Wednesday, March 11, 2015

God’s Tool belt (Jacob, part 7)

Please note…this is "Jacob, part 7." I encourage you to scroll down and start with "Jacob, part 1."

Have you ever considered what “tools” God uses to change us?

Having fled from Esau and having received God’s promise to him, Jacob continues on his journey to his Uncle Laban’s house.  There, he falls in love with his uncle’s youngest daughter, Rachel, and agrees to work 7 years to gain her hand in marriage.  “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Genesis 20:20).  But, something goes awfully wrong on the honeymoon. Laban switches the older, homely Leah with the younger, beautiful Rachel, covers her face with a veil as is the custom in the ancient near east, and sends Leah into the honeymoon tent under the cover of night.  Jacob, the deceiver, is himself deceived, and, unfortunately, he doesn’t discover this until the morning after. OOPS!  Now, I really don’t know what eternity will be like, but there are numerous Old Testament scenes where I’d really love to grab some popcorn, plop on my heavenly couch and hit “replay.”  Can you just imagine Jacob’s face as he gazes over at his bride, in the first light of dawn, to recognize he had married Leah instead of Rachel?!  

Does Laban remind you of anyone?  He should remind us of Jacob himself.  Since Jacob is a big deceiver, God sends him to an even bigger deceiver.  God puts Jacob on the other end of the stick to see what it is like to be tricked, deceived and cheated.  God knew precisely what Jacob needed in order to become aware of the fruits of his own manipulation and deception, in order to stop trusting in his own craftiness.  How has God used this tool, the tool of consequence in your life?

Laban tells Jacob he can still marry Rachel, for another 7 years of work!  But this initiates a fierce rivalry between the two sisters, both competing for the love of their husband.  Homely Leah bears Jacob 3 sons, while Rachel is barren. Rachel gives her maid, Bilhah to Jacob, in order to have children through her. (They sure did things kinda different back then, didn’t they?!) Rachel has 2 kids through Bilhah, and says, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed."  Leah then decides she better get moving, so she gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob, in order to have children through her.  Jacob isn’t interested in sleeping with homely Leah, so she hires him to do so, paying off Rachel, in order to have the chance at another child.  When all is said and done, Jacob ends up with twelve sons and is very, very tired!  

Doesn’t this sisterly rivalry, competing for the love of Jacob remind us of Jacob and Esau competing for the love of their parents?  Through Rachel and Leah, an all-wise God provided a mirror to Jacob, in which he could visualize the distant reflection of his own striving with his brother Esau.  Mirrors are circumstances and people who reveal us.  How has God used this tool, the tool of mirrors, in your life?

Since Jacob is being paid by Laban in livestock, Jacob figures out a way to get the strongest goats to be his, and the weakest to be Laban’s.  Laban, therefore, slowly losing his flock to Jacob, changes Jacob’s wages no less than 10 times!  As a result, Jacob’s life becomes very difficult as the tool of hardship has its affect.  As Jacob declares, by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes” (Genesis 31:40).  God often uses hardship to break down our resistance to Him, our pride.  How has God used this tool, the tool of hardship, in your life?

So, Jacob deceives Laban yet again, running away in the middle of the night fleeing for his life, with all his family and all his flocks.  Does this remind you of anything? This is the second time Jacob has had to run away from his home due to the strife he had created.   Laban awakes in the morning, just as Jacob had on his first honeymoon, to discover that he, now, is the one who has been deceived.  And he is ticked!  For seven whole days Laban and his men track Jacob, until at last, they overtake him.

This is the moment of truth for Jacob.  But to his surprise, Laban tells Jacob, “It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob’” (Gen 31:29).  With Jacob out of tricks and defenseless against Laban, God revealed to Jacob that He would protect him, even if he had to speak to a bitter old man through a midnight dream.  

God’s faithfulness to all that He had promised is accomplished as God heals Jacob’s “stuff” through consequence, relationships, and hardship, not to mention God’s dreamy intervention.  Jacob’s baggage does not create an obstacle to God, but, instead, becomes the stage for God to move in on Jacob’s issues.   If it were not for the difficulties that we go through, none of the things stuck in the dried concrete of our core beliefs would EVER be addressed or changed.  But these things--consequence, relationships & hardships--are the tools of God for our healing.

What does your life reveal God is you?  What is the great Healer seeking to heal?

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Promise, (Jacob, part 6)

Please note…this is "Jacob, part 6." I encourage you to scroll down and start with "Jacob, part 1."

