This past Sunday through Tuesday I was leading my pastoral team in a prayer and planning retreat in the mountains. It was awesome. Funny moment: We went to a natural hotsprings right on a riverbank. It’s completely wild, no tourist flavor. Just you and the outdoors.

Yeah, well… speaking of natural, or should I say, au naturale, our associate Pastor was glancing around when he got a shock. “That guy is naked!” he thought. And a second later… “That’s not a guy!” Oops. Luckily Shauna was with me and said, “Uh, you may not want to look to the right.” Saved!

On a completely different note, prayer and planning retreats accentuate a tension we all should feel when looking strategically at our lives: It’s good to plan, but as we follow God there is a distinct pressure to fulfill God’s promises for him. To push too hard. Good planning lets God lead and gives him room to work. Sometimes we push too hard and get ahead of Jesus.

Abram knows this all too well. God promised him a son, remember? And the years were ticking. Then the decades. Finally, it was the eleventh hour. He was getting old. Reaaallly old. So he decided to “help God” answer the prayer. By sleeping with the maid.

Sigh. Ishmael was born. Boy born of the flesh.
And then God came through. Enter boy #2: Isaac. Boy born of the promise. The two boys are still fighting: The arab world, descended from Ishmael, and Israel, descended from Isaac. Don’t misunderstand: God loves Ishmael too. It’s just that life got a whole lot more complicated than it had to because Abram jumped ahead of God.

This is terrifying. If you push too hard, too soon, you can create an Ishmael that might rob you of God’s best, his promise!

Jesus, keep us in step with you!