Sunday, November 29, 2009

Down to the Wire: Continued

God wants us to rely on Him. Totally, rely upon Him.

There are many examples in life today, in the past and in the Bible that examplify people and their lives getting "down to the wire."

Being boxed in, and with no where else to go and no help in sight is a desperate feeling. All appears to be lost.

David felt this, every time Saul tried to take his life. Elijah was convinced that he was the only Godly prophet left in Israel and he begged God to kill him before Queen Jezebel did. In actual fact, there were about 300 prophets of God hiding in caves, so Elijah wasn't really alone.

Joseph likely felt this when he was told by Mary, his bride to be, that she was expecting. Especially when he knew that the child wasn't his. Fortunately, an angel was able to help Joseph get everything sorted out.

Jonah knew about this. God instructed him to go and preach to the city of Ninevah and instead of doing what God told him to do he book passage on a boat in the opposite direction and as far away as possible. God wasn't going to let him off easily. He sent a storm that was so violent that the only way the sea calmed was for the crew to throw Jonah overboard.

God didn't stop there, because He knew that Jonah needed to spend some time in solitary confinement. So...Jonah spent 3 days inside a whale, getting his eyes set on God and his heart too. Only when Jonah came around to God's way of thinking did the whale spit him up. Where did he land? Right at Ninevah. No choice but to go ahead and tell the wicked people of Ninevah to change their ways and repent.

Jonah knew all about being down to the wire.

When it comes to our lives, we make mistakes, just as people have made in the past. If we keep our trust in God, our eyes and hearts focused on God too, then our difficult times may not seem as hard to bear. God will direct us if we allow Him full control of our lives.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Down to the Wire

Jeremiah 29: 11-13

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I wil listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Can't you see, hear and feel God's grace pouring out through these verses? I know I can. For years, this passage in Jeremiah has been my "go to" passage when everything seems to go wrong and hope appears to be lost. These verses hold God's promise that He will never leave our side and that He has a plan.

So often we want to know what that plan is and we demand that God reveal it to us. This is not God's way. He tends to take us right down to the wire, right to the very depths of the valley, leave us standing on that cliff with no way down and no way to go back.

In other words it's almost as though God is saying these words to us. "Trust me. Not just for this moment, but always put your trust in me so that you do not take one step without first asking me what you should do. I have plans for you, boy to I have plans but you keep getting off track and you keep taking your eyes off of me. When your eyes are on me, then your heart will also be focused on me. Talk to me constantly. Seek me out and ask me for guidance and direction. You're not in this journey alone. I'll see you through."

Down to the wire. Yes, that's exactly where we are right now. My husband is completing his final course and it will be done by early December. Then he must work on his thesis. This last course has been really tough.

These past three years have been a hard hit financially. God knows all about it. Now that we are down to the wire we need to keep trusting in God's plan. Now is not the time to give up hope.

Dear Heavenly Father help to keep our eyes and hearts focused on you. Take our fears and worries and turn them into complete and absolute trust in you and in your plans for us. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Good Old Days

Exodus 16: 1-3

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD'S hand in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."

It's hard to believe that after living as slaves in Egypt and serving under Pharaoh in such harsh conditions that the Israelites are now looking fondly upon that life in the passage of scripture quoted above. 430 years have passed since Joseph had brought his entire family to Egypt to save their lives during the famine. It was after Joseph's death and the death of the Pharoah for whom he worked that the conditions for the people of Israel changed from that of dwellers of the land to slaves.

Are you and I any different? Do we look upon the difficulties in our life the same way that the Israelites did? Do we get angry at God for our change of circumstance and our problems? Do we threaten to abondon our faith? Do we give up? Do we beg to go back to the way things were?

Or do we take the difficulties to our Lord and Heavenly Father and ask Him to guide us through these times. Do we rejoice in our problems and draw on God's strength to see us through. Do we keep our faith and trust in our God, a God who has consistantly displayed His love and grace to us countless times. A God who as recorded in the Bible, is ever faithful to those who love and obey Him.

