Sunday, January 31, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-Eight

Day Twenty-Eight, Exodus 19-20, 23-24

Today's reading is most exciting. Moses meets God on a mountain!

That's right. Moses gets to see the glory of God! The Israelites get to hear Him. Seventy elders get to see His glory!

After wandering in the desert, the Israelites have reached Mt. Sinai on the Sinai peninsula, where God tells them to consecrate themselves for two days. On the third day, He will come down on the mountain, give his commands to His people Israel, and He will make a covenant with them.

He had Moses put limits around the mountain so that no one could touch it or even come near it. On the third day, there was lightning and thunder, with a thick cloud of smoke that covered the mountain, and the people heard a very loud trumpet blast. The Lord descended on the mountain in fire, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet blast grew louder and louder. God calls Moses up and tells him to make sure the people don't come near the mountain. Moses goes back down, and it's at this point that the Lord gives Israel His ten commandments:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony.
10. You shall not covet.

At this, the people were afraid. They asked that God speak to Moses and Moses speak to them. They said, "Do not have God speak to us, or we will die."

God gives Moses instructions for building an altar. Then he promises His guidance, His presence, and His blessings. As long as Israel agrees to keep His commands, He will be their God, and they will be His people. Then the Lord called seventy elders to go up with Moses to worship, but Moses alone was to approach the Lord. Moses told the Israelites all that the Lord had said. The Israelites agreed to obey His commands, so Moses wrote down everything the Lord had said.

The next morning, Moses again set up a memorial of twelve stone pillars, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses sent young men to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. He took half the blood and sprinkled it on the altar, and put the other half in bowls. Moses read the book of the covenant the people, and again, they agreed to obey the Lord's commands. So Moses took the rest of the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words." Moses went up to worship with the seventy elders, who were able to see the glory of the Lord.

Finally, the Lord called Moses up to get the Ten Commandments, which the Lord had written down. Moses, along with Joshua, his aide, goes up the mountain and is there forty days and forty nights.

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-Seven

Day Twenty-Seven, Exodus 15-18

In this reading, a couple of things stand out to me. The first is God's provision. Even when the Israelites are grumbling and complaining, God gives them what they need. It reminds me of one of my favorite passages from Matthew 6:

"Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, wha tyou will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of hte field grow? They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Not only did God provide for the Israelies, He made sure that they learned to trust in Him to provide each day. He would only allow them to gather enough food for the current day. It would not last overnight. The only exception to this would be on Friday, the day before the Sabbath. On Friday they could gather enough for two days, because He did not want them to do any work on the Sabbath. For in the same way that God created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day, the Israelites were to rest on the seventh day.

I love a little commercial that I usually hear playing on the KLOVE radio station during the weekends, encouraging people to relax, refresh, recharge, etc. It says something like, "After all, taking a day off was God's idea in the first place." Ha!

Something else I love in this reading is that we once again see where God loves reminders/memorials. He instructs them to take a jar of manna and keep it as a memorial to these days when God provided for Israel in the desert. That way their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren can see and be told of the Lord's provision for His people.

Finally, this reading contains an account of the Israelites' defeat of the Amalekites, who came and attacked them in the desert. Moses told Joshua to choose some men to go out and fight against them. He would go and stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in his hand. So while Joshua was fighting, Moses went up and stood with his hands raised to the Lord. When Moses' hands were in the air, Joshua and his men were winning. When Moses lowered his hands, however, Joshua and his men were losing. So two men, Aaron and Hur, held Moses' hands up in the air to the Lord, so that Joshua and his men would be able to defeat the Amalekites. The Lord said that He would be continually at war with Amalek and would completely destroy them. He also said to write down what happened and MAKE SURE JOSHUA HEARS ABOUT THIS!

I love God's providence. In His infinite wisdom, it seems that He knew that Joshua, who would one day lead His people, would need to know about the Lord's power to defeat their enemies!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-Six

Day Twenty-Six, Exodus 13-15

After the Passover, the Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go, and God leads them. He guides them with a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. I just love the fact that God offers to us His guidance, leading us in the way we should go.

Interesing how the Israelites react when they come upon a barrier, and they don't know what to do. I was impressed when Beth Moore pointed this out in one of her studies. The Israelites, Moses, and God each have a different reaction to the obstacle facing them. The Israelites say, "Go back," thinking they'd be better off where they came from. Moses says, "Be still," and let God do the work for you. God, on the other hand, says, "Move on," what in the world are you waiting for?

