The Laughter of Faith

January 9th Scripture Reading:  Genesis 21-24

In 1992 while attending a pastor’s conference in California, a man gifted in prophetic ministry gave my wife and I  a word from the Lord.  He told us we would have children in our later years and that they would be a blessing.  Several months later at our home church, a visiting evangelist picked us out of 700 people and gave us the same word.  At this time, we already had three children and had no plans for more.  We chuckled a bit, but mostly wondered at these interesting words and what might come of them.  Seven years later, in August of 1999, we traveled  to Russia and adopted two daughters!  As we had prepared to do this, we had forgotten the words of prophecy.  Our son reminded us and I found in my file one of these words that had been typed out for me.  It confirmed what we were about to do!  God does know the end from the beginning!  (Isaiah 42:9)

God promised a son to Abraham and Sarah in their later years.  They waited 25 years and the promise finally came to pass.  God waited until it was impossible for them to have a child and then did the impossible!  Sarah had laughed at the angel’s announcement a year earlier.  Abraham named the child “Isaac” which literally means “laughter”.  In their old age they experienced the sound of laughter–the laughter of faith.  Every time they spoke the child’s name they were reminded of God’s miracle!

Faith puts its trust in an object.  Biblical faith always trusts in God and his ability to bring his promises to pass.  It is not faith in our ability to believe!  When God brings to pass what He promised, laughter is a great response!  God has a great sense of humor!  He always has the last laugh!  He loves making us laugh too!  Who wouldn’t want to walk with a God like that!

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:18-21

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Don’t do this wicked thing!

January 8th Scripture Reading: Genesis 18-20

An ongoing debate and cultural war is going on in our society concerning gay and lesbian rights.  Their argument is that genetically they are made with a preference to have sex with the same sex.  They say it is discrimination and lack of tolerance when we will not allow them all the rights that traditional married couples have.  A large number of states have passed traditional marriage protection acts.  Courts are hearing challenges to these laws.  Petitions are being presented to legalize same-sex marriage and even to allow adoption of children to same-sex couples.  Two states have legal same-sex marriages.

From today’s reading, we get insight into how God feels about this sort of activity in a city or country.  He has ordained marriage between a man and a woman.  He made them male and female.  But sin, disobedience to the clear command and purpose of God, always brings consequences.  He is merciful to all who will listen and obey but will judge unrepented sin and rebellion.  Sin’s outcry reaches heaven and God’s ears.

Abraham had interceded with God and knew that God as the judge of the earth would not destroy the righteous along with the wicked. (Genesis 18:25)   In response to the reports of wickedness that had reached heaven, God sent two angels to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family before judgment fell.  As these angels were visiting with Lot, the men of Sodom came knocking on Lot’s door, demanding to have those visitors (the angels) for their own sexual pleasure.  Lot pleaded with them, “Please don’t do this wicked thing.” (Genesis 19:6) But they began to move to break down his door.  The angels intervened, pulled Lot inside, and struck the men blind so they could not find the door.  They then warned Lot to gather his family and leave because they were under orders from God to destroy that city.

The saddest note in this story is when Lot tried to warn his son’s-in- law about the coming destruction and they thought he was joking! (Genesis 19:14)  Lot had moved to Sodom with great riches.  He apparently tolerated the wickedness and even failed to help his own daughters find believing mates.  When the angels warned of the coming destruction, he tried to get out of going where they suggested.   His own wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt!  What a sad case of a man who knew God and His blessing and got deluded by the spirit of Sodom!  How’s your discernment?  Are you aware of the warnings of God’s Word?  Are you warning those involved in the “sin of Sodom?”  Are you careful to vote for godly men and women who will listen to God’s Word on this subject?  Pray for discernment and intercede for mercy for our land!

God’s message for our day is plain!  He designed man and woman for marriage and reproduction and raising godly children.  When we rebel against His plan and do our own thing, consequences will follow.  We have the freedom to choose our lifestyle, but the consequences surely will come with it!  “Don’t do this wicked thing!”

“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah–from the Lord out of the heavens.  Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities and also the vegetation in the land.  But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:24-26

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Abraham, Sarah and Ishmael

January 7th Scripture Reading:  Genesis 15-17

A great deal has happened in the lives of Abram and Sarai in the last three chapters.  They have been to Egypt and back. They have rescued Lot from invaders.  They gave the first tithes to Melchezidek, an unusual man who was a king of Salem (Jerusalem) and a priest of “The Most High God”. (A type of Christ)  Sarai has suggested to Abram that he have a child by her maid, Hagar, to fulfill God’s promise since she, Sarai,  is still barren.  A child results and trouble ensues!  Hagar feels superior and Sarai is  jealous and mistreats her.  The child, Ishmael, becomes a source of trouble in the house and is prophesied to be one who would cause trouble (Genesis 16:12).  In fact, we are today experiencing trouble in our world in the Middle East conflict and war on terror from Ismael’s offspring!  This is 4000 years later!  How true the Word of God is!

