Monday, 31 August 2015

In whom is the Holy Spirit

And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. – Genesis 41.38-40

There are a few times in the word of God where we find God’s men in foreign pagan lands where the people know nothing about the true God. Sure, there are plenty of bad times and times when things go badly. There are times when the enemy seems to come off on top.

But there are those times when God’s men stand out and make a difference even with all the differences and opposition. Joseph is one of those men.

Joseph made such an impact that Pharaoh said that there was no other man in the entire kingdom like Joseph. He was discreet and wise and well thought of. He was so different in fact that Pharaoh elevated this foreign slave and accused rapist to the office of vice-pharaoh, or maybe even co-pharaoh. Nothing was held back – he had all of pharaoh’s authority.

And what made the difference?

The spirit of God lived in him. And that made all the difference. The Holy Spirit made Joseph different, exceptional in fact.

The Holy Spirit has a way of doing that. He has a way of making a difference in our lives too as we yield to Him and allow His fruit to be seen in our lives. As Christians the same Holy Spirit lives in us today. The Holy Spirit living in us should make us different and distinctive from the world around.

Joseph made a difference because he let the Spirit have controlled. We too often think we can impact the world by becoming more like them. May we each allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so that we can make a difference like Joseph did.

Saturday, 29 August 2015


And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, - Geneses 39.7-13

There are a lot of discussions about how to deal with sin especially sexual sin. We have plenty of books and videos and special meetings and seminars and such and a lot of them are based on good, sound, Biblical principles. Many of them are very helpful and many men have found incredible help through them. God has been good to provide all of this practical help – the problem is getting people to follow it.

But sometimes we need some really quick advice and an examples from Joseph’s life that can pin it down to one word – and a lot of times that one word would work if we would just do it.

Joseph was the master of Potiphar’s house. Potiphar totally trusted him with all the affairs of his home.

But there was a spanner in the works. Potiphar’s wife was after Joseph. She started trying to get him in her bed. Joseph would have nothing to do with her. ‘How can I do such a thing when your husband has trusted me with everything!’

But she persisted. Day after day she begged him to share her bad. And day after day he refused. This was a man of real character. No one could expect a man to put up with that kind of pressure. In the last year or so a judge in the UK let a teacher accused of sexually molesting and student because the ‘student had taunted and seduced him.’

But Joseph did not give in. One day Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph to pull him into surely now on one could blame him now!

But Joseph wriggled out of his cloak – and ran. He was not going to do wrong, no matter what. His solution to immediate and strong sexual temptation was simple and it was one word – RUN!

 We need the study of God’s word to deal with sexual temptation. We need the help and support of each other. We need good teaching and preaching.

But sometimes we just need to turn tail and RUN!!

Mercy and favour

But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper. – Genesis 39.21-23

Potiphar’s wife did not handle rejection well. The old saying ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ really and truly applied to her. She was ashamed and felt rejected and her pride was hurt by this servant’s rejection.

So she took vengeance on him. She reported that Joseph had tried to rape her and she had the evidence. There were no witnesses so who was anyone going to believe. And, beside, who was going to argue against Potiphar’s wife.

So it is off to jail.

But in jail, once again, Joseph finds favour with God and favour with men. The prison keeper entrusted the other prisoners to Joseph’s care.

This is hard to explain except for God’s intervention.

God showed Joseph mercy
God gave Joseph favour with the jail keeper.

God did not want Joseph out of the jail for the time being. So God didn’t sort things out. He let him stay, but while he was there he gave Joseph mercy to carry on favoured in the jail keepers eyes.

God is not always going to get us out of jams when we want out or they way we want, but He will get us through.

While we are going through our own trials let us depend on God’s mercy and trust Him to give us favour with us.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The Lord was with Joseph

And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. – Genesis 39.2-4

Several years have passed since Jacob’s names change. The new nation was starting to take place. Israel’s clan was growing and his sons were marrying.

But there was a problem. One of Israel’s younger sons was his favourite. That was bad enough, but this young son, Joseph, had a dream about the rest of the family bowing down to him. That was bad enough, but Joseph’s dad had a special coat made for him that set him apart from all the rest.

The older brothers were, understandably jealous and upset and even angry. They went to far as to ploy against him, sell him into slavery, and tell Jacob that he had been killed by wild animals.

