January 14, Message by P. Kevin Clancey
Alright, I pray to you, Lord, my rock. Do not turn a deaf ear to me, for if you are silent, I might as well give up and die. Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, those who speak friendly words to their neighbors while planning evil in their hearts.
Give them the punishment they so richly deserve. Measure it out in proportion to their wickedness. Pay them back for all their evil deeds. Give them a taste of what they have done to others. They care nothing for what the Lord has done or for what his hands have made, so he will tear them down and they will never be rebuilt.
Praise the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. The Lord gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king. Save your people, bless Israel, your special possession. Lead them like a shepherd and carry them in your arms forever.
1 I pray to you, O Lord , my rock. Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you are silent, I might as well give up and die. 2 Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary. 3 Do not drag me away with the wicked— with those who do evil— those who speak friendly words to their neighbors while planning evil in their hearts. 4 Give them the punishment they so richly deserve! Measure it out in proportion to their wickedness. Pay them back for all their evil deeds! Give them a taste of what they have done to others. 5 They care nothing for what the Lord has done or for what his hands have made. So he will tear them down, and they will never be rebuilt! 6 Praise the Lord ! For he has heard my cry for mercy. 7 The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. 8 The Lord gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king. 9 Save your people! Bless Israel, your special possession. Lead them like a shepherd, and carry them in your arms forever. (Psalms 28:1-9, NLT)
Lord, carry us in your arms forever and help us tonight to do what? Burst out. Burst out with songs of thanksgiving. All right, so I don’t even know what it means for you to burst out in songs, but whatever that means, give it a try.
All right, we’ve got some songs of thanksgiving here, and so let’s burst out. It’s in the Bible. Thank you, Jesus. We’re going to change things up tonight.
Traditionally, after this song, we would have communion and sing another song, and then I’d preach, and we’d close out the service. I’m going to change things up. I want to preach, and then as I am done preaching, we’ll have communion and sing our last song and we’ll do it that way, and then we’ll still have opportunity to pray for people like we normally do.
Actually, it’s not a big deal, but I think it feels theologically better to me to do communion after the sermon. It feels like a response. Come to the table, come to the altar. It’s like an altar call for everybody.
So anyway, we’re a traditional church. You think, no, we’re not. We’re not Anglican. We’re not traditional. We are. We have traditions. I start every worship time with a psalm. We typically sing four songs, have communion, I preach, and sing our fifth song. Then I preach, and then we close with prayer.
We’re just going to change those things. If it upsets you that we change things, feel free to tell me, and I’ll listen compassionately and probably not change my mind. I had an older couple in the Methodist church years ago, and they were complaining about the changes I was making in their service. These two older people were in my office, and one of them just looked at me frustrated and says, ‘you just don’t listen.’ And the other one goes, ‘No, no, Bob, he listens. He’s just not going to change what she said.’ I’m not that stubborn.
If it works, if we do it better the other way, we’ll go back. All right, so I want to read to you tonight from Genesis 28. By the way, I discovered this morning as people are starting to read through the Bible, obviously we’re not going to be able to cover the whole Bible. I mean, you know, last week I was in Genesis 3:6, and 11. Tonight I’m in 28.
There’s vast… And Genesis, goodness, Genesis is so full we could spend five years in Genesis alone. So, people were like, ‘Well, wait, what about this and what about this?’ They had these questions, and I thought, ‘Well, we can’t spend all Sunday morning doing Q&A. We could, but I don’t want to.’ So, I just said, ‘If you, as you’re reading through the Bible, if questions arise like the questions this morning were: If Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s son and Adam and Eve were the first humans, who were their wives? How do they have wives and children?’ And it also said when Cain said, ‘you know, wherever I go, people are gonna try to kill me.’ Well, who are all those other people? So, I gave the two Christian answers to those questions to the person, and you know, it’s like, ‘Okay.’
Then another person was confused about the two Genesis creation stories, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. They say in Genesis 1:1, it says God made male and female, and Genesis 2:2, he made Adam and Eve. So, did he make male and female before Adam and Eve, or were Adam and Eve the male and female, and all that kind of stuff? And got to talk about really that Genesis 1 and 2 are two creation accounts from two different perspectives that are melded together. So, able to answer some of those questions.
