Saturday, January 31, 2009

Of Golden Calves

Focus verses: Exodus 21:1-24

What happened here? The people of Israel have been brought out of bondage in Egypt. They saw the men and chariots of Pharoah swallowed by the sea. They have build the tent of meeting according to God's instructions and have consecrated Aaron and the priests.

But Moses has been on the mountain for three or four weeks, and their fickle hearts need a tangible idol to worship. Goe calls them corrupt and stiff-necked. Aaron calls them prone to evil.

Not so long ago, they were singing praises to God. Now they are participating in worshiping a golden calf made of earrings. Ugh!

But are they so different from us? How often do we have a wonderful time with the Lord and then go back to our everyday lives as if He didn't exist?

Our golden calf may not be composed of melted jewelry, but it can be the struggle for success, the need for financial security (whatever that is), or the desire for the approval of others.

The goal is to be always aware of our God and His pre-eminence in our lives, to bring all else into subjection to His sovereignty.

Only then can we be assured that God is on the throne, and our lives will be in His order.

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful of the human tendency to arrogance, corruption and evil doing. Deliver us from these evils.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Focus verses: Exodus 30:11-16

Today's reading is full of particulars. Specific and detailed instructions for the ordination of the priests, the preparation and consummation of the sacrifices, the recipe for the exclusive anointing oil, and the requirements of the census offering.

The census offering?! Do I hear an echo? Something in the second chapter of Luke about a registration and tax of the Roman world. We don't know what tax Joseph paid in the city of David.

But we do know the tax paid by the Israelites. It was half a shekel each as a ransom for his life. Exactly half a shekel. The poor man could pay no less. The rich man could pay no more. The ransom was the same regardless of the person who paid.

God values each person equal to all the rest. Each one is precious in His sight.

In fact, if you check out the 17th chapter of John, Jesus says God loves each of us just as He oves Jesus. An awesome, humbling, thrilling thought.

Uh-oh! That mean He loves the guy down the street the I don't much care for just as much as He loves me.

In God's eyes each person is equally as precious as the next. Each is ransomed, not by half a shekel, but by the blood of Christ.

Father, God,

Help us to remember that You love everyone equally. And help us to follow Your lead in love.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Focus verse: Exodus 25:8

God is particular about the temple. Even if it is just a "tent of meeting" there are many details to be attended to. He gives specific instructions about the garb of the priests and the furnishings of the tent. Why is that?

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. - Exodus 25:8 (KJV)

A sanctuary is not just a place. It is a holy place, set apart. For the people of Moses, the tent of meeting was that place.

For the Christian, however, that sanctuary is to be his heart. We have been promised that God will dwell with us. But he won't dwell in a hovel or a pigsty.

So how do we furnish this new tabernacle for the Lord?

We begin with an attitude of gratitude, being mindful of all the God has done for us. We move to obedience to His promptings as our response to His grace and generosity. And we end with a close fellowship with Him.

In the interim, we clean house of all that would be offensive. We turn our backs on temptation. We squelch the spirit of envy or jealousy. We follow, to the best of our ability, the rules that came down from the mount. And we keep them locked into the very center of our of our hearts as the key to all that we do, or say, or think.

Father, God,

Help us to clean house. Shine the light of your word into the dark places of our hearts so that we may see our offenses and rid ourselves of them. Help us to make a sanctuary in our hearts for You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Foundations of Law

Focus verses: Exodus 20:1-17

As Christians, we need to remember the location of these verses. They are the foundational laws for the nation of Israel.

These ten laws are simple and straightforward. The first four deal with our relationship with God. The fifth deals with our relationship to our parents. And the final five deal with our relationships to society in general.

God didn't give us these laws thinking we could keep them all. He knew better. But He did give them for a standard by which to measure our spiritual growth individually and the health of our society as a whole.

And they have become the foundation of our secular laws -- except, of course, for the first four -- or five -- or six.

Lets see. We forgot the Sabbath and legally did away with the blue laws. We've never had a law about taking the Lord's name in vain - nor about not having idols. And our society seems bent on removing all evidence of God from our daily business.

Then there's number five about honoring our parents. But the government and the schools seem to want to take charge of the children, shouldering parents out of the way as not capable of teaching or training their own children.

Murder, theft and perjury are the only three left on the books. But perjury seems to be fading fast. People lie all the time with impunity.

So what are we to do? We must begin by starting to restore these laws, one at a time, in the order given. When God is on the throne all else must come into line.

Father, God,

Help us to put You on the throne in our lives. Teach us to pray for our country and its leaders so that we may become once more a truly Christian nation.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Our Daily Bread

Focus verses: Exodus 16:4-36

Hungry in the wilderness, the Israelites were fed by God's provision of manna. They needed, and He supplied. And they kept a portion of it at God's command for a memorial. What was so important for them to remember?

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 (KJV)

It is appropriate that we study God's word daily. It becomes our bread. But did you notice that manna was gathered on six days only. They were commanded a sabbath on the seventh day. So what are we to make of this?

Perhaps that even in the study of God's word, we need to take a rest. Maybe we should take that seventh day just to revel in the presence of the lord.

What would happen if we took that seventh day off from study? Would we come back on the eighth day refreshed, restored and ready to study the more earnestly.

Father, God,

Help us to see that Your laws are for our benefit. Grant us the grace to recognize when we need a sabbath and the wisdom to take it.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Focus verses: Exodus 15:1-18

The song of Moses is the first recorded song in the Bible. It is a paean of praise to the Lord in response to their deliverance from the Egyptians.

It will be quite some time before we see the principle in Psalm 22 that God inhabits the praises of His people. But here we are in the midst of a celebration. There is singing and dancing and much rejoicing.

When was the last time we rejoiced simply in Who God is? Not for what He's done for us nor what we want Him to do for us, but simply in Him, because He is God.

We work for Him; we read His word; we serve on committees. When do we sing, dance and revel in nothing but the presence of the Lord?

I know that schedules are tight, and people are busy. But we need to schedule some time for just enjoying God's presence. Time to sit at the feet of the Master and bask in His smile. Time to hear His voice and feel His live.

Father, God,

Help us to make time with You our first priority. Not time for prayer and supplication, but time simply to be with You.
In Jesus' most precious name,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Marching Orders

Focus verses: Exodus 12:1-13

God makes provision for His people. This theme shows up here again. Remember how Noah and his family were preserved from the flood. God's remnant was sheltered by the Ark.

Here again God's people are protected. This time by the blood on the doorposts.

Despite their hardships and discouragement, and perhaps because of the demonstrated power of God's mighty hand, they have learned to listen to the word of the Lord.

But note, please, that this time they are to be ready to move. Marching orders are imminent.

Whatever we've been through, God has brought us safely to this point. But we cannot rest on our laurels and huddle into ourselves for comfort.

We have marching orders, too. While Israel was marching to become a nation, we are marching to expand the Kingdom of God.

With every step we are called to model the light of God in our lives. We are called to victory over our enemies. We are called to spread the glory of His name.

Father, God,

We thank You for Your provision and protection. Help us to live with staff in hand, ready for our marching orders.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Focus verses: Exodus 9:13-26

Time after time Moses approaches Pharoah. Pharoah refuses to let the Israelites go. God sends a plague. Pharoah repents briefly and then reneges on his promise. This begins to look like an exercise in futility.

But buried in the text is a "because" from the Lord. Look at verse 16.

I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9: 16 NIV)

Sometimes in the midst of havoc, we see evidence of the power of the Lord. The same God who spoke the universe into existence from nothingness is capable of anything at all. When all around you is caving in, He can hold you firmly.

But even when there is no electrifying miracle or plague in evidence. We can point back to this passage to illustrate the power and might of our God. He may be in the hail and locusts. But he is also in the tiny gnats.

If we're looking, we see evidence of His power and providence every day. After all, a coincidence is only a small miracle where God chooses to remain anonymous. If you don't want to see Him, you don't have to. But if you're looking, there He is.

Father, God,
Help us to see You and Your power in our everyday trials. Remind us of Your sovereignty and power and keep us mindful of your presence.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Sacrifice of Praise

Aaron and Moses are in the center of God's will, but Pharoah is obdurate. He makes life as difficult as possible for the Israelites. The people get discouraged and complain to Moses, who takes the complaint to God. God reassures Moses of the outcome. But when Moses tries to reassure the people, they are too discouraged to listen.

