Jehoshaphat's Choir and Jacob's Win

King Jehoshaphat was alarmed.

Well, you can't blame him. Three countries had banded together and were marching against him. God's people were completely overpowered. What would Jehoshaphat do?

Send his mightiest fighting men?
Send soldiers and swords and spears? No.

He sent a little choir.


And some songs.

Excuse me?

“Give thanks to the Lord!” they sang.
“His love never ends!”

It so confused the other army that they started fighting each other, and by the time the choir reached the battlefield they found no more enemies left.

When God's children sing to him, it moves the heart of God and invited Him into what's happening – and chases the enemy away.

Is anything overpowering you today?

You know what to do!

“Sing to Him.” (Psalm 105:2 NIV)

(Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones p. 167)

This wonderful children's book that I am reading as a devotional this year is one of the most heart refreshing books I have read in a long time. It is not unusual for me to sit stunned with awe as this author bypasses my intellectual barriers and gets straight to my heart with little love-notes from God. And this reading was no exception.

This story has long been one of my favorites for many reasons. For one, it reminds me of how upside down God's ways are to what feels normal and logical. It also reinforces the truth that God's ways are non-violent, just exactly as Jesus taught when He was here on earth. And though this is not at all very popular among most religious (and non-religious as well) people today, what I have been learning in recent years is that this is in fact the way God intends to abolish evil. He is going to love without reservation every being He has created and will never back away from that stance. If anyone is lost – and many will be sadly – it will not be because God ran out of patience and was forced to punish them; rather it will be because they chose to cling to their distrust of God's heart so tenaciously that when finally meeting Him in person they become literally scared to death by the lies they believe about Him.

So what is the antidote to this deep-seated distrust and fear of God that permeates and infects every one of our hearts? It is what is highlighted in this wonderful little vignette – speaking well of God, especially when circumstances seem to demand on the very opposite – to take things into our own hands and rescue ourselves.

Last night a couple friends and I met together as we have started doing once a week to study more intimately the Word of God and seek to know Him better. We are never quite sure what topic we will land on, but last night a question was raised that launched us into exploring intently the story of Jacob. We reviewed the events and attitudes in the life of Jacob compared to his father's story and saw how similar Jacob's struggles were to our own.

As we honed in on the grand finale of Jacob's riveting story where he finally wrestles with God, we discovered to our amazement that the true meaning of becoming an overcomer in God's eyes does not come from winning the way we think of winning but from letting go of our own struggle against God.

This is difficult to grasp with our hearts, not so much because it is hard to understand but because it feels so backwards to everything our intuition tells us we must do to fix our problems. That is exactly the same situation Jehoshaphat faced and I love the way he responded to his terrifying problem by turning to God and putting his entire trust in God to provide a solution instead of choosing to worry and wring his hands and attempt to save himself with his own ideas.

As Jehoshaphat chose to trust entirely in God to show him and his people what to do, encouraging all around him who were in equal danger as he was of imminent extermination at the hands of vicious enemies bent on slaughtering them all, they humbled themselves and admitted their weakness and inability to save themselves. As they fasted and prayed together and focused their entire attention on God and His goodness instead of on their problems, God sent them a message through an insignificant man in the crowd and immediately the king chose to believe and to act accordingly.

God told them that they would not have to fight this battle; that He intended to take care of things His way and all they would need to do was to trust Him and watch how things played out. Now, with our advantage of knowing how the situation was resolved it is easy to miss how tempting it would be to disbelieve this word of the Lord from a nobody in the crowd and maybe want to keep praying for something more believable to attach their faith to. But I like the example that Jehoshaphat gave us in his implicit trust in the heart of God, especially when it involved refraining from doing anything whatsoever to participate in saving themselves.