What obstacles lie in the way of God working in your life?

As you look down the road at all the hurdles you'll need to overcome, what are some of the obstacle you face?

Wow, let me make a list!  Let’s see, there’s my sin struggles, my doubts, my character weaknesses, my defensiveness, my fears, my anxieties...TIME OUT!  

Let’s review. Before he was even born, God chose Jacob-a dude who has got to be the most manipulative, self-serving deceiver in the Bible!  A man who robs his blind father and steals his brother’s inheritance.  Yet, God begins to move into his life with this freaky dream, God Himself speaking from the top rung of “Jacob’s ladder”...

"I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."  Genesis 28:13-15

Check out the dimensions of the promise that God gave to Jacob-I’m gonna give you...a COUNTRY!  This promised land of Canaan, this huge piece of real estate...AND you’re gonna have like a gazillion descendants; I mean kids, grandkids, great the dust of the earth...AND in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  ALL the families of the earth?  Seriously?  You mean that God chose this one guy, THIS GUY, Jacob, as...His man?
The magnitude of this promise reveals that the patriarchs, that is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--option one--had a collective ego of unlimited dimensions, of psych unit proportions...I mean, can you imagine telling your kids that God had chosen YOU, little old you to bless the entire world...OR, option two: God truly spoke to these men and promised to save the world through their descendant, the Messiah.    

This promise is meant to fill Jacob with great faith in God, NOT SELF.  This promise is meant to heal us from thinking our struggles, doubts, and sins are an obstacle to God.  This promise is all about GOD’S ABILITY, not our ability.  Because if you weigh what you bring to the table, it is, well--kinda sick--to trust in ourselves, isn’t it?

But here is the sad reality; though Jacob has had God reveal Himself, though he is given the same promise as Abraham and  Isaac, though Jacob has been chosen from the womb, he still can’t trust God or claim God as his.  Until the end of his life, you’ll notice that every time Jacob refers to God, he calls him “the God of Abraham and Isaac.”  Can you imagine my son, Caleb, praying before a family dinner, “Oh, God of my father, John...”  “I’d be like, “Son, he’s YOUR God, too!”  So what’s going on with Jacob?  Simply put, he’s not too sure about God.  He’s not all in.  Oh sure, he knows God is there, but if he were to release control, if he were to take God at His word and build his life around Him...Holy smokes, what would happen?  Yes, yes, God made the world and all...but this is MY LIFE that we’re talking about here.  If I just keep my hands on the steering wheel, I’m pretty sure I can get where I want to go.  Like I said...sick.  And I speak out of personal experience. 

Jacob has been blind to all that God has already done for him.  Why?  

Jeremiah 17:5-6 tells us “Cursed is the man who...makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord....he will not see when prosperity comes.”  In other words, the more you trust yourself and your own resources, the more you’ll think you accomplished it when you succeed; you will be blind to God’s activity in your life, believing your own cunning, hard work and drive have produced your success.  Again, I speak from much experience. 

Here’s how this story should have unfolded; “And Jacob, now convinced of the goodness of God, learned to rest from his striving and manipulation, and enjoyed his life, trusting God to accomplish all that He had promised.”  Well, that’s NOT what happens.  Instead, his life message produces a pattern of deception and manipulation that continue to reveal a lack of trust in God’s promise.  Despite his enthusiastic response to this dream, there is a sinister two letter word which reveals his heart...

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.

This is subtle, but don’t miss it.  What Jacob is doing here is negotiating a contract.  He is brokering a deal, bartering with God Himself... “If God does this, then He will be my God.”  He is engaging with God the only way that his manipulative heart knows how to engage with anyone; “Esau, give me the birthright and I will give you this ‘red stuff.’”  “God, bless me, and you will be my God.” Again, Jacob doesn’t claim God as his until the END of his story.  His life message, “you are on your own,” has shrouded the goodness and faithfulness of God, such that his reflexive “trust self” dominates his journey.

The promise given to Jacob is exactly the same as the promise Jesus gave to us, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). And its meaning is what we see on display in the Jacob story; 
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."  

So, what obstacles lie in the way of God working in your life?  Well...nothing.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil 1:6

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Jacob’s Ladder (Jacob, 5)

Please note…this is "Jacob, part 5." I encourage you to scroll down and start with "Jacob, part 1."

What if God were to “show up” in your life, in some powerful display of His presence?

