My family was recently walking down a narrow path at Yosemite National Park listening to our gregarious Greek guide talk about how frenzied entrepreneurs, lead by James McCauley, spent over $4,000, (which was quite a chunk of change back in the 1870's), to hire a team of 9 men that built a trail from Sentinel Rock ascending over 3,000 feet to its destination at Glacier Point. Glacier Point offers superb views of Yosemite Valley including vistas of beautiful falls and granite domes that made Ansel Adams' pictures famous! At a loss to remember the Ranger's name who was guiding us down a nearby path that overlooked the Glacier Point path, I found my soul gripped by stories of courageous men and women who challenged this treacherous trail, (at a time when acceptable attire - suits for men, and huge hoop dresses for women - made for a dauntingly difficult ascent,) just to stay a few nights at the Mountain House hotel. McCauley's precariously placed palace of panorama in Yosemite mysteriously burned down in the Yosemite Fire fall of 1963. While McCauley definitely had plans of profit through the trial leading up to the Mountain House hotel, have you noticed that the plans we make in this life don't always turn out as hoped for and may even include a few fires of adversity and subsequent setbacks? I am currently hiking through the rugged terrain of life altering decisions and ruminating over real life issues that include: sorting through the aftermath of a church plant that broke apart, personal bankruptcy, a struggling business, and potential homelessness. I have found myself re-evaluating my life's direction of travel during this "season of struggle." I am not inviting you to my "pitty party" but I do hope to "strike a cord" that may resonate with other travelers traversing the trecharious trials life can throw at us. Can you relate to the present difficulties faced by so many in these challenging times? Have you longed for deliverance or at least a "rest stop" to re-group and re-evaluate your heart's desires? Perhaps you too have longed to step out and see your life, “travel in a different direction,” on occasion? The thrill of venturing into new territory; heading for a personal destination to call your own has been sufficient motivation for many of life’s adventurers. For others, however, chasing a changed life is fueled by obvious needs or in some cases deeper desires. It is the rare soul, however, whom is propelled into newness of life by a desire to see the One True God fulfill His vision and dreams for their life. It would make sense that only God could show you how your life purpose can be birthed from personal pain and how He can use the ugly life experiences we go through to comfort and council those around you. "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT) Have you seen God's hand working in your life in spite of past or present difficulties or maybe even because of them? Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But what does it look like to truly, “See God?” Is it even possible this side of Heaven? Furthermore, is God still revealing Himself and His character to mere mortals in a personal way? Perhaps the better question - are we willing to see God in all His glory, splendor and majesty? Would this God sighting change your direction of travel? Would it change your life? “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 When we uncover the original language behind the word “See,” or Horao, it is apparent that to "see" God is to become acquainted with Him through experience. How would your life change for the better as you “See God” and thereby become more intimately acquainted with Him through your life experiences? A “journey into the unknown” accurately frames Jacob’s life experiences with God. Let’s “travel the road” of his life experiences and watch how Jacob saw God and was forever changed. Many a young person has desperately desired to leave home at some point and set their sights on a promising future. A future complete with a spacious place, room to move, develop and explore the meaning of life. Jacob’s motives for leaving home, however, were fueled by self preservation. In the midst of the threat of death, at the hands of his brother Esau, the story unfolds before us in Genesis 25:27-34. 27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.) 31 Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright." 32 "Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?" 33 But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. Esau traded his birthright, as the first born son of Isaac, and all the corresponding blessings, to his brother Jacob for some stew. Jacob was a bit of a homebody and no doubt learned to cook from his mother Rebekah, who favored him over his brother Esau. It would be fair to say that Jacob was a, “Mama’s boy” with a deceitful desire to pursue his best interests at the expense of others. His very name, Jacob, means trickster or supplanter and he more than lived up to his reputation! After Jacob had lied to his father Isaac three times to secure the blessings that Esau’s birthright afforded him, Jacob fled from his brother’s death threat. Traveling alone no doubt gave Jacob time to reflect on his life thus far and perhaps marvel at the blessings spoken of by his father Isaac in Genesis chapters 27 and 28? Would he meet El Shadai, God Almighty, as his father Isaac had hoped? Would God Almighty bless him beyond anything that Isaac experienced? One thing was for sure, change was inevitable. Jacob’s character would be slowly carved by a “Master Craftsman” and a passionate pursuit would follow. Indeed, Jacob’s life experiences would be shaped by some “supernatural stops” along the way! Being the escapist that he was, perhaps Jacob’s own self interests of seeking a wife and discovering uncharted territory of his own pushed him out of his father’s familiar territory in Beersheeba. I’m sure he was told stories as a child about how his dad Isaac had experienced God’s goodness in his life by protecting, providing for, and eventually prospering his family. God had protected Isaac in Gerar, provided for him in Rehoboth and prospered him in Beersheeba. This same God of his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac was soon to reveal His awesome goodness to Jacob as well in a “Certain place!” Armed with only a walking stick and “Blessings on the brain,” Jacob arrived at this “Certain place,” later revealed as Bethel, which means “House of God.” This “Certain place,” which Jacob did not know, was actually a “Super-natural stop” planned by God on Jacob’s trip to Paddan-aram to find a wife. God would eventually return Jacob to this land (see Genesis 35) in fulfillment of His promise soon to be revealed to this young explorer! No doubt wearied from the journey and whirlwind of emotions surrounding years of family dysfunction, including the ominous death threat at the hands of his brother Esau, Jacob fell asleep with his head on a stone. He could not have even begun to imagine what he would see in a divine dream from God Himself! “As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and he said, “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants.” Genesis 28:12-13 God choose to introduce Himself to Jacob via this dramatic dream at Bethel, “The House of God.”. Ushering Jacob through His picture show of promises, God displayed his amazing goodness at a specific time and place in Jacob’s life. I think it is wise to consider the fact that Jacob had done nothing to deserve or earn these promises from God. Jacob had ripped off his brother’s birthright and lied to his father three times. Many would not consider him worthy of the gracious promises God bestowed upon him. This undeserved goodness of God should bring to mind a similar spiritual scenario for the born again Christian. Was it not God’s undeserved and unmerited favor that gave us the gift of his precious Son Jesus? Do we remember “seeing” God’s rescuing hands of goodness and deliverance in our hour of need? With "one hand", He Shielded us from what our actions deserved and what God’s Holy nature required, while with the "other hand" simultaneously lifted us to saving faith in His Son Jesus Christ! Have you ever considered that God sent His only unique Son to save us from Himself and His demands of justice on account of our sin-soaked lives? Jesus Christ went beyond merely deflecting the wrath of God’s holiness, like a shield, to absorbing this wrath, like a solar panel so that we can experience the warmth of His acceptance! “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10) It’s been said that when looking for a place to call home there are 3 crucial factors to consider, namely, location, location and location. God provides a perfectly placed “palace of protection” and “shelter of salvation” through His Son Jesus Christ for all appointed to believe! “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” Hebrews 3:6 Not only can we enjoy this dwelling place Christ died to provide while we live our lives on this earth, but through faith we lay hold of a “house in heaven” built by the very hands of God. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 This eternal house in heaven can be the “home of our hearts” and a safe place to store up our true treasures in this life, for all of eternity! “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20(emphasis added) Are your life experiences with God, (as He reveals Himself to you,) bringing you closer to the One who knows you best and wants you most? At this place in his life experience (recorded for us in Genesis chapter 28,) Jacob, unlike Abraham and Isaac, had yet to experience this personal intimacy with God Almighty. God chose to introduce Himself to Jacob through His undeserved three fold promise of protection, provision and prosperity; an amazing introduction, indeed! Jacob’s God given dream outlined the eventual prosperity that Jacob’s family would bring to all nations! “Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions-to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” Genesis 28:14 (emphasis & underline added) Did you catch the part about “All the families of the earth,” being blessed through Jacob and his descendants? Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. As a man, He had to have a line of descendants to arrive into this world, in keeping with God the Father’s promise to Jacob. After all Jesus himself said, “Salvation comes from the Jews,” as recoded for us in John 4:22. Our blessings, as children of God, come through this promise, originally given to Abraham, passed on to Isaac and now fulfilled in Jacob! “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring-not only those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Romans 4:16(emphasis & underline added) I’m not convinced Jacob immediately saw the grandeur of God’s goodness towards mankind as witnessed by his comments spoken the morning after this incredible dream. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place and I wasn’t even aware of it! But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will certainly be my God.” Genesis 28:16-21. Does anyone else see a lot of “me” in the middle of this declaration? Is a relationship with God an “if” He, “then” I, proposition? Can He be debased to the place of a mathematical equation; if God does this, then I will serve Him? Our flesh constantly cries out for what we want, but God knows exactly what we need! I realize that Jacob was only looking for protection and provision, promises that I believe God specifically outlines in His Word. But where do our needs end and our "greeds" begin? Oftentimes, it can be difficult to discern the difference, because it boils down to the attitude of our hearts, which God is watching, checking and testing. Why is what we do with our money so important to God anyway? The love of money can master you and destroy your relationship with God! Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6:24(underline added) Could it be that God is not willing to "spoil us" with material blessings that we do not have the character to manage and use as He desires? James speaks to this as he writes, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." James 4:3(underline added) According to the world bank statistics, as of 2008, at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day! There are 2 billion children in the world and 1 billion of them live in poverty. What we do with our money displays our hearts motives of which God sees and evaluates! "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21 Ouch, the truth of how God desires to use his word to correct and train does not tickle or make me feel good! If we truly believe that God does not continue to bless us for our own pleasures, what then is the purpose of the provision and prosperity we have in America? "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handeling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?" Luke 16:9-11 I, too, on many occasions, (after being introduced to God’s beautiful presence, powerful protection, and amazing provision,) find myself “negotiating” with God regarding the temporary trappings of “my life.” My line of reasoning goes something like, “If you allow me to have my hearts desires, then I will serve you.” If I could only see that my brittle life and fleeting days have always been held by God’s gracious hands! Demanding our desires from The Almighty God are misguided at best and extremely arrogant in some situations. Perhaps we can look to David's words as a reality check, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Ps 31:14-15 (underline added) God offers an opportunity for genuine greatfulness toward God's powerful promises as we reflect on His goodness! This holds especially true when I am fighting the hand of the enemies, “in-a-me.” Thank God for not giving me what my actions deserve, but rather remaining patient in my misguided persistence and pride! [In the same way, it is hard to accuse Jacob of missing the bigger picture of God’s promise of prosperity, through Jesus Christ, to all the nations of the earth. Sure, he overlooked the opportunity to set up an altar to worship the One True God on his first “Super-natural stop” in Bethel. Please recognize that Jacob did acknowledge the awesomeness of this “Certain place.” and God ALWAYS allows for “make-up tests” in the process of yielding to Him! (see Genesis 35:3 for details.) Consider the raw reality of Jacob’s journey! He’s alone, perhaps for the first time, in a distant land, with a stick to lean on and a stone for a pillow. It makes sense that his focus fell a little short of God’s powerful promise, doesn’t it? Again, to Jacob’s credit, however, he did choose to worship God, through giving him a tenth of all that God provided him. It seems that God knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and how much of Him, we can appreciate at any given place in our life journeys. If we allow Him, God will continually conform our character to His by the hammer of His Word. This seems to hold true even in the rocky trials these lives can bring us! “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29 Could it be that God desires to refocus our vision from looking solely to the promise of protection, provision and prosperity, to a personal, passionate and intimate relationship with Him? I think this was what happened to Jacob, (renamed Israel by God), over the course of his life. Perhaps, we too can overlook the best part of the promise of intimacy with the person of Jesus Christ, in favor of the good gifts He gives His children! This gateway to an intimate personal relationship with God was most likely hidden from Jacob’s view in Genesis 28:12, but revealed to us as Jesus calls attention to it in John 1:51. Please, read this carefully and prayerfully! As you compare these two passages, see if you can find a connection between what is mistakenly called “Jacob’s ladder” and later revealed to be Jesus Christ Himself. “As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.” Genesis 28:12 “Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” John 1:51(emphasis & underline added). Did you see the truth that Jesus wants us to know about Him? Yes, Jesus is indeed the stairway to heaven. This stairway, (that was lowered from Heaven to Earth,) is available to all who have “Eyes to see” the steps of faith! So how do we re-adjust our focus from [the place of introduction to God’s goodness](ALLITERATION WITH "PR") and the promise of God’s protection, provision and prosperity to see the Person of Jesus Christ in our own lives? Pack a lunch and keep on living! This is a journey and not a destination; a process and not a place! If our goal is to see the person of Christ, we must choose to follow and obey Him as He leads us by His Holy Spirit. I’m not suggesting some robotic adherence to a set of laws, but rather discerning how the Spirit of God can bring beauty from ashes by scripting the seasons of your life for His pleasure and your good! “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25 It is clear that God is pleased by obedience to what He reveals to us, which in turn proves our love for Christ. “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21 It seems that the Spirit longs for us to listen and learn as He fine tunes our lives through progressively changing and challenging life experiences. As we respond with understanding and comprehension the melody and harmony of these life experiences begin to slowly emerge. These life experiences are masterfully orchestrated by an all knowing and wise Father into the symphony that is our lives. Night Vision - Freedom from Fear Darkness penetrates so deeply that it threatens to rob us of our God given blessings of protection, provision and prosperity. To catch a glimpse of the potential for freedom in the lives we live could be considered one of life’s greatest motivators. It always seems darkest before the dawn, but God comforts us, (in Psalm 30:5,) that, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” As we look at Jacob’s departure into darkness tearing his newly formed family apart from wicked Uncle Laban at God’s command, (AWKARD)we find that the fingers of fear tried to pull the God given promises of protection, provision and prosperity from Jacob’s tired hands. In response to Laban’s accusations Jacob replied ,“I rushed away because I was afraid, I thought you would take your daughters from me by force.” Have you ever experienced this fear of loss; threat of having God’s blessings ripped from your life? I.Jacob Saw Lord as Deliverer in Time of Need A. "Fought" with God & Men & Won B. Clueless to Closeness - God's Presence C. Pile to Pillar II. How God Brought Change A.What is your name? (reputation, fame, glory, memorial, monument) Genesis 32:27-28 1)Jacob -Supplanter 2) Your reputation, fame glory etc. no longer Jacob but Israel(God prevails) 3) You have striven with God & Men & Prevailed B. Changed Focus Place(Bethel) to Person(What is your name) C. True Blessing Revealed!