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Families Are Dysfunctional...but God - Genesis 31

Taught on | Topic: Family | Keywords: birthright, blessing, deceive, dysfunctional, failure, family, providence

One of the most used (if not overused) terms of our culture is the term dysfunctional. It has become the chic descriptor of flawed and broken people and especially families. Too often this expression is used as an excuse to justify bad behaviors in other people. But this story of Jacob and Laban yields much insight into human behavior as well as divine intervention. Here we discover three levels of relational interaction and family dynamics.

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Families Are Dysfunctional...but God
Genesis 31
Skip Heitzig
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One of the most used (if not overused) terms of our culture is the term dysfunctional. It has become the chic descriptor of flawed and broken people and especially families. Too often this expression is used as an excuse to justify bad behaviors in other people. But this story of Jacob and Laban yields much insight into human behavior as well as divine intervention. Here we discover three levels of relational interaction and family dynamics.
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...but God

...but God

All of us experience times of desperation, but as James Montgomery Boice said, "If you understand those two words, 'But God,' they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely." In this series, Skip Heitzig explores the "but God" moments of David, Jonah, Moses, and other biblical figures, encouraging us to let the Lord turn our personal periods into pivot points.

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Outline

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  1. Every Family Is Dysfunctional (vv. 1-2)

  2. God Can Function in Dysfunction (v. 3)

  3. Growth Is Seeing God Instead of Dysfunction (vv. 4-11)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: June 3, 2018
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Families Are Dysfunctional…but God"
Text: Genesis 31

Path

One of the most used (if not overused) terms of our culture is the word dysfunctional. It has become the chic descriptor of flawed and broken people and especially families. Too often this expression is used as an excuse to justify bad behaviors in other people. But this story of Jacob and Laban yields much insight into human behavior as well as divine intervention. Here we discover three levels of relational interaction and family dynamics.
  1. Every Family Is Dysfunctional (vv. 1-2)
  2. God Can Function in Dysfunction (v. 3)
  3. Growth Is Seeing God Instead of Dysfunction (vv. 4-11)
Points

Every Family Is Dysfunctional (vv. 1-2)
  • Families are like fudge: they're mostly sweet but sprinkled with a few nuts.
  • You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family—but you can choose to adjust to your family.
  • In Genesis 31, we find two dysfunctional families—Jacob’s and Laban's.
  • Consider the family of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham:
    • His parents played favorites. Esau and Jacob were twins: Esau was born first, but Jacob had grabbed Esau's heel at birth, a symbol of reversed birth order and blessing.
    • God said Esau would serve Jacob, but their father, Isaac, preferred Esau and fought against God's prediction. Jacob connived and deceived and ultimately tricked Esau out of his birthright for a mere bowl of stew.
    • When Isaac was old, Jacob and his mother, Rebekah, conspired to deceive Isaac into blessing Jacob. As a result, Jacob had to flee Esau's wrath and was sent away to his uncle Laban's house.
  • Consider Laban's dysfunction:
    • Laban was a master deceiver. He had promised Jacob his daughter, Rachel, in marriage, but on their wedding night, Laban switched Rachel for his older daughter, Leah.
    • Jacob had two wives, two surrogate (concubine) wives, lots of kids, and many problems.
  • Every person—and every family—has issues. We are all dysfunctional. The culprit is sin which affects every person and every family.
  • Jesus described humans as poor, brokenhearted, captives, blind and oppressed (see Luke 4:18).
  • Probe: If you're comfortable sharing, describe some of the dysfunctional aspects of the family you grew up in. How did you cope with the dysfunction?
God Can Function in Dysfunction (v. 3)
  • A dysfunctional family never stopped God from blessing a family and working through them. Our perfect God uses imperfect people; our holy God works through unholy people. There is no other kind of people for Him to use.
  • Amid dysfunction, God spoke to Jacob and Laban. God did not withhold truth until Jacob got it together or got past his dysfunction. God spoke and led despite imperfect relationships and circumstances.
  • Taking failure as the final word is to fail. To grow, we must learn from failure. Don't let your failure define you; make your failure serve you.
  • God reserves the right to use people who disagree with us and don't like us. God uses as He chooses.
  • Probe: Share a time when God worked through a dysfunctional situation in your life. What were the circumstances? How did God work despite them?
Growth Is Seeing God Instead of Dysfunction (vv. 4-11)
  • Jacob grew. He included God in his situation and acted. He gathered his family together to discuss the problems. He was honest and candid. He revealed a new way of seeing, of processing evil and pain.
  • Jacob wore a new set of glasses with lenses that focused on God, not garbage: but God bifocals. Jacob knew that bad things happen, but he set his gaze on God.
  • Jacob's actions revealed:
    • God's presence (v. 5): When life gets weird, it's easy to feel like God has abandoned you, but He doesn't. He is right there with you.
    • God's protection (v. 7): "…but God did not allow him to hurt me."
    • God's partnership (v. 9): God gave Jacob a new life. Jacob looked at God, who functioned despite dysfunction.
  • Other biblical heroes also wore but God bifocals:
    • Joseph: "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…" (Genesis 50:20).
    • David: "David stayed in…the wilderness…. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand" (1 Samuel 23:14).
    • Ezra: "They refused to obey…. But You are God…" (Nehemiah 9:17).
    • Paul: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…" (Romans 8:28).
  • The right glasses let you see the divine hand; they pull back the curtain of God's providence.
  • No matter how bad things have been, don't let dysfunction define you; God is able to function in your dysfunction.
  • Probe: What steps can you take to put on a new set of glasses—but God bifocals—and step away from dysfunction? Focus on the Family counselor Tim Sanford recommends these steps: become aware, take ownership, purposefully observe, educate ourselves about dysfunction, evaluate relationships, read Proverbs, practice healthy living, and be patient.1 What else can you think of?
Practice

Connect Up: The Christian life has three stages: justification (salvation), sanctification (being conformed into the image of Christ), and glorification (going home to the Lord upon death)—all part of His desire for us to overcome our dysfunction. How can we better partner with God in the sanctification process, turning dysfunction into function, and clothing ourselves with the character of Christ? Read Colossians 3:12-17 for insight.

Connect In: Though we wish it wasn't, the church is full of dysfunctional people, at times mimicking a biological family. How are we to handle one another when dysfunction arises within the church? Read and discuss these verses: Matthew 18:15-20; Philippians 2:1-4; James 4:7-12.

Connect Out: How would you explain to an unbeliever the fact that saved people are still sinners (see 1 John 1:10), at times acting dysfunctional? How would you share the process of going from spiritual dysfunction to function via the gospel?

Tim Sanford, "Eight Steps to Break Up a Cycle of Family Dysfunction," May 19, 2014, http://www.boundless.org/adulthood/2014/8-steps-to-break-a-cycle-of-family-dysfunction, accessed 06/03/18.

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. You can't choose your family, but you can choose to adjust to and add positivity to your family
    2. The term dysfunctional family has been used since the 1960s to describe families that have problems that follow children into the next generation
    3. Dysfunctional is overused, but dysfunction is pervasive
  2. Every Family Is Dysfunctional (vv. 1-2)
    1. Genesis 27-33 chronicles one messed up family: Jacob, his wives Rachel and Leah, and his father-in-law, Laban
    2. Jacob both came from and married into a dysfunctional family
      1. Dysfunctional people tend to attract dysfunctional people
      2. Jacob and Laban were two peas in a dysfunctional pod
    3. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are biblical heroes, but lying and deception was practiced and passed on for generations
      1. Jacob's parents played favorites: Isaac preferred Esau; Rebekah preferred Jacob (see Genesis 25:28)
      2. God predicted Esau, the oldest, would serve Jacob, the youngest (see Genesis 25:23); Isaac fought against God's prediction
      3. Jacob connived, deceived, and tricked Esau out of his birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew (see Genesis 25:29-33)
      4. When Isaac was old, Jacob and Rebekah conspired to deceive Isaac into giving Jacob his blessing (see Genesis 27)
    4. Jacob fell in love with Rachel, whose father, Laban, was a master deceiver (see Genesis 29:18-28)
      1. Laban forced Jacob to work for him for seven years in order to marry Rachel
      2. On their wedding night, Laban switched Rachel for his older daughter, Leah
      3. Jacob worked seven more years for Laban to finally marry Rachel
    5. Jacob had two wives, two concubine wives, lots of kids, and many problems
    6. Every human has their issues that affect their family and the family they marry into
      1. We don't function the way God intended
      2. Dysfunction is the result of sin (see 1 Corinthians 15:21)
      3. Even the church is dysfunctional
      4. Jesus described humans as poor, brokenhearted, captives, blind, and oppressed (see Luke 4:18)
  3. God Can Function in Dysfunction (v. 3)
    1. A dysfunctional family never stopped God from functioning, blessing, or working through that family
      1. God spoke to Jacob (see v. 3)
      2. God spoke to Laban (see v. 24)
    2. Perfect God works through and uses imperfect people; Holy God speaks to and works through unholy people
      1. There is no other kind of people for Him to use (see 1 Corinthians 1:27)
      2. Peter failed; Moses failed; David failed; Abraham failed; Isaac and Jacob failed
      3. Taking failure as the final word is to fail; learning from failure is to grow
      4. Don't let your failure define you—make your failure serve you
    3. God reserves the right to use people who disagree with you, who don't like you
  4. Growth Is Seeing God Instead of Dysfunction (vv. 4-11)
    1. Jacob demonstrated real spiritual growth (see vv. 4-8)
      1. He included God in his situation
      2. He gathered his family together to discuss the problems; he was honest and candid  
      3. He revealed a new way of seeing, of processing evil and pain; the lens through which he now viewed his life and events was but God bifocals
      4. He acknowledged God's presence (see v. 5), God's protection (see v. 7), and God's partnership (see v. 9)
    2. Jacob saw the functioning God rather than the dysfunction around him
    3. Other biblical heroes also wore but God bifocals
      1. Joseph (see Genesis 50:20)
      2. David (see 1 Samuel 23:14)
      3. Ezra (see Nehemiah 9:17)
      4. Paul (see Romans 8:28)
  5. Closing
    1. But God bifocals let you see the divine hand; they pull back the curtain of providence
    2. Let's interpret life through the lens of but God bifocals
    3. God is never intimidated by our flaws or failures; He can match all our dysfunction with His faithfulness
    4. The gospel—the cross—is the greatest example of how God functions in our dysfunction
Figures referenced: James Montgomery Boice, George Burns, Richard Carl Hoefler, J.I. Packer, George Bernard Shaw

Cross references: Genesis 25:23, 28, 29-33; 27; 29:18-28; 31; 50:20; 1 Samuel 23:14; Nehemiah 9:17; Luke 4:18; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 1:27; 15:21

Transcript

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Families Are Dysfunctional …but God - Genesis 31 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Would you turn in your Bibles please the Genesis Chapter 31-- first book of the Bible, Genesis, 31st chapter-- Genesis Chapter 31. Somebody once said that families are a lot like fudge. They're mostly sweet, but sprinkled with some nuts. Everybody has that weird uncle, or goofy cousin, or extravagant aunt. You just never know who's going to be in a family until you meet them.

