THE POWER OF DESPERATION

So they made their father [Lot] drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.  Genesis 19:35-38  ESV

         Put yourself in the story of Lot’s daughters.  You’ve been displaced from your home.  Your husbands are dead.  Your mother is dead.  All that is left is the two of you and your father is old.  He is not likely to re-marry and your entire future depends on having children who will care for you and carry on your family name.  What will you do?

         These two women were not inclined to throw all their hopes on God.  Their father hadn’t done that either.  They took matters into their own hands, got their father drunk, and each slept with him in order to conceive.

         They gave birth to the father of the Moabites and the father of the Ammonites.  Both peoples would be cruel to Abraham’s descendants.  Both peoples would worship famous idols; Baal and Peor.  Children would be sacrificed at their altars.  Yet, these two young women would never see into the future to understand the power of their choices.  For them, it was immediate relief from a seemingly impossible situation.  From their limited viewpoint, their plan had been successful.

         And this is the problem when I take matters into my own hands.  I cannot see down the road.  My own ingenuity can appear to have worked.  What I need comes to me as result of my actions and I can even thank God for it.  What I don’t know is the long-term effect.  I remember three things today.

  1. Desperation should never replace actively hoping in God.
  2. Desperation is never a valid excuse for doing my own thing.
  3. My judgment is always impaired when I am desperate and this is the time to press in to God’s heart for wisdom.

The only answer to every problem I have is You, Lord.  Don’t let me cave early to anyone else’s suggestions, including my own.  Amen

WHEN I KEEP LOOKING BEHIND ME

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.  Genesis 19:26

         Looking back upon what God told me to leave behind endangers me every time.  God calls me out to something new, by faith, and because everything familiar and tangible is behind me, I keep looking back as a sign of attachment.

         What’s behind me can even be painful, but I’ll keep rehearsing the past.  People may have hurt me and though God called me out into the freedom forgiveness offers, I am still obsessed with what happened.  So much so, that I constantly nurse my grudges.

         Lot and his family had been prosperous in Sodom.  They not only enjoyed great wealth, but prestige.  Lot’s wife (we don’t know her name) was fleeing to the mountains for her life and leaving every worldly good behind her.  Certainly a scary endeavor!  But God gives grace and courage when He calls us out and offers wings for our journey.

         She paid for this disobedience with her life.  Her act of looking behind her is not unlike the children of Israel who stayed preoccupied with Egypt.  Or, as my 8-year-old grandson put it, after hearing the story of the Israelites building the golden calf to worship, “Nana, they had the memory of Egypt in their hearts.”  A great way to capture their spiritual problem.  In spite of the fact that they had been slaves with little, when times got tough, they pined to return to their captivity.

         Three things capture my heart today.

  1. When God calls me out, I will trust that it’s tailor made for me.
  2. I will not trust my own senses as I’m traveling in a new direction.
  3. I will remember that my security is not in what I left, but who I belong to.

No matter what’s behind me, it’s not better than what you’re leading me to.  Before it takes shape, hold me tight when it appears as if you’re leading me to a vacuum.  Amen

THE COST OF MEDIOCRITY

And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”  Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.  Genesis 19:17,24,26

         Lot’s wife lived by example.  She didn’t take God all that seriously.  She believed Him enough to know that she should flee the city but not enough to believe the consequences of looking back.  Is Lot responsible for that?

         Not everything a wife does is her husband’s fault nor vice versa.  We are each responsible for our own choices.  However, the leadership each of us see modeled in those around us do affect us.  Parents who mock God will usually raise children who do the same.  Husbands who live a life of mediocrity will probably see their family live lukewarm toward God.

         Lot had faith, but for the most part it was second-hand faith.  He had tagged along with Abraham, seen that God was real, yet only followed God when it was convenient for him and his family.  His last major choice had been to choose the land of Sodom for his home.  He conformed to fit in a godless society, so much so that he became popular enough to rise to the status of mayor.  What do these kinds of choices communicate to Lot’s family?  “Don’t take God too seriously!”

         As the entire family fled Sodom, no doubt they heard the roaring fire behind them.  They felt the heat on their backs.  They could see the glow of the flames out of their peripheral vision.  The temptation to look back was strong.  Talk about a show!  Because she’d never seen her husband pay a steep price for mediocrity, her decision to turn around was pretty easy.  It cost her everything.

         If God has called me into the ministry but I choose to stay and work in a family business instead, will I be struck dead?  Not likely.  It will appear that I’ve gotten away with disobedience.  But there will be unwelcome fruit in other places and that always begins with my family.  Their eyes are always watching.

Am I flirting with what You abhor?  It’s hard to even ask the question.  Show me.  Amen

BLIND AND STILL OBSESSED

But the men [angels] reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.  Genesis 19:10-11

         God is faithful to protect His children.  The men who came to Lot and his family, the ‘angels unaware’, shut the door to the outside gang who had come to do Lot’s visitors harm.  Knowing their numbers and their strength, knowing they could probably still break down the door, the angels struck the members of the gang with blindness.  Even that didn’t stop them.  They were still obsessed with finding the door and breaking in ~ so strong was their obsession with sexual perversion.

