A Salty Memorial

When we read the Old Testament, we may often feel that God was unjust. We may think that a God of compassion would not allow people to die or suffer. But remember suffering came into the world through the choice of two people, not through an act of God. No choice can be made without a ripple effect. The butterfly effect says that small causes can have big effects. 

In another Old Testament story we find a different memorial of sorts that came about through small causes or choices as the case may be. Abraham was a very wealthy man and so was his nephew Lot. They both had flocks and herds and tents. Eventually, strife developed between the men taking care of Abraham's flocks and herds and the men taking care of Lot's flocks and herds. Abraham did the right thing. He didn't want strife between he and his nephew, so he told Lot to pick the area of land to the north, south, east or west and then Abraham would go the opposite direction. There was plenty of land for everyone. 

Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.
— Genesis 13:10 (NASB)

Lot made a choice. To him it was a seemingly good choice. He wanted the land that looked pretty. This land was well watered and green. Like Egypt along the Nile, it was rich and fertile. Abraham settled in the lands of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley along the river Jordan. 

Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.
— Genesis 13:12-13 (NASB)

Please pay attention to the last sentence of verse 13, "Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord." This is where Lot decided to put down roots. He could have settled anywhere along the Jordan in that fertile valley, but for some reason he ended up in Sodom, a city full of wicked men who made a choice regularly to sin against God.

After a time, God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. This became known to Abraham on a different occasion. See that story in Genesis 18. He went to God in prayer and pleaded with him for the life of the one righteous person who lived there, his nephew Lot.

When we finally come in to the story, Lot is sitting in the gate of Sodom as many men used to do. It was a place of business, to converse, exchange news and make sales on merchandise or property. But what caught Lot's attention that night were the two strangers that arrived. He knew immediately they were not from the area. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that Lot recognized these men were "other worldly". The angels, of course, had no fear of spending the night in the square of that wicked city, but Lot urged them to come to his home and when there had a feast prepared. But the men of the city also saw the strangers and wanted them for their own sordid purposes. A crowd of them came to Lot's house:

"Hey! Lot! Send out those men who came into the city tonight! We want to have relations with them."

Now I am not going to get into a discussion on what two consenting adults do, but these men were not looking for consent! They were looking for violence and perversion. Lot was so intent on preserving the honor of the two strangers under his roof that he was willing to sacrifice his own daughters to the mob outside. Hmmmm! Not sure how I feel about that. But there is more on that butterfly effect later. The angels temporarily blinded the men outside of Lot's home and told him to prepare to leave town. Lot even tried to convince his future sons-in-law to come with them, but they thought he was joking.

The next morning the angels grabbed Lot, his wife and their two daughters and fled with them out of the city. They told Lot to flee to the mountains, but Lot refused and asked if they could just go to the neighboring city of Zoar. Again, I question this man's choices. The angels agreed, because the compassion of God was on Lot. They were told to escape for their lives and to not look back. Then God rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. Unfortunately, Lot's wife looked back. I often wonder what caused her to look back. Was she curious? Was she grieving for the life she was losing? Was she sad because they had to leave their future sons-in-law behind? Did she have to leave behind her pearls and mink coat? Whatever the case may be she was changed in an instant into a pillar of salt.


This whole story is disconcerting to me and it all started with the somewhat selfish choice of Lot. He saw the fertile valley, he wanted the best for himself. Okay, so I can see that, but why then did he settle in the most wicked city of all? The memorial is the pillar of salt. Another reminder of what was, and what could have been. Obviously, that pillar is long gone, but I cannot look at a salt shaker without thinking of Lot's choices and the "butterfly effect" they had on his whole family. And he suffered in every way for his choices. His wife died and his daughters went on to have an incestuous relationship with him while he was drunk to guarantee they have children. You can't tell me that Lot's choice didn't affect his family for generations.

Memorials are about remembering. Maybe today would be a good day to think of a memorial that you could set up in your heart to remind you that your choices do have long term effects. All of our choices do. Let's try to make some good ones.

Get Out the Gardening Tools!

This month I have been talking about the idea of growth; growth in our faith, families, friendships and our diets. As we draw near to the end of the month I'd like to look at tools that we can use to help grow the gardens that we tend called life. When I decide to do some work in my flower beds I get out my gardening tools. I put on gloves, pull out my kneeling pad and gather my pocket pruners, trowel and cultivator. For bigger jobs I might need a shovel or a full sized rake. I pick the tools according to the job I am going to do. Our faith needs to be tended in the same way and we need to seek God's wisdom for the appropriate tools to bring growth in our lives. The following are just a few of the tools I use to grow my faith.


1. Bible study. In my belief system the Bible is God's written word to humanity. I go to His word to learn about His character and to read the history of the nation of Israel and the church. Often people are intimidated by the Bible saying it is too difficult to understand. Others believe the Bible to be full of contradictions and fairy tales. Still others feel that the "religion" that is based on Biblical belief to be harsh and legalistic. I feel that in order to have a better understanding of something or someone I must do research myself. If I want to cook, I don't just watch cooking shows. I have to actually buy the ingredients, get out the tools, mix it together, turn on the stove and put it in. Growth in any area requires a genuine interest in learning and having an open mind about the subject in question. When I go to God's word, I want to learn. I want to know Him more. I want to delve into His deeper layers. If I want to know more about my azalea bushes I need to read about them. If I want to help them to grow and flourish I will learn what is best for them. If I want to grow and flourish in my Christian faith, I go to the source. He knows what is best for me and He wants to see me flourish.

2. Other authors. There are many good authors who write about topics that can help us grow. Many of these authors have educational and experiential backgrounds that have given them knowledge of life and how to live it responsibly. They also have the Holy Spirit who has given them Godly wisdom and insight.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
— 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (NASB)

Sometimes I will choose a book based on a study of the Bible such as Oswald Chambers' Our Ultimate Refuge: Job and the Problem of Suffering. Or I might choose a book based on the author's reputation for biblical teaching, like Ravi Zacharias' The Grand Weaver. I have also heard of books through my friends including One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. My other personal favorites include authors from years ago such as A.W. Tozer's The Crucified Life: How to Live Out a Deeper Christian Experience or Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. Any of these books or other books by these authors and many others provide added wisdom and knowledge about God and the Christian life that will help us to grow.

3. Fellowship. Webster's dictionary defines fellowship as "a community of interest, activity, feeling or experience." My husband and I currently do not attend a church regularly. We had been regular attenders at a local evangelical church for many years. We enjoyed the community of people who had interests in faith like our own and we raised our girls within that community. Unfortunately last year we learned a devastating piece of news which caused us to leave that fellowship. Having been without regular interaction with others who share our faith we feel a sense of sorrow and loss that watching preachers on Youtube cannot fill. While we do intend to eventually find a fellowship again, this experience has caused me to realize just how important a community of believers is to the regular growth of our faith. We know that no fellowship where people are involved will be without difficulty, but community is what God desires for us as we walk in this world. We can learn from each other and we are also supposed to be there to help others in their pain and difficulties.

4. Circumstances. I shared with you earlier this month one of my own personal stories of growth. I believe that God uses the circumstances in our lives to mold us, teach us and help us to grow. That being said we do have a choice as to whether we do grow or not. God isn't going to force us. Part of growing is taking ownership, not only of my beliefs, but of my thoughts, actions and reactions to the circumstances I find myself in. I have found in my own life that obedience is key to growth. When I am struggling with something, say my relationship with my spouse and God shows me an area I need to bring under His authority, I pray that He will help me to make the better choice. When I do make that choice (and I don't always) then it seems as though God opens up a deeper layer of Himself to my spiritual understanding. Growth happens when the choice is made to obey what God is speaking into our lives at the moment. That doesn't mean you won't struggle with the same thing again tomorrow, but it does mean that today you made the choice to grow.

God is capable of causing us to grow in many ways and the ways I mentioned above are a few of the things He has used in my life to bring about growth in my faith. In the comments section below I would love to hear your stories of growth, or some of the tools God has used to bring growth to your garden.