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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #45 on: July 15, 2006, 03:01:12 PM »

Read: 1 Chronicles 17:1-15

I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you. - 1 Chronicles 17:10

TODAY IN THE WORD

The heart of worship is always ready to adore our great God. That was the attitude not only of David but of countless believers through history. Augustine, for example, prayed: “O Lord in whom all things live, who commanded us to seek you, who are always ready to be found: to know you is life, to serve you is freedom, to praise you is our soul's delight. We bless you and adore you, we worship you and magnify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

For David in today's reading, a heart of worship meant he didn't want to live in a palace while the Ark remained in a tent. He wanted to build a proper temple. But he didn't rush ahead, as he had done previously. Instead, he consulted Nathan the prophet, showing that he had learned an important lesson about submitting all his plans, even ones with good motives, to the Lord. God's answer, however, was “no”—the honor of building a temple would go to his son, Solomon.

Though the request was denied, the Lord's answer was much richer than what King David had asked for. In what is often called the “Davidic covenant,” God confirmed that the kingdom would be secure, remaining enemies would be subdued, and a golden age was about to begin. The themes of homecoming and safety (v. 9) would have been especially poignant to the returned exiles for whom Chronicles was first written. They would also have been encouraged by the long-term promise that David's throne and house would be established forever, a promise with clear messianic implications (v. 14).

Jesus Christ fulfills that promise. His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, were both in the line of David. When He was crucified, it was under a sign proclaiming Him “King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37). And the last book of the Bible opens by identifying Him as the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5).

TODAY ALONG THE WAY

As with David, God has promised us many things within His plan of salvation. Keeping these promises close to our hearts can strengthen our faith. Good verses to memorize include Romans 1:16-17; Ephesians 1:13-14; and Hebrews 9:28. In Christ, we have a “living hope . . . an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade,” and we are “shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
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« Reply #46 on: July 15, 2006, 11:54:16 PM »

Read: Genesis 11:27-12:9
So Abram left, as the Lord had told him. - Genesis 12:4
TODAY IN THE WORD
In September 2005, 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops attempted to evacuate civilians from Tall Afar, Iraq, to protect them from a raid against insurgents. Many people refused to leave through the designated checkpoints out of fear and distrust. One man said, “I would rather die . . . in my home with my family than walk south.”

Leaving home for an unknown destination would be difficult for anyone, regardless of the potential reward or the imminent danger. About 4,000 years ago—and only a few hundred miles away from Tall Afar—a man named Abram faced the choice of whether to go or stay. God called him out of his home in Ur and away from the idolatry of his homeland (Josh. 24:2). God was very clear about what He would do for Abram. But still He was asking Abram to make a major sacrifice and providing very few details.

We know what happened to Abram, the first of the Patriarchs and the subject of our study over the next several days. God's call to Abram (12:1-3) came before his 600-mile move to Haran (cf. Acts 7:2), and it's unclear if God repeated it in Haran. Chapter 11 records Abram's genealogy and the account of his father, Terah, so the call in Ur could have been placed here in the text simply to shift the focus of the narrative to Abram.

Abram and Sarai had no children (11:30) though they were in a genealogical line rich with large, well-established families in the region. Abram left with no idea where God might lead him or how he would become a great nation. If we trace Abram's journey from Ur to Shechem, where God finally gave Abram confirmation that he had arrived in God's desired location, we see that he traveled about 1,000 miles, roughly the distance from Chicago to Boston. Abram's obedience to God endured throughout the journey as he paid tribute to God multiple times (vv. 7, Cool. One phrase typifies the new life of faith that Abram adopted: “pitched his tent” (v. Cool. Abram left a life of wealth in a prosperous region for life in a tent in a faraway land.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Abram's decision to obey God cost him his very way of life—which might be the possession we hold onto most dearly. The best of us may give God our time, our effort, and our money, but rarely are we willing to relinquish our comfort.

To show the faith of our fathers, we should be ready to surrender our lives. Ask God to weaken your attachment to your lifestyle and free you to enjoy the blessing of His will.
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« Reply #47 on: July 15, 2006, 11:54:45 PM »

Read: Genesis 12:10-20
Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? - Genesis 12:18
TODAY IN THE WORD
Skydiving is a surprisingly accessible pastime in America. There are more than 400 drop zones open to the public, and interested divers can prepare for a freefall jump with just one day of training. Falling at speeds in excess of 100 mph is relatively easy; finding the nerve to jump is another matter.

Abram had already done the hard part by obeying God's call to leave his homeland—the courage required to do so should never be underestimated. But at this point, going was the only thing God demanded (12:1-3). God placed no other conditions on him. He didn't have to prove himself righteous, wise, or skillful . . . he just had to go. Abram must have been thankful for that mercy, especially after the events of today's passage.

When famine drove Abram toward Egypt, he couldn't have known if he was leaving God's appointed land—he wasn't given boundaries until chapter 15. Going to Egypt didn't show a lack of faith, but lying about Sarai did. Abram feared that he would be killed (v. 12), so he covered up his marriage. He would later say that Sarai was his half-sister (20:12), although his genealogy in Chapter 11 makes no reference to such a relationship. Regardless of those details, God's promise should have assured Abram that his life was not in danger. Interestingly, God didn't penalize him for his lie or his fear. Abram had obeyed what God required of him, and God stayed true to His word.

Abram was blessed with livestock and servants. Pharaoh was cursed with plagues. This blessing was not the result of Abram's good works but because of his faith. Abram still had plenty of room for spiritual growth. Faith alone was God's expectation, and Abram was without peer in that department.

As Romans 4:13 states, “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.” Abram's sin could not stop God's plan of redemption—his sin, like ours, was the reason redemption was needed in the first place.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
A brief glance cannot sufficiently cover the topic of justification by faith, and it's an important concept to meditate on as we move forward in this study. Every day we'll see examples of imperfect faith from imperfect people—in the Bible and in ourselves. Read through Romans 4 and reflect on what Abraham's faith means to us, especially in light of his imperfection. Remember that your faith produces righteousness and not the other way around.
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« Reply #48 on: July 15, 2006, 11:55:15 PM »

Read: Genesis 13:1-18
All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. - Genesis 13:15
TODAY IN THE WORD
Flea markets play host to bargain hunters searching through a treasure trove of goods. Some people overpay, and other deals are fair, but in some cases, like the customer who paid $4 for a painting that hid an original printing of the Declaration of Independence, the trade is a one-sided victory. In today's reading, Lot sought the best deal, but Abram was the clear winner.

Abram and Lot's problem was one that most people would like to have—they had too many possessions. Abram shows a proper attitude toward his possessions in two ways. First, he praises God. The phrase “called on the name of the Lord” in verse 4 is usually used in connection with building an altar and making sacrifices of worship (cf. 12:Cool. It's very likely that he sacrificed a portion of his livestock to acknowledge the true source of his wealth.

The other gesture Abram made was to surrender the one thing he didn't have in abundance: land. Cohabiting with Lot and his entourage was causing conflict, and instead of aggravating the situation, Abram yielded to Lot. He treated Lot like an equal, and gave him the choice of any land he desired. Pay special attention to Abram's attitude of surrender, because it is rare in the history of the Patriarchs.

Lot took a good, long look at the available land, and he chose what he thought would be the best. As we'll soon read, Lot made a poor choice, selecting a land rich in fertile soil but contaminated by sin (v. 13).

Now it was Abram's turn to survey the land. After Lot left, God told Abram to look at all that he could see in every direction just as Lot did. God told him he could have it all. Verse 7 made it clear that the land had other inhabitants, but God disclosed with greater detail the nature of Abram's inheritance. His descendants were to receive all of the land, and they would be too numerous to count. Considering Abram's descendants at the time added up to a grand total of zero, this was an amazing prediction. But Abram obeyed, and he continued to worship God (v. 18).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
God provides. Abram left his home; God increased his wealth. He relinquished the choice of land; God gave him all the land he could see. He had no children; God made from him multiple nations that thrive even today. So why do we grab all we can reach, seize control of every choice, and long for what we don't have?