As a result, without any instructions from God, but clearly in harmony with the spirit of joyfully resting in God's love for them, Jehoshaphat decided immediately to organize his army by celebrating the victory that no one had any knowledge or current awareness of yet except in believing that God was somehow going to pull off the impossible for them. In anticipation of the good God was about to do (and God is always eager to do good things for His children whenever they give Him a chance), the king appointed a praise team to be on the front lines to face the enemy instead of sending people armed to the teeth. Now isn't that a powerful lesson for all of us today.

Jehoshaphat and his people overcame the enemy, not by fighting as most would normally expect but by choosing to not struggle, to not worry but rather to focus entirely on occupying their hearts in singing and speaking well of God. That is actually the definition of blessing, for to bless someone means to speak highly of them, to value them as important and as someone who deserves and attracts our affections for them. That is what it means to bless God, and in blessing and praising and singing the good news about God in the face of overwhelming danger, threats and intimidation, Jehoshaphat demonstrated a most important principle that is just as potent today as it has ever been.

We learned last night in the story of Jacob that when he wrestled against and finally overcame his own terribly messed up picture of God that he had carried around all of his life, he was set free from his past and begin totally trusting God like Jehoshaphat to receive his blessing from God.

Jacob didn't become free just because he began praising God, though there was plenty of that I am sure shortly after. You see, Jacob's problem was not any different than ours, but it required a slightly different remedy than the problem Jehoshaphat was facing. Jacob's enemy was deep inside his own heart, not his brother threatening to come and kill him and his family. His brother's threats only highlighted the memories of how Jacob had spent his whole life trying to save himself, trying to gain through hook or crook a blessing for himself that ironically God had already assured would be his.

Jacob's story is parallel in so many ways to my own that it always gets me inside whenever I meditate on this pivotal event in his life. I realize that my greatest enemy is not from the outside as fearful as those threats may seem at times. My worst and most debilitating enemy is the deep suspicion that I grew up with coming from God's constant perceived threats to punish me if I didn't obey Him good enough or love Him the way He demanded to be loved. I don't have time to go into all of what that looked like right now, but suffice it to say my pictures of God led me to try to take care of my problems using my own resources over and over just as Jacob did much of his life.

But what is most riveting in the story of Jacob is his deep yearning for a heart blessing that would sink down to address the deepest longings of his soul to feel loved, valued, cherished and fill him with peace. This is the blessing that every one of us is designed to crave, but most of us have spent most of our lives trying to satisfy that core craving with anything or everything that fails to really satisfy. So we keep trying something else, someone else or when that fails we turn to whatever we can find to numb our desires in vain attempts to suppress the intense feelings of something missing deep inside.

Strangely Jacob spent most of his life striving to get a blessing that repeatedly he was assured was already his. But because he couldn't bring himself to actually believe it or accept it from God, he was given the freedom to keep seeking to find it through all sorts of interesting ways of his own inventions. And how did that work out for him? Not well at all as he sensed to his great remorse by the time he was returning home with all his acquired wealth and his large and growing highly dysfunctional family.

When at last the circumstances resulting from his own many attempts to fix his problems through self-help schemes had all fallen apart, and those he had offended along the way were now looking for pay-back time, Jacob found himself all alone in the darkness with his fears and his awareness of his lifelong yearning to feel blessed still completely unfulfilled. His current fear of imminent death only highlighted and amplified his emptiness inside and in his turmoil and agony he likely began to review all the stories of his life in morbid detail.

How had he been able to create such a mess out of his life? He had ruined every relationship that was important to him. He had repeatedly exploited his brother, relied on deceit and trickery to get his way and consistently refused to accept anything without earning it in some way. He had intended to prove everyone wrong about his tenacious reputation he had grown up with that was now an integral part of his very name – supplanter, deceiver, exploiter. All of these things were now entwined into the meaning and even history of his name Jacob. All throughout his life he had only managed to prove them right instead of proving that he could make something better out of himself. Everything he had done to advance his own career, his own agenda had somehow turned into confusion and disaster. Now it was all coming to a head and everything he had worked so hard all of his life to put together was in danger of being wiped out by his own brother bent on settling an old score that was all too legitimate.

