Monday, February 27, 2017

4 steps to seeing God Act

Read Genesis 15.

Genesis 15 is one of the linchpin chapters in understanding the Bible.  This is the first mention of God appearing in a vision.  It contains the first mention of "I am" in reference to God.

God moved here from making a promise to Abram (chapter 12) to sealing it with an everlasting covenant.  In doing so, God also foretold, about 500 years in advance, of the future suffering of the yet-to-be nation.  They will be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. 

Note that the covenant is not a mutual agreement.  It is not dependent upon Abram or his descendants.  It is from God, for God, and made by Him alone.  It is from Abram's response to God that we learn a timeless Biblical principle.  Verse 6: "And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness."  Abram stood righteous before God because of simple faith.  The New Testament quotes and upholds this as a basic tenet on establishing a personal relationship with the LORD. 

Abram asked a great question: "How am I to know that I shall possess it?"  God then gave him clear instructions.
1. Abram sacrificed.  He gave to God what God asked. 
2. Abram obeyed.  He did what God said to do.
3. Abram waited.  This may have been the toughest part.
4. God acted. 

Our human nature wants the four steps above in reverse order.  We want God to prove Himself, answer our prayers, and bless us in some manner first.  Then, we will trust and obey Him.  And, certainly, we do not want to wait. 

Sometimes God calls us to immediate action.  Many times we are called to wait.  If the latter is true, waiting is not inaction, but obedience.  Psalm 27:14-"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!"  And, watch what He alone can do.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

A demonstration of selfless Gratitude

Read Genesis 14.

In Genesis 14, we read the third recorded test of Abram's faith.  Because of the capture of his nephew, Lot, Abram quickly assembled a small army of his own trained servants and completely overturned the disaster with a great victory.  Abram could have claimed rulership of the entire area, along with all their possessions, for himself.  The people would have made him a king.  Instead, it appears from verse 22 that he had made a prior commitment that if God gave him success he would take nothing for himself.  In an act of humble gratitude, he honored God as the Owner of all things and in worship gave a tenth of everything.

Upon Abram's return, he met the king/priest of Salem (later known as Jerusalem).  Melchizedek did three things in this encounter:
1. He blessed Abram, giving God the credit.
2. He acknowledged God's ownership of heaven and earth, giving God the glory
3. He received a tenth of everything, giving God worship
True worship of God and giving are inseparable. 

This the first mention of tithing in the Bible.  Here are some modern questions about tithing:
A. "Should I give a tenth of the gross or the net?"
The verse says "everything."

B. "Should I give a tenth before or after I pay my bills?"
Abram gave in verse 20 and paid his bills in verse 24.  Proverbs 3:9 underscores this priority.  "Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce."  It is a matter of trust in God.  Honoring Him with the first means I trust He will bless the rest.

C. "But isn't tithing Old Testament Law and we are no longer under the law?"
Note that Abram did not live under the Law of Moses.  He lived at least 450 years before Moses received the Law at Mount Sinai.  The Law did not initiate tithing.  It only codified the existing practice.

Abram did not give in worship because he felt he owed God 10% of his gain.  Rather, he gave in acknowledgement that God owns it all and that the LORD had blessed him.  The first lesson of stewardship is that God is the rightful Owner of everything.  "The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Learning life lessons from Conflict

Read Genesis 13.

When Abram sinned and was ousted from Egypt in great embarrassment, notice what he did.  He went back to where he had started and worshiped the LORD there.  This land that God gave to him is where he should have been all along.

The next test of Abram's faith came in the form a family conflict.  God had blessed Abram and his nephew Lot so much that they needed to separate.  In the culture of the day, being the patriarch of the family, Abram could have pulled rank and made certain demands.  But to his credit, he viewed this challenge in a much larger perspective.  Lot was not an enemy but family.  Abram's commitment was more than just to appease the strife.  He desired to resolve the conflict and trust God for the outcome.