Has this ever happened to you? You're following God, working on the plans He has for you, and the world caves. You get opposition from your family. Seventy-two things go wrong with your business; the car dies; the washing machine overflows; and the cat scratches your face.

And you simply want to throw in the towel and crawl into a cave to get away from all the irritants.

Don't do it! This is the time to praise the Lord.

God lives in the praises of His people. Now is the time to offer up the sacrifice of praise. It isn't always easy, but it will make things better.

When you are in the very center of God's will for you life, the world and the enemy will conspire to keep you from remaining there.

Despite the turmoil and chaos around you, God is the ultimate authority. He will reward your steadfastness with the freedom of His promised land.

Father, God,
Help us to keep our eyes on You and Your vision for our future. Let us not be distracted by externals, but keep us focused on the eternal.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Focus verses: Exodus 2:11-15

God has had His hand on Moses since birth. Burn under a sentence of death, he was hidden in the reeds and found by Pharoah's daughter. She reared him in the house of Pharoah with the intent of making him Pharoah's heir.

Moses evidently had some knowledge of his roots because he identified with the Hebrews. But his position as Pharoah's adopted grandson gave him some legal clout. When he saw the Egyption beating the Hebrew, he could have intervened as the Egyptian's superior. However, he murdered the man surreptitiously and concealed the deed.

But murder will out. When he tried to intervene between the two Hebrews, they asked if he would do to them as he did to the Egyptian. He was reduced to fleeing into the wilderness.

No matter where we are nor how secret we believe our steps, God knows what we are doing and why. Moses could run away from Pharoah but he could not run away from God.

Neither can we. God has had His hand on our lives since we were born, also. And He has plans for our lives. We can fail to listen. We can run away. But we can have no secrets from God.

Father, God,

Help us to be ever mindful of your hand upon our lives. Teach us to recognize your presence - even without a burning bush.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Focus verses: Genesis 50:15-21

Forgiveness and reconciliation give us great difficulty. In the first place, they are not the same thing. You can have forgiveness without reconciliation. But you cannot have reconciliation without forgiveness.

Joseph's brothers were afraid that Joseph was being kind to them only for their father's sake. So when Jacob/Israel died, they needed to find out what Joseph's attitude would be toward them. So they - the offenders - went to Joseph - the offended - with their apology. And Joseph forgave them and was reconciled to them.

Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. Holding a grudge takes time and energy and effort. It makes you unhappy because you dwell on the offense, not on the present joys you may have. Worst of all, however, holding a grudge puts you at odds with God. Not a pleasant place to be.

You can forgive unilaterally. The offender need not ask for forgiveness.

Reconciliation is another matter. It involves a recognition of the offense from both the offender and the offended. It requires forgiveness. And it requires a rebuilt sense of trust between the offender and the offended.

Joseph had seen the remorse of his brothers, first when they came to Egypt to purchase grain and in the intervening years between their dad's settling in Egypt and his death seven years later. We have a tender reconciliation scene in which Joseph indicates his forgiveness of this brothers as well as his desire that they be provided for.

Can you recall an offender that you haven't forgiven? Is there someone with whom you need to be reconciled? What steps can you take to remedy these issues?

Father, God,

You have commanded us to forgive. Give us the strength and stamina to forgive, even when there has been no apology. Grant us the faith to put our reconciliations into Your hands.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Focus verses: Genesis: 45:25 - 46:4

The Lord delivered Israel to Egypt to preserve him during the famine. But the promise is that Israel will grow strong there and then be led out again. Egypt, for the moment, is the promised land. Israel will have food, fields and flocks in Egypt. Israel is a sojourner, not a resident.

The Lord has led Israel to safety in Egypt. But Egypt doesn't stay a place of safety. After a time, Egypt becomes a place of slavery for Israel.

We can enjoy a place of safety, too. But only for a time. What seems safe at first can become a place of slavery, if we're not careful. We can become slaves to habit and narrow thinking. We can be so held captive by security that we refuse to step out in faith and take the risks that God asks us to take.

We need to be aware that the only safety we have is in the presence of the Lord. When we begin to equate safety with anything else, we are misled.

Father, God,

Help us to understand that Your presence is our security. Our disobedience is our risk. And Your face is the only road map we need.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

Focus verses: Genesis 45:1-15

The discord between Joseph and his brothers is old news by now. It's been twenty-some years since they sold him into Egypt. The brothers have had time to see their father's grief and regret their decision. Joseph has been through enough that he has some perspective on his brothers' actions as well.

Notice, he says God was in the event when they sold him. He sees the sovereign hand of God in their petty jealousy.

Nothing that happens to us is a surprise to God. Whether good or bad in our eyes, He has known about it from the beginning of time. He is omniscient, knowing everything -- past, present and future.

When life seems totally out of control, when circumstances seem dire in the extreme, the knowledge that God is still sovereign and in charge of all that happens can carry us through the most perilous times.

God gave man a free will in the beginning. While He does not will man to do evil, He can take the most heinous of actions and use it to further His own ends. There is no decision or action of man that is irredeemable in His sight.

The knowledge that God can bring ultimate good out of temporal evil can carry you through any tragedy or trial. Just remember, God is in charge.

Father, God,

When life seems to spiral out of control, remind us that You are the author of all things. That while man can be evil and disobedient, nothing is totally irredeemable.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Peril and Profit

Focus verses: Genesis 39:11-23

Joseph was faithful to the Lord in captivity. When Potiphar's wife propositioned him, he refused to do such a wicked thing and sin against God. Although such an act would be a betrayal of Potiphar's trust, it seems God is foremost on his mind.

Potiphar's wife could have made life very comfortable for Joseph -- had he not had scruples.

But he didn't just refuse. He fled. He ran away from the temptress.

How many of us fail to flee from temptation? We live in a world full of invitations to do wrong. We watch them in the guise of entertainment. We consort with them at work. We live with them in our homes and families.

Joseph profited because he fled and didn't give in to temptation. He kept faith with God, and God kept faith with him.

When we keep faith with God, we reap the fruits of that faithfulness. Just as Joseph found favor, even in prison, we find that God opens doors of opportunity for us.

They may not, however, look like opportunities to the rest of the world.No matter. When God favors you, your spirit prospers.

Father, God,

Give us the discernment to flee from temptation and help us keep our feet on a righteous path.
In Jesus most precious name.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

Focus verses: Genesis 37:3-11

Joseph is a boy - a teenager really. Can't you just imagine his youthful cockiness as he tells his dreams to his brothers?

And the fact that he is his father's favorite just adds fuel to the fire.

At a writers' conference several years ago, I sat at the supper table with a young woman who'd had a great day. She concluded her recitation of God's blessings to her with "I'm His favorite." As we all took turns sharing our triumph for the day, she'd interject to each "how wonderful! You're God's favorite." It became a running by-word for the remainder of the conference. And it was a reminder to us that God cared about each of us in every detail.

In fact, we're each God's favorite. He loves us each as if we were His only child. But this does not give us reason to be cocky and self-assured.

Rather it should make us more sensitive to the feelings of others, more ready to encourage and support their efforts to know God better.

We can best reflect His love by speaking gently and humbly, by loving unconditionally, and by admonishing softly with God's truth.

Father, God,

Wrap us in the security of Your love. Help us reflect it to all we meet who are starving for knowledge of You.
In Jesus most precious name,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bad Blood

Focus verses: Genesis 36:1-5

Today's reading names the descendants of Esau and his wives. Notice that Esau's wives are Adah, a Hittite; Oholibama, a Hivite; and Basemath, the daughter of his uncle Ishmael.

Remember God's words about Ishmael? There will be enmity between Isaac and Ishmael. Since Isaac is God's promised father of nations and Ishmael will also be a great nation, it is interesting that Esau's wives are all from background antithetical to God's chosen people.

The Edomites will continue to be hostile to God to the bitter end. This bad blood will be handed down from generation to generation, whether by DNA or by nurture and culture.

We can hand down our fictions, foibles and faithlessnesses to our children. We do it unthinkingly, carelessly, by not being purposeful in creating a model for them to follow.

Let us resolve to be more purposeful in leading our children to salvation under the blood of Christ. They should be the prime objects of our evangelistic efforts. And they are the witnesses we must impress with living the life of Christ.

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful of the model we set for our children. Help us to show them faithfulness to You, love for You, and worship of You.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Proximity and Purity

Focus Verses: Genesis 35:1-10

The rape of Dinah and the revenge of her brothers are directly related to geography. Jacob had settled in the middle of people who didn't follow the Lord God. They were uncircumcised and had heathen practices.

Proximity to those practices has already affected Jacob's family. The revenge exacted by Simeon and Levi makes it impossible for Jacob to stay where he is. So he moves yet again -- this time to a place where reverence for the Lord is predominant.

We live in the midst of the heathen. While the United States claims to be a Christian nation, it is, in fact, a plural society. The predominant religion seems to be secular humanism. We are bombarded by advertising and entertainment that promulgate immoral behaviors. And we are criticized as narrow-minded or judgmental or intolerant when we reiterate the standards set forth in the word of God.

While we cannot move geographically into a pure country, we can rid ourselves of the "foreign gods" of humanism, consumerism, and immorality. We can purify ourselves by steeping ourselves in God's word.

And we can move out in society, openly, honestly proclaiming God's word. We can speak the truth that what God calls "abomination," humanism calls "alternative lifestyle." What society calls "choice," God calls murder. We can speak gently, lovingly. But we must speak the truth.

Father, God,

Grant us the grace of purity of mind and heart. Give us the courage to speak boldly the truth of Your word. And keep us ever close to you.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Focus verses: Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob is on shaky ground. He leaves his father-in-law surreptitiously and is uncertain about the reception he will receive from Esau when he returns home. And he has earned the negative consequences on both ends.

But those consequences never seem to materialize. What actually happens is that in a moment of solitude, he finds himself wrestling with God.

Did you notice that our encounters with God seem to come when we have been in the wrong and when we are alone?

It is only in solitude that we can hear the voice of the Lord as He seeks to deal with us. In this instance, Jacob is rewarded because he continues to wrestle with God until daybreak, not giving up or giving in, but literally wrestling his way through to a blessing.

How often do we seek solitude where we can hear the voice of the Lord? Especially when we have been in the wrong, we find it easier to avoid the solitude with Him. Besides, it's difficult in our busy lives with multiple interruptions to set aside time for God. But this time of solitude with the Lord is essential to our growth and finding His blessings in our lives.

When was the last time you set aside time for the Lord? And what was the outcome? When can you do it again?

Father, God,

Help us to prioritize our lives so the You come first. Time with You needs to be set aside first on our calendars. Save us from taking You for granted and show us your blessings.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pure Water

Focus verses: Genesis 30:37-43

Today's reading begins with a well (Genesis 29:9-12) and ends with watering troughs. Throughout scripture there are references to water, living water.

Water is used as a metaphor for the word of God. So let me draw a parallel here.

Jacob "contaminated" the water with striped or spotted limbs depending on the type of offspring he wanted from his livestock. By putting something extra in the water, it appears he influenced the progeny of the sheep and goats.

So how careful are we about what gets added to our water -- the water of the word?

We are cautioned that in the last days even the elect will be led away. How can that happen unless even the elect are biblically illiterate?

The best teachers are fallible and can unknowingly drop a striped or spotted stick into their teachings.

And there are those wolves in sheep's clothing that would sneak the striped or spotted stick into the water for their own ends.

Our only defense is a thorough study of the word of God under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. When we are thoroughly steeped in the truth, any falsehood will become obvious.

Father, God,

Help us to study Your word. Imbue us with the discernment of the Holy Spirit so that we may identify and refute half-truths and falsehoods.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bethel - Emmanuel

Focus verses: Genesis 28:10-22

AARRGGHH!! Don't we ever learn?

Today's reading is full of egos, self-seeking and deceptions. Deceit has had serious consequences in the past and will again in this instance.

However - and this is a big however -- when Jacob obeys his father's directive to go to Paddan Aram to seek a wife, he sets his feet on a righteous path once again. And he is rewarded by this dream and promise from God.

"Surely the Lord is in this place."

Whether we are aware of it or not, God is with us. Day in and day out, He stands with us. It is our disobedience that builds a wall between Him and us. It's our wall. It is built brick by brick of little rejections of His call upon our lives.

Do you notice? God's promise to Jacob is not predicated upon his apology for his deceptions. It carries no contingencies. It is full, complete, absolute.

God knows and we are learning that every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment. That is called consequences.

But our God is omnipresent - present everywhere at once. With us, beside us, within us if we let Him be.

A few weeks ago we were singing "O come, O come, Immanuel." That's nice at advent and Christmas. But it's redundant. He has come. He is with us. Let us rejoice in His presence.

Father, God,
Help us to be ever mindful of Your presence with us. Teach us to rely on You at every moment.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Mess of Pottage

Focus verses: Genesis 25:29-34

The story of Esau and Jacob is a reminder to us that gratifying immediate desire has consequences.

Esau was very hungry, but he was not starving. He could have waited and prepared his own meal. But he was into immediate gratification, so it was easier to bargain with Jacob.

This happens all the time today.

Look at our current financial crisis. Much of it has been brought on by the same mindset Esau carried into Jacob's kitchen.

"Gratifying my immediate want is more important then my future."

We say that every time we borrow money we don't have to get something we want now.

Just as Esau made himself and his descendants subservient to Jacob by this exchange, we make ourselves the servant of our lender.

We have it on good authority that no man can serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24 - KJV)

If we intend to serve God, we need to keep ourselves free from financial encumbrances that limit our ability to serve.

Father, God,
Help us to see the needs of the moment with a view to the future. Keep us from foolish profligacy and tune us to evaluate today's transactions in terms of the eternal.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Faithful Servant

Focus verses: Genesis 24:42-48

We are not told his name, nor anything else about him except that he is Abraham's servant. But his fidelity to his duty is crucial to God's plans.

You will note that he doesn't pray to his own god, but the God of his master. Does he believe in Abraham's God? We're not told that. At least he believes God has power - the power to make his journey for Abraham successful.

Can God use an unbeliever to further His kingdom? God can do anything.

We are told the the servant sets out on his journey well-prepared. He comes to the appointed place and gets right to the point with Rebekah, Laban and Bethuel. He was commissioned. He prepared. He journeyed. He prayed. He followed through.

What is our commission, and how do we respond to it? Jesus said "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15 - KJV) That is our primary commission.

How do we prepare? We must fill ourselves with the word of God, become intimately acquainted with Him.

We pray, always, for the success of this journey. If our works are not bathed in and grown from prayer, they will have no meaning.

Then we journey into the world, prepared to answer all questions, being transparent about our love of God and His presence in our lives. We speak gently, but boldly. And we love - unconditionally.

Father, God,
Keep us ever faithful to our servant-hood and grant us favor in furthering your Kingdom.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Importance of Character

Focus verses: Genesis 22:1-14

The story of Abraham and Isaac and the journey of sacrifice seems strange in our ears today. We do not indulge in human sacrifice and burnt offering as it was done then. The ultimate test of Abraham's faith in God, this story begs several questions.

First, God's directive is in direct opposition to God's promise. If Isaac dies, how will he father the nation promised to Abraham?

Second, exactly how far does one go in blind obedience? Abraham had no way to know how this trip would end. What made him go to these lengths?

Third, what is Isaac doing all this time? He's following his father, and he submits to being bound and laid on the pyre. What could he have been thinking?

We learn that no matter how contradictory God's directives seem to be, He has the plan in charge and will bring it to fruition. His knowledge is infinite. Ours is not.

And obedience isn't blind when we know the character of the person issuing orders. We need to study the person and character of God to be able to follow through in His strength.

From Isaac we learn that children are led by example, not by lecture or force. Isaac is as unquestioning of his father as Abraham is of God. And when he asks about the lamb for the sacrifice, he is satisfied that God will provide. He doesn't need to know how or when.

Father, God,

Helps us to trust you when human reason would question. Draw us closer to You and help us to understand that whatever is needed, You will provide.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Impossible or Him-possible

Focus verses: Genesis 21:1-7

The birth of Isaac is the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. But it was, of course, impossible in human terms.

Sarah was well past the child bearing years -- so far past that when she heard the promise, she laughed at its impossibility. And she devised the scheme to have Hagar bear a son to Abraham.

But the Lord opened her womb to bear Isaac. That had been His plan all along.

How often do we dismiss our dreams and the desires of our hearts because they seem improbable or even impossible. If God puts the desire in your heart, He will make a way for it to come to fruition.

But we can't just sit back and do nothing. That is not to say that we should interfere in God's plan the way Sarah did. It does mean that we need to prepare ourselves to be the instrument that God desires.

If He puts it into your heart to write, you can't just sit back and wait for inspiration to hit. You need to sit at the keyboard or the yellow pad and put words on paper or screen. The more you practice putting words together well, the better prepared you will be to disseminate the information He wants you to share.

Sarah would have served better had she simply begun making clothes for the baby God was going to send.

Father, God,

Help us to see the benefit of readiness and lead us into preparedness for Your plans. Keep us from the sin of running out ahead of You when we should be waiting and following.
In Jesus' most precious name,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chosen by God

Focus verses: Genesis 18:16-20

God chose Abraham. Genesis 15:7:

Notice that God informs Abraham and saves Lot not because of what they do, but simply because God has chosen them.

Lot has spent his years in Sodom as a righteous man. But it seems that he has tolerated - and even accommodated - the abominations of the society in which he dwells. Even though he has not succumbed to those vilenesses himself.

The nation who flouts the Lord is playing with fire. See Genesis 19:24 ff.

This should be a warning to our land today. Compromising God's word leads to disaster. Just as there are limits to God's patience, the should also be limits on our ability to tolerate and accommodate sin.

This is not to say that we ought to be judgmental. God alone will judge.

But we must, in all good conscience, point out destructive behaviors as outlined by scripture. When we fail to warn our society, we are guilty of aiding and abetting its sins.

Genesis 18:19: For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD... (KJV)

As children of God, we are expected to keep and teach the way of the Lord. When we keep only, we've fallen down on half of our job.

Father God,

Give us the boldness to speak your words and righteousness. Help us to inform and teach with gentleness and love.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Finite Reason or Infinite Wisdom

Focus verses: Genesis 16: 1 - 5.

Does God really need our help?

When God promises something, we are foolish and impatient to try to hasten its fulfillment.

Look what happens to Abram and Sarai. Sarai knew about God's promise of a son. But she convinced herself and her husband that God was too slow and needed their help.

How many time do we do this? We hear a call of God upon our lives, and we start off well. But when things seem to be moving too slowly we decide we know how to help God make things work faster.

God knows hearts. We just know appearances. God has reasons for His time line we know nothing of. Sarai's proposition seems to make sense from a human standpoint. But she doesn't figure on the human emotions Hagar's pregnancy can stir up in both women. And even in Abram.

You see, God has His own plans and doesn't need our help to bring them to fruition.

What he does require is our patience and faith.

We need to draw closer to Him to bring our will into line with His, to reinforce our faith in His steadfast love, and to strengthen our patience to wait upon His timing.

Father, God,

Help us to understand that Your will for us is perfect, that Your timing is perfect, and that all we need to is wait upon You.
In Jesus' most precious name,

Monday, January 5, 2009

Faithful or Fickle

Focus verses: Genesis 12:10 through 13:4.

Abram, what a guy! He's just like you and me. He has his good days and his bad ones.

He has the call of God upon his life. In faith, he steps out to follow God wherever God may lead. a man of great faith.

Then there's a famine in the land, and he runs to Egypt for food. Somehow, he must think that God's protection stops at the Egyptian border because he asks his wife to say she is his sister, a half-truth.

Remember, a half truth is a whole lie. And deceit is not a virtue or the act of a faithful person.

But God steps in, I think more to protect Saria than to redeem Abrams lie. And Abram is found out. He leaves Egypt in disgrace.

After wandering for a while, he returns to the place where he first built an altar to the Lord. And he he "called upon the name of the Lord" once again. I take this to mean a rededication to his faith in God.

Isn't that great? God lets us fail and come back to Him. Other than his shameful exodus from Egypt, there seems to have been no heavenly retribution for Abram's fickleness in Egypt.

Father, God,

Thank you for loving us enough to let us fail and come back to Your heart for forgiveness and grace.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Relative or Absolute

Focus verses: Genesis 11:1-9.

Why was the building of the Tower of Babel so displeasing to God?

The people's stated aim was to build a tower that reached heaven so they could make a name for themselves. The tower was built to further man's designs and feed his ego -- not to get closer to God. In effect man decided to put himself above God.

We still have this problem today. Secular humanism seeks to make man the measure of all things -- and a relative measure at that.

Without acknowledging God's sovereignty, man has no absolute standard for morals, ethics or behavior. We live in a society that accommodates an "it's okay for you, but it's not right for me" attitude. This effectively lets each man decide right and wrong for himself without any other basis.

I believe it was this arrogant attitude that sparked God's displeasure.

We seem to be prideful when we have no reason to be proud. After all, everything is the Lord's. That includes us when we choose to follow Him.

Father, God,

Help us to be ever mindful that our relationship with You is the most important thing in our lives. Keep us, we pray, from arrogant pride.
In Jesus' most precious name.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Noah and New Beginnings

Focus verses: Genesis 8:21 through Genesis 9:7.

Reading the Bible chronologically, we come to the story of Noah and the flood early in the year. If you were raised in church, you've known about Noah since the kindergarten teacher put yellow giraffes on a blue flannel-board.

But if we look closer, we see that the flood was God's decision in response to man's vile wickedness. Let's face it. The natural tendency of mankind is to get worse and worse -- not better and better. Left to our own devices, we drift further and further from God's plans for us.

But God started over. He found a pure remnant, Noah and his sons. He protected them from the cataclysmic flood. And then He commissioned mankind again. He wiped the slate clean and let us start over as in the beginning.

Look at the similarities.

God tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful and fill the earth.

And He reiterates man's authority upon the earth.

Then he make man an omnivore by giving man everything that lives and moves as food, just as He gave man the green plants earlier.

Our problems begin when we get so puffed up with our rights and what is our due that we forget that all - ALL - we have is a gift from God.

Father, God,

Keep us ever mindful that all we have is a result of Your love for us, not our own efforts or entitlements.

In Jesus' most precious name.

Friday, January 2, 2009

First Fruits or Some Fruit

Focus verses: Genesis 4:2-16.

Now that we know that we are to be fruitful and subdue the earth, how do we communicate our love and respect for God?

In the case of Cain and Abel, each had a different vocation. Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer. Each brought offering to the Lord. Abel brought the first born, the first fruit of his labors. Cain brought part of the grain, not necessarily the first harvested, nor harvested from the best field. He just brought some of the grain.

And God rebuked him, telling him his offering would be accepted if he did well -- in other words, what was right. And what is right is to give God the first and best - not just something left over or what you think you can spare.

This is true of finances, as well as time and talent. When we give God the leftovers, He finds that unacceptable. He must have first place in our lives. Not our spouses and families, not our jobs, not our hobbies, not our personal desires. God is to be first priority.

So when we make out our calendar for the day do we put God's time in first?

When we construct our budget do we put God's share down first?

Or are we just giving Him the leftovers -- what we think we can spare? Whose time, talent and finances are these anyway?

Father, God,

Soften our hearts and harden our resolve to put You first in our lives, first in time, first in finances, first in talent. And help us to keep faithful in this resolve.

In Jesus' most precious name we pray.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Seeking Ourselves

Focus verses: Genesis 1:26-30.

Can you identify yourself? Who, exactly, are you? Not your name. Nor your job. Nor your relationship to any another person or persons. What is the essence of who you are?

These verses tell you. You are a being created in the image of God. You are not God. You will never be a god. But you are created to be like Him. And He commissioned you!

He delegated His life-creating powers to the union of male and female. And He commanded that you be fruitful and fill the earth.

And subdue it. Take authority over the earth, an authority that was delegated by God, the Creator of the universe. If you know anything about military or corporate structure, you know that your authority is limited by the person to whom you report. Your authority never exceeds that of the superior officer.

So, too, we need to be aware that while we have been given authority and dominion by God, we are still subordinate to Him. While we rule over the earth and all it's fauna, we are not, ultimately, the One in charge.

You will note, also, that God gave us a vegetarian diet. And this vegetarian diet was not limited to man, but to the animals as well. Animals were not originally intended for food. That came later.

Hmmm... So who am I? I am a child of God, created in the image of my heavenly Father. I was designed to be creative and fruitful. I was given authority over the earth and the living creatures. And I was designed to eat seeds and fruit -- not meat.

Father, God,

As I have questions about myself, my goals, and my endeavors, help me to seek the answers by seeking to know You better.
In Jesus' most precious name.