Advertisements

Tag Archives: Devotionals

Letting Go Of The Backup Plans

“And it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” (Genesis 20:13)

In Genesis 12:1, God told Abraham to leave the land in which he lived and go to the place that He would show him. We looked at the fact before that Abraham decided to bring Lot, his nephew, along even though God had told him to leave his kindred behind. Now, in Chapter 20, we see another area where Abraham was reluctant to put his entire trust in what God had told him. By his own admission, Abraham had conspired with Sarah to deceive those who lived in the lands wherein God would lead them by telling them that Sarah was merely his sister, not his wife.

“Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.” (Genesis 20:11)

When confronted by the King of Gerar, Abraham offers up these words as his reasoning: I assumed that you were all a bunch of lawless, wicked heathens who would  kill me so you could have my wife. His concern was that a reverence for God was not in that place and that the people of that land would act according to their basest desires. Abimilech did prove to be a man of integrity (v.5-6), but even if he had not been, Abraham was wrong to use deception in order to protect himself. Even if the fear of God had been absent from the hearts of the people of Gerar, God Himself was able to protect Abraham and his wife. God is not dependent on the behavior and actions of others in order to bring His plans to fruition. Even if others are disobedient to the Lord and wish His people harm, this does not make Him unable to protect and defend His own. God may not be honored and respected in the places where we go, but we can be assured that He is in the particular spot where we stand. Even if God’s manifest presence is not already in a place, we know that He is once we arrive, if we have brought Him with us.

Abraham relied on a number of “backup plans” in his walk with God. Without a doubt, this great man of faith trusted God in a way that we can only hope to emulate. Yet we know that his faith grew over time as God stripped away more and more of these backup plans to the point that he had nothing else on which to rely but God Himself. Abraham’s faith in God would reach the point that when his son Isaac asked him as they climbed Mt. Moriah where the lamb was for the sacrifice, his response was: “God will provide Himself a Lamb” (Genesis 22:8). Abraham had attempted to use a backup plan to bring about the birth of a promised son, he had used a backup plan to ensure his safety in the lands through which he traveled, but when it came time to obey the Word of God and offer up his own son, he and Isaac went to the place of sacrifice alone. This incident in Gerar was a turning point in the life of Abraham after which he would trust in God’s provision alone.

And what of our own lives? Is our faith so deeply invested in the providence of God that, should He fail to deliver on His promises, we would have no other recourse? Or have we built a network of our own backup plans on which we rest comfortably should the power of God “fail?” Are we relying on Him or are we relying on our own resources, skills, and ingenuity? If so, we know that God will bring it to the surface, just as He did with Abraham. Will we put our faith in Him or in ourselves?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 11, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Advertisements

Abraham In Gerar

“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. (Genesis 20:2)

I still remember how horrible I felt that night when I was a young Christian, as the preacher related his stories at the close of the sermon. He had been talking about the Lord’s ability to instantly free the believer from sin’s hold on their life. He told us story after story of people who had been in bondage to all sorts of sinful behaviors who, upon coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, were immediately freed from even the faintest yearning for what they had recently been so passionate toward. “That man had smoked for over 30 years”, this preacher proclaimed, “And when he came to Christ, he NEVER had the desire for a cigarette again!” The boisterous “Amens!” and “Hallelujahs!” that filled the sanctuary after these words were spoken led me to believe that maybe I was the only person in the entire congregation who still struggled with sinful desires!

Many of us have heard accounts of people getting saved and being instantaneously delivered from an addiction or sinful desire that they have had most of their lives. I have no doubt that this does sometimes happen (I must confess that I personally have never met such an individual, but I take the stories told to me in good faith), but it seems to me that this is not the normal way that the Spirit of God operates in the lives of His people. The record of Scripture as well as the everyday experiences of those Christians who have confided in me enough to be completely candid about such matters testify to the fact that true holy living is usually something that takes place over time. When we come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the guilt of our sin is immediately wiped away and our position with God is changed in a single instant. But the ability to break some of our stubborn sinful habits is something that only just begins at that point.

I believe that the preacher who talked about those people instantaneously freed from their sinful desires that night was intending to do nothing but glorify the mighty ability of our precious Savior to free those who will put their trust in Him. But it made me seriously wonder why God would do that for some folks while others of us continued to struggle and flounder with the same sins over and over. Many students of God’s Word have been puzzled by the 20th Chapter of Genesis, asking why in the world is it even in the Bible? It looks so much like the events recorded back in Chapter 12, when Abraham and Sarah were in Egypt, and is so similar to what is later described in Genesis 26:6-16, that some scholars have suggested that the three accounts are all based on a single event and that a scribal error explains the redundancy. But when we truly understand mankind’s fleshly nature, there really is no puzzle at all. Honestly, I am glad that this chapter is in the Book of Genesis because it tells us that even Abraham was not beyond repeating the same sin more than once. We may not all have been instantly freed from our sinful desires when we received Salvation, but we are certainly in very distinguished company.