When our lives become filled with stress, financial difficulties, family problems, co-worker issues, illness, grief, addictions, etc. who is better and more qualified to help us than Our Lord? Trust in Him. Keep trusting in Him and asking for His guidance and direction. Ask in Jesus' name for His will to be done. Not for our will to be done, but for His will because God does work out all things, even difficulities, for His good and His glory.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

God Leads Us and Never Leaves Us

Genesis 13: 17-18
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.

Genesis 13: 21-22
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give thme light, so that they could travel by day or night. NIether the pilar of cloud by day nor the pilar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

In the first two verses God explains his reason for taking his people through the desert toward the Red Sea. The shorter route would make it too easy for the Israelites to give up if they were attacked and flee back to Egypt.

These verses apply in our lives today. If God allowed us to take the easy route in our lives we too may give up when things get tough. By forcing us to experience difficulties in our lives and taking the more difficult route we may come to realize how much we need to rely on God to get us through each circumstance. Our faith becomes stronger because of a struggle, more so than if our life is pretty easy.

Where is God while He is taking us through these difficult journeys? He is in exactly the same place as He was with the Israelites. He is leading us. He is in front of us not letting us see what is to come but lighting and guiding each step that we take. He's taking care of the future as He guides us through today.

This is yet another example of God's grace. Always present in our lives. Never abandonning us. Essentially, God leads us and never leaves us.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Graceful Forgiving Lives

When we experience grace first hand we experience forgiveness.

The two just go together.

When we realize all that grace means in our lives we may be overcome and overwhelmed by forgiveness.

God's grace is generous.

God's forgiveness is divine.

When we realize just how precious His grace is we come face to face with our own humility and we are humbled.

How can He be so generous and wipe my sins away so that I have a clean slate?

How can God choose to forgive me, despite what I have said or done?

Why? Why would God offer both grace and forgiveness to me?

Or why would God offer grace and forgiveness to anyone?

In John 3:16 we are told:
"For God so loved the world that He sent his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

Why? God loves us and wants us to choose Jesus and life and forgiveness.

In John 3: 17 we are reminded:
"For God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him."

God's offer of grace, which is the gift of forgiving our sins by having Jesus die on the cross and raise to life on the third day; is offered to everyone.

My prayer for us is this. I pray that we can forgive others the wrongs that they may have done to us. Just as Joseph forgave his brothers. Just as God has forgiven us. By forgiving others and our enemies, we are obeying God. I ask that our gracious Heavenly Father show us how to live graceful forgiving lives. The need to forgive ourselves is just as important as forgiving others. I pray that our Heavenly Father also helps us to learn to forgive ourselves.

In Jesus' name,

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Satan Intends to Harm God Intends for Good

Photos by JennyEBurr 

Genesis 50: 20 NIV

"You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

This morning driving into church a minister on the radio reminded the listeners of Joseph's words which I have quoted from the NIV Bible. It's not the first time that I have pondered Joseph's words to his brothers. I have thought about these words many times over the years.

The thing about getting older is you also hope (at least I do) to be getting wiser. Yet the wisdom in the words which Joseph spoke to his older brothers, and one younger brother, Benjamin goes beyond his years. It's a wisdom based on experience, hardship and submission.

Experience: He was sold by his brothers into slavery because of their jealousy and their hatred. He was falsely accused by his boss' wife. He was wrongly placed in prison. Joseph was forgotten after helping the cupbearer, until a couple of years later.

Yet despite all of these terrible experiences he didn't develop into a bitter, angry, resentful, vengence seeking man.

Hardship: To be separated from his family when he was a teen never to see them again until years later. He was taken away from a father that doted on him. He was an excellent worker yet still placed in prison because of a dishonest, adultress woman.
Prison life couldn't have been very pleasant, yet the captain of the guard left Joseph in charge.

Submission: Joseph submitted and accepted the circumstances in his life. When he tells his brothers that although they intended to harm him but God intended it for good he was being honest. By this time in his life and probably a few years before that he realized that God had a purpose for him in Egypt and that was to be second in command to Pharaoh so that lives could be saved during the famine.

Grace, obedience, forgiveness, and love are intertwined in Joseph's life. Plotting, planning to seek revenge and to make peoples' lives miserable who had wronged him, could have been his life's ambition, but it wasn't. He chose good, not evil. He chose God's way of life, not Satan's.

Can I say these words,"You intended to harm me but God intended it for good." Can I lay aside all of my feelings and say those words to the people in my life that have wronged me? I hope so.

Can you?

We have so much that we can learn from Joseph's wise words. If we allow God's grace and forgiveness to work in our lives we too can be excellent examples of God's love and grace to others.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Little Bundle of Joy

Genesis 2:1-4
Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

If you aren't familiar with this Bible passage the reason that the Levite woman had to hide her baby was due to the fact that the king of Egypt had commanded that all Hebrew boys were to be put to death while the Hebrew girls were allowed to live. This order came about because the Hebrew nation was growing "too large" in Egypt.

God's grace abounded in this little bundle of joy. He is Moses and he grows into the future leader of the Hebrew nation. God's grace is abudant in all of our lives.

The difference is some of us see it and some of us don't. If we don't happen to see God's grace in our circumstances it doesn't mean that it isn't present we just seem to be blind to it. His grace exists for all of us but it is a gift. We either accept it or reject it.

I don't know about you but there aren't many people today who haven't experienced some rough times in their lives. Some people live very bleak and dire lives all over the world. I would think that being told that your baby would die if it was a boy would be a devastatingly, heartbreaking time for both parents.

A terrible family life such as being moved from foster home to foster home, being adopted but rejected by your adoptive family, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, all forms of abuse, persecution, poverty, etc. are as prevalent today as they were in history and in Bible times.

What prompted the Levite couple to hide their little boy? Their love and their hope in God's grace and promise of a better life.

God had a plan for this baby, just as He has a plan for each and every one of us. He has a purpose for our lives. Just as He had a purpose for the baby, Moses. He does expect us to give to others. Whether we have a lot or just a little, we are to give because this is what grace is all about. Giving without the expectation of something in return. Just give.

What can I give? The most life changing giving that you can do will come from within. It will change not only your life but the lives of others. Showing compassion, sympathy, understanding, caring, listening. Food, clothing, physical labour, and money are important gifts too.

When we offer gifts is our heart in it? Is our life being changed? Are we living God's grace and helping to change someone's life for the better?

The poet Christiana Rosetti sums it up beautifully in this poem.

"What can I give him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd,

I'd give Him a lamb;

If I were a wise man,

I'd do my part;

Yet what can I give him

Give my heart."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oh No, Now We're in Trouble!

Genesis 50:15-17

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died, 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.'" When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

Joseph's sibliings prepared for the worst. They believed that after burying Jacob (Israel) their father, that Joseph would now likely take revenge.

Did they have a good reason to feel this way? Yes, however Joseph's actions so far never revealed any hint of anger, hate or resentment towards them. Joseph treated them with favour, graciousness and forgiveness.

I absolutely love the response Joseph made to his brothers after he heard their request of forgiveness. It's a response that all of us would do well to take to heart and to utter when we are in a similar predicament.

Genesis 50:19-20 But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Only someone who understands God's love, grace and forgiveness can truly say...You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.

Joseph lived for many years separated from his family. He had a long time in which he could carry a grudge and be unforgiving. He was also wrongly accused and put in jail: another grudge he could carry around with him.

God never abandonned Joseph. He worked in his heart so that Joseph grew into a man with a desire to serve His Lord and a desire to love and forgive unconditionally. Everyone that met Joseph could see God's hand on him.

Do our friends and family and strangers notice the same thing in us? Do they see God's hand on our lives as we display grace, love and forgiveness? Or do they see calculation, anger, resentment, revenge and unforgiveness?

If they see grace, love and forgiveness, they will likely be interested in letting God take control of their lives. If they see only hate, resentment, unforgiveness, etc., they will not take any interest in God.

We too can take the words from Genesis 50: 19-20 and apply them to our lives. The evil that Satan sends our way can become good. Only God can do this.

Are we willing to allow God to take the harm and hurt that is inflicted upon us and allow Him to create good from it so that lives are saved? If Joseph could forgive his brothers can we forgive others? This is part of what we pray when we say The Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

I pray that we allow God to work in our hearts and that we allow Him to lead us to forgive others who have wronged us. We need to forgive in order to truly understand and be apart of God's grace.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Dreamer

Genesis 37:3-11

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the fild when suddenly my sheaf rose and stodd upright while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it."

