Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 15 January 2022:
Genesis 13:6, 7 – “Their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.”
Throughout the entire Bible, we are warned not to let possessions or the pursuit of possessions to get in the way of relationships. Abram and Lot had been blessed by God in a tremendous way, but greedy hearts turn God’s blessings into curses. When we get more than we need, we are told to give the rest away. Actually, we are told to give our best away and take for ourselves only what we need from the rest to meet our basic needs. Jesus warned of the man who had so much that he built new barns to store it all so he could retire and live comfortably (like worldly investment advisors recommend). Jesus called that man a fool who should have stored up treasures in Heaven by caring for others with what he had on hand rather than hoarding it for sake of perceived selfish benefit. (Luke 12:13-21) In today’s readings from Genesis, the family divided because of earthly gain, and everyone eventually paid a hefty price for choosing worldly resources over relationships. Consider families today – everyone goes their separate directions to make a living, and they rely on technology to maintain some degree of connection. When life’s challenges come, many turn to strangers (counsellors, bankers, etc) rather than family for support. This is so normal, we hardly question it. However, God had a different plan for families and church families.
Genesis 13:9-11 – “’If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’ And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.”
Previously, we discussed the choice everyone makes in life to trust, serve, and glorify either God or self, to build an alter to God or a tower to self. This choice involves both a life resolution and daily decisions consistent with that resolution. Today we see how Abram’s resolution is played out in his daily decisions, how he treats people and circumstances. When Abram and his nephew Lot left Egypt and entered the Negeb, Abram “called upon the name of the Lord,” but the Bible does not make a similar statement about Lot. As mentioned above, eventually, competition over limited resources caused strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. Abram, who called upon the name of the Lord, not only took the initiative to promote peace, he also surrendered his rights as the senior leader to choose first which land he would settle, giving Lot the first choice. In conflict, Abram followed the godly principle of selflessly accommodating the desires of the other person. Abram’s focus was on reconciliation while Lot remained focused on getting the best deal, coming out on top. Lot chose what he thought what was the best land, and allowed Abram to take a harsh land full of enemies. No complaint was registered by Abram, though he got the raw deal. It takes faith to surrender your rights for sake of others and to trust God with the outcome. It takes faith to lead the way Jesus commanded – “And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all'”…. “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mark 9:35; Matthew 23:11, 12) This faith involves a resolution to trust, serve, and glorify God with your life, and then the resolution becomes real at the moment of decision, one decision at a time over a lifetime.
Naturally, Lot chose what appeared to be the choicest land, the Jordan Valley near major cities, leaving Abram with the harsh land of Canaan. However, Lot’s apparently self-centered choice placed his tent in Sodom, which as we will soon see, will have dire consequences. It took great faith for Abram to behave selflessly without complaint. It took no faith for Lot to take what he wanted. Abram’s choice was blessed by God; Lot’s choice was cursed. After this separation between Abram and Lot, the Bible says the Lord spoke to Abram but doesn’t make a similar statement concerning Lot. From this point on, we will see nothing but tragedy strike Lot and his family, while God continues to bless Abram and his family. As Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33) How do your decisions and how you respond to people and circumstances reveal the God you serve? Do you have the faith to do what God wants even when obedience comes at a great cost to you and seems to give the advantage to more selfish people?
“Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” (Genesis 13:13) Better to live with nothing than to live in company of ungodly in pursuit of selfish gain.
Psalm 4:4 – “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.”
There is a right way to handle anger, and it involves silence, meditation, prayer, and worship.
The Christian life is to be lived “on purpose,” intentionally striving to accomplish God’s purpose for our lives, in accordance with His intent. While the Bible has much to say about the importance of planning in life, Jesus explains that successful execution of the ‘plan’ is accomplished one day at a time, making the most of every opportunity that is placed in front of us:
- “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)
- “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.’” (John 4:13, 14)
- “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1)
- “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time [every opportunity], because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16)
While we can and should plan, one of our major challenges is that we don’t know all that God has ordained for the day, and God usually takes us off of our plan to follow His ideal path – it takes wisdom and faith to discern what God is doing and inviting us to join Him in rather than settling for what we originally had in mind for the day. It’s God’s plan, not ours, and often our thoughts could not be farther than His thoughts; also, we can see in the Bible that God always takes His servants off their intended course to accomplish His plan in His ways so that He is clearly glorified in the situation rather than people taking credit and trusting in self. If you have been a Christian for long, surely you can bear witness to the fact that our faith grows strongest and God is most revealed when His plans ultimately prevail over our plans.
- “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
- “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?” (Proverbs 20:24)
Psalm 4:6 – “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
All goodness comes from the Lord. People will regularly let you down, but God never will.
Psalm 4:8 – “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
You will only find peace in Jesus. Peace on Earth only becomes a reality when Jesus is present. When you trust in Jesus with all your heart, you will have peace in any situation. You will be able to rest peacefully in the back of the boat while it is being tossed about by the storms and while everyone else says, “We perish.” (Matthew 8:23-27)
Proverbs 15:1-9, 15-18 — A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…. The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit…. In the house of the righteous there is much treasure, but trouble befalls the income of the wicked…. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness. All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast. Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention….
Hopefully, you can see the clear parallels between Proverbs 15 and what you read today from Genesis and Psalm 4, how our relationship with God affects how we treat people and circumstances and how the way we treat people and circumstances effects our relationship with God. As Christians we should exude love, joy, peace, gratitude, and contentment because of our love, trust, and confidence in our God. If we are anxious, harsh, bitter, unloving, unforgiving and stingy to others, we are out of proper fellowship with Jesus Christ. The problem isn’t them, it is us. Again, what does your spirit today reveal about your connection with the Spirit?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 15 Jan 22: Today, consider what your response to hard situations and difficult people says about your walk with Jesus. Pray that Jesus would become so big in your life today, everything else would become so very small.