I thought this week of Abram’s father, Terah (Gen 11:31). Terah was going to Canaan Land, but stopped in Haran. Terah’s name in Hebrew means, “The man who stopped.” I wondered, “Why did he stop?”
What cause me to think of Terah is another man who has made a Phoenix bus stop his home. At first you think he is a shadow, but he is a man who has made the stop his airy home. Daily he sits with Dread-locked hair, dirt caked skin, and layers of baggy clothes exposed to the elements. Occasionally a car stops, and an outstretched hand gives him a sack of food. I wonder how it came that he said, “This far and no farther?”
In many ways we are Terah, and Bus Stop Guy when it comes to God in that we have gone so far with God and stopped. We think what we learned from our parents, a teacher, or a friend was all there was to know about God.
It’s sad to think about Terah and what he missed. In sad to think of Bus Stop Guy and his conditions. It is sad if that is how you feel about God!
Going All The Way,
I hate getting off at the Happy Valley exit of the I-17. Regardless of what direction you come from there is a circle-round at the end of the exit ramp, and I don’t like circle-rounds. The dislike stems from an inner fear, though it has never happened, of getting caught in the inner lane and not being able to get out; around and around Kirby goes.
As we have studied through the book of Genesis I noticed that Adam’s children became caught up in sin. Take for example of sin of deception. We have seen deception play out now in four generation of Abraham’s family. In a sense Abraham’s family got caught in the circle-round of deception and it’s as if they were caught in the inner lane. With each generation the deception grew and it seemed as if there was no way to break the cycle.
Have you ever talked with a madman? I did once on a sales call. He was quite reasonable, but a man with only one point. Despite the topic of conversation it somehow always came back to his one topic; someone thirty years ago stole his invention, and despite the passage of time all he could talk about was his invention. G. K. Chesterton describes the madman in the following way, “He is in the clean and well-lit prison of one idea: he is sharpened to one painful point.”
I use the example because many of us have had tragedies in our lives and rightly so they have changed us, but for some tragedies make us quite mad; we get stuck on them and there is no off ramp. Before you know it thirty years have gone by and we are still dwelling on the tragedy – anger, guilt, isolation, and self-abuse are some symptoms of being stuck.
This brings us back to the circle. Just as the circle represents the madman’s life, it also represents sin in our life because it is perfect and infinite. A circle can be large or small but it is with no ending or beginning, just around and around it goes, and people get stuck in their circles.
The cross of Jesus Christ is much different than a circle. It starts within a person’s heart and its four arms can extend out forever without altering its shape. It grows without changing. “The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers” G. K. Chesterton.
This is why the Christian always comes back to the cross. The cross pierces our circles in all directions. It shatters the circles we are stuck in and gives us life in abundance.
God told Jacob to return to Bethel; the name means house of God. Jacob instead went to Shechem and there he set up an altar (Cf. Gen. 33:20). Here we read a bit of the heroic in Jacob; he sacrificed to God. It’s nice to sacrifice to God, but God wants obedience not sacrifices; he was supposed to be at Bethel.
We all want to be heroes in our relationship with God. We have our stories of great sacrifice: I once did this or that flavored with God’s name every once in awhile, and the story is spun quite well of our heroic. The ultimate example today is the Islamist who blows themselves up for their little “g” god.
The problem with wanting to be a hero is that most of us look really bad in spandex and we have a tendency to over-sleep and over-eat. Seriously, God doesn’t want us to be heroic he wants us to obey him, and that means doing what he says, not what we think is going to impress him. Jesus said it well, “The sum of the law is love your neighbor;” that might just be heroic obedience.
Before Cain committed murder most foul God counseled him, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:6-7). John Ortberg defined sin as, “An attempt to obtain the pleasure that does not rightfully belong to me or evade the pain that does.”
Yesterday I stomached a few minutes of the Cleveland, Ohio man’s sentencing for kidnapping and imprisoning of three women. He stated “I’m not a monster, I just have an addiction.” I thought here stands a man with egg on his face, but he proudly wears it like a badge of virtue.
There is an Indian saying, “I have two dogs living in me – a mean dog and a good dog. They are always fighting. The mean dog wants me to do bad things, and the good dog wants me to do good things. Do you want to know which dog wins? The one I feed the most.
Feeding the good dog,
It is a shame when the Christian lives on the edge. By that I mean when you cannot tell if a person is a Christian or not. We have read two examples in Genesis of this edge living; when Abraham and Isaac lived in Gerar. It is an area right on the edge of the Promised Land. In both cases it led to the patriarch’s compromising themselves.
I know what edge living is for my mother often accused me of it when I was growing up. Now in my adult years I realize she had me pegged. This is ordinary behavior for a child. Studies of schoolyards found if there is not fence around the schoolyard the kids tend to play in the center. If there is a fence, the kids tend to play up to the edge of the schoolyard. The conclusion of the study was: Kids always are testing their limits.
Edge sitting always brings compromise, and that leads to heartache. Wouldn’t it be nice if Christians would learn to center themselves in God once and for all, and not be testing their limits!
As we study through Genesis we have been learning God’s many names. In chapter one verse one, it was Elohim – The Strong One. Then it was YHWH [I Am He Who Is] (1:15) – God’s Covenant God. This was followed by El Elyon (14:19) – God Most High, El Shaddai (17:1) – God Almighty, and El Olam (21:33) – the everlasting God.
Does this mean God was growing as God? No, that’s progress theology; a complete misunderstanding of God. God does not change, but we do. We change so frequently that the Bible compares us to a blade of grass being blown by the wind.
Metaphorically as we unroll the scroll, Moses reveals the complexity of God through his names to us. It as if he was saying, “This is the God I’m talking about,” or “Now know God this way.” It seems like the one who is to be growing is the God seeker.
Most of us know God as just God; seems a bit flat after reading those other names. Perhaps this is why so many Christian lack a pulse. We have told God, “I will go this far in understanding you, and I will go no farther.”
It was early evening and time to take Willie, my dog, for his last walk for the day. As I entered the park, two young men wearing white shirts and thin black ties pulled up along side me on their bicycles and began a conversation; I obliged them. Seems they bit off a little more then they could swallow for I gave them a lot chew on. We shook hands as they left for who they serve is the enemy not them.
In the last three Sunday’s we have seen how Abraham interceded for the lost. We learned Abraham was the only one standing between God and a person being judged. As the two young men rode off I had the opportunity to put intercession into practice. I prayed, “Lord form the mind and the heart of Jesus Christ in these two young men with the seeds you planted in them tonight.”
Practicing intercession is a big step in the Christian walk. Those who practice it will probably never know the impact it will have for God’s kingdom, but then we are not suppose to know those things; we are just suppose to be obedient.