Ironically, as we discovered last night, on his terrified trip many years before when running for his life away from home, expecting his brother to catch up with him at any moment and finish him off for the cruel stunt he had pulled on his father to steal the birthright, Jacob had hidden under some rocks and pulled a long rock over his hiding place (called a pillow) to catch some much needed rest before running even farther the next day. As he cowered under the rock waiting with baited breath for any sounds of his brother scouring the countryside to hunt him down like a wild animal (something his brother was extremely skillful in doing already), Jacob found himself overflowing with guilt, shame, fear and still feeling terribly devoid of importance or value.

He had thought that after exploiting his brother's hunger years before to extort from Esau a promise to hand over to Jacob his birthright, that he would at last feel content. But that had only made him feel worse, more insecure and afraid. When their father then decided to ignore God's message to his wife that Jacob would indeed receive the birthright blessing instead of Esau, it didn't help matters at all. Isaac had been a stellar example of trusting and resting in God most of his growing up years, but something must have affected his thinking after his twin sons were born and Isaac and Rebecca began playing the favorites game which only resulted in heartache for everyone. Rebecca began encouraging less that noble habits in the life of Jacob and Isaac encouraged pride and selfishness in the life of Esau. This left both sons seriously lacking in moral attributes that a more unified partnership between their parents could have given them. But this is recorded to help us avoid following a similar path.

When Isaac decided to take things into his own hands and carry out the blessing ceremony with his favorite son Esau in private so as to avoid being confronted about why he was ignoring God's words to his wife, Rebecca reacted in her own fear and quickly enlisted Jacob to join her in deceiving his blind father into blessing a different son without being honest about the real issue. Everyone in these stories were acting out of fear and taking things into their own hands, so it is no surprise that Jacob spent so many years following that same pattern over and over with continued disastrous results.

As Jacob cowered in terror under the rock and fell into a fitful sleep, God showed up and gave him a most wonderful revelation of the graciousness that God has in His heart toward all of His confused, hurting and messed up children. God showed Jacob something that looked like a ladder with angels busily moving up and down between heaven and earth carrying blessings for anyone willing to receive them and connecting God with all His children on earth.

This vision was intended to directly address all of Jacob's fears. God told him explicitly that Jacob unconditionally had His blessing and that the promises originally given to Abraham his grandfather would all be fulfilled through Jacob's descendants. God assured Jacob that He was personally looking out for him and would provide for all his needs and would never leave him alone. Everything in God's words to Jacob in that wonderful encounter was designed to resolve all of Jacob's fears and assure his heart that he was loved, cherished and valued and that God was thinking of him in the most positive and affectionate way possible. This was the essence of the very blessing that Jacob had been craving all of his life, and God offered it to him unconditionally at a time when circumstances could not have seemed worse.

Yet amazingly Jacob's response is almost like he refused to believe anything God had just told him, or maybe wasn't paying attention. Instead of embracing God's blessing and putting his full trust in God's heart that had just been so graciously opened to him, Jacob twisted everything God had promised him into some sort of conditional contract arrangement. Jacob repeated God's promises to him by twisting them into preconditions for his own acceptance and blessing of God. Jacob started out by declaring that IF God would do each of the things that God had just promised without precondition, THEN Jacob would agree to let God be his God. The he 'generously' added that he would even go so far as to give God one tenth of all the wealth he was intending to amass for himself.

If Jacob thought he was somehow doing God a favor by his offer of this insulting contract, the angels he had just seen moving up and down that ladder must have burst into tears at Jacob's preference for such an absurd idea. Why would Jacob choose to try to earn everything and demand that God had to earn his own trust before he was willing to accept unconditionally all the extravagant gifts and promises just offered to him directly from the God of the universe?

But God is extremely respectful of the choices of all His children, even if they are completely irrational from heaven's point of view. So He had to sort of stand by at a distance and watch Jacob spend the next twenty plus years trying to get his own act together, manipulating everyone around him to prove that he was more valuable than others thought he was, all the while trying to find love in ways that only produced jealousy and dysfunction instead of peace and joy.