There was once a mother who had a young daughter. And the daughter said, mommy, where did human beings come from? She said, sweetie, God created Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had children. They had children. And eventually, that's how we came here.

Well, she then asked her father the same question-- where do people come from? And he said, well, a long time ago, there were monkeys. And they evolved. And this is where we came from. We evolved from them.

So now this little girl is very confused, goes back to mom, and says, mom, I don't understand it You said God created us. Dad says that we evolved from monkeys. So which is it?

And Mom smiled and said, sweetheart, it's quite simple. Your father was explaining his side of the family, and I was explaining my side of the family.

[LAUGHTER]

You know, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. But you can choose to adjust to your family. And you can choose to add positively to your family.

There was an old husband and wife. They had been married four years. They were sitting by the fire. He reached over and took her hand. And then he turned toward his wife and had a romantic thought.

And he said, after 50 years, I've found you tried and true. Well, she couldn't hear very well. Her hearing was going. And she said, what?

And he said, after 50 years, I've found you tried and true. And a scowl came over her face. And she said, well, after 50 years, I'm tired of you too.

[LAUGHTER]

There is a common term that has emerged over the last few decades. And that is the term dysfunctional-- a dysfunctional family. It was popularized at first in the late 1960s, became very popular in the '70s, mainstream in the '80s, and then continues to be overused since the '90s-- a dysfunctional family. And that's a term to describe families that have problems in dealing with one another and problems that follow the kids after they leave the house.

However, dysfunction may be more pervasive than you might think. Playwright George Shaw once said, "If other planets are inhabited, then they must be using Earth as their insane asylum." And maybe in hearing that comment, you're thinking, did he know my family?

Now we're looking at Genesis Chapter 31. And we're going to look in particular at a family that I would say is dysfunctional. And you'll find out why in a moment. In fact, I would even say you could take Genesis chapter 27 all the way to chapter 33 and call it dysfunction junction because it is the story of one messed up family.

We come to chapter 31, which is the story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah, and his father-in-law by the name of Laban, and then Laban's sons. All of them are in this story. There's a little bit of sweet fudge in this family but you'll see there's a whole lot of nuts. We're in chapter 31. If you don't mind, can I scoot back one verse into chapter 30, just for a little bit of context? Last verse of chapter 30 is verse 43. Let's begin there.

"Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous," the man here is Jacob. Jacob, who is now moved, married, integrated in a new family, "Thus the man Jacob became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys. Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, 'Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has acquired all this wealth.'

And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, 'Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.' So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, and said to them, 'I see your father's countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before, but the God of my father has been with me.

And you know that with all my might I have served your father. Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. If he said thus, 'the speckled shall be your wages,'" those are speckled animals, "'then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus, 'the streaked shall be our wages,' then all the flocks bore streaked.' So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.'"

What I'd like to do with what we just read is consider it in three levels. Beginning with the most basic level, I want to show you three levels of family relational life. So I'm going to make three statements. The most basic followed by the second, which is God's response to all that, and then the third, which is our response to God's response.

Let's begin with the most basic. Here's the statement. Every family is dysfunctional. I don't apologize for that statement. I aim to explain it. Every family is dysfunctional. Jacob came from a dysfunctional family, and he is now married into another dysfunctional family. I'm going to show you that in brief in a moment.

What you need to see, though, is God is at work. And I did a little bit of research in this this week. And it seems to be a common thread among those who study this topic, and that is that dysfunctional people have a way of attracting other dysfunctional people. In fact, one author calls them dysfunctional magnets. So here's Jacob, and here are Laban, and they're like two peas in the dysfunctional pod. It's funny how they even came together and what came out of it.

Let's begin with Jacob and his history. Now Jacob's grandpa was Abraham, right? You know that. His dad was Isaac, so you have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They sound like heroes. Far as we're concerned, they're Bible heroes. However, grandpa wasn't perfect. Abraham deceived, he told lies about his wife on two different occasions, he passed that practice, unfortunately, onto his own son Isaac, who lied about his wife later on. And then you come to Jacob.

Now, his father, Isaac, married a woman named Rebecca. So Isaac and Rebecca have two children, Esau and Jacob. When they are born, they're off to a bad start because one parent favors one child, the other parent favors the other child. That's weird. That's bad stuff.

So dad, Isaac, favors Esau, the firstborn, because he's sort of a man's man. He likes to hunt, brings stuff in, and he likes that. When it comes to Jacob, Jacob is Rebecca's favorite son. The Bible says he was a mild man-- that's a Bible way of saying he's a mama's boy. He stayed home and he cooked.

And so they started off poorly. They're playing off one another because of the favoritism of their parents. Now let me add something to that. Before they were born, God made a prediction to Isaac about these two boys. He said, the older one is going to serve the younger one.

