Sun, Sep 16, 2007

LIFT UP YOUR EYES! GENESIS 13:5-18

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
LIFT UP YOUR EYES!
GENESIS 13:5-18
 

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 13 as we look at how to make decisions in our life. I have called this study: LIFT UP YOUR EYES, because when we make decisions, it is always based upon what or who our eyes are focused upon.  As we will see in our study this morning, one will look outward and the other will look upward. And, as you will see, the choices we make are really not that difficult, the problem really comes into play when we refuse to listen to God and we do our own thing.

            Before we get to our text this morning, let me share with you a story of a very famous man who had everything a person could want and yet he didn’t have what he needed. Thus, his life was filled with turmoil. He was a man who was truly unsatisfied. We are told:

            All he ever wanted in life was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two U.S. presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true satisfaction.  Unfortunately, history shows otherwise. He concluded his life emaciated; colorless; sunken chest; fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews; rotting, black teeth; tumors; innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction. Howard Hughes died believing the myth of more.  He died a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards.

- Bill Hybels in Leadership, Vol. X, #3 (Summer, 1989), p. 38

            In our study this morning Abram has left Egypt and has returned to the land that God promised to him, the land of Canaan.  Along with Abram was his nephew Lot and that is where we will pick up our study, in Genesis chapter 13, starting in verse 5 as we see a conflict arise between these two men of God.

GENESIS 13:5-18

            In reading through these verses I see three powerful points that the Holy Spirit is showing us. First we will be looking at THE DISPUTE, which is spoken of in Genesis 13:5-9.  Then we will be looking at THE DESIRE, which is found in Genesis 13:10-13.  And lastly, we will look at THE DIRECTION, which is found in Genesis 13:14-18.  And my prayer as we go through these is that we would allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, teaching us these lessons of faith so that we may grow in Him!

1.  THE DISPUTE – GENESIS 13:5-9

            First of all, this dispute is between two believers in the true and living God. This is not between unbelievers.  You see, the Lord blessed both Abram and Lot and their herds multiplied. In fact, they grew so much that the land couldn’t sustain both of their herds and thus, a contention; strife arose between the herdsmen of Abram and the herdsmen of Lot.

            Now things must have reached a boiling point and the concern here is not only because of this dispute, this strife between these two believers, but because they were living in the land of the Canaanites and Perizzites. Unbelievers surrounded them! In other words, this friction was a horrible witness of their faith.  In fact, as unbelievers looked on they would see the actions of Abram and Lot as being no different than their own. Their witness was being destroyed!

            Who is right here? Who should go? What should be done?  From a human perspective, responding in the flesh, Abram could have said, “Lot, take a hike!”  Now, why did I say that? First of all Abram was the elder, he had every right to stay in the land he wanted. Not only that, but God gave the land to Abram and thus, Lot should leave.  But that is not what happens here.

            Abram tells Lot that if he wants the land to the left, it is his. Or, if he wants the land to the right, it is his. Abram was willing to take what was left. How could he do that? Because his love for God and his love for his brother superseded his rights! It is as Paul said in Philippians 2:1-4, Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

            The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, SO BY whatever [appeal to you there is in our mutual dwelling in Christ, by whatever] strengthening and consoling and encouraging [our relationship] in Him [affords], by whatever persuasive incentive there is in love, by whatever participation in the [Holy] Spirit [we share], and by whatever depth of affection and compassionate sympathy, Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention. Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others.

            You see, Paul wants us to put on the mind of Christ which will manifest itself in love, in looking out for the interests of others even when it may not be right, it may not be fair. As I said on Thursday, I am amazed at the number of Christians that fight with each other, that are quarrelling with each other, that refuse to get along with each other and they see no problem with this, with their actions because the other person is wrong! Sorry, if you feel that way you do not have the mind of Christ because love is not flowing from your life but the works of the flesh are!

            I do realize that I may have offended some of you here this morning and all I can say is –GOOD! You see, maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to get your attention. Let me ask you this. Why do Christians have marital problems?  Why do Christians have conflicts with their children?  Why do Christians fight at work?  Why do Christians have so many contentions among each other? It really is very simple. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:21, submitting to one another in the fear of God.  The Amplified Bible puts it like this, Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

            You see, if you refuse to submit to one another in the fear or out of reverence to the Lord, then you will have contentions with people, you will not be able to get along.  And when you are fighting and quarreling with people, you are not walking in the Spirit!  Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18-20, And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            In other words, before you submit to others and love others as the Lord desires, you must first submit, you must first surrender your life to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide you. You see, as you do your life will be filled with joy, with song, with thanksgiving and wives will submit to their husbands, husbands will love their wives, children will obey their parents, employees and employers will work together. But if you refuse, you will find strive, contentions, fighting, quarrellings, and it is ugly!

