Kicking Down the Door

Genesis 16

­­­Why is it so hard to wait? And why is it so easy to take matters into our own hands…to kick down the door?

Tens years and no sign of movement. The promise is confirmed to Abram, but what about Sarai? It’s easy to see how and why Sarai gets to the place where she feels like she needs to kick down the door, you know, help God out. Names are key. God sees, and He hears. It takes the faith experience of Hagar to remind the chosen couple of what they should have already known. And although they should have known better…so should we.

But how many times have we done the same thing. I shared the story of my work experience last week. My journey out to California has some of those same elements. I knew God had gifted me to teach. I had a desire to pastor a church. So I began to test a few doors. As time went on, I became more and more desperate and pushed harder. And each time I pushed, I became more frustrated and bitter. It wasn’t until I stopped pushing and went through the door He had opened that I found peace and eventually my way here doing what I love to do.

A good friend of mine asked a very perceptive question…how do I know when to wait and when to take action? In other words, when is waiting just laziness or taking action kicking down the door? If we are honest with ourselves, I think we know when we are taking matters into our hands, when we are rushing in. God sees and hears, but He also speaks…He guides. Unless He’s clearly directing, it’s best to wait. But when He’s clear, it’s time to move…to go.

Bottom line: when we kick the door down, when we try to help God out, we are in effect saying we know better than God. We are doing what’s right, the good, in our own eyes. And there are always ramifications. Anger. Frustration. Job loss. Broken relationships. Etc. Abram and Sarai’s decision has far reaching consequences…conflict in the Middle East, Muslim and Jew/Christian even today. And many times the negative effects are the result of the comparison game that inevitably gets played every time we do what’s right in our own eyes…I put myself in the place of God. Instead of trusting that God sees and hears, that He knows, I become the one who sees and hears others, judging and condemning them.

So, where do you see yourself in the story? Abram…failing to trust God and lead well. Sarai…failing to trust God and taking matters into your own hands, helping God out, kicking down the door. Or Hagar…realizing, maybe for the first time, that God does see and hear you, that He knows you and wants to rescue you. Whichever you are today, God sees and hears and knows and cares. If we have learned anything about Abram so far, we know that he will be building another altar shortly. The consequences remain, but restoration is available.

My prayer for us this week is that we realize God sees, hears, knows and cares about us, and may that give us the freedom to love others unashamedly and run after Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

April 26 – Weekend Passage

Genesis 16

Sarai and Hagar

16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me.” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.

Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” 10 Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord said to her further,

“Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. 12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.”

13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

God’s Story

Genesis 15 – Resurrection Sunday

Easter. What’s in it for you? What is your hope today? A good job. A loving marriage. Well-behaved kids. Cool parents. Bright future. New romance. All good things. Maybe you have begin to think about your own mortality and your hope is in a legacy, leaving a mark on planet earth so that 100 years from now, folks know that you were here? But it’s clear…if your hope is based on earthy things, they are all destined to fail. Everything ends up in either the graveyard or the junkyard. The things of this world will pass away.

Abram’s hope is clear…the promises that God had made to him. Land. Seed, aka Jesus. Blessing. Blesser of the nations. Abram believes God, and He reckons it to him as righteousness. Abram’s faith made him righteous before God…not his obedience or lack thereof. His faith. Period. Hebrews tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. What was Abram believing…Genesis 3.15. That God would provide the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, aka Jesus, to rescue and provide the way back to paradise, to restore the relationship with Creator God and life in His kingdom, that through Him all the families of the earth would be blessed. And ultimately Abram’s hope is resurrection. The promises that God had made…descendants, land, blessing to the nations were not realized in Abram’s life. He would only fully realize them in resurrection. Hebrews tells us he was looking for a better country, a heavenly city. Abram looked forward to Jesus.