Culturally, that was backwards. Culturally, the firstborn is the one to whom the family blessing goes to, thus the second born, or the youngest, usually served the oldest. But God said, not here. The older will serve the younger.

Now Isaac should have said, I'm good with that, because it happened to him. He had an older half brother by the name of Ishmael. Ishmael was pushed aside. God selected Isaac to be the Son of Promise. So when God says to Isaac, you're going to have two boys. The older one is going to serve the younger one. He should have said, I'm good with that. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt, we'll do it again.

But rather than that, Isaac tries everything he can to not let that happen. So his wife gets pregnant. There are twins in the womb. At the birth, Esau comes out first-- he's the first born. And he comes out with a lot of hair. So they're very inventive in their naming. They call him Hairy. That's what Esau means-- hairy.

So after Hairy is born, twin number two comes out of the womb grabbing onto the heel of Esau. So again, they're very creative in their naming. They call him heal catcher. That's what Yacov means. Jacob means supplanter, one who grabs the heel or one who trips somebody else.

So picture that little baby coming out of the womb after number one, holding onto the heel as if to say, I want your position. That becomes a metaphor for how they live their life. Well, when these boys are grown, Esau, the oldest, who's been out hunting, comes home and finds Jacob-- guess what he's doing-- cooking. Cooking in the tent. And he's cooking this red chili posole. And Esau comes in and says, yee, posole. Give me some of that stew.

And Jacob was quick on his feet, says, you can have a bowl of this red stew under one condition-- I want your birthright. Esau says, I could care less about that spiritual stuff. I'm not into that anyway. You can have it. They shake on it. Years pass, fast-forward several years. Dad is now old. Isaac knows he doesn't have much time, so he calls his son Esau, the firstborn, and says, go out hunting. Come back and bring me some good meat, then I'll give you the family blessing.

Just to show you how messed up the family is, Rebecca, the old man's wife, is eavesdropping on the conversation. In the next section of the tent, beyond the little tent flap, she's listening to this conversation. She takes her favorite son, Jacob, and says, let's deceive dad. Let's steal the blessing. You need to dress up and put some sheep's fur on your skin so he thinks you're hairy like-- he doesn't see well anyway. So come in and lower your voice a little bit, and we'll make you smell bad like you've been outside. And then he'll feel you, and he'll think that you're your brother, and he'll give you the blessing.

So can you see just how messed up this family is? So he comes in, pretends to be his brother. His Father blesses him thinking he's blessing the firstborn. He takes that blessing to heart and then runs away and gets out of town. So you've got these two boys, Esau and Jacob-- complete opposites. Totally different. Both flawed but very different. You've discovered that in having kids, that one child is born and then another child is born and their personalities are completely different.

I heard about a child psychologist that also had twin boys. And one boy was pessimistic and one boy was optimistic. And no matter what happened, the pessimist was always down, and always negative, and always had a bad thing to say. The optimist was always, life is good, everything's great.

So one day, this parent, this child psychologist, decided that he would do something different for the next Christmas, which he did. He decided to buy his pessimistic son all the toys, all the games, and just load his room up with as much as he could. Maybe that would change things. And he gave to his optimistic son nothing but a pile of horse droppings. Kind of a cruel experiment, right?

Christmas night, he walks into the son who's the pessimist with all the toys around him and the kid's crying. Dad says, what's wrong? You've got all the toys, all the games. He said, man, look at all the manuals I have to read to figure these things out, all the batteries I have to have to make these things work. And he goes, and they're all going to break anyway. He's just crying. He's pessimistic.

He goes then into the room of his son, the optimist. And his son, the optimist, is dancing, and singing, and happy, dancing around the horse manure. And his dad says, what on earth are you so happy about? The little boy said, well, with all this manure, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere. Just always the optimist.

Well, Jacob would be the kid who says, if you got a pony, I'm stealing it, and I'm leaving town. He takes the blessing, gets out of town. But here's what I want you to see. Back up for a moment. Once you get out of the intrigue of what the family was really look like, and you look at the Bible as a whole, you understand that Jacob is considered a biblical hero.

In the New Testament, he even makes the list in Hebrews chapter 11 of the hall of fame of faithful godly people. It says, by faith, Abraham, by faith, Moses, and by faith, Jacob. His name is mentioned. So he's a Bible hero. Yet, he is all messed up and highly dysfunctional.

Well, he leaves home, goes east, meets the girl of his dreams. Her name is Rachel. She's gorgeous, and he falls hard for Rachel. Rachel takes Jacob, the deceiver, home to meet her dad, named Laban. When Jacob meets Laban, he has met his match.

Laban turns out to be a master deceiver. He says, you want my daughter as your wife? No problem. You just got to work for me for seven years, and then she'll be your wife. And then one of the most beautiful romantic passages of the Bible. It says, "and those seven years seemed but a day to him because of the love that he had for her." So he worked seven years.

Then comes the wedding day, and that wedding night. And that bride is all dressed up, and he thinks it's Rachel. But it's not. Laban, the master deceiver father-in-law, switches his daughters on Jacob and gives him, not Rachel-- the girl he loved-- but her sister Leah, the older sister who wasn't as pretty. He wakes up the next day, turns over in the bed, and sees it's Leah, and he was like, [GASPS]. That's what Laban did.

You say, well, how is that even possible? In those days, at weddings, brides were heavily veiled, and the husband didn't really get a good look except until the next morning. So father-in-law pulls a switcheroo. He's just out deceived the deceiver, and he's goofing around with his own daughters. So he has to work another seven years to get Rachel.

Then we come, years later, to this scene. Years have passed, two wives later, two more concubine wives later, a whole bunch of kids later, and then verse 1, "Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons," so that's his brother-in-law, saying, "Jacob has taken away all that was our father's. And from what was our father's he has acquired all this wealth. And Jacob saw that the countenance of Laban--" that's the body language.

You know how it is when somebody was always looking to you with a nice look, and all of a sudden they look at you with a scowl? That's what's happening. "And indeed, it was not favorable toward him as before." So now you've got these two deceivers. They've spent time together. At this point, they can't trust each other. And these false accusations are flying in the family about Jacob.

I'm sure that when Jacob left home, when he fled after stealing the blessing, he probably thought, whew, am I glad to be out of that house. Now I can have a normal life. And yet, he marries into this family only to discover it's very much the same as his first family.

I bring that up because there was an interesting study from Brown University, and the researchers said this-- many people hope that once they leave home they will leave their family and childhood problems behind. However, many find that they experience similar problems as well as similar feelings and relationship patterns long after they have left their own family environment.

And it's easy to answer why that is because wherever you go, you take you. All that made you, all that formed and shaped you, all of that stuff from your background follows you around until you deal with it. But the greater point is this-- all families are dysfunctional. All of them. Every human on this planet has their own issues. And because every person has their own issues, that will affect the balance of the family that they're in, and it will affect the balance of the family they marry into. They take that with them.

And I bring this up because I've heard this for years. People say, but I'm from a dysfunctional family. And my answer is, join the human race. I'm from a dysfunctional family. I conduct a dysfunctional family. I'm a dysfunctional human being and so are you. We don't function the way God originally intended us to function. And that's because of one little three-letter word called, what? Sin. It happened at the fall. Paul said, "by one man's sin, death entered the world and death through sin and it spread to everyone." We're all affected.

So it affects every person, thus it affects every family. Every family. Some of you will remember a comedian by the name of George Burns. He lived to be a long time but he's no longer with us. George Burns said, "happiness is having a large, loving, caring close-knit family in another city."

Can we just dispel the myth of the perfect family? There is not one. We're all broken, flawed individuals, thus those are the families. In fact, let me take it a step further. Even God's family on Earth, the church, is a dysfunctional family, and you're part of it. You say, oh no, no, no, I'm looking for the perfect church. You've heard this before. If you find one, don't join it. You'll ruin it. It doesn't exist.

You say, oh, but the early church, they weren't dysfunctional. We should get back to be like the early church. Really? You need to read your Bibles again. Read, in fact, 1 Corinthians, and you'll discover Paul is really writing a polemic against all of the problems in that church and how to correct those problems-- from not loving each other, to abusing spiritual gifts, to disorderly conduct at the communion table and at the love feast, all the way to incest in that church congregation that they didn't deal with. That's dysfunctional.

Then, Jesus talked about his salvation and redemption. And the people who would follow him he called them poor, broken-hearted, captive, blind, oppressed. So we are all broken. We're all dysfunctional people with our own issues. As JI Packer wisely put it, we are all invalids in God's hospital. Every family is dysfunctional.

Let's take it now to a second level-- take it up a step. God can function in our dysfunction. All of us are dysfunctional to some degree but God can function in our dysfunction. What other choice does He have? So we've read the text. I've told you the story about Jacob. He comes from that messed up, weird family. He's married into this messed up, weird family.

Now watch this. In the midst of all that, verse 3, "then the Lord said to Jacob," boy, that's good to read. "Then the Lord said to Jacob--" now, God speaks, "'Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you." God says that to Jacob.

Go down a few verses. Go down to verse 22, in fact. "And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled." I'm sure he left town without saying anything to anyone-- just left. "Then he took his brethren with him, pursued him for seven days' journey, and overtook him in the mountains of Gilead." I think he wanted to kill him. "But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night and said to him, 'Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.'"

Here's a family in all of this legacy of dysfunction, but God is speaking. And here is the obvious point. A dysfunctional family never stopped God from functioning. It never stopped God from working, never stopped God from blessing that family, and never stopped God from working through that family. Because here, in chapter 31, you've got these dirty looks, these aloof looks, cold shoulders. I'm not looking at you nicely anymore, whispers around the tents. And God speaks to Jacob. God speaks to dysfunctional Jacob in the midst of his dysfunction and to Laban in the midst of his.

It's not like God said, well, Jacob, I have a truth I want to convey to you, but I'm not going to tell you what it is till you get your family act together. And when you get a little more perfect, a little more mature, then I have something I want to say to you. Right in the midst of all this crud, God speaks. Because God can speak to and lead people in your family who are not perfect.

The perfect God works through and uses imperfect people. Amen? The Holy God speaks to and works through unholy people. And here's why-- there are no other kind of people for God to use. Because if everyone is dysfunctional, then God has to function in the midst of our dysfunction. That's the gospel. That's why Paul said, "God has chosen the foolish things of this world. He's chosen the weak things of this world. He's chosen the base things of this world."

Hey, did Peter fail? The apostle Peter. Did he fail? Yeah. He denied Jesus three times. Did Jesus use him again? Sure did. Moses failed, lost his temper. God had used him. David failed-- anger, murder, adultery. God used him. Abraham, the father of faith was faithless a few times. Isaac, same way. Jacob, same way.

