FAITH CORRECTS OUR COURSE

When we follow God’s will, making sweeping changes in our lives, our faith in God will be challenged and tested.  It is in the obedience, no matter what that looks like to the world, that the measure of our faith is revealed.  We believe in God in our household which is now only Randy and myself because we have learned that to do anything else is not good for us.  We are still tested by fire often for we have not arrived yet in our growing likeness to our Savior.  We still need to be purified by the holy fires that melt away the rough edges, revealing the likeness to our Master, Jesus.  Peter, who walked with Jesus on earth teaches;

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7, NLT

We all have those times when we ask God, “Are you sure, God?”  “How do I know that I am on the right track?”  Sometimes it has to do with checking ourselves to make sure we are not doing life merely on our own steam and power.  We cannot test ourselves, purify or set things right with God.  Only by our admission of not knowing do we know God more.  Confusing? God is the Purifier.  Only God can set things right with Him when we ask, repent, believe and follow Him in obedience with all our heart, mind and soul in Jesus Name. 

Abram is no exception.  Childless Abram asks the same questions from God who told him he would have big family.  “Are you sure, God?”  “How will this happen?”  After the honest questioning, Abram believed!  This belief in God changes everything.  Faith is thinking “I don’t know how you are going to do it, I just know that you will do what you say.”  That is all.  No additions. Pure faith in God corrects our course of thinking like the world, leading us to full trust in what God says.  Believe God.  He doesn’t lie.  Lying is not in God’s nature or character.

Genesis 15, The Message

After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision: “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I’m your shield. Your reward will be grand!”

2-3 Abram said, “God, Master, what use are your gifts as long as I’m childless and Eliezer of Damascus is going to inherit everything?” Abram continued, “See, you’ve given me no children, and now a mere house servant is going to get it all.”

Then God’s Message came: “Don’t worry, he won’t be your heir; a son from your body will be your heir.”

Then he took him outside and said, “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!”

And he believed! Believed God! God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.”

God continued, “I’m the same God who brought you from Ur of the Chaldees and gave you this land to own.”

Abram said, “Master God, how am I to know this, that it will all be mine?”

God said, “Bring me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, and a dove and a young pigeon.”

10-12 He brought all these animals to him, split them down the middle, and laid the halves opposite each other. But he didn’t split the birds. Vultures swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them off. As the sun went down a deep sleep overcame Abram and then a sense of dread, dark and heavy.

13-16 God said to Abram, “Know this: your descendants will live as outsiders in a land not theirs; they’ll be enslaved and beaten down for 400 years. Then I’ll punish their slave masters; your offspring will march out of there loaded with plunder. But not you; you’ll have a long and full life and die a good and peaceful death. Not until the fourth generation will your descendants return here; sin is still a thriving business among the Amorites.”

17-21 When the sun was down and it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch moved between the split carcasses. That’s when God made a covenant with Abram: “I’m giving this land to your children, from the Nile River in Egypt to the River Euphrates in Assyria—the country of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

At the moment Abram believed, really believed without question, God declared Abram “set right with God”. 

When we respond to God’s direction with obedience, truly believing, God sets us on the right track with Him.  Real faith corrects our course as we follow God. 

When Abram asks, “How will I know?”  God asks Abram for a sacrifice.  Through the sacrifice and attention to the sacrifice offered to God in obedience, God reveals what will happen now and in generations to come.  God even reveals the Egypt slavery experience that His people will later endure in later generations!  Did you catch that?  God reveals more than we can understand at times.  Faith is not in the understanding but is measured by the willing, relentless obedience from a heart of love for God. 

“To obey is even better than sacrifice”, we will hear from God later through Samuel.  “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22, NLT

God sees our hearts.  Be honest and open with God.  Ask questions. Questions help us learn.  God understands and will give us information on a “need to know” basis.  Our response is to step out in faith believing.  God responds with small doses of direction that are a bit easier to swallow.  If we knew the whole picture of God’s will for us, it might paralyze us in fear.  (Mm, not “might”, but “would” bring fear and trepidation!)  God knows what He is doing and has our best interest at His heart.

Lord,

Thank you for this lesson in believing in obedience to your will and plan for each of us.  You are amazing in the ways you work in us and through us to make us holy before you and set us right with You.  Continue to purify my heart, mind and fill my soul with all of you in me.  I lay down my life as a sacrifice in obedience to your perfect will again today.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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CAUGHT UP IN THE WAR OF KINGS

What causes wars to escalate?  I’ve often thought about this even as a young adult in school.  I understand protecting your own country from takeover by another but to arrogantly seek to conquer all countries in your world seemed unnecessary to me then and still does now.  Why can’t we live in peace, helping each other in ways that bring hope and encouragement, growth and health?  Idealistic, naive and simple?  Yes, I know, but I still pray from this point of reference and way of thinking regardless of who mocks me.  I am able to do so from standing on the foundation built in me by Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18, NIV

My days in high school included a course in “Ancient History”.  My public school teacher taught it so well, making it very interesting.  I was mesmerized at her knowledge.  Because she had silver hair, I often thought she might have “lived it”.  (Smiling at how the young think we with silver hair are “ancient”).  Throughout the year, I caught on that she was a believer in God as she taught us about the kings who reigned, fought wars, and made alliances or enemies with other kings.  We learned that some won and some lost.  It seemed to me that everyone lost something in war and in life as a nonbeliever in God.

Genesis 14-15 tells a story of love and war through the eyes of God.  We learn how God’s blessing of protection follows Abram in all that He tells him to do.  Abram “grows and shows” the fruits of God in him of integrity, compassion, love, mercy and grace in the following passage.  Look for God in Abram as we read…

Genesis 14, The Message

1-2 Then this: Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim went off to war to fight Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar.

3-4 This second group of kings, the attacked, came together at the Valley of Siddim, that is, the Salt Sea. They had been under the thumb of Kedorlaomer for twelve years. In the thirteenth year, they revolted.

5-7 In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him set out and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as El Paran on the far edge of the desert. On their way back they stopped at En Mishpat, that is, Kadesh, and conquered the whole region of the Amalekites as well as that of the Amorites who lived in Hazazon Tamar.

8-9 That’s when the king of Sodom marched out with the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, that is, Zoar. They drew up in battle formation against their enemies in the Valley of Siddim—against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five.

10-12 The Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, they fell into the tar pits, but the rest escaped into the mountains. The four kings captured all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, all their food and equipment, and went on their way. They captured Lot, Abram’s nephew who was living in Sodom at the time, taking everything he owned with them.

13-16 A fugitive came and reported to Abram the Hebrew. Abram was living at the Oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and Aner. They were allies of Abram. When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken prisoner, he lined up his servants, all of them born in his household—there were 318 of them—and chased after the captors all the way to Dan. Abram and his men split into small groups and attacked by night. They chased them as far as Hobah, just north of Damascus. They recovered all the plunder along with nephew Lot and his possessions, including the women and the people.

17-20 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and his allied kings, the king of Sodom came out to greet him in the Valley of Shaveh, the King’s Valley. Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine—he was priest of The High God—and blessed him:

Blessed be Abram by The High God,
    Creator of Heaven and Earth.

And blessed be The High God,
    who handed your enemies over to you.

Abram gave him a tenth of all the recovered plunder.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me back the people but keep all the plunder for yourself.”

22-24 But Abram told the king of Sodom, “I swear to God, The High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, this solemn oath, that I’ll take nothing from you, not so much as a thread or a shoestring. I’m not going to have you go around saying, ‘I made Abram rich.’ Nothing for me other than what the young men ate and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; they’re to get their share of the plunder.”

15:1 After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision: “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I’m your shield. Your reward will be grand!”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?

Remember:  Abram left his home years earlier by God’s direction.  He often refers to himself a “stranger in this land” God has given to him.  He took his nephew and his family with him.  He apparently has a strong connection and loving relationship with Lot, becoming a surrogate father to him. 

In yesterday’s episode, Lot took the better land, although this land is “full of evil” as describe by scripture.  Life does not go well for Lot.  War breaks out and Lot part of the spoils of war.  Abram is told and immediately comes to Lot’s rescue from being “prisoner of war”.  Again, we must realize that “Abram the Hebrew” is a stranger in this land, having no allegiance to anyone but God—a great place to be!  Abram has a relentless faith in God.  They commune with each other.  Abram does what God says when He says it.  They’re relationship is intimate and lovingly compassionate.  Abram is the altar-building worshiper of God.

Abram, living untouched by war, aligning with no one but God, enjoying the peace that comes from knowing God; but then, Lot is captured.  How does Abram respond?  He rescues him.

“We are family!”, said Abram in our last chapter which describes the relationship between the two, Abram and his nephew.  Abram’s family is under siege, so Abram immediately gathers the “troops” and goes to get back a member of his family.  He goes against a formidable foe, but Abram has a God who goes with him.  Lot and his family and possessions are recovered. 

The foe is impressed and wants to align with Abram and “gift” him with the spoils of war.  But Abram responds with integrity.  “I’ll take nothing from you, not so much as a thread or a shoestring…”  God rewards Abram’s integrity and his compassion to rescue who was lost in war.

We are in a daily battle, whether we realize it or not, for those of our family who have been taken captive by our real enemy, the prince of darkness.  I have to ask myself;

Do we respond readily with thoughts of rescue with peaceful integrity? 

Do we pray for help from God, or do we angrily beat the lost and those who led them to be lost, over their heads with our Bibles expounding our own point of view from our less than perfect point of reference?  Spend some quality time of this one—I am, especially with what is happening in our world currently.  Ask God what HE thinks and wants us to think for this will affect our behaviors.

Do we take what is not ours as we do the work of helping people find and follow Jesus?

Do we profit from rescuing the lost by reminding them constantly of our selfless act toward them?  If we do, this takes people from one bondage and transfers them to another.  Yikes.

Abram did what he had to do to rescue Lot, nothing more, nothing less.  He did it with integrity, compassion, mercy and grace.  God was with him.  God blessed him for responding.  This will not be the last time Abram rescues Lot.  Yes, more than once.

Abram is a leader who leads people to God by his life’s responses and behaviors.  Let’s pitch our tents in Abram’s camp of thinking and behaving.  It’s a camp of relentless faith in God.

Lord,

Whew, you took our thoughts deeper into what we really believe to be true about You along with judgement assessment of our own behaviors.  I will meditate on your Word with help from your Holy Spirit all day long.  Teach me. Show me your ways and I will walk in them.  Transform me.  I lay my life before you as an offering to you, warts and all. Bring beauty from the ashes.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY

“It’s best to live where there is less evil drawing your kids away from what is right and good.”  “Come with us to live in the country.”  This was the advice we received as young parents.  We didn’t heed the advice. We prayed but God led us to different paths.  We didn’t regret following God’s leading for a minute. We continued to live, work, pray, love and serve God in the suburbs of a big city.  As it turns out, evil is everywhere, even in the country.  It’s what is in the heart that counts in the eyes of God no matter where you reside.  Evil is defeated by falling on our knees, calling out in the Name of Jesus, no matter where you are.  “Greater is He that is in me that he that is in the world.”      (1 John 4:4)

Abram is a man of extreme faith in God, who communes with God often and is led by God in everyday living.  Have you noticed how Abram’s “worship place” goes with him everywhere he goes?  At each place on Abram’s journey, he stops to build an altar, a place to give honor and praise with thanksgiving to God.  God has blessed Abram in many ways.  Abram has “many possessions”.  Most of all, God has blessed Abram with character, integrity, and goodness because of those times of worship with Him.  God has His Hand on Abram.    

Now think about Lot, Abram’s nephew, who has come along for the ride. When it gets “crowded” in the country, due to having so much, quarrels break out about what land is their land for the sheep and cattle to graze.  “This land is your land; this land is my land…”  There really is a song lyric to explain everything in life!  But I digress.  Lot has essentially gleaned from Abram’s blessings from God, is also rich with livestock and possessions, but we wonder where his heart is when given the choice to choose what land he will reside in. His first thought was what would be better for him and he took it, leaving Abram “in the dust”. 

Yes, The only one with wisdom to solve the problem and bring peace at all cost to himself is the one who communes with God.  Do you hear Abram’s heart?  “After all, we’re family”, says Abram.  “Look around. Isn’t there plenty of land out there? Let’s separate. If you go left, I’ll go right; if you go right, I’ll go left.”  What mattered most to Abram was peace.  What mattered most to Lot was gaining more wealth.  Lot chose “greener grass” that was well watered and even looked like “God’s garden”—Yes, that one!  Lot takes all his family and possessions and sets out for “Bright Lights, Big City”, so to speak.  Lot thinks he’s got it made. More later…

Abram takes the road less traveled—with God.  “Get moving,” says God to Abram with yet another blessing, “Open your eyes, look around. Look north, south, east, and west. Everything you see, the whole land spread out before you, I will give to you and your children forever.” 

How does Abram respond?  He picked up his tent and moved. After settling in Hebron, he builds yet another altar to God.  God is with Abram.  Abram enjoys the Presence of God.  This is the definition of blessing from God.

Genesis 13, The Message

1-2 So Abram left Egypt and went back to the Negev, he and his wife and everything he owned, and Lot still with him. By now Abram was very rich, loaded with cattle and silver and gold.

3-4 He moved on from the Negev, camping along the way, to Bethel, the place he had first set up his tent between Bethel and Ai and built his first altar. Abram prayed there to God.