Abraham’s deception of Abimilech in Gerar is recorded right before the conception of Isaac (Genesis 21:2). It was necessary for Abraham to deal with this sin and get it out of his life before he could receive all that God planned for him to have. We may take comfort in the fact that Abraham apparently did not learn from his sin the first time in Egypt; in fact, we see that this ruse was a common practice that he and Sarah engaged in as they traveled about (v.13). But we must also realize that the time came for them to deal with this sin and get it out of their lives before God’s plan for them could go forward. So it is with us. We may struggle with the same sins again and again, and God is merciful to forgive us when we confess them to Him. But until we deal with them and trust in Him to free us from those sins, we will never receive all that He has intended for us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 10, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Compromising Our Witness

“But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door.” (Genesis 19:9)

Once, when I was studying to enter into the ministry, the instructor was teaching us about the importance of the integrity of our lifestyle and how the way that we live before those around us is a powerful testimony for the Lord. He told the story of how, as a young man, he worked at a major clothing store while he himself studied for the ministry. He worked with a couple of other young men with whom he became friends. He said that he had never really mentioned anything to them about studying for the ministry or even about his relationship with Christ.

One day, as they sat around on their lunch break, they began discussing a very controversial topic. The other two men weighed in at great lengths about their own opinions concerning it and, when they were finished, they looked at my instructor and asked, “Well, what do you think about it?” He said, “Well, of course as a Christian, I believe what the Bible teaches about it and so I believe that…” He then went on for several minutes discussing why he believed this and referenced Bible verses to back up what he said. What was the response of his two friends? They were dumb-founded and finally said, “You’re a Christian?” He said that those words dug deeper than just about any ever said to him.

The reason that these words of shock and amazement hurt so badly was the fact that he had worked with and socialized apart from work with these two guys for almost two years. Their startled question was a piercing conviction that, not only had he failed to mention anything whatsoever about his precious Lord and Savior to them, his behavior and previous conversations with them had done absolutely nothing to distinguish him from themselves. He looked and sounded just like they did!

Some Bible translations and commentaries interpret the language of Genesis 19:9 as indicating that the men of Sodom were accusing Lot of continuously acting as their judge. In other words, Here we go again, old Lot is preaching at us about his God and his morals like he always does! But looking at the overall response that he receives, I think that this was a first-time rebuke that he gives the members of his adopted community. He had lived among them long enough to work his way up to a position of leadership in the city, and as Peter tells us in 2 Peter 2:7-8, Lot was tormented in his own soul daily by their wicked deeds. But it seems here that this is the first time he has spoken out about it and verbalized his protest. Finally, after all this time he speaks up for what is right. And what do the men of Sodom say? “Who made you our judge?!?”

The people of Sodom saw Lot as no different from any of them. His testimony for the Lord had never come to light and any chance for him to have a witness there had been blown long ago. When he comes to his sons-in-law and warns them to flee the coming judgment of God, they think that he is joking (Genesis 19:14)! Lot learned the same thing that my instructor learned: you cannot live like the rest of the world and then suddenly decide that you are going to make a stand for God. You will not be taken seriously, to say the least. We will deal worse with you than with them!, the men of Sodom tell Lot. This is the world’s contempt for the hypocrite.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 20, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Firmly Settled In Sodom

“Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.” (Genesis 19:1)

The last time we saw Lot, he was being rescued by his Uncle Abraham from captivity under the forces of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14). Now, we meet him again in Genesis 19: and this time he is firmly settled in Sodom. We are told here that he was sitting at the gate, and as we learn later in the Bible, this was a position of prominence in the cities of the day; a place where the elders of the community presided over the affairs of the people (e.g., Deuteronomy 25:7). Lot apparently had no intentions of just passing through Sodom, he was putting down some roots. As Lot sees the two angels approaching the city gates late in the day, he goes out to meet them and offer them a place to stay in his own home. He was keenly aware of the fate that would await these strangers if they did not have the refuge of his home to sleep in that night; we are told that he pressed them greatly, insisting that they stay with him after they suggested that they would remain in the streets after nightfall.

