Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31 – Exodus 4-6

Today’s reading comes from Exodus 4-6. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

God’s people have been in Egypt for nearly four-hundred and thirty years. The generation we meet in Exodus knows no freedom. They have spent their entire lives as slaves to Pharaoh. They have heard the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They have heard the promises God has made to them. They know of the land flowing with milk and honey that their people has been promised. The oppression they have endured has caused them to cry out to God. God has heard their cries, and he is preparing a leader.

Moses meets God at the burning bush, gives him his mission (I like to imagine this encounter where God is showing Moses the signs he can do with the staff, the water, and his own hand as the precursor to “Q” from James Bond.), and then sends him back to Egypt. Moses joins with his brother Aaron and goes before Pharaoh.

Pharaoh hears the demands of God and pretty much laughs in His face, making the work of the Israelites even harder. The deliverance from God from the yoke of the Egyptians is very near. But right now, with the work increasing, it seems like they are in their darkest days. Moses attempt to get them out of slavery has only made their work harder. To them, they are in darkness. But is not true that darkest part of night is always right before dawn?

It’s a great lesson to learn. Maybe our darkest hour is right before the dawn. Right before new things are about to happen. Right before God’s deliverance from whatever yoke we are carrying around is about to take place. Have you seen this play out in your own life? I bet if you look closely you have. And I would also imagine it’s that darkest hour that has made you stronger. These dark hours for the Israelites are going to prepare them for their journey to the Promised Land and their time in the wilderness.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30 – Exodus 1-3

Today’s reading comes from Exodus 1-3. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

 It’s amazing how fast time flies. As we close out the month of January we are putting Genesis and Job behind us and starting the book of Exodus. We last saw the patriarchal family burying their father Jacob in the same grave as their grandfathers Isaac and Abraham, and having their brother Joseph embalmed. Almost four hundred years have passed from the time they came to Egypt to the time Exodus begins. It is now somewhere around the year 1,500 B.C. Moses, the baby born in chapter two of today’s reading is the author of the book of Exodus.

Joseph and all his generation has died. The 2011 version of the NIV translates Exodus 1:8 with these terms … “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.” The NIV84 translates this same passage … “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.” Reading today the 2011 NIV put a new thought in my mind. The name and legacy of Joseph was forgotten. His impact, his work to keep Egypt wealthy and prosperous was gone from their memories. Now what was the reason for this? I think this is the result of the pride that the Pharaoh’s had in themselves.

Pharaoh was believed by himself and by his people to be a god. This swelled the head of a Pharaoh greatly, so much so that he thought that everything that happened in Egypt was all because of him. But yet, he was also fearful. He did not remember what Joseph had done for their nation, or why his decedents were living in the land, but he saw them growing in number and enslaved them. Even with all his pride he had no security.

The cool thing in all of this, Pharaoh had no god other than himself. The Israelites, while God may have seemed silent, always had God hearing their cries and remember them. God was with the midwives as they protected the babies born … Exodus 1:20; he heard their cries and was concerned about them … Exodus 2:25; and God tells Moses he has seen the misery of his people … Exodus 3:7-8. Friends, when life seems challenging, when you seem at the end of your rope, when it seems bleak, remember, even though God may seem silent, he is aware of what you are going through. In time he will work it out for good. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29 – Genesis 48-50

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 48-50. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Today we close out a second book … Genesis. We have seen God’s hand at work in multiple ways. We experienced creation, destruction through the flood, the scrambling of languages, learned how to cope from calamities through Job, and witnessed the building of a nation through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Genesis closes out on a high note. Jacob blesses his son Joseph and his two boys, he calls all his sons together and showers blessings on them, Jacob is buried with full Egyptian pomp, and Joseph dies understanding the harm his brothers sought was meant by God to save his family and preserve the promise. God has been good to Joseph and his family.

I think there is a good lesson to learn from the blessings Jacob shares with his sons. Reuben had done a detestable thing sleeping with Bilhah Jacob’s concubine. Both Simeon and Levi sinned in murdering the Shechemites after they raped their sister Dinah. We see that there are consequences because of sin. Reuben looses his seat at the table of nations … he will not be counted in the twelve tribes … one of Joseph’s sons occupies his place

Friends there are always consequences for sin. But let me remind you, while there are consequences for sin there is also forgiveness. We might have to spend the rest of our life dealing with the consequences of our sinful actions, but in Christ there will always be forgiveness, and those consequences only last in this life. In Christ we are considered righteous and have the privilege of spending eternity in the presence of God.

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28 – Genesis 46-47

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 46-47. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Today we see a joyous reunion between father and son and we see God’s blessing being poured out. God has been building a nation and now he is getting ready to protect the nation he has built. Joseph was in just the right place to save his growing family of brothers, their wives, their children and even grandchildren. The whole family, seventy in all is now in the land of Egypt where there is food because of the work Joseph has kept.

As we read today’s events we quickly see how long and sever this famine is. It is so severe that the people finally place themselves in bondage to Pharaoh just to remain alive and not starve. What would Joseph’s family do if they had not been in Egypt during this time? What would Joseph’s family have done if his brothers had not sold him into slavery where he ended up in Egypt in charge of life saving food? The family line may have been wiped out and the promise with Abraham not fulfilled. But that is the God we serve. God had a plan and a purpose with Abraham and his decedents. And his purpose will play out no matter what natural events happen or choices we as humans make.

This is a theme we will continually see as we read through the Bible. Time and time again it will look bleak for God’s people. But each time it does, God works it out for them. He brings them through it. All so that his son can be born and die so that all mankind can know salvation. It is neat to see these little sprinklings of hope as God works to preserve his purpose. When it looks bleak in life, remember, God is in control, and he has a purpose and plan for your life. Will you accept it?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27 – Genesis 43-45

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 43-45. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

God is good. If we faithfully serve him, if we faithfully follow him, if we faithfully submit to his leadership even when it does not seem to make sense, God is going to deliver. I firmly believe that. Joseph must have and it certainly worked out in the end.

After being sold into slavery and thrown into prison he could have easily given up on God. But he never did. His life and actions showed the faith that had been instilled in him through his father Jacob. Joseph stayed the course and came out victorious. Maybe while going through it he never saw it, but he certainly did by the time his brothers arrived in the land. “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” Genesis 45:7-8 NIV84.

What turmoil have you encountered in life? Have you look for the good that God may be doing through it in your life and those around you? If not, pray that God will open your eyes to see what it is he is doing.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26 – Genesis 41-42

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 41-42. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

God’s providence is always for the best. Do you believe that? I mean do you really believe that or do you pay it lip service? When things aren’t going right, do you utter the words … “God knows what he is doing, so I just have to trust him” … and really believe those words? Sometimes it’s hard to believe those words, because God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s plans are not our plans, and sometimes God’s plans seem to take much longer than we would ever orchestrate them to be.

Joseph had every reason to pay lip service while constantly questioning God’s plan for his life. He was loved and cherished by his father. He was hated and despised by his brothers. He was sold as a slave by his own brothers. He rose to prominence in his master’s house only to wind up in jail because his masters wife wanted to seduce him and cried rape when he resisted. Joseph’s life has been full of ups and downs. It seems like whenever things are going well it is just then that everything is cut out from under him. He could play lip service to God’s plan while still doubting in his heart.

Here’s the cool thing, God’s plan was still best. It may have taken a while. It was thirteen years after being sold as a slave when Joseph is thirty that he enters Pharaohs service (Genesis 41-46). It won’t be another seven plus years until he is reunited with his brothers. But as we will find out in tomorrow’s reading God’s providence really is best, even if it has taken almost twenty years to work out. I know patience is hard, but sometimes we just need to sit back, keep moving forward and let God work. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25 – Genesis 38-40

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 38-40. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

What do you do when something isn’t right but there is nothing you can do about it? When Joseph ended up in Egypt after being sold by his brothers to the Ishmaelite’s he is then bought by Potiphar an official of Pharaoh. The Lord is with Joseph and he begins to prosper under Potiphar’s house and his master recognizes this and gives him command of his entire house.

Now Joseph was seventeen when he was sold by his brothers, so he at this time is either in his late teens or early twenties. Potiphar’s wife sees this handsome strapping young man and her heart burns with sexual desire for him. She tries to seduce Joseph but each time she does he takes the noble route and turns from her advances. One unfortunate day Joseph and his master’s wife are alone in the house with no one around. She thinks this is her chance but as she grabs Joseph by the cloak he flees. Sadly his cloak is in her hands and she screams rape.

When Potiphar returns home he is confronted with his wife’s allegations against Joseph. Now the Bible describes his reaction … “When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined.” Genesis 39:19-20 NIV84. Potiphar was angry, but who was he angry with?

Was he angry at Joseph or was he angry with his wife? Now what you are about to read is only my speculation and not fact, simply some food for thought … I am sure Potiphar knew his wife. This kind of character seems out of sorts for Joseph. But maybe it wasn’t for his wife. However, she is crying rape, there are no witnesses, and there is no proof he can offer so what is he to do? He has the legal ability to have Joseph put to death for such a crime. But he opts to not. He puts him in prison and in such a way that Joseph becomes a high level servant to the chief of the guards. This is all speculation on my part, but maybe Potiphar had reacted out of anger towards his wife for costing him his best servant.

Now I do not know if that conjecture is the realities of history or my optimistic spirit. But I do know that sometimes we are faced with tough decisions in life. Sometimes the best thing to do is to do the very best for the person who wronged us. Certainly teaching and discipline need to happen, but in a way that allows the person who wronged us to benefit and prosper. How can you react different in the future and show grace, mercy, and love to those all around you?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24 – Genesis 35-37

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 35-37. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Jacob has returned home. He has been graciously welcomed by his brother whom he stole the birthright and their fathers blessings. He has been blessed with eleven sons and a daughter from two wives and two concubines. Now God is requesting that he return to Bethel the place where he built and altar when God appeared to him in the dream as he was fleeing from his brother.

This is a holy place and he knows that to enter and live there they must purify themselves. They have come from a pagan land. His children have grown up amongst idols of all kinds. Jacob knows their influence has crept into their lives, so before returning he gives this command … “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build and altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:2b-3 NIV84. Jacob knew what they were about to do was holy and that they were to enter a holy place, so he prepared his family for it.

Friends, as Christians we no longer have a holy place. Our church building is not any more holy than our schools, our cars, or our homes. God does not dwell in just one spot like he did during the patriarchal days. Before the Temple of Solomon, the Tabernacle of the wilderness period through King David’s life, and the altars built to God, God did reside in these specific locations. That’s what these altars, the Tabernacle and the Temple all represented … God’s presence. But now God resides within the believer. The temple is now each individual Christian as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 … “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

Church, what actions do you need to take in your life to purify yourself before God just as Jacob and his entire household did? They did so when they came near the spot where Jacob had witnessed God. You as a Christian have the Spirit of God residing in you! Think about and pray about what impurities, what gods in your life need to be worked on and removed from being near and in the temple of the one true God.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23 - Genesis 32-34

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 32-34. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

As we have read through the story of Abraham, Isaac and now Jacob there has been one theme that keeps rearing its ugly head and it really bothers me. Throughout this story we have seen all sorts of levels of dishonesty. We witnessed when Abraham lied not once but twice about Sarah being his wife. While the lie wasn’t fully true … she was his half-sister having the same father but different mothers … it was still a lie, she was his wife. We see Isaac make a very similar lie telling the same group of people that Rebekah was not his wife. We then see between Rebekah and her sons Esau and Jacob there is dishonesty when she sends Jacob in to receive Esau’s blessing from Isaac. Now today, we conclude our reading with a pact made by Jacob’s sons and the Shechemites.

Now the Schechemites do something very detestable to her … Genesis says he violated her 34:2. At the very best she was a willing partner but because no marriage had taken place he defiled her, and at the very worst … which is the most likely scenario … he raped her. This outraged her brothers. But her brothers did a detestable thing in making a pact with the Schechemites, tricking them into circumcision and then slaughtering them in their pain. I wasn’t there, I only have the benefit of reading about it, but there had to be a better more peaceful way to resolve this issue. At least there had to be an honest way to do so.

Maybe there is something in this I am missing. But let me encourage you … whenever you have been wronged, whenever you are in a tight situation, do not cause God to have to come to your rescue like he has done for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do the noble and right thing from the beginning. And remember, God’s story is full of people who haven’t always gotten it right. He has never hid that from us in his word. It is there bright and loud and he used them through their weaknesses. And he can and will use you despite your weaknesses. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22 – Genesis 30-31

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 30-31. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

What hides in your family tree? Are there things in it that you are not completely proud of? Have people done some pretty detestable things? Affairs, arrests, alcoholism, prostitution, quarrels, murder, jealousy, and so many other things you try hard to forget about? No matter what has been hidden away … I wander if your family tree looks as sordid as Jacobs does?

Yesterday we first encountered the family tree Jacob has birthed. It began with sons born to his first wife Leah. Today we see that the wife he loved, whose womb was closed gives her maidservant to Jacob to give her children. When Leah sees that she is not having kids of her own she gives her own maidservant to Jacob to have children for her. In the heat of this back and forth, Leah turns to selling herself for her husbands affection when she sells to Rachel’s her sons mandrakes. She has more children and then finally Rachel’s womb opens and she has a son.

Friends this is an incredibly sordid family that is beginning. The cat fights and the back and forth would make any polygamist family today embarrassed. But here is the cool thing, no matter how much strife was taking place; God was using it for his kingdom. It is through Jacob that the promise God made to Abraham that his decedents would be numerous really begins to explode. Not only does Jacob’s family explode in number but God blesses him with material wealth. Again this blessing comes through some suspicious means, but God uses it for his purposes.

I do not know what is in your family history or even your own personal history, but remember this, no matter what is there, God’s grace, God’s love, and God’s mercy can and has cleansed you of it. God has a purpose for you. If you have found salvation at baptism, and the Holy Spirit now dwells in you, you have been justified, considered 100% righteous in the eyes of God. If you want a full explanation of that, see this earlier post. God can use you and has plans to use you no matter what guilt you carry around. So remove that guilt and turn towards him a little lighter and follow his lead.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21 – Genesis 27-29

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 27-29. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Have you ever seen God? Has he ever spoken to you? I have never talked with or met a person who has actually seen God in person or had an audible conversation with God. But that does not mean his prescience is not seen or his voice not heard. It’s amazing the way God shows himself to us.

Jacob saw God in a way that you and I probably never will until we walk through the gates of heaven. Jacob is on his way to his mother’s family’s house to find a wife when he stops to rest for the night. It is here that he has a dream where the angels of God are ascending and descending heaven on a staircase. At the top of this staircase is God himself who speaks to Jacob and confirms with him that the promise made to Abraham would go through him.

Have you ever had an encounter with God like that? I have not. God has never given me a dream where there is some sort of angelic activity and him speaking directly to me with a perfect vision of himself. But I know God has spoken to me, and it is so amazing when he does.

One day late last spring I was having a horrible day. Two people in our church were struggling over issues with each other and it was getting rough. It broke my heart because of what was going on. It was at this time we were facing a leadership situation and in the midst of it all, I get an email from someone whose heart is breaking for these situations, as well as to inform me of some other issues we were facing. Right in the heat of my own pity party a good friend calls me to see about lunch sometime that week … great reminder whose in control … and he can tell something was not right with me. We schedule a meeting outside of Lebanon so I could openly talk with out anyone overhearing. I get off the phone, finished an email and then headed to Armco Park.

At Armco Park I find my favorite spot where I put in my headphones and spent an hour in worship and prayer. From there I opened up the laptop and done some journaling and letter writing. By the time I was done my entire mood had shifted. I had felt the prescience of God. I heard his voice in my worship, prayer, and time in His Word. The words I wrote were not mine, but God’s himself and I completely knew it. It was amazing to see and feel God speak to me. That night was a wonderful night of relaxation with my family. By the time my friend and I got together I was in a completely different place.

I love the way Jacob responded when he awoke from his sleep. It might have been extreme but it is similar to how I reacted that day. Read these words again … “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:16-17 (NIV84) Friends, how awesome the place you encounter God. Treasure that place. Store it close to your heart. Seek times with God where he will speak with you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20 – Genesis 25-26

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 25-26. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Apologies for missing yesterday’s thoughts on the blog. We had a rough previous night with Alivia sick and I simply got out of bed without much time to get ready and leave and failed to write out my thoughts.

Today’s reading reminds me of family. Abraham started out without any children. First his wife Sarah gives her maidservant to have a child with, which he does and Ishmael is born. Then Abraham and Sarah have a child, Isaac. Following Sarah’s death Abraham remarries and six more sons are born. Out of the sons listed one name stands out to me … Midian.

Abraham’s family tree is growing. The son of the promise, born to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, has children with his wife … two sons … Esau and Jacob. Ishmael has sons of his own … twelve to be exact. Esau and his brother have sons themselves. Slowly the promise of decedents as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore is beginning to take place.

For some of these names this is a simple listing, something we normally quickly read over. But if we pay attention to the names, they have some importance later in God’s Story. This is not the last time we encounter the Ishmaelite’s … when Jacob’s sons sell their brother Joseph it is to a group of Ishmaelite’s. When the Israelites return to the promise land, one of the groups they face is the Midianites.

Because of the sin in Abraham’s life, especially sleeping with his maidservant, the consequences are something his decedents have to battle with for years to come. Is there a sin in your life that you have received forgiveness for, but is something you are still dealing with the consequences of? Is there a sin in your life now that you can wipe out so the consequences would not be felt by your family for generations to come? Pray that God would give you the strength to overcome them.

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18 – Genesis 19-21

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 19-21. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

One thing I love about God is he always places a hedge of protection around his people. Today’s reading really exemplifies that fact. We begin our reading where we left off the day before, God is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham was bold enough to ask God to spare the cities, but not enough righteous people were there. I like to think that Abraham was pleading because he knew that his nephew Lot called Sodom home. Abraham has not forgotten Lot and neither has God.

Before destroying the city he sends two angels to rescue Lot and get them out. Upon their arrival we see the righteousness of Lot … insisting that they stay at his home that night … up against the sinful depravity that had consumed Sodom … men beating down Lot’s door to sleep with the two male visitors to their town. The next morning Lot and his family safely escape the city. A little side note, when following God, he wants you all in or all out. Lot and his family were told not to look back, which Lot’s wife did not follow and she turned to a pillar of salt. God remembered Lot and his family and protected them from destruction.

Our story continues with Abraham’s wife Sarah being taken as a wife to king Abimelech. This lie … which we learn is a partial lie … Sarah and Abraham share the same father but not mother … is a recurrence of a previous lie told to the king of Egypt a few short years before. God again places a hedge of protection around the promise he has made to Abraham. If Sarah would have consummated the marriage with Abimelech then the child she is about to have with Abraham … question; is she already pregnant with Abraham’s child and just not showing? … might be called into question. Is this child Abraham’s or Abimelech’s. God wanted no questions asked, and so he stopped this marriage before it ever began. (This may also give us a little hint into when a marriage actually takes place … not at a ceremony, but at consummation. This incident is not enough by itself to make an entire rule, but with other passage it is more fuel for the discussion.)

Think about your life. Have you seen the hedge of God’s protection wrapped around you? As we have seen in our stories today, God allowed bad decisions to take place, but he protected Abraham from completely jumping off the cliff. Maybe bad has happened in your life, but without God’s hedge of protection it would have certainly been much worse. Do not forget to praise God for the love, grace, and protection he provides for your life.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17 – Genesis 16-18

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 16-18. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

God has made a promise with Abram that he is going to bless all people on earth through him. Abram’s wife Sarai looks at Abram’s age and her age and realizes that they are both past child bearing years, especially herself, and they have no kids. How is this promise supposed to play out? So they take matters into their own hands and Sarai gives Abram her maidservant Hagar and a child is born.

What I love about this story is the imperfect people God used. We read a list like Hebrews 11 … the great faith chapter of the Bible … and we see a list of people’s triumphs, and we get this idea of how great and “perfect” they were. When we go back and read their actual stories as it played out year by year we see they were flawed people. What I love is God used people just like you and me, people who had flaws.

So what have you done in your life that says you are not good enough … Did you sleep with your wife’s maidservant and get her pregnant? Probably not, but Abram did, and he still became the father of the Israelites … Jesus still comes from his family tree. Did you doubt the voice you heard from God and laugh like Sarah did? She still became the mother of Isaac in her old age. No matter the wrongs you have committed, no matter the pains you bear, God can still use you in a powerful way. His story is full of imperfect people being used by him. Remember, if you belong to Christ, if you have been buried with him in his death and been resurrected with him through baptism, your sins have been forgiven, you are a new creation in Christ, and he has big plans for you.

I think this is best illustrated with the way our reading today concludes. Abraham is talking with God himself represented in the Angel of the Lord. The discussion is about the pending destruction to Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is brave before God and request that life be spared for various levels of righteousness. We see that God has compassion, love, mercy, and grace for the people. It shows that his ultimate desire is to see people’s lives saved not destroyed. His desire is for you, that is why he sent his son to die so that mankind could find salvation. Sure he hates evil, but he has paid the price to wipe out evil. He is loving, gracious, and kind. Allow that to work in your life! There is power in grace!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16 – Genesis 12-15

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 12-15. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

We are again back in Genesis. When we were last in Genesis we were observing the creation story. We experienced God’s hand in establishing the world. We see an explanation for the fossil record that is in the ground. We understand why the world has many vast and different languages. Today we begin another creation story, but this one doesn’t involve plants, animals, mountains, or any other physical aspects of the world. Creation today comes in the form of salvation.

We experience the call of Abram, better known as Abraham, to be the father of God’s people. God makes a covenant with Abram that if he follows Him all peoples on earth will be blessed through him … Gen. 12:3. We see Abram accept God’s covenant and follow Him completely.

One of the amazing things about the relationship between God and Abram is that God protects the covenant. When Abram lies about Sarai his wife and tells those in Egypt that she is his sister, God protects the covenant … Gen 13. In a similar way Abram honors the covenant himself.

After saving Lot from his capturer’s Melchizedek, king and priest of Salem, offers blessings to Abram. Abram responds … “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me.” Genesis 14:22-24. God protected the covenant with Abram, and Abram honored the covenant by depending on God and God alone.

There is a powerful lesson to learn in this encounter. God has given us the promise of eternal life in His presence. Do we do all we can to protect that covenant? In the way we live, the words we use, the care we take of our bodies, and the love we show others? Do we depend on God for His blessings or do we try to take care of ourselves, to do it on our own? Do we acknowledge that it is God who blesses through the gifts and talents he has given us? If you want a rich full life, then living this way, with the give and take, understanding it is God who leads and guides, you will find it. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15 – Job 40-42

Today’s reading comes from Job 40-42. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Today we have finished the book of Job. We have seen the life he had lived and the reverence to God he did it with. We have seen Satan approach God seeking permission to destroy the fabric of Job’s entire life. From that destruction we have witnessed the remorse, strength, questions, and faith that Job contained. We have witnessed the back and forth between Job and his friends. We have also experienced the thoughts of a young man. And we have now concluded with God’s own words.

In all Job did he never cursed God. He never turned his back on God. He did certainly struggle, he did certainly question God. And because Job asked for God to show up and to correct him, and instruct him God did just that. In the end, because of his faith, because he was willing to learn, because he was willing to be wrong and submit to the authority and leadership of God, Job is blessed beyond what he previously had before the destruction in his life.

There is a powerful lesson we can learn from Job. If we are humble, if we have faith, if we are willing to listen and learn from God, to be open to his teaching, to allow it to mold and shape our lives … when the valleys of this present themselves we will come out stronger than before. Job did just that and in the end it is said of him … “After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” (Job 42:16-17 NIV84) What a beautiful eulogy of Job.

The storms of life will define us. The definition will come from how we handle these storms. If we handle them well it may be said of us that we lived a full life, full of years, full of memories. If we do not handle them well it may be said of us, not in a eulogy at our funeral, but around the dinner table at family get-togethers about the negative ways we handled the storms of life. How do you want people to speak of you? Live as Job did, learning and growing from the pains, toils, heartaches, and calamities and you will be remembered well.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14 – Job 38-39

Today’s reading comes from Job 38-39. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

God is all knowing, God is all present, and God is all powerful. All along God has been in control. The calamities that have struck Job we not caused by God but they were allowed by God.  God has heard Job and his three friends banter back and forth. He has heard the descriptions of his character and abilities. He has heard the accusations made against Him. And now He is ready to respond.

He begins directly with Job. His words remind us of his work in creation. His words remind us of his power and majesty. His words remind us of his sovereignty. He asks where Job was as he wove the fabric of the universe into existence. We will learn that Job has no response to God’s questions.

In this we see God responding to the questions posed by Job. As I read I thought about the idea of questioning God. Is it ok to question God? From a simple surface level reading of God’s response we could say no, that it is a scary proposition. And in one sense I agree while completely disagree. Here is how.

As I study scripture I am fully convinced that it is a dangerous prospect to question God, to believe you know better. I mean he is God; creator, give of life, and sustainer of the universe. I think he knows what he is doing. However, to have questions, to seek wisdom, to seek understanding, to ask God why in humility, I think that is noble, I think that is pure. When calamities strike and you begin to question God, seek the tone of your heart. The tone of your heart will show the real reason for your questions. If you seek understanding and wisdom God will build up and instruct. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13 – Job 35-37

Today’s reading comes from Job 35-37. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Throughout Job we have witnessed the calamities brought upon his family. We have seen his misery. We have felt his hurt and pains. We have sat on the sidelines and watched as three friends tried in a horrible way to counsel Job. Through it all we have seen the glory of God, his power and majesty, his sovereignty all revealed by Job and his friends. But in any of that did we see praise?

As Elihu continues his thoughts he asks this same very question … “People cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful. But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the sky?” (Job 35:9-11 NIV84). I feel Elihu makes an awesome point.

Reflect on your life and how you handle the ups and downs of life. When times are good do you remember to praise and thank God for the blessings you know and experience? Or does it seem easy to forget God and what he has blessed you with? Now think of the valleys, the days that are hard … do you find yourself asking God why, maybe even blaming God, or at the very least frustrated with God? And then do you find yourself praising God through the valleys?

The author of James tells us to consider it joy when we face trials of many kinds because it is going to strengthen us and make us better (James 1:2-4). Are the valleys of life fun? Certainly not! But there is surly blessings that can be found in them. Just remember, the next valley you find yourself in, to ask what God is planning for your life that he is preparing you now for. In that you may just find praise and joy. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 12 - Job 32-34

Today’s reading comes from Job 32-34. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

So far through Job we have seen the back and forth discourse between Job and his three friends. While they have been going at it, another has sat in the wings listening to their arguments. This man is much younger and because of that he has purposefully sat in the shadows keeping quiet and simply listening. Through it all, while keeping quiet, while simply listening he begins to develop frustration with Job and his friends. He has listened long enough, now he must unload his thoughts.

Elihu realizes he is young, he realizes the men he is talking to have lived many years. He states this as the reason he has kept quiet for so long … “I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, “Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” (Job 32:6-7). Friends, I think that is wonderful wisdom for many of us to learn from and operate by.

 But … I think we would also be wise to be willing to learn from various generations. There is so much the younger can teach the older. The young must however remember that there is much wisdom in those who have lived and experienced the knowledge that comes through living many years. There is wisdom that can come only from living and experiencing life.

Let’s learn from Elihu that wisdom does come from age. However, let’s also realize that there are things that the younger generations can share and teach older generations. It is what makes all this work … learning and being willing to learn from each other. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11 – Job 29-31

Today’s reading comes from Job 24-28. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

This morning I had an interesting conversation with Marty about the pain and ridicule that came from fans while playing a sport. As a pitcher he said he had to learn selective hearing to not hear the things fans would say when not having his best day on the mound. We know negative words hurt. I wander how much the negative words hurt Job?

In chapter thirty Job had heard the negative words of those around him … “But now they mock me, men younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs.” (Job 31:1 NIV84) I wander if the negative words drove his depression deeper? I wander if Job would have suffered as long and hard as he had if the words from his friends … if the words from the casual observer had been positive, uplifting, and encouraging?

Friends, there is power in the words we say. Words can be deathly destructive or they can be life building. How do your words build up and encourage? Do you work hard to make sure others are uplifted, or do you find yourself constantly tearing others down? How can you be more uplifting? I think if we were to find the positive words in our heart and suppress the negative our world might look strikingly different.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10 – Job 24-28

Today’s reading comes from Job 24-28. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

The final line of today’s reading really struck me hard “And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord-That is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 NIV) Friends, that sums up Job’s entire discourse with his friends.

All throughout they have had this constant battle back and forth about what has brought these calamities upon Job. His friends blame some hidden sin issue in his life. While Job realizes that could be it, he knows he has lived his life in an effort to worship and praise God with it. In today’s reading we have even seen the back and forth about what happens to evil people. Job paints the most beautiful picture of what end will eventually come to those who choose to live the wicked path of life. That fullness is realized in the eternal separation from God if a life saving/changing relationship with Jesus is never gained.

After all this back and forth Job concludes with his friends that wisdom is worth more than any precious stone, any precious ore from the ground, or any of the riches conceived by man. Wisdom is a high value commodity, and the root of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.

Friends, do you fear God? I think when we hear this phrase we too quickly run to that idea of something horrible, something scary, and something that will endanger us. While that may be a part of the definition it is only a part. I think in fear there is a healthy amount of respect. As an adult I no longer fear the wrath of my parents or the negative they can do to me. But because they are my parents, because of the blessings they have shared with me, the lessons they have taught me, and the roots they have given me I have a healthy respect for their thoughts, opinions, and guidance. This respect comes from the love they have shown me. I think this is the similar fear of God that we would be wise to have.

God does not correct, God does not teach, God does not allow hardships in life just because he thinks we need punishment. I believe these things happen to mold and shape us into the people he desires us to be. God is like the master potter at work. I will end by leaving this verse from the New Testament in your minds … For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10 NIV84)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9 – Job 21-23

Today’s reading comes from Job 21-23. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

In his back and forth Job and his friends continue to discuss what has brought this calamity on. In chapter twenty-one Job describes the wicked, the immoral of the earth. The way he sees it, the wicked live on, sometime in elegance while the righteous get by with little means … “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes.” (Job 21:7-8 NIV84).  Toward the end of the chapter in verse thirty-three he remarks how people follow after the wicked.

In Job’s mind the world is backwards. The wicked are blessed and followed while the righteous, those who strive to honor God, seem to suffer heartache and isolation. We might even argue with Job. We see similar things play out in our world. One of the most humble righteous seeking people of the twentieth century, Mother Teresa, had no personal wealth and seemed to wrestle with her isolation. On the other side of the coin we look at Hollywood and we see people who are immoral, dishonest, and wicked in many regards awarded with fame and fortune.

However, I wander if we are considering blessedness true blessedness when we evaluate it against fame and fortune? I think we, like Job and his friends may evaluate God’s blessings differently than God does. I don’t think that thought was lost on Job … “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:8-10 NIV84) I think Job knows and understands where true blessings come from.

So how do you define blessings? Do you measure them the way the world does? Do you measure them the way God does? And exactly how does God measure blessings?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 8 – Job 17-20

Today’s reading comes from Job 17-20. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Again we see the back and forth between Job and his friends. Job is in serious torment after suffering the loss of everything and even his health has been effected. His friends keep lobbying that it is his sin that has been the cause of these calamities. Job has not fully denied this, but continually points that he has lived seeking to honor God in all he does, and has repented for the wrongs he commits. Friends, I think this is the proper lifestyle to follow. Still job cannot understand why God is allowing all this to happen.

While Job’s friends are not correct in their blame of Job’s calamities on sin, they are correct in their description about what does happen to wicked men. Bildad the Shuhite describes a wicked man in Job 18:5-21. Take a moment and go back and read those verses. In these verses we are given a glimpse of what happens to the wicked man:

  • His lamped is snuffed out
  • Light goes out
  • His step is weakened
  • Trapped by the heal
  • A noose is hidden for him
  • Death’s firstborn devours his limbs.
  • The memory of him parishes from the earth
  • Driven from light to darkness
  • Such is the place of one who does not know God.

This does not paint a pretty picture. While I do not find this to describe the character of Job, I do find it to describe what happens to the wicked person. And while sometimes on this earth the wicked seem to have the blessings of God in material possessions, let’s remember that without a life saving relationship with Jesus Christ, they have no true hope, they have no true light, they have no eternal blessings! And that is an important and powerful lesson to remember.

As a side note, we are called as followers of Christ to love our enemies. We are to desire that no one perish without hope. So let’s remember, no matter how much someone has hurt you, wronged you, or been incredibly wicked to someone else, we should desire to teach them about a life saving relationship with Jesus Christ. God desires this for even the most wicked people on this earth.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7 – Job 14 – 16

Today’s reading comes from Job 14-16. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Today’s reading begins by Job describing the number of days man has been allotted. Verses one through five are a beautiful illustration that in the grand scheme of this earth our days are just a mere blip on the screen. I love his words when Job says … “They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.” (Job 14:2 NIV84). This descriptively details how short our lives are.

While this opening today describes the vapor with which life exists, it by no means says that we each do not have important work to accomplish. We each have a purpose to serve and live out. Whether that is in being a good and faithful spouse, a solid rock for your children, an example of Christ in your neighborhood, a dependable employee, or any multitude of other responsibilities you carry, we are all important to the people around us.

We each have an important role to play in the lives around us. Investing in people is incredibly important. And with little time on this earth to leave a mark, it means each day is an important opportunity for you to get busy. What can you do in your life to ensure that each day you take the opportunity to invest in others to help love them and build them up? Possible even to help love and lead them to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January 6 - Job 10 - 13

Today’s reading comes from Job 10-13. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

To be completely transparent the book of Job has always been a little strange to me. The back and forth that takes place between the Job and his friends has always baffled me. To be truly transparent, I have never read through Job more than two times before this one. So I am not a scholar by any means.

In various classes, sermons, and other places I have always heard that Job’s friends are really not helpful in counseling him. As I read the back and forth between them I even see Job share that with his friends … “Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!” (Job 13:2 NIV84). That is not high praise for his friends who have come to his aid.

I wander if there is a nugget of truth we can find here in this counseling session. When I read the words of Job and his friends as they describe God I find myself nodding my head in agreement. What they all say is in agreement with what I find throughout the rest of scripture. So why are they not helpful? I think it is the approach they have come at Job with. Job has just come through the worst event any human could suffer through. While the words they share speak truth about God, it really isn’t what Job needs to hear.

If we wanted to, we could probably find some fault in Job. Has he closed himself off to the counsel and compassion of his friends? I don’t know. I can tell you this; I do not know how I would react to the counsel of friends if I had experienced what Job had. So while he may not respond well, maybe it is the best he can do following his tragedy.

I think there is a lesson here for us … How do we compassionately and lovingly support someone who has gone through a challenging time in life? Do we always strive to point out the reasons they have gone through this tragedy pointing to their faults? Or do we first show them love and support and over time, as they are ready to look back, use their struggles as a teaching time? Finally, how do we respond to those who are doing the best they can to be comforting and supporting when we have hit rock bottom? 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 5 – Job 6-9

Today’s reading comes from Job 6-9. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Job has reached the full point of misery. Everything he has been blessed with in this life except for his wife has been taken from him. His flocks and herds, his servants, his property, and worst of all his children are all gone. Even his health has been effected. As we begin our reading today we are well aware of Job’s misery.

As many of us do when tough times are upon us we question God. Job knows that he has done his best to honor God with his life. He does not understand the misery, he does not understand the hardship, and from his words, he seems that he his ready to mail his life in. His friends seem to think there is some sort of sin that has brought God’s judgment upon him. They do not know what it is … in every way they have seen Job has been noble … but in their minds there is something deep and hidden that he needs to repent of.

Job has a healthy understanding of who God is. Job’s words in chapter nine paint a beautiful picture of God the creator. They also paint a picture of God the judge. Job’s friends seem to have persuaded him to believe he is guilty for something and that the pain he is suffering is because of his guilt. The story is still developing, but Job knows that God does not reason like a man does.

Job longs for an arbitrator to reason between him and God (Job 9:22-25). Friends, Job lived without and arbitrator, but we do not have to. In Jesus we have found one who will arbitrate for us. Because God is holy and we are the furthest thing from holy, we cannot be in God’s presence. But Jesus came to become our mediator, our arbitrator, to stand before God on our behalf with our sin upon him so that we can once again walk with God. Friends, I hope you are as thankful for that as I am. No matter how tough life gets here on earth, in Christ we have hope, and friends, that is comforting in times of distress!

Friday, January 4, 2013

January 4 – Job 1-5

Today’s reading comes from Job 1-5. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Today we begin the book of Job. In this chronological reading of the Bible we pause from Genesis because many Bible scholars and historians believe this would have been the time period Job lived and thus making this proper place to insert this book. Many of the circumstances found in the book of Job show a patriarchal society. Also we see Job offering sacrifices to God without the assistance of Priest, which indicates he lived before God gave his law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Also another indicator is the idea that Job’s wealth is measured in his flocks and servants. Couple this together with his lifespan of 140 years we are pointed to some time in the Genesis era.

The story of Job quickly unfolds with Satan coming before God along with the angels. God allows Satan to bring harm to Job’s family, his wealth, and even his personal health. From here we find Job mourning his loss and the beginning of the counsel he finds from his friends.

Throughout the rest of Job we will find Job and his friends asking the question if God is all loving, all knowing, and all powerful … why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? Job has been a righteous man. He feared God so much so that when his children threw feast he offered sacrifices for their protection (Job 1:5). Why has God destroyed his life this way? However through it all, he never curses God, even when prodded to by his wife (Job 2:9-11).

The struggle that Job is about to have is not much different then struggles we all face. If God is love as the Bible teaches, then why does bad happen in the world? Why do we see death, disease, famine, poverty, cancer, tragic accidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and many other cataclysmic events? Over the course of the next eleven days we will venture through Job and find the strength that only trials can bring.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3 – Genesis 8 – 11

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 8 – 11. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Today’s reading ends the first eleven chapters of Genesis. These eleven chapters are often the most highly debated chapters of the entire Bible. The reason is they tell the creation story. They tell what to many is a fanciful story that could not be true. To many they offer no scientific explanation for the world we see and experience. This is the view that those who doubt the Bible or who interpret it liberally hold.

These chapters tell of creation, long lives, a great flood, and God scrambling languages. In my mind it gives a solid explanation for the world we live in and why it exists as it does. Think about it, an explanation of how this world and all that inhabit it exists because of the creation story. An explanation is given for the death, disease, and destruction we see in our world today … sin. An explanation for the great multitude of fossils we find in the earth can be found in Noah’s flood. I am reminded of what Ken Ham, founder of Answer’s In Genesis and the Creation Museum says about Noah’s Flood … “If Noah’s flood were true you would expect to find millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and what do we actually see in the fossil record? Millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth!” In these eleven chapters we even find an explanation for the multitude of languages spoken on the earth.

Does it take faith to believe these eleven chapters of Genesis are true? Absolutely! But I would argue it takes just as much faith to believe they are not true and that some other force or course of action took place to arrive at where we are today. So where do you want to place your faith? In a loving God who offers salvation through his son Jesus Christ? In a loving God who does not forget you as he did not forget Noah and his family on the Ark (Genesis 8:1)? Or through random actions that offer no explanation to the meaning of life, why we exist, and what we exist for? I will take the explanation that gives life meaning and purpose.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2 – Genesis 4 – 7

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 4 – 7. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Today’s reading takes us out of the Garden of Eden and into the lives of Adam and Eve’s first recorded children Cain and Able. We are introduced to a battle that will rage on throughout the course of human existence … pride verses humility.

Both Cain and Able presented God with sacrifices of worship, but only one found God’s favor. As I read this account I in now way see a difference between the offering choices. What I mean is I do not think God looked with more favorite at the animal sacrifice than the fruits of the soil sacrifice. Both were the product of each man’s labor. And that is what God desires.

However, I think what he found favor in was the idea that Abel brought the choicest selection he could. When I go to buy a quality steak I look for a piece with a good amount of fat because we know fat adds flavor to the cooked meat. Able brought of his firstborn, and not just the first born but the best part of the firstborn. This shows trust in God by giving the first born that what God provides afterward will be enough. It’s a great lesson in the spiritual discipline of tithing.

Cain on the other hand brought fruits of the soil. Exactly what these are we do not know. Because the Bible points out the quality of Abel’s offering we can assume that Cain’s was not to the level and sacrifice that his brothers was. God looked with favor over Abel’s and did not with Cain’s.

Sin has entered the scene and is now assaulting Cain’s pride so much so that he is willing to kill his brother in an act of rage. Friends, pride has caused the destruction of many human beings. On one of the first occurrences we see in the Bible it causes a life to be taken. On the other hand when we submit to humility we can learn a valuable lesson. Had Cain sought humility he would have learned from God’s words when God says in verse seven … “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Had Cain operated under humility he could have spared his brother’s life and learned a valuable lesson.

What in your life could you have done differently if you would have submitted to humility instead of your wounded pride? How can you avoid the pitfalls of pride in the future and learn humility?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January 1 ... Genesis 1-3

Today’s reading comes from Genesis 1 – 3. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word.

Good morning West Sider’s. If you have ventured here today it means you are starting your new year off following West Sides Chronological Reading Plan. If you follow this plan you will read the Bible from cover to cover in on years’ time. Here on the blog you will find my thoughts or observances from that days reading.  Sometimes I might provide historical context or some theological insight that explains a difficult passage. I want to warn that I will not always be able to share everything that happens that day in the reading because there might simply be too much. Usually what I will write will be some devotional thought that might be a reoccurring theme in the various passages. Today’s post will be longer because of this introduction. It will be my goal to have these post up and on the blog each day by 6:00 a.m.

Today’s reading comes from the very first pages of God’s word. Scholars believe that Moses, who leads the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, is the author of the book of Genesis. This narrative that he tells of the creation account is believed to have been an oral tradition passed on from generation or perhaps even a written account that was kept among the Israelites. Regardless, in the recording of this, God’s Spirit was at work and this is the information that God desired to have shared with mankind.

What I find amazing in the creation account is the God’s creativity. As we examine our world today we see creativity all around. God’s creation itself was creative. Look at the various species of plants and animals, with all their shapes, colors, and functions. Look at the landscape that surrounds us, deep valleys, tall mountains, and all the colors they come in. God was certainly creative in his creation.

But what strikes me as amazing is how creative he made his creation. We first see that in Genesis 2:19. God ask man to use his creative ability in the naming of the animals. We see that God’s creation the Serpent, representing Satan’s first appearance on the scene, is creative himself. In Genesis 3:1-5 Satan is deceiving and cunning, creative in his deception of Eve. We see that in our own world. Satan has been very creative in luring mankind further and further away from God.

All this screams that our God, our creator, is very creative in his nature. As people created in his image we are implanted with the ability to be creative. As we begin this new year let us remember the creativity with which we are equipped and use that in a an amazing way to praise, honor, and glorify God.