Genesis 17 records another visit by God to Abram and Sarai.  Abram is now 99 years old and Sarai is 90.  God confirms his promise to them in a covenant.  Part of a covenant is a change of names.  God’s covenant name was “YHWH”, Hebrew letters that were pronounced only with a drawn out “h” sound.  God changed Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah, adding part of his name to theirs and thus changing the meaning of their names.  Abram means “Exalted Father” and Abraham means “Father of many or a multitude”.  Sarai’s new name means “Princess”.  God took Abraham’s name too.  He became know as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God also gave them a physical sign of the covenant, circumcision.  This mark in the male organ carrying the “seed”, would remind Abraham of God’s promise and mark his offspring as special.  This sign also helped keep the line pure and free from venereal disease, thus protecting the offspring.

God has a plan and his promises always come true.  Faith simply says “yes” to God and obeys!  Abraham is known as the father of faith because he believed God and God credited him with being righteous!  (Genesis 15:6)  We are made right with God exactly the same way!  By faith in Jesus we are credited with righteousness too.  Our sign of covenant is that we get the Name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit who circumcises our hearts and marks us as belonging to God.  God writes our name in the Book of Life and we have an eternal inheritance in Him!  We are truly blessed through Abraham and Sarah and their seed, Jesus Christ!

“Having believed, you were marked in him (Christ) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His Glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

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Father Abram and Faith

January 6th Scripture Reading: Genesis 12-14

About 2000 years before Christ or about 400 years after the tower of Babel, God spoke to a man in Ur of the Caldeans  in the land that is now called Iraq.  This man’s name was Abram; he was about 75 years old and married to a lady named Sarai.  They were childless and already beyond the years of childbearing.

God seems to specialize in hard cases.  He likes to challenge people to believe him when he speaks.  God speaks to Abram and gives him eight specific promises: (1) I will make you a great nation, (2) I will bless you, (3) I will make your name great, (4) You will be a blessing, (5) I will bless those who bless you, (6) I will curse those who curse you, (7) All peoples of the earth will be blessed through you, (8) To your offspring I will give this land (Canaan). (Genesis 12:2-3, 7.)   God then asks Abram to leave his home and go to a land that God would show him.  Abram does exactly what God asks him to do.  With promises like that, who wouldn’t want in on these blessings and future blessings?
We get to see the beginning here of God’s plan to form a people who would by faith obey and follow him.  Abram is told that God will make him a great nation when he doesn’t even have a child.  Abram is told all nations will be blessed through him.  He is promised blessing and protection from God Himself.  How can this be?  God sovereignly chose Abram, revealed the promises and asked for obedience.  Abram believed and acted.  Faith is so simple really.  Faith looks at God who made the promises and chooses to believe that the one who made the promises is able to fulfill them!
That’s exactly what God is calling us to do!  Trust in the offspring of Abram, Jesus Christ and receive the blessing promised to all peoples of the earth!  He also asks us to bless Abram’s offspring and the nation they formed, Israel.
He asks us to believe him now and be blessed and be a blessing.  Will you trust him and obey?
“Yet he  (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:20-21
“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Galatians 3:29
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The Confused Tower Builders!

January 5th Scripture Reading: Genesis 10-11

In preceding chapters of Genesis we saw that God chose Noah to start the population of the world all over again.  His three sons and their wives were all that were saved from the world-wide flood.  Did you ever wonder how we got all the different nations of the world?  Did you wonder where all the languages and nationalities came from?   This would not be understandable if it were not for Genesis 10 and 11.

God blessed Noah and told him and his family to be fruitful and multiply and fill the whole earth.  (Genesis 9:1)  Noah’s grandson born to Ham, Nimrod, led a rebellion around 100 years after the flood.  The rebellion consisted of gathering family members together on the plain of Shinar (Ancient Babylon, current Iraq).  They decided to build a tower that would reach to the heavens and to make a name for themselves and avoid being scattered over the face of the earth as God had commanded.  (Genesis 11:1-4)  This seemed harmless enough, except it was in rebellion to God’s will and plan.