5-7 Lot, who was traveling with Abram, was also rich in sheep and cattle and tents. But the land couldn’t support both of them; they had too many possessions. They couldn’t both live there—quarrels broke out between Abram’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living on the land at the time.

8-9 Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have fighting between us, between your shepherds and my shepherds. After all, we’re family. Look around. Isn’t there plenty of land out there? Let’s separate. If you go left, I’ll go right; if you go right, I’ll go left.”

10-11 Lot looked. He saw the whole plain of the Jordan spread out, well watered (this was before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah), like God’s garden, like Egypt, and stretching all the way to Zoar. Lot took the whole plain of the Jordan. Lot set out to the east.

11-12 That’s how they came to part company, uncle and nephew. Abram settled in Canaan; Lot settled in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent near Sodom.

13 The people of Sodom were evil—flagrant sinners against God.

14-17 After Lot separated from him, God said to Abram, “Open your eyes, look around. Look north, south, east, and west. Everything you see, the whole land spread out before you, I will give to you and your children forever. I’ll make your descendants like dust—counting your descendants will be as impossible as counting the dust of the Earth. So—on your feet, get moving! Walk through the country, its length and breadth; I’m giving it all to you.”

18 Abram moved his tent. He went and settled by the Oaks of Mamre in Hebron. There he built an altar to God.

* * *

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Abram was a man led by God. Abram had a close, intimate relationship with God. God gave Abram purpose and meaning for his life—the greatest blessing of all from God.  So many times, we think we are “blessed” to pay all our bills with some money left over on any given payday.  Being blessed in not about possessions.  Our real payday of blessings comes with loving God in obedience with a heart that wants what God wants—growing Godly characteristics—to be more like Him in every way! 

We have learned in our Genesis story of God that we are made “in the image of God”.  Let’s revisit what this means.  “Imago Dei’ is not so much something that man has as something that man is. Humankind was created to be a graphic image of the Creator — a formal, visible, and understandable representation of who God is and what He’s really like. John Piper writes, “The imago Dei is not a quality possessed by man; it is a condition in which man lives, a condition of confrontation established and maintained by the Creator.”  Imago Dei is what is in man which constitutes him as him-whom-God-loves

Abram fits the “image”!  Abram is “blessed” with God-like, (godly) growing in him because of His close communion with God.  The more we hang with certain friends, we become like them, right? It’s the same with God.  Jesus said this to be true and model it to followers.  Abram is also blessed with purpose and meaning for his life because of his obedience to God.  Money cannot buy the peace that comes from knowing your standing, purposes and meaning with God.

Much later, we will learn about David, a shepherd boy called of God to be King, who was a described as a “man after God’s own heart.” 

Read, think pray, live…

What is the condition of our hearts?  It’s always good to have heart check-ups to ward off undue attacks, right?

Do we know what God wants from us?

Do we live for God in every detail of our lives? 

Do we stop and worship with thanksgiving, giving God honor and praise for what He has done, is doing and will do on our journey with Him?

Do we pray, asking for God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

Lord,

You bring us back to reality as we read, think and pray over these lessons of faith through those who loved and followed you in close communion.  Thank you for blessings us with continued growth, pruning away what is not of you, so that our image reflects more your image.  We need you every hour of every day. Thank you for being with us, helping us to LIVE what we learn.  We cannot live without your power helping us.

In Jesus Name, Amen

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

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LEAVE

When was the last time your faith in God was tested? 

Did you discover that in those times God’s voice become more clear, direct with simple directions? 

Did you watch God work in ways that amazed you as you took those first steps toward His leading?

We had lived the first forty plus years of our lives in Midwest City, a suburb of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  We knew the city and our surroundings well.  We had raised three children to high school and college age. We taught school, teaching the kids of friends we went to school with in our younger days.  We served the church our parents brought us to as infants.  We were Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, and did anything else to serve God by serving others.  Then Randy was called to pastor this church, the only church we knew and gave our lives to as God led us to be and do.  He left teaching to “temporarily” take the lead as minister with the others who served God’s church and community with the love of God, telling of the saving grace of Jesus. 

Then God said leave.  Leave what and who you know well.  Leave the confidence in knowing your work and doing it to the best of your abilities.  Leave teaching and pastoring that gives you joy and rewarding purpose.  Leave because I have something else for you to be and do. 

And we did. 

So, Randy and I relate well to the first sentence in this passage; “God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.”   We understand the emotions, the planning and organization it takes to leave, trying to explain to others what God said to you, hearing their strong responses while expressing their opinions thinking you are crazy to leave what you know for what you do not know, along with the tearful goodbyes to those you love the most.  Leaving is hard, but staying in disobedience to God is harder.  When God says, “Leave”—leave!  This is faith. 

Genesis 12, The Message

Abram and Sarai

12 God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.

2-3 I’ll make you a great nation
    and bless you.
I’ll make you famous;
    you’ll be a blessing.
I’ll bless those who bless you;
    those who curse you I’ll curse.
All the families of the Earth
    will be blessed through you.”

4-6 So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.

Abram passed through the country as far as Shechem and the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites occupied the land.

God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him.

He moved on from there to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent between Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. He built an altar there and prayed to God.

Abram kept moving, steadily making his way south, to the Negev.

10-13 Then a famine came to the land. Abram went down to Egypt to live; it was a hard famine. As he drew near to Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, “Look. We both know that you’re a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you they’re going to say, ‘Aha! That’s his wife!’ and kill me. But they’ll let you live. Do me a favor: tell them you’re my sister. Because of you, they’ll welcome me and let me live.”

14-15 When Abram arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians took one look and saw that his wife was stunningly beautiful. Pharaoh’s princes raved over her to Pharaoh. She was taken to live with Pharaoh.

16-17 Because of her, Abram got along very well: he accumulated sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, men and women servants, and camels. But God hit Pharaoh hard because of Abram’s wife Sarai; everybody in the palace got seriously sick.

18-19 Pharaoh called for Abram, “What’s this that you’ve done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she’s your wife? Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister’ so that I’d take her as my wife? Here’s your wife back—take her and get out!”

20 Pharaoh ordered his men to get Abram out of the country. They sent him and his wife and everything he owned on their way.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Thirty years later, we do not regret leaving our country, family and home for a land of ministry, mission and challenges that would teach and transform us.  We are still being transformed daily by the renewing of our minds as we give our lives to God daily as an offering. (Romans 12) We belong to God.  We will go where He sends.  It’s a lifestyle we are growing into as children of God. He has always taken care of the details.  God’s care and protection is the benefit of following His lead.

Along with God’s direction, take note of God’s “blessings” to Abram;

“I’ll make you a great nation
    and bless you.
I’ll make you famous;
    you’ll be a blessing.
I’ll bless those who bless you;
    those who curse you I’ll curse.
All the families of the Earth
    will be blessed through you.”

