31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 2 – God chooses a man to begin a nation

abraham-jesus

Two thousand years have passed from Adam and Eve to the time when Abraham arrives on the scene.  That’s a long time.  Almost everything we know about the first 2000 years of humanity is recorded in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. While God didn’t give us all the details, there were some very interesting people and events that occurred.  Genesis 5 gives us the genealogy starting  with Adam. Adam lived 930 years. Enoch, the father of Methuselah, walked with God and lasted 365 years until “he was no longer there” (he never died but was taken up by God). Methuselah, the oldest man, lived 969 years. Then the world changed forever. It had become evil and violent, and only one righteous man, Noah, and his family were saved from the Great Flood. Afterwards, God separated out the languages and the nations at the Tower of Babel, because the people tried to build a monument to their own greatness and worship creation instead of the creator.

By 2000 BC, Abram (later called Abraham) lived a life of luxury in the city of Ur (modern day Iraq). The culture was extremely advanced in arts and sciences by this time, and they had been writing for over 1000 years. The standard of living was high, with the average middle-class home having 10-20 rooms and over 2000 square feet (Archeology and Bible History, Joseph Free, p. 49). Abram left all of this behind based on his faith and obedience to God, and the first covenant promise was created between God and His people. The history of mankind was changed forever, and religion as we know it today was first established.

Second prophecy:

Genesis 12:1-3
Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
 I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who treat you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 15:13-16, 18
 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years.  However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions.  But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.  In the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “I give this land to your offspring, from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates River. 

I pray that you will get to know the God of Abraham, the One who establishes a covenant promise with His people to never leave or forsake them. God’s greatest desire is to have a real relationship with you, His most beloved creation.

* Merry Christmas *

In Jesus’ Words: Hunger (Matthew 14:15-21)

God

Most everyone has heard the story of Jesus feeding a crowd of 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.  It’s a great story about God’s provision, compassion and miracles.  I have not heard of anyone, scholar or skeptic, who can dispute this event actually happened, especially since it was recorded in history by Matthew soon after the event took place.  But there is another lesser known detail to this story.

The disciples had asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they would go into town and get something to eat.  In other words, tell them to leave.  The people were hungry, they had been there all day, and traveled far with their families and young children.  Yet, they did not want to leave.  Their hunger for spiritual truth and what Jesus had to offer them was stronger than their physical hunger for food.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime, not-to-be-missed, hang-on-every-word opportunity to hear Jesus speak, and the people weren’t going to miss any of it.

Today, we are constantly on the search for that one thing that will satisfy us – make us feel good, make us prettier, quench our thirst, de-stress, de-tox, get rich quick, or entertain.  We reach for whatever that may be, and we get some temporary relief, but a short while later we begin to feel the hunger all over again.  And this time, we may have added a little regret or guilt.  So we begin again, with a little more to compensate for the regret or guilt we’ve piled on, and soon we need even more.  But we can never be completely satisfied with the things of this earth.  It always leaves us wanting more.  There’s a part of us that only Jesus Christ can fill and make us whole again.  We are created with that longing for fellowship with God.  And only after we have filled that eternal longing with the perfect love that Jesus Christ can give, then Jesus can begin to help us with the rest of our lives.  For the crowd of 5,000 on that day, Jesus provided them with spiritual satisfaction and truth, and then he made sure to take care of their physical hunger.  For everyone ate and was filled.

~ Matthew 14:15-21  Feeding of the 5,000 ~

When evening came, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “This place is a wilderness, and it is already late.  Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

“They don’t need to go away,” Jesus told them. “You give them something to eat.”

“But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to Him.

“Bring them here to Me,” He said.  Then He commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass.  He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them.  He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  Everyone ate and was filled.  Then they picked up 12 baskets full of leftover pieces!  Now those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children.

feet with waves cropped

The Rocking Chair Experiment

rocking chair

Someone challenged me recently to “stop, drop and roll” every morning when I get out of bed.  They were referring to living a life of prayer, whereby we should stop as soon as we rise in the morning, drop to our knees on the floor, roll over to face the bed and begin our day with prayer to God before doing anything else.

I decided to give this a try.  However, I am not much of a morning person.  The first few times, my knees popped and cracked as I immediately fell out of the bed and onto the floor.  I rolled over to face the bed, put my head down… and fell back asleep.  It seemed like a great idea but was not working too well for me.  Then I noticed the rocking chair just a few feet away from my bed.

This was the rocking chair I once used to rock my son to sleep at night, from the time he was born until he was old enough to crawl out of my lap.  Every night for those first few years, I would rock my son back and forth in that chair, singing to him as he fell asleep.  It was my favorite part of the day.  I always sang “Amazing Grace” to him, and the words and melody made me very happy.  I believe God was listening and smiling down on both of us, and it was a very special time in my life.

