The missing

I was just reading in Genesis chapter 19 about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and it got me to thinking about Lot. Back in chapter 13 both he and Abraham had become so rich (wealth back then being defined by cattle not gold) that they had to go their separate ways in order for them to find enough pasture for their flocks. In chapter 14 those cities are conquered, Lot and his family are captured, and uncle Abraham has to ride to the rescue. Then chapter 19 takes place. There is no mention of Lot’s wealth only his civic job (judge at the gate) and the angels tell him to get all his family together and run, but no mention of all those servants he had had back in chapter 13. We know from the closing verses of chapter 19 that he has no more wealth otherwise his virgin daughters would not have had to get him drunk in order to have kids (on a side note, what would have happened if their plan failed the first time?). 

What happened to those servants? Had they left his employ after the events of chapter 14? Did Lot buy his seat by trading them for it? Had they lead the mob to Lot’s door to rape the angels? Were they just so discussed with Lot that they didn’t believe him when his warning came (remember the angels asked if he had sons and whosoever thou hast v12)? Could that be why Abraham when he was pleading with God to not destroy the cities started with 50 because he figured a good part of Lot’s servants would be believer’s? Surely these missing servants died with the rest in Sodom, or even perhaps some had already moved on.

As I draw this to a close I can’t help but think about people who I have met over the years at church. People who have left the local assembly. Not those who moved away or relocated to a different church mind you. I am talking about those who have just gone missing. For whatever reason they left. Perhaps because they had their feelings hurt. Maybe they had come expecting one thing and when it didn’t go their way they gave up on their idea of God. Some left because of sickness or work and even after that stretch was over they just stayed where they were. Comfort can be a bad thing for a Christian and many have fallen into that trap as well. We need to pray for the missing, pray that they come back on the scene before God starts lighting His fire.

The gift of thorns

I would never desire a bed of roses, even for just one night. No matter how sweet it might smell or how soft it might would be. Whenever I think about such a thing I am reminded of the little rose garden we have in our backyard. There we have a rose bush called a Cinnamon Rose Bush. Now I don’t know if it is every cinnamon bush that is like this or just ours but this thing is covered with thorns. Just to get it out of that plastic tub it came in I had to wear leather welding gloves and I still felt like I was getting poked. It seems to me that even the thorns have thorns on them. So with that image in mind logically, to me, a bed of roses is going to have thorns in it.

Thorns aren’t bad though. No, we don’t like to be stuck by one but that is just the thorn doing it’s job. Thorns are there to protect the plant. Roses are a pretty good source of Vitamin C so it stands to reason that animals would want to get to that vitamin. With a fallen nature the animals would overdo it and there would be no more rose. The sweet smell would be gone and it’s beauty lost forever. Having thorns protects the plant from such wanton destruction.

Thorns are a gift from God. They weren’t there originally. It took man giving into sin for thorns to appear. We read in Genesis 3:17,18 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…” Cursed is the ground for our sakes, not as torture mind you. The thorns were brought about to protect us. Protect us from abusing God’s grace. He could have rightfully killed Adam and Eve then and there but He extended grace. Life is pain and the thorns remind us how much worse it can be. Those little pricks help stear us when temptation is brewing. We can either choose to listen or suffer their wrath. 

It should have already been done

So after several days of below normal cold weather that basically guaranteed Northwest Indiana a white Christmas, the temperature has risen above freezing. That or course means the compacted snow and ice are starting to melt a little. The resulting slush is heavy but it can be moved if necessary.

At our depot the snow removal crew did a lousy job of keeping up with the snow before our cars started showing up. That lead to everything still being covered with that same compacted snow. Now with the warmer temp my boss decided to go out and try to shovel some of it himself. Soon as I could I went out and took over, he has a heart condition. While I was out there I could actually see the guys playing around with their equipment and yeah it burned me a little because I was now doing what should have already been done.

It got me to thinking about the Apostle Paul and the church at Corinth. When one reads these two letters you kind of get the impression he was a little steamed himself at this bunch. There is a great deal of doctrine in those two letters but also a great deal of correction for those folks. In fact as you read 1st & 2nd Corinthians you come to realize this is more likely 2nd & 4th Corinthians with possibly a little bit of 3rd Corinthians added in. Paul was time and time again dealing with stuff at this church that should have been done already. People were on sight who shpuld have known better but it just wasn’t happening. They all had a heart condition, their hearts wanted to act worldly and not saintly so Paul had to step in yet again.

How many of us act that exact same way? Far too many I am afraid. God sends messengers to correct us and we straighten up for a couple of minutes. Then boom! Back to our “normal” whixh is no good. Let’s try to get ourselves right with God before He has to deal with us again on the same matter.

Get back to work

We all want to be blessed and to be used by God to be a blessing. When we don’t see those things happening in our lives just what is it that we suspect,at first, to be the reason for why it ain’t happening? If we are honest with ourselves then most of the time we know the answer. God won’t work in our lives when we give Him nothing to work with.

Perhaps we are supplying Him with the building materials but we still aren’t seeing results. I have to admit I have found far to often that yes indeed He has the stuff to work with in my life but sin has pulled the building permits. Now instead of building a godly life, time is being spent on cleaning up the debris left behind from the sin I have allowed to roam freely in my area. All that time spent going to church, singing praises, taking notes on the sermon, and the prayers that were more than just at church are all building materials. Maybe not all that we need to have but at least we have those things. Until that sin happens and stops construction.

