Friday, April 29, 2011

Genesis 22:3-5

As I’ve been meditating on our story this week, foremost on my mind has been my sister, Jodi, and the former parent of my classroom, Beth, and the devastating loss they have just suffered in the deaths of their children. When Jodi received the news of Justin’s death, she was still trying to fathom the news of her cancer. When Beth learned of Briana’s death, it was coupled with the news that her son Ian was in critical condition. This is the kind of news that Job received when his servants ran in to tell him first that his oxen and donkeys were all carried off in an attack and the servants tending them were all killed but the one messenger. While the messenger was still speaking, another ran in with the dreadful news that fire came from the sky and burned up all of the sheep and those tending the sheep, except the one. The third wave came before Job could even catch his breath: a raiding party had taken away all of the camels and killed the servants, except this messenger. Finally, a messenger brought the tragic news that a “mighty wind” had destroyed the home where all of his children were having a party, and all of his children were dead!

We are dumbstruck by such calamity! The tornadoes that swept through the South this week, killing about 300 and devastating the region, particularly Tuscaloosa, and the tsunami that killed thousands and left millions homeless in Japan are disasters that defy comprehension. They are counter-balanced by the sweet news of new babies: Justin’s wife, Stephanie learning she is carrying her baby girl, my Emmy receiving our precious Penelope, and my dear friend, Lisa, just receiving her newly adopted Luke. Rays of sunshine and hope in the midst of horror. Even this morning, we all rejoice in images of the royal wedding of Prince William and his Kate, in between shots of the utter loss in Tuscaloosa!
What is truly amazing about the stories of Job and Abraham is their responses:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
   “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, 
   and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; 
   may the name of the LORD be praised.”
 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded 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. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 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.” (Gen 22:3-5)

Job worshiped God, and in today’s passage in Genesis 22, Abraham is on his way to worship. This is truly what the Bible calls the “sacrifice” of praise! Praise that costs! The differences between the two stories struck me. Job received all of this news in one fell swoop. It was instant disaster. Abraham, however, had to travel THREE days to Mt. Moriah, knowing what he was about to do. Which is worse? I don’t know. The agony of the wait must be excruciating. The parent who has watched their child suffer and slowly die of cancer suffers the same loss as the parent whose child is taken in an instant, but being stuck in that place between hope and resignation for an extended period has to be torture!

How are people able to get through this with their faith intact? How did Abraham make that journey up the mountain? Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Abraham KNEW his God. He knew God’s character and was fully persuaded that God was able to raise from the dead, even though that had never happened in human history at this point. He remembered God’s promises. God had promised that Isaac would be the one from whom the promised generations would come. He did not know HOW or WHY, but he knew WHO!

We look at all going on around us - the losses, the illnesses, the bankcruptcies , and on and on, and we can become desolate in our spirits. Sin SUCKS big time!!! But we are people of HOPE and we KNOW whom we have believed in and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which we’ve committed unto Him! We know the end of the story.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Keep your head lifted and your eyes on Christ! We, too, can worship in the midst of pain!
A personal note: today is a day of praising in our home! Don is retiring today after more than 37 years at Mission Hospital! Hallelujah!! I’m so thankful to God for His faithfulness and to Don for his faithfulness to provide for his family all of these years. It’s a good day!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Genesis 22:1-2

Have you ever noticed that in order to learn some lessons, we need a hands-on experience? Many things we can easily learn from a book or a lecture, but there are some harder lessons that are best learned hands-on or through role play. Yesterday my class was getting a hands-on science lesson in our science lab from Mr. Fogg, the science guy who visits our school. He was teaching them about weathering, erosion, and deposition. After drawing the process in cartoon fashion on the wipeboard and chanting with them, he took them outside and had them act it out. Wouldn’t you know it was the one day all year when I did NOT bring my camera with me to the lab! It was hysterical to watch them all get into a tightly-packed group as they acted out a large rock. When Mr. Fogg called out, “Weathering,” they had to separate and twirl apart, singing in a high-pitched voice, “Erosion.” Then, when he called out “Deposition,” they had to drop wherever they were. They repeated the scene several times, with different outcomes on the deposition. I thought, as I watched them, “They will never forget this!” Which is a good thing, because state testing starts in a week, and science is covered in 5th grade! :)

So, I was reminded as I was reviewing my notes from Beth Moore on this portion of scripture, that this story of Abraham’s test is an “acting out” of the gospel, which Abraham would NEVER forget! In this scene, Abraham plays the role of God the Father, and Isaac the role of Jesus, God’s only Son. Galatians 3:6-9, below, shows how this was the telling of the gospel in the Old Testament. It preceded the giving of the Law, and the concept that righteousness comes by faith in the substitutionary death of Christ, not by our own works of the Law. This has consistently been God’s plan of salvation from the Old to the New Testament. God wanted Abraham to get this and to pass this test!

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Now, let’s go back and look at how God called Abraham to this test. Yesterday I said we don’t want to over-spiritualize this passage, as if this was an easy thing for this spiritual giant. This was NOT a slam-dunk for Abraham. Nothing in his entire life would compare with this test. But, as Beth Moore says in her study of this, “When God is up to something hard, He’s up to something HUGE.” The ripple effects from this will be HUGE - and it was NOT about Abraham - it was ALL about God. God is going to teach Abraham something here about Himself that Abraham needed to know experientially, and He drives the point home right away:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Gen. 22:1-2)

When God calls, Abraham shows no hesitation. “Whatever you want, God, I’m here to do it!” He’s ready to submit! Then God shows him how great the cost will be. Beth Moore points out that God starts with a wide-angle approach, then zeros in with intensity on the cost. “Take your son, your ONLY son, whom you LOVE - ISAAC!” Remember that Isaac is the son of promise, and therefore the chosen one. Abraham and Sarah, having waited so long for this promised son, treasured him as their most precious gift. God had given them this gift, and now he was asking Abraham to give it back! Like all of us, we are happy to give our children to God - in theory. We KNOW in our heads that they belong to HIM, but our hearts want to keep them and control all that happens to them. If God called them to move away or sent them on a mission, it would be painful to release them, and we would surely agonize over it. But here, God is calling Abraham to literally lay Isaac on the altar and sacrifice him.

