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Stop wrestling with God

While we believe in the power of prayer, many of us find it difficult to pray. While we know we should pray, we find prayer to be a struggle. Sometimes, we say it is because we are too busy. We just don’t have time to pray. But deep down, I think prayer is a struggle because of the issue of control. We want to be in control of our lives. We don’t want to admit that we are not and we don’t want to admit we need help.

For this reason, we can easily identify with Jacob in Genesis 32. He spent his entire life wrestling with people and with God. He wrestled with his brother, his father, his father-in-law, and finally with angel. His experience teaches us that God cannot bless us until we stop wrestling him for control of our lives and start trusting him.

Jacob’s wrestling match with God (Genesis 32:22-31) is emblematic of his entire life. While God had great plans for Jacob, he refused to wait for God’s timing. He took matters into his own hands and tried to force their completion. It is only when he was crippled that he yielded control and was ready to receive God’s blessing.

The story of Jacob’s life is a five-round wrestling match. Most matches go three rounds. His needed extra periods to decide the winner.

Round 1: Genesis 25-27.  From the very beginning, God planned for Jacob to be a leader (Genesis 25:23-28). Though born the second of twin boys, God chose him for prominence. Not content to wait for God’s timing, Jacob took matters into his own hands. He wrestled his brother for his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34), and he wrestled his father for the family blessing (Genesis 27).

Round 2: Genesis 28-31.  Realizing he needed some space between himself and his brother, Jacob left home in search of a bride. Along the way, he encountered God (Genesis 28:10-22). He promised to return and serve God should God protect him in his journeys. Despite his commitment, Jacob spends the next 20 years wrestling with his father-in-law for his family and prosperity (Genesis 29-31).

Round 3: Genesis 31-32.  Following God’s direction (Genesis 31:10-13), Jacob heads home. He is assured of God’s presence when he meets two angels at the entrance to the Promised Land (Genesis 32:1-2). Despite the assurance of God’s presence and promises, Jacob focuses on how to manipulate his brother into reconciliation (Genesis 32:3-21).

Surrender: Genesis 32-34.  Finding himself alone on the doorstep to the Promised Land, Jacob spends all night wrestling with God himself (Genesis 32:22-31). After an all-night cage match, God dislocates Jacob’s hip. Unable to win, Jacob still refuses to concede. He begs God for a blessing, ironically, something he has been striving for all his life. God asks, “What is your name?” Since one’s name reveals their nature, God is waiting for Jacob to confess that he is Jacob, the heel-grabber, the cheater, the manipulator. Once he admits who he is can God bless him.

God’s blessing is a new name—Israel, one whom God fights for; a new relationship—he saw God face to face; and a limp—every step he took reminded him to depend on God for strength.

Despite these lessons, Jacob’s obedience is only partial. Rather than returning to Bethel where he first met God, he settles in Shechem among pagans. This mistake will lead to the date rape of his daughter, Dinah, and the murderous revenge of his sons.

Victory: Genesis 35.  Jacob finally returns to Bethel, the “house of God.” He and his household get rid of all the idols that have held them back. The commitment that was private at the River Jabbok (Genesis 32:22-31) is now public (Genesis 35:1-15).

Lasting lessons about prayer and spiritual life from Jacob:

  • When we refuse God’s way or God’s timing, we refuse God’s best.
  • Sometimes God has to wound us in order to help us.
  • God wants to be our daily resource, not our occasional recourse. There is no gap between heaven and earth for the one who knows God.
  • God cannot bless us until we stop wrestling for control and start trusting him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 25, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Seeing God through the Eyes of an Astronomer

star-struckBook Review: Star Struck: Seeing the Creator in the Wonders of our Cosmos, by Dr. David Bradstreet and Steve Rabey

Dr. David Bradstreet is thoroughly convinced that God wrote two books—Scripture and creation. He wants people to

take a minute or two out of your multi-tasked life every once in a while, take a deep breath, look up at the heaves above, and take in God’s handiwork.

For the longest time, God has broadcast his power and glory through his Creation, but often we fail to tune in. The heavens are an ever-changing image of his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Who wouldn’t want to look, to watch, and to wonder?

As he explains, Dr. Bradstreet is a “theistic creationist,” an astronomer who sees the work of a divine Creator when he studies the heavens. His book, Star Struck: Seeing the Creator in the Wonders of our Cosmos, serves as an introduction to science and faith. He gives an overview of early studies of astrology and astronomy, and takes the reader on a guided tour of stars, asteroids, galaxies, nebula, black holes, and other facets of the universe. He also introduces various Christian astronomers such as Kepler, Galileo, and Big Bang theorist Georges Lemaitre, as well as men and women who study newborn stars and the complexity of the cosmos.

The strength of the book is in laying the groundwork for understanding and appreciating the fact that science and faith need not oppose one another. You gain a better appreciation for the majesty and mystery of the God who created the cosmos out of nothing and who still sustains it today through complex processes we are just beginning to wrap our minds around.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2016 in Books, Theology

 

God’s glory shines

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Spectacular fall sunrise over Chicopee, MA, September 23, 2016

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Chicopee, Fall, Photos, Sunrise

 

Try. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

“Leadership is not about playing it safe, and learning is not about doing what you already know. Sure, you could always play to your strengths. You may even enjoy it. But where’s the growth or the opportunity for greatness in doing that?”

James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in Learning Leadership: The five fundamentals of becoming an exemplary leader

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Books, Leadership, Quotes

 

School Prayer Walk – Prayer Guide

We kicked off the fall at First Central Bible Church with a prayer walk for our public schools. It served to launch the current sermon series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Our intern, Jack Gilbert, put together a prayer guide of suggested requests. About 45 people gathered on Sunday afternoon, August 28, prayed together, and then broke up into teams of 3-4 to go to the various public schools in Chicopee where they prayed as they walked around the schools. Click on the link to download a copy of the guide.

school-prayer-walk-8-28-16-1 school-prayer-walk-8-28-16-2

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2016 in First Central Bible Church, Prayer

 
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Don’t just fill your life with amusement

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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in A. W. Tozer, North Carolina, Photos, Quotes

 

Learning Greek to better understand Scripture

greek-for-everyoneBook Review: Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible study and application, by A. Chadwick Thornhill

Professor A. Chadwick Thornhill has not written your traditional Greek grammar textbook. Instead, he has crafted a volume which sits between a Greek grammar and a biblical hermeneutics book. Most grammars jump immediately into the details of nouns, verbs, and vocabulary. Their goal is turn a student into a scholar. In contrast, the author’s focus “is learning Greek in order to become better students of Scripture rather than students of Greek.” He keeps that goal at the forefront of the book.

The author starts by giving his readers the big picture of language. His point is that “words do not have meaning.” Instead, words only have meaning within a context or “semantic domain.” He explains this principle by showing the big picture of the Gospel of Matthew.

Once the reader gains the big picture, then the author introduces the building blocks of Greek language. He explains the nature of the Greek New Testament, how to understand verb tenses, the various cases of nouns, as well as the details regarding pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, infinitives, and participles.

The author concludes the book with a discussion of English translations and a chapter on the hermeneutical (interpretation) principle of bridging contexts—historical, cultural, and grammatical. He also includes a chapter on the right and wrong way to do word studies.

The book is clearly written and easy to follow. It is a step-by-step guide to learning any language, but especially Greek. Having taken Greek in college and seminary, I found it a helpful refresher.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Books