Fleeing from his brother Esau’s wrath, Jacob leaves his home...
And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it...Genesis 28:12-13

I’d like to think a dream like this would resolve my struggle about God’s manifest presence in my life.  I mean, really, all I need is one burning bush, one angelic visitation, just one dry fleece on the ground (Read Judges 6:36-40 if I lost you on that one).  I don’t think I’m actually asking too much, am I?  I mean, if only Jesus would turn water into wine at a wedding for me, I swear I’d stop doubting.  Seriously, if I just get to walk on water one time, I’m solid.  

But I’m NOT solid.  I’m a mess.  And I have had experiences with God that are like walking on water.  They should convince me to trust God.  Why then, do I--do we--swing back and forth from clarity & conviction to emotional atheism?  Why does the Bible tell me one story, a story that seems so glorious that I get jacked about seeing God move in my life, but then my life tells me another story...a story where I feel like I am on my own?

Precisely because our woundedness attaches to our view of God as well as to every other area in our lives.  We’ve seen Jacob’s baggage, how his “father wound” seems to be driving him to live life as if he is on his own.  But now, God moves in to bring healing to Jacob and this dream is the first step.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place!”  Genesis 28:16-17

The most fundamental reality in Jacob’s story is that God has chosen him and nothing in heaven and earth can stop God from doing all that He has promised.  But the fundamental belief in Jacob’s heart, his experience, is that you get ahead by pushing ahead; oh sure, there’s a God, but in “real life” Jacob must cheat, lie, and manipulate to get what he wants.    

His life message is that I am on my own. 

His driving motivation, then, his core belief, is that he must manage life on his own terms if he is to succeed.  John Eldredge put it this way, “we don’t really develop our core convictions so much as they develop within us, when we are young.  Down deep, in the innermost parts they form, down in deep water, like the shifting of the continental plates.”  Jacob’s belief, “I’m on my own,” is not arrived at after careful contemplation on the character of God, sitting under a starry sky.  That core belief was poured, like wet concrete, into his young soul by a disengaged dad and a manipulative mom, only to harden as circumstances seemed to confirm this as reality, to become his life message.
So how does God heal our mistrust of Him?

In the Jacob story, we will see God intervene in small and big ways, through divine interventions and what we call mere circumstances.  We will see Jacob progress in faith, because...

Struggle is an act of worship.  

Faith is a wrestling, a mix of conviction and confusion, a battle that has both daring and doubt.  That’s why it’s called “the fight of faith.”  Somewhere along the line, we bought the Big Lie that this thing called Christianity was supposed to be...easy.  Where did that come from?  Man, every day, I fight to believe that God is in my life, working out His plan.  Every day!  I choose to believe, and we all MUST choose because, like a great novel, you just can’t “see it” till the final chapters.  Only then does the divine Author weave together the plot He has been developing all along.   

And check this out: when we examine the Jacob story, we see the plot progress through the normal stuff of life.  We will read chapters on sibling rivalry, the difficulties of marriage, and a demanding employer.  It’s in the mundane that God works out His master plan.  

On top of that, when we do take small steps forward in trusting God, there is little, if any, evidence that it matters to God. He simply doesn’t shoot off a powerful July fourth firework display when we believe.  Not once have I heard an angelic choir break forth with Handel’s “Hallelujah” when I decide to trust God in my life.

But don’t miss this--simple faith is the heroic God-glorifying act of your life.  And anything great is not easy.  This is why our faith is described as “more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7).

Jacob’s ladder, then, was simply the first step for him.  It was merely his first awakening to see reality as God describes it.  His faith, like ours, will shift back and forth, as the chapters of his life proceed through the glorious process of simply trusting God.

"Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." 

It is in THIS place of family difficulty, of marital struggle, of financial hardship that we must trust God is working out His plan.  It is into the mundane movements of our job, of our desires, of our fears, that God moves and reveals His faithfulness, ever so slowly, but ever so surely.

And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place!” 


Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Father Wound (Jacob, part 4)

Please note...this is "Jacob, part 4."  I encourage you to scroll down and start with "Jacob, part 1." 

“The most dangerous thing in the world is an insecure man...and I’m one of them.”  -Walter Wangeran

Family systems theory suggests that individuals can’t be understood in isolation from one another.  We are truly known, only in the context of our upbringing.  The atmosphere of our homes explains a lot about who we are.  And for many, the home was unsafe.  Without a strong, loving, engaged father figure, a toxic atmosphere of conditional love is created.  And the shadow that our dad casts upon our lives can actually erode confidence, hope, and the ability to give and receive love.  

Unhealthy family systems are why many of us have compulsions, addictions, and destructive habits, as well as more subtle issues such as people pleasing, perfectionism, or drivenness to succeed.


Jacob comes from one such family system.  And we can trace this baggage through four generations.  It began in Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, who preferred Isaac over his older son, Ishmael.  But it comes to full bloom in his father, Isaac, as Genesis 25:28 reveals, “Isaac loved Esau...but Rebekah loved Jacob.”  Like many, Jacob takes the favoritism he hated to new heights in his own family.  He shows extreme favoritism toward his son, Joseph, which nearly ruins his life as a deep-seated jealousy and hatred takes hold of Joseph’s brothers.  

Back to Jacob & Esau.

“Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.”  Genesis 27:30 

Isaac realizes he has been duped by Jacob and tells Esau that his brother has stolen the blessing. 

34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, "Bless me, even me also, O my father!"..."Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing." And he said, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?"... So Esau lifted his voice and wept. 

Having given his blessing to Jacob, all Isaac can offer Esau is the lame promise that one day, at some distant point in the future, he won’t have to serve Jacob.  In the monopoly game of Jacob’s scheming, Esau receives the “get out of jail” card while Jacob steals the “free parking,” the jackpot. 

"Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, And away from the dew of heaven from above. 40 "And by your sword you shall live, And your brother you shall serve; But it shall come about when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck. 

Thanks Dad.  This is NOT a good blessing.   

41 So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob."  

The consequent rivalry between the two boys for their parent’s affection doesn’t result just in a small spat in the living room over control of the t.v., but rather in Esau contemplating his brother’s murder.  Don’t miss this; the frequent consequence of a parent withholding love, particularly the father, is...devastation. 

I want you to note this, that even 3500 years before the onset of professional counseling, we see the negative affects of family systems vividly described in the scripture.  And again, this was a “good” family.  

Let’s focus our zoom lens to center the father-son relationship in the frame.

As you consider Isaac’s relationship to Jacob, the boy just had to know his father wasn’t in to him.  After all, he was a “smooth” man; he wasn’t Esau.  Am I reading into the story to suggest Isaac didn’t show up for Jacob’s pee wee games...and Jacob noticed?  Or that he wasn’t there to pass on masculine strength to  Jacob when encountering life’s hardships?  Or that Isaac failed to instill into Jacob a sense that God had a great purpose for his life?  Because as I look at Jacob’s behavior, his life message seems to be “I’m on my own.  What I get out of life is what I make happen myself.” We can trace the home atmosphere to Jacob’s manipulation and deceit.  The father wound runs deep. 

There are things in me that need healing; I am broken, I have baggage and I probably always will.  But what I don’t like to admit is that I have my view of God.

I’ve often wondered--

Why is it hard to bask in the mighty affections of the Father?  Why is it such a struggle, down in the soul, to truly believe that God has some great purpose, some reason for making me?  Why don’t I sense God’s intimacy, His nearness, His interest in me?  Why is it that some people feel the delight of the Father, they “sense” the countenance of God that says, “I love you so much!”...but I struggle?

God has revealed Himself as Father.  And though this story doesn’t allude to the fatherhood of God, what we will see is God “showing up,” being present.  

Jacob’s story has greatly helped me with mine. Because even a good family, and a good dad, can create baggage and father wounds.  Yet, Jacob’s baggage, rather than being a deterrent to God, actually becomes the stage on which God will give His greatest performance in Jacob’s life.  It is not what God does through Jacob that is so special.  It is what God does within him that is truly remarkable. 

To a man with the life message, “I’m on my own,” God intervenes, and says, “I’m right here!  And I will bless your life!”


Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Baggage (Jacob, part 3)

Please note...this is "Jacob, part 3."  I encourage you to scroll down and start with "Jacob, part 1." 

Are you aware of the baggage you’re carrying on this journey of faith?

Are you exhausted from the weight of hiding it from the world?

I love the Jacob story not just because I see myself in Jacob, but because the story reveals a piece of our stories, namely, the baggage we carry.  Baggage is the residual affects of life’s painful experiences, whether we were violated or abused or neglected; whether it was what we ourselves did, or what someone did to us; baggage is the lingering affects of our past, carried out in our present.  It is our woundedness, our brokenness.  And almost everyone I know has it.

Brokenness and baggage is rampant in our culture, but it seems to me like no one wants to talk about it, not even the church!  No one, it seems...but the Bible.

