Looking For a Way Out

LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”  Genesis 16:7-9

            There is Hagar, pregnant and alone in the middle of a wilderness. She had been mistreated by Sarai and unprotected by Abram.  In an intensely stressful situation, no one had handled it well.  Hagar reached her breaking point and decided she couldn’t take any more.  She ran away and headed toward Egypt, her home of origin.

            Now, God comes to her in her perceived isolation.  He notices her, addresses her with an audible voice, and gives her a life-defining moment.  The greatest choice lies in front of her and it’s presented when the stakes are the highest.  She can go home and ignore God’s command or she can obey Him, return to Sarai, and risk more mistreatment.

            Every one of us will experience a moment when we long to escape from somewhere.  We each have our limit.  Oppressive environments drive us to the edge of our ability to cope and we look for any way possible to flee those who mistreat us.  (And in the case of personal safety, fleeing is always the right thing to do!)  But outside of that, what if God asks us to stay?  What if bearing up well in the midst of harassment bears eternal rewards?  It’s possible.  God promises treasures in the darkness and, oh, how precious they are.  Wisdom, private tutoring, spiritual grit, keen discernment about good and evil.  These are but just a few.

            Do you want to flee a job where treatment is unfair?  Wanting out of a marriage that grew cold long ago?   Are you a caregiver to an aging parent, one that doesn’t appreciate your sacrifices?  Maybe you’re dreaming of relinquishing responsibility and sending them to a nursing home.  The question is whether or not you and I are willing to stay, or go, depending on God’s revealed will to us.  Sometimes, God tells us it’s time to uproot.  Other times He tells us to suffer well for another season of time.  We can do either ~ by God’s grace ~ when we know He is personally with us.

            What gave Hagar the emotional and spiritual fortitude to return to Abram and Sarai?  She had a personal encounter with God.  She learned that she was neither forgotten nor alone on her solitary journey.  God regarded her kindly, patiently, and with a desire to bless her.  Such favor made returning bearable.  She knew that she wouldn’t be alone, no matter what the outcome.  She heard God’s voice, felt His love, and could depend on every promise He made to her.  The God of Hagar is my God today.  No matter how desperate I am, He is right here offering an encounter that will fuel obedience.

Stay?  Go?  No matter what I want, I want what You want more.  Amen

A Cabin, Jesus and Me

I’m tired and drained to the core. I’m searching inside for a place of rest and when I close my eyes I can see it clearly. A log cabin, secluded in the mountains, with a gurgling stream making its presence known nearby. I can see myself at the end of the walk that leads to the front door. It is a mild summers’ day and a man is bent over working in the flowerbed with his back to me. He wears work clothes and his hands are dusty from working in the soil. Continue reading “A Cabin, Jesus and Me”

My Altered Past

MY ALTERED PAST

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11

         Harry Ironside, one of the first pastors of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, said…“Christians are people whose past has been altered.”  The resurrection power of Jesus has forgiven their sins and forever stripped Satan of his right to damn them.  What power!  Without Christ’s death, my sins would have been enumerated and posted on my own cross.  I would have died the death of one condemned.  Hell would have been my end.

If my past has been altered, forgiven, then why does my past still affect me so much?  Is it possible that the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead can also make me new, in every way, on the inside?  Continue reading “My Altered Past”

Two Reactions

ONE WHO FIGHTS; ONE WHO FLEES

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.  Psalm 119:43

The Psalmist fears that when any given situation arises, the wisdom of the kingdom, born of the Word and the Spirit, will be absent from his tongue.  The word of heaven is one of precision and strategy; a word that is characterized by either a gentle rain for a parched situation or a bolt of lightening that strikes in a firestorm.  It is clarifying, it is corrective, it is healing, and it always causes the kingdom to intersect with the world. Continue reading “Two Reactions”

Abram, God, Me & the Covenant

ABRAM, GOD, ME & THE COVENANT

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram.   Genesis 15:7-11

         God cut a covenant with Abram as a way to confirm the validity of all He had promised him.  It was a blood offering, a blood oath.  From that day on, there would be vows in place between God and Abram because of this ceremony.  The ritual of cutting a covenant meant that each party was pledging all they were and all they owned to be forever available to the other person.  Abram gave up all rights to himself and offered God the wealth of all he owned (exhibited by sacrificing the best of his flock for the covenant ceremony itself) as well as all rights to himself.  He was no longer master of his own life but permanently put himself at God’s disposal.

