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June 2015

Genesis 22

ASub

A Substitute Provided

Scripture

Genesis 22:13-14

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Observation/Understanding

Put yourself in Isaac’s shoes for a minute. You carry wood on your back, up a mountain, for a sacrifice to God. When you get to the place for the sacrifice, your dad builds an altar, arranges the wood on it, and then starts tying you up. Suddenly you realize that you are the sacrifice. All your hopes and dreams, all your plans for later that day, that week, the coming years are all over.  You are going to die. Today. Now. Take a second and really imagine yourself in that position.

Bound and laying on top of the wood, no one around to hear a plea for help as your dad lifts the knife above you. Then, right before his had drops, one second before your blood is spilled, God speaks out and spares you.  Then, moments later, shaken up and feeling relieved beyond words, you look on as a ram is sacrificed in your place. Staring in silence, you watch smoke rise from the burning flesh of the ram as it turns to black. You think, "That could have been me."

We are Isaac. We all are Isaac. Destined to die for our sins, bound and lying on the wood. And God, who is rich in mercy and who desires that none should perish provided a substitute, his son. We look on at the cross. Some reject it and walk away while others choose to draw near, to receive mercy and grace, to bow and worship.

Life Application

Worship God for providing a sacrifice in our place. Meditate on his incredible love and grace.

God, thank you for Jesus! Thank you for the gift of your son who took on himself all the punishment I deserved so that I might live instead.  Reveal to me the beauty of the cross and the greatness of your love. Forgive me for times I’ve felt entitled or taken your grace for granted. Today I choose to stand in awe and worship. Amen.

 photo: counterpt.com


Genesis 21

Always

ALWAYS faithful

Scripture

Genesis 21:1-2

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

Observation/Understanding

Even when we are unfaithful or wrestle with doubt, God remains faithful. The Lord was gracious to Sarah… Grace is unmerited favor; it’s getting what you don’t deserve. God still followed through with what he promised, and it wasn’t delayed even one minute. Sarah bore Isaac at the very time God had promised. Grace. Sarah didn’t earn it, deserve it or do some special work for it. God blessed Sarah with a child simply because he said he would.

The prophet Samuel declares to king Saul in 1 Samuel 15:29, He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

God is faithful. He isn’t like human beings in the sense that he doesn’t lie and he never changes his mind.

Life Application

Praise God for his faithfulness!

Allow God to renew your hope in his promises.

God, thank you for never going back on your word. Even when I doubt, even when time drags on and I fear that I missed it, you always come through in your perfect timing. Forgive us for the times we doubt you and the times we are cynical when we hear about grand dreams of experiencing you and being used by you in amazing ways. I receive an increase in faith and hope from you and ask you to bless each person reading this with a greater assurance of your faithfulness today. Amen.


Genesis 20

Sibs

God Calls Us to Devotion Not Perfection

Abraham falters many times.  He does not obey God fully yet God continues to work His redemptive plan in and through Abraham whenever he repents and follows.
•    Disobeys about his father.
•    Disobeys about going to Egypt and lying about Sarah.
•    Disobeys and sleeps with Hagar to have Ishmael.
•    Sins by lying again to Abimilech about Sarah being his sister.

Abraham did what we talked about Lot doing in our reading yesterday - Lot was walking by sight and not by faith and moved into "enemy" territory.  He moved from Hebron to Gerar which was still within the boundaries of the land that God had given him (this time at least he didn't move all the way to Egypt).  But while he is here he begins to see the situation as dangerous because of his hot wife, and he gets fearful.  He begins to fear man more than God.  It seems that Abraham may have forgotten God's revelation that He was God ALMIGHTY, who could do everything and in whom the promise of blessing would be fulfilled.

What is sad about this incident is that Abraham is repeating an action that he had done in Egypt.  After getting in trouble for it he admitted that it was not the right thing, yet here he is again doing the same thing.  We must be careful to learn from the past and avoid doing the same thing over and over again.  Repent and turn away from sin.

What makes it even worse is that Abraham and Sarah had convinced themselves that there were not sinning but telling the truth.  Funny how we can rationalize sin.

