May 3, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Chris Lee, Gracepoint Berkeley

What might have led Lot to live in Sodom even though “the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD” (Gen 13:13), and what might that process have involved? – Lot may have been so tempted by the affluence that even though he might have been aware of the sins and wickedness going on in the city, he may have clung to lies that he would be able to keep himself from falling into sin.  At first, he might have thought, “These people of Sodom, they’ve gone too far.  I just want a little bit of the luxury and comforts that they have.  I am not greedy like them.  I’ve never been as indulgent.  I am not going to compromise my values like these people.”  Having convinced himself that he will know when to stop, that he will be able to control himself when the temptation is about to become too strong for him, he must have allowed himself to inch closer to Sodom, both physically and in buying into its ways of life, until he found himself fully plunged into sinful way of life.  When it comes to sin, we are all helpless.  I cannot feel confident that I will not give into certain sin based on my past.  I cannot be confident that I can maintain sober judgment and control over my desires while making a compromise in some way.  Sin is way too powerful.  The only way to fight sin is to commit to keep the clear boundaries that God’s words provide.
Why does it make sense that the perfect land would give rise to sinful cities, and battles involving many kings? – When everything is perfect, we lose our sense of need and dependence on God.  We are content to live without God because we already have what we want.  We become proud, believing that through our efforts, we can make sure that we do not lack anything we want.  As we push God out of our lives in this way, we become dull and vulnerable to sin.  Apart from God, we become oblivious to what sin is doing to us, and we are powerless to resist temptations.  As I fall short in many ways while trying to follow and obey God, I am repeatedly reminded of the sins in my heart, and for that I am thankful.  These reminders my sinfulness help me to be clear about how much I need God to keep sins from destroying my life and the lives of people around me.  Without God, I would not even have the desire to battle sins.  When I don’t particularly feel need for God because life seems to be going ok, and when ministry seems to be moving along fine, I’ve learned that that’s a warning for me to become more spiritually vigilant through more focused time in God’s words and prayer.
In what ways is it true of life that the “best things” often seem to be magnets for other kinds of troubles? Best things bring about unanticipated problems.  Suddenly wealth often is the source of conflict where previously relationships were harmonious.  Pursuit of best things can cause our hearts to cool off in wrong ways.  When people become obsessed about advancing in their careers, their hearts towards everything else can cool off, including the people they ought to care for.  Even in our relationship with God, each time that our heart longs more for the stuff of this world, to that extent our love for God and things of God cool off.  We become more earthly, leading to more greed, envy, pettiness, unable to find contentment.   There is no end to what our sinful, greedy heart wants.  God’s solution for this problem is to trust him by not even being concerned with the best things of this life – trust that when we let loose the grip of these things in our hearts, he will direct us to a whole new way of life that is truly exciting and worthwhile.
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Submitted by Carol Chou, Gracepoint Berkeley

Genesis 13:10-13, 14:1-12

“Lot’s greedy desire for the best of everything led him into sinful surroundings.  His burning desire for possessions and success cost him his freedom and enjoyment. As a captive to Kedorlaomer, he faced torture, slavery, or death. In much the same way, we can be enticed into doing things or going places we shouldn’t. The prosperity we long for is captivating; it can both entice us and enslave us if our motives are not in line with God’s desires.”[1]

What might have led Lot to live in Sodom even though “the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD” (Gen 13:13), and what might that process have involved? Gen 13: 10 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

Even though the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord, the beauty of the land and how promising it looked in terms of producing for him success might have led Lot to live in Sodom. Lot was greedy and wanted the best of everything. He cared more about satisfying his greed and getting the best than keeping his distance from sin. He knew that what was going on in Sodom was displeasing to God, but he probably thought that he would just get the best of Sodom for his own success and desires while staying away from the sin that was rampant. He probably overestimated himself and underestimated the effects, reaches, and consequences of sin.

He must have gone through a process of self-justification – that he would live near, but not in the city, at the heart of all the sinful activity; that he would not participate in their sin; that it was their sin and not his, so what’s the big deal?

