When It’s Time to Get Going and Let Go of the Excuses

I am a very fine excuse maker (I think we all are.) Suggest something I don’t want to do and I’m all “Sorry, wish I could help but I’ve got this thing and I’ve got these kids and they have to nap and my man has to work and whew life is busy isn’t it? Maybe next time.” Then there’s the shortened version, “I just don’t have time” or the classic “Sorry, I don’t know how.” Cousins to the ever so popular, “What if I mess up” and “I just can’t do that.”

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 35
Key Verse: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Sometimes we even get God involved. “That’s just not how God made me” or “He didn’t gift me in that area.”

Now to be fair, sometimes we have totally legitimate excuses. Their is a season for everything and sometimes it just ain’t the season. Other times we need to pray and be brave. Really really brave and let God do something through us we didn’t think we could do. Like write devotionals (cough cough). Believe me, I gave God a lot of excuses and still do from time to time.

But heads up, I’m about to wreck every excuse in our big fat books. Or rather God already did the moment he said to Jacob “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” (v. 1)

You’d think God would have totally dismissed him, benched him, canned him, sacked him – whatever you want to call it. It just makes sense. “Jacob you’ve messed up one too many times bud. It’s over. Sorry.” But God didn’t.

After years of offering God halfhearted obedience in Shechem, allowing the ways of the world to penetrate his household (the evidence is in verse 4), passively standing by when his daughter is raped, and being concerned only for himself when his sons commit genocide (of all things) – God pours grace upon grace with a command to “Arise, go up…and make me an altar.”

In other words, it’s time to get back on track Jacob. Though I’ve been fiercely faithful to you and you’ve been less than faithful to me. Though their is murder on your head, though your sons are a disgrace, though your daughter is defiled, and your leadership pathetic. Though you knew what you were supposed to do and didn’t do it. Though I have every reason to be done with  you – I am still going to use you. You are still my man. So let’s get going.

My friend, if God was still willing to use Jacob – there is no doubt in my mind He can use us. We have no excuses. If genocide didn’t disqualify Jacob then I don’t think any of our excuses are going work. How great is the testimony of the sinner drenched in God’s great grace!

So how do we get started? By doing exactly what Jacob and his entire household did – they purified themselves. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

I find it interesting Jacob instinctively instructed his household to “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments” because this was not anywhere in God’s instructions to Jacob (see Gen. 35:1). But Jacob knew it was necessary. A holy God can have nothing to do with an unholy people. I also find it interesting they didn’t argue with Jacob. Atleast not that we’re told. They handed over their little gods “and the rings that were in their ears” and “Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem” (35:4).

He took their idolatry and buried it under a tree. No matter how costly – they left it there – for the sake of their relationship with God. Just as we are to dump our sin at the base of another tree, the cross. Bury it and walk away, for the sake of our relationship with the Almighty God – the name God calls himself when he appears to Jacob after he obediently builds the altar at Bethel.

God not only appeared to Jacob but  blessed him. Reminding Jacob of his new name (Israel). Speaking to him (with similar wording) the same promises given to Abraham in Genesis 17.  “A nation and a company of nations shall come from you…” And kings and a land.

The unconditional promises given to Abraham and Isaac were now in the hand of Jacob. It’s certainly not what I would have done to Jacob, but it’s what God does. Everyday it’s what God does – for us. He can still use you friend. Bury your idolatry under the tree and come rest in his faithfulness.

Does it mean all will be smooth sailing? Unfortunately no. Our commitment to Christ is not a guarantee for a trouble free life. There will still be hard times as there was for Jacob. Who grieved over the loss of his mother’s nurse Deborah. (Maybe she joined their group after Rebekah passed away) And then grieved over the loss of his beloved Rachel, who died while giving birth to his twelfth son, Benjamin.

Neither does it mean we’re safe from the consequences of our sins. Jacob’s favoritism towards Rachel’s boys may have already played a part in the genocide of Shechem. But hit a little closer to home when Reuben seduced and slept with Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines (v.22). And would soon hurt in ways Jacob never imagined with the loss of Joseph.

No, following Christ doesn’t mean life won’t sting from time to time. But it does mean when we pass through the rough waters, Jesus will be right there with us (Isaiah 43:2). So let’s get goin’. He has called you by name. You are his. It’s time to “Arise, go up…” And get back on track.

Contemplate and Evaluate
What excuses have been keeping you from serving God with your whole heart?
What is God calling you to do today? Is it time to get up and get going?


Is Church the House of God?

When Jacob left home I don’t think he expected to find God. A wife perhaps, but not God. After all do any of us really expect to find God when we’re out and about? Usually I’m just hoping to find a sucker or two in the bottom of my purse. Encountering God would be an incredible bonus! But in all seriousness don’t we tend to categorize God? He’s here (because I’m doing good) but not over there (because I don’t want him there). Or we imagine him in places of grandeur, as he undoubtedly deserves. Holy spaces dedicated to just Him. Churches. Little white ones with steeples and mega ones with coffee bars. Places where people gather to worship and pray and recite Scripture…that’s where God is right?

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 28:18-22
Key Verse: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

So when Sunday rolls around we spruce up! And not just in the areas of hygiene. Hearts, minds, mouths…it all looks a little different come church time. Because we be visitin’ the house of God!  But does God dwell in a church building? Do we have to go to church to find God?

It certainly seems logical in light of the Old Testament. When God needed a place to dwell among the Israelites He said to Moses “And let them build me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex. 25:8). Then after establishing themselves in Canaan the Israelites (i.e. Solomon) built the temple. Giving God a permanent residence. Solomon actually calls it God’s house in 2 Chron. 2. He adorned it with precious stones and overlaid everything with gold – “it’s beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors” (2 Chron. 3:7). Just as one would think God’s house should be.

Now vying these examples it seems perfectly reasonable that God would dwell in a church building. A place where we can go and worship and meet with God. Even Jacob made a correlation between God’s presence and the need for a house. Waking from his dream he proclaimed, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17).

He even named the place Bethel, meaning house of God. He also took the stone he had used as a pillow “and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on top of it.” Saying, “and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house” (v. 22).

God’s house? What did Jacob know of God’s house? There was no tabernacle yet. No temple. No one particular place to go and sacrifice. In all honesty I’m a bit taken back by Jacob’s proclamation. But what really blew my hairs out is the similar use of wording in 1 Peter 2:5. Writing to believers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter states, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.”

Jacob may have set up a stone to be God’s house. But in Christ we are the stones of God’s house! Us! Believers! Anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).

We are His house! Not a little white building with a steeple. Or a large one with a coffee bar. Us! Please tell me your hairs just blew out! I pray we are not bored with this idea. It’s truly amazing! God went from Beersheba, to Bethel, to the intricately woven tabernacle, to the gold over layed temple, to us! I just…I mean…there are no words. Me – his dwelling. You – his house. Not a tent or a building or a place – us!

So is God at church? Indeed! If you are in Christ and you are at church. But when the building is empty…it’s empty. We are his house! A mind-blowing revelation with mind-blowing responsibility. What’s the one thing that always went on in God’s house? Sacrifices. Constantly. At the tabernacle, and the temple, and even at Bethel. If we jump ahead to Genesis 35 we see upon his return to Canaan, God told Jacob to go back to Bethel and make an altar. If you’re gonna call it my house then go back and do what’s necessary for it to be my house.

And Jacob did. He went back and offered up his sacrifices. Do we? Not physical bloodshed, Jesus took care of that. But spiritual sacrifices. Like offering our lives to God (Rom. 12:1). And our stuff (Phil 4:18). And our praise, “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Phil 13:15). Striving to live a life of holiness, at whatever the cost, because He is in us and we are in Him. 1 Peter 2:5 goes on to call us a holy priesthood. And what did the priests do? They took care of God’s house.

Maybe…I mean I’m just wondering…if we got a little housework to do. And I’m not talking about the endless parade of Fruit Loops under the kitchen table. I’m talking about God’s house. I’m talking about us. “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16).

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Would God be proud to call you his home? Why or why not?
What evidence is there of spiritual sacrifices in your life?
2 Corinthians 6:16 says “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Anything we set between us and God is an idol. Anything we hold in higher regard than him. Are there idols in your “house” that need to be removed? If you aren’t sure ask Him. I know it might be scary, but I promise it will be well worth the effort.

Photo Credit: Pixabay