God forgive me for I see this behavior in me.  I find myself going back to the old ways and then offering rationalizations as to why it is okay.


Genesis 19

Destroy

Today's chapter shows us how spiritual decline can take place.  While both Abraham and Lot were God's followers, there is a marked difference in the quality of their relationship with God.
Abraham loved God and made it his priority to live in a way that was marked by keeping the ways of God, while Lot loved God but found himself caught in the pull of the world around him and giving in to it.

When Abraham was visited by the angels he was at home.  Under a tree, living in a tent - a picture that this world was not his home, he was just passing through.
Lot on the other hand was now settled in Sodom sitting at the gate of the city. 

Think about Lot's journey...
He looked and saw that the land near Sodom was more fertile so he chose it.
He pitched his tent near the city.
He must have gone into the city often and soon was overcome by its allure and he moved into the city.
Not only did he move into the city but he became a person of authority in the city, as evidenced by him sitting at the gate, because this was where the official business was conducted.

Lot took his eyes off of God and saw the pleasures and the riches of the world as more pleasing and so he pursued it.  Sure he did not start off in Sodom, it was a slow journey that ultimately led him there.  He looked and saw it was "pleasing to the eye."  He chose to go in closer.  He would go in now and then and check out the city thinking that he could "handle it."  But soon the city was handling him and he moved all the way in.

I am not saying that we are to run away from where the sinners are - but our interaction with them must be on purpose and in response to the directives of God.  Had Lot gone to Sodom because God had called him to minister to that sinful city it would have been a different story.  This idea of being worldly is not a matter of geography but a heart attitude.  Lot's heart was in Sodom long before his body arrived.

All that Lot pursued ended up going up in smoke.  His intentions in moving to Sodom was not for God's glory but for his own benefit.  In the end the city was destroyed and Lot lost all that he had been pursuing.  Abraham pursued God and kept his eyes on Him and in the end he ended up in deeper and more intimate relationship with God and experiencing the blessings of God not only in his life but in his descendants.


Genesis 18

Summer

Today’s reading reminds me that as disciples of Christ we are always to be reaching UP, IN and OUT. Take a look.

Abraham was a God-follower.  On this particular day the follower of God was sitting in the shade escaping the heat of the day when strangers came up.  Forgetting the heat Abraham jumps into action and serves them.  He may not have known it but He was literally serving God at that time.  To serve God is the idea of reaching up.

Then after the meal Abraham was given insight into the destruction of Sodom and Abraham began to intercede on behalf of the city.  Abraham demonstrates that idea of reaching out - doing what he could to save people from the coming wrath of God.  He was serving the people of Sodom by interceding before God on their behalf.

In other chapters we have seen Abraham as the family man - leading his family and serving his wife.  He was reaching in.

Abraham demonstrates that as followers of God we are always to be serving God, serving His family and serving the world around us.  We are to be ministers.  We should always be drawing closer in relationship with God and His people and engaged in sharing His love with people who are not yet children of God.  

This summer as we find ourselves “sitting under the shade of the tree” on our vacations, stay-cations, daily activities - let us be mindful to the opportunities to serve God, serve His (and our) family and to serve the world around us.  Let us intercede for them and share the love of God with them.  Be engaged in the plan to party with our church family and invite our non-believing friends to come join us.  Look for opportunities to listen to their stories and be obedient to respond to the Holy Spirit as to how we can God’s story with them.

As we do this we serve God and his purposes to multiply Christ-followers everywhere.


Genesis 17

Possible copy 

SCRIPTURE
Genesis 17:1

OBSERVATION
God reminds us that He is all sufficient and is all that we ever need.

UNDERSTANDING
Time and again at the moment when it is needed God appears to Abram and reveals some attribute of His nature and character to encourage and assure Abram that God was all-sufficient.

"El Shaddai" is the name of "the all-powerful and all-sufficient God who can do anything and meet any need."

But why would God reveal this name to Abraham at this time, at the close of thirteen years of silence? Because God was going to tell His friend that Sarah would have a son. The Lord wanted Abraham to know that He is the God who is all-sufficient and all-powerful, and that nothing is too hard for Him. 

After Abraham's battle with the four kings, God came to him as a warrior and told him He was his "shield." When Abraham wondered about his refusal of Sodom's wealth, God told him He was his "exceedingly great reward.” 

Now when Abraham and Sarah were "as good as dead," God assured them that He was more than sufficient to bring about the miracle birth. God comes to us in the ways we need Him most.

LIFE APPLICATION
For every situation of life we find ourselves in God assures He is big enough and powerful enough to handle it.  If I were Abram, the idea of having a child at 99 years of age would seem impossible and unattainable.  I would think that it is a dream that I would have to lay to rest.  Actually I have a dream like that.  In my early years of ministry I felt that God gave me a word that Desert Streams would become a Great Commission Movement.  That we would be partners with Him in bringing many people into redemption and we would start many churches.  I am getting older and older and like Abraham it seems like the possibility of it happening is getting further and further from realization.  That is until I am reminded that age does not matter to God, and just when we think that our time has past and the fulfillment is impossible - God says I am God Almighty.  Don’t get discouraged and continue to walk before me and be blameless.  

What situation do you find yourself in where you are “as good as dead” that you need the power of El Shaddai?  Keep trusting Him and keep in walking in faith and obedience to Him.  He is able!


Genesis 16

Tired

Tired Of Waiting

Scripture

Genesis 16:1-2

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

Observation - What does it say?

God had promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations. But, here he and his wife were failing to become the parents of just one child. Time continues to pass, the years go by, and they are still unable to conceive.

So, Abram and Sarai agree to take matters into their own hands.  Tired of waiting for a family, Sarai suggests building one through her Egyptian slave. 

Understanding - What does it mean?

Patience is hard. Many prophecies in scripture had a significant period of time between their declaration and fulfillment.  It’s in that waiting time that the people of God have learned to trust him and put their faith in him.  However, it’s also in the waiting time that the people of God have, at times, grown weary of waiting, experienced doubt, and attempted to take things into their own hands. We know from reading on that taking things into our own hands doesn’t work.

Life Application

Be patient! Today we are holding on to many dreams and prophetic words as a church family related to powerful moves of God and many people coming to know Christ. We are also eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise of his second coming, where he will to come to take us his church to be with him for eternity!

What are you tired of waiting for? Allow God to renew your faith today.

God, today we put our faith in you. Where we have doubted you, our significance, your promises and your character, forgive us. May we endure and even enjoy the waiting time. We thank you that you are faithful to your word, you always make good on your promises, and you’ve never given us reason to doubt your goodness. Amen.


Genesis 15

Notafraid

SCRIPTURE
Genesis 15:1-2  "Do not be afraid..."

OBSERVATION
In order for God to say those words Abram must have had a moment of fear.  Maybe he was fearful that the kings he defeated in the previous chapter would return and take revenge.  But God tells him that he will defend him and will give him a life of blessings. 

UNDERSTANDING
God is reiterating His promise to Abram who has left Ur and traveled to a far off land on the word of God that up till now seemed as distant as the land he had left.  When Abram showed up in the land of Canaan it was during a drought, so it was not the best of starts as far as promise fulfillment was concerned.  Abram was probably having doubts about this whole deal and so God comes to strengthen and encourage him.

Don't be afraid, you will live and experience the blessings I promised.
But God, I can see that I get material blessings but what about the offspring you said I would have?  Am I supposed to adopt my head servant, because at this rate all that you bless me with will go to him.

LIFE APPLICATION
I can identify with Abram.  There are many times that I get filled with fear and doubt that the road I have taken, based on God's call and direction, seems to be a ticket to nowhere and failure is imminent.  In those times God is faithful to remind me of His calling on my life.  It may happen in a dream, it may happen through my devotions, sometimes it happens through people - but it is God working through all these things to remind me that His plans and purposes, of which I am a part, will prevail.

Don't let discouragement and fear stop you from believing God and His Word.  Live as though you believe the promises of God for your life.
Abram believed God and God considered him righteous because of his faith.  It was not that Abram didn't doubt or have fear, it was that in spite of those things he believed God and lived as though what God said would come to pass.