“And if [the Lord] rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);” (2 Peter 2:7-8 ESV)

Lot’s story is a very sad one. It is a tale of compromise and mixed devotion. Peter tells us that Lot was a righteous man, something we may have never really guessed by seeing the sordid details of his life. Lot believed God, he believed in God: Lot was a saved man. But Lot was certainly not a man who lived above all reproach, avoiding the very appearance of evil. It seems that he was more like those whom Jude describes as being pulled out of the fire, their garments spotted by the flesh (Jude 23). Lot’s troubles did not just come upon him suddenly. Like all who wander from the holy path that God intends for them to tread upon, it was the culmination of one bad decision, one undealt with sin after another. It all started way back when “he lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan” (Genesis 13:10). The seeds of our errors come when we look away from the things of God and set our eyes upon the things of the world.

There is so much talk and debate and argument today over whether or not we can lose Salvation. Can the child of God live any way he pleases and remain a saved believer? I once saw a little toddler with a T-shirt that said: “How much can I get away with and still go to Heaven?” Sadly, there are many in the Church with just this attitude. So many have such little concern about living for God in this life; they seem to be only concerned with ending up in Hell or not. What a terrible state of affairs! Lot lived among the wicked in Sodom, and he did so by his own choice. But what was the cost to him in so doing? In a word: he lost everything. Yes, he remained saved, that much is true. But he lost his career, his home, his possessions, his friends, his wife, his sons-in-law, his status, his reputation, his witness for God, his testimony, and the virtue of his two daughters. But, yes, I will concede that he retained his Salvation.

In addition to all of this, Lot suffered the daily torment of living among the wickedness and evil of the people of Sodom. Peter tells us that this “righteous man” was tormented in his “righteous soul.” After we have come to faith in Christ, we simply cannot live like the rest of the world without paying a tremendous price in our own hearts. Just ask the believer who struggles with addiction, or remains bound by a habitual sin. If they have come to a genuine faith in Christ, then they are in agony! There is absolutely no peace for the backslidden Christian. Let us learn from the unfortunate life of Lot and put away all sinfulness. Let us live for God today. May we put down our own roots, not in Sodom, not in the world, but in the place that God has prepared for us. This world is not our home; let us not be guilty of “firmly settling” here.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 19, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

***English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Lord, Will You Accept This?

“And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:18)

In Genesis 17, God confirms and clarifies His covenant with Abraham. In verse 3, we see Abraham fallen upon his face and quietly listening to what the Lord tells him. God spells out the details of what He is going to do in his life: He renames him Abraham (formerly Abram), He confirms that the land will belong to his offspring forever, He institutes circumcision as a sign of the covenant, and He renames Sarah (formerly Sarai).

Abraham listens to all that the Lord tells him. He laughs joyfully at the prospect of truly having a child with his beloved, Sarah. Then a thought enters his mind. What about Ishmael? What about the son that he already has, born to him by the servant girl of his wife? Moved by a genuine love and compassion for this young boy, Abraham cannot contain his emotion and exclaims to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”

Do we not often react in this same manner when God announces a new blessing He is bringing into our own lives? We rejoice over what He is bringing to us, but what of the things that we must release in order to make room for it? Abraham had grown accustomed to having Ishmael around these 13 years and had doubtlessly been preparing him to inherit all that he had. He had been teaching him the family business, grooming him to become his heir. Now, God tells him that another, namely Isaac, shall be the one through whom God will bring about His purposes. What will become of Ishmael, Abraham wonders, Will You not accept him to fulfill Your covenant?

God is concerned with the destiny of Ishmael, and He will tell Abraham as much in verse 20. “But My covenant will I establish with Isaac“, says the Lord (v. 21). The problem with Ishmael was not that God was unable to fulfill His purposes through him, the problem with Ishmael was that he was not the son that God had planned for Abraham to have. Ishmael was born through a union that God had not approved of, by a plan that God had not endorsed, from a person that was acquired in a land that Abraham had no business going into in the first place! Ishmael was the product of Abraham’s actions apart from the will of God from start to finish. It wasn’t Ishmael’s fault, of course, and God would bless the young man in spite of this, but He simply could not accept him as the seed of promise through whom His perfect will would be carried out.

Do we not also offer the works of our own hands, produced through our own efforts, to be used by God in order to fulfill His perfect will in our lives? God simply will not accept these things. He wants to achieve his purposes for us, but He will do it in no other way than His own. Like Abraham, we too grow weary of the sometimes lengthy wait that we are called upon to endure and we begin to busy ourselves with the tasks of preparing those things by which we ourselves believe the will of God must rely on. When the Lord visits us in the time that He Himself has established, we are found having  Ishmaels of our own, produced by our self-reliance and rashness. When God is ready to bring about His best plan for our lives, may we not be found in need of displacing our second-best in order to accommodate it.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 11, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

%d bloggers like this: