Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Genesis 27- The Blessing of the Father

So many parents today have lost the importance of blessing their children. A blessing instills a vision for the child's life that only the older generation with greater perspective can offer. In this chapter, Isaac plans to bless Esau the oldest child, but through trickery ends up blessing Jacob the younger.

Rebekah didn't need to take the blessing from Esau to secure the blessing on Jacob. She had been told that Jacob would be blessed of God. Yet in some strange way God uses even this trickery to demonstrate to Isaac that Jacob is his chosen. But this deception would deeply hurt his father and bring threats on his life from his brother.

While blessing our children is a privilege we do not want to let pass, when we become born again into the Spirit, we receive the greatest blessing. We have the hope of Heaven and His Spirit within us here. Passage after passage give us vision for our future and wisdom for the days we live in.

You don't have to worry about the blessing being in limited supply because God has enough love that every human could have this blessing if only they would accept it.

Your parents may not have given you their blessing but child of God you are blessed. Jeremiah 29:11 is God's blessing for you today. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Accept this blessing today and know you have the best of all futures - eternity in Heaven and grace for the day!

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Genesis 26 - The Perils of Compromise

This chapter starts by informing us that there was a famine in the land. Isaac goes to the King of Philistia and must have been planning to go on to Egypt because The Lord appears directly to him to warn him to stay in the land and God would bless him there and be with him.

You would think that this would provide Isaac some comfort that he could live on the high road and be assured of protection from God, but he decides to compromise his relationship with Rebekah to secure his own safety. Didn't he learn anything from his father's mistakes? Perhaps that is precisely where he learned it. There is a lesson in parenting there that we can't spend time on right now.

Isaac tells the men of the land that Rebekah is his sister so that he can live there in peace and safety. Abimelech the King sees him cavorting with Rebekah and calls him out on his lie. Abimelech holds the covenant of marriage higher than Isaac because he recognizes that if his men were to have slept with Rebekah they would have sinned. After explaining to the King his thinking, he is allowed to live in the land and God makes him wealthy. In envy, the men of the land create strife causing him to move further and further away. Finally once he gets far enough away to live in peace the King comes to strike a peace agreement with him.

The lessons I think we can learn from this is that we need to stay in close connection with God. If God gives his command he will supply the clear direction to fulfill the command. Notice Isaac didn't feel the need to pray about offering Rebekah as his sister to the men of the land and he didn't feel compelled to pray about the agreement with the king. In both cases his man made solutions brought him strife and grief. No surprise that his favored son Esau got a wife from foreigners. He was following in the footsteps of compromise.

Before we beat Isaac up too much, let's take time to reflect on the ways we have followed that same path. I know when I am in the midst of unbelievers at a meal I hesitate to offer a corporate prayer for the meal but pray silently so as not to disturb the group. How many times have I failed to witness when I was uncomfortable or didn't know what to say. Or perhaps created a solution that seemed to meet God's command but allowed me to live among the world I disturbed. Dear reader the world should be disturbed. Our ways should be God's ways and different from the world. It should make us uncomfortable to live among the world and the world uncomfortable to live with us. When we became Christians our whole heart should be devoted to living for The Lord as living sacrifices, but too often we have compromised.

Let me bring this principle into the realm of financial decisions. How many of us have accumulated debt because we gave into our immediate wants and presumed upon God to continue to supply as he had in the past? How often do we pray before swiping and wait for an assurance of Gods clear direction applied to our lives. Another example, have we failed to be faithful in our giving to God and in reaching out to those in need because we obligate our funds to meeting our current wants? If we had sacrificed even just a little could we have had greater impact for The Lord?

Isaac shows us that compromise may bring the exact opposite effect from the desired goal. Let's us make a practice of prayer and applying ourselves to obedience rather than making a way for ourselves that compromises with the world. It will be the harder way but in the end it may make us stand apart from the world enough that people say, "I see God has blessed you". A challenge from God's word to us.

Father, we want to serve you well and we recognize that we live in a world that is sometimes hostile to you. Help us to live wisely and let our witness shine brightly for you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Genesis 25 - Wasting Our Blessing

In Chapter 25 of Genesis we find the story of Jacob and Esau. If you have been a believer long, you probably know the story well. Esau came home presumably from a day of hunting game and was hungry; he sees Jacob cooking stew and begs for some.

Now we could chastise Jacob for being conniving but bottom line is that Esau gave up a spiritual benefit in favor of a little comfort in the "now". That is where we also find ourselves. We must choose between the temporal and the eternal on a daily basis. We all have the desire to avoid suffering, but sometimes bearing with a little discomfort can yield much richer benefits in the long run.

Jesus himself gave up the glory of Heaven in order to accomplish the mission of sacrificing himself for the benefit of our eternal souls. Jesus paid a price he didn't have to and suffered for us so that we could have redemption from the slavery of sin.

I don't want to get political, but this seems to be precisely the issue we faced in our last election. The majority of the nation selected the option of keeping government entitlements for the now while sacrificing future options.

I don't want to get personal here, and forgive me if I step on toes, but don't we do they same when we become reliant on credit to sustain our current needs while forfeiting long term options for our own future?

Our modern day Jacob's still exist and they wait to take advantage of those who are ill-prepared and foolish. They are ready with scams, high cost loans, manipulation of all sorts. As good stewards we should be wise and consider the long term as well as the short when making our choices.

Greed and the avoidance of discomfort are ingrained in our sin nature, but sometimes the better option is only available with the discomfort of hard work and sacrifice. In the pain, God speaks to our hearts and reminds us of his sovereignty. In suffering we abandon our self-reliance and pray to the one who is able to help us.

In Luke 9:23-25, Jesus said, "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self."

The last words of the chapter say it best - so Esau despised his birthright. Let it never be said of you dear friend that you abandoned the hope you have for all eternity in favor of a little comfort here. The world is watching us; will we choose to live like they do or will we live like Christ before them?

Dear Heavenly Father, we have temptations all around us and our sin nature desires pleasures that would not honor you. Help us to reject our sin nature and to embrace your cross as our hope of eternal deliverance from evil. In our daily choices, help us to be wise and honor you above all earthly comforts. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Genesis 24 - God Ordering Events

Abraham wanted to provide for his son a wife, but wisely he recognized that if the wife were to come from the land where they lived, Isaac would be constantly exposed to foreign gods and false worship. If you think that a wife has little influence over her husbands spiritual condition, look up the story of Solomon. But I digress.

Something remarkable happens with Abraham's servant sent on a mission to find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham's people. It would seem that when he arrived he would just ask about the family of Abraham's brother and be directed to the place of the relatives (that is how I might have done it). But the servant prays instead asking for a specific sign that this is the one. When asked for a drink, she will not only provide for him but also for his camels. (A very generous offer considering how much camels can drink). Rebekah comes out just as he is finished praying and does exactly what he had asked for in his prayer.

Have you ever had a prayer answered so specifically that there was no doubt God answered it? When we pray we should be specific in our prayers. Not that God needs the details but see how it confirmed the faith of the servant and how he dropped down to worship God right there.

Another benefit of specific prayer is that it provides a testimony that others might believe. When the servant shared his story with Rebekah's family, they commented that this must be from The Lord (verse 69 says, "this is from The Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other". They were prepared to say farewell to their daughter because they believed the testimony of the servant.

Perhaps we could win even more souls for The Lord if only we would dedicate ourselves more to prayer and share the answered prayers with those we meet.

There are some key lessons I find for our stewardship.

1. The servant prayed first - we are prone to praying on a matter only after our plans fail.
2. God moved specifically in response to a specific prayer offered in faith. And by the way directed the servant to exactly the right girl for Isaac. No doubt she was selected by God for him.
3. The servant worshipped God when his faith was confirmed in answered prayer.
4. Others believed that this was of God as a result if his testimony. First Rebekah and also her family.
5. Rebekah and her family acted in faith and let her go to meet her husband. What amazing thing will God show you if you will take your faith into action?

I am praying even now that my nieces and nephews will be guided to the mate of God's choosing; one that will increase their faith and not guide them into false worship. They are all as of this writing single. I am praying that God will strengthen my witness not only in my home as I minister to my husband, but also to others as I share God's wonderful story and how He continues to answer my prayers.

Let's pray together.

Dear Heavenly Father, help us to act in faith today and we pray you will guide the events of our days to create a stronger faith in us and a bolder witness to the world. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Genesis 23 - Buying What You Own

Abraham had been given the land in which he lived by God. The land that still belongs to the nation of Israel today. Yet when Sarah passes, he goes to the Hittites occupying the land and offers to purchase a small plot at the end of a field to use as a burial site.

Abraham could have demanded the land and said "this is mine" but he recognized his best course of action was to live in harmony with the occupants of the land and wait for God to act in his behalf.

I am not extending this commentary to today's Israeli conflicts. It does sadden me to see that such dissension still continues over this land, but I am trusting that soon the Lord's coming will make things right.

The lesson I take from this passage is more for me and my stewardship. I may be able to maintain a better witness among the unbelievers of my time if I don't exercise every right and give respect to what others see as their rights.

The Hittites claimed the land and Abraham did not disrupt that claim to exercise his authority. Even in giving honor to the people of the land they were quick to offer him the site for free, but notice he didn't accept that offer.

Abraham didn't want there to be any confusion about who gave the land. It came from God and not as a gift from the Hittites.

In this way, he kept his inheritance pure, no one could say they had anything to do with it, he maintained a good name among the people of the land and secured future opportunities to witness to the people.

In the same way that God moved in the relationships of the people of that day, God will move before you in the relationships you have. Our responsibility is to hold God's name high and to show honor to others.

Dear Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the way you keep us in your care providing for our needs. Help us to be wise in our relationships with unbelievers so that we may hold your name high before them and secure opportunities to witness before them. We look for the return of your son, our Savior, Jesus Christ in who's name we pray. Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Genesis 22 - How Much Does God Own?

Abraham's faith was strongly tested when God asked that he sacrifice Isaac. His only remaining son and the son God promised would be his legacy. Abraham would in the flesh have doubted this command and reasoned that God wouldn't ask him to sacrifice his own son.

This was not a small sacrifice. This was relinquishment of everything he held dear. Yet his faith in God was so great that he believed God would even raise his son from the dead if he were sacrificed. His faith was absolute in the promises of God. His unwavering obedience even in the face of the death of his son gives us pause for reflection.

We also get a beautiful picture of Messiah here. Jesus, God's only son was sacrificed for our sin. Sin has such a high price that it deserves death. Jesus was sinless, but God heaped upon him your sin, my sin, and the sins of thousands of others who may not even accept Him as Lord, but He made provision for us to enjoy fellowship restore with the Father. Jesus gave his all.

Abraham did not withhold anything from God. He willingly obeyed even when the sacrifice was dear. In America we know little if what sacrifice means. We have been affluent for many years and it seems to have kept us from placing our full trust in God because to some degree we attribute our wealth to our hard work and not to God's provision. True faith allows God access to any relationship and any asset for His purposes.

If we are laying up for ourselves treasure here or keeping it in a way that God cannot use it for His glory we are only giving him a partial Lordship of our lives. Our stewardship may demand a sacrifice; will God find us willing to yield to him even the dearest?

God may never ask you to sacrifice your children, but he may ask you to forfeit some of the security wealth has falsely provided you or he may ask you to swallow your pride and make yourself vulnerable in a relationship so that His love might flow through you to witness to a hardened heart.

Dear friends, no matter what God requires, His provision is more than sufficient. Can we show the same faith and trust that Abraham displayed? We serve the same God and He is still mighty and powerful in every circumstance we face.

Dear Heavenly Father, we stand amazed at the faith of Abraham, but we recognize that he walked closely with you and developed an intimate trust in your character. As we go about our day today, help us to walk closely with you so that we can grow in the knowledge of who you are and respond in quick obedience. All that we have comes from your hand. Help us to hold all things loosely for your use at your discretion. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Genesis 21 - Open-Handed Living

In this chapter we see evidences of Abraham's faith expressed in action. Our stewardship is just empty action if it is not done in faith and faith without obedience is just as dead. Abraham was a man if both faith and action as we see here.

Abraham in obedience to God's command to circumcise every male obeyed God. Isaac was eight days old when he was dedicated to God in this way. Our faith will require acts of obedience; it is our demonstration of love for our Master. Abraham opened his hand to yield him to God.

Likewise, Abraham was challenged to let Hagar and Ishmael go away. Abraham loved Ishmael, but it was clear there was division in his home because of his presence. God assures Abraham his son will grow into a nation of people because he belongs to Abraham. Though it broke his heart, he said goodby to his first son and sent them on their way. A faith that obeys even when the cost is great is a genuine faith. Can you trust God even if He should remove from your life the most precious person you know? Abraham did.

Finally, Abraham has another encounter with Abimelech. The king is obviously concerned that he could easily become Abrahams servant given that God is so powerfully with him. So he requests a treaty. Abraham could have demanded rights to the well he dug, but instead chose to appease the king by buying the well with some of his flock. Abraham saw wealth as a tool to be used in demonstrating God's presence. His wealth could be redirected at any time and he would have still worshipped God.

I think it is significant that Abraham called on the God to cap off this chapter. He continually looks to God for His next move and to praise Him for His lovingkindness toward His servant.

How will you demonstrate your live for The Lord today? Will it be through obedience, faithfulness in hard choices, or in committing your wealth for God's plan in your life and letting go of possessions? I don't know what God may have in store for me today but I will commit myself to calling on his name in worship and adoration.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for caring so deeply for us that you would intervene in our lives while we were hatefully sinning against you and providing for our salvation. Apart from your intervention we would be forever lost. Because of your great love we are redeemed and even made to be heirs. How excellent are your plans. We don't deserve any if this but like Christmas gifts lavished on young children you have given us more than we could hope for. Help us to live with open hands toward you that you may direct every resource and every relationship. We will be careful to give you the honor praise and glory. In Jesus' name we pray.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Genesis 20 - When No One Can be Trusted

For the second time and in another kingdom Abraham allows his wife to be taken into the king's harem. Sarah complies recognizing her husband's authority and becomes the property of the king. What amazing character Sarah must have had to willingly submit.

Abraham was clearly wrong to do this. It seems obvious he did not pray or look for God's counsel in this. Furthermore, this is a second instance of the same foolish behavior. He either didn't repent of his sin or had very short term memory. He certainly didn't appear to be her knight in shining armor to defend her.

Sarah could not trust that her welfare was secure under Abraham's leadership. Furthermore, her fate would not have been improved in the hands of an ungodly king. Sarah must have been both beautiful and full of faith.

Sarah had seen God intervene in a prior instance, so I am sure that her faith was strengthened to trust God in this instance as well. And just when there is no one who will be brave and stand up for her, God appears to this pagan king and he heeds God's warning.

Dear friend, we may face circumstances where every human let's us down, throws us under the bus, or betrays our confidence. It is at these moments when trust in God is all we have. God is faithful to accomplish his purposes. With Sarah he kept her pure for Abraham so that she could bear his son (at 90 years old). For you Anders the situation may be different, but our God is the same God that Sarah trusted. Dear friend, don't let your situation grow dire before you look to your Creator, but if it is dire, God's arm is not too short.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for watching over your children and intervening even in the affairs of the ungodly for your glory and our benefit. Help is to remember to pray before making choices and regard your commands as higher than our desires and greater than our fears. In Jesus' precious name we pray. Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Genesis 19 - Safety in the Hands of God

As we enter Genesis chapter 19, we find the three visitors have come to Sodom. Lot is obviously someone the leaders have trusted because he is sitting at the gate to the city having authority to grant or deny access on behalf of the city.

Lot sees these are men of stature and invites them to his home and offers them a meal. When the townsmen come to violate the visitors, Lot attempts to protect them, but in doing so finds he is the one in need of protection. The visitors save Lot and his daughters by striking the villagers with blindness so they cannot find the door.

I am touched by this example because I have heard people claim they needed to do some act contrary to Biblical principles because they were faced with a threat to their safety. We all want to remain safe, but if you are a Christian you will encounter hostilities while living here on earth. God can spare you and He can do it supernaturally if he chooses. Our faith shines most brightly in times of darkness. Our testimony is heard by those who have not trusted in God and may even lead them to a faith in Jesus Christ.

Likewise, the sons-in-law (engaged to be married) are offered safety, but do not accept it and so they suffer the same fate as the rest if the city. Just because someone may refuse the offer of salvation does not mean we should not extend the offer. How many people do we meet daily who because of their demeanor toward God we do not share the gospel? The offer of salvation is available to all who will. God can convict even the hardest of hearts. Our challenge is to extend the offer.

Lots wife could have found safety but some inner force caused her to look back when she was told not to. As a result she was turned into a pillar of salt. There may be some who initially accept the offer of salvation but do not then obey God. These people may think they are saved but follow their own inward leadings will find themselves destroyed as well.

God is a God of love as demonstrated that he remembered his commitment to Abraham and saved Lot and his daughters. But God also must judge sin and that judgement is severe. The only way to have true security is in placing your full faith and trust in Jesus as your only hope of salvation. There are no other ways to Heaven or to a relationship with the Father because we are all sinners and God cannot have fellowship with sin.

My dear friend, if you want to have the hope of salvation and you long for fellowship with God, believe Jesus when he says He is the way the truth and the life no man comes to the Father except through him. If you believe in your heart you can be saved. If you believe, then your obedience will demonstrate the authenticity of your faith. No danger can come to you that God cannot overcome.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that even now you would soften hearts and cause them to look to you for their salvation. I pray that those who have placed their trust in you will find their faith confirmed as they obey you and seek you with their whole hearts. Only you can save and in you we place our trust. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Genesis18 - Responding to God's Plan

Have you ever been confronted with God's plan when it was different from your own? In times like that how do you respond? In Genesis chapter 18 we see two different responses to God's stated plan.

First we have a holy visitation. The Lord comes to Abraham and Abraham invites him to dinner. He must have recognized The Lord I think because of his close walk with Him. The Lord announces that He will return in about a year and Sarah will have a son. Hearing this, Sarah laughs.

The prospect of bearing a child seemed preposterous at her late age. But the Lord had promised this earlier to Abraham so it should not have been a surprise. We have read some of the prophesies that have not yet been fulfilled like the rapture and the tribulation time and they seem absurd to the worldly minded. But we know there is nothing too hard for The Lord.

Perhaps you face circumstances right now that seem to have no earthly solution and doom appears on the horizon of your mind. It is at times like these that we must look up and trust that there is nothing too hard for The Lord and place our fates in his hands.

Sarah perhaps doubted or perhaps was amused at the thought of having a little boy. But there is no doubt that God can accomplish all that He pleases in ways that will make even unbelievers stand back and take notice.

We have a second response to God's promise when Abraham pleads for the lives of the unknown righteous ones living on Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice that God thinks so highly of his chosen one that He would share his plans with him. (Verse 17). He certainly knew Lot was living there, but I think His concern was more than just for Lot.

Abraham's plea was to save the entire city for the sake of the righteous that might be found there. Abraham was pleading to spare the lives of the wicked as well so that God's name would not be tarnished. He appeals to The Lord and calls Him "the judge of the earth" Abraham knew He was speaking to the Almighty.

God yields to Abraham's request. God loves his children so much that He shares His heart with them and listens to their concerns. God would have been right to destroy the City altogether, but He has compassion on his children and cares for their concerns.

We have no need to fear God's plans and no reason to doubt since he has proven himself to be able to accomplish anything. Our challenge today is to align ourselves with God's plans. If we need to abandon our plans because they conflict with God's then so be it.

As Christians we are honored to have the ear of God and to live in his care. Do not neglect prayer my friend as it is our connection to God's heart.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you thanking you for the opportunity to share in your blessings but also to be able to share the concerns of my heart. Please help us to look to you alone for our salvation as you are the only one who can accomplish it. In Jesus' name I pray.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Genesis 17 - The Greater Blessing

As we enter Chapter 17 we see Abram at ninety has fathered Ishmael through Satah's servant Hagar. For a childless man of 90 I am sure that Ishmael was a joy to his father. Yet God had plans to give Abram a son through Sarah and that son would receive God's blessing.

You would think that the prospect of having a second son and a son by his wife would have given him overwhelming joy, but Abram was doubtful and wanted God to know he was perfectly content with the son that he had. It hurt him a little that this treasure, Ishmael might be overlooked by God.

As we go through our busy lives, how often have we forfeited a greater blessing because we had learned to be content with the world's standard? How often have our prayers been focused on receiving tangible blessings such as jobs, a spouse, success on a test, advancement or health while we overlook our great spiritual needs and discount our sins as if they could be explained away by our circumstances?

The greatest blessing of all is God's salvation and daily grace offered to his children. Walking in fellowship with The Lord, all needs are met and we experience the greatest joy the world has known. God knows we have physical needs and he addresses them. Look back to the text in verse 20: God honors Abram's request and promises a legacy for his son Ishmael. Interesting that there are 12 dynasties that arise from the line of Ishmael compared with the 12 tribes of Israel.

God does care for us in ways beyond our comprehension. And he has a plan for our lives that fulfills his purposes; it may be better than the plans we have made for ourselves. Can you trust him today to order the affairs of your life and will you commit yourself to obeying him as a token of your love for Him?

Dear Heavenly Father, I admit that I have made plans for myself that are second best. I commit myself to following your plan for my life allowing you to have full discretion over the affairs of my life. I look to you to provide for my needs and to allow me to share in your grace and salvation. Have your way today in my life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Genesis 16 - Sarah and Hagar

More than once I have heard people tell me that if I belong to God, He won't let me pursue a wrong course of action. He will stop it or he won't allow it to be successful. In the passage we find just the opposite to be true. We also see the contrast of the unbelief of the believer and the belief of the unbeliever.

Sarah was no doubt God's chosen vessel to bear the heir to Abraham. We know this because we have read further in the Bible than Sarah had at that time. Sarah had obviously been pondering how God's promise might come to pass and thought she had stumbled on a solution - let her servant bear a child for her. Abram the great man of faith who had received the promise directly from the word of the Almighty was quick to go along with the plan. No prayer needed - obvious solution.

Yet God allowed this unholy union and wove this into the fabric of his story. I think this is an awesome warning for all of us. We never know what short cut to God's plan awaits us, but dear friend, please pray first and look for an answer before leaping in. There may be for you a solution to your financial strain or relief from a conflict that would cause you to deviate from God's plan for your life. Only God knows your future so ask for his leading in decisions.

Sarah and Abram were the believers fine awry in this story. Now let's look at Hagar. She is an Egyptian who was no doubt given to Abram as he left Egypt. She doesn't come from a life of faith but is placed in the household of two believers. She is obedient to her mistress - at first. Once a baby enters the picture Hagar becomes haughty and loses respect for Sarah. When Sarah demanded more and became harsh- she ran away.

Now contrary to Sarah's poor choice that saw no intervention from God to stop her, we do see God intervening here to send Hagar back home. She herself receives a promise that her descendants will be numerous but they will live amid conflict all their days. What a hard word to hear and yet she returns and gives birth to Ishmael.

Dear friend, God has given each of his children free will to choose our allegiances. He is also faithful when we confess our faithless acts and return to him. God didn't remove the results of this sin - in fact they continue today middle eastern conflict. But we can know forgiveness and we can make a fresh start.

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive my failures to look to you for guidance when I thought I had a workable plan. My desire is to please you in every circumstance. Thank you for your faithfulness to me even when my faith is weak. As I go out today please keep my focus on you so that I can walk in a way that pleases you. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Genesis 15 - Your Great Reward

Abram had just relinquished any claim to the bounty he was due for winning the war on terror in his time. Yet God comes to him with the most wonderful message: "do not be afraid, I am your shield, your great reward".

How often do we allow the cares of our lives overshadow the presence of God in our lives? Fears and worry crowd out faith and keep us from experiencing peace that God gives. If we have our trust in God, we have no need for fear; no matter what comes. It won't matter who is President, what economic turmoil, or the daily conflicts that come because of our faith. Our lives are securely held in God's hand.

The second promise is, "I am your shield". God didn't tell Abram there would be no conflict or danger. If there weren't dangers, Abrams fears would be absurd. We all face a largely unknown future, and that future may include dangers and conflicts, but God is the protection for every believer. We can amass wealth, create storm shelters, or build strength to confront any foe, but God is the only one who can truly protect us.

I don't believe that God would have us abandon planning for the future. Remember in the last chapter Abram had over 300 trained men ready for battle. We should continue to prepare for retirement, build our resumes and evaluate risks and establish protections against them - BUT if our faith is solely placed in our own power and our own planning we will be sadly disappointed. God alone knows our future; He owns all the wealth and can direct and redirect at His discretion. Some dangers are greater than anything we can prepare for - and God alone will sustain his children.

Finally, God says that in Him we will find our reward. Pursuing gain is not evil, but the true gain any of us can have is in a relationship with Him. Our faith in Him is credited for righteousness; but all our faith is insufficient apart from the finished work of Jesus Christ in paying the price for our redemption. Our true gain is in Heaven, but look back to the text. Just like an engagement ring is a promise of things to come; so is God's probation for our lives. God addresses the one thing Abram wants most - an heir. It's also part of God's plan as well to show His power to the world through those who would trust Him. An heir was just a foreshadow of the great reward God had in store for Abram.

If you are struggling, there is good news- this is just for a season and there are great rewards for you who trust in God. If you are blessed, there is good news, this is nothing compared with what God has in sore for you. Your reward is great dear Christian - look up for your Redeemer is coming and soon!

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive our short sighted fears and help us to keep our faith and trust in you alone. You alone are able to supply all our needs and we look to you for that future reward. Keep us in your care as we face danger and conflict knowing that our security is wrapped up in You. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Genesis 14 - Entitlements and Planning

In our last chapter, Lot left Abram because if strife that resulted from abundance of possessions. It would have been easy for Abram to be bitter. On the contrary, Abram races to Lot's rescue when his choice led to the loss of both possessions and his freedom. Abram was entitled to respond in kind to Lot but he chose a different plan in advance.

I hope you take the time to read this chapter for yourself; but here is the situation: a controlling dictator had exercised rule over the region until the leaders of the region rebelled against him. War ensues and the dictator captures the people and possessions. Lot was captured along with the possessions he prized. Abram comes to Lot's rescue and defeats the dictator ruler and returns with both people and possessions.

Here are some lessons we can apply:

1. Abram was prepared for the situation. Notice in verse 14 Abram had 318 trained men. Even though he was a herdsman, Abram prepared for the unexpected. They trained- this was not something that happened spontaneously; it was intentional. Whatever situation arose he would be ready. Application: have you considered the potential "situations" that could interrupt your plans and prepared for those? Abram fully trusted God, but he prepared too so that he could be used by God when a new situation was introduced.

2. Abrams attitude. Abram could have stayed home and decided that Lot got what he deserved after the strife he caused and for taking the prime land for himself. But Abram is full of grace. And quick to come to the aid of his nephew. Application: are you prepared to forgive and administer grace to those who have wronged you?

3. Abram assumes personal risk. Abram could have retreated to his prayer closet and asked God to free Lot but Abram did more; he put his own life and the life of his fighting men at risk. Application: will you allow others to suffer while you have your needs met and enjoy security? Abram could have stayed home, but he didn't.

4. Abram's honor of the Priest of the Most High God. Abram offered the first tithe of EVERYTHING. Abram had a personal relationship to God, but in God's deliverance is quick to recognize God's hand at work and gives a tangible offering. Application: are we quick to see God's ordering of events and circumstances in our lives and do we give him the credit and offerings He deserves?

5. Abram's refusal of the spoils. Abram was entitled to take a portion for his service. He was offered ALL the possessions by the King of Sodom but he refused to have a part with a King who no doubt had a reputation for compromise of God's principles. Abram knew God would supply his needs and he didn't need to entangle himself in tainted relationships. Application: will you commit yourself to holy living and refuse the benefits associated with compromise?

6. Abram's predetermined commitment. I believe Abram had predetermined his responses before so that when conflict arose he was prepared with a Godly response. He chose ahead of time to watch out for Lot. He chose ahead of time to prepare for battle and conflict. He chose ahead of time that God would be honored in his life. He chose ahead of time to refuse worldly entanglements.

Today we may be faced with unexpected conflict or blessing from above. Will you choose in advance to honor God no matter what comes?

Dear Heavenly Father, I am humbled to consider the great depths of commitment Abram displayed and the many ways he honored you. I confess that this attitude has not always been my choice, but today I choose to in advance prepare for the unexpected and to honor you with my words, my attitudes and my actions. Please keep me from worldly entanglements even as I choose to turn away from them. Even in my commitment, I need your wisdom and your strength. I look to you today to fulfill your work in me. In Jesus' name I pray.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Genesis 13 - Mine, Mine, Mine

Affluence brings with it a whole host of temptations. Greed, jealousy, envy, strife and division. In the United States, we live in a prosperous nation. There are poor, but even after nearly a decade of economic turmoil, we still have more possessions and wealth than most nations. You would think that wealth would bring with it satisfaction and contentment, but as in the example of Abram and Lot, it does not.

Infighting had begun among the servants of Lot and Abram. Their herds, flocks and tents were more than the land could bear (verse 5). God had blessed both men with an abundance.

Abram was the one who had the promise of land and greatness. He could have likely said to Lot, take off and find a place for yourself. Instead he gives Lot first choice and says "you pick where you will go" (verses 8 - 9). And Lot choose the well watered plain of Jordan and selected the best for himself.

In Lot there was no humility, no honor for his Uncle Abram, no gratitude for all God had given him, no prayer for wisdom in dividing the land. He assumed he knew what was best for himself and went for it. Now before we condemn Lot, how many times in our own past have we selected the best for ourselves and didn't think twice? I know I have. When have we been blessed because of someone else's abundance or status and enjoyed the blessing without redirecting the honor and recognition to our benefactor? Within our own hearts is the propensity to be selfish; we do well to recognize it and repent.

Now look at Abram's attitude in this chapter. He doesn't have to give Lot anything but look at verse 4. We see Abram calling on the name of The Lord. He looks to God for direction and I believe God gives him an assurance that he should allow Lot to go.

Abram wasn't concerned if the best was taken because his faith was in God and not the abundance. In vers 14 after Lot had left God tells Abram to look all around him; that land would belong to him and his descendants and his offspring would be so numerous they would be like the dust of the land. (Before he had a single heir). So what did Abram do? He followed God's command to walk the borders of the land and he built an altar to God in recognition of his Sovereignty.

He believed God before the promises had come to pass and when confronted with a selfish heart that would take his possessions he let him have what he wanted and trusted God to keep him.

Our lives are not measured in the abundance of possessions but in the amount if our faith and trust in God alone to supply our needs.

Dear Heavenly Father, you have blessed us with great abundance both in possessions and opportunity. Help us to keep our hope fixed on you and to return to you for direction and to worship you in every circumstance. You alone deserve the glory. Help us not to cleave to recognition but to give you the honor for our blessings. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Genesis 12 - God's Calling

The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." Gen 12:1

Statistics demonstrate that a college education is the ticket to success and happiness. All you need to do is find a major that lends itself to marketability and press forward with all your might. Since education is available to virtually anyone who desires you would think that we would be the most satisfied people. In fact based on domestic violence numbers, alcoholism, numbers of people being treated for depression we know that education and affluence don't equate with joy and satisfaction.

Our satisfaction comes in being in tune with God's calling in our lives. We know that we have a calling to follow the Lord wherever He leads us. Consider the example Abraham gives us in chapter 12 of Genesis. God speaks directly to him. We don't hear an audible voice (at least I never have) but if you are a Christian you have the Spirit of God living in you and guiding and directing you.

God's call is a scary one. Basically God says, "Abram, drop everything and leave where you are and don't look back. Trust me and I will show you your new place." Abram had I act before knowing the end of the plan. God doesn't always lay out all the details for us but He does require our availability and our obedience.

God assures Him faithfulness will be worth his while as we have several promises given:

1. You will be a great nation
2. I will bless you
3. I will make your name great
4. You will be a blessing
5. I will bless your friends and curse your enemies
6. All nations on the earth will be blessed through you.
7. To your offspring I will give this land

Would that be enough for you to leave relationships and security behind? I don't think Abram needed all those promises. I believe he would have obeyed just because God commanded, but I do think He looked to God to honor those promises later.

Abram leaves and all seems to go well until he arrives at Egypt. He seriously falls off the trust wagon and hands his wife over to Pharaoh to be in his harem. But even in his failure God intervened to protect Sarah his wife and inflicted disease in Pharaoh's house. When Abram was implicated for the deception he was asked to leave with all the wealth he accumulated there.

The point is not that faithlessness is rewarded but that God knows our frailties and will intervene on behalf of his children to sustain them if they will commit their way to The Lord.

What is God's calling in your life? Will you follow Him even if it means abandoning your security and even relationships that are dear to you? He may not ask such of you, but listen to his Spirit. How can you be faithful to Him today. Leave tomorrow to The Lord and be available and obedient to his leading today.

Dear Heavenly Father, we confess it is scary to consider the possibilities of service you might require, but we have been given a great name (yours) and we know you have redeemed us, you have a plan for us and you will not let go of your people for all eternity. Help us to increase our faith in you as you direct us and help us to clear away anything that hinders our availability and obedience to you. In Jesus's name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Genesis 11 - Monument to Man

When I look around me in the world we live in, I see a lot if people working hard to make a name for themselves. All of us want to leave a mark in the world that will be remembered.

The difference in Babel was that they were attempting to create a monument and a grand city so they would not spread across the earth and fill it. They thought they had a plan that was as good as God's if not superior.

Before we look at God's response, consider for yourself - as you accomplish your plans are they done for God or against Him? Anything that is not for God IS against Him. I have to continually guard my motives for what I do. The sin nature within me wants to seek pleasure, fortune and fame, but God wants my motives to be purely for Him alone. If you find your motives are not to serve The Lord, go to Him and confess them. We have a God who will forgive if we will return to Him.

Starting in verse 5 we see that God will not allow rebellion and disregard for His authority to continue. God holds every man accountable and He has every right to since He is Creator. God does not allow the tower to be completed. He supernaturally confuses their language so they cannot band together to challenge God's authority.

This judgment at Babel was not because God was afraid of the challenge. He is Almighty and had not so long ago wiped out mankind altogether except for Noah. He executed this judgement out of his live for the people and to cause them to turn from their plans and look back to God.

In verse 8 we see that even if man comes against God's plans he will accomplish them nonetheless. Man was commanded to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. From verse 4 in this chapter we see they had a clear understanding that this meant they were to scatter over the face of the earth. The tower was set up in direct opposition to God's command.

As stewards of God's resources we need to recognize God's authority and use possessions, time and talents to glorify God and doing as He commands. God gives us great pleasure as we live for Him we don't need to seek worldly pleasures for ourselves.

What will be written on your tombstone? Will it be for your glory or for God's?

Dear Heavenly Father, in humility we come to you remembering that only what is done for Christ will last. Please forgive us for our failure to put you first in all things and help us to keep our eyes fixed on you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Genesis 10 - Conflict of Nations

After the flood we get a record of the legacy of each of Noah's sons. You learn a little about the mark these men left on the world through their sons.

Japheth - his sons founded some of the territories west of Ararat, but we also see him as the father of maritime people's. I have heard that he populated places like Greece and some of the European lands. Different lines of people are beginning to form and we can see some of the core values they maintain handed down from their ancestors.

From Ham we see some of the middle eastern nations arise and even to Africa. We see he has hunters in his line and builders of great cities. The Canaanites descend from Ham.

Finally Shem is recognized with their great claim to fame - well we don't have special skills detailed. We know they spread east to the hills. We know that the earth was divided at the time of Peleg - interesting. In future chapters we learn that Abraham descended from Shem. So Shem's greatest legacy is to father the nation of Israel God's chosen people.

Maybe special skills were not highlighted because God even then planned to do a work in this line of people that was so amazing that he wanted no question that the work came directly from above.

If you are wondering even now what is God's plan in your life. Perhaps you are feeling inadequate to do anything significant. If that is your story you are in good company.

God can use those who are available to Him more than he can use those who are talented. You see, often people with great talents try to resolve issues for themselves and depend on themselves more than the depend on God. I'm not saying this is true of all people with great talents but look to those who tout humanism as their belief system. They generally are people of great talent.

If you are a person of great talent The Lord can use you too if you make yourself and your talents available to Him. Our biggest barrier to service may be our focus on ourselves and not looking to The Lord for our next step day by day.

Ultimately there are only two types of people on the planet and our ancestry may or may not have influenced our nationality. We either belong to Jesus Christ adopted in to his line or we belong to the world. We either live to please ourselves or to please our Father in Heaven. I believe you probably are one of Gods people if you are reading this but if you really want to please God you must look to Him and not yourself for salvation and you must obey His commands for you. You won't know what those commands are unless you study his word and apply it to your living.

Dear Heavenly Father, please give us your clear wisdom and strength for the works you would have us do. Whether menial or monumental help us to apply ourselves diligently to your plans and purposes. In Jesus name, amen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Genesis 9 - Blessing of God

After receiving a beautiful sacrifice in gratitude to God for his salvation from destruction, God offers Noah a blessing saying "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. He announces that the beasts that had once cohabited with him would now be filled with Fred and fear.

God give Noah permission to eat the animals in the same way he gave green plants but he must not eat their lifeblood.

God re-establishes a society with all the provision Noah would need. Man was held higher than the animals as the animals would account for taking human life. In fact humans are not to take a life because it desecrates the image of God.

God gives commands that apply to he animals and in fact his covenant of the rainbow was established as a promise from God to both man and the animals. Even though man is held high, the animals are regarded with living kindness as well.

God remembers his people and provides for them. He loves to have his people's love in return. How can we show God how much we love him? Today we have opportunity to bring a sacrifice of praise and prayer to The Lord. Can you give him thanks for your salvation?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gen 8 - God Remembers His Servant

Just as taking a bath removes the filth from our bodies, God had virtually wiped evil off the planet in the flood. A fresh start with only Noah and his family. As we begin this chapter the ark had been floating on the waters for over six months.

The first verse is so encouraging. Any place in scripture where the words "But God" appear you know there is something significant. God is providing for Noah and the rain has stopped and the floods are receding.

God gives Noah a couple bits of encouragement. Even though water still covered the earth the ark stopped floating. It comes to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The second piece of encouragement is when the dove returns with the branch in its beak. There is land out there somewhere! Can you imagine the joy that must have rang out on the ark that day!
Finally a year after this ordeal had begun Noah sees there is dry land and is told by God that he can leave with his family.

Noah's first action is to build an altar and to sacrifice some of the clean animals on it. God was so pleased to know Noah's sacrifice. It was truly an act of love from Noah to God. Interestingly God is not fooled into believing Noah was pure because in verse 21 God says "never again will I curse the ground because of man because every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood". God knew Noah and his family had a predisposition toward sin even as Noah's offering reached his nostrils. Nonetheless God reaffirms his promise to never destroy all life as he did in the time of Noah.

When we become Christians we don't lose our capacity to sin; we gain the ability not to sin. Even though we may fail him God remembers his children and his children's sacrifices for their faith.

We may have tremendous opposition but we have an even greater God who sees our needs and is pleased with our prayers offered in faith.

Let's pray: Almighty God, thank you for your tender mercies in our life. As Noah did in his time we also look to you for our salvation and our provision for life here. Please accept our service and our prayers as tokens of our gratitude for your loving kindness. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Genesis 7 - Leaving it All Behind

Noah is an amazing example of a man who wholeheartedly lived for God. No doubt he was a spectacle to the rest of the world. He willingly left his reputation his family and his worldly goods under the complete discretion of The Lord. He is the first person recorded in scripture who completely trusted God for his salvation and obeyed Him fully.

I think the one verse that sums up Noah is verse 5... "And Noah did all that The Lord commanded him." It is easy having read the rest of the story to glaze over Noah's choice but prior to God's call to build an ark, there is no record of flooding. In fact there is no record of rain. He was operating in uncharted territory.

I can only imagine the emotions Noah must have felt. He must have felt gratitude for the salvation received for himself and his family. He must have felt honored to have been selected by God to complete this work. He must have felt some anxiety in considering God's plan to destroy all life.

He must have felt great sadness that he alone was saved; I am sure he would have desired to see his neighbors and family saved from this devastation after all he had brothers and sisters who were not included. If my calculations are correct, his grandfather Methuselah was also destroyed in the flood. Noah saw moe death and destruction than any man in history. How could he help but hurt for those who refused to be saved.

Few of us have had our faith challenged so totally. I know my mood sours after three days of rain; I can't imagine 40 days and then the floods continued for 150 days.

In all this trauma Noah remained steadfastly obedient. Because of his obedience he and his family saw the salvation of the Lord. The Lord in his mercy withheld the full force of his wrath and offered to those who would accept it a way of salvation.

As you consider your situation is there anything that you are withholding from the Lord's full discretion? Is it your reputation, your career, your family or your possessions? Our stewardship demands our obedience and our faithfulness to the Lord.

We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christians. Following Noah's example could we live more boldly for The Lord? Could we put our full faith and trust in Jesus' plan of salvation and with that faith share this salvation with those who don't know and pray for even those who are hostile that The Lord might give light to their eyes and soften their stony hearts?

Can we pray that The Lord would increase out weak faith and allow us to live our faith boldly and impact our world without regard for the costs we may incur.

Let's pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we see that our own culture has offended you and even our own weak faith has disappointed you. We are so dependent on your mercies; would you first increase our faith as we commit our way to you? Then for those who do not know you, would you go ahead of our witness and soften their hearts and increase their understanding? More than stuff we value our relationship with you. Help us to trust you more. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Genesis 6 - Stewardship and The Flood

You might be wondering what the flood has to do with our stewardship. There is no mention of money. I think this chapter speaks to the foundations of our stewardship. At our core, do we walk with God or do we go our own wicked way.

Three different hearts are revealed in this chapter. God's heart, man's heart and Noah's heart. God is obviously disturbed by the condition of the earth. In verse 3 God says "My Spirit will no contend with man forever his days will be 120 years." And in verse 6 (I think this is the saddest verse in the Bible). The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth and his heart was filled with pain. It brings tears to my eyes to think that our actions would grieve God so deeply.

Mankind however were running amuck. Intermarrying to bring about a superman (verse 4) and engaging in all kinds of violence to demonstrate their superiority (verse 13). God saw the wickedness and saw that men's hearts were inclined to evil all the time (verse 5). There was no good to be found just a few generations after the garden. The evil in their hearts was translated into evil deeds - but for the grace of God go we.

Noah was the only righteous one who walked with God. There was no one else who was interested in pleasing God but him. How did he do that? Obedience. God commanded him to build an ark and gave him precise specifications. God even shared his plans with Noah so he understood why he was building the ark. His heart to honor God translated into obedience.

As stewards, our hearts are revealed in our usage of not just money but also our thoughts, words and deeds. We will obey God and seek to walk with him. Our actions are megaphones revealing the condition of our soul to the world around us. Our check books also tell a story of how much we trust God and how much we live for ourselves.

One day there will be a book opened before God that will account for our days here on earth. What will that book say about you? If you have not been walking with God, there is hope. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive. Today is a fresh day to walk with God and to follow Noah's example of stewardship when he left his wealth, his reputation and his life in God's control and obediently followed him.

In what ways can we walk more closely with God? Pursue them my friends and find the peace of knowing you are completely in God's care.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Genesis 5 - Living with Purpose

I used to approach chapters full of begets and begats with glassy eyed boredom. Now I realize that God was recording a legacy for the nation of Israel that would forever tie together the generations between Adam and Jesus. God was keeping a detailed history record so there would be no disputing His word or His promises.

Not much detail is given in most of their lives you know how old they were at the birth of their children (something we don't normally record on our tombstones) and their age at death. There is generally one child followed in the genealogy with "other sons and daughters".

While there are few significant details given until we get to Enoch and then Noah we get a sense if something significant building. Each man invested his life into the life if his sons and daughters. Their success was a reflection of himself because according to verse 3 the children were created in the image if the father.

We continue this timeline each and everyone of us descendants of Noah. Each if us impacting our generation for good, bad or not at all. At the end of your life what will be written of you? Will you be known for your Christ like spirit? Will you be the one to open the door to heaven for those who do not know Jesus? Will you raise children who will carry on the gospel story?

While the events if our future are in God's hands we choose whether we will walk with God as Enoch did or choose to live our lives for our own pleasure. Today is the only day we can influence so will we live out our days with a God honoring purpose or will we be just another son or daughter with a life not recorded for posterity?

Another lesson I see in this text is that we are forever tied with prior generations. There is no busting free from our heritage and no separation from the future generations. The lives our children and grandchildren lead are influenced by their ancestry as well. We have a responsibility to pass the torch to the next generation to ensure they hear the gospel and that they walk with God in their generation. We can use not only our influence but our prayer time to equip and supply them with the armor they need to fight the good fight and to stand strong in a world that is full of adversity.

The best inheritance you can leave to your children is a relationship with Jesus Christ. If your children are not walking with God, it is not too late. If you are not walking with God begin today by rededicating your life to Him.

Let's pray together: Dear Heavenly Father we look to you and desire to live our lives in a way that pleases you. We also recognize we cannot accomplish this without you. Please come and renew our spirits and give us the passion to influence our generation and to stand strong in the face if adversity. We know that as we live daily for you, you get the glory and we see your salvation. In the name if Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Genesis 4 - Offerings and Hatred

In Genesis 4 we see Adam and Eve following God's command to be fruitful and multiply. Eve was obviously ecstatic to bring her first son, Cain in the world. The first baby ever, Cain must have been well loved. Even so, we find in the chapter Cain acting in sin when his brother offered an acceptable offering to God and he did not.

We aren't given exact reasons why one offering was acceptable and one was not but rather than accepting personal responsibility and making things right between him and God, he killed his brother as if his shining example brought his offering down in the acceptability scale.

Before judging Cain for his actions consider how many times we ourselves have brought less than our best to God and justified ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We may not have done our best but at least we did more than... You know how that ends.

The Lord judged Cain not in comparison to his brother but according to his own merit. Look at Gen 4:7 where God said "if you do what is right will you not be accepted?" This was God's counsel to Cain before the murder. Look within yourself and don't base your righteousness on the acts of others. Abel did not bring Cain's offering down, Cain did.

Furthermore, God warns Cain about the sin waiting to overcome Cain and prods him to take control. We all have our theories about what made Cain's offering unacceptable, but do you think that it might not have been as much the external offering itself but more The condition of Cain's heart? God saw the anger mounting in Cain's heart for his younger brother. Perhaps it had been there a while.

There is more in this chapter I will leave unpacked for now and I encourage you to post other lessons you take from this chapter but I want to move to the application.

What is the condition of your heart before God?

Have you given Him less than your best?

In bringing your offering to God what was your motive?

Was it anything less than adoration and worship?

Do you focus on the the outward acts of righteousness more than the only righteous one, Jesus Christ?

Abel's blood still speaks telling us to honor God with our lives and our substance not out of obligation but in love and worship of our Maker and in thankfulness to our Redeemer.

God issues the same warning to us all- sin crouches at our door but we must master it. We can choose not to sin and we must recognize our sinful motivations and repent quickly.

God judges us not in comparison to other sinners but in our relationship to Jesus Christ. He is our righteousness and the only means to peace with God.

Let's pray: Father, we confess that we have sinned before you and we are not worthy of your mercy but we look to it nonetheless. Reveal to us our hidden sins and help us to confess them and repent of them. Only Jesus' offering can truly cleanse us, so please look upon us through the blood of Jesus and restore our fellowship with you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ - amen

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Genesis 3 Deception and Willful Disobedience

As stewards, we must be absolutely certain of the authority that God has in our lives and must be absolutely committed to His purposes. If we are not absolutely committed we are but God's fair weather friends calling on Him when we want Him to act but not willing to adjust our wants to His plan for our lives.

In chapter 3 of Genesis we see Eve confronted by the serpent. He tests her knowledge of what God had said (all the more reason why we need to know scripture well my friends). He begins with a half truth that sounds a lot like the truth. Satan knows scripture too and as believers he will try to deceive us with the word and cause us to doubt it's truth. When Eve misquotes God's command, Satan counters with a direct challenge to God's authority using reason to cause her to doubt God.

We are also presented with temptations of worldly reason to discount God's word. We are challenged with science uncovering half truth's and hypotheses and presenting them as fact in opposition to scripture. The world would offer cheap grace in exchange for whole hearted obedience. We are blasted with lies from all sides (politics, science, history and even religion) attempting to discount our faith. Hold on dear believer to the truth of the Word. If you study and know it well you will find it all sufficient to meet your needs living here in a fallen world.

Speaking of the fall, let's turn back to chapter 3. The woman was deceived by the serpent. I don't know where Adam was at the time, but he should have been by her side. When we separate ourselves from the fellowship of believers we run greater risk of falling prey to the deceiver. Our fellow believers should help us to have clear thinking and encourage us to live righteously.

Anyway, Adam now hears that Eve has fallen victim and rather than standing by God's command, he knowingly chooses disobedience. Certainly he could use the excuse that he wasn't as bad as Eve. After all she disobeyed first and she wasn't struck dead. He justifies his wrong choice and even accuses God Himself in verse 12 saying "the woman YOU gave me made me do this".

We run into terrible troubles when we cannot own our wrong choices and call them what they are - sin. Adam should have been repentant, but instead he played the blame game. We are responsible to God for our sin and we should repent quickly and seek forgiveness. I wish Adam had.

Starting in verse 14 we see the consequences of sin - curses. God goes down the line from the serpent to Eve and then to Adam. The curses affect us down to today. We still find work toilsome. We still have all the pain and travail this curse brought on mankind. God cannot overlook sin in our lives. If He did He would be condoning sin. Even so He does allow us free will to choose to obey or not. It is that free will that demonstrates our love for our Creator when we obey him.

Now in verse 21 we see something significant. God Himself conducted the first animal sacrifice to provide for man. He made garments of animal skin. Even in his punishment Adam continued to receive provision from God. What a kind and loving God we have. This sacrifice points us to our need for a perfect substitutionary sacrifice only Jesus (perfectly God and perfectly man) could provide.

Even so he was banished from the garden and never allowed to return and positioned angels to guard the tree of life. For those who put their faith in the sacrifice Jesus provides, we have the hope of being in paradise with God. It was clear even from the beginning that man chooses sin over obedience but God has given us provision.

If you have received Jesus as the only provision you have to be right before God, He has also given you His Spirit within you giving you the ability to choose not to sin.

In this chapter we learn that God blesses obedience and curses disobedience. My dear friend choose to obey and live a life pleasing to The Lord.

Today is my day of worship so today I will honor God for his provision for me in my sin and rededicate myself to living obediently for Him.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Genesis 2 Rest, Work and Spouses

What a wonderful God we have that would give us his wisdom and principles to apply to our lives that we could have a life of complete rest in Him.  Even more amazing is that we have a God who would begin by setting the example for us to follow.

In Genesis chapter 2, we see God has completed creation and on the seventh day He rests (verse 2).  The principle of rest is given to us here and we see 1. How productive God is in His days of creating.  He did it all in six days.  2. God Himself rested from the work.  It was a Holy day blessed by God because He rested on that day.  In applying this principle to my own life, I really struggle.  As we look at how the Israelites applied the principle of rest later in scripture we can see they struggled too to find and define this rest. 
Now, the seventh day is not Sunday, but we Christians honor Sunday as the weekly Holy day as it is the day that Jesus was resurrected from the tomb having completed the work of redemption for us.  So you can see that we start with identifying what day is the “day of rest”.  I don’t know about you, but I find that my Sunday’s are just as full of activity as my work days by the time I participate in the activities of the church.  I had a pastor once who said he nearly gave up his calling to preach because he was having a hard time reconciling his commitment to keep the day of rest.  I am not going to make excuses or justify the activities of the observance of the day of rest; my point is that God established it and it is a part of his order for our lives.  If we are not finding rest, then we know that we need to work in this area to order our activities to provide this rest we desperately need.

The chapter outlines all the provisions God made for man including water and food in the garden.  I find it interesting that there is mention of gold in verses 11 and 12.  I am not sure what purpose gold would have served in Eden, but perhaps God had already known that man would have a penchant to pursue shiny things.
In addition to rest, this is the chapter in which God ordains work.  Note, this is before the fall, so work is not punishment for a sinful act, but it is a part of God’s established order.  Work gives us a sense of purpose and belonging to the larger creation.  We fit into our world because we contribute to its productivity.  We need to work, if we feel that we need to avoid work in some way or we are overworking ourselves to accelerate our arrival at retirement, then we do not have a proper balance of work and rest.  Work was not done to supply our needs, it is clear from the chapter that God supplied the provisions, it is our response to our Creator; honoring Him who provides for us.

The types of work Adam was given were to care for the garden (verse 15) and to name all the animals (verse 19).  God was involving Adam in the work He started.  I find it interesting that given that we are created in God’s image, that Adam was given the responsibility to name the animals.  God gave him a creative nature as well!  God brought the animals and birds to him to see what he would name them.  God was interested to see what Adam would do with his talents. 
Finally, God recognizes our need for companionship and help.  In verse 18, God said “it is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”  He created this helper out of Adam’ flesh and so it is appropriate that they would be considered one flesh.  There are so many applications out of this passage that I am not sure we could begin to unpack it in one blog post.  Here are just a couple of points.  1.  Even though Adam enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship with God himself, God recognized that he needed someone like himself who would not only help him in his work but would also be a companion to keep him from being alone.  2.  The woman was created out of the flesh of Adam.  While she was different from Adam, she was one flesh with him and complemented him in every way.

God made us for relationship in addition to work and fellowship with Himself.  We see that God established an order of life that provides for our sustenance and enjoyment.  When we apply these principles in our lives we find that there is a sense of order and peace as well.  We live in an economy that has substantial unemployment.  For those who are not employed for pay, seek out work that you can do that will give you a sense of purpose and contribute to the welfare of your community.  I know one pastor who recommended to his unemployed congregation members to go to the place where you would like to be hired and then work there for free; they will see your commitment and you get a chance to show them you can do the work you are seeking.  I know there are people in my neighborhood who need help.  They could use someone to look after the children, mow the lawn, repair a car… Whatever talent God has supplied you, use it for his glory.
So often spouses focus on their differences and marriage becomes a real struggle.  When we view our spouse as an opponent we don’t act as one.  We should change our thinking about our marriage partner if we are in this mode.  God has supplied this person to be one with us; a partner and companion in life and a helper in the work God has called us to.  If you are at odds with your spouse consider ways that you can build a bridge to encourage them to find oneness with you.

Finally, we live in a world that is so jam packed full of activity we hardly have time to meditate or rest.  This is wrong.  From morning to night there is noise, activity, work and recreation fill our days.  You would think we would be the happiest people, but in fact, as a nation we are generally lonely and miserable; seeking out consolation from TV, recreation, trips, alcohol, or any other diversion that will allow us to have a small sense of peace.  If you are in a harried state of activity, I would like to challenge you (and myself) to find a way to make one day a week Holy to the Lord, a day of rest.  Just like God showed us.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Genesis 1 God Created

As we open the front cover of our Bibles we turn to Genesis 1.  I am amazed that right from the very first verse God gives us a stewardship principle:  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  We know a few things about God from this verse that will help us as we increase our faith and trust in Him in stewardship.

1. God was in the beginning:  God has always existed.  He isn't something created by some higher authority, He is the highest authority we can look to.  There is no time when He has not been present so He has all history in his hands.  Because He is both pre-existent and omnipresent, so we can be assured that our current circumstances do not escape his notice. 

2.  God created:  God himself declares He is the creator.  There isn't any human interference and there isn't chance or spontaneous assembly of the universe.  This is not an anti-science perspective, all God's truth is revealed in science.  One day our scientists will discover the truth of this statement as well.  As we consider our own situations, we know that God is the owner of everything because He created it.  It is His to give.

3.  God created the heavens and the earth:  There is nothing in the universe that God is not in authority over.  We can trust his authority over the circumstances we face. 

There is so much to explore in Genesis 1 that we could apply to our stewardship.  Let me just present a few additional principles in this chapter.

1. In creating, it was done using a word: God spoke.  If God can create the universe so effortlessly, how much more can He handle the issues we face.  Another thought; the spoken word is powerful and we would do well to consider the words we speak.  They can build up or tear down.  They also reveal the condition of our hearts, so if we have words coming out of our mouths revealing bitterness or hostility we might want to step up our feedings on God's word and allow Him to create in us a clearn heart.

2.  It was good:  When God does something, it is good.  Only God could say that. 

3.  God's abundant provision:  water, sun, stars, day, night, land, vegetation, animals, and mankind (male and female).  God filled the earth with everything we needed for a satisfying life on earth.  This is the same God that has provided for you today and will continue to provide for you in the future.

4.  God's command:  God as the authority over mankind gave the first command for stewarding his creation:  be fruitful and multiply.  God issued this command to the animals in verse 22 and then again to man in verse 28. 

5.  We are created in God's image:  God when creating man (as opposed to the remainder of creation) created in His own image.  God didn't raise man up to be an equal, but he gave a spiritual awareness that wasn't offered to the rest of creation.  He did this to establish a special relationship with man.  We are truly blessed to have a loving creator who reached down to us to establish that relationship.  God continues to reach down to mankind offering a free gift of salvation for anyone who will accept that offer.  He then gives the hope of eternity in His company - forever with Him what could be better?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!

Stewardship Bible Study

Today, I am undertaking a project to make my way through the Bible chapter by chapter and reporting on stewardship principles we can apply to our lives.  I hope you will join me and even share principles that you see within a chapter that are not highlighted in my post.  Let's open the word together and see what God's word says to us about living a life completely directed by the Lord.

As we undertake this study, lets consider what stewardship means.  In my mind, stewardship is much more than just the administration of the material blessings he gives us.  It means that everything we have available to us - time, talents, resources and money are committed in service to the Lord.

I believe we will learn in this study some of the character qualities of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that are available to us as stewards and more of God's plans for his disciples as they undertake this journey.