Monday, October 26, 2009


When I grew up, left home and had children, I somehow imagined that my parents’ life became wholly and completely devoted to me and my family. Why would I think that? Well, (besides the fact that I’m the baby of the family and totally self-centered) it’s because that’s the way my folks made us feel – like the center of their world – every time we went to their house. Roy and I would rumble through the door with car seats, toys and screaming children. My parents would meet us with wide smiles and waiting arms as if they had nothing to do but wait on our arrival. During our visit, they cooed over the kids, listened to our grousing and offered advice…when asked. Not once do I remember feeling like a burden in my parents’ home, and not until our daughters were grown and gone did I realize what a precious and purposeful act of love my parents offered us. By George, they did have a life! They just put it on hold to make the most of the limited moments with their kids and grandkids. Now, I get to make that same choice…with my children, husband, friends…and with my God. Making the most of limited moments is a choice I make each day.

Gen. 18:16 – “When the men [the LORD] got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way.”
  • Abraham could have stood and said his good-bye. Instead, he walked along with the LORD, wanting to squeeze every sweet moment out of every second they had together.

Gen. 18:17-19 – “Then the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.’”

  • God divulged His future plans to a man who was willing to follow Him, and God revealed his warning to a man who would influence nations toward obedience. No amount of Abraham’s toiling and spinning could reap the harvest of blessing he gained from time spent in God’s presence.

Gen. 18:20-21 – “Then the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’”

  • Of course, God knew S & G’s sin, but He wanted to reveal Himself to Abraham, wanted this man to understand His fairness. So God let Abraham see it unfold, though God already knew the end result.

Gen. 18:22-25 – “The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham approached him and said: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’” (emphasis added)

  • Note the emphasized phrases. Picture Abraham REMAIN STANDING and then APPROACH the LORD! Look at the fervent remarks and the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. I think Abraham sort of got in God’s face here, maybe even a little accusation in his tone. Do you think Abraham would have been this bold before he spent this much time in God’s presence? Appreciate the familiarity that has grown in order for Abraham to be this transparent with his Almighty God.

Gen. 18:26-32 – “The LORD said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’ Then Abraham spoke up again: ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?’ ‘If I find forty-five there,’ he said, ‘I will not destroy it.’ Once again he spoke to him, ‘What if only forty are found there?’ He said, ‘For the sake of forty, I will not do it.’ Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?’ He answered, ‘I will not do it if I find thirty there.’ Abraham said, ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?’ He said, ‘For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.’ Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.’”

  • God’s offers steady answers of justice and mercy to Abraham’s ever-pressing nearness.

Gen. 18:33 – “When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.”

  • When the LORD was done, He left. God controls His visitations, but Abraham’s job was the same as ours today – to remain alert for opportunities to be near God, to listen for that still, small voice and engage Him in conversation when the occasion presents itself.

Lord, to know that Your Holy Spirit lives inside every believer is a warm comfort on the days I don’t FEEL Your presence. To know Your Word says You will NEVER leave me gives me great hope that I can walk in victory through the darkest times. But my greatest challenge is to make the MOST of those limited moments I carve out of my day, when it’s just You and me. Speak to me there. Teach me new things from Your Word. Help me to break down walls of resistance that have separated us in the past. Give me a renewed passion for You. Let it be so, Lord, with us.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Well, that title is certainly a mouthful, and most of us live lives with our “plates” full. My husband and I returned from a recent visit with our daughter, Emily, and her fiancĂ© in Ohio. She’s a busy college student, and we decided to keep up with her crazy schedule only one day of our three-day visit. The first day, she was merciful and let us rest. Following our red-eye flight, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner with friends and went to bed early. The next day was the psycho-Homecoming day. We started with an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting – oops, that one was our idea. Then a tour of her dorm, a cookout at her fiancĂ©’s house and a football game. After that, shopping (for the girls), hunting club (for the guys), and another cookout with all the Midwestern comfort food we could eat. Whew. (You know the really sad truth? The picture at right is 3 yrs. old...because I was so busy on the trip, I forgot to take a new picture! Yikes!) The third day - thanks to a divinely appointed dead battery in our daughter’s car - we relaxed in her dorm room and later met our son-in-law-to-be for dinner. But even while we “relaxed,” we checked out websites for the wedding and accomplished a few other tasks.

Accomplished. There it is. Why can’t we JUST relax anymore? We’re in constant motion. Even when our bodies aren’t physically going to the next location, our minds are shifting to the next idea or project – or cable channel or website. So, here’s my question. Do you picture God as busy, too? Surely, our all-knowing, omnipresent God must sit grandly on His Throne barking commands and casting lightning bolts amid the frantic, praise-paced heavenly frenzy around Him. No? Probably not. I’m guessing the omnipotent/all-powerful aspect of His character is a significant time-saver, huh? But what happens when God inserts Himself into the hustle and bustle of human existence? He did it as Jesus, but He did it earlier for Abraham…and for Sarah.

