Investing in the New Year

It’s time for a mental year end inventory of our assets…bank accounts, investments, 401(k), house, cars, boats, furniture, phones, electronics, clothes, collections, books, coins, stamps, sports memorabilia, video games, guns, you name it.

Are you satisfied with what you have and the most recent gifts you received? Are you concerned it’s not enough? Perhaps you’re concerned that you’ll lose it.

First of all, it’s not wrong or a sin to have any of the above, but it could be if it defines who we are. Investing wisely and saving for the future are sound Biblical principles. However, let’s consider Matthew 6:20: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. And let’s check our hearts…is it possible that we’re more concerned about earthly treasure than we are heavenly treasure? Are we more concerned about our mini-kingdom’s than we are about the people around us?

The truth is every one of our things will be taken away. We can’t buy our way into heaven and we can’t take anything with us. In fact, the only things we can take with us to the next life aren’t things at all. It’s people.

Therefore, let’s focus on laying up treasures in heaven and setting our minds on things that are above, not on things on this earth. For we have died and our lives are hidden through Christ in God (See Colossians 3:1-4).

So, what can we do differently to invest more wisely in God’s Kingdom and the lives of other people? The greatest investment we can make is not one that we buy shares in, it’s a Treasure that we give away. It’s the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope and forgiveness of sin He provides.  

In the new year, may we steward our lives and resources to become better disciplemakers to be used toward His Kingdom gain, while we learn to count all else as loss. 

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8

The Prayer of Eliezer

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It should be a familiar story, but let’s call it Mission Impossible: The Bachelor. It’s the one where Abraham sends his trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). Abraham doesn’t want Isaac to marry a local Canaanite so he sends his servant on a mission to his hometown some 600 miles away. From a modern perspective it’s simply outrageous. How does a beautiful young lady (Rebekah) leave her family, and everything she’s ever known, to take off on a camel caravan across the desert to marry a man she’s never met? Yet, we know that’s exactly what happens. It’s all part of God’s plan and the story of the servant reveals much more.

The Faithful Servant
So who is this servant fellow? He’s not actually named in the passage, but he’s described very well. He’s the oldest servant in Abraham’s household and he’s in charge of all that he had. In today’s language, he would be the top employee, power of attorney, executor of his estate, and trusted advisor. Many scholars believe it’s Eliezer, mentioned in Genesis 15:2 as Eliezer of Damascus, the only heir of Abraham’s house (before Isaac was born). His name means: God is help.

Now, it’s time for the mission and he accepts it by swearing to do all that Abraham asked. It’s a mission Abraham believes God will bless and even send an angel before him, but also one where Abraham acknowledges that if she doesn’t come back his oath would be fulfilled. Eliezer’s name is no accident, he would need God’s help. It’s only the lineage of the Messiah at stake, no pressure!  

The Obedient Servant
In verse 10 Eliezer makes plans like an elderly wise man would. He prepares to go with gifts and a small caravan of camels. Since he’s from Damascus, he most likely never traveled to Abraham’s hometown in Mesopotamia. He must have become a servant when Abraham first arrived in the land of Canaan, not long after God called Abraham to leave his country and his kindred. If true, he has little knowledge of the terrain of where he’s going, but I imagine he researched it and planned it out in incredible detail, keeping in mind he had to bring a young lady back safely.  

From the plans in verse 10 to the destination in verse 11, the story progresses quickly, completely skipping his journey details, to where the camels are kneeling near a well outside the City of Nahor. However, let’s pause and consider that long journey, can you imagine the obstacles faced, the adversity overcome? Can you sense his relief of finally arriving at the target city, exhausted and thirsty, expectant, knowing the time of day the daughters would come to draw water, but unsure of what would happen? He made it in faithful obedience, but we only have one verse to know he made it.

The Prayerful Servant
Then we come to verse 12 and find Eliezer’s unique prayer, where he’s not kneeling like the camels, instead, he’s standing, eyes open, watching. This is the first recorded prayer in the Bible. There are other conversations between God and man, other visions noted, but this is the first prayer. It may seem odd that the first prayer is not from a well known character, but it’s not really that strange because we know that God chooses the humble and less obvious characters throughout the Bible to accomplish His purposes.

Another thing the writer (Moses) doesn’t tell us is how frequent Eliezer prayed during the mission, or if he was a prayer warrior. I imagine he prayed many, many times on the way, but what sticks out in the absence of this knowledge is that his faithful, obedient action precedes his specific prayer for guidance.

And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Genesis 24:12-14).

And here we must ask, is this a legitimate way for us to pray? Isn’t he asking for a sign and putting God to the test? What if this isn’t God’s will?

The Bible contains many prayers where God honors specific requests. One that comes to mind is Samson’s prayer in the Book of Judges where he asked for strength one last time (16:28). Of course, God, in His wisdom, may not grant our specific requests. For instance, Paul’s request to remove the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). Thus, God may answer prayers exactly how we pray them, may not answer them (but like Paul – His grace is sufficient), or may answer them in a way that we don’t expect, but we should not be afraid to be very specific when we pray. In fact, we’re encouraged to go boldly before the throne of grace to find Help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Like Eliezer, we should make plans, seek wisdom, and take action, all while seeking the Lord’s guidance in prayer. Then we must trust our Great God to direct our steps and trust Him with the outcome.

The Worshipful Servant
We know that Eliezer was ultimately successful in his mission. Verse 15 tells us that before he finished praying Rebekah came out with a water jar. Then she does everything that he prays to confirm – she’s the one! And what’s amazing is before he even started to pray she had to be on her way. What a faithful God! When we see God’s faithfulness through the lens of answered prayer what does it cause us to do? Worship! And that’s exactly what he did:

The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things (Genesis 24:26-28).

May we all be encouraged to be faithful, obedient, and prayerful in the service of our Master. The next time you face a seemingly impossible situation, remember how God has been faithful in the past, that He is faithful for today, and we can trust Him to be faithful in the future. Thus, we can act, pray, and cling to His promises. And when you see His faithfulness through answered prayer, worship!

 

Is It Ever Okay To Lie?

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It’s a question often debated and the discussion typically begins with a challenging situation where lying is thought to be the lesser of two evils. The classic example is during the time of Nazi Germany. Would you lie to German soldiers who have come to your house in order to protect Jews hiding in your attic? What about a present day scenario where a neighbor frantically runs over to your house seeking help fleeing from an abuser and minutes later the alleged abuser shows up at your door? These are the types of roads that lying as the lesser of two evils travel.

What about all the examples of lying and deceit in Scripture?
There are many examples of lying in the Bible and some of the most well known involve Jacob and his family as found in the book of Genesis. For instance, Jacob deceiving Isaac to ensure he receives the blessing, Laban deceiving Jacob by giving him Leah for a wife instead of Rachel (so he had to serve another seven years for Rachel), and Jacob cunningly getting revenge on Laban. Then there’s Joseph’s brothers deceiving their father Jacob by showing him the fake animal blood on Joseph’s coat of many of colors, and Potiphar’s wife falsely accusing Joseph of making unwanted advances when it was the other way around. Two more examples from Scripture include Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, who pursued Naaman and asked for money and garments deceitfully after Elisha said he wouldn’t take anything (2 Kings 5:15-27), and in the New Testament we have Ananias and Sapphira lying about their giving (Acts 5:1-9).

What if God meant it for good?
In the above examples the lies and deception recorded produced fruit of frustration and loss, the consequences of heartache and damaged family relationships, or brought judgment and even death. Now in the story of Joseph, we learn at the end of Genesis that God ultimately used the terrible circumstances for good (Genesis 50:20). And here I want to acknowledge that God has the right, the wisdom, and the power to redeem any sin and turn it for good. However, it doesn’t mean that He always does this for every sin, and when He does do it we may never have the satisfying privilege of learning about the positive outcome like we find at the end of Genesis. It also doesn’t reverse the initial consequences experienced by those involved. What the Bible teaches us is: His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-11), He is Sovereign and Omniscient and we are not (see Job), and we can trust Him and His ultimate good purposes (Romans 8:28). However, we are still responsible for our actions and we have to work through difficult circumstances while trusting a Sovereign God (Philippians 2:12-13). This leads down many theological pathways regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility (helpful sermon here), and the problem of evil (helpful blog posts here and here), which is not the primary purpose of this post – so let’s get back to the main topic. 

Two Positive Lies
The two lies in the Bible which are most like our first two scenarios above are when the Hebrew Midwives lied to Pharaoh to help save the Hebrew babies from being killed (Exodus 1:15-22), and when Rahab lies to help the Israelite spies before the fall of Jericho (Joshua 2). Many believe these are justifiable lies because they have a good outcome. For instance, the midwives saved many lives and Rahab helped Israel and protected her family.

Conclusion
Outside of a few favorable outcomes Scripture never tells us explicitly that it’s okay to lie, but it overwhelmingly reveals to us that it’s wrong. This was covered in a recent post entitled “What does the Bible say about lying?“ However, in difficult scenarios where lying is either a last ditch effort or a calculated response to thwart a greater evil, these examples show it may be justifiable or considered okay. Note: If there’s time for calculation I would recommend you seek wise Godly counsel. Finally, there are two more things which must be noted, one is these situations are rare and most people will never face choices like this, and two, those who do, and decide to lie, must be willing to accept
 any consequences caused by the lesser evil.

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