            God did the same thing.  He offered Abram all He was, all He owned; sharing the resources of heaven to lead, equip, and protect Abram.  Who benefitted most?  Abram, for sure.

            A new covenant was cut at Calvary.  Blood was shed again, except now it wasn’t the blood of animals, it was the blood of God’s own Son.  When I embraced Jesus and came to God through the way of the cross, I took part in the covenant He offered just as tangibly as Abram and God enacted their ceremony.  If I belong to Christ today, the covenant is firmly in place and this is what it means.

            Lord, I am completely yours.  I give up all rights to myself and like Abram, I am listening for Your voice to lead me on my journey.  All I am and all I have is Yours.  I am at Your disposal for always.

            God’s response.   And all I am is yours!  All I have is yours.  The resources of heaven are at your disposal.  Like Abram, you are on a journey and there will be hardships but hold on, you will inherit the land.  You are an heir of everything I have given my Son.  Defer your hope to eternal things.  Because of our covenant, I have your back.  I will fill you, be intimate with you, protect and keep you, and totally provide for you. 

            Who benefits most from this covenant?  Me, for sure!  Yet, throughout my journey with God, I break the fidelity of our covenant exchange.  In ancient times, the penalty was death.  But God even took care of that.  Jesus died in my place for all the times I would be unfaithful.   Covenant love is not threatened by my poor performance or my failing heart.

            I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, “Oh, how costly is my salvation.  I must give up all rights to myself and to my life?”  That is tragically skewed.  Did I only consider my part in the covenant.  Apparently.  I forgot that God’s promises of Himself and everything He owns trumps the offer of my puny life.

 

I can’t believe You’d give me, eternal God, all You are and all You have.  Forgive me for counting the cost and thinking the price is too high.  I am the beneficiary of everything eternal.  Amen

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Want to listen to the beauty of covenant love – through music?  Click here.  The lyrics are below.

COVENANT MAKER

Twila Paris

Covenant maker, I made a start
Covenant breaker, I broke Your heart
Your word is deeper; Faithful and true
Covenant keeper, make me like You

Covenant maker, You made a way
Infinite taker, I made You pay
But Your love was deeper; Faithful and true
Covenant keeper, make me like You

The Cost of Self-made Solutions

THE COST OF SELF-MADE SOLUTIONS

And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.  Genesis 12:15-16

         Abram panicked.  Afraid that a powerful Pharaoh would kill him and Sarai, he decided how he would save them instead of trusting God to do it.  If he told the Pharaoh that the lovely Sarai was his wife, the Pharaoh would kill him to acquire her.  If he said that Sarai was his sister, the Pharaoh would, most likely, take her but spare him.  What he didn’t even consider was that God might have a solution that would spare them both and their marriage.

         Is this not what afflicts faith-less children of God?  If I can’t conceive the answer, I assume it doesn’t exist.  Abram really believed there were only two options.  It will take failure and humiliation for Abram to see how powerful his God is.

         A self-made solution may bring immediate relief but it always comes with a price.  Because my ingenuity appears to have worked, this reinforces the lie that I must take care of myself.  When the next crisis comes, I won’t think twice about stepping in to play ‘god’ again.  I’m not aware until later that I’ve stepped outside of the miracle realm where God created me to live.  His design is for me to live wide-eyed and wonder-filled.  I was created to be a thrill-seeker and this is fulfilled in Christ as I journey by faith.  As I, daily, acknowledge my own powerlessness, I look up to see what God will do.  I’m always stunned!

         What did Abram lose by problem solving without God?  He lost his wife.  He lost respect with the Pharaoh.  God will be gracious, true to His promise, to save them but at this point, Abram doesn’t know that.  For the price of his life, he went to bed alone that night.  His so-called victory was hollow in the face of the loss of Sarai.

         Self-made solutions are always temporary and, sooner or later, yield bitter tears.

I will not take matters today into my own hands.  I know the payoff will only feel good temporarily.  I want the long-term payoff of seeing You work Your miracle.  Amen

Perpetual Winter

PERPETUAL WINTER

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  Romans 8: 20-21

         The earth was cursed because of the fall of Adam .  It was broken in half and everything in it was subjected to a state of brokenness and decay.  We just have to live through the four seasons to understand that a cycle of life arrives with spring but cannot be sustained without going through the death and decaying process of fall and winter.

In The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe, Narnia was under the control of the wicked witch of the North and the land suffered from a state of perpetual winter.  Spring never arrived until Aslan died and rose again.  Finally, the ice of winter melted and eternal spring was brought into existence.  Continue reading “Perpetual Winter”