Life Lessons

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I hate to shake whatever fine image you have of me, but I’m not a model of wisdom. I tend to learn life lessons the hard way. My Mom used to say “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons,” and I have paid a high price for many lessons. Still am. Mom’s words remind me of a couple of lessons from Psalm 119:67: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.”

Lesson #1: When I disregard the Word of God I will wind up in trouble. The Bible is full of wisdom for life. It is written by our Creator, who knows best how life should work, and we are wise to read and study it and put its principles and teachings into action. Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7:24-27. He said the wise man built his house on the rock and the foolish man built on the sand. He was talking about obedience to His Word. While a house and a life built on sand can be brought down by the wind and rain, no storm could destroy the house built on the rock, and no storm can destroy the person who builds their life on knowing and obeying the Word of God.

Lesson #2: It’s not over just because I messed up. Aren’t you glad that our merciful and gracious God gives multiple second chances? The mistakes we make, our failures, and our missteps are not the end. God doesn’t write us off, wash His hands of us or give up on us because we stumble. All through the Bible God tells us that He is patient, forgiving, compassionate, merciful, and full of grace. He loves you, even when your knees are bloody because you fell. He loves me, even when I am covered in the muck of my own choices. Jesus died so you can be forgiven, so you could have a second chance at life. Do you really believe that He would give up on you so quickly?

Have you made a mistake somewhere along the way? Have you run in the wrong direction, played with the wrong people, touched something that left you in pain? Take heart, Beloved, God has not given up on you. Lay it all before your loving Heavenly Father. Then take that hard-won wisdom and start walking in the right direction.

Wise Up!

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I am a few weeks from my 60th birthday. I know, many of you reading this are well ahead of me, but this number has really caught my attention. What have I done with those 60 years? Did I do anything I set out to do with my life?  The truth is, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a very long time. I thought life would just unfold before me and the choices would make themselves. I never knew that my life had a purpose. I often wish someone would have told me that when I was younger.  It might have changed everything for me. What I studied in school, the people I hung out with, the choices I made.

I came across Moses’ Psalm and one verse, in particular, that is highlighted in my Bible. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). I’ve been told that I am wise (that’s a shock to me!). I wish I could say it was because I numbered my days and carefully evaluated my life with every decision. The truth is, any wisdom I’ve gained has come through blood, sweat, and tears (No not, the 60’s rock group). It has come with scars and pain.  I’ve often quoted my mom who said: “Bought lessons stay with you longer than taught lessons.” I have paid dearly for any small measure of wisdom I have. But I’ve learned some valuable life lessons this way. I’ve learned there are some things that I don’t want to ever do again because the cost was way too high. If that’s wisdom then, I guess I am wise. Maybe you, like me, look back over years of mistakes and failures and self-destructive behavior. We did more wrong than we did right. If we wallow in our misery then we learned nothing from it.  But if those hard lessons brought about good changes and especially brought us to the cross of Christ, then we’ve invested well. Here’s where I hang my hope: God can take every mistake I’ve made, every failure, every sin and teach me more than I could learn in scholarly books and classrooms. And they become common ground to reach out to other mistake-prone souls. Will put your mistakes and scars in the hands of your good and loving Father? They tell a powerful story the world needs to hear. It’s time to wise up, Beloved.

Lessons From A Woman Scorned

“The angel of the Lord found Hagar…” Genesis 16:7

I’m spending some time in the Word this morning studying Genesis 16 and 21, specifically looking at one woman’s encounter with God.  Hagar was an Egyptian slave, serving as handmaiden to Sarai, the wife of Abram.  You may know them better by the names God would give them later: Sarah and Abraham.  A woman in Hagar’s position was bound by any request of her mistress, and Sarai needed Hagar to perform a service that was quite common in the Ancient Near East – to serve as a surrogate mother and bear a child for the barren Sarai.  Without being terribly indelicate, that meant Hagar would sleep with Abram. When she learned that she was pregnant with Abram’s child – something that Sarai couldn’t accomplish – Hagar “began to despise her mistress.” (Gen. 16:4b). In my Alabama home, we would say Hagar got uppity with Sarai.  This caused much strife between Sarai and Hagar, as you can imagine. Sarai returned Hagar’s attitude and began to mistreat the Egyptian, to the point that Hagar ran away from her mistress, into the unforgiving wilderness

Lesson #1 – When God blesses you, don’t get prideful and uppity.  When the Lord initially called Abram, He made this promise: “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).  Pride is a dangerous thing before God, especially when we become prideful over the blessings God has poured out on us.  He blesses that we might in turn bless others

In the wilderness, Hagar stopped to rest.  Scripture tells us “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert” (Gen. 16:7).

Lesson #2 – God will seek out His wayward children.  The Hebrew word for “found” means “to cause to encounter,” God purposefully put Himself in Hagar’s path to cause her to have an encounter with Him. Go with me to Jesus’ parables in Luke 15.  First the parable of the lost sheep – the shepherd goes out on a mission to locate and rescue His lost lamb (Lk 15:4-7).  The woman searches her house over to find her lost coin (Lk. 15:5-10) and the father searches the horizon continually, looking for his wayward son.  God doesn’t go on a seek-and-find mission, He set Himself right where He knew she was going, because she was His wounded child and His heart was tender to her.  (Note that her wounds all started out of her own pride and arrogance.  Even when we are the root of our problems, God still desires to restore us to Himself.

Hagar encountered God – and gained precious insight into who He is.  Through the angel’s assurances, she learned that the God of her master was very much aware of her and her plight.  She named the Lord El Roi – “the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).  This was an awesome insight for the Egyptian, because the pagan gods gave no notice to humans, unless they displeased them in some way.  But here God revealed Himself as a God who watched over His people and tenderly cares for them.

Lesson #3 – God often reveals Himself to us in our times of struggle and pain.

Had Hagar not been lost in the wilderness, running from the hard hand of her mistress, she would have never encountered the Lord and come to know this tender heart of the God who saw her.  I know this lesson has been true in my life.  So often I have discovered aspects of God that I would have never known had I not been in difficult circumstances.  When I was unable to pay my rent, I discovered Jehovah-Jireth – the Lord who Provides (Gen. 22:8). When my husband was desperately ill I found Jehovah Rapha – The Lord our Healer (Ps. 103:3). When I was discouraged and fearful, Jehovah Shalom – The Lord is Peace (Jud. 6:23-24) and Yahweh-Tsuri – The Lord my Strength (Ex. 15:2) came to encourage and strengthen me.  If you are in a difficult season, look for God to reveal Himself to you in a new and encouraging way.

After the birth of Ishmael (which means The Lord has heard – Gen 16:11) Hagar and her son were forced to leave their home with Abraham and Sarah, because of Sarah’s jealousy.  Abraham gave them a little food and water and sent them to wander in the desert.  This was a certain death sentence, and sure enough the water ran out and as they became dangerously dehydrated, Hagar recognized their inevitable deaths.  She put Ishmael under a tree and walked away, so as not to watch her weakened son die.  She and the boy were both crying, and God – once again – came to Hagar and assured her that they would not die, for God had a future planned out for the boy.  Genesis 21:19 says, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”  Oh see the beauty of this passage, El Roi – the God who saw Hagar, now opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see.  He showed her a well of water, life giving water that would minister to their bodies and to their spirits.

Lesson #4 – The God who see you and me will open our eyes so we can see Him. When your eyes are blinded with tears, God will come and tenderly wipe away your tears so you can see that He is with you and will comfort and care for you.  This is one of the most precious promises in the Bible to me “The Lord your God will be with you where you go” (Jos. 1:9).  I have found myself in some difficult places and very hard circumstances, but I have never been out of my Heavenly Father’s sight.  In the margin of my Bible I have written these words that God spoke to my heart: “Child, there is no place you can go that I will not be.”  Whether they are physical places or emotional pits and spiritual dark caves – God has promised “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Jos. 1:5)

If He went to the cross, and into the dark grave of death for us, then we can trust that He will never abandon us, no matter where we are.  Did Jesus not say, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I think of all the lessons we can take away from the life of Hagar, the most important one is this: Lesson #5 – God is forever faithful.  He was faithful to a frightened, lost Egyptian slave girl, and He will be faithful to you and me.

 

El Emunah – The Faithful God, thank you for always keeping Your watchful and loving eyes on me.  Wherever I am Lord, I will trust in You.  Amen