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...