Returning Home

And Abram went on his journey from the south as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning … to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 13:3, 4).

While he was in Egypt, Abram pitched no tents nor did he set up any altar of worship. In fact, it was probably unwise of him to go to Egypt in the first place, as there is no record of God telling him to do so. While he was sojourning there, Abram also perpetrated a lie as an attempt to protect himself.

Whenever we take an unwise detour—and then realize it—part of repentance is to return to where we know we previously had met with God. Abram returned it to the place where he had first set up his tents, and worshipped God once again at the altar he had built at first. There he once again “called on the name of the Lord.”

It was from this place (not from Egypt) that God could say to Abram, “Arise, and walk in the land through its length and width, for I give it to you” (v. 17). “THEN” (v. 18)—and only then—was it safe for Abram to move his tents and set up a new altar of worship. 

Prayer—Father, I am sure I have strayed into an Egypt before, sojourning where my wits—and not Your voice—have led me. Thank You, Lord, for protecting me there, and for allowing me to “return home” to the place You intended for me, to the place where Your blessings flow. May I not move forward again unless You direct me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Are You Irritated? Good!

Pearl oysterPastor Tom Kaastra shared a whole new way of looking at the irritations we sometimes have, by pointing us to an example in nature. God reveals Himself to us in the Bible and through nature. That’s why Francis DeSales said, “God has signed all created things. We can trace His footsteps through the natural world.”

So take a look at the oyster. God designed it with a heart, a mouth, a digestive system, a reproductive system, a nervous system, and all other things that allow it to survive. But He also gave it a way to thrive.

The oyster can be irritated by a foreign invasion. But… God has put within the oyster the power to turn an irritation into a valuable pearl!

It is the same for Christians. The same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us (see Romans 8:11). That power allows us to see that all things are working together for the good of those who love God (see Romans 8:28-29). As Pastor Tom said it, “God wants to Jesus-size us.”

Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” So God designs irritations on purpose to develop a valuable pearl in our lives that will bring Him glory.

Look at Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt (which ranks in my book as a major irritation!). But look how Joseph saw the pearl God developed—

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not to be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. (Genesis 45:4-8, emphasis added)

So the next time you’re irritated, remind yourself, “Great! God is making a valuable pearl in my life!”

You can watch the video of Pastor Tom’s message below, and be sure to check out his website for other valuable lessons like this one.

Links & Quotes

link quote

Some great reading I found today.

God has sought us out: let us have good hope for those who are laid upon our hearts in prayer, for He will find them out also. … It is a point of honor with Jesus to seek and to save all the flock, without a single exception. What a promise to plead!” —Charles Spurgeon

Where is the outrage?! Christian Girls Abducted & Raped In Egypt.

[INFOGRAPHI] Right on the heels of Easter, Bible Overview has a great infographic of everyone in the Bible who was raised from the dead.

The apostles had this instinct: When in trouble, pray. When intimidated, pray. When challenged, pray. When persecuted, pray!” —Jim Cymbala. Read more from Pastor Cymbala’s great post on prayer.

“Throughout our history Americans have put their faith in God and no one can doubt that we have been blessed for it. The earliest settlers of this land came in search of religious freedom. Landing on a desolate shoreline, they established a spiritual foundation that has served us ever since.” —Ronald Reagan

“Nobody ever got anything from God on the grounds that he deserved it. Having fallen, man deserves only punishment and death. So if God answers prayer it’s because God is good.” —A.W. Tozer

Sacrifice is not giving up things, but giving to God with joy the best we have.” —Oswald Chambers

Guard These Bones

Here’s an odd one. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for a long, long time. God does these miraculous things, culminating in the death of every firstborn child in Egypt who’s not in a house covered by lamb’s blood. Pharaoh has finally had enough, “Quick!” he shouts, “Get out of here now! Leave this country!”

So the Israelites pack up as quickly as they can to leave before Pharaoh changes his mind. And then this odd statement appears, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.”

Seriously? Bones? We’re kinda in a rush here!

Well, they’re not just any bones. It’s not like they’re just loose bones lying around. They’re in a mummy case.

Yeah, and…?

They were the bones of Joseph. The one who foresaw the coming famine. The one whom Pharaoh put as second-in-command to make preparations for the famine. The one who saved the Israelites from starvation. That Joseph. Just before he died he made his family take an oath that when they left Egypt, they would take his bones with them (Genesis 50:25-26).

They took the oath. And for the next 430 years someone had to watch over the bones. Through about twelve generations, from father to son, from son to grandson, from grandson to great-grandson, the oath was passed: “Guard these bones. When we leave, the bones go with us.”

So when they left Egypt, Moses took the bones with him. But then the Israelites sinned and had to wander in the wilderness for another 40 years. Another whole generation died, and still the oath was passed: “Guard these bones.”

The Israelites finally re-entered their home land, but had to defeat their enemies that had taken possession of their land while they were in Egypt. For about 30 years the Israelites fought. And still the oath was passed: “Guard these bones.”

Finally as a postscript to Joshua’s account we see Joseph’s bones being buried in Shechem, nearly 500 years after Joseph died!

For 500 years they kept the oath; they guarded the bones.

Do you realize that the way you are living today could be the answer to a 500-year-old prayer? Just like the Israelites who kept their eyes on God, you and I must live today with a purpose and with a mission. When we live godly lives, we are guarding the bones of prayers that were prayed, the bones of petitions that were made, the bones of oaths that were requested and honored.

What are you doing today to guard the bones of your ancestor’s prayers?

One Of The Most Unusual Stories

There is one of the most unusual stories inserted in Genesis 38. I say “inserted” because it almost seems out of place. In chapter 37, Joseph’s brothers have just sold him into slavery and convinced their Dad that a wild animal killed him. In chapter 39, we pick up Joseph’s story again as he arrives in Egypt.

Genesis 38 has a story that doesn’t fit in Joseph’s story. It’s sort of a giant parenthesis. Not only that, it’s a story of mistake after error after mess up after bad judgment after more mistakes.

Judah, an older brother of Joseph, came up with the idea of selling him instead of killing him. Perhaps being around his co-conspirators was too difficult for him, so Judah left town.

  • Mistake #1: not dealing with his guilt and sin, but running away from it.

Judah married a Canaanite woman.

  • Mistake #2: inter-marrying with a non-God-fearing culture.

Judah gave his son Er in marriage to Tamar.

  • Mistake #3: allowing his son to inter-marry with the Canaanites too.

Er sinned. The Bible doesn’t say what it was, but it was so offensive that God put him to death.

  • Mistake #4: sin against God.

Onan (Judah’s second son) sinned. He had a familial responsibility to his brother and sister-in-law’s family line, but he snubbed them both.

  • Mistake #5: more sin against God.
  • Mistake #6: disregard for family.

Judah promised Shelah (his third son) to Tamar. But he procrastinated in following through on that because he thought Tamar was a black widow.

  • Mistake #7: deception.

Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and waited along the road for Judah.

  • Mistake #8: more deception.

Judah slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar (yuck!), thinking she was a prostitute.

  • Mistake #9: fornication.
  • Mistake #10: incest.

Tamar became pregnant, and Judah wanted to have her publically punished for her infidelity.

  • Mistake #11: hypocrisy.

That’s a whole lot of sin and error and lapses in judgment and mistakes for just one family. What a mess this family had become! So, why in the world is this story inserted here? Because Tamar had twins: Perez and Zerah. In listing the royal, kingly genealogy of Jesus, Matthew writes

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.

Perez is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. God took all of those mistakes and made something great come from it!

It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you’ve made. It doesn’t matter how many times you think you’ve blown it. It doesn’t matter how many lapses in judgment you’ve had. God still has a plan for you. He wants to do something great through you. Will you let Him?

Unintended Consequences

Sometimes even with the best of intentions, our actions can create a series of events that we never anticipated. What’s worse, like a row of neatly arranged dominos, once the first one has been knocked over, it’s hard to stop the tumble of the other dominos.

Case in point: Abram (or Abraham, as he would come to be known later).

He followed God’s call to leave his homeland of Ur and travel to Canaan—the Promised Land. He came to Canaan as a fairly wealthy man, having built quite a portfolio in his home country. After he arrived, he built a couple of altars to God and things appeared to be going well.

Until the famine. [you can read the story for yourself here]

Then without asking God, Abram left Canaan and traveled to Egypt. This was the first domino to be knocked down. The rest that fell were the unintended consequences of this single decision.

Abram lied to the Egyptians about his wife, telling them that she was his sister. As a result, she was taken into Pharaoh’s harem. Did Pharaoh sleep with her? The Bible doesn’t say for sure. Was Sarai mad at Abram? The Bible doesn’t answer this one either, but I think we all know the answer to this question!

Abram got richer. Because Pharaoh was so happy with Sarai, Pharaoh gave him sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and servants.

But this newly acquired wealth caused yet another domino to fall.

Abram and his nephew Lot began to have arguments about their large herds of animals. To settle their dispute, they split up.

Another domino fell.

Lot, without Abram’s mentorship, moved near Sodom. He got caught up in its sinful lifestyle and lost everything he owned. All he had left were two daughters, who were wicked, manipulative young ladies.

And yet another domino.

Abram and Sarai couldn’t have children. So Sarai suggested that Abram sleep with Hagar, their Egyptian maid. Would Sarai have suggested this if Abram hadn’t abandoned her to Pharaoh? If they hadn’t gone to Egypt, Hagar wouldn’t even have been there!

And the final domino.

Hagar did get pregnant. But her son Ishmael became the father of the Arabic people. A race of people that is openly hostile to the Jewish people to this day.

So many unintended consequences. So many dominos knocked down because of just one decision.

I’m grateful that God made something good out of this, but what incredible pain and hardship exist to this day because of one decision 4000 years ago.

My takeaway: I need to lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all my heart and mind and do not rely on my own insight or understanding.

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