Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry


Part One

By Jeannette Haley

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:

 and with all thy getting get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:7

      Ray LeBlond said, “You learn something new every day if you pay attention.” I wonder how many people are paying attention and making at least a mental note of what they’ve learned on a daily basis? Perhaps the question should be, “Who really cares about learning at least one new thing a day? To me, the ability to learn is one of life’s truest blessings. Those who love to learn new things have somehow nurtured, rather than denied, their natural God-given curiosity, and know from experience that within the desire to learn there is an undeniable element of challenge, adventure, discovery, and even joy that culminates in a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Unlike vain, fleeting moments of temporary pleasure derived from entertainment in its various forms, learning broadens a person’s scope of interests, enlarges perspective, fine tunes discernment, develops the intellect, prepares one for various challenges, enhances the personality, aids in the ability to communicate with others, and helps to establish a mature confidence that elicits a certain amount of respect. Of course, what a Christian’s first and foremost priority must be is the pursuit of God and the knowledge of the Holy through the Lord Jesus Christ; then, with Christ as our sure foundation, all else will redound (accrue) for His glory and our satisfaction in life.  

      Both the believer and the unbeliever have been given five senses with which to explore all of creation. For the believer, everything that exists, from galaxies and stars to plants and animals, birds and fish, including all the myriad of life forms invisible to the eye, as well as the wonders of the human body all point to a powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, almighty God. There is no end to God’s wonders, no stopping point one can reach where no more can be discovered, explored, or experienced. To the believer, every star, every rock, every grain of sand, every drop of water, every flower, every tree, insect, every mountain, canyon, waterway, cloud formation, etc. has a story to tell of God’s wisdom and mighty power. In other words, those who fear God gladly embrace creation’s lessons that show forth His glory. May what we always keep in mind as we journey through this short life is this: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” John 1:3.

      For the unbeliever, however, learning from creation takes an immediate downturn into a confusing maze of frustration because there are no answers to be found outside of God for how, when, and why things exist at all. Without the Spirit of God to illuminate the wealth of spiritual information contained in both the visible and invisible world which points man to His Creator and fills his heart with joy and wonder, the unbeliever devolves into a stuffy, boring bag of useless, lifeless conclusions falsely labeled as “facts.” These are the truly “uneducated” educators that fill our colleges and whose agenda is to saturate young heads with scientifically unfounded, imaginary and ungodly conclusions that strip away God-given curiosity—the type of curiosity that can lead one to acknowledge there is indeed a Creator. Instead, their heads and hearts are stuffed full of lies that dull the mind and destroy the soul with the death throes of meaninglessness and hopelessness.

      Thus, it’s vital to keep in mind as we read and study the Old Testament that God wants to impart wisdom to us through the lives of Old Testament characters. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” 1 Corinthians 10:11. The modern notion that we no longer need the Old Testament because we are “New Testament Christians,” or that we only need to read the “words written in red” and other unfounded excuses to ignore the Old Testament results in spiritual anemia and an underdeveloped Christian. People who are uninterested in the world around them are uninteresting people! Sadly, this is what our current so-called “educational system” is doing to our youth because God and the Bible have been kicked out of the schools. Keep in mind that when Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4, He was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures because the New Testament was not yet in existence.

      I know I’m not alone when I say that the main reason the post-modern church is so spiritually weak, spineless, ignorant, impotent, ineffective, inept, uninspiring and incredibly shallow is because, except for a few favorite verses taken out of context from the Old Testament and quoted here and there, the foundations have been destroyed through neglect. It is in the Old Testament that we learn who God is, learn His attributes, learn of His ways, His will and how to worship Him. The Old Testament IS the foundation for the New Testament, just as our bones, muscles, ligaments and so forth make up our bodies upon which we add the “outer layer” of clothes, and additional “details” or adornments that the world sees. In other words, the Christian who is ignorant of the Old Testament and merely plays around with the New Testament can be compared to an empty suit of clothes—there is nothing there! Or they can be likened to water skeeters, you know, those bugs that merely skate across the surface of a pond and are clueless concerning the incredible world beneath them. (The bugs I’m referring to are called Gerridae and are a family of insects in the order Hemiptera, commonly known as water striders, water skeeters, water scooters, water bugs, pond skaters, water skippers, Jesus bugs, or water skimmers.)

      Isaiah 28:10, tells us how to build our foundation: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  

      As you can tell from the title of this article, I’m inviting you to come with me way back to the time of Abram and his nephew, Lot. In Genesis 12:1 we read of the LORD’s call to Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” From this verse we know that God didn’t also call Lot, but in verse 4 we read that “Lot went with him.” At this point we can only speculate as to why Lot chose to go with Abram. The usual assumption is that he grew close to his uncle after the death of his own father, and if that is the case, then no doubt Abram’s departure was more than he could bear. The other fact is, Abram was a man of substance; in other words, he was a “successful businessman” and Lot had to know that he would probably do better in life by sticking close to his uncle.

       Lot wasn’t yet married because no mention is made of a wife or children, but he became quite a man of substance, along with Abram, according to verse 5. When a grievous famine came in the land, both Abram and Lot went down into Egypt.

