Sunday, January 31, 2010

God's Blessing

"God bless you."

A very popular way to end a conversation, an email, a letter. It sort of identifies you as a believer and puts a smile in the other person's heart as you end your interaction. In Spanish, the word for "Good bye" is "Adios". Literally "To God", or "May you go with God."
So today I read the following.

2 "The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did"

Really?
2 "The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did"

Let's see. So far, Joseph was sold by his very own brothers into slavery. He goes to a foreign land and is marketed like a big slab of meat. Later in today's story he resists his master's wife's advances and for that he is punished. He is thrown into prison.

He is there for a long time. We know it is longer than 2 years.

So the American idea of  "The Lord was with me, so I succeed in everything I do", is quite different than that. I call it, "bigger and better, bigger and better." Sequentially better paying job, bigger car, bigger house, bigger retirement account, more comfortable lifestyle, more amazing vacations, until we die. THAT is the definition of

2 "The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did."

Ofttimes the Lord's blessing has nothing to do with our comfort or pleasure or financial success.

Ofttimes the Lord's blessing has to do with accomplishing His mission worldwide. God's plan for Joseph involved the saving of the Israelite race and the preserving of the godly lineage over the next generations...

Is God's blessing on your life?

One month vacation in Haiti, anyone?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cheater!

Recently Tiger Woods has been in the news, not for his game of golf, but for his game of infidelity. Come to find out, he was rarely alone on his around the world golf tournaments, while his beautiful wife was home with their two kids.

Well, he wasn't the first to be unfaithful in the most spectacular way. Come to find out a the Bible contains some true life stories that would make your ears ring...

Genesis 38

Judah and Tamar

1 "About this time, Judah left home and moved to Adullam, where he stayed with a man named Hirah. 2 There he saw a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua, and he married her. When he slept with her, 3 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and he named the boy Er. 4 Then she became pregnant again and gave birth to another son, and she named him Onan. 5 And when she gave birth to a third son, she named him Shelah. At the time of Shelah’s birth, they were living at Kezib.

6 In the course of time, Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry a young woman named Tamar. 7 But Er was a wicked man in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord took his life. 8 Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, “Go and marry Tamar, as our law requires of the brother of a man who has died. You must produce an heir for your brother.”

9 But Onan was not willing to have a child who would not be his own heir. So whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he spilled the semen on the ground. This prevented her from having a child who would belong to his brother. 10 But the Lord considered it evil for Onan to deny a child to his dead brother. So the Lord took Onan’s life, too.

11 Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Go back to your parents’ home and remain a widow until my son Shelah is old enough to marry you.” (But Judah didn’t really intend to do this because he was afraid Shelah would also die, like his two brothers.) So Tamar went back to live in her father’s home.

12 Some years later Judah’s wife died. After the time of mourning was over, Judah and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went up to Timnah to supervise the shearing of his sheep. 13 Someone told Tamar, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”
14 Tamar was aware that Shelah had grown up, but no arrangements had been made for her to come and marry him."

So far so good. Custom was that a brother would step in and help his brother's wife have children. It was important to have heirs, family continuity, keeping the farm and estate going.

Tamar had bad luck with two of the three brothers. Judah has reniged on giving her his remaining son.

So she has a plan.

"So she changed out of her widow’s clothing and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. Then she sat beside the road at the entrance to the village of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. 15 Judah noticed her and thought she was a prostitute, since she had covered her face. 16 So he stopped and propositioned her. “Let me have sex with you,” he said, not realizing that she was his own daughter-in-law.


“How much will you pay to have sex with me?” Tamar asked.

17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” Judah promised.

“But what will you give me to guarantee that you will send the goat?” she asked.

18 “What kind of guarantee do you want?” he replied.

She answered, “Leave me your identification seal and its cord and the walking stick you are carrying.” So Judah gave them to her. Then he had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant. 19 Afterward she went back home, took off her veil, and put on her widow’s clothing as usual.

20 Later Judah asked his friend Hirah the Adullamite to take the young goat to the woman and to pick up the things he had given her as his guarantee. But Hirah couldn’t find her. 21 So he asked the men who lived there, “Where can I find the shrine prostitute who was sitting beside the road at the entrance to Enaim?”

“We’ve never had a shrine prostitute here,” they replied.

22 So Hirah returned to Judah and told him, “I couldn’t find her anywhere, and the men of the village claim they’ve never had a shrine prostitute there.”

23 “Then let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah said. “I sent the young goat as we agreed, but you couldn’t find her. We’d be the laughingstock of the village if we went back again to look for her.”

24 About three months later, Judah was told, “Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has acted like a prostitute. And now, because of this, she’s pregnant.”

“Bring her out, and let her be burned!” Judah demanded.

25 But as they were taking her out to kill her, she sent this message to her father-in-law: “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?”

26 Judah recognized them immediately and said, “She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t arrange for her to marry my son Shelah.” And Judah never slept with Tamar again.

27 When the time came for Tamar to give birth, it was discovered that she was carrying twins. 28 While she was in labor, one of the babies reached out his hand. The midwife grabbed it and tied a scarlet string around the child’s wrist, announcing, “This one came out first.” 29 But then he pulled back his hand, and out came his brother! “What!” the midwife exclaimed. “How did you break out first?” So he was named Perez.[a] 30 Then the baby with the scarlet string on his wrist was born, and he was named Zerah."

Judah's behavior was outrageous!

The Bible is full of real people. Living real lives.

And experiencing God's mercy, forgiveness and leading through it all...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Power of Words


The Power of Words

I took a training recently about words. The choice of words. The power of words. One statement jumped out at me. "Your experience when you say words is different than the experience of the person recieving the words."

Take a famous musician. They sing the same songs night after night on tour. They must get so bored with the words they sing sometimes. Even if they made the song up themselves.

But the audience loves the words! They sing along in unison. Sometimes, watching a concert I wonder - why don't you all stay home and save your money? You have obviously heard the song before! You have memorized all the words. What is the experience of going to hear someone sing a song you know by heart?

Oh.. the power of words.

So God talks to Jacob today. Gives him instructions. A huge promise. And changes his name. So everytime ANYONE talks to him, he is reminded of his destiny...


Genesis 35

1 "Then God said to Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.”

2 So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. 3 We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.”

4 So they gave Jacob all their pagan idols and earrings, and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem. 5 As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family.

6 Eventually, Jacob and his household arrived at Luz (also called Bethel) in Canaan. 7 Jacob built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (which means “God of Bethel”), because God had appeared to him there when he was fleeing from his brother, Esau...

9 Now that Jacob had returned from Paddan-aram, God appeared to him again at Bethel. God blessed him, 10 saying, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.”[a] So God renamed him Israel."

God could have called him - "Screwup", or - "Conniver". How about - "Cheater", or maybe "Break yo daddy's heart!"
Instead, God renamed him "Israel" - "He who strives with God".

11 Then God said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! 12 And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from the place where he had spoken to Jacob."

I have named this blog - "God Almighty Speaks to Me."

Words have power. Even moreso when they come from God Almighty.



14 Jacob set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to him. Then he poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil. 15 And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God had spoken to him there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Consequences of a Broken Relationship


Jacob had cheated his brother. He ran for his life, penniless, under the threat of death.

Now, 20 years later, he is coming back. He has made his own fortune, and is hoping his brother has forgotten the past.

3 "Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom. 4 He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, 5 and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me.’”

6 After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” 7 Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. 8 He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.”

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O Lord, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! 11 O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. 12 But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’”

13 Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau: 14 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 15 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. 16 He divided these animals into herds and assigned each to different servants. Then he told his servants, “Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds.”

17 He gave these instructions to the men leading the first group: “When my brother, Esau, meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ 18 You must reply, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us.’”

19 Jacob gave the same instructions to the second and third herdsmen and to all who followed behind the herds: “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’”

Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” 21 So the gifts were sent on ahead, while Jacob himself spent that night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles with God
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel,[c] because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel,[d] and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

Genesis 33
1 Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.

5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.

8 “And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked.

Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.”

9 “My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.

12 “Well,” Esau said, “let’s be going. I will lead the way.”

13 But Jacob replied, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. 14 Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.”

15 “All right,” Esau said, “but at least let me assign some of my men to guide and protect you.”

Jacob responded, “That’s not necessary. It’s enough that you’ve received me warmly, my lord!”

16 So Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day. 17 Jacob, on the other hand, traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (which means “shelters”).

18 Later, having traveled all the way from Paddan-aram, Jacob arrived safely at the town of Shechem, in the land of Canaan. There he set up camp outside the town. 19 Jacob bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver.[e] 20 And there he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel."

Relationships!

They can be healed, with God's intervention, and large doses of humility and repentance.

But this one never got repaired. Even though Esau didn't kill his brother, they obviously still wanted to have nothing to do with each other.

Cross. Double cross. And double cross again.


Jacob came to his uncle Laban with, "a knapsack on his back."

Broke. Needing refuge. Needing a place to stay.

Why was he broke? Didn't he cheat his brother out of the family fortune?

Yeah. But then his brother threatened to kill him, so he ran for his life.

He is also looking for a wife.

Laban doesn't know any of this...

"After Jacob had stayed with Laban for about a month, 15 Laban said to him, “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.”

So Laban is concerned. Just because Jacob is broke doesn't mean Laban should exploit him. I mean, for the first three days, he is a guest. For a couple of weeks, he is a visiting relative. After a month? Well, arrangements need to be made. Time to negotiate.

16 "Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. 17 There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes,[d] but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”

Terms established. Contract signed!

19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days."

But Jacob is not the only conniver in this story!

21 "Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can marry her.”


22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. 23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)

25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”

Double cross!

26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. 27 “But wait until the bridal week is over, then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”

So Jacob does. He gives 14 years of his life to work for his wife. And he establishes himself as a force in the region. Has 4 boys with Leah, then the sisters began a jealosy squabble which leads to them giving their maids to Jacob to have children with. He has 6 more children with the maids, 2 more with Leah, and finally, 2 with Rachel.

Double cross again!

25 "Soon after Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country. 26 Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you.”

27 “Please listen to me,” Laban replied. “I have become wealthy, for[i] the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it.”

29 Jacob replied, “You know how hard I’ve worked for you, and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care. 30 You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done. But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?”

31 “What wages do you want?” Laban asked again.

Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. 32 Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. Give these to me as my wages. 33 In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.”

34 “All right,” Laban replied. “It will be as you say.” 35 But that very day Laban went out and removed the male goats that were streaked and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted or had white patches, and all the black sheep. He placed them in the care of his own sons, 36 who took them a three-days’ journey from where Jacob was. Meanwhile, Jacob stayed and cared for the rest of Laban’s flock.

37 Then Jacob took some fresh branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled off strips of bark, making white streaks on them. 38 Then he placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, for that was where they mated. 39 And when they mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. 40 Jacob separated those lambs from Laban’s flock. And at mating time he turned the flock to face Laban’s animals that were streaked or black. This is how he built his own flock instead of increasing Laban’s.

41 Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob would place the peeled branches in the watering troughs in front of them. Then they would mate in front of the branches. 42 But he didn’t do this with the weaker ones, so the weaker lambs belonged to Laban, and the stronger ones were Jacob’s. 43 As a result, Jacob became very wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, male and female servants, and many camels and donkeys."

Two men who appear to be all righteous and upright. And mostly they are. But behind the scenes there is a lot of subterfuge going on.

In the end, God blesses Jacob and takes care of him financially.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

From stone to diamond


From stone to diamond

Jacob was definately a stone. He was a conniver. Cheated his brother out of the family fortune with his mother's collusion. Created such a rift in the family that his relationship with his dad was never the same again. Had to flee from his angry brother and as a result never saw his mother again.

Yet in the midst of all his brokeness there was a passionate pursuit of God.

All mixed up. Not perfect at all.

But real.

Our church has a motto that gets repeated a lot. "No perfect people allowed!"

So here is jacob on the run. God meets him.

10 "Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

A wonderful promise from a loving God.

16 "Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”


18 The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. 19 He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although the name of the nearby village was Luz."


Jacob is on the way from being an ugly rough stone.

To being a beautiful diamond.

All was needed was pressure. Lots of it. And it is coming...

Jacob's response to God's promise was a contract of sorts. It is a laughable, really. "If you do this for me, God, I'll do this for you...

20 "Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”

But God accepted it, flaws and all.

Because after all, we are all on the way to becoming diamonds.

(All that is needed is a lot of pressure!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No Way!


No Way!

No Way!
No Way!
No Way!
No Way!
No Way!
No Way!
No Way!

NO! Absolutely NOT!

Anything but that. That is off limits. Not even a consideration. I am shocked and offended that you would ask.
That you would even MENTION it!

That would be my response in today's story.

Most Bibles introduce the story under the heading "God Tests Abraham."

Genesis 22
1 "Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"

"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.

"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son."

So what was Abraham's response?

Crazy!

He never objected. Never asked why. He just obeyed...
(If you have read the Bible you know the rest of the story. Abraham, however did not know the rest of the story)

Maybe THAT is why Abraham is the father of many nations...

How long? Lord. How long?


One of the most frustrating things about God is that He lives in the eternal NOW. The New Testament says it this way. 8 "But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day". 2 Peter 3:8 (New Living Translation)

To us 100 years is, like, a lifetime! OK. MORE than a lifetime!
100 minutes can seen like an eternity!
And with the instant now digital age, 100 seconds it too long!

A former pastor of mine used to say, "God is never late, but seldom early."
In my experience I would disagree. He seems to disregard my sense of time entirely!

So here is Abraham - "The Father of Many Nations" as he has been renamed by God.

But year after year passes. Year after year.

His beautiful wife has given up.

One day three visitors stop by the Abraham tent.

9 "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him.
"There, in the tent," he said.
10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"
13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD ? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, "I did not laugh."

But he said, "Yes, you did laugh."

Abraham was 100 years old. Sarah was 99. They were past child bearing age. God had been promising Abraham throughout his life that he would have descendants. But it had never happened.

Then one day... Finally... long after everyone had given up...
God fulfills his promise.
Genesis 21
The Birth of Isaac

1 "Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." 7 And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

Part of our short journey on this spinning ball is to learn to trust God.

Even when his sense of timing doesn't line up with ours!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh No, my Lord!


Abraham is the father of nations.
Lot is nothing.
Abraham gave Lot the choice land and fields. Lot took what looks the best, the most fertile, the area that would lead to the most prosperity.
Abraham took what was left over.

God spoke to Abraham many times. In every case he obeyed without question.

This is the only time God talked to Lot (that is recorded in the Bible) Pay attention to Lot's response.

15 "At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. “Hurry,” they said to Lot. “Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!”


16 When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful. 17 When they were safely out of the city, one of the angels ordered, “Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”
18 “Oh no, my lord!” Lot begged. 19 “You have been so gracious to me and saved my life, and you have shown such great kindness. But I cannot go to the mountains. Disaster would catch up to me there, and I would soon die. 20 See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don’t you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved.”

21 “All right,” the angel said, “I will grant your request. I will not destroy the little village. 22 But hurry! Escape to it, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” (This explains why that village was known as Zoar, which means “little place.”)
23 Lot reached the village just as the sun was rising over the horizon. 24 Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. 25 He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt."

Oh No, my Lord!

Is that my response to God?
Is that yours?

It didn't work too good for Lot.
He ends up wifeless, homeless, no money, no favor with God.
The only reason he is even alive is that his uncle, Abraham prayed to God for his protection.

