Posts Tagged ‘2nd-Chance’

“Kelly, can you handle this?
Michelle, can you handle this?
Beyoncé, can you handle this?
I don’t think they can handle this!”  

Bootylicious?!

It’s too bootylicious.

Guilty pleasure.  What can I say?  I’ll tell you something else while I’m revealing secrets- I like Justin Timberlake too.

Who’s next?  Anybody?  Guilty pleasures confession time in the comment box, please.  BTW, save yourself: Don’t do an image search for “bootylicious.”

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This year my wife expanded her repertoire once again by making blueberry jam/fruit preserves.  We’ve enjoyed it, but I have a feeling it won’t last long. I mean- it WOULD last.  But it won’t.

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11The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.
13Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense.
14The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.
I’m going through Proverbs right now with my oldest son.  I really want to instill the value of reading the bible into my children.  Not just running their eyes over the text, and patting them down into the flesh of my heart.  I want them to pound it in, like the old type set keys punch through a ribbon and impressed themselves into the roller through paper.  I feel like I almost killed myself by only sort of reading scripture.  Sort of like a vaccination.  I had just enough “word” in my system to build anti-bodies, but not enough for it to really make me sick.  Sick meaning different, changed.
So we read one verse in proverbs, each day.  And we talk about it.  And then we pray about it.  Like, literally- about the contents of that proverb.  Which can be kind of challenging, because I have to come up with something and do it for myself before I can offer anything to my son.  We read verse 14 today, “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.”
So I asked him- how do you “store” something?  You just put it away, right?  Let’s look in the closet pantry.  Ketchup, baked beans, noodles, cereal.  I asked him, what’s in the jelly your mom made the other day?
“Uh…. blueberries?”
“Yeah!”  But how is it that we have to keep the blueberries cold before they’re made into jam, but after they’re made into jam and they’re all in jars, they just sit on a shelf?
Well, the answer is obvious if you’ve ever looked in the back of the fridge before.  It’ll rot.  Even if you keep it cold.
So to make it last, you have to do something to it.  It needs to be cooked, processed, canned- in short, before we can “store” the blueberries to be enjoyed later, it needs to be prepared and worked over a little bit.  You can’t just throw it in a jar and start stocking up.
 So the “wise” stores knowledge, and wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning.  And the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.
What makes one wise?  How does one be found “discerning”?  Or how does my mouth become a “fountain of life”?
Proverbs 2 says that God gives all wisdom, and that from his mouth come understanding and knowledge.  So there’s two kinds of knowledge: the kind that comes from God, and then there’s the “other kind.”  One kind is a “fountain of life.”  Then there’s the “other kind.”  Anything you’ve learned that wasn’t the wisdom of God, that wasn’t from his mouth- has no power to save you.  It has no power to lend life- to give life to others.   And if I read this right, if you aren’t a fountain of life, you’re actually a fount of the “other kind.”  And in an unfortunate twist, that “other kind” happens to be our default setting.
It says the mouth of the wicked conceals violence, and the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.  Dude.  It’s coming.  Destruction, the opposite of life.  I’m not really saying it’s coming.  It’s here.  It’s our present reality.  Order becomes chaotic.  What is born begins to die.  And selfishness reigns in our spirits.
But there’s a gem hidden in all that.
“Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses…”
and
“…but a rod is for the back of one who lacks sense…”
Encouraged?  GOOD!  I thought it would be good to end with some uplifting news.
What’s the good news?  Rod’s aren’t for *killing*.  Rod’s are for correcting.  For re-purposing, re-directing.  They’re for 2nd chances.  Shepherd’s use rods to poke the sheep back onto a safe path.  God says the rod is to make bodily the unbreakable association between sin and death.  If the question is Sin?  Then the inescapable answer is always Death.  Sin = death.  No point in correcting something that is doomed.  It’s only good to correct if the intent is to see the undesired action erased, forgotten, not to be repeated.  That’s the GOOD NEWS!  God’s correction is evidence of his love.  And his intent to repair what is broken.  Even if it’s us.
So I tell him (the boy, not God) that if we desire to experience life- if we desire to have discernment, and wisdom, and knowledge- the source will always be in God’s word.  It may not end there, but it will begin there.  And it’s not enough to trot through.  It’s best to crawl- army style.  It’s only as powerful as we understand it to be.  So I want to teach them as I myself learn to take small bites, and chew till it’s mash.  Just absorb it.  And LIVE!
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Genesis 18

20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.[d] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[e] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

 

If Tyre and Sidon were still here today… Had Sodom and Gomorrah heard this today…

Las Vegas.  Atlantic City.  Bangkok.  Amsterdam.  Rio De Janeiro.  Hollywood, LA.  All cities where people have gone looking for fulfillment.  Places where the depravity and dreamscape of man is allowed to ferment and root, and then to grow.  Places where the very best and the very worst of the human spirit and character are allowed to flourish.  Truthfully, anyplace people live together you’ll find small Hollywoods, two lane, one light  Sunset Strips, and quieter boardwalks, more diminutive red-light districts…  It’s not an exclusive property of the “big cities.”  It’s exclusive property of the entirety of the human race.  We all have these places in our hearts.