      So far in this story we see how Lot made some good decisions concerning his own well-being because God was with his uncle. One can only wonder if Lot chose to go with Abram because he also wanted to know the LORD for himself, or perhaps he was closer to Abram than anyone else, and maybe he simply felt more secure being “under the umbrella” of God’s blessings on Abram.

      We see the same decisions being made today among the religious crowd. In any gathering of Christians, it soon becomes apparent to those with discernment, who worships the LORD and offers Him the sacrifice of praise from a pure heart of love for Him, and those who are there out of habit, or perhaps mainly for the benefit of outward appearance or for the purpose of socializing. God’s remnant seeks for Himself to worship Him, as did the three wise men, while the multitudes seek Him for self-serving reasons.

      We read in Genesis 13:1-4 that when Abram left Egypt with his wife and all that he had, his nephew, Lot, also journeyed with him. Once they came to Bethel, where Abram had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai, he called on the name of the LORD. There is no mention of the LORD directing Abram one way or the other when he went down to Egypt due to the famine, but he knew that God had called him to the land of Canaan, so when he returned he went back to the altar he had built where he had called upon the name of the LORD, and he again called on the name of the LORD (Jehovah).

      This part of Abram’s life can be compared to the early walk of a Christian who receives the Lord with gladness, but then, because of a “famine for the Word of God” (godly counsel and discipleship) sojourns into Egypt (the world) for a season. It is obvious from the Scriptures that Abram’s heart longed to be in the sacred place where he had built an altar and called on the name of the LORD. For the wandering believer, nothing will satisfy his or her heart except the presence of the LORD; therefore, he or she may journey off the path for a while, even by God’s permissive will, but such a walk, while never producing lasting satisfaction, does serve to provide many valuable lessons.

      So far Lot seemed to be content to stay close to Abram, even though “the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great.” Then the inevitable happened when “there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle” Genesis 13:7a. This situation brought about Abram’s wise decision that they needed to separate in order to avoid strife because they were brethren.

      Strife, among brethren, usually results in separation. Such was the situation between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15. Their disagreement was not a matter of doctrine, but opinions. When such is the case among believers, the Word tells us to love one another, even if such strife brings division, and not let anger, bitterness or any other thing take root in our hearts. Just as Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, they did so to continue proclaiming the Gospel to the world, and that is what our Commission is. Sometimes the Lord allows division or separation among believers for just this very purpose! If Lot had continued to “hang on” to Abram, it would have been a great hindrance to them both. Abram needed to be free to wait on the LORD, and Lot needed to grow up and seek the LORD for himself, and no longer remain in his uncle’s shadow.

      At this point there was a decision to be made, and decisions are often a test of our character. Abram, being the stronger and more mature of the two, told Lot to separate himself from him, and gave Lot the opportunity to choose which land he desired. “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other” Genesis 13:10, 11. Lot’s decision says a lot about him.

      No doubt Abram knew which land his nephew would choose. Without hesitation Lot chose the best land. There is much we can learn from his decision. First, it’s obvious that Lot had no qualms about choosing the best land for himself. After all, the lushness of the land, and availability of water, would be perfect for all of his herds, making life easier for him and his herdsmen as well. No longer would they be constantly on the move searching for food and water for the herds of animals, there were cities nearby which would provide a means for commerce, and financial stability. We know that in the process of time, and in spite of the wickedness of the cities of the plain, that Lot married, had children and acquired his own home in the city of Sodom.

      Lot may have lived around 3900 years ago, but he was just as human as the rest of us. How many of us would’ve made the same decision if we were in his situation? Lot may have been a decent man, but he was not a godly man as was Abram. Abram’s eyes were toward the LORD, not the world and what the world had to offer, whereas Lot’s eyes were focused on this world, and how it could benefit him the most. Abram had an eternal perspective, but Lot’s perspective was towards the temporal. And, he had no qualms about leaving his uncle to deal with the less desirable barren landscape.

      So it is with believers today. Some are “hot,” and some are “lukewarm.” (Revelation 3:15, 16.) Some possess enough “oil” to see them through the approaching darkness while others do not. Some, having once “put their hand to the plow” are turning back, while others have well-rehearsed excuses for not taking up their cross and following Jesus. Many have failed to “count the cost” of being an overcoming Christian, and like Demas, have returned to the world, and there are those who, having “named the name of Christ” still refuse to turn from their iniquity.

      I find it interesting how the LORD spoke to Abram after Lot was separated from Him, promising him and his seed after him the land which we know as the Promised Land, the Land of Israel (which, when Jesus comes, will be greatly enlarged to God’s original plan.) It should thrill all of our hearts that God’s promises to Abram still stand, and will always stand for God cannot lie. One of the lessons we can learn from this event is that we as believers, must likewise be separated from that which may be clinging to us that is a hindrance to our calling and personal walk in the LORD. God calls us to Himself individually in order to impart to us specific, personal, insights and instructions for our life. Granted, the LORD is in the midst of two or three gathered together in His name, and He may speak to an assembly through the gifts of the Spirit, but when He is imparting His personal promises and instructions to one of His own, He separates them to Himself so that there will be no confusing interference from another person’s thoughts, ideas, plans, conclusions, or anything profane. In other words, there are moments with God that are so deeply personal, sacred, and private that such moments must be protected and cherished, or until such a time as the LORD may will to use them in the lives of others. Mary, the mother of Jesus is a good example for she “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:19.