So, you can email me your questions, you can text me your questions, you can listen anytime you want. You are absolutely free to have lunch with me, pay for the lunch, and ask me those questions. I will not stop you in that endeavor whatsoever. We can spend a long time talking about those questions, maybe even I’ll pay, who knows?
Alright, so tonight we’re gonna be in Jacob and Genesis 28:10-22, Jacob’s first encounter with God. He has two profound encounters with God. If you were at our men’s Bible study Thursday night, you would have heard about the second encounter, but now I’m going back to the first encounter.
So meanwhile, and by the way, if you women are sitting there going, ‘It’s unfair, you know, we can’t go to the men’s Bible study.’
In today’s culture, you probably can. You could simply just say, “Well, I identify as a man and I’d pray for your deliverance, but I probably wouldn’t kick you out that night.” All right.
Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. At sundown, he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven.
And he saw the angels of God going down, up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord. And he said, “I’m 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’m giving it to you and your descendants.
Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth. They will spread out in all directions – to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.” And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.
10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 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.
13 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. 14 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.
14 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. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 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!” (Genesis 28:10-17, NLT)
What’s more, I’m with you. Now, I’ll protect you wherever you go. One day, I’ll bring you back to this land, and I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I’ve promised you.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he 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. The next morning, Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against and he set it up right as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named the place Bethel, which means house of God.
And although it was previously called Luz, then Jacob made this vow, “God, if you will be with me and protect me on this journey, and if you 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.”
17 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!” 18 The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. 19 He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz. 20 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, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. (Genesis 28:17-21, NLT)
And this is what he did.
“This is a memorial pillar I have set up, and it’ll become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”
22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.” (Genesis 28:22, NLT)
God, may the words of my mouth, the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NLT)
Oh, Lord, our rock, our strength, and our redeemer.
All right, so Genesis 12:1-50 is about the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and they’re really a story. We just sang it of God being a way maker and a promise keeper. It’s a story of God keeping his covenant with fallible human beings.
Abraham did a lot of good things, but he did some stupid things, and twice he tried to give away the covenant. Because God said, “you are gonna have a child through Sarah,” and twice he gave away Sarah. Abraham would have made a terrible leading man in a Hollywood movie. “Do anything you want to the woman, but leave me alone.” There’s your dream, fella. Girls, you know?
Yeah, it’s like Isaac did the same thing, and in both cases, in all three cases, God intervenes. He intervenes not with Abraham and says, ‘Well, that was a weak thing to do, bro.’ He intervenes with the king who knew nothing about taking Sarah and just says, ‘Hey, you better give her back, man, or I’m gonna curse you, and you better, when you give Abraham back, give him a bunch of sheep and goat and cattle and make him richer, and don’t ever hurt him.’ What’s that about?
That’s God saying, ‘Abraham’s my chosen vessel to carry the covenant, my promise, and I’m gonna keep my promise, and not even Abraham can screw it up. Not even Isaac can screw it up, but if any one of the patriarchs could screw up God’s promise, the hero now appears.’ It’s Jacob. Jacob is the deceiver. Jacob is the conniver. Jacob is the wheeler, dealer. ‘Make things work out for myself on my own terms,’ kind of fella.
And he is fleeing. In this story, he is fleeing his home, going to his uncle Laban’s house, where his mother sent him. “Go back to my daddy’s house, or my brother’s house, go back to my brother’s house, because your other brother Esau wants to kill you.” And here’s why Esau wanted to kill Jacob. Because twice, Canaver Jacob had robbed stupid Esau out of his blessing. The first time it was his birthright. And Jacob did a terrible thing. He made Esau hand over his birthright as the firstborn son to him because Esau was hungry.
Now, traditional hospitality says, when your brother comes in from the field hungry, you feed him. You don’t make him pay an exorbitant price of his birthright, which was an exorbitant price, for a bowl of stew. And so, Jacob was Canaver. Esau was a knucklehead. That’s a theological term. If Mark was here, he could give us the German translation. Esau was a knucklehead. You don’t sell your birthright for a bowl of stew.
