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.