God said, I will bless you to be a blessing! 

When we obey God, and know we are doing what God says to be and do, we feel blessed to be blessings to others.  If not, reexamine your motives.  That’s how God works in us to transform us to be more and more in sync, in the unforced rhythm of His grace, with Him.  What a blessed life to be with God as He walks with us!

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” Romans 8:15-17, The Message

Each day we can readily say to God, “What’s next, Papa?” and be ready for the answer even when not knowing the details.  This is faith.  This is walking in faith with God who knows what is best with our realizing this truth about God.  When we “leave” God’s will and direction, we make mistakes and must learn from them. Abram fell prey to lying when fear crept in and his faith faltered on his journey.  It happens to ALL of us!  Remember, the “I will curse those who curse you”?  Our sins affect everyone around us.  When Abram lied about Sarai being his sister, the whole palace of Pharoah fell ill until Abram made things right with truth.

Let’s recap our response. When God says, leave—Go.  When God says do this, do it; exactly the way God says to do it.  There are no regrets when we are with God, not against Him.  We will be blessed to be blessings!  This is the first lesson in faithful obedience to God that Abram learns.  Be committed.  God will protect.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” –Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30, the Message)

Lord,

I have learned that what you say is always best for me and those around me.  Keep me focused, abiding in you, so I don’t miss a single word of your instruction to me.  Show me your ways and I will walk in them with You by your power flowing through me.  Thank you for your blessings to me that bless others.  Thank you for forgiveness when we falter in faith.  Thank you for Your Holy Presence in our lives.  Thank you for the “best fit” for our each of our lives.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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GETTING AHEAD OF GOD IS NOT GETTING AHEAD

We believers, saved by the grace and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord have a constant temptation to get ahead of the will of God when doing is work.  We get so busy in the work we fall prey to thinking it is all our work, driven by our control, instead of realizing it is God’s work and He invites us to it. God shows us what is good and right.  God’s timing is always best.  His methods pure and holy.  We are invited into His Holy Kingdom building work by His direction to mature us into all He created us to be! 

If fact, spoiler alert, God doesn’t really “need” us to accomplish His work. Bubble busted?  I hope so.  It is a distinct, holy privilege to be invited by God to His work of salvation and following Him!

The Temptation—

Once we become confident in ourselves, we begin to rely on our own wisdom and strength.  We lose the connection, the goal and the presence of God and his guidance when we move forward without Him.  The temptation to move ahead of God’s timing never goes well for us.  Going ahead of God, thinking that we know what God wants from our human perspective, actually sabotages the work God is doing in us.  The evil one loves it when we succumb to this way of thinking and behaving! 

We cannot see the work from all sides like God can.  It is never wise to move ahead of God’s will and timing.  This is a story of those who thought they could with results that changed the world.  God taught them (and us) an important lesson of disciplined obedience to God who knows what is best for His created.  Don’t mess with God!  His timing is always perfect.  His direction is forever the right way to go.  His guidance leads us to places we can never think or imagine on our own. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
  Isaiah 55:8-9

Read, think, pray and live out loud what God is saying to us who live for Him today. 

The family tree continues to branch out among the people of God.  We are introduced to Abram who marries Sarai, the famous couple renamed later as Abraham and Sarah, who learn and display amazing faith in God that will talked about for generations to come!  Let the adventure in the Story of God continue!

Genesis 11, The Message

“God Turned Their Language into ‘Babble’”

1-2 At one time, the whole Earth spoke the same language. It so happened that as they moved out of the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled down.

They said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and fire them well.” They used brick for stone and tar for mortar.

Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven. Let’s make ourselves famous so we won’t be scattered here and there across the Earth.”

God came down to look over the city and the tower those people had built.

6-9 God took one look and said, “One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they’ll come up with next—they’ll stop at nothing! Come, we’ll go down and garble their speech so they won’t understand each other.” Then God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That’s how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their language into “babble.” From there God scattered them all over the world.

* * *

10-11 This is the story of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he had Arphaxad. It was two years after the flood. After he had Arphaxad, he lived 500 more years and had other sons and daughters.

12-13 When Arphaxad was thirty-five years old, he had Shelah. After Arphaxad had Shelah, he lived 403 more years and had other sons and daughters.

14-15 When Shelah was thirty years old, he had Eber. After Shelah had Eber, he lived 403 more years and had other sons and daughters.

16-17 When Eber was thirty-four years old, he had Peleg. After Eber had Peleg, he lived 430 more years and had other sons and daughters.

18-19 When Peleg was thirty years old, he had Reu. After he had Reu, he lived 209 more years and had other sons and daughters.

20-21 When Reu was thirty-two years old, he had Serug. After Reu had Serug, he lived 207 more years and had other sons and daughters.

22-23 When Serug was thirty years old, he had Nahor. After Serug had Nahor, he lived 200 more years and had other sons and daughters.

24-25 When Nahor was twenty-nine years old, he had Terah. After Nahor had Terah, he lived 119 more years and had other sons and daughters.

26 When Terah was seventy years old, he had Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

The Family Tree of Terah

27-28 This is the story of Terah. Terah had Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

Haran had Lot. Haran died before his father, Terah, in the country of his family, Ur of the Chaldees.

29 Abram and Nahor each got married. Abram’s wife was Sarai; Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of his brother Haran. Haran had two daughters, Milcah and Iscah.

30 Sarai was barren; she had no children.

31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran’s son), and Sarai his daughter-in-law (his son Abram’s wife) and set out with them from Ur of the Chaldees for the land of Canaan. But when they got as far as Haran, they settled down there.

32 Terah lived 205 years. He died in Haran.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

We began with babbling humans who learn that God’s timing is best to Abram who will later display amazing faith and trust in God in every part of his life.

PRAY…

Do I have amazing faith? 

Do I have a faith that is “seasonal” according to what I’m going through? 

Do I trust in God timing, willing to wait, continuing to work until He says to move forward?

Do I really believe what God says really real? 

Our faith, trust and hope are tested daily.  We must begin each day with a declaration of allegiance to God, giving our lives to God as an offering, asking God what HE wants for us to be and do, one disciplined step at a time.  It’s a narrow path to follow with only the faithful and committed to God; but it is a path to God with great rewards.  Those rewards are peace in the middle of trials and troubles, love unconditional along with wisdom from God that is tremendously comforting.  His insight and understanding cannot be matched by anyone else.  There is no one like our God!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 NLT

Lord,

Thank you for teaching us more than we first thought we would learn from this passage as we read, think, and pray over what you have written in your letter about you to us.  Now help us to live it out loud.  Help us to “seek justice (what is right in your eyes), show mercy to each other and walk humbly with you”, as Micah 6:8 relates as what you require from us.  And thank you for those times we mess up and you make all things come together for good according to Your will.  You are amazing!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE FAMILY TREE

Family trees branch into all forms of personalities, physical looks, unique abilities and talents, moods and aspirations.  Take a look at your own family tree and you’ll begin to understand.  God created each one of us in a unique way, His “masterpiece” of humanity.  We have certain traits that carry on as we are “formed in the womb”. Who knows us better than our Creator?  No one!

 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.”
  Psalm 139:13-16, NLT 

Read the entire Psalm for encouragement today! God made you, knows you and loves you just the way you are now and cares enough not to leave you on your own but to grow and mature you.  There is no one like our God!

Let’s recap:  Our family tree originally began with Adam and Eve.  They made a choice to follow evil, giving up their blessed communion with God in disobedience to God, their Creator.  Though “made in the image of God”, Adam and Eve had free will to choose God or go against God (evil).  Their choice affected everyone in the subsequent family tree.  We are all born into sin because of the choice made by Adam and Eve. Sin ran rampant as the family tree branched over the earth.

After several generations, only Noah was right with God (righteous) and obeyed God.  That doesn’t mean he was perfect but his inclination was to do exactly what God told him to be and do.  God knows his heart.  God is drawn to hearts who abide in Him.  2 Chronicles 16:9 gives us an understanding of this attribute of God, “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  God saw Noah’s heart in His search.

Because of Noah’s obedience and faith in God He found favor with God.  Noah and his family were saved as The Cleansing by God was done to rid the world of evil that plagued humanity.  God provided salvation for Noah and his family.  Now the family tree begins to branch out again through the sons of Noah.  Highlighted are names and places that will be mentioned later in the Story of God through his created humanity.  Because of free will to choose, some will obey God and follow Him and some will not.

“We love God because He first loved us”, John teaches us in his gospel account of Jesus.  From a place of pure love, God knew from the beginning of time, that He would send His Son, a part of Himself, to earth to save us once and for all for all sin.  God’s Plan of salvation is Jesus, His Son.  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, the final sacrifice to pay for all sins.” (John 3:16, NLT)

No more floods, as promised by God.  There will be ways back to God through animal sacrifices as we will learn throughout the Old Testament with specific instructions from God.  But the Ultimate Plan will be Jesus who will lay down his life to pay for our sins.  We must hold these thoughts in our minds as we learn the culture and ways as God’s chosen replenish the earth.  Choices will be made—good and bad—the family tree will reflect those choices along with the consequences.

Dear Friends, be encouraged.  Cling to Truth:

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Noah’s sons individually begin putting branches on our family tree.  They did what God told them to do, “Reproduce, Prosper”!  Here are the results…

Genesis 10, The Message

This is the family tree of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. After the flood, they themselves had sons.

The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, Tiras.

The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, Togarmah.

4-5 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, Rodanim. The seafaring peoples developed from these, each in its own place by family, each with its own language.

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, Canaan.

The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, Sabteca.

The sons of Raamah: Sheba, Dedan.

8-12 Cush also had Nimrod. He was the first great warrior on Earth. He was a great hunter before God. There was a saying, “Like Nimrod, a great hunter before God.” His kingdom got its start with Babel; then Erech, Akkad, and Calneh in the country of Shinar. From there he went up to Asshur and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and the great city Calah.

13-14 Egypt was ancestor to the Ludim, the Anamim, the Lehabim, the Naphtuhim, the Pathrusim, the Casluhim (the origin of the Philistines), and the Kaphtorim.

15-19 Canaan had Sidon his firstborn, Heth, the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Later the Canaanites spread out, going from Sidon toward Gerar, as far south as Gaza, and then east all the way over to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and on to Lasha.

20 These are the descendants of Ham by family, language, country, and nation.

21 Shem, the older brother of Japheth, also had sons. Shem was ancestor to all the children of Eber.

22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.

23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, Meshech.

24-25 Arphaxad had Shelah and Shelah had Eber. Eber had two sons, Peleg (so named because in his days the human race divided) and Joktan.

26-30 Joktan had Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab—all sons of Joktan. Their land goes from Mesha toward Sephar as far as the mountain ranges in the east.

31 These are the descendants of Shem by family, language, country, and nation.

32 This is the family tree of the sons of Noah as they developed into nations. From them nations developed all across the Earth after the flood.

HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Read, think, pray and live for God with His Holy Spirit guiding us.  We cannot do life without God for God is Life.  Because of Jesus, we are redeemed.  Believe and be saved. 

Lord,

I love how you love us, teach us with compassion, with a longing for your best in us.  I believe in You and what you say to be true.  I believe and trust that you desire your best in me for I am wonderfully “made in your image”.  Thank you for calling me and others who believe in your Son, your “masterpiece”. Some days we don’t feel like a work of art.  Then you work in us to make us a work of Your heart!  You are amazing.  Your love is amazing.  Continue to work on me for I’m not finished yet!

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!

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THE PROMISE

From elementary science, we all know how a rainbow is formed.  When sunlight passes through raindrops, the light bends, or refracts, as it enters the droplet, and then reflects off the inside of the raindrop. This happens because the water is denser than the air that surrounds it. As it exits the droplet, the light separates into wavelengths.

Visible light is made up of various wavelengths, and each wavelength appears as a different color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Red light, for example, bends at a different angle than violet light.

This is why a person on the ground sees each color at a different location and why rainbows look like a bow or an arc. Okay, then.  Got it?

Following Noah’s praise worship of thanksgiving to God, the first rainbow is seen by Noah who has now experienced rain for the first time on earth (as many theologians believe), followed by the sun that dried up the drenched land.  The rainbow was created by God as His visual sign of a promise to those saved by the floodwaters.  This beautiful arc of colors for the people of The Ark (see what I did there) would remind them that God would never destroy the earth with floodwaters again.  What God promises, He delivers. 

God, Creator of all, knew what would happen when the sun followed right behind the rain.  I am imagining God waiting in the heavens thinking, “Watch this, Noah!” while a beautiful rainbow formed.  Maybe that’s just me.  The rainbow was also a reminder of their salvation by God!

Genesis 9, The Message

 1-4 God blessed Noah and his sons: He said, “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the Earth! Every living creature—birds, animals, fish—will fall under your spell and be afraid of you. You’re responsible for them. All living creatures are yours for food; just as I gave you the plants, now I give you everything else. Except for meat with its lifeblood still in it—don’t eat that.

“But your own lifeblood I will avenge; I will avenge it against both animals and other humans.

6-7 Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans let his blood be shed,
Because God made humans in his image
    reflecting God’s very nature.

You’re here to bear fruit, reproduce,
    lavish life on the Earth, live bountifully!”

8-11 Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: “I’m setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you—birds, farm animals, wild animals—that came out of the ship with you. I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.”

12-16 God continued, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth.”

17 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I’ve set up between me and everything living on the Earth.”

18-19 The sons of Noah who came out of the ship were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah; from these three the whole Earth was populated.

20-23 Noah, a farmer, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank from its wine, got drunk and passed out, naked in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and told his two brothers who were outside the tent. Shem and Japheth took a cloak, held it between them from their shoulders, walked backward and covered their father’s nakedness, keeping their faces turned away so they did not see their father’s exposed body.

24-27 When Noah woke up with his hangover, he learned what his youngest son had done. He said,

Cursed be Canaan! A slave of slaves,
    a slave to his brothers!
Blessed be God, the God of Shem,
    but Canaan shall be his slave.
God prosper Japheth,
    living spaciously in the tents of Shem.
But Canaan shall be his slave.

28-29 Noah lived another 350 years following the flood. He lived a total of 950 years. And he died.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?

God’s promises are true. He still reminds us He is with us.  I mentioned church camp yesterday.  I can’t wait to tell you of another incident that happened while corralling elementary campers in the pouring rain.  One little boy was a challenge to the staff all week long because of his behavior.  By mid-week, we finally won him and he calmed down, with God’s help and wisdom. 

We presented a musical by the campers on the last night that year entitled Bullfrogs and Butterflies.  We sang lively songs that taught us about God’s creation and His salvation for mankind.  It had been pouring rain all day long on this day.  We gathered our muddy kids and did the program in the worship shelter with a good roof but only walls on one side.  Parents came.  The music and message presented clearly.  After the program was over, our boy who challenged us all week was so touched by it all, he gave his life to Jesus that night.  

But that’s not all!  The rain ended when the service ended, making it a bit easier for campers to pack up and go home with their parents.  We were walking up the hill from the chapel to see a beautiful rainbow arc over the campground.  Our boy with challenging behavior but now saved by Jesus was the first to see it and shouted, “LOOK WHAT GOD DID FOR US!”  “HE DOES KEEP HIS PROMISE!”  Tears of joy came to my eyes as I watched what God did for this little man.  (And for all of us!)

Dear Friends, God is still doing it for us!  Rain will fall followed by the sun.  In the wake of it all, creation grows greener and stronger.  In our lives, troubles will come followed by the Son who causes us to grow.  May the rainbow in the skies displayed in vibrant beauty after the rain remind us of God’s goodness to us, his provisions for us, and His Presence with us, believing that Jesus, His Son saved us.

There is no rainbow with the rain.  There is no real life without the Son. 

The Cleansing, followed by the Covenant Promise, was monumental in the Story of God.  God always keeps His Promise to save us.  His Son, Jesus is the Promise of life everlasting for those who believe.

Believe and be saved.

Lord,

Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do in my life to teach me, show me the way to go, maturing me as you mold and shape me to serve you.  You’re not finished with me yet.  I love how you love us.  I love you back with all my heart, mind and soul. Thank you for all your promises to us.  I believe.

In Jesus Name, Amen

And I’m singing…From Bullfrogs and Butterflies…

Rainbow, rainbow bright with color
Shines a promise through the sky
Spreading sunshine all around us
No more darkness, no more night…

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WORSHIP ON DRY LAND

Randy and I volunteered as church camp directors for quite a few years in our past lives.  There would always be at least one day out of the week of summer camp that brought rain.  We would plan for it with indoor activities but it was still challenging.  Kids would be couped up in the cabins, hanging out at the outside worship shelter that had no walls, or in the dining hall.  There were very few options. The bathrooms were in a separate location along with showers.  So, you had to “hold it” or go out in pouring rain for the trek to the bathhouse.  But kids didn’t mind, it was just another adventure for them.

After the rain, they waited for the “signal” from us to go back outside.  Mud was no issue for kids, only for the grownups who would clean up the tracked in mud coupled with giving first aid for cuts and bruises for those who would run in the puddles then slip and fall.  But when the sun came out with a prayer for the wind to dry it all up, they were released once more from captivity to the outdoor spaces to run freely.  Things were back to normal.  The grownups worshiped God for the rain that cooled us off on the summer Oklahoma days.  We thanked God later for the dry land after the rain. 

I cannot imagine being couped up inside a ship for 150 days all totaled!  One or two days are my limit as a children’s camp leader!  Imagine, for a moment, being couped up with your family, along with animals of every species with birds flying around doing what birds do when fed, for 150 days!  Talk about cabin fever!  This was the ultimate expression and probably the origination of the term, “cabin fever”. 

But Noah and his family survived.  No one else outside the ark did.  The Cleansing by God left only Noah and his family as the only humans on earth to reproduce and begin life anew.  The animals that came to Noah for rescue left in the same way once they got the go ahead from God.  The animals too, would repopulate earth each to their own species.

Genesis 8, The Message

 1-3 Then God turned his attention to Noah and all the wild animals and farm animals with him on the ship. God caused the wind to blow and the floodwaters began to go down. The underground springs were shut off, the windows of Heaven closed and the rain quit. Inch by inch the water lowered. After 150 days the worst was over.

4-6 On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the ship landed on the Ararat mountain range. The water kept going down until the tenth month. On the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains came into view. After forty days Noah opened the window that he had built into the ship.

7-9 He sent out a raven; it flew back and forth waiting for the floodwaters to dry up. Then he sent a dove to check on the flood conditions, but it couldn’t even find a place to perch—water still covered the Earth. Noah reached out and caught it, brought it back into the ship.

10-11 He waited seven more days and sent out the dove again. It came back in the evening with a freshly picked olive leaf in its beak. Noah knew that the flood was about finished.

12 He waited another seven days and sent the dove out a third time. This time it didn’t come back.

13-14 In the six-hundred-first year of Noah’s life, on the first day of the first month, the flood had dried up. Noah opened the hatch of the ship and saw dry ground. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the Earth was completely dry.

15-17 God spoke to Noah: “Leave the ship, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives. And take all the animals with you, the whole menagerie of birds and mammals and crawling creatures, all that swarming extravagance of life, so they can reproduce and flourish on the Earth.”

18-19 Noah disembarked with his sons and wife and his sons’ wives. Then all the animals, crawling creatures, birds—every creature on the face of the Earth—left the ship family by family.

20-21 Noah built an altar to God. He selected clean animals and birds from every species and offered them as burnt offerings on the altar. God smelled the sweet fragrance and thought to himself, “I’ll never again curse the ground because of people. I know they have this bent toward evil from an early age, but I’ll never again kill off everything living as I’ve just done.

