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EavesdropingToFaith_TitleOver a period of many years, God spoke to Abraham about fathering a son that would bless many nations. Five times the promise of nation building came to the patriarch and in every instance of conversations there were lessons of faith. At ninety-nine years of age, in Abraham’s the fourth encounter, God gets specific! In Genesis 17, verse 16 we read that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is connected to the promise:

“I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.

God wasn’t executing this promise without Sarah’s involvement! Abraham was flabbergasted. Verse 17 tells us:

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

As if Abraham’s 100-years old was anymore reasonable than Sarah’s 90! Then Abraham presents to God his doable option, an “already-in-motion” strategy, a “Plan B” so to speak. Verse 18 reads:

And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

Who’s Ishmael? Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son by the concubine, secondary wife—nothing good ever comes from polygamy, Hagar. It was a plan hatched by Sarah to give Abraham an heir. God’s answer to Abraham’s “Plan B” is in verse 19:

“No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.”

And for the first time, in any of God and Abraham’s discussions, the patriarch learns God is set on using Sarah to create an heir. His wife is at the heart of God’s promise! And, in typical male fashion, Abraham is shocked the promises, in fact, didn’t circulate around his world! In fact, God even goes the next step in the naming of Sarah’s child Isaac! The Lord finishes the point in verse 21:

“But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

Still, apparently Abraham decides to keep Sarah out of the discussion. He mentions nothing of God’s plan to his wife. In fact, she only finds out the info by eavesdropping in on God’s fifth conversation with Abraham. In Genesis 18, verse 10 we read God tells the patriarch:

“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.

And while Sarah’s eavesdropping in on the topic, she gives off a little snicker of doubt. God hears her; she’s caught listening in—verses 13 and 14:

The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

That little act of eavesdropping makes all the difference in this event. Seemingly, Abraham hadn’t been too open with his wife about the topic. Who knows why? Maybe he’s afraid she’d think he was nuts! I mean, what’s he going to say to her? “You’re 90, I’m 100 and we’re going to have a kid. We’ll be the only couple at the store buying Depends and Huggies in the same shopping cart.” I understand why that might be a tough conversation to have with your spouse! For whatever reason, the memo of a child had not trickled down to Sarah and she needed to get the message on her own terms, in her own way, and God allowed it to happen by her eavesdropping on their conversation. It happened this way because Sarah needs to know the promise firsthand to be capable of believing God herself for the impossible! Do you need proof of that? Hebrews 11, verse 11 reads:

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”

It wasn’t until Sarah got the message that things began to roll. She needed to believe to receive the power to conceive—not Abraham. She needed faith! Up till now she had no idea the child of promise was connected to her—and the promise remained unfulfilled. Along with Abraham, she had to consider God faithful to fulfill His promise.

Sometimes I can tell my wife things of promise until I’m blue in the face. Sometimes she can tell me things until she’s blue in the face! Point being—we both need to get before God to find faith to believe. You just can’t create faith for someone else—not even your spouse. I wish we could, but according to Romans 10, verse 17,¹ faith only comes by the personal hearing of the Word of God. The completeness of the promise was dependent upon the belief of both Sarah and Abraham—Sarah every bit apart of the process. This is how Sarah’s eavesdropping led to faith!

J. Robert Hanson

¹ “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

I Quit

I_Quit“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1 (ESV)

God gave the Apostle Paul an amazing ministry! It was a special specific calling that literally transformed a world. Historically few men have been as effective in furthering the life of Jesus Christ as this apostle born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:8 KJV). His writings dominate the New Testament. Narratives of how God used this man overshadow the second half of the Book of Acts. Of all men and women who’ve ever been ministers of the Gospel, no doubt Paul’s ministry runs at the forefront as both succeeding and fruitful.

However, as I perused 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 1 from the English Standard Bible, something new dawned upon me at the words, “…having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” The missive seems to imply that even the Apostle Paul found the possibility of losing heart over pressures of the ministry—whether internal or external.

Though we look at the body of Paul’s work as a huge success, apparently, personally he didn’t always view it that way. It’s interesting to me that the thought of “losing heart” even comes up—I mean, this is THE APOSTLE PAUL we’re talking about here! Yet, in this verse he’s pointing out his need for mercy in the midst of this great commission. In fact, the Message Bible has an interesting way of saying these thoughts:

“Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.”

Do the words “I quit” mean anything to you? Apparently they did to the Apostle Paul. But, walking off the job was not an option of consideration as the mercy of God was ever prevalent for the ministry given to him. God’s grace was available to help Paul through all the hard times! In fact, by God’s enabling power he found the courage to move forward—we read that Kenneth Wuest translates this verse as:

“Because of this, having this ministry [of the new testament] even as we were made the objects of mercy [in its bestowal], we do not lose courage,”

So, when difficulties arise, whether internal or external, the opportunity for finding the grace of God elevates above the level of giving up and quitting. If we’ve reached the point of frustration—throwing up our hands and walking off the job—remember the mercy of God is greater. Before saying, “I quit” to the ministry generously given, discover God’s grace can give help in time of need!

J. Robert Hanson

Are You Weary?

Weary“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 ESV

This is an interesting little verse. The one thing it makes clear is how deeply the Bible understands the basics of human nature—a certain degree of stamina is required to stay focused on doing what’s right. You’d think that wouldn’t be the case. When it comes to “doing good” we expect that a natural never-exhausting flow of energy should come from us.

Evidently, that’s not the case! In fact, I’ve discovered most the time it’s just the opposite. It seems that with loathsome mischief behaviors comes this never-ending fountain of vigor. In high school there were always certain kids (generally boys) who excelled at pranks and rebel rousing. If something of a mischievous nature happened, you’d find the source of the problem by contacting one or two miscreants.

And rarely ever do these troublemakers confess, “I’m tired of pulling pranks—I want to quit—I want to be good person!” Thankfully, the occasional makeover does happen. A delinquent’s conversion occurs and society, loving a good transformation story, offers all the accolades and hurrahs meant for a prince. But in the shadows, eclipsed by the sunshine of the convert, is the soul that has spent a whole lifetime doing the good. Life isn’t fair! And at such a sight the individual persistently working hard at the good becomes disillusioned.

If you’re that person, this verse is for you! Paul writes, “Let us not grow weary in doing good.” In fact, I think this verse possibly just may be for everyone who’s grown exhausted by the activity of doing what’s right.

Weariness is lacking strength, energy, or freshness. In Galatians 6, verse 9 the word “weary” in the Greek language means to be spiritless, exhausted, lose heart, and to despair.¹ That’s the danger Paul is warning about—losing your drive to “do good” and giving up! The Kenneth Wuest Translation captures this thought in Galatians 6, verse 9 as it reads:

Let us not slacken our exertions by reason of the weariness that comes with prolonged effort in habitually doing that which is good.

Dullness sets in from the blunting edge of weariness. Service for God loses value and the loss of hope results in discouragement leading to giving up.

To combat weariness let’s read the end of verse 9 from The Amplified Bible:

…for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.

That little statement gives us a way to combat weariness. If the idea of weariness is losing our motivation for “doing good,” then we’ve got to discover a tangible motivation in the opposite direction! We read, “In due time and at the appointed season we shall reap.”

The Bible scholar John Stott once wrote of this verse:

Some incentive is certainly needed in Christian well-doing. Paul recognizes this, for he urges his readers not to ‘grow weary’ or ‘lose heart’. Active Christian service is tiring, exacting work. We are tempted to become discouraged, to slack off, even to give up. So the apostle gives us this incentive: he tells us that doing good is like sowing seed. If we persevere in sowing, then ‘in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart’

Persevere in doing good knowing that eventually a profitable crop comes from sowing! This is the tangible motivation for overcoming weariness. Are you weary? According to Paul refocusing our values from immediate gratification to the end results will renew spiritual life!

J. Robert Hanson

 

¹ 1573 enkakeo | ekkakeo Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

² (Stott, J. R. W. The message of Galatians: Only one way. Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press or The Bible Speaks Today NT)

Here’s a little article the daughter unit wrote that I really enjoyed! 

NewParent

The New Parent

New Parents—everybody can identify in some respect with parents~

Either you’ve had one, been one, still are one (!), hope to be one, or can claim the glorious title of “in-the-middle-of-changing-diapers-and-cleaning-faces-and-struggling-with-the-tantrum-that-my-kid-just-threw-in-front-of-a-bazillion-people-who-are-trying-not-to-stare-too-obviously”–#yesmykidneedsjesus; #andsodoi…

I’m the last one J! And I love how God is using parenting to teach me life lessons from this stage in life. Here are 20 of ‘em (in no particular order!) that you may or may not relate to…

God’s been hammering these concepts and ideas in … “Anna,” HE says, “AJ, kiddo…

1. Retrain your brain to fully believe 1Samuel 16:7 “God does not see the same way people see, people look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart”

2. You can make yourself feel so very guilty and distressed over the way you and your kid act, but hey, “There is no condemnation to him that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1 Yeah, you’re a sinner, you HAVE Jesus. HE’S it. All you need.

3. There’s not one thing that you can bring to ME in prayer that I will laugh at or consider too small to think about. Yeah, ask ME which order to do your errands in, and then do ‘em. “Call to me and I will answer you” Jeremiah 33:3…

4. And bring the BIG stuff in prayer too. Yeah, pray about your child’s future lifestyle, pursuits, loves, teachers, friendships, current struggles… “…and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3; NAS)

5. Your husband is a resource and HUGE treasure; he will offer you practical and godly insight. So be sure you pray for him too. Your prayer for him will affect your own walk with ME, and the lives of your children.

6. Your kids are sinners, and they help you see your own sin magnified 100X!! I will use your kids to discipline you! (Hebrews 12:9-12)

7. Your pride has no earthly limit. It manifests in every way possible. Only JESUS, and God’s Heavenly Grace, can set you free from it.

8. You owe your parents far greater respect, honor, and thankfulness than you have ever given them (to this day).

9. “…You lack wisdom…ask of God who gives generously and without reproach” James 1:5. When you ask, don’t doubt ME, I am WISDOM.

10. Home-life and training children are currently your primary role and thus your highest priority—read JOY. Deuteronomy 6:6-8 “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Talking about MY word with children will help you relate truth to unbelievers too.

11. I AM the Ultimate Father/Parent. So use MY example to parent.

12. I AM Wisdom and Counsel. Pour over MY words; drink deep!

13. I AM Love—1 Corinthians 13:4-8—yep, it’s a high standard. Nope, you can’t keep it. Yep, Christ can be the love you need.

14. Christ is your Righteousness—you’re living like a pauper in comparison to all that CHRIST is and has fully accomplished for you. Live it up, AJ. ASK ME!

15. The Holy Spirit is a very present resource.

16. I AM Sovereign—this is your security while you’re on earth. “But whoever listens to ME will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Yeah, disaster may come, but you don’t need to fear it. REST loved one.

17. I AM Holy, Measureless and Grand—you will never understand ME fully while on earth, there is always more depth I can bring you into.

18. I AM Judge. Value my judgment and opinion of you over any other opinion. And STOP (I repeat STOP) comparing yourself to other defendants. I don’t compare you that way, I just see My Son.

19. I am your Designer, Trainer, and Completer. Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.”

20. I am seen in every bit of MY creation. Watch as your children experience MY glories for the first time. Watch them enjoy the wind in their face, taste a mango, experiment with their voice, delight with giggles at a friendly face. And remind yourself again of whom I AM.

I’m sure there’s infinitely more to be learned; the musings of this mother are just beginning:D

Anna Boucher

JackBean_titleI planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 ESV

I’m no horticulturist! However, to my surprise (with no small thanks to my wife and friend Sterling), the flowerbed in my front yard has finally advanced beyond looking like something out of a Louis L’Amour novel filled with blowing tumbleweeds! Sterling gave the ideas, I planted and my wife waters. Yet, even after all our efforts I’ve come to acknowledge that it’s God who gives the growth. It’s as if something finally magically clicked and all at once dead things have come to life. The whole scenario reminds me a bit of the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Jack and his mother were poor. Their main source of income was a cow that graciously provided milk. One day the bovine no longer produced a product to sell and Jack’s mother sent the lad off to the market, cow in tow. As the story goes, just before reaching town our young hero was presented an offer he couldn’t refuse. A grifter with a handful of enchantment made a proposal—magic beans for the cow. Being content in his own wisdom, the young lad returned home to mom with a pocket full of promise instead of cash. At the revelation of the foolish deal, and in a fit of fury, Jack’s mother took the beans and tossed them out the window in despair of circumstance. When morning came the discovery was made that a huge beanstalk had grown overnight out of the tragic magic beans.

Just as Jack in the story, I have no idea how the actual growth in my flowerbed takes place, I’m just thankful it’s there—notwithstanding my great lack of horticultural gift. The fairy tale reminds me of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3, verse 6:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

I learn three things from this little adventure:

1). God can work despite me. When it comes to growing plants, I’m not blessed with an overabundance of aptitude. My confession: over the years I’ve killed my share of greenery. Whether planting too deep, or too shallow, or too close together, the little saplings have never stood much of a chance until God gave growth.

In a spiritual sense, despite my past failures and faults, God can and will give increase to anything He desires to see grow. It is only God who gives the growth. Miracles are abundant, not because of my “gift,” but, as a result of His mysterious working will!

2). God can work because of me. The statement does not mean that God needs me to help—quite the contrary. I find, in actuality, He can use any planter He wants. Verse 7 reads:

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

Seeing the privilege that I’m included as God’s fellow worker is the point! The choice I made to be involved in planting is the decision that’s carries great joy. This happiness of witnessing growth is reward enough and gives affirmation to say, “Hey, I was able to make a contribution to see that development take place!”

3). God will work because He is God. Ultimately, it’s God that deserves the praise! Sure, Jack’s beanstalk grew despite of the careless effort of planting. The morning’s discover of the gigantic stem was apart from any struggle of Jack’s, or his mom’s. It’s all about the magic in the seed itself. The thing grew because of the character of the beans—magic beans!

In our case, growth happens because of the mystery of God’s working. The supernatural developments are a result of the character of God and what He desires to see mature. And, as God’s fellow worker, my part is to just enjoy God’s field of enterprise—in fact, in truth I am that enterprise: For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

So, the next time I step out my front door and look at the flowerbed I’ll be reminded that it’s God who gives the increase and growth. Just like Jack and the Beanstalk, I can relax and let His efforts prevail!

J. Robert Hanson

Popups_title“Then Esther spoke again to the king. She fell at his feet and wept and pleaded with him to avert the evil plan of Haman the Agagite and the plot that he had devised against the Jews. When the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, Esther rose and stood before the king…” Esther 8: 3-5 (ESV)

Just prior to this incident, Haman—enemy of the Jews—was executed upon gallows he had built for Esther’s kinfolk, Mordecai. By this one decisive final act of vanquishing the adversary it was hoped a long season of peace and serenity would follow. Sadly, that’s not the case. Still lingering like a troubling cancer was the earlier orchestrated edict created by the hand of Haman to annihilate Esther’s race. He was gone—his misdeeds lingered on. And though a significant battle was won, a war was still progressing.

You see, not all victories are as instantaneous and thorough as we like. The defeat of Haman was only the start of ending the terrible nightmare pressed upon the Jewish people. The work-in-progress was defeating the devilish plan of annihilating the Hebrews—a strategy set in motion and unchangeably legislated before Haman went to meet his Maker face-to-face.

Many times issues have deeper roots than first imagined. We don’t always see it as we’re caught-up with the joy of being released from a major problem. The ancillary issues take awhile to manifest. The answer: a cursory remedy always needs an absolute commitment to find complete victory.

My wife’s computer contracted a nasty virus. She installed some program awhile back that self-started every time she turned on the machine. The results were annoying. She’d go online to visit websites and popup advertisements would open indiscriminately one right after the other. It was annoying and aggravating. She defeated that problem by installing a popup blocker. It resolved the immediate crisis and she was as happy as a pig in the mud.

However, over time she noticed her computer was running slower than ever. She’d won the battle but not the war. She finally contacted someone who knew what they were doing with computers and together they discovered a nasty little program running in the background of the computer’s operating system—effectively eating CPU processing power. They uninstalled the repugnant program and the war was won, victory complete!

Esther must come before the king to plead her case. She must again brave the bowing of the golden scepter to intercede her case for her people. The point being, not all problems have an immediate fix. Courage must continue in the face of adversity in order to press through to victory. Faith must increase to realize deliverance. The victorious must continue to press to completion to gain the complete victories of life.

J. Robert Hanson

God fills us with hope as we turn to Him daily! — Sterling Bennett

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