Give freely to God. Let others take what they want. God will provide.
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« Reply #49 on: July 15, 2006, 11:55:46 PM »

Read: Genesis 14
Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. - Genesis 14:19
TODAY IN THE WORD
In cinema, a zoom lens can change the audience's understanding of a situation. By zooming in very closely on a person's face, a viewer can see every twitch or eye movement, creating a personal aspect to the picture. Zooming out creates distance, but with it comes the added perspective of knowing what's going on around the subject.

We've been following Abram closely to this point. Today, we zoom out to see the bigger picture of the world he was in. We might have the impression that Abram was living in seclusion in the land of Canaan, but Chapter 14 reminds us that in key ways Abram was not alone.

First, wars were going on around him; a war between nine kings (v. 9) could not have gone unnoticed by Abram, and it didn't. Before long, he, too, was involved.

His involvement stemmed from another aspect in which Abram wasn't alone. Even though he was separated from Lot, Abram had not at all forgotten him. When he learned of Lot's capture by foreign kings, Abram came to the rescue. Amazingly, Abram had already amassed a battalion of 318 men—truly God had blessed him!

After the battle had ended, we learn yet again that Abram wasn't alone—the existence of Melchizedek proves that Abram wasn't alone in his faith. Scripture highly esteems Melchizedek, using his dual priesthood and kingship to foreshadow the reign of Jesus Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1-10). That's important to understand if we are to have a proper perspective of the Patriarchs. While we can trace our faith back to him, faith didn't originate with Abram. It also shows that God didn't select Abram out of necessity—unlike Noah, he wasn't the only person at the time who believed in God.

Abram's refusal to accept the spoils of war from the king of Sodom shows his proper understanding of the promise of God. He knew that his inheritance would come from Him, and he didn't want to be in debt to such a wicked king.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Abram wasn't alone, and neither are we. Like he was, we're surrounded by strangers who don't share our faith. Each of us has friends and family members who need our help. And we have fellow believers who can help us. Are you prepared to put your faith in action as Abram did—to lend help to those in need, to show thanks to those who help, and to resist temptation from the wicked? Call on God for help.
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« Reply #50 on: July 15, 2006, 11:56:16 PM »

Read: Genesis 15
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. - Genesis 15:6
TODAY IN THE WORD
Comedian Steven Wright once said, “A clear conscience is usually the sign of bad memory.” As we study the life and faith of Abram and the Patriarchs, we'll be reminded regularly that they were far from sinless. But thanks to justification by faith, their sins, and ours, could be forgotten and forgiven.

Actually, God promises so much to Abram in this passage—offspring as innumerable as the stars (v. 5), extensive land (v. 18), and victory over the inhabitants (vv. 19-21)—that it's easy to forget the remainder of the prophecy—four centuries of enslavement and oppression were guaranteed to Abram's descendants (v. 13).

But the most notable thing given to Abram was the one thing that could not be taken away or enslaved: the credit of righteousness from God (v. 6). This is the first time that the word righteousness appears in the Bible, and it's interesting that it precedes any laws or commandments given to Abram. Abram believed, and in God's economy, that was a worthy exchange for righteousness. Notice that righteousness wasn't something Abram did—it was given to him.

God also reaffirms to Abram that his promised descendants would be from his body, not just his house. The affirmation comes after Abram expressed some doubt as to how the promise would be fulfilled. God's word alone was enough to convince him. But when it came to possessing the land, Abram wanted some additional sign that he would be able to acquire it (v. Cool. So God confirmed it with a covenant that detailed the boundaries of the Promised Land and the people God promised to give over to Abram.

Some interpret “river of Egypt” to mean the Nile, but it more likely refers to a wadi or riverbed called the River of Egypt, nearly a hundred miles east of the Nile River delta. Eventually, Israel's southern border did reach the River of Egypt, but it has yet to approach the Euphrates River.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
The land that God promised to give Abram has yet to be fully claimed by his descendants and is still at the heart of much contention both between the peoples of that land and among the scholars who study it. But the righteousness that God credited for Abram's faith is indisputable and freely available to all. Christ's suffering on the cross paid our debt of sin in full, and His righteousness is ours to claim. You can believe in Him and accept His gift of righteousness.
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« Reply #51 on: July 15, 2006, 11:56:43 PM »

Read: Genesis 16:1-6
Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. - Genesis 16:2
TODAY IN THE WORD
Boxer James “Quick” Tillis had big plans when he arrived in Chicago looking for his career to take off. After stepping off of a bus downtown, he placed his suitcases down on the sidewalk and looked up at the Sears Tower. Surveying the majesty of the skyline, Tillis proudly proclaimed to himself, “I am going to conquer Chicago!” When he looked down, his suitcases were gone.

Self-serving plans can wind up hurting us. The main theme that we have examined so far has been Abram's surrender of all he had, so that God could provide him with something better. Today, that focus shifts. Sarai calls Abram's attention to what God had withheld from them—a child—and she works out a plan of her own to meet her desire for a family. The results didn't go as planned.

To understand this story, we can look at the situation from a number of angles. God promised to give Abram descendants through his body, but he had not yet specified Sarai as the intended mother. And from a cultural point of view, the practice of using a servant as a surrogate mother was probably commonly accepted. Was this Abram and Sarai's heartfelt attempt at faithfully following God's will? Not at all.

Neither Abram nor Sarai mention God's promise for descendants in this passage. The only motivation cited in these verses is that Sarai wanted to “build a family” (v. 2). Abram's silent agreement with the plan conspicuously raises our attention. His actions bear an eerie similarity to Adam's participation with Eve in eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6). The text does not suggest that Abram and Sarai were attempting to “help God out” in fulfilling His promise. Sarai's plan was an act of self-service, an attempt to provide for herself what God had not given. Sarai's actions after Hagar conceived prove her spirit of selfishness. She wasn't even satisfied when her goal was accomplished. Instead, she drove Hagar away and didn't, as she had originally said that she intended to do, consider Ishmael to be her own son (21:9-10).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
This passage is often used to argue that we should not use our ways to try to accomplish God's will. But from what we see in the text, Sarai was hardly trying to accomplish God's will at all—her own ego and status were what she cared about. The real lesson here is this warning: never use God's will as an excuse to defend our own selfish desires. Instead, let us make Psalm 119:35 our prayer, “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.”
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« Reply #52 on: July 15, 2006, 11:57:13 PM »

Read: Genesis 17:1-27
He laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?” - Genesis 17:17
TODAY IN THE WORD
One night after a performance, a woman greeted Victor Borge to tell him how much she appreciated his humor, but her words didn't come out exactly as she intended: “I haven't laughed that much since my husband died!” A response of laughter also seems inappropriate when receiving God's promise.

When Sarai told Abram her plan for starting a family through another woman, Abram went along with it. When God told him the divine plan for providing descendants, he laughed. If you're wondering how often God's statements prompted laughter, it was pretty rare. The only other Old Testament figure to laugh at God was Sarah, as we'll study tomorrow.

If anyone but God had predicted that Abraham and Sarah (their newly given names) would bear a child, it would obviously be a joke. When God appeared this time, He intensified the specifics of His promise to Abraham, especially the action that He wanted Abraham to take. He begins by declaring the expectation of blamelessness and allegiance to God (v. 1) and then reveals that the covenant would be everlasting (v. 7). He then spells out the method for signifying the covenant. With the institution of circumcision, God was establishing a physical mark for His chosen people. It was mandatory not just for Abraham and his sons, but for everyone who would be part of his entire household, whether as physical descendants or servants.

But the most dramatic revelation in this passage was how Abraham would receive an heir. A son, whose very name God chose, would be born to Abraham (age 99) through Sarah (age 90). Abraham laughed out loud but internalized his doubt (v. 17), asking only that God's blessing might go to Ishmael instead (v. 18). But God's plan was distinctly for Isaac, who had yet to be conceived. The text gives us no indication of Abraham's level of belief, although tomorrow's passage seems to indicate that, as a couple, Abraham and Sarah weren't completely sold on the idea. They were unaware of how far God would go to keep His word.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
God had chosen a name and created a plan for Isaac before his parents ever thought he could exist. And that plan included the means for our salvation. Here are two points to remember. First, God cares for you so much that He's been planning your salvation since before the Patriarchs of our faith were even born. Secondly, God has plans for you that extend far beyond the here and now. You are significant, and your life can have eternal, global implications.
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« Reply #53 on: July 15, 2006, 11:57:42 PM »

Read: Genesis 18:1-15
Is anything too hard for the Lord? - Genesis 18:14
TODAY IN THE WORD
After winning the 1912 election, Woodrow Wilson visited an aunt to tell her the news that he would be the next president. “Oh yes? President of what?” she asked. When he told her, “The United States,” his aunt replied, “Oh, don't be silly.”

Sometimes the truth is unbelievable, especially for someone who has lived long enough to think they've seen everything.

When the three visitors arrived at Abraham's tent, it was the first record of Sarah ever witnessing the Lord's appearance. What looked like three men was actually a gathering of two angels (19:1) and the Lord (v. 13). Many scholars doubt that Abraham actually recognized the Lord, which is why verse 3 is translated “my lord” instead of “O Lord.” But Abraham gave his guests the royal treatment as soon as he saw them (v. 2), and his demeanor never changed throughout the chapter. The text provides us no indication of a moment of delayed realization on Abraham's part, which seems to indicate he knew all along it was the Lord.

Sarah, on the other hand, was likely unaccustomed to face-to-face divine meetings. She may not have even received the message from Abraham that God would give her a son. So, for the second time in as many chapters, God's message made someone laugh. Sarah clearly didn't realize that her private moment of doubtful laughter would be overheard or that the person to whom she was listening could even read her thoughts. Her fear at this development caused her to lie (v. 15).

If any of us had been in Sarah's position, we probably couldn't expect to act any more admirably. She had been uprooted from her home, moved over a thousand miles while living in tents, and taken into Pharaoh's harem. She went childless until age 90 and then was told that in one year she would be giving birth—how would you have reacted?

The important thing is how God responded. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v. 19). Of course the answer is “no,” even when it's hard for us to believe.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
What a wonderful reassurance to know that God's power far exceeds our faith. Abraham and Sarah both laughed when God told them what He planned to do through them—that's how outlandish His prediction seemed. The other side of that coin could be a bit challenging, though—God could desire to use you in similarly unthinkable ways. Ask Him today to reconstruct your definition of the word impossible. Then be aware of His leading in ways that you may not have been expecting.
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« Reply #54 on: July 15, 2006, 11:58:11 PM »

Read: Genesis 21:1-8
God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. - Genesis 21:6
TODAY IN THE WORD
In 2001, Americans spent $2.7 billion in attempts to overcome infertility, a struggle that millions of families face. There is, perhaps, no more powerless feeling for a couple than being unable to bear children. Even with all the scientific innovations in the field of infertility, some would-be parents have no realistic hope of conceiving a child.

But occasionally, against all logic and scientific explanation, a miracle is born. For such a baby that brings so much overwhelming joy to his parents and all who know them, Isaac, “he laughs,” makes for a perfect name.

This time laughter came not as the result of doubtful surprise, but rather as the overflow of delight. In sharp contrast to Sarah's selfish plan to obtain children for herself through Hagar, God's miraculous provision of a son was an act of unsolicited, unmerited kindness. God gave Sarah the honor she had been seeking by giving her not only a son but also the ability to nurse him (v. 7). Even with Abraham and Sarah's imperfect faith, God poured out His grace in unimaginable ways.

