Trusting in One’s Own Resources

10Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you” (Genesis 12:10-13).

To the spiritual man, Egypt is a picture of one leaning on the arm of flesh rather than the power of God. Egypt was watered not by the rain or dew, but by the pumping up of the water with the foot pump. The River Nile was the source of water for the Egyptians, but to get the water to the fields required man to pump it up with their feet. God spoke of the land of Israel, that it was different from Egypt: The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden (Deuteronomy 11:10). In talking about Abraham’s faith, we must remember that God never spoke for him to go down to Egypt. When things were getting difficult from lack of rain, Abram was just like us; we often resort to the arm of flesh rather than take the time to seek God for His guidance. We are moved by fear—the “what if” syndrome. Israel has had a history of turning to Egypt for help instead of going to God:

2who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge. 3But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace (Isaiah 30:2-3).

What fear rears its head before you today? For Abram to go down to Egypt there was a fear of death for Sarai’s sake. He had seen the looks that men had given to Sarai when they thought that Abram wasn’t looking. Perhaps he felt insecure in this new culture of Egypt. Insecurity will breed actions whereby a man will trust in his own resources rather than the provision of God.

Abram makes a deal with Sarai to call him her brother (v. 12). Actually, Abram is Sarai’s half-brother, so it is a deception that is conceived. Since Sarai’s father is no longer around, any suitors to obtain the hand of Sarai’s in marriage would have to negotiate with Abram, her brother. The common custom of the day was for the brother to assume legal guardianship in arranging marriage on Sarai’s behalf. This would give them time to slip away before Sarai would actually have to become anyone’s wife. Abram’s deception and mistakes should encourage us greatly, because we see that even those who have great faith can slip up occasionally, and the Bible never glosses over sins of the flesh by the Lord’s heroes. We see Abram not only going to Egypt, but also deceiving the people there for his self-protection. What promise should Abram have rested on? God had given him the promise that he would become a great nation—without his wife this could not happen. The promises of God often require us to hold on in faith and persevere over difficulties.

Perhaps Abram did not realize that Pharaoh would pursue Sarai. How it happened we do not know, but the text tells us that she was taken into Pharaoh’s household. Now what, Abram? How are you going to get out of this mess? We don’t find any complaint from Abram at Sarai being taken into Pharaoh’s court, but God steps in and afflicts Pharaoh’s household with serious diseases. Somehow the secret is out and Abram is severely scolded and shamed for his faithless act. How embarrassed he must have felt as he was told to leave with his head held low.

This is a reminder of the fact that even when we fail to act in faith, God has a plan. There is never a dead end when we submit our life to the Lord. He will always provide a way for us to respond and act in faith. If you have made mistakes in your life and feel that you have lost your way or made a wrong turn in your life, it is important for you to know that God is not finished with your story! The thing you need to do now is submit your way to the Lord and ask Him to give you the next step on your journey. Are you ready to trust Him?

Keith Thomas

Step by Step Vision

We are continuing to think on the life and call of Abraham. When God originally spoke of the step of faith that He was requiring of Abram, He gave large brush strokes on the canvas of the vision. The initial call in Ur of the Chaldeans was to get up and leave the area that is now in South East Iraq. They travelled northwest following the Euphrates river until they came to Harran, a city in Northwest Mesopotamia, now Iraq. The distance to Haran was about 2000 miles. We don’t know how long they stopped in Haran but this was where Abram’s father Terah, died. Abram was seventy-five years old when God spoke to him to leave Harran and go the 800 miles further to the land He would show him. Imagine being seventy-five years old and God speaking to you to leave the comfort of Haran to go to Canaan. Most of us just want the comforts of home at that age.

It is natural for us to want to know the details of the vision before we take the first step, but that is not the way God leads. If God would show you the end at the beginning, you may not be ready for it, or it may scare you, causing you to drift along the path rather than being propelled by faith. God gives us just enough vision to propel us forward. A boat can never be steered when it is drifting. It is only as it is going through the water that it can be easily steered by a small rudder. Begin to step out in faith and allow God to operate the steering mechanism of your life. Remember Psalm 119:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).

Where does the Lord shine His light? He shines the light of revelation, His Word, on where the next step is, at the feet. We don’t see far ahead, just the next step. You just have to trust Him for the next step.

Only when Abram arrives in Canaan does God give more specifics concerning the future (Genesis 12:7), specifically that to his offspring God would give the land that Abram was walking on. He was told that God would make a great nation from his seed and that He would bless him and make his name great, and that those who bless him and his descendants, will be blessed in return. We are also told that those who curse his descendants will themselves be cursed of God. We should be careful about our attitude towards the Jewish people for the Lord says that He, “has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8). We might not agree with all the policies of the government of Israel, but the people of Israel and the seed of Abraham are precious to God. His Word is eternal, and He still stands by it. We are called to bless those whom God is blessing and the faith of Abraham is what we Gentiles have been rooted into: do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Romans 11:18).

Can you look back and see that God has grown your faith step by step? I’ll bet that there are things you are doing now which you never dreamed of doing in your younger years.

Keith Thomas

“He Did Not Know Where He Was Going”

1The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-2).

 We often don’t stop to think of what it cost Abram to leave Mesopotamia. Of course, we know the whole story from beginning to end about how God led him, and made a great nation of his family. We can follow his story of how God took him step by step and honored the promises He made to Abram. Abram however, had to walk this story out step by step, without the advantage of knowing the end result! When you are living the story, it is different. Abram did not have the advantage of knowing what the end would be when he was called to take the first step.

8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10).

