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