Isaac grew, in the arms of parents with a combined age of 191 years, to be a healthy young boy. The weaning ceremony was a celebration of Isaac's growth beyond infancy, a baby graduation of sorts. God had fulfilled His spectacular promise, and Sarah clearly appreciated the wonder of the situation.

Abraham followed through on his covenant with God, circumcising Isaac as God had commanded (v. 4). It might seem like a small part of this story, but God's gift of a son would have meant very little if Abraham hadn't stayed true to the bigger picture. The innumerable descendants that God promised would come later, but Abraham's responsibility was with his one promised son. He even gave him the name God had chosen for him. He was indeed faithful with the small tasks. Tomorrow, we'll learn just how faithful Abraham would be with a monumental challenge of faith.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Much of what God promised Abraham was anchored in the future—a multitude of descendants, ownership of Canaan. Do you ever feel like your hope is all in the future? We can get anxious for heaven or even an unanswered prayer. Why not take some time to identify the Isaac in your life? Dwell on the joys that God has given you—the tangible displays of His grace. If you begin to grow impatient from waiting on God, thank Him for all that He's already done for you.
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« Reply #55 on: July 15, 2006, 11:58:39 PM »

Read: Genesis 22:1-18
But my covenant I will establish with Isaac. - Genesis 17:21
TODAY IN THE WORD
In his book, Four Trials, John Edwards tells of losing his sixteen-year-old son in a car accident. He writes, “Nothing in my life has ever hit me and stripped everything away like my son's death . . . it was and is the most important fact of my life.”

If Abraham could have a choice to preserve one thing from all his possessions and his entire household, and to sacrifice all else to God, he likely would have chosen Isaac. He was the son God had named before he was even born with whom God would establish His covenant (Gen. 17:21). After sending Hagar and Ishmael away (see 21:8-21), Isaac represented Abraham's only son and his only hope for descendants.

But God asked Abraham to sacrifice the one thing he held most dear, and His precise instructions eliminated even the slightest loophole (22:2). All of Abraham's obedience up to this point was minor in comparison to this test. Would he—could he—slaughter his own son?

If today's newspaper carried the headline, “Man ties son to altar, prepares for slaughter. Says God told him to,” we would be outraged by the insanity of the idea. Abraham's unflinching faith is unnerving. Isaac's cooperation is frightening. But Abraham had a grip on the reality of the promise of God. Instead of being consumed by fear of the unknown, he held to what he did know. God said He would give him descendants through Isaac (21:12). That meant, no matter what, Isaac was in no danger. Abraham believed. He even thought God could raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:19). What's truly remarkable here is that Scripture does not indicate the slightest hesitation or even a whisper of doubt on Abraham's part. He was prepared to kill his son in obedience to God.

The angel of the Lord stopped Abraham and provided a substitute sacrifice. Then, God swore the oath to beat all oaths: He swore on His own name to fulfill His promise (cf. Heb. 6:13-18).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Abraham's act of supreme sacrifice may seem unthinkable, but it's actually an encouraging example of what faith can enable you to do in God's name. Set aside some time to read Hebrews 11:1-12:2. It includes an astounding list of flawed but faithful men and women who, like Abraham, have risen victorious above impossible circumstances. Whatever challenge life might bring, God is always faithful. Don't lose heart!
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« Reply #56 on: July 15, 2006, 11:59:13 PM »

Read: Genesis 24:1-14
He will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. - Genesis 24:7
TODAY IN THE WORD
World War II General Mark Wayne Clark said that the best advice he ever received was “to marry the girl I did.” When asked who gave him that advice, he responded, “She did!” He then noted with seriousness that choosing a wife was one of the most important decisions of his life—and following the wise advice of his future bride brought him a lifetime of happiness.

When selecting a wife for Isaac, Abraham wanted a woman who would retrace his own faith journey from Ur to Canaan. He made his chief servant swear that he would not choose a woman from Canaan (v. 3), but instead make the 500-mile journey back to the region Abraham had left about 65 years prior (cf. 12:4; 17:24; 25:20). However, he forbade the servant from bringing Isaac, even if the woman he chose refused to return (v. Cool.

Abraham was being loyal to God. His direction was rooted in God's promise. God vowed that Isaac would inherit the land of Canaan, so Abraham wasn't about to let him leave. He had witnessed God's miraculous provision enough times to trust Him for every need, even a wife. He had complete confidence that God's angel would ensure the plan's success (v. 7). Isaac's wife would have to be someone willing to leave her home and family to inherit the land God promised. This extreme selectivity showed that Abraham wanted to build a family of faith.

Even Abraham's servant believed that God would provide, which reinforces the fact that belief in God was never exclusive to Abraham's direct descendants. His prayer for the Lord's help shows that he depended on God for success. After arriving in the city where Nahor, Abraham's brother, lived, he devised a test based on character rather than beauty or charm—and it was no small test. The servant had ten camels that had just traveled 500 miles, and one thirsty camel can guzzle up to thirty gallons of water in just ten minutes! To water them all would be a considerable act of hospitality. It would take a special woman to join the family of God's chosen people.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
What criteria do you use when you evaluate people? It could be a potential spouse or a pastoral candidate, a prospective employee or even a babysitter—it's important to look for people of faith and character. Don't rush into decisions about filling any position. Ask God to grant you success in these choices, even if you have to search hundreds of miles to find the right person. Has He not proven that He will faithfully provide?
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« Reply #57 on: July 15, 2006, 11:59:44 PM »

Read: Genesis 24:15-58
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. - Genesis 24:15
TODAY IN THE WORD
God doesn't have to appear in order to send a message. As David wrote in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (v. 1). He can make Himself known through creation or, as was the case with Abraham's servant, He can speak through the creative ways in which He answers our prayers.

Throughout the account of Abraham, God was very visible. When He wanted Abraham to know something, He appeared and confirmed it. But in today's reading, God made a confirmation without any revelations through visions or angels—He just provided.

Abraham's servant didn't need to wait very long before his prayer was answered— Rebekah appeared while he was still praying (v. 15). Sure enough, she turned out to have the generosity the servant was looking for as well as great beauty (v. 16). He rewarded Rebekah with gold, but his praise was for the Lord (vv. 26-27).

Another test was in store, however. Both Rebekah and her family would have to allow her to accompany this stranger and to agree to marry Isaac, sight unseen and 500 miles away. And the servant had no way of knowing what level of faith to expect from Abraham's relatives. What weight, if any, would the servant's story of God's provision carry with them?

The response from the family of Rebekah amounted to, “This is from the Lord. Our opinion is insignificant.” It was only then, after fulfilling his mission of securing a bride for Isaac with a proper dowry and again praising God, that the servant was willing to rest and eat in their home.

Naturally, Rebekah's family wasn't eager to see her leave so soon, but the servant insisted. He wanted to waste no time in returning to Abraham. Ultimately, the decision rested with Rebekah, and her willingness to leave her life behind was a testament to her remarkable faith in God.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
When we clearly recognize what God wants, how often do we put that ahead of what our own feelings or opinions claim? We should, but it's difficult when we live in a society that so highly values personal rights and freedoms. We should not use the word Lord lightly. Our God rules the world, and we should let Him rule our lives. Remember that when an opportunity to serve Him presents itself. No matter how you may feel or what you may think, submit to the will of God.
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« Reply #58 on: July 16, 2006, 12:00:12 AM »

Read: Genesis 25:19-26; 26:1-5
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife. - Genesis 25:21
TODAY IN THE WORD
The Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos was told of a team of colleagues who had worked long and hard on a thirty-page proof for what was, in their eyes, an extremely complex theorem. Erdos spent ten minutes coming up with a two-line solution.

