Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Genesis 17 - The limits

Yesterday, I got a very positive email from my literary agent about some of the publishing things we're trying to figure out. It was the kind of email that writers dream about getting, but when I spoke to my wife, she felt I was "reverse jinxing" it. I need to do another post on the topic, but a reverse jinx is basically where you pretend you think the opposite is going to happen in order to make what you really want happen. For instance, if your team has one chance to score a free throw to win a basketball game, you will verbally say, "Oh this guy always misses free throws." You don't want to jinx the situation by saying, "This guy is great at free throws," so you reverse it while secretly hoping he makes it.

But in addition to my reliance on the "reverse jinx," that experience also revealed that I am like Abram. I have limits on what I think God is capable of. Has He saved my marriage? Yes. Has He blessed me in more ways than I can understand? Yes. Has He put words in my heart over and over again? Yes. Is He capable of getting me published? Uhhh, that's up for debate.

The same thing happened with Abram in Genesis 17. When God appears, we are told that Abram fell face down. He understood that this was God. He did not question the things God had done or would do. When God says, "I will make nations of you," Abram doesn't doubt that. In fact, at the end of the chapter, Abram believes so fervently that he goes off and has every male in his house circumcised. Talk about a tough thing to sell to your landscapers.

But when confronted with the idea that he and his elderly wife would have a kid, Abram laughed out loud. He laughed at God's plan and then he suggested an alternative. "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"

That was Abram's limit. God had reached it. He didn't think old people could have babies. Pretty simple, clearly defined limit to what God can do. Make nations out of me? Yes. Have me circumcise every male in my house? Yes. Change my name during a conversation with you, the Alpha and Omega? Yes. Get me and my wife pregnant? Doubtful.

On some level, we all put limits on what God is capable of. We all have specific issues that we think he might need us to suggest an "Ishmael solution" for. So that, becomes the question for today.

I have to give God the publishing of my book. What limit do you have to let go of?

10 comments:

In God's Hands said...

Great thought provoking post (it's funny how we can really trust God on some issues but not others)
I am really enjoying StuffChristiansLike but this site is even better for honest & encouraging testimony. (Although - if you made it a www. rather than an http then I could read it off & on all day at work?! ... actually maybe that wouldn't be a good thing!)
Anyway, thanks for blogging

UTaylor526 said...

I'm going to be honest and admit my ignorance.

I don't understand when Abraham said to God, "if only Ishmael could live under your blessing!"

I understand Abraham's attitude, but not the reference.

Anonymous said...

I love Chps 17 & 18 of Genesis. When God tells Abram about having a son, he laughs. (I won't spoil Chp 18 for those who haven't read it yet.) Just like you, Jon, I believe that there are some things that God will do for me no problem. I need a job now and although it's taking some time for it to come, I know He is faithful and will provide. I'm also trusting Him to restore a relationship that has been dissolved. Will He do it for me? I have doubts every day. I'm really praying that God will teach me to trust Him in EVERYTHING and not just the things that I 'expect' Him to do for me.

Kim

Amanda said...

Abraham is referring to the fact that since Ishmael is younger than he is, it would make more 'sense' to bless him in this way (with a child).

I can be a real control freak when it comes to my relationships, especially my marriage. I have to give that up to God and let Him handle it. Reading magazines and books for advice on how to make my marriage stronger isn't going to change anything, because it's based on me me me and what I can do.

Christianne said...

i totally do the reverse jinx, too! wow. i didn't know that's what it was called, nor did i ever hear someone else describe it as something they do, too. thanks for that.

right now, i need to let go of my limits on God with some great projects my hub and i are being faced with but haven't confirmed yet, with our finances, with my business plan thesis for grad school that's really hard and due very soon, and with a ministry opportunity that seems just too big to contain inside my heart and my brain.

Elaine said...

Ishmael was Abraham's son by Hagar, his wife's maid. Abraham is basically offering God an alternative to the insane idea that Sarah would have a baby. He's saying, I already have a son who I love - why not make him the father of many nations? Why keep promising me a child by Sarah when she obviously is menopausal?

I don't think God can get me a job... Sure, God runs the whole universe and has provided for my career for the last 11 years, but getting me a job now is clearly not an option...

Anonymous said...

"I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief." Mark 9:24

Anonymous said...

WOW. POWERFUL post. My first visit to your blog today....exactly what I needed. God is so awesome the way He works. I will be checking back in often!

David P. said...

I have maybe a different thought. My father had Lou Gherig's disease and I prayed for God to heal him. There was no doubt in my mind about God's ability TO save my dad, but I didn't think he would for two reasons. First, no one ever in history has been healed of LGD...not one documented case ever. Second, if God was going to do something he'd never done before, I didn't think he'd do it for someone like me.

Perhaps Abram was in the same boat. He'd seen God's work and hand in the world, but this was something very personal and deep and something Abram hadn't seen God do before. Maybe his laugh was one of that deep kind of joy that emanates from a soul deeply and personally touched by God. His reference to Ishmael was simply to test God's desire to "do it for him"? Kinda like, don't do this God if you're messin' with me...cause my wife and I want this real bad. And at the same time he's expressing disbelief that the God of the universe would do this for him...

My father was not healed on earth...but he has been in heaven...which is a far more miraculous thing. And I've seen God provide many fathers for me here on earth...including himself.

Now I believe God is big and powerful...and that he knows my name too...David.

Flesheater said...

So good.
We sometimes become almost arrogant with how much we trust G-d.
Thinking to ourselves "I trust G-d with my health, with my death, with my financial situation... etc." and we think we are ever so faithful because of this...

But then something happens... like our car brakes down and we don't know how we're going to get to work in the morning, and we say "oh no! what now"

To which G-d says "trust me, I'm in control and I will take care of you"

and we reply "how the hell are you going to take care of me? This situation is so dreadful!"

so much for our great faith...

great lesson to be learned in this chapter...