Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear Abby,

I have an urgent problem!  My husband (I’ll call him, Joe) has managed to offend the Crown Prince of my country.  The secret service agents came to him to ask for a favor on behalf of the soon-to-be-king.  My husband refused, in the rudest and most insulting way.  I am absolutely mortified! I can’t imagine that retribution of some kind isn’t already on its way. 
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time my husband has done something like this.  In fact, he does it all the time!  It’s like he goes out of his way to make people angry at him.  And if he’s been drinking, …well, it’s just a matter of time before he has started a fight with someone.
I feel trapped in this marriage.  Divorce is out of the question, but I feel like the victim here.  I end up suffering because of his idiocy.   What can I do, Abby? 
A Fool’s Wife

Dear Wife,
Believe it or not, I once found myself in an amazingly similar situation.   My husband was so bad that everyone called him a fool to his face and he didn’t even care.  He was selfish, mean, rude, and just plain unpleasant to everyone, all the time. 
Here’s my advice.  First you have to accept that you can’t change him.  He is going to continue to be however he is until he’s ready to change…and that may be never.
Second, realize that the only person you can control is you. Once you come to understand that, you will begin to feel less like a victim. 
Remember, God is in control and even when events don’t make any sense to you, they do to Him.   That thought, too, will help you move out of the victim mentality.
Now, for this current situation, you need to take some quick and decisive steps to break the chain of events.  Whatever favor it was that the secret service men originally asked for, do it immediately.
In my own situation, all they had asked was to share in the plenty of our yearly sheep shearing celebration.  After my crazy husband turned them away, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the Crown Prince’s men would arrive to take vengeance on my husband as well as the rest of us. 
I knew I couldn’t let that happen!  As soon as my helpers told my what had happened I “took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes.” I Samuel 25:18  I loaded it all on donkeys and sent it on ahead.  Then I got on a donkey and road to meet the prince.  It was the longest ride of my life.  I was thinking hard what to say, and I was praying that God would give me the right words to calm the prince and his men.
And He did!  God showed me what to say and it worked.  So that's what you need to do:  lean on God for wisdom and grace to handle the ridiculous situations that your husband might put you in.

Mrs. White has only good things to say about the way Abigail handled this frightening encounter.
“In the character of Abigail, … we have an illustration of womanhood after the order of Christ, while her husband illustrates what a man may become who yields himself to the control of Satan. ...
“Abigail saw that something must be done to avert the result of Nabal’s fault, and that she must take the responsibility of acting immediately, without the counsel of her husband. She knew that it would be useless to speak to him, for he would receive her proposition only with abuse and contempt. He would remind her that he was the lord of his household, that she was his wife and therefore in subjection to him and must do as he should dictate.... She gathered together such stores as she thought best to conciliate the wrath of David, for she knew he was determined to avenge himself for the insult he had received....
“Abigail’s course in this matter was one that God approved, and the circumstance revealed in her a noble spirit and character.... Abigail met David with respect, showing him honor and deference, and pleaded her cause eloquently and successfully. While not excusing her husband’s insolence, she still pleaded for his life. She also revealed the fact that she was not only a discreet woman, but a godly woman, acquainted with the works and ways of God in David.
“'A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.'  Proverbs 15:1.
“Abigail’s manner and conciliatory gifts softened the spirit of David. He declared that it had been his intention to destroy Nabal and his household, but that now he would refrain from vengeance, for he believed that she had been sent by the Lord to prevent him from doing so great an evil. He promised that her request should be ever remembered, even when he should sit as ruler over Israel, and he would never seek retaliation for the insult of Nabal.”[1]
How do you think you'd react in a situation like that?  I think I'd be tempted to throw anyone who had placed me in such a dangerous situation “under the bus” then stand back and watch.  It's easy to feel that way when someone gets his (or her) come-uppance, right?  You tend to feel like that person got exactly what he deserved, but Abigail actually apologized for her husband.
Is there anyone who would claim that Abigail didn't have every right to be furious with Nabal?  Would anybody think that she shouldn't have been afraid of David and his men destroying Nabal and his entire household – herself, the staff, and any children that might have been in the vicinity?  How many of us are able to think calmly and/or rationally with a life-ending situation like this one bearing down on her? 

[1]E.G. White, Christ Triumphant, page 144-145

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Are We Here?

The big question is, “Why are we here?”  Hmmmm…That IS a good question.   Ya know, philosophers, and others, have devoted reams of paper and oceans of ink to answering that question, but is all that really necessary?  I mean, if we’re here because of some cosmic mutation then the answer is easy, “No reason at all, we’re all just accidents.”  Or if, as I believe, we were thoughtfully and lovingly created, then we don’t need to waste paper and ink to figure it out, because God tells us why we’re here.
Or does He?  Rick Warren has written his book, The Purpose Driven Life, and he tells us all that God put us here with a purpose, and he’s sold bunches and bunches of books telling folks how to find out what God’s purpose is.  I know lots of people who have read it; I’ve read parts of it; my kids have read parts of it.  I think we have three copies at home right now.  But does Warren’s book tell us anything we didn’t already know? 
Didn’t God pretty much tell us, through Adam and Eve in Genesis 2, our purpose? 
Have you read Genesis 2 lately?  I had always read it as just an adjunct to chapter 1 and hadn’t thought too much about it on its own.  But I’m not sure, that in many ways it isn’t even more important than the basic creation story.  Chapter 2 tells us, not just who we are, but who we are in relationship to God.
From here it should be easy, right?  Well, maybe I’m slow, but it hasn’t been for me.  I still struggled with finding my purpose.  I think sometime I get confused.  I want God to tell me how to use my talents for Him (specifically and exactly, no guesswork).  But I think “our purpose” is something God wants us to discover for ourselves, with His help.  What He does tell us very clearly, is humanity’s reason for being here.  Genesis 2 tells us that our first reason for living is to worship our Creator by keeping the Sabbath.
Can you imagine that first Sabbath on earth?  Adam and Eve hadn’t even been in the Garden for 24 hours yet; everything is brand new, and God comes to them to spend the Sabbath with them…in person.  I’m not sure I can imagine what that would be like.  How many Sabbaths do you think Adam and Eve and God had together like that before the Fall?  Can you imagine the Sabbaths after the Fall?  I’ll bet they were heartbreaking.  I mean for us, mostly, Sabbath is a nice time to rest after a tough week, socialize with our church friends, and maybe squeeze in a nap before jumping back into the rat-race.  But for Adam and Eve, think of it, they spent a whole day walking and talking and learning from the God of the Universe!  Would anybody want to go home for a nap? I’m looking forward to Sabbath in Heaven, but how will I know how to act if I haven’t practiced here first?
Worshiping isn’t our only purpose though.  God told Adam and Eve to take care of the Garden and the animals.  Did they really need taking care of?  The world was perfect.  There weren’t weeds or plant destroying bugs.  There weren’t going to be any leaves to clean up or branches that fell down, so why did God tell them to work?  Ellen White has this excellent explanation:   “The Lord knew that Adam could not be happy without labor, therefore he gave him the pleasant employment of dressing the garden. And, as he tended the things of beauty and usefulness around him, he could behold the goodness and glory of God in his created works. Adam had themes for contemplation in the works of God in Eden, which was Heaven in miniature. God did not form man merely to contemplate his glorious works, therefore he gave him hands for labor, as well as a mind and heart for contemplation. If the happiness of man consisted in doing nothing, the Creator would not have given Adam his appointed work. In labor, man was to find happiness as well as in meditation. Adam could reflect that he was created in the image of God, to be like him in righteousness and holiness. His mind was capable of continual cultivation, expansion, refinement and noble elevation; for God was his teacher, and angels were his companions.” {RH, February 24, 1874 par. 8}
 God gave us work to be a blessing.  That’s not how we normally think of our jobs is it? Come on, how long would you be happy doing absolutely nothing all day, every day.  Not long for me.  Work makes us happy.  Even in Heaven we will have work to do.
Another of our reasons for being here is to obey the laws of God.  God gave Adam and Eve a rule and Satan tried to get them to break it.  It’s the same for us.  God has given us some rules, and our job is not to break them.  Unfortunately, Satan has other plans.  The universe is watching, and Satan wants God to look like the bad guy, making Him seem arbitrary and vindictive.  When we follow God’s rules out of the love in our hearts, we prove Satan wrong and show the universe the truth about God.
And, finally, God has told us to be involved with other people, in marriage, at work, and in worship.  We aren’t meant to be solitary beings.  Satan can get to us best when we don’t interact with and rely on others.  That’s how Satan got to Eve; he waited to catch her alone and then started in on her.  God is a social God; He put the need for social interaction within us as well.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be looking forward to spending time with Him in Heaven.  It’s our job to be social.
To worship Him, to work for Him, to obey Him, and to be a part of society – God has given us this purpose.  Is He asking too much?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Are We Safe or Saved?

Think about the day Noah and his family came out of the ark.  A year earlier God had destroyed all but eight people on the earth.  Noah comes off the ark and starts building a new world. 
Remember howt New Orleans looked after Katrina?  I can’t imagine that on a world-wide scale.  What do you think Noah and his family saw when they stepped off the ark?  What do you think they smelled?  YIKES!  Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would be to wake up every morning remembering how the land had looked before the flood and then meeting the new reality?  You’re living in tents, nothing fresh to eat (that you’re used to eating anyway).  Vegetarians, think about it, you’ve never eaten meat in your life, but now, just to stay alive, you have to start.  You have to learn how to kill, skin and gut the animals so that you can cook them and eat them.  Sure, Noah had done some of it before to make sacrifices…but I’ll bet it’s different to realize that you’re going to be eating it later.  Do you think it smelled good the first time they cooked?  Do you think it tasted good to them?  I’ll bet the texture was pretty scary for someone who was used to eating fruits, vegetables and nuts.
It takes a very special kind of person to be able to take chaos and turn it into order.  God knew that He could trust Noah to get things moving in the right direction.  It’s one thing to take care of the rebuilding and replanting, but then add the humans back into the mix…having to teach each new generation about God and all the things that had happened so far.  What a sense of responsibility!  The first couple of generations probably were not so difficult because the scars of the flood were probably still easy to see and the ark was near by.  But as generations of people grew and heard second and third hand retellings of the flood and about a god that was so angry that he destroyed the earth…well, they weren’t so sure.  You know how stories and legends grow and change.  Remember the fairy tale of the brave little tailor.  His story started out with him killing seven flies at once, but through intentionally misleading and ambiguous statements, he led people to believe that he had killed seven men at one time.  His legend grew, and he became more feared until no one knew how to get rid of him.  He ended up as a king.  Well, in the generations after the flood, I believe that Satan used the same types of intentional misdirection to cause people to be frightened of God and to think of Him as sneaky, arbitrary and vengeful.  Pretty soon, people didn’t believe the rainbow promise. 
It was one quick step from there to their new king, Nimrod, convincing them that he needed to protect them from God and starting to build the Tower of Babel.  The people had stopped trusting God.
As I sit here in my comfy chair, having had plenty to eat and think, “I wouldn’t let that happen to me.”
Uh, yeah, and, if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Oklahoma to sell you.  True, some of us would hang onto God, but the vast majority of us would crumble and fight to be the one to put down the first brick. 
So, here we are, “As it was in the days of Noah…” People all around us are telling us that we can’t trust God to keep His promises to us.  Lies about who Jesus is, are everywhere.  Unbelievably, over half of the people living in the United States today say that they’re not sure if God exists.  Man, how do we get from a nation founded on God to being a nation with a Christian minority in just over 200 years?  And where do we go from here?  Are we trusting God to keep His promises to us?  Or are we busy building our own Tower of Babel?  Are we trusting national or church leaders to make our decisions for us?  Do we think if we earn this much more money we’ll be safe?  What if we insulate ourselves from “the outside world”?
I know that is my own tendency.  If I just stay within my house, my own little life, and don’t step out of my comfort zone, then I’ll be okay; I’ll be safe.  But is that what God really wants us to do?  Were Noah and his family more worried about safety or salvation?  What about Jesus and His disciples?  What about me?

Friday, October 15, 2010


What’s the definition of a friend? Will your definition match mine? Is a worldly friend different than a Christian friend? Are there good friends and bad friends, or are there only friends and enemies? Are Facebook friends and IRL (in-real-life) friends equally important?

Oswald Chambers offers offers an amazingly clear and concise description of what a friend is in Volume 1 of Men of Integrity:
“A friend is one who makes me do my best.”1
That's a great definition, but I don't believe it's the one most of us apply most often. Many of us might feel more inclined to apply this definition of friend, found on plaques and t-shirts everywhere: “A good friend will com and bail you out of jail...a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, '[man], that was fun!'” Which, of course, implies the exact opposite of Chambers' quote. So, which is it – someone who brings out the best in you or someone who gets in trouble with you?
The Bible tells us about some amazing friendships. Probably one of the best known is the story of Jonathan and David. Jonathan and David first met on the day that David killed Goliath. It seems like Jonathan was a good bit older than David, but David's belief that God was stronger than any old giant really made an imprint on Jonathan. Maybe it was because he felt the same way, I don't know. Maybe he had wanted to go out there and face Goliath, but wasn't allowed to because he was the Crown Prince. Who knows, but from that day on, Jonathan and David were BFFs.
“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.” I Samuel 18:1-4
Even when Jonathan realized that David was going to take his thrown away from him, he was completely okay with it. Have you ever had a friend like that? Most of us would have a really hard time being friends with someone who was going to take something as important as a kingdom away from us. Can you see yourself in Jonathan's situation?
USA Today writer, Sharon Raboin relates the storie of Esther Kim and Kay Poe, both Olympic hopefuls and best
“For tae kwon do star Esther Kim, age 20, going to the Olympics has been a long-time dream. She came very close to embracing that dream at the Olympic trials, where she was scheduled to fight her best friend, Kay Poe, who was ranked number one in the world.
“But Poe had injured her knee in the semi-finals match and could barely stand up. Obviously Kim could have easily defeated Poe. But she believed such a match-up would hardly be fair. In an instant, she decided to forfeit, automatically sending Poe to the Olympics.
“The moment she made her decision, Kim knew it was right. 'I thought, It's not like I'm going to be throwing my dream away. I'm just going to be handing it over to Kay.'
“Kim's magnanimity was affirmed when she was given the Citizenship Through Sports Award, which recognizes exemplary citizenship, sportsmanship, ethical conduct, and community service. In addition, the International Olympic Committee agreed to pay for her and her father (coach of Kim and Poe) to go to the Sydney Olympics.
“Though some people were critical of her decision, Kim knows she made the right decision. She says, 'Even though I didn't have the gold medal around me, for the first time in my life, I felt like a real champion.'”2
Wow, that's a pretty amazing friendship, isn't it? I'd really have to struggle with something like that. What about you? Especially to do that and then to stay friends afterward. I mean some of us might step aside because we knew it was the right thing to do, but then we'd probably become resentful and ultimately end the friendship. But apparently Kim and Poe have a friendship like Jonathan and David.

Jonathan had the added complication of his father, Saul. Saul might have been what we call today, bi-polar. A few years ago, we called it manic-depression. Whatever it was called, though, it made Saul unpredictable and dangerous. His moods swung wildly between wanting David in the thrown room with him, playing and soothing with his music, and hunting him through the wilderness trying to kill him. In the middle of that chaos stood Jonathan, walking the tight rope of honoring his father, the king, and keeping him from murdering David, the next king.

Do you think you could be a friend like Jonathan? Do you have a friend like Jonathan? Jesus is a friend like Jonathan … even more than Jonathan, really. Jonathan would have, at some point, let David down, but Jesus will never disappoint you and me. Even though we may let Him down, He will never love us any less.

According to christian speaker, Tony Campolo,
“God carries your picture in his wallet.”3
Max Lucado describes Christ's unreasonable friendship with us like this:
“He saw you cast into a river of life you didn't request. He saw you betrayed by those you love. He saw you with a body that gets sick and a heart that grows weak. He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your own garden of Gethsemane and he didn't want you to be alone ... He would rather go to hell for you than to heaven without you.”4
E.G. White describes what He did for us like this:
“Today He [Christ] is making an atonement for us before the Father. 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' Pointing to the palms of His hands, pierced by the fury and prejudice of wicked men, He says of us, 'I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands' [Isaiah49:16]. The Father bows in recognition of the price paid for humanity,and the angels approach the cross of Calvary with reverence. What a sacrifice is this! Who can fathom it! It will take the whole of eternity for man to understand the plan of redemption. It will open to him line upon line, here a little and there a little.”5
How can we turn away from that kind of love? Jesus is sending you a friend request … will you click 'confirm' or 'ignore'?

