“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” Genesis 21:6-7
The joy Sarah experienced when she had Isaac (Isaac means “laughter”) would be shared by others when she told them the story. She was barren, Abraham was too old, and she had given up on having children long ago. People would laugh for joy because this child was tangible evidence of three things:
- God is alive. Because of the circumstances, this was clearly a miracle that only a living God could do.
- God is good. Life can be harsh and frustrating, but this child was a desire fulfilled that gave Sarah, and anyone who would hear about it, a taste of how good God is.
- God is gracious. Sarah had tried to have a child her own way through Hagar, and then laughed cynically when she heard God’s promise of her having a child. (Genesis 18:12) When she was asked why she had laughed, she lied because she was afraid. Yet God did the miracle anyway! God does wonderful things, not because of our great faith, but in spite of our imperfect faith.
What does this have to do with us? Everything. “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28) The God who owed us nothing but death, gave us eternal life. The one who was heading to hell is now on the path to heaven. The life that was degenerating in isolation is now regenerating through adoption into God’s own family, by the Spirit of life.
We are the miracles that should bring heaven’s laugh into this dark, cynical world. God loves us and Jesus died for us! Don’t forget to laugh today at how wonderful these simple truths are.
“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” Genesis 3:5
After the enemy questioned the Word of God by asking Eve, “Did God really say that,” he questioned the character of God. In the text above it’s as if he’s saying, “God is holding out on you and doesn’t have your best interests in mind.” Once Eve took this bait, she could justify taking matters into her own hands to accomplish what was “best” for her. Instead of trusting God, she became suspicious of Him, and disaster followed. Is anything different today?
The irony of the attack quoted above is that God was offering Adam and Eve something only He possessed, but it could only be found in the other tree; the tree of life. We find out in Genesis 3:22 that this tree would more appropriately be called the tree of eternal life because whoever ate its fruit would “live forever.” Adam and Eve were being offered, in the fruit of this tree, the very life of God who “alone possesses immortality.” (1Timothy 6:16)
Today God is offering eternal life again through another tree; the cross. His purpose is not to restore us to the state of Adam and Eve before they fell, but to give us the eternal life they never embraced. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
What will happen to those who don’t come to the cross and eat of the life only Jesus can give? They will outlive their bodies and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and then be cast into hell to pay for their sins against humanity. (Revelation 20:11-15) After that they will be destroyed in hell (Matthew 10:28), be consumed by its fire (Hebrews 10:27), and perish like the beasts (2Peter 2:12) when they experience the second death of the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
Let’s trust God’s heart for us and receive the eternal life He died for us to have!
“Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:24
You were made to walk with God. Before the fall God would meet with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day to walk together in a place of intimacy. After they fell, He gave a promise and a picture of what He was going to do in Jesus Christ to restore the place of intimacy, but it doesn’t seem like anyone until Enoch really got a hold of what God was after. Enoch walked with God. It doesn’t say he did any great thing, or that he built any huge monument, or that he held any important position; the Bible just says that he walked with God. This is the heart of what God wants from me and you.
We owned a Siberian husky named Kayla who was very hard to walk with. I’d get out of the house and be jerked forward because Kayla couldn’t wait to go as fast as possible, but was restrained by the leash that would practically choke her. To take the strain off, I would start to run with her and we’d go along for awhile like that until she found something interesting along the way and then stop, so suddenly it would cause another jerk on her neck as I ran past her because I couldn’t stop as fast as she did. I’d wait patiently for awhile and then have to pull hard, once again almost choking her, to get her to leave the thing she was enamored with. I just wanted her to walk by me, but that rarely happened.
I think this is a good picture of God and us. As young believers we are often filled with our own ideas and zeal so we run ahead of God. We get self-righteous because others aren’t doing as much as we are, or being as “holy” as we think we are, and the whole time the Lord is trying to pull us back to the place of intimacy where He is the center of attention, and not us. Or we get enamored by something along life’s way and we get stuck. It could be a sin, our work, sports, shopping, or even a hobby that so dominates our thoughts and attention that God is put aside.. The Lord begins by pulling gently and then has to tug harder, because we aren’t responding.
My favorite part of our walk was when we got in the country and Kayla could run free because there was no danger. I loved to see her run uninhibited and then gladly run to me when I called her. This is the freedom God wants for each of us.
The Lord doesn’t want to have to continually discipline us to keep us safe; He wants us to draw near willingly and learn to simply walk with Him.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3:7-9
You and I were created for intimacy with God. After the fall God came to the garden to walk with Adam and Eve and they were hiding from His presence. That walking with Him was a habit is evident by the reason they were hiding: “They heard the sound of the Lord walking…” How did they know it was the Lord and not an animal or the wind? I think it was the time of day He regularly came, and He never missed this appointment. You’d think that their sin would have caused the Lord to stay away, but He came as He always did as if to say, “I haven’t left the place of intimacy, you have.”
He asked, “Where are you?” not to get information, but to bring this first couple to a place of confession. This is the first question God asked in the Bible and I believe that He is still asking it today: “Where are you?” People today are hiding from God and from one another and it is leading to emptiness and depression because we were made for intimacy. Some of us hide in our work, others in bitterness, still others in alcohol, entertainment, or pornography, yet God is still asking, “where are you?”
Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” The killing of an innocent animal to make a skin is the first physical death in the Bible and it points to the need for a sacrifice to make atonement. Jesus was the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for the sins of the world. All that was required for Adam and Eve to have God clothe them was to take off the fig leaves they had sewn to hide themselves, and put on the skin God had made. Today God calls us to lay down whatever front we’re hiding behind whether it be pride, religious behavior, or our own self righteousness, and confess our faith in His sacrifice. He Himself then clothes us with the righteousness of Christ so that we can be forgiven and restored to His Presence. He’s still asking, “where are you?” today because He still longs to walk with each of us in the place of restored intimacy.
“Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew 2:11
As we think about Christmas let us reflect on the gifts given by the magi which speak to the Gift given by the Father to the human race. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2Corinthians 9:15)
- Gold – The gift given to kings. The magi didn’t come to worship one who would become king; they came to worship Him who was born king. This caste of wise men from the east were likely in the order of Daniel with access to his prophecies. Daniel gave the time Messiah would appear (see Daniel 9:24-27) and alluded to His Divine nature as well as His universal rule. “One like a son of man…was given power; all the peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
- Incense – The gift offered by priests. In the Old Covenant kings were from the tribe of Judah and the family of David; high priests came from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron. But God’s promised Messiah would be both king and priest as was an obscure person in the Old Testament named Melchizedek. (Genesis 14:18) David prophesied about this new order of priesthood that meant there would have to be a new covenant: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
- Myrrh – The spice used for burial. Messiah would not only be the priest to offer sacrifice; He Himself would be the sacrifice. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The shepherds who were called to witness the birth were rabbinic shepherds whose job it was to watch over the lambs that would be sacrificed in the temple. On Christmas, God called them to watch over the Lamb that would replace all other sacrifices. “Jesus sacrificed for our sins once for all when He offered Himself.” (Hebrews 7:27) Let’s remember the true wonder of Christmas is the One born for us.
“Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Mark 11:22-23
When God speaks everything changes! There may be darkness and chaos, but when God speaks, light and order come in response to His word transforming the world. (See Genesis 1) But what happens when we speak? I don’t believe there is intrinsic power in our words, but I do believe that our words can be filled with power if we speak out loud what God has spoken to our hearts.
Speaking expresses faith. Romans 10:10 says we believe with our hearts and then speak with our mouths resulting in salvation. What we believe about God and the world will affect what we speak and what we speak will then affect the world around us. Proverbs 18:21 says, “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”
So what is God speaking to this world? May our hearts be filled with the truth of John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” We are not called to be positive in a negative world; we are called to be redemptive in a fallen world. We don’t ever have to live in a bubble that denies the brokenness and darkness all around us; we only have to believe that God has a redemptive plan for everything and everyone who is broken and dark.
Moses allowed himself to become frustrated and hit the rock when God told him to speak to it. The rock, which represented Christ (1Corinthians 10:4), had already been struck (a picture of Jesus dying on the cross), so God wanted Moses to have enough faith to just speak. If he had spoken to the rock it would have flowed with water for all the people, for God was the One telling him to speak.
Today He’s telling us to speak His redemption over our own lives, the lives of our loved ones, and over this nation. What are you speaking?
“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb; and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.” Ecclesiastes 5:15
If you play Monopoly by the real rules a game should take about an hour. During that brief period Monopoly money has value – you can buy property, improve property, and pay your debts with its currency. But when the game is over you put everything away, put the box on the shelf, and there is no longer any worth in those dollars. It will be seen that the same is true of our money on planet earth.
Compared to eternity our time here is called a breath or a vapor. Money has value during this time and how we use it is one way God tests our hearts. Jesus said, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth who will trust you with true riches.” (Luke 16:11) A few verses later He went on to say: “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13)
How do we pass God’s money test?
- Recognize we are stewards, not owners. We are to love God and use money; not love money while trying to use God.
- We are to give back to God the first fruits of our income (Proverbs 3:9-10) which Scripture defines as a tithe or ten percent. (Genesis 14:20; Malachi 3:10-11)
- We are to be willing to share in any good deed as God leads us. (2Corinthians 9:7-8)
- As riches increase, we are to guard our hearts. (Psalm 62:10) Money is a useful servant but a terrible master.
- We are to trust God as our Source and be thankful because He “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1Timothy 6:17)
“I advise you to buy from Me… white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed.” Revelation 3:18
Jesus is speaking to the church at Laodicea who has lost any place of deep connection with Him. He actually pictures Himself outside the door of their hearts, knocking to gain entrance. Part of what is keeping them from opening the door is shame.
“The shame of your nakedness” is a reference to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. When God first placed them there, they were “naked and unashamed.” (Genesis 2:24) It was when they disobeyed God that shame came into their spirits and they looked around for things to hide themselves with.
When shame is on our spirit, even as Christians who love God, we live in a fear of being exposed as not good enough. Living in fear reduces our lives, so many don’t ever know or develop who they really are. Jesus is ready and waiting to take away the fear shame brings, so His children can put on the righteous robes He paid for. Paul writes: “He (the Father) made Him who knew no sin (Jesus) to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Corinthians 5:21)
If you feel dirty, you will live dirty. Jesus wants us to feel clean on the inside so we don’t have to hide or pretend any more. He delights in us even though we are weak and immature – He’s knocking on the door because He wants to free us from the power of shame. Let’s open our hearts wide to His love and break all agreement with the enemy’s accusations over our lives.
“He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.” Genesis 3:22b
Part of becoming a Christian for me was accepting the Bible as the final authority on every area of life and doctrine. I was brought up in the Lord by people who believed that the Bible was clear on the nature of hell’s punishment, so I never even questioned it.
The argument went something like this: Because men and women are made in the image of God they are automatically eternal beings. The great tragedy of someone rejecting Christ, therefore, was that they would live in conscious torment for all eternity. No one chooses, whether they are eternal, I was taught, it is just a by-product of being in the image of God. Everyone is born with eternal life – they either spend it in heaven with Jesus or in the conscious torment of hell with Satan and his angels.
In the last few years I’ve questioned whether this is true Biblically or if it is only a tradition of man that was passed down. The context of the passage quoted above was God putting Cherubim with swords at the entrance to Eden because He wanted to ensure that Adam and Eve would not eat from the tree of life and live forever apart from Him.
Apparently being in the image of God didn’t mean Adam and Eve would automatically live forever, but only that they had the potential of being eternal. According to the text, to live forever they would have to eat of the tree of life.
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Eternal life is God’s gift to humanity in Christ; without it, I believe, you and I will eventually perish. It was never in God’s heart that we would be able to live forever apart from Him.
“Know this for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they will serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions . . . In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not reached its full measure.” Genesis 15:13-16
Filmmaker Timothy Mahoney went on a journey to discover whether the exodus the Bible describes is actual history or only a myth. What he found after more than a decade of traveling all over the world interviewing top scholars and Egyptologists is patterns of evidence affirming the Biblical account.
But the evidence was not in the time period archeologists were looking in and this led to much skepticism toward the Biblical account. Because of Exodus 1:11, “They built Pithom and Ramses as store cities for Pharaoh,” scholars assumed that Ramses was the Pharaoh of the exodus, so that was the city they were excavating. Many problems became evident: No sign of a Semite (Israelites are called Semites) population, no signs of distress in Egypt, and nothing that indicated any people group who were there, up and left.
Yet other Egyptologists call the text of Exodus 1:11 an “anachronism,” something added to the text by a later editor to help their readers understand where they were referring to. What the later editor was actually saying was something like this: “This is the place where the Israelites built the store city and we know it today as Ramses.” Evidence of a similar anachronism is found in Genesis 47:11 where Joseph settles his family in Goshen and the text refers to it as “the best part of the land, the district of Ramses.” This was hundreds of years earlier than the Exodus 2:11 text, long before any Ramses could possibly have been Pharaoh, or named a city after himself.
For the last thirty years, archeologists have been digging in another city, also in the area of Goshen, but at a lower level than Ramses, called “Avaris.” This city existed hundreds of years earlier than Ramses, in what Egyptologists call “The Middle Kingdom,” and in it is found every evidence Ramses was lacking. (Mahoney’s movie is called: Patterns of Evidence)