Saturday, October 08, 2016

Parable of the Hidden Treasure

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44, NKJV

Parable of the Hidden Treasure

Jesus continues His exhortation in Matthew 13 with two very similar parables which express the value of the kingdom of heaven.

Money! We all understand the value of money, do we not? Our world is consumed with the gathering of riches. Could there be, however, something of more value than money? That was exactly the point that Jesus was making in this parable.

Again, Jesus is telling a story that would be familiar to the common people. Don't we all like to hear stories of buried treasure? The very nature of buried treasure is that it is a surprise. This is not something for which we worked for years and years, but rather it is something we found quite unexpectedly. 

If a person finds buried treasure in a field, what does he do? First, he does not tell anyone. Second, he takes all of the money that he has and goes and buys that field, for now, he is the owner of that treasure. Now that is a great story with a perfect ending!

Jesus is telling the common people that that is what the kingdom of heaven is like. Rather than spend all of our lives seeking things of this earth, we need to spend all of our life seeking the things of eternity. The kingdom of heaven, according to Jesus, is greater than all of the riches found on this earth.

Do we, as believers, believe that? Are we spending our lives in service of the King of Kings, no matter what our particular occupation may be, or are we spending our lives trying to amass a great fortune? Unfortunately, even as believers, it is easy for us to get caught up in the wine of this world. We are often much more concerned about how others view us, keeping up with our neighbors, and planning for a great and plentiful retirement. We are less concerned about growing in our knowledge of the Lord, reading our Bibles, fellowshipping with God in prayer, and telling others about Christ.

Is the kingdom of God like a buried treasure to us? If not, let us find ourselves on our knees seeking the Lord Jesus Christ. These fleeting years will soon be past, and then all of us will stand before God Himself. What will He say to us? Will He say, "Welcome my good and faithful servant," or will He say, "Depart from Me for I never knew you."

It is a sobering thought!

Go, now, and by the grace of God, find that buried treasure!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, October 07, 2016

Parable of the Leaven

33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
Matthew 13:33, NKJV

20 And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
Luke 13:20-21, NKJV

Parable of the Leaven

The Parable of the Leaven is much like the Parable of the Mustard Seed. I think it is actually easier for us to understand today, however, than it was in the time of Christ.

What is the Kingdom of Heaven like? It is like leaven which is hidden in three measures of wheat.

Those of us who have baked bread understand this completely.  How much yeast goes in a batch of bread? Not very much--maybe just a tablespoon or two. Yet what happens if we forget the yeast? The bread will certainly not turn out very well, will it? 

Once the yeast is in the bread, can we see it? No! However, we can certainly see and smell its effects, can we not? 

During the time of Jesus, there were many religious people. As a matter of fact, the religious leaders made great pomp out of displaying their "righteousness" before the common people. However, the common people could not see into their hearts. They were not able to see if their hearts were ruled by sin or ruled by God, Himself.

Jesus did not have that problem. As the Son of God, He could see into their hearts. While not every single one of the religious leaders was corrupt, most of them were. As a matter of fact, there were so few true followers of God that the kingdom of heaven was like that leaven lost in the measures of wheat.  

Sadly, the same thing is happening in our day. Many of the largest churches of the land are filled with deceit and corruption. We have many religious people in America, but how many true saints of God do we have? 

God knows our heart of hearts. As believers, let us seek to spend our lives living and serving the Lord. Let us pray that we will not be consumed by the things of this world and the deceitfulness of sin, but rather, let us seek the glory of God, alone.

How can we ever be expected to tell the true believers from the false believers? How can we tell if a church is truly serving the Lord? Though we do not have the ability to see into the hearts of others, the Bible does tell us that, "By their fruits, you shall know them."

In other words, true believers seek to live their lives to the glory of God. In their heart of hearts, they seek to grow and to become more and more like Christ. There are many who claim to love the Lord and make a great show of serving Him on Sunday or in church. However, during the rest of the week, they are hard to tell apart from those who live for their own glory.

