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Monday, October 26, 2009

We will not be able to publish a devotional next week. Look for another devotional by November 10th!
Adam and Eve and the Fall----Genesis 3 - Paradise Lost

We all know the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We have heard how the lying serpent tempts Eve with the “apple” and Eve not only eats the forbidden fruit but convinces Adam to eat it too. The story of the Fall of man (Genesis 3) explains the origins of many mysterious qualities of life – sickness, death, troubles and man’s free will to mention a few. Let’s explore several ideas that the story of the Fall introduces.

First of all, this act of disobedience to God by our ancestors is called the “original sin”. Scripture tells us that when sin first entered that once wonderful world, it changed everything. The perfect sinless world that God had created was now under a curse! That glorious world where there was no death and no sickness was now cursed by sickness and death. When God first created His world He commented again and again that everything was so “very good”. But now His “very good” creation was groaning and travailing under the wages of sin.- Romans 8:22 The whole earth had been changed! God could no longer exclaim that everything in His creation was so “very good”. Paradise had been lost! Adam and Eve are the only humans to have ever lived in that sinless creation. Only they could remember what that amazing world had once been like! And how much had been lost from the Fall: we can only imagine.

Another lesson we learn is that before the Fall, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden every day. They had enjoyed close fellowship and intimacy with God, their Father. But when our first parents sinned, everything was changed. Their sin separated them from God. And sin separates us too unless we accept God’s answer- God’s Covering. After they sinned, God sent Adam and Eve out from the Garden of Eden. God did this so that they wouldn’t be able to eat of the Tree of Life that was in the middle of the Garden and live forever. Our loving God didn’t want Adam and Eve to live forever in their sin and alienation. (He had a better Way)

And we also learn that after Adam and Eve sinned, they personally were changed. They now knew the difference between good and evil. Scripture tells us that they were not ashamed of being naked before they sinned. But afterward they were uncomfortable with their nakedness and they sewed leaves together to cover their bodies. And then God came and sacrificed an animal and gave them skin coverings. Is this story hinting that on our own and in our sin we feel ashamed of our nakedness – and we need a covering? Does blood have to be shed to affect a covering for our shame? Is our physical shame indicative of our spiritual shame? Does it imply that we are not all right on our own? Without Jesus as our Covering, we do have a reason for shame.

Another fact we learn from Genesis 3 is that this original sin of Adams’ is passed down to each of us. Scripture tells us that we inherit our sin nature from our first father – Adam. Romans 6:19 “Therefore, just as through Adam sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned---“ Romans 5:12

And still another lesson we learn from Genesis 1:27 is that God created man in His own image. Since we are His children, we will bear His image. God blessed Adam and Eve and gave them dominion over the earth. They were given power and influence. How much of that was spoiled by sin? Since God has a will of His own, and since we are created in His image, we also have a will of our own. God didn’t make us to be robots. We are free to make choices. With our own wills we can choose sin and death instead of God’s Will and life.

The very best lesson we learn from this story of the Fall is that the Father cared. Right away God started pointing Adam and Eve towards redemption – towards saving them from all of the consequences of their sin. With Paradise lost, God couldn’t help but plan for the Day that Paradise would be re-gained. Right after Adam and Eve sinned, God prophesied: ‘the Seed (Jesus Christ) of the woman will bruise the Serpent’s (Satan) head—“ Genesis 3:15. God immediately began making promises of a coming Savior and of salvation. 1 Peter 1:19-20 tell us, “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world---“ And Revelation 13:8 mentions, “---the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Scripture tells us that our loving Father was deeply grieved when His children chose death over life. He immediately started providing a Way back. “The wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 - and what a Gift it is. The whole creation is waiting to be restored. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Sin and death will be no more! We shall be changed! The desert will bloom! The crooked will be made straight! The last will be first! Everything will someday be “very good” again. And that magnificent Tree of Life in the center of the Garden of Eden that God took away from Adam and Eve after they sinned,- it will again be restored to all of us when Christ comes again. -Revelations 22:14

Monday, October 19, 2009

Joseph – the Forgiver

Joseph was stunned and trembling as he crouched inside the deep pit that his brothers had thrown him into. It was dark and smelly down inside where he was, and blood was trickling down his leg which had been scraped from his fall.

Joseph could hear his older brothers up above laughing and making plans to kill him. He had always looked up to his ten older brothers. They were trusted family. How could this be happening?

