Re: Money, Friend or Foe?

friend-or-foeGenesis 13

There was a television game show that used to air on the Game Show Network called “Friend or Foe.”    Center stage on the show was what was called the Trust Box.  Each contestant would get some time to tell the other why they should be considered a friend.  Then, each would put one hand inside the box.  Inside the box they each have a button.  If one doesn’t press the button, he or she is a friend.  If one does, he or she is a foe.
An amount of money is revealed.  Here is how the money is awarded:
1- friend and friend- they split the money.
2- friend and foe- the foe takes all the money.
3- foe and foe- the pot is lost.

I’ve only watched the show a couple of times but I’ve never seen anyone win money… ever.  Both contestants are usually so afraid of being duped that they each press “Foe” and leave penniless.

Observe the way of the foe and the way of the friend:  Lot chooses the way of the foe.  In Genesis 13, verse one, we learn that Lot journeyed from Egypt with Abram. I think he got one of his first glances of high society. The small town boy went to the big city, and he liked what he saw.  Verse two 2 informs us that Abram, his uncle, was rich with lots of livestock, silver and gold.

Verses 5 and 6 tell us that Lot’s wealth is beginning to grow as well.  It isn’t too long before they sense the need to separate.  The land could not sustain Abram and Lot dwelling together, because the Canaanites held the best parts, so the servants of these two men had to scrap for water and food in the rest. (v. 7)  Pasture was at a premium in the bare limestone hills.

So Abram asks Lot to choose a place to take his wealth.  Lot looks around. His eyes are immediately attracted to the valley of the Jordan.  It is green. It is lush. The cities of the plain, Sodom and Gommorah, gleam in the sunlight. “I’ll take that way!” Lot exclaims.

Author Ben Patterson writes: “Abram’s nephew… Lot appears to be the man with all the experience and Abram appears to be the man with all the money.  At first glance it seems that Lot walks away with all of the money and all Abram walks away with is a very bitter experience.”  But that is only what it looks like on the surface.  Verse 10 reminds the reader that “…this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”  More on this later.

Contrast Abram who chooses the way of the friend.  His faith actually helps to solve strife.  Abram gives Lot the free choice of the land.  This was not something he needed to do.  Abram had the right to make the first choice.  But faith does not selfishly seek it’s own desires.  Faith doesn’t hoard in fear, but gives with liberality.  Abram displays trust in a God he knew would supply his every need.

Now Decisions made in faith are often difficult at first.  Feeding his cattle on those barren hills could not have been pleasant for Abram.  But he had a promise from God that one day, all the land would be his.  After Abram’s courageous compromise with Lot, God confirms his promise to Abram in verses 14-17:  “The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give to you and to your descendants forever.  I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.  Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it you you.”

We see here a contrast between Abram and Lot.  Abram was told to lift up his eyes and look. (13:14)  Lot looked up himself. (13:10)   The Lord said he would give Abram the land.  Lot just took it.   Joy in living comes when we don’t demand but humbly receive what’s coming to us.  Receiving what God gives us with thanksgiving floods our hearts with joy.

So… Regarding Money:  do you choose to be a friend or a foe?  Generosity marks the path of joy.

Blessings!

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Missteps

Genesis 12:10; 13:3,4missteps

The autobiography of Billy Graham begins with this sentence: “It was July 14, 1950, and I was about to make a fool of myself.”

He had just spoken personally with President Truman. They spoke informally for a bit and then he went out to the press and told them every word of their conversation (some of it very personal in regard to faith and religion).  He then knelt down and prayed a prayer of Thanksgiving in front of all the popping flashbulbs and scribbling pencils.

Truman was furious.  He never invited Billy back to the White House during his presidency.

One White House staff memorandum in late 1951 stated bluntly: “At Key West the President said very decisively that he did not wish to endorse Billy Graham’s Washington revival meeting and particularly he said he did not want to receive him at the White House. You remember what a show of himself Billy Graham made the last time he was here. The President does not want that repeated.” Ouch!

Billy Graham, however, was able to not only speak, but be the confidant of several president following. Billy learned a secret about mistakes.

Abram in Genesis 12:10… just 6 verses from his marvelous act of obedience in verse 4… makes a misstep.  Abram went to the promised land as instructed and pitched his tent. The Promise had been offered and Abram had taken God up on His offer.  Now came a period of waiting.  If one was to give grades to Abram so far.  He would have straight A’s.  An “A” for listening to God.  An “A” for submission.  An “A” for obedience.  But now, when it comes to waiting, he gets an “F.”

He first of all goes into the Negev – a Desert Region, Southern most extremity of the promised land.  Nothing wrong with checking out the land.  But it is there that he meets a test.   12:10:  “Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.”

Here is Abram’s first test: “Will God provide for my basic needs?”  He took one look at his circumstances and said, “There is no way this is the road God wants me on. It is time to abandon faith and time to start using some common sense.”  What road does your faith have you traveling these days?  Are you looking for a way around some struggle in your life?  Maybe the way God would have you move is through, not around your difficulties.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time makes people do rash things.  Check out Genesis 12:11-20.  With brutal disregard to Sarai, and a total lapse from faith in his Lord, Abram resorted to deceit in order to save his own skin.  In the process he endangers his family.  (Husbands, don’t ask your wife to be complicit with you in a lie.  You are out from under the protection of the Lord when that occurs.)  Abraham lies to Pharaoh… well, half lies anyway.  Sarai was a half-sister.  Abram, the great man of faith, knew what it was to desert the way of faith, and experienced fear and fell into temptation.

But after practically being thrown out of Egypt (12:20) Abram did what we all must do after a misstep.  13:3-4 reads:  “He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.”

He retraced his steps and he finds forgiveness, cleansing and renewal… where?  Where he had last worshiped the Living God.

Driving around a new neighborhood a young woman noticed a hair-salon chain offering $10 haircuts. “How could local salons compete against such a low price?” she wondered.  Then a few doors down she saw a sign on the storefront of a locally owned salon, it read, “WE REPAIR $10 HAIRCUTS.”

There ought to be a sign outside our churches that reads:  “God Repairs Damaged Lives.”

Remember Billy Graham’s mistake.  He learned from it.  Right after that debacle, Graham vowed never to make that mistake if he was granted access to a person of influence again.  He learned from the error… repented of it.  And it made all the difference.

Made a few missteps?  Your journey isn’t over.  Retrace your steps back to the sight of your last act of faith.  He awaits you there with forgiveness, healing and a fresh map of the promised land.

 

 

When the Command is GO!

GOGenesis 12: 1-9

In the book What Good is God? author Phillip Yancey tells the story of Stephen Alfred – a believer he met in India.  Yancey writes:  “[Stephen] had studied in England, married an English woman, and built up a thriving surgery practice until one night he had a kind of vision. He heard God ask him three questions: Why did I make you Indian? Why did I make you good? What are you doing about it? Haunted by those questions, he left his practice, moved his family to India, and opened a hospital that focuses on serving the poor.”

I imagine that Stephen could have lived out the rest of his years in comfort and contributed to the needs of his homeland with dutiful checks sent out each month.  But God sent out the command:  Go!

I sat in a small country church in rural Tennessee one morning and heard the same call.  I had always been unnerved by the Great Commission.  If God called me, would I go?  I wasn’t even sure I wanted to.  I finally struck up a bargain with God that brought me some peace.  I reasoned with God that my primary barrier to missions work was money.  If I only had the means to go… I would go.  But I was just a struggling college student with a part-time youth ministry position… I knew such a call would never come.

Then came a Sunday morning in East Tennessee when the pastor from the pulpit announced a mission trip to Venezuela.  If anyone felt the call to go, the church would pay all the expenses.  I was caught… and I knew it.  I went forward that morning at the altar call.  A few months from then I was on a plane to South America.

Back in Chapter 11 of Genesis, we are introduced to  a man named Terah.  Terah had the radical idea of moving his entire family from the large city of Ur to a sparsely populated region known as Canaan.  So his clan pack up their possessions, put their families on camels and set out.  But they didn’t get very far.  They ended up settling in a town called Haran.  Haran was a flourishing caravan city in 19th Century B.C. and was heavy into the worship of the Moon-God.  Terah, we learn in Jos 24:2, was an idolater and would have felt right at home in Haran.  Genesis 11:31 reads: “When they came to Haran, they settled there.”  We then learn in verse 32 that Terah died in Haran.

It is when they are in Haran that Terah’s son, Abram, receives a unique call from God:  Go forth from your country, and from your relatives  and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you;  And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.  and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Yahweh’s first command of Abram is: Go.  It is a radical, life altering, exciting, and mind-blowing command.  Such is the call of God!   It is the parent bird kicking the baby bird from the nest.  And that is why it can be so hard to to obey when God calls. We get ourselves nestled in here on earth.

Look at Abram.  He was tied in to Haran!  His family was there.  Family back then was everything.  He was being called from his family’s homeland… to march out to no-where-land.  Haran was an up and coming city.  Abram had lots of possessions.  He could take a lot with him… but he would leave behind a lot… primarily land.  And he had flocks and herds… they aren’t the easiest things to travel with.  Then he had the model of Terah.  Terah made big plans to conquer the unknown and then settled.  He would live in die in Haran… not in the Promised Land.  Bucking one’s family’s tendencies takes some strong resolve.