1 Oswald Chambers, Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
2 Sharon Raboin, "Forfeiting Dream Made Kim 'Feel Like Champion,'" USA Today (6-27-00), p.11C
3 Tony Campolo, Christian speaker. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1
4 Max Lucado, “Max Ludado quotes”, Goodreads,
5 E.G. White, SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, page 481

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

“By faith Abraham…”

I’ve thought a lot about Abram/Abraham. He is an amazing man of God. Think about him for a minute. Can you imagine leaving your family, your friends and your livelihood on the strength of a…of a what? See, that’s my problem right there. The Bible says that God appeared to Abram and told him to leave everything he knew. Well, for the most part, I know that people don’t see God these days, but I hear people say pretty often that God has told them to do this or that thing. If you ask these people if they heard an actual voice, they will say they didn’t hear an audible voice (because we have medication for people who hear voices that nobody else hears, right?). These people will say that they had an impression or a thought and they knew it was “God’s Voice”. My question is, “How did they know?”
OK, OK, I know, if the impression is to buy a lunch for the homeless guy on the corner or to sponsor a missionary trip, that makes total sense. But what do you do when that impression is to quit your job? or sell your house and move into a trailer? or anything else that doesn’t seem to make sense? How do I know that it’s God telling me to do that thing? Maybe I’ve just lost my mind.
I have to say that, in retrospect, I have seen God’s leading in my life. But, while I’m in the midst of day-to-day life, I can’t say that I feel with any certainty God is leading in my life. I’m not saying that I don’t KNOW with every fiber of my being that He’s there; I believe that He is always with me and leading me. But sometimes I don’t feel it, and sometimes, I’m not sure that I’m following His leading. And that’s my point. How do I know that I am doing what God wants me to do?
Some of you will remember the slogan of the ‘70’s – “If it feels good, do it!” I hear people who apply that theory to finding the will of God. You’ll know that you are walking with God when your path opens up, and it’s clear sailing. There are others who say just the opposite: If you run into one roadblock after another, you must be in God’s will because Satan is trying to side track you. So…which is it?
Last May, my family and I planned a trip to go visit my brother and his family up near Ft. Worth for Memorial Day. My son was going to preach in my brother’s church. In preparation, I took my car in to be checked over for the trip. The mechanic calls and says that there is something major wrong, but he can’t figure it out. The car was all taken apart and wouldn’t be ready in time for our trip. We decided to rent an SUV and go on with the trip. Thursday afternoon, I picked up the car. It was soooo nice!
We were leaving on Friday afternoon. I needed to do a bunch of stuff before we left, so I was out running errands in the morning. One of the first things I did was to take some stuff here to the church so that it would be there for Sabbath. I pulled up, grabbed the stuff and my church keys and ran into the building. I dropped the things I had brought, wrote a quick note, and ran back to the car…only to find the driver’s side window bashed in and my purse gone. A lot of you have probably had similar experiences and can remember that initial feeling of complete and total disbelief. Followed almost immediately anger, frustration and panic… I know, guys, that doesn’t seem such a big deal, but my purse was BRAND NEW!! No, really, the actual purse was the least of my worries. I carry everything in my purse – checkbook, credit cards, cell phone, cash (thankfully not much), my social security card and both of my sons’ cards as well, my medication, spare car keys, library cards, and, horror of horrors, my make-up!
The point of this whole story is that my first thought was, “God doesn’t want us to take this trip.” And my second thought was, “Satan doesn’t want us to take this trip.” Or, maybe it was neither. Maybe, it was just one of those random happenings with no cosmic importance attached to it.
So, where does that leave us on the big decisions like jobs, houses, and marriage? I’ve met people who have prayed for help and wisdom and received amazing answers to their prayers. They’ve asked for a sign and received an unmistakable, undeniable sign from God. Others have turned to the Bible and God has led them to the exact scripture that they need to read at that moment. What a blessing! I have to admit that I can’t think of any times that I have experienced such concrete information. And, as I think of it, I think that finding the will of God is more of a relationship issue than anything else. What I mean is, I can’t go along following my own way until I think I need God’s help. I can open my Bible over and over again, and I can read a bunch of verses/chapters, but I don’t think my answer will be there. Especially if I haven’t been reading my Bible every day to begin with.
Abraham had that kind of relationship with God. He left everything he knew because God asked him to. He didn’t even know where God was taking him! Abraham knew the sound of God’s voice (whether or not it was audible to anyone else). Even so, Abraham had a couple of fairly significant lapses of faith. Even though he talked to God, he struggled like we do. Abraham walked with God step by step, every minute of everyday, and he still made mistakes and had crises of faith. That gives me so much hope.
I want to learn to recognize the sound of God’s voice in my heart. I want to know His voice so well that whatever He asks of me, I will do it – without question. I want to recognize God’s leading in every situation, and not get God’s directions mixed up with Satan’s misdirections.

Friday, October 8, 2010

You First

Commentary on Sabbath School Lesson for October 9, 2010

Have you ever played the punch game? It goes like this: Someone says, “Let's see which of us can punch softer? You get to go first.” Chances are, you only fell for that once. “You first “ are usually the last words you hear before you are on the receiving end of something very unpleasant. Ex.: Let's see who can do the best belly flop off the high dive … you first. Let's see who can fly farthest off this cliff … you first.

It may happen differently sometimes, but, in the end, you will probably feel hung out to dry. And that's a bad place to be, isn't it?

Caleb, (one of the Israelite spies – that Caleb) found himself in a place like that. Joshua, Caleb and ten other guys went across the Jordan River to do some recon on the Promised Land. Now, I don't know whether the group had any discussion before reporting back to base camp, but I'm thinking Joshua and Caleb thought they knew what the report was going to be...and then the other ten spies started improvising. And as if ten against two weren't bad enough, all the Israelites sided with the ten. Total bummer. Read Ellen White's take on the whole episode:
“ ... 'And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and ... said ..., Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or … in this wilderness!'...
“Those who bore the discouraging report … served the satanic powers in complete rebellion. And they carried the disappointed congregation with them, in that they believed their interpretation of the land. The congregation took the wrong side, and ... cried out against the faithful spies, and bade them stone Joshua and Caleb, who dared to bear the truthful representation in regard to the land.”1
When the whole group started talking about stoning Joshua and Caleb, Joshua looked at Caleb and said, “You know what? I'm done.” Caleb rolled his eyes and said, “For reals, dude, I am so outa here.” Then they both walked out of the camp, crossed back to the other side of the Jordan, and lived happily ever after.

Oh, wait, no, that's what I'd do. What really happened next is amazing! God said, “Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times ... will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” Numbers 14:21-24

Even more amazing, to me anyway, is that when God turned them back into the wilderness to spend the next forty years, Caleb went with them. Can you imagine how his heart broke when he walked away from the promised land?

I'm pretty sure I'd've been really tempted to stand at the Jordan and wave to the whole tribe. The next forty years must have been awful for Caleb. I have to think that the Israelites didn't just “let bygones be bygones.” I bet they found someway to make the whole thing Caleb's fault, and then rub his nose in it for forty years.

I believe that most of us would have taken off on our own, set up camp somewhere next to the Jordan and just waited until God brought the Israelites back. The temptation to let his disappointment turn into resentment must have been almost unbearable. Caleb could very easily have become a bitter, disillusioned old man by the time the Israelites came back to the Jordan River...but he didn't. Many people in the same situation would have been mad at God because they got the same consequences as the grumblers. But Caleb wasn't. How was that possible?

Well, I have a theory – Caleb paid attention.

That's it. Caleb paid attention when God, through Moses and Aaron, freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. He paid attention at the Red Sea...the manna,the water from the stone, the whole snake episode … he paid attention to what God did. Caleb knew that when God said He the land would be theirs … He would give them the land! The size or the number of the people who lived there didn't make any difference at all.

Caleb didn't spend any time looking at the present circumstances or looking back at his life in Egypt. God said they were going to the land of milk and honey, so that's where they were going. Even when public opinion turned against him, he kept his eyes and his heart on God, making everything else, immaterial.

In Christianity Today, F. B. Meyer describes what must have been Caleb's philosophy of life.
“It is a mistake to be always turning back to recover the past. The law for Christian living is not backward, but forward; ... for doing the will of God, which is always ahead and beckoning us to follow. ... reach forward to those [things] that are before, ... Don't fret because life's joys are fled. There are more in front. Look up, press forward, the best is yet to be!”2
It takes a brave man (or woman) to look into the faces of a million or so angry people and believe that God is standing with you. It takes a person who has spent enough time with God to be able to really know Him.

Have you and I spent that kind of time with God? Could we stand for God's way when no one else will? Do we believe when we're in that situation, God is standing with us? Have we been paying attention? “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose … If God is for us, who can be against us? ... Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? Who is he that condemns? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:28-39

1E.G. White, Church Triumphant, page 119
2F.B. Meyer, “Our Daily Walk,” Christianity Today, Vol. 40, No.1

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

God and Abraham

I heard a speaker who was pretty tough on Abraham for doubting God when God told him he was going to be the father of many nations. I don’t know if I can be that hard on Abraham. I mean, it was really a case of, “Who are ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” Right? Abraham knew the earthly reality of the situation: Sarah was just plain too old to have kids! I think he wanted to believe what God told him, but he could only get as far as his human brain would take him. He forgot that God doesn’t have to color inside the lines. Very simply, Abraham limited God, and in doing so, cost himself and Sarah a lot of happiness, not to mention, the world a lot of peace!

