Saturday, 31 October 2009

Esau ran to meet him

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. – Genesis 33v4

Okay, I am going to admit it. I have a shameful secret. I do something that I have a hard time admitting publicly. But I try to be honest here, so here it is. I watch Judge Judy. I can almost see a picture of myself walking into a room and saying, ‘Hi, my name is Roger and I watch Judge Judy.’ Of course, the people in the room reply in unison, ‘Hi Roger.’

Quite often there are cases where one family member is suing another. It is always very sad and ugly. Judge Judy always comments about how important family is. Of course, I agree with her. Family is very important us. I can’t imagine much worse than having family conflict. It would break my heart to see a serious conflict develop in our family.

Jacob and Esau would have been perfect candidates for Judge Judy. The older brother had been tricked out of his birthright. He could have been suing Jacob for a share of it back. Legally he would have not had a leg to stand on. Judge Judy would have given a great speech about how family was more important than birthrights or blessings or possession, but would have denied Esau’s complaint with a comment like, ‘I don’t understand you people. I can’t do anything about the law. If I could Jacob I would lock you up and throw away the keys. But I can’t. Esau is your brother – do the right thing and sort this out.

Fortunately there was no need for Judge Judy. Jacob was petrified at the thought of meeting Esau. He knew he had been wrong. He gathered up a bunch of livestock and possessions to offer as gift. I can’t imagine Jacob’s anxiety as Esau approached. He set things in order, moved to front, and starting bowing down to Esau. But, lo and behold, Esau came running to meet him. He gave Jacob a hug, and in the custom of his time kissed his long lost brother. They both broke into tears of joy.

All that had happened didn’t matter any more. They were brothers. That is all that counted. Few brothers had more to hold against their brother than Esau did. Jacob had robbed him blind, not once, but twice. Jacob would be the famous one. He had all of the family inheritance.

But, Esau ran to meet him.

What a beautiful example of the importance of family. We don’t need Judge Judy. All we need is a heart like Esau.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Wrestling with God

Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. - Genesis 32v24

I have to admit at the start that this is one of those passages that I really don’t totally understand. How can a man wrestle with God and prevail against God?

First, it is clear that Jacob wrestles with God because he says so a couple of verses later – “I have seen God’ he says. Like everything else in Scripture there is a debate. Did Jacob wrestle with Jesus? It does seem that most of the times where God appears in human form in the Old Testament He does so as a pre-incarnate Jesus.

Anyway, wrestling with God is an interesting concept. The fight went on all night. As morning approached we see the power of the heavenly opponent when He crippled Jacob for life by merely touching the joint of his thigh. It is obvious that the Divine Wrestler was in control the whole time.

Still the fight went on. Jacob would not let the Man go until he received a blessing. This may seem terribly presumptuous until we remember the woman who was praised for her persistence in prayer in the New Testament.

It is obvious that God was in control the whole time. He could have ended the fight any time He wanted. It seems that God honours and blesses persistence. There are times when we are going to need to wrestle with God in prayer. When that happens we need to learn, like Jacob, to hang on and stick with it.

In the end we will be blessed by knowing that God has answered and be able to rest in His will.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


And Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me this day." Therefore its name was called Galeed, also Mizpah, because he said, "May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us see, God is witness between you and me!" – Genesis 31:48-50

I have often seen Mizpah covenant necklaces and bracelets in Christian bookshops. They are a lovely gift that friends often share when they are going to be separated. They sell them in pairs with the token divided into two parts. They use part of the verse to remind each of the other. ‘The Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from each other.’

While it a lovely gesture it doesn’t exactly fit the circumstance. Laban and Jacob parted with a covenant and agreement, but it wasn’t necessarily the parting of two friends. Jacob could not understand why Laban could not leave him alone. No matter what he did Laban was always asking for more.

Finally he had enough. He was forced to confront Laban with his questions. Laban’s response was pretty simple. They set up a memorial and agreed to part. Laban sought God’s blessings on Jacob. He also laid aside his plans to protect his daughters by leaving it all in God’s hands. Then they parted ways.

Sadly, there are going to be people that, try as we both might, we are just not going to get along. They might even be Christians. We love them as brother or sister but sometimes our personalities are just going to clash.

When that happens sometimes we just have to agree to disagree, seek God’s blessings on each other, and leave all the rest in God’s hands. We can’t seek vengeance or to prove that we are right. Our pride cannot motivate. We must lovingly lay things aside and trust God to work everything out.

Lets be sure that any Mizpah we encounter is done is love and honours our Saviour. Who knows how God may work as we do so.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

If God had not been with me

Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked you last night." – Genesis 31v42

Jacob knew what it was like to be tricked and deceived. He had enough practice. In dealing with Laban the trickster became the tricked.

Laban came up with an elaborate plan to divide up the livestock. It is far to complicated to go into here, but it involved the colouration of the animals. Laban kept changing the rules and every time he changed the rule Jacob came out on top.

Finally Jacob had enough. We saw yesterday how they had to do what God told them to do. The situation dragged on a little longer and when Laban tried to get them to stay Jacob had the perfect response – ‘If God had not been with me you would have taken everything!’

Jacob now saw the other side of deception. The difference now was the He knew the Lord. He has spent time with Him and Jacob’s life was changed. He now knew that his future was not reliant on his scheming but on the presence of God in his life.

