Devotions

Category Archives: Family Tree

That Crazy Uncle

Pruning • That Crazy Uncle
James Clouse | Student Pastor

Passage: Genesis 29:21-30

Do you have the one relative that everybody avoids during all of the family gatherings? What makes them the outcast of the party? Why does everybody avoid that person? It is possible that the person may have caused a bunch of trouble in the past and is now kind of the outcast of the party.

While it is good to make sure we forgive people of their past and move on, we also should be careful of family members that have a bad reputation. There are instances where I may be careful which relatives I let watch my daughter or to which relatives I lend money.

Jacob also had an uncle that was not worthy of his trust.

“Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her.”

“And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.”

“So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.”
(Genesis 29:21-23, 25-28, 30)

To give some context here, Jacob was sent to find a wife from his family. So Jacob went on a journey to find a wife (not so different from now). As Rachel, a shepherdess was coming to water her sheep Jacob noticed her. He showed off his muscle and won her over.

Jacob then spoke with Laban, her father, saying he wanted to marry her. Laban agreed but with a price; Jacob was to work for him for seven years. Jacob did so without any argument. The day of the wedding Laban gave him the wrong wife (talk about crazy!). I am sure that Laban could have told Jacob that Leah had to be married first before Rachel, but instead, he chose to take advantage of Jacob.

But instead of arguing with Jacob and going after him with a vengeance, Jacob did what he needed to do to marry Rachel, the one whom he loved.

We can learn from Jacob when it comes to our relatives who are hard to deal with or cause problems. We need to learn to forgive, but also be cautious of them. I am sure that Jacob thought twice in the future before letting Laban get too close to his family.

Bait and Switch

Pruning • Bait and Switch
Phil Piasecki | Worship Leader

There is nothing that I dislike more than being tricked. I think we have all been duped at one point or another. Maybe it was an online listing for something, but when it came in the mail it looked nothing like that ad or did not even work! My brother once ordered basketball shoes online, they came from China, and they were complete rip-offs. They were two sizes smaller than it said and looked like they could fall apart at any moment. Foolishly, I once bought a used riding lawn mower from a place with a no return policy. The ad said it started up and ran well; the only problem was that it did not do either! Sadly, we can also be tricked and deceived by people that we love, and nothing hurts more than that. I know many of us have stories that come to mind when we think about it, but I am sure none of them compare to what happened with Jacob and Rachel in Genesis chapter 29.

In this passage, we find Jacob meeting Rachel for the first time. It was love at first sight, and Jacob just knew he had to marry her. So Jacob seeks out her father, Laban, and agrees to arrange the marriage.

Genesis 29:18-20 reads, “Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”

What a love story! The Scripture essentially says the seven years felt like a few days because Jacob loved Rachel so much. Unfortunately, it is at this point of the story where it all starts to fall apart.

Genesis 29:21-27 adds, “Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.’”

Laban tricked Jacob and gave him his first born daughter, Leah, on their wedding night instead. Not only does he trick him, but then requires that Jacob work another seven years to marry Rachel. When we finish the story, we see that Jacob faithfully works those seven more years because he loved Rachel so much. Now, I highly doubt any of us will find ourselves in the position of Jacob and Rachel, but there is still so much that we can learn from this story to apply to our own families.

Jacob was going through a very tough time for those fourteen years, but he stayed faithful through the whole thing. He honored his commitment to Laban even though Laban did not honor his commitment. There are going to be times when family life is difficult, when being married is difficult, and when raising children is difficult, but we have to persevere because of the commitments we have made. Loving your spouse is tough sometimes, but loving them is what you committed to do. You may not always feel like loving them, but love is about a commitment, not a feeling.

Jacob committed to marry Rachel, and he worked fourteen years just to see it through! That truth needs to inspire you when you feel like giving up on the commitment that you made to your spouse. If someone told you that marriage was going to be easy, I am sorry to say that they lied to you. With Christ at the center, there can be so much joy in marriage, but there will also be hardships. There will be times when loving each other will be tough. There will be times when you are hurt, deceived, and maybe do not feel loved. We need to look at the love Jacob had for Rachel, and the love that Christ has for us, as examples of how we are to love each other. We sin against God every day, yet He still loves us unconditionally. Imitate that love and commitment in your marriage, and you will see God do incredible things.

Tough to Love When You Favor

Pruning • Tough to Love When You Favor
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I recently made one of the hugest mistakes of my parenting career. It was one of those days at my house. My oldest son, who was almost 2, was destroying my house. He was legitimately destroying everything. Broly was taking his play hammer and pounding the walls, he took the toy hockey stick and hit several things off the wall, and somehow managed to hit his little brother Zeke. I picked up Zeke and got him to stop crying. Then I said something that I soon quickly regretted, I looked at Zeke and said, “This is why you are my favorite.” Now I did not mean that wholeheartedly, but at the moment frustration got the best of me. What makes it worse was my wife heard me and came out from the kitchen and informed me why this statement was not correct to say.

Family dysfunction starts with the parents. Parents are not perfect, and kids can be hard to love, but as parents, we must stay the course and show them the example of Christ in our lives. I grew up in a family where it seemed as if it was always aunt against aunt, uncle against uncle, and cousin against cousin. It never seemed abnormal to me to be pitted against my siblings. It was never off to see my parents pitted against my aunts and uncles. Looking back on it, that kind of dysfunction can break people. Sadly, all of the drama between Jacob and Esau started with Isaac and Rebekah. Genesis 25:28 says, “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

It is really easy to see how Jacob and Esau’s conflict grew to split the family. It is easy to find fault in the scheming Jacob and the foolish Esau. But getting to the root of the issue shows Isaac and Rebekah’s favoritism. I look at both my boys and I see the crazy, fearless Broly and I see the sweet, smiley, chunky Zeke. I love them both in different ways, but putting favor on one over the other is wrong. If we are honest, sometimes that can happen. Family life becomes difficult and tough to love when children are brought up in a world where they feel they must compete for their parent’s approval.

By no means have I arrived as a parent; I am a novice at best. But I strive not to let favoritism rule in my family. We all know there are things that you like and do not like about people. Romans 2:11 says, “For God shows no partiality.” God loves everyone equally; you cannot earn more or less with God. God loves you for you, not your deeds, good or bad. I took a moment where I looked at the negative actions of my son and deemed him less, and that is wrong. Isaac deemed Esau greater because he was older and a hunter. Let us let love guide our relationships with our kids, not our preference.

Shears Energy

Pruning • Shears Energy
Jen Combs | Wife of Lead Pastor Josh Combs

“I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2

With the convenience of the grocery store, most of us have no idea what goes into growing the fruit that we so nonchalantly throw into our cart. Jesus is talking in these verses, and He is describing some things in a way that everyone during that time would fully understand. It can be explained in such a way that we understand where He is going with this.

Picture an apple tree. I have an apple tree in my garden that is huge and has been there for many, many years. The trunk is large, and if you wanted to get to the top branches, you would need a super tall ladder. I am not sure how tall because I am lazy and I never pick higher than I can reach or that my kids can climb! Like the tree analogy, Jesus calls Himself the vine. Think of Him as the trunk of this apple tree; He is firm and steady. He is holding us up, and we cannot grow without Him. That makes us the branches of the apple tree, but we will get to that in a minute. The vinedresser in the analogy is God. You are probably thinking, “What in the world is a vinedresser?” This is someone who prunes, trains, and cultivates vines.

Every year, if I am on top of things, I look at my apple trees and assess how all of my branches look. I ask several questions. Are there too many shoots growing off of them? Are the shoots sucking the life out of one branch? Are there branches growing over each other choking each other? Are there dead branches that are dried up? If they are any of the above, I need to prune them out for the betterment of the whole tree. If I do not, I hurt the tree, it will be weak, diseased, and not grow great fruit.

Just like the verses say, He prunes and takes away so that it may bear more fruit. This is what God does to our lives. He is pruning us, cultivating us, and training us so we can be more fruitful for the Kingdom of God. Sometimes when I prune the apple tree, it looks so bear that I stand back and gasp thinking, what did I just do? But, low and behold, the next growing season it is beautiful and abundant. Did you know that God does this to us? He prunes things and people out of our lives and man it can hurt. You may feel that God has stripped you of everything; you may feel bare like my apple tree. When God wants to remove unhealthy things out of our lives, and we cling onto them, it is painful. As we hold tight, God takes His pruning shearers and snips it right out.

What are some things or people that you feel God is pruning out of your life because they are not helping you grow in your walk with Christ? What do you need to “cut” out of your life? Is it some of your music? Could it be certain movies you are watching? Maybe it is your toxic best friend that is not prodding you to love Jesus? Is it your boyfriend/girlfriend that does not really know Christ? It could even be a sibling that hinders your attempt to be clean and sober? The list could go on for miles. Trust me do not hold on to what God is trying to prune. If you truly know Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are going to want to grow in love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control for Him (Galatians 5).

Husband and Wife

Nurturing • Husband and Wife
Dr. Randy T. Johnson | Growth Pastor

The Family Tree starts with a couple. When a man and woman get married, they may talk about enlarging the family, but it needs to start with their relationship to each other. Love and respect must be at the core. Nurturing starts with each other. The tendency can be to put all our focus on the children, but the Bible is clear that it needs to start with each other.

Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” The wife is to love her man by respecting him. She needs to be proud of him and express it. He needs to be her number one priority, even before the children.

Before we men start applauding, verse 25 continues the conversation, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” It must be important because in verse 28 Paul repeats the command to husbands, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” The husband is to love his woman by sacrificing for her. He needs to go out of his way to serve her. She needs to be his number one priority, even before work or the children.

I find the topic of Love Languages helpful. I think it is important to figure out what activities and actions speak loudest to our spouse.

The five Love Languages:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Acts of service
3. Receiving gifts
4. Quality time
5. Physical touch

My wife and I have found that our Love Languages have changed a little through the years. Where me cleaning the kitchen (acts of service) was so appreciated, kind words reach her heart in a deeper way. Jewelry used to be the golden ticket, but now quality time speaks louder. It is important to discuss how to be better for and with each other.

Verse 33 summarizes for both husbands and wives, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”



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