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cropped-2767250890_1ec631aaba_o.jpgToday’s Bible reading: Genesis 31:17-55, 32:1-12; Matthew 10:24-42,11:1-6; Psalms 13:1-6; Proverbs 3:16-18

Jacob leaves Paddan-aram today with his wives, children, and livestock. He sneaks off while his father-in-law is away. In Genesis 28:31 we see why he did this: he was afraid of Laban. It is certainly understandable that Jacob would be afraid that Laban would force or trick him to remain. Laban has not dealt honestly with Jacob for the 20 years that they were together (Genesis 31:41). But fear of man is never a good excuse. Jacob didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in God.

In the very next chapter Jacob prays to God when he hears that his brother, Esau, is coming to meet him (Genesis 32:10). Why didn’t he pray before leaving Laban? It seems to me that Jacob is only interested in God when he thinks he needs him. It was easy for him to get away from Laban while Laban was a 3-days journey away. Its another thing for him to escape his brother who is coming with an army of 400 men. I think one of the lessons here is that we should pray always (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and rely on God and His wisdom in all circumstances.

Jesus has comforting words for those of us who consider ourselves to be His disciples. We will face all kinds of persecution (more so in some places on earth than others), verbal assaults, and ridicule. But Jesus pretty much tells us not to be concerned with that. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus basically says its “sticks and stones”. No matter what people do to me or say to me, my soul is safely protected by and already has a home in heaven.

Notice how Jesus tells us that He didn’t come to earth at this time to bring peace! Interesting, isn’t it? So many critics of Jesus point to all the problems on earth, including wars, as “proof” that Jesus didn’t exist or if He did, He was no big deal. But all these problems on earth are no surprise. Jesus didn’t come to solve them. He came for one reason — to open a path to heaven. When He comes for the second time at some point in the future, He will bring peace to the earth when He reigns for 1,000 years.

Notice the conflicts that will arise because of Jesus (Matthew 10:35-36). Even family will be divided. Some will believe. Some will not. In my own family, this is true. I am the only one in my entire extended family (dozens of people) who is a believer in Jesus Christ. The rest of my family displays no interest in Him at all. I can say that at times I have been ridiculed by my own family for my beliefs.

Its not easy to be a follower of Christ. A few days ago we took at look at the two metaphorical roads mentioned by Jesus. One leads to hell. The other leads to heaven. The road to heaven was not an easy one, Jesus said. He reiterates that in our passage today. Anyone listening to Him speak these words 2,000 years ago would have understood immediately what He meant when He said “take up your cross”. Taking up one’s cross meant that person was going to die very shortly. Crucifixion victims had to carry their own cross to the crucifixion site. Jesus is saying here that the cost of following Him is self. We must die to ourselves and our selfish desires to follow Jesus. This is not something that many people are willing to do.

In Matthew 10:40 Jesus equates Himself with God. Jesus was God on earth and He said so many times. We’ve already seen at least one prior to today and will see many more as we continue to read the New Testament.

Sometimes I feel just like Psalm 13. Sometimes things are not going right at all in my life and I wonder where God is. I wonder why He lets me struggle. But He is always right there. It is just normal for a human, a lesser being, to think that God is not nearby. One of my goals for 2013 is to not let myself think this as much as I used to. God is always near. He never leaves us.

More words about wisdom today in Proverbs 3. Wisdom guides us down delightful paths (Proverbs 3:17 NLT). Think about that. Wise living will cause our path (i.e. life) to be delightful. If this is true, then the opposite is also certainly true. Living an unwise life will bring hardship that is unnecessary and easily avoided.

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