I wonder where we would be if God were not with us? In these challenging times that we are facing I suspect that we too would find ourselves empty handed if God were not with us. No matter what else happens at least we can cling to the eternal hope that we hold in out hands.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Whatever God says

For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children's; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it." – Genesis 31v16

It is not always easy for 'extended families' to live together. Jabob and Laban tried everything to work out a way to stay together, but it just didn't work. Laban did not seem to want to let any of his stuff go. Jacob seemed very workable and flexible, but it just didn't work.

After several efforts God came to Jacob and told him to remember the promises at Bethel and to go back home. He discussed the options with Rachel and Leah. The fight between Jacob and Laban was over livestock and they pointed out that in reality it was all theirs anyway, but, do whatever God has told you to do.

What a simple answer when confronted with a dilemma. Don’t worry about all the circumstances and manoeuvring, just do what God tells you to do.

Jacob had to depend on a dream. We are more fortunate. Though God does not give us specific instructions for every situation He does lay out principles for decision making in His word.

No matter what the circumstance or what is fair or what ‘justice’ demands we have an option – ‘What ever God has said; do it.’

Monday, 26 October 2009

How awesome is this place

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" – Genesis 28v16-17

‘How awesome is the place!’ I love that phrase and I like the way it is rendered in this translation (NKJV). The King James rendered it in a way which perfectly suited their readers when they used the word ‘dreadful.’ Tyndale used the word ‘fearfull’ and Wycliffe used the word ‘worschipful’ to translate Jacob’s words. All of these words are excellent in helping us to understand what it means to be where God is. There is an awesome, fearful, wonderful, dreadful, terrible, worshipful presence of God when we are with Him.

It is easy in the midst of hard times and struggles and difficulties and seeming defeat to forget that God is in this place. We had the privilege last night of such an awesome reminder of being where God is and I was reminded that God is indeed in this amazing place.

Our church went to a service in a sister church not too far away. They had a group of Christian men them who have been gloriously delivered from lives of drug, alcohol, and utter dissipation. They gave testimonies and we joined with them in singing songs of praise and testimony. To watch these guys sing ‘Amazing Grace’ was an awesome experience.

As dark and slow and challenging as God’s work is in the place it is an awesome place because God is working here. It brings us, as Wycliffe translated it, to a ‘worschipful’ place.

In those dark and trying days when it seems like nothing is happening let us remember that God is here! Don’t ever forget it!

Sunday, 25 October 2009


And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. – Genesis 28v19-21

Up until this point Jacob had not been a paragon of virtue. He had lived up to his tricky name. But then Jacob came to Luz where he finally met with God. He laid out a rock for a pillow (ouch) and fell asleep. In a dream God came to him and reminded me of who He was and His promise to Jacob. When God and Jacob were done Jacob called the place the House of God and used the stone he slept on to commemorate the event.

Several years ago some things happened that made me very discouraged in the ministry in Naas. I was having some physical problems and we had some serious setbacks in the church work. I was fed up and I went for a walk on the canal to clear my head. The longer I walked the angrier I got at God so when I got to this bench I sat down to have a chat with Him and sort Him out. I had had enough and I wanted out. Guess who got sorted out before we got done :)? I knew then that we could not leave this place.
The event was something like what happened to Jacob. Here are his words:
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you." Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
God was not finished with the work He had started in this town. I had forgotten that He was in the place and I was so off track that I didn't even know it.
I didn’t have a rock, but I do have a photo of that bench. This place (even the cheap imitation bench that is there now) is my own personal Bethel. I have this photo on my desktop and have a photo on my wall. I use it to remind me of the fact that God is in the place and to hopefully keep me from forgetting it again.

May we never, ever, no matter what, forget our Bethels.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Same song, third verse

So he went to his father and said, "My father." And he said, "Here I am. Who are you, my son?" Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me." But Isaac said to his son, "How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?" And he said, "Because the LORD your God brought it to me." – Genesis 27v18-20

Who could possibly have imagined the long term results of a guy having ‘a little problem with white lies?’ The lying deceptive nature of Abraham passed on to his son Isaac and now on to his grandson Jacob. We should have known something; Jacob’s name means ‘usurper’ or ‘schemer.’

Late in Isaac’s life the time came to pass on his blessing to his oldest son Esau. Esau was a rough and tough guy and he went out to hunt to find game for Isaac’s dinner. While he was gone Rebekah and Jacob came up with a scheme to trick Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing instead.

They disguised Jacob to make Isaac think it was Esau. They prepared a meal for him. It was still not enough to fool Isaac, he knew something was up. The first lie was when Isaac asked who was there. ‘It is Esau,’ lied Jacob. ‘How did you find, kill, prepare, and cook the meat so quickly?’ “God let me do it,’ said Jacob.

We see that the lying and treachery descended to a new level. Jacob not only lied but he drew God into His lie. A character trait that began with a little half truth had descended to point where a lie was covered up by blaming God.

I realise that we can’t put all the blame on the parents and grandparents. Our children and grandchildren are going to make their own decisions. I do know that the evidence is clear that we do have an impact. We must be aware that if we don’t deal with our own sin the impact may very well get worse in the next generations. We are, to a very large degree, the makers of our descendant’s destiny. Let us be aware of that every day.