Why does it make sense that the perfect land would give rise to sinful cities, and battles involving many kings? It makes sense that the perfect land would give rise to sinful cities because they don’t have to work too hard to produce success on the land so they have more time for idleness and pleasure-seeking which eventually becomes more and more extreme to satisfy their boredom and ‘been there, done that’ attitude. Because the land produces well, they are self-sufficient and don’t have a sense of desperation or humility. They don’t have a need for God because they don’t see themselves as fragile or not having control. Everything comes easy to them.

The perfect land also gives rise to battles involving many kings because good land is coveted and stirs up the greed of many. They want to exert their power over one another to get the best.

In what ways is it true of life that the “best things” often seem to be magnets for other kinds of troubles? The best things of life often seem to be magnets for other kinds of troubles in that they require a sacrifice of something else which may not be as glittery, but often more intrinsically valuable. A father who wants to provide well for his family may take a promotion with a higher salary which provides extracurricular activities for the kids, but the job may demand more of his time, time that he can’t spend at night and on weekends with his kids. I have a coworker who wanted to make the most of her career and her husband wanted to do the same, but this required them to live separately because she got a better opportunity at our company than she did back with her family. Wanting the best for her career also separates her from her young daughter and her family is only together about once a month, if even that. Apart from her family, work is the drama of her life and that’s all she knows. It’s sad that she devotes everything to work that she doesn’t even take the time to say hi to people that she passes by just to acknowledge their presence.

Genesis 14:13-16

What would have been the consequences if Abram chose to refrain from the chase because it seemed hopeless? If Abram chose to refrain from the chase because it seemed hopeless, the consequences would have missed out on experiencing God delivering the enemies into his hands and being blessed by Melchizedek the priest of God Most High. He would have missed out on an opportunity to experience God’s provision and supernatural power that anyone else would not have expected as Abram was outnumbered by the four kings. He would have also missed out on the chance to testify to the other kings that it was God who displayed His power in the victory.

What does Abram’s response reveal about his character and what he considered valuable, especially in contrast to how he responded in Gen 12 when going down to Egypt?  What does this reveal about the nature of his relationship with God? Abram’s response reveals that he learned to trust in God’s power and provision since his days in Egypt when he tried to take matters into his own hands and acted in cowardice. Even if this might have been a scary decision – to rescue Lot from these kings – he had the courage to deny his fears and rely on God’s faithfulness from the past to take this step of faith. It shows Abram’s integrity that he was growing in his faith and knowledge of God, that his faith in God the Creator wasn’t just words, but proven through his actions of faith.

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Submitted by Chul Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Genesis 13:10-13, 14:1-12
“Lot’s greedy desire for the best of everything led him into sinful surroundings.  His burning desire for possessions and success cost him his freedom and enjoyment. As a captive to Kedorlaomer, he faced torture, slavery, or death. In much the same way, we can be enticed into doing things or going places we shouldn’t. The prosperity we long for is captivating; it can both entice us and enslave us if our motives are not in line with God’s desires.”
What might have led Lot to live in Sodom even though “the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD” (Gen 13:13), and what might that process have involved? Lot valued materialistic prosperity more than his spiritual growth. And he devalued spiritual life probably thinking that he can “somehow” manage it even in the midst of rather enticing and distracting environment.  Often I don’t care about the details of my life that needs change and concrete repentance and change. I often ground myself upon false optimism regarding my walk with God and console myself that it will be somehow better tomorrow or next week. As for Lot, it was clear that he should not have moved to the Jordan plain near Sodom in the first place. But, he did and probably it opened up a series of gradual, yet consistent compromises in his spiritual life, which eventually led him to misery.

