MAKING A HOME IN HOSTILE PLACES
Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Genesis 12:6
Many have prayed for the will of God, followed His voice, and experienced complete disillusionment when they found themselves in hostile surroundings. They blame God for being unloving or they blame themselves for being poor listeners. Hostility within the will of God is common and should not surprise God’s children.
When Abram encountered the Canaanites, hostile company epitomized, he didn’t pick up and move on. He settled there. Though the only Yahweh worshipper, He built an altar. With far less revelation of God than I have, he was strong enough in his faith to stand out and be different from everyone else.
Some years back, our family lived in a hostile environment. We begged, daily, for release. We were willing to move anywhere and do anything to escape our surroundings. Surely, we reasoned, God wouldn’t want for us to endure such a place. Yet, every request for a move away was met by the silence of God. One morning in prayer, the Spirit of God spoke to me through a verse in Psalms. “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” Psalm 37:3 We were to learn how to make our little home a place where the glory of God rested. We were to understand how to eat the sumptuous spiritual meal God provided daily in the midst of our enemies. We stayed three more years before God moved us out and that time proved to be one of the most formational times, spiritually, in our family’s history.
Many live in the midst of hostility. Unfortunately, it can be with a husband, wife, child, or aging parent. It can even be in a place of ministry. Scorn and ridicule are the backdrops of daily life. Instinct says to escape. Do anything to run from such discomfort. But God’s way is for His child to learn how to make Him their home. The glory of Christ can descend on the darkest environment.
Give your child today spiritual grit, a willingness to stay in a tormenting place, and peace in submission. Amen
PROSPERITY AND DOMINION
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2
Nothing in our Christian language is misunderstood more than the word ‘blessing.’ Because I am so prone to want earth to be my heaven, I assume it means something it really doesn’t. When my expectations are shattered, I’m angry with God for supposedly breaking His promises. What does ‘the blessing’ really mean?
Blessing equals spiritual prosperity and dominion over what God has entrusted. God blessed Adam and Eve, Noah, and now – Abram. They were told to be fruitful and to reign. I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies. Genesis 22:17
To be fruitful is to apply the laws of heaven and see results. That can mean as much internal as external. To reign and have dominion is to enjoy the freedom Jesus won for me at Calvary and to enforce the victory He acquired on my behalf. What does this ‘the blessing’ mean for every one who struggles today with their health, or finances, or broken relationships? Is God not faithful to keep His promises? Here is what two examples look like – and I’m asking God to drive these truths home to my own heart.
1. I can live in a crippled relationship and still be fruitful, and still reign. How? My inner peace is not determined by anything external. I plant the promises of God in my heart and they are fruitful because they produce peace, hope, and confidence that God is ruling well. I can reign because, in prayer, I ask for divine healing for what is broken. I use my spiritual authority to thwart all the schemes of the enemy to wreak more havoc in this relationship. I speak scripture over every diseased part of the relationship.
2. I can lie in bed with cancer and still be fruitful, and still reign. How? Though in pain, I remember that God is faithful to give me momentary grace. I am blessed with a relationship that offers me access to an all-powerful God who promises spiritual stamina. My relationship with Him is fruitful in suffering. I reign when I take all my fears and doubts and subdue them with the power of the Word. I preach to my own soul and defer to the hope Jesus offers.
If I’m experiencing hardship, it’s easy to believe I’m not blessed. I’m quick to compare myself to others and quote the promises made to our spiritual forefathers. I forget that they, and the prophets, and the disciples, entered the kingdom through much tribulation – but held onto the promises of God with their faith in tact – throughout their journey. Freedom from pain does not equal blessed. In each place today where I groan under weight of living on a cursed planet, I choose to live in the hope that God will one day redeem it all. In the meantime, my internal world can know blessing as I bear the fruit of living in the Word and reign over my flesh.
Reigning over my own despair is as much a miracle as reigning over people. Your Word is a magnificent catalyst for all that afflicts my heart. Empower me and bless me to rule over all You have entrusted to me. Amen
A LIFE OF PILGRIMAGE
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1
A father is given divine rights to exert authority over his child. He shapes his identity. He establishes parameters and boundaries. He sets future goals for him. He corrects and encourages along the way. Obedience and honor are the responsibilities of the child – and while giving honor will last a lifetime – obedience will not. At some point, that child, if he comes to faith, will gain another Father and everything will turn on its end.
As an adult, I leave the authority of my earthly father for my heavenly Father. God’s commands take precedence over all other influences. As His child, I look to Him to shape me, establish parameters, set goals, and correct and encourage. Obedience and honor are my responsibility.
No wonder Jesus said that no one could follow him unless they were willing to leave father and mother, brother and sister. The changing of allegiances is cataclysmic in families, especially if the earthly family does not know God.
In this context, I am feeling the stress of Abram’s call. The LORD speaks. He calls Abram to leave family and everything that is familiar. This leaving will not be just physical, but spiritual. He is to turn his back on the gods of his relatives and of his countrymen. He is to do what no one has ever done by leaving everything to go west. No concrete destination, just west. And all because a God he didn’t know yet called him by name and gave him a command and a promise.
