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Showing posts from January, 2012

God Told Me So

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Jacob’s history is the stuff of reality television. Just imagine: “Maternity Ward Wars” starring Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29:1-30:24). The object: Who can have the most babies by Jacob. Then we have the “Property Acquisition Challenge” of Genesis 30:25-31:55. The object: Get as much as you can, as quickly as you can, by any means that you can, and get out while you can. Most of the time we tread lightly and move quickly though this whole sordid mess of Jacob’s early years. It’s dysfunction at its finest. God gets a bad name because of Jacob’s actions and attitudes, often because Jacob himself names God as an accomplice to his crimes. For example, Jacob is quoted as saying: “…but the God of my father has been with me…God has not allowed him to harm me…So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me” (31:5, 7, 9, NIV). The context tells us that Jacob cheated his uncle to get his fortune and to increase his flocks and herds. Is that what God told Jacob to do, or is Ja…

The Rock and the Hard Place

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Jacob was on his way to his mother’s family home. He stopped for the night to rest. During the night God confirmed the covenant that He made with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:13-14, NIV). Interesting note that God didn’t say that He was the God of Jacob. He was, because He is God over all—and He wasn’t. Jacob wasn’t ready to submit to God yet. In fact, Jacob couldn’t have cared any less for the generational blessing that God was confirming with him. Jacob, typical of all that he…

A Little Distance Sometimes Helps

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Another famine and another decision to make. When Abraham was faced with famine in Canaan he chose to go to Egypt. He got himself into trouble. His son, Isaac, faced with a similar situation is commanded by God not to go to Egypt. Instead he chose the second worst and went to live with the Philistines (Genesis 26:2). God allowed this (26:3-6) and even promised to bless Isaac while he was among the Philistines, but like his father before him, he got into trouble (26:7-11) and compromised his faith while he was there. It’s interesting to notice the progression. Isaac goes to Gerar and God blesses him, but with the passage of time, Isaac is driven farther and farther away from the Philistines until he ends up back in Beersheba (26:23). The issue was water. Every time Isaac dug a well the Philistines would come along and fill it up with sand. Isaac would then move farther out until finally, “He moved out from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, s…

A Trade Imbalance

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Genesis 25 ends the story of Abraham and begins that of Isaac. Oddly enough, considering the Isaac was the son of promise, we know relatively little about him. It’s as though we skip a generation and go from the patriarch Abraham to the story of his grandchildren, Esau and Jacob. The twins had a pretty rocky relationship, aided and abetted by parents who showed too much favouritism. Esau was the eldest—by a hair, or a heel—so to him went the larger portion of the family inheritance. It was a great privilege but one that Esau didn’t value. One day, coming home from the hunt, he came across Jacob cooking up a pot of stew. Esau was hungry and bartered away his inheritance for the price of a bowl of red lentils. The Scripture records: “So Esau despised his birthright” (25:34, NIV). He threw away something of great value for something of little value. I got to thinking about how this story applies to me. As a child of God I have huge privileges. But how often to I “give away” those privileg…

The Key to Real Success

Genesis 24 was a timely reminder this morning. Abraham sent a trusted servant out to find a wife for Isaac from among his own people—another one of the patriarch’s precautions in not having really close dealings with the pagan world that surrounded him (See Genesis 14:21-24; 23:7-16). He wanted a believing woman as wife to his son (24:1-4). The son of the covenant couldn’t have divided loyalties within his own household. The task wasn’t a simple one and the servant was justifiably nervous. But he was also a man of faith. Genesis 24:12 (NIV) tells us, “Then he prayed, ‘O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.’” Then he asked for a specific sign that would tell him which woman was the one God had chosen for Isaac. There is some excellent counsel in this story for those looking for life partners. It is essential that a believer marry a believer. But not just any “warm and breathing” believer will do. God had a specific woman for Isaac…

Being Obligated

There is an interesting parallel between Abraham’s dealing with Ephron in Genesis 23 and his dealing with the King of Sodom in Genesis 14. In both cases, the patriarch is doing business with two pagans. From Ephron he wishes to buy some land and a cave where he can bury Sarah. The King of Sodom is grateful for Abraham’s help in returned some captives, including Lot, and their possessions that were taken as the result of a war between the city-states. The King of Sodom offers to give Abraham part of the booty that was confiscated. It would have made him an even richer man than he already was. Abraham refuses saying, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread of the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’” (14:22, 23, NIV). Abraham would not be beholden to a wicked man who denied God. When Sarah died, Abraham asked to buy the la…

Lot: Portrait of a Modern Man

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Abraham’s nephew, Lot, looks so much like today’s average believer. 2 Peter 2:7, 8 described Lot this way: “…and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)…” The word “righteous” has several meanings, two of which perfectly fit this man: “of those who seem to themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves in their virtues, whether real or imagined” and “in a narrower sense, rendering to each his due and that in a judicial sense, passing just judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them.”* Lot hated what he saw around him in Sodom, the city that God was about to destroy because of its wickedness. And though he himself was a good man in an evil society, he apparently was not intolerant enough of evil to speak against it, or mov…

Let's Have the Good news First

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I’m not sure what difference it makes but often people will ask if we want the good news first, or the bad news. Either way we have to deal with both so does it really matter which one comes first? In Genesis 18, three strangers arrived at Abraham’s door (or tent flap, in his case). “Abram” (father) had become “Abraham” (father of many) at God’s command, indicating the number of descendants that he would have. “Sarai” (princess) had become “Sarah” (noblewoman). But despite the name changes, Abraham still had not had a son by Sarah, as God had promised. When the three visitors arrived, Abraham greeted them with great deference. He perceived that they were divine messengers. In fact, one of them is referred to as “the Lord” (18:10). As was the custom, Sarah was not present during the men’s conversation over dinner, but like many of her kind, she was eavesdropping behind the closed tent flap. The good news? The Lord promised that within a year Sarah would produce the long awaited child of …

On the Way to the Heart

Every once in a while I post on other sites besides my own. On occasion I revisit my past when I post these articles—lots of lessons have been learned over the years! A couple of times a month I do that on Journezine, once a month I do it on InScribe and once a month I do it on Jewels of Encouragement. Today I'm at Jewels remembering how important the stomach is to spiritual health. Sound odd? Check it out for yourself and let me know.

http://www.jewelsofencouragement.com/2012/01/lessons-from-bread-machine.html

Grace Without Exceptions

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Has anyone ever asked you this question: “Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?” Most of us can think of circumstances in our lives when, if we had known the consequences at the time, we would have made different choices. As I read Genesis 16 earlier this morning, I was impressed with yet another example of the grace and mercy of God. The story is that of Hagar, the Egyptian servant who was given by Sarai to Abram so that Abram could have the son that Sarai apparently couldn’t give him. When the deed was done and the servant became pregnant, Hagar gloated, Sarai fumed, and Abram ended up sending Hagar and the unborn child out into the desert to fend for themselves. Historically we know that from Ishmael sprang the Muslim nations (Genesis 12:8) who have been mortal enemies of the Jews, and just about everyone else, since then. This fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 16:12: “He [Ishmael] will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone …

Consider the Moth

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Consider the moth. He is attracted to the light and tries to get as close to it as he can. If he gets too close… In Genesis 13 we find Abram and his nephew, Lot, having some challenging times. They were both rich men, which meant lots of herds and flocks. Their herdsmen and shepherds were having problems sharing the grass and the water and fights were breaking out between them. Abram called Lot in for a meeting to resolve the issue and magnanimously, gave his nephew first choice of all the land that they could see. What Lot saw were the fertile plains along the Jordan. If he noticed the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (13:13), he shrugged the implications of living near them aside. “So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east…Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom” (13:12, NIV). When we catch up to Lot a few chapters later, in Genesis 19, we discover Lot living in the city of Sodom. That was to have tragic conse…

"Altared" State

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“…There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 12:8b, NIV) Abram didn’t built altars everywhere he went. It seems he skipped those places, like Egypt, where he shouldn’t have been in the first place (12:10ff). That would make perfect sense. But in all the places that the Lord took him, the patriarch’s first order of business was to build an altar. There at the altar he praised God and offered himself and that place to the Lord. I got to thinking about all the places I go. Do I build an altar when I arrived in the office? Do I build an altar when I enter the grocery store? Is there a dentist’s altar, or a bank altar, or a library altar? Of course I’m not talking about the physical pile of stones that Abram would have constructed, but do all the places I go become places of praise and commitment? Can I sit in the hairdresser’s chair and thank God for that place and commit it, the experience, the hairdresser, and myself to God? Can something so mundane be…

Dying Before the Journey Has Ended

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Have you ever begun something that you never managed to finish? I doubt that there are many of us who can’t answer a resounding “yes” to that question. We sometimes conduct postmortems on why we didn’t finish a project. Oftentimes we’d rather not even discuss it! In Genesis 11 one of these unfinished projects comes to light. “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.” (11:31, NIV) We often are reminded of Abraham’s call to Canaan and assume that he left from Ur to follow the command of God. Technically he did, but it was his father, Terah, who started the journey. From the way the text reads it was Terah who, for some unmentioned reason, packed up his family and headed to Canaan. Except, he didn’t finish the journey. We aren’t told why Terah stopped at Haran or why he didn’t get started again. He died…