He wants them to know that whatever obstacle stands in their way is no obstacle at all with Him on their side. God then leads the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground, but he drowns the Egyptian army in the sea. So we see that not only is our God a God of guidance, but that He will help us to overcome and be victorious...but we must not stop. We must keep going.

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-Five

Day Twenty-Five, Exodus 12-13

Earlier I talked about what a pivotal time this is in the history of the Israelites, with God performing his signs and wonders with an outstetched arm. Now He's about to bring upon Egypt the worst plague of all, which will lead to the deliverance of the Israelites. The foreshadowing here of what is to come is incredible.

God instructs the Israelites to place the blood of a young lamb on the doorframes of their homes. They are to prepare a meal of roasted lamb, bread without yeast, and bitter herbs. They are to eat it quickly, standing and ready to leave Egypt. God says he will send his angel among Egypt to kill the firstborn in every household. But the angel will pass over every household that has the blood on the doorpost. Thus, the Israelites were saved from death by the blood of the lamb. The meal they were instructed to eat was to become the Passover feast, celebrated to the Lord every year, in order to remember what the Lord had done for them.

Likewise, we as Christians are saved from death by the blood of the Lamb. And it was that very Passover meal that the Lamb was eating when He said, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me," and, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-Four

Day Twenty-Four, Exodus 9-11

This day is kind-of a continuation of Day Twenty-Three.

We read about the last few plagues this day, leading up to the last plague, the death of the firstborn, and the Passover. In this reading, we hear God talk about the reason for the plagues. As was mentioned in the previous day, it is so people will know that God is the LORD.

God says, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord."

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-Three

Day Twenty-Three, Exodus 5-8

I would just like to point out what a pivotal moment this is in the history of the Israelites. God is about to fulfill a promise to them. (God always keeps his promises. Always. Can I get an amen?) But before He does, He is going to make sure that there is no doubt that He is the LORD, and there is none other like Him.

After plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, death of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and finally, the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh finally agrees to let the Israelites go. But only after the Lord has brought down each of these calamaties on Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

Those phrases, "mighty hand" and "outstretched arm" are found repeatedly in the Old Testament...approximatey 15-20 more times! Each time, they are recounting and encouraged not to forget this pivotal time in the history of the Israelites, when the LORD delivered them.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the LORD of lords. His love endures Him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt. His love endures forever. And brought Israel out from among them. His love endures forever. With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. His love endures forever."--Ps. 136:1-3,10-12

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-Two

Day Twenty-Two, Exodus 1-4

Several things stand out to me about this day's reading.

First of all, there are the Hebrew midwives who lie to the Pharaoh about why they are not killing the baby boys as he had commanded. You would wonder, "When is it ever okay to lie?" But I am reminded of the passage in Acts, where Peter tells the Sanhedrin, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God."

I'm also once again impressed at the providence of God in allowing Moses such a situation to be brought up in the Pharaoh's palace, raised by the daughter of Pharaoh. I'm sure it was there that he acquired many of the skills necessary to make him the man for God's job of leading the people of Israel out of bondage.

One of the first things we read about Moses as an adult is about the time that he kills an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew. That's one of those passages I tend to glaze over. But to stop and think about it for a second is a little bit awkward. Moses, the murderer? He had it in him.

Finally, there is the story of Moses and the burning bush. I love this story. Moses has excuse after excuse for why he can't do what God is asking him to. And you know what God's reaction is?

In His unfailing GRACE, He meets every need that Moses can dream up!!! Read part of their conversation below (I'm paraphrasing):

Moses: "Who will I say sent me???"

God: ""I AM that I AM"

Moses: "What if they don't believe me???"

God: "Throw your staff on the ground...Put your hand inside your cloak...and see what happens!"

Moses: "But I'm not a good speaker..."

God: "Are you kidding me??? Who do you think GAVE man the ability to speak?!?!? I will be with you and help you to speak."

Finally the truth comes out as Moses just says, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Moses just flat out didn't want to do what God was asking of him. It was at this point that "the Lord's anger burned agains Moses."

Yet in God's grace, He again agrees to meet a need of Moses', by sending his brother Aaron with him to be a spokesman for him.