But taking failure as the final word is to fail. Taking failure as the final word is to fail. Learning from failure is to grow. So don't let your failure define you. Make your failure serve you. Use it. Grow from it. Launch from it. Do something with it.

Case in point, Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas went on a mission trip. It was a good, successful mission trip. At the end of it, Paul goes, let's do it again, Barney. Barnabas says, OK, I'm taking my nephew John Mark. Paul goes, no, you're not. He flaked out on the last trip. We're not taking him on trip number two. Well, they had an argument. It was an unresolved argument. It became so divisive between them, that they split company. And there's never a record that they reconciled, Paul and Barnabas.

So you have two men who are dysfunctional in their little relationship with each other. They dig their heels in. They were imperfect but they were used by God to spread the gospel. God uses two groups now to do his work. So you've got a church, the church splits, now there's two churches to do His work. And

Here's my point-- God reserves the right to use people who disagree with you. In fact, God reserves the right to use people who don't like you. I wish He wouldn't. There's sometimes, if God would just consult me first before He blesses somebody, it would just make life a whole lot easier for me. But He's decided that's not a good strategy to consult Skip about much, so He just says, no, no thanks. I'm going to bless, and use, and speak to, and work through people that don't like you. God reserves that right. So every family is dysfunctional and God can function in the midst of our dysfunction.

Now here's the third and best level. Growth is seen-- spiritual growth-- is when we see God instead of the dysfunction. You're focused on God, not the dysfunction. Growth is seeing God instead of dysfunction. Now let's begin in verse 4. Notice what Jacob does in the midst of all of this. And I just have to say, as we begin to read this again, I'm proud of Jacob. This boy has grown.

"So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field to his flock, and said to them, 'I see your father's countenance, that is not favorable toward me as before. But the God of my father has been with me. And you know that with all my might I have served your father. And your father has deceived me, and changed my wages ten times.

But God did not allow him to hurt me. If he said thus, the speckled shall be your wages, flocks bore speckled. If he said the streaks will be your wages, the flocks bore streaked. So God has taken away the livestock of your father, and given them to me."

I see real spiritual growth in Jacob. Leaps and bounds. From his early days, when he was complicit with his mom's scheme to steal the blessing, to his fugitive days when he ran away and was at Bethel, thinking God wasn't even with him, to his confrontational days when he and Laban were negotiating which girl would be his wife, to this day. Still a confrontation, but he is very different here.

Notice how he's different. First of all, he brings his wives together to have an open, candid, honest, frank conversation about the issue. They will agree with him. If you keep reading the story they said, yeah, our dad's been a scoundrel. He even stole money from us, and you just do what God told you to do. We're with you. So he talks it out. But even more than that, he shows how he views his life. He shows the lens through which he is focusing and processing all of the negative, bad, deceptive things that have even happened to him.

In short, Jacob is wearing a new set of glasses outfitted with lenses that focus on God, not on garbage. Let's call them the "But God" bifocals. So Jacob puts on his "But God" bifocals. Oh, yeah, there's the garbage right in front of him where he's walking through it, walking in it, but he's gazing on God. The "But God" bifocals.

And did you notice as we read this paragraph that he says, "but God" or "so God" three times. He acknowledges, first of all, God's presence. Verse 5, "but the God of my father has been with me." He acknowledges God's protection. Verse 7, says, "your father changed my wages ten times. But God did not allow him to hurt me."

What if your employer changed your wages ten times? You wouldn't still be working for that scoundrel. You're thinking, well, it depends if he changes them up or down, right? Well, it's inferred that Jacob had his wages change ten times down. "But God wouldn't allow him to hurt me."

So he acknowledges God's presence and God's protection. And also look at verse 9-- God's partnership. "So God has taken away the livestock from your father and given them to me." I see this boy as grown up, spiritually speaking. He's looking at the God who is functioning rather than the dysfunctionality around him.

Jacob is wearing the same glasses that Joseph wore when he said to his brothers, "you meant this for evil but God meant it for good." He's wearing the same bifocals David wore when the Bible says, "David stayed out in the strongholds in the wilderness, Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hands."

He's wearing the same glasses that Ezra wore in the book of Nehemiah when Ezra said, "they refused to listen to Your voice. They were hard-hearted, but You are God." He wore the same glasses that Paul the Apostle wore when he said, "we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose."

It's those glasses, those "But God" bifocals, that let you see the hand of providence. They lift back the curtain and let you see the Divine Hand. At the beginning of our series, I gave you a quote, a little quip, by James Montgomery Boyce. It bears repeating. He said, "if you understand those two words, "but God," they will save your soul. And if you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely."

Here is Jacob's life transformed completely. This happened, but God. That happened, but God. This happened, so God. These are the "But God" bifocals. So this dysfunctional pastor is standing in front of this dysfunctional flock saying, let's wear those glasses from now on.

Let's find those "But God" bifocals, and let's interpret life through that lens. Let's realize that God is never intimidated by our flaws, our failures because He can match all of that with His faithfulness. In spiritual terms, and in moral terms, we are all sick, damaged, scarred, lame, lopsided, but God-- but God.

I'm going to close with a story that comes from a book written by Richard Hoefler, several little short stories in this book. The book is entitled Will Daylight Come? He writes, "A little boy visiting his grandparents was given his first slingshot." Remember those days? I do. "He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target.

As he came back to grandma's backyard, he spied her pet duck. On impulse, he took aim, and let it fly. The stone hit its target. The boy panicked. Desperately, he hit the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all but said nothing.

After lunch that day, grandma said, 'Sally, let's wash the dishes.' But Sally said, 'Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn't you, Johnny?' And she whispered to him, 'Remember the duck.' So Johnny did the dishes. Later, grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, 'I'm sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.' Sally smiled and said, 'That's all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.' And again she whispered, 'Remember the duck.' Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing.

After several days of Johnny doing his chores and Sally's, he couldn't stand it. He confessed to grandma that he had killed her duck. 'I know, Johnny,' she said, giving him a huge hug, 'I was standing at the window when I saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make you a slave.'"

I have a question for you as we close. How long are you going to let that dysfunction make you a slave? How long are you going to hide behind that title? How long are you going to let that title drive the rest of your life? Because no matter how bad things have been for you, that doesn't have to define you.

God is able to function in our dysfunction. The question is, will you choose to see that? Will that be the lens you live your life from, the dysfunction or the God who can function in the midst of it? I think that the best example that I can think of, of how God functions in dysfunction, is the cross. That really is the gospel.

The world is so dysfunctional, sin spread to everybody, everybody is so flawed and broken. The only solution was to send His perfect, sinless, only begotten son into this world to take all of the guilt, all of the sin on himself in our place so that God can bless you and take you with Him to heaven. That's God functioning at peak, even in the pinnacle of our own dysfunction.

And that's the offer God makes in every generation-- that he will take you as you are. You come as you are. He will forgive you as you are, and He will make you a new person. He will change you. But He will forgive you, make you his son or daughter, and then bring you with Him into His kingdom forever.

Let's pray. Father, what a great conclusion. To think of the cross, which looked like, from a human perspective, such a shame, so horrible an event. And yet preplanned from eternity past, You planned it. You saw, You knew, what the sin, the dysfunction of Adam and Eve and all throughout history what that would bring. And so You planned to send Your son all along.

You functioned in our dysfunction, and You still do. You're a God who loves people. You forgive people. You speak to us. You speak to those around us. You speak through those around us, all to get our attention and say, surrender. I have a plan for you. Surrender. I can do something with you. Lord, thank you for that hope that is in the gospel.

For just a moment, with our heads bowed, our eyes closed, I want you to think about you for just a moment. It shouldn't be hard to do for most of us. But think about your life. Think about what choices you've made. Think about your own past, what others have done to you. But think about what choices you're making. And ask yourself, have I made the most important choice, to turn my life over to the God who loves me? Over to the Jesus who died for me, who wants to be my Savior and my friend?

Some of you have gone to church maybe most of your life. Some would consider themselves to be very religious people. My question is simply, is it real to you? Have you personally asked Jesus to be in control of your life? Have you given your life to Him? Have you repented, turned from your sin and turned to Jesus as savior? If not, I'm going to give you that opportunity.

Others of you may be made that decision years ago but you've wandered away. You're not following Christ today. I want to give you the opportunity to come back home to him. If that describes you in any way, and you're willing to do that, to come to Christ, to get your sins forgiven, to start a brand new way of life. Our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed. My eyes will be open. I want you to raise your hand in the air.

And by raising your hand, you're saying, Skip, pray for me. Here's my hand. Pray for me. I need to do that. I want to do that today. Raise it up high so I can see it, if you don't mind. God bless you. Right there to my left, and over here to my left. Anybody else? Raise your hand. To my right, right in the middle, and to my left. Yes, ma'am. Just raise it up and I'll acknowledge.

Yes, right there, toward the front in the middle, and in the back to my right. In the balcony, a couple of your hands. Yes. Way in the back to my left, far back. You're in the family room, raise your hand up. Right over there. If you're outside, there's a pastor outside. Just raise your hand up there, so he can acknowledge you.

Father, I want to thank You for all of these people with hands that have been raised in the last moment. You know them. You know them far better than they know themselves. You know what they need the most, and how You love them, and how

You desire to give them a brand new way of thinking and living their life filled with hope, filled with forgiveness, filled with Your mercy, that they will then in turn extend to others. I pray You fill them with hope, with peace, as you bring a life change into them and, through them, to their families. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Would you stand, please, to your feet? Hey, we're going to close with a final song, and I saw hands go up around the auditorium, even in the balcony and the family room. I'm going to give you an opportunity to put feet on the faith, on the raised hand. And I'm going to ask you, if you raised your hand, to find the nearest aisle and come stand right here, make your way right up to the front.

I'm going to lead you in a moment in a word of prayer. If you're in the balcony, I'm going to give you time to walk down the steps. We'll wait for you to come. If you're in the family room, just walk through those doors, right up front, and come through the hallway, right into this auditorium. But you come. I'm going to lead you in a prayer. It'll just take a moment, and then you'll be dismissed.

[MUSIC PLAYING - "O COME TO THE ALTAR"]

(SINGING) O come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. O come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

I'm going to wait just another moment. And you'll notice that, as people are coming forward, you've got nothing to be embarrassed about because this crowd is not booing you. We're applauding you. We're encouraging you. We're saying to you, yeah. Most important choice you could ever make is the one your making right now. So take advantage of this moment, this opportunity. God is touching your heart, so you come and respond to him. Come quickly.

