Daughters of Promise

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

UNHOLY AMBITION

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

MAKING OURSELVES A NAME

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.  Genesis 11:4

         How small God must have been.  Solidarity was created among the peoples of this region to think that they could build a tower tall enough to reach into the heavens and, in the process, make a name for themselves that had nothing to do with God.  It was ridiculous and yet nothing has changed.  Our small worlds are full of those who are feverishly building a kingdom to impress, one where God is ignored, one that will give them a name that inspires awe.

         People were never meant to be the objects of another’s worship.  We are to be worshippers.  We were never meant to make a name for ourselves.  God offers us His name instead.  Why would I possibly want another?

         The real tragedy is when people in ministry try to build towers that offer them fame.  Feeling small, they devise their own source of healing. All the while, the names God has given them, as His child, are all they need to stand tall.  Yet, their quest for identity remains earthbound.

         In the 1980’s, when my quest for significance consumed me, I began to put some pieces together about identity and where it comes from.  I wrote this song for me, and for my children, that would allow the things God calls us to wash over our souls.  Anytime we felt weak or insignificant, we could sing it.  Over the years, I have recorded it at different times but I have found that there are days I really need to hear it again.  Earth is an orphanage and reduces one’s sense of worth.  The only remedy is God whispering these truths in our ears.

GOD GAVE ME HIS NAME

Looking down at the ground

Shadows around me are all I see

They accuse and abuse

Stealing my value, whispering lies to me.

CHORUS

I am a light; I am His bride

An heir to His kingdom; His cross at my side

I am His friend; A daughter and saint

Anointed with love, and mercy and grace

I will stand tall and carry no shame

When I remember God gave me His name.

(To hear the song, click here.)

CURSING GENERATIONS

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”  Genesis 9:24-25

         Noah is remembered for building the ark but perhaps his greatest moment was the pronouncement of this curse over Ham’s descendants.  Just 24 hours earlier, he had been drunk with wine.  At this moment, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.

         The curse was not made against Ham, per se, the one who had reveled in his father’s nakedness.  The curse was against Ham’s youngest son who, it is believed, already exhibited some of the same sinful bents of his father.  The sins of the fathers were being visited on the next generation. Ham sinned as a son and was punished in the moral decay of his own youngest son.

         Noah was God’s mouthpiece in predicting the future profile of Canaan’s descendants.  They would indeed be vile people, the ones the Israelites would have to conquer as they entered the Promised Land.  Their morality would be like Ham’s sinful bent, only far more exaggerated.  Their sin would reach its height during Abraham’s time.

         Sometimes, when all I see is a seed of sinfulness, I can tell myself I’m overreacting to be concerned.  I am not!  Seeds bear fruit.  Nothing stays neutral within family lines.  It may take several hundred years to see the full effect of unrighteousness.  I cannot be fooled by the appearance of something small and seemingly insignificant.  A seed of unrighteousness should send me to my knees whether that seed is in me or in someone close to me.  One thing is sure; God instituted a sowing and reaping world.  Seeds mature and bear fruit.  Nothing stays neutral.

         A toddler struggles with lying.  He grows up.  As a young man in business, he is crafty and manipulative.  Years later, as an old man, he is in full moral decay and bears the shame of disrespect.  A lifetime of deceit will have borne its fruit.  It will be said, “I can’t trust a word he says.”

         One of John Piper’s most famous sermons from Romans is called, “Kill Your Sin!”  He is animated, agitated, and passionate about taking the word of God and plunging it into my own sin, even young sin that has not progressed very far.  Yet!

         “Be hard on sin,” Noah would tell me today.  Oh, but for the grace of God could our inheritance be the likes of Canaanites!

Help me love Your Word more and hate my sin more.  Amen

HOW DO I HANDLE MY PARENT’S SIN?

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.   Genesis 9:22-23

   Noah was drunk.  In his compromised condition, he stripped and lay naked in his tent, fully exposed.  Ham went in and looked upon his father, took in the scene in way that was immoral, and went to report it to his brothers.  It wasn’t that Ham just glanced and left.  Several translations present a Hebraic picture of looking upon someone with lust and desire, and then relishing the exposure.  Noah’s two other sons, after hearing, approached their father with their backs turned toward him and covered up his nakedness.

   There can be something evil bent in the heart of a child to glory in a father’s or mother’s weakness.  If the parent has been a poor one and there is unresolved hurt, a child, no matter what age, can rejoice when the power and grandeur of a parent begins to crumble.  The need for revenge takes over to party over their sin.  Though I am surprised that Ham, after being saved from worldwide destruction by the faith of his father, is not more humbled and reverent!

   I have no idea what Ham’s issue with his father was but at that moment, his own heart was revealed.  Noah had not been a perfect father and leader but he had been righteous.  Like David, he had a heart bent toward faith and had proven it over a century.

   Honoring parents is one of the conditional foundational requirements for God’s blessing.  He instituted the family and for anything to pollute the beauty of the relationships is to hurt the heart of the Creator.  Nothing is more tragic than parents who won’t forgive children and children who won’t forgive parents.

   In a particular movie from a few years back, I remember a line that struck me.  A son in his forties is having a heated discussion with his mother.  He raises his voice to make a point.  The mother says, “Son, who taught you to be this cruel?”  His answer, “You did, mother.  You did!”  In this hotbed of anger, each is looking for the vulnerability of the other to rise up and strike.

   Parents aren’t perfect.  Some try their best and fail.  Others don’t care and fail.  Should all parents be forgiven?  Yes.  To fail to forgive is to hurt, not only the parent but the ones who carry the anger.  I realize today that I teach my children how to treat me by how they hear me talk of my own parents.  Respect and honor are godly legacies I can pass on.  Disrespect and dishonor can just as easily become hallmarks of family trees.

Your forgiveness covered my sins.  How grateful am I?  Can I not, in remembrance of Your mercy, cover my parent’s shortcomings?  Drive the point home.  Amen