Stripy Goats!

Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock. Moreover, it came about whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, that Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods, but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys (Genesis 30:37-43).

Jacob had worked 14 years for Laban, had taken his two daughters as his brides, and felt it was time to move on, however, Laban knew he was on to a good thing with Jacob around, and wasn’t going to let Jacob walk away that easy. Laban knew that God had blessed Jacob and as a result was blessing him. So he offered him anything he wanted to stay. Jacob being a cunning fellow to say the least, thought he knew of a way to increase his wealth, or blessings. All he asked of Laban was to be able to take any goats or sheep that were blemished in some way. Seemed pretty straight forward to Laban, as it wasn’t the norm for there to be a lot of blemished animals anyway. Both men were happy with the agreement.

But as the verses above show, Jacob took some actions and thought that trough those actions, he was influencing the offspring of the goats and sheep. He reasoned that by plant peeling, and rod mating, he’d somehow stumbled upon a method of increasing his own flock, and being prosperous. Amazingly it worked. Or so Jacob thought. His cunning plan was resulting in him being “exceedingly prosperous”. His own works were resulting in him being blessed.

How often do we think like this in life? Numerous self help books published on “how to be blessed”, “how to unlock the blessings of God”,”7 steps to finding your blessing”, etc. etc. I’ve grown up in churches all my life where this kind of message, either directly, or indirectly has been preached. You must do something to release the favour of God on your life. For a long time, I even told this to ones around me. “To see goodness happen in your life, you’re gonna need to do x, y, and z.”

Over the past few years I’ve been on a weird journey. A lot of the things I’ve held sacred about the “Christian Walk”, now seem so futile. God has taken me to passages in the bible I’m not sure I’ve ever read, well read properly anyway. Today being one of those days.

Back to Jacob… The problem with Jacob’s technique for mating lies in the fact that its absurd that peeling bits off trees would result in stripy goats, that laying rods down in troughs would result in mating, and making the flock face the stripy and black animals would end up with more stripy and black animals. Jacob honestly thought his carnal efforts were producing superior animals! The problem being God doesn’t work that way!

 The Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives. I will be with you.” So Jacob sent a message for Rachel and Leah to come to the field where his flocks were. There he said to them, “I can tell that your father’s attitude toward me has changed, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father as hard as I could, but your father has humiliated me and changed my wages ten times. But God has not permitted him to do me any harm. If he said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to speckled offspring. But if he said, ‘The streaked animals will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to streaked offspring. In this way God has snatched away your father’s livestock and given them to me.

“Once during breeding season I saw in a dream that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. In the dream the angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ ‘Here I am!’ I replied.  Then he said, ‘Observe that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled, or spotted, for I have observed all that Laban has done to you.  I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the sacred stone and made a vow to me. Now leave this land immediately and return to your native land.’ (Genesis 31:3-13)”

God had already given Jacob a dream during mating season showing him that goat’s that were mating were in fact the streaked, speckled and spotted ones. It wasn’t that Jacob’s creative tree peeling was doing the trick, it was the fact that God had already chosen to bless him, and God was making the streaked, speckled and spotted animals reproduce better! 

Today, this is the same for us! It’s not a case of us needing to do something to earn God’s favour – what could we do that would even come close to earning any type of blessing on our lives? Rather as laid out in John 15:1-8, Jesus, the vine, causes the fruitfulness, all we need to do is abide in Him. We aren’t told to be victorious, just obedient, we’re not called to be fruitful, rather to abide in Christ.

God will bless who he chooses to bless, in the way he wants to bless, in the time he wants to bless them. It’s not our job to try and earn that blessing, rather to rest in the blessing that is being in relationship with Him, the Almighty.

There’s Wisdom in Silence

I’m getting sick and tired of Christians slating other Christians. Over the last few days we’ve had Mark Driscoll resigning from his position as Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church, and outcry because Pastor Brian Houston didn’t specifically say that gay marriage was wrong during a media interview. He later released a statement clarifying Hillsong Church‘s position.

In both cases, before even the mainstream news media outlets could give their spin, Christian bloggers were pulling both men apart. Why is it that we find it acceptable to ridicule others?

Matthew 18:15-17:

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

I understand that if we see our brother failing, then it is our responsibility to go along side and help them. Unfortunately what I see across Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other mediums is neither going alongside the person, nor helping them. Rather, it appears to be an open field for shooting people down, because either they have failed, or we disagree with their theology, amongst other things.

Do people ever stop to think how this looks to those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus? Why would anyone ever want to choose to follow Christ, when a lot of those we see following Him, don’t even get on with each other, and always shoot others down.

What is our calling in life?

Matthew 28:16-20:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I believe that there are 4 things we are to do in life:

  1. Go into our world
  2. Make disciples
  3. Baptise those disciples
  4. Teach them in the ways Jesus taught

Nowhere in that list, does it say, “Shoot down those who fall, or those we disagree with.”

Tonight, thankfully, at the Gateway Conference 2014, we did see that through the whole process with Mark Driscoll, he has friends who have been speaking into his life, and giving him guidance. This is the biblical model for correction, not some keyboard warriors wanting to pull everyone down who they disagree with theologically.

A lesson I am learning, and at times failing in, is that there is wisdom in silence. Perhaps we should learn to be silent about others, and more vocal about Jesus.

The world needs more Jesus, not more condemnation.

Eva at 8 months!

An Ass With A Purpose

When they were nearing Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany on Mount Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: “Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you’ll find a colt tethered, one that has never yet been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ say, ‘The Master needs him, and will return him right away.'”

So Mark 11:2 talks about a colt, or a young donkey, also described as an ass, that was tied up, never having been rode upon, that Jesus was going to ride into Jerusalem. Now I don’t know if Jesus was familiar with riding donkeys, but even if he was, taking an untrained ass and riding it into Jerusalem wouldn’t have been an easy task. Have you ever wondered why it was an ass upon which no one had yet sat? Surely it would have been easier to sit upon one that was familiar with people, and was used regularly for such trips?

Some people have explained that it was a pure donkey, and that Jesus was looking to ride upon something that was pure, and while that could hold true, we need to look deeper. If Jesus was about only using people and things that were pure, then he would have been short a few disciples! No, the donkey was about purpose.

Each one of us have been created with a purpose. That donkey had been created by God, with a purpose in His mind. That donkey didn’t know what it was going to do with it’s life, but Jesus did! Does that sound familiar to us? Do we drift through life sometimes, seemingly doing very little, wondering what it’s all about. God has purpose for you! You have been created with a job, a task in mind, that only you can carry out. That ass had been created for a specific purpose. All that ass had to do was keep being an ass, and it’s day would come. All we have to do is keep focused on Jesus, and He will call you out, and reveal His purpose to you!

So the next time you wonder why you are here, just remember the ass with a purpose!

Performance-related blessings? No Way!

For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. 2 Corinthians 1:20

Just a simple thought before bed! For a long time we have been taught, or at least thought that blessing comes when we are good, or when we do something that pleases God. That has been modelled to us through school based rewards systems, or parents who reward good behaviour with treats or gifts.

In the Old Testament when God promised something He followed that with an “if”, meaning that to receive the blessing the people must first do something. When Jesus came to this world, and died on the cross, it was a finished work. We have been made righteous not because of our behaviour, but because of the ultimate price that Jesus paid for us. Our position in God’s eyes is nothing to do with what we do, rather what Jesus has done!

So when this letter was written to the church at Corinth, it was to let them know that God’s blessings were not related to their performance! Performance-related pay maybe a concept in the work place, but it’s not a term used with in God’s economy! God’s promises to us are fulfilled in Jesus, therefore we are in Him, and because of that then we can receive all that God has for us!

So are you striving to do as much as you can to receive God’s blessing and feeling like you aren’t quite getting it? Accept that blessing is not related to what you do, rather in the fact that you are in Jesus. His grace is sufficient for all, His death on the cross has meant you don’t need to keep trying to measure up, relax in the knowledge that God wants to bless you.

Live Blessed! 🙂

We’re all cracked pots!

A waterbearer in India had two large pots, one hung on each end of a pole, which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it. While the other pot was perfect, and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the mistress’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to her master’s house.

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream: “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your mistress’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in her compassion she said, “As we return to the mistress’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.

But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?

“That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.

“For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my mistress’s table. Without you being just the way you are, she would not have this beauty to grace her house.”

Maybe you think you are imperfect and have no purpose – God’s got different ideas on that! Remember you were created on purpose, for a purpose, with a purpose!

Eva – 4 Months!

Pure Gym … Pure Wrecked

So today I went to the gym. Not just any gym. Pure Gym is part of our church. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere to try and get rid of that spare tyre.

Starting off on the treadmill was pretty tough! I hate treadmills. So after a steep incline walk, which was hard enough for me, there was a bit of light jogging. This I could handle a bit better. Then came boxing! How hard could this be I thought? Pretty hard was the answer. Estelle had to grab me a towel and some water. Unlike my good mate soupy, I managed not to break my wrist, however I did clip Estelle on the side of the head with a wee left hook. Purely accidental of course!

I like the bike, or at least I did until Estelle started with her routine. Sitting down, standing up, leaning forward, going easy, flat out as hard as I could, all while having good conversation – it all went pretty well. That was us done, or so I thought anyways. But no, Estelle had one final surprise up her sleeve. Ab’s! I’ve always hated sit-ups, but thought I was decent enough at them. Well I was very very wrong. 20 reps with the bar, got to about 15 and then the burn came. Pushed through like a trooper, thinking that was us done. Then came the final ab exercise. One hand behind my head and one out in front of me. Pure killer. Had to do 10 reps and then switch hands. Got to about 3 and was beat, but Estelle was having none of it. I could hear the glee in her voice as she pushed me on. Eventually I got to 20 reps. 2 leg stretches late and I was done. We took the all important measurements and I went on my merry way.

So yeah, pure wrecked now, but definitely worth it. If you are looking for somewhere to do your fitness regime, then look no further than Pure Gym, the team there are awesome and the equipment is top notch! Tell em Slim sent ya, it’ll get you no discount though! I’ll be blogging my progress, and there maybe photo’s at some point … just not yet!

2 months old :-)

Pain for Purpose

But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:4 (NASB)

So these last few weeks in our church Pastor Jeff has been talking about Lazarus. It’s been a great series. Last night this was the key verse. It brought me back to the verses that God gave me when we found out about Eva, and that things might not be right with her. John 9:1-3 talks about the man who was blind from birth, and the disciples ask the question of Jesus, who sinned? This man, or his parents. Jesus in his amazing response points out to the guys that they are missing the point – neither the man, nor his parents sin has caused the blindness, but God’s power was going to be shown and He would get the glory.

One of my first questions regarding Eva centred around the thought that maybe something I had done had caused this gap in her brain to appear. I think a lot of parents can think like this. But as I have searched God on this He has constantly re-affirmed that it’s not my fault. A few weeks ago I had that same passage confirmed to me by another guy in the church, and now Pastor Jeff’s teaching on Lazarus is doing the same.

We want to think that God is going to magically lift us out of the rubbish that is going on in our lives and somehow set us back down into the perfect idealistic surroundings. The more I learn about God, the more I’m seeing that isn’t going to happen. When we look at characters in the Bible, God brings them through the hard times rather than out of the hard times. Joseph had to be thrown down a pit, sold, falsely accused, stuck in jail, forgotten about, before he ever reached the position God had for him. Noah had to build an ark that probably took between 50 – 100 years to build, listening to the abuse of all those around him, then jump onto that ark with 7 other people and a heap of animals, who lets be honest weren’t “potty trained”! Once the rain did stop he then had to wait a further period of time before the water began to subside and eventually he could set foot on dry ground. And lets not even start about Job ….

Life is a process, we have to journey through pain, but in doing that we follow a purpose. Initially, and even in the middle of it, this purpose isn’t always clear. We have a decision to make. Do we trust God, and choose to believe that He knows the beginning from the end, and will see us through, or do we throw in the towel?

The shortest verse in the English Bible is Jesus wept, and there are so many meanings to these two words. He wept because those around Him didn’t know the power that was contained in Him. He wept because He was fully God and yet fully man and so showed emotion and empathised with those around him. He wept because He knew that there was pain for a purpose.

Lazarus had to die, so that Jesus would be able to bring glory to God. What pain are you going through that God has a purpose in?

We watch as Eva displays God’s glory every day. Do I feel like bursting in to tears at random points in the day? Yes. Do I wonder if she is going to do all the things I would love for her to be able to do? Yes. Do I know that God has a purpose for her life. Yes. And this, above all else, is the most important thing. I can go through pain to know that she has a purpose. God rocks my world.

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