Allow me to set the stage.  An elderly, nearly blind Isaac asks his favorite boy, Esau, to hunt, then cook, his favorite meal, so he can bestow his favorite blessing.  His wife, Rebekah, conspires with her son, Jacob, to steal the blessing through deceit, disguising the younger Jacob as the older Esau.  

And Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, "Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man.”  Genesis 27:11

At this point, I must digress from the text simply to point out that “smooth man” is code for “wussy boy.”  In other words, Jacob is not the man’s man, that his brother Esau was, and his dad’s disappointment in who Jacob was, was self evident.  Imagine the heartache of loves...Esau.  As a result of his baggage, Jacob stoops, not merely to stealing from a blind man, but robbing his brother of his inheritance as well.

Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob. 

With the clock ticking and his heart racing, Jacob deceives his dad, while his brother is off hunting game. 

24 And he said, "Are you really my son Esau?" And he said, "I am...27 and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, "See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed; 28 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; 29 May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you." 

This is ugly. 

But this is what flows out of the heart from people who carry baggage, people For oh so many years, I had no idea that the loneliness I felt, the drive to prove myself, my defensiveness, my relational aloofness--I could go on and on--was coming from a very broken place inside.  I had baggage.

There are several things to note about baggage.  

1-Open your eyes.  Note that even godly families can carry major baggage.  Isaac and Rebekah love God, and yet, they make parenting mistakes, out of their own baggage, that deeply affect their kids.  So listen, it’s a GREAT day when you recognize you have baggage!    

2-Soften your heart.  Notice that baggage is passed on in different ways to different people; Esau becomes a worldly man who despises the blessings of God; Jacob becomes a deceiving manipulator.  Everyone is different.  Some people become driven because of their woundedness; others become passive.  Some people become rebellious; others become people-pleasers.  BUT WE ALL HAVE BAGGAGE!  And our baggage is different in effect as well as in size.  Some of us have small little carry-on bags, while I would say of myself, that I have an 18’ U-haul truck filled to the top with bags upon bags upon bags.  My baggage may be greater than yours, but almost all of us carry it.  And my baggage has softened me toward the baggage of others.

3-Trust in your God.  I'm not sure you can actually trust a God you think is disgusted with you.  But notice what God does and does not do in this story.  God doesn’t wave a magic wand over Jacob’s issues.  Being a believer most definitely does NOT automatically fix everything!  In fact, Jacob makes some progress, but never fully stops living from his brokenness, yet God faithfully walks with him every step of his journey.  More so, while seeing the ugliness of Jacob’s baggage and its devastating effects, our faithful God refuses to back away a single inch.

Jacob didn’t have a story to see himself in; he didn’t have a mirror in which to see his own baggage on display.  But you and I do.  We have this story, Jacob’s story, to simply recognize...

It’s o.k. to not have it all together.  It’s o.k. to not be o.k.

So let’s shake off the lie that we need to be perfect.  The weight of perfectionism...can be lifted...God doesn’t love some ideal image of you.  He loves you...and does so...with your baggage

I’m so tired of pretending to have it all together.  Of feeling like I need to be”fixed” in order to be loved. 


Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Holy Lust (Jacob, part 2)

Please note...this is "Jacob, part 2."  I encourage you to scroll down and start with "Jacob, part 1." 

Do you lust for the things of God?

From cradle to grave Jacob is determined to get ahead, at all costs, grabbing his older brother by the heel at birth, earning the name Jacob, which means “supplanter.”  A supplanter is a person who bumps you out of the way in order to get what he wants.  And Jacob soon lives up to his name as the story unfolds:

28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 And when Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." 32 And Esau said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" 33 And Jacob said, "First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”

Let me give you a little background music here-the birthright was a special blessing from God, to be given to the oldest son. It was a double portion of the inheritance, as well as the position of honor and leadership in the family. And Jacob wants this birthright BAD!  Esau, in contrast, trades it away for a bowl of lentil stew, gaining the infamous nickname, “Edom,” or “Esau the Red.” The testimony of scripture is clear: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom 9:13).  Check this out...

Jacob is never corrected for wanting too much.

In the quiet moments of life, when I am able to slow down the rpm’s of my heart, I find in me a strong, passionate desire...I want victory over my sin struggles, I want blessings in my life, I want growth in my ministry, I want intimacy in my marriage, I want depth in my get the point.  I WANT.  I want nothing less than the ABUNDANT life Jesus came to give us. 

To be honest, I WANT IT ALL.

