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January 20, 2022

Job 5-7


Look at me! Would I lie to your face? Stop assuming my guilt, for I have done no wrong. Do you think I am lying? Don't I know the difference between right and wrong (Job 6:28-30, NLT)?


Job has suffered immeasurable loss—the loss of resources, family, and health. His initial response is faith in God, but confusion descends as his misery persists. The arrival of his friends offers little comfort or support. Eliphaz's assessment is quick and to the point, "I have seen that fools may be successful for the moment, but then comes sudden disaster (Job 5:3, NTL)." In other words, "Repent Job! Plead for God's forgiveness so that the suffering may end."


A call for repentance appears to be a reasonable course of action, but Eliphaz is blatantly wrong. The present circumstances are not a sign of God's discipline or displeasure. God's testimony concerning Job is that "he's the finest man in all the earth (Job 1:8, NLT)." What then went wrong? This will be a driving question throughout the book. Why does a "good" person suffer in this way?


His friend's indictment compounds Job's pain and confusion. He appeals to God, "If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of humanity? Why make me a target (Job 7:20, NLT)?" His cry to understand is heart-felt. He then adds, "Why not just forgive my sin and take away my guilt? For soon I will lie down in the dust and die. When you look for me, I will be gone (Job 7:21, NLT)."


Do you hear Job's desperation? Can you identify with his confusion? How often have you been disturbed or heartbroken because of a situation but unable to make sense of it? Do we allow our hurt and confusion to push us away from God? Do we begin to doubt God and His intentions? These are relevant questions. You may even find yourself in that state of mind today. If so, express your confusion and emotions honestly. Don't step away from God, but let's step toward Him.


Will we find all the answers that we seek? Probably not. Can we discover a better understanding of God and His willingness to help? Absolutely. Let's continue our journey with Job and allow God to strengthen our hearts as we wrestle with our problems and even ourselves. Life can be admittedly hard, but God is not against us. As honestly as we can, let's draw near to God today and seek His help.

January 19, 2022

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad (Job 2:10, NLT)?


Today we begin reflecting upon the well-known story of Job. Who hasn't heard of Job's misery and suffering? People unfamiliar with the Bible are familiar with his legendary patience, which raises the question, "Is it patience that Job displays?"


Let's ask the Lord to open our eyes to the truth of this often-told story. What will Job's experience teach us about life? What does it reveal about God and Job's accuser? Are there practical applications that we should carry with us? I pray that God will provide the appropriate insight.


To start with, let's remind ourselves of Job's exemplary character. He is a man that God Himself commends to His heavenly audience (Job 1:8; 2:3). His suffering is not the result of wrongful behavior. Instead, Job's suffering serves as a spiritual test. Does Job do what he does because of the good things he enjoys? Or, is Job's conduct a true reflection of his abiding faith?


The opening two chapters indicate the latter. Job refuses to denounce God or deny his faith despite the unimaginable losses. Even so, he finds himself conflicted and confused. Job struggles to make sense of what has happened, wishing he had never been born. Can we identify with Job's confusion?


How do we respond to life's unexpected losses? What are our expectations of God? As Job expressed, "Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad (Job 2:10, NLT)?" And our response? Once more, let's pray for God's wisdom as we begin this journey together. May the Lord encourage us as we wrestle with the difficult questions surrounding suffering and our attitude towards God. Will we trust the Lord through our suffering or point the finger of blame?

January 18, 2022

Genesis 47:28-50:26


But Joseph replied, "Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people (Genesis 50:19–20, NLT).


Jacob's death caused an understandable fear among Joseph's older brothers. They believed that the one they betrayed was merely biding his time to open a floodgate of pent-up anger and bitterness. For 17 years, they lived with a foreboding fear and dread.


Joseph's heart breaks as he becomes aware of his brothers' misguided thinking. They allowed their feelings of guilt to blind them to Joseph's sincere effort to forgive and restore. Joseph wished them no harm. God is the arbiter of justice and vengeance. For that matter, Joseph recognized that God could take the ill-intentions of others and produce something beneficial and good. Have we learned the same?


Joseph's testimony should instruct our hearts. We can allow the hurts of life to mar and embitter us, or we can open our eyes to God's transformative grace. God is able to reach down into the ugliness of life and produce that which is beautiful and noble. How did the Apostle Paul express it? "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them (Romans 8:28, NLT)." If you doubt this, think about Jesus upon the cross. Out of the horror and darkness of the cross, the hope of salvation dawns.


Let's reflect upon this as we move into today. May God enable us to look at our hurts and difficulties differently. Let us yield ourselves to His transformative work of grace so we might discover the far-reaching good that the Lord can bring about.

January 17, 2022

Genesis 45:16-47:27


Then Joseph brought in his father, Jacob, and presented him to Pharaoh. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh. "How old are you?" Pharaoh asked him. Jacob replied, "I have traveled this earth for 130 hard years. But my life has been short compared to the lives of my ancestors." Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh again before leaving his court (Genesis 47:7–10, NLT).


Jacob and the extended family have relocated to Goshen. Pharoah has provided fertile land for Jacob and his descendants to raise their families and maintain their flocks. God is meeting the needs of His people despite the drought and famine.


Joseph presents his beloved father to Pharoah, and something noteworthy occurs. The sojourner Jacob blesses the ruler of Egypt—not once, but twice. The truth is: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has already blessed Pharoah by warning him of the impending famine and then providing Joseph to supervise the nation's survival. Jacob now extends God's blessing in a personal, tangible way. He becomes an instrument of God's grace to a ruler and a people outside the covenant.


Jacob's conversation with Pharoah reveals something further. When asked his age, Jacob grants us a perspective about his life that may be instructive. Jacob indicates that he has traveled this earth for 130 "hard" years. This contrasts with his grandfather, Abraham, who died at a ripe old age (175), having lived a long and "satisfying" life (Genesis 25:7-8). What made the difference?


Though neither of the patriarchs was perfect, Jacob made his journey harder than it needed to be. His early actions contributed to the difficulty, and his description to Pharoah suggests that Jacob knew it. May we understand the same. May we appreciate the importance of our choices and the lasting effects—both good and bad. Our faith in God can protect us from so much difficulty if we trust Him enough to follow Him.


That said, Jacob's life appears to end well. God blesses Jacob with 17 prosperous years surrounded by those who loved him. Let's take heart. Even if we make life more complicated than it needs to be, God still looks to bring goodness into our lives if we seek Him. May the Lord help us to do so.

January 16, 2022

Genesis 42:1-45:15


Since Joseph was governor of all Egypt and in charge of selling grain to all the people, it was to him that his brothers came. When they arrived, they bowed before him with their faces to the ground . . . Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn't recognize him. And he remembered the dreams he'd had about them many years before (Genesis 42:6, 8–9, NLT)


It must have been surreal for Joseph. The brothers who sold him into slavery are now kneeling before him. They fail to recognize their younger brother. Why should they? They presumed Joseph had died as a result of his prolonged captivity. If not, he would be nowhere near this setting. Little did they realize that they were kneeling before the one they betrayed.


Joseph recognized them immediately, and his dream involving them also flashed to mind. They were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, his sheaf rose and stood upright. Their sheaves, in contrast, gathered around his and bowed down (Genesis 37:7). What served to antagonize his brothers over twenty years earlier would now help to preserve them.


What was the purpose of Joseph's earlier dreams? To inflate a young man's ego or prepare him for the moment at hand? The answer is clear. God was preparing Joseph for the future so that he might respond appropriately. It would have been easy for Joseph to allow a fit of past anger to consume him. Instead, the dreams helped him recognize that something greater than himself is at work.


Do we need the same perspective? We may not be the recipients of prophetic dreams. We are the beneficiaries of God's inspired Word—much of which points us to our future day. The promised picture of what will be is intended to influence our perspective in the here and now. God's future promise should affect our attitude and actions. Will we allow it to do so?


Again, it must have been surreal for Joseph as his brothers kneeled before him. Let's continue to reflect upon his example today and consider how God would encourage our hearts as we move toward our future together.

January 15,2022

Genesis 40:1-23; Genesis 35:28-29; Genesis 41:1-57


"It is beyond my power to do this," Joseph replied. "But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease (Genesis 41:16, NLT)."


Hardship and difficulty can affect one's perspective—positively or negatively. In Joseph's case, he gained a deeper understanding of his dependence upon God. One might conclude as a teenager that Joseph had an elevated view of himself. He was his father's favorite, and there were those two mysterious dreams—both of which would single Joseph out in an exalted way. However, thirteen years as a slave and then a prisoner will inevitably shape one's point of view. Instead of becoming embittered, Joseph recognizes God's ability to work despite the hardship. His faith grows, and his perception of himself becomes inseparably tied to God's work and power.


"It is beyond my power to do this." Joseph's response to Pharoah is revealing. He doesn't pretend to be something he is not, even though it might be to his advantage. He directs the ruler's attention to God and His capacity to make the necessary difference. Joseph presents himself to be a humble servant. What results from this display? God works through his servant to do what is not natural and then positions Joseph in a way that no one would have expected. Joseph goes from being an imprisoned slave to the second most powerful ruler in the land. It is quite the reversal.


That will prove to be a consistent pattern with God. He will often take the unlikely to achieve the impossible to point people ultimately to Himself. God seeks to do so through those individuals who have learned to trust and depend upon Him. Joseph embodies these qualities beautifully. What about you?


Do we allow our hardships to refine our faith or harden our hearts? Does disappointment draw us to God or push us away? Do we acknowledge God's ability to make the necessary difference in ways that point others to Him? There's much we can learn from Joseph's example. May the Lord strengthen our hearts as we renew our trust in Him.

January 14, 2022

Genesis 37:1-36; Genesis 38:1-30; 1 Chronicles 2:3-6, 8; Genesis 39:1-23


"How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God (Genesis 39:9, ESV)?"

 

We focus the next few days upon Joseph, the son of Jacob. He is hated and detested by his older brothers because of the preferential treatment he receives from their father. Of course, Joseph may have exacerbated the situation by his own youthful actions. None of that was deserving of the betrayal Joseph would experience at the hands of his own flesh and blood. He is sold off as a slave to a passing group of Ishmaelite traders.


So begins a challenging series of events in the life of Jacob's beloved son, Joseph. He will be tried and tested in ways that this young man never imagined. Even so, God would work with him, through Him, and noticeably for him. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that God is seeking to do the same with us—if we allow.


God's hand is upon Joseph. He is rising in position and influence. Yet, he also attracts the unsolicited attention of his master's wife. She seeks to seduce Joseph again and again. Each time, Joseph rebuffs her overtures. He even takes measures to avoid future interactions. He models for our benefit a helpful approach. Sometimes the best way to overcome temptation is to avoid temptation.


That said, some temptations may prove unavoidable. Even then, Joseph refuses to succumb. What drives such determination? Simply put, "Joseph refuses to dishonor the God he trusts." In his own words, "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God (Genesis 39:9, ESV)?" Joseph views his life and actions in the light of his continuing relationship with God. Do we do the same?


Joseph's confession stands out as a stark contrast to so many in the book of Genesis. He refuses to adopt the selfish, me-first approach that characterizes many (including his brothers). Instead, Joseph chooses a God-first mindset, even if it costs him. Again, do we do the same?


Let's learn from Joseph's example. Let's look at today's decisions and actions from a "God-first" perspective. May we commit ourselves anew to resist temptation and pursue that which honors the One we trust. Will that be easy? Probably not, but it will prove to be the right decision as we continue to follow God's lead and discover His unfolding plan on our behalf.

January 13, 2022

Genesis 36:1-19; 1 Chronicles 1:35-37; Genesis 36:20-30; 1 Chronicles 1:38-42; Genesis 36:31-43; 1 Chronicles 1:43-54; 1 Chronicles 2:1-2


These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom). Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite, and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, the sister of Nebaioth. And Adah bore to Esau, Eliphaz; Basemath bore Reuel; and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan (Genesis 36:1–5, ESV).


Genealogies may not be your favorite part of our chronological Bible readings. Even so, they are helpful. They remind us of the passing of time and the impact that is made upon future generations—both good and bad. It's worth noting (in the case of today's reading) that God blesses the descendants of Esau because of their distant relationship with Abraham. God's covenant with Abraham is far-reaching. Whether they fully grasped how God's covenant with Abraham impacted their lives, we can't know. The fact that they benefitted from the relationship is undeniable.


Do we recognize the impact of our lives generationally? I look back over my life and see firsthand this principle at work. The faith of my grandparents on both sides of my parents' family directly impacted my life, which has shaped my children's lives, which now influence their children's lives. God's work with one generation reaches far beyond that single generation. Granted, it doesn't assure a favorable response to God on the part of future generations. It does put into motion a lasting influence for the better.


Instead of reading the Bible's genealogical lists with indifference, let's allow them to move us to think about our lives—both backward and forward. Let's give thanks for those who may have influenced us favorably toward God. Thank God for the testimony of their faith. May we also actively pray for those who follow behind. Ask the Lord to extend a Godly influence through your words and actions. May the testimony of your life be a source of light that leads them to Jesus and the difference that He can make.


If we allow the many genealogical lists to prompt us to pray, we may view the various lists differently. Let's give it a try today!

January 12, 2022

Genesis 32-35


Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—O LORD, You told me, 'Return to your own land and to your relatives.' And You promised me, 'I will treat you kindly.' I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness You have shown to me, Your servant (Genesis 32:9-10, NLT)."

 

Jacob journeys home at God's command. He returns to the land that was promised to his father and grandfather. His homecoming, however, is accompanied more by fear than joy—the fear of his brother and the unknown. Jacob cries out in prayer, and the honesty of his words are revealing,


"I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness You have shown to me."


His confession is true. So much of Jacob's life has been characterized by qualities that one would not expect of God's servant. Deceit, self-centeredness, pride, Jacob is far from the poster child of faith and obedience, and he knows it. Even so, He humbly calls to God. Though he has faltered, Jacob recognizes that God has not. He understands that his future rests upon God's promise and testimony—not his own.


Do we understand the same? Though we may seek to honor God with our actions, we are nevertheless recipients of God's steadfast love and faithfulness. Our promise of the future is based upon God's grace through Jesus, His Son, not our good works. The Apostle Paul expresses it beautifully when he writes (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV),

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


Like Jacob, we are unworthy of God's unfailing love and faithfulness. Yet, thank the Lord, God seeks to accompany us in our journey. Let's turn to Him today. Let's renew our trust in the One who can make the necessary difference—even if we feel undeserving. God is faithful. May we face the unknown expectantly with grateful hearts.

January 11, 2022

Genesis 30:25-43; 31:1-55


Then the LORD said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you (Genesis 31:3, NLT)."

 

It's time for Jacob to return home. God's words are direct and to the point, "Return to the land of your father and grandfather." It has been twenty years since he traveled to Haran to find a wife. A great deal has happened over two decades. It is now time for Jacob, his wives, and his children to make the long journey home.


Jacob and the family depart secretly, failing to inform his father-in-law. He is fearful of his father-in-law Laban's reaction. He has amassed a significant flock and wealth due to God's activity, and he anticipates an adverse response on the part of his father-in-law. However, he fails to remember the promise that accompanied God's directive, "I will be with you."


Of course, Laban's initial reaction is not favorable, and to make matters worse, Rachel steals the household idols during their hasty exit. Even so, God is faithful to His promise. The night before Laban reaches his fleeing son-in-law, God confronts him in a dream, "I'm warning you—leave Jacob alone (Genesis 31:24, NLT)!" Laban takes the warning to heart and ultimately enters into a covenant with Jacob, establishing a boundary line and assuring the family's well-being.


And the lesson? Within today's passage, God is referred to twice by Jacob as the fearsome God of Isaac (Genesis 31: 42, 53). The Hebrew literally translates, "the fear of Isaac." The point is that Isaac displayed a proper understanding of who God is. He had come to see God as God and relate to Him appropriately. Through this experience, perhaps Jacob is beginning to learn the same.


The fear of God is not dread but a healthy understanding of God's power and authority. The truth is: Jacob should have trusted God's provision on his behalf more than fear Laban's potential reaction. Said another way, Jacob should have feared God more than man. Should we do the same? God is faithful both to lead and provide. Let's then renew our trust in Him as we follow the fearsome God Issac.

January 10, 2022

Genesis 28:6-22; Genesis 29:1-14a, 14b-30, 31–30:24


At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and he said,

 

"I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What's more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you (Genesis 28:11–15, NLT) ."


Through a dream, God dramatically reminds Jacob of His presence and His promise on his behalf. God opened Jacob's spiritual eyes to reassure his heart and influence his future actions. Perspective always influences activity. 


What then is our perspective as Jesus' followers? Do we view Him as far off and removed? Are we familiar with His promises on our behalf? Do we feel that we are on life's journey alone? I remind you of Jesus' final words to His disciples, which extend to us, "And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20, NLT)."


We are not alone as we make our way forward. God is with us, His promises are for us, and He intends to make a difference through us. Will we allow for His activity in our lives? Let's enter the day with our spiritual eyes open to the truth. Let's renew our confidence in the Lord despite the difficulties and uncertainties. Jacob erects a memorial stone to remind him of God's presence and promise. May we look for personal ways to remind us that God is also at work on our behalf. Perspective always influences activity. May our actions be influenced by our renewed perspective on God's presence and work.

January 9, 2022

Genesis 25:27-34; 26:1-35; Genesis 27:1–28:5


From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the LORD appeared to him on the night of his arrival. "I am the God of your father, Abraham," he said. "Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant." Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the LORD (Genesis 26:23–25, NLT).


A sibling rivalry, a case of parental preferences, increasing family strife, yet God remains faithful to His promise. I read of the developing dysfunction within Isaac's family, and I wonder, "How does God work through all of this?" The family is far from the people that you would expect to impact the world for the better. Yet, in the middle of all the dysfunction, God reaffirms His plans to Issac, the son of Abraham. The LORD also explains why. Look again at His pledge, "I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this BECAUSE OF MY PROMISE to Abraham, my servant."


Their future hope did not rest upon their collective piety or devotion. Instead, it was dependent upon God's fidelity to His promise. In a sense, their future hope is tied to their relationship with Abraham and the covenant God made. That doesn't mean that God is indifferent to their actions. We will observe His continued efforts, in particular toward Jacob. It does, however, underscore the far-reaching power of God's promise.


I highlight all of this to remind us that our future hope is likewise tied to God's promise. Our abiding confidence rests upon our faith relationship with Jesus and the covenant that He made on our behalf. We, too, are a people of the promise. That doesn't mean that our actions are somehow irrelevant. They certainly are not. Nevertheless, it should take our eyes off our collective efforts and place them more fully on God's promise. I leave you with Jesus' words of hope,


For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, ESV). 

January 8, 2022

Genesis 25:27-34; 26:1-35; 27:1–28:5


And he died at a ripe old age, having lived a long and satisfying life (Genesis 25:8, NLT).


The report of Abraham's death is short and to the point. He died at the ripe age of 175, which means he walked with God for 100 years. Abraham was 75 when he left the comforts of home to follow God's lead (Genesis 12:4), and for ten decades, his faith and understanding would deepen and grow.


That said, the so-called friend of God (James 2:23) would experience both victory and defeat. At times his heart would soar. There would also be episodes of great disappointment and loss. It may help to realize that this characterizes the life of faith. No child of faith is promised a life without hardship. No child of faith walks without stumbling. What then does faith supply? It enables us to experience God's help, wisdom, and provision as we actively seek to follow His lead.


Our faith journey should also lead us toward a "satisfying life." My heart is encouraged by this summary description of Abraham's experience. Even with his ups and downs, his heart and life were full. I would stress that this is not a result of his achievements or wealth. It is a testimony to Abraham's life of faith and his active journey with God. God is the One who satisfies the deep longings of the heart. God is the One who moves us toward a life worth living.


Let's not lose sight of Abraham as "our story" continues. May we learn from his example and choose to follow God's lead. Let's renew our faith in the Lord (whether we find ourselves at a high point or low point) and anticipate a satisfaction that only He can supply. Remember Jesus' words to His disciples, "If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:9-10, ESV). May, then, it is ultimately said of us, "Because they followed Jesus, they lived satisfying lives." O Lord, let it be so!

January 7, 2022

Genesis 21:8-24:67


Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means "the LORD will provide"). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided (Genesis 22:14, NLT)."


"The Lord will provide." I cannot imagine Abraham's emotions when God asks him to do the unimaginable—to sacrifice his beloved son. How could God ask him to do this? The fulfillment of God's future promises rests upon the well-being of Isaac, his son. Why must Abraham offer Isaac as a sacrifice? Maybe we struggle with God's request of Abraham as well. Is God heartless or cruel?


"The Lord will provide." We benefit from a perspective that was not afforded to Abraham. We know that a day would come when God Himself would offer His Son, His only Son, as a sacrifice for our sin. It is worth noting that God leads Abraham to a particular mountain to erect the altar (Genesis 22:2, 9). The place in question is Mount Moriah which would later be near the site for the temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicle 3:1). Is this coincidental? I think not. I personally believe the altar that Abraham erects may have been at the very place that a future altar would be erected where Jesus would be crucified and die.


"The Lord will provide." Abraham submits to God's request because he trusts in God's provision. Whether God would raise his son from the dead (Hebrews 11:19) or provide some other way, Abraham chooses to place his trust in the Lord. God demonstrates that Abraham's faith is not misguided.


"The Lord will provide." What about us? Is this our perspective toward the Lord? I have already noted the future element of Abraham's actions. Ultimately, it is God Himself who sacrifices His Son, His only Son, on our behalf. There would be no last-minute substitution because Jesus would become our substitute for us. May we never lose sight of the significance of Jesus' actions on our behalf. May we marvel at God's love for us and confess, "The Lord HAS provided." Indeed, He has. May our hearts and our faith be strengthened as we enter the day.

January 6, 2022

Genesis 18-21:7


We are introduced today to another example of God's judgment against sin. It's worth noting that the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was great. Their sinful behavior rose to a level that demanded a response from God. What do you think the outcry against our nation might be? More than 61 million babies have been aborted since 1973. Add to that the widespread rejection of God's wisdom concerning human sexuality and sexual behavior. And still further, many who influence our culture's values (or lack thereof) reject the idea of objective truth and disparage the notion of God Himself. Again, I ask, is there an outcry against us?


My intention is not to depress but to provoke us to think, even more, to move us to intercede. I'm encouraged by Abraham's example. His plea on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah should also guide our actions. Abraham likely believed that he had succeeded in averting God's judgment. He presumed that his nephew's presence would have positively influenced at least ten people, right? Wrong! Lot failed to sway his future sons-in-law to flee an imminent judgment, much less move people in God's direction. Abraham must have been stunned to see the rising plumes of smoke rising from the once fruitful plains.


That said, let's not allow Lot's ineffectiveness to discourage our course of action. First, let's commit ourselves to intensify our effort to influence those we love. Ask God to work through both your words and actions. Pray for God to open the eyes and hearts of those we seek to influence for the better. A future judgment is coming, and we are God's "angels" to lead them to safety through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The primary meaning of the biblical term "angel" is that of "messenger." This is the role that each of us should play—must play.


Second, may we also commit ourselves to becoming active intercessors like Abraham. Let's pray on behalf of our nation. Pray for mercy. Pray for the Church to be an effective source of spiritual light and truth. Pray specifically for our city. Join us tomorrow as we pray for 24 consecutive hours for our city and surrounding communities. Download the prayer guide (northfortworth.com/pray247) and join us as we intercede. Come on! Let's take today's biblical account to heart and renew our efforts to influence and pray. Will you join us?

January 5, 2022

Genesis 15-17


We continue our focus on the faith experience of Abram. When he and his wife (Sarai) are beyond the age of conceiving children, God promises descendants that can be likened to the starry heavens in number. How is that possible? Could you accept such a promise is true? Let's be honest. God has made promises to us through Jesus, His Son, that may seem beyond the scope of possibility—the forgiveness of ALL our sins, the opportunity to approach God as Father, even the promise of life after death. Can you accept these promises are true? To Abram's credit, he chose to believe the Lord (15:6).


Abram's faith, however, was a work in progress. Believing God's promise, Abram tries to help God out. Maybe he adopted the approach, "God helps those who help themselves." This approach (by the way) is NOT what God had in mind for Abram and NOT what he has for you. Abram's attempt to fulfill the promise of God outside the will of God produces complications that stretch far beyond his lifetime. To believe in God's promise requires one to trust God's timing and plan. Abram slowly learns this crucial lesson as unlikely or as laughable as some of God's promises may be. We should learn the same. We should choose to take God at His Word. I smile at God's humor as He instructs Abram to name the future child Isaac, which means laughter. Abram would eventually see things as God sees them. Do we?


It's worth noting that Abram and Sarai both experience a name change in the process (Abraham and Sarah). Perhaps the name change would serve as a reminder to take God at His promises. Every time they would hear their new names, they could say to themselves, "Trust the Lord, trust the Lord, trust the Lord." How about us? I'm not suggesting that we change our names, but do we have reminders that cultivate and strengthen our faith? Think about it. The main thing is to keep moving toward the Lord's way of seeing things. Let's then renew our commitment for the day ahead and choose to trust the Lord.

January 4, 2022

Genesis 11:1-26; 1 Chronicles 1:24-27; Genesis 11:27-31; 12:1-20; 13:1-18; 14:1-24


Are you surprised that the fresh start with Noah and his descendants failed to alter the sinful trajectory of humanity? Pride and the selfishness that ensues continue to raise their ugly head. Personally, it's disappointing to see. I suppose then that we should not be too shocked by similar manifestations today. The inherent problem of sin persists.


Thankfully, a glimmer of hope remains. God initiates a relationship with an aging man by the name of Abram. Interestingly, God calls for Abram to follow Him at 75. He asks him to leave all he knew and follow Him to a place that God would not define in advance. Would you have followed God's lead? There is something commendable about Abram's response.


Of course, Abram was not without his share of weaknesses and fears. His faith journey would be a growing experience with both successes and failures. We should take heart in knowing that the so-called Father of faith was a flawed individual as we are. However, what distinguishes Abram is his deepening trust in the Lord that would lead him consistently forward.


Yes, today's reading provides yet another contrast between a morally confused world and a person willing to follow God's lead. I pray we might be encouraged by Abram's example and choose to be distinguished from the world that surrounds us. May it be so!

January 3, 2022

Genesis 7:1-24 Genesis 8:1-22 Genesis 9:1-17, 18–10:1 Genesis 10:2-5 1 Chronicles 1:5-7 Genesis 10:6-20 1 Chronicles 1:8-16 Genesis 10:21-30 1 Chronicles 1:17-23 Genesis 10:31-32


Today’s reading sobers me. We must be careful not to allow the account of Noah and the ark to become a children’s story. It’s easy to focus on the novelty of a floating zoo and lose sight of what is happening outside the safety of the ark—God is judging sinful humanity. We live in a day when many pretend that there are no consequences to our actions. We can do as we wish, and it does not matter. Today’s passage should warn us that this is not true. The judgment for sin is real. Jesus points to the flood as a warning of what is coming.


I don’t highlight this to depress us but direct us to Jesus. Jesus bore sin’s condemnation upon the cross so we might escape the judgment we deserve. In a sense, He is the spiritual ark that delivers us from the horror and suffering that will characterize God’s future judgment for sin. Jesus offers a sinner like me hope for the future, and you?


Let’s not focus on the pairs of animals that enter the ark. Let’s reflect upon the families of people who realize too late that there is no escape to the rising waters. May such a consideration cause us to renew our focus upon Jesus as our Savior and call for others to do the same. In closing, consider Jesus’ words,


As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming (Matthew 24:37–42, ESV).

January 2, 2022

Genesis 4:1-26; 5:1-32; 1 Chronicles 1:1-4; Genesis 6:1-22.


What do we learn about humanity in today’s readings? It’s a further revelation of both good and bad. The bad is particularly disturbing—a brother takes the life of his own flesh and blood. Then, later, practically all of humanity reflected the same disregard for life and all things sacred. I wonder how our generation compares with the wickedness and evil that characterized Noah’s day?


Amid all the immorality and moral darkness, two flickers of light appear. The first is Enoch, who walked closely with God for 300 years. Can we imagine what it was like for this descendant of Adam? He pleased the Lord so thoroughly that Enoch did not experience death. At the age of 365, God simply receives him unto himself. His example should remind us that our walk with God is possible even amid the most challenging days. How does anyone walk with God for 300 years? The answer is right in front of us—one day at a time. Like Enoch, we choose to respond to God in faith and allow Him to influence our lives for the better.


The second notable light from today’s reading is Enoch’s great-grandson, Noah. He, too, displays faith and righteousness in a way that moves God to act on his behalf. Noah refuses to give in to the evil influences that surround him. He chooses (like his great-grandfather before him) to walk with God, which produces an outpouring of God’s grace. We will read more about Noah’s journey tomorrow, but for now, let’s be encouraged by Noah and Enoch’s examples and consider the implication for our lives.


Will our lives be distinguished from the moral decline around us? Will it be said of us today, “These individuals chose to walk with God”? I pray the answer is “yes” and may one day lead to the next and the next so that testimony of the coming weeks and months will be as consistent as that of Enoch’s. May it be so!

January 1, 2022

Genesis 1-3


Today we begin a new series of readings that will take us through the Bible chronologically. It will take approximately 15 minutes each day. Our prayer is for God to open our spiritual eyes to humanity's story and God's gracious work of salvation on our part. Join us today as we begin the journey. Our reading today is Genesis 1-3. What will we learn about God and ourselves?


God created a beautiful and complex world that was visibly good by the power and authority of His spoken word. It was as He intended. He spoke, and then it happened. Humanity, however, was a more personal endeavor. God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed life within his nostrils. He desired mankind to reflect something more than His creative genius. God created humanity, male and female, to reflect His very image. He designed Adam and Eve with the capacity to think, to reason, to feel, and to love. He fashioned humanity so that goodness would be more than a descriptive word but the very character of their lives.


What went wrong? We went wrong. Created to reflect God’s image, Adam and Eve refused to trust the One who fashioned them. They chose to question the Creator’s wisdom and turned away. Their doubt led to their disobedience, and their descendants have been dealing with the consequences ever since. I don’t point the finger of blame in their direction because I see the same doubt and distrust within me. Their story is my story, our story.


Thankfully, God has not abandoned humanity to our sin. He seeks us when we are hiding. He provides what we do not deserve. And God ultimately supplies what is desperately needed to restore what our rebellion has marred. Of course, that’s getting ahead of the story. May God help us in our daily readings to better understand who God is, who we are, and His unfolding work of salvation on our behalf. Thankfully, there is hope for the sinful and I pray we learn to experience His hope more fully in 2022. Join us on this journey. Let’s discover the hope that Jesus makes possible.