God promises that you have been redeemed and whom the Son sets free is truly free - so live like a free one.
God promises that if you have confessed your sins you are forgiven and now you are His child - so live as though you are forgiven and adopted into God's family.  Live like a child of God.
God promises that He will provide for your needs so live as though you believe He will and not like you are in charge of meeting your needs.

You get the picture...Do not be afraid...trust in God!


Genesis 14

SCRIPTURE
Genesis 14:18-24 

OBSERVATION
Sometimes you face your greatest dangers after you have won a battle and we can tend to make decisions based on our effort rather than what would be honoring to God.

UNDERSTANDING
When Abraham returned from battle, he was met by two kings: Bera, King of Sodom ("burning"), and Melchizedek, King of Salem ("peace"). Bera offered Abraham all the spoils in return for the people, while Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine. Abraham rejected Bera's offer but accepted the bread and wine from Melchizedek and gave him tithes of the spoils. All of this is symbolic and presents some important spiritual truths that you should understand and apply today.

Abraham had to choose between two kings who represented two opposite ways of life. Sodom was a wicked city, and Bera represented the dominion of this world system with its appeal to the flesh.  Bera means "gift," suggesting that the world bargains for your allegiance. But Sodom means "burning," so be careful how you choose!. If you bow down to Bera, everything you live for will burn up one day. That's what happened to Lot!

Melchizedek means 'long of righteousness," and Salem means "peace." Hebrews 7 and Psalm 110 both connect Melchizedek with Jesus Christ, the "King of peace" and the "King of righteousness". Like Melchizedek in Abraham's day, Jesus Christ is our King-Priest in heaven, enabling us to enjoy righteousness and peace as we serve Him. Certainly we can see in the bread and wine a reminder of our Lord's death for us on the cross.

LIFE APPLICATION
When Abraham rejected Bera and accepted Melchizedek, he was making a statement of faith, saying, 'Take the world, but give me Jesus." Lot should have made the same decision, but he chose to return to his life of compromise. Why would it have been wrong for Abraham to take the spoils? After all, didn't he risk his life and the lives of his retainers to defeat the invading kings and rescue the prisoners? Legally, Abraham had every claim to the spoils; but morally, they were out of bounds. 

Many things in this world are legal as far as courts are concerned but morally wrong as far as God's people are concerned.

By rejecting Bera's offer Abraham chose to give honor and glory to God and to trust God to be his only provider.

Bible Exposition Commentary


Genesis 13

Relationships-01

Relationships Over Possessions

Scripture

Genesis 13:8-9

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

Observation

Abraham valued his relationship with Lot, so much so that he would rather separate from him than stay together and be at odds. Then Abraham allows Lot to choose whatever land he wanted. He stands down, refusing to fight for what he thought to be the best land. Instead, he offers Lot the first choice, demonstrating he values Lot more than any piece of land.

Understanding

While attending college in Oregon, I lived in an apartment and bought a papasan chair (one of those round chairs with a thick cushion) for our living room. I woke up the next morning and my roommate had pulled the white cushion on to the floor and was sleeping on it in the middle of the living room. When I got closer I noticed a huge drool spot on it… I flipped out. I started going off on him, interrogating him and accusing him of ruining my new chair. He tried to tell me his back had been hurting and he couldn’t sleep on his mattress, but I was too upset as I was convinced he had ruined my new chair. Looking back, I was definitely overreacting and being a diva about it… pretty embarrassing. Anyway, after I stopped ranting he looked at me, surprised at how angry I was, and said, “People are more important than things.” I said, "Whatever" and stormed out of the room.

While I just shrugged it off at first, I couldn’t get that statement to stop replaying in my mind. God convicted me. “Levi, he’s right.” Since then there’s been several times I have headed down the path of putting possessions or money over people and relationships, and God has reminded me of my foolishness and that people are more important than things.

Life Application

Put relationships first!

God, forgive me for the times I’ve lost my cool when people haven’t paid me back, the times I’ve overreacted when my son accidentally breaks something, the times I’ve wanted something for myself more than I’ve wanted to bless someone or preserve a relationship. I don’t ever want to get what I want, and in the process lose the person. Help me to be like Abraham and for my love for people to always trump any concern for material things. Amen.

-LT