God came down!  Man had built himself a tall tower, reaching to the heavens but God still came down.  Man could not come close to reaching heaven on his own or with his own strength and plans.  Pride was behind this, the very sin that got Satan removed from heaven.  In fact, it was the very sin that got man removed from his daily walk with God in the beautiful Garden of Eden (delights).  God realized that with one language and rebellious leadership that nothing would be impossible for them.  He confused their language and scattered them over the earth and they stopped their building.

God did one more thing that insured that they would not get back together for rebellion.  Genesis 10 is a genealogy of the son’s of Noah.  One of Shem’s grandsons, Eber, had a son Peleg.  Peleg means “division” and verse 25 states that “in his time the earth was divided. . “.  Some creation scientists believe that this is when God could have separated the continents following the judgment at the tower of Babel.  Those scattered people groups represented by the 70 family groups of Genesis 10 formed the nations of the world that we see in existence today.  (see The Genesis Record by Dr. Henry Morris, pages 260-261)(also book review page and sidebar).   A side note is that “Eber” is probably where the name “Hebrews” was derived.  The concentration of genetics in each group through mating could have resulted in the races and nationalities we see today.

God truly works out everything for our good and accomplishes his plans!  Take time today to thank Him for your heritage and for showing mercy in judgment at the Tower of Babel.

“From one man he (God) made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-27

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Sunday Rest and Reflection

January 4th–Sunday of Rest

Each Sunday, the devotional Bible I am following this year offers a time to catch up and reflect on the journey so far.  I liked the idea and thought it was good.  Catch up today and rest in the Lord.  This walk is not a race.  We are involved to build a relationship with the Lord and want to know His heart.

As I reflect on these first three days, I am excited at what I am learning and insights that I have gotten that help me on the way.  God created the heavens and earth and man and then he took one day to rest.  That day was man’s first full day on earth and he was to spend it with the Lord, enjoying creation and the loving God who created it for his pleasure.

I think about Enoch who walked with God so closely that God just took him to be with Him.  The birth of a child to Enoch and his wife, caused him to begin to prophesy about the Lord coming again in judgment.  He was 365 years old when the Lord took him directly to heaven–one of only two in the Old Testament who didn’t die physically!  Oh, for that close a walk!  In fact, this is just what we are to be ready for today in the rapture of the church at the last trumpet!  Noah walked with God and rode the ark over the waters to a new world!  What an exciting walk!  The God we serve is worthy of our worship and service.  It’s just a drop of worship compared to the oceans of his mercy!

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Revelation 22:20

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A Day in Noah’s Life!

January 3rd–Genesis 6-9

As I again read the story of Noah and the flood, I listened for God’s heart.  He saw that the man that He had made in His own image had turned to wickedness instead of to the walk of faith God had planned for him.  God’s heart was grieved and filled with pain.  Our sin causes grief and pain in God’s heart!  It also has consequences for us.  Man has freedom of choice to choose his own path instead of God’s, but must accept the consequences.  Sin always brings God’s wrath, His judgment, and ultimately death.

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8)  God’s eyes are always looking for a way to show favor and mercy!  Thank God for that!  His eyes are looking for any who would be humble and teachable that He might save them and bless them. God revealed to Noah his plans for judgment of a wicked mankind and a polluted earth.  He gave specific instructions for saving Noah, his family, and the animals.  Noah did everything just as God commanded Him.” (Genesis 6:22)

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the 17th day of the second month–on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of heaven were opened.” (Genesis 7:11)  God did exactly what He said He would do on a specific day in Noah’s life!  Jesus taught that it would be just like the days of Noah when God would again judge the wicked of the earth.  (Matthew 24:36-39)  This time it would be by fire! Is anyone listening?  Could this possibly be true?  The way of salvation for all who will believe is Jesus Christ! He is waiting patiently for all who will respond, but “a day of judgment” is coming!

“By these  same waters the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” 2nd Peter 3:6-7

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I ATE IT.

January 2nd reading:  Genesis 3-5

I remember in my early childhood taking my dad’s pocketknife from the stand by his favorite chair and carving pictures on the bedroom door.  It was great fun and my sister liked the pictures too.  Dad and Mom were out doing chores on the farm and it was still dark outside.  After a while, I knew they would come in soon and slid Dad’s chair in front of the door to try and hide the “sin”.  I didn’t understand it but they caught on right away when they came in the house!  I initially tried to blame my younger sister for being the instigator, but was found out!  I was rightfully afraid of punishment and soon reaped what I had so unwisely sown.  (That was before the days when spanking was termed abuse!) Genesis 3 came alive personally to me and I would bet every one of us has learned this lesson the hard way!