Friday, 23 October 2009

We have seen that God is with you

But they said, "We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you. So we said, 'Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, - Genesis 26v28

There is always a reason for our trials and difficulties. Part of understanding this is the realisation that life is not all about us. The world does not revolve around our perspective of things.

As we saw yesterday Isaac had been run out of the land of Gerar but God kept on blessing him. They went out and dug up the old wells and watched God meet their needs. One day the Abimelech’s men came out to see him. Isaac asked them why there were still coming after him. ‘We have seen that the Lord is with you,’ they said, ‘let’s make a covenant with each other.’

We looked at a verse in our Bible study Sunday night. ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord even his enemies will be at peace with him.’ This incident gives us a perfect example of this truth. Isaac and his people did the work of digging up the wells, God blessed them, and their testimony was clear. When the people saw it they wanted to be at peace with God’s people. They do there was something different and they wanted part of it. They knew that God was with them.

What do people around us see in our difficulties? Do they see a testimony of faith and reliance or do they see a life of despair? Our testimony is vital. Are we living the kind of lives that people around us can say, ‘We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you?’

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Don’t be afraid

And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake." – Genesis 26v24

I was up early this morning. There is a lot on my mind and I am battling my old enemy of anxiety. There are some things happening that I know He is going to sort out, but still, the fears are there.

As I was dealing with these I opened my Bible to Genesis 26 because there is where I am in this trip through His word. I read about Isaac and how he was run off by Abimelech and forced to go into a new land. As Isaac and his family went along they discovered old wells which had been dug by Abraham. These wells had been filled in by the Philistines but as Isaac had them dug u again they found them still providing water for them. As they went out step by step they watched God meet their needs. Well after well was uncovered. They uncovered wells called Quarrel and Enmity because of the opposition of the Gerarites. Then the uncovered a well called Spaciousness because there was no opposition. Then they uncovered the well of Beesheba where Abraham and Abimelech had signed a covenant.

It was certainly a time of uncertainty for Isaac and his family. Yet as they moved forward God provided. They did their work and God met their needs. In the midst of the move and the opening wells God appeared to Isaac with a timely reminder – ‘I am the God of your father Abraham; don’t be afraid, for I am with you.’

Though I have read these words many times in scripture they still continue to bless me when I read them again. I know these words were spoken to Isaac as part of an old covenant, but we have the same promise. Jesus said, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ We need not fear. We need not fret. We need not faint.

No matter what we face today lets remember that precious promise, “I am with you.’

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

So Isaac dwelt in Gerar. And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, "She is my sister"; for he was afraid to say, "She is my wife," because he thought, "lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold." – Genesis 26v6-7

It seems like we have been here before. There is a famine in Canaan and a patriarch of Israel heads to Egypt looking for food. The family stops in a Philistine region Gerar ruled by Abimelech and stays there. While there the man is so afraid that he will be killed for his beautiful wife that he lies about her being his sister.

Sound familiar?

It ought to. Isaac’s dad Abraham pulled the same stunt, not once, but twice. He did it before Isaac was even alive but here we see the same character flaw in Isaac as we saw in Abraham.

What causes that? Is it some kind of defective truth gene? Did Isaac inherit a familial disposition to lying? Wouldn’t it be great is scientists could map a liar gene in our DNA makeup so that we could genetically engineer a solution?

Well, maybe, I guess. I suspect though that it is much simpler than that. Even though Isaac did not see his father’s lies he did see his character. One of the greatest challenges to parenting is the very obvious truth that our character is going to impact our children. Apparently, judging by the Biblical evidence, Abraham had a knack for stretching the truth.

I guess one of the worst things about our character flaws is seeing them reflected in our children. I love my kids and am as proud as I can be of them, but they are not perfect. As I look at them I see so much to be proud of. When I do see their flaws far too often I see me.

The great thing is that it is not too late. I still have to opportunity to exhibit godliness and reflect His character to my adult children and their children. When we look back and see where we have blown it we can mope about our mistakes or we can move forward and by God’s grace be the example that we need to be.

We still have a chance. It is never too late.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

When famishment is stronger than faith

And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright as of this day." And Esau said, "Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?" – Genesis 25v30-32

Tiredness and hunger can be great motivating factors. They say never to go grocery shopping when you are hungry. I know better than to make any serious decision when I am tired. When our flesh is weak it is far too easy to make decisions based on the desire to satisfy that weakness.

Esau came in tired and hungry. His thoughts were for the immediate; the here and now. In a moment of fleshly weakness he was ripe for a making a foolish decision.

I can’t say that I blame him. He came in exhausted in the field and smelled a delicious pot of bean stew being cooked by his brother Jacob. I strongly suspect that this pot of ‘lentils’ was actually pinto beans and that there was a batch of cornbread cooking as well. Who wouldn’t be swayed by that! In that moment of physical weakness he threw it all away. He deceitful conniving brother told had a deal, ‘I will trade you your birthright for a bowl of stew.’ he said.

Poor old Esau could only think of the moment; ‘What good is my birthright if I starve to death? Okay, just feed me.’

Sometimes all of us have to deal with the temptation to make a short-sighted decision. The immediate ‘need’ can be so pressing in our minds that we ignore the possible long term consequences in order to satisfy the need.