So who am I like?
Abraham?
Of Lot?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I am changing your name


Your name.

It is important because everyone calls you your name. It becomes your identity. You are reminded of it many times each day. It is what you hear. What you process. What you take in.

I am taking some training these next two months. In the first session he talked about "Your Drunk Monkey". I had never heard that term before! He said, your drunk monkey sits on your shoulder and tells you things. In my industry, it would be - "It is hard to make sales right now." Or, "Why would anyone buy with you." The phrases go on and on.

The larger point is - we reinforce certain thoughts and beliefs again and again and again. In psychology it is called "self talk."

God had promised Abram that he would have desendants like the sand of the sea. At 86 years old he finally had sex with his wife's maid. I suppose part of what was going on was to find out whose "fault" it was. When the maid got pregnant Sarah wasn't too particularly happy. In case there was any question, it was her.

So Abram is in his late 90s with no kids. God promises him again.

1 "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2 I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

3 At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, 4 “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!

5 What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham,[b] for you will be the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

7 “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants[c] after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”

Now Abram is not to be called Abram - high father, exalted father.
He is to be called Abraham - father of many nations.

Nothing else had changed in his life. He was still an old man with one illegitimate child. But every time Sarah called him, he was "Father of many Nations." When a visitor came to the childless tent, he introduced himself as "Father of many Nations." Can you see the power in that?

Call it positive reinforcement. Call it positive self talk. Call it (something I hate) name it and claim it. Or (something I hate) fake it till you make it. Or call it not listening to your drunk monkey.

What you say to yourself matters.

What others say to you matters.

Time for a new name?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hagar


Hagar was from Egypt, the most powerful country in the world.

But Hagar did not benefit from being from the mighty empire. She was a slave. From the underclass.

I imagine she was given to Abraham when he was in Egypt. She may have been attractive, since she was probably a slave in the Pharoah's household. But that did not give her any great benefit.

She had no say in the decisions made about her. She served in Pharoah's court. Then she was summarily yanked away and placed in Abram's control. Not consulted. When Abram left Egypt, she probably never saw her family again. Nobody cared. She had virtually no rights. Not to her life. Not to her time. Not to her own body.

She becomes a bit player in the story of Abram. He and his wife get tired of waiting for God's provision of the promised heir.

Sarah offers her to Abram. Did he enjoy having sex with her? Doesn't say. Her feelings are not considered. She gets pregnant. The child belongs, not to her, but to her masters.

Ends up she gets "uppity" once she is pregnant and her beautiful mistress is not. It bothers Sarah. Sarah appeals to Abram. Abram says, "She is yours to do with as you wish."

Sarah sends her away - into the desert - pregnant and penniless!

Here is the part of the story that hit me...

7 "The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?"


"I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.
9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." 10 The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."
11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:

"You are now with child

and you will have a son.

You shall name him Ishmael, [a]

for the LORD has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;

his hand will be against everyone

and everyone's hand against him,

and he will live in hostility

toward [b] all his brothers."

13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen [c] the One who sees me." 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi [d] ; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael."

God cares!

God cares about the lonely. The hopeless. The disenfranchised. The outcast. The poor.

God cares!

That is what struck me today...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Relationship Fail... Relationship Largess...

Today Abram burst on the scene of the Bible. His account starts simply,
"1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family."

Had he not obeyed that difficult command from God, we would probably not ever have heard of him. As it was, he obeyed, and is revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

Not soon after his story starts, he messes up.

"10 At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. 11 As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ 13 So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”

14 And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone spoke of Sarai’s beauty. 15 When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. 16 Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
17 But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” 20 Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions."

He puts his wife's honor in danger for his own safety. So much for "I'll defend you to the death!"

God intervenes, and they all survive. But I imagine the relationship was pretty chilly after that.

Then later Abram shines...


5 "Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. 6 But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. 7 So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.)
8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”

10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12 So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.
14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants[b] as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.”

Uncle and nephew had both prospered. Nephew puts his ambition first. Uncle puts the relationship first.

Later - nephew crashes and uncle prospers.

Same guy. In one relationship he fails. Rather miserably.

In another relationship he displays largess. And becomes, and remains, the hero.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

There once was a man named Job...


There once was a man named Job...

He hit this terrible time in his life.

The funny thing is - that is how we know him.

But it didn't define his life. He lived a long, happy, prosperous life before the time of trouble.

And he lived a long, happy prosperous life after the time of trouble.

The most remarkable thing is, he kept his faith even when nothing made sense. He still worshipped God even when he experienced severe pain, pain that God could have easily removed.

He felt no need to "get revenge" on God, by blaspheming, or denouncing, or even abandoning God. There is the power of his life.

If you are going through hard times...
Correction. WHEN you go through hard times...
Remember the story of Job. A man who never understood "why", but believed anyway.

Here, today, is "The Rest of the Story", as Paul Harvey used to so famously say.

10 "When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!
11 Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring.

12 So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.

13 He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. 14 He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.
15 In all the land no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers.

16 Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren.

17 Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life."

There once was a man named Job...



God is God


God is God.
God created the universe by a word from His mouth.
There is nothing He cannot do.
God is God.
And we are not...

That is the message I get from Job chapters 38 to 42.