Yet desire is a dangerous thing.  It can be incredibly destructive and self-serving.  And yet, if you think about it, desire also fuels almost everything godly as well. Men and women get awakened from their unholy contentment with the world.  They get delivered from their apathy.  They get freed up from the false idea that everything that happens is God’s will.

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” reveals that God’s will is not done on earth; that’s the point.  We should crave it, desire it, long for it. 

And if there is one character in the Bible who is ambitious after the blessing of God, it’s Jacob.  In fact, his ambition is so great, nothing comes close to describing it other than the word “lust.”  Lust, of course, is usually connected to unholy sexual desire, but it can also describe an ardent enthusiasm for the things of God, a prevailing hunger, a “must-have.”  Jacob had a holy lust.

Again, desire is a dangerous thing.  Living from desire WILL, I promise you this, lead you into risk, confusion, and disappointment.  We just don’t always get what we want.

But we can allow God to be God.  And we can allow ourselves to face disappointment.  Living from desire is so much better than living from apathy, helplessness, and unholy contentment.

Our desires are the arena into which God moves.  

I firmly stand with C.S. Lewis, when he wrote, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, we are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Are you ambitious after the blessings of God?  Or have you settled, like I have so many times, for whatever life has to offer, something equivalent to a bowl of lentil beans?  

I find myself provoked by Jacob

deeply stirred in some unseen place in my heart

that I must meet God in the space that He chooses

Not in my unholy contentment

But in a most passionate expression of faith



Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Clay (Jacob, part I)

Stories have power. 
And the power of the Biblical stories is that they reveal the divine Potter.  How God fashions and molds us, the clay in His hands.  

Enter Jacob.  This man has got to be the most manipulative, self-serving deceiver in the Bible!  To be honest, this dude is a nasty man!  And yet God set His covenant love upon Jacob.  God met Jacob’s primal drive of “ME!” by choosing him, blessing him, loving him, and breaking him.  That’s covenant love, what Francis Chan calls “crazy love.”  I mean, we would be hard-pressed to come up with a better example of God loving someone more than Jacob.  And...invisible blush and a hard swallow on this end...embarrassing as it is, I see a lot of ME in Jacob; I see an insecure man extremely driven out of some wounded place in his heart.  Jacob’s story is my story. 

Scene 1 of Jacob’s story begins even before his birth, as God explains to Rebekah why her twins are having a wrestling match in her womb...

“Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”  Genesis 25:23

God reveals to Rebekah His choice of Jacob.  Oh, Esau will be blessed too, but God sets His covenant love upon Jacob.  Let’s let the mystery of divine sovereignty--the way God rolls--alone.  We don’t need to fully grasp it nor exhaustively explain it to our unbelieving friends.  If you try, good luck with that:)  Instead of trying to explain it, let it simply wash over you...God chose you.

I mean, seriously, you aren’t going to say you got into this party without an invite, right?  

Scene 1 of Jacob’ story is pregnant Rebekah, but scene 1 of God’s story is simply God, by Himself, in eternity past, deciding to set His covenant love and me...and Jacob.

“for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls”  Romans 9:11
This story confronts me.  

It confronts me with a God who  It confronts me with there being some great purpose behind that choosing.  It confronts me with a God who faithfully accomplishes ALL that He sets out to do...all that He promises to do...despite our circumstances, sins, and slowness to trust.  Why God chose Jacob, and why God chose us, remains a mystery, except for this one stunning revelation...

“so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” Ephesians 2:7. 

Please read this next line slowly.  It’s as if God were to say, “I just want you to know how much I love you.”  It’s just who God is, the way He rolls.  And this story, perhaps more than any other, highlights the faithfulness of God toward a really broken man.

There is much more to see in this story, but--spoiler alert--despite all his conniving, all his desperate attempts to push others out of the way, all his deception and selfish ambition, Jacob gets blessed by God.  Ultimately, he wrestles with God saying, “I will not let go until you bless me,” to which God essentially responds, “O.k...You got it.  You’ve had it all along.”  For all time, God has set this story before us to confront us with His love.

So the hero of Jacob’s story...and your the eternal God, Yahweh, the LORD, the One who fashions the hearts of them all” (Ps. 33:15), the divine Potter.

And do you see that lump of clay in His hands?  That’s you.

Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to

Friday, February 13, 2015

The View from the Mountain Top

                                       Have you ever forgotten what life is all about?

