Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Friday, March 27, 2015

His Watching - Part One



We are pleased to announce Real Mercy (volume 3) has a scheduled release date of August 2015.  Wesleyan Publishing House has contracted Thad for 2 more books. In these current blogs, we’d like to share sneak peaks from volume 4. We hope you enjoy it.
Please note: Part One will be a devotion from scripture. Part Two will be a journal entry based on that scripture.

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Then Jacob became angry and…said to Laban,
“God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.”

---Genesis 31:36, 42 ESV

Jacob’s Story

            Esau and the 400 aren’t the first to pursue Jacob in these days.
            Uncle Laban was the first. When he heard Jacob had left, he felt tricked (31:26 ESV). He “hotly pursued” the fleeing Jacob (31:36) with every intention to harm him. Knowing this might happen, Jacob did flee (31:21). He was afraid. He was fully convinced Laban would come against him and steal his family “by force” (31:31).
            Why? Because Laban’s soul wasn’t right.
            This was Jacob’s family. Leah and Rachel were his. He’d served Laban 14 years for them. The children were his. The multitude of flocks – all his, because they had an agreement (30:34). But Laban was convinced otherwise. In his own pompous, self-indulgent mind, he declared: “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine” (31:43).
            It wasn’t true. But, for Laban, it was. It fueled the fire inside him. It’s why Jacob fled. It’s why he feared. His own uncle had become his enemy. And harm would have come. Laban, his sons, and all his men were ready for war -- if God hadn’t intervened.
            God was watching.
The night before, He came to Laban in a dream – a man who’d given himself to the worship of other gods – and commanded him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad” (31:24). Laban got the message. He was suddenly powerless and confessed it to Jacob, “It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night…” (31:29).
            God stood between them.
            This news gave Jacob courage to rise to the moment and oppose Laban to his face (31:36-42). And why not? The Lord had seen his affliction and come to his defense. He’d protected Jacob, just as He’d promised (28:15). Laban’s power was no power at all because God had come to his rescue.
            It makes what happened next almost laughable.
            Laban urged Jacob to enter into covenant with him. The two men erected a pillar and a heap of stones as a physical witness that, 1- neither man will pass over them to harm the other (31:52); and, 2- the Lord will “watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other” (31:48).
Of course He will. He already had!
            Jacob had no need of this covenant. For Laban’s sake, he went along with it. He let the heap and pillar be named, “Witness” and “Mizpah” or “Watchpost.” But Jacob knew his real Mizpah. Nothing could harm him. Not Laban. Not his sons. Not as long as the Lord was watching. He was Jacob’s Mizpah, his ever-present Watcher.
Jacob knew it then. All he had to do is remember it now before Esau comes.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Taking His Lead - Part Two



We are pleased to announce Real Mercy (volume 3) has a scheduled release date of August 2015.  Wesleyan Publishing House has contracted Thad for 2 more books. In these current blogs, we’d like to share sneak peaks from volume 4. We hope you enjoy it.

Please note: Part One will be a devotion from scripture. Part Two will be a journal entry based on that scripture.

+ + +

 

Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers
and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

---Genesis 31:3



My Journal

   “I’m not leaving until I tell you the good part,” I insisted.

   I hated seeing him like this. My friend’s body was tired, ravaged by disease and old age, his face pale and drawn, his soul not at peace. I could physically see his torment and, as a young pastor, I felt inadequate, not knowing how to comfort him.

   “Don’t sugarcoat it,” he instructed, his voice still strong.

   “At boarding school, they gave me a single room,” I started. “My advisor pushed me to stay busy – classes, sports, social events, that kind of thing. But night always came. I had to go to my room, close the door, and face being alone. Sometimes I’d put headphones on, play music from my childhood, and pretend none of it happened.”

   “Never works,” he grunted.

   “No,” I agreed. “Some nights got really bad. I’d lie in bed and all I could think about was the funeral, the hospital room, my family, scenes from the past – all of it – and I’d start to panic. This wail would come out of me, loud, too loud. I was afraid somebody might hear. So I’d leave. I’d prop open the back door of the dorm and head out into the night for as long as it took for the wailing to stop. Till I was too tired to cry anymore. Eventually, I’d find my way back and fall into bed.

   “That lasted until one night I got caught. A dorm advisor saw me leave and decided to follow me. He and his wife had an apartment in the dorm.”

   “Got in trouble, huh?”

   “I thought so, but no,” I replied. “When he came up alongside me that night, I was so embarrassed he’d heard me crying. I tried to explain but all he did was put his arms around me and tell me never to go out alone again. ‘You knock on my door,’ he said, ‘and we’ll walk the streets together. That’s how we deal with matters of the heart. You got that?’ And from that point on, he watched out for me.

   “It made a big difference,” I told my old friend. “This man never led me to Jesus. But he knew the monster’s first principle of tactical assault.”

   “Get us alone,” he said quickly.

