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1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. 5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” 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. 14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord. Silent Prayer Abraham was on a journey.  You’ll recall God made some promises to Abraham.  He told him that He would lead him to a new place and that all of the nations on the earth would be blessed through him.  So Abraham and his family started walking.  Chapter 12:5 of Genesis tells us that Abraham set out for Canaan and arrived there.  That’s why chapter 13:3 says that Abraham arrived again to the place where he had been earlier.  He had already gotten to the place where God was leading once, and had built several altars of worship to the Lord.  He left there because of a famine in the land, however, and went to Egypt in search of food.  While in Egypt, Abraham prospered, as did his nephew Lot.  And so our Scripture reading began in chapter 13 where Abraham left Egypt to go back to the land that the Lord had already taken him to in the first place.  Lot went with him.  Together they had so many livestock that they were going to need to split up so that each of them had land enough to sustain their livestock and people. Scripture says that they were cramping each others’ style so to speak, and they started arguing.  So, Abraham, being older and wiser said to Lot, “We need to split up and you go ahead and take your pick of the land and whatever you don’t want, I’ll take.” Family conflict can be tricky, so let’s learn something from Abraham.  He took the initiative in settling the dispute. He gave Lot first choice, even though Abraham, being older, had the right to choose first. Abraham also showed a willingness to risk being cheated. Abram’s example shows us how to respond to difficult family situations:  (1) Take the initiative in resolving conflicts; (2) let others have first choice, even if that means not getting what we want; (3) put family peace above personal desires. So, Lot takes him up on the offer.  We learn a lot about friendship with the world through Lot’s choices. It is easy to be CAPTIVATED by the things of this world. Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the land of Egypt. It’s easy to look at something and be dazzled by it or to look at something someone else has and be drawn to it.  There might be someone that you think has it all together and you’re aspiring to be just like them.  Just remember, all that glitters isn’t gold. Lot looked at the land in the natural realm.  He remembered how cushy things were in Egypt during the famine and he compared what he saw to what he had back in Egypt. He pitched his tent near Sodom, the fairest of all the cities of the Jordan valley. Genesis 13:10 calls it the Garden of God. There were palm trees, olive orchards, flowers that never ceased to bloom. The weather was never cold. Art and commerce enriched the people of this wealthy city. It was a beautiful city. He looked at the city and pictured a life of ease. But the Bible says the men of Sodom were wicked sinners. Lot had to know that.  Lot knew he was moving into the “danger zone.” Abraham saw the same view when he gave Lot first pick of the land, but he didn’t let that earthly view cause him to demand what appeared to be the best.  Just because it’s sparkly, shiny or new doesn’t mean it’s for you.  Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” In that culture where elders were revered and honored and first, the right thing to do would have been to insist that Abraham make the first choice or take the choicest land.  But Lot, having a taste of what success was like since he had acquired lots of possessions in Egypt, Lot, who knew the “good life,” he was looking for a way to keep it going.  He was on a roll and he wanted to do what he could to control what would happen next. When we’re captivated by worldly success or worldly standards, it’s easy to cut in front of people who ought to go first.  After all, it’s admirable to seek out a “sure thing” and make an investment there. The problem wasn’t with Lot’s desire to continue his success.  The problem was that he was making himself the source of that success and that he was so captivated by earthly thinking.  He made a decision based on what he could see with his eyes.  Christians aren’t supposed to evaluate their lives based on worldly principles or ideas or on what we see in the natural.  “For we walk by faith; not by sight.” II Cor. 5:7 Our citizenship is in heaven, Paul says in Philippians, and we are supposed to have our head in the clouds, so to speak, in that our minds are to be set on things that are above not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). There is no directive in Scripture to make it your goal to make as much money as you can, though there is nothing wrong with making money.  I’m thrilled every Monday when I walk into my office and my paycheck is there.  It’s important to pay the bills.  There is no encouragement in Scripture to have as much pleasure as you can, though there is nothing wrong with pleasure.  Put me on a rollercoaster and both hands will go in the air to ensure it will be as much fun as possible. There are countless Scriptures, however, on living a holy life, pleasing God and finding out what God’s will is and doing it and none of them can be successfully accomplished by using earthly, worldly ideas or methods. Perhaps too many of us are walking around thinking our earthly lives are ours to manage, and we’ll let God handle the eternity stuff.  “God I’ll take care of the job, house, car, vacation planning and child rearing.  I’ll turn things over to you when I quit breathing here.”  Friends, it doesn’t work that way.  All of our lives, our earthly and our eternal lives must belong to God and God alone.  We can’t straddle the fence between God’s way and the world’s way. James 4:4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Do you hear what God’s word says is possible?  It’s possible to be spiritual adulterers. Lot was captivated by a worldly ideal, and it led him to compromise.  How did he compromise? 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. When he had the choice of where to settle, he put his house close to a wicked, evil, sinful city.  And he didn’t do it with the motivation to evangelize those living in the city.  His motivation was to continue to live in prosperity at any cost.  He failed to recognize that wicked Sodom could provide temptations strong enough to destroy his family.  He didn’t consider what kind of impact living close to that wicked city might have on his family. Lot didn’t think through the fact that once you are captivated with a worldly way of thinking and with worldly motivations and compromise even slightly, it’s easy to be CONTAMINATED by the world. James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. According to this verse, it is possible for Christians to become polluted or contaminated by the world.  Many people think they’re strong enough to handle certain situations, but hear me clearly, putting yourself in worldly situations as a habit over time will take its toll on the strongest of believers. Lot had looked at Sodom.  Lot had moved toward Sodom and by Genesis 14, he was living in Sodom!  That’s the thing.  The pull and attraction of the world is so strong that when you give it your attention, you’ll find yourself inching closer and closer to it.  It sucks you in. Everywhere Abraham went, he built an altar to the Lord.  Scripture doesn’t record that Lot ever built an altar and sought the Lord.  There was a lack of regard for what God wanted in Lot’s life and in the life of his family, and it proved to be a costly mistake. I John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” We read in II Peter 2:7-8 that despite his choice, Lot himself was a righteous man.  He was somehow able to keep himself true to God, however, his family paid a high price for his poor decision.  When God destroys Sodom in chapter 19, he tells Lot to get his family and get out before the destruction happens.  His sons-in-law wouldn’t believe him that destruction was coming.  There was something about desiring to stay in Sodom that had chained their hearts there, and they chose to risk their lives rather than to believe the warning from their father-in-law.  They perished when the city was destroyed. Lot and his wife and two daughters got out, but they were instructed not to look back.  Many of you know the story in chapter 19.  Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. A little boy heard that story and piped up and said: “That’s nothing, my mother was driving our car last week, and she looked back and turned into a telephone pole!” J Anyway, back to the point.  Why did Lot’s wife look back? I believe it was because Sodom was more in her heart than God was. Sodom was her home town. It represented security and stability. Sodom was home for Lot’s wife.  I believe she had become contaminated by the ways of the worldly and evil people in Sodom to the point that she loved Sodom more than she loved God. So she looked back. She stood there perhaps weeping and not wanting to leave. Her wish was granted. She could have been a pillar in God’s church but alas she became a pillar of salt, which represents sin. When Mrs. Lot looked back, she would have been looking DOWN because Sodom was one thousand two hundred fifty feet below sea level. Don’t look down, church! Our eyes ought to be set upon a city whose maker is God. How often when we should be looking up we are instead looking down. Be careful what you look at because that’s the direction you’re going to go. You will be like what you constantly look at. By looking back at Sodom, Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt. Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me.” We have got to make up our minds that we will not look at, dwell on, focus on and constantly try to be near the wrong things.

Obviously Mrs. Lot’s decision to look back was her own decision, but the truth is, she wouldn’t have had an opportunity to grow fond of life in Sodom had Lot never chosen to pitch his tent near the place.  Don’t be naïve.  Your decisions impact the other people around you.  Don’t buy the devil’s lie that if no one will find out that you won’t be hurting anyone or that your choices only have consequences for you.  One day, a mother explained to her five-year-old daughter that if she chose to disobey her, she would have to live with the consequences. “Oh, Mommy!” she said with a terrified look on her face. “Please don’t make me live with “the Consequences.” I want to live here with you!”  Listen, every decision, whether worldly or godly will have a consequence.  Every decision you make sets into the spiritual atmosphere life or death, blessing or cursing, righteousness or destruction.  Lot may have gotten to live, but Lot’s decision was a bad one, and he had to live with the costly consequences.

I believe Lot’s daughters were negatively affected by Lot’s desire to live in Sodom.  Later in Genesis 19 we read that they were concerned that their family line wouldn’t be preserved as they had no children.  Using worldly wisdom, they got their father drunk on two separate occasions and had an intimate relationship with him in order to become pregnant.  Do you see how the world’s way of dealing with their dilemma had crept into their thinking making the notion of incest not only a possibility, but the choice they wound up making.  Lot’s family members had become contaminated by the world because he had been captivated by the worldly way of life. When we are captivated by the world’s way of life and put ourselves in a position where we can be contaminated by the world’s values and thinking, it is easy to be CAPTURED by the ways of the world. Lot wasn’t the only one who saw that the land was good near and in Sodom.  There were kings from the east that fought against the area of Sodom, defeated the city, and Lot was taken captive in Genesis 14:1-2. Had it not been for Abraham and his forces, Lot would have lost everything and would have been a slave back in Mesopotamia (Genesis 14:13-16)!  He went back to his old way of life only to have to flee for his life in chapter 19.  A once rich man, Lot and his two daughters wound up living in a cave.  What he had hoped to preserve and extend, his wealth, was now gone, along with many of his family members. I wonder what was going through Lot’s mind while he was in the cave after the destruction of Sodom. Was he reflecting back on that fateful day when he made his decision to pitch his tents toward Sodom? If he had to do it all over again, what choice would he have made? Abraham made an entirely different decision.  He was a faith walker, not a sight walker.  He was listening to and obeying the Spirit of God.  Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I have to wonder if the arguing and conflict between Abraham and Lot had its origin in the fact that Lot had incorporated worldly wisdom into his way of life while Abraham was trusting God by faith and consulting God in his decision making. Had Lot consulted God, he would have discovered that Sodom was on the agenda to be destroyed, but instead he trusted his own sight and chose the wealthy, wicked city. While Lot was getting farther from the Lord, Abraham was drawing closer! Lot was becoming a friend of the world (James 4:4); Abraham was becoming the friend of God (James 2:23). God told Abraham to lift up his eyes (Genesis 13:14-15) and behold the entire land. The people of the world claim what their eyes can see, while the people of faith claim what God’s eyes can see! Lot took a part of the land, but Abraham was given all of the land. God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him (Matt. 6:33). God promised to bless Abraham’s seed, but Lot’s family was either destroyed in Sodom or defiled in the cave (19:12-38). Read Genesis 12 and 13.  Everywhere Abraham went he set up an altar to worship God.  Proverbs 3:5-6 has the prescription for spiritual success, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” The world had influenced Lot to the point where he had been captured by its allure and empty promises.  Abraham, however, was captured by God.  His heart belonged to God.  That’s the reason Abraham didn’t feel compelled to be the first to pick where he would settle.  He knew he was in God’s hands and He wanted God’s choice, not a human, earthly or fleshly impression to lead him to a place to dwell. Abraham was told to lift up his eyes and look.  Lot did so on his own.  Abraham was waiting for God to give him the land.  Lot just took it. Maybe during all the time Lot spent in that land with Abraham, at night he would push back the flap of his tent and look out and say to Mrs. Lot, “Isn’t that a beautiful spot down there?” In the morning he would get up and say, “My, it looks so attractive down there!” The grass is always greener in the other pasture. When the day came that Lot could make a decision and go, you know the direction he went. No man falls suddenly. It always takes place over a period of time. You lift the flap of your tent, and you pitch your tent toward Sodom — and that’s the beginning. Casting Crowns recorded a song that speaks to this progression of being captivated by the world, contaminated by the world and eventually captured by the world.  The song is called “It’s a Slow Fade,” and it says: Be careful little eyes what you see It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings Be careful little feet where you go For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid When you give yourself away People never crumble in a day It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade Be careful little ears what you hear When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near Be careful little lips what you say For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray The journey from your mind to your hands Is shorter than you’re thinking Be careful if you think you stand You just might be sinking It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid When you give yourself away People never crumble in a day Daddies never crumble in a day Families never crumble in a day Oh be careful little eyes what see Oh be careful little eyes what you see For the Father up above is looking down in love Oh be careful little eyes what you see When Lot was traveling with Abraham to Canaan I’m sure he never thought, “My long range plan is to get as close to sin as possible and risk losing my wealth and family in the process.”  But it happened. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Captivated, contaminated, and caught, you will be conformed to the pattern of this world unless you are transformed by the renewing of your mind. Many of us, even Christians, have been brainwashed by the world and have allowed the philosophies and world’s logic impact the decisions we make and the way we treat others. The world says, “If it feels good, do it.” God says, “If you live after the flesh, you will die.” (Romans 8:13) The world says, “Have a good time while you can. You can settle down later.” God says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” The world says: Live for today. God says: Live for eternity. (Matthew 19:16) The world says: I love you because…God says: I love you in spite of… (1 John 4:9-7) The world says: I’ll believe it when I see it. God says: Blessed are those who believe without seeing. (John 20:29) The world says: Love is a feeling. God says: Love is a decision. (1 Corinthians 23:4-5) God wants to renew our minds.  He literally wants to clean them up by the truth of His Word.  James 1:5 says if you lack godly wisdom, ask for it, and God will grant it to you.  Once we know the truth of God’s Word, the Bible says, we’ll be truly free; free from the pull of the world and the slavery of sin.  Once we know the truth, God’s Spirit will empower us to make right choices. Perhaps you’re here this morning and you’ve pitched your tent toward Sodom.  You’ve let your curiosity lead you to explore a path that you know isn’t leading to the light; you know it isn’t God’s best for your life.  I’m telling you to pull up stakes and run the other direction by confessing the sin of worldliness and ask God for His wisdom for your life. John Bunyon said, “One leak will sink a ship.” How is your vessel this morning?  Are there any leaks in your spirit?  What has a hold of you?  What has arrested your attention and affection?  Whose wisdom are you living by?  The worlds?  Or God’s? Prayer
  • This week’s service project is to go wherever people are waiting and make a difference.  It could be a hospital waiting room, a doctor’s office, hair salon, wherever people have to wait.  Drop off some snacks, bottled water, quarters for vending machines, or crossword/Sudoku puzzles to help people pass the time.
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