      “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” Genesis 13:13. This verse paints a vivid picture for us of the contrast between Abram and Lot. Both had found their “dwelling” place, but oh! How different they were! Abram distanced himself from the cities of the plain while Lot leaned towards close proximity with Sodom. I can almost imagine God frowning in the next verse, “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” Consecrated believers know that the farther you can “pitch your tent” (live) from exceeding evil, the better off you are. Psalm 1:1 says “BLESSED is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” We know from the Bible that eventually Lot ended up inside Sodom where he raised a family.

      I grew up in a city (Seattle) and back then it was a “nice little place” surrounded by the beauty of snowcapped mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound. Except for the wet weather, I loved it. But, even then, my heart often longed for the spacious cleanliness, beauty and peace of the country, and today I am so thankful to be out of the big city and in a beautiful place in the panhandle of Idaho. Sadly, the big cities in our nation have become, for the most part, cesspools of crime, drugs (sorcery), sin, debauchery, lewdness, lawlessness and horrendous crime. I believe it’s time for Christians who love the excitement and entertainment that big cities have to offer to fall on their faces before the LORD, repent for their self-serving priorities, and ask Him where He wants them to be in these end days. The truth is, if He sends any of His people into a city it’s for the sole purpose of sharing the Gospel, preaching against sin, and bringing lost sheep to the Savior. Sadly, Christians who, like Lot, choose to live in the midst of unparalleled evil for self-serving reasons, ungodly gain, and worldly pleasures will find themselves facing the fiery judgments of God against the evil within such cities–judgments that are imminent.

      But, Christians, like Lot, become comfortable with sin and wickedness by degrees as long as it doesn’t personally touch them. Therefore, just like Lot, they will be totally unprepared for the judgments to come, and they are indeed coming! We all know that when NYC lit up with joy, dancing, and partying because the passage of the unspeakably evil law allowing for the slaughter of the innocents, (and babies that survived an abortion) that the cup of God’s wrath was full and close to running over. I believe what we see taking place right now in that city is to be fully expected, and this is just the beginning.

      Abram built four altars to the Lord, and we can read about the first three in Genesis 12 and 13. The first was at Sichem (Shechem) on the plain of Moreh (Genesis 12:6-7) and was for a memorial. The second was at Bethel between Bethel and Hai (Ai) (Genesis 12:8) upon which he placed sacrifices. The third was on the Plain of Mamre (Genesis 13:18) where he called upon the Lord, and the fourth Genesis 22:9 where he placed God’s promises on the altar. But there is no mention of Lot ever building an altar to the Lord as did his uncle. Abraham’s heart was directed towards the Lord God Almighty and “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10) whereas Lot’s affections were set on this world.  

      Consider Genesis 14 wherewe read of the war that four kings made against the five kings of the cities of the plain, which included Sodom, and how Lot, and his goods, were taken captive. So much for living the “good life” in the city of sin! When Abram heard of it, he armed his trained servants, pursued the armies and captives, and by night smote them and chased them. Abram brought back all the goods along with Lot and his goods, and the women, and the people. When the king of Sodom played politics and wanted to give all the goods to Abram, Abram wisely refused because he was righteous and knew that the king of Sodom would declare that he had made Abram rich.

      If we look for them, there are lessons to be learned for our lives today from this chapter as well. We know that Abram was living his life, minding his own business when suddenly he gets word that his nephew is taken captive. Of course, because he was righteous, he instantly responded, summoned his men, and went to the rescue, but I can’t help but wonder (and this is just my opinion) if he would’ve been as irritated as some of us might have been because his not-so-bright nephew was living in Sodom. After all, if he had been “out in the country” instead of smack dab in the middle of an extremely wicked city, chances are he might’ve been left alone. Instead, he ended up being swept up with the rest, and taken captive. Only God knows how many young people today are swept away and destroyed in a rip tide of evil because they failed to separate themselves from evil doers.

      Then, tucked in the middle of this chapter is the beautiful record of Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, who blessed Abram. The bread and the wine he brought to Abram symbolizes communion of the body and blood of our Savior. So even though Abram’s life was unpleasantly interrupted, demanding that he rise up and go to battle, and even though the king of Sodom seems to have been present, along with Lot and others, right in the middle of it all God singled out Abram for a very special and important blessing! In light of this, consider Psalm 23:5, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cut runneth over.”

      Once again, we see that the Lord knows just how, when and where to break into the scene of our lives as we travel on our earthly journey, and in the midst of our weariness He suddenly brings a touch from heaven and lights our way with a vision of the power and glory of the cross upon which the Bread from heaven (Christ’s body) and the new wine of the Gospel, (His blood) was freely given to all who believe.

      The question is, which man does the post-modern church most closely represent today, and which man do you honestly think you identify with? It’s all a matter of where your heart truly is.

      (Continued next issue.)