22 For as long as Earth lasts,
    planting and harvest, cold and heat,
Summer and winter, day and night
    will never stop.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

After God did the work of cleansing the earth, ridding His creation of all sins of all kinds that had consumed humans, God turned his attention to Noah”.  With all that God is doing to protect us, provide for our needs and battle the evil one, He remembers us.  He turns His eyes on those who love and obey Him and meets their needs.  Sometimes God meets my needs before I even know I need help!

God never fails.  God dries the land with a strong wind.  God gave Noah wisdom to send out birds to check the current conditions of earth.  But Noah waited until God told him to leave the ship!  We can learn from these actions.  We can check the conditions of our current situations, but we must lean on God for his direction, pray for wisdom and wait for Him to tell us when to move ahead.  That’s when the desires of our hearts match his desires and we know the time is right to follow the next step of His Plan for us.  Psalm 37:3-7 helps us see and understand what Noah knew to be true;

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him…

The waiting paid off.  God provided safe passage as they deboarded the ark to dry land.  The FIRST building project on dry land was an altar to give thanks to God.  Worship by Noah and his family is pleasing to God.  God “delights” Noah (and us) with a promise to never flood the earth again—no more arks to build and live in!  The example of faith Noah had is a great example to us today. 

Do we have enough faith to do exactly what God tells us to be and do?

Do we worship and wait to hear God’s voice above all other voices? 

Are we sending signals out to check our current situation of our lives but waiting on God to show us when, where, how, with what He has given us before embarking on our next move?

Meanwhile, the world is set right, one season will follow another, families will be raised, the animals will reproduce.  The world isn’t perfect since the Fall of Adam and Eve, but it has been cleansed for now.  God knows we humans will always have “this bent toward evil from an early age” so God has another Plan ready to save humanity of their sins.  He will not use a cleansing flood to get our attention, there will be other ways. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Blood will be shed for our sins.

Lord,

There are so many things to think about as we read.  We pray for your wisdom for each of our situations.  I pray for your wisdom for my life.  I delight in You and pray that you delight in my thoughts, actions, worship as I live this day and the next until I see you face to face.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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ALL ABROAD!

“What will wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus…”

We had a storm this past week that caused power outages all over our city for days.  Before the storm hit, we were warned many times to take cover, to get away from windows, to bring anything in that wasn’t nailed down.  Randy and I heeded the warnings, stayed inside, and eventually went into a closet and shut the door.  I prayed we would be spared.  I prayed our tall trees would stay in place in the backyard as 98 miles per hour winds came through our neighborhood.  This one was big!  It was later labeled as a CAT 2 on the hurricane scale!  We are alive and well, cleaning up the damages caused by the storm.  We have power as most do, but a few are still waiting for power to come back so their lives can get back to normal after the cleanup.   

One advantage of the storm blowing through our backyard was the broken and deadness of limbs we could not reach in our giant trees before the storm came down to rest on the ground below because of the wind.  Some small branches and debris are on the roof of the house, but we will get them later!  There was no structural home damage we can see.  It’s all good.  We’ve already chopped the fallen wood to be used as firewood later.  Many, however, did have damage and needed help as uprooted trees were all over town.  But no lives lost. God protected the humans who lived through as well as and the ones who helped restore power and provide clean up in the scorching heat wave that came with the storm.

So, this part of the Genesis story becomes more real to me today.  Noah’s neighbors lived lives of perverted evil that caused all kinds of damage.  In fact, all the people God created in the world were so full of evil corruption and caused such damage that God saw as unrepairable.  Evil has come upon God’s created in hurricane proportions, wreaking havoc, damaging all in its path with destruction and death.  The evil ones didn’t see it coming, didn’t care enough to know what Noah was doing building a boat in the middle of his land.  But Noah knew.  He listened to God and obeyed him in all ways.  No one else on earth listened to God. 

“Noah did what God commanded him to do.” 

Noah’s obedience was the ticket of righteousness (being right with God) that saved not only Noah but his entire immediate family.  All abroad, Noah!  You are going on the ride of or your life! 

Genesis 7, The Message

Next God said to Noah, “Now board the ship, you and all your family—out of everyone in this generation, you’re the righteous one.

2-4 “Take on board with you seven pairs of every clean animal, a male and a female; one pair of every unclean animal, a male and a female; and seven pairs of every kind of bird, a male and a female, to insure their survival on Earth. In just seven days I will pour rain on Earth for forty days and forty nights. I’ll make a clean sweep of everything that I’ve made.”

Noah did everything God commanded him.

6-10 Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters covered the Earth. Noah and his wife and sons and their wives boarded the ship to escape the flood. Clean and unclean animals, birds, and all the crawling creatures came in pairs to Noah and to the ship, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah. In seven days the floodwaters came.

11-12 It was the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month that it happened: all the underground springs erupted and all the windows of Heaven were thrown open. Rain poured for forty days and forty nights.

13-16 That’s the day Noah and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, accompanied by his wife and his sons’ wives, boarded the ship. And with them every kind of wild and domestic animal, right down to all the kinds of creatures that crawl and all kinds of birds and anything that flies. They came to Noah and to the ship in pairs—everything and anything that had the breath of life in it, male and female of every creature came just as God had commanded Noah. Then God shut the door behind him.

17-23 The flood continued forty days and the waters rose and lifted the ship high over the Earth. The waters kept rising, the flood deepened on the Earth, the ship floated on the surface. The flood got worse until all the highest mountains were covered—the high-water mark reached twenty feet above the crest of the mountains. Everything died. Anything that moved—dead. Birds, farm animals, wild animals, the entire teeming exuberance of life—dead. And all people—dead. Every living, breathing creature that lived on dry land died; he wiped out the whole works—people and animals, crawling creatures and flying birds, every last one of them, gone. Only Noah and his company on the ship lived.

24 The floodwaters took over for 150 days.

WHAT DO WE LEARN AND HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Fun Fact we cannot miss:  Noah was told to build an ark that would hold all creatures in pairs to feed them, the other animals and reproduce the earth.  THEY CAME in pairs to Noah!  He didn’t have to go round these creatures up!  The animals God created came to Noah!  What a sight that had to be.  When it was time, they came to him!

I pause to think, we work too hard trying to make things happen, don’t we?  When we specifically obey God right down to the last detailed instruction, HE does the rest!  When will we learn this lesson well?  Jesus teaches his disciples this wonderful way of God, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Know when to quit and let God do the rest!  Noah’s part was to build the boat, God’s part was to bring the animals to the boat to fulfill the plan.  God never fails to do His part of His Plan! 

God shut the door.  God not only shut the door of the ark to protect them from drowning in the flood waters, He shut the door to seal them from the rampant evil that was a constant source of danger, destruction and possible death to Noah and his family.  NO ONE was spared—only Noah who listened and obeyed God.  Only Noah had the tickets for his family to get aboard. At what point did the people clamor to get inside the boat labeled as the “folly of Noah” previously?

God “opened up the heavens” with rain.  What is rain?  Most believe, that up to this point in the world, God’s water supply for his creation was provided only by underground springs.  To his created humans, how scary this must have been, to see water fall from the skies for the first time in their lives!  But when God decides to “make a clean sweep” of evil, he sends water from all sources along with swelling the underground springs to cause the flood of floods, for forty days and nights, that washes away all the evil sins of the world.  In fact, to be exact, 150 days of flood waters remain to wash it all away.  Noah and his family didn’t see the cleansing but I’m sure they heard the rains come down as they felt their ark of protection lift in the rising waters!  Whew, what a ride!

When we ride with God, it will always be the adventure of a lifetime!  We may not always understand everything that is happening but our trust will carry us through all the bumps and choppy waters.  He will get us through any storm, not matter what is happening around us when we do all that He tells us, leaning on His understanding, trusting HE knows what He is doing in us and for us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

The Cleansing is complete.  Noah and his family are saved.  The Cleansing came with a promise.  More tomorrow!

Today, we have Jesus, who came down from the heavens, as living water for our souls’ thirst for God.  Jesus was sent by God to save us from all our sins once and for all. Jesus lived on earth to show us the way back to God.  He showed us how to live for God.  He specifically obeyed God in every detail fulfilling God’s way of “cleansing” our souls for eternity.  Why?  God’s Love.  God still relentless and unconditionally loves all He created! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). 

If you are up to your necks in overwhelming troubles that arise from the flood of sin in your lives, there is a Way out!  Jesus said it best, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Believe that God forgives, repent in Jesus Name, and be saved from the flood of sins that seek to drown you. 

“What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus…”

Lord,

Thank you for this story of You.  Thank you for saving us by the blood of Jesus who stood in our place of punishment for our sins. Thank you for the Way back to You, to know your love and realize the depth of that love.  Thank you for your constant presence with the power of your Holy Spirit to guide us away from troubles and temptations, away from the floods of doubt and drowning out the thoughts of evil.  Thank you, dear Jesus, for you are our Hope, our ark of safety.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  I love riding out each storm WITH you.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

And I’m singing…

“What can wash away my sin
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Oh precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus…”

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A BROKEN HEART

First God.  In the beginning was God.  We read God’s Word to find out more about God.  The Bible is God’s Story.  This part of God’s Story is how his created turn to evil and how it grieves Him. His heart breaks seeing his humans turning to all things not of Him—evil.  Evil runs rampant and seems to be in charge.  Evil brings confusion, chaos and corruption in the lives of His created human race.  God looks over the situation and it breaks His heart.  But we must understand that God’s grieving heart for his created, is not for Himself but for His humans!  They are hurting themselves, maiming and killing each other, doing horrendous, evil things to one another that even if they lived through it all they will suffer forever from it.  We must get a grip on the deep Love God has for all of us.  God intervenes because He cannot stand by and watch humans destroy each other. 

Then God sees Noah and his family.  God knows Noah walks with Him and does what is right in God’s eyes.  Noah has a family and cares for His family.  Noah has not succumbed to the evil that is all around him in his neighborhood.  So, right In the middle of chaos and corruption of evil that has no plan but to destroy, God comes with a plan and purpose for His created who love Him back.  God provides a way out for Noah and his family.

God loves how Noah loves and honors Him.  Though God’s heart is broken by the evil His created men and women are doing to each other, he sees hope for Noah.  “But Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah.”  I love that, don’t you?  Noah was different.  God liked what he saw in Noah. 

I ask myself, am I so different in my world that I stand out as “different like Noah”, wanting nothing to do with evil? 

Does God like what He sees in me?

Genesis 6, The Message

Giants in the Land

1-2 When the human race began to increase, with more and more daughters being born, the sons of God noticed that the daughters of men were beautiful. They looked them over and picked out wives for themselves.

Then God said, “I’m not going to breathe life into men and women endlessly. Eventually they’re going to die; from now on they can expect a life span of 120 years.”

This was back in the days (and also later) when there were giants in the land. The giants came from the union of the sons of God and the daughters of men. These were the mighty men of ancient lore, the famous ones.

Noah and His Sons

5-7 God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to nightGod was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works. I’m sorry I made them.”

But Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah.

9-10 This is the story of Noah: Noah was a good man, a man of integrity in his community. Noah walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11-12 As far as God was concerned, the Earth had become a sewer; there was violence everywhere. God took one look and saw how bad it was, everyone corrupt and corrupting—life itself corrupt to the core.

13 God said to Noah, “It’s all over. It’s the end of the human race. The violence is everywhere; I’m making a clean sweep.

14-16 “Build yourself a ship from teakwood. Make rooms in it. Coat it with pitch inside and out. Make it 450 feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. Build a roof for it and put in a window eighteen inches from the top; put in a door on the side of the ship; and make three decks, lower, middle, and upper.

17 “I’m going to bring a flood on the Earth that will destroy everything alive under Heaven. Total destruction.

18-21 “But I’m going to establish a covenant with you: You’ll board the ship, and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives will come on board with you. You are also to take two of each living creature, a male and a female, on board the ship, to preserve their lives with you: two of every species of bird, mammal, and reptile—two of everything so as to preserve their lives along with yours. Also get all the food you’ll need and store it up for you and them.”

22 Noah did everything God commanded him to do.

WHAT DO WE LEARN AND HOW DO WE RESPOND?

God intervenes and overcomes evil with a Plan to save the one and his family who “did everything God commanded him to do.”  God pushes the reset button on His created earth to end evil’s rampant virus of corruption and chaos.  We will learn more in the coming days of reading the story of God through Noah.  But keep this thought in mind as we read: God’s love for each one of us.  God grieves when we turn away from what He knows is best because of His great love for us.

How do we respond to God and be different like Noah?  Go to Romans 12:1-3 for the answer.  Read, think, pray and live what is given to us to help us:

“So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.”  Romans 12:1-3, The Message

Again, we ask ourselves, as we read, think, pray and live what we know;

Am I different? 

Does God like what He sees in me? 

Am I doing what God asks because I KNOW God knows what is best for me?

Does God look around, over the earth to see whose heart is completely His?  And he finds me? 

Lord,

I pray daily for your help to live in ways that are pleasing to You for I know this is what is best for me because of your unconditional, relentless love for me!  You know what is all around us, the good and the bad, and you lead us through it all to Your best for each of us.  For this alone, I give you praise and thanksgiving!  When we sin, you gave us a way out of evil’s hold on us, by giving us Jesus.  Thank you, Jesus for saving us and putting us right with God and back on a track that leads to God.  Thank you, God for intervening in my life as you did for Noah.  I love you, Lord, with all my heart, mind and soul.  There is no one like you.  I trust and put all my hope in You alone.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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