Logic Is Unbelief’s Friend

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”  Genesis 18:10-12  ESV

Sarah’s cycle of womanhood had been over for decades.  Science and logic proved that it was humanly impossible to bear a child.  Sarah laughed at the thought of something so out of reach.  She knew the physical impossibility.

Miracles aren’t miracles without the ‘impossibility’ factor.  Is this not why faith is so difficult?  We are often surrounded by circumstantial physical evidence that disproves feasibility.  If I’ve never experienced a personal miracle, then I will always lean toward logic, moving away from hope.

What might I ask God for today if all arguments and reserves were moved out of the way?  Where does it seem risky to trust God?  Where might others laugh in my face, voicing evidence against any faith-filled prayers?  That points precisely to the kinds of impossibilities God relishes. 

“But you can’t ask God for that!” Satan whispers.  His taunts, like arrows, come at me through my own thoughts but also through the mouths of people.  He is not above using faithless believers to parrot faithless words.  I should remember that the next time a brother or sister in Christ comes with their ‘prudent’ warnings.

God has placed me in many impossible situations throughout my life.  There were times I prayed for a miracle to avert some horrible consequence.  I hung onto faith, stood in the Word, and prayed for the impossible. I have seen some miracles and I still shake my head at my powerful God.  But I have seen God withhold miracles, too.  I wonder at the mystery of why He withheld them, but He is wild and unpredictable.  I pray, daily, that faith will be my default response when I am up against a wall despite the real possibility that He might say no to deliverance and yes to daily grace. Either way, my trust in Him will weather disappointment.

God defies the odds.  He cares nothing about physics, past evidence, and present obstacles.  He who spoke to the earth, a planet that was once dark and lifeless, transformed it into a stunning environment full of limitless possibilities.  This same God can do anything miraculous in my world.

For what can I trust You that would defy all odds?  I’ll go there.  Amen

Procrastination

When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.  Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.  Genesis 17:22-23  ESV

As soon as Abraham watched God ascend from his presence, he went out immediately to circumcise himself and every other male in his family.  What a difficult act of obedience yet he didn’t put it off only to spend the next days and weeks in dread.  Sometimes, the more difficult the command, the longer it takes to get up the nerve to do it. I have found procrastination to be a grave mistake.

Anytime God asks something of me, risk is involved.  Someone could get angry with me.  I might lose someone’s respect.  I could be asked to introduce conflict into a relationship I value.  I may put my life on the line.  God may ask me to go somewhere that holds bad memories for me.  If it’s a calling to do something new, it will most certainly involve taking on a job I don’t feel qualified for.

The last thing difficult thing God asked of me was on a November day.  I wrestled badly with Him and didn’t obey until the end of February.  The outcome was a miraculous one and if only I had spared myself three months of misery.

When God gives a command, there is empowerment to do it.  God’s Spirit goes with us when we engage in a difficult thing.  When we envision the pain of how we believe it’s going to be, we misjudge the severity because we don’t factor in God’s grace and blessing that accompanies obedience.

Abraham circumcised adult men and boys far from the infant stage.  They must have dreaded what was coming. Yet we know that God’s gracious hand was manifested during those painful moments.  Perhaps he gave a miraculous kind of anesthesia.  He is the divine Physician, after all.  The text doesn’t reveal that there was bedlam, sickness, or even weakness.  If he spared them in any way, we know why. He blesses obedience and we need to factor that in ahead of time.

Whatever it is you’re putting off, take this devotional as a gentle wind that will propel you into action.

You are with me; Your influence changes everything I do.  Amen

When One Child Is Left Out

And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”  God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly.   Genesis 17:18-20  ESV

Ishmael may have been the child born outside of God’s plan, but that wasn’t his fault.  He was now a full-fledged person, a son that Abraham had grown to love.  When God promises Abraham that his next, unborn, son will be the recipient of the covenant, Abraham struggles as he realizes that Ishmael will be left out.

Is that not painful for any parent who loves their children equally?  They see one flourish in most everything, but for the other, everything seems to come hard.  It happens in almost every home.  If we are not careful, we will conclude that God has blessed one and cursed the other.  Our theology must bear down hard and carry us through misconceptions.

Many who teach are hard on Abraham for wanting God to just give the blessing to Ishmael instead of the son who is coming but he is just being a father.  God knew that, too.  He said, “As for Ishmael, I have heard you.”   God understands the heart of fathers.

So, what about the child for whom everything comes hard?  What should be his perspective?  And what is to be my perspective as a parent?   The story is not yet finished.  It might be that the one who finds life easy will later encounter challenges that will build endurance into his character.  Humility and dependence on God will be the wonderful fruits of struggle.  And the one who seems forgotten in their youth?  God may be using suffering to prepare them for greatness.  As with many of his choicest servants, the first 40 years were the wilderness preparation for a glorious deliverance into anointed ministry and unfathomable blessing.

As a parent, I must trust God as I remember that I am only in the middle of the story.  God is God.  He writes the ending. My part is to trust, pray, and encourage both children to walk humbly with their God despite the seeming inequity.  In the end, we will see evidence that God does do all things well. 

Help my faith to grow up! Amen

Laughter In A Moment Of Disbelief

I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”    Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed.  Genesis 17:16-17  ESV

I have had incredible prayers answered.  Some were so desperate that when He broke through with deliverance, I fell to my knees and cried out, not with tears, but with laughter.  I’m pretty reserved so anyone who knows me might be surprised by this admission.

Laughter has gotten a bad rap.  It does not always mean derision or unbelief.  For me, my outburst of laughter came with these words tumbling out in staccato.  “Oh Lord, you did it!  Thank you.  This is too good to be true.”  I hugged Him in the air and danced, literally.  If He hadn’t delivered, I would be stooped and old for my age today.  My only hope was in Him.  I was completely out of options.

How can we say what kind of laughter Abraham had when God announced the coming birth of a child in his old age?  Maybe it was of the praising kind, not of unbelief.  Perhaps it celebrated a God so good, so faithful, that laughter expressed celebration of something to come.

Anyone can laugh when celebrating a miracle, but the real test is whether I can celebrate before it happens.  My faith has been so weak at times.  What did I do instead?  I didn’t laugh.  Webster’s Dictionary spells some alternatives, crying, moaning, sobbing, wailing, frowning, pouting, and scowling.  Not that there shouldn’t be tears in God’s waiting room.  There should be and there are.  But joyful confidence in a God who can, and will, break through the dark clouds, should also be present.  If I can’t believe His promises enough to speak them and feel them, I live in dark places.  Abundant life begins with faith in what cannot be seen nor discerned.  My spirit has eyes and can see down hope’s pathways.

In all my waiting places, I celebrate You.  Amen

From One Kind Of Princess to Another

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  Genesis 17:15 ESV

The name Sarai means ‘princess.’  So does the name Sarah.  Supposedly, at first glance, they could mean the same thing.  Ah – but they don’t, only because the ones who named her did so for vastly different reasons. 

Sarai was once of nobility among her people, she was her father’s princess.  She was the center of his world, and the name was all about her position and pecking order.  However, once God spoke her name, she became one who would share in the covenant God made with Abraham.  She became God’s princess, the foundational matriarch of God’s new nation. 

When a baby is born, his parents give him a name.  How he feels about it depends on whether he is valued, even how his mother and father say his name.  He will respond accordingly.  Is his name spoken with joy?  Is it whispered tenderly as he is rocked to sleep?   Was his name played with lovingly until an endearing nickname emerged?  If none of the above is true, he probably not only dislikes his name but struggles to like himself. 

Something happens when God calls our name.  The very voice of Love speaks.  It’s unique sound impacts our soul and our spirit.  The affection that comes with its delivery goes deep and begins to heal all other forms of rejection.  There is no way God can touch anything without its properties changing, even when it’s the human heart.   

You are personal and eager to show Your love in ways I’ve never even thought of asking.  Expand the possibilities.  Amen

A Grove Of Hydrangeas

A personal story . . .

My favorite flower is the hydrangea.  Specifically, the ‘Endless Summer’ variety that turn deep bluish-purple depending on the PH range of the soil.  The deeper the color, the more my soul is stirred to the point of tears.

Just south of the city of Charleston, South Carolina, there is a small island called Kiawah.  Just before crossing the bridge to get on the island, there was a farm and flower stand called Rosebanks.  For twenty-five years, this was our first stop when our family arrived for a week’s vacation.  Rosebanks was famous for something besides growing beautiful vegetables. Flowers.  Specifically, hydrangeas.  They had the largest grove of blue and purple hydrangeas beyond the parking lot that people had ever seen.  It had taken them decades to cultivate.  Every year, I would spend time walking through the grove, taking pictures, trying to capture the ‘heaven’ that stirred in my soul.  Here’s one of them. 

We moved to Georgia twenty-two years ago, just five hours from Charleston.  What grows beautifully in North Georgia?  Hydrangeas.  My dream was to take a circular flower bed in front of our house that would resemble Rosebanks.  Even if it was to a small extent.  Every year, I’ve planted another bush and I’ve watched them grow.  They gave a slow start and I held my breath, asking God to please breathe over them.  One year, none of them did well and they remained lifeless twigs in the ground with a few small leaves to let me know they were still alive. 

Ahh, but this year?  Amazing.  I went out last night with my pruners and stood in the middle of them.  It felt like vacation.  The blooms were so plentiful that I had no trouble amassing enough for a bouquet in no time at all.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

Some people go to the beach and watch the sunrise or sunset to feed their soul.  It is there they feel God’s presence.  Others go to the mountains and look out from a high peak.  Me?  I stand and walk in a grove of blue and purple.  When winter comes, I close my eyes and remember.  The memory is a powerful thing.  

The P.S. to the story is that Rosebanks closed.  On our last trip to South Carolina, we arrived at the place the flower market would have been and it was just a sandy lot.  My heart sank.  Then I looked behind it, expecting to see the hydrangeas.  That, too, was a sandy lot.  They had all been dug up.  I don’t mind telling you that I cried.  So now, more than ever, I’m committed to trying to reproduce that beyond our own front door.  If God continues to bless the soil, my prayers, and my limited experience growing things, I will continue to have bouquets like this in my kitchen for years to come.

Jesus is building each of us a ‘mansion’ in heaven.  He said so in John 14.  It will be customized to delight us, to reflect our uniqueness, the very things He celebrates in us even now.  The colors, rooms, and places to engage in our hobbies, will be reflected in how He designs and decorates it.  You will know you’ve reached my address when certain things are present.   There will be gray tabby kittens playing in the yard, a snow leopard sleeping on the porch, and a grove of purple hydrangeas lining the sidewalks leading to the front door.  Get close enough, and you’ll hear the grand piano.  You’ll also smell Swedish cardamom bread and coffee.  Come on in. We’ll share stories about the goodness of God and how He has faithfully led us safely home.  This is not the stuff of fiction.  This is deferred hope in the Promise Keeper.