I came to know God at a Young Life camp on the top of a mountain in Colorado in 1980.  Yes, mine was the proverbial “mountain top experience” of meeting Jesus and being transformed.  I had this epiphany that if God deeply loved me, then nothing else could compare to simply knowing God.  Wow, that sounds cliche, but if Jesus be God and He died for me, I would go anywhere He called and do anything He asked.  I was “all in.”  My road map was marked, my compass calibrated; for me, it was “Jesus Only, None but He.”  I just wanted to know Jesus. 

I returned to that same camp in Colorado after my freshman year in college, this time serving as a camp counselor.  Our week of bliss included rappelling down cliffs, white-water rafting and mountain climbing.  On the last day of the camp we were guided up a mountain, being instructed to walk the last fifty yards backwards, lest we sneak a peek at the view that literally took your breath away.  It was amazing.  From the mountain top, we gazed at yet another mountain, magnificent and majestic, shrouded in mist yet so close that it seemed we could almost stretch out and touch it.  It was, well...surreal.  After a while, we began our descent, passing by a rough wooden cross just off the beaten path, with the words of Psalm 46:10 written on the crossbar, “Be still and know that I am God.” Then it hit me.  

I began to weep.  I’m not talking about wiping a tear or two from my eyes, I’m saying it was the kind of blubbering boo hoo that happens when you feel wrecked by something.  I realized something had changed in me.

Slowly, imperceptibly, something tragic had happened, something truly horrific.

In the busyness of life, I lost sight of what mattered most.  I lost sight of Jesus.

Since my mountain top conversion, life had become exceedingly busy.  Part of that was due to my own failure to study as a freshmen, leading my parents to tighten down the screws on my academics.  Part of that, though, was that I was busy doing stuff...for Jesus.  But in my busyness, I felt like I had traded  knowing Jesus for serving Jesus.  I felt like I had lost my best friend.

I still loved God...He just didn’t take my breath away.

So here’s MY challenge. I’d love to live on the mountain top where seeing Jesus is easy, where nothing competes for my heart.  But that’s not where I live.  I live in the valley, full of noise, busyness and the chaos of life.  I’m exhausted.  Everything is clamoring for my attention, demanding my time and energy.  In the valley, I simply get...distracted.

I stumbled upon a helpful hint, one time, for my spiritual “A.D.D.”
The apostle Paul was awaiting his execution under Nero, and he wrote to his protege and friend, Timothy, (2 Timothy 2:8) this simple advice...

“Remember Jesus.” 

It’s as if we sit at the desk of life, with piles of bills to wade through, endless “to do” tasks awaiting us, our minds cluttered and distracted.  Then the Voice of God whispers, “Come away from all this.  Ascend the mountain, if but for a little while to remember Me and who you are, in relation to Me.  I’m inviting YOU up the mountain.”

Honestly, this is my greatest strength, my secret, really...and my biggest struggle.  What I need perhaps more than any other thing is to focus my eyes on a suffering Savior until this image is brought into crystal clear focus.  It is to consciously, intentionally, and slowly, bring to my mind what life is all about.  

It is to recalibrate my heart from doing to knowing. 

So let the Voice of God again be heard in our souls.
“Come away from all this.  Ascend the mountain, if but for a little while to remember Me and who you are, in relation to Me.  I’m inviting YOU up the mountain.”


Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Simplicity of Love

“Do you love Me?”

Can you imagine Jesus asking you today what He asked Peter, His disciple, 2000 years ago?  Even worse, He asked him, “Do you love Me more than these?” In other words, do you love Me more than what you love most, which, for Peter, was fishing.  Not only that, but holy smokes, John 21 records that Jesus asked Peter this three times (!), leading him to his embarrassed confession, (revealed only in the Greek language), “You know that...I am fond of you.”  

Now, this is not about shame or us feeling guilty that we don’t do more for God.  In this confrontation, Jesus is enticing Peter to put first things first, to love Him more than the “stuff” of life.  Enticing.

The Apostle Paul knew loving Jesus is hard because of the stuff of life...“lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11.3).  

Just love Jesus.  It seems so embarrassingly simple.

Do you realize what we get, that most people don’t get?  We get the chance to simply sit at Jesus’ feet.  We get to look with childlike wonder at a God who calls Himself, “Father.”  (If you’re a parent, go gaze at your child while he or she sleeps and let that sink in a little).  We get to have a lump in our throat as we gaze upon Jesus crucified with the astonishment that “God so loved the world...” That God so 

I get to love Jesus.

The Martha & Mary story illustrates this (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus told Martha that this is the “one thing” that really matters.  It’s the one priority in life that simply cannot be neglected. I think this “one thing” was something more than the duty and obligation to merely read the Bible.  The clutter of life didn’t matter to Mary; she couldn’t take her eyes off Jesus.