He was embarking on this journey, leaving behind all he knew, for the unknown. He was called to leave his country, his relatives, his father’s house and with it, the inheritance that he would have gained from staying. One would worry about the language barrier that may await him in unfamiliar territory, and what about provisions for a journey without a definite time period? Would he have enough money for a trip of this magnitude? What if he encountered thieves and was robbed on the way? It is important to understand that God was asking Abram to take a risk. This was a journey of faith. Faith is spelled R.I.S.K.  It is still the same today. Faith is never a comfortable “walk in the park.”

Think of what the move was like for Sarai, his wife, to leave all the security of family and friends, and to live in a tent. The scriptures tell us that when Abram and Sarai left, they did not know where they were going! How do you think Abram broke the news to Sarai? Somehow, he had to explain to her that he had heard from God and that they were to uproot from their city, which they called home and go live in a tent in a different land. Don’t you think she asked him where they were going? At that point, Abram could not even tell her where they were headed! We do not know if Sarai had any resistance to the move. If she wanted to know all the practicalities, and I am sure she did, the obvious impracticality of a move was not a barrier to her. They were simply to uproot themselves and get on the road. God would lead them only as they acted in faith on what He had told them up to that point.

We are told in the passage above, Hebrews 11:8-10, that what motivated him was a vision of eternal things—the eternal city and God’s reward. Have you ever had to make a significant change in your life’s path? Was there a cost and a reward to it? What battles did you have in your mind when you took that step? Sometimes God will require you to step out in faith, not knowing the end result or even where the journey will take you. Is that a word for you today?

Keith Thomas

From Where Comes This Yearning for God?

Have you ever come to a place in your life where you have asked yourself some of the hard questions? Questions such as: “Is there more to life than what I am living?” “Who is God?” “What purpose is there to life?” God has placed within man a God-shaped void that has no real peace until the void is filled. Many of us have tried to fill the void with other things, alcoholic drinks, drugs, money, prestige, power, sex, but nothing fills the emptiness. Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician, wrote, “Within each human being there is a God-shaped void.” The scriptures speak of this inner void with words from King Solomon: “He [God Himself] has also set [the thoughts of] eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV). God has placed a yearning for Himself within the central core of our being. In us looking for God and seeking to know Him, we must remind ourselves that our yearning for Him is a result of Him yearning for us. The Bible tells us that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He has sought for His bride since the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, when Man turned away from Him. He cried out, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). The author C.S. Lewis wrote, ”

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.[1]

This desire of our hearts finds no rest until we find God in Christ. The fifth century philosopher, Augustine, wrote: “Our hearts are unquieted until they find their rest in Thee.” Paul the apostle also referred to this inner longing that God has placed within us. He wrote:

26and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).

He alone is the Bread of Life that satisfies (John 6:35). He alone is the Living Water, that when you drink of Him, you will never thirst again (John 4:14). The big question, then, that we are all looking to have answered is: “What must I do to gain eternal life with God?” Within this question, and the answer to it, we find the crux of the Gospel message.

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).

To be born-again is to enter into the New Covenant by receiving the person of Jesus to sit on the throne of your life—to live in your life, directing and empowering you to live for Him. The most wonderful thing is that God has so loved us that He gave His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as a substitute to pay the debt of our rebellion against God, and to restore us to Himself through the death of Christ. We no longer have to hide from God in our sin. “For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). He has taken the sin issue out of the way. Isn’t it time you entered into this new life?

Keith Thomas

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Published by HarperCollins, New York, 1952. Chapter 10.

Are You Waiting on God?

Everything that Jesus did was one of modeling to us about how to live a Christ-centered life, even His waiting on the Lord’s timing. He lived a life of dependence on the Father. Sometimes it is hard to wait for God to move. We can be so eager to go and do God’s work that we can go without God. Moses, for instance, acted outside of God’s timing to help the Israelites in Egypt before he was ready, and had to spend forty years as a shepherd in the Desert of Midian before the Lord called him to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt (Act 7:23-30). There are things that God wants to do in us before He can use us. A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” I think that is so for nations too. The Chinese people have had to go through many trials and persecution until the kairos time, the defining moment has arrived for them to now send many missionaries to other nations, such as the Back to Jerusalem vision of going with the gospel to all the nations to the south and west of China bringing the gospel back to Jerusalem. Sometimes, just waiting on God’s timing can be painful. The worst thing that can happen to a man or woman of God is to be sent out in ministry before they are ready and prepared by God. There are many that have shipwrecked their faith because of going before God’s work had been done in them. We are to take the beam out of our own eye, before we can take the sliver out of someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:5). We have a picture of the making of a man or woman of God found in Isaiah 49:

1Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor” (Isaiah 49:1-3).

Notice the work of God in shaping the man or woman of God. First of all, there is a calling on his life. From the womb God has been at work, calling him [or her] by name. One of the most important things that has to be shaped by God is a man’s word. A man’s tongue is to become a sharp sword that is to be Spirit-led and empowered of God. There is no room for coarse language or deceitful lips. Old habits of speech are put behind us now that we walk with the Lord. The picture that is used is that of the making of an arrow. It has to be made pliable in the hands of the arrow maker, and straightened on a rack. The process requires being polished which speaks of being rubbed the wrong way, and heat applied to the character before it can ever be used. Then the hardest part of the transformative work of God is to be placed in the quiver (A quiver is a leather bag used for carrying arrows on the back of the archer). The hardest part of being shaped and made effective is the period of time of waiting for the Master to put you into His bow to be fired at the time of His choosing. God wants to use all of His people, but more fruit comes from a life that is disciplined and brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. We are to walk in step with Him and not do our own thing, going out under our own power. Take the time to wait upon the Lord:

Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see [it] (Psalm 37:34).

Keith Thomas