The moral of this story is that God is a God of GRACE! He made us as humans, and He knows our weaknesses. So when God calls us to do something, He can remove whatever obstacle stands in our way of obeying Him. But we've GOT TO BE WILLING TO OBEY HIM.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Twenty-One

Day Twenty-One, Genesis 48-50

As Jacob is becoming ill and about to die, Joseph brings his sons to Jacob. Interesting that Jacob intentionally gives the greater blessing to the younger of Joseph's sons, saying that Ephraim will be greater than Manasseh, the firstborn.

Then he calls for all of his sons to bless them according to what will happen to them in the future. The ones I find most interesting are those given to Judah and Joseph.

Judah is said to be the ruler over his brothers. Centuries later, God would anoint one, David, of the line of Judah, to be king over Israel. And it is from this line that the King of Kings, the Lion of Judah, would descend.

Joseph is said to be blessed, as Jacob says he will be fruitful and will have the blessings of the Almighty God multiplied upon him.

After Jacob dies, his sons mourn for him 40 days, then they take his body for burial in Canaan, as he had requested.

Also, after Jacob is dead, Joseph's brothers begin to fear him, for they believe that perhaps he was only showing them kindness for the sake of their father. Surely after Dad is dead, they thinik, he will exact his revenge. So they send word to him, asking him to continue treating them kindly.

At this, Joseph weeps. He assures his brothers that what they intended for evil, God intended for good.

I love the polar-opposite ending that this story has from its beginning. Recall that Scripture said Joseph's brothers hated him so much they couldn't speak a kind word to him. Now, years later, Joseph is reassuring his brothers and speaking kindly to them!

Project 4:4--Day Twenty

Sorry to leave the cliffhanger for so long...

Been a CRAZY week/weekend, but I am going to try my best to catch up! Anyway, Day Twenty, Genesis 44-47

Benjamin is found to have Joseph's silver cup, so the brothers head back to Egypt, to appear before Joseph. There they admit that God has uncovered their guilt. (It makes me wonder...they were not guilty of stealing the did they feel remorse/guilt for selling Joseph years ago?)

Joseph says that the one who was found to have the cup must become his slave. At this, Judah steps up...yes, Judah, whose bright idea it was to sell Joseph into slavery to begin with. See how he's changed, as he says, "...Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord's slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father."

Judah had guaranteed Benjamin's safety to their father, and he could not bear to bring that kind of grief to his father, so much so that he wanted to take the place of Benjamin! As Joseph sees this, he is no longer able to control himself. He breaks down, tells his brothers who he is. He explains to his brothers what has happened through God's providence. He claims, "It was not you who sent me here, but God."

The Israelites are extended an invitation by Pharaoh to come and live in the land of Goshen. So the brothers return to Canaan to bring Jacob and the rest of their families to Egypt. On the way, God appears to Israel yet again in a dream, reassuring him that he will live in Egypt and Joseph himself will be with him when he dies.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Nineteen

I wrote yesterday that Joseph's story only gets better, so here we go.

Joseph, who is in charge, goes through all Egypt and stores grain during the time of plenty so that they can be prepared for the time of famine that Joseph has predicted.

Joseph is given an Egyptian wife and by her he has two sons, Manasseh ("God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household") and Ephraim ("God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering").

The famine that Egypt is experiencing is not just in Egypt. It is worldwide. It stretches to the land of Canaan, where Jacob and his other sons are living. So Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain. So in order to buy grain, Jacob's sons must go guessed it...their younger brother Joseph!

Joseph recognizes them immediately, but he pretends not to, and they don't recognize him at all. Not only does Joseph pretend not to recognize them, he treats them harshly, kind of messing with their heads, perhaps in order to see if they are sorrowful or repentant...basically trying to see what their character is like these days. That's my opinion, anyway.

He first accuses them of being spies. He questions them about their family and where they are from, and insists that they are spies. They claim they are simply brothers, and that their youngest brother is back home with their father. Their youngest brother would be Benjamin, Joseph's younger brother, also the son of Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife.

So Joseph insists on keeping one of them there in prison in Egypt as a hostage and says that they can prove their innocence by going home and bringing their younger brother back with them. He keeps Simeon and sends the rest of them on their way. But he also had secretly instructed his servants to put the money for the grain that they had purchased back in their sacks! So they're frightened when they see that!