   “He was a gift to me. He lived a simple message: ‘I’m here. You’re not going through this without me.’” I let the words hang in the air. My friend had the same gift and he knew it. Too many of us refused to leave him alone – especially now, in these last days. But all I got back was a slight nod of his head and a deep sigh.
   
   “Go on,” he muttered.

   “After that, I did what I thought my dad would do. I got my act together, graduated high school, went to college, and put my sights on graduate work. I raced through those years, stuffing grief down, pushing fear away.

   “But one night, in my last year at college, a pastor and his wife invited me for dinner. They were old friends of our family. He’d actually been at my mom’s bedside a day or two before she died.”

   “I know where this is going,” he mused.

   “Pastor saw right through me. He didn’t buy my act for one minute. Half way through dinner, he looked at me and said, ‘I know those eyes. I had those eyes once, a long time ago. So full of sadness, so full of fear. It’s not easy, is it, holding it all in?’ Just those simple words and it was like his scalpel had scraped the scab off my heart and that wail, that old miserable wail, started again.

   “I had to excuse myself from the table. I had no control of it. I went outside, like I always did, and there he was right beside me, refusing to let me go it alone.”

   “But this time it was different, wasn’t it?” the old man sparred.

   “Yeah, this time was different. The pastor had lost his wife and baby daughter in a car accident when he was in his twenties. He knew grief. He knew the monster. He knew Jesus. And he knew how to help me know Jesus too.”

   My old friend turned his head away.

   I knew enough in those days not to fill the silence between us with words. I sat back and waited. I saw a frown form on his brow. “I do know this,” he said. “The Lord sends us people at just the right time. He knows us. He knows how to lead us. It’s what He does. It’s your story, but it’s also mine.”

   He got that professorial look on his face that I loved.

   “And it’s always the same message, isn’t it?” he reflected. “‘I will never leave you. You never have to go through what you’re going through alone. I will be there, I will see you through.’”

   I sat their quietly watching him. He did know. He did believe. Surely this would bring him comfort. But it didn’t. I could see it – the torment still there. The fear still in control, still in the lead.

   And me, with nothing more to say.

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Scripture Promise

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the uttermost part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”
Psalm 139:7-10

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Taking His Lead - Part One



We are pleased to announce Real Mercy (volume 3) has a scheduled release date of August 2015.  Wesleyan Publishing House has contracted Thad for 2 more books. In these current blogs, we’d like to share sneak peaks from volume 4. We hope you enjoy it.

Please note: Part One will be a devotion from scripture. Part Two will be a journal entry based on that scripture.

+  +  +


Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers
and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

---Genesis 31:3

Jacob’s Story

            Last time Jacob stood at the Jabbok, it was because of circumstance. Esau wanted to kill him. His mother knew this and urged Jacob to leave. She made sure her husband agreed with this plan and gave his blessing (27:42-28:5). That was then.
            This was now.
            Yes, circumstance played a part. Jacob had lost favor with his uncle Laban. Even though Laban knew “the Lord has blessed me because of you” (30:27), the tension was real between them and their families (31:1). It was time for Jacob to go (30:25). They both knew it. Together, they worked out a financial settlement (30:34). But that’s not what drove Jacob to leave when he did.
            God did this.
            The Lord took the lead. He spoke to Jacob, though we don’t know how. We only know that He who spoke to our fathers “in many portions and in many ways” (Heb 1:1) spoke directly to Jacob (31:3) and told him to “Return to the land of your fathers.” And then He promised the promise of Bethel (28:15), “I will be with you.”
            Circumstance, yes. But the Lord was in charge here.
            Jacob was standing at the Jabbok by divine appointment. He was in the perfect will and plan of God for his life. The Lord made sure he knew that. How could fear break in and mount an assault now?
Even if it tried, the Lord sent in reinforcements.
            He gave Jacob another dream. An angel came to him, calling Jacob by name. He said he knew the injustice Jacob suffered under Laban and announced, as God’s messenger, “I am the God of Bethel where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me.” Same God, same promises, with a simple message: “Arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth” (31:11-13).
            Not once, twice, Jacob received direct, clear, God-given guidance.
            Immediately, Jacob called his family together for counsel. He told them all that was on his heart. Surprisingly Leah and Rachel, two rival sisters always at odds with each other, were in complete agreement. They told Jacob their father had been unjust to them as well. With one voice they said, “do whatever God has said to you” (31:14-16).
            They wanted him to follow God’s lead.
            And he did. Because he knew the Lord “who has been my shepherd all my life” (48:15), was being his shepherd now. He was in the lead. Not circumstance. Not his own fleshly desire. This was the Lord’s doing. And with it came His promise of divine protection: “I will be with you.” Why wasn’t it enough?
            Why, on this night at the Jabbok, did fear gain such power? How did this enemy mount an attack, steal the reins of Jacob’s heart, and suddenly take the lead?

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John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?