By the time Jacob now had returned to near the place where he had encountered God and tried to turn God's promises into hard bargains, by this time he was becoming more aware that his arrangement was not panning out well at all. God had promised to bring him back to his home country, and indeed Jacob and his very large family were now on the way. The Bible even mentions that Jacob met a band on angels on the way. But in returning home he also had to face the consequences of offenses he had committed years before, and the potential for even greater disaster in his life were now becoming very imminent. Childhood rivalries and unresolved sins of his past were now coming back to haunt him and threatened to defeat everything God had promised to accomplish in his life. Jacob had run out of resources, tricks and ideas to make him come out on top. The jig was up and the fixes were all falling apart. Now he was about to face the music and his future was looking very bleak indeed.

But what haunted Jacob the most – the thing that had plagued him all his life and now was forced front and center into his attention – was his core sense of identity that had always been connected to the very name he had received on the day he and his brother were born together. Everyone around him had joked about how he had grabbed his brother's foot as his brother was coming out of their mother's body. They had always made a big deal out of it, as if Jacob had somehow had some sort of malicious intent or grudge against his brother in utero. Yet all of his life this story had shaped how everyone had looked at him and expected him to act. And as a result he had been molded into becoming the very person everyone had assumed him to be – a supplanter, deceiver, a cheat.

Now the shame and everything associated with this name was pushing his heart to near total despair. His brother hated him and was planning to settle the score for stealing the birthright by tricking their father years ago. Not that Esau had any use for the spiritual dimensions of the birthright, but he was very keen on wanting all the material perks that should come with that advantage. And although Jacob had left everything to Esau when he had run away from home years before, the very fact that he was returning made it appear he intended to lay claim on what he had extorted from his brother when they were younger. But Esau was of no mind to honor Jacob's shenanigan's from the past but was inclined to resolve their dispute with the means he was best at doing – brute force and violence. Jacob knew he was no match for Esau's skill and prowess at hunting and killing and his old fears were fully revived.

But even more intensely than his fear of death, Jacob longed for the internal freedom of being able to know that God was not against him. Even though God had assured him in person that he was loved, valued and blessed, Jacob had never been able to believe those promises with his heart. He was a product of his own devices, a self-made man. But all that had accomplished was to increase his vulnerability and involve a lot more people to become liable in the fallout from his past mistakes and sins. Now it was not just his own life at risk but a large group of people, his whole family – and all because Jacob could never take hold of the truth that God was enough for all of his problems.

That fateful night Jacob felt the touch of a stranger in the darkness. His life had been so governed by fear since childhood that without thinking he whirled around in self-defense. Jacob was likely an enormously strong person. He had spent years since leaving home 'pumping iron' so to speak. And though as a child he may have been a mommy's boy, he was no longer the wimpy little inferior kid vainly competing for his father's attention. Now he had muscles of steel from years of hard work taking care of large flocks of animals and he had a reputation for being someone you just didn't mess with.

But Jacob was also full of other emotions. His shame was suffocating as he thought back over how he had spurned God's offer of blessing and protection for him, how everything he had done to prove himself to be a capable man that his father could be proud of was now all crumbling into dust. So with a touch on the shoulder from an unseen person from behind, how should he know that it was only the gentle touch of a friend seeking to give him the embrace of a lifetime, the intimate assurance that his heart had been yearning for all of his life. How was he to know that someone was not there to hurt him but was only there to love him? All he had known in his life was that he had to look out for himself, or no one else ever would.

Isn't it tragic how so many of us sit on the edge of God's incredible promises and blessings while trying to manage all of our problems relying only on our own resources and devices. Why is it that we so tenaciously distrust plain words of God meant to fill us with hope and joy and assurance and somehow twist them around to appear like demands of performance that God expects us to do before He will bless us? I speak primarily for myself, because I am that Jacob. I am describing here my own experiences and feelings and longings. I too perceive that I have been secretly craving intensely a father's blessing and affirmation that I never received from my dad. As a result I have spent many years trying to become something my father could be proud of, only to realize that I can never be completely successful enough to live up to my father's high expectations.

Like Jacob I am coming to realize that I will never be able to be good enough to earn a blessing, either from my earthly father (or anyone else for that matter) or my heavenly Father. Like Jacob I have grown up in an environment full of shame, high expectations and tough standards that always left me feeling empty, guilty and marginalized. In school I worked very hard to have high grades only to realize later that the whole system is an artificial design meant to pit people against one another to motivate them to learn what teachers want to offer instead of preparing a person's character for life in the real world.

As I review my own life, like Jacob I see a litany of broken or deeply damaged relationships. I can think of so many people who likely view me with disgust, judgment, suspicion and resentment. Littered throughout my past are people still waiting for an opportune time to settle old scores, to get even with me for real or perceived offenses and wanting to see me publicly humiliated, wounded or punished. As I look back I little memory of life-giving relationships with intimate friends. I can hardly think of anyone that I can really open my heart to transparently, and the inward emptiness that all this produces is distinct and palpable. Like Jacob I have nothing to point to as proof of my success, only a long story of fear, malfunctioning and attempts to earn rewards or respect with little satisfying result.

So, how did it work out for Jacob that night when he threw himself into the fight of his life, not realizing that he was fighting against the very One who had come to give him unconditionally the very love he had craved all his life?

What we noticed last night was that Jacob was really wrestling against his own internal screwed-up picture of God deep inside. While he initially thought he was protecting himself from harm from the outside, the unique moves of this stranger during that night of rolling around in the mud and defending himself in terror strangely matched perfectly the internal struggle against shame, self-loathing and fear. After hours of fighting off this man that seemed to never get tired as one would expect, and yet who never made strategic moves to subdue His opponent like it finally became obvious He easily could have done, it began to dawn on Jacob that this man must be the very God who had talked with Him not far from this very spot so many years before. And if this was true, then Jacob knew he had to fight to the finish to discover for himself what this God was really like and how He really felt about him.

For a number of years now I have increasingly realized that God longs to have a fight with us. No, He is not looking to pick a fight; rather He knows that for many of us the only way we will ever get real with Him is by letting it all hang out and really duking it out with Him. The problem for most of us though is that we have been carefully conditioned to believe that fighting God is wrong and that it equates with blasphemy. We have assumed that God would get offended if we confronted Him with the way we really feel about Him deep inside. So we put on our religious mask whenever we come around Him and pretend to worship Him, praise Him and honor Him when suppressed deep inside of us is a rage that waits to explode in His face as we tell Him fiercely how unfair we really think He is and how frustrated and angry we could be if only He were not so intimidating.

I am coming to the place where I am realizing that theology has failed us miserably in this arena. God has no problems with people that want to pick a fight with Him, not because He knows He is bigger and stronger and can always win, but because He knows far better than we do that a fight is sometimes the only way we can break through the high walls built up around our own hearts that prevent us from trusting Him and seeing who He really is.

But motivates any desire to fight with God in the first place? If God is so gracious and kind and loving and good, what could there be about Him that would give rise for any desire to be angry at Him?

What I have discovered is that it is not really the actual God that sits on the throne of the universe that anyone has a problem with, though most are certain that is the case. The god that we are angry with is a distortion of God circulated by the master deceiver that has displaced a true awareness of God implanted into our souls at creation. The God we now perceive is usually a god who is terribly inferior to the gracious, merciful, ever-loving and unconditionally forgiving God as revealed by Jesus His Son. The god we are ready to tackle and fight with all our might is the counterfeit god that is more a reflection of our own fallen nature than anything else. So when the real Father shows up to give us a much-needed hug, like Jacob we are inclined to view any touch as a prelude to exploit and harm us instead of an invitation to turn and throw ourselves into the inviting, loving arms of a caring Father.