His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" and they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he ha said.

Then he had another dream and he told it tho is brothers, "Listen, " he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sum and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me."

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your borthers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" His brothers were jealous of him but his father kept the matter in mind.

God's grace is written all over the life of Joseph and his family, just as God's grace is written all over our lives. Although Joseph and his family didn't realize it at the time, Joseph's dreams were prophetic. Years later, Joseph's brothers did bow down to him and yes he did "rule over them."

Jealousy, resentment,and anger drove Joseph's older brothers to their next set of actions. These events eventually placed Joseph second in command to pharaoh. His brothers had originally wanted to kill Joseph but Reuben convinced them to throw him into a pit instead. While Reuben was gone, Judah had convinced his other brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. They took the coat of many colours that their father had given to his favoured son, Joseph, and tore it and dipped it into the blood of a goat that they had slaughtered. When the brothers returned to their father they showed him Joseph's torn and bloodied coat. They let Israel believe that a wild animal had killed Joseph.

Families today also suffer from resentment, jealousy, anger and misunderstandings. Our decisions and choices today lay the groundwork for our future. God had a plan for Joseph and his family just as He has a plan for our families.

Did God immediately tell Joseph what His plans were for him? No, but as the days turned into years and one good or bad event turned into another, it eventually became apparent.

Does God immediately tell us what His plans are for us? No, but like Joseph, in time we realize and can see how God's hand was on our lives all along.

Forgiveness is very much apart of Joeseph's story of grace. During the years he was separated from his family he learned how to forgive his brothers for selling him. He learned to forgive them of their hatred, jealousy, resentment, etc. He was able to forgive them because he could see God's plan.

"I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. ...So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God..." Genesis 45:4-6

I pray that as events unfold in our lives, either good or bad, that we may see the evil that Satan intended has turned into good because of God. Compassion and forgiveness are components of God's grace.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In a Year

Genesis 18:9-12
"Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him.
"There in the tent," he said.
Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was in behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, "After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"

Not only had Abraham and Sarah been waiting for years to have their own child which God had promised to them, she was now incapable of having children. They had Ishmael but he was not the son that God had promised.

So the question seems to be, "How long do we wait for God to fulfill His promise?"

We really aren't very different from Abraham and Sarah when it comes to waiting on the LORD. We tend to like to "help" God along so that His promise is fulfilled sooner rather than later. However, when we do this, we aren't really showing that we trust God to take care of us.

It doesn't mean for us to sit back and do nothing. We are to continue to serve God and to share His love with others but we need to remember to wait on God's timing not on our timing.

This takes an incredible amount of patience. It means that we have to let go of our control over our lives and over the lives of others. It means that we need to surrender ourselves completely to God's will.

This isn't easy today in our world of "get what you want right now." It was just as difficult during the times of Abraham and Sarah.

In these verses from Genesis 18 we again see a demonstration of God's grace. It wasn't Abraham and Sarah. it was God blessing them. Sarah could no longer have children. Their son was a miracle from God.

Ishmael was about 13 years old when Isaac was born. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90.

Are we willing to wait just as long?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You Are The God Who Sees Me: Hagar....Us

Genesis 16:10-12

The angel of the LORD also said to her: "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."

When I read through the verses above I can't help but to wonder what Hagar must have been thinking. This God was the God of Abram and her mistress, Sarai, not her God and yet He knew about her circumstances and cared about her, an Egyptian maidservant. Wonder, amazement, awe, finally knowing that someone loved her and cared about her....could these be some of her feelings?

Hagar knew that she was pregnant. This is the reason for her misbehaviour and haughtiness towards Sarai. What she didn't know that was that she was going to have a son, a rebellious one who would have difficulty getting along with everyone. God gave her a glimpse of what the future would be for her and her son. Not an easy one but at least she was informed in advance about the struggles that she and Ishmael would face.

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

You are the God who sees me. This is so true! God saw Hagar's plight and gave her reassurances that He knew exactly what was happening and what would happen in the future.

God sees us and knows our circumstances. He also knows our future. Sometimes He lets us know a bit about what is to happen and sometimes He doesn't.