And so, both brothers are to blame. But Jacob’s a stealer.
And then, what’s even worse is he impostors Esau to get Esau’s blessing, the blessing of the firstborn from his father Isaac. Jacob didn’t need to do that. God had already promised that Jacob would be the inheritor of the covenant.
And then, because of that, Esau is so enraged that he wants to kill Jacob. And so, Esau’s the daddy’s boy. Jacob’s the mommy’s boy. And so, mommy sends him away.
And he goes away, and as he’s going away, he has his first of two dramatic encounters with God.
He comes to the place that will be known as Bethel. He lies down to sleep, and he is alone. And God appears to him in a dream. Heaven opens up. There’s a ladder. I have no idea what the great rock hit of the 70s that I used to listen to all the time, I have no idea what the lyrics of “Stairway to Heaven” mean, but in this case, there was a stairway to heaven. Maybe that’s where Led Zeppelin got it. The rest of the song, I have no idea what it means.
But angels are ascending and descending on this stairway, and Jacob sees the Lord. The Lord speaks to him, and Jacob has his first encounter with God. He’s fleeing the familiar, and he’s alone.
If you want to have an encounter with God, God can encounter you in the familiar, and God can encounter you in the crowds. But if you’re seeking to have an encounter with God, if you’re seeking to know God more than just know stuff about God, because there’s a big difference in that, people.
Theology is good, and I believe in theology, and I love theology, and I like to talk theology, and all that, but I realize this. Knowing stuff about God is not the same as knowing God. Knowing stuff about God is not the same as knowing God.
I just read, and I’m rereading a biography of John Wimber. I know stuff about John Wimber. I never met him. I’ve never read a biography about Jill Clancy, but I know that woman. You know? I know. There are faces, moods, looks, gestures that mean stuff.
Most of them mean life is good, and your wife is happy. Some of them mean go somewhere else for a while. But I know. I know. I’ve never read a book about Jill Clancy. I could write one, but I’ve never read one. All right.
Jesus says some of the most chilling words in the New Testament when he says, ‘Depart from me, what? I never knew you.’ If you think theology is the key, look at the devil. The devil would probably pass any theology exam. He knows stuff about God.
But God wants to have an intimate relationship with us. And he wants to encounter us. There are a variety of ways that Christians have traditionally encountered God. They’re called means of grace. You’re doing one of them right now. You’re attending a service of worship. You’re listening to a teaching from the book of God, the Bible. And the Bible is a great way to encounter God. Prayer is a great way to encounter God. This table is a great way to encounter God. Ministry to the poor is a great way to encounter God.
There’s all sorts of means of grace, ways that Christians have traditionally found fasting that have traditionally found our ways to encounter God. But never make the mistake that those things earn you an encounter. They don’t. The river is already flowing. God is already there. He’s already omnipresent. He already wants to encounter you.
Those are simply ways that we stop and recognize and look for the encounter. And two ways that will help us encounter God is fleeing from the familiar and being alone.
The Bible has a Sabbath, and in a way, the Sabbath is fleeing from the familiar, and I think at least for Christians, it’s being alone. There’s a part of the Sabbath, there’s very much a part of the Sabbath that is about community and family, but there’s another part of the Sabbath that is about being alone with God.
In fact, I think we are. Our spiritual disciplines have taught us that we should have actually a daily Sabbath, not a 24-hour period, maybe only a 15-minute period, where we push aside this, the biggest destroyer, maybe the biggest destroyer of our relationship with God ever invented, unless you’re looking at Bible verses. We push aside this, we close the doors.
Susanna Wesley raised 18 children. Karen, did you hear that? Yeah, I did. 18 children. But she raised with that apron over her head. You got it, sister. That’s exactly where I was going.
Every day, she told the kids, “Don’t bug me,” and she would put an apron over her head, and she would, what? Leave the familiar of the noise of 18 children and be alone with God. And she raised world changers. World changers.
So, Jacob wasn’t looking for an encounter, but he got one. Why? Because God is faithful. God is faithful. Jacob didn’t earn this encounter. He was a conniver. And yet, God then articulates to Jacob, reinstates the promise to him. Jacob has an open heaven over him. He has an open heaven over him in the dream.