God tells Abraham to “go to” Mt. Moriah. In Genesis 12:1 God had also told him to “go to” a land away from all he knew. In fact, Beth Moore points out that this verse in Genesis 12 follows that same zooming in effect: Abraham is told to leave his country, his people, and, even more difficult, his father’s household. Just as Abraham obeyed then (Gen 12:4 says “So Abram left as the LORD had told him”), he obeys immediately in this chapter: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.” (Gen 22:3) I imagine he had not slept a wink the night before! Do you think he told Sarah??? I doubt it!

Tomorrow we’ll look at this journey to Mt. Moriah!

Have a great morning!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Genesis 22:1

Good morning, all! We are going to be parking in Genesis 22 for a while, because it is such an important chapter, with so much to teach! Many of us have heard this story for years - it brings back images of a Sunday School flannel board story. I can only imagine that for most children it’s a perplexing, even frightening story, because it’s perplexing for adults. Why does God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? Why does he take him all the way to the point of raising the knife over his beloved son? What was going through Isaac’s mind as it all unfolded?

Let’s get started by just looking at the first verse:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.

Now, I’m already wondering about why God would test Abraham? Was it to prove something to God?? Of course not! God knew beforehand exactly what Abraham would do, so why did He bother to “test” him? The tests that come our way are not to prove anything to God, but to US! God was proving Abraham’s faith to Abraham, himself, and to all who would learn of this story. Just like the testing of Job, this was a test with a purpose. God had a plan for Abraham, and an end result in mind. When Job, a man lauded as righteous by God, lost EVERYTHING and EVERYONE dear to him, he finally came to the place where he could say, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)

Our tests will prove to us not only what God can do, but what we will hold to. As Beth Moore says, “Some things need to be learned on a field trip, not in the classroom.” The hardest test a parent can face is the loss of a child. Watching my dear sister, Jodi, go through this has been so painful. None of us can imagine what it must be like. Years ago I was told something profound by a woman I knew, who had lost a toddler. Our Bible study group was trying to imagine such an ordeal, and she said to us, “God doesn’t give you grace to go through something in your imagination. He gives you the grace when you need it.” WOW! I’m seeing His grace poured out on my sister. Even though she is in tremendous pain, God is giving her just what she needs to get through each day, one minute at a time.

Beth Moore points out that when it comes to our submission to God, we generally will give Him most of what we love, but not what we love most. “God, you can have everything I own, but please don’t touch my children!” Right? “Bless them. God, don’t let them go through any suffering.” I get that prayer - and I think it is RIGHT that we should pray for blessing on them. But the greatest blessing will ALWAYS be God’s plan - which may, and probably will include trials and tribulations. There’s that great promise of Jesus in John 16:33: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

What we don’t want to do here, with this passage is spiritualize away the reality of the trial. It was a REAL event, which would have created REAL anguish for Abraham. I’m anxious to see all that God has for us in this passage!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Genesis 21:22-34

This morning’s passage pictures an ordinary, seemingly random encounter, showing extraordinary things about both God and Abraham.

At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.” (Gen 21:22-23)

I find this story amazing! As you may recall from chapter 20, the previous encounter that these two men had included Abraham deceiving Abimelech about Sarah being his sister. The encounter in today’s passage takes place at least three years later (Sarah has given birth to Isaac, who has been weaned at this time), and shows us Abraham getting an opportunity for a “do-over!” Abimelech has apparently been watching this God-follower (probably with skepticism), and has seen that there is something unique about Abraham and his God. “God is with you in everything you do,” he acknowledges. Remember that, before leaving Abimelech the last time, Abraham prayed for Abimelech, “and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls, so they could have children again...” (Gen. 20:17) So Abimelech has been paying attention. How gracious of God to give Abraham another opportunity here to do the right thing with Abimelech - and not just to vindicate Abraham, but to glorify His own name for the benefit of Abimelech.

So Abimelech asks Abraham to show him “the same kindness I have shown you.” Beth Moore points out that the word used for kindness here is significant. Hesed is the Hebrew word which indicates a special “expression of love, favor, or kindness based on a covenant relationship.” It includes the quality of loyalty - the kind God demonstrates in His character, as mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:12, where Paul says, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” Abimelech is asking Abraham to be true to his God’s character!

Abraham jumps at this chance at a “do-over” with Abimelech and swears his intention to be true to his word with him. Then, to be completely open with Abimelech, he brings up a situation that needs attention - there’s a problem with a well. Abimelech’s men have taken one of his wells. Now, a well is life to a community in the desert, so this was no small matter. We see the two men come to agreement quickly, and Abraham seals the deal with seven ewes as a testimony that the well does, indeed, belong to Abraham.

I don’t know about you, but I find such hope in this little passage! How I need some “do-overs” with some difficult people in my life - an opportunity to show that God does, indeed, live in me - to prove my testimony of a changed life! Abraham commemorates this occasion by planting a tamarask tree and calling on “the Eternal God.” Beth Moore wonders if this tree-planting isn’t a way for Abraham to plant something that will be “a memorial that would remain long after he was gone.” Does he want to have a memorial to his changed life that honors his Eternal God? I like that thought. Don’t you want others to be able to say to you, “God is with you in everything you do?” If Abimelech could see that in a man who purposely deceived him, then there is hope for us! May God continue to work in us so that others can see His character!

Have a great morning!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Genesis 21:14-20

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. (Gen 21:14)

Just one verse describes this farewell! So much is not said. Did Abraham watch them going on their way as long as he could, or was it too painful? Why did he send the two of them with just “some food and a skin of water,” when he could have sent them with an entire caravan of supplies? What was the conversation at breakfast that morning between Sarah and Abraham? Frankly, I love that there are so many things known only to God. There are so many parts of our lives that are just between Him and us. They aren’t meant for public knowledge. And that must be the case here...

