A mandrake is more than a mandrake…

I just checked the Costco grocery list and have confirmed mandrakes are not on it. No one here has asked for them and I have never seen them in Costco or anywhere else for that matter. So, what is a mandrake? Why did Rachel want the mandrake and have to make a deal for it later on in the next verse of today’s Scripture in Genesis?

The reason: Apparently a mandrake is not just a mandrake. Well, at least it is not just a yummy fruit, not to the family of Laban (Rachel and Leah’s father). Rachel wanting the mandrake would be similar to someone in our day being excited because they found a 4-leaf clover. According to the book, Plants of the Bible, a mandrake is a member of the potato and tomato family. It was a fruit with a pleasant fragrance and was thought to help barren women conceive. In other words, it wasn’t just any fruit, it was a fruit Rachel believed, due to common superstition, that would solve her problem of barrenness. If we don’t know this belief in that culture than we miss a huge piece of this story. Rachel is superstitious-at least to some degree. We can also see that she sets her hopes of fulfilling her greatest longing in superstition, not in God. There are more clues to this side of Rachel later when we see her steal the “gods” of her father, Laban, as they leave his household. She may not have been totally aware of how deep her superstitions ran either, or how in conflict with the truth about God they were. Perhaps it became more evident when she did NOT become pregnant after eating the mandrakes. We are not told. We are told though, in Gen. 30:22, that God granted her a child. He was and is the only one in control of who does and does not have children.

Rachel, though, is not the only person living in a culture with superstitions. We are too. Those superstitions can become very subtle or prevail so long we assume they are truth. Even we need to be careful. I don’t think any of you believe a 4-leaf clover will bring you luck or that Friday the 13th is actually bad luck, but I bet you would try to avoid getting married on Friday the 13th or you might feel good if you found a 4-leaf clover. In fact, I am CERTAIN this Sunday for the Eagles game there will be many people taking certain actions or wearing certain things to bring the Eagles better luck for a win. The reality is, none of that will affect the outcome, but their hope will still be in those things.

This is just a reminder to be careful. Be careful we don’t fall into Rachel’s trap of setting our hope in a human superstition, when God is the only one to set our hope in. Trust me-it is easy to get caught up in superstitions. (Need I mention my references to  “Murphys Law”?) God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is the one from whom all good things come-whether it is children or a game victory. He is the one we need to continually look to for what is good and will bring us lasting joy, otherwise, we are hoping in an empty superstition.


“Out of the blue”

Have you ever heard the expression “out of the blue”? We use this phrase when something happens suddenly or unexpectedly. I looked up the idiom history on it, and apparently this phrase is short for “out of the blue sky”, relating to sudden, atrocious weather which appears, without warning, from an otherwise calm, cloudless (hence blue) sky.

In Genesis 28, God appears “out of the blue” to Jacob. It is completely unexpected and sudden. Jacob was not looking for God. He was not thinking about God. In fact, he was actually on a trip and had stopped to sleep. It was then, while sleeping, that God chose to communicate with Jacob through a dream. Jacob had his all-to-familiar dream about a ladder going to heaven. In the dream, God confirms to Jacob what he had already promised to Isaac; that the land where Jacob was would become his and that his descendants would be numerous. He also confirmed that all nations would be blessed by these descendants. Jacob had not asked God about this. He had not asked God for this. God chose to reveal it to him at this time for his own reasons. And, as we all know, God’s word proved true.

I do not recommend you go to bed tonight and consider any dreams you may have as a direct message from God. While that is not impossible, that is not His direct means of communicating to us these days. God has told us that He has communicated all that we need to know for salvation and life in His Word and through Jesus. Jesus was the final and full message. But, God still may choose to speak to us when we “least expect it.” This is why we need to be in the Word every day. This is why we need to pray that our ears, eyes and heart would be open to what He is teaching us through the Holy Spirit. He still desires and even surprises us sometimes with insights and teachings from His word that may seem “out of the blue.” You may just be doing your routine daily devotions but you see something in a chapter that you never noticed before. You may be going through a difficult trial and a youtube sermon video you are watching reiterates the understanding that God is a firm foundation no matter what is going on around you. A friend may point out how she or he saw all things “work together for good” in a situation you or I just went through. It may just come “out of the blue”, but chances are, it could also be God communicating when you “least expect it”.

As a side note, if you are interested in dreams and some factual accounts of how God has spoken through dreams on a few occasions recently, I can recommend the book, The Insanity of God, by Neil Ripkin. In this true story about his experiences as a “failed” missionary, he tells of a few instances where God did miraculously choose to speak through dreams. 


We do all know what is “wrong”…

“Like father, like son” I guess applies no better place than in this portion of Scripture. Isaac apparently learned the old “pretend my wife is my sister” trick from his dad. It appeared to also have the same outcome. The leader he was trying to avoid getting into “hot water” with, found out the truth and is not exactly happy about the lie. Here is the striking thing about both incidents where this happens. Do you see how the king is worried about “guilt” being brought “upon” his people. Why would he be concerned about this. Abimelech, this king,  is a Philistine king. He is not a Hebrew. He does not worship God or even pretend to. What does he care?

He cares, because wrong is wrong-even whether you believe it is or not. Apparently he has lived enough of life and has not totally seared his conscious to the point where it does not recognize grave sin. It is the same today. If you doubt this, just check news headlines of politicians and leaders who have been fired or resigned due to affairs. Why would they do this or why would it even make headlines if they don’t think it is wrong? Why would we want them to leave their position “just because of an affair”? Who gets to define what is wrong anyway? Is something wrong if I don’t believe it is wrong? The truth is-we do all know what is wrong and what is right.

Abimelech, the Philistine king, knew it was wrong to sleep with another man’s wife, and we know today it is wrong. Sin is sin. Non-believers, if they are willing to admit it, do understand guilt and wrong. As these things happen in our world today, these can be points of discussions amongst our unbelieving friends about what makes something right or wrong. It is sad to see these things happen at any time, but perhaps, when we are caught in a discussion about these things, we could use those as springboards to the Gospel. Use them as a starting point about what makes it wrong, and if people do wrong, what will really take away the guilt? Christ is the only one who can do that. This is why it is called “The Good News”. Instead of continuing the banter about how bad a certain person is (or spreading gossip column news) lets use these as opportunities for the Gospel.

Let’s also use this story in Scripture as a reminder that there is great guilt for sin There are ramifications to sin in our own lives that will sadly have a ripple affect on all of those relationships around us. Pray for me and for yourselves, that God would keep us from sin, and that we would walk in His ways all the days of our lives. Pray for conviction of sin and repentance, so we can daily become more and more like Christ, and point others to the true answer to what is wrong versus right in this world and always has been!

Reality TV…not really all that new.

Reality TV has been a genre available for all of your lives. There is some debate as to exactly what was the first “reality” show, but some of the biggest shows that were early entering the scene would include “Big Brother”, “Survivor”,  and “American Idol”. The draw for most of these shows is that they are unscripted and one never knows what could or will happen. It goes from the boring to the unbelievable-and what makes it so unbelievable is that it is the lives of real people.

Reality TV shows may only be new in the past 50 years, but recording real people’s livethat have gone WAY off course for the world to see is nothing new. Today’s chapters I read in Genesis (19 & 20) would be on the top of my list for the strange, unbelievable and “I can’t believe that is recorded” list. I can also assure you there will not be too many devotions written about the verse referenced in this one! This is one of those episodes which I am familiar with from reading but have a very hard time imagining it happening in real life. As you know, Lot was Abraham’s nephew, he lived in Sodom and Gomorrah and his wife turned to a pillar of salt. He is also the man though, who after running for his life and settling just out of his town, ends up impregnating his daughters, who had tricked him into it through drunkenness.  To read the whole account, go to Gen. 19. How? Why did this ever happen? Was this normal back in that day? I always have had these questions and wanted to look into it some more.

What I found out from soniclight.com was this was not “normal” then either. The descendants from those children became the Moabites and Ammonites, some of the most ungodly people of that time. But more importantly, God teaches us some things through this account. How did these girls EVER think up such a messed up plan? They were raised in the city of Sodom-one of the most sinful cities ever. They hung around sin and sinful people EVERY day. They learned those ways from their environment. The abnormal and sinful, became normal and acceptable. This is the way life works. It is a sad, but true account of Prov. 13:20 to the ultimate degree. (Prov. 13:20-Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.) Our environment, friends, what we allow into our lives DOES really matter. It affects our thinking and actions. This is something dad and I constantly need to consider in where we go, what we do, and where we allow you to go. It is something you, as adults now, need to always consider in your own lives, as you are making your own decisions. The older you get, the larger the impact of your day to day decisions. Environment and friends do really matter. They will affect the trajectory of our entire lives, just as it did for the Ammonites and Moabites.


Take note of the “qualifier”…

Sometimes when you are introduced to a person, a qualifier is added. It is a bit of information that helps you know who the person is. For instance, Aaron might be introduced as “Jordan’s younger brother.” Miriam might be introduced as “Rebekah’s cousin” or Jordan might be introduced as “Pat and Holly’s oldest son.” It gives a point of reference or a little information.

God introduces himself time and time again in the Bible with qualifiers too. They give us and the person being “introduced” or spoken to a fact about God. Since God decided to record it for all of time in the Bible, I would venture to guess, all God’s qualifiers are important. In fact, a valuable exercise might be to mark them in a special way in your Bible every time you see one this year. It could be our own personal list of attributes of God.

Today, in Genesis, he does that very thing to Abram. God has just repeated his promise to Abram that he will give him a son and descendants too numerous to count. Then, he reminds Abram exactly who He is. He is the God who led him out of Ur to give him a land. First, it is a reminder that God is God. He is not a man. He is not a “god”. He is God. The only God. The word used here is “Lord” or “Yahweh”. This is the most common name for God used in the Old Testament. It is the promised name of God. It connotes omnipotence and the absolute ruler. He reminds Abram he is the ultimate ruler of all.

Secondly, God states his purpose: to lead Abram and to give him and his people a land.  That purpose, or will, includes using Abram and his descendants to fulfill it. God didn’t ask for a volunteer. Abram didn’t come up with a bright idea and suggest it to God. God initiated it and will complete his action.

As a side note, keep in mind we will continue to see verses throughout the Bible starting with the phrase “I am God…”. or “I am the Lord, your God.” Sometimes there will be a qualifier further showing God’s attributes.  Most times, this is spoken as a reminder to people who have forgotten God. They have forgotten who He is and have replaced Him with themselves or another “god”. That reminder is often VERY painful. People are prone to slip into thinking they are in charge. They ignore God and His instruction. They give time, money, or other “offerings” to other “gods”. When they (and we) do this, we will see the consequences are devastating.

Don’t forget who is God each and every morning you wake up. May we see God as the absolute ruler each and every day-and then, walk in that knowledge, as He brings us into His will and accomplishes His will through us. Denying Him, ignoring Him, or forgetting him would be too costly a mistake to make.

A bad move based on beauty…

Last night the Golden Globe awards were on tv. I have no interest in watching them, but I bet if I had, I would have seen a lot of beautiful women and handsome men. They would have been as glamorous as it gets. Based on the description of Sarai (Abraham’s wife) that I read today, I am thinking she may have fit right in. She was beautiful too, according to Scripture.

You are familiar with this part of history. Abram has just been given the promise from God that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars, and that through Abram, all other nations will see what it is like to be blessed by God. Abram then begins to move towards this “Promised Land”. As he does, He has to travel into Egypt due to a famine.  It is then that he makes the statement we see in today’s verse.  He remarks how beautiful Sarai is. What I could not fit are the following verses, where we see that out of fear that he may be killed, he comes up with a plan to pretend Sarai is his sister, not his wife. He does this because he is worried they will kill him for her, because she is so beautiful. I think you know the rest of the story, but suffice it to say, it was a bad idea. Why in the world did Abram make such a bad, rash, sinful decision?

He made it because it was based on worry. Worry about what he thought the Egyptians would think. Worry about what he thought would happen to him. He made his decision out of fear and worry. He does NOT appear to  have thought the least bit about God. He did not consider the promise God just made to him. He did not consider God’s sovereignty over all things. He was not thinking about how God loved him and planned to bless him. He did not consider God. at. all. And THIS is what led to his bad decision.
Acting on our worries and hypothetical “this-could-happen” thoughts, instead of stopping to consider who God is, is a bad plan. It very often leads to sin and rash, harmful decisions. It leads to worse outcomes then if we sought and trusted God instead. It does not grow our faith or knowledge in God.