Heaven opens up. There are angels all around. I bet there’s more angels in this room than people. It’s not always hard at the Firehouse Church to guess that. Would there be some day where that would be hard to guess?
I guess because the room was so full. It’s like, really? More angels than people? But enough said about that. If each of you has a guardian angel and there’s one spare, we have more angels in here than people. There are angels all around us.
I’ve never seen an angel. I’ve never seen an angel not in disguise.
I may have encountered an angel in disguise, or more than one. I don’t know, but I’ve never seen, I don’t know for sure, but I’ve never seen an angel in all of its glory. I’ve never woken up at three o’clock in the morning and had this blazing seraphim next to my bed, saying, “I’ve got a message from God to you, son. But first, fear not.” The Bible is inerrant, I get it, but it shouldn’t say that. It should say, “Stop being scared. Stop fearing.”
I think that’s what it means because it’s like, ‘Fear not, it’s too late. It’s too late.’ Have anybody ever seen that, the bright, shining seraphim? Yeah. I’ll bet you will. I don’t know if that’s a prophecy or just a guess. You get that little prayer house, you might get a visitation. Maybe I’ll also get a visitation out there with the pigs. All right. So we have an open heaven. The Old Testament is always a shadow, is always a foretelling, it’s always a foretaste.
It’s like going to the movie and seeing the trailer of the next movie that’s coming out. So, there’s a trailer here of an open heaven. But in Mark, when Jesus is baptized, it said the heavens opened up, the heavens tore open, and the Holy Spirit came down. Guess what? That tear is not going away, it’s only getting bigger. You and I live under an open heaven.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit comes on a particular person at a particular time for a particular task in a particular place.
But in the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.’ Pinch yourself. Are you flesh?
17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17, NLT)
Or better yet, pinch your sister. Are you flesh? Then you are able to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit because Jesus broke open heaven and poured it out.
I find the older I get, the more critical I become, an old man. Like when I was a young man, all the old men complained about us young men because we had long hair. ‘What are you trying to look like, a girl? You have long hair.’
I went to my grandson’s basketball game, and these coaches were all wearing these tapered sweat pants where they just taper down really narrowly toward the end. And they were lifted up, and so they looked like capris. And they were wearing these $400 pair of tennis shoes with no socks. And I’m just like a grumpy old man. What are you trying to look like, girls? And I told my wife. I said, “Hey, get me a pair of those capris.” She says, “No, I’m not going to get you those capris. You’re not going to wear those.”
I said, I should. I should just wear those min capris. So, what was my point on that? I don’t know. Grumpy old man complaining about things that they didn’t wear. Yep, yep. Yep, all of that. Open heaven. Oh, got it. Thank you. Yeah, the other fashion craze that has driven me nuts over the years is pants with holes already in them. And you pay more for those jeans, ladies. You pay more for jeans with holes already in them. It’s like you look like poppers.
Every time I see this, like, you want me to buy you a proper pair of pants? My mom used to sew these old ugly patches on my pants when they got holes in them. And here’s my point. I got a biblical point on this.
When that hole is there, it never gets smaller. A hole in your jeans, they don’t get smaller. Those holes only get bigger. Right? Once you got a tear, the tear does not repair itself. It just gets more tear.
That’s why my mom would sew a patch on it to stop the tear from continuing to expand. Because she was not a prophet and didn’t know in 2023 that it would be fashionable to look like you were impoverished and couldn’t afford jeans. And, you know, that would be the deal.
So, once God tore open heaven and poured out His Holy Spirit on His son, Jesus, that heaven is never closed. You and I live under an open heaven. What does that mean? The curtain in the temple has been torn from top to bottom.
We have access to God. Don’t hear that and go, “meh.” That’s huge. Jesus said, “you can go to God and say, ‘Our Father, Daddy, Daddy, dear God, creator of everything, magnificent one, holy one, blazing light, unapproachable holiness and power and goodness and love.'” And Jesus says, “With me, with me by your side, you can walk into that throne room and you will find grace and mercy for every time of need because we now live under an open heaven and there’s angels all around us.”