There is always tension between the command and the promise. My lifetime as God’s child is characterized by hearing a call, setting off on a course for which I have no roadmap, and trusting God for the next step on my journey. My call cannot be second-guessed. I never know what today will hold. It unfolds as I listen and obey. Even as the founder of a ministry, I do not set ten-year goals. I cannot begin to guess where God will take me and Daughters of Promise.
The call of God will also be cataclysmic, at times, when people who love me criticize, when family loyalties are threatened, and when church friends think my steps are too radical. The only one who hears the call and the daily revelations that go with it is the one to whom God speaks.
A life of pilgrimage is not for the fainthearted. Strength, direction, and endurance come to the pilgrim who knows he is a child on an adventure, holding the hand of a Father every step of the way.
When my obedience is tested with famine, breathe over me Your encouragement. Amen
DOES THE PAST DESTROY MY FUTURE?
Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. Genesis 11:27
Ten generations after Noah, through the blessed line of Shem, Terah was born. Though Shem walked with God, it didn’t take long for his descendants to be become polytheistic. Their prominent god was the moon. In later times, with moon worship in tact, food was laid out at night to absorb the rays of the moon, which were thought to have power to cure disease and prolong life.
Not much has changed, really. One of the most beautiful and current songs of our day is made famous by the talented Celtic Women. The name? The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.
It was in this spiritual environment that Abram was born. It was not ‘Yahweh friendly’ yet it was out of this line that Jesus would be born. Can children with holy callings arise out of spiritual wastelands? Yes!
That answer should comfort any who fear that their past is too scarred for God to use them. I can place far too much emphasis on my past in trying to determine the odds of future success. I can fear for children who have unbelieving parents, believing that they are too scarred to ever hear the call of God on their lives. Yet how many Christian leaders, like Abram, have come to faith simply by coming face to face with Jesus Christ!
Once God decides to open the eyes of an unbeliever to the beauty and glory of His Son, Jesus, any degree of spiritual blindness is instantly cured. Whom God has predestined to believe ~ will believe. Nothing can stop or hinder it.
A child of an alcoholic, a child of an atheist, a child of a pedophile, any of these will be the next evangelist if God calls them. No toxic childhood environment can thwart the call.
What kind of obstacles have me worried today about a relative, friend, spouse, or child? Do I really believe that their spiritual condition is hopeless? How small is my God! How puny is my faith! Abram, growing up with gods on the shelves on his home, is about to hear Yahweh’s voice for the first time. Like Saul, it will be such a powerful encounter that he will sacrifice everything to follow.
Give me the grace to kill all despair with faith! Amen
NATURE OF CHAOS
[God said] “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Genesis 11:7
Just yesterday, my seven-year-old grandson asked me what the word ‘chaos’ meant. To help him better understand the concept of confusion, I had him play a game with me. I started it. “Let’s say that a visitor came to your house and wanted to make a big mess. They emptied every kitchen cabinet and left piles all over the counters and kitchen floor. Then they open flour, sugar, and spices – and just dumped the bags all over the kitchen table. That’s a picture of chaos.” I asked him if his mom and dad would just leave it all and live life like nothing happened or would they, instead, put everything back in order? (Then I asked him to describe what else a visitor might do, in another room, to introduce chaos and he was very inventive!)
God introduced confusion as a judgment. The peoples of the earth had abused their unity to fuel the unholy ambition of tower building for their own gain. To cripple their efforts, he separated them by many languages. If they couldn’t understand one another, they wouldn’t be able to work together.
I find that chaos and chaotic thinking are still signs of evil. One who is in the grip of the evil one devises a logic that weaves webs. No matter how much you try to understand them and their behavior, the more tormented you become. You just can’t ever get to the bottom of the issue. The best thing anyone can do is stop trying to make sense of what is senseless.
I heard someone say that at Babel, God pronounced judgment on evil by using many languages to confuse. At Pentecost, He brought blessing and kingdom advancement by taking many languages and creating order.
Anytime I am swirling in the midst of confusion and think God is the author, I have attributed an attribute to God that is not His. He is simple yet deep, profound, clear and concise. The kingdom is well ordered. His statutes are written in pristine legal language.
Help me step above the chaos to the serenity of Your order. Amen
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Genesis 11:5-6
What am I building today? If it is something God does not like nor approve of, He won’t come (most likely) and destroy it while it is in its infancy. My unholy ambition will prosper according to my efforts. It will be a while before I see the unwelcome fruits of my labor. God’s inspection, and/or judgment, may occur after my death.
The towers of Babel reached high in the sky before God inspected them and pronounced judgment. He marveled at their ambitious undertaking but in the span of His vastness and glory, it was laughable.
What I build with my hard work appears to work for a while. I might even be fooled by what I suspect is blessing. Ambition does produce some stunning results on its own but self-made efforts and God-breathed success are two totally different things. To know the difference, I must think with the mind of Christ. And to have the mind of Christ, I must be humble, teachable, and ever immersed in the Word.
Give me your eyes for my work today. Am I building a tower of babel or a temple? Amen