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"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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GENESIS --- The Book of Beginnings
Who Created God?
In the beginning God . . . (Genesis 1:1)

God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Therefore, He Himself was not created by anyone. No one is above God. The greatest revelation of God comes through the Bible. The Bible affirms the existence of God by declaring through four words, "In the beginning God. . ." (Genesis 1:1)

God is Spirit (John 4:24). God has no body, no physical or measurable form. That's why He sent Jesus into the world in a human body to relate to humans. God is described in terms of His attributes... love, holy, sovereign, powerful, merciful, all knowing, etc.

Who created God? We can take God's own words as the answer. At the burning bush in Exodus 3:14, God told Moses, "I Am." That simply means "I am who I am," "I will be who I will be," and "I was who I was." Now who could have created a God like that?

Only God Can Create
In the beginning God CREATED the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

The Hebrew word "bara" means "to create." The word "bara" can have only God as its subject. It was offensive to the Hebrews to hear people say they created something; for only God can "bara." The verb "bara" expresses creation out of nothing. You could never create anything because you will always have to use an already created material. For example, you can never create a cake because you have to use other created ingredients. You can't create a product, a house, a car, a special assignment or a project because the materials you must use have already been created. What then do humans do? Only God can create, but humans can design, form, make, prepare, construct, develop, establish or build. These verbs allow the use of created materials.
Even though the creation of many things took place in Genesis, Isaiah frequently uses the word "bara." Out of 49 occurrences of the verb in the Old Testament, 20 are in Isaiah 40-65. Because Isaiah writes prophetically to the Jews in exile, he speaks words of comfort based upon God's past creations. "Behold, I will CREATE new heavens and a new earth...But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will CREATE; for I will CREATE Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy" (Isaiah 65:17-19).
Let's remember only God can CREATE!

Three Heavens   
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

God's word reveals there is more than one heaven. The "s" on the end of the word "heaven" makes it plural with at least two heavens. Actually, there are three heavens. How do we account for three heavens?

The first heaven is the one we can see. It is the atmosphere that contains the air we breathe. It is where the clouds are and where airplanes and birds fly.  Jeremiah 4:25 describes this heaven: "I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled."  Revelation 19:17 substantiates this by stating, "I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come."

The second heaven is where the stars and planets are, the part of the universe we call space.  Genesis 22:17 says, "In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore." This is where Satan and his demons work. God told Daniel He answered his prayer in the third heaven the first day, but it was delayed by conflict in the second heaven for 21 days. (Daniel 10:12-14) Satan holds up our prayers in the second heaven; He is between us and God.

The third heaven is the abode of God.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:2, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up to the third heaven."

The three heavens are:
  • the atmospheric heaven
  • the starry heaven
  • God's abode
We live on earth, but according to Paul in Philippians 3:20, "We are citizens of heaven.  But which one?  The third heaven, of course. Even though we have to live out our lives here on earth, we will make our eternal abode with God in the third heaven that will roll down and replace this earth.

One Creation; Two Creation Accounts
"And God said . . ." (Genesis 1:1-2:4a, First Creation Account)
"And the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground..." (Genesis 2:4b-2:25, Second Creation Account)

There is only one creation because something can be created only once. However, there are two creation accounts recorded in the Bible. Many people make the mistake of mixing and matching them without realizing there are two separate distinct accounts that come from two different sources. Even the name of the Creator is different in each one: God in the first account and LORD God in the second account.

In the first creation account, the Creator took six days to create order out of chaos. What He created can be itemized with each day representing a higher level in the order of creation with humankind at the top of the hierarchy. There is no list in the second account. Everything can be summarized as been created on the same day.

In the first creation account, God speaks everything into existence from afar with no assistance. However, in the second creation account, God gets up close and personal and "forms" the man out of dust. Then He uses the man to help with creation as He takes a rib from the man and creates woman (Genesis 2:21-22).

Man is not instructed to do the same thing in both accounts. In the first creation account, the man is told to have dominion over the earth. In the second account, man is told to till the ground.

Up until now, you probably have made the mistake of combining the two accounts. From this day forward, be mindful that there is ONE CREATION, but TWO CREATION ACCOUNTS.

To help you further: http://www.the-way-of-life.org/two_creation_accounts.htm

Apples and Oaks
The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it, according to their kinds. (Genesis 1:12)

It has been said that man can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed. God created everything during those six days outlined in Genesis 1. And when He was finished, He was finished. In God's awesome planning, the seeds are in the apple; however, the apples are also in the seeds.

In the same manner, there is a tall strong oak tree in every acorn. An acorn doesn't decide on the spur of the moment to become an oak tree. An acorn has the oak already inside of it. The speed of its growth and development depends solely on how it is nurtured.

When God created us, everything we would ever become was already on the inside of us. We were born with the right mechanism to fulfill our destiny.  However, we have allowed our culture to define us; to tell us who we are and who we are not. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists are homeless because they don't know they are doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists. Dancers, actors, basketball players, teachers, writers, etc., are poverty stricken because they do not acknowledge that is who they are on the inside.

Why isn't everybody doing the work they were "cut out" to do? Rather than abiding by what's on the inside of us, we default to our outside influences. Many people are in the wrong profession because they do not give in to their inner feelings. Their jobs neither match their passion nor their purpose, and most people leave this life never bearing fruit from the seed inside of them. Instead of allowing the oak to grow from the acorn, they settle for being just a pine or sycamore, or spruce or even worse... a shrub.

Does the work you do match the seed on the inside of you? Remember, oak trees don't grow in cubicles. Live up to your potential by acknowledging the "seed" on the inside of you. Nourish it, nurture it, fertilize it, give it plenty of water and SON and watch it grow to the height for which it was intended.

Order and Balance
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:3) And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years. (Genesis 1:14)

One of God's first principles is order and balance. God was orderly in His creation of the world. He took extreme care in creating things and then balancing them. For example, when God created the heavens, He also created the earth. When He created the day, he also created the night. When He created the moon and stars, He also created the sun. When He created man, He also created woman.

On Day 1 God created light and called it day. He balanced the light with darkness and called it night. On Day 2 God created space to separate the waters and the area above He called sky and the water in the area below he called seas. On Day 3 God created the vegetation. Now notice the balance. God balanced Day 1 with Day 4 by creating the light for the day called sun and light for the night called moon and stars. God balanced the sky and waters He created on Day 2 by creating birds for the sky, and fish for the seas on Day 5. God balanced the vegetation He created on Day 3 with man to tend it on Day 6. (To see the orderly pattern, make a chart with Day 1, 2, and 3 on one side and Day 4, 5, and 6 on the other side). 

In reference to God's order and balance, notice that the first three days of creation are balanced with what God created on the last three days. And of course, He rested on the seventh.

We were made in God's own image. We, too, need to make sure we have order and balance in our own lives including rest.

In The Beginning
(Genesis 1:1, John 1:1)
Everything has a beginning except God. God is eternal. Today is the beginning of a work week or a new project for some. Yet there are others who say it is too late to start something new whether it is a new career, a new project, or a new business.
It is never too late to begin. So, take a deep breath and begin something today — a new relationship, a new idea, or an entirely new way of living.

In The Beginning . . .
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Beginnings are extremely important. If you are going to do anything, you first have to begin it. The Bible starts with God. "In the beginning God . . ." A simple, yet profound beginning! What a good example for us to follow. We can begin every new project, every job, every assignment with God, committing the whole of it to Him.
You should establish the habit of beginning everything you do with God. You can begin each day asking for His guidance. You can start your work and your play with God. Let God have preeminence in all your beginnings. Let Him set the tone of your day and enable you to have a continuous sense of His presence and power.

Only God
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1). And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14a).

There are experts in every field imaginable. Some people are like geniuses who can solve mathematical problems and create formulas for scientific experiments. Some people can handle judicial cases with ease. Some people can negotiate and close business deals as if they were born to do just that. Some people are great orators and can convince people through flowery words. Brilliant doctors can provide remedies to ease people's physical pain.
Despite the fact that people can do a multitude of things, there are things that ONLY GOD can do. ONLY GOD could create a world. ONLY GOD could create one man (Adam) from which everyone else came. ONLY GOD could make over 6 billion people and no two are alike not even so-called identical twins. ONLY GOD could put a heart in each of us that is connected to every other heart in the universe. ONLY GOD could blow HIS breath into our body and give us life. Neither man nor woman could ever do that.
Many things men and women can do and will do, but ONLY GOD could make a world and keep it going. ONLY GOD could have wrapped HIMSELF in flesh and come to dwell among us to be our example. ONLY GOD could provide a Savior for us. ONLY GOD in the person of Jesus could have died on the cross to save the entire world.
When you think you can do all . . . remember there are some things you just cannot do. ONLY GOD can do all things. And He does all things well.

In The Beginning

In the beginning God . . .  Genesis 1:1

Beginnings are important! If you are going to begin something, where would you start? The Bible starts with God! "In the beginning God . . . " A simple, yet profound beginning! What a good example for us to follow! We can begin 1999 with God, committing the whole year to Him. We should establish the habit of beginning everything we do with God. We can begin each day asking for His guidance. We can start our work, our play, new projects, and public meetings with God. In fact, EVERYTHING we do should start with God.
Thank God for a blessed new year. Pray for a year of spiritual growth for you and those you love. This year begin all you do with God.

What is Worthy of Saying So Many Times?

"It is written . . ." (Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21)
What shall we say over and over again for so many times? If there is one theme, one message or one principle that is worth repeating, it is this: God is a God of order. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, God's order is evident. God created the world in an orderly fashion. Each day for six days, He was careful to design the world in a way that it would contain everything. He didn't have to recall anything or go back and make seconds. He made the world so that humans could co-exist and enjoy one another as well as being provided for. He thought much about how the world would be run. God planned the world so that even though we have free will, we still have to depend on Him. He did not wind us up like clocks and leave us alone to live on our own. He is always with us.

Secondly, I believe in life applications. Every word in the Bible calls us to make choices about our life situations. The Bible provokes us to make life changing decisions. Every scripture, passage or story beckons us to apply it our own lives in some way. When we fail to do that, we have read or studied the Bible in vain.
What shall I say for the 800th time? GOD is sovereign and orderly. JESUS CHRIST is our example to follow for life applications as we are being guided by the power of the HOLY SPIRIT.

The Greatest Is Love
Genesis 1:1 - Revelation 22:21
The Bible is God's love story. He wrote it to us to let us know what was on His mind and in His heart. We learn more about the One who loves us by finding out more about Him. Just like in our natural lives, when we are in love with someone, we want to know all about the person. We want to get as close to that person as possible. It is the same with loving God our Creator. To love God more, get to know more about God. How do we do that? The answer is simple. Read His love letter to you.
Turn ON the Light
Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good." (Genesis 1:3-4)

Teddy Pendergrass sang the song, "Turn OFF the Light." Other romantic songs suggest the same concept to either turn off the light or turn the light down low. While the world suggests darkness, Jesus commanded us to walk in the light. In fact, Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12).
Light illuminates. It is the opposite of darkness, and it exposes what people sometimes choose to hide. The Bible speaks of light as the symbol of God's presence and righteousness. Light is also associated with truth and the redemptive activity of God since the creation of the world. Even before humans were created, light was spoken into existence. The light guides us as it guided the Israelites through the wilderness by the pillar of fire. Darkness symbolizes error, evil, and the works of Satan (Genesis 1:4).
We should NOT live in a world of darkness but one that is lighted by God's love and Jesus' example. Paul told us in Roman 13:12 to "put on the armor of light." Jesus plainly stated in John 3:19-20 that those who rejected the light would bring judgment upon themselves. According to Ephesians 5:8, faithful Christians are "children of light."
MULTIPLE CHOICE: Christians are to (a) Turn OFF the light or (b) Turn ON the light.

The Third Day
And God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it according to their various kinds." And it was so. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning --- the third day. (Genesis 1:11)

The next time you eat an apple, take one of the seeds in your hand and examine it. With the naked eye, you will see only that seed. However, within that seed are millions of apples like the one you have taken the seed from. Within that one seed are thousands of apple trees. Within that one seed are hundreds of apple orchards. Within that one seed are thousands of apple products such as apple juice, apple butter, apple sauce and yes, even apple pies. When you throw away that one seed, you are throwing away all of the above.

When God created us, He created within us all sorts of potential and possibilities. What we have inside of us could change the world. We throw away those small things with the greatest potential because we see them as having no worth, no value and no importance. Let's not discount small things. Some of our smallest ideas might be the key to our greatest successes.

Now back to the apple seed. The one you just examined. The one with all the possibilities. The seed from the tree that God called forth on the third day of creation. The seed that is a foreshadowing of another seed that saved us from our sins because God raised Him from the dead on the third day. Yes, Jesus Christ is the seed of our success. Jesus Christ is our possibility within us. Yes, Jesus Christ is the source of all our potential.

The next time you eat an apple, remember you can count the seeds in the apple, but ONLY God can count the apples in the seed. You might think you know what you can do based on what you can see, but ONLY God knows for sure!

In The Image of God
And God said, "Let us make humankind in our own image, according to our likeness." Genesis 1:26a NRSV
Have you ever noticed that a baby takes on the mood of its mother? If the mother is happy, so is the baby. A young baby does not know the world outside of its mother or primary caregiver. When a baby looks into the eyes of its mother, the baby sees its own reflection in the mother's eyes. Therefore, the baby takes on the attitude and mood of the mother. We were made in the image of God, our Creator. Whenever we see our own reflection in a mirror, we should rejoice because that's God! We should therefore take on the mood and attitude of God just as Jesus did!

"Imago Dei"
Then God said, "Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness." Genesis 1:26.
Of all my ordination questions, the one that still stands fresh in my mind is, "Do you truly believe in "imago dei"?" Now several years later whenever my life seems devalued, I think about my answer.

Obviously God did not create me exactly like Himself because God does not have a physical body. Instead, I am a reflection of God. I can never be like God because He is my Supreme Creator, but His character is reflected in everything I do. Since I have been made in the image of God I am rational; that is, I can think, reason and remember. I am unlike any other animal; I have a soul and a spirit. I am a moral creature; I can determine right from wrong. I am a social being because my true identity is not found in isolation but comes out beautifully when I am in community with others. I am substantial because I am identifiable. I am functional because in whatever I do, I release my "Godness." I have a cosmic office because I live in the world and have been called to be a steward and a co-worker of creation. I am reformed because sin caused my righteousness to be lost, but I have been restored back to God. I believe in God's transcendence and in God's immanence; that is, I believe God is beyond me, yet immersed within me and all around me.
Do I believe in "imago dei"? Do I believe I was made in the image of God? Without a doubt! And so were YOU!

Jesus in Entire Bible
Unlike what most people believe, Jesus is seen throughout the entire Bible; not just in the Gospels. From Genesis to Revelation we witness the promises, the prophecies, and the fulfillment of the Messiah. As early as Genesis 1:26, we see a reference to the triune God when God said "Let US make man in Our image." That included Jesus. Then in Genesis 3:15 we have the Mother's Promise when God said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." This is the first prophecy of the Messiah with Satan as His enemy.
Jesus' birthplace of Bethlehem was prophesied in Micah 5:2. The time of His birth was prophesied in Daniel 9:25. Isaiah 7:14 lets us know He would be born of a virgin. References to His birth, death, resurrection and ascension can be depicted throughout the pages of the entire Bible. What was prophesied in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament. But to know only the Jesus of the New Testament is to limit your knowledge of God's complete plan for humanity. The birth of Jesus is the mid-point of human history. The culminating event of human history will be His Second Coming. As we prepare to celebrate His First Advent, let us also prepare our hearts and anticipate with great joy His Second Coming.
"Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20b).

Lessons From the Animals
And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:20-21)

Did you see "Finding Nemo"? The animated movie contains many principles that we, as humans, can embrace. The storyline deals with Nemo disobeying his father on the first day of school. The clownfish goes where he shouldn't and is captured by a scuba diver. He ends up in a dentist's fish tank. His tankmates help him escape and get back into the ocean where he encounters great danger. He eventually gets home, but he, along with all the other fish, get caught in a fisherman's net. It is impossible for Nemo to get out on his own. But all the fish ban together and swim in the same direction with the same determination and strong will. Yes, you guessed it. There is strength in numbers, and the force of all the fish breaks the net. Nemo is set free, joins his father and they live happily everafter.

Did you see "Dr. DoLittle" where Eddie Murphy talks to the animals? At the end of Dr. DoLittle 2, the animals' habitat is scheduled to be destroyed, and all the animals are going to be displaced. The animals team up and go on strike. Cows refuse to produce milk, chickens refuse to lay eggs, horses refuse to race, oxen refuse to plow, and dogs refuse to fetch newspapers. Needless to say, all the animals ban together to save their forest. Together they live in peace and harmony.

In the recent tsunami disaster, very few animals were killed. Scientists believe they had a sixth sense to know danger was approaching. When the fish in the sea became restless, they triggered the reaction of the birds. The other animals responded in a like manner. It is reported that the elephants started a panic and broke free from their chains (something they had never done before). Just five minutes after they left for higher ground, the very spot where they had been standing was destroyed. 

In these three situations, the animals were spared because they didn't complain about the leaders. They were not competitive. They didn't waste time trying to decide whose turn it was to go first, or which was the best route to take.  They sensed a problem that demanded immediate action. They banned together for the benefit of all. They took cues from the others' behavior. They were all on one accord. And because of this, they were spared!


Transfer of Ownership
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26)

According to the above scripture, God gave Adam dominion over the entire earth; things of the sea and of the air and everything else in between. What happened? Why can't we go to a pond and just command fish to jump into the boat instead of having to spend many hours trying to trick the fish to bite a worm which we also have dominion over? Why is it that we have to hunt animals for food instead of commanding them to come forth? Why is it that we run from bears and tigers and lions and snakes and rats, and alligators? Is that dominion over them? Certainly not! What happened from the time God gave Adam dominion over the earth and the present time when we run from creeping things?
There was a "transfer of ownership." Because of Adam's sin which resulted in the Fall, Adam lost his dominion. Adam lost his authority. Adam was not a good steward over God's gift to him. In other words, Adam gambled and lost his dominion, his authority and all his possessions. Because God had given everything to Adam, God could not legally step in and repossess it for him. This would have violated God's own principles of government.
Adam became a slave of Satan with no legal rights. This gave Satan legal authority to rule over the earth. God didn't do it Himself, but He provided a way through His Son Jesus Christ. "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4). Jesus, the second Adam, took back what the first Adam tragically lost. However, the consequences remain. Yet, Satan no longer has dominion over the earth. He is deceiving some people to make them think so. Because of Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection, Satan no longer has ownership. There has been another "transfer of ownership" and Satan has NO rights or claims upon anyone or anything.

God in You
And God said, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26)

God is an awesome Creator. No one else could ever do what God has done.  When God created the plants of the ground, He spoke to the ground and plants became part of the ground. In essence, while the plants are in the ground, the ground is also in the plants. 

When God created the birds of the air, He spoke to the air, and the birds became part of the air. In essence, while the birds are in the air, the air is also in the birds.

When God created the fish, He spoke to the waters. The fish are in the water, and water is in the fish. In essence, while the fish are in the waters, the water is also in the fish.

When God created you and me, He spoke to Himself. He asked Himself and His heavenly host, what characteristics should He give us. They concluded, "Let us make man in our own image." Therefore, while God is in us, we are also in God. Hallelujah!

When you look in the mirror, marvel at the image you see. Yes, you see YOU, but know that it is also the image of GOD!

Vetted For Victory
And God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)

Vetting is a process of examination and evaluation. Vetting often refers to performing a background check on someone before offering them employment. To vet was originally a horse-racing term, referring to the requirement that a horse be checked for health and soundness by a veterinarian before being allowed to race. Thus, it has taken the general meaning "to check."

We have been hearing the word vet in the political news recently because of the upcoming 2008 Presidential Election. Prospective Vice-Presidential candidates, known colloquially as veeps, must undergo a thorough evaluation by a team of advisers.  The team examines such items as finances, health, criminal and civic records, personal conduct, moral behavior, media coverage and everything else they can think of to see if the candidate checks out clean enough to take our country's number two political position.

It is amazing, however, that when man vets man, he often overlooks something or something slips by his careful eyes. When God created us, He vetted us for victory. He made us with all the credentials that we need to be one of His. He poured Himself into us when He made us in His own image. Therefore, we have all we need to be victorious.

Knowing that you have already been vetted for victory, you can walk a little taller today. You can talk a little stronger today. Others will know you have made your calling and election sure (1 Peter 1:10) not because you passed man's checkpoint but because God Himself vetted you for victory.

Looking in the Wrong Mirror
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26)

Usually when you see your reflection in a shiny car or in some mirrors, the reflection doesn't look much like you.  Some mirrors make you look taller, shorter, fatter, or thinner than you really are.

The women's bathroom at my church has recently been remodeled. The new mirrors make the women look really good; sometimes much better than we actual look. No mirror gives a true reflection. Therefore, we can never see ourselves the way we really are. When we face a mirror, we see ourselves doing things with a left hand even though we are right handed.  The only time we can see a true reflection is when we see ourselves through God's eyes.

If you are convinced you are unloved, you might be looking in the wrong mirror. If you feel that you are a nobody or a nothing, you might be looking in the wrong mirror. If you feel that you look worst than anybody else, you are looking in the wrong mirror. If you ever feel that you are not appealing in the sight of God, then you are looking in the wrong mirror.

You are the apple of God's eye (Psalm 17:8) and when He sees you, He sees an image of Himself. (Genesis 1:26) And He approves of the likeness He sees!

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. (Genesis 1:27)

Look in the mirror. What do you see? What are you supposed to see? According to the scriptures, you are supposed to see the image of God. Why is it that you don't see the image of God?

Even though you were made in the image of God, you must do the things of God in order to look like your Father. You must pick up your Father's ways and His habits. Sure, you were born with His DNA (divine newness always) in you, but it must be activated.

Since God is spirit (John 4:24) how can you look like Him? Jesus said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9) As you grow and mature spiritually, you are transformed into the likeness of God. As you get to know Jesus, you begin to look like Him. As you imitate Jesus, you become like Him.

Now take another look in the mirror. What do you see?

How Much Are You Worth?
God created us in His own image. (Genesis 1:27)
How much are you worth? Don't consider your bank account, certificates of deposits, real estate, car, furniture, furs, jewelry, boats, etc.? Now answer the question: "How much are you worth?" Your worth depends not on what you have, but on who you are.
Often a list comes out in the newspaper saying who is worth the most depending on the amount of money that person had made. Have our names ever appeared? I don't think so. Yet we are highly valuable! Our value is not based on what we own, but it is measured by who God says we are. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and He loved us so much He sent His only begotten Son that we may have eternal life (John 3:16). That proves we are worth far more than any dollar amount. An accounting firm cannot determine our worth because our value is not in what we own but to whom we belong.

We Can NEVER Be Perfect!
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him...Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:27, 31)

After God had created the heavens and the earth on the first five days, he said, "That's good." However, after God had created man on the sixth day He said, "That's very good." Since God created man on the sixth day, the number for man is six. That means man can NEVER measure up to a seven which is the number of perfection and completion. God did it that way so we will ALWAYS have to depend on Him to be complete. If we were a seven, we wouldn't need God at all. Isn't God an awesome God for doing it that way?

Let's stop trying to be what we can never be. We can never be a seven. Let's always strive for that which God has made possible for us to be. Only God is perfect. No one is capable of perfection, although we can always be one step away, but we MUST depend on God to complete us!

Spinach and Peanut Butter
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

I tested this message by asking a friend, "What do spinach and peanut butter have in common? She gave me the binding and loosing concept. She said while peanut butter might bind, spinach will loose. However, that was not what I had in mind.

Last September there was a national recall because of a concern about the E. coli bacteria being in packaged spinach. The E. coli bacteria is reported to have killed three people and sickened nearly 200. Many consumers who stopped eating spinach then have not resumed eating it because of the lack of confidence in the safety of that green leafy vegetable.A few weeks ago, Peter Pan peanut butter was recalled because it was linked to about 300 cases of salmonella across the United States. Officials believe this is the first salmonella outbreak ever to involve peanut butter in the U.S.  My grandchildren, especially two-year old Makai, eats peanut butter everyday. After hearing about the recall, I went to scout out their pantry. When I arrived, I saw four jars of Peter Pan peanut butter on the counter; two unopened jars had the identical number that was being recalled. Praise God for the delay in using those recalled jars of peanut butter.

What is the theological application concerning the recall of spinach last September and the recall of Peter Pan peanut butter just this month? What is the lesson for us? The deeper lesson involves more than not eating packaged spinach or Peter Pan peanut butter.What is done by man might be recalled because of flaws, impurities or imperfections. God does not recall us because when He created us in His own image, He saw everything He had made, and it was very good. Therefore, there is no need for God to recall that which He has made.We can live our lives being confident that God is not ever going to recall us because of some flaw, impurity, imperfection or malfunction. He put His stamp of approval on us when He created us.

Pushing the Envelope
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made (Genesis 2:2). And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.(Matthew 14:23).

"Pushing the envelope" is a military phrase used when a particular aircraft or system has gone beyond the boundaries of which it can operate safely and efficiently. We say we are "pushing the envelope" when we have gone beyond the normal limitations of doing something. Top executives, government officials and church leaders "push the envelope" too often. From time to time the average person works to the breaking point while "pushing the envelope." Is that what the Bible teaches? Is that what God really wants us to do? Did Jesus "push the envelope?"
The Bible clearly teaches that God's Creation took six (6) days, and then God rested on the seventh day. Jesus had a trifold ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing; yet he took time out to be alone to worship His Father. If God did it, and Jesus did it, shouldn't we take time out for rest as well? In the long run, those who "push the envelope" become ineffective for God, for others and for themselves.
Take time out today to REST and stop "PUSHING THE ENVELOPE."

Limitations on Freewill
And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

God gave us the freedom to make voluntary choices without His divine intervention. That is known as "freewill." We do have the discretion to choose. Even though we have freewill, there are limitations. In the above scripture, Adam was free to eat from any tree in the garden; however, one tree was off limits. Adam could exercise freewill only up to a point. His freewill did not include disobeying God.

We use the term "freewill" too loosely by assuming that because we are able to do something, we have God's permission to do so. While freewill does involve choices, the choices we make should honor God and bring peace to His kingdom here on earth. Freewill should be evaluated if it is used for selfish reasons. Freewill should be evaluated if it does not involve love for others.

While God didn't make robots, He wants us to be obedient. Use your freewill to make choices. But never use your freewill to go against God's word or to neglect God's word.

*free will (adjective; as a free will offering); freewill (noun; as a choice).

God's Suitable Selection
The Lord God saw that it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. (Genesis 2:18)

A story is told about a boy who did not talk until he was six years old. While at the breakfast table, he yelled out, "This milk is sour." Everyone was so elated that he talked that they did not care what he said. When asked why he hadn't spoken before, he explained, "Up until now, everything was good."

As God completed each step of creation, He saw that everything was good. On the sixth day when He created man He saw that it was very good. God validated His own work from good to very good. After seeing Adam naming the pairs of animals and taking care of the garden alone, for the first time God declared something was not good. According to Genesis 2:18, "The Lord God saw that it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

Many people read the first part of that verse and never see the second part where God says He will make a helper suitable for the man. Many marriages fail and some never get off the ground because they are not marriages made in heaven. Many men settle for helpers whom God never made suitable for them.

It is true that the first time God saw something wasn't good, HE immediately did something about it. HE said HE would be the one to MAKE a helper suitable for the man. So men, if you are waiting for that virtuous woman, God is in the process of making her for you. Women, if your are trying to find a man on your own, you are out of order! Continue to let God make you over and pair you up with His suitable selection.

In Community With Others
"It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18)

Humans were not created to be alone. We cannot survive alone, at least not for very long. Our growth as persons largely depends on the strength of the relationships which connects us with people around us. Personhood comes fully into being only when we are in community with others. "I, on my own, am an individual. I, with others, am a person." We need fellowship for growth to fulfill our potential within. The Bible never treated an individual on his or her own. The Bible usually speaks of a person in relationship with his or her entire household, family, nation, etc.
In the Bible the group is the basic unit, not the individual. God's blessings and curses on a nation affect the individuals within it. "Israel, Know that I am the Lord." "Ephraim, I have redeemed you." When an individual sins, the whole community shares the guilt.The sin of one person affects and contaminates others. No sin is ever private; it always has a social effect.
Keep in mind that no one is an island. We need each other. By being part of a larger group, directly or indirectly everything we do or say affects that group.

Everybody Needs Somebody
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18)

From the beginning of time, God knew it was not good for man to be alone. Therefore, God designed everybody to need somebody. The very first pair, Adam and Eve, needed each other. Abraham and Sarah needed each other. Moses needed his brother Aaron to be his mouthpiece. David needed Jonathan. Daniel needed his three Hebrew friends. Jesus needed His twelve disciples.  Paul needed Silas.

We too need each other. Our needs cannot be fulfilled without the help of our family, friends, and neighbors. Let's see others needing something from us, and let's see ourselves needing something from others. When we begin to share what we have, the world will be a better place.

Acknowledge your need for others, and begin to ask others, "What do you need?" When they tell you, be willing to do what you can do no matter how small the act. After all, everybody needs somebody!


Naming Your World
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)

The very first thing we learn from the Bible is that God is our Creator God. He created the heavens and earth by speaking them into existence.  Whatever God said, happened. "And God said, Let there be....and it was." (Genesis 1) Even before God created the woman, God made sure Adam was trained in naming his world. God let Adam practice by naming every living creature.

God gives us the same opportunity to name our world. He gives us the opportunity to call the situation as we see it. And what we call it, it will be. Just as God created the universe by His spoken word and Adam named what was in his surrounding, it is the responsibility of every human being to name his world. We are responsible and accountable for naming the events in our lives. Whatever we say finds a place in our consciousness, and the universe goes to work to make sure what we say will happen. True Story: A man jokingly said, "I'll be forty years old before I finish all these college courses." He marched down the aisle in cap and gown to receive his diploma on his fortieth birthday.

Be careful what you say. Once you name the events of your life, the universe goes to work to make sure your world turns out to be just what you have named it.

Adam's Animals
. . .  And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field . . . Genesis 2:19-20

The question came up in my Old Testament class, "Where did Adam get the names for all the animals?" Surely, he had never seen anything like them before. Surely, he didn't have a dictionary, so how did Adam know what to call each animal especially since there were so many? Where did the names come from? Why elephant and giraffe and horse and dog and cat and lion and tiger and . . .?

Tell us, Adam, what were you thinking? How could you have named all those animals in a single day?

Adam's Answer About His Animals:
First of all, know that I named only the beasts of the fields and fowls of the air. I did not name the creatures in the sea. I cannot be credited to naming the different kinds of fish, the alligator, whale or any of the sea creatures. And besides, I did not have to go out to find them. God brought them to me which saved some time. I did not name all animals you see on earth today. I named only the groups. For example, I did not name every kind of dog. Today you have many species after their own kind.

Naming the animals was all in a day's work for me. Eve had not been created yet, so there was no one to interrupt me from completing this task. It is important to note that God's purpose in parading all the animals before me was not merely so that I would give them names. It was also to reinforce the fact that I was different in kind from the rest of creation, so that none of these animals could ever serve as a physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual companion to God. Eve was created after I named the animals. After God showed me what was NOT my kind, He gave me what WAS my kind.

Consider this: When God made me, I was not a baby. I was a mature human being. Unlike you, I did not have to learn to talk. God programmed everything I needed to know into me so I could talk with Him as soon as he was made me. This is why God could talk to me about not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So, naming the animals was a simple thing for me.

This is what I want you to know: Naming the animals was an object lesson for me. God let me know that I was different from every one of the animals. You, however, are like me. You were created after my kind. Therefore, you too are to serve as a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual companion to God.

When God says, "Let's talk!" know that you have everything already built in you to have that conversation with God.

He Said . . . She Said

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He SAID to the woman, "Did God really SAY, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman SAID to the serpent,"We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did SAY, "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:1-2)
Adam and Eve were at the peak of promise and perfection when one conversation changed them and the entire human race forever. There did not appear to be any confusion when God gave the instructions, but the serpent brought confusion with his conversation when he misquoted God. We, too, run the risk of losing out on blessings that have been ordained for us because we listen to the wrong stuff. We let others give us THEIR interpretation after God has given us HIS.
What is the impact of the conversations you listen to? It takes only one conversation to change the events of your life. Be carefuly whose conversation you listen to. Everything God said in the Bible is true. Don't allow others to twist it and turn it around to serve their purposes. Be like the Bereans. Search the scriptures for yourselves.

Deal or No Deal?
And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die..."  (Genesis 3:4)

In other words . . . Deal or No Deal?

"Deal or No Deal" is a game show that debuted on NBC on December 19, 2005. Each of the twenty-six models are identically dressed and hold identical briefcases. However, one briefcase contains one million dollars and the other 25 contain various amounts that could be as low as one dollar. The contestant chooses one of the 26 briefcases not knowing what is inside. Then as each round progresses, the contestant must either stay with his original briefcase choice or make a "deal" with the bank to accept its cash offer in exchange for whatever dollar amount is in his chosen case. Once the contestant makes a deal to accept or decline the bank's offer, the decision is final.

The game show host, Howie Mandel, has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and mysophobia (fear of germs) to the point that he does not shake hands with anyone. Instead of shaking hands with the contestants, he gives them congratulatory gestures such as hitting another's fist with his own fist, hugging them, and putting his hands on their shoulders. Remember when Richard Dawson used to kiss the women contestants on the mouth on the "Family Feud"? You won't see Mandel doing that as he yells, "Deal or No Deal."

What, then, is the theological life application about the game show "Deal or No Deal" and its host? Satan tries to make deals with us all day long. With every decision we have to make, Satan is yelling, "Deal or No Deal." Satan is close enough to tempt us and to touch us. That's his job. He plays his role, gets what he wants and moves on to the next contestant yelling, "Deal or No Deal."

As Christians, we should make NO DEAL with THE DEVIL.

Revising God's Commandments
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. (Genesis 3:4)

Those of us who try to follow the mandates of the Bible are sometimes called "rigid" or "picky" by others. Revised obedience is disobedience and certainly has its consequences. If you don't believe it, ask Adam and Eve. God gave them a command, but they allowed Satan to revise it for them. God told them, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16) Satan told them, "You will not surely die." (Genesis 3:4)  Because of that revision, man has been living in sin ever since.
If you are still not convinced about changing God's commandments, ask Abraham. Had he not adjusted God's plan, there would be no war in the Middle East today. He laid with Hagar because he and Sarah got tired of waiting for the son of promise. So they revised God's plan. Ishmael was born, and we are experiencing the consequences of that one decision many years later. Thousands of men, women and children have lost their lives and billions of dollars have been spent because someone decided that God's word needed to be revised.
Remember these two events when you decide to revise God's commandments. Remember these two events when you say someone is rigid because they try to do what God says. Remember these two events when you are tempted to ask like the serpent, "Did God really say that?" (Genesis 3:1)
Partial obedience is disobedience!
Delayed obedience is disobedience!
Revised obedience is disobedience!
Obey God's commandments or suffer the consequences that will be imposed upon you and others for years to come.

Revising God's Commandments
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. (Genesis 3:4)

Those of us who try to follow the mandates of the Bible are sometimes called "rigid" or "picky" by others. Revised obedience is disobedience and certainly has its consequences. If you don't believe it, ask Adam and Eve. God gave them a command, but they allowed Satan to revise it for them. God told them, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16) Satan told them, "You will not surely die." (Genesis 3:4)  Because of that revision, man has been living in sin ever since.
If you are still not convinced about changing God's commandments, ask Abraham. Had he not adjusted God's plan, there would be no war in the Middle East today. He laid with Hagar because he and Sarah got tired of waiting for the son of promise. So they revised God's plan. Ishmael was born, and we are experiencing the consequences of that one decision many years later. Thousands of men, women and children have lost their lives and billions of dollars have been spent because someone decided that God's word needed to be revised.
Remember these two events when you decide to revise God's commandments. Remember these two events when you say someone is rigid because they try to do what God says. Remember these two events when you are tempted to ask like the serpent, "Did God really say that?" (Genesis 3:1)
Partial obedience is disobedience!
Delayed obedience is disobedience!
Revised obedience is disobedience!
Obey God's commandments or suffer the consequences that will be imposed upon you and others for years to come.


Sin: No Solo Venture
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She ALSO GAVE some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6-7)

Often times sin is not an individual thing. Sin is not a solo venture. Other people are dragged directly or indirectly into the sin of one person. After Eve sinned, she involved Adam in her wrongdoing. The sin of Eve affected the entire human race. Below is an account of how the sin of one person affected a whole nation.

In 2 Samuel 11 when David should have been at battle with his men, he became idol and couldn't rest. He looked across the courtyard and saw Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop. Notice the involvement of others in David's sin.
  1. He sent a messenger to find out who the beautiful woman was.
  2. He sent additional messengers to bring her to his palace.
  3. After Bathsheba became pregnant by David, he sent a messenger to tell Joab to release Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, from his military duties to come home. David wanted Uriah to sleep with his wife to cover up his own sin.
  4. When Uriah refused to have pleasure while his comrades were at battle, David sent Uriah back to the battlefield with a letter containing Uriah's own death sentence.
  5. Joab, David's army commander, further carried out the sin of David by putting Uriah on the front line resulting in Uriah's death.
  6. The baby that was born to David and Bathsheba died at birth.
Many people were involved in the sin of David. Like toxic waste that was spilled in a river, David sin swiftly spread. We should recognize and confess our sin before it gets out of hand. We should get back in right relationship with God before we are tempted to pollute those around us. David finally confessed his sin when he was confronted by Nathan the prophet. Psalm 51 is based on that confession.

And Their Eyes Were Opened
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked. (Genesis 3:7)

After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened.  Up to this point, they were in a state of innocence. It wasn't that they couldn't see with their physical eyes, but now the eyes of their consciences were opened. They became fully aware of what they had done. What did they see when their eyes were opened?

They saw that God had been right all along. They saw the serpent had tricked them into thinking they wouldn't die spiritually as God had warned. They saw the grace they had fallen from and the sin they had fallen into. They saw a loving God provoked. They saw their natures corrupted and depraved, and they felt disorder in their own spirits of which they had never before been conscious. They saw and realized for the first time they were naked. They were stripped of the pleasure they once enjoyed in paradise, and now they were exposed to shame and guilt. They saw themselves uncovered, and they felt degraded and disgraced. They had gone from pleasure to pity in a matter of minutes. And all this happened because of their disobedience.

When our eyes are opened to the wrongs we have done, we too might feel shame, embarrassment, and guilt. That guilty conscience is a warning signal God places inside us to alert us that we need forgiveness. Let's be glad our eyes become opened after we have sinned. Otherwise, we would not take the steps to get back into God's good grace.

Count it all joy when your eyes become opened to your sins. That's God's way of alerting you to the unrepented sin in your life. Ask God's forgiveness according to 1 John 1:9. Then correct your wrong behavior.

Having a Fig Leaf Mentality
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3:7)

The first sin in the Bible was the eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve. The first result of this first sin was a sense of shame and fear when they saw each other's nakedness. The couple immediately responded by the physical act of providing aprons for themselves. They attempted to cover up their shame from each other. The aprons of fig leaves speak of man's fruitless attempt to save himself by a bloodless religion of good works. The fig leaves only addressed the external part of the problem. It covered up the outer man so they would not see each other's nakedness. What the fig leaves couldn't cover was the internal part that was still seen by God.  God dealt with the internal problem a different way.

After God had a conversation with Adam, He made coats of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).  This was the first animal sacrifice; not a bloodless one like the fig leaves. As Adam and Eve wore the animal skins, no doubt they felt the blood on their bodies as a sign of atonement for their sin. Unlike the fig leaves, the coats of skin clothed them entirely; not covering only parts of their bodies. Man's attempt is a futile attempt to save himself. It doesn't come close to what God can do.

If you are trying to use fig leaves to cover up your sins, they won't work. You need the blood of Jesus. Only the blood of Jesus can make you whole again. Dried up fig leaves can't do what the blood of Jesus can!

What Is Anthropomorphism?
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8)

"Anthropomorphism" is such a big word, one would think it was a medical term. However, it is not so big when you divide it into syllables. "Anthropo" is part of the word "anthropology" which is the study of man. "Anthropomorphism" is simply a term used to describe God with human qualities.

God is in human form in Exodus 15:3 and Numbers 12:8. God has feet in Genesis 3:8 and Exodus 24:10, hands in Exodus 24:11, Joshua 4:24 and John 10:29. God has a face in Matthew 18:10, a mouth in Numbers 12:8 and Jeremiah 7:13. God has a heart in Hosea 11:8. As you can see, most examples of anthropomorphism are in the Old Testament. That's because in the New Testament God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus who was fully God and fully human. 

Now that you know the meaning of "anthropomorphism," what then is anthropopathism? "Anthropopathism" is the practice of describing God with human emotions. For examples, God is grieved in Genesis 6:6, jealous in Exodus 20:5, angry in Psalm 77:9, compassionate in Jonah 4:2, and merciful in Psalm 103:8. Again, notice all these emotions are from the Old Testament because Jesus was God in the flesh in the New Testament.

Even though at times the Bibles uses anthropomorphism and anthropopathism to show us God's humanlike qualities and emotions, we know that God is Spirit. (John 4:24) Because God has no body, and no physical or measurable form, we come to know God through His Son Jesus Christ. (John 14:6)

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8)

Anthropomorphism is attributing uniquely human characteristics to non-human or supernatural beings. Biblical anthropomorphism is when human characteristics are projected on God. The Bible has examples of God referring to Himself in anthropomorphic terms and the biblical writers referring to God in anthropomorphic terms so God can be more understandable to humans. Since God is invisible, without anthropomorphism we would not have a framework on which to understand Him. To better understand what this long word means, think of "anthropology" being the study of man. Yet, we do not reduce the power of God when we talk about Him in anthropomorphic terms.
One of the first example of anthropomorphism in the Bible is God walking in the cool of the day in the garden after the sin of Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3:8) Then throughout the Bible, we see God being very personal and humanlike in the lives of His people.
A good way to remember anthropomorphism is to know that "while we can't see God's face, we can feel His hand."

Where Are You?
But the Lord called to the man, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9)

Since the Garden of Eden, God has been asking men that same question, "Where are you?" The fall of man began when Adam was not in his rightful place when Eve was beguiled by the serpent.

Men are still falling because they do not take their rightful place in the house. They leave too much of the responsibility of running the house and rearing the children to the woman. While duties surely should be shared, there are certain things that the godly man should handle.

Satan can work havoc in a marriage and in a household when men don't step up to the plate and be responsible for what seems to be the "little things." One excellent example is having the woman's greeting on the family's voice mail system. When Satan calls to cause division, whose voice does he hear saying, "Sorry, we are not at home. Please leave a message"?  While this seems to be such a small matter, Satan has discovered something about how that household is run. Perhaps Satan and other such callers would be hesitant to leave a message if they heard an authoritative male voice.

Yes, this is such a small matter, but it's the little foxes that spoil the vines (Song of Songs 2:15). Men, accept the role God has given you by protecting your home and family. Give no place for the devil even through your voice mail. Let people know you are the man of the house. When God asks the question: "Where are you?" you can surely say, "I am where you placed me and doing what you have commanded me to do!"

Where Are You?
But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so he hid." (Genesis 3:9-10)

 The first result of sin is a sense of shame and fear. The aprons of fig leaves speak of man's attempt to save himself by a bloodless religion of good works. In love and mercy God searched after His fallen creatures with the question, "Where are you?" This question proved two things:
  1. Man was lost and that God had come to seek.
  2. It proved man's sin and God's grace.
God takes the initiative in salvation demonstrating the very thing Satan got Eve to doubt: His Love.

God loves us so much He wants to demonstrate His love for us, but first He asks us the question: "Where are you?"

The Blame Game
The woman you put here with me...she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. (Genesis 3:12)

Have you ever blamed someone for your mistakes? Has anyone ever blamed you for the wrongs they have done? It is human nature to excuse ourselves and blame others. When God asked Adam about his sin, he reminded God that it was God who put the woman there with him. In essence, he blamed God and then he went on to blame the woman for giving him some fruit from the tree. Lastly, Adam admitted "and I ate it." There is some Adam in all of us. Before we confess, "I did it" or "I neglected to do it" we first blame other people or other circumstances. But God knows the truth, and He holds each of us personally responsible for what we do. Adam was not exempt from the punishment even though he blamed God and the woman first. Neither will God exempt you from punishment when you blame others for your sin.

Admit your wrong attitudes and actions and apologize to God. Don't try to get away with what you have done by blaming someone else. Not only will God hold you responsible for the sins you have committed, but also He will hold you responsible for playing the Blame Game.

It is only after you have confessed: "God, I have messed up!" will He come into your life and give you instructions on how to get back on the right track and in right relationship with Him.

STOP playing the Blame Game because with God you will lose every blaming time.

Ash Wednesday
"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19)

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent often observed in worship by receiving a cross of ashes on the forehead. Ashes used today are usually the burned palms from last year's Palm Sunday. The ashes are blessed and placed in the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who are sorry for their sins. Ashes are symbols for repentance of being sorry for our sins and asking God to forgive and help us to change our lives. The use of ashes also remind us of the Old Testament phrase, "sackcloth and ashes," suggesting deep sorrow and penitence that continued for 40 days. Therefore, Ash Wednesday is (1) the day of penance for ourselves and (2) a reminder of the need of preparing for the holy death of Jesus. These preparatory disciplines consist of several things a Christian can do: meditation and self-examination, confession of sins, repentance, personal prayer, devotions, fasting, giving alms, abstaining from pleasure, or not solemnizing marriages.
Ash Wednesday is the ideal time for you to start reflecting on your own life. As an individual, you can make personal sacrifices. As a community of faith, you might join others in corporate prayer, fasting and celebrations. By observing Ash Wednesday, you will be ready to start the pilgrimage to follow Christ through the next forty days of Lent's journey. Make a humble commitment to go with Christ up Calvary's hill where our mortality is joined to His, and on to the dawn of Resurrection Sunday where we, too, will be resurrected into a brand new life.

Today is Ash Wednesday
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It begins a journey of turning back toward God. It is a day when we look at how self-centered our lives have become.  We should acknowledge that we often fall short of what we want to be. It is a day when we call all of our angers, hatreds, and jealousies out from their dark corners and admit they are a part of us. Lent is also a season of healing. We open up our lives so that we may see into the depths of our souls. It is a time of confession.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent often observed in worship by receiving a cross of ashes on the forehead.  The ashes used are usually the burned palms from last year's Palm Sunday. The ashes are blessed and placed in the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who are sorry for their sins.  Ashes are symbols for repentance of being sorry for our sins and asking God to forgive and help us to change our lives. The use of ashes also remind us of the Old Testament phrase, "sackcloth and ashes," suggesting deep sorrow and penitence that continued for 40 days.

Therefore, Ash Wednesday is (1) the day of penance for ourselves and (2) a reminder of the need of preparing for the holy death of Jesus. These preparatory disciplines consist of several things a Christian can do: meditation and self-examination, confession of sins, repentance, personal prayer, devotions, fasting, giving alms, abstaining from pleasure, or not solemnizing marriages.

Ash Wednesday is the ideal time for you to start reflecting on your own life. As an individual, you can make personal sacrifices. As a community of faith, you might join others in corporate prayer, fasting and celebrations.

By observing Ash Wednesday, you will be ready to start the pilgrimage to follow Christ through the next forty days of the Lenten journey.  Let's make a humble commitment to go with Christ up Calvary's hill where our mortality is joined to His, and on to the dawn of Resurrection Sunday where we, too, will be resurrected into a brand new life.

The History of Mother's Day
And Adam named his wife Eve; because she would become the mother of all the living. (Genesis 3:20)

The second Sunday in May has been set aside as a  special day to honor mothers, mothers to be, and all mother figures. Over 46 countries honor mothers with a special day, but not all nations celebrate on the same day. We honor mothers with cards, candy, flowers, gifts and dinner out. But have you ever considered the interesting history of Mother's Day?

Mother's Day was first suggested in the United States by Julia Ward Howe, writer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." She suggested that day be dedicated to peace. However, Mrs. Juliet Calhoun Blakely inadvertently set Mother's Day in motion on her birthday, Sunday, May 11, 1877. The pastor of her Methodist Episcopal Church left the pulpit abruptly, being distraught over the behavior of his son. Mrs. Blakely stepped to the pulpit to take over the remainder of the service and called for other mothers to join her. Mrs. Blakely's two sons were so touched by her gesture that they vowed to return to their hometown of Albion, Michigan every year to mark their mother's birthday and to pay tribute to her. They also urged the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion to set aside the second Sunday of each May to honor all mothers, and especially their own.

While there were local celebrations honoring mothers in the late 1800's, it was largely due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis that Mother's Day became a national holiday in the United States. Anna's mother, Mrs. Anna M. Jarvis, had been instrumental in developing "Mothers Friendship Day" which was part of the healing process of the Civil War. In honor of her mother, Miss Jarvis wanted to set aside a day to honor all mothers, living and dead. By 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday in May.

And the rest is history.

Let's give honor where honor is due. Let's recognize the special women in our lives whether they are mothers or not.

God's Banishment
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:21-23)

If you watched "Survivals" on television last night, you saw that one person was voted off the island. The same thing happened on a similar show, "Big Brother" where a house guest was banished from the house because of votes received from among the other house guests and from the public as well. A lot can be learned about human nature from seeing how these people who live in close contact with one another form alliances, manipulate, scheme, and connive to succeed. We are not watched every moment by the public, but we are watched by God. God doesn't give us weekly challenges to perform for our survival, but He does expect us to follow His commandments to love Him and to love one another.
God did use banishment once, but He used it because He loved us so much He didn't want us to live in eternal damnation. When God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He did it to keep them from living in sin without an escape. God banished them from the garden but not without first sacrificing an animal and covering them with blood. We, too, are covered by the blood of the Lamb who was sacrificed for us. Adam and Eve's banishment was because of God's love and mercy. Had they continued to live in the garden, they would have lived forever in bodies subject to sickness, degeneration, and infirmity.

Staying in the Garden
So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:23)

Yesterday was Grandparents' Day at my granddaughter's pre-school. The activities of the hour long visit included sitting in one of those little pre-school chairs, doing arts and crafts and having a snack with our two-year old grandchildren.  The teacher also read the children's favorite story to us grandparents as the children chimed in during the parts they knew and liked.
Later, our grandchildren took us around the room and showed us their projects.  One interesting project was a flower garden with each child's name printed on a flower. When the children misbehave, their flowers are picked from the garden. Yesterday all the children's flowers were in the garden.
Now I know why when Tori comes home she reports, "I stayed in the garden today." It meant she had not disobeyed. That reminded me of Adam and Eve who were banished from the Garden of Eden for disobeying God's command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3:23)
At the end of the day, can you report like Tori that you stayed in the garden? Or do you have to admit that you, like Adam and Eve were banished from the garden for disobeying God's commands?
Where are you now? Are you in or out of the garden?


God Will Not Bless Disobedience
So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:23-24
After Adam and Eve disobeyed, God banished them from the Garden of Eden. This was done because of God's mercy and love for them. Sin had entered in, and it was for their own protection that they leave. If they had continued to live in the garden and eat from the tree of life, they would have lived forever in their fallen state. But eternal life in a state of sin would mean trying to hide from God forever.
We constantly pray to God, "Bless me! O God, please bless me!" God cannot bless disobedience. God can totally bless you only after you have been banished from your territory of sin and are washed and cleaned up. Even in the nature sense, you wouldn't play in the mud all day, and then just put on deodorant, cologne and clean clothes without first getting clean or taking steps toward becoming clean.
Instead of asking God to bless you, first ask God to clean you up. Then it will be His good pleasure to bless you.

From Tree to Tree
"Afterward he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the TREE OF LIFE." (Genesis 3:24)

"Then the angel showed me the river of water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the TREE OF LIFE, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2)
If you are discouraged about our nation, know that God has everything in control. Things might seem bleak in the natural realm, but we as Christians don't live by what we see or hear. We live by God's spirit. In the natural, human and physical realm, there might be chaos all around you. You might feel that God has thrown you out of the garden away from the tree of life. You might be depressed because you think He has not only driven you out, but He also has placed angels and a flaming sword to keep you from getting back in.
Don't despair! As we see in the scriptures above, the nations will be healed. In Genesis, the first man and woman were driven from their homes and a padlock put on the door and guards were stationed there to keep the couple from entering.
The good news is coming, but it will not come until the fulfillment of 66 books, 1,189 chapters; 31,173 verses; 773,692 words; and 3,566,480 letters later. At the end of Revelation we see the same tree that was forbidden to eat from in Genesis. But now it is producing abundant fruit for all to eat. It has medicinal leaves for the final healing of the nations. This means that the curse placed on creation because of Adam's sin will finally come to an end. We are living in a period between those two trees. Our Christian walk should put us on the path that leads us back to Paradise to the TREE OF LIFE. But for now, we are going from tree to tree.

Staying in the Garden
So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:23)

Yesterday was Grandparents' Day at my granddaughter's pre-school. The activities of the hour long visit included sitting in one of those little pre-school chairs, doing arts and crafts and having a snack with our two-year old grandchildren.  The teacher also read the children's favorite story to us grandparents as the children chimed in during the parts they knew and liked.
Later, our grandchildren took us around the room and showed us their projects.  One interesting project was a flower garden with each child's name printed on a flower. When the children misbehave, their flowers are picked from the garden. Yesterday all the children's flowers were in the garden.
Now I know why when Tori comes home she reports, "I stayed in the garden today." It meant she had not disobeyed. That reminded me of Adam and Eve who were banished from the Garden of Eden for disobeying God's command not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3:23)
At the end of the day, can you report like Tori that you stayed in the garden? Or do you have to admit that you, like Adam and Eve were banished from the garden for disobeying God's commands?

Where are you now? Are you in or out of the garden?

God Will Not Bless Disobedience

So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:23-24)

After Adam and Eve disobeyed, God banished them from the Garden of Eden.  This was done because of God's mercy and love for them.  Sin had entered in, and it was for their own protection that they leave. If they had continued to live in the garden and eat from the tree of life, they would have lived forever in their fallen state. But eternal life in a state of sin would mean trying to hide from God forever.

We constantly pray to God, "Bless me! O God, please bless me!" God cannot bless disobedience. God can totally bless you only after you have been banished from your territory of sin and are washed and cleaned up.  Even in the nature sense, you wouldn't play in the mud all day, and then just put on deodorant, cologne and clean clothes without first getting clean or taking steps toward becoming clean.

Instead of asking God to bless you, first ask God to clean you up.  Then it will be His good pleasure to bless you.

Unacceptable Gifts
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of the flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. (Genesis 4:2-5)

Cain and Abel were brothers. They were both worshippers; however, Cain represents the world and the natural realm and Abel represents the divine and spiritual realm.  Giving God an offering represents the religious practice that still exist in some form today. Some people follow traditions and give to God for natural reasons; while others see the spiritual significance of giving to God. The church might accept all gifts, but some are unacceptable to God!

God accepted Abel's offering but rejected Cain's offering. Even though this has perplexed people for a long time, know that God does nothing without a reason. So why accept a gift from one brother but not from the other? From one worshipper, but not from another? If you try to figure it out in the natural, you will never get it. But once you see it from a spiritual perspective, the answer becomes crystal clear.

You might ask, "How did Cain and Abel know which gifts would be acceptable?" The above scripture says, "In the course of time." There must have been a time when Adam and Eve had discussed with the boys that the ground was cursed because of their sin in the garden. (Genesis 3:17). Cain and Abel must have been instructed that sinful man can approach and offer the holy God only blood sacrifices. They must have been told how their parents wrapped fig leaves around them to cover their nakedness, and God sacrificed animals and clothed them Himself with the first blood sacrifice. (Genesis 3:21)  Cain rejected this revelation and offered a bloodless sacrifice of fruits and vegetables anyway. And we all know "you can't get blood out of a turnip." Abel, on the other hand, accepted the revelation and acted accordingly. He believed and demonstrated his faith by offering to a holy God what God required. In essence he was saying, "God deserves the best." Abel's gift pointed toward the death of Jesus on the cross. Abel is listed in Hebrews 11:4 because of his demonstration of faith.

Again, you might ask, "How was Cain to know his gift would not be accepted?" Cain offered to a holy God products from a cursed ground. He must have known the ground was cursed with thorns and thistles. After all, he worked the soil. Why give God something He had already cursed? Cain had no regard for God's way of dealing with sin. He did not acknowledge the need for a blood sacrifice as a propitiation for sin. Cain rejected the revelation; therefore, God rejected Cain's gift. Cain became angry over God's acceptance of Abel's gift; therefore Cain killed Abel. Cain was severely punished. And it all started with giving God unacceptable gifts! Correction: It all started with one brother not embracing the divine revelation and demonstrating it by faith.

Let's take our holy God at His word and give Him what He requires. Let's present our bodies as living sacrifices (with blood). (Romans 12:1) Let's not give a product of our sin; something God has already cursed. A holy God deserves more than that! Let's have the right attitude when giving to God because God looks at both the offerer and the offering.

Away from the Lord's Presence at Nob
So Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:16)

Nod is the place you go after you have done something wrong. Cain had killed his brother, Abel. God drove him from the land, but He put a mark on him that no one would find and kill him. So Cain went from the Lord's presence as his punishment.

Nod is not a place that is recommended on one's spiritual journey. The only way to be assured that you do not have to go to Nod is to make sure you do not fall into disobedience. Even though God protected Cain from others, Cain was forced to leave the presence of God.  How sad it is not to be in the Lord's presence.

Walking With God

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had others sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (Genesis 5:21-24).
What an obituary, eulogy and epitaph! The above few verses tell the life of Enoch, and sum it all up by saying "Enoch walked with God." Walking with God simply means living in the presence of God. In order for Enoch to have walked with God, he had to agree with God for the Bible says, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Walking with God requires total surrender and letting God lead. Walking with God means getting out of our own way and allowing God to direct our paths. Walking with God means letting God take the reigns and have complete control over where He wants us to go and what He wants us to do. Like Enoch, whose name means "dedicated," we too must be dedicated and yielded to God in order to be conformed to God's mind and God's will.
When we live for God and yield to His commands, then perhaps our eulogy will be similar to Enoch. Maybe the preacher will not have to rely on flowery words but can simply say, "This person walked with God!"

God's Patience
Then the Lord said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever." (Genesis 6:3)

Do you know that the Bible has four major things to say about God's patience?

God's patience has a limit. While God has much more patience than we do, even His patience has a limit. During Noah's day, God allowed man 120 years to change his sinful ways.  While that 120 years seemed like a long time, eventually the time ran out and the floods swept across the earth. We cannot see God's stopwatch. Don't let His patience run out on us.

God's patience is longsuffering. In our repeated failures, God is always with us. He is always ready to forgive. God goes to a great extent to give us the benefit of the doubt. Let's not disappoint Him.

God's patience should not be taken for granted. The Bible is loaded with examples of what happens when people neglect God and take His patience for granted. Forty years in the wilderness for what could have been an eleven day trip is a good example of what happens when we presume on God's patience.

God's patience is an expression of God's love.  The parable of the prodigal son is a good example of a father's patience for the return of his child. Like the earthly father who embraced the return of his son, God loves us so much that he awaits our return when we have strayed from Him. Let's come to our senses and not keep Him waiting.

To summarize, God's patience has a limit and our time will run out. Even though God is longsuffering, we should not take His patience for granted. And because God's love is constant, He gives us opportunities to return to His loving arms.

Knowing how patient God has been toward us should help us to be patient toward others.

Learning to Walk With God
And Enoch walked with God. (Genesis 5:24) Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9)
What does it mean to "walk with God"? Does one expect to walk side by side with God as one would stroll with a friend in the park? Is walking with God something that all can do; or is it reserved for a select few?
Walking with God is a pilgrimage available to all who are committed and diligent enough to practice spiritual disciplines such as praying and fasting, praising God, and studying the Bible daily. All can enjoy this journey, but it begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Every walk has its first steps. Before you can walk with God, you must be born into the family. Establish a solid foundation with the Son and you can walk with the Father. The way is a simple one . . . as easy as ABC. ACKNOWLEDGE your sins and need for a Savior. BELIEVE that Jesus died on the cross to atone for your sins. CONFESS Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.
The Christian journey is an exciting one as you live each day in the power of the Holy Spirit. God has wonderful things for you. He will reveal those things to you as you walk with Him.

Be Careful How You Say It
Noah was a just man... (Genesis 6:9)

The way we quote scriptures has an impact on the intended meaning. For example, using the same words by rearranging the order will make the scripture mean something quite different from what it should mean. To say, "Noah was just a man" is different and it de-emphasizes "Noah was a just man." The same thing is true about Job. The Bible says, "Job was a just man" not "Job was just a man." Be careful how you say it.

When you read 1 Thessalonians 4:13, make sure you read it correctly as: "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren..." If you put the comma in the wrong place it will read, "But I do not want you to be, ignorant brethren." The entire meaning has changed. Be careful how you say it.

Isaiah 59:19 says, "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him." The meaning is changed if one reads it, "When the enemy comes in, like a flood the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him." They both are logical sentences, but the meaning changes when the comma is put in a different position. Be careful how you say it.

Be careful not to overlook small words in scriptures. There is a big different between being "in Christ" and being "for Christ" or being "of Christ." Also, don't forget those small words at the beginning of scriptures. John 3:16 does not read, "God so loved the world..." It reads, "For God so loved the world..." Hebrews 11:1 does not say, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for..." It says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for..." Romans 8:28 does not say, "All things work together for good." Don't leave off the first and last part of that verse. It reads, "And we know (you gotta know it) all things work together for good (but not for everyone) to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose." Be careful how you say it.

Here is one for Bible scholars. Did Jesus give Peter the keys "TO" the kingdom of heaven? Or did Jesus give Peter the keys "OF" the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 16:19) I would venture to say that some pastors, preachers, prophets, and parishioners have misquoted this one because they didn't realize the difference.

Be careful how you say it.

When God Remembers
But God remembered Noah. . . (Genesis 8:1)
Then God remembered Rachel . . . (Genesis 30:22)
And God remembered His covenant with Abraham... (Exodus 2:24)

Does God ever forget? It is not that God ever forgets, we just think He does. To say, "God remembers" does not mean there is a lapse in God's memory, that He forgets and needs to recall something to mind as we do. Such is never the case with God. His knowledge is full and constant. God had not forgotten Noah or Rachel or the covenant with Abraham. And God will never forget YOU. When the Bible says, "God remembered" rather than meaning God had forgotten, it simply means God had a renewed interest in them as a remembering.

To say, "God remembers" does not mean that God has forgotten anything at all. He doesn't need to bring back to His divine consciousness certain things. To say, "God remembers" tells us that God had previous thoughts of us. And now He is ready to act towards us based on those thoughts.

To say, "God remembered ______" is the beginning of hope for the person's whose name is in the blank. If you think God has forgotten you, then fill in your own name. Remind God to remember you: "Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them." (Psalm 106:4)

After God remembers, expect Him to act on that remembrance!

Knowing When Your Storm Is Over
And he waited yet another seven days, and again he sent the dove out from the ark. Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had abated from the earth. So he waited yet another seven days and sent out the dove, which did not return again to him anymore. The waters had dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. (Genesis 8:10-13).

The storm was over.

 In the above scripture, we clearly see that Noah waited for the storm to be over. There was absolutely nothing he could do to make it end. Come to think of it, Noah did nothing to make it start. Many of our storms are God's doing to wash and cleanse us and to give us new beginnings. But like Noah, He does give us warnings when the storms are coming. We should heed those warnings. Then He gives us signs when the storms are ending.
How do we know when the storms are over? How do we know when we can come out of the ark? Again, God gives us signs. At the end of 40 days, Noah opened the window of the ark (Genesis 8:6). We need to open the window of our soul and take a look at our lives.

Noah then sent out a raven, which did not return (Genesis 8:7). We need to send out any darkness, evil, wickedness from our lives expecting it not to return.

Then Noah sent out a dove that returned because it could find no resting place for the sole of her foot (Genesis 8:9). The first time you think your storm is over, it just might not be. God has more purging and purifying to do. Be patient. Noah sent the dove out again, and this time the dove returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf indicating the storm was over, but the waters were still there (Genesis 8:11).

God gives us signs that our storms are ending by giving us peace as symbolized by the olive leaf. Finally, Noah sent out the dove, which did not return again to him anymore (Genesis 8:12). Since the dove did not return to the ark, Noah knew the storm was over, the waters had abated from the earth, and the dove had a dry place for the sole of her foot. When your storm is over, there too will be a series of signs. Wait and watch for them.

Safe, But Was Stuck in the Mud
Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. (Genesis 9:11) 

We know about the Flood in the Bible that came after Noah built the ark. It is amazing that the writer of Genesis takes two chapters to tell of the Creation of the world, one chapter to tell of the Fall, but he devotes four chapters to tell about the Flood. This Flood reveals both the judgment and the mercy of God.

Yesterday the flood in the Richmond, VA area caught many people off guard; including me. Unknowingly, I turned onto a street right into rushing water. My car cut off and immediately water rushed in filling it to the tip of the seats. Saying “Peace be still” did not quiet the raging storm, but it did quiet my spirit. Besides being drenched while standing in knee deep water outside my car, I felt helpless, vulnerable and exposed. After 45 minutes, I abandoned my car and walked home. I imagined my car being filled to the roof and damaged forever. The thought came across my mind that my car would be washed away or hit by other cars. I called Geico, my insurance company, to find out my options. The Claims Department took my claim and even though the rain had not stopped, the emergency road service delivered my car four hours later. Surprisingly, no more water had gotten in since I left it even though much rain had fallen since then.

As Paul would say, “What meanest this?” What lesson(s) am I to learn from this experience. Surely, there must be at least one. Well, there are several.
  1. It was a flash flood. That means it came quickly. Many were not prepared for it or aware of its seriousness. Jesus is coming back quickly without a warning. (Revelation 22:7) This is serious and we should be readyEven though I was caught in the flood, I knew it woud not be like the Great Flood in the Bible. I took comfort knowing God had promised Noah that He would not destroy the world by water again. (Genesis 9:11)
  2. Even though I was caught in the flood, I knew it would not be like the Great Flood in the Bible. I took comfort knowing God had promised Noah that He would not destroy the world by water again. (Genesis 9:11)
  3. Since I had prepared in advance by having car insurance, Geico is my mediator taking care of all my vehicular needs. When we have “soul insurance” Jesus is our mediator who takes care of our need for salvation and eternal life. (Romans 10:9-10)
  4. My car is damaged. I am safe. And my spirits are as high as ever. To God be the Glory!
Yes, I was caught in the flood. However, I am safe. I pray God’s grace and mercy on those who encountered more serious damage to their cars, homes, and spirits.

Our Own Rainbow
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. (Genesis 9:13-15)

God made a covenant with Noah that He would not destroy the world again with water. The rainbow was a sign of that covenant. Whenever we see a rainbow, it is a sign of Noah's covenant with God. However, we get to share in that covenant.

Did you know that we have a better covenant with God that comes with our own rainbow?
The Book of Hebrews tells us that we have a better covenant than Noah or any of the other Old Testament patriarchs. We have a sign of this better covenant.

What, then is our better covenant? Jesus Christ! ". . . He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). What, then is the sign of our covenant? The sign of our covenant is a renewed heart because of the Holy Spirit living within us. While Noah had a physical rainbow that can be seen only once in a while, Jesus' death on the cross has provided everything we need to experience our own spiritual rainbow at all times.

You don't have to wait for it to rain, enjoy a rainbow today . . . the one that is within your own renewed heart!

Lessons From the Tower of Babel
Come, let us build ourselves a city, a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make aname for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.(Genesis 11:4)

Perhaps you have heard the story about the tower of Babel, but maybe you have not thought much about the many lessons we can learn from that story in the first book of the Bible.

After the Flood, the descendants of Noah had one language and a common speech. They were unified in disobedience. They did not do what God had told them to do . . . “be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth.” They were not to stay together in one place. Now after 130 years they are were still together and headed eastward toward the plains of Shinar to build for themselves a city with a tower to the heavens and to make a name for themselves. They knew they were disobedient because the ending of the above scripture says, “and NOT be scattered over the whole earth” as God had commanded in Genesis 9:1.

Because of their disobedience, God came down and stopped the building project. God said if they get away with this, no telling what they would be capable of doing. So God confused their speech and scattered them over the face of the earth. That’s why we have the word “babble” which means confused speech. That’s why we have a minimum of 6700 languages in the world today.

This is a summary of the lessons from the Tower of Babel:
  1. People can be unified in disobedience as well as in obedience.
  2. If we don’t do what God has commanded us to do in His grace and mercy, we will eventually do it in His wrath and judgment.
  3. People who babble are using confused speech.
  4. God comes down to handle difficult situations.
  5. God stops projects that do not give Him the glory especially those we undertake “to make a name for ourselves.”
  6. Many different races and languages are the result of this story.
  7. Man’s disobedient attempts are fruitless. God will have the last word.
Quiz: Tower of Babel

"Get Thee Out!"
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." (Genesis 12:1)

Most of us know about God's words to Abram to get out of his country to go on a journey that God would show him. What most of us might not realize is that God has spoken those same words to us: "Get thee out!" When did God speak those words to us? When we were born!

Our birth was the response to God's "Get thee out!" From the safety and comfort of the womb, we emerged into a strange world which God promised to show us. We started on the greatest journey of our lives. Our birth was the beginning of all other journeys. Our birth was the journey into the unknown through life and into eternity.

We haven't always known where our journey would take us, and we will never know. We take God at His word and leave our destination up to Him. As we migrate though life, let's remember that God will show us just as he showed Abram; one phase at a time. As we serve God and seek His ways, we will be blessed with peace, wisdom, and guidance for the journey ahead.

It was God who told us at our birth, "Get thee out!" And on His word we go.

On the Move
Now the Lord said to Abram, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." Genesis 12:1

God always has a plan for His people. His plan allows us to move forward. A careful study of the Old Testament illustrates the patriarchs were always on the move. Abraham is listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 because he left his country when God told him to. He did not know where he was going, but he had unswerving faith. He staggered not at the promises of God. He moved when God said, "Move." Isaac followed in his father's footsteps and was on the move for God and so was Jacob and Joseph and all the twelve tribes of Israel. In the wilderness when the cloud moved, they moved; when the cloud stopped, they stopped.
God made us to constantly be on a spiritual journey forever growing, developing, and pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). If you are at the same point you were last week this time, you have not grown. If you have not heard, seen or learned something new recently, you are becoming stagnated.
Be on the move for God this weekend. Don't neglect the assembly with other saints (Hebrews 10:25). Attend a Bible believing church, study, worship, praise God, and move when you hear that still small voice when it says, "Follow me" (Matthew 9:9).

 God’s Immediacy
And Abram went. (Genesis 12:4)
Some things take longer to develop than others. Some things are better after a long waiting period. Things such as cheese, wine, and relationships are not expected to reach their peak overnight. However, there are some things that prove to be more effective when done within a short span of time.

In Genesis 12:1-3, God told Abram to leave his country and his kindred and go to a place God would show him. Abram did not hesitate. Even though he did not know where he was going, the very next verse says, “And Abram went.” No hesitation at all. No conferences with family and friends to help him make the decision. No sleeping on it overnight and making a decision the next day. Abram recognized the immediacy of God’s command. And Abram went.

We, as Christians should follow Abram’s example and respond immediately when God speaks. Even tough a pagan at the time, Abram took immediate action to do as God had commanded. God expects immediacy when it comes to building the kingdom of God. So, what are you delaying? What have you put on hold? What are you dragging your feet about?

Remember, “delayed obedient” is disobedience. Remember, “partial obedient” is disobedience. And when you finally act, you will have to deal with the disobedience before you can move on. Act when God speaks and get on with the business of carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

When God Says "Go"
Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Starting in Genesis and throughout the Bible God told people to "Go." In the above scripture, God told Abram to go from his country, from his own family, from his home and culture. In obedience to God, Abram did not argue, make excuses, check with others, call a committee, check the weather channel, make travel reservations, or even chart his route. When God told Abram to leave, Abram did not hesitate. He left and did not know where he was going, but God did. And God showed Abraham "as he went."
The life application for us is that we have to obey God and go when He says "Go." Then He will show us the rest of the plan as we are obedient to the first part. How many of us have lost our blessings because we neglected to do the initial thing God told us to do? If you know that God has impressed upon your heart to do something, be like Abram and not try to figure out how it is going to work. Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham became the father of many nations with blessing and riches for himself and his descendants . . . all because he responded to the simple command . . ."GO."

Without Hesitation
The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. . ." (Genesis 12:1-3) So Abram left. (Genesis 12:4)

It is so amazing how much faith Abram had when God told him to leave his country and all his surrounding and go to a place unknown to him. Without hesitation, Abram did as he was commanded to do. It is also amazing how Abram didn't discuss the discussion with family or friends to get their opinion. He did not tell God to let him sleep on the matter over night. He did not say, "Let me think about it and I will let you know." So Abram left. Those three words are powerful considering the situation. At the time God called Abram, he was a pagan serving false gods. So Abram left without hesitation.
To leave your country, your cultural and all that it entails to go to a place you know where you are going is one story, but to go to a place you know not of is a different matter altogether. It requires a lot of faith. Abram had that type of faith. How about you? If God told you this minute to leave your country and go to a place He would show you, would you go? Would you be willing to give everything up to follow God's commandments?
Jesus' disciples did the same thing. They followed Jesus without hesitation. They left their fishing nets, their tax-collecting jobs, and whatever else they were doing to follow Jesus. Would you be willing to leave your job and your home to follow Jesus?
Today, we don't have to leave our country, our homes, or our jobs to obey God and to follow Jesus. We can do that right where we are. Would you do that without hesitation?

How to Release Your Faith
The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. SO ABRAM LEFT. . ." (Genesis 12:1; 4a)
Abraham is known as the most faithful person in the Bible because he released his faith. This is illustrated by the action he took after God commanded him to leave his country. . . "So Abram left" (not even knowing where he was going).
Most of us know the definition of faith. We know the characteristics of faith. We know people in the Bible who had great faith. We know people around us who have great faith. And yes, even we have a certain measure of faith. But having great faith is only part of it. We MUST do something with our faith. We must RELEASE our faith just as Abram did. We must let our faith take wings and fly before us in every situation. When we can't see any logical solution to our problems, we must believe by faith and release that faith. How, then we do release our faith?
  • Faith is released when we pray the solution (instead of the problem).
  • Faith is released when we thank God before the solution is manifested.
  • Faith is released when we stand firm believing that the God who created us and sent His Son to save us is that same God who wants the very best for us
  • Faith is released when we don't give up no matter how bad the situation looks.
  • Faith is released when we trust wholeheartedly the promises of God.
  • Faith is released by believing what we don't see.
  • Faith is released when we replace "wishing" and "hoping" with "knowing" that all of God's promises are "Yea" and "Amen."

God's Plans for You
I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. Genesis 12:2
God promised to bless Abram and make him great, but Abram had to do what God wanted him to do. Obeying God, Abram left his home and his family and went to a new land for even greater blessings in the future. God may be trying to lead you to a place of greater service and usefulness for Him. Don't let comfort and security of your present position make you miss God's plans for you.

So Abram Went
So Abram went as the Lord had told him.  (Genesis 12:4)
 God had instructed Abram to . . .
  1. leave his country, his people and his father's house, and
  2. go to the land God would show him.
God promised Abram He would . . .
  1.  make him into a great nation and
  2. bless him.
  3. make a great name for Abram and Abram would be a blessing.
  4. bless those who blessed Abram and
  5. curse those whoever cursed Abram; and
All peoples on earth will be blessed through Abram (Genesis 12:2-3). What a ratio! Look at the promises God made to Abram in relation to what He told Abram to do. That's just like God. He tells us to do a few things; while He wants to bless us with many things.

Abram was obedient beyond measure. At the time he was instructed to leave his country and his kindred, he was a pagan from the Ur of the Chaldeans. He followed and obeyed God without even knowing God. The Bible proves Abram's faithfulness by the use of three short words . . ."So Abram went." Can you imagine giving up your culture, your friends, your lifestyle and everything else to go to an unknown place? So Abram went. And God fulfilled every one of His promises to Abram; not one promise was left out.
Be like Abram. When God calls you to do something, don't hesitate, compromise, argue, or say let me sleep on it. Don't check it out with your friends and neighbors. Don't try to find the logic in it. Be like Abram. Let it be said, "So _______ went!" (Put your own name in the blank).

Build an Altar at Moreh
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram  and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:6-7)

Soon after God had told Abram to set out of his country and away from his kindred, Abram came to a great oak tree of Moreh at Shechem. The place was probably an old Canaanite sanctuary. The oak tree was probably a sacred tree long before Abram entered Canaan.

This is the same tree under which Joshua set up a large memorial stone to commemorate Israel's renewed covenant with God (Joshua 24:26).

Remember to give thanks and build an altar at Moreh to commemorate the mighty acts God has shown toward you.

How to Handle Conflicts
If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left. (Genesis 13:9)

Yesterday's Sunday School lesson based on the story of Abram and Lot contained many life applications that will help us handle conflicts and settle disputes. Both Abram and Lot were wealthy with flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together because their possessions were so great. Having too much can sometimes create a problem. Abram, being the older and the wiser of the two suggested they go in opposite directions. A young person in our Sunday School class brought out an excellent point. She said Abram suggested that they both leave; neither would remain. They both would go to a different place. The life application here is that when two people are in conflict, they both need a change of scenery. If one stays, the other will say he or she is the one who had to start over. The one who stays will always be reminded of the conflict. Changing surrounding might be a good thing to do in your situation as well.

Abram and Lot were family and while they were involved in a conflict, "the Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time." This simply means that while we, as family, go around feuding with each other, the enemies are right there with us enjoying themselves and capitalizing on the very thing we are disagreeing about.

"Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered." So Lot chose that whole region and thought he had made the right choice.   We later learn that the place that looked good to him was not good for him because "the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord." (Genesis 13:13) The territory of Sodom and Gomorrah was later completely destroyed.

After Lot had looked up, made his selection and parted, God told Abram, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever." Lot was alone in his selection, chose what he thought was good, but it was only a temporary fix for him. God assisted Abram and gave him four times as much as Lot, and the land remains today and will remain with Abram's descendants forever.

When you are involved in irreconcilable differences, allow the other person to choose first. Often times he or she will choose what appears to be the biggest and the best. Like Abram, choose the lower position because God has more in store for you and it will last forever.

Seeing Is Not Believing . . . Believing Is Seeing
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
The world has it all backward! The world says, "I will believe it when I see it." They say, "Seeing is believing." Those of strong faith say, "I will see it when I believe it." They say, "Believing is seeing." Believing is to place one's trust in God's truth without having seen any tangible evidence.
In order to say, "Believing is seeing," one must establish right relationship with God based on faith. One must have the heartfelt inner confidence that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do. Without seeing one shred of evidence, we MUST believe what is unseen until it manifests itself totally before our eyes. If you are praying for something that lines up with God's word, see it first through the eyes of faith even before it becomes a reality. Before you know it, what you have believed you will see! "Believing is seeing." So, believe it!

How Will I Know?
And he said, "Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?" Genesis 15:8
God had made a promise to Abram that he would become the father of many nations. At this time Abram was childless and old. His wife was barren and old. According to Abram's finite mind, there was absolutely no way this could or would happen. To convince Abram that His promise was "Yea" and "Amen," God took Abram outside and told him to count the stars and if he was able to number them, so shall his descendants be. Then Abram did what we might have done. He asked God, "How will I know?" "How can I be sure?"
Then God gave Abram an answer . . . not direct, but through an object lesson. He asked Abram to participate in this lesson by bringing Him animals to sacrifice. God cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other. When it became dark, God walked between the pieces in the blood thus sealing a covenant with Abram (Genesis 15:8-21).

When God promises you something, you might ask the question, "How will I know?" The answer has already been given through the object lesson of Jesus on the cross. . . with the blood that was shed establishing a New Covenant with us just as God established the Noahic Covenant with Noah, the Abrahamic Covenant with Abraham, the Mosaic Covenant with Moses, the Davidic Covenant with David. We serve a covenantal God.

Dreams: God's Night Communication
When the sun was setting, a deep sleep overcame Abram. Then the Lord said to him . . . (Genesis 15:12-16)

God speaks to us through our dreams; mainly because He can't get our attention during our waking hours. The first recorded dream in the Bible is when Abram fell into a deep sleep and God told him he would have many descendants; however, they would be enslaved over four hundred years. (Genesis 15:12-16) Abraham was no place around when this happened, but his dream did come true. The Israelites were enslaved four hundred and thirty years in Egypt.

Jacob dreamed about a ladder standing on the earth that reached heaven. (Genesis 28:11-16) Angels descended and ascended upon it letting Jacob know that even though he was in distress, he was still the object of God's love and care.

Joseph's dream was a foreshadow of his future and the future of his people. Joseph's dream caused his brothers to hate him, but it was a way of getting Joseph where God wanted him to be. Joseph dreamed that his sheaf in the field arose upright while his bothers' sheaves surrounded him and bowed down to him. This dream became a reality when Joseph became second in command in Egypt and his brothers had to go to him for food. (Genesis 37-50)

Dreams are God's night communication to us. Do you know what your dreams mean?

"One Piece"?
She gave this name [El Roi] to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." (Genesis 16:13)

When discussing the omnipresence of God with my five-year old grandson, AJ asked, "Does God see everybody no matter where they are?"  "Yes," I said, "God sees everyone no matter where they are." Looking puzzled, AJ replied, "You mean God sees you and me here right here, my brother in the other room, my baby sister in her crib, my grandfather across town and my uncle in Maryland, and everybody everywhere?" Again, I explained that God is present everywhere. We cannot see Him, but He sees us no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing. "Okay!" AJ said. And I thought he understood God's presence as a five year old could. 

AJ went on to do other things including completing a child's jigsaw puzzle. Later when I thought the conversation was forgotten, AJ came back to me with this question: "Does God see everybody everywhere as one piece?"

I immediately knew AJ meant "Does God see everybody as one unit like the completed puzzle instead of the many different pieces?" I answered, "Yes, God sees us all at the same time altogether as one piece."

That is true. There is no slide show with God. He does not view one frame and move to the next frame. He does not view what's going on in one country and then goes to another country. God sees us all as "one piece" and not as fragments. He does not see us all as mere pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. To God, we are one unit in His plan. We are all one nation unto God.

There is much more I will teach AJ about what God sees, but for now for a five-year old, AJ is satisfied knowing that God does see us all as "one piece."

Walk in God's Face
I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.  Genesis 17:1
God identified who He was and what He could do when He said to Abram, "I am God Almighty." He was telling Abram that He could do everything. . . that nothing was too hard or impossible for Him. He was assuring Abram that He would supply his every need. That was powerful enough, but God went on to say more.
God told Abram to "walk" before Me and be blameless. "Walk" is another word for "face." God was telling Abram, "Walk in my face. Meet Me eyeball to eyeball, nose to nose. Be so close to Me that your breath will infuse with Mine. Be so close to me that it will be impossible for you to determine if the heart beating is yours or Mine.
"Walk in my face, and be blameless." You might read this as two distinct imperatives. (1) Walk in God's face and (2) be blameless. Actually, it is only one command because if you walk in God's face all day, you WILL be blameless. The second imperative becomes the result of the first. If you focus on the God whose face you are in, you will not let your eyes see what they shouldn't, your mind think what it shouldn't or your life be what it shouldn't. You will live and move openly before God in a manner pleasing in His sight.
As we start this work week, let's walk in God's face and be blameless.

A Laughing Situation at Mamre
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.  Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Sarah laughed to herself when she heard she was going to have a son even though she was barren and she and Abraham were both past the age of childbearing. (Genesis 18:1; 10-11)

Abraham and Sarah both were old. Sarah was also barren. When the Lord told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, Sarah laughed. Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son. Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh” (Genesis 18:13-15).

Mamre is the place where you are when God tells you something great will happen to you, but you can't believe it. Since the blessing is bigger than you can imagine, you laugh. Sarah did have a son and named him Isaac which means “laughter.”

Stop laughing about the blessings God has told you He will give you. Believe them and receive them. After all, there is nothing too hard for God.

That's A Good Question
Is anything too hard for God? (Genesis 18:14)

How many times has someone asked you something and you replied, "That a good question." The Bible is full of good questions.

"What must I do to be saved?" (Luke 16:30)
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)
"And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29)
"Will a man rob God?" (Malachi 3:8)
"Is anything too hard for God?" (Genesis 18:14)

The Bible asks and then answers a number of good questions. There are questions about salvation, love, faith, confidence, trust, security, provision, protection, relationships and our purpose and pattern of life.

Whenever you ask a question concerning your life and the lives of those you serve, know that it is a good question. For every question you ask, God thinks "That's a good question" and He answers it. Sometimes the answer might surprise you, challenge you, or stretch your faith. However, every answer God gives will refresh your soul.

Keep asking the good questions. Keep receiving the good answers. And keeping responding to the good answers you receive.

How Are You Different?
When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. Genesis 19:16
Lot had lived so long and so contented among ungodly people that he was no longer a believable witness for God. He had allowed his environment to shape him, rather than shaping his environment. Lot had compromised to the point that he was almost useless to God. When he finally made a stand, nobody listened.
Do those who know you see you as a witness for God, or are you just one of the crowd, blending in unnoticed? Have you become useless to God because you are too much like your environment? Do you laugh at the dirty jokes in your office? Maybe you are the one telling the dirty jokes. Do you participate in the gambling pools just to fit in with the crowd? Do you join in with gossip? Or do you stand up for what is right? Your God-centered life SHOULD be different and others should notice the Christ in you by your lifestyle, by what you do and by what you say.

El Shaddai-The God of More Than Enough
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away, and she departed in the wilderness of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:14)

The items Abraham gave Hagar were not enough for her and her child to survive in the wilderness. After the water was all gone, the child was about to die of thirst and dehydration.  God heard the cry of Ishmael whose name means "God hears." God called from heaven and told Hagar to take her child in her hand. This was a point of contact. As soon as she did, God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the bottle with water and gave it to her son. (The empty bottle came in handy). A well of water in the desert was a miracle indeed! While Abraham had given her only a bottle of water, God had given her a well of water in an unexpected place. (Genesis 21:18-19)

Life Application: Man will give only a limit amount in comparison to what God will give us. However, we should be good stewards over that which man has given us before God will give us a superabundance of what we need. Also, there is some value in what man gives us. Notice Hagar needed the empty bottle to get water from the well.

If you need more of something, take good care of the little that you have. And when you come to the end of that which you have, God will make a way out of no way for you to get more just as He provided an entire well for Hagar in the desert. Why would God do that? That's because He is El Shaddai which means He is the God of more than enough.

The way to have more than enough is to be a good steward over that which you already have.

When Mothers Cry
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob." (Genesis 21:15-16)
Sometimes mothers cry over the well being of their children. However, the results are not always the same. The above scripture surrounds the story of Hagar who was sent into the wilderness with her son, Ishmael with only a piece of bread and a skin of water for the two of them. When the water was gone, Hagar put Ishmael under one of the bushes so she could not watch him die. When she began to cry, God heard the boy crying and God opened Hagar's eyes, and she saw a well of water. Her son drank and lived.
Generations later, Mary the mother of Jesus, saw her son not under a bush but on a cross in full view exposed in the air. Even though Mary cried and Jesus said, "I thirst" God did not provide a well of water. Instead, Jesus died for you and for me that we may all drink from the well of living water. Therefore, we never need to thirst again. "Come, all you who are thirty, come to the waters, and drink." (Isaiah 55:1)

When Her Water Ran Out
When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. (Genesis 21:15; 19)
The awesomeness of God's intervention is seen throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. God has the power to get between His people and any problem they might face. Hagar and her son Ishmael had been sent away from Abraham and Sarah with only a little food and a skin of water. They wandered in the desert of Beersheba until her water ran out. Then she put her son under one of the bushes because she couldn't bear to see him die. Being in the desert without water is a big problem but one that is not too big for an intervening God.
It is amazing to note that as long as Hagar had water, God did not intervene. He was present for sure, but God deliberately waited until Hagar had done all she could do. When she had come to the end of her human task, that's when God showed up supernaturally. Why didn't God supply an abundance of water immediately? He didn't have to...Hagar already had some. He wanted her to be a good steward of what she had before he supplied more. So it is with us. We cry out to God, "Give me more!" "Bless me abundantly!" God is sitting back waiting to see what you will do with what He has already given you. He is waiting until your water runs out. Then God will intervene because He will not let you die of thirst.
Thirsty for water? Drink the last drops you have, then God will supply more. Waiting for a blessing? Use the one(s) God has already given you. Then He will provide more!

Lay Down Your Isaac
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham! "Here I am," he replied. "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Genesis 22:9-11)

EVERYONE HAS AN ISAAC! An Isaac is that which you have wanted and looked forward to for a long time. Then when God gives it to you, He tests you by asking you to release it and give it back to Him.

God promised Abraham a son, but it was 25 years before the promise was fulfilled. And now God is asking Abraham to sacrifice what he had longed for and finally received. Why would a just God do such a thing?

The answer is quite simple. God wants us to love nothing or anybody more than Him. Therefore, He asks each of us to lay down our Isaac. Our Isaac could be a job, a career, a car, a house, a hobby, a spouse, a child, a friend or a favorite relative. No matter how good we think our Isaac is, God says to lay it down.

When you lay down your Isaac, it proves to God that you are willing to sacrifice that which you love in order to prove a deeper love for Him. The beauty of laying down your Isaac is that you don't have to sacrifice it after all. You only have to be willing to sacrifice it. God will stop you and provide an alternative in the nick of time after you have shown that willingness to lay down your Isaac.

When you lay down your Isaac, God will provide a ram in the thicket in place of your sacrifice. When you lay down your Isaac, God will become your Jehovah-Jireh, and you will be able to say like Abraham, "The Lord will provide." (Genesis 22:14)

Practice the Law of Relinquishment. Lay down your Isaac!

No Jehovah-Jireh Without Mt. Moriah
So Abraham called that place Jehovah-jireh ("The Lord will provide") as it is said to this day. (Genesis 22:14)
After Abraham had waited for the promised son, God tested his faith by telling him to take Isaac to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him up as a burnt offering. Just as Abraham had been obedient with everything else, he obeyed God. He rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey and set out to Mt. Moriah with Isaac as God had commanded. Just as the knife was coming down on Abraham's only son, God provided a ram in the thicket to be sacrificed instead. After Abraham had been tested God said, "Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me" (Genesis 22:12). So Abraham called that place Jehovah-jireh meaning "The Lord will provide."
Our tests might not be as pronounced as Abraham's, but we do have our own Mt. Moriah's as well. We are tested on every side daily (2 Corinthians 4:8). There can be no Jehovah-jireh until we face our tests and BE WILLING to give up our most precious possessions at Mt. Moriah. When we do that, we can say like Abraham, "Jehovah-jireh, The Lord will provide." There can be no Jehovah-jireh unless we meet God on Mt. Moriah. What is God commanding you to BE WILLING to give up?

Do Not Go Back
"Make sure you do not take my son back there," Abraham said. (Genesis 24:6)

In Genesis 12, God said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go the land I will show you." So Abram did as God commanded. Twelve chapters later, Abraham is about to die and he wants to make sure his 40 year-old son Isaac has a wife from his own country and his own relatives. However, neither Abraham nor Isaac could go back to get the wife.

Question? Why couldn't Abraham go back to his country himself? Why couldn't Isaac go there?  Answer? When God told Abraham to leave his country, there was a stipulation that he would not return. Had Abraham broken that promise, he would not have been able to become the Father of Many Nations. When God blesses us, often there are stipulations if we want the blessings to continue. When God brings us out of situations, we are NOT to go back to the place where we once were. To do so would result in our "backsliding." Don't go back to living the lifestyle you lived before you were saved.

Remember, when God tells us to leave some things behind, it is best never to return to them.

Consequences of a Quick Fix
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (Genesis 25:29-30)
A quick fix is something we do for immediate gratification. A quick fix is only a temporary solution for a bigger problem. When we get a flat tire, a quick fix is the small tire in our trunk that we can use until we get to a service station to replace it with a regular tire. Putting a towel around a wound to stop the bleeding until we get to the doctor is a quick fix. Quick fixes aren't supposed to last. They are substitutes and temporary measures until we can get the real thing. Sometimes there are serious consequences of a quick fix.

Esau's decision to trade his birthright for a bowl of red stew is a good biblical example of a quick fix. When he was hungry, he hastily made the decision to satisfy himself then and there instead of thinking about the long-term consequences. Because of Esau's quick fix, his twin brother Jacob, goes down in patriarchal history instead of Esau.

When a quick fix is necessary, remember it is a hastily contrived remedy that alleviates a problem only for the time being. As soon as possible, the quick fix should be replaced with something more valuable that will give lasting results.

If Jesus is not the center of your life, you are living on "quick fixes." What you are doing might give you temporary pleasure and power, but it will not last. We were not created to survive on quick fixes. We were created to thrive on a long lasting relationship with God.

Whatever your quick fix might be (alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, gambling, lying, cheating, stealing, debauchery or any form of immorality), trade it in for something more loving and more lasting  . . . Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Esau Syndrome
And Esau said, "Behold I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" Genesis 25:32
Esau traded the lasting benefits of his birthright for the immediate please of food. He acted on impulse, satisfying his immediate desires without pausing to consider the long-range consequences. Sometimes when we see something we want, our first impulse is to get it. Our immediate pleasure loses sight of the future.
Esau exaggerated his hunger. "I'm dying of starvation," he said. This thought made his choice much easier, because if he was starving, what good was an inheritance anyway? His immediate hunger distorted his perspective and made his decision seem urgent. We take on the Esau Syndrome when we want instant gratification. For example, when we feel sexual pressure, a marriage vow may seem unimportant. When we charge an expensive item, the credit card bill is far from our minds. We just have to have it, and we lose our perspective. Getting through that short, pressure-filled moment is often the hardest part of overcoming a temptation. We can avoid making Esau's mistake by comparing the short-time satisfaction with its long-range consequences before we act.

The True You
His father Isaac asked him, "Who are you?" (Genesis 27:32)

Have you ever wondered how God sees you? Have you ever wondered how others see you? You might be surprised to know that you do not see yourself as God or others see you. Then, who are you? Who is the real you? Who is the true you?

A good way to determine the true you is to monitor and acknowledge how you react under pressure. It is hard to know the real you when food is on the table, money is in the bank and clothes are on your back. Take one of these from you and the true you comes out in the form of worry and doubt, anxiety and depression and perhaps even sinful acts.

Also, the true you comes out when you are grieving or when you are in the midst of a crisis. You let your guard down and the true you comes to light. Everything comes to a head. And most of the time it is not a pretty sight.

How, then, can you make sure the true you is pleasing to God? 
  1. Realize that what you are facing is a reality. Don't try to deny it. Accept it and know that it too shall pass.
  2. Learn the value of your valley experience. Seek to find some lesson that you can use when you get back on level ground.
  3. Control your down-and-out experience instead of giving it permission to control you.
When you do the above things, you will find that the true you is a more pleasant person to be around. God will be pleased and so will your family, friends and co-workers.

 From Pillow to Pillar
Jacob took one of the stones there, put it under his head and lay down to sleep. [Then Jacob had an encounter with God]. Jacob set up the stone as a pillar that God will be his God and that would be God's house and of all that God gives him, he will give God a tenth. (Genesis 28:11; 21-22 NIV)
After deceiving his twin brother, Esau, out of his blessing, Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran to find a wife since Isaac, his father, told him not to marry a Canaanite woman. On his journey, Jacob stopped for the night to rest. He took a stone to use as a PILLOW. Needless to say, the stone was not a fluffy pillow stuffed with cotton or even feathers as we are accustomed to sleeping on. Nevertheless, Jacob put the stone under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and He promised Jacob the same things He had promised his grandfather, Abraham. So, when Jacob awakened, he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place." Therefore he set up a PILLAR as a memorial that the place where he slept would be God's house. That very day, Jacob vowed to give back to God a tenth of all God gives him.
Overnight Jacob went from PILLOW to PILLAR after having an encounter with God. Can you describe similar encounters you've had with God where you have gone from one station in your spiritual development to another?

Gaining By Waiting
So Jacob spent the next seven years to pay for Rachel. But they seemed to him but a few days, he was so much in love. (Genesis 29:20)
Anything worth having is worth waiting for. What do we gain by waiting? Believe it or not, by waiting we gain more than just the thing we have been waiting for. We gain a certain amount of patience, and our faith increases while waiting. Our strength is also renewed. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. . ." (Isaiah 40:31)
Waiting creates time during which we can really trust God. It is that time when we can discover what God is teaching us through our waiting period. Do know that waiting may be hard to do when we desire something deeply, but waiting for the appropriate time may be one of the keys for achieving it.

Deception Begets Deception
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" (Genesis 29:25)

How you ever deceived anyone? Has anyone ever deceived you? The above scripture is from the story of Jacob being deceived. But the story did not start with Jacob being deceived. Jacob was once the deceiver himself. Deception started when Jacob and Esau were twins in Rebekah's womb. The two babies were like two nations fighting against one another (Genesis 25:22-23). Deception begets deception. It is a vicious cycle, and if you are caught up in it, it will surely affect you.

What, then, is deception? Deception is cheating. It is trickery. It is fraud. It is subterfuge. It is double-dealing. It is dishonesty. It is doing something underhandedly. Deception is sin! Deception comes in many forms. However, no matter how subtle deception is, it goes against God's principles.

As in the synonym "subterfuge" deception involves a strategy for "getting over a person" while the other person is pushed under the trickery. Jacob had tricked his own brother, Esau with the help of his mother, Rebekah. In fact, it was Rebekah who suggested Jacob flee to Haran and live with her brother, Laban after Esau sought to kill Jacob. After Jacob fell in love with his first cousin Rachel, the beautiful daughter, he offered to work for Laban for seven years in order to marry Rachel. However, Laban had deception on his mind.

Laban provided a great feast and when it was time for him to lay with his wife, Leah, the older but not so beautiful daughter, is the one who ended up in Jacob's bed in the dark tent. When it was morning, Jacob discovered he had been tricked. His trickery had caught up with him. I wonder if he remembered at that point that he, too, had tricked his own brother.

When trickery is involved people rationalize why the trickery was warranted. Here Laban said it was a custom that the older daughter gets married first (Genesis 29:26). In case you are wondering about the ending of the story...Jacob worked another seven years for Rachel. However, Laban gave Rachel to Jacob after Leah's private week with Jacob was over. That's why today the usual honeymoon is a week.

The deception did not end with the marriage of Jacob to Leah. Jacob later deceived Laban about the flock and Jacob eventually flees from Laban just like he had fled to Laban twenty years earlier. (Genesis 30 and 31).

Deception begets deception. It has to stop somewhere. Let it stop here and now with YOU!

Turning Disappointments Into A Good Thing
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" (Genesis 29:25)

No one enjoys being disappointed. However, we all have experienced disappointments of some kind. No one wants to see their relationship dissolved, their job abolished or their dream shattered. Disappointments happen. But we can turn disappointments into a good thing.

The prefix "dis" means "bad" or "not" as in the words "discomfort," "displeased," discontent," "disaster," or "disease." A disappointment is a BAD appointment or an appointment that did NOT happen. You can turn your disappointment into a good thing by simply eliminating "dis" from the word, and you are left with "appointment." In other words, behind every disappointment is an appointment for something greater if you are willing to get up and get on with life. Most of us never see the appointment behind our disappointment.

We should quickly get over the sting of a disappointment and keep the appointment that is behind it. We can do so by remembering what happened to Jacob. Jacob had worked seven years for Rachel, but he was tricked into marrying Leah. He was disappointed. Instead of wallowing in his disappointment, he looked to see what was behind his disappointment. He then worked seven additional years for Rachel. And Jacob finally married Rachel. Had he stopped at the disappointment stage, he would not have seen the appointment that was waiting to happen.

Let's learn a lesson from Jacob. When we encounter a disappointment, let's get rid of the "dis" and keep the appointment that follows.

Worth The Wait
And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Genesis 29:28
You have probably heard the expressions, "Things worth having are worth waiting for" and "Good things come to those who wait." While these expressions might have some validity to them, waiting is not passive. While we are waiting for things to happen, we should participate in our own blessings. The above scripture shows that while Jacob was waiting for Rachel to become his wife, he was working. He wasn't sitting around waiting for Laban to hand his daughter over to him. He didn't have a pity party because after working for Rachel seven years, Laban tricked him into marrying Leah. Jacob knew what he wanted, and he knew what he had to do to get it. So Jacob served another seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her (Genesis 29:20).
The most important goals and desires are worth waiting and working for. Participate in your own blessings. Ask God to strengthen you to work as you wait.

Two Kinds of Jealousy
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God. (Nahum 1:2)
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. (Genesis 30:1)

There are two kinds of jealousy as indicated above.  God's jealousy is appropriate. Human jealousy is inappropriate and leads to sin.

God's jealousy is justified. God alone has the right to be jealous and and to carry out venegeance. It is appropriate for God to insist on complete loyalty and allegiance to Him and to Him alone. Only God deserves our undivided devotion. When He doesn't get it, He defends His word and His high honor. Therefore, we must treat only God and no one else in the universe as God.

Human jealousy, on the other hand, is not appropriate. There is a spirit of selfishness associated with human jealousy. Human jealousy is most often destructive rather than constructive. It can destroy relationships and friendships. And the most damaging thing about jealousy is that it can lead to sin. Joseph's brothers were jealous of him and their jealousy led them to get rid of him. (Genesis 37-50)

What is the best weapon against jealousy if someone is jealous of you? Keep on loving the people who are jealous of you. Saul was jealous of David, but David refused to harm him when he had the chance. Let love overcome jealousy toward you!

What is the best weapon against jealousy if you are the one who is jealous? Keep on loving the people you are jealous of. Become like Jesus Christ. Role play what Jesus would do. Let love overcome your jealousy toward others.

When God Remembers
But God remembered Noah. . . (Genesis 8:1)
Then God remembered Rachel . . . (Genesis 30:22)
And God remembered His covenant with Abraham... (Exodus 2:24)

Does God ever forget? It is not that God ever forgets, we just think He does. To say, "God remembers" does not mean there is a lapse in God's memory, that He forgets and needs to recall something to mind as we do. Such is never the case with God. His knowledge is full and constant. God had not forgotten Noah or Rachel or the covenant with Abraham. And God will never forget YOU. When the Bible says, "God remembered" rather than meaning God had forgotten, it simply means God had a renewed interest in them as a remembering.

To say, "God remembers" does not mean that God has forgotten anything at all. He doesn't need to bring back to His divine consciousness certain things. To say, "God remembers" tells us that God had previous thoughts of us. And now He is ready to act towards us based on those thoughts.

To say, "God remembered ______" is the beginning of hope for the person's whose name is in the blank. If you think God has forgotten you, then fill in your own name. Remind God to remember you: "Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them." (Psalm 106:4)

After God remembers, expect Him to act on that remembrance!

Lessons From Leah
Then Leah said, "God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have bore him six sons. So she named him Zebulun. (Genesis 30:20)

Leah entered into a marriage with Jacob who didn't love her. Leah was the "trick" that Laban played on Jacob who had been a trickster himself. So Leah was married but was unloved. Jacob loved Rachel, his other wife, but she was barren. Therefore, Leah used the only leverage she had to get Jacob's attention...her fertility. She hoped bearing children would get Jacob to love her.

Leah's firstborn son was named Reuben meaning, "to see." Leah wanted Jacob to SEE her. But he didn't. Then she had a second son, Simeon, meaning "to hear."  Every time she called his name, she was begging Jacob to HEAR her. But he didn't. So Leah had a third son, Levi, meaning "to be joined to" or "to be connected with." Leah wanted Jacob to CONNECT WITH HER, but he didn't. Leah had a fourth son whom she named Judah which means "let Jehovah be praised." She couldn't get Jacob to see her, to hear her, to join with her, so she gave up and began praising God through her son Judah.  The first three sons were bypassed, and it was from this tribe whose name means "praise" that Jesus was born.  Leah was on to something. She couldn't get Jacob to care for her; so she found fulfillment in PRAISE. God closed up Leah's womb for a while so that she could praise Him instead of trying to get Jacob's attention.

Later God opened up her womb and Leah had two more sons: Issachar meaning "God has rewarded me" and Zebulun meaning "precious gift."  Notice Leah received her REWARD and precious GIFT only after she began praising God with the birth of Judah.

What lessons do we learn from Leah? Man might not give us the attention we are seeking when we ask him to see us, to listen to us, or to connect with us. However, once we begin praising God, God will reward us and give us a precious gift.

Let's learn from Leah and save ourselves a lot of heartache. If you are not in the habit of praising God, begin to do so now. Then await your rewards and precious gifts to overtake you.

Consider the Consequences
When Laban had gone to sheer his sheep, Rachel stole her father's household gods. (Genesis 31:19)

Everything we do has consequences. Some consequences are so subtle, we don't see them as consequences. Some consequences happen so long after the act that we don't remember them as consequences. A consequence is the result of a previous action. Notice the consequence comes after an act; never before. That's why it is so important to consider the consequences before making a major decision of any kind.

Surrounding the above scripture is the story of Rachel stealing her father's household gods when Jacob and his family fled from Laban. When Laban caught up with them, he inquired about his household gods. Jacob, not knowing what his wife had done said, "If you find anyone who has your gods, he shall not live." (Genesis 31:32). Rachel died in childbirth. (Genesis 35:19)

Consequences are not limited to the person who performs the act. They affect others as well. You are where you are today because of consequences; either yours or somebody else's. Before you think, consider the consequences. Before you speak, consider the consequences! Before you act, consider the consequences!


What Motivates You?
And Jacob noticed that Laban's attitude toward him was not what it had been. Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." (Genesis 31:2-3)

Sometimes we are not as motivated as we are at other times. Sometimes we are not motivated to do a task until something major happens. What, then, is motivation?

Motivation is a stimulus, a drive, an influence, or an incentive that provokes us to do something. Unfortunately, the stimulus, drive, influence or incentive can be negative as well as positive.

If we procrastinate and don't do a particular thing, something unpleasant might happen to motivate us to do it. Something we might not expect will light a fire under us to force us to move in a different direction. Jacob was afraid to return home. He was afraid to face his twin brother, Esau. However, when he discovered Laban had cheated him out of his earnings and Laban's attitude had changed, Jacob became motivated and fled. (Genesis 31:1-21)

Let's move! Let's get going! Let's become motivated to do what we need to do before something or somebody forces us to do so.


The Need to Wrestle With God
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak." Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome. (Genesis 32:24, 26, 28)

Sometimes we need to wrestle with God. We need to do what Jacob did. He wrestled with God all night and swore that he would not let Him go until He blessed him. Jacob wrestled with God until he was blessed.

For the full benefit of the story, read Genesis 32:22-32. Several things happened that are worth noting. First of all, Jacob was alone when he wrestled with God. We, too, need to get alone with God for things to change. Secondly, Jacob wrestled with God all night. He was persistent. He did not give up during the midnight hour. He wrestled with God until daybreak. Next, when God saw that Jacob was not going to give up, He touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip (Genesis 32:32).  Finally, because Jacob wrestled with God and won, his name was changed during this struggle indicating that Jacob, too, would forever be a changed man.

If you want to experience a change in your life, get alone with God and wrestle with God until He blesses you. However, expect to be changed in other areas as well; perhaps physically as Jacob was with his hip. Jacob was blessed that night, but for the rest of his life he limped.

In spite of many troubles in Jacob's life, he lived to be a rich and full man. Could it have been because he wrestled with God and men and overcame?

 It Pays to Be Persistence
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome." (Genesis 32:28)
Does it pay to be persistent? Or should we give up if things do not happen as soon as we pray? The Bible gives many examples to illustrate that it pays to be persistent. In the above scripture, Jacob wrestled all night with God until God blessed him. Jacob was persistent. We should be persistent in order for our character to develop as we struggle through tough situations.
There is a parable in Luke 11:5-10 about the persistent friend who asked for three loaves of bread. At first the answer was "Do not trouble me." Because the friend was persistent, he was given as much as he needed.
The Bible sums it us quite well when it states, "Ask [and keep on asking] and it will be given to you; Seek [and keep on seeking] and you will find it; Knock [and keep on knocking] and it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 ).
Does it pay to be persistent? Jesus tells us to be persistent. Don't take the easy road and give up after a few efforts and conclude that God will not answer your prayer. Have faith, focus on God, and follow through to see what the end will be. Be persistent!

Seeing God's Face at Peniel
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”  (Genesis 32:30)

On your spiritual journey, you will sometimes encounter wrestling matches with God like Jacob did. A man wrestled with Jacob all night. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man changed Jacob's name to Israel, but in the struggle, Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon and he limped for the rest of his life. Jacob's life was spared, but he always had a reminder of what happened at Peniel that night.

Perhaps you can remember some nights you have wrestled with God. If you haven't done so already, perhaps you will. When you do wrestle with God and he changes your name, be not alarmed if he doesn't take a piece of you like he took a piece of Jacob's hip. Be willing to give up whatever He requires in return.

Longing For What Could Kill You
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!" (Genesis 30:1) Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. As she breathed her last (for she was dying) she named her son Ben-Oni (which means son of my sorrow). (Genesis 35:16a; 18)

Have you ever said, "I'm dying to have that house, that car, that suit, that man or that woman"? Or "That's something to die for"? Have you ever said like Rachel, "If I don't get ____, I'll die"?

Rachel admitted she longed to have children. Even after Joseph was born, the desire to have more children lingered with her. After all, her sister, Leah had bore six children for Jacob and his two concubines had bore him four children. Rachel died giving birth to her second son. She named him Ben-Oni which means "son of my sorrow." However, Jacob named him Benjamin. The thing that Rachel longed for killed her.

What are you longing for that might kill you? Know that the very thing you long for could be your Ben-Oni, your thing of sorrow. The thing you have prayed for, begged God for, and even wrestled with God for might be what will kill you. God has good reasons not to give you the thing or the person you think you can't live without. God knows if you had it, it would become your thing of sorrow. God knows that if you receive what you are dying for, it just might kill you spiritually, if not physically. That's why God, in His infinite grace and mercy, has not answered your prayer.

Remember, if you get what you are longing for, it could kill you!

 How Your Dreams Can Come True
What is this dream you had? (Genesis 37:10)
Our dreams can come true whether we are dreaming of a new house, a new car, a college degree, to get married or to get that ideal job. Dreams do come true when our desires, our faith, and our obedience all line up together with the word of God.
In order for your DESIRES to line up, you must "delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). In order for your FAITH to line up, you must "trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). In order for your OBEDIENCE to line up, you must "obey the Lord your God and follow His commands and decrees" (Deuteronomy 27:10).
Dreams do come true when your desires line up with the plans God has for you; when you hold firm to your faith, and when you obey His commandments. If any one of the three is out of order, then your dream is likely to remain just that---a dream!

From the Pit to the Palace
So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, and they threw him into the pit. (Genesis 37:23-24) So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt." (Genesis 41:41)
Joseph was hated by his brothers because they were jealous of him. This decided to kill him, but Reuben, the oldest brother advised the brothers to put Joseph in the pit instead. When some Midianites merchants came by, the brothers sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver like Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Joseph was taken to Egypt where he was sold into slavery.
Even though a slave, God was with Joseph and he prospered. He used his special gift to interpret Pharaoh's dream and was put in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Joseph was a type of Christ because he was put in the pit by his brothers but was exalted to the palace by God. Jesus was crucified and buried, but God raised Him from the dead and now He sits on the throne in heaven at the right hand of God.
We can be a type of Christ by allowing God to elevate us from the pit to the palace. When others cast us down, it is God who can and will raise us up . . . from the pit to the palace.

Bloom Where You Are Planted
And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.  Genesis 39:2
I have found that if you do not complete the plans God has for you where you are, similar troubles will occur no matter where you go. A change of relationships, jobs, churches, or geographical locations will not fix the situation. The source of the problems goes where you go because the source is YOU and your attitude towards life. A transformation in one's life occurs only when the individual begins to see life through God's eyes and not through his or her own eyes. God wants you to bloom where you are planted. In other words, do what Joseph did. Keep your eyes on God and you will be prosperous even as a slave in a foreign land, or in prison for a crime you did not commit. Endure and before your know it, you could become like Joseph, ruler over that which has enslaved you.

The People Around You
And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. (Genesis 40:5)

Every person around you is there for a reason. Oh, how terrible for us that we do not recognize them and receive what they have to offer. How terrible it is to sit at a desk next to someone and never learn anything about him or her! How terrible it is to sit through a two-hour airplane ride with a stranger and never learn anything about him or her!

A true incident is told about a man who was interested in a young lady he met while she was vacationing in his hometown. The young lady didn't take time to find out anything about him before she judged him and dismissed him. The final night of her vacation, a television documentary captured her attention. The documentary was about the man she met when she first arrived. The man was a godly man. He was financially secure. He was well established in his business, and his ideal woman was one who would take time to get to know him. Ironically, the man possessed exactly what the woman was looking for in a man. However, she didn't take the time to find out.

The people around us are there for a reason. God has placed them around us to help us to grow and to help us build character. Even our enemies around us help to some extent. At least they keep us on our knees.

In the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50), we see Joseph surrounded by people who were instrumental in God's plan for Joseph's greatest good. Potiphar's wife was around Joseph. She caused him to go to prison for a crime he did not commit. While in prison, the butler was around Joseph, and he did what butlers do. He opened the door for Joseph's dream to come true. While in prison, the baker was around Joseph, and he did what bakers do. He put all the ingredients together for Joseph to be released. Pharaoh not only released Joseph from prison, but he also put him in a place of honor. Joseph become second in command of all Egypt. God's plan for Joseph was fulfilled through the people around him.

The people around you serve a purpose. God has placed them in your midst to open doors for you, to help you put the ingredients together, and to help your dream come true. Look around you now and recognize the people who might be instrumental in God's plan for your life. Don't dismiss the people around you. They just might be there to help your dream come true!

When People Forget You!
But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison (Genesis 40:14). The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him (Genesis 40:23).
While in prison, Joseph's interpretation of the cupbearer's dream was that the cupbearer would soon be released. Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him and mention him to Pharaoh. However, once the cupbearer received his freedom, he forgot about Joseph.

Several things should be noted here. Joseph trusted the cupbearer to keep his word. Joseph did what we all do . . . he relied on a human. The arm of flesh will fail us. Because the cupbearer was human with human frailties . . . he forgot Joseph. Joseph himself thought he was ready to be released. After all, he was innocent and never should have been there in the first place. Even this was part of God's plan. God knew Joseph had some more thinking and growing to do. Joseph was not ready at that time to take on the responsibilities God had planned for him.
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream and that's when the cupbearer remembered Joseph. After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream, he was rewarded. Everything Joseph has dreamed when he was seventeen years old became a reality when he was thirty years old. It took that long for God's plan to be manifested through people and circumstances.
The cupbearer forgot Joseph, but God remembered. When people forget you, know that God remembers, and He is still working out His plan for your life.

Higher Ground
Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:43)

No matter how low you think you are, you can move to higher ground. People do it all the time. Read some of the rag to riches stories about people such as Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and J.K. Rowling. Apple's billionaire Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College when he couldn't pay the tuition. His net worth today could support nearly 40,000 students at Reed for four years.

You might be so low that you have to reach up to touch the ground, but do know that there is a higher ground and a higher calling for you in the coming year.
Think of the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. He kept going down, down, down until God elevated him to higher ground. His brothers put him down in a pit. His brothers sent him down to Egypt. Potiphar put him down in a dungeon. But God delivered Joseph from all his downs and elevated him to be in charge of all Egypt, the same place as two of his three downs.
If the story of Joseph didn't convince you, here's another one. Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord was taken down from the cross on Friday, put down in a tomb, and went down to hell to set the captives free. But on the third day, He arose again with all power.
Feeling down today? Learn all you can from your situation and be ready when the time comes for God to move you to higher ground. It just might be in the place where you already are.


Why Kunta Kinte Didn't Want His Name Changed
And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-Paaneah. (Genesis 41:45)
Alex Haley's Roots' character, Kunta Kinte refused to say the new name given to him because it would have stripped him of all that belonged to him . . . his culture, his family, his background and his previous life. His father had thought long and hard for an appropriate name. A major celebration took place for this special naming ritual on the eighth day of his birth. Under the moon and the stars, the father lifted the baby with his face to heaven as he softly said, "Behold the only thing greater than yourself." As a captive, Kunta Kinte endured serious beatings because he refused to say the new name given him. When he could endure it no longer, he did speak the name "Toby" but deep within his heart, he knew that there was nothing greater than his name, Kunta Kinte.
When Joseph was made second in command in Egypt, he was given Egyptian gifts, an Egyptian wife and an Egyptian name. His new name was to erase his past. His new name was to be the thing that separated his new life from his old life. When one's name is changed, it is to indicate a new chapter in one's life. Why do you think women's names are usually changed when they get married? In essence, they give up their lives as belonging to their fathers in exchange for belonging to their husbands in the biblical sense. The name change represents other changes that are bound to happen.
Throughout the Bible, we see names changed to illustrate a new beginning . . . Abram, Sarai, Jacob, Daniel, the 3 Hebrew boys, Joseph, Peter and Paul.
Your name might not be changed here on earth, but each one of us who overcometh will be given a new name in heaven (Revelation 3:17).

Being Alone With God
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. (Genesis 42:38)

Something happens when we are alone with God. While God can speak to us and we can hear His voice in a crowd, most of the time God speaks to us when we are alone.

Where was Abraham when God made a covenant with him? Alone! Where was Moses when God called him to be a deliverance? Alone on the backside of a mountain herding Jethro's sheep. Where was Isaiah when he was called? In the temple experiencing God all by himself. Where was David when Samuel went to anoint him king? In the pasture alone taking care of his father's sheep.

Where was Nicodemus when he found out about being born again? Alone at night with Jesus. Where was the Samaritan woman when she learned about the living water? Alone with Jesus at the well. Where was John when he witnessed the revelation of Jesus Christ? Alone on the isle of Patmos.

There is nothing wrong with being with the crowd, but sometimes God wants to do some things in our lives when we are ALONE. Some people avoid private time with God because they are fearful of what He will require of them. Sometimes God requires us to wrestle with Him. Sometimes He requires us to take on a monumental task. Sometimes He wants to anoint us for a special assignment. Sometimes He wants to talk to us one-on-one. Sometimes He wants us to experience living water. And then sometimes He wants just to reveal some important things to us.

Make an appointment now to have some private time with God. He is waiting for you to come to Him ALONE so that He can give you that special assignment that has been earmarked just for you.

Joseph: A Type of Christ
But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (lGenesis 45:7)

Joseph was a dreamer. He also had the gift of interpreting dreams. His special gift, being Jacob's favorite son and by knowing God's designs for his life, made these things unbearable for his eleven brothers, who eventually conspired against him. Even so, Joseph survived and prospered where most of us would fail. Because God was on Joseph's side every step of the way, people found favor with him: Pharaoh, Potiphar, the warden, other prisoners, the king, and after many years, even his brothers.
Joseph was a type of Christ in many ways; that is, his life was similar to that of the coming Messiah. He was betrayed and deserted by his family, exposed to cruelty, punished for doing the right thing, but eventually was exalted to a high position. For the full benefit of knowing how Joseph was a type of Christ read Chapters 37-50 of Genesis.

Separated For the Greater Good
And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (Genesis 45:7)

 Many times in the Bible God used the troubles of one individual to save a nation. Joseph was put in a pit to end up in a palace not for himself but for his family that became the nation of Israel. Joseph was the only one of his family who was in Egypt until many years later when he sent for his family to get away from a famine in the land. Even though Joseph was separated from his family, it was for the greater good. (Genesis 37-50)
 It was the same way for Moses. He had to be separated from his family in order to save them later. It was the same way for Esther. She was separated from her family to be where she was to save the whole Jewish nation.
 God used Jesus as an example for us. God sent His only begotten Son from home to save nations. Jesus left His heavenly home to come to earth to save all of us. He was separated for the greater good.
 If God has allowed you to be separated from your family for a reason you can't explain, it could be for the greater good. The experience you are getting by being away from your family could be what is needed to help your family in a greater way.
 Don't think it strange when God moves you away from family and family traditions. It is His way of separating you for the greater good.

Facing A New Situation
So He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there." Genesis 46:3
Jacob, like his grandfather, was told by God to leave his home and travel to a strange and faraway land. God assured Jacob and promised to go with him and take care of him. Is God calling you to face a new situation where you are doubting because you are uncertain about what to expect? When new situations or surroundings frighten or worry you, recognize that experiencing a little anxiety is normal. To be paralyzed by it, however, is an indication that you question God's ability to take care of you. When facing tough decisions, weigh the positives and negatives carefully. But don't let potential difficulties blind you to God's power to help and His promise to guide.

In the Land of Goshen
Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in the land of Goshen.” (Genesis 47:5)

Goshen is a good place to be. It is the best part of the land. When Joseph sent for his family to come to Egypt, they were allowed to stay in Goshen. It is the place where you can see the destruction of your enemies, but “if you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91:9-10).

The ten plagues of Egypt did not affect those in Goshen even though it was nearby. God will protect you if you belong to Him. “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (Psalm 91:7).

Watch your enemies being destroyed, but know that you are safe in the land of Goshen.

Reach Beyond The Break
Jacob said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too." Genesis 48:11

Today's message has been inspired by a new E-Message friend who responded yesterday and shared that my messages challenge her to reach beyond the break. She stated that when the waters in her life get rough and the life line is thrown, she must reach beyond the break. She received this concept from a song she heard many years ago. A man was drowning, and the life line was thrown to him. The man yelled, "The rope is breaking." The man from the boat yelled back, "Reach beyond the break."
We, too, need to reach beyond the break. There is hope beyond the break. When Joseph became a slave in Egypt, Jacob thought he was dead and wept in despair (Genesis 37:30). Eventually God's plan allowed Jacob to regain not only his son, but his grandchildren as well. Circumstances are never so bad that we can't reach beyond the break for God's help. Jacob regained his son. Job got a new family (Job 42:10-17). Mary and Martha regained their brother Lazarus (John 11:1-44). The prodigal son returned home (Luke 15:20). When our lives are broken in any area, whether in relationships, finances, or jobs, we never need to despair for we can always REACH BEYOND THE BREAK!

Final Instructions
Then Jacob called for his sons and said, "Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come." (Genesis 49:1)

Have you noticed in the Bible when the patriarchs became old, they gave instructions to those who would take their place in the family or in leadership positions? For example, Jacob blessed his children, gave them territories, and left instructions for them to follow after his death (Genesis 49:1). Moses did the same thing with young Joshua. He told Joshua to be courageous and strong and carry on in the same manner he had seen Moses lead the people (Deuteronomy 33:1).  David gave final instructions to Solomon. He told him who to trust and who not to trust (I Kings 2:1-3).  When Paul was old and knew that his beheading was approaching, he instructed Timothy how to be an effective pastor (2 Timothy 3:10-15).

Before Jesus, our Savior and Lord left this earth, He instructed the disciples how to continue in the ways they had been taught. Jesus also left final instructions for us to be brought to complete unity to let the world know that God is in us (John 17:23).

Have your forefathers left final instructions for you? Perhaps it is time for you to formulate final instructions for those who will follow in your footsteps.

Dysfunctional Families
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him. (Genesis 49:28)

We all know them. We have heard about them. We have read about them. We have seen them. We might even belong to one. I am not talking about a gang, a club, a church or an organization. I am talking about a family; specifically, a dysfunctional family. Anything that doesn't operate according to the norm is considered to be dysfunctional.  A dysfunctional family is simply a family composed of members who act in abnormal ways or operate in an impaired manner most of the time.

There are many notable dysfunctional families in the Bible. The very first family had its problems. Cain killed Abel, his brother. (Genesis 4:8) Jacob tricked his brother, Esau. (Genesis 27) Jacob had twelve sons and most of them contributed to the dysfunction of the family. When Jacob was ready to die in Genesis 49 he blessed all his sons as he also reminded some of them of their unfavorable deeds. Jacob's oldest son, Reuben committed an incestuous act in Jacob's own bed with Jacob's concubine. Simeon and Levi tricked and massacred the Hivites when one of the Hivites raped Dinah, their sister. And we know the story of how the brothers sold Joseph into slavery and lied to Jacob for years that Joseph was dead.

We might not have gone to that extreme, but there is enough impaired functions in our own family for it to be described as "dysfunctional." The good news is that God uses dysfunctional families. The dysfunctional family described above is also known as the twelve tribes of Israel that we read about in our Bible today. And out of this dysfunctional family through the tribe of Judah came our Lord and Savior.

God uses dysfunctional families to complete His work in the earth. So don't let your being from a dysfunctional family keep you from doing your part.

God's Divine Plan

You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good! (Genesis 50:20)
God brings good from evil deeds. When people plan to do you harm through harsh words or false accusations, you might want to be bruised and beaten. Trust God to bring you out of those bad situations. Like Joseph learned in Genesis 37-50, God can overrule people's evil intentions to bring about God's intended results.
We are all like Joseph at one time or another. Joseph was ridiculed, betrayed by his brothers, falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and forgotten by people. God was preparing him for bigger and better things — for a throne, and for a ministry to his own people that wouldn't have been possible to achieve by any other means. God had not forgotten Joseph.

Nor has God forgotten you! Like Joseph, forgive people totally from your heart when they mistreat you. You will discover the wonderful ways in which our patient, loving God is preparing you for service. It's all in God's divine plan!

See EVERYTHING As An Opportunity
But as for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20)

An opportunity is something or someone who can provide a good chance for our advancement or progress. EVERYTHING and EVERYONE can be an opportunity. We MUST recognize the opportunity when it appears. An opportunity will not come wearing a neon sign or announcing that it is an opportunity. We must be attuned to the opportunity, and we must have the proper attitude toward the opportunity.

CASE IN POINT: When Joseph's brothers put him in a pit and then decided to sell him to the Midianites, it set off a series of opportunities not only for Joseph but also for his entire family including his brothers who wanted to do him harm. It didn't look like an opportunity at the time, but in the long run, it was! (Genesis 37-50)

CASE IN POINT: When Moses was on the backside of the mountain tending Jethro's sheep, he saw a bush burning and it became the opportunity of a lifetime. It was the beginning of years of delivering the Israelites out of Egypt.  Initially, Moses tried to get out of the assignment. (Exodus - Deuteronomy)

CASE IN POINT: The disciples went fishing one day as usual, but one particular day they had the opportunity of a lifetime. They did not miss the opportunity. They became fishers of men. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

Opportunities come our way often. It is so sad we miss more opportunities than we take advantage of. We should see an opportunity in everything that happens to us. Some of the best opportunities and best rewards in life have come from what we thought were bad situations: the loss of a job, the rejection of a bank loan, an unexpected move, a broken relationship, etc.

See EVERYTHING as an opportunity!


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