I think we see an early picture of walking by sight as opposed to walking by the spirit here. Esau chose to walk, not by what he could not see, but by what he could see. He chose the temporary over the ‘eternal.’

We can laugh of Esau for his foolishness in trading his privilege of first born son for a bowl of stew, but do we do any better when we lay aside the importance of eternity for a few seconds of satisfying the flesh?

Oh, by the way, ‘famishment’ is a real word :-) .

Monday, 19 October 2009

I will go

Then they called Rebekah and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" And she said, "I will go." – Genesis 24v58

Perhaps I am over spiritualising this incident. Maybe Rebekah was just a young woman swayed by the excitement of moving to a far off land marrying a mysterious stranger. Maybe there was nothing more to her part than that.

Maybe so, but from the reading of the entire account I get a different impression of her. From the time she first appeared on the scene she seems to be a dedicated servant who is acting in direct accord with God’s leadership. She was obviously sensitive to God’s will because she at the very start acted in accord with God answering the servant’s prayer.

So, if I will be permitted that presupposition, I will go on. ‘I will go’ must be some of the most precious words to God. It is the same attitude that Isaiah had when he said, ‘Here am I Lord, send me.’ The willingness to say, ‘I will go’ means that we are willing to leave our comfort zone. Saying, I will go, means that I am willing to give up what I am accustomed to.

I wonder how many of God’s people need to be willing to say ‘I will go;’ be it to their co-worker, neighbour, family member, or even some far off place. Who is willing to say ‘I will, by faith, go into that unknown situation?’

‘I will go. I will step out of my comfort zone. I will get out of the boat. I will go fight the giant.’ That is the kind of volunteer spirit God is looking for.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Don’t get in my way

And he said to them, "Do not hinder me, since the LORD has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master." – Genesis 24v56

Abraham’s servant had a job to do. He had accomplished the hard part of the job and it was time to go back to Abraham and Isaac.

Like always it seems there was a roadblock in the way. ‘Just give us a few more days,’ said Rebekah’s family, ‘just a little longer.’

The servant knew he could not do that. “Don’t hinder me,’ he said, ‘the Lord has prospered me and I need to get back.’

This servant had a single-mindedness about the task he had to do. His master gave him a job to do and he had to do it. Simple enough. These folks couldn’t get in the way.

So where is the application? We too have our own tasks from the Lord. All kinds of things are in the way. There are all kinds of roadblocks and hindrances.

The problem is, unlike this servant, we can let these hindrances get us off traffic. Something as a simple as a television programme that we really like can distract our minds from the task.

We need to kind of dedication and singleness of purpose that this servant had. When things get in our way we need to respond with a ‘do not hinder me!’ We must run our race with patience, not being put off by the roadblocks and distractions, looking unto Jesus; the originator and the finisher of our faith.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Good or bad?

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, "The thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. – Genesis 24v50

Bad news. It is something we all have to deal with. Abraham’s servant had just told Rebekah’s family that he believed God had sent him to take her back to Canaan so she could marry Isaac. He asked them what they though about it. This was long before phone calls or email. When people moved in those they moved for good. We know from an incident later in the story that the family did not want her to go. This was sad news for the family.

So how did Laban and Bethuel respond to the news? ‘The Lord sent this,’ they said, ‘we can’t tell if this is good news or bad news.’

There are times in our lives when the news seems so bad that we can’t see the good in it. God sends things our way or allows things to come into our lives that we just don’t get. Our family had two of those events yesterday. They would not be here if God had not allowed them to come.

But we know, we must choose to know, that all things, even the bad news, works together for good to those who love God, to those who are he called according to His purpose.

We also know that His ways may not be our ways. His ways are far above our own ways.

There are times when it is beyond our ken to know the good news from the bad. That’s when our faith is put to the test.

Good news or bad news? It can be hard to tell. But the Lord is still in His holy temple.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Being on the way the Lord led me

Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the LORD. And he said, "Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master's brethren." – Genesis 24v26-27

“I being in the way the Lord led me’ is one of those Bible phrases that has almost become part of normal Christianese. It took me a while to figure how God could lead me when I was in the way, but I eventually figured it out.

When God answered the servant’s prayer his first response was the perfect one. He bowed down his head and worshipped the Lord. Before we go on it is important to note that the proper response to answered prayer is worship. I hope we never learn to take answered prayer for granted.

When did God lead this servant? He didn’t come to his bed and shake him out. God didn’t come a pull him out of his recliner. God led him while he was already ‘on the road.’

I am sure that there are exceptions, but generally God leads people who are already moving.

Here is an illustration from real life. Mary and I were out walking yesterday and decided to take a totally different way home at one point. An elderly woman was in the front garden and greeted us. I noted her unusual accent so we started talking. As it turns out she was a Hungarian who was in the middle of the fighting during the Russian invasion of Budapest in 1956. She saw her husband shot to death from a Soviet tank. She had to leave her infant son with her mother when she escaped because she was hunted as a member of he rebel forces. She made her way to Austria, England (where she was reunited with her son) and eventually Ireland.

We had a lovely chat, well, mostly she chatted, but I told her I was a pastor and gave her my card. She invited us back for another visit.

