Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.” – Genesis 13: 8-9 (NLT) Choices. Our lives are made up of a series of choices. Some with meaning only for that day or that moment but others that can have ramifications far reaching into our futures and determine the course our lives. If you interviewed the most secularly successful people I am confident they can trace back their success to a singular choice they made in their lives that set in motion the course of prosperity. Maybe the choice to attend college. Maybe the choice of taking one job over another. Maybe the choice to enter into a partnership or the choice not to enter into a partnership with one person or another. If you were to interview people who felt they were at the end of their rope I am sure they can trace back the downward spiral to a choice they wish they could take back. Marrying the wrong person. Moving to the wrong state. Dropping out of high school. The point is that we need to be more respectful of the choices we have to make in this life and recognize that they often wield a power greater than we can see. We have a habit of bringing God our problems – after we have made the choices that resulted in them. God would much rather we bring Him our choices, so that we do not have to experience the problems associated with poor decisions. So we turn to the Bible and seek some principles to apply here for our lives. We turn to the story of Abram and his nephew Lot. They had both become very successful and were blessed by God. They were both prospering greatly and as always seems the case, trouble starts brewing in their lives. It seems their herdsmen couldn’t get along with each other and they did not handle the prosperity well. That is principle number one for us today. We need to learn how to handle success better than we do. We are a nation of sore winners sometimes. We see this even within the church and how it acts sometimes towards the world. Instead of being gracious and humbled by the unbelievable grace God has shown us we can tend to lord it over the unsaved. We can turn a collective nose up to the very people God wants us to reach with the Gospel. We can turn the church into a country club where membership is required if you want to participate in the fine pageantry, the next Christmas Cantata, or staged youth services. The very act of salvation, which should be the most humbling event in our lives, can turn into a source of pride when we then look outward to the very places God once saved us from. We disdain the very conditions we once lived in. We might be willing to be the hands of Christ but only after we put rubber gloves on. We need to follow the example of the one we claim to follow: Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. – Matthew 8: 2-3 (NLT) Jesus did not have to touch the leper to cleanse him. He was making a point to touch what no one else would dare come near. While the world was shouting “unclean” – Jesus was reaching out and touching those that no one else would. We should do no less. Let us not fall into the trap of being poor “winners.” Secondly from the key verses we see the principle of what is important in life. This world values material wealth and getting over on the next guy. Abram correctly recognizes that what is important here is the relationship he has with his nephew. There is no discussion of who is right or who is wrong. There is no “one-upmanship” about whose herdsmen were technically correct. While life is often a series of choices, the value in our lives comes from the people God pours into them. If you are too busy holding onto your possessions tightly, you will not have an arm free to hug someone you care about. Too often in this society we wait until the grave to give someone the flowers they deserved while they were alive. It should not be so. We simply do not appreciate very well the people in our lives until we lose them. The longer the relationship, such as family, the more we take them for granted. The Bible describes this life as a glimmer or just a vapor that is here one second and gone the next. When you leave your house in the morning you do not know if you will be coming home. Or your friends. Or your family. Or the people in church you love. Abram took a dispute that probably stemmed from material issues and boiled it right down to what is important – his relationship with Lot. This is actually how Jesus said the world would know we were followers of Christ: So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13: 34-35 (NLT) But too often these days the world cannot tell the church apart from itself. We have greed just like the world. We dislike each other just like the world. Where is the love? Where is the love that defines us as Christians? Where is the love that Abram showed Lot on the plains that day to stop and say that he was more important than any disagreement our people might be having together. Lastly, principle number three is don’t use the logic of this world to make your decisions – just trust God! Look at the confidence Abram has in the God he serves! He literally tells Lot to pick whatever direction he wants! You go east and I will go west. You go west and I will go east. It doesn’t matter what you pick of course because wherever I go – God is coming with me! And what does Lot do? He does what any one of would do I guess – he picks what looks best according to our limited worldview: Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord. – Genesis 13: 10-13 (NLT) Lot saw the fertile land and the flowing waters but ignored the sinful state of the people he would be placing himself and his family around. We can tend to do the same. We see what is most pleasing in this world and we too pitch our tents towards Sodom. We mix a little bit of the world in with our lives and soon we find ourselves living in Sodom. The next time we see Lot again – he is in fact living in Sodom. You cannot mess around with the world just a little bit. You cannot merely pitch your tent towards the world because it will suck you in. Abram was able to save Lot from his poor choice but the episode cost him dearly. Abram however did just fine going the other way. God specializes in taking the lemons we think our life has become and making the sweetest lemonade out of them. We need however to learn the lessons He is trying to teach us in His Word. For today, that we need to handle our successes better and with increasing humility because pride is always an easy entry point for the devil into our thinking. We must value the people God has given us not the things the world dangles in our face. Possessions can always be replaced. Money can always be remade. People however are a perishable commodity. We were meant for fellowship and community. People with large groups of friends and families simply live longer studies have proven. Lastly, while our lives are a series of choices, we need to learn to turn them over to God and trust that He knows the better direction even if it goes against everything the world might say. Pitch your tents towards the things of God today. Rev. Anthony.