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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’

The Goal of Stewardship: Fruitfulness *

We generally think about the life of Jesus, depicted in the Gospels, as one of ceaseless activity and unending supernatural works of power.

But think about this – how old was Jesus before His public earthly ministry began? Most estimates put him at about 30 years old.

The Son of God. Without sin. Yet, delayed public fruitfulness.

Even during His public ministry, there were seasons when certain activities were delayed. Read the brief account in the Gospel of John 7:1-9. Here, being urged to go up to Jerusalem for a feast (in order to demonstrate His miraculous works), He demurred, saying “My time is not yet here…” – just as He did at the beginning of His ministry, when urged by His mother to do something special at the wedding in Cana.

Moses. Abraham. Joseph. Hannah. David. Many of God’s saints through the ages went through years and even decades of delay before bearing their most significant fruit.

Maturation comes before fruit-bearing.

Expect_Delays

We are to be fruitful stewards, as much as within us lies – but also patient sons and daughters, allowing God to perfect His purposes in His (often inscrutable) timing.

Remember – what you read in the Scriptures is often the condensed version. Many years of less visible maturing work, of time-proven discipline, are left in the margins of our imagination.

I scratch my head in puzzlement when I look at my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. What was happening during those times for the kingdom? Was I doing anything worthwhile? And, frankly, that sort of introspection can be a real black hole of doubt and regret. How did the people of Israel feel, wandering about the desert for all those years??

Yet here is our hope – God is shaping and maturing us. Even in the seasons of delay and obscurity. Our greatest fruitfulness may be, to our surprise, still down the road.

I don’t like driving slowly through construction zones. But for sinners redeemed (and being redeemed) by grace, our life here on earth IS a construction zone. Expect Delays.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 5, considering how fruitfulness is the goal of stewardship. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar.

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A “Yes-Man” We Can Love

In the Torah (Old Testament), Abraham is a towering figure. His faith, and faithfulness, is legendary.

But so is the faith, and faithfulness, of his chief servant. This man was given the most important job of his life – find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Not from among the Canaanites, but back in the “old country” from which Abraham had emigrated.

If you haven’t read Genesis chapter 24 lately, do yourself a favor and take in the fascinating story of how this servant obeyed his master Abraham, went out to find a woman for Isaac (who turned out to be Rebekah), and brought her back.

We’ll focus here on the first few verses, where the man is described as the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned.

This man was Abraham’s steward. And how did he arrive at such a responsible and accountable position?

Trustworthiness over the long haul. Abraham, over time, put faith in this man to run the whole shebang – all of his affairs, including the crucial matter of securing a worthy wife for the designated heir, Isaac.

This exemplary steward was a yes-man. As in, “Yes, sir!” There is no shame in being an intelligent, obedient, resourceful subordinate. It is, in fact, what God calls each of us to be before Him.

Yes Sir

In this story, Abraham made the man swear an oath that he would fulfill the charge given him – and he went out, in obedient faith, and did his master’s bidding. Quite wonderfully, I might add.

Do you want to know what a steward looks like? Here is a striking portrait to carry before you, in your mind’s eye. Go and be likewise.

When you gain the reputation of being trustworthy to manage the affairs of another, you have achieved a position shared by very few.

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This is the second of a series of daily-ish devotional messages on the topic of Stewardship. You can subscribe to this blog to receive this messages in your inbox. How to do that (and an overview of this 12-week course) can be found here. -SteveW

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The Waiting Room

“I hate waiting…”

A favorite line from a favorite movie (The Princess Bride), when Inigo, at the top of Cliffs of Insanity, waits for the man in black to reach the summit so he can try to defeat him in a sword fight.

I can relate. I’m all for action – but I hate waiting.

God, on the other hand, is quite content to put a lag time between promise and fulfillment. He has an entirely different view of time and eternity. And He is determined that we learn faith and patience, especially in a posture of – waiting.

I hate waiting.

Reading in recent days about the story of Abraham and Sarah as they wait to have a son named Isaac (Genesis chapters 12-21), I am reminded about how long we, at times, must wait for the fulfillment. Abe and his wife were old; she was barren and long past the years of even being able to conceive. God promised that Abraham would have as many descendants as the countless stars in the skies, yet the years kept stretching on. Human impossibility awoke each morning to another day of unfulfilled promise. Where was this Isaac, to be (miraculously) born to aged Sarah??

Finally, in chapter 18, when Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him and got specific about the promise. “I will return to you at this time next year, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” The years of waiting would come to an end. And so it occurred, exactly on the timetable God had in mind.

I have, deep within, various huge life-mission desires that have brewed in my soul for decades. I can picture them, and can almost fast-forward to a time of joy and meaning in fulfilling some things that I have (seemingly forever) felt that I was meant to do. And while I’m taking steps to arrive at those destinations – I hate waiting. “We are men of action,” said Westley in the above-referenced movie. And life is a curious mix of action and initiative, curiously joined to waiting patiently for the right time and the right door to open.

I hate waiting. And in this always-on, instant fulfillment digital generation, I believe that patient waiting will become even more of a lost art. The last thing we are used to enduring is a time lag.

God, however, doesn’t change. The time between promise and fulfillment is of His design, and no application of Google and broadband and mobile devices will hasten it.

Maybe someday, I’ll love waiting. Or, at least, not hate it. Abraham had the long-promised son when he was 100. Maybe I still have a few years to wait.

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See…Hear…Know

While reading through the book of Genesis, I once again came across the story of Hagar, Sarai’s maid (chapter 16), who bore a son to Abram when it seemed hopeless that Sarai would ever conceive on her own.

And there I found some of the most powerful perspectives on prayer ever.

At one point, before the child’s birth, Hagar runs away from the household after being harshly treated by the (now jealous) Sarai. There, in the wilderness, God met her, and made rich promises about her soon-to-be-born son. While the child of the promise would yet be conceived directly via the (now barren) womb of Sarai, Hagar’s child was not to be neglected.

It turns out that God was not off on some celestial errand during this family drama, and unaware of the circumstances, but as He always is, God was intimately involved in every detail – past, present, and future.

She was to name the boy Ishmael, which in Hebrew, means God hears. She called God Elroi, which means God sees. And, she marveled that God would appear to her and she would remain alive. You might call that, in much bigger words, God graciously condescends.

Amazingly, God not only saw the present, but he also told Hagar about Ishmael’s future. Because, you know, He’s God. He sees past, present, and future without our mortal and finite limits. Our NOW is this moment, today. God’s NOW is eternal.

Often, when we pray, we feel a nagging sense of uncertainty. Does God know what I’m going through? Does He even care? Will He intervene? Do the dark mists of the future contain awful and unexpected surprises that will derail everything?

There are great mysteries in the immensity of God, and intimidating aspects to a future we cannot control ourselves. Yet, like Hagar, we need to act in faith.

God hears. God sees. God cares. And He’s going to do what is best, including dispensing blessing to the undeserving.

Ishmael. Elroi. That’s enough.

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Not Very Promising

In the first book of the Bible (Genesis) chapter 11, we have an extensive genealogy leading up to the famous figure of the man Abram (later re-named Abraham).

Abraham was destined to be the father of many nations. He would be the paragon of faith, the progenitor of a line that would bring revelation and blessing to the entire world.

However – it wasn’t a promising start.

“The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai…and Sarai was barren; she had no child.” (Genesis 11:29-30).

For those keeping score, it is awfully difficult to become the father of anything when you cannot have children.

This condition went on for decades, as Abram followed God’s leading and believed His promises, despite the evident lack of fulfillment.

If you read on, you discover how God miraculously brings about the birth of Isaac, and the fascinating history of the patriarchs continues on from there. Abraham does indeed become the father of nations. God does indeed fulfill His promises, and, as is His wont, does so in such a way that no-one can claim it was mere human instrumentality.

That’s history now, but it still informs the present. It speaks to you and me.

We all find ourselves in not-very-promising conditions. If we don’t experience literal barrenness of the womb, we can point to a host of other barren and broken aspects of our lives and seriously wonder, “Can God make anything out of this mess?”

God allows inauspicious beginnings in order to show His glory. Whether it’s an enslaved nation in Egypt, a shepherd boy with a sling, a poor virgin in a dusty town named Bethlehem, or a demon-possessed madman raving among the tombs, God shows His power when all we have to offer is a broken, barren (even dead) – starting point.

I’m thinking of friends with broken families, wondering what marvelous futures the children may have. I’m thinking of godly people who live obscure lives of faithfulness, who may, with one unplanned act of faithfulness, set in motion a nation-altering chain of events.

I wonder about my own grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, if we are allowed the privilege. Could it be that the biggest impact of my life will be, in God’s inscrutable plan, 95 years downstream, through a descendant I never meet, when I am long gone and forgotten? Can God take my not-very-promising here and now and make something far greater than anyone can imagine?

Every chapter and book of the Bible says He can. This seems to be His modus operandi, in fact! What I see around and in me may not look very promising, but that is utterly overshadowed by a promise-making and promise-keeping God!

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