“She went on her way and wandered in the Desert...” This indicates an aimless wandering, most likely in complete depression. Eventually, the water runs out:

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. (vs. 15-16)

Remember that Ishmael is a teenager here. He must have been completely weakened a she leaves him under a bush and moves away. I cannot begin to imagine the pain she felt as she let him to die there. She had been able to tend to all of his needs up until this point, but here is a situation in which she is helpless. It makes me think of the saying, “Until Jesus is all you have, you don’t realize He’s all you need.” At the lowest point of her life, when she could not even utter a prayer - only sob with deep moaning, God heard her. In fact, over her loud sobbing, God hear the cries of Ishmael:

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. (vs. 17-19)

I like what Beth Moore points out here: “Sometimes God brings a woman to a well, and other times He brings a well to a woman.” God heard this Egyptian handmaiden and the cries of her son, and He provided. That’s our Jehovah-Jireh - the God who provides! God had promised Ishmael would become a great nation, and He never breaks His promises: God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. (vs. 20)

This chapter of Genesis to this point has been full of the highs and lows of life (mostly lows). From the long-awaited birth of Isaac, the son of promise, to the scene of discord and confrontation at the weaning celebration, to today’s story of the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael. Our sovereign God is there to meet every situation.

Yesterday, before heading to Easter services, I quickly checked my school e-mail, and there was an e-mail that was another example of these mixes of celebration with great sorrow. One of the moms in my class had written to tell me that their newest granddaughter had finally been born - such joy! And in the next sentence she informed me that the older sister and brother of one of the boys in my last year’s class (a different family) had been in a car accident on their way home from college for Easter break. The girl had been killed on impact, and the brother was still in the hospital in critical condition. My heart just broke! This is such a dear family, and now they, too, have been visited by such tragedy! I can only imagine the deep sobs of pain this mother is crying. So, as I sat at Easter service, I couldn’t help but tear up while thanking God for the promise of the resurrection, where our hope is secure. May God hear this family’s cries and provide the comfort and grace and strength they will need. Pray today for the Blackwelder family!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Genesis 21:8-13

In today’s passage, most appropriately on Good Friday, we see the long reach of the consequences of sin.

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Gen 21:8-13)

We’ve moved ahead here to the time when Isaac must have been between three and four years of age. What a precious age! I think of my grandchildren at this age (Lucy’s 3 1/2), and there is nothing sweeter! They still have the soft cheeks and hands that you love to kiss! It’s the day of Isaac’s weaning party, and the proud papa is throwing a grand feast in his honor. In the corner stands a sullen, pimply-faced teenager, Ishmael, the half-brother, who is about 17 at this point. And this wonderful family celebration quickly turns sour! Beth Moore writes, “Have you ever noticed how family celebrations filled with high expectations have an uncanny way of bringing out less-than-desirable family dynamics? I think it is safe to say that by the end of this merry day, no one had a good time.”

We’re told in verse 8 that Ishmael was mocking Isaac. This is not innocent, brotherly teasing. In fact, Ishmael was probably ticked off seeing Isaac, who was going to be the heir of Abraham, getting all of this attention. So he laughs with scorn. Truly he is mocking the promise of God here. You can imagine how Sarah’s hackles went up and her claws came out! There must have been some bitterness in Sarah’s heart that had been fomenting all of these years as she saw lived out before her eyes each day the result of her trying to help God along. And the sight of Ishmael picking on her boy was the last straw. “That slave woman and her son” have to go! Sarah can’t even bring herself to say their names!

Did you see that Hagar is referred to as Hagar the Egyptian in verse 9? This would indicate that, even though Hagar was visited by God and lived in a faith-filled home, she had not made it her own faith, but had clung to the culture and beliefs of Egypt. In the same way, by mocking Isaac, the son of promise, Ishmael was indicating the same lack of faith. And there is not room in one household for faith and disbelief.

Now, think of Abraham’s dilemma and pain. Ishmael, now a young man, had been his joy and companion for years. Beth Moore points out that Ishmael probably had many of his father’s features and mannerisms. Even though the Bible only gives us a few words to describe this scene,”greatly distressed” doesn’t adequately convey what Abraham was feeling. So, our gracious God reminds Abraham, that even in what looks like tumult and chaos, God is sovereignly at work carrying out His plan: I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring. (vs. 13) 

God is still in charge, and telling Abraham, “Trust me!” This is a perfect Romans 8:28 moment! Beth Moore brings in Ephesisan 1:11 here, and I’m adding vs. 12, because it explains the “why”:

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

God will work everything (that includes your circumstances and mine) out according to His plan and for His glory (not ours). Hagar and Ishmael will be driven out of this household, but Ishmael will gain a nation. What an emotional scene! And all of it traces its source back to that decision of Sarah and Abraham to take matters into their own hands to provide an heir. Don’t we all struggle with consequences from our past? Let’s remember today, on Good Friday, that Jesus bore even those sins on the cross. When He said , “It is finished,” he meant it. The payment for all of our sins, even for Sarah’s and Abraham’s, has been completely paid and is no longer counted against us. And it cost God His Son. This scene in Genesis makes me want to cry, and so does the thought of what Christ had to pay because of the things I have done and continue to do! LORD, help me remember to trust you and to let you have YOUR way in my life!

Thankful for the joy of Easter that follows the sorrow!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Genesis 21:1-7

Nothing seems to take longer than the nine months women wait to deliver a baby! But add to that the decades of barrenness that Sarah suffered, and the 25 years between God’s promise of a son and the actual birth, and you have a VERY long wait! If Abraham was to become the father of the faithful, he would need to exercise his faith, and surely God gave both Abraham and Sarah plenty of exercise! But in the exact time intended, in God’s perfect timing, Isaac was born, just as God had promised.

Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 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.” (Gen 21:1-7)

It’s hard to imagine what Sarah must have felt (and the Bible doesn’t give us a whole lot of specifics here), but I’m grateful to Beth Moore, who, in her study, The Patriarchs, spends time making us think about this as women. First she speculates on the relationship between Abraham and Sarah and the tender moment they would have had in conceiving this child at their ages. That alone would have been a cause for laughter! Beth points out what a special thing it is when couples, who have been married forever, can maintain their passion for each other - even if the physical passion wanes of necessity. Don and I have been married almost 39 years, and I can tell you that I love him much more now than I did on August 28, 1971! However, we both laugh at the fact that we are just NOT the same as we used to be!!! :)

Then, Beth asks her readers to think about how Sarah may have first discovered that she was indeed pregnant, since Sarah was long past menopause. She must have been fairly far along, although I’m guessing she was probably counting the months after the three visitors had shown up at their tent and the LORD had told her that it would happen a year from that time. Do you think she had morning sickness? Did she worry over those first few months that she might lose the baby? Did she realize what that first kick was? I can imagine her laying on her bed at night, as she advanced in her pregnancy, watching her tummy moving back and forth. There must have been plenty of laughter between her and Abraham as they enjoyed what all of their family and friends had experienced many years ahead of them. Then, when Isaac was finally born, think about the tears mixed with laughter. What a time of rejoicing, not only for them, but for everyone who loved them.

At my school we’ve had several gals who have struggled with infertility. Some finally got pregnant through in vitro fertilization, and others suffered through years of attempts to no avail. Finally, one dear teacher, who had been at so many baby showers for others with genuine joy for her co-workers, decided to adopt. I will never forget the day she announced to us that she and her husband had been chosen by a young gal to adopt her baby. Tears flowed and shouts of joy and praise to God erupted. I’m imagining that kind of celebration for dear Sarah and Abraham! It’s that same joy that I’m experiencing as I see Emmy and Nathan holding our dear little Penelope now! God is so very good!

There are many times in our walk with God that we experience trials and even deep sorrow. But there are also so many times when we experience great jump-up-and-down-shout-out-loud-hilarious joy!!! I’m thanking God for this special passage of joy in His Word today! Finally, Sarah and Abraham had their Isaac!! Hallalujah, indeed!

Love to you all!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Genesis 20

Here’s a déja vu moment for us:

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.” (Gen 20:1-5)

Didn’t we see this same situation in Genesis 12??? What is the deal here? In the earlier situation in Egypt, Sarah was only 65 - now she’s 90! And 25 years later, Abraham is falling into the same pattern of protecting his own skin by using Sarah. This time it’s the king of Gerar, a city and people which eventually become the Philistines, Israel’s archenemy. I’d be outraged at Abraham if this weren’t an area I hadn’t also fallen - the area of “half-truths” and “white” lies spoken to “protect.” After all, Sarah really was his half sister (vs. 12), so he and Sarah had apparently agreed long beforehand that they would use this “half-truth” to their advantage:

And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.’ ” (vs.13)

WOW! Look how he had manipulated Sarah here!! God certainly had a work to do in Abraham’s heart still, didn’t He? And, certainly, He still is working these very same issues out in my life, or He would have already called me home! Abraham has truly blown it here - putting not only Sarah, but Abimelech and his household in jeopardy. Isn’t it amazing that God came to Abimelech in a dream here? This is the first time that happens in the Bible, and it’s to a heathen king. This gives me hope for those who don’t know God. Pray for those you love who are resisting God, that He will speak to them in their dreams. That’s actually how He first got my attention, through a very real and vivd dream about Jesus. It’s what started me searching for the Truth!

Okay, so wouldn’t you think God would really let Abraham have it this time and be through with him? Nope! In fact, even though Abraham has had a mouth filled with lies, God commends Abraham to Abimilech: ... he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. (vs. 7) And, in fact, that is exactly what Abraham does for Abimelech (vs. 17-18).

This is also the first time the word prophet is used in the Bible. Instead of removing Abraham from this important ministry, God confirms it. What does this tell you about our merciful God? So often, when we’ve fallen, and possibly think we’ve permanently destroyed our witness for God, He picks us back up and says, “Keep going!” Jon Courson points out that Romans 11:29 says, “...for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Our gracious God will often continue to use His fallible people. Once again, even though we have another example of a servant of God failing to trust God, we remember that Abraham is the father of the faithful. NOT because Abraham was faithful, but because our God is the Faithful One! As Hebrews 11:11 tells us, Abraham “considered him faithful who had made the promise.”

Thank you, God, for today’s reminder that you use ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things!

Have a great morning!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Genesis 19:30-38

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell putting them in chains of darkness o be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:4-9)

I just had to turn to this passage from 2 Peter as we finish out this chapter on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the rescue of Lot and his family, because it puts it all into perspective. Note what Peter tells us about Lot: he was a righteous man who was distressed and tormented by all of the sin around him. Really? Are you wondering about this like I am? If Lot was so distressed by it, why didn’t he move his family out? Why did he expose his daughters to such behaviors? As we’ll see, their acceptance of abnormal behavior indicates that their environment made its impact on them.

Well, I’ve got to go back to what constitutes our righteousness. Is it based on what we do or who we are? No! It’s based on faith in Christ and who HE is, for we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We have no righteousness on our own - it is imputed to us, blanketed over us, by what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. For this reason, Peter can call Lot righteous. And we know that God spared him as a righteous man, because that was the promise He made to Abraham. Therefore, in God’s eyes, Lot is called a righteous man. Therefore, He calls me righteous! PHEW!! Now this gives me HOPE!

However, our final look at his family is something belonging to a soap opera or Sister Wives!