         What does it take to break under the hand of God?  Personally, it has taken a lot.  My own heart was so darkened that it took a lot of time and pain to bring me to the end of myself.  I wanted what I wanted ~ and I was also obsessed in my own private and stubborn way.  I have since learned that if not taught the sweet fruit of submission when we’re young, the desire for personal autonomy becomes entrenched over time.  So much harder to submit at 45 than at 4 years of age.  That’s why we teach our children to obey the first time.  We’re preparing them to say, “Yes, Lord!” when Jesus calls them.

         You may be watching the Lord break the will of a loved one.  You may be shaking your head at how stubborn they are. (And also humbled at the memory of how stubborn you were.)  You wonder how much longer.  Though they have felt the heavy hand of God, they are still groping for the door that leads them to satisfy their cravings for sinful pleasures.

         Though it may look hopeless today, it is not.  Not all believe, we know that.  But those who burn the brightest for the kingdom experience a pivotal moment when they surrender in the fire.  As you watch the crushing of that person you love, know that God knows their limits and frame.  You can trust His hand that afflicts – even in your tears for their repentance.

Lord, you hear my cry.  When will they submit and believe?  I can’t stand to watch so give me grace and do what is necessary, quickly, to bring them to their knees.  I know Your justice but I am comforted that You are also limitless in mercy.  Amen

HOW COULD HE DO SUCH A THING?!

And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”  Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.  Behold, I have two daughters.  Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.  Only do nothing to these men.”  Genesis 19:5-8

         It’s easy for me to be so shocked by what happens at this point in the story of Lot and his family that I will read from a distance, point an accusing finger, and refrain from asking what I can learn from it about myself.  At first glance, I’ll experience outrage.  “Lot, sacrificing his daughters to a mob?  How horrible.”  And it was.  But this sinful response of Lot to the gang who desired to rape Lot’s two visitors didn’t begin and end on this particular night.

         When I think about the worst sin I have committed, it was never done spur of the moment.  There had been a trail of thoughts and deeds that preceded it.  One doesn’t just turn on God unexpectedly and sin greatly.  Even if it appears that way to others, be assured that in the heart of the offender, there were multitudes of choices and beliefs that paved the way for mutiny.

         Lot never showed unwavering fidelity toward God.  (Neither did Abraham but he was quick to repent when he strayed.)  Lot made a series of decisions, some appearing small, that were never corrected.  Sin is insidious over a long period of time.  It not only kills and destroys but it deceives.  If I have a history of a sinful habit, I should know that, with time, comes longstanding deception in some part of my life.  I will be the last to see it if I’m not in the Word or in the company of someone who teaches the Word.

         “Lot, what is the effect of moving to Sodom with your family and living in a triple X society?”  He would affirm what scripture teaches.  The effect is numbness.  A seared conscience.”  To offer his daughters as bait to a gang didn’t seem anywhere near as outrageous to Lot as it does to those of us who read about it.  But here’s the thing.  The worst thing I have done didn’t appear to me, at the time, to be outrageous either.  I had paved the road to that pivotal moment with bricks of subtle rebellion.

Don’t let me read this like a novel and point my finger at Lot.  Help me see the log in my own eye.  Amen

A PERFECT MOMENT TO STRIKE BACK

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

Kids learn quickly how to take revenge.  When someone plays a practical joke on them, they may pretend that it didn’t faze them but watch out.  When the jokester is long past the joke he played and forgets to watch his back, revenge is taken.  The payback is usually worse, too.  That’s because revenge is in our bones.  It is our natural response to being hurt.

         I was the brunt of many practical jokes, really bullying, in junior high and high school.  Drugs were planted in my locker.  The same group of kids who planted the drugs would often wait for me to leave the building to find my bus.  They would splash me from head to toe with mud or empty my book bag and throw all my papers in the air.  By the time I retrieved them, I had missed the bus. I dreamed of revenge but didn’t know how to act it out since I was only one person and they were more than a half dozen.

         You’ve heard of someone taking advantage of you when there’s ‘blood in the water’.  Continue reading

IT’S STILL IN THERE!

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.”  Genesis 19:1-2

            If Lot were your nephew, or son, or husband, would you have long given up on him?  He had made a series of foolish decisions while in relationship with you.  The last one took him to Sodom to flirt with a culture that was hostile to your God.  As a family member, wouldn’t you be grieving for his spiritual condition?  Yet, two men arrive, danger is imminent, and Lot’s courage and faith spring into action.

            He is not dead to faith.  His sojourn into spiritually dangerous territory has not killed every righteous seed God had planted in his heart.

            The calendar months move slowly when I’m waiting for the spiritual return of one I love.  I envision the bleeding effects of their environment on their love for Christ.  How could fidelity not waste away by the day?  How will any vestige of faith be preserved for the day God comes calling?

            Seeds of faith are preserved when loved ones pray for the one who strays.  All is not dead in his heart.  Though the culture of lawlessness has surely influenced him and, by all appearances, he seems to have completely caved to its pressures, we underestimate the strength of a God who stirs the embers of faith in places no one sees.  He even does spiritual surgery in the subconscious while someone sleeps to keep words and memories alive.

            Over whom are you crying today?  Over whom are you tempted to stop praying?  Don’t do it!  Weep, certainly, but not without hope.  If any of us sow our prayers in heartfelt tears, we will reap a harvest with joy.  God would tell many, and perhaps you are one of the many, that the faith you long to see evidence of ~ is still in there.

Even in Sodom, you can keep the embers of faith alive.  I remember that and fight on my knees for their return.  Amen