As the leader of the family, he immediately put an end to the fighting.  "Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen." (v.8)

Next, this leader was willing to let Lot make the decision about where to live.  The Jordan River valley appeared to be the prime place for his herds.  What he did not consider was the spiritual environment.  "Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD." (v.13)  What appeared to be the best choice will turn out to cost Lot dearly.

Demanding one's rights is one way to start a fight.  Humbly and voluntarily yielding one's rights may pave the way toward a peaceable and equitable resolve.

In verses 14-17, the LORD encouraged Abram for the way he handled this test of faith by repeating two of three parts to the covenant made in Chapter 12.  God promised the land of Canaan to him and his descendants.  His descendants would be innumerable.  And then he built an altar to worship God. 

Three life lessons from Abram's responses:
1. He humbled himself when he could have stood up for his rights.
2. He trusted God to work rather than choosing his own way.
3. He worshipped God when the decision was made.  
Building an altar and worshipping at these strategic times had now become a habit of his life.   

Three life questions to ask when faced with major decisions from Lot's responses:
1. Am I viewing this decision with spiritual insight or only physical eyesight?
2. Am I making spiritual goals my priority rather than material goals?

3. Am I more concerned with developing eternal prosperity or temporal prosperity?  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A blessing for All

Read Genesis 12.

The end of Genesis 11 and chapter 12 are turning points in world history.  The story of the Bible tells of God initially working with one man, Adam, and then one man, Noah.  Here, the rest of the Bible's story line will be affected by this one man, Abram.  

The family of Abram lived with the Chaldeans in the city of Ur.  It was out of this pagan environment that God called Abram.  Of all humanity, God chose this man and sovereignly made a covenant with him and his descendants.  The covenant contains three parts: God will give Abram and his family a land for their own; God will make Abram a great nation of people; God will bless Abram to such an extent that the entire world will be blessed through him.

For the better part of history the land has been in some dispute with Israel's enemies.  In spite of many satanic attempts to annihilate the descendants of Abram and the nation of Israel, by God's grace they have survived.  Matthew 1 provides the genealogy details that Jesus, the Messiah, is humanly a direct descendant of Abram.  Indeed, the blessing to all the world has come and He will come again.

Such a promise to a man with no children humbled him.  Like other incidents in his life, his response was to build an altar and worship the LORD. 

That did not mean that Abram lived a perfect life.  The rest of chapter 12 displays his humanity.  And, like all humans, he sinned when he got out of God's will.  Sin may be characterized by one or more of the following from Abram's bad example: 
In the wrong place (Egypt, instead of the place God provided)
With the wrong thinking (fear, instead of faith)
With the wrong speech (lying, instead of truth)
With wrong actions (instead of being a blessing, he became a curse)
With wrong results (instead of building relationship, he was asked to leave in disgrace)

But God's promises were not dependent upon Abram's behavior.  In further reading of this book we find that God blessed Abram.  God still kept His promises.  Abram was still God's friend.  That is an example of God's grace and gives hope to all who trust Him.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Making sense of the Confusion

Read Genesis 10-11.

After the flood, the only humans on earth were Noah and his family.  From his three sons came three strains of peoples of which all today trace their heritage.  Genesis 10 is a genealogy and overview.  Three times it is mentioned that each "clan" spoke their own language.  Chapter 11 explains why and how separate nations and language groups began.

God commanded in 9:7, "And, you be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply it."  But instead of spreading out to steward the earth, the population chose to stay as one.

In defiance and open rebellion against God, the population decided to stay together.  Nimrod founded a city called Babel.  There the people built a tower symbolizing their rejection of God's word to them.  Archaeologists have discovered in that part of the world a style of construction called ziggurats; a type of tall temple pyramid, often decorated with symbols of the sun, moon and stars with an altar for false worship on top.