In places like this, the weeds and the wheat grow together.  In our hearts, the weeds and the wheat grow together too.  Why does God permit the weeds to survive?

Jesus is recorded as telling a story about this- he tells of a farmer who’s enemy goes and sows weeds among his fields.  When the seeds begin to grow the farmer’s workers come back and tell him that weeds are growing amongst the wheat, and choking it.  They volunteer to go through and pull the weeds from the field but the farmer says “no, no, NO!”  I can imagine the stillness that followed that as the workers all stopped to stare.  “You will pull the wheat up with the weeds and harm the wheat crop!  Wait until the harvest.”

In this chapter the famous wrath of God is the apparent main character.  God picks up a reputation for hellfire and destruction, for unconcerned judgement and gleeful destruction.  The legacy of Sodom and Gomorrah have been fueled the rejection of God.  But that notion is a weed amongst the wheat.

God does not relish the muting of his creation’s flourishing.  He does not gleefully or arbitrarily rain fury on a people.  And please- this is not about homosexuality.  In the name of all that is holy- do not confuse God’s judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah as a special dispensation of holy fury on homosexuality or homosexuals.

<Missing. the. point.>

There has been an “outcry”  against Sodom and Gomorrah.  Justice has been broken.  God’s cherished LIFE has been, or is being, trampled.  There has been a crying out by an oppressed or crushed population, and God hears that kind of crying.  He is not a knee-jerk God though.  He says “I must go down and see if it is as bad as I hear.”  He will go advocating for no one.  It’s practically going to act as the defendant’s lawyer!

He will go and make sure for himself this oppressor is not be unjustly accused!

I don’t think I ever really read that before this morning.  There is an outcry.  Somebody is saying “God CAN’T YOU HEAR US?!”  “We are being choked to DEATH by this city!”

And God says, “If that is true, I will fix it.  But I must give your oppressor their mercy too.  I must see and weigh it for myself.”  This is a second chance special if ever there was one.  This is a God who is fairness defined.  He is a passionately dispassionate judge.  We can ALWAYS count on God’s holiness.  Never bribed, never swayed, always and only truly objective.  Justice is a sure result of God’s judgement.

God, in a moment of introspection revealed, desires intimacy and connection with us.  He reveals his desire to commune with Abraham, and He shares that desire with me.  And with you.  Really, the whole bible is evidence of that desire, and not just evidence, but His first step towards that communion.  He tells Abraham what He is about to do, and why.

In Sodom, in Gomorrah, the strength of the weeds has become overbearing.  The light of the sun is daily being choked out, the fertility of the soil is nightly being stolen and sucked up by the weeds.  The cloud of brokenness is thick and obfuscating.  The people of Sodom and of Gomorrah simply can’t LIVE within that cloud of human depravity.  There is no spirit of LIFE there.  But up to this point, God has spared the weeds for the sake of the wheat.  But now, it appears that the wheat is dead.  So he comes with the fire to burn the field, to burn the seeds, to begin again.

But Abraham, experiencing the boldness of community with God, asks him- God?  If you find 50 strands of wheat, will you spare the field?  For 50 measly strands of wheat?

Yes.  I would show mercy to the whole field of weeds to allow the 50 strands of wheat to grow and produce grain.

Well- what if you only find 45 stands?  Would you burn the field?  With 45 stands of wheat?

No.  I will not burn the field if I find 45 stands.

10 strands of wheat.  For 10 strands of weak, unhealthy wheat, God preserves an entire field of weeds.

In real life, wheat never turns a weed into wheat.  But what if the weed was actually a mold that damaged the wheat?  And what if the mold was cureable by exposure to healthy wheat?

Really, I think that’s more the picture of God’s kingdom: that God planted a field of beautiful, thick and strong wheat.  And then the enemy came and spread a disease, a mold that consumed the stalk and the grain.  All of it.  But by introducing the perfect, healthy strand, in Jesus, the health actually became invasive.  Reclaiming the molded grain, reclaiming the molded stalks.  And it spread, just as the mold did, from stalk to stalk, from head to head.

And for the sake of the few recovered stalks, the field of weeds is preserved.  For the healthy grains?  Maybe.  Maybe for the sake of the weeds right next to the healthy grains?  Or the ones next to those, or those, or those.

He who has ears to listen….

This is a God who repairs what is broken.  This is a God who tolerates what is disgusting because among all of that is His beauty.  This is a God who desires communion.  This is a 2nd chance God.