(SINGING) O come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

That's right. That's right. So good. So good. That's awesome. Hey, those of you who have come forward, there's a bunch of you. We're so glad each and every one of you are here. Let me get down here. Make it easier. I just don't bend as easily as I used to.

I'm going to lead you in a prayer. And this prayer is your acknowledging your need, and you asking Jesus to come and take control of you. You're giving your life away, essentially. It's like you take the pink slip of your car-- do they still have those? Are they still pink? Were they ever pink? I don't know. It's a California thing, pink slip.

You're giving your ownership away to God, who made you to begin with. You're saying, You take over. I'm going to live for You, and I receive what Jesus did for me. So I'm going to pray out loud. I'm going to ask you to pray out loud after me. OK?

Say, Lord, I give You my life.

Lord, I give You my life.

I know that I'm a sinner.

I know that I'm a sinner.

Please forgive me.

Please forgive me.

I believe in Jesus Christ.

I believe in Jesus Christ.

I believe He died on a cross.

I believe He died on a cross.

I believe He shed His blood for me.

I believe He shed His blood for me.

And I believe He rose from the dead.

And I believe He rose from the dead.

I believe He's here right now.

I believe He's here right now.

I turn from my past.

I turn from my past.

I repent of my sin.

I repent of my sin.

I turn my life to Jesus.

I turn my life to Jesus.

As Savior and Lord.

As Savior and Lord.

Help me.

Help me.

It's in Jesus' name I pray.

It's in Jesus' name I pray.

Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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4/1/2018
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Jesus Died...but God
Skip Heitzig
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4/15/2018
completed
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Haters Hate…but God
1 Samuel 23:14-18
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
I want to help you today to view the circumstances of your life correctly; I’d like to clear up your spiritual vision. This week and next, we will examine the lives of two well-known characters in Scripture who were attacked by people close to them, but God changed the outcome. Their evil hatred couldn’t stop the great plans that a good God had set in motion. Today, a five-verse pericope gives rich principles that clear up our vision.
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4/22/2018
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Evil Happens…but God
Genesis 50:15-21
Skip Heitzig
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The story of Joseph is one of the Bible’s most compelling tales. And the most gripping feature is the difference between Joseph’s outlook and that of his eleven brothers. After all the intrigue, the ups and downs of Joseph’s life and career, and the years of deception and selfishness by Joseph’s brothers, the finale comes after their father, Jacob, dies. This is one of the Bible’s best but God moments,as forgiveness eclipses failure. Let’s consider Joseph’s brothers as they approach him one last time.
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4/29/2018
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Judgment Is Coming…but God
Genesis 6-8
Skip Heitzig
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The two worst days of the human race are days of destruction. A near total annihilation happened in the distant past and will happen again in the future. Both are directly the result of God’s judgment. Just as certain as the sun will shine tomorrow, judgment is coming eventually—but God has a better alternative. As we examine His past judgment on the earth, we will be able to better understand His future judgment and how we can find purpose in His plans for His world.
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5/6/2018
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We’ve Failed...but God
Nehemiah 9
Skip Heitzig
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Most all of us know that we are not what we should be or could be. Sin has scarred our lives. We are aware of personal failures. The really good news is that we may fail but God forgives. The whole reason for the atoning death of Christ was to provide clemency for transgressions and mercy for our offenses. Nehemiah knew the history of his people, and after gathering them back in the land after the captivity, he prays on their behalf. We learn four vital lessons in this prayer about the human condition and the divine solution.
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5/27/2018
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You Can Run…but God
Jonah 1-2
Skip Heitzig
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I’ll bet you played hide-and-seek as a kid (or as a parent with your kids). After a while, you get really creative in finding places to hide. But can you imagine actually trying to hide from God? This is the story of a prophet of God who found out that you can run but you can’t hide. As Jonah runs from the call of God, God pursues him. In this scene we discover three principles every one of us should remember.
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6/24/2018
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Death Is Certain...but God
Psalm 49
Skip Heitzig
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We have all heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quip, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Given death’s sure nature, why is it that most people try to avoid talking about it? And why do most people place all their energy and stock in this life alone? Death is the enemy of us all (see 1 Corinthians 15:26), and it is the assured fate of us all. But God changes this enemy into a friend and provides confidence to face it.
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7/8/2018
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The Future Looks Uncertain...but God
Daniel 2
Skip Heitzig
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Prognosticators and forecasters abound all around us, from weather reporters to psychics. Even the National Geographic Channel hosts programs about aliens who are trying to tell us poor earthlings a thing or two about the future. And everyone seems amazed that someone as distant as Nostradamus could’ve predicted life in our modern culture—or did he? The future is shrouded in mystery for us all but God specializes in knowing and predicting the future. To what end? What is the purpose of God showing us today what will happen tomorrow?
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7/15/2018
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You Were Dead…but God
Ephesians 2:1-10
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
This is the tenth and final study in our series ...but God, and today we get most personal. Rather than considering Joseph, David, Nehemiah, Isaac, or Daniel, we focus on our own story. Four simple phrases describe for us the spiritual journey all believers take through this life on our way to heaven. If you are a believer, all four of these things should happen. Unfortunately, too many stop with the first two and never successfully engage the last two. Let’s look at each one and evaluate how our lives can be lived to the full potential.
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There are 9 additional messages in this series.