Tuesday, February 24, 2015

“He Really is With You!” - Genesis 26

It has to be one of the greatest compliments a follower of Jehovah could hope to hear. Abimelech and his men gave such a compliment to Isaac: “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you.” Wow! The king of the Philistines recognized a believer when he saw one. Or did he? How did Isaac lead the king to believe this? Well, it certainly was not perfection in Isaac’s life that caused the king to see God. Isaac let a little back rub fix that perception. If it wasn't a perfect life, then what was it that allowed God to be seen in this believer’s life?

First, Isaac was not afraid to own up to mistakes he made. In this case, it was a lie he told. He just flat out said why he did what he did and made no more excuses about it. Second, Isaac chose not to argue. He had plenty of opportunities to voice his opinion. He was told to move out of his home and later to move away from two wells he had dug. Did he just vent it all on those calling the shots? No, he pulled up his tent and moved on. Third, he called on the name of the Lord. He could have invited all of his friends and herdsmen and threw a pity-party, but he saw the time better spent in praise and prayer. Fourth, Isaac ate with those who wronged him. When the door-bell rang, he could have just cracked open the front flap and shook hands with Abimelech. Instead, he invited the king to come in, eat, and watch the game with him.

Isaac teaches us how to show God is with us. It is not a perfect life that does it. Instead, it is the ability to own up to what makes us imperfect. It is also biting our tongue, praising God, and forgiving and eating with our enemies. Thanks for the example, Isaac!

Monday, February 16, 2015

“Father, Please Be With . . . .” - Genesis 25

This is one of those chapters that has so many of the well-known stories in it. In remembering those events, and even coming to expect them, it is easy to overlook the other verses. Husbands and wives don’t overlook verse 21. Go on, read it. When was the last time the same could be recorded of you? Just this morning or just last week? It becomes easy to “remember those on our prayer list,” but so often we forget to remember those we have married! We pray for our leaders and those who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gospel, but we forget those who have dedicated their lives to spend with us!

Isaac prayed for Rebekah and God did what he does so well: he answered. Husband, will you stop right here and pray for your wife? Wife, will you take your husband to God in prayer right now? Go on, I'll wait . . . .

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fabio vs. Isaac - Genesis 24

You are waiting your turn in the check-out line at Wal-Mart and there they are displayed like pictures from someone's secret photo album. You guessed it, those paperback romance novels. On the cover, some guy is sporting long, flowing locks of hair with muscles bulging from that tattered cloth he must call a shirt. Between his thumb and first finger rests the chin of his fair maiden. From the looks of the hair on both of them, the wind must be blowing about 140 miles per hour.

God shares with us a different kind of love story in Genesis 24. It is his kind of love story. When we read it, we have to keep from reading it through twenty-first-century-American eyes. Nose rings, camels, wells, and marrying family are not the things of today’s love stories. But, it's just those things that are part of a story that we can learn much from. What can we learn?

First, we can learn to give praise, honor, and glory to God. We can recognize who he is, what he has done, and what he can do. Second, we can learn to trust God in any situation. Some of the people in this story were trusting God for a spouse, some for an ability to discern, others were trusting him for a decision already made. Third, we can learn to be like Laban and Bethuel. When they recognized something was from God, they didn't challenge it, but instead, humbly accepted it.

Let’s put the self-seeking books back in their rack by the Gummy Bears and Tic Tacs. Then, let's pay the cashier, go home, and open that God-seeking Book. With it in hand, let's learn to praise, trust, and accept.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tomorrow? . . . Perspective - Genesis 23

We have learned quite a bit about Sarah to this point in Genesis. She followed Abraham’s lead, although it put her in some strange predicaments. And when she was mad at the old boy, she was not afraid to speak her mind. She did laugh at the prospect of being a mother, but she finally did become one. Even when we were kids, Sarah was just one of those people we knew about. Knowing about her shortcomings, we still envision her as one of the first “mom-like” women in the Bible.

It is in this twenty-third chapter that the news is broken to us: Sarah is dead. We have only a small obituary containing place of death, husband’s name, those in charge of arrangements, and place of burial. But it is this obituary that can serve as a much needed, often helpful, reminder: we are going to die. Someday, unless Jesus comes back first, our chests will rise for air for the last time.

Sarah’s obituary is a needed reminder because we often forget. Since we have been given every “tomorrow” up until now, we just figure we will get the next one also. Sarah could have done a lot more for the Lord. Imagine the Ladies’ Day lessons she could have given on patience and faith! We, too, may have some great plans, but we may not have tomorrow.

