Monday, June 30, 2014

grace foundation part 7

This week, we finished the “Grace Foundation” series in examining the significance of Jacob’s wrestling with God in Genesis 32. First, we looked at what happened that made this such a life-changing experience for Jacob, and then we looked at why God interacts with him in this way at this time.  Jacob had just sent his family and all his possessions over the river and found himself all alone. Isn’t that what we all need sometimes, especially when we are faced with a highly stressful situation like Jacob was at the time (meeting with his brother, Esau, whom he hadn’t seen in 20 years who wanted to kill him)? Sometimes, we need to get away from all we think we are and all we think we own and just get before God.

We’re told that Jacob wrestles with a man until daybreak. Later, Jacob indicates this “man” was God or at least God in the form of a man. As the sun is rising, the man sees that Jacob will not be overcome, but he strikes Jacob’s hip – injuring him. There is debate about whether the injury was temporary or permanent, but I believe the location of the injury is what is important. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

I think we have all wrestled with God. Wrestling is not the same as fighting. We shouldn’t fight with God, but wrestling is more a picture of trying to get something away from God. Now, we know that we do not have to wrestle anything away from God. Jesus purchased everything for us, but, in our human soul, we do still tend to think we must wrestle. Let’s relate to that wrestling this way – that we are grabbing onto God’s promises and not letting go until we get what was promised. On this side of the cross, we are not making God give us anything because He already gave it. We ARE wrestling with our own unbelief and inability to receive. Jacob actually says he will not let go until he gets the blessing.  Jacob has spent his entire life pursuing and fighting to get the blessing. I believe it is in the wrestling match that he finally understands that it is the blessing of God alone that he really needs.

 The “man” then asks Jacob his name. Is it possible that God doesn’t know Jacob’s name? Of course not! Remember what the name Jacob means. It means he who deceives. In essence, God is asking Jacob to admit what he was – confess his sins, if you will. Then God changes Jacob’s name in much the same way he did with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. He changes Jacob’s name to Israel.

I try not to bore you all with my fascination with Hebrew, but this name change is very significant from a Hebrew standpoint. The actual Hebrew is more like Y’ishra-el. A little Hebrew lesson…. The first Hebrew letter in this name is yod. When yod is used as a prefix on a word it indicates third-person, masculine possessive – which is a fancy way of saying “his.”  Ishra means royalty, rulership, princeship, and el means God. Put together, Israel means His rule with God. God changes his name from “his way of deception” to “his rulership with God.” It speaks to the change of heart taking place inside Jacob. In fact, we find that the deception and the being deceived in Jacob’s life stopped after this encounter.

Let’s get back to the “whys” of this story. Why is it time for God to do this in Jacob’s life? In preparation for the potentially tense or even disastrous meeting with Esau, Jacob had sent forth an extravagant gift to his brother. God had not commanded him to do so. He made his own decision to do so.  I believe that, when we have a giving heart, we are in alignment with a giving God, and we place ourselves in a position to receive from God. I am not speaking of merely financial or tangible gifts. Just making a personal choice (apart from being commanded to do so) to be a giver will open us up to then be receivers of God’s blessing.

I also want to point out that Jacob’s heart was to bless his brother out of what he had been blessed with. This also reflects the heart of our God. We have previously made the point that Jacob is in some ways a picture of grace – or that he lived under the same grace of Abraham and Isaac. He was blessed not because he had earned it, but simply because God promised it. We have been blessed because of the promise made to us through the blood of Jesus apart from our works.

We have received grace from God apart from our works, and we need to extend to others out of the abundance of that blessing if we want to soften hearts. Law and condemnation did not help us be saved, so why do so many in the Body think that is how we should change the world? In order to have an abundance of grace to extend to the world, we must have that revelation of God’s grace ourselves. Maybe that is the problem. If we ourselves are still struggling to try and live by works, we don’t have grace to extend.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Grace Foundation Part 6

This week, we continued the “Grace Foundation” series. We looked at how Jacob prepared to enter Canaan and be rejoined with Isaac and how it is a picture of how we, by grace, enter Canaan or the Promised Land.

We looked at Genesis 32. Jacob has set out to return to Canaan. Before he does, he chooses to meet with Esau, the brother from whom he’s been estranged from for 20 years after “robbing him” of his blessing. I say chooses to meet him because, when you view a map of where Jacob was traveling from and traveling to, along with where Esau lived, Jacob could have easily got home without interacting with Esau. He chooses to do so anyway.  This is illustrative of the choice we must make as well. Remember from previous parts in this series that Esau represented the lack of self-control and the placing of gratifying flesh above obedience to God. Esau is in the “grace” branch of Abraham’s family tree, but he forfeited the blessing that was rightfully his because of his decision to gratify the flesh.