Let us not be deceived by the wine of this world. Let us not seek our own glory, power, or recognition. It is God we serve. May our lives bear His image in everything we think, say, and do.

God Bless You,
Linda


Thursday, October 06, 2016

Ten Years

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1, KJV

Ten Years

Today is just an informal chat. I am actually mostly retired. I am a piano teacher (that's my official day job), but I am slowly "teaching out" my high school students. This year I am down to five students.

I just wanted to let you know, although you probably have already noticed, that I don't always get new devotions up every day. 

I would love to hear from you and am always willing to hear what you would like to have me write in the future. 

My plan now is to continue on with the Parables of Jesus, and then continue with my devotions from the Book of Genesis.

I first began this blog in 2006, so I have been writing these devotions for 10 years! I have truly loved doing this--I am hoping you are half as blessed as I am. We live in a time when it is harder and harder to maintain a closeness with the Lord without being swept away by the culture in which we live.

My prayer for you is that you find the Lord to be everything you need and that you will diligently seek to remain close to Him.

I included Psalm 91:1 at the beginning of this post. I chose that verse as my life verse in 1969 when I was in Bible college. That verse has been so relevant and precious to me all of these years.

Go with the Lord. By His grace, seek to remain faithful to Him all of the days of your life.

God Bless You,
Linda

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Parable of the Mustard Seed


31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Matthew 13:31-32, NKJV

See also: Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19

Parable of the Mustard Seed

In the passages above Jesus told another parable—this one is about a mustard seed. The mustard seed, which is one of the tiniest of all seeds, when planted, grew greater than all of the herbs and became a tree. It was so big that the birds of the air were able to come and nest in its branches.

What was Jesus trying to illustrate in this parable? Do not despise the day of small beginnings. Here we see Jesus speaking to His disciples. His words were new and hard to accept. Why? Jesus was speaking against the established Jewish church of the day.

What could they, just a handful of disciples do in comparison to the Jewish church of the day? Yet, God’s kingdom always grew from small beginnings.

Satan has so poisoned the hearts and minds of people that most turn away from the true teachings of the Word of God. Yet, from Abraham and Sarah, who only had one child, Isaac, God’s church grew. The Jewish people, however, rejected God. In the day of the disciples, the Jewish religious leaders also rejected Christ.

How could Jesus actually expect such a few men to go against the established teaching of the day? Jesus was showing them, that though they had a very small beginning, God would grow His church beginning with His small band of disciples.

The book of Acts verifies that, though the church was small, yet it grew surprisingly fast. In Acts 2, we have the account of Peter preaching to the people.

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." . . . Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:38 & 41, NKJV)

What about God’s church in this, the 21st Century? By the grace of God, His Word has reached almost every country of the world. Indeed that little mustard seed, beginning with the disciples, has grown into a great church, worldwide.

Let us, by God’s grace, remain faithful to Him, reading and studying His Word and speaking to all of those we know about God’s saving grace. Even today, that little mustard seed is still growing.

What an amazing God we serve. In spite of great persecution in many parts of the world, His church is still growing. God guides, protects, and keeps His children. And, when their work for Him is done, He will bring them home to live with Him forever.

What an amazing God we serve!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, September 30, 2016

Parable of the Wheat and the Tares


24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
Matthew 13:24-30, NKJV

Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

As we look at the Scripture shown from Matthew 13, we have to marvel at the profound and yet simple teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every farmer and gardener understand the difficulty of dealing with weeds, but how would we feel is an enemy purposely sowed weeds into our fields?

In the parable shown above, Christ is comparing the kingdom of heaven like a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while he slept his enemy sowed tares, or weeds, among his wheat.

To what is the Lord Jesus referring? Jesus is speaking of life in the world in which we live. It has pleased God to allow His children (the kingdom of heaven) to live in a world filled with those who are unbelievers and who hate God.

The servants of the owner asked why the owner did not allow them to go out into the field and pull out the tares that were sown among the wheat. What answer did the owner give?

