APPLETON, WI (ANS) — As the world becomes a darker and more perilous place, the story of Jacob should resonate with and encourage each and every one of us.
Dysfunctional families, wrecked marriages, pathetic parenting, godless children, cutthroat sibling rivalries … Sound like the latest popular series on Netflix? Well, it’s not. It’s the Old Testament. And the situations just described aren’t just found among the godless. They were the lives of the very folks God had graciously called to be his special people (i.e., people haven’t changed). Flawed families made up of flawed people living flawed lives.
But there’s a great encouragement in that, too. And in Pastor Mike Novotny’s study of the life of Jacob, “Undeserved, How God’s Grace Can Erase Your Failures,” he pulls out some great topics of conversation, such as:
** Why does God love me?
** Why does God love liars?
** Is God even here?
** How does grace change me?
** How boldly can I pray?
** Deception and Favoritism
** Jacob’s seven encounters with God
Mike Novotny is a pastor at The CORE, a church in downtown Appleton, WI, as well as spiritual leader and lead speaker for Time of Grace, a media ministry that reaches people more than a million times each month through weekly television broadcasts and podcasts. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters, continuing his streak of 37 years of playing organized soccer, running long distances and reading any nonfiction he can get his hands on.
Novotny has a Bachelor’s degree in theology, Martin Luther College, Master of Divinity, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Doctor of Ministry, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, more than a dozen years in ministry, Lead speaker for Time of Grace Ministry, and Chairman of Conquerors through Christ—a ministry that, helps people reject, resist, and recover from pornography.
Mike says: “True or false? The Old Testament is filled with stories of picture-perfect families, ideal marriages, textbook parenting, obedient children and siblings who always showed love to one another.
“Not even close. In fact, the Old Testament is jam-packed with stories of dysfunctional families, wrecked marriages,pathetic parenting, godless children and cutthroat sibling rivalries. And these stories aren’t just of the wicked and godless! These stories often involve folks whom God had graciously called to be his special people. ‘Flawed’ is the word that comes to mind. Flawed families made up of flawed individuals living flawed lives.
“In this book, we’ll explore the life of one of Adam and Eve’s descendants who could very well be the poster child for ‘flawed but blessed’—Jacob. And as we study his life, Ithink you’ll come to realize that he’s a reflection of every one of us.”
In an interview with Assist News, Novotny said: “I essentially wrote this book (along with my colleague, Dr. Bruce Becker) to prove that very flawed people like us can be very blessed. The long account of one of the Bible’s biggest names—Jacob—is the proof. As a friend of mine once commented after reading the Bible for the first time—‘Pastor Mike, where are all the good guys?’
“God prepared me to write this book by deeply studying the life of Jacob and deeply studying the lives of the church I pastor, including my own. The longer you look at both, the more flaws and failures you see. That made the question all the more urgent—Could God possibly put up with people like Jacob? Like us? Could God not only forgive us but also use us for his great purposes for the Kingdom? The longer I serve as a pastor, the more underlying guilt/fear/shame I see, so Jacob’s story is as relevant as it has ever been.”
Novotny’s #1 aim of the book was showing how our sovereign God works through our human drama.
“Our lives, like Jacob’s life, often look like a reality show, filled with half-truths, payback, struggles, and heart-breaks, yet God continues to keep his Romans 8 promise to work all things out for good. Who would have ever predicted that a guy who hustled his twin brother, lied to his blind father, and had four baby-mommas would later be named Israel, the great patriarch of God’s people, and be part of Jesus’ family tree?!”
What does he hope readers will takeaway?
“Two things: First, I hope they learn from Jacob’s heartache. Sin brings so many consequences here and now, especially within families. ‘Me first!’ makes a mess, as we say in my own home, so I pray that we can let Jacob’s life teach us to be honest, selfless, forgiving, and trusting. Second, I hope readers realize what grace is. Grace is love that is given when there’s no reason to give it. After a few chapters, we want to disown Jacob, but God doesn’t, proving that his love truly is undeserved.”
Novotny says God has good news for you in his Word: You can’t disqualify yourself from the power of his redeeming love and the purposes he has for your life.
“That’s the message seen time and time again throughout Scripture, perhaps most clearly in the life of Jacob. And in this book Pastor Mike Novotny and Dr. Bruce Becker take you on an inspiring journey through the life of this flawed individual who nonetheless experienced God’s rich blessings and was used by him for extraordinary purposes,” he said.
“Jacob’s story offers much-needed encouragement to us today. He didn’t have a model marriage, perfect parenting, or an ideal family. But God’s grace overruled Jacob’s failures to unleash blessings in his life . . . and God can do the same for you today.”
With engaging study questions and application sections designed to help you put these biblical truths into practice, Undeserved invites you to transform your thinking and step into a life fueled by grace.
The author of this story, Michael Ireland, is a self-supported media missionary with ANS. Click here to support him as a missionary journalist.