Because here’s the thing about people in love.  They don’t do things because they’re supposed to.  They don’t write poems, buy roses, or write mushy love songs out of “ought.”  They gaze into their beloved’s eyes because they want to.  And to those who are in love, nothing else in life really matters all that much.

So why do we get this so twisted around?

Should do less, to gaze more?  Could it be that what He wants from me, today, is simply to enjoy Him?

Simple devotion to Jesus is the secret to living a bold witness before a lost and dark world.  It’s what our world needs from us.  But simple devotion to Jesus is what we need more than anything else; it is the one thing. It is what our souls were made for.  It’s what we have been wired for.

G.K. Chesterton put it this way:

 “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”

There is something attractive and powerful about a person in love, a person so caught up in the relationship that nothing else really matters. 



Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to

Monday, February 2, 2015


 “If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you attempt to the glory of God?”  

In other words, if success were a given, what would you attempt?  This question haunts me.  I HATE it.  Simply because everyone I know--me included--lives bound by the chains of fear. We walk underneath the grey, overcast skies of mediocrity.  And God wants us unleashed from fear.

One of my favorite stories about our kids comes from my son’s adventures in soccer.  As a totally non-biased dad (wink:), I could tell he was probably the best player on the team (Some of you may relate to my “non-bias”); he had a strong kick, good footwork, and excellent field awareness.  This season was gonna be fun!...

But the first game wasn’t.  I stood on the sidelines, with feelings of anger and embarrassment as my son...acted like a child.  Yes, yes, he was only eight, but “For goodness sake, Caleb, get your head in the game and stop acting like a...boy!”  Now, to the uninitiated, we parent types can often discern what is going on in the heart of a child, mainly because that’s what I used to do...that’s what I still do! 

And my son was scared.  I could tell.  I’ve been there many times.

He was covering it up pretty well, but he was afraid to fail, and consequently, wasn’t putting out all that much on the soccer field.  Listen up: the battles that are won or lost on the soccer field, gym class or baseball diamonds of childhood are absolutely vital to the development of a healthy confidence in the rest of life.  I wasn’t about to let my son’s fear control him the way my fears have controlled me.  He needed help.  He needed Dad.

Over the next few weeks, we worked hard!  We focused on dribbling, shooting, and passing, but mostly on him simply believing he could do it.  I asked him, time and time again, to “man up,”  to play without fear of what could go wrong.  We even developed a secret signal, a fist pump to the chest that meant “I’m going for it!” Game time finally arrived, and he got his first goal of the season.  The next game, he scored twice, then three times in the next.  His confidence was soaring.

It was half-time of the next game and his team was getting shut out, 1-0.  I went over to him, and looked down into his eight-year old eyes.  I asked, “Son, do you know what your team needs?...For you to go crazy out there! For you to leave it all on the field, no fear, no holding back.”  He looked up at me with eyes of faith that his father was telling him the truth and just nodded.  Then, as he lined up for the start of the second half, get this...he looked over at me...and gave me the secret signal.  With the whistle about to blow to start the second half, he looked at his dad and gave a fist pump to the chest.   It was awesome!  Then the explosion happened.  He scored with his right foot.  Then with his left.  He scored off of a throw-in from the sidelines and on a break away.  He scored six times in 20 minutes.  Parents were looking at me and asking, “What did you feed that boy this morning for breakfast?”

I walked off the field with my arm around my son, telling him how proud I was of him, and then I heard it--the whisper of God.  “This is what I am doing in YOUR life, too,”  the Voice said.  “I want YOU to live...UNLEASHED.”

They call Him “The Comforter,” the Paracletos, One who draws alongside to encourage, to coach, to call out what is there, to ask us to “man up.”  For many of us, our fears have followed us into adulthood, lying there like a mighty barrier between what we are and all that we could become...if we would just leave it all out on the field.  If we could just get unleashed.

Ephesians 3:20–21 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”  To HIM WHO IS ABLE.  It’s most definitely not about us; it never has been. 
So what are YOU afraid of?  What would it look like, today, to live all out, without fear of what people thought of you, fear of failing, fear of not having what it takes?  What would that look like?  What do you want out of this day, today, right now?

It’s half time, and you’re the one lined up at midfield...

“If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you attempt to the glory of God?” 


Blog writing ®John Hever. Unless otherwise stated, photos are not the original creative works of John Hever. To access the website of h2o church, go to