They return to Canaan, but of course Jacob is reluctant to let Benjamin return with them to Egypt, so while Simeon is sitting in prison, his brothers don't bother to return to Egypt until they absolutely must because they are out of food.

Joseph's brothers return to Egypt and are invited to dine at Joseph's house. When Joseph sees his brothers back, Scripture says he is filled with joy. When he sees his younger brother Benjamin, he almost breaks down, so much that he excuses himself to his private room and collects himself, and controls himself through the meal.

Still, during all of this, he is messing with their heads. He seats them at the dinner from oldest to youngest, and he serves them all generous portions, but Benjamin is served five times as much as the others!

Finally, as the brothers leave, Joesph has his servant again put their money back in their sacks and has him put his silver cup in Benjamin's sack. Then he sends his servant after his brothers to accuse them of stealing from Joseph. When Benjamin is the one found to have Joseph's cup, his brothers are devastated. They head back to Egypt to face Joseph...

How's that for a cliffhanger???

Project 4:4--Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen, Genesis 39-41

Now our reading switches back to Joseph (whom I love!) and we get to see his situation in Egypt. He was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard. But God was with him and made him successful. When Potiphar saw this, he put Joseph in charge of everything he had.

Until one day when Potiphar's wife, who had already been trying, unsuccessfully, to seduce Joseph, grabbed his cloak when he was trying to run away from her. She kept it with him, then lied about him, saying HE tried to seduce HER. So then Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison.

But in the prison, again, God was with Joseph and made him successful, so the warden put Joseph in charge. One day a couple of Pharoah's officials were in prison with Joseph. They each had disturbing dreams, and Joseph interpreted the dreams for them. Then he simply asked that they remember him and help him get out of prison. But Joseph was forgotten. For two long years.

Finally, two years later, the Pharaoh has a couple of disturbing dreams, and then the cupbearer remembers Joseph in prison, who had interpreted his dream. So Joseph is brought before the Pharaoh, and after interpreting his dream, Joseph is put in charge of all Egypt, second in command only to Pharaoh himself!

Great story, one of my favorites from the time I was little. But it only gets better in the days to come!

For now, though, the one thing that I glean from this story is the idea that the Lord was with Joseph. Regardless of his circumstances and what things might have seemed like, God was with him. That statement, "The Lord was with Joseph" or "the Lord was with him" is in this reading four times! Twice it says the Lord gave him success in whatever he did. It also says, "The Lord blessed the household of Potiphar because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had"...all because of Joseph. Not only was the Lord with Joseph, it was apparent to those around him that the Lord was with him.

Those are my thoughts for today. Do I recognize that the Lord is with me, or do I wallow self-pity at being in circumstances that may be less-than-favorable? More than it evident to those around me that the Lord is with me???

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Seventeen

Day Seventeen, Genesis 37-38

This reading introduced us to Joseph, one of my favorite people in the OT. His story is an incredible one of prophecy, hatred, mistreatment, power, false accusations, punishment, intrigue, more prophecy, neglect, more power, preparedness, trickery, and finally pure forgiveness! I can't wait to blog through it!

At the beginning of Joseph's life, we see that Jacob is still playing favorites, this time with his sons. As I've already said, an important lesson that can be learned from Jacob's life is that playing favorites will create resentment. And resentment, Joseph's brothers did feel toward him! Scripture says they couldn't even speak a kind word to him!

It didn't help matters that Joseph was having these prophetic dreams, symolic of his brothers bowing down to him, of him lording over his family. His brothers hated him so much that they were ready to kill him.

I guess it's pretty bad when the nicest of your brothers says, "No, let's not kill him, let's just throw him into this pit!" Yeah, he's the nice one. (In his defense, Scripture also says that Reuben was hoping to rescue him later But unfortunately, because he didn't act immediately, Joseph was sold into slavery before Reuben had a chance to save him.)

The reading said it was Judah's brilliant idea to make a profit off of Joseph by selling him into slavery. We learn that Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold there to one of Pharaoh's officials. Then in the next chapter, we go into a story about Judah's family.

We learn that at least two out of three of Judah's sons were wicked, so much so that the Lord put them to death. So Judah's widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, goes back home to live in her father's household. She is promised to be given to Judah's third son when he grows up. But when that doesn't happen, Tamar decides to take matters into her own hands.

When Tamar hears that her father-in-law Judah is passing through town, she dresses like a prostitute, and Judah, not reconizing her, sleeps with her, and she becomes pregnant by him.

When word reaches Judah that his daughter-in-law is pregnant, he demands that she be put to death.

When word reaches Judah that HE is her babies' daddy, he conveniently has a change of heart.

When I first read today's reading, I didn't really know what to make of it. I'd read this story before, but I've never had to make myself sit down and write something thoughtful about it. The only thought that kept coming to my head is that it is kind of an offensive story. I'm aggravated by the behaviors of both Tamar and Judah, but especially by the hypocritical attitude of Judah!

Perhaps it's because when I hear the name Judah, I can't help but think of the Lion of Judah, One who, as He walked this earth, seemed to be the most disgusted by those with hypocritical attitudes. And I think, "This is the line Jesus descended from, THIS Judah is the head of the tribe that the Lord came from???" And it's offensive.

But then I remembered a sermon that Hovater preached one Sunday night about a year ago, in December of 2008. He was talking about the story of the we can read it and the story is insulting. BUT he points out that the insult of the incarnation is NOT that Jesus was a helpless baby...not that he was born to poor parents...not that His birth came with no fanfare, nor that He lived among an oppressed people, nor that He avoided positions of power/prestige...

Or in this case, that Jesus descended from such a family as He did...

NO...the insult of the incarnation is that He became human at all.

For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

And are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by that Lion of Judah.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Sixteen

Today's reading was Genesis 36. It involved a long list of the descendants of Esau. Not a lot to comment on, except the fact that God also blessed Esau physically and made him into a great nation, as well.

However, the last couple of weeks, this past week, I did not include the answers to the discussion questions in the daily reading posts, the reason for that being that this week's questions were broader, and seemed to cover the whole reading. So I'll go ahead and post them here, even though I don't have a whole lot of confidence in these answers. Perhaps you can come up w/something better yourself. If so, feel free to leave a comment!

1. Why was Jacob (the younger) chosen by God over Esau (the older)?

--Perhaps God was setting things up so that man's rules just did not apply. Or perhaps He knew the personalities of the two and knew which one wol be the better man to be the father of His people.

2. What changes do you see in Jacob's character over his lifetime?

--He begins to learn to trust in God's promises, obeying even when he is afraid.

3. What is the significance of Jacob's wrestling with the angel and having his name changed in Gen. 32:22-32?

--I think it is symbolic or prophetic of the future of his descendants who will go through season after season, back and forth between faithfulness/unfaithfulness to God.

4. What can you apply in your life based on Jacob's experience in mariage and parenting?

--Well I'm not married, nor am I a parent but there are a few things that anyone can learn. Honesty is, without a doubt, the best policy. Playing favorites will create feelings of resentment. Learn to trust in God and wait for Him to do things in His time.

5. What are the differences and similarities in Jacob's two experiences at Bethel as recorded in Gen. 28:10-17 and 35:1-15?

--Each time Jacob set up a pillar to memorialize the Lord speaking to him in that place. However, the first time, he was asking for God's protection/blessing, and the second time he was worshiping, praising God for them

Project 4:4--Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen, Genesis 34-35

In this episode of rape and revenge, I look at the revenge that Dinah's brothers took on all of the men of the city, by killing all of them, and I'm reminded of the human tendency to repay an evil even worse than what was done to us when we were wronged.

After Jacob's sons kill all the men in the city, Jacob is afraid of the type of relations he will have with the other peoples in the land, so they leave and head toward Bethel, where the Lord first appeared to him when he was first fleeing to Laban's many years ago.

They get rid of their foreign gods, purify themselves, and worship the Lord at Bethel. Once again Jacob sets up a pillar and pours out on it a drink offering to the Lord.

As this day's reading ends, Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin, Ruben sleeps with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Isaac dies and is buried by Jacob and Esau.

Project 4:4--Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen, Genesis 31-33

In this reading, the Lord instructs Jacob to leave Laban's household and return to the land of his fathers. We see more of that deceitful character flaw of Jacob's, as he believes Laban has treated him unfairly and may not allow him to leave. So he gathers his family and his possessions and slips away secretly. Jacob had already been gone for three days by the time Laban finds out.

