I Chronicles 1-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: Because of His great love, He adopted us

I’m going to write about your family today. Oh…you didn’t know that I knew them?  Well, yes, I know a little bit about them.  In fact, today we read all about your ancestors as well as mine, many of whom were dynamic leaders and people of great faith, and a few bad apples on the old family tree too.  I mean, really, don’t we all come from Adam?

I Chronicles 1-4 records the official family history of the nation of Israel, starting with none other than Adam.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are adopted or grafted into the family tree of Israel, so all the inheritance that was promised to Abraham and his family is ours as well. (Romans 11:17)

Just like with our personal family genealogies, we are able to read about our ancestors in the Bible and discover how and why we have arrived to the point where we are today.  So, dear one, I won’t be stopping by for dinner unannounced as family sometimes does, but please keep in mind that we are family and we’re all going to live together someday in one great big glorious city.  Don’t worry – it will be good!

There are so many amazing family members listed in these chapters that it would be impossible to write about all of them today, but a few stand out to me as I read them:  Enoch, who walked with God and never died, now that’s a story all on its own; Noah, the shipbuilder who trusted God in the face of ridicule; Abraham who left home and all that he knew to settle in an unfamiliar land just because he trusted God; David, the King after God’s own heart; and Jabez, our example of the man who prayed and God granted his requests.  Most of these are listed in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11.  What a heritage!  Also listed were dozens of faithful kings, priests and prophets – such an impressive background we have.

The next time our enemy comes around to demean and to discourage us by reminding us of our more recent family members who may not be so illustrious or to remind us of our own dismal past, we have something to declare:  We come from a long line of Royalty, we are Kings, we are Priests, we are blood-bought, (Revelations 1:6) and these are things our enemy will never be.  We will someday rule and reign and these are things that he will never do.  Because of who we are in Jesus, we really don’t have to take any of his talk!

As I think about where we come from, who we are and where we’re going, I can’t help but remember the verse that puts it all in perspective for me.  In Revelations 4:10-11, represented by the 24 elders, we learn what we the redeemed, His royal family, will do with our crowns when we stand before Him, “And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.  For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”   We may have a great and impressive heritage; but when it’s all said and done, it’s really all about Him.

Moving Forward: Head held high, I move forward today remembering who He is and remembering who I am because of Him.  I’ve got great genes

Tomorrow @ Psalms 93-95

Genesis 48-50 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He speaks blessing and promise over our lives

“Get over here! You never do anything right! You’re just good for nothing! You’re never gonna amount to anything, boy.” I cringed as I heard a man scolding his young son in public. Tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at the boy who had just been humiliated by a man I assumed to be his dad. This young one had probably been disobedient and had somehow gotten on his dad’s last nerve, but I was embarrassed for him. Even more devastating to me was hearing the man speak curse after curse over his son. I wonder if he knew the weight a father’s words can carry in the life of a son.

It made me think of the words I often heard my dad speak to me, “Honey, you can do anything in life that you want to do.” Or, “You can be anything you want to be. The sky’s the limit.” He called me beautiful, pretty or cute almost every day. I don’t know if he really believed it, but because he said it, I did. Although dad didn’t know the Lord when I was young, he knew enough to speak blessings and promise over my life, for which I am eternally grateful. I wonder if he knew the weight a father’s words can carry in the life of a daughter.

@ Genesis 48
At the close of the book of Genesis, we find Jacob on his deathbed calling for Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, desiring to speak a blessing over them. “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.” (15-16)  After stealing his brother’s blessing at one time, Jacob must certainly have understood the weight a father’s words could carry in the life of a son or grandson.

Throughout the book of Genesis we read about the blessings from God to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob and now from Jacob to Joseph and his sons. Not all of Jacob’s pronouncement over his other sons were the blessings they had hoped to receive, nor was Noah’s curse on his son Canaan. But all of these curses, including any curse that may come from a dad today, pale in comparison to the curse of sin found in Genesis 3 through the fall of Adam and Eve that brought us separation from God. However, our loving Heavenly Father would never leave us cursed – by anyone!

God gave this little message to the serpent that fateful day in the Garden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel.” (3:15) This was God’s prophetic message of One who would come to die on the cross, His heel would be bruised, but He would crush the head of the serpent, who has spent his days on his belly ever since. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Romans 8:1)

No condemnation, no curses! We belong to Him! The power of the life-giving Spirit has freed us from the power of sin, the power of curses and of those things that anyone may speak over us. Although man’s words may be hurtful at times, we do not need to walk under the weight of man’s confession over us. We walk with the Father’s blessings of abundant life through His son, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10,NKJV)

Children need our disciplines at times, but they never deserve cursing and humiliation. When we speak words of blessing and promise to our children, we are partnering with the heart of God who has promised blessing and abundant life to His children as they follow Him. Partnering with God – isn’t that something we would want to do?

Moving Forward: I am forever challenged to speak blessing and promise to my children, and actually, all of God’s children. Oh, how He loves them.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 11-15

Genesis 44-47 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: The guidance of His hand is just, merciful and good

Ah…the sweetness of reconciliation!  Books have been written about it, movies have portrayed its beautiful stories and most of us have experienced it.  Outside of the amazing, and I do mean amazing, reconciliation with God that takes place when we accept Jesus as our Savior, the story of Joseph and his brothers tops the list for me.   “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place…God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.  So it was God who sent me here, not you!” (45:4-8)

Not only is this a story of reconciliation, but it is a strong and deliberate message about the providence of God, the intervention of the Divine into our lives to bring about His purposes for our good. “So it was God who sent me here, not you!”  When Joseph forgave his brothers and reconciled with them, he partnered with God’s will to bring about God’s Divine plan for a nation. Our obedience to the Word of God has ramifications beyond our imagination.  Had Joseph refused to forgive, God would have sought another vessel to accomplish His good. 

@ Genesis 46
“I am God, the God of your father,’ the voice said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again.’” (3-4)  I can only imagine the hesitancy in Jacob’s heart to leave Canaan, the land promised to his grandfather, Abraham, for the heathen land of Egypt.  When we think about it, this move changed the history of Israel.

Settled in their Promised Land, Abraham’s family was growing in size, wealth and power, and it just seems as though carting them off to Egypt for 400 years was somewhat counterproductive to God’s divine plan for His people.  After all, He could have abundantly blessed Jacob in spite of the famine years and brought the nations of the world to him.  In the natural, without the impact of the supernatural, we might wonder about His purpose in this.

Because of the move to Egypt, the Israelites would one day migrate back to Canaan and spend many years in war with the occupants of Canaan who had also grown strong over the past 400 years.  But this is where we are challenged to trust the hand of God even when we don’t understand it.  Early on when God promised Abraham a son, He foretold of events to come, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years…After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” (15:13-16)

God could not yet give Abraham his complete inheritance because He is just.  Abraham’s neighbors in Canaan did not believe in Jehovah, but God gave them 400 years to choose Him over their witchcraft and idols before He allowed Israel to destroy them for their wickedness. In the meantime, the family of Abraham was ever growing in numbers over in Goshen, all their needs were provided, and He was making them ready to step into their destiny.

Sometimes the hand of God in our lives seems to be without purpose and direction in life’s economy.  We may question what the kingdom of God gains through our loss, our dysfunction or our trial?  Well, so often we just don’t know, but through His Word we understand all that He does is just, merciful and good for us as well as all others who live and breathe on the planet.  As He was with the Israelites in Egypt, so will He be with us in our Egypt.  “I will go with you down to Egypt…” 

Moving Forward:  In my obedience to Him today, I know I can trust His hand to guide me with justice, mercy and goodness.  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts…And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (Isaiah 55:8) 

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 6-10

Genesis 20-23 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider 

@ Genesis 22
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” (2) I remember a sermon my husband preached many years ago on the story of Abraham and Isaac, and it’s distinctive in my memory because of the touching illustration he used. Tom started to tell the story of the sacrifice of Isaac and called our young son up front to stand with him.  As the story unfolded, he asked our son to lie on the altar, and with tears streaming down his face, he spoke of the incredible anguish that Abraham must have felt as he raised the knife in obedience to God.  Now if you know my husband, the crying is not so significant, but because I knew him so well, I could tell he was shaken by the thought of sacrificing someone he loved so much.

When I read this story, I can’t help but focus on the journey to Moriah.  Abraham had traveled across that entire region of the world to live in Canaan, but I would imagine that journey did not compare in intensity to the 50 miles to Moriah.  While Isaac was enjoying an outing with his dad, Abraham was facing the greatest testing of his life.  We know little about the conversation on the journey, but what we do know speaks volumes to us.

As Moriah came into view, “Stay here with the donkey,’ Abraham told the servants. ‘The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.’”  Then we will come right back, not I will come right back, but we.  Abraham’s statement wasn’t trickery or deceit, but somewhere during the journey, he resolved in his heart that they would both return.  The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (Hebrews11:19)  We will come right back. No wonder Abraham is listed in the Faith Hall of Fame!

Then, as they continued up to Moriah, “As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’” (6-7)

I’ve imagined Abraham pondering every promise from God as he took each step to Moriah > God would make him a great nations > his descendants would be like the dust of earth that couldn’t be counted > as many descendants as the stars in the sky > God would make him the father of nations.  With confidence, Abraham could reply to his son, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered.  And they both walked on together.” (8)  Isaac was the son of promise, and God would provide.

We may walk through situations that seem to be completely unlike what our loving God would allow His children to endure.  It is then, like Abraham, we are challenged to act on what we know the character of God to be, not on how the circumstances may dictate His character to be.  I’ve lived long enough to know that things are rarely as they seem.  Our resolve to walk in obedience and faith will be undergirded as we think over the promises of God and remember that He doesn’t lie and that He can only be faithful. Jehovah Jireh, our Provider – God will provide. 

Moving Forward:  “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. He was even called the friend of God.” (James 2:23)  I want to be like Abraham. 

Tomorrow @ Judges 1-6

Genesis 16-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is God Almighty, the God who is enough

Over 40 years ago I changed my name.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like my name, but I felt it was time for a change.  I had considered a few other names, but none of them really measured up to the one I chose.  In addition to all the normal changes that come like new identification, driver’s license, social security card, this change affected my life in a dramatic way.  People no longer knew me by my old name and actually treated me differently; in fact, I thought of myself differently.  Yes, the day I changed my name to Benigas was monumental in my life, but I never would have done it had I not known the one who gave me the name. 

@ Genesis 17
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am El-Shaddai—God Almighty.’”(1)  Even though Abram and the Lord had already met, Abram knew Him only as Jehovah, the true God, but he was about to know Him in a whole new way.  El Shaddai!  God Almighty who was all-sufficient, the God who was all Abram would ever need.  The God who was able to provide all the descendants that Abram could ever want.  Ishmael never would have been an issue had Abram first known El Shaddai – the God who is enough!

“At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, ‘This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!  What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.” (3-5)   First, God shared who He was by revealing a new name for Himself, and then He revealed to Abram who Abram really was by changing his name from revered father to what He saw him to be, Abraham, father of many nations.

When we were introduced to the Lord as our Savior, we may not have understood completely that we were putting in for some changes – a new nature (2 Corinthians 2:17), a new name (Revelation 2:17) and a new life (John 4:14).  As a new creation in Christ, we were adopted by God into this great family of Abraham’s descendants to forever bear His name.  At the very least our name is Redeemed.

Throughout the Bible, we have many examples of how God changed the names of His people to how He saw them to be – Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter, Paul.  What is His name for us, how does God see us and are we living up to that name?  Have we changed our identification?  Do others see us differently? Do we see ourselves differently?

Do we know El Shaddai, God Almighty, the One whose name we bear?  In the challenges we face today, do we understand that we are in covenant with the all-sufficient God?  After an encounter with El Shaddai, we have no need to panic or take matters into our own hands when problems arise because we know the God who is enough! 

Moving Forward:  I’m challenged today to live the way God sees me, answering to my new name and trusting the God who is enough.  After all, my Father is El-Shaddai! 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 21-2

Romans 3-4 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He counts us righteous because of our faith

The basket of strawberries caught my eye at the grocery store – plump, deep red, juicy-looking strawberries.  Was it strawberry season? I didn’t think so, but they were so very perfect that I had to buy them.  As I unpacked the basket at home, it didn’t take long to realize that the only good strawberries in the bunch were on top, and the rest were mostly white, hard and awful.  As they say, I was ripped off.  No matter how good the ugliness of those unripe strawberries made the five delicious strawberries look, the unripe ones were still useless to me.  As we read in our scripture today, some would disagree.

@ Romans 3
“But,’ some might say, ‘our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?’” (5)  Of course, in reality it is just the opposite.  The five ripe luscious strawberries served to show how deficient and unappealing the rest of the strawberries were and how far short they were of what they could have been, but they really couldn’t change their condition.  Paul went on to counteract this false assumption for those who were certainly trying to justify their sin, their unripeness if you will.

Paul took this opportunity to open the dialogue about the Law, something that the Jewish Christians stumbled over again and again.  “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (20)  Like the ripe strawberries, the law shows us our sin, our deficiency, but can do nothing to change us.  Sometimes we get uncomfortable reading the Bible because instead of offering comfort and inspiration at the moment, it reveals our sins and shortcomings, those feelings of resentment, pride, hatred, or whatever.  But we can assume it is serving its purpose in those moments as well.

Fortunately, we no longer must keep the requirements of the Law to redeem ourselves, selecting a perfect sacrifice down at the local farmyard and all the bloody mess that would follow.  “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law…We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”(21-23)   After all, those delicious strawberries were at one time hard and pale, but they remained on the vine in the light of the sun and everything changed for them.  Unfortunately, there was no redemption for my unripe strawberries because they had left the vine.  I’m not sure, but I think that will preach. (John 15)

@ Romans 4
Abraham was probably Paul’s favorite example of a faith-filled life, “For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith’… And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” (3,23-25)  So when the Lord convicts me of sin or my falling short through His Word, I must run to Him in repentance because only He can make me right – ripe and beautiful in His sight.

Moving Forward:  As I remain in His Word today, I pray He will reveal to me my sins and shortcomings so that I may respond with a heart of repentance and be made right with Him through Jesus. 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 4-7

Proverbs 29-30 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He keeps safe those who trust in Him

One morning a couple of years ago I was sitting in my family room having devotions when the doorbell rang.  It was early, I wasn’t expecting anyone and wasn’t dressed for the day so I decided not to respond.  After repeated ringing, I looked out a security window in the door to see a young man.  Moments later I turned to see him peering in the family room window across the house right where I had been sitting, and when I heard glass shatter, it didn’t take long for me to realize that he was up to no good.

I grabbed the house phone, my cell phone and ran out the front door, robe and all, and started phoning 911 and my husband as well as yelling to my neighbors.  The police arrived in four, I repeat, four minutes and caught the man as he circled around to get his car left in my driveway.  Now, a little advice to any would-be felons out there, it’s not terribly smart to park your car in the victim’s driveway and, of course, even less smart to be a felon.  Although the police said my response was textbook, it was a terrifying experience.  When the doorbell rings, I sometimes feel the chill of fear for a brief moment, but then fear of man comes in a variety of ways. 

@ Proverbs 29
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” (25)  People who experience a frightening situation like I did often become too afraid to live a normal life.  Others are so afraid of people that they won’t leave their homes.  These individuals are afraid of what man may do to them.  Abraham, the great man of faith, was so afraid of the Egyptian men that he told them that his wife, Sarah, was his sister.  I’ve always wondered how this made her feel – fear makes us do unnatural things.  Peter denied knowing Jesus three times out of fear for his life, and I think we know how his behavior made the Lord feel.  Fear will turn us into something we don’t want to be.

Sometimes we fear what people think of us, and that is every bit as debilitating as fear for our lives.  Moses almost missed his mission in life of delivering the Israelites out of Egypt because he was afraid they wouldn’t accept him, afraid that they would question his authority.  Many of the Old Testament prophets feared that their messages would be rejected and mocked by the people. “Fearing people is a dangerous trap” and may keep us from fulfilling our calling.

Fear may keep us from sharing the gospel with others because we are afraid they will reject our message or laugh at us.  Fear may stop us from using our gifts and talents for the Lord because we are afraid of making a mistake in front of others.  Fear is a tool the devil uses to stop us cold, and that is why it is so dangerous.

However, “trusting the Lord means safety.” To overcome fear, we need to change our perspective and who better than God to help us do that, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you.  So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?” (Isaiah 51:12)  God is the eternal One, not man, and He holds our eternal souls in the safety of His hand. He is the one who keeps us and protects us.  When we focus on the faithfulness of Almighty God instead of fearing mere humans, there’s nothing left to stop us from pursuing all that God has for us and those things with eternal value. 

Moving Forward: I can pursue all that God has for me today because I’m trusting in Him, not fearing any man. 

Tomorrow @ Micah