“No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

What a wonderful reminder to us to deal gently with the servants of God. Many believers are like those stalks of wheat that have been compromised by the tares. Indeed, all Christians are like those stalks of wheat. We do not have the power in and of ourselves to successfully live this Christian life. We succeed only by the power of God.

Yet, God is patient and long-suffering with us, for He realized how greatly we are affected by the world in which we live. However, it will not always be this way!

A time is coming when Christ will say, “No more!” Time will cease and the day of salvation will be gone. At that time, (the time of the harvest), God, who knows the hearts of every single man, woman, and child, will instruct His angels to gather the tares—those who never became believers—and put them in bundles to be burned. Then, the true believers will be gathered together and taken to heaven to live with the Lord forever.

The question we must each ask ourselves is, “Am I wheat or am I a tare?” This has nothing to do with our outward actions and everything to do with our hearts. In our heart of hearts, do we love the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore seek to live for Him and honor Him? How important it is, while the day of salvation is still at hand, to fall before the Lord Jesus Christ and cry out to Him for salvation.

Only in Christ can we be saved. It matters not if we are great in the eyes of those in this world. It only matters where we stand before God, Himself, who knows the innermost secrets of our hearts.

As you think of this parable of the wheat and the tares, go to Christ now! He is the way, the truth, and the life!

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Parable of the Sower


Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Matthew 13:3-9, NKJV

(See also: Mark 4:3-9 & 13-20 and Luke 8:5-8 & 11-15)

Parable of the Sower

As was discussed in our last devotion, Jesus often spoke to the crowd in parables—stories with a purpose or lesson. In most examples, as is also true in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus not only spoke the parable, but He also gave its explanation. That explanation, however, was usually just given to His disciples.

The parables that Jesus spoke used common occurrences of life, which were familiar to His listeners. In this parable He is speaking of a sower who sows seed. Some of the seed fell by the wayside and the birds came and devoured it. Some seed fell on stony places. Because there was not much earth, the seeds sprang up quickly but were then scorched by the sun causing them to wither and die. Some of the seed fell among thorns so that the thorns sprang up and choked them. Some, however, fell on good ground and yielded a crop—some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

Was Jesus really speaking about seeds and crops, or did the seeds and crops represent something else. We are not left to wonder, for Jesus explained the parable in all three Gospels. Here is His explanation from Mark 4:13-20 (NKJV)

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
How can we apply this parable to our life in this, the 21st Century. Actually, we see this parable illustrated to us everywhere the Word of God is preached. The Word of God is promiscuously applied throughout most countries of our world. Does that mean that everyone is a Christian? No!

Even in large Gospel preaching churches, the congregation is usually a mixture of believers and non-believers.

Like the Parable of the Sower, when the Word of God is taught or preached, people react in many different ways. Some hear the Word, but Satan comes immediately and steals it out of their hearts. There are others who are like the seeds sown on stony ground. They receive the Word with gladness, but they have no root. So, when trials and tribulations come they stumble and say, “This is not for me!” Those who are like the thorny soil hear the Word, but the deceitfulness of riches, the cares of this world, and their desires for the things of this world choke the Word from their heart.

Is that the end of the parable? No! There are those who are like the seeds sown on good ground. They hear the Word, accept it, and bear fruit. Not all bear fruit at the same rate. Some will bear much fruit (a hundredfold), some a little less (sixtyfold) and some just a little (thirtyfold).

Were these people smarter than the others? Were they more righteous or perfect in and of themselves? No! What made the difference between the reactions of these people? The difference was Christ! When Christ opens the hearts and minds of people, they become like the seed sown on good soil.

Pray today that Christ would open your heart and mind so that you would not only hear the Word of God but that you would receive it gladly. Pray that the cares of this world would not snatch it out of your hearts and minds. Pray, too, that God would richly bless you so that you might bear fruit and share the Gospel to your family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. 

God Bless You,
Linda
 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pause from Genesis

We are going to take a brief pause from the book of Genesis. We have reached the end of Genesis Chapter 16, so when we return, we will begin with Genesis 17.

On my website, Devotional Reflections from the Bible, I have a series of devotions on the Words of Christ. I would like to continue with that series by writing  devotions on the Parables of Christ. These devotions will appear here on my Daily Bible Devotions Blog and will then eventually be removed from my blog archives and put on my website.

Tomorrow we will begin our first devotion entitle, "Purpose of Parables."

I welcome your comments and suggestions. I hope you will enjoy these devotions on the parables of Christ.

Thank you for your continued support.

In Christ,
Linda Croft

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ishmael is Born

13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

Genesis 16:13-16, NKJV

 
Ishmael is Born

 
Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore a son to him. Abram named him Ishmael. Was this all a mistake? Would it have been better if Ismael had never been born?
 
One of the most amazing principles we learn about God is that we cannot mess up His great plans. Sarai, unwisely, gave her handmaid to Abram and Hagar became pregnant. Ishmael's birth, however, was not a mistake. God uses us during times of weakness and strength. In the end, His perfect will is accomplished.
 
So, though Sarai was unwise in the choices she made, and though the resulting birth of a son to Hagar caused Sarai much grief, God accomplished His almighty purposes in the life of Ishmael.

We see this principle enacted many times, especially in the Old Testament. We see foolish decisions made by such men as Pharaoh of Egypt, King Saul, and even King David who was known as a man after God's own heart. Yet none of these men circumvented the plans of God.
 
What does this teach us in this the 21st century? We serve the same God today. Though we may really make a mess of our lives by the foolish mistakes we make, God in His great love and mercy reaches down and saves us. 
 
If those mistakes happen after we have become a believer is this principle still true? Yes! We serve an amazing God. He had ordained all of the events of this world before time began. Even before time began He had ordained the birth of Ishmael! 
 
Though the birth of Ishmael caused great grief in the lives of Hagar and Sarai, yet we know from reading the Bible that God made a great nation out of the descendants of Ishmael as well as the descendants of Sarai. Of course we are getting a little ahead of ourselves.
 
Let us then, especially if we are going through a very difficult time in our lives, remember that we serve a loving and faithful God. He uses even the trials and difficulties of our lives to lead us to Christ and to draw us closer to Him. The resulting joy and peace that we, as believers, experience is truly a peace which passes understanding to those of this world.
 
Go, today, and live this day for the glory and honor of God, alone. He loves us, saves us, keeps, us, and will eventually lead us to Glory to live with Him forever!
 
God Bless You,
Linda
 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hagar and the Angel of the Lord

Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” 10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” 11 And the Angel of the Lord said to her:
“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Genesis 16:7-12, NKJV

Hagar and the Angel of the Lord

You will remember that problems have developed between Sarai and her handmaid, Hagar. Because Abram and Sarai were not able to have children, Sarai gave her handmaid to Abram so that she could have children through Hagar. When Abram followed the advice of Sarai and Hagar conceived, Hagar despised her mistress, Sarai.

Sarai, then, dealt harshly with Hagar, and Hagar ran away. As we read the verses above, we find that the Angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness.

What a time for Hagar. None of this happened through her own choosing. Yet God had His own purposes in all of this. How amazed Hagar must have been when she was visited by an Angel of the Lord. Even more amazing were the words He spoke.

First, the Angel told her to return to Sarai and submit herself under Sarai's hand. This was not the news that Hagar wanted to receive. Many times in our lives, as we go through very deep valleys, our desire is to be delivered from our dire situation. God, however, does not always do so. Sometimes His will is for us to go through the waters and lean on His help while we traverse these deep valleys of life. That is not always what we want to hear, but later in life, we realize that it is through these adverse times that we really learned to trust in God.

The Angel's words did not stop here, however. These next words must have been a shock to Hagar.

“I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” 

The Angel then continued by giving Hagar a glimpse into the future. She would give birth to a boy whom she was to name Ishmael. God had heard her prayers. Even though Ismael would become a wild man, he would also become a father of a great nation. 

Now, in this the 21st century, we find that both Ishmael and Isaac, who would later be born to Abram and Sarai, both have become fathers of great nations. The descendants of both are, truly, as the stars in the sky and the sands in the seas.

So, did all of these events interrupt or change God's plans? No! God uses us, the weak and foolish of this world to accomplish His great purposes. No man, great or small, changes the plans of God. He uses all men to accomplish His perfect and holy will.

What an encouragement this is to us today. As we see great evil spread through the entire world, we know that God is still God. All that He has planned will come to pass. As His children, we are not to fear, but rather we are to trust that He will faithfully use us, guide us, and direct us. He will keep us safely in His arms all of the days of our lives upon this earth. 

Evil, in the end, will not win. Though we live in troubling times when it seems as though almost everyone is running as far away from God as possible, we can still trust in Him. He saves us, He keeps us, and He will bring us safely home to live with Him, where we will be forever!

What an amazing God we serve. Do not let the foolish things of this world blind your minds, but, rather, turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our only hope and He will not forget His children!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sarai and Hagar

Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.”
So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
Genesis 16:5-6, NKJV

Sarai and Hagar

We continue our sad story of Sarai and Hagar. You will remember that God had promised to Abram that his descendants would be as the stars in the sky and as the sands in the seas. However, Sarai and Abram had no children.

Sarai, taking matters into her own hands, designed a way to accomplish God's promises to them. If Abram would sleep with her handmaid, Hagar, and bear children with her, then Sarai could claim them as her children.

As so often is the case, when we try to accomplish God's purposes in our own way and refuse to wait for God, we can really make a mess of things. That is exactly what happened in the case of Sarai and Hagar. Abram, at the encouragement of Sarai, slept with Hagar and Hagar conceived. 

Now, the trouble began. Hagar, who was just a handmaid, suddenly saw herself as better than Sarai. She was able to do what Sarai could not do--she was able to conceive. So, she despised Sarai. How did Sarai respond?

Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me."

She took the case up with Abram and said, "Now look what you have done. May God judge between you and me." In other words, she was blaming Abram for the misery that resulted from Hagar's actions towards her. 

Abram, who so foolishly followed Sarai's unwise advice simply ignored the situation and turned it back over to Sarai saying, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” We are then told that Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar.

The one who suffered the most in all of this was Hagar. She was just a handmaid to Sarai--a servant! None of these choices were hers. When Sarai turned her over to Abram, Hagar had no choice but to obey. However, when she conceived a child of Abram's, she suddenly saw herself in a totally new position. She was now Abram's concubine.

What are we to do if we find ourselves in a similar position as did Hagar? We may not be a servant, but we are often in situations that, totally out of our control, end in misery for us. How are we to understand God's dealings when the events of our life seem to be so unfair.

As we shall see when we continue in this passage from Genesis 16, nothing we do circumvents the plans of God. What God has predetermined to happen, will happen. We will find God dealing with both Hagar and with Abram and Sarai, in ways that accomplish His will.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to trust God in all of the events of this life. Not all of these events may be pleasant. As a matter of fact, some of the events of this life may actually be quite difficult. God, however, promises to be with us. He guides and directs us all of the days of our lives, even if we are called to go through the valley of the shadow of death.

There is no place on this earth that is beyond the help of God. Let us, then, rejoice in this great God we serve even if we are traveling through some very deep waters. We serve an amazing and wonderful God who guides and directs us every single day of our lives on this earth. And, at the end of our lives, He will bring us safely into His heavenly arms where we will live forever!

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hagar Chosen

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.
Genesis 16:1-4, NKJV

Hagar Chosen

Our account today from Genesis 16 is a very sad account, but a very realistic one. God had promised Abram that He would give their land to Abram and his descendants. He also promised Abram that his descendants would be as the sand of the sea. There was only one problem. Abram and Sarai had no children. Sarai was unable to conceive.

As we are so often prone to do, Sarai took matters in her own hand. After all, she thought, if she gave her handmaid, Hagar, to Abram, then Hagar's child would become Sarai's child and God's promise could be fulfilled in that way. It sounded reasonable, but it was not God's plan. Instead, Sarai's plan created problems for both her and Abram as well as problems for their true descendants, the nation of Israel. To this day, there is warring among the descendants of Abram's two sons--the one conceived by Hagar and the one later conceived by Sarai.

This really addresses one of our most common problems that results in great sin in our own lives. How much do we trust God? God has promised to care for us. We are most happy to believe that when everything is going well for us, but what happens when problems arise?

Do you think this may be the very reason God allows great difficulties to come into our lives? What better way for us to learn to trust this God we love than to go through times of great trials and then to see God's faithful provisions to us. Though we understand that concept, it is not easy to have great faith in God when everything in our life seems to be falling apart.

There are two great problems in these verses. The first problem is the problem of Sarai determining her own way to solve God's problems. When we make major decisions, let us be careful to determine whether these decisions are just a result of our own lack of faith or our own covetousness, or whether our choices really do represent God's will.

The second problem in this passage is the problem of Abram. It does not seem as though he even thought to argue with Sarai. Though we know that Abram was a man of great faith, in this circumstance we see him as a man of great weakness. He, too, had given up on God and had determined to follow Sarai's suggestion in producing an heir.

When you think about it, these verses give us great hope. It is good that we see the weaknesses of Abram and Sarai for then we know that as God was patient in dealing with their weaknesses, so is He patient in dealing with ours.

In truth, we cannot mess up God's plans. Though we may fall into times of great weakness and lack of faith, God will embrace our returning to Him. He is ready to forgive! Often we learn more about faith and trust in God through our failures than we do from our successes.

Let us go forth this day trusting this great and wondrous God we serve. Amazing though it may be, He works His perfect will out through such weak people as we are. To God alone goes all of the honor, glory, and praise.

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

God's Covenant with Abram

12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
Genesis 15:12-21, NKJV

God's Covenant with Abram

We reach a pivotal point in Genesis 15 in our story of Abram. God has promised to give to Abram the land in which he is now dwelling. In the verses shown above, we are allowed to peer into a very key moment in the relationship between God and Abram. God, the Ruler of the Universe, has deemed to make a covenant with man. A covenant is generally made between two people of equal status. However, there is no man of equal status with God.

So, in the account given above, God had Abram lay the animals whose blood would seal this covenant out on the ground. Then God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Abram, causing horror and great darkness for Abram. 

Then God said,  “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Notice that God is speaking to Abram of things to come. First He is telling Abram that his descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. In that land, they will be afflicted for four hundred years. To what is God referring? God is referring to the Israelites being in the land of Egypt. We will come to the account of this time period later in the book of Genesis. God's prophecy is fulfilled exactly as God said even to the number of years they resided in Egypt. When the Israelites left the land of Egypt it was on the very day they had been there for 400 years.  

In God's covenant with Abram, what did God promise? 
 
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

One interesting point in God's conversation with Abram is this statement made by God. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

What is God saying? God is saying that the iniquity or sins of the people who lived in this land would become so great that He would remove them from the land. However, they had not yet reached that point.

Could that happen in our day? Does God rule over the nations? Yes and yes! Does God see the sin of the nations today? Yes! He does. Just as in Abram's day, God sees the sins of the nations as well as the sins of each and every person who is alive today. Though it may seem as though God does not notice and that there are no repercussions for our sins, that is not true. God sees and at the appointed time, God will judge. Whether that judgment comes when one country overpowers another, or whether it will not be dwelt with until the end of time, it will happen.

God in His righteousness and holiness will judge all nations and all people.

Let us think soberly on these accounts as we read through Genesis 15. God of all Gods and our King of all Kings rules this world in justice, righteousness, and holiness. And yet, He is a merciful God, providing salvation for His people through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now is the day of salvation! Let us fall before the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing our own sins and unworthiness and cry out for the Lord Jesus to save us.

What an amazing God we serve!

God Bless You,
Linda




Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Abram is Childless

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:1-6, NKJV

Abram is Childless

In Genesis 15 we begin to see into the very heart of Abram. He loves the wife God has given to him and he loves God Most High. However, there is one great grief in his life. Abram and Sarah have no children. 

In verse 1, the Lord God comes to Abram in a vision and says, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Yet God knew that though Abram rejoiced in this great God he served, there was still one thing that brought great grief to his life. 

So, Abram responded to the Lord, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” In other words, if Abram died that day, his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, would have inherited everything. Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

How did God respond to Abram?  “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then God took him outside and told him to look to the heavens and count the stars if he was able. God continued, “So shall your descendants be.”

Did Abram respond with another objection or concern? No. Abram believed in the Lord, and God accounted it to him for righteousness. The lesson here is that believing that God is God is not salvation, for the devils believe in God, but they are not saved. Abram responded in faith to God, with no objections. If God said that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky, then it was so!

We will find as we continue through the book of Genesis that Abram's belief will be sorely tested. And, like us, he will not always make the best decisions. 

So, what does it mean to be a Christian today? Can we just make a decision for Christ and then go on with our lives as though nothing has happened? No! Believing in Christ is more than just believing He exists and that God is real. Believing in Christ means a total change takes place in our lives. In the past, we lived according to the desires and pleasures of this world. But, as a believer in Christ, God now rules our hearts and our lives.

In our heart of hearts, we seek to live for and please God. That means we study His Word, are constant in our prayer to Him  for help and guidance. Everything we are and everything we hope to be is established in the Lord Jesus Christ. By the help of the Holy Spirit, God molds us and makes us so that we will become more and more like Him.

Our greatest affections are no longer anchored in this world. Instead, our greatest affections are owned by the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we live and move and have our being. Though we love the great blessings God has given to us on this earth, including our families and friends, our hearts are set on the life to come when we will live with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven above forever.

May the Lord truly hasten the day!

God Bless You,
Linda
 

Monday, September 19, 2016

God Most High

21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— 24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
Genesis 14:21-24, NKJV

God Most High

Genesis 14 closes with a conversation between Abram and the king of Sodom. We find the king of Sodom urging Abram to return the people of Sodom but to take all of the goods for himself. Because Abram was the one who rescued the people of Sodom, the spoils of the war belonged to him. 

However, we find Abram unwilling to take anything of the spoils of war for himself. He replied to the king of Sodom,  “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth,  that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours." 

Why did Abram refuse to take any of the spoils of the war which he had earned by rescuing the people of Sodom? We find two interesting things in Abram's reply to the king. First, he acknowledged that he rescued the men of Sodom by the hand of the Lord, God Most High. He was not afraid to acknowledge the secret of his victory over the five kings. 

Second, Abram tells the king that he will not take the spoils of war lest the king of Sodom should say,
‘I have made Abram rich,’ Therefore he would only take what his young men had eaten, plus he allowed his men to take their portions of the spoils of war.

In other words, Abram was careful to guard the truth that all of his successes were not due to his greatness or to those who had given to him the spoils of war. All of his victories, successes, and even his riches were fruits of God's love and favor to him. He was stating that there was none greater than God. No man and no false God could claim a title that belonged only to Almighty God, the Most High of heaven above and the earth beneath.

What lessons are there for us from this final passage in Genesis 14? Abram is striking at the sin of pride. Probably our most difficult sin to fight is the sin of pride. In pride and arrogance, we want to take the credit for our successes. We want everyone to know and acknowledge how great and awesome we are. 

However, there is only One who is awesome. It is God who made us, directs us, leads us, and guides us all of the days of our lives. All of the great things we do--all of our successes are due to His greatness and glory alone!

Abram understood this; he was careful to give all of the glory for his successes to God Most High. Let us live this day this day to the praise, honor, and glory of our wondrous and faithful God.

God Bless You,
Linda