I don’t if this will lead anywhere, but the point is we could not have met Ilona if we had not been out on the road or, on the way as Abraham’s servant puts it. We were on the road and I have to believe the Lord directed us to her.

That’s a simple illustration of an important truth. If we get going God will direct. We can’t just sit around and wait for something to happen.

Get on the road and let God lead. Who knows where you might end up?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Remaining silent

And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. – Genesis 24v21

I love the little details of the word of God.

Before the servant even finished praying a woman walked up to the well and began doing the exact same things that he had asked God to show him. And yet, he still did not move. He remained silent in order to know if this was the Lord prospering his journey.

I am the world’s worst ‘wait-er.’ I am even a worse ‘keeping silent-er.’ I hate waiting and I cannot keep my big mouth shut. I want my situation sorted here and now. I can be impetuous to say the least.

There is merit, wisdom, and blessing in learning how to wait and keep our mouths shut. Even though the answer to prayer seemed obvious the servant still held back just a moment to make sure that this was God working and not just circumstances.

It is interesting just how often this theme appears throughout the Bible. Over and over we read about praying, waiting, and keeping silent.

A lot of ‘stuff’ is going on at the moment. I am battling anxiety, worry, and fretting. I have been praying. Maybe I need to keep that up, then keep my mouth shut to watch and see what God does.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Give me success this day

Then he said, "O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. – Genesis 24v12

Isaac had grown up and it was time to find him a wife. Abraham called his most reliable servant to go back to their homeland and find a suitable woman. This was an important task and the servant knew that the responsibility was huge.

When he got back to the homeland he must have faced quite a dilemma. ‘Okay, here I am. Where do I start?’ This is a place where I have often found myself. Sometimes I just don’t have a clue what to do in a situation.

My solution too often is just to jump ahead and do something, anything, no matter what it is. After all, any movement is better than nothing, right?

The servant had it right. He got there and he paused and made the right choice.

What was it? He prayed. ‘O Lord God please give me success this day.

Short, sweet, simple, and to the point. ‘I don’t know what to do here God. Would You please give me success in my task?’

I am just back from a Christian workers conference in Kilkenny. The driving force that came out of that meeting was the importance of prayer. It sounds like we are beating the same drum to say that, but we, or at least I, just can’t seem to get it through our heads.

We are not going to succeed on our own without seeking God’s face, His direction, and His success. Try as we might, ‘if we in our own strength confide our striving will be losing.’

I want to get to the point that my every day begins with the words “Lord, please give me success.’ More than I want to be at the place where before every task I am able to pray ‘Lord, please give me success in this task.’

Now is a good time to start. ‘Lord, would You please give my success, not my success but Your success today.’

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided." – Genesis 22v14

Jehovah-jireh - the Lord will provide. What a blessed name and what a blesses assurance. We act on faith when we know the reality of Jehova-jireh.

Abraham knew this was coming. When Isaac asked where the lamb was Abraham answered 'The Lord will provide a lamb.'

I find one of the toughest lessons that I have to deal with is to trust God's provision. It is difficult for me to see sometimes that God is going to provide when I can't see an answer to the need. To
often it seems like there just is no answer.

It is the depending on sight that gets me into trouble. Seeing is the great conundrum. I want to be the one who provides because deep down I think that I know the best answer.

Abraham didn't know how God was going to provide. He just knew that God would. He marked the event by naming the place Jehovah-jireh.

We have all watched God provide in the past It is important that we mark those times to remind ourselves that God does indeed provide.

The Lord is Jehovah-jireh. It is His nature to provide.We will save ourselves a lot of heartache when we learn that aspect of His nature.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Faith plus works

And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you." – Genesis 22v5

Abraham was made righteous by his faith. There was no work involved in his salvation.

Salvation is by faith, but that faith always works. Before God affirms His promises to Abraham He puts Abraham’s faith to the test.

‘Take the son you waited so long for up on the mountain and sacrifice him’ was God’s command.

How is that for a test of faith? From all indications though Abraham had finally learned his lesson. He doesn’t seem to bat an eye. He loads up the donkey and he and Isaac head out to obey God.

When they get to a certain point Abraham tells the servant to stay in place with the donkey and here we see the indication of Abraham’s faith. ‘Stay here with the donkey. The lad and I are going to worship and we will come back.’

He didn’t know how, but his faith told him that God would take care of the situation. Abraham’s faith worked. He proved his faith was real by simply obeying God.

He did go up to the mountain. He put Isaac on the altar and he pulled out his knife to sacrifice him. Only then did God intervene.

His faith worked – he believed God and he also obeyed God.

The same chapter that says, ‘For by grace you are saved through faith…not of works lest any man should boast,’ also tells us that we are ordained to do good works.

Abraham’s faith worked. True faith always does.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Barren Sarah bore a son

For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. – Genesis 21v2

‘Long after we are dead and gone
A thousand years our tale be sung
How faith compelled and bore us on
How barren Sarah bore a son
So come to Canaan, come’

These words are still more from the pen of Andrew Peterson and his CD ‘Canaan Bound.’ I absolutely love this song and the impact behind the words. Tears come to my eyes thinking about it. After all the waiting and despite their best efforts to do things their way God came through on His promise. Barren Sarah indeed bore a son.