If we are going to enter Canaan, or the promises of God, we must deal with that part of us. We must defeat the tendency for the flesh to get what it wants without regard for God’s ways, and ultimately His blessing. I am not just talking about egregious flesh sins like lust, sexual immorality, etc… The flesh gets its desires in much more subtle ways. Anywhere that we shrink back from God’s ways because the flesh is afraid or unwilling to change is also in this category of sin.

If we do not get the flesh’s desires under control, when we enter the Promised Land, we will be defeated and destroyed. How often do we hear stories about lottery winners who, just a short time after their windfall, are broken destroyed and worse off than before they won? If you are not prepared to live in the blessing lifestyle, the blessing will destroy you. You won’t truly experience the blessing. It is still yours, but it becomes a curse to you rather than goodness.

So, what does Jacob do? Well, after sending word to Esau that he was coming, Jacob gets word back that Esau is coming to meet him… along with 400 men! Jacob does what we naturally would do in this situation. He becomes worried and distressed. We men, with our design by God to be providers and protectors of our families, can allow fear and worry about our inability to do those things to drive us to make poor decisions.  You see, just before this happens, angels appeared to Jacob, in a way reminding him that God was with him, but Jacob still feared. This is not a knock on Jacob, but a reminder that, as humans, we can all easily do the same; and probably have done so many times.

Now, in the previous chapter, Jacob had an encounter with Laban (his uncle). In that situation, Jacob knew he was not in the wrong. Therefore, there was no fear in him. This time, he knows he was wrong. He has a guilty conscience regarding his past wrongs. 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love (Jesus) casts out fear and that fear comes from the fear of punishment. Hebrews 9:14 and 10:22 talk to us about how the blood of Jesus not only cleansed us of sin, but perhaps more importantly, of a guilty conscience. With a guilty conscience, we will continue to make fear-driven bad decisions instead of boldly approaching the throne of grace for direction and supply to overcome any situation.

After this, Jacob prays and reminds himself of the promises of God and what God had already done for him. This is what we should do when fear hits – remind ourselves of the goodness and greatness of God.  Jacob  then decides to put together a gift to appease Esau. The word, in Hebrew, used to describe this gift was the same word used elsewhere to mean atonement or covering. Jacob intended to pay for how he had wronged Esau. I did a little research and found that the estimated value of the gift was close to $100,000.  One of the gifts, the camels, was a sign of wealth and source of a great highly wanted delicacy (the milk these camels produced) in that time.

Jacob needed to make things right for what he had done before he could enter Canaan. There are two angles on this we need to see. First, when it comes to the things we’ve done that directly hurt someone, we ought to find ways to try and repay. The second is a bigger picture. There was a debt to be paid in order to enter Canaan. For us, Jesus paid that debt. We do not have to find a way to satisfy the debt for our wrongs. Jesus did that for us. Receive the gift of that payment, and confidently enter Canaan.

 To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit


 To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grace Foundation Part 5

Last week, we continued the “Grace Foundation” series. In this 5th part we looked at Jacob’s handling of Laban’s flocks and how God blessed him despite Laban’s cheating. We also looked at Jacob’s decision to return home to his family in Canaan. 

In Genesis 30, Jacob makes a deal with Laban to take, as his wages, all of the spotted, streaked and black sheep from the flock. Laban agrees, but then steals away all such sheep and has them hidden three days’ journey away.  In this story we can see some “types” and images. Jacob represents Jesus and grace. Laban represents law. Jacob had worked, fulfilling all of the requirements of Laban. Jesus did all of the work required by the law for us. 


Jacob’s wages had been cut ten times by Laban. If Laban represents law, we can make an association: There are TEN commandments. We also know that the wages of sin (that were defined by the law) is death. Jesus is the one who does all of the law’s work for us, enduring the wages for us.   

What is Jacob interested in? He wants all of the blemished sheep that were under the authority of Laban. Jesus wants all of the blemished sheep under the law. The reality is that all are blemished, but the law thought it produced some clean, pure sheep. Those that believe they are already clean by their works will not receive grace through Christ. Grace is not looking for those who think they are pure. It looks for those who know they are not, who acknowledge the need for the redeemer.  Where did Laban hide the blemished sheep? They were “three days’ journey away.” Jesus had to go on a three day journey to rescue those trapped by the law. What a great illustration!

We read about the methods Jacob used to get Laban’s sheep to produce more spotted or streaked sheep. He strips bark from certain types of wood and places them in the watering troughs that the sheep drink from and mate in front of. Apparently, what the sheep see when mating was supposed to affect the appearance of their offspring.   In chapter 31, he says the Lord gave him a vision in a dream, though we do not know at what point in the story he had that dream and all of the details of the vision. There is a lot of debate about this story. I came to a few  possible conclusions – but all of them lead us back to the same lesson to learn:

 1.       Jacob had been working in these fields as a shepherd for 20 years and could have adopted some of the superstitious beliefs of other shepherds in the area – thinking they were working. However, the dream may have come later where God reveals it was Him who was causing the sheep to produce as desired. God may have worked despite Jacob’s actions. This would be a sign of God’s grace and faithfulness to the promise to bless Jacob, not because of what he did or who he was but because He made the promise to Abraham.

2.       Jacob may have had that dream at the beginning of the process and might have been using the sticks as a diversion to anyone observing him.

3.       God may have revealed to Jacob in the dream to use the sticks to get this desired result. I read a paper written by a geneticist that said the amino acids present in the types of wood Jacob used, if mixed in their drinking water, could cause the desired “defects” in the sheep. But wouldn’t it require a lot more than a few sticks in the water to produce those results? You would think so, but God is a miracle-working God. He usually works through the obedient hands of man to produce His results. He may have multiplied the effectiveness of the sticks because Jacob obeyed His instructions.


There may be even other theories, but all of them seem to lead to the same point – that God found a way to bless Jacob simply because He made a promise and He is faithful to His promises.  That same promise is yours! Paul tells us that when we become children of God through the blood of Jesus, we are now children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise. The blessing is ours simply because we are in the right family – not because of our works.

Blessing alone does not ensure abundant life. As we have been finding out through these stories, we must follow God’s ways in order to experience the blessing we have been given. We must know that, by grace, the blessing IS OURS. Then we must allow that same grace to lead us to right living so that we do not forfeit the benefits of the blessing we’ve been given.  Even though Jacob was always living in blessing, his decisions and actions often caused much more pain and trouble than he should have had to deal with.

The second part of the story we want to look at in light of this typology is the stealing of Laban’s household idols. When Jacob packs up the family to head back to Canaan and his family, Rachel steals her father’s household idols. Jacob is unaware of this, so when Laban catches up to them and demands the return of his idols, Jacob swears no one in his camp has them and is willing to punish anyone who could have taken them.  Laban goes through the entire camp, finally getting to Rachel’s tent. She is concealing them in a bag that she is sitting on. She explains that she cannot stand up because she is having her monthly cleansing. Laban leaves empty-handed. Eventually Jacob learns that Rachel had taken them and has them destroyed.

This part of the story seemed odd to me. It has none of the normal “Old Testament” results that come from dealing with idols and false gods. No one died or was rebuked. First of all, this was before there was law.   A clearer picture was formed when I researched the meaning of these idols. In the region where Laban lived, the head of the household had such idols or gods. They were frequently passed on to the eldest son as a sign of birthright blessing. If a man had no sons, it was acceptable for him to present them to his eldest son-in-law – passing the birthright blessing to him.

Remember that Jacob has a reputation for “stealing birthright.” Laban might have thought he’d had the birthright that belonged to his sons stolen by Jacob. Also, remember the typology here. Laban represented law.  What is the birthright inheritance of law? It is death. Jacob has the birthright inheritance that comes by grace. Jesus, like Jacob, took the inheritance associated with the law and destroyed it!  What great pictures we see in these Old Testament stories when we can look at them through New Testament, grace glasses.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

grace foundation part 4

This week, we continued the “Grace Foundation” series. In this part, we looked more at the significance of the Jacob and Esau branches of Abraham’s family tree.  The first branch in the tree had to do with Isaac and Ishmael. Paul says in Galatians 4 that Isaac represents grace and Ishmael represents law. Law always persecutes grace. Ishmael is a child of Abraham. When we receive Christ, we also become children of Abraham. We are in the family, but we choose which part of the family we are going to align ourselves with. We can choose to align with the Ishmael branch and, after receiving salvation by grace, try to live a Christian life governed by law. This branch of the family also will persecute those who choose to walk by grace.


Then, in the line of Isaac, there is another branch. This one is between Jacob and Esau. We discussed it at length last week. Esau represents the believer who does not live by law, but not by principle either. Esau’s branch represents those who do things their own way, satisfying the desires of the flesh, and never end up experiencing the kind of blessing that was rightfully theirs.

Esau was willing to give up the birthright he had as the first born for a cup of stew, just because he was “famished.” He willingly gave up what was rightfully his in order to satisfy the flesh. We can very easily do the same. You see, this is what sin, while under grace, can produce. Esau was in the line of Isaac. He could have been blessed (though God prophesied to Rebekah that Jacob was going to be the true heir), but He valued the satisfaction of a physical desire more than the better blessing that was available to him.

The Esau branch also hates the Jacob branch. They point at the Jacob (true grace) branch and say, “No fair. He got what is supposed to be mine.” I find that Ishmael/law believers often will eventually get fed up with trying to live by all the rules and requirements and give up – moving over to the Esau branch, but still persecuting grace.  There are many believers unwilling to walk by faith and live by God’s principles and precepts. In doing so, they never experience the blessing, but they never see that as the reason. They just think the system is unfair and that the grace people are cheaters (though Jacob WAS cheating at times).

What we have to see about Jacob, on the other hand, is that he was blessed regardless of his own mistakes. He was blessed because God promised to bless him – not because of his works. That did not mean that Jacob’s mistakes did not cause an unnecessary mess. He got where he did through deception, and he ended up being deceived. 

We looked at Genesis 27:41 and following.  After the bitter feud with his brother that ensued after “stealing” Esau’s blessing, his mother tells him to flee to stay with his uncle Laban.  Esau is holding a grudge and continues to. Jacob is commanded by his father not to marry a Canaanite (Hittite) woman.  Why this admonishment?  See Genesis 26:44, where Esau marries Canaanites, who became a “source of grief for Isaac and Rebekah.”  (Also note that Esau was 40 when he did this, so Esau and Jacob are not teenagers when all of this is happening.  Esau married Hittite women at 40, and the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness before entering the land of Canaan. 

Why Hittite/Canaanite women?  We looked at Genesis 9:20 and following.  Ham was the father of Canaan and saw his father’s nakedness and proceeded to tell his brothers.  The other two covered their father.  Noah cursed Canaan as a result.  Ham does not follow grace by revealing his father’s sin, but the other brothers cover him.  That is what love does—covers sins.  Remember Exodus 20:25, a commandment with a similar idea couched in it about covering nakedness.  What are the inhabitants of Canaan in your life?  It is our faults, things that are not a rightful inhabitant of our heart.  If we become intimate with them and accept them, like being married to someone, then we will not experience all God has for us.  It doesn’t mean to not associate with certain types of people, but it means a depth of acceptance of things in our lives that God would drive out and have us choose to say no to.

We then went to Genesis 29:1 and following.  Jacob, not the burly Esau, sees Rachel, and moves a stone that it usually took all the shepherd to move in order to water the sheep, and then breaks into tears.  When he gets to Laban’s house, he finds the woman of his dreams, Rachel. He agrees to work for his uncle for seven years to have Rachel, but he is tricked into marrying Rachel’s sister Leah instead. He ends up working another seven years to get the woman he loved.

At no point did God remove His blessing from Jacob. He would not go against His promise, but Jacob had a much harder time than was intended. Being a deceiver cost him 14 years of his life.  God still uses Jacob’s mess regardless to fulfill His promises. In fact, the two most important bloodlines for us as believers were established through Leah – Levi which was the priestly order, and Judah, the royal order that produced King David and Jesus (our king and priest).

Our mistakes do not cost us the blessing of God, because that blessing is not based on our works. Our obedience to God dictates the level to which we experience the blessing that is ours. Grace has made you right before God. It also is supposed to empower you to overcome sin and experience the fruits of the blessing you’ve been given.  The branch we choose to align with determines ultimately how much of God’s plan we will fulfill in our lives.  Let’s choose to maximize that by choosing grace, and then letting grace teach us to say no to ungodliness and unlock our true potential in Christ.  


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Monday, June 2, 2014

Grace Foundation Part 3

This week, we continued the “Grace Foundation” series. In this third part we looked at the second branch in family tree of Abraham’s descendants. If you will remember, previously we looked at the branch between Isaac and Ishmael. Paul showed us in Galatians 4 that Ishmael represents the law and Isaac grace and promise.  When we become born again we become children of Abraham, but we choose which branch of the family tree we will connect to. We can opt to look at life and the Word through “law glasses” and align with Ishmael. Ishmaelites persecute Isaac’s branch. Law persecutes grace. Law mocks grace for its belief that it is right before God, not by what it does and does not do, but by faith.  Now, if we have chosen to be connected to the Isaac branch of the family, we will be faced with another decision – will we connect to the Jacob or Esau branch (Isaac’s two sons)?  Jacob is the branch that THE seed of Abraham is established through. It is through grace, by faith. But what does Esau represent?

We learn a little by looking at the life of Esau and his struggles with Jacob. In Genesis 25, we read about the birth of Jacob and Esau. First, Isaac’s wife Rebekah had been barren. Isaac probably learned from his daddy Abraham that the thing to do was go to God. He prays for his wife and she conceives twin boys.  Even in the womb, they fight with one another. When Rebekah asks God why, He gives her a prophetic message regarding her children – that one would be physically stronger than the other (Esau) and that the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob).

Now, they were twins, but the first one out of the womb would be the “first born” and heir to that blessing (which was a double portion of the father’s inheritance). Esau is born first. He is described as red and hairy. The Hebrew words used describe a fair skinned red-head. The same Hebrew word is used to describe King David (in his case the word used was “ruddy”).   Jacob was right on his heel, literally. Jacob was born grabbing the heel of Esau. One of the meanings of the Hebrew word Jacob was “grabber of the heel” and another was “deceiver,” which comes into play later.

As the two boys grow, Esau is the “man’s man.” He hunts and brings home wild game. Jacob is more the mamma’s boy. He is much more domestic. Isaac favors Esau and believes that as the first born, he is the heir of the blessing. Rebekah favors Jacob – likely because of the Word from God.

One day Esau comes in from hunting famished and finds Jacob cooking red stew. The word “red” is Edom, which is another name by which Esau is known. Esau actually sells his birthright to Jacob for the stew. We begin to see the characteristics of the Esau branch of the family tree.  Remember that Esau IS part of the Isaac branch – an heir in ways that Ishmael could not be., yet Esau’s major flaw is that he is willing to forfeit blessing that is rightfully his in order to gratify his flesh. We as believers ARE in fact heirs of promise, but we forfeit so much of what is rightfully hours when we are ruled by the flesh.

Fast forward over to chapter 27 where Isaac’s blessing is being passed on to a son. Isaac is old and has lost much of his sight. I think this is important. Remember that we are to walk by faith, not by sight. The blessing operating in our lives does not operate by what we can see, but by what we believe of God’s Word.  Jacob and Rebekah conspire together to get Esau’s blessing. Isaac sends Esau out to hunt some wild game for his favorite stew. Then he would give him the blessing. Now, this blessing is the Abrahamic blessing. It was given to Abraham because he believed God. There is a major flaw in this situation right from the start. Esau cannot receive the blessing by his works.


While Esau is out hunting, Jacob and Rebekah launch their plan. Jacob is reluctant because he is afraid his father will recognize him and know he is not Esau. Rebekah puts goat fur on Jacob’s hands and neck (where Isaac would touch him in the passing of blessing). Just how hairy was Esau that goat fur would be a good substitute? She puts some of Esau’s clothes on Jacob so he would smell like Esau.

Most importantly, Jacob does no work. It is all done for him. All Rebekah tells him to do is to bring two goats to her to make a stew for Isaac (in place of Esau’s). Why two goats? I believe this is foreshadowing. Later, in the law, two goats are used for the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement. One was sacrificed – giving its blood for the sins of the people – and the other had all the sins of the people spoken over it and then it was released to the wilderness, never to be seen again (the scapegoat). This represented the guilty conscience. Abraham was declared righteous because he believed. The blessing gets passed along through a picture of redemption.

Also, Rebekah tells Jacob that all of this is “on her” (should Isaac discover the deception). What did Rebekah do? She made it so Jacob could go into his father’s presence without worry and be perceived as his older brother. This is what Jesus has done for us. Because of what He did, we are clothed in His robe of righteousness, and we boldly go before the throne of God as though we are Jesus (our older “brother”) – without fear or worry. Wow, how cool!

I’ve often wondered how Isaac could be so easily deceived. Even without good eyesight, how would he not realize to which son he was speaking. He does notice the voice seems to be Jacob’s but is confident enough in the end that he is speaking to Esau. I believe the answer is in his initial request to Esau to make him some of the stew he really likes. Much like Esau’s error, when one is focused on gratifying the flesh, it is easy to become deceived. We will not see obvious warning signs when we are distracted with satisfying what the flesh wants.  Remember, none of this changes the fact that we ARE blessed butut, when we are not obedient to the Spirit in us, we will not experience that blessing.

 To listen to the entire sermon go to  To learn more about Living Word Ahwatukee, visit