The Son of Promise has come. The Genesis 3:15 Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, our Rescuer, Jesus rent the veil between heaven and earth, between time and eternity and stepped onto the world stage. Jesus, who came to do what we could not do….provide the way back to God. To conquer sin and death. To restore the image so that we might return to Paradise, to provide the promise of life. That by faith in Jesus, who lived the life that we were supposed to live, totally obedient and dependent on God, who died the death we deserved…the death that has been ours by birthright since the garden. The death that was surely required for our rebellion, that through faith in Him we could participate in the most absurd gift exchange in the universe…His righteousness for our sin…so that we can have life…a different kind of life, real life, eternal life with Father God in His kingdom. I don’t understand it, but am amazed by it. That is our promise, that just as Jesus conquered sin through His death and death through His resurrection, so sin and death for us are over and done with if we believe. Abram was promised a kingdom and a legacy for His faith. So are we. When God Himself, in smoke and fire walked between those bloody animals, He made that walk for you as much as He made it for Abram. He is preparing that kingdom even now, and has set another a day in the eternal calendar to return once more to this earth and set up a kingdom that will have no end. We have been called to set out on a journey, to a place He will show us, in an act of faith. Faith because we have no power at all to make that promise happen. We have no way in and of ourselves to go to that kingdom or to reign there. But that promise has been made to us.

Do you know the amazing love of God today? Do you want to?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

April 19 – Weekend Passage

EASTER WEEKEND

This is it! You have…today…to invite your “8-15” to one of our weekend services. All 5 services will be the same…except the Sunrise Service (at 6:15 am) will be outside (same message). This is one of two times each year when people are most willing to come to church.

What a privilege it is to worship together as we celebrate God’s great love for us!

Please spend today praying for your “8-15” and for the services…that God would use Pastor Matt and the rest of the team to clearly share the Gospel message. Pray that we, as a body of believers, would be effective image bearers of our Creator.

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Genesis 15

Abram Promised a Son

15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,

“Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”

Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. 11 The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”

17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,

“To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:

19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite 20 and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

Genesis 13-14

Have you ever made a ‘grass is always greener’ decision? You know, looked at what you had and thought you deserved better? Better job? Better house? Better friend? Better…?

At the crux of this story is a decision….a decision to trust God or trust self, to believe what God has revealed as good or define good for self. Two characters represent these two paths. Abram chooses to trust to God…and He comes through in amazing ways. Lot chooses to trust in self…and it ends in disaster. Abram sees the world through God’s eyes. He has a heavenly or spiritual perspective. Lot can only see what’s in front of him. He has a very earthy perspective. The kicker is…both are believers.

We also can’t miss that the decision is about stuff. The abundance of stuff forces them to part. The desire for more and better stuff drives Lot’s decision to go to Sodom. Lot’s captured as the Eastern Alliance collects stuff, the spoils of war. Abram rescues Lot and his stuff. And the king of Sodom offers Abram stuff. And one other thing…Melchizedek blesses both Abram and God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth. In other words, the God who owns all the stuff. Abram knew that. Lot didn’t. And what happens when life becomes about stuff…it captures and enslaves us. It becomes a hard taskmaster because there is never enough. Much better to trust God…”Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Don’t make life about stuff…make it about pursuing God. BTW Abram’s cure for stuff? He gave a tithe, recognizing that God owns all the stuff.

So what about you? Where do you find yourself in this story? Are you like Abram, trusting that God will come through on His promises, that He sees you and knows you and has good in store for you…not good as defined by you, but His good? Do your actions show that you are trusting Him…that you know that it all belongs to Him? Do you know He’s faithful? Realize that even though Lot had to face the consequences of his decision, God was still faithful to deliver him through Abram.

Or are you like Lot, believing that you have to look out for number one, that maybe God knows and sees me, but I don’t know that He cares about my circumstances? I know what’s best for me. But sin has consequences. For Lot, it meant being taken captive, and Uncle Abe has to come bail him out. In 19, we will see that it will cost him everything…home, possessions, position, etc., Living for this present world falls far short of the reason that God saved you. In the same way, when we live in sin as a believer we reap the consequences of the sin we have sown. We are not immune to broken relationships and the fallout from bad choices.

The truth is, most all of us have our tents pitched too close to Sodom…it’s easier to build to towers than altars, to look out for ourselves than wait for God to provide, to image “me” rather than imaging God. But the amazing thing is…God still pursues. He still calls us back. He still invites us into the indescribable adventure of following Him.

My prayer for us is that we would pitch our tents a little closer to Hebron and further from Sodom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

April 12 – Weekend Passage

Lent 2014

What will you sacrifice through this season? How are you becoming a better image bearer? Throughout our daily readings, take the time to reflect on the following:

1. What’s God’s Story in the passage and what are the implications for my life?

2. Praying for your 8-15 (those in your life who need Jesus)

3. What will you sacrifice in order to draw closer to Christ?

4. Pray for opportunities to invite your 8-15 to church or our big Easter culmination “Journey to the Cross” on Good Friday

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Genesis 13

Abram and Lot

13 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him.