God asks lots of questions...

Job 40


1 "Then the Lord said to Job,
2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?

You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”...

6 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
7 “Brace yourself like a man,

because I have some questions for you,

and you must answer them.
8 “Will you discredit my justice

and condemn me just to prove you are right?

9 Are you as strong as God?

Can you thunder with a voice like his?

10 All right, put on your glory and splendor,

your honor and majesty.

11 Give vent to your anger.

Let it overflow against the proud.

12 Humiliate the proud with a glance;

walk on the wicked where they stand.

13 Bury them in the dust.

Imprison them in the world of the dead.

14 Then even I would praise you,

for your own strength would save you.
15 “Take a look at Behemoth,[a]

which I made, just as I made you...

1 [c]“Can you catch Leviathan[d] with a hook


or put a noose around its jaw?

2 Can you tie it with a rope through the nose

or pierce its jaw with a spike?

3 Will it beg you for mercy

or implore you for pity?

4 Will it agree to work for you,

to be your slave for life?

5 Can you make it a pet like a bird,

or give it to your little girls to play with?"

In the entire conversation, God never answers Job's questions!

God is God.
And we are not...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Now Its God's Turn!

The men fall silent.
Now it is God's turn!



Job 38


The Lord Challenges Job

1 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:


2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom

with such ignorant words?

3 Brace yourself like a man,

because I have some questions for you,

and you must answer them.



4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

Tell me, if you know so much.

5 Who determined its dimensions

and stretched out the surveying line?

6 What supports its foundations,

and who laid its cornerstone

7 as the morning stars sang together

and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?



8 “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries

as it burst from the womb,

9 and as I clothed it with clouds

and wrapped it in thick darkness?

10 For I locked it behind barred gates,

limiting its shores.

11 I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.

Here your proud waves must stop!’



12 “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear

and caused the dawn to rise in the east?

13 Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth,

to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?

14 As the light approaches,

the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal;

it is robed in brilliant colors.[b]

15 The light disturbs the wicked

and stops the arm that is raised in violence.



16 “Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?

Have you explored their depths?

17 Do you know where the gates of death are located?

Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?

18 Do you realize the extent of the earth?

Tell me about it if you know!



19 “Where does light come from,

and where does darkness go?

20 Can you take each to its home?

Do you know how to get there?

21 But of course you know all this!

For you were born before it was all created,

and you are so very experienced!



22 “Have you visited the storehouses of the snow

or seen the storehouses of hail?

23 (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble,

for the day of battle and war.)

24 Where is the path to the source of light?

Where is the home of the east wind?



25 “Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?

Who laid out the path for the lightning?

26 Who makes the rain fall on barren land,

in a desert where no one lives?

27 Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground

and make the tender grass spring up?



28 “Does the rain have a father?

Who gives birth to the dew?

29 Who is the mother of the ice?

Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?

30 For the water turns to ice as hard as rock,

and the surface of the water freezes.



31 “Can you direct the movement of the stars—

binding the cluster of the Pleiades

or loosening the cords of Orion?

32 Can you direct the sequence of the seasons

or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?

33 Do you know the laws of the universe?

Can you use them to regulate the earth?



34 “Can you shout to the clouds

and make it rain?

35 Can you make lightning appear

and cause it to strike as you direct?

36 Who gives intuition to the heart

and instinct to the mind?

37 Who is wise enough to count all the clouds?

Who can tilt the water jars of heaven

38 when the parched ground is dry

and the soil has hardened into clods?



39 “Can you stalk prey for a lioness

and satisfy the young lions’ appetites

40 as they lie in their dens

or crouch in the thicket?

41 Who provides food for the ravens

when their young cry out to God

and wander about in hunger?

God is God.
And no one else.
Let Him speak.
And all the earth be silent.

Fierce Conversations


There is a new term now - fierce conversations. As when people disagree strongly and present their position boldly. I think we used to call it arguing...

Job and his friends are in fierce conversation. We don't know how long this goes on. They take turns presenting their thoughts. Job answers 10 different times.

Here is part of his last presentation.

Job 31
Job’s Final Protest of Innocence


1 “I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look with lust at a young woman.
2 For what has God above chosen for us?
What is our inheritance from the Almighty on high?
3 Isn’t it calamity for the wicked
and misfortune for those who do evil?
4 Doesn’t he see everything I do
and every step I take?

5 “Have I lied to anyone
or deceived anyone?
6 Let God weigh me on the scales of justice,
for he knows my integrity.
7 If I have strayed from his pathway,
or if my heart has lusted for what my eyes have seen,
or if I am guilty of any other sin,
8 then let someone else eat the crops I have planted.
Let all that I have planted be uprooted.

9 “If my heart has been seduced by a woman,
or if I have lusted for my neighbor’s wife,
10 then let my wife belong to[b] another man;
let other men sleep with her.
11 For lust is a shameful sin,
a crime that should be punished.
12 It is a fire that burns all the way to hell.[c]
It would wipe out everything I own.

13 “If I have been unfair to my male or female servants
when they brought their complaints to me,
14 how could I face God?
What could I say when he questioned me?
15 For God created both me and my servants.
He created us both in the womb.