Hagar did return to Abram and Sarai and we can assume that she submitted to Sarai just as God had asked her to do in Genesis 16: 9. With Ishmael's birth, the childless couple now had a reason to celebrate. Or did they?

Abram and Sarai had taken matters into their own hands when Sarai gave Hagar to Abram as his "wife." They had conformed to the views and approval of society at that time. It isn't really surprising that they must still wait another fourteen years for Isaac to be born. God had promised them many children but the promise was not through Ishmael, it was to come through Isaac.

God hadn't let them down. He had let them wait until it was impossible for Sarai to conceive. In this way, they and everyone else would realize that this was truly a blessing and a miracle from God.

Are we like Abram and Sarai? Do we realize that God has a plan for us but do we get impatient waiting? Have we ever had to wait as long as Abram and Sarai for God to fulfill His promise? Do we decide to take matters into our own hands like they did and then wonder why life gets so messy? Do we trust God implicitly to do precisely what He says He will do?

You are the God who sees me. Hagar said these words and so can we.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Abram and Sarai: Living in Canaan for Ten Years

Genesis 16: 1-4

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her."
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sari his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived...

God had told Abram twice, in Genesis (Chapter 12 and 15) about the numerous children that he and Sarai were to have. God gave the promise but God did not provide the time frame. The question when will this happen was not answered until years after God made his covenant/promise with Abram. How many years did they have to wait after this promise was given? The initial covenant was given to Abram when he was 75years old. The fulfillment of a child occurred when he was 100. They had a 25 year wait, not to mention all the years before the promise was given that they were childless.

When Sarai suggested that Abram take Hagar to be his wife and build their family through her, she wasn't waiting for God to fulfill His promise to them. Neither was Abram, when he agreed with her suggestion. They were both following the accepted, human law of that time that if one's wife was barren it was alright to have take another woman as your wife so that you could have children. It is a custom that we see time and again in the Old Testament.

What about us? Do we tend to follow the culture and customs of society today? Do we allow them to override our hearts and rule where God should be in control? These are just a few examples of what society's influence: personal pleasure and fulfillment, attitudes, uncaring, unloving, jealousy, and greed. Sadly, for many of us, the answer is yes. I pray that we continue to seek God's will for our lives so that when choices need to be made, we choose to do God's will, not society's.

Genesis 16:4-6

When she (Hagar) knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she know she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me. "Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." The Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her."

Pride, jealousy, blame, anger, resentment, are just some of the emotions that I can see in these verses. In taking matters into their own hands, Sarai and Abram allowed satan to rule in their hearts and lives, for a time. Hagar fell into this as well. I can understand Hagar because she hadn't yet met the LORD however I shake my head at Abram and Sarai.

Yet, how many times in my life have I actually waited on the Lord? Or have I, like Sarai, helped things along? Then when everything seems to become a huge mess who do I blame? Do I take responsibility for my actions? Do I blame my husband, as Sarai did? Or do I instead get angry with God?

What about God’s grace? Had Abram and Sarai forgotten about it? Do I often forget about God’s grace? My prayer is that each remember God’s gift of grace. He loves us so much that He gave his son Jesus to die for our sins. Then Jesus rose to life on the third day. God loves us so much that He provided a way for us to be with Him. It isn’t anything that we’ve earned. It is His total and complete grace…a gift.

God extended His grace to Hagar.

Genesis 16:7-10

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? “I’m running away from my mistress Sara,” she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous too count.”

Hagar, the Egyptian and Sarai’s maid had an encounter with an angel of the Lord. He asked her two questions. Where did you come from? Where are you going? She answered by explaining that she was running away from her mistress. Then God’s angel told her to return to her mistress and to submit to her. Submit! Meaning, surrender to Sarai’s wishes and perhaps even to her mistreatment again. Then a promise was made to her. Hagar was informed that she would have many children.

How does this verse apply to us? There are times in our lives when we may have been mistreated by others. Some of them may have been fellow believers. I think that the two questions that the angel asked Hagar are vital.

Where did you come from? Where are you going?

These questions are important because we need to our lives and our actions. It’s vital for us to ask ourselves these questions so that we remind ourselves about God’s grace. God is always at work in our lives. Always! We just aren’t always privy to the information that explains: who, what, where, why, when and how. God works through those details, in His time. He just want us to be obedient and trust in Him.

Hagar was told to return to Sarai and to submit to her. We will have times in our lives like this. God will ask us to return. How is it possible to return to a setting where we were mistreated?

It’s only possible with God’s grace. When we pray and ask God to help us to forgive people for a wrong that they have done, God will guide us through it. We can’t do it on our own. Even if the people do not accept the fact that you’ve forgiven them, you have done what God asked you to do.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Grass Looks Greener on the Other Side of the Road: Abram and Sarai Continued

Have you ever gazed upon your neighbour's lawn and thought that their grass does look greener than your grass. Not only is it greener, but they don't seem to have the problem with the weeds that you do, nor the pot holes etc. I know that I have.

Let's take it a bit farther...sometimes we may even look at the lives of others and think that they have it much better than we do. They don't seem to have the financial struggles, or their marriage is better, their kids are well behaved, their vehicles always run perfectly, their house never needs any repairs. You get the idea. Okay, I'm guilty of this too.

When we begin thinking this way we need to realize that this is satan tempting us into being ungrateful. God has bestowed many blessings upon us.

We need to keep in mind that better isn't always the best. Neither is worse always the worst.

Today's verses about Abram and Sarai are an excellent reminder of this. I needed this reminder when I read through it the other day but more than that, I sometimes need this reminder on a daily basis.

Genesis 13: 1- 9

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everyting he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your hedsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

In these verses, Abram realizes that he and Lot do need to separate so that all of their livestock can benefit fully from the land. The separation will also prevent further disagreements between their "tented households." He graciously allows Lot the first choice. As is often the case, when we are allowed the first choice, we look at everything very carefully and will choose the best for ourselves. This is exactly what Lot does.

Genesis 13: 10-13
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the graden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company; Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

Lot chose the land that looked lush and green. He chose what appeared to be the better of the two choices but it wasn't the best. He decided to live in an area where the grass was green but the people didn't honour the LORD.

This is a clear warning to us. Better isn't always the best because it could be from satan, not from God. Better could be a job where you just name your salary, the most expensive house on the street or the most costly vehicle on the dealer's lot. If our eyes are so busy focusing on the material objects then our heart is also there. We're laying up our treasures in the world rather than with God. How would a high salary, a pricy house or car help us to serve God better? How would any of this help us to share His love with others?

God demonstrates His grace to Abram and to us in these next few verses.

Genesis 13:14-18

The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you." So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

Isn't this just like God. He blesses us by giving us room for improvement, time to rely on Him to provide. He grants to us a project that is a work in progress. He blesses us with a barren weed filled land, a fixer upper and yet all that we have is a demonstration of His grace and His glory. Only God can take the unseemingly, insignificant and mold it into His work of art and beauty.

When God awards us with the most unlikely material object we can't help but to give Him the credit for it becoming beautiful because we know what it looked like at first. This is also what God does for us. He takes our character, our nature, our imperfections, our ugliness and turns it into beauty. A beauty that will help others to learn to love God and accept to His grace because of what He has done for us.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the road. The better isn't always the best. Neither is worse the worst.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Telling a Lie and the Trouble it Caused: Abram and Sarai....continued

Genesis 12: 10-13

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

Abram knew that he would be killed so that Sarai could become someone’s wife. It was the way of life at that time. Unfortunately, when he told this lie and also asked Sarai to lie, he wasn’t showing his trust in God or in His grace. God had already guided Abram and Sarai this far in their journey. He had protected them and provided for them. Yet, fear and worry won out.

Are we really any different today? We trust, we are patient, we see God’s hand on our lives, yet we allow Satan to creep in with worry, doubt and fear. We allow Satan to take up residence in our hearts and minds where only our Lord should be present. We wallow in his temptations instead of casting them aside and filling ourselves with praise and thanksgiving and hope for God’s promise of blessing. We’re all guilty. Just as guilty as Abram and Sarai. Just as guilty in not trusting God when everything looked hopeless and desperate.

So what do we do? Sometimes we tell that lie, or stir things up to make things happen but this is our solution. It isn’t God’s plan for us nor is it the result that he would have chosen for us. We open ourselves up to temptation and circumstances that may never have happened if we had given God complete control of our lives.

Genesis 12: 14-16

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.

So….at first it appears that the lie prospered Abram. You have to wonder why Abram would actually allow his wife to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem. Was she really less valued than the property (sheep, donkeys and servants) that he gained? I realize that during this time frame that she was considered property but God had promised to bless Abram with many children with Sarai as his wife, not as Pharaoh's wife. It does sound as though Abram didn't value Sarai as much as he should have.

God valued Sarai. God values the husband and wife relationship. God values truth. God values complete trust. God’s grace overrides everything.

Genesis 12: 17-20

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

You and I can shake our head at Abram and Sarai’s folly because we can read up on what happens and see God’s grace and provision. Yet, when it comes to our lives and the mistakes that we make, we have to consider that we really aren’t any different than these two.

We don’t have continue the cycle though. We can prayerfully seek God’s will for our lives daily and minute by minute, if necessary. We can humble ourselves to learn from our mistakes and to grow in our trust of God’s love and grace.

How about you? Are you attempting to humble yourself and grow in your trust of God’s love and grace?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sandy and Al: A Contemporary Sarai and Abram Story based on Genesis 12:1-3

Genesis 12: 1-3 NIV
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I wil bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will course: and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Sandy paced the floor. Her heels clicking against the tile as she walked from the kitchen to the front door. Shielding her eyes from the glare of the late afternoon sun she looked out the door to see if she could see his car coming down the road.

She recognized Al's car immediately as it turned the corner to enter their crescent. Closing the door, Sandy hurried back to the kitchen to add the final touches to the meal.

"Hey Sandy," Al called out as he came through the front door. "I have some news to tell you."

"I'm just in the kitchen," she replied.

Al stooped to set down his briefcase and to drop his keys on the table in the hall. Then he went into the kitchen.

"So," he asked, "do you want to hear my news?"

"Is it about the promotion that you've been hoping to get?"

Grinning he replied, "I guess you could call it a promotion."

"Really!" Sandy gasped. "You got the promotion?"

"Here Sandy," Al pulled out a chair for Sandy. "Take a seat and I'll explain my good news. You know how we've been praying about God's will and we agreed that we would accept whatever God had in mind for us, whether I got the promotion or not."

Sandy nodded.

"Well, today I received a very clear message from God. He told me to leave this city, leave our relatives and to follow Him to a place where He will give us many children. God also said that He will bless us."

Sandy shook her head. "I think I missed something. Did you just say that God told you we were going to have many children? Al, I'm too old to have children although it is what I've always wanted. Women don't start having children at my age they have grandchildren...and you, you're older than I am."

Al nodded. "I know it doesn't make any sense but you have to believe me when I tell you that this is really God's plan for us right now."

"I don't want to move Al. Why should we move away from our family, our friends and our church. I'm happy here. I love being surrounded by family and I don't want to move."

Al embraced Sandy and he felt her tension begin to ease. How was he supposed to explain that they didn't have a choice. How was he supposed to win her over to the idea when he couldn't give her answers to any of the questions that she would soon ask.

The promise that God had made to him was a stronger pull than all the questions and lack of information. It was like nothing Al had ever experienced before. He knew it was what they had to do. Even though he should be making plans for retirement he knew that he had to follow the Lord's will. It meant leaving comforts and all that he and Sandy had worked so hard for. It meant leaving security and totally relying upon God. He was ready for this adventure, but was Sandy?

In Genesis 12: 1-3 we aren't told how Sarai reacted but you have to wonder if she didn't want details and information. Where are we going? How are we geting there? How long will we be gone? Will we see family again? How much do I have to pack? Who is going with us? Who will we meet along the way? Where will we stay? Why now?

We don't know if Sarah was upset, fearful, worried or excited. We aren't told anything about her reaction.

What we are told is that Abram and Sarai did leave their family and everything familiar to them. They put their trust in God by obediently following His command. They became totally reliant upon God for their every need.

