Where does your success come from?

Chapters Read: Genesis 27:1 – 28:9; Genesis 36:1-43; 1 Chronicles 1:35-54

Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied. – Genesis 27:19-20

But we know how Jacob did it. He conspired with his mother, Rebekah, to deceive Isaac into giving him the blessing that was supposed to be Esau’s. And then he boldly declared that he was able to do it with God’s help.

It’s scary to think that people would use God’s name like this. That they would step on other people’s toes just to get what they wanted, and then disguise the deed by saying that it was the Lord who brought them success.

If you had a similar experience, if someone used or deceived you in order to be successful, be comforted by the fact that God saw what you’ve gone through. In the right time, He will return to you what you’ve lost, in a measure that’s more than what you’re expecting, if you remain faithful. And then you can proudly worship God and say, “my success came from the Lord.”

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A book your mom loves: Sweet Valley High

svhI remember seeing the Sweet Valley High books in our shelves (and reading one of them) like sixteen years ago, on top of the Danielle Steel collection, and quite a number of Filipino romance pocket books. Yes, my mom used to love reading. She stopped the moment I learned to love it too. I’m not really sure why.

For this challenge, I chose “Double Love,” the first book of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series. I couldn’t find the old books anymore because we’ve been moving from time to time so I just bought the kindle version.

The Story:

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are identical twins with different interests and temperaments. Jess, being the outgoing type, is more concerned with her appearance and reputation than her sister. Liz, the simple and reserved one, is busy fulfulling her dream to become a famous writer. Different as they are, two girls are both attracted to Todd Wilkins– the most popular guy from the basketball team.

My Rating: 2 stars

While I’m sure that I loved that Sweet Valley High book (can’t remember the title) that I’ve read from years back, I can’t help but realize how much YA stories have evolved through time. The story didn’t have enough depth for me to reflect upon. I also didn’t like Jessica’s character, and the stunt that Liz pulled at the end, though it was just for fun. I didn’t like Todd at all. Or maybe I’m just too old to be reading this kind of story. The third person POV is also confusing in some chapters.
Quotes I liked:

“Anybody who would believe things about me without even finding out the truth isn’t anybody I care about.”

Write, she told herself. Keep on writing. Forget everything else.

Don’t make decisions on an empty stomach

Esau did, and he lost his birthright to Jacob.

Chapters Read: Genesis 25:1 – 26:35

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” – Genesis 25:32

Sometimes, like Esau, we are too short-sighted that we make life-changing decisions based on our current circumstance. We tend to focus on the temporal things, making us lose sight of the blessing that we would have enjoyed if we just endured a little longer.

This life is not mine

let godChapters Read: Genesis 22:1 – 24:67

“Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” – Genesis 22:2

In Genesis 22, Abraham’s faith and obedience was tested when God commanded him to sacrifice the son he loved, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Without question, Abraham obeyed and brought Isaac with him to a mountain in Moriah where he built an altar where his son would be slayed. As Abraham’s knife was lifted and ready to end Isaac’s life, the angel of the Lord intervened and withheld him from killing his son because God had seen his sincerity and fear of the Lord through this test. God provided a ram for Abraham to slay and offer to Him as a burnt offering instead.

As this was a story of Abraham’s obedience and God’s providence, I could not help but read into this in Isaac’s perspective.

The only time Isaac spoke in this chapter was in verse 7, when he noticed that his father did not bring a lamb with him: “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” After that, there was no account on how Isaac felt the moment he realized that the intended offering wasn’t a lamb, but him. Was he afraid? Was he hurt? Did he feel privileged that God considered his life to be a pleasing offering? We could not tell exactly, but what we know is this–Isaac did not run away. He stayed and let his father bind him and lay him on the altar.

If I were in Isaac’s place, I’m not sure if I would have acted the same way. I would have cowered and cried for my father Abraham to hide and protect me. And this just shows how much in love I am with my life right now.

For me Genesis 22 is a reminder that I don’t own this life. It was God who gave me life, and so it should be lived in the way He wanted. If He wanted to bind my hands so I could only use it for works that would glorify Him, I should let him. If He wanted me to sacrifice desires and offer my life to him (literally and figuratively), I should obey. No matter how I feel, I should let go and let God be the Lord over my life.

A book more than 100 years old: Pilgrim’s Progress

pilgrim's progressThe Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream was first published in 1678, and was written during the time when the author, John Bunyan was in prison. This book has been referenced in a lot of my reading materials, so I resolved to read this book in this lifetime. It was fortunate that I found a “modern” version of Bunyan’s work in a bookstore while I was searching the shelves for classics.

This version,Pilgrim’s Progress (in Today’s English), which was retold by James H. Thomas, was first published in 1964.

The Story: 

The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of the Christian life, told in two parts. The main character in the first part was named Christian, who was first called Graceless. He came from the City of Destruction where he lived with his wife, Christiana, and their four sons. After reading the book in his hand, he became aware of his sinful nature that burdened his soul. With the help of Evangelist who encouraged him and showed him the way to the Wicket Gate where he could be free of his burden, he left the City of Destruction despite his wife’s opposition and started his pilgrimage to the Celestial City.