Why does it make sense that the perfect land would give rise to sinful cities, and battles involving many kings? In what ways is it true of life that the “best things” often seem to be magnets for other kinds of troubles? Any worldly blessing is a double-edged sword since it naturally boosts up my ego and elevates my expectation. Even spiritual blessing can be very worldly as long as it boosts my ego and elevates my expectation. It must be God’s dilemmas that we quickly turn to God’s blessing into curse and poison for our souls because we just attribute at least some of our success to ourselves, which is manifested in our elevated ego and increase of fear about failure. At least, I should stay away from more material blessing since I have not used to that and I have already had a lot of blessings in my life that I barely handle. I am working for school as my daytime job and working for ministry as a staff. I realized that how all the successes and blessings that I experienced before in my life makes it hard for me to face sacrifice, failure, and setbacks in my life with a heart of patience, gratitude and faith. Indeed, I must go back to the foot of the Cross every morning and every afternoon and every night to remind myself of my true coordinate before God and others as a wretched sinner who does not deserve any of God’s blessing. As some one put it, “If I have enough energy and health to go out to beg for food on the street, that is God’s grace enough for me.”. Elevated ego and pride make it impossible for me to live a life of love. It makes me feel tense and anxious about everything I am doing and bring a lot of unnecessary fear and distress to my life. Abram was so right and wise in yielding his best choice to Lot and willing to settle down with the second best and even the third best – whatever it may be.  At the end of the day, what matters is for me to hold onto the trust best, which I really don’t know of. But, I trust that God knows the best for me as well as others – collective and communal best for his community- and it will come to me as long as I am faithful in following his will.

Genesis 14:13-16
What would have been the consequences if Abram chose to refrain from the chase because it seemed hopeless? Lot’s family would have been held as war captives and his relationship with Lot would have become cold. Abraham would have lived in fear toward those Canaanite kings, which would have undermined his faith in God.

What does Abram’s response reveal about his character and what he considered valuable, especially in contrast to how he responded in Gen 12 when going down to Egypt?  What does this reveal about the nature of his relationship with God? Now, he valued people and cherished relationship that he was able to take a risk of being engaged in a dangerous fight against those kings. Indeed, his relationship with God has grown through previous incidents.  He learned lessons from his failures and really kept them in his heart and did things differently next time around. It seemed like he truly built a community in his house hold and “trained” 318 men born in his household, which enabled him to serve as a source of blessings for not only Lot’s family but also many others who were captured by the king Kedorlaomer and his allies  in this war.  Once again I realized that it is my responsibility to make the best use of God’s blessing for my life to bless others and to rescue them from their difficulties.  I may not have a lot to offer, but I should be faithful in raising “those 318 men” in my spiritual household and bring them to rescue more people in need.

Genesis 14:21-23
“Abraham refuses the invitation of the king to act in an acquisitive way (v.23). Instead, he makes a faith affirmation.  He will not rely on the king nor give the appearance of relying on him (cf. Judg. 7:2). He will rely only on the God whose name he knows and to whom he has sworn an oath (v.22).  The well-being and prosperity which Abraham already has and which he is yet to receive is not to be credited either to military or political machinations, but only to the free gift of God…”
What would have been the result of receiving the goods from the King of Sodom? The King of Sodom would have said that Abraham’s blessings actually came from his generous gifts, which would denigrate God’s glory.  This would even obligate Abraham to do something that he should not have done just to return the favor of the king of Sodom that he received.

What can I learn from Abram’s refusal to the King of Sodom in v. 23? Indeed, he became a man of faith. I should trust God for his faithful provision, if I need something God will provide it. By refusing to take a credit for what happened, Abraham attributed his impressive success to God and his mercy properly. I should be very careful in recognizing God’s amazing grace and mercy and give Him proper glory whenever I experience good things in my life.  Indeed, every good thing comes from our heavenly father!  I just need to fully trust him and do the right thing at the right time faithfully.

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Submitted by Cathy Park, Gracepoint Davis
Genesis 13:10-13, 14:1-12
“Lot’s greedy desire for the best of everything led him into sinful surroundings.  His burning desire for possessions and success cost him his freedom and enjoyment. As a captive to Kedorlaomer, he faced torture, slavery, or death. In much the same way, we can be enticed into doing things or going places we shouldn’t. The prosperity we long for is captivating; it can both entice us and enslave us if our motives are not in line with God’s desires.”[1]

What might have led Lot to live in Sodom even though “the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD” (Gen 13:13), and what might that process have involved? Next thing we know about Lot after his split with Abram was that he was already living in the city of Sodom.  How did it happen, that Lot, who grew up with Abram and saw him worship the Yaweh God, would become a citizen of such a wicked city?  As of Genesis 13:12, he had merely pitched his tent near Sodom.  And yet, from this decisive action, it is inevitable that he would end up in the city, because it determined the trajectory of his life.

Lot’s downfall began with him parting ways with Abram, who had been given promise of God’s covenant.  That was a crucial mistake, because when we part ways with people of God who serve as a reminder of who God is and as a protection against temptation and sin, we will end up heading towards path of destruction.  You can only move towards God or away from God – you cannot remain neutral.  Therefore, to part ways with people who are moving towards God, it is inevitable that you will move away from God.  I think about many people that I have known who thought that they could part ways with Christians and the church and assumed that they would still be able to relatively contain the sin in their lives.  However, many of those people quickly descended into the path of sin as the protection of being in God’s community with people who care about them and keep them accountable for their sin were no longer there.

The other factor for his downfall was his insatiable desire to pursue the best of what this world has to offer at all cost, as it made him even consider parting ways with Abram and God’s blessings.  As we live our lives, we will inevitably face a fork in the road where we can either choose to pursue the best – in terms of worldly success, recognition, luxuries and comfort – or settle with something less if that will mean that we choose to stay with God’s people and His work.

Once that protection was gone, Lot also made another crucial mistake thinking that he can pitch his tents near Sodom but somehow it would not affect or tempt him enough to end up where he did.  Unfortunately, in our deluded sinful nature, we are always underestimating our own sinfulness, and therefore, we often push the limits of our willpower by getting close to sin and opportunities to sin.  We think we can be close enough to sniff its scent but will have enough will power to refuse a taste of it even if it is placed close to our face.  As Lot probably saw the city lights and sounds of Sodom, he probably wondered what is going on there.  He probably felt a bit bored about the nomad life, and started trading with the city people.  Once he got a firsthand sight and sound of Sodom, he probably felt like the city wasn’t as bad as it seemed and maybe even offered benefits like good schools and urban lifestyle – after all, he was always going for the best.  Before long, he has traded in his nomad lifestyle for the city life, and he would eventually become the city elder sitting at the gates of Sodom.  (Genesis 19:1)

Genesis 14:21-23
“Abraham refuses the invitation of the king to act in an acquisitive way (v.23). Instead, he makes a faith affirmation.  He will not rely on the king nor give the appearance of relying on him (cf. Judg. 7:2). He will rely only on the God whose name he knows and to whom he has sworn an oath (v.22).  The well-being and prosperity which Abraham already has and which he is yet to receive is not to be credited either to military or political machinations, but only to the free gift of God…”[2]

What would have been the result of receiving the goods from the King of Sodom? Had Abram received the goods from the King of Sodom, he would always live with having his testimony tainted by it, and the effectiveness of his witness would have been affected.  Abram probably refused the goods from King of Sodom because of the sting that he felt in becoming rich through lying to the Pharaoh because he didn’t trust God’s provision and feared for his life.  (Genesis 12:10-20)  He probably thought to himself that he would never want to get rich in that way ever again, and that it would only be God who would be his source of blessing.  So he refuses what would be considered rightfully his as a plunder, had he been following the customs of those days.  Instead, he radically turns down the great wealth of Sodom so that he can keep his testimony pure – that God would be the only one who will receive credit for the blessings in his life.  If Abram yielded to the custom of his days and took the plunder, later, as Sodom would be destroyed for being a city of such wickedness, Abram’s witness would have been tainted by taking goods from such a man and from such a city.

I see this played out again and in lives of many Christians who stand up for their integrity – that their testimony is able to become that much more powerful.  Billy Graham, for instance, had refused to become rich through his ministry by limiting himself to salary past 60 years and also turning down multi-million dollar television deals again and again.

Up close, I see it also around many brothers and sisters around me at this church.  Although they have every right to maximize their lives, as they are young upwardly mobile professionals, I see they are choosing to live a life that is limited in terms of worldly wealth and comfort so that their testimony and witness would be that much more powerful.  Where else will I find lawyers, nurses, financial analysts, doctors, etc. choosing to live in the same apartment complex so that together they can build the Body of Christ together by living intimately connected lives of love and sacrifice?

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