I Call You Cousin

Ham probably didn’t notice much change in his status as a result of his disrespect of his father, Noah, as recorded in Genesis 9. The punishment for Ham’s crime was actually directed against his son and his son’s descendants (9:18, 24). But even the grandchildren and great grandchildren didn’t feel the effects of their forebear’s sin. That would come a lot later. Canaan was to be a slave to his brothers. Now Canaan was the son of Ham, but Canaan would also become the name of a nation of people who would settle in the land that God would eventually give to His people, Israel. The prophecy would come true, generations later, as Israel took control of the land God has promised them and subjugated the Canaanites. But before the time for Ham’s crime was served by his descendants, the fortunes of his family were quite impressive. Genesis 10 describes Nimrod as a mighty warrior and, “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (10:9). Ham’s branch of the family was to become a fierce lot. They founded e…

Promises Shouldn't Be Like Pie Crust

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My mother made the best pie crust in the world. She gave all the credit to Tenderflake and often told me about her struggles in the early days on the farm when her parents rendered their own lard. The consistency varied from year to year which made pie making a bit of a challenge—you could never be sure how the crust was going to turn out. Making good pies was a matter of reputation since the threshing crews that came through to help with the harvest were experts in pie crust and if a certain farmer’s wife presented them with tough, inedible crust, the whole neighbourhood would soon know about it. When it come to pie crust, we want tender, flaky and melt-in-your-mouth. Someone once said that promises are like pie crusts—lightly treated and easily broken. Unfortunately, that is often true. Promises are easily made and just as easily forgotten. “Tender” is good in pie crusts, but bad in promises. We often make better promise breakers than we do promise keepers. Happily, God is not like us…

Feeling the Pain

Only what functions perfectly can understand how terrible dysfunction is. If we think that dysfunction is a modern phenomenon, we are wrong. Dysfunction is as old as sin. Only perfection can feel perfect pain. You and I think we know what pain is, but if we were capable of feeling pain as God feels it, its weight would crush us underneath the load. God saw the dysfunction and felt the pain. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (Genesis 6:5, 6, NIV) We are inoculated against dysfunction because all of us are, to one extent or the other, dysfunctional. We don’t fully feel the pain of sin because we are, saved by grace or not, sinners tainted by sin and still prone to a certain level of rebellion against God. But God sees it all and feels it all. There were exceptions during those early da…

Telling Your God Stories

We were introduced yesterday to Lamech who, like his great, great grandfather, Cain, was an unrepentant murderer. Cain’s heritage to his children and their children was likely a twisted version of his own history that led his descendants to believe that their evil actions could be justified. Genesis 5 introduces us to another Lamech. This one was a descendant of Seth, the son God gave to Adam and Eve after the death of Abel and the exile of Cain. Lamech’s father was a godly man. It was said of Enoch that he “…walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24, NIV). It appears that Enoch passed on some of that heritage to his son. Lamech became the father of Noah. Names meant something in the ancient past, denoting expectations and describing characteristics of a particular child. Noah’s name sounds like the Hebrew word for “comfort” and his father, Lamech, pronounced these prophetic words on this son: “He will comfort us in the labor and painf…

Rewriting History

Genesis 4:23b, 24I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” Lamech was Cain’s great-great grandson. Considering how long people lived in those days it is likely that Cain was still alive when Lamech said these words. During his lifetime how many times did Cain tell the story behind his exile, and at what point did it get to be his parents’ fault, his brother’s fault, God’s fault? When did the story began to be about how he had been wronged and how justified he had been in killing his brother, Abel? From Lamech’s words we get the idea that there was no longer any sense of wrongdoing associated with murder. History somehow got twisted. On Cain’s part there was no acknowledgment that he had offended God, that he was wrong in killing his brother, that God was justified in the punishment that He meted out—in fact, merciful in the judgment He meted out in banishing Cain. All God got from Cai…

When God Walks

Genesis 3 What does the God sound like when He walks? “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (3:8, NIV) Is it the sound of wind rustling through the trees? Is it a rumble as the earth moves beneath His feet? Does the thunder roll ahead of Him announcing His coming? Is there the sound of rushing water? What does God sound like when He comes? However He may manifest Himself I only ask that He clear away the noise in my life so that I don’t miss the sound of His coming to me or the words that He wishes to speak. I ask that He keep me close to Him this day so that when I come to its end I will not be ashamed of what I have said or done and feel the need to hide myself from Him—as if I could! If I listen for His sound, and if I take heed to His words when He speaks, I will likely not have any reason to hide when the end of this day comes.

A Commandment Before the Commandment

Genesis 2

Before calendars were invented, God put His into effect. Before commandments became “official” because they were written down, God gave some basic rules. The history of the beginning of the world given for us in Genesis One denotes “morning and evening” to mark off days. When we get to Genesis Two we find God “resting” from His creative work and making that day of rest holy, set apart, sanctified, reserved for the purpose of rest rather than work. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work, And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2, 3, NIV) Later God would issue a command about this day of rest but from the beginning He set the example by resting—even though God doesn’t need a rest. This rest didn’t mean that God abandoned “essential services.” The Jews would later make it impossible for their people to lift a fin…