When Someone Wants Your Blessing

And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land. Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Genesis 13:5-9  ESV

There is no way to write about Abram’s dealings with Lot without displaying the entire scripture passage which tells the story.  Abram did what goes against the grain of every human being.  He gave preference to the ones who wanted his blessing.  Abram and Lot were never unified in mission.  There had been friction from the start.  Now, the conflict between them rises to the surface again.  The land is too small for both and all their flocks.  Their herdsman are fighting over pasture land and who should have rights to it.

Abram knows God has promised him the land and the blessing of prosperity.  But, instead of hoarding the blessing, instead of rising to play God, he defers to Lot.  He lets him be the first to choose what part of the land he would like to make his own.  Abram showed a lack of self-interest.  Why would he be so generous?

Because he believed in the sovereignty and promises of God.  Deferring to Lot would not threaten what God had promised.  Abram didn’t need to fight for what God said was his.  That battle was God’s and Abram rested in future provision.

God has given each of His children a calling and a host of promises to accompany it.  No one can steal it. God may be invisible but He is not inactive.  I do not need to come apart when it appears that I’m about to be crowded out of the picture.  God is still pulling strings to ensure my future.  I can step aside and be gracious, even to the unrighteous, feeling no need to fight for what God said is mine.  I can choose to live in the confidence of God’s promises rather than the fear of being left out.

From the time we are small, we cry when another takes away our toy. “Mine,” we protest.  The sense of injustice takes over our emotions.  God’s ways are difficult, and it takes the grace of God to react differently in adulthood.  Like Jesus who laid aside glory to become a servant, we can choose to serve our enemies, too.  His future was not threatened even though it looked like it was for a time.  Today, He sits in His rightful place of rule and authority.  The supposed threats are dead and gone and virtually nameless.  So it is if we choose to follow Jesus.  Deferring is not losing.  Deferring is an act of faith and the pathway to the blessing and inheritance that cannot be taken away.

When I’m clutching and hoarding, speak to my fearful heart.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Sin Brings Humiliation. Then What Do I Do?

And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.  Genesis 13:3-4  ESV

What do you do after you’ve been humiliated?  After you’ve fallen from grace?  Perhaps you’ve wronged someone deeply and the thought of facing them again is unnerving.  You decide to avoid them instead.

Uncertainty plagues anyone before they’re about to give an apology.  After all, history proves that not all people are forgiving.  The propensity to hide is well-founded, especially if a past apology didn’t go well.  They refused to let you make things right and enjoyed holding your sins over your head. They were quick to remind you of who you were and what you did, even if it was twenty-five years ago.  This is emotional cruelty.

It’s difficult to separate God from this mix of fallen humanity.  God forgives every time, even after repeated failures.  God never gets weary of sincere apologies.  He is as excited to see me return to Bethel and call upon His name as He was the first time I built an altar.  No matter how many times I have failed, His loving-kindness is other-worldly.

After Abram was disgraced in Egypt with the Pharaoh, he didn’t decide to throw in the towel.  He traveled back to Bethel, the place where he met God the first time and built an altar.  This was the site of his spiritual homecoming, and he was quick, upon arriving there, to call upon the name of the LORD.  There is no record of shyness.

People’s love is imperfect.  I have many scars to prove it and still have a scared heart where certain people are concerned.  They are dependably judgmental and immovable but God is not like that.  No matter where I’ve gone, no matter what I’ve done, no matter how long I’ve been gone, I can always go back to Bethel.

On the other side of repentance, You will never keep reminding me of my sins.  No one loves like You. Amen

When I Act Out In Shocking Ways

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?  Genesis 12:17-18  ESV

When someone acts in a way that is different from their reputation, they usually become a topic of conversation.  If a consistently nice person turns on someone without provocation, it will be said ~ “I can’t believe it.  I’ve never seen them act like this!”  If a man leaves his wife after thirty-five years of marriage, a man others perceived as loving and stable, it will be said ~ “He was the last man I would ever believe could abandon his family.” This is the stuff that makes headlines; when people act out in ways that are contrary to their reputation. When Abram, well-known throughout Jewish history for his faith, distrusted God and lied to a king to save his family, it was said ~ “Abram really did that?”

Most of the time, the places where I sin are not surprising to me.  I know my weaknesses and I have a history of struggle in those areas.  Those who know me well know these chinks in my armor as well and pray for me.  What takes me by surprise however is when I fall in areas I think I’m immune.  I don’t expect the temptation, perfectly customized by an enemy who knows how he must present it to me.  He shapes its appeal to my liking and then times it perfectly.  When it appears on my radar, falling for it seems so natural that I’m completely disarmed.

On Abram’s great journey of faith from Ur to the Promised Land, he had moments where he was unfaithful.  He was tested again in those same areas and failed repeatedly.  But by God’s grace, he would succeed in the future in the biggest faith-test of all.  On Mt. Moriah, he would trust God by laying Isaac on the altar and raising a knife to take his life. Though he couldn’t see how God could intervene, he would obey nonetheless, and go down in history as the first one to whom God credited righteousness.

It is important to remember that I am not above any sin.  But what is also important is to remember is that no sin disqualifies me from God’s mercy.  He loves me even while I’m sinning.  His covenant love is not shaken loose because I wander into enemy territory. 

You are a God of mercy to a world of sinners, a God of grace to the throng of beggars.  I am both.  Amen

Fix It Or Give It To God?

When he [Abram] was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you… Genesis 12:11-13 ESV

Abram launched into problem-solving mode. It was common for those high up in powerful positions to seize and plunder others’ wives and belongings. Surely an Egyptian king would take beautiful Sarai for his own. To protect her, Abram saw deceit as his only answer. Why didn’t he ask God to change the king’s heart? He had already trusted God with bigger things.

While Abram’s error may seem obvious because it’s about him, it’s not when it’s about me. If I have a history of making things work to go my way, I won’t even think of trusting God with something of high consequence. I’ll force things, make a mess, and then when I’ve hit a wall, I’ll turn to crisis prayers.

More times than I can count, I’ve been hemmed in. At that moment, I said ~ “Something has got to be done now!”  Waiting on God seemed reckless. The stakes seemed too high so I stepped in to try to solve it myself. But there is always another choice. Instead of forcing things, even coercing people to comply with my solutions, I can turn to God and wait for him to move in the hearts of other people. 

After Abram took matters into his own hands, things fell apart. When it escalated to a life and death situation, God stepped in. How much suffering would have been avoided if trusting God had been his initial response.

I always want to do something rash to bring relief. But I’m stopping. I’m trusting You to and weave a plan that will bring wings to me and glory to You. Amen

Famine Can Come To Your Promised Land

And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.  Genesis 12:9-10  ESV

Abram finally arrives in Canaan.  He is anxious to make it ‘home’ for his people but it turns out they can’t settle there yet because there is severe famine. Talk about disappointment!  But there is no indication that Abram was confused and that famine shook up his faith. His faith sustained him when, at that moment, God’s character could easily have been questioned.

Famine will drive Abram and his family to Egypt and his faith will be tested there.  God will use the circumstances to present the ‘perfect storm’.  The one who has not wavered yet from almost perfect obedience to God will falter.  God used adversity, like a famine, for the spiritual testing of this patriarch.

God is all about growing me up to a mature kind of faith, the kind Jesus had.  How does faith grow?  By testing what I know in the middle of the hard experiences of my life.  I can say I trust God but to what extent is that true?  Under what circumstances will my trust erode?  I can easily tell others that God is a faithful Father but will I believe that when I’m in the middle of a trail and can’t trace His hand yet? 

My first response to a famine in my spiritual Canaan can be to second-guess the decision I made to obey God and go there.  That conclusion is spiritually immature.  God can, and has, made promises to His chosen servants that were accompanied by adversity.  He promised favor but led them to pitch their tent with enemies.  He spoke of blessing but led them to the place where giants ruled.  He spoke of a promised land but then afflicted it with famine.  What kind of God is this?

Up to this point, Abram has been nearly perfect and someone hard to identify with.  That is about to change.  Our patriarchs were great men of faith but they were also human.  The scriptures don’t whitewash their sins nor do they hide them.  The lives of our forefathers were as messy as ours and yet we get to see God bless, correct, forgive, and then restore, time after time.  It is a Father/child relationship after all.

If I have heard God’s call, followed at great personal cost, and found myself in times of hardship, I know that this is not the end of the story.  God is in the process of transforming my faith while still being good for His promise.

And I should know better than to expect perfection in Canaan.  Canaan is not heaven, after all.   Help me adjust my expectations, rise above blaming, and call You good.  Amen

When Home Is Hostile

Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  Genesis 12:6  ESV

Many have prayed for the will of God, followed His voice, and experienced complete disillusionment when they found themselves in hostile surroundings.  They blame God for being unloving or they blame themselves for being poor listeners.  Experiencing angst within the will of God is common and should not surprise God’s children.

When Abram encountered the Canaanites, hostile company epitomized, he didn’t pick up and move on.  He settled there.  Though he was the only Yahweh worshipper, He built an altar.  With far less revelation of God than I have, he was strong enough in his faith to be faithful.

Some years back, our family lived in a hostile environment.  We begged, daily, for release.  We were willing to move anywhere and do anything to escape our surroundings.  Surely, we reasoned, God wouldn’t want us to endure such a place.  Yet, every request for a move away was met by the silence of God.  One morning in prayer, the Spirit of God spoke to me through a verse in Psalms.  “Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”  Psalm 37:3    We were to learn how to make our little home a place where the glory of God rested.  We were to understand how to eat the sumptuous spiritual meal God provided daily amid our enemies.  We stayed three more years before God moved us out and that time proved to be one of the most formational times, spiritually, in our family’s history.

Many live in hostility.  Unfortunately, it can be with a husband, wife, child, or aging parent.  It can even be in a place of ministry.  Scorn and ridicule are the backdrops of daily life.  Instinct says to escape.  Do anything to run from such discomfort.  But God’s way is for His child to learn how to make Him their home.  The glory of Christ can descend on the darkest environment.

Give your child today spiritual grit, a willingness to stay in a tormenting place, and peace in submission.  Amen