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.” That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. (Gen 19:30-33)

Ye gads!!! Okay, let’s think about their situation. These girls are stuck in a cave (why didn’t Lot go to his Uncle Abraham for help??), they have lost everything, including their mother, and they can’t believe there will be a future for them. So they take matters into their own hands (when will we learn??), and do something so appalling, yet apparently something that doesn’t give them pause. This is the result of Lot’s decision to raise his daughters in Sodom! Please note that we are told that Lot “was not aware of it” when the girls lay with him. So this pretty much lets him off the hook for this specific act. However, there is certainly plenty of blame to go around here! Sin begets sin! So what is the result of the girls’ actions?

...both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi he is the father of the Ammonites of today. (vs. 36-38)

If you remember, the Moabites and the Ammonites are nothing but trouble for the Israelites. However, one ray of hope (because there is always hope in God’s Word), is that Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, was a Moabite - and she was in the lineage of Christ! Don’t you love how God is constantly redeeming our mistakes? Romans 8:28!!! And this is the glorious part of God’s Word. No matter how bad our sin, God can redeem us from the pit! Our God remembers that we are but dust, He came and lived among us to experience the trials and temptations we face - and yet, did not sin! So He is fully qualified to save us. That’s what this Holy Week is all about!

We’re leaving this family - and I have to say I’m glad to be out of Sodom. But we are not free of the reality stories of God’s people! Abraham blows it again in the next chapter! Oh, our God is so gracious and long-suffering with us, isn’t He? How can we not extend that same grace to others in our lives?
Love to you all!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Genesis 19:12-26

Good morning, all! We’ve been looking at the story of Lot and his family and at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is truly a time when we see the wrath of God. I receive a daily devotional from LifeWay (Beth Moore’s publishing house), and this morning’s, interestingly enough, talks about the wrath of God. It says that if we were to look up the texts referring to wrath, anger, or the severity of God in a concordance, we would find “more references to these than to His love, graciousness of tenderness.” We cannot truly understand the love of God apart from His holy character, which requires an action against everything evil. Or, as my pastor says, “You’ve got to understand the bad news so you can appreciate the good news.”

One of the things we look forward to, as Christians, is the fact that the LORD will set everything right at His Second Coming. We will see his justice fully carried out and we will marvel along with the angels. If you read through the book of Revelation, you’ll find choruses praising God for His justice:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.” (Rev: 15:3)

“You are just in these judgements, you who are and who were, the Holy One.” (Rev 16:4)

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.” (Rev. 19:1-2)

We rightly long to see His final victory over sin, and a restoration of His righteousness throughout. In Isaiah 60: 19-21, the prophet is giving God’s Word to Jerusalem and telling of a day when all of the injustices suffered by the Jewish nation will be made right:

The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever.

When studying this passage in Isaiah for Bible Study Fellowship yesterday, these verses jumped out at me, because they say that all your people will be righteous, in contrast to what we read in Isaiah 59 and in Romans 3:10-18 that affirms NONE are righteous. I can’t wait for a day when all, including me, will be fully righteous and God’s right order is restored. In the meantime, in our current passage in Genesis, in order to show that He is holy and means business, God judges the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, by raining down “burning sulfur.” Abraham, looking down on the site sees “dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” (vs. 28)

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are purported to be at the south end of the Dead Sea. Where that land was originally described as “well watered, like the garden of the LORD,” in Gen 13:10, now, in chapter 19, it’s a smoking wasteland. Jon Courson describes it as looking like “the aftermath of an atomic bomb... totally, completely, and awesomely arid.”

God means business. In his second letter, Peters writes, “ must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Peter 3:3-7)

This is hard to read. It’s the kind of message that makes people uncomfortable. But surely we must be grateful that we have a God who says what He means and means what He says. His character remains true, and the LORD of the earth will do right! I’m thankful for the last verse in today’s passage:

So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived. (vs. 29)
God remembered Abraham and His promise to rescue the righteous. That is truly our hope!!!

Off I go!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Genesis 19:12-26

Good morning, all! I’m going to back up a few verses this morning, because there are just too many lessons to learn in Lot’s story.

The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” (vs.12-17)

God, in his mercy, desires to rescue Lot and any of his family who might go with him, so Lot reaches out to his sons-in-law and urges them to get out of Sodom. But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. See how Lot had lost his credibility in the community in which he was a leader. Not only did the gang of men dismiss his pleadings for his guests, but even his own sons-in-law laughed at what he said. Courson points out that this is a constant danger with fathers who do not walk the talk before their children. When we don’t seem to believe or act on what we are preaching to others as Christians, why would anyone believe us when we try to witness to them about our Savior? Lot’s lack of a credible witness contributed to the destruction of some he loved. There’s a warning! Why would anyone listen to an adulterer who tells his child to save himself before marriage? Or why would someone accept the invitation to go to church with the gal who was partying at the bar?

I mentioned yesterday how Lot hesitated to leave, so the angels had to pull him by the hand, along with his wife and daughters, out of the city. Lot was told to “flee to the mountains.” Instead, Lot whines that the mountains are too far away and he’ll never make it - “Can’t I just go to that little city over there???” Wouldn’t you just want to smack him on the head at this point? God’s mercy is beyond our understanding!!

The angels also warn Lot and his family, “Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!” God does not wanting us looking back with longing at the past from which He’s rescued us. We are not to be nostalgic about the “good old days” before Christ pulled us out by the hand. Paul even tells us in Philippians 3:13-14, Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

It can be tempting to look back with fondness on some of our previous experiences, even some which brought some pain. God warns us to not look back but to look ahead to where He is leading us NOW. Having grown up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I LOVE the music of my teen years. And hearing any song from that era takes me right back there. One day I realized that those songs I loved to hear on the oldies radio station were taking my thoughts where they did not need to go. So I flipped to Christian radio and have kept my radio tuned there ever since. It’s not that there is something necessarily evil in those old songs (although the lyrics are truly suggestive in many of the ones we never used to pay attention to), but they do not edify or lift me up like praise music does.

When Lot’s wife looked back to the place where her home had been, where all their possessions were being burned to the ground, she disobeyed the direct command, and turned into a pillar of salt. Jesus reminds us of her consequences in Luke 17: Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. (vs.32-33)

So many lessons. . . and there’s more... we’ll finish this one next week! Have a wonderful, relaxing weekend!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Genesis 19:1-16

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” (vs.1-5)

Okay - here is a really ugly passage of scripture! God does not candy-coat the truth! Note, first, that the two angels who had been with Abraham have come to the city of Sodom without the LORD. God is holy and will not come near sin! And, just in case we’re not clear here, the sin of Sodom is NOT that the men were not hospitable!! The grossness of their sin is why the angels have come to destroy the city. (v. 13) Note, also, that Lot was sitting at the gate. This would indicate that he has a place of honor within the city. Yet, we know from the rest of the story that Lot did not make a moral impact as a leader. In fact, the effects of living in Sodom are seen in the complete dysfunction of his family. The reality is that, no matter how hard we try, we will most likely NOT be the good influence if we’ve surrounded ourselves with wickedness. Instead, if we put ourselves in the midst of people who are blatantly living apart from God, sin will get the pull us down. Remember that Lot chose to live in this city, when he and Abraham agreed to split up, because he liked how it looked!

This does not mean that we stay away from everyone who is not a believer - we are told to be light in the world - to be in it, but not of it. So, we need to be in the world, loving people for Jesus’ sake, and sharing the gospel when given opportunity, but we certainly don’t need to go with the world into the bar or anywhere else where we will most likely trip up.

Lot rushes to meet these two strangers, because he obviously senses there is something special about them. He does offer his home to them, and when they say they will just stay in the square, we read he “insisted so strongly” that they do go with him. My guess is that he knew it was not safe to leave the men out as prey to the evil men of Sodom, for it doesn’t take long for “all the men from every part of the city” to seek out Lot’s guests!

And I’m not sure who is the more evil - the men seeking to rape Lot’s guests, or the father willing to have his virgin daughters gang-raped! We cannot even imagine this! I would not want to see it in a movie, because it’s bad enough having to read it! Yet, we know that even today there are parents who will sell their daughters into sex slavery. There are parents who, themselves, abuse their children. There may be some of you (and statistics tell us it would be so) who have been victims of such abuse, and I am certain this would be a hard passage to read.

Why is it here? Because God wants us to know that He has a limit to how much He will tolerate. He doesn’t mess around with sin. He judges it! Abraham had “bargained” God down to saving the city it there were 10 who were righteous, and God had agreed. Within this city, there weren’t even 10. Heck, Lot wasn’t even righteous! He was not spared here because of his righteousness - he was spared because of God’s amazing grace! We must not presume on God’s grace and keep fooling around where we know He has clearly told us to get out! We try so hard to justify our behaviors or apply relativity to our morality. God has a standard of perfection, which we clearly do not meet. This is WHY we need a Savior - this is WHY Jesus came to die for us. We cannot meet God’s standard, and there is coming a day in which sin will be finally judged. We need to be “grasped” by the hand, even as the angels had to “grasp” Lot’s hand and the hands of his wife and daughters and DRAG them out of the city, because Lot actually “hesitated!” (v. 16)

We’ll pick up here tomorrow... so much more to think about! On this happy note, have a great day! :) 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Genesis 18:16-33

“Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25)

For all of those who have grown up believing that the God of the Old Testament is a God of harsh judgment, hellfire and brimstone, today’s passage should lay that to rest. We see in these verses a God of infinite grace. Frankly, I don’t know where people get that idea about God, because His grace flows freely throughout the Old Testament, but I know that, before I had read the Bible for myself, that is what I had always been taught. Not so!

We begin this passage where Abraham’s three visitors are getting up to leave:

When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (vs.16-19)

Jon Courson points out here that God decides to give Abraham this revelation about His plan for Sodom because he knows that Abraham will communicate to his own family the things of God. He gives Abraham this information to pass it on! Isn’t this why He reveals things from His Word to us? It isn’t meant to just be stored in our own hearts, we are meant to teach it to our children and our grandchildren and all others He brings into our lives. If you want to gain more wisdom from God, SHARE what He’s already given you!

Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” (vs.20-21)

Apparently people had been complaining to God about the behaviors in Sodom and Gomorrah. When God says He will “go down and see,” it is not because He doesn’t know, but He is going to show the world that His judgements are just and fair. The angels then head for Sodom, while the LORD and Abraham continue their dialogue. Abraham, knowing his nephew Lot is in the path of destruction, pleads for grace from God on behalf of the city. He bargains with God about the numbers. In verse 24 he says, “What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[ the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?”

After the LORD assures Abraham that He would spare the city for 50, Abraham keeps going lower and lower, bargaining until, finally, he settles with God for ten. Surely, he is thinking there are at least 10 who are righteous, because Lot’s family numbers at least eight (Lot, his wife, his two virgin daughters, and two married daughters and their husbands are mentioned in the next chapter), and there must be at least TWO more somewhere within the two cities!

In verse 33 we read, “Abraham returned home.” He was confident that God would do the right thing, and the city would be spared. I’m thinking I might have just taken a little trip down to Sodom to at least check on my nephew at this point, but I believe that Abraham, our father of faith, was resting in the justice of God - that no matter what the outcome, God remained God. We, too, must rest in the assurance that on the final judgment day, we will be singing with the great multitude in heaven,    “Hallelujah! 
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.” (Rev. 19:1-2)

We see in this passage several great things about Abraham: he walked with God, he interceded for others with God, he was one who would SHARE his faith with his family, and he trusted the sovereign Judge of the earth to do right. No wonder he’s the father of the faithful! May the same be said of each of us!!
Tomorrow we’ll see what was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah! It’s not pretty!!!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Genesis 18:1-15

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (vs. 14)

This is the heart of today’s passage. We see so many clever signs and bumper stickers that portray a Christian message, but this one should be the flashing neon sign over all of our door posts! Is there anything God can’t do?? Of course, He can’t deny Himself and His character, so He can’t lie - but I’m talking here about the challenges we face daily. Is there one that He can’t handle? Of course not! So, this morning I want to focus on this part of the scene we are looking at in Genesis 18.

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (vs. 1-2)

It’s the hottest part of the day, and in the blazing sun, Abraham sits at the entrance of his tent, and the LORD shows up. Note that it does not say that Abraham saw the three men coming at a distance, but “he looked up and saw three men standing nearby.” They just appeared! Jon Courson points out that the LORD always shows up when we are in the midst of the heat - when we are going through a fiery trial, He is always there beside us. Where we may not have noticed His presence so much when it was quiet (that’s our fault, not HIS), He appears in full force when the major challenges loom. He appears here to Abraham in the form of a man, with two angels by His side.

Abraham recognizes these are special visitors, for he rushes to bow before them, then gets everyone else busy preparing a lavish meal. I think it’s funny that the preparations are dealt with in six verses, as if it didn’t take a long time to prepare loaves of bread and to kill, dress, and cook a calf! Imagine the happenings in that kitchen!

Now, the LORD has come to personally deliver a great message: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” (vs 10) God had already promised Abraham an heir through Sarah - He’d even given the child the name Isaac, meaning “laughter.” (Gen 17:19) So, I’m wondering why He has come again to give basically the same message... I’m wondering if this visit wasn’t just for Sarah! The rest of this passage focuses on her response. Sarah had been eavesdropping on the conversation from just inside the tent. When she heard God’s pronouncement that she’d have a baby in a year’s time, she laughs incredulously, since she’s already way past menopause! Note the way this is stated in verse 12:

So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

The God who hears our thoughts and knows our hearts calls her out on her unbelief in this humorous exchange:

Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” (vs13-15)

As a teacher, I have similar scenes play out like this in my classroom all the time:

Me: “Why did you sign your mother’s signature on your reading log?”
Guilty student: “I didn’t sign it! She did!”
Me: “Really? She signed in PENCIL then ERASED it and SIGNED IT AGAIN? Do I look stupid to you???”

Seriously, why do we think we can get away with ANYTHING? And why would we WANT to? It’s amazing how fear of punishment will cause us to lie when the evidence is so glaring to the contrary! It shows our lack of understanding of our Father when we pull stunts like this one. Sarah had just heard God say He was going to bless her socks off - and she could not wrap her brain around His being the God of the impossible. Is ANYTHING too hard for Him??

What IMPOSSIBLE thing are you facing? Is it a financial mess that seems impossible to unravel? Is it a relationship so “beyond repair” that you have despaired of seeing it healed? Has the doctor given you the terrifying diagnosis of cancer, which has you immobilized with fear? Is your grief so overwhelming you cannot imagine going on? Or maybe you, too, are barren and figuring you will never know the joy of holding your own child? NOTHING is impossible for God! As Courson says, there is no “degree of difficulty” with God: curing a headache or a malignant tumor are the same to Him. Can we believe Him? Or do we laugh at the thought? Oh, LORD, help us to grasp just how big and powerful you are! Help us to trust in your sovereignty and your great love for us. Help us to KNOW without a doubt that you are not only ABLE but so WILLING to answer the deepest desires of our hearts!

Off to school - wonder if anyone is going to try to pull the wool over Mrs. White’s eyes today?? :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Genesis 17:23-27

Good morning, dear friends!

Well, it’s back to school today, after a whirlwind tour of Washington, DC, and finally getting to meet our Penelope! Oh, she is teeny!!! So cute and sweet, and as Beau says, soft! I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God, who continues to surprise me with His attention to the details in our lives! He answers immeasurably more than we think or ask (Eph. 3:20). Thank you to the many who prayed for Anne, the other teacher who was with our tour. I am planning on keeping in touch with her.

I just wanted to finish off Genesis 17 this morning with a note about Abraham’s obedience in verses 23-27:

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

On that very day... Abraham did not argue with God, or question the instructions, or consult friends for advise; he obeyed God immediately. Even though it would be personally very painful! I like that Jon Courson points out here that Abraham did not think that, because he was 99 years old, he himself did not need to do this. There is a tendency as we get older to step aside and sit down - remembering what we did years ago for God. We expect the younger people in the church to step up and take over. But, until God calls us home, He has something for us to do. And Abraham stepped up, took the lead for his family and his entire household, and modeled obedience!

And he didn’t TELL Ishmael to go get circumcised. Abraham took him by the hand and did the job! It’s not enough to tell our children to go to church or to study the Bible or to pray; we need to take them by the hand and do it with them, until it becomes their daily habit as well. Do not expect your children to get everything they need spiritually at Sunday School! They spend no more than an hour and a half there each week. That will NOT cut it! As parents and grandparents, the spiritual instruction of our children is our responsibility - even if it means leading them by the hand. When you take them to church each week, you are building a pattern for them, an expectation that this is the life of a disciple of Christ. It involves community, commitment of our time and resources, and accountability. And they need to see that it is NOT a ritualistic thing we check off each week - it is the one day we all truly look forward to, because we are going to the house of the LORD! It’s a privilege!

Heading for school!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Tired in Williamsburg!

Hello, all!

I'm finally in my hotel room in Williamsburg, VA, after a LONG day of travel!  There are 15 of us (10 students and 5 adults, including me).  We met at George White Elementary at 3:40 a.m. and headed in shuttle vans to LAX.  Our flight left at 7:00, with a 30 min. stop in Chicago, then on to Washington D.C.  THEN we got into our big tour bus, with two other school groups (both middle schools), and made a three hour bus ride down to Williamsburg.  To say we're pooped is an understatement, but so grateful to have made it without any problems.  The kids have been great, and the parents are awesome!  Tonight the three teachers leading the groups met together to talk about tomorrow's tour of Jamestown and Williamsburg.  And I learned that one of the other teachers, named Anne, just lost her father YESTERDAY!!  Please pray for her, as she is here with 11 students all by herself!!!

I know God put her here with me for a reason.  The day before her father died, her sister got married - so, her family has also been through a series of emotions.  Her father fell two weeks ago and broke his wrist and something up near his shoulder, requiring surgery.  Well, during surgery, he aspirated, then had a heart attack.  This lead to serious pneumonia and a breathing tube.  He suddenly flat-lined yesterday and could not be resuscitated.  Anne is one of four girls, like me (except she's the eldest in her family and I'm the baby).  I'm certain God put her together with us, so that we could help her through this time.  Please pray for her, that she will have the strength and presence of mind to get through this week somehow, with all of the details that need to be taken care of at home.  Also, pray that the LORD will give me the right words to comfort her.  We mourn with those who mourn, even as we rejoice with those who rejoice!

I'll pick back up on Genesis next week, but so appreciate your prayers for safety over all of us this week, including safe travels for Molly as she leaves Emmy and family in Salt Lake tomorrow to head back to her family.  And then, safety and rest for Emmy, et al as they head home on Thursday.  They have been enjoying a great time together in snowy Park City, thanks to a generous family from our church who offered their cabin to them.  Emmy mentioned that the FOUR of them would be coming home on Thursday, and I was confused for a minute, because I thought she meant Molly, Emmy, Nathan, and Beau, when, of course she meant Penelope, Emmy, Nathan, and Beau!   I'm not used to them being a family of four!!  WOW!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Penelope Susan Blakely

Hello all!  It's Emmy here, Sally's daughter.  I am hijacking my mom's blog to share some photos of her newest granddaughter, Penelope Susan Blakely {although if my mom asks, tell her that the baby's name is Penelope Anne Blakely... she wants a namesake and Anne is her middle name}.

Penelope was born Thursday morning at 8:12 and is a tiny little peanut, weighing in at only 5 pounds, 7 ounces, and is just 18 inches long.

If you would like know more about our family's story, you can read about the Blakely family's road to adoption here, and about the events of the last week here and here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Genesis 17:15-27

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” (vs. 15-16)

Okay, friends, today’s passage is a new favorite of mine! And, although I’d love to come up with something new and inspired on this passage, I know that I don’t have an original thought in my brain! I’m a compilation of all the things I’ve heard and read before. But, somehow, the Holy Spirit will use those mixed up thoughts in my brain to give me a fresh look at something I’ve seen before. So, for today’s look at this last half of Gen. 17, I’m giving many thanks to Beth Moore - for no one says it better! :)

God has just finished confirming His covenant and given a new name to Abraham. In chapter 16, He appeared to Hagar and blessed her. So, what about Sarai? Well, here are the two most encouraging words of the day from verse 15: God also... Oh, how grateful I am that God did not forget Sarai!!! Beth points out, however, that God did not appear with this great blessing to Sarai directly as He had done to Hagar and Abraham. What gives? Was He snubbing her, because of the mess she’s created with Hagar? We know that it’s not because she was a woman, and therefore the blessing must come through her husband, because He DID speak directly to Hagar. So why give this great news to Abraham instead of to Sarah?? Well, Beth speculates, and I really like this thought, that possibly Abraham needed to hear that Sarah was blessed, even more than she needed to hear it! Here’s Beth’s take:

I don’t believe God was avoiding Sarai to punish her for her foolish decisions. Goodness knows Abraham made plenty. God may have wanted Abraham himself to view Sarah as blessed, changing how Abraham - as her husband - identified her.

Possibly Abraham thought Sarai was the obstacle to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Obviously, Ishmael proved Abraham still had the ability to sire a son in the years immediately following the promises. Sarai was the holdup. Whether or not Abraham consciously deducted such, his attitude suggests that he believed Sarai’s barrenness was more powerful than God’s promises. That’s why he kept suggesting others ways of helping God to fulfill His promise, not the least of which is found in Genesis 17:18, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” In his wildest imagination, Abraham did not think God could use Sarai. She was, after all, unfruitful. Unable. Unusable.

That very well may be why God spoke Sarai’s blessings into Abraham’s own ears. Abraham needed to stop seeing his wife as the hang-up and start seeing her as the “how.”

Okay - now doesn’t that totally speak to you?? Haven’t we all. at some point, seen someone, including possibly our spouses, as the “holdup” in our blessings?? I know that when I was a young wife and mother, I certainly held the notion that if only Don would be the spiritual leader in our home, and become active at church and involved in Bible study, our home would be truly blessed. How I thank God that He called me out on that one early on! You see, I had written in my prayer journal this very “sanctified” prayer list for Don: that he would become the spiritual leader, do devotions with our girls, get into a good men’s Bible study, come to church, etc. All things that I was sure were what God wanted for Don (and actually, I do believe that would be God’s desire, as well). However, while I had this list to pray over, I was actually sowing seeds of discontent in my heart while I waited for the perfect Don!

One morning, as I was praying over this list, God very clearly spoke to me. It was only one of two times in 35 years that I actually believe I heard His voice speaking in my ear: “Sally, you are to love Don just the way He is TODAY, because that’s the way I love him!” Wow! I took my pencil and crossed off the list, and wrote in the margin, “Thank you, God, for Don, just the way he is today!” I can’t tell you how that freed me up to see the wonderful husband God had given me. He may not have led devotions, but he was the most devoted husband and father I could have asked for. This actually, I believe, removed a barrier that I had placed between Don and God with my discontent. I was waiting for him to change, and I’m sure Don was resisting that somehow. Anyway, it revolutionized my marriage, and let God go to work freely. After all, He loves our loved ones much more than we do!

I am so thankful that Sarai, became Sarah, the princess, who would have kings as her descendants. And I’m so grateful that God let Abraham know just how blessed she was! My name is a derivative of Sarah, so I, too, am a “princess” - a daughter of the King of Kings!

Running late!