Gen. 18:1-2 – “The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” (emphasis added)
  • Abraham was resting during the heat of the day – smart move! Then God shows up, and all sense seems to leave him. He begins hurrying. Why? Can we not serve God without over-doing it? Is the hurrying to prove our worth? To win God’s approval or favor? To look busy? Serving is great, but serving with sense and right motives is better.

Gen. 18:3-5 – “[Abraham] said, ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way--now that you have come to your servant.’ ‘Very well,’ they answered, ‘do as you say.’” (emphasis added)

  • It appears to me that Abraham is hurrying because he’s afraid God will leave if he doesn’t DO something to make Him stay. Trying to manipulate God with our service never works. We can’t know Abraham’s heart. Perhaps his motives were pure. But God’s response is clear. He not only allows Abraham’s hurried service, but “do as you say” seems to bind Abraham like a vow.

Gen. 18:6-8 – “So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. ‘Quick,’ he said, ‘get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.’ Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.” (emphasis added)

  • It’s right there in black and white. Abraham had servants. D-E-L-E-G-A-T-E. Abraham wasted valuable time scurrying to prepare a meal for God, when he could have been feasting on God’s presence.

Gen. 18:9-15 – “‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘There, in the tent,’ he said. Then the LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’ Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’ Then the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’ Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’” (emphasis added)

  • Sarah’s QUICK response to God’s promise is a cynical laugh, and her QUICK response to God’s conviction was a fearful lie. We can’t live quickly and then expect to respond rightly, when a relationship with God requires introspection, patience and trust.

Lord, I want to live in the rhythm of heaven here on earth. I don’t have Your ability to know all, to be everywhere at once or to have power over all things; however, Your Spirit does dwell inside me. Teach me to slow down to Your tempo, not march to the clattering world around me. Help me to rest IN You, not work FOR You.

Monday, October 05, 2009


I’m not sure who said this, but I usually give credit for all great family quotes to James Dobson. Here’s the gist. “The best way husbands can love their children is to love their wives.” Now, speaking as a wife, I think that’s fabulous advice! A loving couple in Roy’s first ministry position performed a heavenly adoption of our children and became Grandpa and Grandma Johnson on the first day we met them. Not because our kids were angels, mind you, but because this precious middle-aged couple knew their young associate pastor needed time to tend his marriage. They often took our girls for weekend vacations (like Emily's boat-ride with G-pa at left), leaving Roy and I time to catch our breath and actually look into each other’s eyes. Today, over fifteen years later, G-pa and G-ma J. are still an intricate part of our family. They made it possible for Roy and I to better love our children because we took the time to love each other well.

But here's a question for you. Are children the only priority-buster in a marriage relationship? What about those couples whose children have grown and gone, or couples whose lives are filled with blessings other than children? Lots of things in our world compete with our spouse’s rightful place after God in our hearts. Maintaining the husband/wife priority relationship remains a key to God’s blessing. It’s as true for us as it was for Abraham…

Gen. 17:15-16 – “God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’” (emphasis added)
  • The name “[Sarai] appears to be derived from the same [Hebrew] root as Israel…‘She that strives,’ a contentious person…”[1] I’m getting the impression that our lady Sarah might not have been easy to live with, and let’s face it. Relationships are hard. Marriage. Friendship. Sooner or later, in any long-term relationship, the person on the other end disappoints us. In this instance, God is elaborating on a twenty-five year-old promise and vows to change the very nature of Abraham’s wife in the process. Would your faith be big enough to believe that?

Gen. 17:17-18 – “Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’”

  • I always thought Sarah was the first one to laugh at God’s promise, but it was Abraham who first laughed to himself. And then his audible response revealed a sad truth. In suggesting God give the promise to Ishmael, Abraham was taking away God’s promise to Sarah. Abraham would rather give it to the son of a slave than bless his first love with a son and kings. His heart had become attached to the here and now because of his disappointment in waiting for God’s best.

Gen. 17:19-22 – “Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.” (emphasis added)

  • “Yes, but your wife Sarah…” God is reminding Abraham that it is his relationship with Sarah that must come first, that as Abraham is faithful in his marriage, God will work out His plan for BOTH of Abraham’s sons. Faithful tending of the vine reaps a plentiful harvest of fruit. This concept applies to more than just marriage relationships. It’s the core issue of our walk with Jesus as well.

Gen. 17:23-27 – “On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day. And every male in Abraham's household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.”

  • Though Abraham could not pass down God’s Covenant Promise to Ishmael, father and son shared a moment of surrender and obedience on this day that Isaac would never know at his infant circumcision. Even when it seems God has removed a blessing, still He gives some precious gem to treasure – no matter how painful the circumstance – if we’re willing to seek it out.

Lord, keeping relationships in proper priority is difficult on so many levels. Time management. Heart management. Sanity management. They all seem to boil up in a cauldron of despair…until I get the most important relationship in place. Show me how to put You back into the #1 spot, the Throne of my heart. I want You there. I need You there.