            Not only is it ugly, but also it is a bad witness to the lost and if we have children, it is a horrible witness to them! And folks, don’t think for a minute that the unsaved are not watching, that our children are not taking it in, what we say and what we do, they are!  Are you willing to battle and fight and maybe win to lose it all? I hope not!

            In II Corinthians 12:20-21 listen to what Paul had to say regarding the church in Corinth and their behavior.  He wrote, For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.  Paul wants them to repent of their sins and get right with God or the foothold the enemy has on them will continue to grow and what will be left in their path as they walk will be death and destruction. What are you leaving behind as you walk!

            For Abram, he was willing to trust God and walk by faith rather than letting this strife grow more and more.  He knew God would take care of him and we will see that when we look at our last point this morning. How about you? I hope you can let go and let love guide you.  I hope so because God gave up all to save you and I will tell you this, it was not fair for Him and yet He did it out of love! Again, how about you?

2.  THE DESIRE – GENESIS 13:10-13

            As Lot is given the choice of where he will go, he lift’s up his eyes to see. Now, the eyes can be portholes to evil used by Satan to bring us down or they can be portholes to heaven to see the Lord and be guided by Him. For Lot, he did not lift up his eyes to heaven but he looked at the beauty of the land and he walked by sight and not by faith.

            Isn’t it amazing, of all the places he could go, he picked Sodom, a place we might call Vanity Fair!  It was a place filled with wickedness and immorality!  How in the world did this believer, Lot, get pulled down into this path of death and destruction?  Very simply, Lot SAWthat the land was beautiful, he COVETED this land, and then he finally TOOK it for himself! This is the natural progression of sin – SEEINGCOVETING and then TAKING!

            It is as John tells us, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh [I saw], the lust of the eyes [I coveted], and the pride of life [I took], is not from the Father but is of the world.  I John 2:15-16.

            Let’s look at these for a minute and see what we can learn.  Lot saw or the lust of the flesh was drawing him in. Folks, God has given to us senses to enjoy his beauty with but Satan comes along and perverts what God has given to us and we fall prey to his schemes. Just because something looks beautiful, it looks good, does not mean it is right.

            Let me give you a graphic example to show you what I mean. When you look at a Bengal Tiger they are beautiful creatures, nothing more than a big cat! Thus, they are so adorable you go up to one of them and give this creature a big hug – you saw, it looked good and now you are looking good to this tiger, a meal in the making for him!  I know, that is obvious but what happens when it is not so obvious?  You need to bring it to the Lord in prayer!  If you don’t, the lust of the flesh, sensualism, this passion will bring you down!

            Next, Lot coveted the land of Sodom, the lust of the eyes. Yes, it was beautiful, and now he wanted it more than anything else. Did you ever see a herd of cows in a field filled with grass, and for the most part, many are satisfied with what they have. But there are a few that are not and they are stretching to reach for the grass that is just on the other side of the fence, even though it is the same grass that is on their side of the fence.  People do that all the time today, they think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and thus, they leave relationships, they leave jobs and in the end, they find out the only reason it is greener is they use more horse manure on it!  It is not any better!  Covetousness is a very dangerous passion.

            Bob James gives us this perfect illustration of how dangerous covetousness really is. He tells us:

            Recently I had laid a small circle of poison around a hill of stinging ants. Thinking the tiny granules of poison were food, the ants began to pick them up and carry them throughout the colony. I returned later to see how well the poison was working. Hundreds of the stinging ants were carrying the poison down into their hill. Then I noticed a hole in the circle of poison.  Some of the poison was moving in the opposite way – away from the hill. Some smaller, non-stinging ants had found this “food” and were stealing it from their ant neighbors. Thinking they were getting the other ants’ treasure, they unwittingly poisoned themselves.

            When we see someone with more than we have, we must beware. The hunger to beg, borrow, or steal our way into what is theirs may poison us spiritually.

- Bob James

            Paul, in Colossians 3:5-7 warns us, Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.  You see, covetousness is a form of idolatry. You want something so bad, you are so overwhelmed and controlled by it, that it becomes an idol in your life!  Again, repent and bring this to God in prayer because, if you don’t, the lust of the eyes, materialism, possessions will consume your life!

            And lastly, Lot took the land of Sodom for himself, the pride of life. And once you take it, you are not satisfied because you are not in the place that God wants you to be. Let me show you what I mean with this story. We are told:

            Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything.  One day he received a novel offer.  For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.

            Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point.  He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost.

            As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead.

            Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy’s story was: How Much Land Does a Man Need?

