The Opposite of Self-Centered

THE OPPOSITE OF SELF-CENTERED

“Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah. We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”   Genesis 24:23-27

         For the most part, people are consumed with themselves.  Any passion they feel about life has to do with something that directly affects them or their family.

         I have to fight self-centeredness, don’t you?  It’s part of the default nature I inherited from Adam.  For the most part, I don’t recall getting something I really wanted as a child and willingly offering it to someone else instead.  No, I clutched it to myself and said, “Mine!”  Such is the stuff of sinful human natures.

         What strikes me today about Eleazar is the spontaneous burst of praise that erupts when God confirms that Rebekah is the wife for Isaac.  He is so elated for his master that he stops to worship and exclaim God’s faithfulness.  Quite frankly, I’m struck by the times I’ve made a commitment to someone, fulfilled it, and said, “Whew, that’s done!” I enjoyed crossing it off my list.  What a contrast between Eleazar and me.

         It would be good to consider how many I would make sacrifices for.  How many am I really invested in?  How many outside of my family?  Jesus made the Christian life pretty simple.  He boiled it all down to loving His Father and loving others.  I can hear His specific words in my spirit as I’m writing this.  “No greater love hath any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.”  Eleazar’s whole life revolved around serving Abraham.  It was not done begrudgingly ~ as evidenced by just this part of the story.  With his response before my eyes today, I can see that the ongoing transformation of my heart, until I am glorified with Christ, has to be my priority with God.

Willing to serve You, Lord?  Or eager and happy to serve You?  I’m searching my heart.  Amen

Journal Question:  The first friend each of us is called to give our lives for is Jesus.  Talk to Him about whether or not your heart is engaged with joy, resignation, or obligation.

Watch For The Little Things

WATCH FOR THE LITTLE THINGS

Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.  Genesis 24:17-20

         I will tell you that my past is riddled with the fallout of being a bad judge of character.  Though I am by nature an intuitive person – especially about people in pain, I have been naïve about evil.  If someone proclaimed themselves trustworthy, and a Christian, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  I trusted them beyond a point that was prudent.  This came from lack of instruction in my home.  There was none.  My parents were also naïve, though I came to understand that they had reservations about people they failed to act upon.

         God has been growing me up over the course of my adult life to understand that it’s the little things that give a person away.  And, it’s the little things I can easily discount and excuse that will get me into trouble.

         Eleazer was watching young women carefully, looking for the one with good character and heart.  It was a little gesture from Rebekah that allowed him to discern that she was qualified to be Isaac’s wife.   Though Eleazar only asked her for a drink for himself, she went above his request to offer water to his entire group of camels.  This meant considerable physical labor for her.

         How many have made bad choices in marriage by ignoring the little signs?  If a man (or woman) is guilty of angry outbursts in their twenties, you can be sure that, left unchecked, it will only escalate.  To say, “Oh, he just had a bad day!” is to be naïve.  Everyone has bad days but many show restraint and patience in response.

         In these end times, it is imperative that each one in God’s family asks for wisdom and discernment.  There are many out to deceive and draw the flock away from Jesus.  They look good, even sound good, but it’s the little things that will give them away.  If you’re looking for a pastor, or business partner, or marriage partner, or prayer partner, be careful.  Excusing bad behavior, even in the mundane, will prove disastrous.

I’m surrounded by holy activity that looks good, with words that sound good.  I pray that you will teach me to love as You love, but with Your discernment.  Amen

Journal Question:  When was the last time you were burned because you trusted without wisdom?  Let it be your teacher.  Step back from the hurt and describe the first signs you saw of bad character.  What were the little things that you missed?  Are you repeating bad judgment today or heeding the lessons from your past?

A Sign Or A Demand?

A SIGN OR A DEMAND?

Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’ – let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac.  By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”  Genesis 24:14

         Because of Jesus’ harsh words in the Gospels about asking for a sign, I can wrongly conclude that asking for such a thing is displeasing to God.  But this story is just one passage in the Old Testament that proves God gladly gives signs.  The difference between an acceptable request and an unacceptable request is the reason someone makes it.

         Eleazar was on a mission for his master, Abraham.  Not just any girl would do for a wife for Isaac.  Eleazar knew that her life would be blessed but very difficult.  It would require unusual character and stamina, someone who would go the extra mile and not take shortcuts.  While other young women might offer a stranger a drink and be done with it, there would perhaps be one who would go above what was asked, to extend the invitation to drink to all his weary camels.

         There is a great difference between asking for a sign and making a demand. The latter comes from unbelief.  The undertone smacks of blasphemy.  In a dark period of anger and unbelief, I remember putting God in a corner. “If you love me, You’ll reveal Yourself supernaturally to me in the next 24 hours.”  He didn’t and my anger grew and accusations abounded. Humility goes a long way to bring answers to prayer.

          If signs were evil, then why would God give Jesus as a sign?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Is.7:14   When His people, in the context of relationship, looked longingly for salvation, God gave the best sign of all.  His only Son!

         Perhaps God has spoken to you about your future.  You know that God is a covenant keeping God.  You have been standing in faith, watching for the fulfillment of what He has promised.  But let’s face it, there are discouraging days.  We have an enemy who assaults us on all sides and undermines God’s character. We cry out to God for a sign, for a commemorative event that will strengthen our weakened hearts. God knows the deep weariness that plagues His people in the midst of their obedience.  He is the one who sent angels to minister to Jesus in the wilderness when He was depleted and weary.   He is the Father who rewards faith with signs and answered prayers.

Thank you for the many signs You’ve given, all in good time.  Thank you for not rewarding bratty behavior but waiting to develop in me a true seeking heart.  Amen

Journal Question:  Is there anywhere in your life where You’ve put God to the test.  “If He loves me, He’ll do this!”  Would you be willing to let this go and humbly ask for forgiveness?  This weekend, do a short study on those who asked for signs in scripture and why.

How To Handle The What If’s

HOW TO HANDLE THE WHAT IF’S

            The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?”     Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.  Genesis 23:5-7

            By nature, I have been a fearful person, a chronic worrier.  So was my father.  So was his mother.  I can remember visiting my grandmother often as a kid and seeing her wring her hands with a far off look in her eyes.  Asking the ‘what if’s’ has been a spiritual family trait.  Fighting for faith instead of fear is hard work, especially because each ‘what if’ seems so logical.  If it didn’t seem feasible, worry wouldn’t be present.

            Abraham models how to handle the uncertainties of the future.  He’s about to send Eleazar on a long journey.  He wants him to visit the land of Ur, his home country, to secure a wife for Isaac from the Jewish line.  But Eleazar sees one huge obstacle.  ‘What if’ the potential bride refuses to return with him?  What then?

            Abraham won’t go there.  He won’t even consider it.  His response is that God will go before him and make all things possible.  His trust that God will protect His line of descendants is rock solid.  He had a string of miracles to prove it.

            A close friend of mine is eight years older than I am.  She models this kind of faith well and I’m amazed by it.  I know her life and it isn’t easy at all.  She has been the recipient of grim news many times throughout the time we’ve been friends.  The ‘what if’s’ could have eaten her alive but I’ve never seen it happen.  She’s trusted God, prayed about everything, and to this day, lives in peace.

            No wonder scripture begs us to take every thought captive.  Reign it in.  Don’t feed it.  Not only can I think of many ‘what if’s’ but so can my enemy.  He’s right there to feed the likelihood of dismal outcomes.  But God….ah, there’s the cure.

I can worry about the future as if You won’t be in it.  Not only do You promise to be there, but You are preparing my way there.  Let this slow the beating of my heart.  Amen 

Journal Question:  What is your biggest ‘what if’ today?  Can you put it in God’s hands, knowing He has already taken every step between now and then?  You just might sense him throwing your ‘what if’ into the abyss and calling it irrelevant.

An Ally For Your Family

AN ALLY FOR YOUR FAMILY

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”  Genesis 24:1-4

            Who near you is a spiritual ally for the spiritual life of your family?  Who loves them because you love them?  Who will invest for their future with sacrificial acts on your behalf?  I think of how many deathbed requests have been made.  “Please take care of my son, or wife, in my absence.”  Even Jesus, near death on the cross, couldn’t stop thinking about his mother and asked John to treat her as his mother.  For the rest of Mary’s life, she was in John’s household.

            With Sarah gone, Abraham knew he was at the end of his life.  He believed God for the promise of future generations to the point of great sacrifice.  As long as he was alive, he could stay in charge and inspire fidelity and obedience.  With himself out of the picture however, the line and promises of God were vulnerable.  Isaac was near the Canaanites and the chance of marrying one of their women was high. How many families have taken a bad spiritual detour because of a bad marriage!

            There was one nearby to whom Abraham could entrust his heart and his passion.  Eleazar, the long time steward of his household, had traveled with Abraham and Sarah through most of their journey.  What a comfort for this old father to know that Eleazar would accept the challenge and responsibility for Isaac’s future.