As I read this section of scripture, I am introduced to the “serpent” who was “more crafty” than any of the other animals that God had made.  This “serpent” talks to the woman Eve.  His words contradict or twist what God had told Adam and Eve.  They are words designed to appeal to desire for that which is forbidden by God.  The words appeal to pride and a desire to know what God knows from a source that God warns them would cause them to die.  Crafty is the ability to “craft” a plan that gets around truth.  It is a lie with some chocolate covering it.  Eve is taken in by this “craft” and takes the forbidden fruit.  She gives it to her husband who eats as well.  She is deceived and he deliberately eats. They suddenly are aware of their nakedness and hide, covering themselves.  Fear has entered with death and, rather than being clothed with God’s Glory,  shame now clothes them with a fig leaf!

God is walking in the garden.  He is reaching out to those made in His image.  He is calling to them and seeking those who are now lost!  He knows what they have done but is trying to help them get free.  When they emerge shaking in fear, God asks them who told them they were naked and if they had eaten from the forbidden tree.  Each answer is an attempt to blame someone else or God himself!  No one wants to confess or admit guilt.  Sin not only brings guilt and shame, but it causes fear of punishment.

Today, do a quick survey of your life.  Ask the Holy Spirit if there are things you are doing that you need to take responsibility for.  Confess them to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and cleansing.  It’s the only way I know to get rid of sin and its consequence, death!  “I ate it.”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1st John 1:9

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Atheists File Suit–Worldview clash continues!

http://news.aol.com/article/atheists-file-lawsuit-over-inauguration/291040

A lawsuit has now been filed by Michael Newdow, a California doctor and lawyer and atheist.  His suit attempts to legislate against any reference to religion or God in the inagural ceremony for President-elect Barak Obama.  He is joined by several humanist and atheist groups and has tried this two other times before during President Bush’s inagural events.  He was defeated each time and expects to be again. 

This again points up the dualist thinking that has entrenched itself in the thinking of our nation and even much of the church world.  Mr. Newdow did not list President-elect Obama in the suit because he has the personal right to ask for God’s help.  Mr. Newdow doesn’t want the unbelieving public to be exposed to references to God, such as “so help me God” in the oath of office.  It causes him pain and suffering.  Private faith and belief in God is alright, but it must not be practiced in public settings!  Faith has been classified as something of lower value because it is private and based on religious beliefs that don’t have the same value as public ‘truth’. 

This dualistic thinking has swept our country.  Our education system, media and journalism, and politicians and many clergy have bought into it.  They try to please everyone and end up displeasing God and helping no one.  God’s truth is true for all men at all times.  Our nation was founded on the biblical concept that “God created all men equal and with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  We need Christians with backbones and a biblical worldview to work in education, media, journalism and politics and salt the workplace with this worldview.  We are called to be salt and light to a lost and confused and double-minded world! 

“You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”  Matthew 5:13

“In the Beginning, God”!

Today’s reading:  Genesis 1-2

The journey begins!  May the Lord bless your new year and walk with you each step of the way!

I am so thankful that you have chosen to trek with me through the Bible this year.  We are starting at the beginning and I just love these first chapters of Genesis.  To think that Moses recorded this for us  about 1500 years before Christ is amazing!  According to Scripture, he was moved on by the Holy Spirit and wrote down a message given him by God. (2nd Peter 1:19-21)  This record of creation is given to us by the only one who was there to witness it all!  Without this record, we could only speculate about where we came from and why we are here in the type of world that we live in.  In fact, that kind of speculation is what is going on with many intellectuals today who deny God exists or that He can be known by us.  It is being taught in our school systems to our children and they are confused!

God made all that is simply by speaking!  What powerful words!  As He spoke, out of nothing, creation appeared!  Psalm 33:6 states: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”  We serve a God who breathes out stars, constellations, and galaxies that stretch out for countless millions of light years in every direction from the earth! (Recommended Resource–How Great is Our God by Louis Giglio)

Even more amazing is man himself!  Man made in the image of God!  Man created by God for a relationship!  Man walking with God and sharing rulership of creation with God.  The Trinity is implied here in the “our image”.  God creating man as male and female for a relationship with each other is also noteworthy!  His design has brought companionship and pleasure to man, who could not find what he needed with any of the animals!   We are special and unique!   Thank Him for your uniqueness and His purpose for your life.  Invite Him to walk with you today and this year!  It will be the most exciting way to begin a new year!  In His Love, Pastor John

Then God said, “let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them.”–Genesis 2:26-27

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