When we read the Bible it is easy to forget how much time is passing. Decades had passed and we only hear of a couple of time when human frailty wins out, but think about how it must have been day by day by day waiting on God’s promise. Faith did compel them to keep going and faith carried them through all those years.

Thousands of years have passed and generations have been moved by their example. At the end of the day barren Sarah did indeed bear a son.

Whatever promise we are waiting on we can’t afford to give up. Abraham and Sarah did not faint and they reaped the fruit of God’s promise.

Don’t be weary in well doing. For in due season we too will reap, like Abraham and Sarah did, if we don’t give up.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Sorting it out for God

And Abraham said, "Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. – Genesis 20v11-12

It just seemed to take Abraham forever to get it together. He and Sarah are in their nineties when the travel to Gerar where Abimelech rules. After all this time Abraham’s faith is still weak. He must have thought the world of Sarah’s looks because he was still afraid that someone would kill her to take her away.

So what was his solution? The same thing he did those years ago in Egypt. He said Sarah was his sister in order to protect himself. Once again God intervened to sort out the situation.

I want to focus on Abraham again though. Once again his fear displaced his faith, but this time we get a better understanding of what was going on in his head. He, shall we say, manipulated the truth to suit his purposes and help God out. Technically Sarah was his half sister so he stressed that instead of the fact that she was his wife.

With our 20-20 hindsight we can see the ultimate outcome of Abraham’s testing of faith. We know the promised son is coming. Abraham didn’t. We can see the whole timeline; Abraham could only see his moment in time.

Because he could not see the end he did what we all do far too often, he tried to work things out himself. It is tough to wait on God. It is hard to leave it in His hands. Even as I am typing I am thinking about a couple of situations that I want to fix right now. I can’t see the end so I find myself fretting and anxious. It is almost funny because tomorrow’s message deals with that very situation.

What do we do when we can’t see the end of a situation and there does not look like a good way out? Do we suck it up? Do we wait on God and trust him? Or do we allow our emotions and fears to take control and try to sort it ourselves?

I need today’s lesson. I want to do something. I don’t know what, but I don’t want to sit here and wait for God to do something. Hopefully all of us can learn in times like this that prayer and supplication with thanksgiving is the way to avoid anxiety and fear. Rushing ahead to sort things out for God can always cause problems.

Friday, 9 October 2009

The sins of the father

Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father." – Genesis 19v32

As awful as Lot’s choices in Sodom and the results of them were they were really not the worst of it. After spending all this time in the world Lot’s family had certainly been affected by it.

Remember Lot’s solution when the men of Sodom came for the men in his house? He offered up his virgin daughters instead. Can you imagine that? Here was a crowd of lust filled perverts and Lot was willing to throw his daughters out to them!

So it is not surprising that we find those same daughters coming up with a unique solution to a problem. They had all been sent to a neighbouring town, but now they are living in a cave. Dad was getting old and he had no one to carry on the family name. They didn’t have husbands so they had no way to have children themselves. One of them had a bright idea. ‘Let’s get dad drunk and have sex with him! That way he will have sons and we will have children.’

What a great idea! Well, at least in the minds of daughters who had grown up in Sodom and saw their father offer them up to the crowd.

It worked! The both got pregnant and they both had sons. Their sons were Maob and Ben-Ammi. Both of those names can are hints of the sin, for they can both deal with inbreeding.

We are naturally repulsed and sickened by this turn of events, but that is what happens when we start to think like the world. The repercussions were serious. Moab and Ammon became the enemies of Israel.

We can think that our choices are not that serious. We can think that we will not be hurt by dabbling in the world. When we think that way we err, and our error has repercussions we cannot even imagine at the moment.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Remember Lot’s wife

But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. – Genesis 19v26

I almost titled this thought “Remember Mrs Lot,’ but then I remembered I have a sister named Mrs Lott so thought it best to go with the original, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’

It is interesting that a woman who is only briefly mentioned in the Old Testament gets such a mention in the New Testament. At one point recorded in Luke Jesus says ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’ Why? What would be so important about her that we would be told to remember her?

We all know the story of Lot’s wife. She was the one who was turned into a pillar of salt.

The simple answer, and the one that fits the context of Jesus’ statement, is that she turned back. Not content to be delivered from the wickedness of Sodom she had to have just one more look.

We can only guess at why she had to look back to Sodom. Maybe she simply loved her home there. Maybe she was just curious. Who knows?

Either way she did not just go the way that God was leading. Her lingering glance at the world cost her dearly.

Once we put our hands to the plough there is no turning back. When we do turn back we open ourselves up for trouble.

‘Looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.’

Remember Lot’s wife,. Don’t look back.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The impact of a ruined testimony

And they said, "Stand back!" Then they said, "This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them." So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. – Genesis 19v9

Lot has always intrigued me. I am not sure I have him figured him out yet. But then I have to wonder if I am really being fair to him.

Let me explain. Here we find Lot, called ‘righteous Lot’ in 2 Peter, living in Sodom, a town whose name has become synonymous with a particular sin. Here is what Peter writes, and I have chosen the KJV because I find the wording so descriptive, even if a couple of words are considered archaic.

And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation [lifestyle] of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds);

There can be no doubt that Lot was ‘saved’ in our modern terminology. What in the world was he doing living in Sodom, a city where God says the lifestyle was filthy? He was troubled by their lifestyle, yet he troubled his own life by living there.

Praise God that He delivered Lot by His grace and mercy.

I want to look at something else today however.

Angels came to visit Lot and deliver him. The wicked men of the city came to Lot and asked for the men to be sent out so that they could satisfy their sexual lusts with them. Lot refused, and was so mixed up that he offered his virgin daughters to them instead! Astounding to see the depth to which he had fallen.

But look at the response of the men – ‘Who is Lot to judge us? He has made his home in our city. He sat at the gate with us. He knew what we were like, and now he is deciding what is right and wrong for us?’

Lot had lost his testimony as a righteous man. He was so much in the world that he was of the world. Who indeed was he to judge the men of Sodom?

I can look back and be critical of Lot. I can self-righteously sit back and condemn him. Then I look back at my life and see times, one in particular, where man might have said of me – ‘Who is Roger to tell us what is right and wrong? Who is he to preach to us? He is one of and now he is trying to tell us what is right?’

Early in 1976 I was in such a state that a friend said those words about me and to me. I was saved about two years earlier and had been trying to witness to my friends. For over a year though I had not lived like a believer. ‘Parrow,’ said my friend after a particularly wild evening, ‘You had better never try to talk to us about the Jesus stuff. Now we know that is all a load of [rubbish].’

Ouch. Being vexed by the filthy conversation around me and vexing my own righteous soul with their deeds suddenly became very uncomfortable.

Yes, God delivered my out of that mess. But what about those around me in those days? Where are they today? What impact did my life have on them?

What do we do with our testimony? Are we passing through this world with its ‘filthy conversation’ or have we settled there? Has that become our home? If so, all we can hope for is a life of trouble and vexation. If any of us find our comfort zone there we need to make sure of our state of righteousness. If there is no vexation we must wonder if there is any righteousness.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." – Genesis 18v14

Today is a follow on to both Abraham and Sarah doubting God and laughing at Him. When they laughed at God He responded with a very simple question – ‘Is anything to hard for the Lord?’

What a great rhetorical question, and the answer is obvious. ‘With God nothing is impossible.’ (Matthew 19v26)

Every time we doubt God in a situation we say that things are too hard for Him. We say that the God who created the universe can’t handle the situation we are facing. We are saying that the I AM is too small for our problems.

What gives us the idea that the I AM is too small and weak for our own dilemmas? Why do we think that God could part the Red Sea and provide manna in the wilderness can not take care of our needs?

I think the reason is pretty simple. It is because we are focused on us. We want God to act our way and in our time. We are so sure that we are so smart that we know best.

Well, when we think that way we are wrong. God’s way and God’s time are always, 100% of the time, the best way.

The end of the verse seals it, and it is a concept we would do well to remember. ‘At the right time,’ God says, ‘I will return to you and Sarah shall have a son.’

There it is. God made a promise. He will fulfil it. Nothing is too hard for Him. Not even that unsolvable situation you are facing today. In His timing God will fulfil His promise.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Laughing at God

And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" – Genesis 17v16-17

Thirteen more long years had passed. Abram was now 99 years old. Sarai was now 90. There was still no son on the scene. God just was not coming through on His promise.

Have you even been in a situation where you wondered if God was ever going to come through? Have you ever waited and waited and waited and prayed and prayed and prayed and still not seen any indication that God was going to answer?

Most of us have. If so, we can somewhat indentify with Abram.

Suddenly God appeared. He changed Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah. He reaffirmed His covenant and instituted circumcision as a sign of the covenant with Abraham.

Then He told Abraham that he and Sarah were going to have a son. How did Abraham respond? Did he praise the Lord? Did he get excited at the prospect? Nope – he fell on his face and laughed. “I am 99 years old. My wife is 90. Just let Ishmael carry out the promise.’

Laughing at God seems pretty shocking at first. How could anyone laugh at God?

When I start to think about it though I wonder if it is any more scandalous than how I have reacted to God’s promises at times. There have been times when I have been tired of waiting on God to come through on His promises. I have wondered if He was ever going to come through. Is my doubt any better than Abraham’s laughter? Just because I don’t fall on my face laughing at God am I any better than Abraham?

Stay tuned for God’s response to Abraham and Sarah’s laughter and our doubt?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The God Who Sees

Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are- the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?" – Genesis 16v13

Poor Hagar. If anyone is innocent in this situation it is her. As an Egyptian servant and knowing the customs she knew that surrogating might very well be expected of her. When called on to accept this role she does, and as a result she gets pregnant.

We don’t know if she really mocked Sarai, or if it was just Sarai’s regret that she had suggested such a crazy idea. Either way Sarai treated Hagar cruelly so Hagar ran off and sat by a pool of water to lament her situation.

God saw her there so He sent an angel to console her. After the promise we saw yesterday Hagar responded by calling the place where she was ‘You are the God Who sees.’ God saw her in her affliction. As the innocent here God chose to console her. He told her to go back to Sarai and to trust Him with the results.

Her response is interesting, and I never noticed it until this morning – ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’

I am not sure exactly how she meant that, but it started me thinking. Do I always see the God who sees me in my affliction? Do I see His hand when it works? Do I ever assume that things just worked out or that somehow I sorted things?

