On The Other Side Of The Door

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR

And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him.  And the LORD shut him in.  Genesis 7:16

         Many children today flee their parents’ arguments by running to their room to shut the door.  The door separates an atmosphere of turmoil from a place of refuge.

         Doors have had similar significance in scripture.  A door has been used by God to separate the righteous from the unrighteous, good from evil, peril from safety.

         God shut the door to the ark, separating Noah and his family from the unbelieving world who would face judgment.  Noah didn’t have to sort it out and decide who would have the door shut in their face. God could see the hearts of men and made the righteous judgments.

         A door provided safety for Lot too, his family, and the two angels who visited him.  A gang of men pounded on the door to his home, demanding that he release his two visitors for their sexual pleasure.  They took refuge behind the closed-door of Lot’s home.

         In the days of Moses, the doorpost of Hebrew homes became the dividing point between death and life.  While the angel of the Lord came to slay the first male child of every Egyptian household, the Hebrew children were saved when they applied blood to the doorposts of their homes.

         Jesus said, “I am the door.”  John 10:7 He is the only way a man or woman passes from death to life, from eternal judgment to eternal rest in God’s presence.  The majority of mankind rises up to contradict Jesus’ claim.  They swear that there are many ways to God but in the end, God is the One who will decide who enters and who is denied access.  Jesus is the door to the ark of safety and all who enter by Him will be saved.

         Noah and his family, most likely, heard the heart wrenching drama outside the ark.  For seven days it began to rain.  Those who had ridiculed the building of a strange wooden structure realized too late the dire consequences of their decision.  The price for rejecting Jesus, the ark of safety, is still as dire today.  Those who ridicule experience a false sense of security, as the judgment of God has not yet been released.  Our world enjoys ‘life as usual’ just as those in Noah’s day did for 120 years.  If only all men and women could learn from history.  I must pray hard for those close to me, those who are still blind, that God would open their eyes to the high stakes game they play.

Jesus, You are still saying, ‘Come!’  Let my words to them be filled with urgency.  Time is short.  Amen

A Father And Consequences

A FATHER AND CONSEQUENCES

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.  Romans 1:24a

            When we see our children make bad choices, we usually want to rush in and prevent them from experiencing the consequences.  What we try to protect them from might have saved them.  Instead of facing the consequences, they grew to feel entitled to our interventions.  They continued to sin recklessly.  Continue reading “A Father And Consequences”

Does God Have a Heart For Your Family?

DOES GOD HAVE 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 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

How Do You Handle a Broken Promise?

HOW DO YOU HANDLE A BROKEN PROMISE?

         And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. Genesis 38:13-14

         People can make promises to someone in pain. “If you’ll just stop crying, then …..” Distress makes them uncomfortable and they’ll promise about anything to make the pain go away. Here’s the flip side. Never are we more vulnerable to a promise-maker than when we are in great need.

         Tamar married the first son of Judah. God killed him because he was evil. She married the next son of Judah. He was wicked also and God killed him. Though He was protecting her, it probably didn’t feel like it. Perhaps she wondered if she was a curse. Everybody connected to her was getting killed. Can you imagine her grief and confusion?   People in that culture did not grieve quietly. They wailed. In this environment, Judah stepped up and offered his youngest son but Tamar would have to wait years for him because he was young.

         While others her age were having children, she was waiting. While others were enjoying their young families, she was waiting. It was a painful day when she realized that Judah forgot or disregarded the promise he had made to her. Realizing that she might remain a widow forever, she took matters into her own hands. She dressed up as a cultic prostitute and waited at the gate where those attending a Canaanite sheep-shearing festival would pass. There, she hoped to snare Judah and sleep with him to get her heir. The one who had broken the promise would be tricked.

         When someone makes me a promise, I can own it and feel entitled to it. It’s already mine. When denied, I can set out to force it out of the promise-maker’s hands. “You owe me!” Manipulative tactics instead of prayer are implemented.

         Those who intentionally break promises are betrayers. Never are they in more danger than when I put them in God’s hands instead of my own. ‘Forgiveness is taking someone off my hook and putting them on God’s hook.’ I must remember that when someone breaks a promise, God is the One who joyfully keeps His Word and redeems every broken promise with something infinitely better.

I lay down my need for revenge. Like Jesus believed, I know You rule righteously. Amen

God Put An Evil Man To Death

GOD PUT AN EVIL MAN TO DEATH

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Genesis 38:6-7

         This is an example of how God deals with evil. It is but one example. He put a wicked man to death to spare Tamar and their descendants from whatever evil Er would have committed.

         Here’s the question that comes next ~ Why does God annihilate the wicked in this particular story but not others? This is why some say they can’t trust God. His inconsistency is a stumbling block.

         No one has a definitive word on the purposes of God except God Himself. However, scripture gives a small window on why evil is allowed to exist. It is an invitation to showcase the power and glory of God.