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 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. Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land.

So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” 10 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.

14 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; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 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. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” 18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

Genesis 14

War of the Kings

14 And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.

13 Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.

God’s Promise to Abram

17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)

A History-Making Decision

Genesis 11.27-13.1

“What is the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make? What made the decision so difficult?” Was it the cost…comfort, convenience? Was it fear of the unknown? Was it the stakes?

God gives Abram a simple (not easy) command…”Go.” Abram was to leave everything he knew – country, relatives and family – to go to an as yet undisclosed location. The blessings that follow are contingent on his going…on his obedience. But his obedience is predicated on faith. So what faith are we talking about? Genesis 3.15. But how does Abram know about Genesis 3.15. Don’t forget that Abram is a direct descendant of Adam through the line of Seth, and of Noah through the line of Shem. He comes from those with a spiritual heritage of calling on the name of the LORD, of walking with God, of believing the Seed promise of 3.15. Much like Noah who was described as righteous and blameless…not because he obeyed, but because he found favor in the eyes of the LORD…he believed the promise of 3.15…so he obeyed, now Abram will be called on to obey because he too has found favor, is righteous through faith. That’s important for us to keep in mind. There can be no obedience without faith.

The call of Abram in Genesis 12.1-3 is a key event in the biblical story. It ranks up there with Genesis 3.15 in the OT. It ties together both creation and redemption…it echoes the creation mandate and carries forward the plan of redemption, the search for the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman. It showcases God’s grace and reveals His heart for His creation. And it’s fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus’ charge to His early followers to “make disciples of all the nations” is a reflection of “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” It would be hard to overstate the importance of this passage.

But God’s call required a response. To experience what God had in store for Abram, he had to step out in obedience. He had to go. He had to be a blessing. For the Israelites to experience the blessings of the covenant at Sinai, they too would have to walk in obedience. That would cost them their comfort and convenience…they too would have to leave what they knew. They would have to embrace the unknown. They would have to risk everything. They would have to give up their definition of good…of doing what was right in their own eyes and trust that what God was calling them to really was good…that it was life. They had to believe that God truly loved them and wanted their good. And they would have to love Him in return.

What would have happened to Abram if he would have refused God’s call? Would he have lost his salvation? Not at all…but he would have lost his destiny. He wouldn’t have experienced the good that God had for him. The trip to Egypt illustrates this truth…Abram was to be a source of blessing to the nations, but he ends up being a source of cursing to Pharaoh. Thankfully not the last word when it comes to Abram.

I appreciate the honesty of a friend of mine who said, “God calls us away from our life and to His life. Something twinges when you say ‘leave comfort and convenience’ I don’t know what it is in me yet, but I need to. I know that fear, jealousy, pride – will keep me living my life. I’m tired of the cliché ‘comfort zone’, but it’s accurate. I need comfort. I need predictability. The life I am drawn to meets my expectations and has very few surprises. Does this sound like the life God calls people to? Noah, Moses, the judges, the prophets, the disciples? God called people to be kings and slaves, warriors and shepherds. But He called them away from themselves. I am convicted that I am, for the most part, living my life, proceeding with my plans, doing what seems right in my own eyes. I don’t want to go blindly after whatever seems to be the opposite direction. I do want to obey. I do want to move in faith to the life God is calling me to. I have set out on journey of faith, but what do I keep dragging around with me. What tethers me to peace? Is is faith or is it my inability to let go completely? Am I creating my own peace and not trusting God’s?”

But what about you? As important as Abram’s call was to the working out of God’s plan in salvation history, Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, calls us all to “Go” or better yet to “Follow”.  And that call is every bit as important on a micro-level as Abram’s call on a macro-level. Jesus calls us to leave our comfort and convenience, to leave what we know, our old life, and follow Him. A simple command, but not an easy one. It means that we have to embrace the unknown. We have to risk everything…but only in this sense: we have to die to defining good in our own eyes and trust in what He has revealed as good. Maybe that’s a new job…maybe building a relationship…maybe making a kingdom investment that financially doesn’t seem to make sense…maybe it’s a call into ministry… Whatever it is, experiencing the good that God wants for you requires obedience. It means taking the risk.

And like Abram…and the Israelites…you will fail. But God is still faithful, and He is patient. Proverbs 24.16: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

My prayer for us is that we would the courage, like Abram to take the risk, and enter into the wild adventure of a life spent with Jesus in His kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster