God Stays Close, Even In My Mistakes

From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”  Genesis 20:1-3

Twenty years has passed since Abraham journeyed into Egypt, feared for his life while in the presence of a Pharaoh, and passed off Sarah as his sister to protect himself.  Pharaoh took Sarah as his own and God intervened to clean up the mess.  Now, Abraham is doing the same thing again.  Really?   He would do this twice?

But, it’s been twenty years after all.  It’s not like these events are weeks apart and the lesson of disobedience is still fresh.  After two decades, Abraham is having another crisis of faith and he falls again in an almost identical way.  Imagine that!  I am not going to throw stones as I review the ways I struggle with my faith and end up distrusting God in the exact same areas, over and over again.  There are patterns in my disobedience too. 

On this day, near the time of Isaac’s conception, Abraham’s choice to give up his wife to yet another king puts the entire Abrahamic line in jeopardy.  God is not passive as He watches this.  He is a Father who springs into action when Abraham messes things up.  His inexhaustible mercy causes Him to preserve the promises He made in covenant love.  For Abraham however, there will be a silent period.  His tent will be empty.  Sarah will be gone.  He will have nothing but time and quiet to reflect on His disobedient choices.  He cannot perceive all that God will do to rescue him.  Sarah’s absence screams hopelessness.

Are you in some crisis today?  Does it appear as if it’s the end?  You are also suffering in silence, unaware that God could be doing something on your behalf.  “Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Phil.1:6  God was active in Abraham’s storyline and you can be comforted that He works behind the scenes in your story too.  Even when you and I mess things up, He makes a way for our return.  He never lacks the ingenuity to know how to get our lives back on track even though we’re sure we’ve done irreparable damage.  Oh, how powerful repentance is as it unlocks the power of heaven.  God gives us grace to, not only weather the damage, but to then correct our self-willed detour.

I’m counting on Your active participation in my story today.  Have mercy on me as I wait to see evidence of Your saving hand.  Amen

Desperation-Driven Choices

So they made their father [Lot] drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.  Genesis 19:35-38  ESV

Put yourself in the place of just one of Lot’s daughters.  You’ve been displaced from your home.  Your husbands are dead.  Your mother is dead.  All that is left are you and your sister, along with your father, but he is old.  He is not likely to re-marry and your entire future depends on having children who will care for you, sons who will carry on your family name.  What do you do?

They did not throw all their hopes on God and seek Him for a solution.  (Their father hadn’t done that by example either.)  They took matters into their own hands, got their father drunk, and each slept with him to conceive their solution.

One gave birth to the father of the Moabites and the other, the father of the Ammonites.  What a future they bred through unholy sexual unions.  Both peoples would be cruel to Abraham’s descendants.  Both peoples would worship famous idols; Baal and Peor.  Children would be sacrificed at their altars.  Yet, these two young women never saw into the future to understand the power of their choices.  For them, it was an immediate relief from a seemingly impossible situation.  From their limited viewpoint, their plan had been successful. They both held sons in their arms. 

Long-term outcomes are the problem when I take matters into my own hands.  I cannot see down the road either.  My own ingenuity can appear to have worked.  I might even thank God for it. (Can you imagine how He cringes?)  What I don’t know are the long-term effects of what I forced to make happen. 

I remember three things today.

  1. Desperation should drive me to God, not to earth-bound saviors.
  2. Desperation can never be a valid excuse for doing my own thing.
  3. Desperation always impairs perspectives and sound judgements. 

When times are the toughest, I don’t move.  I look up.  I wait on You.  Amen

Not Taking God Seriously

And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”  Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.  Genesis 19:17, 24, 26

Lot’s wife didn’t take God all that seriously.  She believed Him enough to know that she should flee the city but not enough to believe the consequences of looking back.  Is Lot responsible for that?  Perhaps she lived by example.

Not everything a wife does is her husband’s fault or vice versa.  We are each responsible for our own choices.  However, the faith or faithlessness of those near to us do affect us.  Parents who mock God will usually raise children who do the same.  Parents who live a religious life, void of the power of the Gospel, will probably see their family spurn religion, preferring alternate paths.

Lot had faith, but for the most part it was second-hand faith.  He had tagged along with Abraham, seen that God was real, but only followed God when it was convenient for him and his family.  His last major choice had been to choose the land of Sodom for his home.  He conformed to fit in a godless society, so much so that he became popular enough to rise to the status of mayor.  What do these kinds of choices communicate to Lot’s family? 

As the entire family fled Sodom, no doubt they heard the roaring fire and the screams of terror behind them.  They felt the heat on their backs.  They could see the glow of the flames out of their peripheral vision.  The temptation to look back was strong but because she’d never seen her husband pay a steep price for disobedience, she didn’t think turning around would result in the loss of her life.  It cost her everything in the end.

Will I be struck dead if I repeatedly disobey God?  Not likely.  But it will appear to those around me that I’ve gotten away with rebellion and disrespect.  There will be unwelcome fruit in other places and that might begin with my family.  Their eyes are always watching.

Am I flirting with what You asked me to avoid?  It’s hard to even ask the question.  Amen

No Bible, No Glasses, No Outline

I have recurring dreams where I am back in school, and I always seem to have some sort of crisis.  I have forgotten my books, forgotten an assignment, forgotten the combination to my locker, forgotten where my classroom is, and forgotten to study for a test.  Feeling unprepared and unequipped is the stuff of nightmares.  Translate all that to adulthood and there were years I dreamt of traveling to a speaking or singing event and not having what I needed. Or, not knowing I had been booked to do something that was mere minutes away from happening.  

This was the theme of a dream last night. In it, I was getting ready for church.  My husband, Ron, assured me that he was praying for me as I got ready to speak that morning.  I said, ‘Speak where?’ He said, ‘At our church.’  I had completely forgotten.  I was totally unprepared.  I threw on some clothes, grabbed one of the bibles on my desk, and as Ron and I drove to church, I remembered what topic I’d been assigned.  I was to describe the Word of God with three words that began with the letter ‘p’.   

Several minutes later, I walked into church and went to sit in a corner of the lobby to pray and try to put something together. I reached inside my bag for my Bible and then panicked as I realized I’d picked up the copy with the smallest print.  It was hard to read it – even with glasses.  I reached inside my bag for those but there were none to be found!  Then, I reached for my small notebook but realized that if I made notes, it would be hard to read them without my glasses.  Disaster.

I made my way to the front of the auditorium and joined the pastor.  He smiled and said he was looking forward to what I was going to share.  “Me too,” I thought.  As the last worship song played, I sighed and surrendered to the Spirit.  Suddenly, I was strangely at peace.  I realized that I would do the very thing that I loved to do more than anything else.  I would listen to the Spirit and let Him take me to places inside where the things I treasure are stored.  The contents would bubble out with great joy, like a flood.  

I had no trouble finding the first ‘p’.  The words came effortlessly.

  1. The Word of God is priceless.

So many have an encounter with Jesus as they near the last few hours of their lives.  If they are conscious, they are eager to talk about it with us.  We might ask them, “What did Jesus say?”  His words, whether spoken to a saint on the eve of his homegoing or written on the pages of the scriptures, have a value that is unmatched by anything else in this world.  If my home were on fire, the first thing I would grab when I left the house would be my study Bible that I have used since 1998.  I have had it re-bound twice because it has fallen apart.  Priceless!

  • The Word of God is precise.  

No matter what I’m living at any given moment, the scripture God unveils to me is specific to my need.  It is not generalized, nor vague.  I’m not left to guess how it applies.  As described in Psalm 119, God’s instruction comes as a customized arrow to my heart, intersecting my story.  When the arrow alights upon my spirit, understanding comes like a flash of lightning.  Truth opens the door to spacious places, to nuances that go on for miles.  They are as plentiful as I have time to explore.  Precise.

  • The Word of God is personal.   