Abram was seventy-five when he received this call. Sarai was probably around sixty-five. They were surrounded by Abram's father's relatives and no children were added to their family because we are told that Sarai was barren. This information is taken from Genesis 11: 27-32

Totally Reliant Upon God: Two Years Later

Well, it's been two years since my husband was laid off. He and I were discussing yesterday that two years ago, we wouldn't have known that we would be where we are today financially.

We both admitted that it is only by God's grace and financial intervention that we are still able to make all of our bill payments. Now, we enter a new level. Gone is the lay off package of one year. Gone, as of May 2009 is the one year employment insurance entitlement.

Where does that leave us? Totally reliant upon God.

Yes, I am still employed at a private Christian School and yes, my husband is still taking a Master's Program which is slated to finish in December 2009. This term of study he is able to be a teacher's assistant so a small salary is available.

I suppose that I wouldn't be completely honest with you if I said that I wasn't concerned. I am, however there is a difference. I know that God does have a plan for our lives. If it is to lead us into poverty, it is because He has a purpose. If it is to maintain us as we are, it is for a purpose. If it is to relocate us it is for His purpose.

Besides, if I get myself all worked up and stressed out, my Meniere's attacks begin and these are dreadful experiences. It's best to leave everything up to God.

Easy....definately not! I truly do want to know the details and the plans God has for us. So, no it isn't easy but it is the way God operates. He promises to not leave our side but He doesn't fill in the details, the who, what, where, when, how and why.

How do I know this? There are so many examples of this in the Bible.

I shall share a few examples over my next few posts. All of them indicate God's grace and love for his people.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Thorns and Guilt

Paul talked about having a thorn in his flesh. I've often wondered if his thorn was guilt. Before Paul had his meeting with Jesus, he was Saul of Tarsus: feared by all Christians. Saul would have Christians beat and thrown into jail because of their beliefs. When he was younger, he even held the cloaks for the men that were stoning Stephen to his death.

Saul knew that Damascus would be an ideal place to locate Christians. He set out on planning his course of destruction. His mission: to rid all of Damascus and the surrounding area of the followers of Christ.

He was given the go ahead to implement his plan however it never came to fruition. He was stopped in his tracks!

Not only was Saul blinded by the light but Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

"Who are you, Lord?"

"Jesus, the one whom you persecute."

Saul's companions had to lead him into the city because Saul was blind. He remained this way until God asked Ananias to go and pray over Saul. In the meantime, Saul was praying and God was working a miracle in this man's heart.

God was forgiving Saul for killing and persecuting the Christians. He was also preparing Saul to become one of his servants.

Ananais didn't want to pray over Saul because he knew about Saul's reputation. He feared for his life. Despite his reluctance he did, because God explained that he had a purpose for Saul's life.

Saul's name changed to Paul and the old nature of Saul was replaced with Paul's new nature in Christ. Christians were hesitant to trust him at first, but after awhile that changed.

Paul must have felt, guilt, shame and remorse about his life as Saul. In the same way that we feel guilt, shame and remorse from our sin.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Your Grace is Sufficient

The worship song, Your Grace is Sufficient illustrates 2 Corinthians 12:9 so well.

Martin Nystrom wrote the music and the lyrics. I've included the words from the chorus in this post because they hold so much meaning to me. Perhaps you'll find the same for you.

Your grace is sufficient for me,

Your strength is made perfect when I am weak;

All that I cling to I lay at your feet,

Your grace is sufficient for me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds me that I do not have to be perfect in order to be God's child. I am loved because I am covered by His all sufficient grace.

My weakness reminds me that I cannot lay any claim to fame because of what God does through me. He uses my weakness for His strength and glory.

Thorn in my flesh:

Paul talked about a thorn in his flesh. Do I have a thorn in my flesh?
Yes, I have a thorn. In fact, I have many thorns in my flesh.

Thorns that I have also asked God to remove. Thorns that I've prayed over. Thorns, that I've asked others to pray over.....yet they still remain.

Do they remain because I do not have enough faith to be healed?
Do they remain because I really do not want to have them removed?
Or do they remain because, like Paul, God is telling me, "My grace is sufficient for you."

In my weakened state, due to my thorns, God's strength is displayed. Paul admits that without the thorn in his flesh that he might be conceited. Perhaps it is the same for me. My thorns keep me in a humbled state, acknowlegding my need for my Lord.