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Was She a Victim or a Hero, a Sinner or Saint; and her Overlooked Encounter with God

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

7  The angel of the LORD met Hagar at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur 8  and said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress.” 9  He said, “Go back to her and be her slave.” 10  Then he said, “I will give you so many descendants that no one will be able to count them. 11  You are going to have a son, and you will name him Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your cry of distress. 12  But your son will live like a wild donkey; he will be against everyone, and everyone will be against him. He will live apart from all his relatives.” 13  Hagar asked herself, “Have I really seen God and lived to tell about it?” So she called the LORD, who had spoken to her, “A God Who Sees.” 14  That is why people call the well between Kadesh and Bered “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” 15  Hagar bore Abram a son, and he named him Ishmael. 16  Abram was eighty-six years old at the time. Genesis 16:7-16 (TEV)

Her story struck me far different this morning that it ever had before.  Usually, she is just an aside, we acknowledge she is there and quickly pass her by.

She slept with another man’s wife, (even if at the wife’s direction).  She didn’t have a good attitude to either afterward, and they didn’t have a good attitude toward her either.  She tried to escape her situation and that is where the story gets interesting. 

God chased after her.

Even as I type that, I think, this is increible.

God chased after her. 

He chased after her, blessed her, made her promises and restored her.

Despite all the drama in her life.  Despite all the pain. 

As she so perfectly puts it –  He is the God who sees.  God saw her, in the midst of her brokenness, in the midst of her trauma, in the midst of running away, trying to escape the drama.  He saw her, and blessed her, and gave her the strength to go back, to return to the midst of the brokenness, 

And we have this encounter, with the one who was not favored with the one who would struggle, with the one whose descendants would constantly battle God’s people, until one of the descendants of Issac would be born, and die, and become the ultimately blessing to all peoples.  

Including Hagar’s descendants.

I asked in the title if she was a victim, or a hero, a sinner or a saint.  I also wonder what the relationship between Sarah and her was like upon her return.  The questions are interesting and I honestly don’t know.

But what is important. what I do know about Hagar is this.  She was the lady whom God saw, and she lived. 

May we as well, in our mixed up, broken lives, know the love of God who sees even those of us whom others overlook.  For we too are a part of Christ’s story… for He saw us, and died, and rose again, for us.  May we too, encounter Hagar’s along the road, and watch God minister to them, through us.

God’s peace my friend.

AMEN!

The One Who Journeyed for a Promise!

What Child Is This?SAMSUNG

The One Who Journeyed for a Promise!

Genesis 12:1-9

In Jesus Name

 

May you realize how the grace of God our Father, the mercy, love and peace revealed to us as we are united to Christ, may you realize how it sustains you on this journey.

 Journeys…..

I wonder if there were children among Abraham’s people, if during the journey from UR to Bethel, he heard the ever present phrases emanating from the back of the caravan….

“Are we there yet?”

“Fr. Abraham, cousin Michael is hitting me!”

“Honey, is there a bathroom ahead of us soon?  I didn’t have to go at the last Oasis, but now…”

During the journey, there must have been times when Abraham raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Yahweh, you said this journey would be worth it….well – when does it get to be worth it?”

And about that time, someone gets sick…..or there is a flat tire or someone wonders whether the driver is lost, or…or..

Journeys do not always go as we plan.  Sometimes they are fun, sometimes not so much.  Especially when we forget why we are on the journey, when we forget our destiny.

Ultimately, that is what it is all about…knowing your destiny, and knowing that you aren’t alone on the journey….

Abraham’s Journey

So let’s look at Abraham’s journey first.  Imagine the conversations he had with his father, his family and friends.

You are going where?

Who is this God again?  How does He speak with you?  How are you going to manage there, no friends, no help?  Imagine the questions that Sarah had, and Lot.

It’s not easy to pick up everything and go to a destination you don’t know much about, to not even know when you are there!  Take my word for it, Kay and I have done this once or twice….

One of the things about Abraham’s life, that fascinates me, is trust in God, when he had no idea of the depth of the plan. The plan was revealed slowly, and the fulfilment of it was always off in the distance.  Eventually the promise would be seen fulfilled – but how many years?  He knew his descendants would spend time in captivity.  He struggled with how an old man would have heirs.  Like us, he sinned often, doing things like giving into his fears, and letting his wife be taken by a king.  He wrestled with God over the fate of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, He moved here and there, never really settling in one place in the Promised Land.   He may not have known hardly any of the points in the journey, but he had a promise, and he knew well the Lord who promised him.

CLICK  There is one thing he did, (well besides sinning) that we see here.  He set up places where he could worship, places set aside to interact with God.  Places to pray, places where Abraham could call on the name of the Lord the passage tells us.

It was a regular part of his life, even before the church, even before the Temple and the tabernacle.  Even as his life wasn’t easy, even as he was betrayed and hurt by his nephew, even though he would face small wars… there was a constant.

God’s presence, interaction with God.  What we call a relationship, or abiding with Christ.

A relationship where Abraham knew God well enough to trust Him at His word, and to call upon God often. God was part of his life, that’s why Abraham could trust Him.

Even when the trusting in God meant a long hard journey, with a bare visible promise.
Christ’s Journey

We are in Lent, a time to consider Christ’s journey, to understand our need for Him to take that journey, and to wonder at a love so complete for us.

His journey was different.  He wasn’t able to take his wealth, or a wife, or anything.  He came as a babe, the babe we were singing about 3 months back, asking what child was this.

He probably the only one who chose to go on a long, long journey?

Definitely, He was the only one who took a journey knowing that a destination on the journey was death.  A hard, bitterly cruel death, on a wicked, torturous cross,

He knew the promise. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when he was inspired to write.

Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

He endured it, he endured the journey, because the cross wasn’t His final destination point.  It was simply a place where He did what the Father wanted, a midpoint, a place to take care of things, and put everything to right. 

The joy was the destination, not even the resurrection, but 40 days later, as He ascended to the Father.  He obeyed, like Abraham finding the strength through prayer, through interaction with the Father.  Knowing that the cross wasn’t the end of the promise, but a waypoint. A part of the journey, but not the end.

His focus was what was the promise.  The Promise.  The Same Promise given to Adam and Eve, and to Abraham, and to Judah, and David, to Isaiah and Jeremiah.  His journey was the beginning of the promise.  Hear Hebrews again,

39  Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. 40  God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. Hebrews 11:39-40 (MSG)

His journey was a “there and back again” journey. He had a pick-up to make. That pick-up – are those who would join Him in the journey.  Those who would find life in Him, and start their journey, even as we have.

Our Journey

Back to that quote from Hebrews.  The one that talked of Jesus’ focus on the destination the end of the final leg of journey that we call the Ascension.  Hebrews tells us:

1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3  Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.   Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

You see His journey was to come and get us, and return us to the Father’s presence.  That’s the promise of Abraham’s journey, that every nation would be blessed because of Jesus, the seed of Abraham (his descendant see Mt. 1)

His journey and the promise is about our journey!  His destination is ours!

Ours may seem more like Abraham’s at times, and that’s because it is, and well, isn’t.  It is because we will sin, and struggle, there will be times of war, and times where others walk away to places like Sodom (Hopefully we don’t forget to rescue them when needed, and intercede and wrestle with God for them as well!)

There will be times where we wonder – “why aren’t we there yet?” and times where we might get lost for the moment.  We may still sin and struggle, we may still not find a permanent home, for the destination is still some way off.

The promise is still the promise – we can keep our eyes on Jesus, our champion, the one who brings us into a relationship where we grow in trusting God, in hearing His voice.

For that is where we can be most like Abraham, as we establish our times and places to hear God, to praise Him, to let Him nourish and strengthen Him, even as we look to the promise of His presence.

For He will never leave us or forsake us.

That too is His promise, on this journey of life.

What Child is this?  The One who undertook a journey to come and take us on the journey of our lives… the one where the destination is found where we abide in the Father’s glory, the journey where Jesus Christ will guard our hearts and minds, for the journey is taken in His peace… amen?

 

Rules of Hospitality?

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rules of Hospitality?

Luke 14:1-14

 † IHS †

 

May you realize the blessing of the Father being your host at the Banquet thrown for His Son, and may you welcome all those to the Banquet who your Father rewards you for inviting….

 

Jesus as Miss Manners? Or a spiritual Strategist?

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

 

As we look at these verses this morning, we need to realize its context. Otherwise, we limit the gospel message to simply being a message about proper manners and etiquette.  The other way we often misunderstand this passage is that we hear it as a strategic lesson, where Jesus is giving us advice on how to get the best seats at a banquet, whether here on earth, or the banquet that is to come in heaven.

This conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee is not a conversation about manners. The reason Jesus came and dwelt among us and died on the cross is not about getting us to behave with great dignity and knowing which fork to use, or how to sit properly at the dinner table.    There is something far more important than that being taught…
It is not about realizing our proper place in society, or trying to strategically deal with a situation so that we find ourselves being glorified and elevated in a situation.

Yet, often this passage is used in those ways.  “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom,” some would say.. “This is the way to go about it.”  Serve now! be served later! Be the servant of servants, then when you get to heaven, you will have front row seats next to Peter and James and just across throne form Paul and Abraham!

Jesus’ lesson here is a lot deeper when we look at the context of his lesson, at why He was giving this advice…

You see, we like the Pharisees and those fighting for position overlooked not only a man in great need.  They overlook his healing as well.  In overlooking him, they miss their own healing.

Instead of helping – they were rushing to the best seat…

As all the guests are arriving, and the question of healing on the Sabbath is being discussed, there is a summons to dinner.  Well, let’s be honest, it wasn’t quite a discussion,  Jesus asked a question, there was silence, He healed the man with severe edema and probably congestive heart failure, and then asked another question… to which they responded with?  Well, silence.

The rush to dinner is on, the questions asked to the religious leaders and experts in the scripture disappears, as everyone was scrambling for the best seat.

Unlike other healings, there was no glorifying God, there was no question about where the authority came to do this kind of miracle or to confront the wisest Bible scholars of the day, and all is lost in the rush to the table. It was not just about the food – I mean, they probably were not having bacon wrapped shrimp.  It was about who was important, where do I rank in society.  The rush to find the right place answers the question of, who am I? The question asked, “What value am I?”

Think about it, have you ever been to a wedding reception and been disappointed by which table you sat at?  Or at the Thanksgiving family dinner, when at 38 you were still assigned to the kid’s table?

That is why this is not about some kind of etiquette strategy. It is not – take the bad seat to start and then you will get a better seat!  Jesus is challenging, as He has all month long in the gospel – the idea of priorities.  This is about the fact that they did not realize the man with severe pain and suffering was there; and they could be there for him.  They could have been the ones God chose to care and love him….they failed.

Be like Christ

As Christ shows up at the feast, he recognizes those in need.  The obvious is the man with edema, the one swollen up like a balloon, whose pain and suffering was not a pressing concern for the leaders of God’s people.  Some commentators even went so far as to suggest that people brought him only to see what Jesus might do, how Jesus would deal with him.  Whether Jesus would answer the question they were asking – could Jesus heal on the Sabbath, was there a limit to His position and authority.

The man with the swelling of his hands and feet was not the only one with a problem with something swelling, with something being puffed up. Jesus came to that dinner, not just to minister to the man, but also to minister to the Pharisee and his friends, to serve them and help them to see that in Christ, it is not about where you sit, but instead that you are invited, that you are called, that you have a place at the feast.

That is the point!  The model that Jesus sets for us.

When Jesus talks of inviting those who cannot pay, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, He is preparing to walk that talk, to do the very thing He has asked us to do.

For we were the spiritually bankrupt, we were the ones broken and damaged by our sin and the sin of the world; we are the ones blinded to God’s presence by that same damage.  Into our lives, as He did with the Pharisees, Jesus comes and invites us to feast with Him, knowing we could never repay His kindness.  In this meal, He brings to us healing, brings us peace, and welcomes us, even though we could never deserve it!

He asks us to consider doing that very thing that He has done!  The same thing for His taking a seat at the back, a seat of a servant.  That is the model He is for us as well! We hear that because He did take the lowest seat, that He Humbled himself and became a servant, even as He served our needs to the point of dying on the cross, every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that He is our Lord.

As I said above – this passage isn’t about etiquette, or about strategies to get ahead in the Kingdom of God.  It is about being Christ-like, about serving people as He has, about keeping priorities straight – and the priorities always have names.

We have on our church cards, and on other things the phrase – Concordia – where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.  This passage is an example of that very thought – as we are encouraged to be like Christ, to see what is going on around us, to look for those that need healing.
We cannot possibly do that unless we first realize that He has come to heal us… that He has taken the lowest place.

We help others heal, for In Christ we have encountered healing!
We forgive because in Christ, we have been forgiven.
We joyfully bring people who do not deserve to be in God’s presence, because we do not deserve to be there either, but Jesus has brought us into the presence of the Father.
We can bring peace into lives that are oppressed by fear, anxiety, and trauma, because we endure these things for Jesus has given us that very peace…

As He invites us to celebrate His taking the back seat, as He invites us to His table, to take a seat with God our Father…. To know we are loved…

You are invited to invite others… to share in this place, in this blessing, in this celebration of love….in this feast…

For the Lord is with you… and He loves you.

AMEN?

Faith for the Future….

Esau and Jacob Presented to Isaac (painting ci...

Esau and Jacob Presented to Isaac (painting circa 1779–1801 by Benjamin West) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Late Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day…..

 It was faith that made Abraham offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice when God put Abraham to the test. Abraham was the one to whom God had made the promise, yet he was ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice. 18  God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that you will have the descendants I promised.” 19  Abraham reckoned that God was able to raise Isaac from death—and, so to speak, Abraham did receive Isaac back from death. 20  It was faith that made Isaac promise blessings for the future to Jacob and Esau. 21  It was faith that made Jacob bless each of the sons of Joseph just before he died. He leaned on the top of his walking stick and worshiped God. 22  It was faith that made Joseph, when he was about to die, speak of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and leave instructions about what should be done with his bodyHebrews 11:17-22 (TEV)

Our Bible Study arrived at this passage this morning, as we’ve been journeying through the Book of Hebrews…a passage well known to my older saints.

It was noted during our study, how the faith discussed in Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph all have to deal with death, and not just heaven, but the future after we have gone.

Of the things Abe could be noted for, it was for the future that he trusted God.  That God would fulfill His promises for the descendants that would come through Issac – even though Abraham was on his way to kill the very son who was to be the one through whom the promise was made.   Issac’s sacrifice would have put an end to that promise… except that Abraham knew God could raise someone from the dead.

Of all the things Issac could be noted for, well actually we don’t know all that much about him… but Hebrews notes the faith demonstrated in not just blessing the son who would inherit, but blessing the son who turned his back on the inheritance…. and his family.  Until Esau realizes how much he’s given up…and so, led by God, and knowing God’s heart for all the world… Issac blesses his prodigal son…and Esau’s descendants are saved in Christ’s death on the cross, for they are among the nations whom will be blessed.

Jacob as well, the one who wrestled with God (setting an interesting precedent for his own descendants..) is not know for that – but again for blessing his grandchildren, and worshiping  God.  He too passes on the promise…

Joseph too – it’s not the trust in God that would see him through kidnapping, or the jail time, or the global famine…..

The prayer is for the sustenance of the people – that they would, as well, be sustained during the promised time of exile, through to the time of the promise land – generations to come..,,,,

Each trusted in God – for a promise that includes us, those who trusted in God for the future, a future that they knew God would fulfill.

Because they knew God, because they walked with Him, because they knew His love.

Can we see our faith in God, yes for heaven, but for the generations that will follow, trusting God. …. can we know the God who blesses us, will bless them….

Lord have mercy on us… and on those that follow…

 

Prayer – the act of deep trust…

English: Lords Prayer in Aramaic(Syriac)

English: Lords Prayer in Aramaic(Syriac) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 16  Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with!  James 5:16 (MSG)

“In te, Domine, speravi—“In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped.” And together with human means I prayed and took my cross. And my hope was not in vain, nor will it ever be. Non confundar in aeternum—“Let me never be confounded.”

You don’t know what to say to our Lord in prayer. Nothing comes to you and yet you would like to ask his advice about many things. Look: take some notes during the day of the things you want to think about in the presence of God. And then go with those notes to pray.” (1)

In Bible Study this morning, we were looking at the 11th chapter of Hebrews, and the first fourteen verses.  As we talked though Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham and Sarah, we saw something very inspiring.

We saw the trust they had, not in the promises, but in the God who they knew existed, and knew was with them, that they could seek Him out.  More than that – since we know the stories, we had the assurance that sin didn’t separate them from God.  They were given hope – not just for the moement, but the hope that comes from a life of walking with God, the hope that is assured by love, and is never in vain.  The more we talked, the more the concept solidifed that though they couldn’t know all the details of what awaited them, the knew God clearly, trusted in Him, spent time with Him.

But what do we pray about?  How do we have a conversation about life with the God who created the stars?

Well my first question is, “what do you need to trust God in/for/with?”    Write them down as St. Josemaria suggests ( you could tweet them to Him?!) or text/fb message them to yourself for later review.  Lots of technology things out there – but then, set the time apart for them.  Think through them, ask God for guidance, to be the active partner that He has promised to be in your life.  (Managing Partner actually)   All through the day – keep reminders of what you need to discuss with God, sure the traumas and problems, but also the things you need to voice you admiration and adoration of His creativity, of His sense of beauty, of His ability to bring healing and peace.

And trust Him, deeply, even more deeply than you trust yourself.

Godspeed

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 377-383). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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