Face it: Pulling up roots is hard.  But when the clear call of God comes, the call out of our comfort zone and into the unknown, what are we to do?  We don’t get to see the inner struggle within Abram at the calling (if indeed there was one).  The next verse in Scripture reads:  So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him…

Perhaps today you are wrestling with a calling… God is calling you out.  You feel you don’t have the resources (I certainly felt that way about missions as a young man); you feel too old and settled (so did aging Abram); you feel uncertain about the details of such a decision (so has anyone that has ever stepped out in faith).

Just answer these three questions:  1)  Why did God make you?  2)  Why did God make you good?  and 3)  What are you going to do about it?

The answer to those questions might just send you packing… to a new career, to a new city, to a new mission.  But that’s okay… the one who commands is the One who provides, the One who makes young, the One who fills in the details.   Ours is to listen; ours is to obey.  In the words of Oswald Chambers:  “A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others—the Audience of One. The caller is God.”

Blessings!

 

Help for Hurry Sickness

Genesis 11:1-9                                                                                               hurry                                                      When did we ever get so busy?

Many of us suffer from what Meyer Friedman called “Hurry Sickness.”  In his book, Treating Type A Behavior-and Your Heart, he defines it as “a continuous struggle … to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”

How do you know if you have it?  Here is some of the items on his self-test:

     – If the person equal distance in the line next to you at the grocery store leaves the store while you’re still in line, you feel depressed.

     –  If you don’t get three phone calls and lunch completed during your short trip in the car, you don’t feel accomplished.

     –  If you speak sharp words to your spouse and children even when you know they’ve done nothing to deserve them.

     –  If you hurry your children along.  Setting up mock races (“Okay kids, let’s see who can take a bath the fastest”) in order to help you get through it faster.

     –  If you find you have stopped caring for people.  (I heard about a cartoon of a business man talking on the phone while looking at his calendar: “No, Thursday won’t work for me. How about Never? Is never good for you?”)

     –  If you flop into bed with no sense of gratitude and wonder for the day, just fatigue.

If this is you:  You may be attempting to do so much and to be so much that the hurry sickness is indeed taking its toll on you.  Stop, take a step back and look at what it is you are building.  Could it be but an attempt to recreate Babel’s tower?  Remember that old story tucked away in Genesis 11?

“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (11:1-4)

There are many parallels between the industrious people of that day and those with “hurry sickness” today.

1.  They weren’t building something that was going to last.

In verse 3, Moses states that the builders weren’t even using materials that would stand the test of time.  Brick was used in the place of stone and tar was used in the place of mortar.  If the successful world you are creating is built on the shoddy materials of poor relationships, awful health habits and ill-fated bridge burning, your tower is destined to collapse around you.  Your fate will be as the fate of the builders in Shinar: An uncompleted tower.  Success is elusive even to those who pursue it with the most zeal.

2.  They were overreaching.

Verse 4 says that the group was interested in building a tower whose top will reach into heaven. (A gate to God if you will.) Now that is ambitious!   You might think:  “What’s wrong with ambition?  Isn’t that how things are done in today’s world?”  Well the problem with ambition is when it causes you to attempt to succeed beyond the healthy boundaries God sets for us. It is okay to dream, but what happens when our dreams punch through the sky? When our ego is not satisfied with the success God sends our way but craves still more?  When ever elusive success begins to unravel the threads of the rest of our existence?

3.  Their Goal was to Exalt Their Own Name

The greatest fear that many of us have is that we will walk off the stage of this world, unnoticed. We won’t be remembered. We will have lived and died a “nobody.”  But if you are ambitiously burning the candle at both ends to leave some kind of legacy, could it be that you are only leaving a “legacy of ambition?”

I love the words of Mrs. Charles Cowman in her classic devotional work: Streams in the Desert : “I was never of any use until I found out that God did not intend to make me to be… great.”

4.  Their results were “under-whelming.”

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 

They wanted to reach God but had underestimated his greatness.  He had to stoop down to look at their construction.  You can be working hard and still discover, too late in life, that you have not accomplished God’s goals for you.  It seems what you were building was not an altar to God, but a tower to self – just as insidious as the one in Babel.

______

You know the end of the story.  God came down and confused their language and separated them.  I’m sure they were confused… they had thought they were getting ahead in the world… and now they were thoroughly lost in the world.

Today you will lay down bricks to the monument which is your life.  Is your workmanship shoddy or sure?  Is it a monument to hurry or heaven?  Stop, take a step back and look at what it is you are building.