         I have been close to evil. Our family suffered over the course of a few decades because of our proximity to it. We initially called it senseless. I sunk into a deep depression.  It appeared it had no value whatsoever except destruction. But God kept speaking, kept wooing, kept inviting each of us to bring Him the pain we suffered. He gave us the grace the work through it emotionally. He also invited us not to live in the middle of the story. He showed us promise after promise that He was a Redeemer of suffering. While the story is far from over, the redemption of what was perpetrated against us has been overwhelming. On center stage is God, Himself. His power is unmistakable; His glory on full display.

         Does this seem hollow? If you have suffered, or are suffering from the aftermath of something evil, you may be in the senseless stage. Your cries have been audible. “Why didn’t God stop it?”

         For every evil committed, there is a redemption. For every devastation, there is a promise. The reason so many are angry with God is because they haven’t yet seen the redemption He offers. When He reveals Himself to the brokenhearted believer and begins to personalize a redemptive story to match their tragedy, His power and glory are blinding. Don’t get stuck in the middle of your story. If the cross can be called the ‘cross of glory’, any kind of evil is a candidate for resurrection power.

Walk into the darkness with those today who think You are absent. Amen

A Hundred Years From Now

A HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW

Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.  Genesis 37:36

Do I ever consider what will happen to my family a hundred years from now?  If I’m wise, I will remember the story of Isaac and Ishmael.  Why bring up them in the story of Joseph?  Because the Midianites is an overlapping term for Ishmaelites, the descendants of Ishmael.

What is really happening here is this ~ Joseph was sold to blood relatives.  If ancestry.com had existed, and if everyone involved had done a genealogy study, they would have discovered that they were related.  Did the slave traders know that they purchased their own flesh and blood?  No way.

Ishmael was once the favored son of Abraham; a firstborn and an heir.  But through no fault of his own, he found himself in disfavor once Isaac was born.  He and his mother, Hagar, were turned away to an unforgiving desert existence.  God did not forget them and they not only were spared, but went on to prosper.  Ishmael had 12 sons and they populated much of the Middle East.

Who did God use to get Joseph to Egypt?  Ishmael’s descendants.  In God’s grand redemptive narrative, there are unexpected twists and turns that are really quite stunning.  Even though family plots are complicated, God’s purposes are never thwarted.  As badly as we can mess things up, God is never stumped in how to save, how to redeem, and how to accomplish what was written before time.

Joseph couldn’t appreciate what his slavery meant.  Neither can we.  But consider how rich his worship was at the end of his life.  As he looked back, he could see the threads of God’s glory throughout his own storyline.  Amazed, his view of God had to be enlarged beyond comprehension.

Can I trust God enough today with the seeming dead ends, tragedies, and unresolved conflicts in my own life?  I cannot even begin to imagine how He will work with the dark threads of my own story to bring about another Joseph-kind of narrative worth reading.

On the way to Egypt, Joseph lay in the back of a caravan.  He was bound, dirty, nameless, and despairing.  Later, he was crowned royalty, given a new name to match his level of leadership, and went on to save his entire nation from extinction.  Oh, the difference of a few decades.

What often casts me into unbelief is downright ludicrous.  Bind me to the miracles of my spiritual ancestors.  Amen

“Can’t You Hear Your Brother Crying?”

“CAN’T YOU HEAR YOUR BROTHER CRYING?”

And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat. Genesis 37:25-25a

               A group of grown men seized their own flesh and blood brother, stripped him, threw him into a pit, and then commenced to sit down and eat a meal. They were immune to the despair they inflicted. It’s unconscionable, or is it?

              Consider how callousness starts. Brothers and sisters, even very young, reach out to hit their sibling and discover a surprising sense of glee when they realize they can make them cry. Good parents come and try to instill empathy. “What you did hurt your sister. Tell her you’re sorry!” And yet, the apology is hard to muster. Cruelty is in our fallen nature.

               How will I develop keen sensitivity to others’ pain? How will I feel another’s sadness when I see pools of tears in their eyes? How will I feel enough remorse when my need for revenge caused me to injure someone beyond human repair? How will I come to regret an angry outburst against my child when I hear him whimpering in his room? Without God, callouses of my heart grow thicker with the years. I can hear weeping and still walk away unmoved.

               But with God, I am affected and changed by His Spirit that lives inside. When I see someone’s pain, His compassion rises up and challenges me to express it. When I wound another with my angry words, His Spirit convicts me and opens my eyes to see the damage. In this life, I will continue to sin but when I do, I will feel how God feels about it and try to quickly make things right.

               As I’m writing this, I’m suddenly aware that I can be callous to God’s tears. Does knowing that I will hurt Him cause me to sin less? Or do I avoid sin because I hate the consequences? That should be a side issue. What should deter me is knowing that my sin hurts my relationship with Jesus.

               So, how difficult is it to apologize to Jesus when I’ve hurt Him? Excusing or rationalizing my behavior creates spiritual callouses. The cure is to spend time in the presence of God. Being near Him will sharpen my recognition of good and evil and give me the tender, teachable spirit of a toddler. Spiritual regeneration is when God turns back the clock to transform the person with a hardened heart of stone into a person with childlike sensitivities. At rebirth, I am putty in His hands as He begins to awaken my heart to beat like His.

Keep nudging me, Jesus. Keep asking, “Do you see it? Do You feel it?” Make me more aware of what moves you. Amen