Sunday, February 27, 2011
The Book of 1 Corinthians was written by Paul in response to a letter by members of Chloe’s house. In this letter, Paul seeks to address reported problems involving: divisions within the church, sexual immorality, marriage, situations with idols and spiritual immaturity. For believers today, the study of this book is very impactful, as it answers questions that we come face to face with every day. Corinth was a major metropolis, and seaport. People came from all over, carrying their beliefs and ideals. Similar to today’s believers, followers back then had difficulty discerning which behavior or idea was acceptable.
In chap 1, Paul opens with confronting the growing division in the church. Paul heard that members were arguing over who they were following, whether if it was Paul himself, Apollos, Peter or Jesus Christ. Paul dispels those notions with a review of the Good News. Paul proceeded to repeatedly state Jesus Christ’s name and remind the believers of what He had done for the world. Paul took all emphasis off himself.
Next Paul dealt with the issue of worldly intelligence vs. spiritual understanding. In a broader view, Paul began addressing the issue of spiritual maturity. Starting in Chap 1 and going through Chap 2, Paul sought to explain how many people of the world will chastise and mock them. This was due to man not understanding God’s wisdom. Paul, the biblical scholar, referred back to Isa 29:14 to illustrate how God dislikes those who consider themselves “wise” and “intelligent”. Paul wanted to make clear that God’s plan could only be understood through the Holy Spirit’s actions.
Where does this leave us today? As with the believers back then, we need to be mindful of whom we are following. Much of these two chapters, in some way deals with man’s boasting. Paul first illustrates how we are to focus on Jesus not individuals who can capture a crowd. Next Paul emphasized our need to develop in spiritual maturity as opposed to worldly intelligence. By focusing on the latter, our pride will distort God’s truth and the ability for the Holy Spirit to operate in us.
Friday, February 25, 2011
God's Word also states in Isaiah 40:28-31 that those who are faint and weary can receive renewed strength and soar on wings like eagles. What a promise.
Every promise in God's Word is true. Why? Because God is enthroned above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:21-25). He is the awesome, mighty God. "This is what the LORD, the King of Israel and its Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts, says: I am the first and I am the last. There is no God but Me." (Isaiah 44:6)
As you read God's Word this year, look for the promises He has for His children. They are for you!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I recently went over to the home of a friend who was in distress. This person was in a place in life that I have never been. The troubles that they were experiencing I have never had to deal with, at least not yet. I have to admit that as I drove out to my friend’s home, I was scared. This book of Job is getting to me. During my trek I became keenly aware of how easy I could become Eliphaz, Bildad or Zophar. When I arrived one of the first things out of my mouth was to tell my friend how terrified I was of saying the wrong thing. I did not want to presume that I knew what God was doing in my friend’s life. I have to admit that until I had this talk with my friend I was angry and indignant towards Job’s companions. But I now realize how easy it is to presume to know motives.
The harsh speech that comes out of Eliphaz’s mouth in chapter 15 is rooted in the toxic soil of presumption. Eliphaz presumes to know the heart of Job and the mind of God. He presumes that Job’s heart doesn’t fear God. “Fearing God” is what got Job noticed in the first place!!! Eliphaz asks why Job’s spirit is against God? Job’s spirit has most likely never been more “with God” that it was at that moment. Job is the child asking, “why Daddy, why” over and over again. Job doesn’t yet have an answer but he is sure that he is crying out to the only one who does have real knowledge.
Eliphaz makes a statement that, in life, wicked people writhe in pain. Wrong-o!!! A lot of wicked people have the top job, live in the biggest house, and seem to have their finger on the button. This is a fallen world. It is no longer the garden. Sometimes wicked people prosper. Often time’s good people suffer. While at my friend’s house they made the statement that they did not understand why God was being silent towards them; after all they had spent their life helping others. To be honest I didn’t have an answer. To be painfully honest it was probably best that I didn’t try to fabricate an answer.
I really think that Job would have appreciated friends who would be willing to say that they didn’t understand what was going on anymore than he did. If only they could’ve said, “Job… the only thing I know is that God is always trying to shape, mold and refine his loved ones and I know he loves you.” Maybe Job would’ve had some comfort. Instead part of Job’s affliction is that he has to defend himself against bad theology. Let’s all pause for a minute and pray that no one ever has to suffer or receive false comfort because of our poor understanding of who God is.
I think in chapter 16 that Job actually tries to minister to his friends!! He tells them that they stink as counselors. I believe that he is actually being somewhat tender to them by pointing out what could happen if roles were reversed. “I could put you guys under a blurry microscope and say the same things to you”. “Or… I could just love and encourage you with my words.” (Hint, hint, hint.)
The end of chapter 16 actually bridges in chapter 17 with Job waxing poetic about his pain. Again he ascribes his pain directly to God!! Not the absence of God but to God Himself!! I believe that within Job there is a wrestling match with two sides that are probably familiar to most of us. It goes like this; on one side God is a cruel master or… His ways may actually be higher than my ways. In the midst of your pain… which side wins? I pray that we all deal with pain understanding that His ways are higher than our ways.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
1 John 2:19
John clearly communicates that within the church there are those who are there but they are not in. Jesus speaks of separating the wheat from the tares and the goats from the sheep. This process that Jephthah instituted is a wonderful picture of the church in the New Testament and determining who is in and who is not.
In Judges 13 we see the miraculous birth of Samson as the Lord brought a child to Manoah and his wife. The Lord gave very specific directions as to how Samson should be raised as he would be the next judge for the nation. The nation of Israel is in the hands of the Phillistines and they are looking for deliverance.
In Judges 14, I see great tension in the scripture. I see Samson being used by God against the Phillistines; yet, I see a man who is compulsive, wants what he sees and wants it NOW, and lives by his appetites, he eats when he ought not as he eats ought of a dead carcass. The struggle that we see is a man who does good but who's character is lacking.
In Judges 15, I get even more perplexed as I see Samson losing control of his anger which ultimately brings about the loss of his wife and her father. He withdraws possibly out of grief, but then he is used by God to kill a 1,000 Phillistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Then he complains of thirst and God supplies him with water supernaturally. What a gracious response from the Lord to one who needs to learn some lessons of charcter. I am grateful that the Lord is good to me even though I need to learn some lessons as well.
In Judges 16, we see Delilah entered his life. She is encouraged by the Phillistines to find the source of his strength. He does not tell her multiple times but he ultimately gives in. The passage says,
It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. Judges 16:16
If anything this reminds us of our need to be vigilant because the enemy will always send his messenger and will never give up in our life. He ultimately gives in but the story of Samson ends with hope as he repents. He ends his life in death but in victroy as he sees more Phillistines die in his death than saw die through all of the fighting of his life. It is never too late to turn around and be obedient to our gracious Lord.
Monday, February 21, 2011
If you're like many people trying for the first time to read through the whole Bible, you started the year with a zeal to learn and grow in the Grace and Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ by reading His word all the way through.
And, if you're like many people trying for the first time to read through the whole Bible, you're at a point where you have missed more days than you've hit; you're behind in your reading plan.
Grace allowed you to start the reading plan, Grace will allow you to continue. There is nothing greater in the world than to know God intimately. And the only way to know Him truly is through His Word He has given us.
So, forget the past. Jump back in. Begin again today afresh in your journey of reading through the Bible in a year with us at NorthWoods.
You won't regret it. You'll find joy and peace; hope and Grace.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
In these chapters Paul concludes his letter to the people of Rome. Throughout this letter Paul addressed the following concepts:
1) Man’s innate nature to sin
2) How salvation is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ
3) How faith in Jesus allows believers to be reconciled to God.
4) How laws, rituals and ethnicity do not bring about salvation.
5) Believers are to spread the Good News and live their new life to exemplify Christ.
6) Through God’s Mercy and Grace; we are blended into his family.
Daily Living Perspective:
1) Commit ourselves totally to God
3) Use gifts God has given us to reach others.
4) Respect authority
5) Sincerely LOVE your neighborhood
In Chap.15 & 16, Paul gives his final instructions. He encouraged everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, to live in order to please one another. In doing this, everyone is to give praise to God’s glory; for fulfilling his covenant to Abraham’s people and sending Jesus to die for our sins. Paul also warned the believers about those who would cause division and present false teaching. He gave encouragement to remain obedient and wise to what is right and remain innocent from wrong doing. His final encouragement was his statement about God soon crushing Satan under their feet. This is an image that even Christians today should hold on too. Even when things are at their worst, the God of Peace is victorious over Satan’s chaos, (CRUSHED).
Friday, February 18, 2011
In Matthew 18, we see a glimpse into the relationship that occurs between God and children. Jesus refers to children as the "greatest in the kingdom of God." This is not because adults aren't amazing creations of the Lord. It is because children are able to see God through humble eyes and minds. Jesus states that to see the kingdom of heaven we must humble ourselves like a child. I think it would be wise to spend more time looking at God through the lives of children.
As the chapter continues we see warnings of steering others in the wrong direction, away from God. We are told of the danger of causing people to stumble. As well, we see warnings and measures that we should take if we ourselves stumble.
Overall, I think that we see this amazing concept of how we must live our lives. We must be like a child, we must steer people towards God, and we place God first no matter the cost! These basic understandings can take the different shapes in different peoples lives but it is something we must all address in our lives in order to grow spiritually!
We see Hezekiah's reaction to these hopeless events. He calls on the Lord. Then the prophet Isaiah gives him hope from the Lord. The army of Assyria is humbled. One hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp are destroyed. The king of Assyria is killed by his sons. Judah is once again saved because of a faithful God.
Then Hezekiah is told some time later that he is going to die from his illness. Once again there is hopelessness for Hezekiah. What does he do? He calls on the Lord. Once again the prophet Isaiah comes to him first with the bad news and then with the good news that he will live because of his prayer and tears.
When you feel hopeless, what do you do? Do you call on the Lord? Hezekiah did.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
If you live in the
What begins to happen within a matter of seconds is that you lose all sense of direction. Interestingly enough some people begin to lose their balance while just simply trying to stand upright and still. Why? What has changed? In the darkness there is no longer a fixed point of reference. You lose the ability to discern where you are and in turn easily lose your balance.
Dark circumstances have an ability to mess with our spiritual discernment. Job chapters 13 and 14 are a continuation of a speech that Job started in chapter 12. It is in reply to accusations made by Zophar that Job needs to repent of some secret sin. Where I’m going with all of this is that Job keeps his balance even in the darkness of circumstance. As I read these two chapters I had to keep asking myself; could I do this? Job’s friends had some real and true insight into the nature of God. Could I “discern” enough to know that what they were saying was not true about my situation? If I were placed under the same set of circumstances that Job was under would I begin to doubt my standing with God?
Job sticks to his guns. He is sure that he is “blameless” before God. (Just for the record; blameless and sinless are two different things. Job is not saying he is sinless.) Job is able to discern that they have “misdiagnosed” his life; “you guys are worthless physicians” (12:4). He is somehow able to discern through all of the pain and circumstances surrounding that pain that the trio were “speaking falsely for God” (12:7).
Job makes this powerful statement in 12:15, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” That is a statement of balance even in the darkness. Job is essence says, “My hope is not in what I see (the circumstances surrounding his life), my hope is in what I cannot see (the big picture that is taking place in the throne room of God). I want that kind of balance and discernment.
It is a good thing that God chose a poetic type like Job. Chapter 14 is filled with poetic imagery comparing the natural cycle of things like trees to the “once your dead, you’re dead” life of mankind. Job uses nature as on object lesson on how God can wear a man down. If I had wrote it chapter 14 would have simply said, “Life is hard and then it’s over,” which would’ve made for a significantly shorter and less interesting book.
In the dark times of life do you have spiritual discernment? Do you know God’s word enough to see through bad theology, even if it looks good on the surface? Are we willing to have our discernment of right and wrong put to the test? May we be a people that “hope in Him” even unto death. Remember that “Job” without the trials and pains… is just another man who has never been put to the test.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Part 1 - God is a Rock for David
Part 2 - David asks for help
Part 3 - God answers David
Part 4 - Why God gives help to people
Part 5 - Everything that David owns comes from God
Part 6 - God made David king
Psalm 19 is about words.
Verses 1-6 Nobody speaks any words but we see all that GOD has created. (Nature)
Verses 7-11 God's name becomes LORD and the use of this word to describe the time when
people decided to follow God. He becomes their LORD.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In Judges 8, we see two weaknesses of Gideon. First, he made an ephod for his hometown when an ephod was for the priest's garment and no reason to be in any place other than Jerusalem. Second, we see that he had many wives. In effect he struggled with money and women. What an interesting picture as we see the same struggle today in many lives.
In Judges 9-11, we see the next judge over Israel - Jephthah. Jephthah had a background that was not one to write home about. He was the son of a harlot but we see that God used him against His people's enemies. This is a reminder that God uses many different types pf people with all kinds of pasts. Our past does not determine our future but instead the Lord determines our future in spite of our past.
Monday, February 14, 2011
One thing is for certain: People people usually act in a way that is consistent with how they have acted in the past.
If you wanted to, I bet you could write down how someone you know well would react to certain situations in their life because,
"people usually act in a way that is consistent with how they have acted in the past."
I have a group of friends of whom is can be said, "these people always show up, always do what they say, always live up to a promise."
I also have friends of whom that really can't be said. Sadly, I think I fall into the second category more often than I'd like. How about you?
One of the most interesting characteristics of God is His reliability. He always does what He does. He never lies; "he's not a man that He should lie." God always follows through on His word. He makes a promise and keeps that promise. There's no better promise keeper in the world.
Sometimes, however, it may seem like the fulfillment of a promise is a long time coming. It may seem like God hasn't kept His promise. It may seem like God has forgotten about what He promised:
It may seem like God has forgotten you.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The biggest lesson I learn privately from Genesis 24 is that when God promises something, we have to lean on it. We have to hope in it. We have to live our life in a way that believes that this promise made is true. Not that we make it true by believing it, that's just ridiculousness. God's promise is true whether or not I believe it.
Earlier in Genesis, God promised Abraham a Son. That son was named Isaac. God promised that, "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." (chapter 21)
God gave His word that Abraham's family line would be huge and that they would start with him and be spread like wildfire through his son Isaac. So in Genesis 24, we see the steps taken, once Abraham knows God's promise, to begin to see that promise start to come to pass.
Abraham was living by faith on the Word of God. He was acting on faith by looking at how God had followed through in His word in the past; God had been faithful, so Abraham would walk by faith. Not the other way around.
How important was it that God followed through on His promise to Abraham that his descendants would be through Isaac? We need only go to the first book of the New Testament to find the answer:
In Matthew 1 we read the family line of our Lord Jesus Christ and near the beginning we see two familiar names:
"Abraham was the father of Isaac."
The was the beginning of the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God simply HAD to fulfill his promise to Abraham in order for the Son of God to burst onto the scene and live His life to bear the wrath of a Holy God.
How are you doing today with resting in how God has acted in the past to therefore walk in faith with how He will ultimately act in the future?
God has been faithful, and God will continue to be faithful. Rest in that truth.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
In our reading for today, Paul continued to address the people by laying out Godly principles for daily living. In Chap 13, Paul addressed the issue of following authority. He reminds the believers that government officials are in power only through the authority of God. Because of that reason, rebellion against governing authority is a rebellion against God himself. It is sometimes hard for us to accept people in power whether if it’s due to their beliefs, style or history. But the one thing we must always remember is that everything happens under God’s plan, for he is sovereign. Several times throughout the earlier books of the Old Testament, God allowed poor rulers and evil nations to consequence his people, in order to fulfill his plan. As believers we should be in constant prayer for our leaders that they are following the will of God. For when they stray away from His Truth, we stand up to voice his Word.
Moving into chapter 14, Paul took on the tough issue of criticism or judging others. In the passage he is not dealing with flagrant sin which of course should be dealt with; he instead, talked about behaviors that may sit contrary to other believers. Paul used the examples of eating various items and choosing a day to be more holy than the next. His statement to the believers was no matter what you do, it should be done to honor the Lord. Paul warned that all shall stand in judgment one day (Isa 45:23). Because of this, Paul’s gave a two part principle. First, each individual should judge themselves in order to be prepared to be accountable to God. Paul warned believers in (Rom. 12:3) about honest self-evaluation. The second part of the principle was for followers not to live their life in a way that may cause a (young/immature/weak) believer to stumble. In (1 Cor. 8: 9-13), Paul addressed this issue as well. He used the word “destroyed”(NLT) to symbolize the damage that could be done by believers living inconsistent lives. In our own time how many disputes breakout between members of the same congregation, different churches or different denominations. Maybe it’s because the music is to urban, or the preacher is not enough fire and brimstone or maybe it’s because the congregation is dressed in jeans. Regardless, we as followers of Christ need to scrutinize our own actions before criticizing others. We should be welcoming opportunities to build people up not tear them down.
Friday, February 11, 2011
In chapter 14, I was struck by just one single verse. After Jesus hears of John the Baptist's death, he "withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself" (verse 13). More than once, we see Jesus going off to be by himself. He understood the importance of getting alone with the Father. Stephen W. Smith writes in his book, Soul Shaping the following:
"Moses encountered God on the backside of a mountain. David explored the work of God in pastures and caves. Jesus visited lonely places to do His soul work. Jesus knew that something happens in lonely places that does not happen in places filled with people." (page 37).
Jesus knew that spiritual transformation takes place when you get alone with the Father. I wonder how many of His followers take His lead on this discipline and take the time to get alone to a very quiet, "lonely" place. It is here that transformation, renewal, and growth occurs.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wow! How often today do Christians practice hypocrisy. Doing one thing at church and another things at work or school or in the community. God does not expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to be humble and admit our mistakes. However, so many do wrong and only are sorry if caught. Note that this very thing is what caused God to punish Jerusalem. Why do we expect different?
Isaiah continues his discourse about putting our faith in others and not in Him. Jerusalem had put their faith in Egypt to protect them from Assyria. God states that Egypt will only bring death, but trusting God will be salvation. Some time later Hezekiah will become king of Judah and call the people back to the Lord of Host. The king of Assyria will come to destroy Jerusalem, but God will work a miracle for His people and save them, not Egypt (See 2 Kings 18 - 19).
As I listen to the radio and television these days I am reminded of how people today are worried about the fall of Egypt and the future of the Camp David Accord signed in 1973. The future is in God's hands. He has already told us that the Arab nations around Israel will one day surround Jerusalem to destroy it, but that God will save His people one final time. We are possibly seeing this truth unfold. Don't worry about Israel. We need to worry about our relationship to God. Are will giving lip service to Him, but our actions are against Him?
I feel sometimes today that we Christians are living in our culture doing wrong and hoping God will overlook our actions. We often function under the belief "that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission." That is a dangerous place to be. It is true that God will forgive, but He really desires holiness on our part. If God would not spare Israel from punishment or His Son from OUR punishment, don't think we will escape.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
You have heard it said that the right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. That is probably the best sort of analogy to which one could point to describe the speeches of Job’s three “friends.” This trio seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to God and His power. (right thing) But the application of God’s power and their assurance that they know what the omnipotent God of the universe is doing could not be further off the mark. (wrong time)
For whatever reason the man named Zophar waits until the other two, Eliphaz and Bildad, have had their turn. One would hope that Zophar, who hails from Naamah (possibly in the
Zophar’s message is much like that of Bildad; repent. Like I said in the beginning Zophar lays out some powerful truths that many of us would do good to remember. God gives wisdom (v. 5-6). We never really get what we deserve from God (v. 6). Who can know the mind of God (v. 7-11). In verses 13 through 19 Zophar seems to have a firm grasp on the fact the God is merciful and restores those who repent. Right on Z!!! Only problem; this situation has nothing to do with Job’s sin!!!
Does God bring about divine discipline when believers sin; absolutely. (Everyone should actually give an audible “Amen” and “Thank you Jesus” for that.) But we should never assume to know what God is doing in someone else’s life. The only thing that we can know for sure is that God is doing something. He is not asleep. He is not unaware. The forces of evil have not backed Him into a corner. It is the hand of YHWH who has done this (12:9).
For any fans of the movie “Tommy Boy” (and by fan I mean you have seen it 10 or more times) there is a scene in which David Spade’s character, Richard, is engaged in a discussion with a gas station attendant about directions. The gas station attendant tells him that he needs a new map. To which Richard responds with an audible “internal” monologue in which he tells the attendant that he is “real smart.” The attendant replies that he is picking up on Richard’s sarcasm. Then the classic reply; “that’s good because I’m laying it on pretty thick.” In chapter 12:2, Job tells the three that when they die that wisdom will die with them. Job is “laying it on pretty thick.” Good to know that he can maintain at least some humorous sarcasm through this trial.
Job then does something that can be extremely hard to do. He talks about the relationship between “God and suffering” out of truth rather than out of circumstance. Do you follow me? “When things are good; God is good.” “When things are bad” God’s nature somehow changes. Do you know people like that? Are you on guard to make sure that you’re not a person like that?
Job tells the three that in this fallen world that sometimes “bad people” sit in the lap of luxury while “good people” hurt. Job reminds them that God sets up counselors, judges, rulers, policemen, ministers, those born into privilege and those who are strong. He also tears then down; all at His discretion. And instead of walking away from God and His “higher ways” at that point; Job seems to say, “It is well.” “It is not well with my body.” It is not well with my heart.” “But it is well with my soul.” Believe you me; there is a big difference.
Are God’s “higher ways” well with your soul? “He is God and I am not.” Today you can continue to wrestle with that truth and try with all your might to grab bits and pieces of autonomy or… you can choose to rest in Him. I love it when my child stops fighting me and just leans on me in faith and love. My Father loves it too. Exhale… trust… obey.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land.
It came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.
Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer; so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.
Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites lived among them and became subject to forced labor.
Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob.
So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out.
Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, but lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; and the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became forced labor for them.
Then the Amorites forced the sons of Dan into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the valley;
yet the Amorites persisted in living in Mount Heres, in Aijalon and in Shaalbim; but when the power of the house of Joseph grew strong, they became forced labor.
The border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.
What we see is the seed of incomplete obedience that will be the fruit of pain for generations to come. If we would keep short accounts with the Lord and recognize that He loves us but does not tolerate our sin because He knows that our sin creates great pain in the long run we would be so much better off. The Lord comes in Judges 2 and makes the pronouncement that the Canaanites and those whom they have tolerates will be like a thorn in their side. The Canaanites will plunder them rather than vice versa.
At the end of Judges 2, we see God's mercy AGAIN.
Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. 2:16
When the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. 2:18
As God gave hope through the Judges we also see that every time a Judge died the people went right back to the sin rather than running to the LORD - Jehovah.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Genesis 22 starts with this phrase.
After WHAT things? What has happened to Abraham up to this point?
1. A voyage to the Promised Land (12:1–9)
2. A problem and solution in Egypt (12:10–20)
3. Division (chap. 13)
4. Victory against some kings (chap. 14)
5. The covenant of God (chap. 15)
6. Hagar and Ishmael are rejected (chap. 16)
7. God's confirmation of His covenant (chap. 17)
8. Birth of Isaac promised (18:1–15)
9. The big deal with Sodom and Gomorrah (18:16–19:38)
10. A Philistine appointment (chap. 20)
11. Isaac’s birth (chap. 21)
So...after those things. Those little things. Those parts of Abraham's life that seemed at points insurmountable. Where every step of the way Abraham was driven to his knees in dependence upon the Lord. God was using each step in our story up to now to refine Abraham. To make him into a man. To mold him into the kind of guy that trusts God with big things.
So that's it right?
Our story picks up in Genesis 22.
"After these things... God tested Abraham..." (22:1)
Seems to me that the last 10 chapters have been filled with test after test after test of God for Abraham. But no, "After these things, God tested Abraham.
Ever feel that way? Like life is full of hardship after hardship after problem after problem?
Well you're not alone.
In the book of James chapter one it says,
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,"
The question isn't if, the question is when. "When you meet trials." They're coming. They're going to happen. No one gets a trial free life, especially the Christian. In fact, I believe Scripture would argue that if you're life is light and fluffy, filled with trial free days and carefree nights, that you probably aren't a child of God.
So, when trials do come, we're supposed to, "Count it all joy."
Why is this?
James answers, "for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Trials in life are sent from God to produce in you a steadfast faith. A faith that can't be shaken. An old saying: "A faith never tested is no faith at all."
So apparently God wants to produce in Abraham a steadfast faith.
Ok. What is the trial? Back to the text:
"He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
Remember the journey to Isaac? Remember how Abraham and his wife were old and all the issues involved with Ishmael and how God promised a future through Isaac and everything else about this story?
Well now God throws a curve ball it seems.
Basically saying, "I realize I promised Isaac to you but I'd like you to take him up on a hill and cut his throat and burn his body as an act of worship to Me."
Kind of an odd request. God is requiring a sacrifice.
Certainly odd by our standards today.
Well you know the story: God was testing Abraham and had no intention of letting Abraham kill his son. No, God's plan, from the beginning was to have another lamb slaughtered in Isaac's place. Abraham was handed a substitute to save his son Isaac. Isaac was saved by the lamb.
Sound familiar? Of course this is foreshadowing of things to come. It's a grand glimpse into the future of God's redemptive plan for human kind: The glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When the time came, payment was required in order for God's wrath against mankind to be satisfied and once again, God provided the lamb: His Son, The Lord Jesus.
God killed His son in order that He doesn't have to kill us. He killed Jesus that we might be saved from His wrath.
Most of you reading this blog believe that to be true. I wonder, have you had the faith today to tell that old, old story to someone who does not yet believe?
Scripture says, "today is the day of Salvation." So may we take today as a gift from God and use it to proclaim the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
As we continue our trip through Romans, we encounter a change in Paul’s preaching. Throughout the first eleven chapters, Paul gives a theological perspective as he explained the relationship between man’s sinful nature and the need for placing complete faith in Jesus Christ. Paul next made the case that because of God’s gift of Jesus, the law was insufficient in bringing salvation. He continued to preach that man was unable to be saved through his own religiosity, good deeds and heritage. In viewing chap 11, Paul completed his point by emphasizing the balance between mercy and blessing. He indicated that many Jews rebelled from God’s gift, due to placing faith in themselves and rituals. Because of these actions, Gentiles were now able to receive the blessing of his grace through Jesus. Paul illustrated this through using an analogy of a tree. As God is the root system, Abraham is the tree and the Jewish people were the branches. Because some refused the gift of salvation through Jesus, those branches were broken away and Gentiles, from a different tree, were able to be grafted on as they placed their faith in Christ.
If we briefly look at this word “grafted” which means to be spliced or embedded, it gives an image of oneness. In our daily walk, how joined are we to Jesus? Do we become thicker and sprout other branches as we absorb the nutrient of Christ or do we dwindle and become brittle?
In viewing Chapter 12, Paul took the principle of needing Christ and developing a relationship with God and began to make it applicable to daily living. I will not even begin to break down line by line, because this chapter is so important in our daily walk. I will point out that Paul is consistent with Jesus’ response in Matt 22:37-39. As he states love your God first and love your neighbor second; Paul first tells everyone to devote themselves entirely to God. He calls believers to be living and holy sacrifices to God. Paul also calls on believers to love everyone around them. To use gifts God has given us to serve out of love not prestige. What have you done to live your life according to Chap. 12.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Throughout Jesus' ministry, He was constantly being judged and condemed by the Pharisees and religious leaders. In Matthew 11, we see Jesus teaching of whom John the Baptist is. He attempts to explain the fulfillment of prophecy to the people, yet He recognizes that they are more wrapped up in judgment than to accept hope. As He talks of the cities where He had performed most of the miracles, He points out that they may have received healings but that they lacked life change which is ultimately the most important thing. Matthew 11 ends with the statement from Jesus that we must bring Him our burdens and He will give us light! Physically we may have hardships but Jesus is offering so much more!
In Matthew 12 this theme of repentance continues as Jesus faces off with the Pharisees over working on the Sabbath. Jesus makes it very clear that knowing the Scriptures won't save you. True love and acceptance of the Father is where hope is found. If we are followers of Christ, our life must reflect that...which Jesus explains when He tells of the tree being identified by its fruit.
As our readings in Matthew continues into chapter 13, we see a shift into stories and parables. These illustrations were used greatly by Jesus to explain the ideas of repentance, love, and eternal life with the Father. These stories did not always make Jesus popular but He was true to His message and kept teaching truth. I wonder how many believers today can claim this in their own lives?!?!
Friday, February 4, 2011
The prophet Isaiah continues in chapter 24 with the "Final End." This oracle is to the whole world. Chapters 24 through 27 are often called "apocalyptic," since they depict the final conflict and God's victory in vivd images.
Note that God judges all men. He lays waste the whole earth. Man's pride is humbled. Nothing can keep man from being judged. However, in the midst of this judgment God calls His people to Him. They are saved. Israel from the river Euphrates to the brooks of Egyptwill be gathered to Him. The great trumpet of God will declare the Year of Jubilee and Israel will be made free.
These verses declare what God will one day do for Israel. As we watch the television these days and see the chaos in Egypt and throughout the Middle East it becomes clear that God is truly Sovereign. He has declare that the the enemies of Israel will surround them and try to destroy them in the last days. The stage is being set. In time the nations around Israel will join together to eliminate Israel from the earth. Then God will show His power and might. We need to pray for Israel. We need to pray for open hearts among the Muslims toward Jesus. We need to prepare ourselves daily to be who God desires us to be. But we can never forget that Isaiah declares that He will gather His people for He is Sovereign.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Some comments do not justify a response. I would do good to remember that. In fact I believe that we would all do good to remember to not “answer a fool in his folly.” Job does just that. Despite backhanded attempts by two “friends” to point out that Job must be a secret sinner, Job decides to keep his focus where it should be. In Job 9 and 10 Job talks about God and he talks to God.
“How can a man make a case before God?” Job knows that he has done nothing wrong but stills recognizes that his righteousness cannot compare to a Holy creator who, to be really honest, does things that we don’t understand and even sometimes loathe. Job understands, “I may be good but I’ll never be good enough.”
Job still has to be honest about his situation. He doesn’t care if he lives or dies. I believe that is a feeling that only a parent who has lost a child can really understand. Job just wants an official indictment from the Lord. “Please show me my charges.” Anyone who is married and has ever had an angry spouse for what appears to be “no good reason” gets this. “Just tell me what I did so I will never do it again!!”
Human beings hate God’s processes. Think about a time when God was refining you. Did you like the process? Probably not, but how was the result? Maybe you are in process now. Maybe you too are only 10 chapters in to your personal story. His ways are higher than our ways. His timing is right… period.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
God said to Abraham (who had no children),
"Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”"
God promises a man with no children and a barren wife (Genesis 11:30) to make his offspring as numerous as the stars. (a figure of speech meaning a lot of children.)
Why did God wait until Abraham was old? Why did he choose a man who had a barren wife? Why would he use this couple who had no earthly hope of conceiving a child to fulfill His purpose?
Simple: They couldn't fulfill His purpose. It had to be God.
Romans 4:17 says,
"“I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not."
This is a quotation of Genesis 17.
Notice the last part about in whom they have believed,
"The God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not."
That is the God we serve. The God who speaks life where there is no life. The God who shows up with all seems hopeless. The God who says to the world,
"My ways are not your ways."
Does your life seem impossible? Does your situation seem hopeless?
Do not be quick to forget that God specializes in the impossible. He rules over the hopeless.
Let us be quick to call upon the Name of the Lord in every time of distress.
"So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it.
And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand.
Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass." Joshua 21:43-45
What a wonderful ending of the land being given out and a great summary. God is faithful to keep His promises - all of them.
In chapter 22, we see the importance of remembering a Godly past and creating remberance touchstones. As the tribes of Reuben, Gad and 1/2 of Manasseh built an altar for the purpose of remembering the importance of whom they worshipped, how they worshipped, and the larger nation that they worshipped with. This was misunderstood by the rest of the nation but ultimately they appreciated the explanation given of having a desire to see future generations not forget the things that truly matter.
In chapters 23-24, Joshua prepares the people for his death by reminding them of the faithfulness of the Lord and the importance of their faithfulness to Him by not tolerating the false gods that were left in the area. they were nto to intermarry but to stay pure and holy before God. Joshua reminds the people with the specific story of how God has brought them from Abraham to Moses to faithfully into the Promise Land. Joshua brings them to the point of decision by saying thatt hey need to choose who they will serve and that the choice will have consequences. To serve the Lord would mean that they would continue to see a faithful God at work in their lives but to choose to serve and obey the false gods left in the land would mean that Jehovah would drive them out of the very land that they were given. There are always consequences to our disobedience. As Joshua sets up a rememberance of their decision to serve the Lord and sends them out to the land that was given to them, he then dies at the age of 110.