Friday, May 31, 2013

A letter to Caleb.....

The air broke clear with relief as your cries sounded loud and strong in the room.  My son, my very first son, had arrived.  I had never felt such pain in my young 25 years of life, and yet the first sight of you affirmed that I would have done it over innumerable times to hold you in my arms.  Each year, I find myself looking back on that priceless day that changed my world forever.  The moments that began to define part of my purpose on this planet.  Motherhood was born in me as your first breaths were drawn.  It is a beautiful portrait of what God does for us.... drawing life out of pain.  It does this mother's heart good to reflect.... but, this year, I seem to being looking ahead.  I look ahead to the few remaining years we have together, living under the same roof.  I look ahead to your growing independence.  I look ahead to the countless decisions ahead that could easily overwhelm.  I look ahead to the man you are becoming.....
This day, on the celebration of your thirteenth year of life with us, we will present you with a stack of letters written from your father, grandfathers, uncles and other men of who have impact in your life.  Our hope and our longing is that they become precious to you- bringing hope, encouragement and guidance.  They represent all that we desire and hope for your future.  Yet, the letter I hope you will cling to most, is the love letter from our Father.  I pray that you will burn with passion for the word of your Savior and that His words will transform and guide you in the challenges that will inevitably come.  I have no doubt you will succeed if you choose to follow His teachings and leading.  He has incredible plans for you son, and I will rejoice with you in all that might be.
So, today we celebrate with you this big birthday, and we rejoice in the Savior who has brought you this far and all that He still has for you.  Each day can be a celebration of the priceless gift you have already received.... your salvation.  Let everything in view be tinted by that saving knowledge for there is nothing you will face in life that is beyond His reach and care.  Trust and hold fast to Him.
I love you Caleb..... Happy Birthday!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Desperately Hungry

A few minutes ago,  I was struck with an all too familiar feeling.....starvation.  So many mornings I allow myself to get so busy our morning routine that suddenly realize that I have not eaten.  All is fine until I hit a point and recognize that I am desperately hungry for food.  As I prepared some breakfast for myself, I reflected on the times in my life that I was desperately hungry for the things of God.  Have you been there?  Times when you needed that verse of promise from His word as much as you needed the next breath of air in your lungs... desperate hunger for Him often comes in times of desperate need. 

When I reflect back on these moments in my personal walk, I am drawn to the times in broken tenderness when I just survived on His scriptures and promises to carry me through each day, each hour, each moment.... desperately thirsting and hungering for Him.  Those times were present in the midst of heartache, broken plans, tremendous change, and times when we He called me out of the safe shelter of all that I had known into the wilderness of unknown.  As I shared yesterday, God is moving our family in a new direction (New Beginnings) and while I hold great excitement for all that is ahead, it is still a new land for us.  I am also so burdened by the heartache of others near to me who are struggling in desperate need right now.  All these moments make us long for the security of our strong tower- Jesus Christ. 

As we continue in our study of Abraham, we reach a desperate place.... let us continue in Genesis chapter 21...

"When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!” This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. But God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.” So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears. But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.” Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, and he settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt." (Genesis 21:8-21 NLT)

So much of this passage screams of desperate heartache- from the angry cries of Sarah to the broken heart of Abraham who loved Ishmael; concluding with the fearful tears of Hagar.  Desperate and broken by all the events that changed them forever.  Mistakes and past failures suddenly hit a boiling point in the desert heat and Abraham is left to make a difficult decision.  God tells Abraham to make Hagar and Ishmael leave them.  Why?  For some of us, this seems so absurd to send out this woman and his own child into the wilderness.  While we may never fully understand all the purpose in this, I believe part of His reasoning was to bring peace.  The house was divided by conflicting loyalties.  Ishmael had been reared for several years as the chosen child because he was a son of Abraham, but then, God made it clear that another child was to come through Sarah who would be the chosen one to receive God's blessing.  This whole scenario couldn't help but lend itself to conflict and hurt feelings.  The only way for true peace to come to this family was for Hagar and Ishmael to leave.  This may sound cruel to you and I, but God knew that He would tend and care for them.  God would not leave them abandoned.  Instead it was for a purpose far deeper than our finite minds can understand.

So, in a desperate need, Hagar found herself doing the unthinkable.  She waited for death to come.  Yet, God came to her in their desperate state.  God always comes to us in our desperate state when we are searching and longing for Him.  He never leaves us alone.  He is ever present in our times of need and uncertainty.  God delivered Hagar and Ishmael and was with them as the boy grew.  He wasn't who God planned for His chosen child- the first of His chosen people, but Ishmael still had purpose.  We all have purpose in Him.  You may feel lost and alone in the midst of unknown lands, but never doubt that He is beside you working out all details for the purpose and plan that He alone has designed for you.  He will deliver you! 

I read this quote today that blessed me so.... "God will never lead you where His strength cannot keep you." (Barbara Johnson)  My friend, no matter where you are today, He is with you.  Are you desperate for Him?  Seek Him for the peace you need for each day, each hour and each moment.  Trust that His strength is sufficient and walk, with purpose, forward in all that He has for you.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Beginnings

As many of you have noticed from several of my recent posts, God has been leading our family on a new journey.  I think it was best exemplified in the post "Packed Bags".  About twenty years ago, God planted a seed deep within my heart to write... to write about Him.  In college, I pursued a Communications degree with a Journalism minor, but soon went back to school to complete my teaching certification.  I taught for several years before our boys came, but one factor was always present.... I would write.  I would write in my journal or send out an e-mail devotional to close friends.  Eventually, I discovered blogging.  I started our blog a few years ago with the thought that I would just journal our family life events and so forth. 

Then, about 14 months ago, God began to change our blog and what I was writing about.  It became  an online journal sharing what God was teaching me through my studies and through the events of my family.  I found myself so excited by what God was teaching me and how He allowed me to share it with all of you.  In the past 14 months, people from 15-20 different countries have been traveling down this journey with me and with over 10,000 page views of our blog in the past year.  God has grown me through this time and transformed my heart.  The desire to write has grown so strong over the past months that I cannot help but share it.... it feels like the words are burning deep within.  I must write- it is what God has called me to do.

Two months ago, God began to whisper to my heart that the time had come for me to focus more on writing and sharing whatever He would put on my heart.  This, however, would require my stepping down from the part time job that I have done over the past 3 years working as the preschool director at our church.  It was NOT what I had planned.  I have loved that job and working with all the precious children at our church, but God began to open doors and confirming His plan for us.  After praying for four weeks, Reagan and I realized that we needed to move forward in obedience to Him.  I was so anxious during this time that I asked a small group of friends to begin praying for us sharing that I believed that God was making a change in our family life.  I cannot express the strength and support I received from their prayers.  So, on May 1, I met with my supervisor and tearfully shared my heart and how God had been moving in our family.  I gave him my resignation and have been diligently making preparations for my departure from this position.  As another confirmation, Reagan received a small raise the very next day!  Isn't God good???

What is next?  I have no idea!!!!  I wish that I could tell you a detailed plan of all the steps ahead for us, but God seems to want me to patiently wait on His timing.  I keep feeling led to pray, wait, and trust Him for whatever lies ahead.  Recently, He has even been moving on my heart that if there is nothing more ahead than my continuing to blog, that this whole process has been about being completely obedient to Him....Trusting Him.... and following His leading without a safety net.  I have such a peace and joyful excitement as I wait expectantly on whatever my future holds.

What can you do?  PRAY!  Pray!  PRAY!   Pray that God will open the right doors, close the wrong ones and that I would have discernment in the process ahead.  Pray for Reagan and the boys as we travel this new road.... have I mentioned how awesome my man is?  He has been so supportive in all this.  Then, please consider sharing this blog with others if it has been a blessing to you.  Follow me on Twitter, Facebook or here on the blog.  Thank you so much for the support you have already given and I look forward to the new journeys we have still ahead.  My bags are packed and my feet are ready.....are yours?


Monday, May 27, 2013

Seeds of Hope

Have you ever had a seed of a dream planted deep within?  Sarah had.... all of her life had held a dream of holding a precious babe within her womb, arms and heart.  That dream had all but died countless times when no child had come.  Shame and heartbreak had long been her companions.  Yet, the seed of hope remained.  Perhaps dormant, but the seed remained.  Then, God made a promise.... an heir for Abraham.  A child.... an heir, but only from Abraham?  Recently, we discussed the desperation that they felt in the post, "Disappointments and Failures", and the attempts made to fulfill this promise.  God, however, had plans to complete what He had promised in a way that would leave no doubt who should receive the praise.  He thrives in making the impossible possible in order to leave no doubt that He alone deserves our praise. 

In Genesis 18, God clarifies that Sarah will be the one to carry Abraham's child of promise from whom all future generations will follow.  This child will be the beginning of God's chosen people.  Sarah, in disbelief, laughed at the possibility.  Her companions, shame and heartbreak, had hardened her.  Impossible it was, but all is possible within God's capable hands.  Join me in Genesis 21 in verses 1-7.

"The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” (Genesis 21:1-7 NLT)

No one believed that Sarah would nurse a baby of her own- it had long passed the time of possibility as she had reached the age of 90.  That is when God allowed a miracle to take place.  He alone was the author of this chapter in their lives and He alone deserved their praise and honor.  That is often when God works, when He alone will receive the honor and praise.  It is His way of reaffirming that He is the only real God- fully capable in a world of impossibilities.  Sarah's countless tears sown in desperate brokenness become laughs filled with inexpressible joy.

That's our Father, my dear friend.  He is the only one who transforms our broken heartaches into beautiful promise filled laughter.  He does that for us too.  He takes our shame and heartbreak that hardens our hopes and transforms them (and us) into fully content sighs and joyful laughter.  He redeems.  He restores and gives new purpose in our emptiness.  He heals us completely, thoroughly, and in His perfect timing.  Today, I do not know if you are in the desperate land of longing or on the banks of  His rivers of blessings.  Are you sowing tears of heartache or are you so joy filled that the laughter will not stop?  Either way, God is right beside you.  He never forgets you or the desperate longings of your heart.  His love is so great that He can never forget you.  His love is so great that He will do nothing less than His very best for you.  Sometimes, that means changing your heart, your plans or your dreams but never doubt that He will deliver you.  Joy and laughter will come- in His timing and through His perfect conclusion.  How deep is your trust?  Make faith and trust your companions while waiting on His timing in this trial.  He will redeem, restore and give you a new purpose for His glory. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Are you Lost?

Just a little while ago, Kendall was in a desperate search for a toy that he had misplaced.  After several minutes of looking, he commented to me, "Well, Him got lost."  I chuckled at his honesty, and thought quite a bit about that statement.  How many times have I gotten "lost" myself?  Lost in needs that call for my attention.  Lost in duties and responsibilities.  Lost in fear or anxiety.  Then, God finds me in my "lost" state and draws me back to Himself.  Suddenly, all becomes clear in the light of His presence.  He brings focus and clarity to all and in all. 

As I continued our study on Abraham, I had hit a wall.  Perhaps all the events of this past week had caused me to pause and consider more what direction God would have me study and write about in the past few days.  Suddenly, in light of this simple conversation with my three year old, all became perfectly clear to me.... join me in Genesis 20.

"Abraham moved south to the Negev and lived for a while between Kadesh and Shur, and then he moved on to Gerar. While living there as a foreigner, Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace. But that night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you have taken is already married!” But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Didn’t Abraham tell me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘Yes, he is my brother.’ I acted in complete innocence! My hands are clean.” In the dream God responded, “Yes, I know you are innocent. That’s why I kept you from sinning against me, and why I did not let you touch her. Now return the woman to her husband, and he will pray for you, for he is a prophet. Then you will live. But if you don’t return her to him, you can be sure that you and all your people will die.” Abimelech got up early the next morning and quickly called all his servants together. When he told them what had happened, his men were terrified. Then Abimelech called for Abraham. “What have you done to us?” he demanded. “What crime have I committed that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? No one should ever do what you have done! Whatever possessed you to do such a thing?” Abraham replied, “I thought, ‘This is a godless place. They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ And she really is my sister, for we both have the same father, but different mothers. And I married her. When God called me to leave my father’s home and to travel from place to place, I told her, ‘Do me a favor. Wherever we go, tell the people that I am your brother.’” Then Abimelech took some of his sheep and goats, cattle, and male and female servants, and he presented them to Abraham. He also returned his wife, Sarah, to him. Then Abimelech said, “Look over my land and choose any place where you would like to live.” And he said to Sarah, “Look, I am giving your ‘brother’ 1,000 pieces of silver in the presence of all these witnesses. This is to compensate you for any wrong I may have done to you. This will settle any claim against me, and your reputation is cleared.” Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants, so they could have children. For the Lord had caused all the women to be infertile because of what happened with Abraham’s wife, Sarah." (Genesis 20:1-18 NLT)

You may be thinking to yourself, didn't we do this lesson already?  I have a feeling God had the same feeling!  Abraham once again gets lost in the fear of being killed for his bride, Sarah, and has her lie for him.  When he did that just a few years before, God had to step in and yet, again, that happens.  God protects Sarah and keeps her from being hurt or "used" by Abimelech .  While Abraham had witnessed God at work in his life previously, he still finds himself lost in a fear that blinded him to God's faithfulness.  As a result, he returns to his old thought pattern as well as his old way of dealing with problems.

My friend, if Abraham- our great faith walking hero- could struggle with getting lost in fear and problems, then why do we wonder when we do the same thing?  He was human just like us and struggled with obeying his Father in all things.  I can relate to that!  It brings me peace to know that while Abraham struggled, God still chose him to be the Father of His Chosen People.  God wants people who are desperate for growing in Him - not those embracing illusions of a false self-sufficiency.  Desperately in need will always draw closer to Him and be more easily "shaped" and "molded" for His purpose.  That is an encouragement to me- how about you?  God uses us when we desperately seek after His will and purpose for our life.  We will fail, but then, we return to Him.  It's not about perfection, but about a growing reflection of Him within.

Today, if you are feeling "lost" in a sea of issues and struggles, turn to Him.  Desperately seek His presence and watch for the growing reflection of His character within you.  He shapes those He plans to use so, find joy in the process!

He Beckons

In the silence of a dark room I found myself in the wee hours of this day. Before the children stirred and coffee brewed, God awoke me with a whisper..."Come! Spend some time with Me alone...."  So, I sat in the middle of an empty room and met my Savior there. Praise, tears, prayers and scripture filled all the nooks and empty spaces in my longing soul. I had needed Him so desperately, and how beautiful is it that He would beckon me to join Him in the newness of this day? 

At the tender age of eight, I came to know Him as more than just a Biblical figure. He became my Savior. In my early twenties, I fell absolutely, completely and wholly in love with Him- My Redeemer. I love Him still....despite lost jobs, broken dreams, and health issues. He took all the brokenness within me and replaced it with potential and hope. All is whole in His hands. 

My friend, what He does for one- He does for all. Lay your brokenness at His feet, and allow Him to fill you with wholeness. He beckons you too! Can you hear the Lover of your soul gently whispering? Seek and find Him. 

" When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. "(Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT)

Let our roots grow deep down in the love of our Savior and let us never fail to be overwhelmed by the wealth and richness of it all. Thoroughly, completely and wholly devoted to Him- the Lover of our souls. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Caleb's Heart

I am a mess of hot stinging tears that just won't stop.  Just moments ago, I overheard a conversation taking place in a room near to mine.  My oldest son was talking with his younger brothers, and what I heard was, "This life is not my life. It is Jesus using me. This cross represents my life through Jesus. My life is Jesus living in me. I would be nothing without the cross."

I had to call him into the room to make sure I heard it all again- in his words- his heart so open and vulnerable.  In our life, filled to the brim with hot wheels, wrestling, and dart guns, I start to question all the countless decisions we have made as parents.  Is this enough?  Did we do the right thing?  Have we really taught them enough?  The evil one longs to taunt us with our insecurities and threaten us with the unknown future.  I fall prey to it often..... but, today, in those brief moments, all was right in the world.  He gets it.... He has fallen in love with his Savior and I am in awe of it all.  When did he grow into manhood right before my eyes?

This same child- nay, young man- who in just days will meet 13 years of life.  He, who has driven me to my knees more than once due to antics and trials, has also shown me a glimpse of the godly, warrior heart within.  The same young man who argues and fights often with his younger brothers and will torture them to no end, still loves enough to impart His life source- the Savior- to them.   He is an ever growing storm within, but when all is said and done, in the core of his being, the Savior is it.  Life- so entwined with Jesus that Caleb can't see himself without His Savior.  That is all I could want as a parent.  The other pieces of his life will fall into place in time, but all that he really needs to be successful, he has already found. 

Let the tears fall, heavy and fast, for my heart is full to overflowing and I rejoice in it all!  My Savior, is my son's Savior and that is life.

"Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly. He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything. Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands. Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve him and do his will! Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom. Let all that I am praise the Lord." (Psalms 103:1-22 NLT)

Friday, May 17, 2013


A little while ago, I felt a small tapping on my shoulder.  It was Kendall, our toddler, busy at work trying to attach a bright red Superman cape to my t-shirt!  He smiled real big and said, "You Superman!"  Then, he laughed and ran off.

Too often, I try to live up to a Superwoman status... like many mothers, I try to do it all.  I spend hours a day balancing all the needs that pop up for our family as well as homeschooling, managing a part-time job at our church and being a writer.  I cook, clean, disciple, and oversee all things Boles.  I find myself angry and self-deprecating on the days I seem to fail at the balancing act and self-righteously attaching the super-hero cape on the good days.  Where is the balance in that?  One day failure, one day hero..... reality is very much lost in between the two.

