January 11

Genesis 35-37, Psalm 11

Every relationship needs to be maintained if it is to remain viable and healthy. When we meet our spouses we go out of our way to be thoughtful, to get to know them in order to see if they are indeed the one for us to marry. Imagine walking down the aisle, saying, "I do", then ignoring your spouse figuring you found her so nothing more needs be done. Many marriages fall apart when life chokes out this love. This could be by overly focusing on our children to the exclusion of one another, overly dedicating ourselves at work trying to climb the corporate ladder, worrying about finances, etc. When this occurs the choice is either to allow this deterioration to continue or return to our first love. Returning back to those things that made the married couple love each other to begin with. Our relationship with God is no different. When Jesus is talking to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:4-5, he reminds them, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent."

Jacobs's conversion experience occurs many years before at Bethel. After he dreamed in Genesis 28:12 of a ladder that went between heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending on it, we see Jacob awake and make a vow to God. We read in 28:20-22, "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I set as a pillar shall be God's house, and all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You". As Jacob runs from Esau this is the conditional commitment that he makes. Over twenty years later, living most of his life in his own strength and rarely considering God we see him returning to where it all began. We see this second time in Bethel, Jacob consecrates or sets apart himself and his family as he returns to his first love. We read in 35:1-3, "Then God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother." And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone." When Abraham runs to Egypt and lies to Pharaoh, he does the same thing. He returns to where his journey with God first began. We read in Genesis 13:3-4, "And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord."

Our relationship with a God is no different. If we were at one time on fire for God, but find ourselves years later just going through the motions, now in a stale, obligatory relationship, return to what we did when we were in love with Him. If it was getting up earlier and spending dedicated time in His Word every day before leaving the house, do it again. If it was going to mid-week Bible study or being part of a home group, do it again. If it was listening to Christian worship or pastoral messages while driving rather than talk radio or sports, return back. If you were evangelizing and sharing your faith, begin again. In worldly relationships people may choose to not forgive you or restore that relationship. The beautiful thing in our relationship with God is like the father welcoming back the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:20-25, He will always forgive us and welcome us back. So, if we have backslidden, approach Him and return to those things that first brought you to fall in love with God.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster