There’s something forgiving about beginnings. After we’ve spent months, sometimes years, rehashing regrets and sins committed against us, at some point we want to start over, to wipe the slate clean, so to speak.
As this year comes to an end, at least half of the nation will contemplate setting new goals. In order to successfully do that, we must deal with causes of failures. If we don’t, we face the possibility of repeating our mistakes. That leads to discouragement, regret, and more poor choices.
What if we could break the cycle of failure? What if we could accomplish all that we set out to do?
Instead of beginning a new year with resolutions we know in our gut we won’t keep, why not begin with a renewed commitment to involve God in all we do. I don’t mean the kind of commitment attached to a John 3:16 Mission (although that’s a noble task), or a determination to read the bible in a year (no offense to Mitch or our elders), or tying ourselves to an exercise program. Those things are good, but most of us fail at them.
I’m referring to a commitment where we involve Him in everything we do. Period. If I want to take a shower, I ask Him to help me relax and to transform my attitude for the rest of the day. If I want to sit and relax in front of the television set, I ask Him to help me make a better choice in regard to what I watch. If my telephone rings, I ask Him to please help me be courteous and attentive, no matter who is on the other end of the line. And if I want to finish the curtains in the dining room (or whatever project you or I started months ago), I ask Him to give me the enthusiasm and stamina needed to finish them.
If it hasn’t occurred to you, this takes pressure off your daily life and places it at the altar of our Father. We know we need Him every hour, but sometimes we don’t live as if we believe it. Often, we don’t stop and ask God what He thinks about our decisions. We just go about our lives fumbling in the dark assured by some osmosis that our goals will be accomplished. Then we end up frustrated when our goals aren’t met.
We never involved Him in our daily living. We never bent our knees and gave Him our worries. We never asked for the strength to get on a treadmill, or if we should travel to Germany for that mission trip, or talk to a co-worker who doesn’t dress appropriately, or tell a sister or brother they hurt our feelings. We just wake up and take for granted that what we want will be done, or that past hurt feelings will take care of themselves.
We forget God cares about every aspect of our lives. We forget He made not only the spiritual side of us, but the emotional, mental, and physical, too. He placed within us a heart and mind to serve Him. It is written:
“18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. 20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” ─ Matthew 21:18-22
When was the last time you consulted God concerning every aspect of your life, from an ingrown toenail to a pick-up game of basketball?
If we want to succeed in the coming year, we must come to Him with an open heart, and a believing mind and spirit, and a faith without doubt. Prayers can be prayed anywhere at any time. Calling on Him is only a breath away.
Here is my challenge to you.
Use your computer to keep track of your journey this year. At the end of the year when you look back, I anticipate you will be amazed how far God has taken you, both in spiritual growth and personal goals. I suspect your achievements will far outreach any you’ve ever endeavored. I’m not necessarily looking for how long you were able to keep up your exercise routine, or if you ran a marathon. The aim of the challenge is for you to seek and involve God in whatever you determine to do. If your goal is to run a marathon, then so be it. However, if you aim to run a marathon and find God has somehow taken you on a deeper spiritual journey, how amazing would that be?
Let’s end this year with a 31-day prayer for the coming year. Begin praying each day in December 2013 for God to give you a believing spirit (Oh, God, help our unbelief), strength, remembrance, and the desire to seek Him for all that you need and set out to do next year.
Then at the end of next year (December 1, 2014, to be precise), let’s compare notes of our twelve-month journey. If He is in agreement, I’ll see you this time next year.
Merry Christmas! And a Happy and Spiritual New Year!!!
To those of you who give of your generous time to read my blogs and short stories, I want to introduce you to “Ruby for Women,” a Christian web magazine that includes short stories, poems, how-tos, recipes, arts and crafts, words of encouragement, biblical editorials, and other spiritual benefits to help us through our Christian journey. The content is encouraging and uplifting. The hard work put into the production of this web magazine is shown through its colorful artwork and professional display. Last year “Ruby for Women” published my short story, “A Thanksgiving Tradition.” The artwork added to its warmth and down-home feel.
Please visit http://rubyforwomen.com/ . There is no “sign-in.” You won’t be disappointed. I am on their Blogger Team and there’s a good chance you might see stories I’ve written for this magazine that may not be published anywhere else. If you decide to sign up, you will get a message when new issues are published. I have a short story to be published in the fall issue entitled “Selfish Ambition.” You can go to the summer issue of the magazine and read a synopsis of the story. Look in the summer issue’s Table of Contents and look for “Selfish Ambition.”
“Ruby for Women” also posted my Christmas story, “A Change of Heart” in December 2013. Please leave comments and let Ruby for Women know what subjects you would like writers to address. We’d be happy to accommodate.
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
Sodom and Gomorrah were wealthy communities located in the Dead Sea region. Among their riches was an abundance of bitumen, water, and fertile soil.
Bitumen to them is what oil is to the United States. It’s a black or brown oily substance, flammable, gelatinous, tar-like, and contains a waterproofing agent. Just as there are many derivatives from oil (petroleum jelly, tar, gasoline, paraffin wax, fuel oil, Kerosene, and jet fuel, to name a few), there are just as many derivatives from bitumen. If you need a visual for bitumen, think “asphalt.” They used it on rooftops as a water-repellant and burned it at the end of poles to light the night. Noah’s descendants used it between mud bricks when they built the Tower of Babel.
Bitumen is one of many natural resources that turned Sodom and Gomorrah into a rich community. Their riches were so great that neighboring kingdoms often attacked them and took away portions of their wealth and food. (Genesis 14:11) But apparently Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t encounter enough strife from these kingdoms to make them seek God’s help or His favor. God told Abraham:
“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” —Genesis 18:20-21
What was Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s sin against God?
In my quest to answer this question, I encountered a lot of debate regarding many scholars’ inability to definitively prove what sin was committed. I don’t believe the answer is hard to find. I found eight (8) of them in the Old Testament, and several from the teachings of Jesus.
Sins No. 1 and 2: Lack of Hospitality and Stubbornness.
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” —Matthew 10:14
Anytime Jesus uses the Old Testament as a point of reference, it always relates to the message He’s conveying to His audience. Here, He is talking to the disciples and warning them not to waste time with those who refuse to listen and obey. Then he goes on to compare these hardheaded people with Sodom and Gomorrah. There would be no need to make such comparisons if the subjects didn’t have something in common.
Some believe the lack of hospitality was so great among these people that they treated strangers rudely, to the point of disfiguring some and casting out others. I ran across one such incident in my reading that mentioned that these two communities would give a bed to a stranger, but if he were too short, they would stretch out his body to make it fit; if he were too long, they’d cut off his legs. Since this account is not the crucial point of this editorial, I did not spend time researching to prove or disprove this particular matter. However, to think a people would be this inhospitable is beyond me.
Sins No. 3, 4 and 5: Sexual Immorality, Lying, and Adultery.
“They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’” —Genesis 19:5
“And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me, the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.” —Jeremiah 23:14
The New International Version (NIV) uses the words “sex with them” and the King James Version (KJV) uses the word “know them.” No matter how we interpret these words, you get the idea these people didn’t want to sit and have supper with these men (angels). Their intentions weren’t good. If you read further:
“Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’” —Genesis 19:6-8
“‘Get out of our way,’ they replied.” —Genesis 19:9
For Lot to offer his daughters as an appeasement for the insatiable appetite of these men, leads me to conclude one of their sins included sexual misconduct.
Also, look at the following:
“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” —Jude 1:7
Apart from the obvious, there’s something very interesting here that I must point out. Although Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned many times in the bible, Jude makes it clear they weren’t the only cities destroyed. As I read this scripture again, I can’t ignore what Jude says “. . . Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns. . . .”
Archaeologists have found many sites with charred remains all over the southern portions of the Dead Sea. They have a difficult time deciphering which sites are truly Sodom and Gomorrah.
In addition, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns had problems with adultery and lying.
Sins No. 6, 7 and 8: Arrogance, Unkindness, and Haughtiness.
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen.” —Ezekiel 16:49-50
How many times have we been unkind to those providing service, or our neighbors? Listen to God as He speaks through Paul:
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” —Romans 12:9-13
“On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” —Romans 12:20-21
Born out of Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s wealth was the spirit of arrogance, which bred haughtiness, which bred unkindness. To point the finger at wealthy Americans who haven’t been as generous as they should isn’t going far enough. People of all economic status share these shortcomings.
It stems from the belief that everything we have and worked for is derived from our own hands. But what is success, money, or power apart from God?
Sodom and Gomorrah firmly believed their prosperity came by way of their own hands. From their vantage point, there was no need to offer thanksgiving to God. He must have been insulted! According to Ezekiel 16:49-50, out of their abundance, they didn’t share any of it. Haughty means: arrogant; to be proud in a manner that shows disdain for others. When you feel this level of pride, you don’t treat others kindly—they are beneath you.
If you look at these sins collectively, you can understand why God was so angry with Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns. Ungratefulness is an abomination and leads to spiritual death.
Let us not get so caught up that we don’t heed to the righteous living to which God calls us.
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
November 1, 2013
 Israel – A History of Sodom and Gomorrah: