A Recipe for Sour Circumstances

lemon recipeGenesis 16

Back in 2004 Southern Living Magazine included a very deadly recipe for country biscuits.  They had to pull the issue off the shelf after reports of people following this recipe and having their mixture explode.  The first step of the recipe said to get a pot of water boiling and then to add a cup of shortening.  The shortening then melted and floated to the top of the water This doesn’t allow any of the steam to escape.  The water becomes even hotter than boiling temperature.  The pressure builds up and then the shortening finally lets out the steam as it explodes!  Now the shortening is flammable and 5 people reported injury when their biscuit recipe became a fireball in their kitchen.

Well what are the ingredients that cause the recipe for the good life to explode?   In our story from Genesis 16 we find that every one had something to contribute.

First of all – ►Sarai Stirred in Impatience.

As much as Abram longed for an heir, we can imagine that his wife desired it all the more.  To be barren in ancient times was a disgrace.  Good news came in the form of a promise to her husband, Abram.  God told him that he would have a child.  But we learn from the text that ten years had past and still the nursery was empty.  The waiting must have been excruciating.

A 4-year-old boy was traveling with his mother & constantly asking the same question over & over again? “When are we going to get there? When are we going to get there?” Finally, the mother got so irritated that she said, “We still have 90 more miles to go. So don’t ask me again when we’re going to get there.” Well, the boy was silent for a long time. Then he timidly asked, “Mom, will I still be four when we get there?”

Well Sarai is like that little boy, feeling herself age as God tarried with His promise.  Then she gets a brilliant idea… Why not use a surrogate mother?  It was a perfectly acceptable practice from her within her culture at the time.  (Not everything acceptable in culture is acceptable to God.)

Next:  ►Abram mixed in Appeasement

Abram’s motto was: “Do whatever it takes to keeps the peace.”  The Prime Minister to England before the Second World War was a man by the name of Chamberlain.  His strategy for dealing with the aggressive tactics of Dictator Adolf Hitler was appeasement.  He declared that the peace agreement he made with this mad man was: “Peace in Our Time.”  But it was far from peace.  Indifference to decision making, can be as deadly as making rash decisions.  Abram thought just doing what Sarai wanted would get her off his back. But doing wrong to appease another often just agitates the problem.

Finally:  ►Hagar Sprinkles in an Opportunistic Spice.

Hagar is one of those opportunistic people.  Their motto is:  It doesn’t matter what you do… just make sure you get ahead!  Do whatever it takes!  She might even have thought:  “Here’s my chance to upgrade my status.  If I have the Master’s child, maybe I can shake off these chains.”  But striking while the iron’s hot, can still leave burn marks.

Initially the dish these three are preparing seems to be coming together.  Quite often ill-conceived plans work, initially.  Abram is going to be a first time father.  Everyone is all smiles.  Plans are being made.  I picture each of them with one of those large tubes of icing putting the finishing touches on the cake they have baked together.

And then, BOOM! The whole concoction blows up in their faces.

Have you ever been there…. Maybe you’re like Sarai… you like to jump the gun or maybe you are like Abram… you like to go with the flow, or perhaps you have a Hagar streak in you… you like to place your bets on the spinning roulette wheel.  Then BOOM! Your circumstances blow up in your face.

Know this:  Your failures aren’t fatal.  Even when your circumstances sour… there is a way out of the mess.  Learn the lesson of Hagar.  Verse 6-15 tell how she takes the brunt of the fiasco and flees from a raging Sarai while carrying Abram’s child.  God meets her at a spring by the side of the road.  And there that God speaks to her.  She answers the Lord calling him “the God who sees.”  And then she adds:  “I have now seen the One who sees me!”  That knowledge is enough for Hagar to return to Abram and Sarai and have her child.  God tells her to return and she obeys Him.

When one finds oneself broken down on the side of the road… or driven into exile due to bad circumstances… one might imagine themselves hidden from the God who cares.  But God sees us.  He sees us in our messes… even the ones we have created… and offers to clean us up… to redeem us.   He alone can save us from our own baking!  Praise to His name!

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.

 

What Every Rainbow Says to Us

Genesis 9:1-17double rainbow

Three moms that lived through the pain of watching their sons drift away from God, wrote a book in 2002 called: Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them. One of the moms, named Heather Kopp, wrote about her wayward son, Noah.  Her son had to submit to weekly drug testing to keep off of drugs. He didn’t seem to know who he was or where he was going… particularly in the spiritual realm. Heather wrote: “Once your baby—no matter how old he is—is lost, so are you.”

She then tells a story of an event that gave her some hope in the midst of the lost state she found herself:   “One recent night I asked Noah how it went the night before.  He said it was okay. Except for the part where everybody else got high before the movie and then again after the movie while he waited outside the car.  I told him I was sorry. And I was proud of him.  “But God spoke to me,” he announced.

“Really?” (This was not typical.)

“Yeah,” he said. “While I was standing around outside waiting for those guys to get high, I saw a double rainbow.”

He wasn’t really able to articulate what God seemed to be saying through the double rainbow, but I wasn’t going to push. I reached up to ruffle his hair, and, surprisingly, he let me. Then he trotted off to the shower, a little boy inside a man-size body.  I kept thinking about that double rainbow all day. Maybe it was God’s way of saying to my Noah, “Hey, you. Look at this cool rainbow. There’s beauty in life I don’t want you to miss. And no amount of dope will make it more beautiful.”
And maybe Noah’s telling me about it was God’s way of saying to me, “Remember my promises. No matter how far he wanders away from you, he’s never out of my sight.”  (Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them, p. 5.)

How ironic that God spoke to a twentieth century Noah through a rainbow.  And that it indirectly spoke to his mom as well… granting her a message of hope.

In chapter 9 of Genesis, God makes a promise to the Biblical Noah in regard to His judgment of mankind.  “I will establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” (9:11)  Often when God makes a promise to us (one He wants us to be sure to remember) He creates a physical sign to memorialize it.  The sign of this Noahic covenant is the rainbow… a multicolored reminder of many attributes of God.  The next time you see it raining… and can see that the sun is shining as well… run outside to see the spectacle of God’s bow hung in the sky… and then remember a few things.

1)  Remember God’s Restraint.

The Hebrew term in verse 13 is the same term used when referring to a bow in archery. God is telling Noah, that in regards to judgment with flood, I’m hanging up my bow.  “I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”  (9:16)  When we see evil continue to run rampant on this earth, it is tempting to think that God might be powerless to stop it.  What it should tell us is: God is extremely powerful in His restraint!  Praise God for the cease-fire!

2)  Remember God’s faithfulness

“When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (9:16)  God’s bow reminds us of God’s faithfulness because He has kept his word to us.  Despite the sinfulness of man, He has not caused the world to be flooded again.  Every rainbow HE looks upon today remind Him to be faithful to His promise (though He hardly needs a reminder).  Every rainbow WE look upon today should remind us that HE is indeed a faithful God.  (We do need the reminder.)

3)  Remember God’s patience.

Our twentieth century Noah (in the above story) didn’t quite know what God was saying through the rainbow, but he knew God was saying something.  Perhaps the rainbow was a symbol to Him of His patience toward him.  For although the sign of the rainbow states that God has withheld further judgment on the earth by flood, there is coming a judgment by fire.  “…the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.  … But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  (1 Peter 3:6,7 & 10.)  The rainbow reminds us that God isn’t winking at sin, but being patient with sinners.  There will be a day when the justice of God will have to be satisfied.

4)  Remember His Majesty

Remember when you saw your first rainbow?  Remember that feeling of awe?  Then you have a sense of the wonder that Noah must have felt.  It came at the end of a rough 40 days and 40 nights.  The rainbow was have been overwhelming to his senses!  And although it was a sign of the covenant to him, it also represented God’s majesty to him.  That element of the rainbow’s symbolism is found not only here in Genesis, but also in the book of Revelation (4:3) and Ezekiel.  Ezekiel describes his vision of Divine Glory in this manner:  “As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.  Such was the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 1:28)  Stand in awe of His majesty!

Where do the storms of life find you today?  Are you kind of like the mom of our 21st Century Noah?  Trying to maintain your faith as the flood waters continue to rise in your life?  There is hope beyond the disaster that has flooded your world.  Remember God is a God of restraint, faithfulness, patience and majesty.  And every rainy day or so… He likes to remind us.