The truth is my value is not in my day to day accomplishments.  It lies in what Jesus did for me on the cross thousands of years ago.  My value is found in Him and His redemptive love for me.  I am going to fail, often so, at the tasks in life, but there will also be days when I will succeed.... victoriously so, but all can be used for His glory.  Moments when we are broken by our own limitations and failures are holy and beautiful as we allow His Holy Love to redeem, heal, and bind our wounds.  Moments when we see Him working within us and we realize that only by His grace were we able to accomplish all that we did- we can stand in awe of the Most High God who sees after all of His creation.  He hears our prayers and not one need slips past Him.

I am learning that the only "Super" thing I can do is desperately cry out to my Father each day to help me be the wife and mother that I am called to be.  Recognizing His work and authority in my life brings that balance that we so often search for.  God is teaching me that I no longer need a cape on my back, but His redemption within.  That is how I want my boys to see me.... not as Superwoman but as a fellow Redeemed.  Fallen, broken, loved, healed and restored.... Redeemed.

A Closet Prayer

On Wednesday night, I sat huddled in a small interior closet with our youngest son as the literal storms in life passed overhead.  Soon, we were joined by Reagan and the older boys who had been taking shelter up at church, but thinking that the worst had passed came home.  Only then, did we find out that a tornado a mile-wide had changed direction and was headed north towards our city.  As we sat packed as tightly as sardines (and I wondered if they had in fact put on deodorant)..... Carson asked the obvious question, "Have we prayed?"  Honestly, I had been praying silently from the moment the sirens started and had even prayed with Kendall at one point, but I never turn down my children when they request prayer.  Carson prayed.  I cannot express all that he said in that prayer, but my heart filled with such joy as it was such a genuine, mature crying out to His and Our Father asking for God's grace to allow this storm to pass over us. 

When all was said and done, much damage was left in the aftermath of this storm- homes lost, many injured, and some lives were lost, but it could have been so much worse.  We had little more than a heavy rain, but having lived in "tornado alley" all my life, I have learned to always respect the sirens and take them seriously.  As I read in Genesis 18 today and thinking about Abraham and the plea he makes to the Lord, I thought about the plea Carson made for our family in the closet... in our fear.
Let's focus on the last half of the chapter, in verses 16-33.

"Then the men got up from their meal and looked out toward Sodom. As they left, Abraham went with them to send them on their way. “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” the Lord asked. “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.” So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.” The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham. Abraham approached him and said, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked? Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” Then Abraham spoke again. “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes. Suppose there are only forty-five righteous people rather than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And the Lord said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five righteous people there.” Then Abraham pressed his request further. “Suppose there are only forty?” And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the forty.” “Please don’t be angry, my Lord,” Abraham pleaded. “Let me speak—suppose only thirty righteous people are found?” And the Lord replied, “I will not destroy it if I find thirty.” Then Abraham said, “Since I have dared to speak to the Lord, let me continue—suppose there are only twenty?” And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.” Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?” And the Lord replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.” When the Lord had finished his conversation with Abraham, he went on his way, and Abraham returned to his tent." (Genesis 18:16-33 NLT)

In the very first part of this chapter, we discover that Abraham sees three men in the distance, but it is obvious that these men are more than they seem.  Immediately, Abraham has them come to his tents for rest and food- the best he had to offer.  We soon discover that these "men" include the Lord and two of his messengers who had come for a very specific purpose- to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah as they had become so evil.  Only a few times in scripture did God allow part of his creation to be destroyed and it was because the world had gotten so bad.  As this plan is revealed to Abraham, he begins to plead for these two cities in hopes that the righteous within them could be spared.  God listens.  This blessed me so much as God still listens to us!  No matter the storm in your life, God will listen to your pleas and cries.  He, as any good parent, does what is best for us and for our spiritual growth.  Sometimes, that may mean we don't get what we wanted, but it is what is best for us. 

I think this was also a chance for God to have confirmed what He already knew in regards to Abraham- that he held a compassionate heart for others.  Look at the desperate measure he went to help his nephew Lot and family years earlier..... and now he pleads, once again, for Lot, his family and anyone else within these cities who would be considered righteous.  I think that was part of what blessed me so much about Carson's closet prayer, his precious pleas for protection over all in the midst and path of these storms.  It convicts me as I reflect.... do I cry out in prayer for others as much as I should?  Am I so deeply affected by the world and circumstances around me that I desperately cry out to God for the needs I witness? 

In life, dear friend, the storms will come.  Let us rejoice that we serve a God who always stops and listens to the cries of our heart.  Always.... He listens.  Be thankful for whatever answer we receive trusting that it will be for your best interest.  Trust and have faith... it is for the best.  Be burdened and prayerful for the world in which we live.  By doing so, God will grow a deeper compassion within that is better able to serve and be used by Him.  Pray.... desperately so for the world in need.  Oh Father, let the glory of your love within always shine forth from our lives bringing love, care and meeting needs to this lost and lonely world.  Let our hands be Yours and our feet led by Your Spirit.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A New Name

Have I ever mentioned that I am rather clumsy?  Just a little while ago, I was sipping coffee in my comfy chair reading and praying... all of which are some of my favorite things to do.  At the point  I thought to myself, just how refined I must look- minus the old t-shirt and shorts and "bed-head" hairstyle.... I was the living version of a coffee commercial.  Then, I suddenly forgot how to drink and coffee went all down the front of my shirt..... at least it is old!  Oh, just when I start to think that I have it together, I spill coffee, say something I shouldn't, loose my temper, or countless other faults I own.  Make no mistake of it- we are fallen humans- blessed by the only true God, and let us never stop praising Him for it!

I think Abram could relate to my coffee spill.  He had seen God work in His life many times, but this whole issue of a future heir had been a struggle.  He longed for God's blessing and even went along with Sarai's plan to use Hagar to fulfill God's plan.  Was his faith weakened?  He had seen God work so clearly before, why did he not wait on God's timing?  Perhaps, he logically reasoned that Sarai was well past child-bearing years and the Lord had only said it would be his heir... but, our God doesn't always work in our logic.  Abram had to deal with some of the remaining issues- particularly between Hagar and Sarai- for thirteen years.  Let's pick up where we left off....

"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.” At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.” Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” When God had finished speaking, he left Abraham. On that very day Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and every male in his household, including those born there and those he had bought. Then he circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins, just as God had told him." (Genesis 17:1-23 NLT)

I love how God reminds Abram of the covenant set before him- not because Abram had forgotten- but, because God often reminds us of our called purpose and potential.  He often does this when He is about to lead us down a new path... With Abram, He gives him a new name.  I love that!  Too many times we give ourselves a name, but it isn't suiting to the purpose that our Father has for us.  Names like Failure, Broken, Unwanted, and Ugly simply won't due when He has given so much for our sake.  Equally, names like Self-Sufficient and Entitled won't due because they fail to recognize the desperate need we have for our Father.  God gives us a new name and a new purpose to match!  So, Abram becomes Abraham meaning "father of many" and Sarai becomes Sarah meaning "princess". If we have been bought by the blood of Christ, we have a new name as well.... Redeemed.

God then asks Abraham to be obedient to him by a final "marking" that would forever identify those living in the covenant God had made with him.  He asks Abraham to circumcise all the males in his household and to do the same to all future males joining their family.  Why would God do this?  Most of what I read seems to point to God wanting complete obedience from Abraham in this as well as a permanent sign that the males were part of God's chosen people.  It could also be symbolic as a final "cutting" away of their old life and commitment to live for the Holy One.  It may have also been for health issues.  While we may never know all the reasons, ours is to obey in where and what He leads for us to do. 

Perhaps the greatest revelation for Abraham, is that Sarah will be the mother of the chosen people.  Sarah?  My Sarah?  She is 90 years old!  God wanted to work in such a way that generations would never question whether it was by Him or not.  He would do the impossible to further "mark" that these people are HIS chosen ones.  He did the same for us when he sent His Son to die for all our sins.... the impossible made possible for us, to forever mark us as HIS. Glory!  God even gives Abraham a name for their future son, Isaac, which means "laughter".  I think this reflects the inevitable joy that Isaac brings to them all- God's revealed promise in flesh before them.   God may not reveal Himself so dramatically to each of us, but make no mistake about it, He has just as important a plan for you.  We each have divine potential in Him and unending value in His eyes. 

Abraham cries out for Ishmael, and I love the tenderness expressed here.  Ishmael may not be the chosen child for the covenant, but he was still loved, deeply, by Abraham.  God promises to bless him as well, but it will be different.... each of us will have a different calling from God and we will find greater contentment when we learn to trust in what He has for us and stop comparing ourselves to others.  Easy?  Rarely, but God wants us to find joy in the life He has given us.  How can we have joy if we are constantly comparing ourselves?  Our journey will be as special and unique as we are...

Today, I pray that you rejoice in the new name and purpose God has for you.  That it brings you such joy as you reflect on the path He has chosen for you to tread.  Trust Him to reveal Himself in the divine timing that is solely His.  You are not alone- Trust, Follow, Obey, and grow your Faith.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Disappointments and Failures

Today, I had made plans to spend the day with some fellow homeschool moms.  I have looked forward to this day for several weeks.  So, you can imagine how disappointed I was to have to back out due to Kendall's illness this week.  Sometimes we face disappointments like that as life doesn't always go as planned.  Too many times, an unmet expectation leads to great frustration and heartache.  Such emotions eventually grow a bitter root desperate for resolution- even if it means taking matters into our own hands.  Such, is the heart source of today's reading in Genesis chapter 16.

"Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.) So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!” Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born." (Genesis 16:1-16 NLT)

Sarai had longed for a child deeply.  The frustration and heartache she had carried for countless years had stirred a desperation deep within.  Some moments she would find peace, but too quickly it would be followed by hopeful longings that would eventually fall flat.  When her body changed and all hope seemed lost perhaps she became resolved to the end of that dream, but the nagging "What if's...." remained.  Then, the Lord promised Abram an heir of his own flesh and everything changed again.  Had she begun to dream and hope once again?  Did she begin to believe- just for a moment- that the Lord could do the impossible within her?  Perhaps.... but after many years of waiting, no heir had come.  Frustrated, Sarai makes a desperate plea to Abram in hopes of making God's promise come true.  She would sacrifice herself in an effort to do God's job, but she wasn't prepared for stepping into God's shoes. 

Hagar conceived and both women became embittered.  Hagar most likely felt used and hurt while Sarai felt anger at herself as well as everyone else.  Unneeded sacrifice of self at the hope of prideful gain will only embitter a heart.  Whatever she expected from a possible conception in Hagar was not what she gained.  Abram, probably feeling guilt from going along with it all, does nothing to help the situation and allows Sarai to take out her mix of emotions on Hagar, who eventually runs away.  Unfortunately, running from problems rarely fixes them.  God seeks out Hagar.... let that sink in.  He sought out this servant girl who felt hurt and abandoned- our Father never forgets us... not ever!  He gives her a name for her son and she returns to face all that is ahead.  Much heartache and bitter roots grow out of this seed of self-sufficient efforts, and three people are left forever marked by it. 

Today I read these quotes:

"`Every misfortune, every failure, every loss may be transformed.  God has the power to transform all misfortunes into 'God-sends.'"  Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

"Failure is one of life's most powerful teachers.  How we handle our failures determines whether we're going to simply 'get by' in life or 'press on.'" Beth Moore

"Faith is a desperate dive out of the sinking boat of human effort and a prayer that God will be there to pull us out of the water." Max Lucado

We could easily be critical of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar for their lack of faith or that they trusted more in their human efforts than the almighty God.... but, don't we do the same?  How many times have I tried to fix the problem for God rather than have to wait on His solution?  Just like Sarai, I learned a hard lesson- I would rather wait on Him than walk ahead of Him.  He always knows and does what is best for us!  We will soon see if this failure was transformed, by God, into a special sent blessing and how these three handle themselves in the future.  How about you?  How do you handle failures and disappointments?  Has God used them to weave a beautiful life picture for you? 

"Look to Me in trust, anticipating that My infinite creativity can weave both good choices and bad into a lovely new design....Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses.  Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me...Trust Me, and watch to see what I will do." Sarah Young

That is my prayer for all of us today....Blessings!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cuddle Me

"Mommy, cuddle me!" cried Kendall..... Most of today has been spent with a toddler in my lap.  He has battled a virus and fever all week, and the only place he has felt comfortable has been within my arms.  At first, this brought me joy- not at his being sick- but at his willingness to cuddle.  I have no doubt that these days of cuddling will soon pass and I will be left with an empty lap.  Today, however, I began to feel a little weary and all the tasks left undone seemed to scream for my attention.... the laundry in the hampers, the dishes in the sink and the floors in need of cleaning. 

Then, in a series of moments, I realized that I needed to just rest and savor him and his longing to be with me.  There will be time in the days ahead to catch up on all the housework, but these moments will be lost forever.  So, I focused on just cuddling my sick one realizing that was only thing that had to be done today.  Real motherhood is sacrificial, giving, and loving. 

My friend, God is just as near to us.  He never leaves us.   Our tears and prayers move Him and He responds to our needs.  He longs for time with us.... just resting and savoring our relationship together.  Our busy lifestyle too often pulls us away.... household chores, work duties, and responsibilities scream for our attention.  However, at the end of this life those things will not matter.  Time spent with the Father, is never a waste... it is the most important thing we can do each day- it gives life.

In a way, that is what we are doing, as parents.... when we give sacrificially to them, we model that life-giving relationship with God.  So, cuddle with them and treasure those moments and seek out those same moments with your Father.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Seed of Hope

"And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying,' This one shall not be your heir, but the one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.' 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.'" Genesis 15:4-5 NKJV

Has God ever planted a small seed of hope deep within the inner recesses of your heart and mind?  Often times left to grow and mature as you walk through doubt and longings ... and yet, it grows- that hope hidden so well.  Potential, in Him, is a fierce encourager of faith.  He enables us to be so much more than our minds could dream if we but grasp Him and trust.    Abram knew this... a dream of a new land led him from home and the hope of an heir will be planted deep within.  A dream so large that the night sky could not hold it. 

Join me in Genesis chapter 15.....
"After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 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. Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.... Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—" (Genesis 15:1-10, 13-18 NKJV)

As much as God had blessed Abram, he still felt afraid. Perhaps the threat of a retaliation from the king he had defeated loomed over him, but God once again reminded Abram of who he was... the chosen one to birth a great nation.  My friend, sometimes I forget who I am in Christ and fear begins to plague me, but I am a chosen daughter of the KING.... an heir bought by the blood of the SON.  I have value and worth to Him and He will not abandon me.... He will not abandon you either.

God reminds Abram of all that He has promised to give him, and yet a deep hurt surfaces. Abram reminds the Lord that he has no heir to pass all this land down to because Sarai was barren.  I almost sense the deep cutting hurt of it all.... no heir.... a faithful servant would gain all that God would give.  Can you feel the grief in his words?  Then God plants a seed of hope.... an heir.... born of his flesh.  Could it be?  How many times had he hoped and dreamed for that very thing?  God had him look to the stars in the sky, and Abram's promise in the Lord held more than them.  Abram believed.  Oh, dear friend, what if we believed?  What if we took God at His word and desperately believed Him?  Would we see a potential that outnumbered the stars we see in our night sky?

As a symbol of God's faithfulness regarding all that had been promised, the Lord cut a covenant with Abram.  This process of sacrificing animals for a legal contract was common at that time especially if it was one of a serious nature.  It was symbolic of saying that, if broken, bloodshed would be poured out on the one who broke the contract.  In a sense, God was saying, "I will sign a contract with you and settle this issue once and for all."  My friend, He has signed a blood contract with us too.  The blood of Jesus Christ spilled for our sins, signed the contract for our redemption and seals our promise and potential in Him.  We have no need for worry- what He started in us, He will finish! 

What seed of hope is planted deep within your soul?  Trust God, to grow and mature it for His glory and in His perfect timing.  Until then, seek Him daily and rest in the promise He has for you!


Monday, May 6, 2013

The Pain of Salsa

I know we have been on an incredible journey with Abram over the past week, and it is one that has challenged and grown me personally.  As I have been reading a praying over the adventures still ahead in the scriptures for Abram, I confess being burdened by the heavy topics that we will face.  However, that is life and we must see things from God's perspective.... the only way that can be done is to study His word.  Tomorrow, it is my heart's desire to continue our study of this great faith follower.  Today, however, I feel I need to share a sweet and humorous moment with Kendall yesterday.

We were so blessed to have the opportunity to spend some time with family over the weekend as we attended a family wedding together.  It was beautiful and a wonderful time of laughing and enjoying each other's company.  Yesterday, realizing that everyone was about to leave to head home, we all went for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant after church.  We were seated and the traditional chips and salsa were brought to our table as we waited for our drinks and food.  Even though Kendall is only three, we have brought him up to love Tex-Mex food.  The boy loves his salsa!  He proceeded to dive into his own personal salsa dish.  All was good until he took a bite that was particularly hot.  He began to cry and fuss as I tried to get him to drink some water to cool his mouth down.  When that did not satisfy, I proceeded to sprinkle a little salt on a chip and then rub that on his tongue as salt stops the burning and discomfort.  He immediately stopped fussing and took a long drink.  Then, to all our amazement, he dove right back into the salsa..... before all was said and done, I had "salted" his tongue about 3 more times.  As much as it burned, the salsa was too addicting and he could not leave it alone.

As I have thought about all that this morning, isn't that like sin in our lives?  We start something that we know we shouldn't and then we can't stop.  When the pain becomes too much, we cry out until relief comes, but soon find ourselves back in the addiction that burns.  Why is that?  Why do we do the things that we know will hurt?  Sin is addicting..... it seems to bring satisfaction until the pain becomes too much to bear.  In Kendall's case, I could have removed the salsa, but he has to learn the art of restraint.  God could remove all temptations from our lives as well, but He knows that it is better for us to learn restraint and discipline which will grow us deeper and closer to Him.

I have to chuckle too, because what are believers called in the scriptures?  Salt.... Believers can help put out the fire and pain of sin in the lives of people who are hurting and needing the relief that only Christ can give.  Today, I am going to pray for eyes to see and ears to hear opportunities to be salt in this world.  I am also praying for you.  I would love to hear from you- please feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, or become a follower of this blog.  When we join together, walking the journey becomes easier....


Friday, May 3, 2013

God Nourishes

"You must know that God was with Abram and his men.... they battled, but God was the strength behind the sword." (Sure Steps)

The battle against Kedorlaomer and his allies was finished.  Have no doubt that it was God's victory as he enabled Abram, yet again, to do more than he could humanly do in his own strength.   I can only imagine how tired and weary Abram and his men were at this point.  Have you ever been through a battle with a something big and felt God gave you a victory over it?  There is such a rush after all is said and done, but often we are left weary.  Last week, I was battling a decision with the Lord and once I finally came to the realization of what He was calling me to do, there was relief.... but, I was a little weary from the struggle.  Have you been there?  I think most of us have at some point.  Often, that is when God provides the nourishment we need- a scripture, encouraging word from a friend, physical rest and the list could go on.  God continually nourishes us and prepares us for what is next on His purpose-filled agenda for us.  That is where we find Abram at the end of chapter 14 in Genesis.

"After Abram returned from his victory over Kedorlaomer and all his allies, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. Melchizedek blessed Abram with this blessing: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.” Then Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods he had recovered. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give back my people who were captured. But you may keep for yourself all the goods you have recovered.” Abram replied to the king of Sodom, “I solemnly swear to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you. Otherwise you might say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich.’ I will accept only what my young warriors have already eaten, and I request that you give a fair share of the goods to my allies—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre.” (Genesis 14:17-24 NLT)

As Abram is returning with his men and allies, he is greeted by the king of Sodom and Melchizedek who is described as a priest of the God Most High.  There is much debate over  Melchizedek's appearance in the scriptures and who, in fact, he was.... some have believed he was a real man while others have even wondered if he was an appearance of the preincarnate Christ.  My desire is to focus on the two things I do know about him- that he was used by God on this day and that he was a committed follower of the Most High God.  When he came to meet Abram, his purpose was to refresh physically as well as spiritually.  He brought bread and wine to nourish the physical bodies, but he also packed a blessing for Abram.  "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you." He was that word of encouragement to Abram to continue trusting and believing in the seed of hope that God had planted within- to trust and see whose strength and hands Abram was firmly rooted in...  the Most High God.  For Melchizedek to come to this point in his own journey with the Father reveals that He has a deep rooted faith as well.  He had been given eyes to see, ears to hear, and wisdom to know that God was real, alive and active in their lives.  Abram honors him by giving a tenth of all the goods that had been recovered to him- much like our giving a tenth of our income to the church. 

Then, Abram must handle his other "guest," the king of Sodom.  If you haven't made the connection yet- you soon will- Sodom was NOT a God-honoring city.  We will soon find out just how bad things were in that city, but at this point, this king is attempting to recover the people who were taken when Kedorlaomer plundered them.  Abram, by the wisdom of God, had already committed in his heart not to take a thing from the wealth recovered.  He was fully entitled to it; so, why would he not claim it and add to his riches?  It was impure wealth that would taint Abram-others might link his success to the cities who were plundered rather than God.  He wanted only the Father to get credit for the blessings in his life.... what a life lesson for us.  How often do we view our successes as our own?  My friend, nothing we have comes from anything other than God.  Our talents, abilities, gifts, and provision all come from the Father- it is all His, but ours to use for a time.  That is why it is so important to acknowledge that with our tithes and offerings to Him.  By doing so, we recognize that it is HE who grants, blesses and uses us for His purpose and glory.

Today, my friend, let us give praise to Him for all that He is doing in our lives.  Even if you are in the midst of a struggle, give a praise offering- sacrifice- for what He is going to do in and through you.  He will bring you out of that hard journey when you seek Him.  If God is doing something special in your life right now- praise Him and share with others what He is doing.  Our world needs to know what Melchizedek knew- that He is real, alive and active in our lives.  Use this day, to truly recognize all that He is to you and praise Him for it.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sure Steps

"By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home.  When he left he had no idea where he was going.  By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents." Hebrews 11:8-9

My friends, you have no idea how sweet and beautiful this passage is to me this morning.   God has been leading me down a new journey as well.  In the next few days, I hope to share all that He is doing with our family....but, for now, I ask for your prayers.

God has drawn me to our faith-walking Abram (soon to be Abraham) and how he shows a history of obeying (in blindness) our God.  He wasn't perfect as we studied just a few days ago, but even in his mistakes, God was glorified.  God doesn't expect perfection- remember it is HE who knitted us in the womb.  More than anyone, He knows our limitations, but He still chooses to use us for His kingdom work.  Our Father enables us to be all that He needs to complete His purpose and that is what He did with Abram.  All He asks is that we are willing-willing to abandon all that we have known to walk a new journey- often in blindness- but with the assurance that He will never leave us. 

If Abram thought this journey would be easy and free of conflict, he was wrong.  Life is still life and as we studied yesterday, soon conflict arose with Lot, his nephew.  In order to make peace, Abram offers Lot his choice of land in which to settle.  Lot, seeing a more profitable option, chose the land that seemed to hold more potential.... in a sinful land.  Remember when my boys had the great idea to launch themselves from one bed to another across the room? (Fertile Land)  It seemed like a good idea at the time- but, would bring much heartache.  Often that is the result when we look at things from the world's point of view. 

So, Lot leaves with visions of prosperity in His head.... if you have a Bible, we will be looking at Genesis 14 in it's entirety.  I will share our "focus verses" which include Genesis 14:11-16.

"The victorious invaders then plundered Sodom and Gomorrah and headed for home, taking with them all the spoils of war and the food supplies. They also captured Lot—Abram’s nephew who lived in Sodom—and carried off everything he owned. But one of Lot’s men escaped and reported everything to Abram the Hebrew, who was living near the oak grove belonging to Mamre the Amorite. Mamre and his relatives, Eshcol and Aner, were Abram’s allies. When Abram heard that his nephew Lot had been captured, he mobilized the 318 trained men who had been born into his household. Then he pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan. There he divided his men and attacked during the night. Kedorlaomer’s army fled, but Abram chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives." (Genesis 14:11-16 NLT)

The areas of Sodom and Gomorrah decided to rebel against another king that had been ruling over them, and as a result a great battle ensued.  Sodom and Gomorrah lost and as the King Kedorlaomer and his army chased them, Lot and his family were plundered.  They and all of their possessions were taken, but by God's grace, one servant escaped and fled to Abram.  It would have been easy for Abram to recognize the strength of this enemy and have backed away in fear.... the consequences were too much. But, God enabled Abram to have great courage in the moment of need- not a lack of fear, but strong willingness to follow God into battle despite the fear.  He pursued Kedorlaomer's army and defeated them rescuing Lot, his family and all his possessions.  My friend, this was no small feat considering the armies this group had already defeated- many were brutal and ruthless in origin.  You must know that God was with Abram and his men.... they battled, but God was the strength behind the sword.

Lot, was rescued, but he still returned to the land near Sodom and Gomorrah.  What?  Yes, we find later in scriptures that he returned to that land and his struggles will continue.  This may very well have been a test for Lot to draw him back to the land of promise with his uncle Abram, but the pull for worldly prosperity is too much for Lot.  He will later lose all that Abram rescued and more.....

My friend, what kind of faith do you have or desire today?  The faith of Abram or the faith of Lot?  Only you can decide...but, know that God desires so much more for you than what this world would grant you.  Trust God... the path may be blurry, but your steps will never be more sure.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fertile Land

Last night, I went into the younger boys' bedroom to ready things for them as bedtime preparations were beginning when I realized that they had been launching themselves from one bed, across the room in an attempt to land in Kendall's crib.  I had a mix of emotions... one part angry- there were many dangers or potential threats in their "path".  One part of me was amazed- what made them think that they could do such a thing?  I also felt blessed that God had once again protected them from themselves.  Some decisions we make can seem so "right" in the moment, but in hindsight leave us shaking our head wondering what we were thinking at the time.

This morning, as I continued on in my study of Abraham, I came to one such moment.  Look with me at Genesis chapter 13 starting on verse 5.....

"Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord." (Genesis 13:5-18 NIV)

My Friend, even as we live as the redeemed of Christ, we will still endure conflict.  We live in fallen and frail human skins and as a result conflict will be in our lives.  God often uses it to grow and mature our faith and sometimes it is used to make us long for our true home in heaven.  Regardless, conflict is part of daily life.  In this case, Abraham chose to try and make peace by offering Lot his preference in the land.  I think he wanted peace beyond possessions.  That should be true of us, but it is hard isn't it?  In the midst of difficult situations, do we desire peace beyond possessing our justification, anger,and bitterness or do we cling to it like a prized treasure.  As the elder of the two, Abraham could have ordered Lot to take the "leftover" land and have claimed which ever portion he desired more, but his great love for his nephew was sacrificial.  That is the thing about genuine Godly love- it is often giving and sacrificial.

Lot, in looking at his two options chose to claim the land that looked the best- it was lush and green.  It appeared fertile for growing his livestock, but it would instead grow heartache.  In life, what may appear to be good from appearances is not always what is best.  That is why we so desperately need to seek the will of the Father daily for guidance and direction.  Lot left probably thinking that life was going to better than ever, but as we will see, it will be his downfall.   Abraham, in his sacrificial love, chose to take the less appealing area of land, but God made it clear that he would bless the sacrifice.  God would make the barren land fertile.... blessings beyond all that our faith-walking Abram could imagine. 

My friend, sometimes we may feel that the path ahead seems bleak and barren, but it is the perfect ground for God to make us fertile with potential in HIM.  He loves nothing more than to bless us out of dry land when we seek His strength and provision realizing that it is beyond the limits of our abilities.  As we will see, God does bless Abraham and He does the same for us.  Hang on to all that He has done for you in the past and all that He is capable of.... nothing is beyond His reach.  

One thing of note, is that Abraham's first action was to build an altar to praise and glorify the Father.  The blessings had not begun, but he was praising God in advance.  What about us?  Do we praise and honor Him with obedience in preparation of what He will do for us?  Ouch!  That means even when the "solution" doesn't seem to be on the horizon, we praise Him for it in advance.... that is faith.  God knows that when we praise Him in the midst of struggle that our faith is enough to carry us through until that work is completed in us.  Praise softens and prepares our hearts and minds- making them fertile for the outcome that God has prepared for us.  Not much is harder... praising Him in the midst of heart wrenching tears and brokenness is desperate faith, but little stirs Him more than the broken tenderness of His children clinging to their hope in Him.

Today, whatever you are facing, seek Him and His wisdom.  Trust that He will make your barren situation fertile with potential spiritual growth and praise Him while you wait.  He will not fail you!

We will continue with our study of Abraham... I hope this has been blessing you.  I know God is using it in my life.... I would love to hear your stories.  Please connect with me through Facebook or Twitter and share what God is doing in your life right now!