Perhaps the solution of Sarah's barrenness could have been much simpler as well. For whatever reason, the concept of praying for a son seemed to have eluded Abraham and Sarah. Actually, Abraham doesn't appear to have asked God for much of anything. The requests on record: when he asked the Lord to bless Ishmael (17:18) and when he pleaded that God spare Sodom from destruction for the sake of the righteous (18:22-23). Isaac, on the other hand, simply prayed for a child on Rebekah's behalf, and God answered.

During her pregnancy, Rebekah felt the babies struggling inside her and was understandably concerned (25:22)—the technology to detect twins in the womb was still 4,000 years away. Appropriately, she asked God for an explanation, and again, God answered. The prophecy that the younger son would rule over the older may have conflicted with cultural norms at the time, but it was the continuation of a family tradition in the line of Abraham. He wasn't the oldest son and clearly became the greatest. Isaac, younger than his half-brother Ishmael, was the child of promise. So, too, Jacob would become the patriarch of God's chosen nation of Israel, not his slightly older brother Esau. True to form, the struggle between Jacob and Esau lasted throughout the pregnancy, during delivery, throughout their lives, and through their descendants.

We turn our focus next to God's charge to Isaac, when He called him to not go (26:2). God made it clear that while He would give the land to Isaac and his descendants, Isaac's stay in the land would be temporary at this point. It was essentially a command to stay put . . . for now. The foretold enslavement in Egypt was still part of God's plan, but it was not yet time for that chapter in Israel's history (cf. 15:13).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Has God ever called you not to go? There may be times when God makes you wait for something you believe is His will for you. Don't be discouraged. Continually inquire of God and be willing to do what He asks when He asks. He has given us His own Son—He will not withhold any good thing from you. Just as we must be ready to go when He calls us, we must have the patience to wait as well.
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« Reply #59 on: July 16, 2006, 12:00:39 AM »

Read: Genesis 26:7-14
The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful. - Genesis 26:7
TODAY IN THE WORD
If you've been following along with us all month, you've noticed that today's reading seems familiar. A famine in the land puts a man and his wife on the move. They reside in the land of a foreign king and pretend to be brother and sister. The king is astonished to learn the truth but treats the couple gracefully nonetheless. The man's riches multiply. Indeed, this story happened with Abraham already . . . twice.

As with the second occurrence in Abraham's life (Gen. 20), the king in question was Abimelech of the Philistines, though Isaac likely was dealing with the son of the king who had taken Sarah into his harem. (Abimelech was the title used by Philistine kings, similar to the title Pharaoh used by Egyptian rulers.) It's hard to fathom why Isaac—who had trusted God to provide him a son (25:21) and had been delivered from death by the angel of the Lord (Gen. 22)—would have been afraid, especially after God had appeared to him and reassured him. But this passage reminds us that Isaac and the Patriarchs were very human. It was God who made them great.

And so it followed that God blessed Isaac, not because Isaac proved himself worthy, but simply because God said He would (26:3). This time around, neither the king nor any of the men took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac and Rebekah had stayed in the land for quite some time, and apparently they grew careless in maintaining their cover. When the king found out, rather than retaliate for the deception, he ordered protection for Isaac and Rebekah. That in itself is evidence of God's protective hand.

But God didn't just bless Isaac by protecting him; He also increased his harvest (v. 12), his livestock, and his renown (v. 13). It may seem that the reward doesn't fit with Isaac's behavior, but recognize this: the grace of God is not a New Testament institution. He has always showered those He loves with undeserved blessing.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
All of us in one way or another have been guilty of repeating the same mistakes in life. We keep on failing, but God continues to love us. Today, respond in two ways. First, thank the Lord for the grace and mercy you experience so richly. Secondly, think of others who have let you down on multiple occasions, and extend grace to them as well. No matter what that person deserves, show them love as God has loved you.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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