Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bible Study ~ Genesis 18-19

Genesis 18-19 

Who is it about? God or us?

“The Lord appeared to Abraham...” Genesis 18:1 Just let that thought sink in for a moment: The Lord appeared to Abraham. Visits from the Almighty were a regular occurrence for Abraham, much different than our experience today. What was Abraham's response? Did he recognize who these visitors were? Who were they?

After tending to their needs (washing their feet, feeding them, giving them rest) the visitors ask about Sarah. Where was she? They reiterated again God's promise of a son. What was Sarah's response? Why was her laugh rebuked when Abraham's was accepted? (Abraham responded in faith, Sarah responded with doubt and distrust.)

God includes Abraham into His council and tells him of His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Why do you think God would have discussed the matter with Abraham? Was God needing advice? What was Abraham's request? Why do you think God chose to grant it?

The angels were sent ahead to Sodom – what did they discover? What was the response of the future sons-in-law? (Verse 19: 14 “thought he was joking”) Was God just in destroying the cities? Explain...

The angels woke the family early in the morning and granted them escape. Why had Lot not left before morning? Why would he be hesitant to leave? Lot pleads to change the requirements of the escape, and the angels consent and allow them to only flee as far as the nearest town of Zoar to make it easier on the family. Lot's wife looks back (ignoring the angel's command not to) and is turned to a pillar of salt.

We see that even though Lot's family just saw the result of sin first hand, and the serious consequences of it, within a matter of (probably days to weeks) there is more sexual sin already manifested in their lives. The sins of the father/culture had certainly passed along to the children. How does our culture compare to that of Sodom and Gomorrah? Do you see any similarities? What is the core of the sin that abounds in our country? (The denial of God leads to depraved, unchecked hearts- Romans 1:21-24, God turns us over to our sins when we refuse Him – Sodom is the epitome of what manifested sin looks like.)

The Ammonite and Moabite tribes that resulted have brought much strife throughout history for the nation of Israel, but ultimately the extent of God's grace to forgive every kind of sin, and use it for His glory, is seen through the hereditary line of Ruth (Ruth was a Moabite who was in the ancestral line of Jesus Christ).

If all Scripture points to Jesus Christ and all events will ultimately glorify God, how is that seen in this historical account? How is this account a representation of the hope found through the gospel? (Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone, God is able to forgive every sin through the atonement of Christ.)

The God of all grace is capable of making every situation glorify His name. But this same God will not tolerate sin. Jesus is coming soon (Revelation 22:20) and will deal once and for all with sin. Where are you with God? Are you ready to meet Him face to face?
Bible Study Credits: Terri Stellrecht

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Harvest Field

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35b

Too often, I forget to look up at the fields. My head downcast, or so preoccupied with “self,” or looking at somebody elses field, my own easily gets ignored. The glamor of a different ministry becomes appealing, maybe a stage somewhere, or a big platform, or being a missionary across the seas where I would be “super Christian” and be worthy of the title. Not the mundane of another day of home school in March with two feet of snow still left on the ground to battle through to do chores with a predicted high of only thirty-six.
In the midst of my pity party I am impelled to go back and re-read the words of Scripture:

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35b

I literally look up and see a teenage boy sitting at the island eating breakfast and reading his Bible. Either way, if even only for the sake of duty to cross it off his daily list, the living words are still being drunk in. I watch him for awhile, wondering where thirteen years have gone. I pray for him once again. No earthly desires top the list, only eternal ones. I beg God, please God, grant salvation to this son, too.
I am reminded of long-ago prayers whispered over sleeping children, standing next to their beds, touching their silent forms that were snuggled under handmade quilts. Prayers, particularly for Trent, that God would use his life in a mighty way for His glory. A prayer I didn't expect to be answered in the way that it was. A prayer that I am scared to request again. My words want to stay guarded before they leave my lips, frightened of what God may ask of me next. But He knows my heart. He knows the uttering of it, He has made the longing for His glory, no matter the cost, to reign.

Fear wants to sneak its way in – fears of what might be for their futures, fears even for this day, fears of more suffering. How quickly my eyes stray from the field where I have been sovereignly placed, stray from my Savior. Quietly, the thoughts of grace eventually calm the fears. I look back to the Bible and read the words again: Jesus answered [the Samaritan woman], “If you knew the gift of God...” (John 4:1) To truly know the gift of God compels me to endure.

In grief there is so much time spent trying to learn how to live without your loved one. Whether you get out of bed or not in the morning, it doesn't make a difference, they are still not here. Every event is met with a brokenness, a neon sign reminding you again and again that all is not right. There is a continuous aching in a mother's heart and arms that refuses to be comforted while your mind is forced to learn to live with the loss lest you literally go insane.
As much as I am learning to live with the loss of my son, I can't escape the continuous thought of Heaven. If Trent were just spending the weekend at his best friend's house, or staying with Aunt Traci for a while, or enjoying time at kid's camp I could associate with where he was. I would not doubt his “being.” Death is only an absence to those left behind, not to the person who died. Trent is still Trent.

As I sat in my recliner late one night last week, enjoying a book in the quiet hush of this old farmhouse, the startling revelation came to me again: Trent is in Heaven. The thought nearly took the wind out of me. Tears soon followed as the reality was fresh yet again. The brevity of this life once more became glaringly apparent. The gospel of John reminds me over and over of Jesus' words, “I am telling you the truth,” and “Believe me, woman” echoing truth today while I sit drinking my coffee and crossing the Bible off my own list. (John 4:21)
So somehow, I try to measure everything against that eternity. The short days here, the lives around me that God has given me the privilege of influencing, my own heart that has nowhere to hide. Like the Samaritan woman, though, (John 4) I quickly tend to change the subject, busy myself with the cares of this world, consume myself here in some new project rather than face the reality of eternal life.
Jesus met people where they were, even sinful women going about their daily duties. There was no prerequisite, other than brokenness, to feel his healing touch. Jesus meets me where I am today. He answers my prayers and renews my longing for His word, He breaks through my vitamin D depraved brain and lights the fire again so that rather than being lukewarm I may be hot. Rather than investing a little into eternity I may see the worth, as much as my human brain can conceive of the idea, of fully longing for redemption, longing for Christ to reign, longing for that glory that Paul talks about so often.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pictures of Remembrance

On my agenda for the past couple of years has been the project of tackling the transformation of the upstairs hallway. The orange shag carpeting has been torn out for quite some time and revealed decent, although characteristically unlevel, old house wooden floors. The lathe and plaster walls were repaired, then recently painted a neutral beige color and an appropriate border has been picked out and is just waiting to be installed. Family pictures were next. I have been purposely avoiding this part of the project. Part of me wants to see the walls plastered with all those smiling little faces, but the other part of me hasn't wanted to dig through the pictures to decide which ones to use.

Do you use all pre-accident photos, or acknowledge that life has been forced to go on and everybody else is two years older and use recent photos? Do you change them out every year, allowing the glaring reality that Trent's picture never changes to be the first thing you wake up to every morning? And then there's the actual event of digging through the archived pictures: the horse rides, the football games, the reminders of the breakfasts in bed that you never got a picture of.

Grief steals so much. More-so than just the person you are grieving, it steals your very self. It steals the mother, sister, wife, aunt, friend that you used to be. It drives you to the brink of insanity where you really don't think that just going over the edge of it would be so bad. It steals even the ability to think rationally. You start to forget that this life is a mist and heaven goes on for an eternity. Everything brings tears, even two years later.

The anniversary is over and Trent's birthday has just passed. Dear friends sent cards and emails, as well as called and visited. I cried over the ones who did, and the ones who didn't. The sweet, painful emotion of being loved well~ there are not adequate words to express how that feels.

I continuously tell God that I am so tired of crying. I can barely begin the words of a cohesive prayer anymore because all I do is lament and weep. There are no more words. My brain is exhausted by the work of searching out the glory of God in this (Proverbs 25:2NKJ). God knows my heart, He knows the depth of this agony. He has allowed a quiet hush to hover over me. A time of rest in my soul. A time of waiting as His work is being done. Simply "being" in Him. There doesn't always have to be answers to the questions.

So I went through the pictures. I relived life when there were five children smiling back at me on a computer screen all the way through life when there were only four. I sorted, debated, and created personal collages for each person in our family.

I chose the Roseman Bridge, where Trent's ashes were spread, for my collage. Pictures where I opened my hand and let go, let go of my son, let go of myself and my plans. Pictures of remembrance that mark in computer generated options my surrender to God, my attempt of the resurrection of an altar as the prophets of old used to build: an everlasting reminder of when God abundantly poured out His grace and along with it a great measure of hope. When He revealed Himself and allowed me to see and love Him more, and especially long for Him more, despite the great cost.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bible Study ~ Genesis 12-13

Genesis 12-13 

Who is it about? God or us? Who did you learn more about ?

Genesis 12:1-3 God calls Abram and blesses him with the promise of Christ.

God chose Abram (Isaiah 41:8; Matthew 22:14; Luke 23:35; John 15:19; 1 Peter 1:20 1 Peter 2:0) from among his fellow idolaters that he might reserve a people for himself. By moving him from his country, Abram was tried whether he loved God better than all. With this command, God calls Abram to begin a journey of faith that is marked by complete dependence upon God and God's promise. This is not an easy thing for Abram. The things he must leave are mentioned in order of increasing level of intimacy: "Go forth from your country, your relatives, and your closest family." Abram must leave all he holds dear and trust God to guide him in a new land.

The command God gave to Abram is much the same as the gospel call (natural affection for our ways must give way to Divine grace, sin and all the occasions of it must be forsaken, a promise of greatness fulfilled in Christ, blessings for obedience, all sustained by God's sovereign grace for his glory).

God's promises to Abram:

-I will make you into a great nation. (Literally, Abram would be the father of a great nation.)

-I will bless you. (Obedient believers will inherit a blessing/somewhat here/more-so an eternal blessing/blessings here are a foretaste of what is to come/encouragement to continue until we see Jesus face to face.)

-I will make your name great. (Book of life/the name of obedient believers shall certainly be made great/ “Shine like stars” Philippians 2:14-16)

-You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you/All people on earth will be blessed through Abram. (The greatest blessing to come through Abram would be that of Jesus Christ/Eventually through Abram came the Savior, the Bible and the gospel/Galatians 3:8.)

-Whoever curses you I will curse. (God will take care of Abram/all believers-sometimes not until eternity will it be “made right.”)

God allowed Abram to believe that the blessing of the Almighty would make up for all he could lose or leave behind, supply all his wants, and answer and exceed all his desires. He knew that nothing but misery would follow disobedience.
 *Do you believe that? Understand that? Explain.

Such believers, being justified by faith in Christ, have peace with God. They are not discouraged by the difficulties in their way, nor drawn away by the delights they meet with. What we undertake, in obedience to God's command, and in humble attendance on his providence, will certainly succeed and end with comfort at last.

Genesis 12:4-9 Abram departs from Haran, journeys through Canaan,
and worships God in that land.

Canaan was not a mere outward possession, but a type of heaven – the promised land that foreshadowed the real heaven to come (Hebrews 11:16). He journeyed through the country as a stranger, as a sojourner in this world. He continued to draw nearer to God through prayer – God revealed himself numerous times to Abram – Abram built alters of remembrance along the way.

*What “alter of remembrance” have you built to God? Have you seen and/or remembered His grace?

Genesis 12:10-20 Abram is driven by a famine into Egypt, he feigns his wife to be his sister.

Because of a famine, Abram brings his family to Egypt. This passage reveals Abram's “humanness” - although God has already appeared to him twice, he had just received great promises, and had experienced God's faithfulness he fell through unbelief and distrust of the Divine providence. He not only chose to sin, but led his wife, his attendants, and the Egyptians to sin also.

God reveals himself by delivering Abram out of his sin. God deals with his children not based on our actions, but based on his purposes and mercy all for his glory.
*How does this situation reveal God's glory? (God makes it clear that it is God's sovereignty, and not human initiative, that will bring the people of God into existence, God did not allow Pharaoh to hurt Abram's family, God exposed Abram's sin and granted him repentance, God kept Abram alive and continued His promises through a sinful man to reveal how deep His mercy and forgiveness goes, reveals that God's plans are not thwarted by our actions, a Christian will never fall beyond grace because it is God Himself who sustains them, points ultimately to the cross where forgiveness is found through Jesus Christ).

Genesis 13:1-4

Abram came out of Egypt very rich. The Hebrew word for rich is “heavy.” Habakkuk 2:6 says that those who will be rich load themselves with thick clay. Riches are a burden because of the care in getting them, the fear in keeping them, the temptation in using them, the guilt in abusing them, the sorrow in losing them, and the burden of giving an account to God for them in the end.(Mark 10:23-24)

*In America we strive to become rich – how can financial prosperity be a hindrance or blessing?

Yet God, in His providence, made Abram rich without sorrow (Proverbs 10:22). If prosperity is well managed it can be an opportunity to do more good than otherwise possible. In the midst of his riches, we still see Abram dependent on God and calling on his name. You may as soon find a living man without breath as one of God's people without prayer.

Genesis 13:5-9

Because of their overwhelming riches and animal stock, there was not enough room in the land for both of them (Abram and Lot). Quarrels, lying and slandering began with the servants, which was only made worse because they dwelt in the land inhabited by the Canannites and Perizzites- these quarrels would cause a reproach of their religion, and God's name. Abram wisely sought to solve the dilemma quickly. Although he was the elder and the greater of the two men, he yielded his first rights of the choice land to Lot in order to keep the peace. He understood that ultimately there was a greater land coming.

Lot, being selfish and choosing with the lust of his eyes, picked the fertile, fruitful land. Rather than looking to the morals of the country. The men of Sodom were impudent, daring sinners. This was the iniquity of Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and an abundance of idleness (Ezekiel 16:49). God often gives great plenty to great sinners.

Those who, in choosing relations, callings, dwellings, or settlements, are guided and governed by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life, cannot expect God's presence or blessing. They are commonly disappointed even in that which they principally aim at. In all our choices this principle should rule, That is best for us, which is best for our souls.
*How do you tend to make decisions? By that which is pleasing to you, or pleasing to God?

Bible Study Credits: Terri Stellrecht