with us eternally. So this Thanksgiving season, my sincerest prayer is that you will accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, if you haven’t already. It couldn’t be easier; just stop trying to be good enough on your own, admit to God that you have sinned, and that you need Him. Ask God to forgive you and tell Him you believe in Jesus Christ. If you are finding it difficult to have faith, then ask God to help you believe; for Jesus said in Matthew 7:8, “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Here at Reign Drops, we’d like to wish you and your family a blessed and happy Thanksgiving from the bottom of our hearts. And we thank you for reading Reign Drops Blog. We’re grateful for each and every one of you! God bless.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.