The slave traders took him to Egypt where he was sold into the home of Potiphar, an important government official.

So we find Joseph, Israel’s favourite son, the one who had it made in his father’s house, who finds himself sold as a slave in a distant land.

That’s pretty rough. How could this happen? Where was God in all this?

The Bible tells us that in all this God was prospering Joseph. His master saw that there was something different about him. The master saw it as Joseph’s God being with him. And things changed in Potiphar’s house. God blessed Joseph and through him his master’s house was blessed.

What could have been a disaster was about to turn around. God had something special in store for Joseph and his family, for the nation of Israel, for Egypt, and for all the regions around, and even for us.

It wasn’t clear yet, but God was at work no matter how bad it had looked when Joseph’s brothers threw him in the pit and sold him as a slave. God is going to prove himself stronger than the world.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A new name

And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; - Genesis 35.10-11

Names were a big deal with the cultures of what we now all the Middle East. In fact, they still are to today. Names were meant to reflect family or culture or desired character or hopes or dreams or aspirations or even physical characteristics. The Bible focuses a lot on names and sometimes names were changed to reflect as person as they God older or as God caused changes in their lives.

Jacob was one of them. Jacob was an awful name. It means trickster or sneaky. It means ones who does not accept authority. And Jacob’s name reflected his character.

But the day came when Jacob encountered God. He wrestled with God in prayer and when God blessed him God told Jacob ‘ You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.’ Jacob means all we looked at above. Israel is an in kind of a hard name to translate clearly. It means contender or prevailer with God. It could mean a prince of God.

But no matter what it reflects a change in Jacob. As Jacob all he thought about was himself and doing whatever it took to get for him. He was his only focus.

But as Israel he was focused on so much more. He encountered God and dealt with Him. He begged God for a blessing. Apparently he figured out that he could not be truly blessed on his own. To be truly successful he needed God’s blessing.

And he got it.

 Jacob did not prevail over God – he prevailed with God. He became the Prince of God as he prevailed with Him. Jacob was no longer Jacob’s man – he was God’s man.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. – Genesis 35.7

When Jacob first established a place of worship here he called it Bethel – the house of God. When he went back he called the place Elbethel – the God of the house of God.

Both of these titles are important ones. One of them focuses on the place. We all need our Bethel. We need those times and places and events where we have met with God.

However, as we look to these places they can develop merely as places and memories and events. I think this is where what we call religion comes from. It focuses on buildings or practices or the big dates or great memories.

At that is fine – as far as it goes.

But what we really need is not just to remember the place or the moment. What we need is to remember the God of that place and time.

I think is what happens images and icons and temples and buildings and such. I think it happens even today when some churches spend millions on their church facilities and talk about how important it is to come the the ‘house of God’ and as time goes by what is important is that building or that place.

That’s good in some ways. But what is really important is that we remember the God who is the reason for the house of God.

From what I can see here Bethel was more important to Jacob and his clan than the God of Bethel.

Lets remember the Bethel times of our lives – but lets remember they are only possible because of Elbethel

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Back to Bethel

And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.- Genesis 35.1-4

A few years later things were not going well for Jacob and his family. He had sons by various wives and concubines. Almost unbelievable sins had crept in. All kinds of weirdness were taking place. This relationship with God and Jacob and his people did not seem to be working out.

Something had to be done so God calls Jacob to go back to the time and place where he had first encountered God.

So God tells him what to do, and it an amazing picture of some things that we should do when we get there too because we are not immune. We can slowly drift away from God. In fact I think without regular growth there is where we are prone to go and we too need a course adjustment.

So God says:

Put away the things that have crept into your life and that you have put ahead of God. You need to deal with these idols
Cleanse yourselves of the sins that have taken over your lives
Change your garments, get rid of those tired old clothes and dress in righteousness

So Jacob says:

Let us rise up and go
Let us go back to Bethel
Let us build an altar there and worship God again

We can’t afford to get discouraged and caught in our sin and lethargy. When we find ourselves away from God we need to get ourselves sorted. We need to head back to ur own Bethel. We have moved away from Him because He has never moved away from us.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Not until you bless me

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. – Genesis 32.24-28

My view of Jacob is changing. I realise that he had plenty of problems, but he also has a lot of things I can learn from. For one thing is took his relationship with God very seriously. It was not a light and trivial relationship. We have kind of become of used to God and we can even take Him for for granted – but not Jacob.

This man had a wresting match with God. Imagine that, Jacob wrestled with God. I don’t fully understand it, but JACOB WRESTLED WITH GOD!

And they wrestled to the point where the human representation of God asked Jacob to let him go and he said ‘not until you bless me.’

Once again, like so much from these early days, I don’t totally get. But it happened.

And I think there is a lesson for us no matter how we explain it.

God wants us to take our dealings with Him seriously. I think we too often just kind of keep God by our side like a genie in a bottle. We may talk to Him and reference Him and ask Him, but if it doesn’t work out we just move on.

But we know God blesses persistence. I think of woman begging scraps at the king’s table was first denied, but kept asking until she got it.

We can’t presume on God. We can’t demand from God.

But we also just can’t be flipping out prayers and then really expecting God to answers. I can remember of couple of ‘wrestling with God’ prayer times and the amazing way God worked.

So let’s not give up on that issue we are praying about. Learn this lesson from Jacob’s prayer and keep on keeping on.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Then the Lord will be my God

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. –Genesis 28.18-22

I love history of the histories I like is seeing how all of this got started. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were they at the very beginning. These guys didn’t have churches to go to. They didn’t have Bible college. They didn’t have seminars. The didn’t have the word of God. The didn’t even have God’s law.

All they had was faith.

So every time they met God they had to decide on the spot they hade decide how to respond. My guess is that they didn’t even know how this whole God concept was going to work. The faith itself was in a God they were only meeting.

So when God told him to and serve Him Jacob had to know it was real. ‘If God will go with me and keep me and give me food to eat and clothe me He will be my God.’

At first that sounds presumptive. How could Jacob make such a demand on God?

But remember we have seen a God who works. We have seen His working on the world and on mankind. We have seen what God does in the lives of others. We have seen a God who gave us His word and keeps.

So was it wrong to put God to the test?

I don’t know for sure – but God did what Jacob asked and Jacob followed Him.

God still does these things for us, and yet don’t we still have trouble trusting Him sometimes?

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Abraham arose

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. – Genesis 22.1-3

I messed up my scheduled and only realise today that I had confused some dates and passages so I decided to go back and get one of the passages I missed from the days of my operation and recovery in ICU.

We have to go back before the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice incident. It has not been long since God hade given Abraham and Sarah their long promised son.

Despite all that Abraham had been through God chose to give Abraham another test of faith. This was  a greater test because it truly required Abraham to do something.

God came to Abraham and said something that must have been stunning. ‘Go get your son Isaac and take him to the altar and sacrifice him to Me there.’

How in the world do you respond to that? God had given him a son after decades of waiting and now God was going to take him back?

This is why Abraham’s response was so important. Did he REALLY believe God, or was it just lip service.

So the only way to prove he believed was to act. And Abraham did. He got up to do what God told him. He arose and went.

The only way to truly evidence our belief is through obedience. That is the ultimate test, isn’t it? If we believe we act, and Abraham did and he did.

Friday, 21 August 2015

I didn't know it

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. – Genesis 18.16-17

God was about to start working in Jacob’s life.

There was no written word of God, so God spoke to him through a vision of angels ascending and descending from heave.  When God got done Jacob said something very profound – ‘surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!’

It is easy for us to say ‘how an God here and we not know it?’

But I think we do that all the time. When things are prospering we can think things are prospering because we have do something right. When things are going badly we can imagine that things cannot be that bad and God still be here. And then on an everyday basis was can just take God for granted.

In fact, we can live for expanses without ever really thinking about God in a real a personal way.

It makes me think of a song called ‘The Silence of God’ that addresses the issue of those times when we are facing time and trouble and it seems like all we get is a deaf ear from Him. Those times do happen. Habakkuk had a time like that when all he could see was the trouble of the land. Habakkuk chose to sit down and listen for God.

God is still here, but if we are not listening and looking we, like Jacob, are not going to know it.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

While I was on the way

And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren. – Genesis 24.27

It was time for Isaac to find a wife, or to have a wife found for him. Abraham chose a trusted servant for the and sent him back the home country to find a wife from their own people. This was a job that needed to be done.

The servant told the tale once he got there. ‘My master sent me on the way, and once I was on the way the Lord led me.’

I like this lesson. It reminds that unless we are moving we can’t go anywhere and unless we take that first step God cannot lead us. Unless I get up off the couch I am not going to get anything done.

But once I start moving – oh the great things God can do. Abraham must had the same experience when God told him go and he went even though he didn’t know where when he started.

But once he got on the road – God led.

The same is true for us. As ling as we sit on our spiritual couches God cannot lead us and we will do nothing for Him.

So, if we are going to do anything for Him the time to go is now –and then let God show us where to go.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Lord blessed Abraham

And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. – Genesis 24.1

Abraham was old and he was feeling his age.

But the Lord has blessed Abraham in all that he did.

What a blessed verse this is. Abraham was far from perfect. He made plenty of mistakes. He blew it a few times. He didn’t always trust like he should have trusted.

I am so glad that God blessed Abraham in all that he did because it gives me a glimmer hope that God bless me in some of the things that I do. I am glad because God is not looking perfection. When we read about Abraham we read about his faithfulness.

And the same thing os true today. It is required in stewards that we be found faithful. May He find a flawed guy like be faithful and be able bless me.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The power of fear

And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake. And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother. –Genesis 20.11-13

When Abraham and Sarah travelled to Gerar where Abimilech, a local king,  lived. Abraham thought once again that he had to take matters into his own hand. He worried for his life because he reasoned that if the king there wanted to take Sarah he would have Abraham killed in order to do so.

Now first of all what kind of convoluted thinking is that? Why would we reason such a thing? If the king wanted her he could just have taken Sarah and not given Abraham a second thought.

But Abraham tells a half-truth to protect himself and possibly give his wife to another man. That is a desperate and selfish and faithless step to take in order to protect his life. He tells everyone that Sarah is his sister so that if Abimilech wants her he can have her without killing Abraham.

It is hard to believe that a man of God would ever pull a stunt like that.

It almost caused him big problems. Fortunately Abimilech had more character than the man of God. God came to Abimilech, not Abraham, and warned him of the great sin of taking Abraham’s wife.

Abimilech was in a panic, but fortunately he hadn’t touched. But he did chastise Abraham for his lie.

It is amazing what fear will make us do. That is why we are so often told to not be afraid.

God is control. Don’t lie, don’t fear, don’t try to manipulate Him.

Trust trust and wait.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Don't look back

And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.– Genesis 19.17, 26

Okay, I admit that looking back is a lot like lingering, but still think it worthy of consideration. They are two different steps.  One is waiting an dallying with sin at the moment, the other is looking back at the ‘what ifs and the ‘if onlies’ of our past or dwelling in the things that we should long ago have laid aside.

The angels warned Lot and his family not to look back, but his wife did and was turned into a pillar of salt.

While I doubt any of us will be turned to salt for looking back our own looking back can be just as paralysing as being that pillar of salt. We can be so caught up in looking backward that there is no way we can possibly move forward.

The great baseball pitcher is quoted as saying ‘don’t look back, something might me catching up to you.’

Even Peter, Paul wrote ‘forgetting those things which are behind and pressing on the mark…’

We can’ afford to think back to where we would be or might have been if we had only made this or that decision. We can’t afford to dwell on our past victories or our past mistakes. We can’t afford do anything but keep on keeping on. We can’t do anything about the past but learn from it and move on. Don’t be dragged down or built up by the past.

Don’t look back. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ and keep running the race.

Saturday, 8 August 2015


And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. – Genesis 19.15-16

Lot knew that destruction was coming. He knew God was about to wipe out the city. He knew God was going to pour out His wrath. He knew it – but he still hesitated to leave. He lingered to the point that the angels had to drag him out of the city.

Lingering with sin is a HUGE problem. I always think about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife here. What would have happened if, instead of wriggling out of his cloak and running away Joseph had lingered in Mrs Potiphar’s arms. Just think about the alternative history that could have been written. What a mess lingering would have caused and how different things would have been.

As a young man Timothy was clearly told to ‘flee youthful lusts’ because if we don’t run chances are we are going to get into serious trouble.

Sometimes when we linger God graciously steps in to change our situation so that we do not sin. Sometimes He lets us suffer the consequences.

We tend to linger too long with those feelings or those thoughts or that glance or that look or that attitude.

I am learning, and by God’s grace may it continue on, not linger over my cares and anxieties. There have been a few times over the last few days when lingering over my worries and cares had almost been hurtful and have set off alarm bells as my pulse wait shot up and I have had to just choose to stop worrying. Wouldn’t it be great if a real alarm went off every time we lingered over a sin or a temptation?

We are never going to move on spiritually if we stop to linger at over ever draw and every temptation. I don’t want God to have to drag me away. I want to get to the point where I know the problem with lingering and move on every time I see it.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Lot in Sodom

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. – Genesis 19.1-3

Lot is one of those interesting characters in scripture. On the one hand we see this man who was totally enamoured with and involved with wickedness. On the other we read about ‘just Lot’ who was vexed by the world.

I don’t really understand how a saved man could do all the stuff that Lot did, but he is indeed called ‘just.’

Read what Peter wrote – ‘And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation 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;) The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:’

I think we see a clear warning to believers here. Even though we may well be just and righteous through the blood of Christ we still are going to have problems when we dabble with sin. We we spend all our time in the midst of the filthy lifestyle of the wicked we are going to find ourselves vexed and trouble with evil.

The problem with this vexing is that we too often let ourselves get vexed by the wicked world around us. We can blame the devil for our troubles and we can blame the world but more often than not our vexation with sin comes because of us exposing ourselves to it. Lot vexed his righteous soul and we do the same when we are involved with the world and the wickedness of it.

Lot was in that wicked city and the more time he spent there the more he became like it.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Abraham stood before the Lord

And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. – Genesis 18.22

Sodom and Gomorrah were terrible places. The wickedness was abundant. The sexual immorality was rampant. God was ready to wipe out those cites and everyone in them because of their sin. The source of their sin was their pride and their pride led them to carry out whatever sin the wanted to do.

Everyone else looked away from the wrath to come.

But Abraham still stood before the Lord.

And why did he stand? He stood to plead with God on their behalf. He interceded for them. He begged God not to destroy the city if only ten righteous men could be found in the there.

Abraham reminds me of Moses here. Moses too interceded on the behalf of the people when God was going to pour out His wrath and wipe them all out. Here Abraham pleads with God and to spare the city even for a few righteous men.

And God agrees.

But the city is so wicked not even ten righteous men can be found.

I think the lesson is clear for us. No matter what else God wants us to be interceders. He wants is to be praying for others. It is too easy to get drawn into our own selfish prayers.

Lord help me to enter your throne room with the confidence that Jesus gives and once there help me to remember to intercede for others.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Laughing at the God of the impossible

And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. – Genesis 18.9-15

This whole saga can be almost be humorous at times if it were not so real and so much like us and our dealings with God. Abraham and Sarah were not bad guys, they were not ungodly. Today they would be the best Christians you would come across. And still they had their problems. I like that because I have my problems as well and battle them every day.

Sarah was a great woman of God, but here we see one of her mistakes.

Abraham had visitors. I am not sure about all the theology and how it all worked out, but we know these were heavenly messengers. Many people, me included, think that one of them was an incarnation of Jesus Himself.

The message these men brought was clear. Next year this time Sarah is going to actually give birth to a son. No tricks, no gimmicks, manipulation. Sarah was well and truly going to have a son. Hers and Abraham’s son. Their own flesh and blood.

When Sarah heard this she laughed. From the context we know it was not a laugh of joy, that will come later. She laughed because it was so ridiculous. It was too late. God had waited too long. She was far too old to have a baby.

But it response to the laughter comes one of the great lines of scripture.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

And that is the question we need to ask ourselves when we are looking at the impossible. We may not laugh out loud, but there are times when we are looking at something that looks like it can’t happen and we say ‘yeah right God.’ When we do that are we not doing just like Sarah. Isn’t that our own way of laughing at God? This happens every time we doubt God’s ability to take care of us or provide for us.

But is anything too hard for Him? Is there any impossibility with God?

Of course not. Before we are too critical of Sarah perhaps we need to examine our own situations to see if we are laughing right alongside her.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The best laid plans...

Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. – Genesis 16.1-4

Abram and Sarai were just like us. They were still trying to help God along in doing His work. Okay, maybe it isn’t Eliezer that God is going to use. God said a son would come from Abraham himself.

So maybe the problem was Sarai? Maybe there was a way fro Abram to still be the father.

Sarai had a servant named Hagar. Now Sarai was the schemer. She came up with the notion that they could use Hagar as a surrogate mother for Abram’s son. Abram agreed with the plan.

So it worked. Hagar had a son and they called him Ishmael.

Abram had a son!

But this wasn’t God’s plan – it was Sarai and Abram’s plan. And, like most of the ‘best laid plans of mice and men’ they often go awry.

This caused a real mess. Jealousy and anger and betrayal and near death all resulted from Abram and Sarai trying to sort things out on their own.

And so it goes with us. How often do we try to do things our way instead of waiting on God and royally mess things up? My problem is that I am a problem solver. I see a situation or a problem and I want to do all I can to sort it out, sometimes even when it is none of my business. And usually, when I jump ahead of God, I mess things up.

Burns finishes the idea well.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, (you are not alone)
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley, (often go awry)
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

So teach me Lord, please teach me to wait on you and your always perfect plan and stop with the guessing and fearing.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Just wait

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. – Genesis 15.1-4

God was going to do a great work through Abram. God was going to build a great nation through him. God’s chosen people were going to come through Abram’s seed. Greatest of all God was going to send Messiah, God’s own Son, through Abram’s seed.

But Abram was getting older and nothing was happening. He thought maybe he had read things wrong and that God was going to give him a family through proxy. Maybe God meant that he was really going to be the father, but he was symbolically to be the father of a great nation. Maybe Eliezer, since he is already my heir, will start this thing off.

But God said ‘no, trust me. This great nation I promised will be literally started by you,’

It is easy enough to get tired of waiting on God and try to figure things out our own way. We can even try to manipulate scripture and make it fit in to a way that we think will work because it makes more sense to us.

God keeps His promises – sometimes we just have to wait.

Sunday, 2 August 2015


And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.  – Genesis 13.8-12

We all know that Abram was not perfect. He is going to make plenty of mistakes, but all in all he is a pretty good guy and has some great character traits we can learn from.

Here he does something that would be unheard of. In these cultures the patriarch had absolute power. They did what they wanted and the rest of the family just accepted.

But here Abram takes his nephew Lot up on a hill to divide up the land. As they gaze out part of the land is dry and arid. It has no water and it is desert like. The other land is well watered and lush and lovely. Abram says to Lot ‘you pick the area that you want and I will take the other.’ It doesn’t seem like it took Lot long to choose.

He looked out, saw the lush land, saw the city of Sodom, and said ‘I’ll take that land.’

And Abram gave his young nephew the best land.

This little event here has always amazed me. Abram was willing to take second best even though he had all the right in the world to the best.

I am challenged by that example. I like to be the first guy in the queue. I like the biggest piece of pizza. I like all that kind of thing. And yet as I look at Abram he had much more at stake than a piece of pizza. This was their land where they would live the rest of their lives and he gave up the best.

I really want that kind of grace in my life. I want that kind of ability to put others first with the same grace that Abram did here. May I be so self-less that I could do the same as Abram did.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Go and trust

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. Genesis 12.1-5

Abraham’s faith is a great challenge to all believers. We see his faith shown from the very, very start. When we meet him God is giving him an unreal challenge.

God came to Abram and simply said ‘Get yourself together, gather all your stuff and your family and all you have and go.’ If Abram had said ‘where?’ God would have replied, as He did in the instruction, you just go and I will show you where.’

And Abram did. He obeyed God and his faith was accounted to him as righteousness. Abram trusted God and obeyed and acceded to His call and direction.

I can almost sort of understand why. To step out into the total unknown does require great faith. That is what it really means to walk by faith and not by sight. Stepping out into the unknown is a great faith tester. God said do it, and Abram did.

Sometimes God’s calls us to exercise faith in new areas that we have never been down before. Yesterday I was shocked to hear that I require triple bypass surgery. I was a bit stunned. How could this happen to a guy who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, watches what he eats, has lost 2 ½ stone, and walks 250km month?!

I don’t know, and at the moment I have to say I am a little taken aback. It is unknown territory – but God does know what He is doing. Unlike Abram I don’t have a choice, but I still want to walk this road trusting God and obeying Him and believing that He will guide me each step of the way.  May I have Abram like faith as I enter this journey.