The second part tells the story of Christiana, Christian’s wife, who eventually decided to follow her husband’s footsteps along with her four sons–Matthew, James, Samuel, and Joseph.

My Rating: 5 edifying stars

This book shows how one Christian journey is different from another. Some started strong but are not able to finish well. Some experienced a rough start but was able to get through to the end with an amazing testimony. There are also few who were consistent in their Christian walk. This is true because not one Christian is the same with another. We have our own set of strengths and weaknesses. What we have, others may lack.

That is why it is important to not venture on this journey alone. Christian would not have succeeded in reaching the Celestial City, if it wasn’t for his fellow pilgrims–Faithful and Hopeful–who encouraged and rebuked him along the way. As it is written in the book, “the meeting of believers is like appearing of the moon and stars on a stormy night to mariners.”  

The book also warns Christians of the different types of people that they would meet that could swerve them away from the right path, if not careful. We must always be vigilant, and rooted in the Word of God, so as not to be easily swayed and discouraged when difficulty arises.

My favorite quotes: 

“It happens to us as to all transient humanity. Sometimes we are up and sometimes we are down; we are on the mountain top, then in the valley. Sometimes our way is joyous and easy—filled with sunshine and gladness—then we go through clouds and darkness, and the way is difficult and long. We seldom fare the same for any length of time. The wind is not always in our favor; though we do sometimes ride the tide. We have our battles and our victories. We meet with friends and foes. We have our triumphs, our troubles and tribulations; yet we can truthfully say that the grace of God is sufficient for every type of person in all situations of life if one will only believe.”

“If any pilgrim, when taken by violent hands, will keep his heart and mind fixed on the Lord, he will not die, nor suffer more than he is able to bear, at the hands of the enemy.”

“These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God has forsaken you. They are sent to call to your mind that which you have received of His goodness, that you may trust Him in your distress.”

Don’t look back

forwardChapters Covered: Genesis 19:1-21:34; Genesis 25:12-18; 1 Chronicles 1:28-31

“But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” – Genesis 19:26

This happened when Lot and his family were running away as the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, destroying everything in those cities. They were able to escape because the Lord was merciful to them (Gen. 19:16), and He remembered Abraham’s plea (Gen. 19:29). But to ensure their safety, they were given these specific instructions in Gen. 19:17: “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee… or you will be swept away!” But for some reason, Lot’s wife looked back, and reaped the consequences.

Maybe she was just curious. Maybe she just felt sorry for their city. Maybe she took God’s instructions lightly. Or maybe she didn’t really mean to look back. But whatever the reason was, God considered it as disobedience.

My main takeaway here is to keep moving forward. The Lord has already rescued us from our dark and dangerous past, and there’s no use in looking back. Otherwise, runners won’t reach their goal in time. Climbers won’t reach the top. Old wounds won’t heal completely. And as in the case of Lot’s wife, we might end up far worse than we were before.

We have to understand that every command from God, hard as they are to follow because of our human inclinations, were all given with our safety in mind. The key is to obey and surrender our every step to His leading, trusting that He knows what’s right, and what’s best.

HE sees you

Chapters Covered: Genesis 16:1 – 18:33

Genesis 16-18 covered a lot of events in Abram’s life: Sarai let Hagar, her Egyptian slave, to sleep with him so he can have a son. Hagar conceived. Hagar hated Sarai, and Sarai mistreated Hagar. Hagar fled, but was instructed to go back. Ishmael was born. Abram became Abraham, for God had made him a father of many nations. The covenant of circumcision was established. Sarai became Sarah, and was blessed to be the mother of nations. The Lord promised Abraham and Sarah a son, and Sarah laughed in unbelief. The Lord rebuked her by saying “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” And then when Abraham heard about God’s plan of destroying Sodom, he bargained until the Lord said “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

But among these events, the one that made an impression to me was Hagar’s moment with the Lord.

“You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.” – Genesis 16:11

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.” – Genesis 16:13

After serving her purpose and conceiving a son for Abram, Hagar was mistreated by her master, Sarai, and Abram was indifferent to her suffering. Maybe this is because they both think lowly of her since she was just their slave. But it is amazing to know that although God seemed too focused on Abram and his wife, Hagar was never out of his sight. When she ran away from Sarai, the Lord followed her and gave her comfort and promised to increase her number. This was a life-changing moment for Hagar, for then she worshiped “the God who sees,” and by faith, followed His instruction and returned to Abram and Sarai.

There are moments like this when we feel so insignificant, that we think nothing we do or say would matter to anyone. Most of us have been rejected in one way or another, and have tried and failed to escape pain and misery.

The good new is, our God sees each and every one of those moments. When it comes to Him, there’s no main character, master, or slave. No one’s insignificant in His eyes. I matter to Him as much as you do. So why don’t we just stop running away and let Him reach us?