I am certain that we will face scary circumstances in 2018. We may face a difficult test, a rocky relationship, health issues, financial stresses or more. We will worry about these things. We will be tempted to try to come up with a fix as quickly as we can, and all too often, those “fixes” will include sin in some way.  I suggest today that we do not choose to follow in Abram’s footsteps and therein make matters worse. Instead, let’s take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ as God tells us in 2 Cor. 10:5. Let’s stop, think about what we know about our God, his attributes, and which of those attributes may be seen through the situation he has allowed in our lives. Then, pray and ask God for guidance in what steps of action we should take. The more we follow this pattern, the more natural it will become for us to trust God with all things.  It is then that we will experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and have our hearts and minds guarded through any difficulty.  (Phil 4:6-8)


Each of you has a “keepsake” box downstairs in the basement. They have some clothes you wore when you were little in them, as well as a favorite books or toys from your childhood. Some may have a trophy or certificate in them. There is one thing all of the keepsake boxes have in them: things you made. They are special to you-because you made them. You put thought and heart into them. They are more unique than all the other things.

You and I are that keepsake to God. That “made” thing, and even more so, because not only did He make us, but he made us in a very unique way. We were not a school project to be painted. We were not an animal created to roam the earth. We are not a tree or plant void of a soul. We were made in His image, unlike any other creation on this entire earth. We have things about us that are a hint of what God “looks” like. Because of this we have a very special, different value.

God makes this clear in Gen. 9 today as Noah and his family are leaving the ark and as the earth has a new “beginning”. A few of the rules have changed. God is blessing Noah and his family and as he instructs them He gives them dominion over everything. He tells them they may now eat anything, including animals. (Apparently, there were not doing this prior to the flood.) But there is one exception. Man is never to shed another man’s blood. (We could go in to a war discussion on this, but we will save that for another day.) Why are they not to shed the blood of another man? Because God made man in his own image. That is the distinction. The fact that man is different from all other things in this way is all the difference in the world-literally.

We are made in God’s image. This is special and very different. This is why abortion is wrong no matter what the cause or reason. A human being is a human being and of great value no matter WHO they are. We are not just animals and a baby is not a blob of tissue. Because we are made in God’s image, we can have a relationship with God that nothing else in creation can. Animals and plants do not need a “plan of salvation”. Because we are made in God’s image, he has given us abilities that will help us to care well for the rest of things on earth.  What part do you play in that? What piece of God’s image helps you to fulfill that role? What are you taking care of now as a human and what part of God’s image can be seen in that? Is it your caring heart, your organizational mind or your physical strength? From another perspective, are we reflecting that image well? We should never forget as God’s image-bearers, we have a role given to us to care for the world around us and to represent Him well. It is a responsibility, but also, an honor, in that we are a very, very, very special keepsake to Him!


Strive for “more” this year…

We are 3 days into the new year now. I decided to do my own personal devotions in my German Bible this year. I believe this will make me concentrate more on what I am reading as well as improve my very rusty German! Regardless of the Bible version, I hope you are getting back into your routine, and that that routine includes committed time daily in God’s Word. It doesn’t have to be a commitment to reading through the Bible in a year, God has never required that of us. But He does command us to read and know His Word. Joshua 1:8 tells us to “meditate on it day and night”. The Psalms speak of the man who “delights in the law of the Lord.” Paul tells us in Timothy that God’s Word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” One thing is for sure, if we are not reading God’s Word daily, there will be no spiritual growth or strengthening of faith.

Along this vein of reading, I want to encourage you in your reading. You have grown up in a Christian family. You have heard the Bible preached, you have read it, you have heard dad and I talk about it. It may seem very familiar to you-but here is the thing: There is always something more that God wants to teach you about Him through His Word no matter how often you have read it, how many times you have heard the one “story” or how familiar the verse. The Bible is living, and combined with God’s spirit in you-there will always be something more for you to learn. For instance, in the course of my own devotions, I have read and studied the verse above many times-but today, God reminded me of something. He reminded me that it is His spirit that abides in me. Some versions translate this to mean “my spirit will not struggle with humans forever”, others put it as “my spirit will not remain in human beings forever”. My limited understanding of the German version roughly says something like “.. I will let my life-spirit remain in men for only a limited time.” It was the word “life-spirit” (“Lebensgeist”) that caught my eye. His spirit gives us life. The two are inseparably tied together-our earthly life and God. The God of the universe determines exactly how long we live, down to the nano-second. He determines and gives us life from our first breath to our last. I have read this verse countless times, but since his Word is living, He continues to teach me more through it. Get into His word today, and I am sure you will find this to be the case for you as well!

“My prayer…”

We are thankful that Jordan successfully passed both of the tests recently that he needed for his position at work. Passing these tests were proof of his knowledge of finances and investments that are required to do his job well. They give graded proof that he has the knowledge and understanding to give responsible financial counsel, make wise suggestions regarding money and to discern between good and bad investments, considering risks and other factors.

The fact that Jordan loves seeing how finances work in our world today, I am sure, were key to his determination to gain the knowledge and wisdom he needed. Love is a great motivator. We are willing to spend extensive time and energy with things or people we love. I am sure that is why Paul prayed in these verses, that the Philippians love would grow or “abound” more and more in the knowledge and insight of the things of Christ. The greater their love grew, the greater their knowledge would grow. The greater their knowledge grew, Paul tells us, the better they would be able to discern what things were best so they could stay pure. Discerning what is “right” or “wrong” is not always easy. It takes God’s wisdom and knowledge-and Paul knew this.

Have you ever considered if you are discerning in your decision making? How did you decide your college major? What sport to play? What to do this past Friday night? Do we ever have a hard time  deciding if a certain action or activity “matters”? Do we have insight when deciding on relationships we take part in, how we can be used by God in those relationships or how they influence us? Do we just “go with the flow” through life, or do we view things in light of Christ’s coming and a hearts’ desire to be pure and blameless?

Jordan’s wisdom and knowledge with finances is an amazing gift and God has certainly given him a love for it. I will continue to pray that it grows and God uses him in mighty ways for His kingdom through that gift. The knowledge and insight that we all have access to, though, through our love for God and His Word, takes knowledge and wisdom to a whole new level! Godly knowledge and wisdom will continually increase our ability to discern what really matters with all things.  It is something we can pray for ourselves and each other, just as Paul prayed for his brothers and sisters back in Philippi. I can assure you, this is my prayer for all of us.

Thank you!

Hopefully today Pop-pop will be moving in to stay with us for a little while as he recuperates from his knee replacement surgery. I am looking forward to his arrival and having him here with us. I know Dad’s family are trying their best to help him recover well, with the least amount of pain and in a manner that will get him back to full health as quickly as possible. Lots of texts and emails have been exchanged and everyone has tried the best they can to visit him while he was in the hospital. They and honoring and loving their father in all of these things and set a great example.

Today, I want to just say you all do that too and I want to give a word of thanks for that from Dad and I. It makes a difference. From birth up, you have no doubt, heard the verse I reference today from Ephesians. I am not sure if you remember, but there was a song about  “children obey your parents” on one of the Steve Green cd’s that we played when you were kids. Dad and I tried very hard to teach you obedience- but it has always been your choice. Paul instructs this obedience and honoring of parents, and he reminds us that there is a benefit. It will “go well with you” if and when you do. I believe it does go pretty well between all of us, and this is a big piece of that.

When we ask you to do something, you do it. You may not always want to or even agree with us, but you do it. Whether it is a small request, like to empty the trash, or a much larger one like not attending a certain event or spending your money in a certain way, you listen, and obey if we are firm on it. It is our prayer that now, as you are becoming adults, this obedience to authority would transfer to fully obeying your heavenly father. Dad and I can already see fruits of this in all of your lives, and we could not be more thankful.

So, while these devotions usually are more action oriented on seeing what God is teaching us from his Word, today, I just wanted to send out a thanks. Thank you for respecting and honoring dad and I in this way. Thank you for continuing your walk with the Lord in this manner. We will continue to pray that you will be blessed because of this throughout your entire lives!

PS: If you would like a little “flashback” to your childhood, just click the link below for the Steve Green YouTube video of  “Children obey your parents”. Trust me- you will be sure to smile when you hear it! 🙂

LINK:   Steve Green: Children obey your parents