- Bits and Pieces, November, 1991

            How true that is. We can take and take and take and there is no end in sight and we still are not satisfied. If you doubt that, look at all the wealth we have in this country.  Look at all the possessions we have.  Look at all the toys we have, all the stuff we have and yet, look at how many Americans are depressed!  We use more antidepressant medication than any other country, why? We are not satisfied and thus, we are not happy! You see, you can’t fill that void in your heart with stuff; only Jesus can fill that void and satisfy!

            Thus, once again we need to bring these things to the Lord in prayer, because if we don’t, the pride of life, egotism, obtaining positions will consume our life!

            Lot had some difficult decisions to make, the problem for Lot was that he tried to make them on his own and it didn’t work.  It is not that Lot needed to live outside the world, of course that is impossible. The problem for Lot is that he let too much of the world get in him and that was a disaster and it even affected his decision-making!  He let the things of this world guide him instead of the Lord. And in the end, Lot will lose everything!

            You see, although Lot is referred to by Peter as righteous Lot,” he chose to live among the wicked people in Sodom because he loved money, prominence, possessions, land more than he loved the Lord.  He was a double-minded man who wanted to serve God but who also wanted to enjoy the pleasures of this world.  I believe this is evident from the fact that Lot chose to live in the plain bordering the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:1-13). And once there, he moved into the city itself and became part of its culture (Gen. 19:1). It’s true that he didn’t give up his belief in the high moral standards he had learned from his uncle Abraham, and he didn’t approve of the wicked things he saw and heard.  He still believed in God.  But as an official at the city gate, he apparently had little impact on the wicked society of which he was a part. In fact, it was hard on him to live there, but it did not stop him.

            Lot’s double-mindedness brought him much inner torment and rendered him spiritually powerless. He couldn’t even convince his sons-in-law (and their wives) to leave Sodom before God’s judgment fell. Only he, his wife and the two daughters still living at home escaped. And his wife died instantly when she looked back, disobeying God’s command. In the end, Lot lost the very things he wanted – possessions and positions.

Peter put it this way in II Peter 2:7-8, and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, And He rescued righteous Lot, greatly worn out and distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless —  [Gen 19:16,29.]  For that just man, living [there] among them, tortured his righteous soul every day with what he saw and heard of [their] unlawful and wicked deeds. Do you think it was worth it? I don’t and I bet you don’t. Thus, don’t go down that path!

            For Lot, he walked by sight and not by faith. Yes, the land was beautiful, it could sustain him, his family, his herdsmen, his livestock, but it was not the place that God wanted him to be. But he does not listen to God but his own voice because he SAW, he COVETED, and he TOOK the land without bringing it before the Lord!  May we be wise and learn the lesson!

3.  THE DIRECTION – GENESIS 13:14-18

            What in the world was Abram going to do now? He gave away some of the land that God had given to him, the land that God had promised to him, and now what? You know, when you walk by faith you don’t have to worry because God is in control and he will take care of things.  Did you notice what took place here? After Abram sought the Lord the Lord told him to look around, look at all this land, it is his and his descendents, even the land that Lot took!

            All Abram needed to do to obtain it was to walk by faith or to take those steps of faith, trusting in the Lord and His promise to him.  And think about this folks, Abram is 75 years old or so at this point, no children yet, not even one in the oven, and yet the Lord says to him,And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.  Genesis 13:16.  That truly is faith in action folks, just trusting in the Lord, in the promises that God made to him! Abram believed God! What about you?

            Listen to what the Lord said to Joshua before he entered the Promise Land with the children of Israel in Joshua 1:2-9, ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them — the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.’” You see, Joshua needed to walk to obtain the blessing and so must we, trusting in the Lord as we go!

            And folks, there are times when the Lord will call us to do things that just don’t seem fair, they may not seem right for us to do, but He tells us to do them, to walk by faith, to trust in Him.  The blessing is obtained as we walk! Yes, it can be difficult, it can be hard for us, but if we surrender to the Lord, submit to the Holy Spirit’s guiding it can be done for with God the impossible is very possible, what He has promised He can bring it to pass!  Do you think it was easy for Joshua to take these rebellious people into the Promise Land? Of course it was and yet the Lord told Joshua to trust Him, to look to Him and walk and he did!

            Mr. Spurgeon once made a parable. He said,

            There was once a tyrant who summoned one of his subjects into his presence, and ordered him to make a chain. The poor blacksmith- that was his occupation – had to go to work and forge the chain.  When it was done, he brought it into the presence of the tyrant, and was ordered to take it away and make it twice the length. He brought it again to the tyrant, and again he was ordered to double it. Back he came when had obeyed the order, and the tyrant looked at it, and then commanded the servants to bind the man hand and foot with the chain he had made and cast him into prison.

            “That is what the devil does with men,” Mr. Spurgeon said. “He makes them forge their own chain, and then binds them hand and foot with it, and casts them into outer darkness.”  My friends, that is just what drunkards, gamblers, blasphemers – that is just what every sinner is doing. But thank God, we can tell them of a deliverer. The Son of God has power to break every one of their fetters if they will only come to Him.

- Moody’s Anecdotes, pp. 48-49

            We as Christians can find ourselves in bondage because we refuse to walk where God has called us to walk and we are walking where we are not to be. It is not that someone else has chained us, but we not only made the chain, but we have applied it to our lives and we find ourselves in bondage!  Don’t go down that path.

            Not only that, but Abram pitched his tent in Mamre, which means “fatness” and in the land of Hebron, which means “fellowship or communion.” Notice the picture here as Abram is walking with the Lord he had fatness of soul or he was so overwhelmed with the Lord that it lead him into a deeper fellowship with God or he was enjoying a deeper communion with the Lord, which then causes him to worship the Lord as he builds an altar to the Lord! Abram left all the world had for him behind and looked to the richness of communion he had with God! May we learn the lesson from Abram and walk by faith and not by sight!

            So we have seen this morning the dispute between Abram and Lot and how Abram was willing to let love rule over his right and God blessed him for it.  We looked at the desire of Lot and how he let the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life control him instead of the Lord. Lot saw, he coveted and then he took the land that he wanted for himself, the land of Sodom and not the land that God wanted for him. And lastly, we looked at the direction of Abram and how he looked to the Lord and the Lord directed his steps.  Out of that he had fatness of soul, he enjoyed fellowship with God and he worshiped the Lord.  The key, of course, is that the Lord directed his steps; it is what he wants to do in our lives!

            In fact, in Psalm 32:8-9 the Lord tells us, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.  The Living Bible puts these verses like this, I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress. Don't be like a senseless horse or mule that has to have a bit in its mouth to keep it in line!  You see, you must look up, you must look to the Lord and as you do, He will guide your paths and you must then walk by faith, trusting in Him.

            Now, before I close this morning I want to share with you something to help you in your decision-making. It is four simple questions you can ask yourself as you seek God’s direction, before you take those steps.  They are:

IS IT BIBLICAL?

WILL IT HELP ACCOMPLISH THE GOAL?

IS IT WISE STEWARDSHIP OF MY RESOURCES?

WILL IT GLORIFY CHRIST?

You see, it is not too difficult unless you don’t want to look up and be guided by Him! And yet it can be difficult if we don’t trust the Lord. Listen to this story and you will see what I mean. We are told:

Philip Island, in Victoria Australia, plays host to one of the greatest nature experiences possible. On the shores of Philip Island are the burrows of thousands upon thousands of fairy penguins, extraordinarily cute little birds that stand only 30cm or so tall.  Every morning the adult penguins head out to sea to catch fish. At the end of the day they return to land to bring back food for their chicks. Watching them get from the water to their burrows is both funny and exhilarating. The penguins surf in on the waves, then gather in groups at the water’s edge. The burrows are 100 meters or so away, with the open space of the sandy beach between them. But then, having got 10 or 20 meters they’ll suddenly turn around and waddle back to the water. They wait, then try again. One group makes it, but another performs this strange ritual of turning back. And on it goes, through the dying light of day, until finally the penguins have all crossed the beach and met their chicks in their burrows.

What’s going on? Why the strange stop-start-return ritual? The answer’s quite simple. At sea the birds are fast swimmers, able to dive deep. At sea they’re safe from predators such as eagles and hawks and dogs and cats. In their burrows their safe below ground. But on the open beach they’re vulnerable and exposed.  On the beach they can only waddle slowly and are easy pickings for predators. And so, as they cross the beach, the moment they see a shadow or something out of the corner of their eye, they turn back and race for the safety of the water.

It seems that we humans are a lot like those fairy penguins. When confronted with challenging situations we find ourselves like the penguins standing at the water’s edge.  We know where we’ve got to go, we know we’ve got to get across that beach to get back to the burrow, but it can be terrifying. When we step out of the water and start waddling across the beach we leave our safety zone behind, we’re in no-man’s land where it’s dangerous, uncertain and where we’re vulnerable. Yet to get to the burrow we must leave the safety zone behind and strike out into the danger zone.

- Scott Higgins

            Here’s the thing, as we are focused on the Lord, no matter where He is guiding us, it is the best place for us; it is the place we need to be!  Don’t turn back, don’t run away, but walk by faith! As I close this morning, listen to these words from Peter in II Peter 1:2-4, as he tells us, Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

The Amplified Bible puts these verses like this, May grace (God's favor) and peace (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal, precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature.

Folks, God gives to us all we need for living, for godliness, He has given to us His precious promises, and thus, Peter tells us to partake of what God has given to us, to walk in the land, to walk by faith!  And to do that you need to lift up your eyes to the Lord and be directed by Him!

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