Then there is the time factor that can delay a project. Those moments when we are about to work or are working and suddenly the time clock chimes and it is time for a break, time for lunch, time to punch out. We look around and realize nothing much got done. Time was wasted, it was spent on the wrong things and now we find ourselves further behind. How often does that lead to us putting the project on hold or scrapping it altogether? God didn’t want that to happen but our use of time dictated that to us.

Good news!!! God isn’t satisfied with our excuses. In fact He is ready for us to get back to work. He has plans for us, plans about us, and plans for our future (not just Heaven either).

Remember there was this certain big mouth in the group of disciples who followed Jesus around by the name of Peter? Jesus told him that Satan had plans for his life (to sift him as wheat) but Jesus also had plans for him. In fact Jesus told Peter when he was converted and not if he was, Peter was to strengthen the brethren. Peter was also told that he would deny Jesus three times. 

When the time came he sure did deny Jesus those three times. But I like what the Bible records for us over in Mark 16:7. The angels that were there at the now empty tomb of Jesus told the women to go back and “tell his disciples and Peter”. Did you catch that? And Peter. Peter! God still wants you and He is telling you to get back to work! Church however bad off we might be God still loves us and still wants us to get to work. Don’t let Satan tell you it’s too late, because it will only be that way when you leave this life. 

A quick take away: Our own salvation

Philippians 2:12b work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Does that mean we save ourselves? Nope. It is His salvation that He has purchased for us, Psalms 96:2. He planned it before the beginning of the world, Ephesians 1:4. It is our greatest possession, Romans 6:23b) “your own salvation”. it is the salvation that He has offered, John 3:16; Revelation 3:20. We can have it if we accept it, Romans 10:13. (Kinda like a vacuum cleaner salesman, only God ain’t dumping dirt on your rug it is already there Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23.)

A quick take away: Which way are you leaning?

Philippians 2:12Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

The christian life is not by any means a picnic but rather one of responsibility both towards God and towards others. It is easy to do it when the going is smooth but when trials come, when our leaders are unavailable to us, or tragedy strikes we must know which way we are going. Obedience to God before hand helps considerably when these things come

Avoiding God’s will

Often times we avoid God’s will due to just how scarry what we see is. The seemingly unavoidable destruction of what we hold dear is neyond our willingness to surrender. In Acts 27 we read a couple of interesting things in regards to God’s will for the 276 people on the boat.

First in verses 14 & 15 we read how the ship that was carrying the Apostle Paul was caught in a terrible storm, a hurricane. Then after many days Paul stood up and told every one that Jesus had promised to bring all the people ashore and that Paul would stand before Ceasar but that it was the will of God that the ship be destroyed (v22) and that they all would be cast on a certain island (v26).

The another thing we see is the crew doing what they could to preserve that same ship. Then finally the crew began to check the depth of the water and soon learned that even though they couldn’t see land that they were indeed approaching land. Big rocks and big ships don’t mix and they didn’t want that boat being destroyed if they got too close, so ww read in Acts 27:29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.

It was God’s will for them to reach that island but they couldn’t do it with the boat. They loved it too much! Thus they did what they could to stop or avoid the will of God. This last time they threw overboard 4 anchors. Here us what I believe each of those anchors represent in our lives.

1. Fear. That unknown us too great. Faith is nice when things are going swell but when they ain’t what do we do?!? How can God let us come so close to ruin? Our minds focus solely on the negative aspects and we forget that God knows all and loves us so much that He Himself paid that aweful sin debt for us. Fear is indeed the opposite of faith.

2. Frustration. We get this way usually hecause we have been working so hard on things to go our way. All of our ducks are in a row then suddenly things begin to fall apart yet again. How can this constantly be happening we wonder. It seemed like this had been God’s plan and now it appears that He has changed His  mind. The best laid plans of man are not God’s plans and we must learn to accept that truth or we will never know the victory He has for us.

3. Fraility. As humans we are very frail when it comes to sin and we have tendencies to love our sin more than God. We carry this crutch around predominantly on display. I’m just a sinner saved by grace and I still sin. While it is good to acknowledge that stop trying to use it as an excuse to avoid God’s sovereign will for your life. Remember Jesus told that woman in Jihn 8:11 to go and din no more. He wasn’t telling her to never sin again but to stop habitually sinning, stop relying on her frailty.

4. Foresight. Our foresight. We think we see something better and instead of going with what God has for us we go with what we know. Trouble is what we see is very shortsighted and misleading. Going back to faith, it is not what we see that counts but what God sees. We are told to walk by faith and not sight for a reason (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our foresight can’t comprehend eternal truths and will always fall far short because of it.

Bear in mind that Paul declared that the people were all going to end up on a CERTAIN island and not just any old place. God’s will was for them to reach that certain island. It ended up with some swimming ashore while others arrived using broken pieces of the ship to help them stay afloat. How much time and energy are we wasting by avoiding God’s will? Had they just gone forward the ship would have been lost on the shore of the island and they would have arrived a bit more safely than they did.