Genesis 16:

 

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

13 [Hagar] gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen[c] the One who sees me.”

My boys are over at the dining room table right now, attempting to play Uno.  The six year old is attempting to corral the four year old into playing with some sense of order.  The four year old says, “I can just put all the BLUE cards down at once.”  And the six year old says, “no, NO, NO!”

I’ve attempted to teach them, after trying to sort it out between themselves, rather than argue, yell, chase, maim, disfigure or murder, come and talk to their father- let him judge between you.  And so I get dragged into this “card game,” and make my ruling.

Four year old has a rebuttal:  “You’re just being bossy.”

“No- I’m just telling you how it is.”

Abram and Sarai had a tough deal.  I mean, direct discussions with God are cool, and visions, dreams, and divine callings have to be kind of a feather in your cap, but still.

Abram’s calling came when he was 75 years old.  You talk about waiting to find out what you’re going to be “when you grow up.”  A lot happened for Abram between his 75th and his 76th birthday.  He scratched a couple big things off of his bucket list, for sure, including finally finishing his dad’s intention to move the family business to Canaan.  Then he survived lying to the Pharoah in Egypt.  Then he whooped up on Kedolaomer and met an amazing King, who would impress himself into biblical history so much that one appearance would merit a direct comparison to Christ by biblical writers 1,500-2,000 years later.  And of course, God lowered himself to making a fairly tall promise to Abram.

Big year.

But ten years later, there is still no baby.  Just memories, and wondering if it was all a big mistake- some kind of misunderstanding.

Friday’s post was about dreams, and waiting, and why.  There was a great comment by a reader about dreams, and waiting.  About how we perceive progress.

God’s promises are potent things.  I mean- they’re PROMISES.  From GOD.  That’s gonna leave a mark, ya know?  They pack a wallop.  When God says to Abram that he’s going to be a father of nations, he wasn’t fooling around.

Sarai already has the taste in her mouth.  She was onboard with God making her the mother of nations.  All systems were go.  Initiate launch sequence; 5-4-3-2-go engines-1- lift…. off?  um, hello?  Guys?  God?

And ten years later, she says, enough.  She waited ten years.  Ten years of 12 months of “nope, not this time.”

“God has kept me… maybe I can.”

Yeah, maybe.  Not.  That’s when stuff starts getting sideways.  Hagar (who Abram has agreed to sleep with- you know, cause his wife told him he should, and he’s just serving his wife now) is pregnant, and starts feeling like she’s something special.  Sarai takes issue and basically runs her out of camp to die in the desert.  Nice.

So God’s way didn’t work out the way she thought it should.  And neither did hers.  Except God still has His promise.  Imagine- would Sarai have believed the scope of God’s promise?  Would she have bought the scope of God’s vision for her son?  For her whole family?

God’s dream was bigger than Sarai’s dream.  That blows my mind.

God’s dream was bigger.  SOOOOOO maybe it takes a little longer to set up.  I don’t know.

What’s your dream?  I mentioned having my dreams on Friday, and how it’s been kind of a struggle holding onto that dream, in the face of reality- as I see it.  As reality appears to me in this small, short moment.  But maybe God’s dream is even bigger, more wild, more far-out than mine ever would be.  And maybe He’d even let me have mine.  But then maybe I’d end up kicking out the maid and looking like a mean, bitter, old lady.

Have you grasped for God’s perspective?  Have you tried to place yourself in God’s position?  To force, coerce, scheme, manage, organize, initiate?  I do.  I’m good at that.  I think that’s been one of the lessons- I mean, CORE lessons that God’s been drilling me on for a couple of years now.  One of these days, I’ll get it.  Maybe or not.  Maybe I’ll be 86 years old.  Yikes.

My dreams are good dreams.  Sarai’s dreams are good dreams.  But God’s got an even more vivid imagination.  He’s got a dream for me that’s a 1,000 years longer.  He’s got a dream for Sarai and Abram that’s an eternity longer!  He’s even got a dream for Hagar.

How’s that for a repairing God?  Sarai initiated, schemed, coerced (okay, maybe she didn’t have to work too hard on that), managed and ended up creating a “situation.”  Did God reject Sarai?  No.  No, he came back to her.  She lost faith in God, but God didn’t lose faith in her.

Did God cast Hagar and her child to the side of the plan?  Nope.  He blessed her.  Why?  Because God is Holy and doesn’t change.  He always tells the truth.  And God loves LIFE and loves repairing and increasing LIFE.  God told Abram he’d be the father of nations.  He meant through Sarai, but extended that blessing to Hagar.  Because He never lies, and He loves MORE LIFE.

It’s not even dependent on me, really.  God will have His dreams.  Even if I give up on the promise, He does not.  It really is His dream, after all.

Genesis 13

1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

The voice of God can be a very elusive thing.  This voice which has been heard from mountaintop of Sinai, and rumbling like thunder on the road to Damascus has also been a whisper to a hiding man.  It has even been silent in a dark garden.

How do you perceive what God is speaking?  If I say that God is for me- if I say that he has a special purpose and design for me, my strengths, my life- why is it so hard to hear Him answer when I seek direction?

Yesterday’s reading had Abram, called by God to leave his home and all that he knows to follow him to a place He would show him.  It’s interesting to note a couple things here.

A bit about Abram’s background.  His father had 3 sons.  His father was actually of a mind to move from Ur (think southern Iraq) to Canaan (modern day Israel).  The scripture from yesterday mentions that one of Abram’s brothers died, leaving Dad (Terah; several generations descended from Shem, son of Noah) with Abram and brother.  Abram and brother marry, and Terah decides that it’s finally time to move on and begins the family’s move from Ur to Canaan.  This is a seriously long walk.


The text doesn’t say why Terah was motivated to move from Ur to Canaan.  But it does say that he never made it.  It says they set out for Canaan, but they stopped in Harran.  He stopped.  In Turkey.  It says they “settled” there and that’s where Terah died.  A few pages to the right, and God is telling Abram, Terah’s son to leave, and that he would be made into a great nation of peoples.  So Abram, like his father, decides to leave.

I wonder though; Maybe God had spoken also to Terah?  Maybe Terah had been on the same mission, but somehow, somewhere along the way he lost faith?  Lost sight?  Stopped hearing?  Got discouraged somehow?  But God perservered.  Across generations, God prevails.  He calls Abram to pickup this mission, to go to the right place so that the right things could happen in exactly the right way.

So Abram and Sarai, (and Lot) pull their tent stakes, and leave Harran, and set their gaze south, on Canaan, this far off land that Abram’s father spoke of, and this land that God was calling them towards.  In fact, he doesn’t just go to the edge of it and stop.  He walks all the way through the other side.

Maybe what he saw at first wasn’t good enough.  Maybe he wanted to see just how far this awesomeness could spread.  I don’t know.  It just says he traveled to the far edge of the land, and built an altar.  Maybe he just didn’t want to fall short like his father had.  So he made sure he traveled ALL the way there.  God lays out the welcome mat and says: “well?  here it is!  Whaddya think?”  And stops.  Puts down his stuff, builds an altar and worships the Lord.

But he didn’t stay.  Huh?

Nope, he pulls up his stakes again and starts to travel again.  To a better place for a herder.  So he stops there and builds another altar.  And he “called upon the name of the Lord.”  But guess what?

He didn’t stay.  Again.

This time he begins to travel across the desert, across the vast Saudi Arabian peninsula, towards the land of Egypt.

So his dad had the courage to leave home and begin the journey, but got comfortable halfway there and quit.  Now, Abram has the courage to finish the journey, but walks right past the welcome mat.  Twice.

So he ends up in Egypt, worried for his safety, scared of losing his wife.  Sounds pretty great, eh?  So he and she conspire, and begin to lie about who they are.  When Pharoah discovers all of this, guess what he does?  Turns their butts around and what?  Sends them back.

Hmm.  So what does God sound like again?

Maybe God doesn’t sound like comfort.  I know, that’s lame.  I don’t think comfort and obedience are exclusive- God had made Abram a wealthy man.  But he was still plagued by insecurity and discontent, wasn’t he?

It’s tough though.  I think I’ve often used my circumstances and the way the tides move to be the flesh on God’s hands in my life.  But maybe it takes more than perceiving the direction of the wind.  Maybe it takes something deeper.  God welcomed Abram home, yet the land was soon rocked with a famine.  I guess the promised land has it’s bad days too.

Maybe the contentment that is illumined by God’s hand and our obedience is satisfied by something more than simple comfort.  I must seek the whisper, rather than the thunder.  Abram did religious things, building altars everywhere he went.  He was obedient, mostly.  But it still seems like he missed some key points.

What does this say?  To me, I hear him saying not to cheat the depth of contentment by looking at comfort and confusing the two.  They are different, profoundly.  But if you need a 2nd chance?  Look no further than this God.  God laid it out for him.  God appeared to Abram.  More than once.  And he still messed up.  Yet he is Father Abraham!  His descendants outnumber the stars in the sky, and the sands on the shore.  God uses 2nd chance people.  It would appear God uses 3rd and 4th chance people too.

Why?  Because God is perfectly Holy.  He is infinitely merciful.  He also NEVER breaks a promise.  And he promised Eve and Adam in the Garden that he would make a way, send a savior, through her lineage.  Why?  Because he loves LIFE, and that is what he made all of this to be.  ALIVE.