When Your Ship Comes In

Ship Coming InGenesis 21

Promises, Promises.

You open your email and read:  “You’ve won a trip to Hawaii.”  Don’t get too excited… if you will look at the fine print (and if they are honest) you will read:  “Airfare not included. Food not included. Hotel is free but there will be a pool charge, bed charge and air conditioning is coin operated.  You will also be bombarded with junk email until your eyes pop out of their sockets.  And you have also just launched a deadly virus that will crash your hard drive. Have a nice day.”

Don’t you hate advertisers that don’t deliver on their promises?   Promises made with strings attached are not fun.

A co-worker in Maryland once went on a vacation in the Bahamas.  Sounds like fun, huh.  Well his hotel’s air conditioning unit went out.  The food was terrible.  And there were also some buildings in his brochure that he couldn’t locate on the hotel’s grounds.  He went to ask about them and was told that they had burned to the ground two years earlier.   Promises made and not kept are even worse.

God does not operate like that.  With Him it is:  Promise Made, Promise Kept.

We have been following Abraham in his pursuit of the promise of God that he would have a son.  We come to Promise Fulfilled!  Genesis 21:1-2  reads:  “Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised.  So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.”

Note two things: It was accomplished as God said it would be, and when God said it would occur.

Which are you struggling with?  The how or the when?  How God is going to help you or When God is going to show up?   If you are caught in that place, do what Abraham did, with faith and patience, Anchor yourself in the promises of God.

Now, what do you do once the promise is fulfilled… when your ship finally arrives in the harbor?  Sometimes when boats finally reach their destination there is a great crowd to meet them at the dock.  Sometimes there is a band playing to celebrate the arrival.  (I’ve never been on a cruse or a boat, but I did watch a lot of episodes of The Love Boat when I was a kid so I know this to be true.)  We looked for weeks at how Abraham weathered storms before he could enjoy the promise of God, now let’s look at that moment of “promise arrival.”

What does one do when God comes through?

#1 – After fulfillment one needs to continue to obey God.

What is the first thing Abraham does after his son is born?  Genesis 21:3, 4 – “Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.”   This is exactly what God had instructed Abraham to do in Genesis 17.  After you get what you want is not the time to go A.W.O.L. from God.  Continue in obedience.

#2 – After fulfillment one needs to be joyful.

Sarah praises God.  She says:  “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” (21:6)  Isaac, Hebrew for laughter, was an appropriate name for this moment.  Everyone breaks into celebration.  Have you remembered to thank God after your breakthrough?

#3 – After fulfillment one needs to remember and be more trusting in the future.

Don’t let this victory swell you with pride… let it be the catalyst for a lifetime of trust in the Lord.  Remain obedient.  Throw a party.  But then trust God for the next part of the plan.

God had first promised in chapter 12 when Abraham was 75 and Sarah was 65.  He then delayed the fulfillment of the promise till Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90.  The wait only produced greater joy for them in the end.

Remember that in your next waiting period.

So where are you?

Freshly Blessed?  Rejoice.  Your ship has come in.  Let the band play.

Found God to be Faithful?   Show your appreciation through continued obedience.  Let God show you new heights to climb.

Still waiting?  Wait with patience.  He will see you through.  A promise is a promise.

Blessings!

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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!