God sees me in all of my circumstances. Do I also see Him who sees me?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

When flesh is stronger than faith

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, "See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her." And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. – Genesis 16v1-2

They must have been getting impatient. Abram and Sarai just grew older and older and older. No vast numbers of descendents, not even a single son. It looks like they grew tired of waiting.

I can almost hear Sarai’s reasoning. “It’s been ten years since God promised Abram a great nation. He is 85 years old and nothing is happening. Wait, God never promised me a son! Maybe God only made the promise to Abram. There’s Hagar over there. Maybe God wants to use her as a surrogate to give us a son.’

‘Abram, come here. I have an idea. I am not going to have any kids; that’s pretty obvious. Go see Hagar and maybe God will give us a son that way.’

Now before we get too shocked we need to remember the time. It was sin, yes, but they had no IVF or test tube babies. Their culture allowed barren women to have children through servants acting as surrogates.

So they forgot about God’s promise and acted according to their own plans. The plan worked. Hagar, their Egyptian servant got pregnant and a son was born. Problem solved, right? Wrong? Sarai didn’t like it. She thought, we don’t know whether justifiably or not, that Hagar was mocking her. So Abram acceded to her plan to send Hagar and the son away.

God found them and gave Hagar comfort that God would keep his promise. Abram’s son would be the father of a mighty nation. We now know from scripture and history that the promise came true. Ishmael became the father of the Arab peoples. Out of that nation grew Islam.

We all know the long term repercussions of Ishmael’s birth. There is no need to go into that here.

What we do need to see is the result of choosing to act by faith instead of trusting God’s promise. Hopefully none of us will ever make a foolish decision that will result in a millennia long world conflict, but when we act according to the flesh the result is not going to be good.

Earlier Abram allowed his fear to overcome his faith. Now, at Sarai’s leading, they allow their flesh to overcome their faith.

When are they going to learn that God’s way is the best way? When are we going to learn?

Friday, 2 October 2009

And he believed in the Lord

Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. – Genesis 15v5-6

Any verse that is quoted three times in the New Testament is a place where we need to stop for a moment. Romans 4v3, Galatians 3v6, and James 2v23 all record the words, ‘Abraham believed God, and was accounted to him for righteousness.’ James adds the words, ‘and he was called the friend of God.’

Abram had just been whinging that God was not coming through on His promise of a great nation. Here he was, 75 years old, and he didn’t even have a son. How could God come through now?

Then God says, ‘Look at the stars Abram. Notice you can’t even count them. That is the number of your descendents.’

Then it clicked. Abram believed God. It doesn’t stop there; God accounted Abram’s belief as righteousness. God reckoned Abram as righteous based on his belief.

Notice that Abram didn’t do anything to be declared righteous, he merely believed. James goes on to describe how the truth of righteousness was proven by his works. If works do not follow than the belief never took place. Works, however, are not a condition to be declared righteous. They are the result of being declared righteous.

What a precious gift this declaration of righteousness is. It doesn’t take long for us realise that none of us can ever be righteous on our own. The great truth is that the condition of righteousness has not changed. When man chooses to believe God and accept the free gift of salvation that Christ provided he is no longer dependent on his own feeble attempts at righteousness. When one puts his faith in Christ the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him.

On the 12th of February 1974 Roger finally believed in God. I received Christ and I was declared righteous on the merit of the blood of Jesus Christ. Praise God for the accounting of righteousness.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

When fear is stronger than faith

And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, "Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you." – Genesis 12v11-13

For all of Abraam’s faith we learn quickly that he was not perfect. First, although we are not told that the action was wrong, I wonder about him leaving Canaan during a famine to head down to Egypt. God led him to Canaan, but when there was a problem he left. I wonder if this was not the first step in a series of events that could have proved disastrous.

As they approached Egypt, the proverbial land of plenty, Abram realised he had a possible problem on his hands. His wife Sarai was drop dead gorgeous. He was afraid that when the Egyptians saw her they would kill him and take her for themselves. Rather than exercise a little bit of faith he concocted a crazy plan. ‘Tell them you are my sister, so that if they take you they will not hurt me.’

What a crazy idea! He was not real concerned about her being taken, but how safe he would be if they did. He didn’t trust God about his fears, but used a lie to manipulate the situation to suit his own solution.

At first it looked like fear worked. Sarai was taken into Pharaoh’s home, but not as his wife. Abram was given the best of everything. Everything was fine, apparently.

But then things started to go wrong in Egypt. ‘Great plagues’ came on Pharaoh’s house because Sarai was there. Somehow, and we are not told how, Pharaoh put two and two together and realised that all these problems were happening because Abram’s wife was living in his house.

‘Why did you do this to me?’ Pharaoh asked, ‘What if I had married her?’ Pharaoh had more character at this point than God’s man. It apparently didn’t matter to Abram what happened to Sarai as long as he was safe.

When fear overrides faith it leads to all kinds of problems. God does know best and the sooner we learn to ask Him before we act the better.

Another thing that has impressed me is how it must have felt to Abram when Pharaoh came to him. He, Abram, was God’s man. He was the one who should have shown character and Pharaoh was coming to him about his lie!

Anyway – let us be sure that faith takes control of fear and not vice versa.