Babel (modern day Babylon), then, is the birthplace of astrology and all other false religions that worship the host of heaven, instead of the God of heaven.  They looked to the creation for signs, instead of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  In response to Babel, God intervened by giving them different languages so they can no longer work together in such united rebellion.  To this day the word Babel refers to confusion. 

With the confusion of languages the people could no longer easily communicate.  They were forced to separate.  "And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth." (11:9b)

Arrogant independence and open defiance against God will only lead to destruction of a nation and an individual's life.
Psalm 9:17-"The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God."
Proverbs 14:34-"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."

Psalm 2 should strike such a fear of God that all humble themselves before Him.  Verse 4 states, "He who sits in the heavens laughs."  God does not laugh because sinful rebellion is humorous, but because a human being thinking of challenging Almighty God and living without Him is absurd.  It is spiritual insanity.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:10 that one day-"at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Visible evidence of God's Character

Read Genesis 9.

One timeless lesson to be learned from the opening chapters of Genesis is that the God of the Bible is a God of justice and judgment.  His word is to be respected and He is to be feared when there is disobedience and rebellion against Him.  At the same time, the Lord is also compassionate and loving, even providing the means of atonement for a broken relationship with Him.  At every turn, God made a caring provision for those who responded to Him.

Here we discover that He is a God of new beginnings and second chances.  After the flood, life on earth began again.  The atmospheric environment had changed.  Natural responses between humans and animal life changed (v.2).  Population growth started anew from Noah's family.

With the conclusion of this worldwide judgment, God made one of His covenant promises.  Never again would He destroy all the earth with flood.  Then, He established a visible sign that mankind could see as a reminder of this covenant (v.13).

By definition: A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicolored arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.

From reading Genesis 9, it is clear that the rainbow did not always exist.  The best scientific explanation is found in the writings of Dr. Henry Morris.  But the Creator of the universe states here, "I have set my bow in the cloud."  Yes, it is always a captivating sight for us to see.  The rainbow belongs to Him and He put it there for a specific reason.    

In addition, a rainbow is a teachable moment for every human being.  It reminds us of God's judgment.  It reminds us that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  It reminds us that God keeps His promises.

There are plenty of other evidences of His loving care surrounding each of us all the time.  We must look for them in order to appreciate them.  Be sure to praise and thank Him when you do. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Great is His Faithfulness

Read Genesis 8.

The vast reservoirs of water beneath the earth's surface and the waters in the atmosphere were all unleashed in torrents to flood the entire earth.  This involved much more than the 40 days and nights of rain.  Not only did Noah have to wait until the rain stopped, but he had to be sure that the earth was dry.  Genesis 8 records the 1 year and 17 days that Noah's family and all the animals were on the Ark.

All who entered the Ark did so on God's command (7:16) and the LORD shut them in (7:17.  It was not until the earth was completely dry that the LORD commanded them all to leave the Ark (8:16).  From the mountains of Ararat, all air breathing life began to disseminate on earth.

In an act of thanksgiving for their safety, Noah worshiped God.  He built an altar for offering sacrifices to the LORD.  Blood sacrifices had been mentioned since Genesis 3:21, but this is the first mention in the Bible of a formal altar.  God had prepared for this in advance by having these particular animals enter the Ark in seven pairs, rather than just two (7:2-3).

God then made a promise.  He had destroyed the earth because the overwhelming evil of human intentions and actions.  The LORD said He would never again "strike down every living creature as I have done" (v.21).  That part of the promise protects the earth.  The second part of the promise provides for the earth.  To this day God sovereignly regulates "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night" (v.22).  Indeed, our food sources and life itself depend upon the LORD being faithful to this commitment made to Noah.  

The hymn writer took this portion of Genesis 8 when he wrote the second verse of Great is Thy Faithfulness:
 "Summer and winter, and spring-time and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness,

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love."

His trustworthiness and faithfulness to us are evident every day, all around us, if we will only take notice and respond in worship and obedience.