Two days earlier Josephs’ father Jacob had asked him to go out into the fields and check on his brothers. They had been away too long with the flocks and Jacob was worried. When Joseph finally found his brothers in the fields near Dotham he ran towards them excited. But the seventeen year old Joseph was in for a terrible surprise. Instead of greeting him, his brothers grabbed him and stripped him of his coat and threatened to kill him. Then they threw him into a deep pit, while they plotted his death. The brothers were jealous of him because their father had given him a colorful coat.

As the brothers sat eating their dinner they looked up and saw an Ishmaelite caravan with camels approaching from the distance on its’ way to Egypt. The camels were loaded down with spices and balms. “Hey, instead of killing Joseph, why don’t we sell him as a slave to these travelers?” Judah suggested. And the other brothers agreed. Joseph was pulled up out of the pit and sold as a slave for twenty shekels of silver.

As he was being chained up the young Joseph watched as his brothers ripped up his coat and poured animal blood all over it. “When we give this coat to our father, he will think that Joseph is dead,” they joked. With his head hanging down and a sense of dread and panic settling in, the teen-ager was carried away to Egypt and into slavery.

Years passed. Joseph was sold to one of Pharoahs’ officers and Scripture tells us that God was with him and blessed everything he did. Joseph grew to be a handsome young man ---so handsome that his masters’ wife asked him to go to bed with her. Even though Joseph refused, day after day his masters’ wife continued trying to seduce him. Finally one day she grabbed his coat and pulled him toward her bed. Joseph ran out of the house leaving his coat behind!

“Look who tried to sleep with me while you were away!” the wife told her husband, as she showed him Josephs’ coat. “I screamed and he ran away, leaving this coat behind.”

So Joseph was thrown into an Egyptian prison. This was the second time that Joseph’s coat was used to perpetuate a lie about him. “They bruised his feet with shackles, and his neck was put in irons,” Psalms 105:18 tells us. But Scripture also reminds us that God was with him through it all.

God had given Joseph a marvelous gift --- the ability to interpret dreams. Years later when Pharoah dreamed about the seven fat cows and the seven skinny cows, Joseph was able to give Pharoah the interpretation of his dream. The seven skinny cows represented seven years of terrible famine over all the lands.

Because Pharoah could see that God was with Joseph, he brought Joseph out of the prison and elevated him to the position of a great leader. He gave Joseph the job of preparing all of Egypt for the seven years of terrible famine that had been predicted. And God gave Joseph the wisdom to do that job and save the known world from starvation.

And so it was that Joseph found himself as a mighty Egyptian ruler looking down over his ten brothers as they knelt before him begging for food. ---those same ten brothers who had sold him into slavery. And now the tables were turned. Would the powerful Joseph give food to his hungry brothers – help their families through the great famine – or would he finally get back at them for what they had done to him?

Genesis 45:1-8 and Genesis 50:19-21 tells the beautiful story. Joseph chose to forgive! “Do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you,” he told his brothers. Joseph took care of his eleven brothers and their wives and children and grandchildren. He returned to them good for evil. He brought them all to Egypt along with his father and insisted that God had taken the bad thing they had done to him and turned it around to be good. With God in the picture how could Joseph not forgive his brothers. Even though Joseph had to suffer many years in prison ,with God in his life, Joseph was freed from the prison of un-forgiveness.

Can we like Joseph, draw near to God and learn to forgive the people who hurt us? When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking God to “forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who treesspass against us.” Matthew 6:9 Even though God commands us to forgive those who wrong us, do we sometimes find that obeying God and offering forgiveness is hard to do?

Like Joseph we need to give our lives to the Lord. When we hide our lives in Christ we can see the slights and hurts others give us in a new perspective. We can ask God to give us the freedom in Christ to forgive. Even though forgiveness is too difficult for us to do by ourselves, nothing is too hard for God. And He will help us forgive. We are told to pray for our enemies. It is hard to hate a person that you are praying for.

Part of the Lords’ Prayer teaches us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Living with un- forgiveness is an evil that can harm us. It is like poison to our souls. The weight of un- forgiveness will crush us. We are to leave our resentments and hurts with God. He is big enough to take care of them. And He will. God can do for us what He did for Joseph. He can take our troubles and work them together for good. Romans 8:28.

We have a miracle working God. His ways are mysterious – too great for us to comprehend. If we trust Him we can say with David in Psalm 27, “When my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” It’s hard to hang on to un- forgiveness when we know that God has promised to take care of everything. --I John 5:4

Monday, October 12, 2009

Isaac The Ordinary --- Genesis 22-27

Isaac appears to be just an ordinary guy – from what we read in Scripture. A mild humble man who herds sheep and goats and manages to keep out of trouble for all of his 180 years on this earth.

Children’s Bible Story Books always include tales about Isaacs’ father, Abraham and his exciting life and more stories of Isaac’s scheming son Jacob;and his many escapades. But poor old Isaac seems to be sandwiched in between his colorful father and son. Seldom mentioned and usually forgotten.

We get our first picture of Isaac when he is twelve and his father Abraham is ready to sacrifice him. There is no record of Isaac running away from his very elderly father when Abraham ties him up and lays him on the altar to sacrifice him. Isaac seems to completely trust Abraham and God with his young life.

As a young man of forty Isaac again seems trusting and obedient to his father’s wishes about how to find his future bride.. He doesn’t go out and find his own bride.. He trusts his fathers’ judgment to find the right girl.. Abraham sends his servant back to his relatives country to find a wife for Isaac .And after the servant has traveled the distance to Syria, he stops to pray and asks God to show him which girl to pick for Isaac. This is a big responsibility and the servant needs God’s guidance. An amazing story follows with God immediately answering the servant’s prayer with Rebecca.

Later on as night is falling, Isaac is out in the field when he looks up to see a camel train in the far distance coming his way...It looks like his fathers’ servants’ camels. Excited, he runs out to meet the servant – and meet his bride to be. Rebecca gets off her camel and covers herself with her veil when she sees her future husband running toward her ready to introduce himself. The servant stops to tell Isaac the wonderful story of how God answered his prayers and led him to pick Rebecca. Isaac immediately accepts Rebecca, trusting God’s guidance in his life. He takes Rebecca into his tent and falls in love with her. Genesis 24:67.

God comes to Isaac and promises to be with him. God promises that He will bless his descendants and give hope to the nations through One of his offspring.. Isaac rejoices even though it may take many centuries for some of these promises to come to pass. And even though he doesn’t understand all that God is promising him. Twenty years pass and Isaac and Rebecca have no children. Isaac prays to God for children and God answers him. Soon they are the proud parents of two sons, Esau and Jacob

Again we get a glimpse of Isaac as he grows older – tending his flocks and herds and digging wells. Because God was blessing him with larger herds and better crops than his Phillistine neighbors, they became jealous of him. The king of the Phillistines asked him to move away and his neighbors threw dirt in his wells and stopped them up.. When Isaac moved and dug new wells they followed him and stole those wells from him too.. Instead of fighting, Isaac just moved again and again and dug more wells. Then he made a feast and agreed to a peace pact with the very king that had ordered him to move away. Isaac didn’t seem to insist on his own rights or demand respect. Since he had great wealth and many servants, he could have fought off and killed the thieves who stole his wells. But Isaac chose to be a pacifist. .

When Isaac reached old age he lost his eyesight. His son Jacob lied to him and took Esau’s blessings. Scripture tells us that Esau married three heathen women and brought them home to live near his parents. Esau’s ungodly lifestyle and his wives’ pagan practices were a great burden to Isaac and Rebecca. At one point Rebecca wondered if her life was worth living because of Esaus’ rebellious living...

We often hear sermons about the men and women of the Bible who slew giants, stopped the mouths of lions, or fought and won great battles for God. And we worship rock stars, sports heros, and the rich and famous. Scripture tells us that “the meek shall inherit the earth” But we often overlook the meek folk around us. Is God only interested in the leaders – the movers and shakers? Does He care as much for the ordinary people? – the followers, the meek, the people who never make the headlines?

God promised Isaac blessings even as he and Rebecca were living with heartache. Esaus large’ family and their lack of interest in God was a constant source of contention to this Godly couple. Do we remember that God is still in control even when our own children disappoint us?

God reaffirmed glorious promises to Isaac at a time that he was being pushed around by all of his neighbors- the Phillistines. Can we remember that God is on our side even when we are being treated badly by associates or friends or family? Many of God’s promises for Isaac were to be fulfilled in the distant future. But Isaac waited and hoped in God while not yet obtaining many of his blessings. His descendents didn’t inherit their promised land until long after he had died. Can we with Isaac wait patiently for the future God has for us which is yet to be revealed?

Isaac obeyed God and didn’t turn away. God was pleased with Isaacs’ child-like faith. and blessed Isaac because he never took revenge on his enemies. Do we turn the other cheek when people mistreat us? Can God bless us like Isaac because we don’t get even with the folks who hurt us?

In his later years Isaac lived with blindness. Do we remember that God is with us even when our health is failing? Through thick or thin, Isaacs’ trust in God never wavered . God highly valued Isaac’s faith even though he never won any great battles or made any big impressions. The Bible tells us that God values the faith of all of his children. –

If we trust God He is very pleased, even if we aren’t heros or leaders, or experts-. even when we are living with disappointments and poor health and trials. If we have a childlike faith in God we are never ordinary -even if everybody thinks we are!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Abraham’s Test Genesis 22

Scripture tells us that God tested Abraham. And what a test it was! God called Abraham and instructed him to take his beloved son Isaac to a mountain in Moriah and to sacrifice him.

Isaac was Abraham’s miracle child. His answer to prayer. A promised son from the Lord. A son who wasn’t born for 63 years after Abraham had prayed for a child.. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 when God finally gave them the baby He had promised them. We may have had the experience of waiting a long time for our prayers to be answered. But have you ever kept praying and waiting for God to answer for over 60 years? Abraham was learning to wait on God.

“Who would believe that we could have a baby in our old age?” Sarah laughed when their promised son was finally born. They had a great party – a celebration and named their baby “Isaac” which means “laughter”. There’s always much to celebrate – much to laugh and enjoy – when we learn to wait and trust in God.

But now when little Isaac was only 12 years old, God was asking Abraham to give this special boy back! Why is God doing this? What can this mean? Scripture tells us that when God ask to sacrifice his son Abraham didn’t hesitate. He obeyed immediately. The very next morning he got up early and chopped wood for the burnt offering and headed out. He took his son Isaac, two of his servants and a donkey with him.

The trip was to take three days as it was about a 50 mile walk. And we can only imagine what was going on in Abraham’s mind as he trudged along. Hebrews 11:17 tells us that Abraham reasoned that God could raise Isaac back up from the dead. So as usual good old Abraham trusted God and obeyed.

On the third day of the trip Abraham asked his servants to stay with the donkey and wait while he and Isaac went on ahead to worship. “Wait here and we will both be back soon,” Abraham told his servants. He seemed confident that Isaac would return with him – that God would work things out.

Abraham and Isaac continued along the trail to Mt. Moriah. “Father, the fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Isaac asked his father. “God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, my son,” Abraham answered.

When father and son reached the place for the sacrifice, Abraham built an altar and put the wood on it. Then he tied Isaac up and laid him on the altar. Isaac seemed to have complete confidence in his elderly father to allow this to happen. Abraham took the knife and just as he was starting to stab his son, the Angel of the Lord showed up and stopped him. “Abraham, Abraham, don’t kill your son. Now I know that you fear God. You have not withheld your son – your only son from Me.” Abraham had never wavered. His amazing faith in God had held fast through his deepest temptation. Abraham had passed the test

With his hand trembling and still holding the knife, Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the nearby thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son. And Abraham called this place where God had told him to sacrifice his son--, “The Lord will Provide.”

This amazing Bible story from antiquity is rich with lessons and treasures for us today. Because Abraham had a strong faith in God, God blessed him and named him as the patriarch of the nation of Israel and the father of all who have faith in God. Abraham’s amazing faith was very precious – very pleasing to God. Like Abraham, does our faith measure up? Is our faith a joy to our Lord?

Child sacrifice was a common practice among the heathen cultures in Abraham’s time. God forbade this practice in Scripture. We would never be tested by God in this way today in our culture.

Since God gave Abraham a test, does He perhaps test all of His children? And if He does, do we pass the tests that we are given? When trials come do we keep trusting our Lord? Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. We need to ask God for more faith and built up our faith by studying the Bible. Let’s try to please the Lord with our faith in Him.

Abraham believed that even if Isaac was sacrificed, God could bring him back from the dead.. Abraham looked beyond death and still trusted God. Do we trust God even beyond death? Can we believe that God can take our worst messes and work things together for good ?

Abraham firmly believed that God would provide for him and for his son. Scripture tells us that God valued his faith and counted it to him as righteousness. Do we believe that God will take care of us in our problems? Can we like Abraham move ahead and obey without hesitating?
God provided a lamb to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place. And God provides His Son – Jesus --the Lamb of God—as a sacrifice in our place. We, like Isaac, can be untied and taken away from our sins and our death sentence. And the Lamb of God will take our place. And just like Abraham we can shout out, “The Lord will Provide.” We have such a marvelous God. Let's be like Abraham and honor God with our faith.