Do you ever think about that? All the problems in the Middle East, even the 9/11 attack, can be traced back to Abraham and Sarah trying to help God keep His promise for a son. Did God need their help? Does God need our help to keep His promises to us? I have a hard time with that…I want to help! I want to speed things up! So I run out in front of God and smack into a brick wall. One of these days, I’m going to quit trying to help God give me what I think I need. But until then, I can read the story of Abraham and Sarah and be reassured that even when I lack the faith that God wants me to have, He still loves me. Even when I get out in front of Him and mess things up, He will keep His promise. In Abraham’s case, not only did God keep His promise, but He came and told Abraham face to face! Isn’t God wonderful?

God keeps all kinds of promises; the promises we like and the ones we don’t like so well. And this next part of Abraham’s story is about that other kind of promise.

Remember, Lot picked Sodom because it looked like the most comfortable part of the landscape. He did not want to have to work too hard. He wanted an easier life. And that got him in trouble. In Patriarchs and Prophets, Ellen White says that few things are more dangerous to the human heart and soul than a life where there is not want. “Idleness and riches make the heart hard that has never been oppressed by want or burdened by sorrow.” (p.156) She goes on to describe the people of Sodom:
There is nothing more desired among me than riches and leisure, and yet these gave birth to the sins that brought destruction upon the cities of the plain. Their useless, idle life made them a prey to Satan’s temptations, and they defaced the image of God, and became satanic rather than divine. Idleness is the greatest curse that can fall on man, for vice and crime follow in its train. It enfeebles the mind, perverts the understanding, and debases the soul. Satan lies in ambush, ready to destroy those who are unguarded, whose leisure gives him opportunity to insinuate himself under some attractive disguise. He is never more successful than when he comes to men in their idle hours. (pp.156-157)
Man, she could be describing people today! That’s the kind of people that Lot chose to live and raise his children with. I don’t believe Lot was a bad guy. I mean, he had lived with Abraham long enough to learn the right way to live and I think he tried to hang onto that as Sodom became more and more corrupt and evil all around him. Again, from Patriarchs and Prophets, I read that he was eager to protect the two strangers that came to warn him about Sodom’s destruction, even though he didn’t know who they really were or why they had come to Sodom. He had learned many of Abraham’s lessons. Those lessons may have been what made the difference between him being left to die in Sodom and being rescued by the angels.

Unfortunately, Lot’s children and wife were harder to convince. Maybe because they had not had the opportunity to learn directly from Abraham; maybe because Lot was not as good a teacher; but it may have been just the fact that their beliefs and convictions had been worn down by living in the middle of this sinful place. It just didn’t look that bad anymore. Remember the story of the frog? If you put a frog in boiling water, it will hop right out. But, if you put a frog in cool water and then slowly turn up the heat, he’ll stay right in the water and get cooked.

Lot’s older daughters didn’t want to leave their husbands. In fact, they laughed at their dad’s efforts to save them. His younger daughters and his wife didn’t want to leave their comfy house, their friends and their sisters/daughters. They wanted to stay where they were.

How much like them are we? We want to be saved, as long as it’s not too inconvenient for us. When I was in junior high, I remember praying that Jesus wouldn’t come back until I’d finished high school, and then in high school, I wanted Him to wait till I’d graduated from college. I wanted to go to heaven, but after I’d had my fun. Am I the only one who felt that way?

Thank goodness God saves us in spite of ourselves, like He did Lot and his family. The angels took them by the hand and literally pulled them away. Would Lot and his family have left without that extra pull? Probably not. Even so, they didn’t go far enough. They ended up in another evil little town. Mrs. Lot didn’t make it at all. Ellen White says,
“If Lot himself had manifested no hesitancy to obey the angels’ warning, but had earnestly fled toward the mountains, without one word of pleading or remonstrance, his wife also would have made her escape. The influence of his example would have saved her from the sin that sealed her doom.” Patriarchs & Prophets p 161
I want to set the right example for my family. What about you?