It is not theoretical.  It’s not the stuff that makes up dry textbooks.  While the material is intellectually interesting and able to stretch the mind beyond its ability to comprehend, it is its personal nature that makes the impact.  I shared several stories where the Spirit of God had ‘personalized’ a word, a ‘word’ that could only be understood when two people have a relationship;  one with no walls, only trust.  His word has access to places that have been, up to that point, untouched.  Personal.

The forty-minute sermon flew.  I had too much to say in so short a time.  When I woke up, I realized that sometimes the best sermons are the ones that are unrehearsed, the springs of water that flow out of the depths of our spirits.  Powerful to hear.  Wondrous to experience. 

Jesus predicted all of this – outside of dreams.  He said, “He who believeth in me, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”  John 7:38

He Has a Heart For Your Family

Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place.  For we are about to destroy this place.”  Genesis 19:12

The members of Lot’s family don’t appear to have a deep and abiding relationship with God.  Yet, when it’s time for God’s judgment to come upon Sodom, the angels ask Lot to gather all members of his family for salvation.  God is invested in families because of the spiritual life of just one member.  If your heart is heavy over certain ones of your family, you’re not the only one who cares.  God does.  Why?

  1. He loves you.  He cares about who you love.  He sees every tear you have cried over a son or daughter.  He feels the stress you feel over the fractures in your marriage.  When your heart aches, His heart aches.   You feel alone when you bear the burden of carrying your family in prayer?  You are not shouldering this by yourself.  Jesus rose again and lives to intercede for each of you. You often despair and think you are the only one praying?  You’re not. Jesus is!
  2. God made families and He is invested in what He creates.  Families didn’t come out of nowhere.  God made Adam, then Eve, and invented the marital relationship.  Children were born because God made a way for families to be born.  The first outcry that reached heaven’s ears came when the first two brothers fought and one killed the other.  So broken was the heart of God!

Every single one of us thinks about eternity and it is a wonderfully bittersweet experience.  Ah, heaven and being with Jesus.  Finally!  But then comes the piercing thought of family who might not join us there.  God knows.  Just as He told Lot to go gather each member of his family, giving them the opportunity to hear of impending doom and to make the choice to leave the city, He will hear our prayers about those we love.  He is giving each one (though we may not know about it) many opportunities to be aware of Him and His Son, Jesus.  Every seed we have planted is not dormant.  It is active – stirred by the Spirit in their consciences and in their memories.

You invite me to bring my burdens to You and leave them.  Jesus, I will bring each person in my family, place them in Your lap, and pray while You work!  Thank you.  Amen

Blind But Still Obsessed

But the men [angels] reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.  Genesis 19:10-11

Two angels came to Lot and his family to protect them. They not only shut the door of his home to keep the gang from entering, but they struck them with blindness as well.  That didn’t deter them.  They were still obsessed with finding the door and breaking in ~ so strong was their obsession to inflict harm.

What does it take to submit to the hand of God?  A lot.  Man can be so stubborn. It usually takes a lot of time and pain to bring people to the end of themselves.   We want what we want.  The older we get, the more obstinate we become.  If children are not taught the sweet fruit of submission when they’re young, the desire for personal autonomy grows over time.  It’s so much harder to submit at 45 than it was when we were 4 years old.  That’s why children should be taught to obey the first time.  They are being prepared to say, “Yes, Lord!” when Jesus calls them.

You may be watching the Lord break the rebellious will of a loved one.  You may be shaking your head at how long it’s taking.  Though they feel the heavy hand of God, they still grope for the door that leads them to satisfy their cravings.  Though it may look hopeless, it is not.  While not all believe, some do.  Those who burn the brightest for the kingdom experienced a pivotal moment when they surrendered in the fire. 

If we are watching the crushing of that person we love, we must know that God knows their limits and frame.  We can trust Him even when He afflicts – even in our tears for their repentance.

Lord, I can’t stand to watch so give me grace.  Do what is necessary, quickly, to bring them to their knees.  I know Your justice but I am comforted that You are also limitless in mercy. Amen