The wonderful thing about the real Father is that He will let us fight Him for as long as it takes until we finally come to realize that He will never have a single thought of ill-will for us at any time. His love and blessing and care are never predicated on anything we do to earn it, but is simply a revelation of who He is through and through. God is love and love alone and in Him is no darkness – no ill-will at all. But sometimes it is only by fighting with all our might against our perceptions of Him that we are able to come to that awareness; so God lets us fight on while all the time holding us strongly in His arms while we flail and kick and scream obscenities until we have finished processing all the lies about Him that have made us so volatile. Then we might be ready to accept what He really came to give us.

God met Jacob where he was, by doing what Jacob could relate to the best – fighting, struggling and trying to defend himself to the last ounce of his energy. When he was all used up and yet it seemed that the match would come out as a draw, Jacob's growing suspicions were suddenly confirmed when this stranger simply touched his hip and in his searing pain of dislocation he realized this man was no human being. Why it took a crippling touch to get Jacob's attention is interesting, but very often for those with strong wills very hard heads, it takes something debilitating to get us to realize the glory of total dependence on a divine power completely outside of themselves. And if this is what it takes to keep us aware of the goodness and love of God, then it is not really a handicap at all but an enormous blessing in disguise.

God had a wonderful exchange with Jacob about his name, the very embodiment of all that had haunted and shamed him all of his life. But the most interesting part of this story is the meaning behind the new name that God gave him – overcomer. Yes, that is the meaning of the word Israel; it means the same thing as what God spoke of to each of the seven churches in Revelation. To the one who overcomes, I will...

But here is the punchline that really grabbed our attention last night as we soaked in this story. Why did God declare Jacob the winner of the wrestling match? Was it because Jacob was somehow stronger than God? Did Jacob out-maneuver God in some way? No, not at all.

Remember, Jacob's real problem was not that his brother was coming to kill him and his family as Jacob feared. Rather, Jacob's core problem was his perceptions of how he thought God wanted to relate to him. In the bargain that Jacob had tried to make with God by twisting God promises into a conditional contract, Jacob revealed that he never believed that God was as good as He really was. Most of us have that very same problem today, for this is the core problem of sin itself – believing that God is in some ways ready to punish or harm us or take offense if we don't do what He wants.

So, on what basis did God decide that Jacob was the winner in their fight together? Jacob was an overcomer because he finally faced head-on his own distorted, deceived perceptions of God and how God felt about Him. He challenged them in the light of the real truth about God who had him in His very arms. Jacob at last got real about taking God seriously and threw himself totally on the love and mercy of God instead of trying to earn His love and blessing that he craved so deeply.

When Jacob with all the desperation of a shame-filled sinner decided to cling to God no matter what might happen until he received the blessing he knew he had to have, God declared that Jacob was the winner, an overcomer. God said that Jacob had struggled with men as well as with God and had overcome. And what really hit us as we looked at this closely last night was that it was the struggle itself that Jacob finally overcame. Jacob did not win because his struggles had gotten him the upper hand as he had always tried to do all his life. Rather Jacob overcame by letting go, but giving up his struggle, and as soon as he quit fighting God declared him to be the winner.

That reminded me of Hebrews four where we are told that there still remains a 'rest' for the people of God to enter into. Jacob finally discovered that place of rest – in the arms of the One he had previously assumed had come to hurt him. But when he fought through and overcame his many lies about God and saw that though this God had infinite power so as to be able to just barely touch his hip and dislocate it, yet He had restrained His own strength all night to only match Jacob's without even beginning to exercise His own superior advantage. When Jacob caught onto this, he finally realized that the only way he could experience the joy of the blessing being offered to him was to take it without any preconditions and just believe that God loved him no matter what his feelings might insist.

One more thing that we noticed in this story last night was the definition of a blessing. What was it that Jehoshaphat did when he sent the choir out in front to meet an enemy force armed to the teeth and intent on using force and violence to annihilate them? Blessing is speaking well of someone, it is expressing genuine admiration and appreciation for the enormous blessing they have been to you. And that is why the choir was sent first, to steer everyone's attention to God's goodness and faithfulness instead of allowing fear to dominate their thinking.

So how does that fit with Jacob demanding a blessing from God before he would release Him? And as an aside, why would the all-powerful God of the universe say that He couldn't get away because Jacob was hanging onto Him. Is God really that wimpy, or is something else going on here?

Its the same reason that Jesus later said something almost identical to Mary Magdalene in the garden outside His empty tomb. “Please Mary, don't keep hanging onto me because I really need to go see my Father. But I promise, I will come back very soon.” Was Jesus really so weak that He couldn't escape a woman's fingers around His ankles? Or in both stories is the real truth that when we finally wrap our hearts and emotions and passion around the heart of God, it is impossible for Him to every back away from such desire?

When Jacob made this demand on God after technically 'losing' the fight (total hip displacement) and yet being declared the winner by his opponent, the blessing that he received from God was just what all of us need. And we can have it whenever we choose to engage in our own fight of faith and overcome our own unbelief, fears and misconceptions about Him. God declared that no longer would his name be Jacob – deceiver, supplanter, cheat, liar... but he should now see himself as a winner, an overcomer, an honored son of the family of heaven. No matter what had happened in his past, none of that was to be the identification that this man should now use to define who he was. From now on he was to think of himself as one who had learned to quit struggling, quit defending himself and instead live in restful trust in the heart of the God who loved him perfectly and had promised to take care of everything.

God blessed Jacob, but the real blessing was not so much in the promises of goodies in a large inheritance or great wealth or a fame that would last throughout eternity; no, the real blessing was more direct. God spoke well of Jacob and changed his very identity so that he no longer need live in shame and fear again. Now he could quit struggling and live in restful trust that God could handle all his problems. Now he could learn to live as a winner instead of a loser.

Maybe its time for some of us to get into a knock-down drag-out fight with God so we can expose the lies we harbor about how He feels about us to confront them in the open. When we are finally willing to get real about our deep suspicions and fear and complaints and rage about the internal perceptions we have had about God, and when all of these misconceptions and fears are exposed by the light of the real truth about Him, then we too can learn that we are winners even when outward appearances make it look like we may have lost a fight. It says that Jacob/Israel had a limp for the rest of his life from this encounter with God. But the limp that to others looked like a sign of defeat become the ever-present reminder that God was more than enough for anything he might ever face again. I want to learn that lesson like Jacob did.

No, I don't like the idea that something may have to really hurt me to break through the mental blocks I have that prevent me from letting God love me freely. But if that is what it takes, then I must agree with Paul when he accepted God telling him that God's strength is exposed most clearly in our weakness.

So I don't have to make myself perfect for God to love me. I may need to fight with God until I wear myself out to learn that I never really had to fight to begin with if I would just let Him give me the hug He originally showed up to offer me. God really is far better than what others told me or anything I have ever been willing to imagine before. It would be good if I could learn from other people's experiences and maybe just take a little more direct route to the heart of God instead of trying all the dead-end streets that leave me frustrated and stuck.

Father, I choose to let you love me today in whatever way You choose. You know I love hugs from You and I hope I am willing to let You do that whenever You desire. Thank-you so much for these stories that help me see how blessing can work in both directions. When I speak the truth about You openly – speak well of you in words or in music – that praise has the ability to unleash Your infinite power into any circumstances no matter how intimidating.
But just as importantly, You are eager to speak well of me, and I want to learn to believe what You say instead of incessantly repeating the defeating negative mantras of my past. Help me to embrace the 'new name' You have for me, the new identity with a new family history and predispositions and tendencies that You want to instill into me from my new ancestry in Christ. I choose to accept Your blessing and in response to bless You so that others may also be attracted to want to know such an incredible, amazing, generous and gracious Father.

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalms 34:1-8)


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