My son is way beyond the rocking chair these days.  Sometimes I would glance over at that rocking chair, not really knowing what to do with it.  It seemed empty.  But now I had a new idea.  I would modify the “stop, drop and roll” to be “stop, sit and rock” instead.  Now each morning when I wake up, I walk a few steps and sit down in the rocking chair to pray, before I go any further.  “God, I thank you for giving me this new day,” and then I pray for those things most urgently on my mind that day.  It only takes a few minutes, but it orients me in the right direction before I have a chance for anything else to occupy my mind.  The rocking chair is a sign of comfort for me, and holds good memories of a special time when I felt very close to God.  Now when I sit in the chair each morning, it feels like God is wrapping His arms around me.

But I will see Your face in righteousness;
When I awake, I will be satisfied with Your presence.
Psalm 17:15

The experiment worked.  It is similar to setting your GPS for the day or looking at a compass.  It will change the direction of your life.  After trying it for awhile each morning, I decided to also add it to the end of my day.  Before climbing into bed, I stop once more by the rocking chair to sit for a minute, thanking God for the day and for bringing us home safely.

I encourage you to try it too.  Find your own thing, whatever works for you, but do it first thing in the morning – stop and pray.  And during the day when things come up – stop and pray now!  Life a life of prayer.

Why would Jesus be nailed to the cross for our sins and then disregard our prayers?
– Max Lucado

feet with waves cropped

Shelter

worship

I looked at the audience around me and saw people of every race, every color, and every nationality – all singing to God.  I imagined this is what heaven will be like, only grander.

It was a Saturday night I wouldn’t soon forget.  My family and I would be traveling on Sunday morning for the Labor Day weekend and wouldn’t be able to attend our regular church.  I didn’t give it much thought, for I have missed more than a few church services in my time and didn’t think one more would make a difference.  My son, however, was insistent on attending a Saturday service in its place.

I could not find any Saturday services in our area, but my son found one on the other side of the city that he wanted to attend.  It was an international church.  I first looked it up online to make sure I agreed with their teachings.  And then I thought, I’ve heard of this church before… I’ve heard they are a little charismatic; they like to dance in the aisles too.  I became a little apprehensive about going.  What if I don’t know what to do?  What if I’m uncomfortable?  What if they start dancing?

But my son was set on going, so we started our journey across town in a downpour of heavy rain and lightening that seemed to follow us the entire way.  The roads were unclear in the rain and I was not familiar with the area.  By the time we arrived 45 minutes later I was tired of driving and was second-guessing the trip.  The parking lot was crowded, even with the rain, and so we followed the rest of the people into the building. As soon as I stepped inside, caught my breath and put my umbrella away, I felt an immediate peace about the place.  It was a welcoming feeling.  Like a shelter from the storms outside, it felt like a place of comfort and rest from our travels, a place where evil was not welcomed, and a place of truth instead of lies and deceptions.  It was a happy place.

We navigated our way up to the balcony and took our seats.  As the band began to play, the people stood up and started singing and praising to God.  That’s when I looked around and saw people of every race, every color, and every nation – all singing to God and fellowshipping with each other.  I imagine this is what heaven is going to look like, I thought.  And I began to sing too.

My uneasiness about going had faded as soon as I stepped inside the doors.  Perhaps this is how others may feel that have never been to church; maybe they feel the same apprehension I did on that day.  Yet, I believe we all want to experience this sort of shelter – a place where we can go to get away from the barrage of a 24-7 world that seems to have lost its mind.  We all need a place of unshaken truth and love, one that will protect us at our very core from those things which want to destroy us, our families, and our children.  We all need shelter.

The pastor delivered an appropriate message that day too.  It was on the 23rd Psalm, “I will fear no evil for you are with me.”  God is that shelter.  I left there that day thinking that I wouldn’t mind coming back to this place again.  And yes, there was some dancing in the aisles.

little feet

To know God

morning devotion

Muslims say you cannot know God.  He is unknowable and unreachable.  Unlike the Christian God, Allah is a distant supreme being that cannot be known.  At best, all one can do is hope to gain Allah’s mercy when they die.  But it is not a guarantee.  Even then, their paradise is not considered to be a fellowship with God.

But as I was reading in the book of Psalms today, I came across this beautiful poetry from Psalm 139 that describes a very different God.  We can know Him!  Listen to these words…

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.

You have hedged me behind and before.
And laid Your hand upon me.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Psalm 139:1-12

There is so much reassurance in these verses.  God knows the light and the dark.  There are no secrets, nowhere we can go without God, and never out of His sight or thoughts.  And yet, God loves us even more.  I like that.

Today, let’s focus on this one wonderful thing that sets God apart from all other religions.  Christianity is the only way of life that speaks of Grace, Forgiveness, and Love, and of a Savior willing to die for our sins.  My prayer as always, is that you will get to know this God.

little feet