            Some have large families and know the benefits of having many blood relatives who will nurture the spiritual life of their children.  Others have little family and, as God intended, nurture the relationships of spiritual family.  With a chosen few, they enjoy a bond like that of Abraham and Eleazar.  How many mentors have raised others children and kept them true to the future God had for them.  The promise Eleazar made would mean a long faith journey to find Isaac’s wife.  Love for God and love for Abraham fueled his journey.

Help me nurture right relationships beyond my own life.  Amen

Journal Question:  Ask God if there is someone’s child you can affect this year for the kingdom.  Right now, a parent might be despairing for their son or daughter’s future and you are the answer to their prayer.

The Proof Of My Belief

THE PROOF OF MY BELIEF

“I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”  Genesis 23:4

         God makes some pretty outrageous promises.  The life of faith is marked by unbelievable proclamations of favor.  It’s easy for me to doubt most of what God says to me even though I say I believe Him.

         God called Abraham away from his home, called him to embark on a life of travel to a promised piece of land that He would give Him.  He left everything.  Abraham proved his belief in God’s promise by waiting to make his first purchase of land in the territory of the Promised Land.  He bought a place for Sarah’s burial and paid an exorbitant amount for it.

         God will call me to take a huge step of faith some time during my lifetime.  The call is ludicrous, insensible, and therefore frightening.  Few will understand my decision to follow God’s voice and in the midst of my own faith struggle, I will suffer disapproval and rejection from those whose opinion matters to me.  Unrest begins to erode my confidence and I think of taking shortcuts. Yes, I start out on my journey but along the way, I buy pieces of land and call them home.  I do this ‘just in case’ God doesn’t come through.

         Any backup plan I’ve made infers that I can’t really trust God’s promises. I may as well say to Him, “Ok, I admit it.  I’m taking care of myself because I don’t really believe You’ll come through for me!”  As a Father who has given me everything, does this not wound our relationship?  Imagine if you said this to a friend, a husband or wife, or to anyone who has loved you well.

         So, what would it mean if I said to God, “I really do believe You ~ and to prove it, I’ll do _____________(this).”  

What if You asked me for proof of my belief?  Is that not what an act of faith is?  Show me how to invest in the Promised Land.  Amen

Journal Question:  Have an honest conversation with God about the status of your faith in Him.  He already knows but only when you speak it, will there be the chance for Him to speak into your heart.

What Her Life Teaches Me

WHAT HER LIFE TEACHES ME

Sarah lived 127 years; And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.  Genesis 23:1-2

         It is only right and fair to remember Sarah’s life today.  She lived 127 years and survived many hardships.  Her struggles were public as many of her triumphs and failures were captured for all of us to read.  After all is said and done, she was named as an example of trust in Yahweh.  Isaiah 51:2  She is mentioned as one whose faith counted as righteousness.  Romans 4:19  She did a lot wrong but, oh, she did a lot right.  What can I learn from her?

         She persevered.  Abraham loved her but was anything but a perfect husband.  She was used to trick two kings into believing that she was a sibling, not a wife.  As a pawn on account of her beauty, she was taken as part of the kings’ harem.  When Abraham failed to protect her, God stepped in to guard her chastity.  In spite of this betrayal in her marriage, she appeared to stay emotionally engaged and teachable in Abraham’s company.

         She grew in her faith until her death.  Refusing to coast, she ultimately believed God for the birth of the promised child, Isaac, at age 90.  In her old age, God renamed her for her faith.  When I wonder if God forgets the aged, I remember her story.  God can, and will, do a new thing regardless of whether or not I’ve passed the ‘prime of life.’  Age is irrelevant in the kingdom.

         She was not perfect.  She gave her slave girl to be a concubine to Abraham.  Sarah was desperate and caved into doubt instead of faith.  In spite of this and the catastrophic outcome of the birth of Ishmael, their marriage lasted and Abraham mourned her death.  Forgiveness, not bitterness, won in their marital relationship.

         I’m halfway to Sarah’s age.  I often fight the urge to coast instead of engage.  I’m aware today that there is so much life to live yet.  God’s greatest work in me is ahead of me, not behind me.  On a good day, I don’t struggle with joy and purpose.  On a bad day, I must, and will, fight for my faith.

I will not be crippled in any way by my failures, Father.  They are teachers, not catalysts for defeat.  I stay engaged today, fully alive unto You.  Amen

Journal Question: You’ve heard the phrase ‘the living dead’.  Is there any part of you who died because of some failure of tragedy?  Would you be open to God resurrecting you, every part of you, to the abundant life He promised?  Talk to Him about it.