Is Anything Impossible for God?–Genesis 18 Part 2

There simply are things in life that seem impossible–even for God.  In hindsight, certainly God could easily and did bring Sarah a child.  But, after nearly a century of wanting to bear a child–such a hope seemed way out of reach and even comical.  As Abraham and Sarah had faithfully followed God in Canaan, the two of them were blessed exceedingly and abundantly–beyond measure.  Still, there always nagged that one unfulfilled promise–the promise of an heir.  I’m sure it was the utter frustration of “I have heard that promise before!” that caused Sarah to laugh when God announced her pregnancy. Yet, it  was no less a sign that she lacked complete trust that God would fulfill his promise.  When called out, she was scared and embarrassed–like I would be, but, to God, it was a great teaching moment–“Is there anything impossible for God?”

In our lives, when we have sought and followed God, we have often expected for life to be fun-filled and glorious.  Then when reality has set in, we inadvertently begin to lose a little faith.  While we still believe God is awesome and he is the master of the universe–we sometimes fail to personalize his power for our journey.  In reality–God’s ways are not our ways.  We have ideas and expectations for how we think God should proceed.  Yet, in retrospect, we often find that God’s plan–well executed; makes our lives full and meaningful.  We also can track event after event–where we have made things much more difficult by trying to help God out–ask Hagar and Ishmael.  In the athletics and in the military world, the soldiers and athletes are pushed beyond what they believe they can bear.  But, at the end of the season or training–These folks are in the top shape and intimately prepared for what lies ahead.  We must trust that God has the same in mind for us; and follow him closely to make sure we are as highly trained and finely tuned.  There are no higher stakes, nor greater prize than what lies ahead for us!

God Bless You

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.

Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.

So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’

Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

The New Commission–Genesis 17 Part 1

Things simply moved along for 13 years–Abram, Sarai, Hagar and Ishmael all did life together. Abram lived his nomadic life and God was quiet. I am certain that Abram thought that the birth of Ishmael marked the end of God’s plan for him.  He probably thought many days–was I wrong, was all that covenant stuff a dream–then God appeared again. Abram–walk faithfully and blamelessly before me and we will amend our Covenant a bit!
 
Abram was dumbfounded and did what any good follower would do–he fell on his face knowing he was unworthy to be in God’s presence.  Instead of being punished by God, however, he was being re-commissioned–the father of many nations.  In his second century of life, Abraham–his new name, would be fruitful and would be the start of a lineage that would bring God across the world. 
 
What an amazing promise.  God was not ever displeased, he was simply preparing Abraham for a big job–being the patriarch of many nations and rulers across the world.  I am sure Abraham was astounded as he only had the one son by his wife’s maid and did not own even one acre of land.
 
One always needs to remember that God’s ways are never our ways.  He loves to take the impossible and make it possible.  Here–he would make a wandering nomad the father of the middle eastern world, but what of our lives? Is God simply quiet, or is he preparing us to do something amazing?
 
Like Abraham, we have to continue to journey forward and allow God to prepare us for what HE has in mind.  We cannot out guess him, out act him or even help him to get his plan implemented.  Like Abraham, we must simply fall face down in reverence and follow his lead–it may seem strange or even impossible, but with God–all things are possible.
 
God Bless You
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

The Value of Human Life–Genesis 9 Part 1

After Noah, God changed everything.  Once he and his family left the Ark, God changed the relationship between men and animals.  Men moved from the caretaker of the animals to the ruler of the animals.  God made it clear, that men could eat meat.  He only required  that the blood be drained out.  In addition, he told Noah and his sons that human life was precious.  He put a sense of dread over the animals so as to make them fearful of men.  In addition, he made sure that Noah and his family were clear that taking a human life–any human life, would exact a great price.  God wanted men to know that among men and animals, all lives mattered.
 
Nothing has changed from God’s perspective. in his realm, all men will give an account when they take a human life.  God always has considered us a precious treasure in creation.  Sadly, we have so devalued life, that death barely raises an eyebrow in our culture. We have been exposed to so much death through news and entertainment, that we have lost the sense of importance for life.  That is why we, as his chosen, must be advocates  for life.  We cannot look the other way when people openly devalue the lives of anyone not convenient for their own plans. Abortion, euthanasia, violence in the streets are all vestiges of a bigger problem–disregard for life.  God calls us to be different, to be selfless.  He asks his own to value the precious treasure that life really is!
 
God Bless You
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
    has God made mankind.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

The Wise See The World From A Peaceful Place–Ecclesiastes 9 Part 2

So many people seek to exploit every trick and trade to advance themselves.  In the ancient Greek story, Homer tells of a young prince that travels across the world to escape his horrible fate–only to run right into it. Life is very much like that.  We do everything we can to escape our fates, only to find ourselves ensnared and entrapped in life’s circumstance without warning or protection.  What Solomon sees, is that men would live better, fuller and more peaceful lives–if they would simply listen to the wise, and accept the lives they are in, and make the most of them.
 
The trick is not to focus on one’s own circumstances, but, instead to focus on God and his desire to give us a full and meaningful life.  Wisdom dictates that we can live simply, humbly and gratefully; and in that, experience more joy and deeper peace, than if we were buried in ill-gotten fortune or unfettered ambition. There is never enough stuff for those who are obsessed with stuff.  There is never enough excitement for those whose only solace comes from the next adventure. 
 
Amazingly, those that seek God and are content with the life he has provided–find themselves steeped in peace and in joy no matter what circumstance appears.  They celebrate life’s gifts, they endure life’s challenges. They push to be their best and to pour their lives into others, all the while, wisely accepting that control lies in the hand of the Creator. Make no mistake, they are not absolved from struggle and tragedy–they are simply equipped to endure it, and blessed with others with whom they may walk through it.  That is the heart of wisdom, and that is the glory of being in relationship with God!
 
God Bless You
I have seen something else under the sun:

The race is not to the swift
    or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
    or wealth to the brilliant
    or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

12 Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:

As fish are caught in a cruel net,
    or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
    that fall unexpectedly upon them.

13 I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: 14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.

17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
    than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
    but one sinner destroys much good.

All Things to All People–Acts 21 Part 2

 Paul had returned to Jerusalem.  There in the midst of the Jewish Church, the news of the transformation among the gentiles was well received.  But,there was still confusion about how the Jewish church was to respond to Christ’s call.  The heart of confusion rested in the fact that the nation of Israel had been set apart as a nation of priests.  In their journey, they had been given a great deal of structure and tradition that was a part of their identity as individuals and as a people.
 
Paul saw the truth in that, and while he did not believe the law could save anyone, he agreed to carry on the traditional purification and offerings among the Jewish church in order to show unity and win men to Christ. In the midst of his return, he happily followed the traditions to encourage and build up the family inn Jerusalem.
 
In our lives, we often find issue among believers that they may not see eye-to-eye on.  Type of worship, depth of study or even how to evangelize–puts Christians at odds with one another. When the church finally grasps the idea that we are a family–a community that have different backgrounds and traditions; then we can accept minor differences to see growth and unity within the body.  As a body,we have to work together and allow personal differences to rest and focus on Christ and him crucified.  If we will, he will guide us to truth and transformation that could still turn a chaotic world into one nation under God! Lets stop bickering and start praying!!!
 
God Bless You
When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them

Moving Toward the Inevitable–Acts 21 Part 1

When on mission from the Lord, it is difficult to explain the drive to keep moving forward; even though the eventual end for one is not good.  Paul had been warned that his return to Jerusalem was to end in his capture. still, he also knew that his mission was to carry the Gospel throughout the world and to the gentiles.  God was moving him to a place that would ultimately change the course of history.
 
Still, all the folks he encountered hated to see him harmed.  Time and again the friends and companions tried to wave him off of his return to Jerusalem.  The question is, were they wrong for caring? No, as brothers and sisters in Christ we are tasked with the duty of speaking the truth in love.  Paul’s friends and companions were simply telling him the truth.  He ultimately had to do what he was called to do, but, his people also had to be sure he was following the journey that God was leading.
 
In our lives, we are also tasked with the duty of encouraging each other and building each other up.  I Thessalonians 5:11. In that process, we can speak the truth, but like Paul’s companions, we have to let each person fulfill his God directed mission.  It is difficult, and often as we do that, we do it with great fear and trepidation.  But, God reminds us that we are to trust him with our future and its timing.  As we do, he will use us to in some way change our lives and ultimately change the world!
 
God Bless You 
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

Let the Expansion Begin–Acts 10 Final

 God has reminded us from the beginning that he holds our future and the timing of our future.  All through Bible history, God implemented his plan in times and through people that the average person would never expect.  Peter was simply minding his own business, when God sent him to meet with Cornelius, the Centurion. Cornelius had spent a lifetime honoring God—even without any real means of knowing him personally.  Then, Christ appeared and everything changed.

God sent Peter, his lead apostle to start the expansion.  He prepared Cornelius and is family to hear the message and he blessed and anointed the meeting with his spirit—to leave no doubt about his personal stamp of approval. At the close, the family was baptized and the church expanded past the Jewish population and began its march across the world.

I am sure that Cornelius was ready to be saved much sooner than Peter appeared.  He had been seeking God for some time. God had a plan and had to put all the pieces together, however, prior to its implementation. Paul was ready to evangelize, Peter was established as a leader and Cornelius and his family longed to know God. Let the ministry begin.

We are reaping the benefit of God’s perfect timing.  We often seek God on our terms—as did Cornelius, only to find that he always operates in his time and through his plan.  It is often maddening for us to have to wait on him, and yet, when he executes his plan, there is never a doubt that his plan was right and his execution flawless.  God told us in Jeremiah—“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you—plans to give you a hope and a future!” Jeremiah 29:11.

God Bless You

 

Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.