Thank God for Michigan

Oh, before we start…May the 4th be with you.

The following excerpt is from the greatest and most reliable resource ever…Wikipedia. 🙂

At the beginning of the Civil War, regiments from Michigan were raised to answer Lincoln’s call for men. The first volunteers from Michigan were mustered into the Army as the 1st Michigan Infantry on May 1, 1861. On May 16, the regiment arrived in Washington; Lincoln was said to have exclaimed “Thank God for Michigan!” upon the troops’ arrival.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Thank God for Michigan!” Why did he do that? Because the nation was in a dire need and was about to face one of its greatest challenges. And here comes around 80,000 troops from Michigan saying, “We’re here to fight.” They were volunteers…another great observation to make.

It reminds me of the church in Philippi that rose to the occasion “once and again” to help support the apostle Paul. Paul was in need, and they mustered the troops and sent him what he needed.

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Philippians 4:14-20)

How refreshed Paul was to see the help come from the Philippian brethren. How encouraged Abraham Lincoln must have been to see those troops who had traveled all the way from Michigan to help support the cause.

Trust – Not Knowing

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
(Heb 11:8)

Trust. In order to trust another, it by definition means you don’t have all the answers and information. You don’t possess all the details and you are going on the word of someone else.

Abraham was told to take his family and his corporation and go. Go where? Go where God told him to go! That’s not a lot of information to go on, is it? But it was all the information Abraham needed.

Sometimes we really geek out on the details and have to know all the information. God doesn’t work that way with us. He wants us to trust in Him and His promises without having all the facts. You will not be able to know how everything is going to turn out in specificity. The Lord isn’t going to send us a spreadsheet with charts.

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Exodus that tells of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. They didn’t have all the information and details. Their job was to be silent and go forward. Trust God and let Him take care of the rest.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
(Exodus 14:13-15)

Because You Have Done This

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
(Genesis 22:14-18)

“Because you have done this” – That statement could be in between a bad choice leading to a awful consequence, but for Abraham it was quite the opposite. Abraham made a choice to obey God even when it would cost him his son Isaac. Because Abraham made this choice to obey God even through extreme sacrifice of what he held most dear, God would richly bless him and his family for generations to come.

We studied this chapter last night in a Bible study at someone’s home, and it really caused us to reflect upon the faith and trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. That trust in God’s promises led him to the conclusion that if he killed Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). He knew that God would provide, even if Abraham gave up the very things God promised him.

What a great example for leaders of homes, and what an encouragement to know that if we make the commitment to follow God fully, God will be there in our homes blessing us and providing us with wisdom and strength. Abraham said, “The Lord will provide,” and that is just as true for us today as it was for Abraham. Our job is to fully obey His voice. The calling for us is the same as it was for Abraham; don’t withhold anything from God. Don’t let anything be so valuable to us that we would not give it over to Jesus.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(James 2:19-24)

Remember Lot’s Wife

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
(Genesis 19:26)

Last night we had a Bible study and we looked at Genesis 19 concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As we talked about Lot’s wife being turned by God into a pillar of salt, a few thoughts were discussed in the class.

Remember not to look back to that old world.

The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
(Proverbs 14:14)

We are to die to sin. We are to leave that old world behind. That old world is going to be destroyed, including all those who follow in its ways. Some of those who are destroyed in that old world may be very close to you. Don’t look back. Don’t turn back. Longing and pining for the things and people in Sodom will only lead to your own destruction.

We have to love God more than family.

And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
(Matthew 10:36-37)

Lot pleaded with the men who were to marry his daughters. They took it as a joke; they didn’t take the warnings seriously (Gen. 19:14). It seems that this may have been part of the reason Lot delayed and lingered. Maybe there were more family members or close friends there that he didn’t want to leave.

What we do know is that the angels grabbed Lot, his wife and his daughters by the arms and forced them out of the city. This was because of God’s mercy upon Lot in response to Abraham’s prayers (Gen. 19:16,29). Lot was called righteous by God, but that doesn’t mean that he always made good decisions. God had to yank him out of this city (2 Peter 2:6-9). Lot was tormented by the wickedness around him in Sodom, yet he still delayed to leave Sodom. There is a point there for us, I believe.

Am I lingering in Sodom? Maybe because I’m too close to someone, it clouds my vision and I don’t stand up for what is right. How many times do we see that happen? Lot lingered in Sodom, when he (1) knew how wicked it was, and (2) he knew God was about to torch it. What or who was he so tied to that he was delaying the very thing God commanded him to do? It is something for us to reflect upon.

In our study last night, someone pointed out from Genesis 19:26 that Lot’s wife was behind him. She was turned to a pillar of salt. Lot never looked back. Whether he knew at that point or not that she had been destroyed, he didn’t turn back. He did what the angels of God told him to do. With all of his delay and hesitation while still in the city (Gen. 19:15-16), he now did exactly what God told him to do, even when his wife did not. He had the opportunity as well to look back with longing and/or sadness over the city and its people. But he kept his eyes looking forward.

Jesus used this event to teach His disciples and prepare them for the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He told them that when they saw certain signs, to get out immediately, don’t go back into their houses to get anything. Move! Go! Get out!

On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
(Luke 17:31-33)

Remember Lot’s wife today, men. Am I seeking to preserve my life and my things and my ways? Or am I walking away from Sodom without looking back?

For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
(Hebrews 10:37-39)

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?

Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. “I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
(Genesis 18:16-21)

The Lord was about to rain down fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorroah. As the two angels are departing toward those exceedingly wicked cities, we are welcomed into a short conversation that the Lord has with those two angels.

God asks a question, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” He had already decided what was going to happen. “Should I tell Abraham?” It seems as if the answer was already “yes,” but the Lord is explaining why He will let Abraham in what’s about to happen in Sodom and Gomorrah.

“He will become a great and mighty nation.” What impacts the peoples around Abraham will impact Abraham and his descendants.

“In Abraham all nations of the earth will be blessed.” Through Abraham, God will bring forth his mercy and blessings upon the earth.

Speaking of mercy, it is very clear in the latter part of chapter 18 that Abraham and God both had great compassion for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God and Abraham were not in a hurry to see these people destroyed. Abraham’s heart was like God’s heart.

“I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.” What will happen to Sodom and Gomorrah is a vivid illustration for Abraham and his family of what happens when people walk away from God. Abraham would command his children and grandchildren to walk in God’s pathway. As a father and grandfather, he could point to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and speak of God’s wrath upon the wicked, but he could also speak to God’s mercy upon people like his righteous nephew Lot (2 Peter 2:6-9; Genesis 19:16).

“So that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” Abraham’s family, the nation of Israel, would have a choice just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Blessings or curses, life or death. God wanted Israel to choose life (Deuteronomy 30). Sadly, when you read the prophets, the later generations in Israel and Judah actually became WORSE than Sodom (Lamentations 4:6).

This verse about Abraham instructing his children is not isolated from the rest of the context. God’s overwhelming wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah would pierce the heart of a righteous father and stir him to “command” his family in righteous living. Abraham would stand in the gap and warn his family to avoid the path of the wicked for it leads to great pain and sorrow (Proverbs 4:14,15).

We can and must provide that contrast today as fathers. Do not shy away from using the path of the wicked that is all too visible around us. Use what is around you to demonstrate to your sons and daughters that path of wickedness must be avoided. On that pathway, kids, you will fall under the wrath of God. But also look to the ways of those who are living righteously both in Scripture and around you today, and use them as examples for your kids (Psalm 37:37; Proverbs 4:18; Philippians 3:17; Hebrews 13:7).

If you are a father and grandfather, you are chosen by God and appointed for the same purpose as Abraham. Command your children and grandchildren to follow the ways of God.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4)

Therefore from one man

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore (Hebrews 11:11-12).

I was always taught that when there is a “therefore” in a Bible verse you need to find out what it’s “there for.” This “therefore” in Hebrews 11:11-12 connects the faith of Sarah to the innumerable multitude that came from the loins of Abraham. It was not just Abraham’s faith and Abraham’s relationship with God that brought forth these amazing blessings from God upon generations to come.

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

Sarah’s faith gave her power to conceive. See the “therefore”? Therefore Abraham became a father of multitudes. Yes God promised it, and Abraham believed it, but Sarah became pregnant because she believed it, too.

Sarah grew in faith to reach this conclusion. She had at times considered her own age and physical ability to conceive a child. When we look at passages like Genesis 16 and 18 we know that Sarah had her own growth process that she had to go through to come to the faith we see mentioned in Hebrews 11:11. Remember that Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar into the embrace of Abraham because she thought that would be the way to make God’s blessings and promises a reality (Genesis 16). It was Sarah who laughed inside her tent when she heard the men talking about her having a baby the next year (Genesis 18).

If that’s all you knew about Sarah would you have called her a strong woman of faith? If you were Abraham would you be tempted to think you are the strong one in this relationship and are carrying her along? Sarah had her moments of weakness, and she had need of growth, but look at what God did through Sarah.

Didn’t Abraham have to grow too? Abraham laughed too! When offered the handmaid Hagar, he went into her. He listened to Sarah instead of God. Abraham had his own process of growth he was going through.

All of this to say, men, that when we look at our wives who are following Jesus, know that God is doing a great work within them, and He will accomplish it (Philippians 1:6). Also know that because of that growth of faith within her, you and generations to come will be blessed immensely.

Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates (Proverbs 31:28-31).

 

 

 

We have found water

Right now, we are in the process of having a new well dug. So as I’m writing, the well driller is outside prepping the area for drilling…and we are praying!

It made me think of Genesis 26:12-33 when Isaac was digging wells.

The first observation: Enemies

One of the first things I notice is that Abraham and Isaac had enemies. The Philistines had stopped up the wells of Abraham by filling them with earth (vs. 15). Isaac was told to get away from the Philistines because they saw him as too powerful (vs. 16). They were afraid of him and envied him.

So, Isaac left and went away. In this section you see Isaac repeatedly trying to live in peace with his enemies. He digs a well, the Philistines quarrel with him about it, and he just moves on and tries another spot (vs. 19-22). He eventually finds a spot and digs a well where there is no contention from the Philistines (vs. 21).

Because of Isaac’s behavior and the Lord’s powerful working in Isaac, the Philistines clearly saw God’s presence in Isaac’s life (vs. 28). They ask to make a covenant with him, to ensure that he will not attack them (vs. 29). Their fear of him came because he was “the blessed of the Lord” (vs. 29).

In a world where everyone is looking for a fight and a reason to quarrel, what kind of people do we need to be in this world, men? What example do we as men need to set for our sons and daughters in how to live peaceably with all men?

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21)

The second observation: By His Father’s Names

Isaac re-dug the wells of Abraham and called them by the names Abraham called them (vs. 18). There is a great lesson here in following the example and walking in the pathway left by a godly person. Abraham dug these wells, and Isaac respected his father by calling them by the same names.

We can do the same by looking to those who go before us and leave footprints to follow. It may be our parents, grandparents or other godly people in the church who have laid down a pattern for us to follow.

They called sin by its name – “sin.” We need to call it by the same name.

These godly men and women called the Bible the Word of God. We need to call it by the same name.

Our spiritual forefathers showed reverence for the God and Creator and Lord Jesus Christ by the way the lived their lives, by how they worshiped him, and by how they respected His authority. We need to call the wells of faith they dug by the same names.

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:7-8)

The third observation: The Lord blessed Isaac richly

Isaac’s eyes were on the Lord (vs. 22), and the Lord’s eyes were on Isaac (vs. 24). God encouraged Isaac not to fear because He was with Isaac and would bless him. Isaac built an altar and worshiped God (vs. 25). God blessed Isaac richly in the presence of his enemies.

That reminds me of David:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:5)

By “blessing” I do not mean to say that God is going to shower down material riches upon us. I also do not personally apply this to expect God to give the Kemples a well with perfect water this week. Even if we end up with nasty water again, God is good and He has blessed us richly. He has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). It really is the wells of salvation from which we draw the purest and most awesome water (Isaiah 12).

God blessed Isaac in a mighty way, and the enemies of Isaac saw God’s working in his life. This was a testimony to God’s grace and strength and it brought God glory. May we seek God’s blessings for His glory, and not for our own personal gain (see how Paul used “glory” in Ephesians 1:6,12,14).

The fourth observation: In His Time

You know, it took a lot of time and space in Genesis 26 from Gerar to Beersheba (vs. 17,33). It took time to dig wells, it took time for quarrels to happen, and it took even more time for Isaac to move his family, servants and animals to another location.

All the while, in good times and bad, in frustrations and victories, God was with Isaac. He is good. God accomplished His purpose and worked His will in His time, not in Isaac’s.

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
(Isaiah 40:27-31)

Sarah shall be her name

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 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.” 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?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “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. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
(Genesis 17:15-21)

We were studying and discussing Genesis 17 last night. In this study, we have been going through Genesis. Right now Genesis is focusing on the relationship God had with Abraham and his family. “Abraham is the father of us all,” Paul wrote (Romans 4:16). We sure can learn a lot from Abraham and how his faith in God grew and was continually challenged. But we can also learn about God and His awesome nature and character. He loves us. God keeps His promises. His blessings have no parallel in what the world can offer us.

God promised an old man and an old woman past the age of childbearing that they would have a child. He changed their names to forever memorialize that promise being fulfilled. “Sarah” would be a princess for God the sovereign King will bless her and kings would come from her. “Abraham” will become a father of multitudes, because his family will become like the stars and sands…innumerable.

Abraham fell on his face and laughed (Genesis 17:17). In the next chapter Sarah laughed (Genesis 18:12). What did God name the son to come? “Isaac” which means laughter! I love that.

I think about this in connection to our marriages. Here are just a few thoughts to consider:

  • Genesis 17 begins with God’s call to Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless (Genesis 17:1). The chapter concludes with a 99-year old man being circumcised in the flesh of his foreskins, along with all his household. If I want God to bless my marriage like God blessed Abraham and Sarah, then I must walk before the Lord and be blameless. We as husbands must commit to doing whatever God tells us to do, whatever is required, however difficult it may be.
  • God blessed Sarah. Men, are we praying for God to bless our wives? God reassured Abraham that He deeply cared for Sarah and was going to bless her richly. God called her princess. Think about that husbands. Do you and I view our wives as that princess whom God deeply loves?
  • The Lord can resurrect what is dead. He is the God of the impossible. In Romans 4:26-25 we learn a lesson in faith from Abraham and Sarah. God brings to life what was dead! If God can make an old man and old woman past the age of childbearing to have a baby, and if God can bring a man (Jesus) who was in the grave 3 days back to life, when what can God do for us today? Can God resurrect a dead marriage? With God’s help we can revive and rebuild what we and others around us may count as impossible!
  • God can make you laugh. Finally, just a thought to consider that God wanted this baby to be named Isaac. Whenever they cuddled that baby or called that son to dinner, they said “laughter.” Remember that the “joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When God makes you rejoice, there is no one who can take away your joy (John 16:22).

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom

On a personal note: Thank you to all for your encouragement, prayers, and overwhelming support of my family as we walk through the recovery and healing process after our barn fire. God is good, all the time.

The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit In A Sitcom by Jason Hardin

I want to share with you a sermon that I watched this morning that I really needed. This sermon is by Jason Hardin, and it is called “The God Whose Plans Don’t Fit in a Sitcom.”

At the end of Jason’s sermon, he spoke of 4 conclusions that we can build our lives upon, and they were a blessing to me for sure.

  1. At pivotal moments in life, the people of God had no idea WHAT God was doing; some times neither will we.
  2. At many points in life, we won’t understand WHY God is allowing certain things to happen.
  3. And yet, the clear testimony of Scripture is that He knows perfectly what He is doing.
  4. Therefore, rather than being anxious about things we cannot change…let’s make sure to seek Him while He may be found.

I would add, I don’t know the what nor the why, but I know the WHO. Like the old song sings, “I don’t know about tomorrow, but I know Who holds my hand.”

I waited patiently for the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD (Psalms 40:1-3).

How long am I willing to “wait”? It seems that with the speed of technology and life we are not willing to wait very long for anything.

God promised the Israelites they would receive the Promised Land, but it would take 400 years (Genesis 15). Abraham was promised at 75 years old that he would have a son through whom God would extend His blessings and promises. He had to wait 25 years for the promised son, Isaac, to be born.

Jacob thought he lost his son Joseph to wild animals when Joseph was only 17 years old. It was 22 years later, when Joseph was 39, that Jacob finally learned that his son was safe and sound.

I waited patiently for the Lord

Again, how long am I willing to wait? When I pray for an answer from God, do I demand immediate results? What if you have to wait decades for the real answer? Or, what if you never receive that specific answer you wanted from God? Will you still wait patiently for Him?

I will leave you with two more passages for today.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).