Sarah’s Story Part 3 – The End to the Beginning

Throughout Sarah’s story, there are many challenges. At one point, there was a famine in the land, so Abraham and his family went to Egypt to live during the famine. While they were there, Abraham told Sarah to say she was his sister because she was so beautiful, he feared they would kill him. Pharaoh wanted to take her as his wife.

Pharaoh treated Abram well because of Sarah and gave him livestock and servants. As a result of Sarah joining Pharaoh’s harem, his household came down with a serious disease. Pharaoh asked Abraham why he lied, returned Sarah to him and commanded them to leave with everything Pharaoh had given them.[1]

In the second instance while they stayed in Gerar, Abraham told those who inquired, “She is my sister,” (which was a half-truth; she was his half-sister before she became his wife).[2] King Abimelech took her to the palace. God closed up the womb of every woman in the king’s household because of Sarah. God appeared to King Abimelech in a dream and told him he had taken in a married woman.

After calling together his leadership and informing them of the situation, he called Abraham before him and confronted him. Abraham confessed what he had done, and the king replied by giving him livestock and servants, and returning Sarah to him. He told them they could live anywhere they’d like in his land. He spoke specifically to Sarah saying, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all[a] who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.”[3]

Can you imagine how Sarah may have felt? Perhaps she was angry or even resented Abraham for putting her in these two very awkward positions? It seems Sarah followed her husband’s lead intentionally or submissively. Instead of trusting God to work out his fear of death by the hand of a king he assumed to be wicked, he tried to figure it out on his own with a half-truth, putting Sarah in a difficult and dangerous situation. In spite of doing things their own way in this situation, God faithfully protected her and returned her to her husband.

Can you see your own life in Sarah’s story? God knows your end from the beginning as well. He tells your story from the perspective of all He created you to be. He’s not worried about where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Yes, like Sarah, you may have consequences to some of the choices you’ve made, but that doesn’t stop God from delivering on the promises He has given you!

[1] Genesis 12:10-20

[2] Genesis 20:12 NIV

[3] Genesis 20:16 ESV

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Sarah’s Story Part 1—Abraham’s News

Sarah’s story didn’t look very promising from the beginning—at least from the perspective of natural circumstances. The first mention of her in the Bible describes her as Abram’s wife, Sarai, who is barren and has no children.[1] (Eventually God changed both Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah.) When her husband’s brother, Haran died, Abram’s father took his family from Ur of the Chaldeans where Abram and Sarah grew up and traveled toward Canaan, but stopped short of their journey and settled in Haran where they lived until Abram’s father died.

Here’s where things get interesting. Sarah and Abraham’s family worshipped other gods, yet the Almighty God spoke Abraham and asked him to leave everything familiar to him and Sarah—their country, their extended family and the friends they did life with every day—and go to a land they had never seen.

The Lord said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you. Genesis 12:1-3 CEV

I can just imagine God saying, “Pack your family, tents, and all your belongings and start walking. I’m going to show you this great land. If you do this, I am going to make you into a great nation. I’ll make your name great. If you follow me I will bless you, and bless everyone who blesses you.”

Now imagine Sarah’s response. Abraham comes in and tells her the Only True God promised him a blessing—a promise to become a nation, and all they have to do is go to a land God will show him. I can’t help but think she said what she thought. Maybe she told Abraham,, “Well, how’s God going to do that? I’m barren. Everyone knows I’m barren. We’ve been married for years and tried to start a family without success.” And if she did believe, it’s highly likely she imagined different scenarios of just how God would do such things.

Perhaps she struggled with the grief of leaving everything familiar. I’m sure she had lots of questions. How far is it to this place God is going to show us? When will we get there? I won’t know a single person. What if the people are unfriendly, violent and savage? On the other hand, maybe she embraced this new directive  with excitement and expectation.

How might you feel if God called your family to leave everything familiar and travel to a place you have never been? Have you experienced times in your own life when you struggled to believe God’s promises belonged to you?

[1] Hebrews 11:29-30

Your Soul is Where Your Spirit Breathes

(excerpt from Love is Not an Emotion)

When paramedics arrive on the scene, aside from checking for a pulse, they look to see if the injured person is breathing—a sign of life. It could be said that our soul is where our spirit breathes.

Strong’s lexicon comments that the human soul “by the right use of the aids offered it by God it can attain its highest end and secure eternal blessedness.” The soul is regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life; and as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body).”[1] This is where our eternal spirit resides.

It is the place where our spirit man can touch the presence of God.

When we are in love physically, the presence of the person we love can be intoxicating. Have you ever experienced such an attraction that you feel your heart almost stops, or you discover you’re holding your breath— waiting for his or her next communication with you. What will he say? What does he think about this or that? That’s somewhat close to the deep, desire from your heart and soul to touch God, that Jesus is talking about.

So far we understand that we are to love God with all of our heart—or make Him the very heartbeat of our existence. On top of that we are to love Him with our soul—that is our mind, our will and our emotions.

The mind is a faculty of understanding, feeling, or way of thinking. God desires to be a part of our intellect. He wants us to love Him with our thoughts. He wants us to include Him in our intellectual studies. The Bible is key in that. When we read His Word we are in touch with Him.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.[2]

I think to love God with all our strength means to hold fast to Him without compromise. Our strength includes being closely joined to a person or a thing. This reminds me of the covenant exchanges I’ve read about in the Bible.

David is one my favorite people to read about in the Bible. I’ve learned so much through his life because I can apply so much of his life to my own. 1 Samuel 18:1 says The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. When people made a covenant to one another like David and Jonathan did, the two parties agreed to join themselves together until death. They joined their strengths to overcome all of life’s battles.

If you read the exchange between David and Jonathan, you’ll find they swore to give to the other all that they were. What once was David’s now belonged to Jonathan and likewise; what once belonged to Jonathan was now David’s possession.

God’s covenant with us goes much deeper. He exchanges all He is for the little that we are. He holds fast to us; while we hold fast to Him. We love God with all our strength knowing He will never fail us; therefore we should strive with all that we are not to fail Him.

linae coverYou can read Love is Not an Emotion – available in paperback and on Kindle.

[1] Thayer and Smith. “Greek Lexicon entry for Psuche”. “The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon” http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/psuche.html

[2] Hebrews 4:12 NKJV

Pour Out the Promise of Laughter

Have you ever been so tired that everything seemed funny? My husband, my mother and I traveled 16 hours by car across several states to visit family and attend a wedding. We like to drive through the night when there is less traffic on the road. This particular trip I didn’t sleep at all and as dawn broke, I contracted what my family calls “the sleepy sillies.”

pcb sunsetA thought, a memory of my step-dad crossed my mind, and I burst into uncontrollable laughter. My traveling companions tried to get me to share the reason I was laughing, and I tried. I really tried to share my memory, but I couldn’t contain the laughter long enough to spill the story.

Even though they didn’t know why I was laughing, they found the whole scene humorous. It took several minutes for me to tell enough of the story between laughs that they knew which story I remembered. Then, we laughed so hard our stomach muscles hurt, and tears of laughter escaped our eyes.

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting (Job 8:21 ESV).

There are storms in our lives that bring stress and heartache. Times of laughter may seem far away during those rough seasons in our lives. Laughter can break the pain much like the sun breaks through the night.

An outburst of laugher—no matter the reason—can give you much needed relief. God promised to pour out laughter on us. Take some time in His presence today and ask Him for a dose of laughter, then expect Him to fill you with it today.

“Like a welcome summer rain,

humor may suddenly cleanse

and cool the earth, the air and you.”

~Langston Hughes

Resting in God—Your Storm Cellar

April showers bring May flowers, and if you live in the Oklahoma plains like my grandparents did, you often found yourself in the cellar during a tornado warning. IMG_0226 I remember one particular spring weekend my grandfather taking all of us grand kids to the cellar as a storm blew in at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. I remember peering into the living room to see Grandma looking out the front windows of the living room as she prayed about the storm. Grandpa was calling to me and my cousin, “C’mon. Get down here.”

God desires for you not only to survive the storms life brings, but also to thrive once you come through them.

I remember the smell of the earth as we sit in the middle of the cellar. A few of Grandma’s canned fruits and vegetables leftover from winter lined the walls. Grandpa had his little radio tuned to hear some type of weather reports. But Grandma stayed in the living room, watching the storm and trusting God for the tornado to pass over her property untouched.

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat, (Isaiah 25:4 NIV).

Rather than being anxious about the storm, I wanted it to hurry and pass so we could get outside and play in the puddles I knew would remain in the driveway.  Less than an hour later, we received the all clear and my cousins and I scurried outside to enjoy what water was left standing after the heavy rain.

Storms are an inevitable part of life. God desires for you not only to survive the storms life brings, but also to thrive once you come through them. If you’re going through a storm today, settle yourself in the peace of God’s presence as the storm passes, and look forward to the joy He will bring to you once the storm is passed.

“A man is getting old when he walks around a puddle instead of through it.”

~R.C. Ferguson

Defeat Fear with God’s Love

(Excerpt from Love Is Not an Emotion

linae cover

My children learned at a very young age that God has not given us a spirit of fear. Although both my children approached life fearlessly, my oldest son battled nightmares for a season when he was very small. Through his own faith and our prayerful agreement with him each night before he went to bed, he overcame them.

From the time my youngest son was born, we played scripture set to music in their bedrooms at night. One scripture in particular is from 2 Timothy 1:7: God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind. My husband, Blaine would crawl on his hands and knees into their bedroom, in the dark. The boys didn’t know he was there—listening. My youngest son had memorized the entire CD. He would say the scripture before the words came through the speakers. He learned those words at a very young age and is still quick to quote them today.

One Wednesday night at church the teacher for the two-year-old class caught me in the hall. My youngest son was nearly 3 years old. She told me what had happened earlier that evening in her class.

The class was about to go outside and it was dark out. One of the little girls in my son’s class began to cry saying she didn’t want to go outside because it was dark and she was afraid. My son put his little face directly in front of hers and told her, “We don’t have to be afraid outside. God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

“God says we don’t have to be afraid.”

The teacher supported his statement and hand in hand, the two of them went outside to their activity.

Sometimes we need the faith of a child. He told her what God’s Word said, she accepted it, and fear left. Fear, when face to face with faith and love, is instantly defeated.

A Promise to Pass Safely Through

I lived just hours from the Tahlequah River in Oklahoma, one of my favorite summer adventures with aunts, uncles and cousins. One year  Grandpa and Grandma went with us. Grandma had never learned to swim was extremely fearful of the water. I remember her putting those big, full, orange life jackets around her neck, arms and legs as she joked with us. She was quite a site to see.

There were summers when we got very little rain and we had toScan_20150619 (16) drag our canoe across the rough, pebbled, shallow places in the river. Other years the water rushed dangerously fast. Every once in a while someone would capsize and others on the river would stop and help.

The first year my husband and I were married, we camped on the river with another couple and with plans to canoe the following day. In the early hours of the morning, an unexpected storm blew through our camp. The water was so heavy, the tent collapsed. It was cold and miserable.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior, (Isaiah 43:2-3 AMP).

The next morning we gathered what was left of our campsite, packed up and made our way to the river to spend the day in the warm sun, canoeing. The sudden rain caused the river to rise substantially, and the water rushed past at a faster speed than any of us had experienced. Halfway down the river, we came upon a father with his young son.

They were trapped in the rushing water.

I remember the concern on the father’s face, and the fear on the little boy’s face. Then the relief and thankfulness after my husband and his best friend freed them from the tree branches and pulled them safely back to the bank.

There are seasons with little rain and our life ebbs and flows gently. Then a great storm comes along—sometimes in the middle of the night while you’re camping—and turns everything in your life upside down. Your first response might be to panic as the water rises to overtake you, but rest assured, the Lord your Savior, promises to be with you. He promises the waters will not overwhelm you and you will pass safely through as you hold tight to Him.

“If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.”

Francis Chan