Tag Archives: God’s Word

Let There Be No Strife Between Us

Text:  Genesis 13:8-9, NLT

8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.” Genesis 13:8-9 (NLT)

Introduction

During his 10-year prison stay, Craig wrote to his family members on many occasions, declaring his repentance and asking for forgiveness – but no one answered. Because he was a minister and a leader in his community, his highly publicized trial had left a bitter taste in the mouth of his family. Upon his release, he continued to write, but no one in his family would communicate with him, even though he had been out of prison for more than two years.

 

Move 1

Abraham had taken Lot his nephew with him to the land that God had shown him.  Lot had been with Abram through famine and prosperity.  As relatives, they had endured much together.  Both of them had been prospered by God and all between the family seemed well.

Nonetheless, because of their prosperity both of them could not live on the same piece of property.  Abraham and Lot loved each other and got along well, but their employees were engaged in continuous conflicts over use of land, water, and resources.  This tension caused Abraham and Lot as close relatives to begin to withdraw from each other.  This conflict interfered with the special relationship they had always enjoyed.  Lord, have mercy!

Now let me add here that these conflicts had become so contentious they had become violent and Abraham knew that the situation had to change.  I’m so glad that somebody in the family, especially the one who has God on their side knows when to act.  Abraham did not sit idly by and watch the devil destroy his relationship with Lot and the rest of his family.  Abraham acted and moved to resolve the issue.

Abraham said again, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen.  After all, we’re close relatives!”  I wonder if there’s anybody here among this assembly of family and friends who have allowed strife to come between you and your relatives to the point that you no longer fellowship one with the other.  I wonder if there’s anyone here who no longer attends the family reunion or no longer goes to visit a relative because of strife.  Well, if you’re in the building I stop by to tell you, God says, “Let no strife come between you because God is able to bless each of you.”  Hallelujah!

Abraham makes the first move; Abraham decides to give Lot the option to choose whatever land he wants as long as they continue to remain close as relatives.  Lot reveals his heart when he chose “the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar.”  He made his decision because “the whole area was well watered.”  Water was like gold in the world economy today.  The one who controls the water controls the economy.  And it’s just like the situation in Israel and Palestine today; the one who controls the water controls the land.  Lord, have mercy!

Israel and Palestine have been feuding for generations because Israel insists on controlling the major water routes.  I wonder if there is anyone here this afternoon who is controlling things in your family and because of your control others in your family have been held back, held up, and kicked back.  I wonder is there anybody here who knows somebody in your family that won’t share the blessings God has given your family because they control that blessing.  I wonder if there is anyone here this afternoon who believes that you can stop your family member’s blessings because mother or father left you in charge of the property and the money.  Lord, have mercy!

I stop by to tell you this afternoon, you better be a blessing, because when you become a blessing to your family, God will do exceedingly abundantly above all things.  Can I get a witness here?  Anybody here every had the bless you in spite of…..in spite of what your relatives did to you…..in spite of what they said about you…..can I get a witness here?  Hallelujah!

 

Move 2

Well, let me move on.  I got to tell you three things about this text that demonstrates how friends and family should relate to one another.  Hallelujah!

First, families and friends should stick together.  You have heard it said, “Blood runs thicker than water.”  That means that when you are related to somebody you’re family.  You will not allow anyone or anything to come between you and family.  God called Abram out from his Father and Mother’s house.  God did not call Lot; but since Lot was Abraham’s nephew and Lot wanted to go with Uncle Abram, Abram allowed him to go with him.  Abram became responsible for Lot’s welfare and ensured that Lot had the same opportunities to be blessed that Abram had.  Lord, have mercy!

Abram did not try to keep Lot from the blessings that God blessed him with.  Abram shared all that God had blessed him with, with his nephew Lot.  And Lot became a wealthy and mighty man.  Hallelujah!  Abram knew that families should stick together and bless one another.  Can I get a witness here?

Not only should families stick together but families should settle any differences that come between them.  Notice carefully that it was the older family member that made the first gesture to settle the dispute.  Abram went to his nephew and made an offer of compromise so that the family could remain stable.

Somebody here this afternoon knows that you have been entrusted by your fore parents to watch over the family and to take care of your younger siblings, but you are acting stubborn and stuck up.  I stop by to tell you that as a child of God, you ought to make the first move.  You ought to give that younger person in the family the opportunity to blessed even if it looks like you might lose something.  Lord, have mercy!

Third, and finally, families should sacrifice for one another.  Abram had to sacrifice so that Lot could be blessed and move on with his life.  But the mnute Abram acted like his Father in Heaven, his Father in Heaven showed up to bless his socks off.  Lord, have mercy!

God said to Abram, “14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants[a] as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.”

The devil told Abram he was stupid; the devil told Abram you crazy; the devil told Abram if I were you I wouldn’t give Lot anything.  You the one with the blessing on your life; just run Lot away and keep what God has given you.  God never promised Lot anything anyway.

But I’m so glad that Abram looked at the devil and told the devil, “You just don’t know who you’re dealing with.  For I serve a God who is able to take care of me.  I’m the head of this household; I’m in charge of my father’s brother’s son.  And because he’s family, I’m going to resolve this issue.”  Devil, get thee behind me.  I will let no strife come between Lot and me.  Devil, my family is more important than my pride; my family is more important than houses and lands; my family is more important than silver and gold.  Hallelujah!

 

Move 3 (Conclusion)

You remember Craig; let me finish the story about Craig and his family.  Just after his release from prison, Craig returned to his community and formed a ministry that provided homes for the community’s homeless. Now, Craig was in the news again. Two years had gone by, and Craig had served faithfully without receiving any pay.

One night, as Albert watched the evening news, he saw a newscaster at a ceremony where, to his amazement, his brother Craig was being awarded the key to the city for the good work his ministry was doing in the community. Suddenly, Albert felt convicted, and he saw his brother’s life in a different light. He decided that he would pay his brother a visit.

Craig looked thinner than Albert remembered. He looked tired and withdrawn – no doubt the effects of a 10-year prison term. Albert stood in the busy storefront office and embraced his brother awkwardly. Then he said, “Craig, I apologize for not seeking you out sooner. I’m sorry I let your past mistakes keep me away. I wanted to be the first one in the family to welcome you back. We all got together, and we want to bless your ministry with a $1,000 contribution.”

Both men let their tears run freely. After Albert made that first move, love was victorious. A wave of reconciliation swept through their family.  Lord, have mercy!

Well,  because you and I were walking along the road of life when all of a sudden we came to a deep cavern in the road.  The engineers had left on a thin, spider web that stretched from one side of the cavern to the other.  The spider web was the only way over to the other side.  You and I had a spider web’s chance of making it over the cavern to the other side.  Lord, have mercy!

The cavern was the sin and iniquity that Adam bequeathed to us as human beings.  The spider web was our attempts to love one another and to do good in the earth.  We found ourselves unable to do good because whenever we tried to do good, evil was always present.  Lord, have mercy!  Can I get a witness here!

Many times that spider web had been broken by strife and offense between brother and sister, father and mother, relatives and friends.  Many times we had been walking across the cavern on the spider web only to get suspended over the cavern and find ourselves falling into the ravine.  We had no way to ensure the spider web would hold.  We were without hope and without God in the world.  Lord, have mercy!

But I hear a voice crying down through the ages, “Prepare me a body, Lo I come in the volume of the book it is written of me to do thy will, O God.”  And I heard the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest peace on earth good will toward men.  For unto you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord!”  yes, he did.

He came not as an overseer or a judge; but he came as our kinsman redeemer and our Elder brother.  He came to settle the strife between us and God.  He came to sacrifice his life for our death.  For we were doomed to die and spend eternity in hell.  But Jesus came that we might have life and that more abundantly.  Yes, he came to make sure that you and me could make into the promised land.  Anybody here glad about what Jesus came to do.  Anybody here can bear witness that Jesus paid it all.  Anybody here knows that if it had not been the Lord on your side, you never would have made it.

I’m so glad that Jesus came.  I’m so glad that my elder brother made a way for me.  Are you glad this afternoon about what God did through Jesus Christ.  Well if you show enough glad, you ought to commit this afternoon to let no strife come between you and your family and friends.

You ought to tell the devil, because God is able, I’m able.  I’m going to forgive and bless my friends and I’m going to bless my family.  I’ll let nothing separate me from the responsibility to to love my friends and family.  I’m going to settle the issue today; I’m going to let go and let God right now!  Hallelujah!

Paul said it like this “All we like sheep have gone astray, each unto his own way;  and God has laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all.”  Lord, have mercy!  Beloved, God reconciles people and all things to Himself through the sacrificial blood of Jesus. God’s plan to reconcile us to Himself reminds us that reconciliation requires that someone make the first move.

 

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Come apart and Rest

Psalm 131:1-3

We spend precious time trying to protect ourselves from being wronged by others. We devise plans and take pains to execute our plans to the last detail.  Yet we are still wronged.

We engage in mind-boggling conspiracy theories of which we are useless to defend. The machinations of this world are intertwined and often directed towards our demise. Many of the best and brightest of us are incarcerated unjustly.  We fight, march, and struggle for justice countless hours, months, and years. We become overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, and melancholy. The fight of life steals from us the joy of life. Some fight to live others live to fight.

But who rests?  The psalmist does. The psalmist realizes that struggle is worthwhile yet endless. There is a need for intermission.  She rests!  And while resting replenishes herself with the knowledge that God handles things that seem impossible, things beyond our control or our ability to influence.   She rests as she did upon entering this expansive universe, trusting a mother she had just met, a father she knew little about, a world she had only briefly encountered. 

Like the time spent suckling an unknown mother’s breast, she rests trusting her God of whom she knows little. She curls up quietly and wraps herself in God’s Word. She ceases her struggle and receives restoration, renewal, and strength.  She rests in childlike Faith in the assurance that her God will hold the reigns of her life.  She rests!

Find some time to rest!

A Desperate Plea for Restoration

Psalm 80:1-3

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. 3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Move 1

“Our world is not okay,” these Advent readings declare in stark terms, and God’s apparent absence isn’t okay, either. We are surrounded by evil and suffering, and we’re not sure our faith can endure what our eyes reluctantly witness each day. Though we long for a Savior to rend the heavens and come down, the very ferocity of that longing often wearies our souls.

The first gift of Advent, then, is the permission to tell the truth, even if that truth is laced with sorrow. We are invited to describe life “on earth as it is,” and not as we mistakenly assume our religion requires us to render it.[1]

Cities are exploding over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct. Football players like Ray Rice get a free pass on domestic violence. Colleges shrug off epidemics of rape and cheating.

Banks and the financially independent wage unrelenting war on their fellow Americans. Descendants of immigrants turn against new arrivals and call it patriotism. Large companies like General Motors sell defective products. Lobbyists control our legislators, and they in turn deny votes and basic rights to certain citizens.[2]

The second is the gift — and the discipline — of waiting. During Advent, we live with quiet anticipation in the “not yet.” We stop rushing, and decide to call sacred what is yet in-process and unformed. As Paul puts it in this week’s reading from 1st Corinthians, we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is no easy task in the modern world, which applauds arrivals, finish lines, shortcuts, and end products, far more than it does the meandering journey or odd way station. Eugene Peterson calls the Christian life “a long obedience in the same direction,” and I don’t think we can get more counter-cultural than that. If the secular world speeds past darkness to the safe certainty of light, then Advent reminds us that necessary things — things worth waiting for — happen in the dark. Next spring’s seeds break open in dark winter soil. God’s Spirit hovers over dark water, preparing to create worlds. The child we yearn for grows in the deep darkness of the womb. “Our food is expectation,” writes Nora Gallagher about Advent. In this season, we strive to find, “not perfection, but possibility.”

Thirdly, Advent prepares us for the God who is coming — a God who will turn out to be very different from the one we expect and maybe even hope to find.[3]

The end of all this prayer, all this pleading with God is ‘we want some peace in our lives; we want peace in our world.” But what is peace without God as King and Sovereign. Certainly the bible declares “There is no peace to the wicked.” So if this plea is to be fulfilled, somebody has to invite God into their lives as Lord and King. Indeed, what we need is restoration. Thus we find ourselves waiting and God finds himself waiting. We wait for God and God waits upon us. God waits for us to change our attitudes and lifestyle to that of a worshipper. We wait until we’re so sick and tired of being sick and tired until we are able to change to meet God’s demands. Waiting then is for both God and man. And that is why peace alludes us; Restoration precedes peace!

Move 2

Billy Graham, world famed Evangelist remarked, “We’ve lost sight of the fact that some things are always right and some things are always wrong. We’ve lost our reference point. We don’t have any moral philosophy to undergird our way of life in this country, and our way of life is in serious jeopardy and serious danger unless something happens. And that something must be a spiritual revival.”[4]

The following is a fictitious story but it’s a beautiful way to illustrate God’s work to restore his fallen creation or his power to restore broken people.

Ever since he was a little boy, his parents had been promising that they would give him a beautiful car to drive when he turned 16. He even planned to park it in the family’s barn where it could stay warm and dry. Only first his dad would have to get rid of that old car sitting in the barn. He couldn’t wait for his dad to haul it off to the dump to make way for his dream car.

But when would that day come? When would that new car arrive? And when would his dad get rid of that old junky car under the tarp? Then one evening in early summer he heard strange sounds coming from that old barn. It sounded like power tools … a drill … a hammer. What was going on? Peering into the darkness he saw nothing but the stars overhead. And he noticed that a light was on in the barn. He walked into the warm night air, down the dirt path, and poked his head into the barn door.

When he saw the tarp, rolled up and left against the door, he excitedly thought, Was Dad finally getting rid of that junky old car? But then he suddenly looked and saw one of the most incredible sports cars in automotive history. It was a Corvette, but not just any Corvette. It was the coveted, beautiful, powerful 1963 Corvette 327 V8 with a split window, aluminum knock-off wheels, painted candy apple red.

So that was the car underneath the tarp all those years. He stood there stunned. It was always there, just getting ready for his father’s masterful work of restoration. At that moment his father looked up, his hands deep in the engine bay, and handed his son a socket wrench. With a broad smile, he said, “Come on, son. Grab a tool and let’s get this car ready.”[5]

Move 3

According to George Gallup, Jr. “Any revitalization of faith in this country will have to start with prayer, in which we gain a sense of the living presence of God.”[6]Prayer is our work done in the dark. Revival, restoration and renewal are God’s work revealed in the light. That’s what we need today. That’s the solution for this hour. We need intercessors who will pray under cover of darkness.

God does his best work under cover of darkness. It was in the darkness that God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham saying surely I will be with you wherever I send you and you and your family will be blessed forever.

It was in the darkness that God spoke to Pharaoh saying you’ve kept my firstborn, my people Israel in bondage too long. And about midnight the death angel passed over Egypt and destroyed the Egyptian firstborn. Yet the children of God remained untouched, covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

It was in darkness that God eradicated sin and its power by hanging on the cross of calvary.   There Jesus destroyed Satan and displayed to the world Satan’s impotence.

Just as that Father restored that old clunker under the tarp, God will restore us. It’s dark for Black people, its darker still for immigrants in America. Black sons and daughters of Abraham are being killed all over the country. Yet, I hear the Lord declare in Isaiah 43:1-7:

“Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them back! Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him. ”

Yes Lord, we cry out to you: “Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.” (Psalms 80:2b-3) Come Lord, because you know what we need; come Lord, because you created us in your image and in your likeness. Lord, when you come, peace will flow. When you come we will indeed be saved.

Works Cited

[1] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[2] Ehrich, Tom (2014). “Can a nation so wounded by its divisions survive?” Retrieved from http://www.ministrymatters.com/preach/entry/5580/can-a-nation-so-wounded-by-its-divisions-survive.

[3] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[4] Billy Graham in a speech at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Founder’s Day (April 4, 1989). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 9.

[5] Adapted from Randall Rauser, What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven?(Baker Books, 2013), pp. 157-158

[6] George H. Gallup, Jr. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.