And so then, God speaks to Jacob and He identifies Himself as the God of his fathers. In other words, “I’m your tribe. I’m your tribe’s God.” Remember the Elohim? Everybody had their own God. But God said, “Nope, me, me. No Baal, no Asherah, no Molech. Your grandpa Abraham was a great man. Why? Because he believed in me. Your father Isaac believed in me. Jacob, I’m now inviting you, conniver, deceiver, runawayer. I’m now inviting you to believe in me, and here’s what I’m going to do for you.”
I will be with you always. I will protect you. I will bless you immensely, and I’m giving you the same promise I gave to your grandfather and father, that you will inherit this land and your descendants will cover the face of the earth. That’s huge. Today, there are two billion Christians. Dear ones, I don’t know if you know that, but we are the descendants of Abraham. The New Testament says that. The New Testament doesn’t say that ethnic Jews now are the descendants of Abraham.
Nothing against ethnic Jews, I’m not being anti-Semitic, I’m just saying the New Testament says that if you believe in Jesus, you’ve now become a child of Abraham. There are two billion, and I hope in my lifetime there’ll be another two billion. It’s coming true. It’s still happening. It’s still happening, the descendants are still growing. And I will give this to you. I will be with you, you will have my presence, you will have my protection, and I’ll bless you.
So even when you do something stupid, that has no scientific basis, has nothing to do with the fertility of goats, but even when you put peeled poplar sticks in the water, which is your superstition, I’ll bless that, and your herd of goats will increase over that of Laban, who, by the way, is a lot like you, Jacob. He’s a deceiver. He’s a player, not with the women, but with the business.
He’s a, what do you call that, he’s a, I mean, I think used car salesmen get a bad rap, they’re probably some good ones out there, but he’s a used car salesman. Lawyers get a bad rap. Everybody picks on lawyers. Nobody likes lawyers until you need one. He’s maybe a con man, a flim flam, you know, not a man of his word. There, we got it! Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, the winner! Alright. And God promises His blessing, His presence, and His protection, and He says, ‘I will bring you back.’
And now here’s Jacob’s response. It’s not great. It could be worse. He could have been a modern, atheistic philosophy professor at a modern university and had this profound experience with God and say, well, that was probably just a projection of my early childhood wishes, and of course there was nothing real about it because we know that that stuff is all fairy tale, and so I won’t pay any attention to it. He could have done that. He was better than that. He said, wow, God’s in this place. That was awesome. That was awesome.
He’s impressed by the encounter, but he’s still not a man of faith. How do we know he’s not a man of faith? Look at his last statement. “If you do everything you promised, if you bring me back to this land, if you give me descendants, if you protect me, if you bless me, then you’ll be my God, and then,” and it’s interesting, his statement to prove that God will be his God is, “then I will tithe.” By the way, tithing isn’t about the money, people.
Tithing isn’t about the money, and this is – don’t worry – I’m not going to turn this into a money sermon. I don’t even think this crowd would mind it, but I am not the preacher who begs for money. I’m just not. I think those of you who have been around a while, you know that, right? I’m never digging into your pockets, and here’s my deal. God doesn’t need your money. We really don’t need your money. I mean, this church, if it keeps going, yeah, your money helps.
But if you stop giving and the church dies, guess what? The kingdom of God will continue to advance on the earth. But you need to give your money if you want to be a person of faith. Because we are sorely tempted to trust our money. And we’re sorely tempted to be like Jacob.
“God, if you bless me, I’ll tithe. I tithe when you’re poor. I can’t afford to. I don’t think he can afford not to.”
And I tell you this. This is true. I don’t know of any other pastor. I think other pastors do this.
And people frown on this. And I do it kind of as a joke. But I’ll give you a money-back guarantee. All right? If you start opening up your wallet and giving generously, and you happen to give generously to this ministry, and two months down the road, you go, ‘Man, that just wrecked me. I just lost, you know, I’m going hungry now. I can’t pay my rent. My family’s starving.’ I’ll give you, we’ll give you your money back. We’ll give them their money back. All right? Don’t want you to starve. You know?
But here’s the thing. I never met anybody who said that. Here’s what I’ve met, people who say, man, I couldn’t believe what happened when I started giving. I had more peace in my life. I had more joy in my life. I found out what Jesus said was actually true. It’s better to give than to receive. And God has still met my needs. I’m OK. I’m doing fine. That’s the story I hear.
So, I used to tell people, I used to be a mean hellfire and brimstone preacher, and whenever I’d preach on money, my sermon was, ‘Tyler, go to hell.’ And the point of that was, here’s the point of that. It was not legalistic, but the point of that was if God doesn’t own your wallet, he doesn’t own your heart. But now, my testosterone levels have dropped. I’m a gentle, kind old man. I cry at TV commercials. I’m just a sweet old grandpa now. And so now, I just tell people, ‘Never met an unhappy Tyler.’
Want to be happy? I don’t know what all the keys to happiness are. I know most of them. Marry the right person. Serve the right God. Be generous. Probably this one I don’t follow. I think one of the great keys to happiness is don’t be a sports fan. It’ll break your heart. It’ll break your heart.
But anyway, keys to happiness. Jacob still wasn’t a man of faith. He still wasn’t a man of faith. God is still. He’s real. Jacob knows he’s real. But God is still what?
The God of his father, Isaac, and the God of his grandfather, Abraham. Jacob spends 21 years serving another deceiver in chaos, in family chaos, and business chaos. He spends 21 years of his life until God gives him another encounter. He leaves Laban. And as he leaves Laban, Laban catches up with him with Laban’s army. And Jacob stands up to Laban.
And so, Laban doesn’t kill Jacob and take all Jacob’s, you know, his daughters back and his grandchildren back and all his possessions back or all the things he claimed were his possessions that Jacob had actually legitimately earned. Laban doesn’t take any of them back. But he sets up a boundary and says, ‘Listen, never cross this boundary again.’ Jacob goes, ‘OK.’ So the way back is shut to him.
And now he’s going forward. And he hears that Esau is coming. He sends out a couple of men to greet Esau. And Esau has 400 men with him.
Last time Jacob saw Esau, Esau was saying, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ Now he’s got 400 men. ‘I can’t go back. Laban will kill me. I’m going forward. I think Esau is going to kill me.’ And Jacob devises his whole scheme to appease his brother. Didn’t need to. His brother had already been appeased by God. He didn’t need to appease his brother. But he devises his whole scheme. Once again, he’s alone. God is with him, wrestles with him, cripples his hip, and Jacob holds on to God desperately. And says, ‘Bless me.’
And God says, ‘All right, I’ve been wanting to bless you for the last 30 years, boy. Now I’ll bless you.’ It’s very interesting, at that moment, God says to Jacob, ‘What’s your name?’ you know the last time somebody asked him that? His father Isaac, and he lied. ‘My name’s Esau.’ Now God asked him, ‘What’s your name?’ And Jacob says, ‘I’m Jacob.’ God says, ‘you’re Israel. I give you a new name. Why? You wrestle with God, man. You know what? What do you want to be?’
Do you want to be one of those people that makes God’s job easy or hard? Some of you out there, maybe me included, we make God’s job hard. We wrestle with him. He wants to bless us, and we’re like, ‘No, I’m gonna do it my way. I’m smarter than you. I’m more clever than you, God. I got a better plan than you.’
And sometimes, it takes one encounter to make us men and women of faith, but sometimes, as with Jacob, it takes more than one. He had two encounters with God. Have you encountered God?
And if you have, have you become a person of faith? Not just believing the right stuff about him, but believing in him, loving him, having a relationship with him. I come from, I played sports as a kid, and I come from old-school coaching, all right? Old-school coaching, different than coaching now, all right? That I grew up with would have gotten fired. They put hands on you. I had one coach who had no problem putting his foot squarely on your buttocks with some force if you messed up. He’d kick you in the, yeah.
I had coaches who would grab my collar, get right in my face, and yell at me with spit coming out of their mouths. I had one coach. I wasn’t even on the team. I wasn’t even on the team. And the team didn’t have a quarterback.
And I’d tried out for quarterback the previous year, and he didn’t let me be quarterback. So I didn’t try the next year, my eighth grade year. I thought, well, I’m just not going to go out for football. I’ll just play basketball. I like basketball better. He didn’t have a quarterback.
And I had a couple of friends who were on the team. They were like, “Oh, Clancy’s a good quarterback. Clancy can play quarterback.” He watched me at PE and thought, “Yeah, he can play quarterback.”
So, I’m walking out of school one day, walking out of class. This coach walks up to me and says, “Clancy, why aren’t you getting suited up for football practice?”
“Oh, coach, I’m not going out for football this year.”
He put his elbow on my chest, pinned me up against the wall, and started applying pressure with his other hand. He says, “I said, why aren’t you going out for football practice? I’ll get my suit on, coach.”
“All right, good, Clancy.”
Played quarterback that year. Had fun, but still. We had no HR department to go to. Say, “Oh, the coach hurt me.” That was the way it was. And here’s what coaches did back in the day.
“All right, school counselors, you go to school counselors.”
They say, “Well, why don’t you try this?”
Or why don’t you try that? Or why don’t you try that? Very compassionate, very listening, very understanding. Give you different options of ways to solve your problems. Coaches, they had one option to solve your problem back in the day. Take a lap. That was it. That was their therapy. Take a lap. I don’t want to take a lap. Shouldn’t have back talked to me. Take two laps. And you know when you take a lap, there was no walking. There was no walking in our laps. Nobody could walk.
That was just a good way to get that foot placed in that place that it was the last time you tried to walk during a lap. You had to run during your lap. That was therapy for everything. Well, I’m not saying God’s an old school coach and I’m not saying all that was good. I think some of that could have been abusive. On the other hand, I think, you know, culture’s kind of like a drunk man on a horse. We may have fallen off the side of over-sensitivity in our age. Maybe, you know, maybe.
So, whatever. I’m not making any statement on that. What I am saying is, some people like Jacob need to take another lap. Some people like Jacob need to take another lap. But you know what? If you leave the door open, you’ll have another encounter. God will get you when you’re alone again because His desire is that you be a part of His forever family. He gave Jacob promises. Jacob finally believed the promises. Have you believed the promises?
Do you believe that neither life nor death, angels nor demons, the present nor the future, nor height nor depth can separate you from the love of Christ? Do you believe your sins are forgiven? Do you believe we’re playing a game we’ve already won? Do you believe the future is glorious and the troubles of this life, though hard as they are, cannot be compared to the glory to be revealed in us and through us?
Do you believe that God is a good, good father? Remember that song? We used to sing it all the time.
We’ll bring it back. I remember when that song was really popular. I think it was around 2017-2018. Everybody was singing that song. Remember? That was the praise song. And I was down in Arizona with my brother.
Brother-in-law, sister, and Jill and we’re driving around and we saw one of those church signs, you know, and it was cute. It said, “There’s a good good chance we’ll sing Good Good Father this Sunday.” I bet they did.
Alright, do we know His presence, His protection, His blessing? I know He’s omnipresent, but do we lean into it with the means of grace, expecting that God will meet us? And let me tell you something, dear ones, we all have our individual walk with God. Never compare your walk with God with somebody else’s, either negatively or positively. This must be stated in churches like ours where sometimes physical manifestations happen. Sometimes people fall, sometimes people shake, and there can be this thing where people think that’s more spiritual, that’s a legitimate encounter, and if you don’t have that, you haven’t had an encounter. That’s balderdash. How’s that for a word? It’s not true. It’s not true.
You have God. He is so precious and He’s so good. He knows who you are as His child and, like any good parent, designs the parenting for that child. You can’t parent your kids the same. Alright, Jacob and Isaiah, they’re not the same boy. They’re very different. Love them both, they’re different. Alright, Sidney and Sophia, they’re different. Alright, one of them is more different than the other. I won’t tell you which one. You girls can just worry about it tonight.
Oh, so Sidney, she just threw you under the bus so quick. Yeah, alright. And Sean, neither one of you are Sean, not even close. Alright.
Different. Though Megan and Mark are pretty similar. Didn’t even get a rise out of her. Oh, there’s a smile. There’s a smile. I thought maybe the head would come up for a second from the knitting. No, you’re pretty different, Megan.
Alright, so. God will deal with each one of his children according to what’s best for them and what works best for them. Never compare your story with somebody else’s story. You just encounter God the way you encounter God. And be open to God encountering you in new ways. You can do it.
But it’s not how you encounter God. It’s that you encounter God. Listen. Dreams, visions, prophecies, Bible. All good. All good. I put the Bible at the top of the list, but the Bible speaks of dreams, visions, and prophecies. I encountered God once through a billboard. A billboard. I went to a conference to get an encounter with God. It was one of those charismatic conferences in the midst of revival. One of these powerful charismatic leaders was leading the conference. People were coming forward at the end and people were praying for him.
They were going down under the power of the Spirit. Finally, I went up and the guy prayed for me, and nothing happened. Physically. You could tell he was disappointed, and I was disappointed. People down on my right, down on my left, flopping and shaking. Man, I wanted that power. I wanted to be anointed with power to do the ministry of Jesus. I didn’t feel nothing. The guy gave me a few vague prophecies. You know what I mean by vague prophecies. They’re true at all times and all seasons.
Hey, I really sense that God loves you and you’re in a new season. Great. Great. That’s specific. Tell me a bus is going to break down outside of my church, and 30 people are going to come in and all come to Jesus next Sunday. That is a testable prophecy. God loves you and it’s a new season. Okay. Thanks for the encouragement. That’s encouraging. There’s nothing wrong with saying that, but to call it prophecy is a stretch. So anyway, and I’m driving home and I am so mad. I’m mad at God.
I drove two-and-a-half hours to this conference, driving home, my little truck, and I use the word “fine” with God. Not “fine” like, oh, everything is so fine, God. I use the word “fine,” like sometimes husbands hear their wives use the word “fine.” So here I’m telling God, I’m saying, “Fine. I’ll be a mediocre pastor in a mediocre church with mediocre power. Fine. If that’s what you want, fine, God.”
God did not smite me dead. He probably had every right to, but it would have caused a traffic. Other people might have died. It would have been bad.
He didn’t smite me dead. Instead, immediately my eyes were transfixed on a huge billboard from a bank. That was in the day when generic was popular and it was really cool to just put, like we do because we’re old school, black letters on a white sign. People would have just white t-shirts with black letters, and it was like nothing hyped, and it was popular back then to do marketing generically. So there was this white sign with these black letters.
I remember it was a bank, but I have no idea why the bank was giving this message out. But here’s what the black letters on the white sign said, “Remember my fine. God, I’m going to be a mediocre pastor in a mediocre church with no power. Fine.” I look up and this sign, written in black letters on this big billboard, as I’m driving past, it says this, “you have more power than you think.” Immediately, Holy Spirit comes into my car, and he doesn’t smite me dead. You don’t have to fall. You don’t have to shake.
Son, you have more power than you think. And I got to tell you, my attitude changed instantly because I had an encounter with God through a bank advertising sign. The rest of the drive home, I was using the word ‘fine’ like this: ‘God, you are so fine. I have more.’ And I was actually saying this as I’m driving. ‘Got more power than I think. Got more power than I think. Transform.’ God spoke to me.
Listen, I don’t go around preaching to people to have an experience with God. You need to find your billboard. No.
You just need to believe in a God who wants to communicate with you and encounter you. And He will in a way that you will get, and you’ll understand, and you’ll experience. And it’ll be fine.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance and give you peace.
24 ‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. 25 May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. 26 May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.’ (Numbers 6:24-26, NLT)
And Lord, one way that you have encountered your children through the ages is by inviting them to your table. It’s not the church’s table. It’s not the preacher’s table.
It is the body and the blood of the new covenant of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And Lord, we want to encounter you in your hospitality. We want to encounter you in your amazing grace, your power, so that we can live next week being your disciples, your servants, your ministers. You want to encounter us with mercy so we can take the sins, the mistakes, the rebellious acts, and just the foolish acts where we weren’t thinking. And we can lay them all underneath the blood and be forgiven.
And all of that is represented here in this simple meal, and it’s at your invitation we come. And so I invite you to come forward. Holy Spirit, apply the truths of this simple meal into the very fabric of our lives. We ask it in Jesus’ Name, Amen..