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.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Happened to Lot? - Genesis 19

We first read about Lot when we were in chapter 11. He was still following Abram around in chapter 12. And the fellow showed up again when he and Abram got together with their real estate agents in chapter 13. The last time we read about Lot was in 14:16 when Abram had just finished playing the role of army commander.

Now back to our title question. We read about Lot in chapters 11-14, but we do not see any more of him until chapter 19. What happened to Lot? I’ll be the first to say I don't know. But I do know where he had been, where we leave him, and where we find him again. He had been with Abram in Haran, Egypt and the Negev. He had finally settled near Sodom. After being a prisoner of war, Lot finds himself back with Abram in Hebron. When we catch up to him in chapter 19, he has left Abram and he is back in Sodom. So, between the time Abram rescued him and when we see him again, what happened to Lot? Well, all we know is Lot went back – back to Sodom.

Let’s be reminded about the kind of town Sodom was. Suppose we know only what we've been given to this point in Genesis. Simply put, “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinning greatly against the Lord” (13:3). End of story. But, it is that story that teaches a great lesson.

We, too, have been rescued – rescued from sin. Jesus routed Satan, like Abram did to Lot's captors, and Jesus brought us back to himself. But Jesus didn't chain us down. Now what will you do? You can stay with him and he will give you protection, provide for your needs . . . or you can go back to Sodom. That is what Lot did. We left him with his savior and we found him back in Sodom. Where will readers find you in a few chapters?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dare to Ask - Genesis 18

It first happened to some of us when we were kids. We were in Sunday-school and anticipating the Twinkies that we saw on the far table. But our attention was diverted to the big letters on the chalkboard: P-R-A-Y-E-R. By the end of the class we realized that even WE could talk to God! Wow! Then the question entered our little minds: How can God hear us if we all pray at the same time? We doubt God.

Too bad that’s not the only time that we doubt God, but as we get older we seem to doubt more and more. How? You put your financial problems in God's hands and then tell your spouse, “We'll probably never get back on our feet again.” Or you pray for the success of a Bible class, seminar or other outreach and then tell others, “Nobody will want to come to it, anyway.” And so, we doubt God.

Mrs. Abraham had the same problem we do. Sarah doubted God and God knew it. It was then that He asked a very crucial question. You can read it in verse 14. How did you answer? The answer to that question is the basis on which you pray. How you respond is the root from which your prayers grow.

Can I dare you to ask? Can I dare you to respond to God’s question and take your impossibilities to Him in prayer? You can be assured that the same One who asked the question will be more than thrilled to show you the answer. Go on, ask!

Monday, January 19, 2015

I Promise - Genesis 17

I love this chapter! Picture the scene with me: a 99-year-old guy with thinning gray hair halfway down the back of his tunic and a beard of equal length. He is stooped slightly, but it is somewhat masked with the help of his gnarled staff. His silver eyes, set deep in his wrinkled forehead, are opened as wide as they can be. Why? Look whom he is sitting across the table from: El-Shaddai or God Almighty!

In these first eight verses El-Shaddai amazes Abram with what he says. Promise after promise after promise after . . . and all Abram is thinking is, “M-m-m-m-e, Lord? All for me?” And he drops his staff, drops his head, and finally drops to his knees. In prayer? Nope, laughter.

Fellow believer, we have a lot in common with this senior citizen. We have traits about us that are reminders that we are not going to live forever. In the presence of El-Shaddai we, too, are stooped. But the similarities don’t stop there. El-Shaddai has given us promise after promise after promise after . . . . Think about them: answered prayer, forgiveness, salvation, hope, the church, on and on the list grows.

To know whether El-Shaddai is going to keep his promises to us, it is only right to ask one question: Did he keep his promises with Abram? Let's keep on reading and find out. The adventure has only begun.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Beer Lahai Roi - Genesis 16

Back in the time of Genesis, names meant something. When you named your baby son or daughter, that name told a story. But, it wasn’t just red-faced newborns that received names. In this chapter, a well was being named. That's right: bucket, crank, rope, the whole works. Hagar even named God and from that a well was named – Beer Lahai Roi. No, the name didn’t come from her brother’s favorite drink, nor was it from Trigger's cowboy-rider. The name means “well of the living one who sees me."

Did you know that the same Living One who was Hagar’s God is your God, too? The God who saw her in the desert is the same God who sees you in yours. What has taken you to the desert may not be the same thing that drove Hagar there. For her it had been the pregnancy, lack of love, and mistreatment. You may be in the desert because of those things or maybe it is something else. You might feel alone out there because of problems at work, marital conflicts, struggles with your family, no sense of belonging . . . anything. Either way, you are alone. Or are you? Hagar thought she was, but she thought wrong. God saw her, spoke to her, and saved her. Be mindful of the Living One Who Sees. He sees you in your desert (just think about it), he’s speaking to you (just listen to him), and he's saved you (just remember that).

When it all seems to be coming down around you, take a trip. Take a trip to a well named Beer Lahai Roi. The place of refuge is still there (vs 14) even if the well itself isn’t.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Unbelievable Promises - Genesis 15

The old man could not believe it. Abram was closing in on being a century old, and God made him a promise – an unbelievable promise. God told childless Abram to find his old ball glove because he would need it to teach his boy to play third base. God directed the husband of a barren wife to clear out the study and make room for a baby crib. “This is unbelievable,” Abram said. “Believe it because it's true,” God replied with a smile.

Once all of the details were laid out, God said it was time to make a covenant. He wanted it written in blood so that Abram would know that he meant business. So, Abram followed God’s commands and the agreement was made.

God has made another unbelievable promise. He's promised time-worn sinners like us life with him! Unbelievable! The imperfect in the same dwelling as the Perfect. It is unbelievable because it just does not add up. It is a promise because God said it.

How can we, like Abram, believe something so staggering? Because of a bloody covenant. No animals this time, but a son. No animal was good enough to be a part of this agreement. Only God himself could provide the necessary element. And so it was done on a hill called Golgotha. Jesus followed God's commands and the agreement was made.

Take a look again at the first four words in verse 6. Do you?