Her obituary is helpful because it can put things in perspective for us. When you know that cargo from earth does not go to heaven, but souls saved here do go there, it helps us look at our priorities. As we lay down the notice of Sarah’s death, let’s remember. Let’s remember to do all we can today because that is all we have. As we go about doing those activities, let’s keep our perspective. Keep in mind what goes with us and what stays behind.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do We Know What We Are Saying? - Genesis 22

How many times do you think this passage has been dissected in a Sunday-school class? How often have you heard it brought up at communion time? What about those sermons that draw parallels between the sacrifice of Isaac and the sacrifice of Jesus? Suffice it to say, we have heard from Genesis 22 several times. Thinking back, every time it is discussed either the teacher, preacher, or audience member says the same thing. At least once while Genesis 22 is the topic, someone will say, “As a parent, I know I couldn’t raise up the knife like that. I’d give anything else up, even myself, but not my son or daughter.” And the rest of the audience says “Amen!”

I think it’s time we live up to our words. We admit that, put in Abraham’s sandals, we’d be saying, “Anything, but my child, God! Anything! Take me instead!” Am I right? We would be willing to sacrifice absolutely anything to the Lord. But, none of us are in Abraham’s sandals. I’m in my Nikes, you are in your Crocs and you back there in back are in your wing-tips. And we aren’t walking with our child up a mountain to a pile of burning wood. And since we aren’t, we aren’t making the same promises, we aren’t telling God to take anything. We are telling him to take our check on Sunday morning, our prayer for our sick friend, and our plea for forgiveness. But, everything else is ours.

What would you give to God to get your child off of the altar? Your car, bank balance, jewelry, collectibles? Would you give up that habit, that secret activity? Would you give up your time or your schedule? Would you give up yourself? If so, do we have to be put over a child with a knife in our hands just to give up something to God? Do we have to be led out to the region of Moriah just to get us to turn over something to God? Let’s remember the deals we made in Sunday class must still be good at Monday work. Let’s have the faith to “Amen” Thursday morning what we said “Amen” to Sunday morning. Let’s have the courage to give it up now and not be put to the altar-test later.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Have You Kept Yours? - Genesis 21

This chapter could easily be titled “The Chapter of Promises.” We read of three promises made to different people regarding differing circumstances. Better yet, we read here of those promises being kept. Here they are:

  • God promised Sarah she would be a mom and here she is cradling her newborn son.
  • God promised Abraham he would take care of Hagar and Ishmael and here they are in the desert walking toward that “it-just-appeared” well.
  • Abraham promised Abimelech that he would not treat him wrongly and here we read they lived in the same region for a “long time” and without incident.

The question I want us to keep asking as we go through Genesis is, “Does this apply to today?” If you’ve been with me this far, you know my answer: Yes!

Promises. What was the last promise you made? When was the last time you stated what your future action would be? Maybe it was when you would be home from work or what was for supper. Maybe it was when you said you would be ready to go or when you said you would be somewhere. Little promises all day long. Short phrases that say you will do something and the listener can count on it. Or can they? “Mark, those aren’t really promises, they are just . . . well . . . they just aren’t,” you might be saying. I agree that tonight’s menu not being what was stated and you not having your coat on when you said you would don’t classify as felonies. But, they are promises – broken promises.

If your word is worthless about your arrival time, what makes it priceless at, say, wedding time? If you don't bring home the promised surprise for your kids, why should they believe the promise, “I'll love you no matter what”? Do you see it now? The little stones in our lives are, when cemented together, the great buildings we are making. Are you having trouble keeping your word? Start small and the effects will be huge. I promise.

Monday, January 26, 2015

You’re Not Afraid, Are You? - Genesis 20

Abimelech and his officials were definitely sweaty. I would even venture to guess that some of them had chewed their fingernails down to the first knuckle. Why? We read in verse 8 that “they were very much afraid.” They had reason to be! The Almighty had just squared King Abimelech away and extended a threat if he did not get the situation at hand under control. Abimelech had his hands all over something that wasn't his. God knew it was wrong and informed the king that not only were his actions wrong, but heaven knew about it.

Abimelech had not forgotten something that we “mature Christians” sometimes do forget. The King of Gerar knew to be absolutely terrified of God. You see, I think some of you are like me. The concept of God that I almost always keep in front of me is the happy one. It is the view that only sees God as a loving father and gentle shepherd. You know, big smile and absolutely perfect, white teeth, arms outstretched and calling me “my child.” Is that concept wrong? Absolutely not! With the exception of the teeth, there is a scripture for every one of these descriptions of God. So what is the problem? The problem is when that is our ONLY picture of God. If that is our only picture of God, than it makes him nothing more than a heavenly Santa Claus.

We need to balance our toothy-picture of God with an Abimelech-picture of God. We need to remember that all we do, even our so-called secrets, are laid out in front of him. The same hand which is lovingly extended is the same hand that can cast the disobedient away from him. The same voice that will say, “Welcome home!” is the same one that can say, “Get away from me!” You get the picture. It's nothing new, but maybe you have done what I have: the boogey man doesn't scare you, noises in the basement don’t scare you, and God doesn’t scare you. Let it never be thought of you or me what Abraham thought of Abimelech: “There is surely no fear of God in this place.”