16 “Have I refused to help the poor,
or crushed the hopes of widows?
17 Have I been stingy with my food
and refused to share it with orphans?
18 No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father,
and all my life I have cared for widows.
19 Whenever I saw the homeless without clothes
and the needy with nothing to wear,
20 did they not praise me
for providing wool clothing to keep them warm?

21 “If I raised my hand against an orphan,
knowing the judges would take my side,
22 then let my shoulder be wrenched out of place!
Let my arm be torn from its socket!
23 That would be better than facing God’s judgment.
For if the majesty of God opposes me, what hope is there?

24 “Have I put my trust in money
or felt secure because of my gold?
25 Have I gloated about my wealth
and all that I own?

26 “Have I looked at the sun shining in the skies,
or the moon walking down its silver pathway,
27 and been secretly enticed in my heart
to throw kisses at them in worship?
28 If so, I should be punished by the judges,
for it would mean I had denied the God of heaven.

29 “Have I ever rejoiced when disaster struck my enemies,
or become excited when harm came their way?
30 No, I have never sinned by cursing anyone
or by asking for revenge.

31 “My servants have never said,
‘He let others go hungry.’
32 I have never turned away a stranger
but have opened my doors to everyone.

33 “Have I tried to hide my sins like other people do,
concealing my guilt in my heart?
34 Have I feared the crowd
or the contempt of the masses,
so that I kept quiet and stayed indoors?

35 “If only someone would listen to me!
Look, I will sign my name to my defense.
Let the Almighty answer me.
Let my accuser write out the charges against me.
36 I would face the accusation proudly.
I would wear it like a crown.
37 For I would tell him exactly what I have done.
I would come before him like a prince.

38 “If my land accuses me
and all its furrows cry out together,
39 or if I have stolen its crops
or murdered its owners,
40 then let thistles grow on that land instead of wheat,
and weeds instead of barley.”

Job’s words are ended.

But his friend's words are not.
Fierce conversations...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Plea


Throughout history there has been human misery. Suffering you and I can hardly imagine. But when we have our difficulties, they are real enough. From the preteen who got snubbed by a friend, to the agony of late stage cancer, the pain is real to the one experiencing it.

Job expresses his agony. First is the emotional, financial and physical pain he is enduring. Then on top of that is the pain of friends who are accusing him instead of encouraging him.

People have suffered more than he, but his eloquent description and plea serves as a voice to all who suffer...

Job 6

1 Then Job spoke again:

2 “If my misery could be weighed
and my troubles be put on the scales,
3 they would outweigh all the sands of the sea.
That is why I spoke impulsively.
4 For the Almighty has struck me down with his arrows.
Their poison infects my spirit.
God’s terrors are lined up against me.
5 Don’t I have a right to complain?
Don’t wild donkeys bray when they find no grass,
and oxen bellow when they have no food?
6 Don’t people complain about unsalted food?
Does anyone want the tasteless white of an egg?[a]
7 My appetite disappears when I look at it;
I gag at the thought of eating it!

8 “Oh, that I might have my request,
that God would grant my desire.
9 I wish he would crush me.
I wish he would reach out his hand and kill me.
10 At least I can take comfort in this:
Despite the pain,
I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
11 But I don’t have the strength to endure.
I have nothing to live for.
12 Do I have the strength of a stone?
Is my body made of bronze?
13 No, I am utterly helpless,
without any chance of success.

14 “One should be kind to a fainting friend,
but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.[b]
15 My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook
that overflows its banks in the spring...

21 You, too, have given no help.
You have seen my calamity, and you are afraid.
22 But why? Have I ever asked you for a gift?
Have I begged for anything of yours for myself?
23 Have I asked you to rescue me from my enemies,
or to save me from ruthless people?
24 Teach me, and I will keep quiet.
Show me what I have done wrong.
25 Honest words can be painful,
but what do your criticisms amount to?
26 Do you think your words are convincing
when you disregard my cry of desperation?
27 You would even send an orphan into slavery[c]
or sell a friend.
28 Look at me!
Would I lie to your face?
29 Stop assuming my guilt,
for I have done no wrong.
30 Do you think I am lying?
Don’t I know the difference between right and wrong?

On top of everything else, Job has to wrestle with those who he thought would give him support...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Good Intentions - Bad Result


In times of severe trouble, friends are indispensible.

They are always well meaning.
They can also come up with the strangest and weirdest solutions. When they apply pressure to accept those solutions, they can become bigger than the burden itself.

Just yesterday a friend was sharing how her daughter had non stop migraines. The group started jumping in with medicines and remedies. She explained that, although she appreciated the suggestions, they were on a plan with a medical team.. thank you very much.

My father fell years ago and ended up partially paralyzed. We all believe God has the power to heal - both miraculously and naturally. In fact, all healing is from God. But the pressure to go to this faith heaaler, and the other one was intense. Dod did try every option to gain the ability to walk again. But in the end, it was a more natural way - physical therapists and a WHOLE lot of hard work - that brought him his mobility back.

In our story Job's friends are very well meaning.

But in the end, their advice is all the same. You must have sinned. Repent and God will forgive you...

1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied to Job:

2 “Will you be patient and let me say a word?
For who could keep from speaking out?

3 “In the past you have encouraged many people;
you have strengthened those who were weak.
4 Your words have supported those who were falling;
you encouraged those with shaky knees.
5 But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart.
You are terrified when it touches you.
6 Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence?
Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?...

27 “We have studied life and found all this to be true.
Listen to my counsel, and apply it to yourself.”

When trouble strikes, your friends may help carry your burden.
But some of them may add to it instead!

Anguish


Here is a poem I started composing.
It will probably be entitled,

"Ode to Old Oh Nine"

2009 is dead and gone
Makes me want to sing a song
The year was hard the year was long
Praise God its dead and gone...

Well, today we hear the first outburst from old Job.
Was his anguish real? You be the judge...

Job 3
Job’s First Speech


1 At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:

3 “Let the day of my birth be erased,
and the night I was conceived.
4 Let that day be turned to darkness.
Let it be lost even to God on high,
and let no light shine on it.
5 Let the darkness and utter gloom claim that day for its own.
Let a black cloud overshadow it,
and let the darkness terrify it.
6 Let that night be blotted off the calendar,
never again to be counted among the days of the year,
never again to appear among the months.
7 Let that night be childless.
Let it have no joy.
8 Let those who are experts at cursing—
whose cursing could rouse Leviathan[e]—
curse that day.
9 Let its morning stars remain dark.
Let it hope for light, but in vain;
may it never see the morning light.
10 Curse that day for failing to shut my mother’s womb,
for letting me be born to see all this trouble.

11 “Why wasn’t I born dead?
Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?
12 Why was I laid on my mother’s lap?
Why did she nurse me at her breasts?
13 Had I died at birth, I would now be at peace.
I would be asleep and at rest.
14 I would rest with the world’s kings and prime ministers,
whose great buildings now lie in ruins.
15 I would rest with princes, rich in gold,
whose palaces were filled with silver.
16 Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child,
like a baby who never lives to see the light?
17 For in death the wicked cause no trouble,
and the weary are at rest.
18 Even captives are at ease in death,
with no guards to curse them.
19 Rich and poor are both there,
and the slave is free from his master.

20 “Oh, why give light to those in misery,
and life to those who are bitter?
21 They long for death, and it won’t come.
They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die,
and rejoice when they find the grave.
23 Why is life given to those with no future,
those God has surrounded with difficulties?
24 I cannot eat for sighing;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I always feared has happened to me.
What I dreaded has come true.
26 I have no peace, no quietness.
I have no rest; only trouble comes.”

Sometimes life is easy.
Sometimes it aint so great...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Friends


OK. Its time for a joke. (On the fourth grade level)

Who is the shortest man in the Bible?
I dunno...
Knee high miah!
Hahaha...
Who was even shorter?
I dunno...
Bildad the Shoe height!
Hahaha.

Bildad was one of Job's friends.
Get the connection?
Job - the guy we are reading about?
He had some friends?
They came to visit him?
Oh well... Here is the story.

Job’s Three Friends Share His Anguish

11 "When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.
Their names were
Eliphaz the Temanite,
Bildad the Shuhite, and
Zophar the Naamathite.
12 When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him.
Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief.
13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words."

These guys get a bad rap from people. You will see why later.
But these were grown men. They had jobs. Businesses. Families.
They dropped all of that to come and console their friend.
Don't miss the fact that they just sat with him for a week without saying a thing.

How many of your facebook friends would do that for you?

How many of your twitter friends?

These people knew the real meaning of friendship!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bitter!



3 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause.”

4 Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. 5 But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

6 “All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” 7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot.

8 Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. 9 His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”

10 But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong."

What jumps out at me in this story is the opposite reactions to the same circumstances. Whether the death of a child, the loss of a business, the end of a dream...

Job's wife had been the beneficiary of a very nice life style. Prestige. Servants. Great family. Now suddenly, all that was gone.

Everything seemed to have no meaning, now. Where was God? I think Job's wife was American through and through. You know, "Bigger and better, bigger and better until we die"

That just got shattered. Now her husband, upon whom she relied for encouragement, was moaning and groaning. Writhing in agony.

She's saying, "what kind of a God would allow this?"

"If this is what God is like? - No thank you..."

Her reaction to this life meltdown has characterized her down through the millenia.

"CURSE GOD - AND DIE!"

The bitter life is an all consuming life. It sucks the lifeblood from you. The more you go over and over the wrongs done to you, the ills that have befallen you, the worse it gets.

Curse God - and DIE!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sudden and Complete Ruin


There is a man in Seattle who has been one of my heroes. His name is Mike Mastro. Back in 2005, when it was estimated he was worth 600 million dollars, I read this article in the Pget Sound Journal with interest and admiration...

Friday, July 22, 2005
The ritual: Father and son, Mastros share lunches and profits
Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - by Jeanne Lang Jones Staff Writer
"Every weekday except Friday, for nearly 20 years, real estate investors Mike Mastro Sr. and Mike Mastro Jr. have eaten lunch together at their favorite Italian restaurant near Pioneer Square.

At straight-up noon, the Mastros walk across the courtyard of Il Terrazzo Carmine in Seattle, with the younger Mastro often a respectful step behind his father. Their favorite waiter is so accustomed to their routine that just before the Mastros arrive, he sets out a pot of hot water for the son's mint tea.

The discipline and precision of the Mastros' daily routine flows into other facets of their lives as well: their exercise habits, their reading -- and perhaps most notably, their business. Says Bob Wallace, prominent Bellevue developer: The elder Mastro "is as astute an investor as there is in the real estate industry."

Over the years, Mastro Properties has built a reputation for staying ahead of the market, as when Mastro Sr. and another investor had the prescience to develop office buildings that The Boeing Co. eventually bought in 1989 for $211 million.

So where are the Mastros putting their money today? One word: housing.

The Mastros stepped into the residential real estate market more than five years ago, and they've only upped the ante since then. The company owns a substantial portfolio of raw land, which it prepares for resale to homebuilders after adding basic infrastructure such as streets and sidewlks...

"I'm not really concerned about a real estate bubble," Mastro Sr. said. Regarding Pierce County, where much of their investment is based, he said, "That area has seen a lot of escalation in pricing in the past 10 to 12 years, and the economy in the area continues to grow." ...

The Mastros' disciplined lifestyle has them both up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise and read the newspapers before work. But while the elder Mastro heads to a downtown gym to work out on a series of machines, followed by a turn in the steam room and a dip in the Jacuzzi, his son practices yoga and meditates.

Even though the Mastros have now eaten thousands of meals together at the same restaurant, neither would think of going anywhere else -- except on Fridays, when Mastro Sr. has lunch with his wife...

Both Mastros are firm believers in the time-honored principle that you make money only when you buy, not when you sell, real estate. They are careful buyers, and right now they like residential real estate. A lot.

Currently, the company has some 5,100 lots in its portfolio, mainly in outlying suburban neighborhoods in Pierce and Snohomish counties, where vacant land is more readily available and cheaper...

Mastro Properties typically acquires raw lots for roughly $50,000, then resells them for between $120,000 to $150,000, after preparing the land for development. Mastro Sr. declined to say what his profit margin was after improvement costs but said, "It is a profitable business."

Earlier this spring, the company said it planned to sell about 1,300 lots this year. At an average lot price of about $122,000, that would add up to about $160 million. Sales have been a bit slower than expected, but the elder Mastro isn't worried about his investments and firmly believes Pierce County will remain a strong residential market for the foreseeable future."

A series of articles have been written about him in 2009. Here is one...

Friday, July 10, 2009
Developer Mike Mastro’s troubles mount
Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - by Kirsten Grind and Jeanne Lang Jones Staff writers
"A longtime, prominent Seattle developer is facing a mounting string of legal actions as he struggles to pay off millions of dollars in loans at dozens of banks across the Pacific Northwest.

Michael Mastro Sr., for years among the most successful commercial developers in the Puget Sound region, is quickly becoming a source of concern at banks — both because of their direct exposure and because of what his troubles say about the potential pain still ahead in the commercial real estate market, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mastro, and his company, Mastro Properties, owe about $500 million to more than 25 banks in Washington and Oregon, including local banks, such as HomeStreet Bank, and national lenders such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, according to a Mastro company associate and other people familiar with the matter.

Mastro values his assets at more than $600 million — more than enough to cover his debts — and he expects to recover. But court documents and people familiar with the matter indicate he presently appears to lack the cash flow to make loan payments...

Mastro’s enviable portfolio, sterling reputation and relationships with many financial institutions through a long, successful career, helped him amass millions of dollars in loans and assets, according to people who have worked with him.

“He always paid you back,” said a person familiar with the situation. “That’s also why everyone got in bed with him so much — he’s always been true to his word.”

But in recent months, Mastro has raised alarms by indicating he is unable to keep up with all of his interest payments, according to court documents and people familiar with the issue.

Some banks already have taken action against Mastro, filing a number of lawsuits and winning court judgments of $1 million or more after he allegedly failed to make payments on loans. Others have recently moved their Mastro loans and credit lines to a secured position, by insisting the developer back up his loans with property."



October 9, 2009

GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

"Mastro made false statements to investors and omitted important information, the state Department of Financial Institutions' securities division said...

The division began investigating Mastro in February. In the charging papers, it said it intends to fine the developer $100,000 and order him to stop accepting any more money from individual investors...

Over the years, Mastro raised more than $100 million from more than 175 investors he referred to as Friends & Family, using the money to buy and develop property and make loans to other developers.

The charging papers say he provided the investors with little information when they loaned him money, failed to adequately disclose risk, and kept them in the dark when his empire began to crumble last year.

Mastro's 40-year real-estate career came to a halt this summer when three banks forced him into bankruptcy involuntarily, charging he was not paying his debts. After initially resisting, Mastro, 84, agreed to enter bankruptcy.

In documents filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court last month, he reported $249 million in assets against nearly $587 million in liabilities, most of that owed to banks whose debt is secured by the properties that Mastro bought or developed with their money.

The Friends & Family investors are listed mostly as "unsecured" creditors, the last group to be paid when Mastro's assets are liquidated. It's highly possible they will get nothing."

To me it is a very sad story of a man who has worked all his life, then lost everything.

Here is Job's story...

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

8 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

9 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. 10 You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! 11 But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

12 “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.

13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”

22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God."

Disaster. Ruin. It tests your mettle. And your character.

Job is famous for the troubles he faced.
And for his response to his troubles...