When Laban catches up with Jacob and company, they work through their differences, just as any semi-dysfunctional family would. Then Laban and Jacob make a sort of peace treaty, or an oath that they swear before the Lord, not to mistreat each other. Here we also see the setting up of another pillar as a reminder of the covenant between them, and they called the place both "Galeed" ("witness heap") and "Mizpah" ("watchtower").

Laban heads back toward his home, and Jacob continues toward the land of his fathers. He knows that the last time he left from there, his brother was angry enough to kill him, and he is afraid that Esau will still feel that way. He fears for his own life and for the lives of his family members. However, in this situation, Jacob sets an example that we would be wise to follow. In his fear, he prays to God and he recalls the Lord's promises to him to be with him, to prosper him, and to make his descendants into a great nation. (I've said it before and I'll say it again: God keeps His promies. All the time. Can I get an "amen"?)

Because Jacob is afraid, he sends some servants ahead to Esau bearing gifts, but he himself stops and stays through the night. That evening is one of the most interesting in Jacob's life: a man appears and wrestles with him until daybreak. Jacob says he will not let go of the man until the man blesses Jacob. So the man blesses him, then asks his name. When Jacob answers him, the man responds with, "Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

When Jacob asks the man's name, he doesn't get an answer. Jacob calls the place "Peniel" ("face of God") because he "saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." I don't have any explanation for this episode in Jacob's life, as far as why this happened, but I can't help but wonder if it's symbolic/prophetic of the relationship that God will have with his people, struggling, as they go through season after season, back and forth, being faithful/unfaithful to Him.

Finally, we have the reunion of Jacob and Esau. All I can say about it is what an incredible example of forgiveness Esau offers. He gladly accepts Jacob as they weep and embrace. Esau accepts gifts from Jacob only because Jacob insists. Then they part peacefully, with Jacob settling in Shechem.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Thirteen

In today's reading of Genesis 29-30, Jacob has come to the household of his Uncle Laban. He meets Laban's younger daughter, Rachel, and he loves her and wants to marry her. He agrees to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for his daughter Rachel.

And the Scripture says, "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few day to him because of his love for her." All together now..."Awww...."

However, when the time comes for Jacob to take Rachel as his wife, he gets a taste of his own medicine, if you will. For as he previously deceived his father and cheated his brother, Uncle Laban is about to deceive Jacob and cheat him...for instead of giving him Rachel as a wife, he gives his older daughter, Leah! Laban said that it was customary to give the older daughter in marriage first, so Jacob agreed to work yet another seven years for Rachel.

Each of these women begin building a family and are perhaps in a bit of a competition to see who can bear the most children for Jacob. For Jacob loves Rachel, not Leah. But for the time being, Rachel is barren, and Leah believes that if she bears children for Jacob, he will love her, too.

So Leah has children....then Rachel (because she is barren) gives her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob to bear children...then Leah (who has stopped having children for the time) gives her maidservant Zilpah to Jacob to bear children...then Leah ended up having two more sons and a daughter...then finally Rachel has a child. And we end up with what will eventually be the 12 tribes of Israel:

I love how each time a child is born, Leah or Rachel praises God and names the child accordingly.

Leah's first four children are Ruben (He has seen my misery"), Simeon ("One who hears"), Levi ("Attached"), and Judah ("Praise").

Bilhah's children were Dan ("He has vindicated") and Naphtali ("My struggle").

Zilpah's sons were Gad ("Good fortune" or "a troop") and Asher ("Happy").

Leah's last two sons were Issachar ("Reward") and Zebulun ("Honor"). Leah also later bears a daughter named Dinah.

Finally, Rachel bears a child for Jacob, and his name is Joseph ("May He add").

I also love seeing our God of compassion work among these women. He sees that Leah is not loved, so He opens her womb so that she may bear children. Then later the scripture also says that God remembered Rachel and opened her womb. I love seeing Him react to the things that were important to these women...and being reminded that the things that matter to us matter to God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Twelve

Today's reading is Genesis 27-28. In today's reading we get to see even more of Jacob's character, as he takes the advice of hs mother to deceive his father and steal his brother's blessing.

I read a comment by someone elsewhere that said, "This is the family God is going to save the world through???" It made me laugh, but at the same time I love it because it is SO true! It's good to read of these events and people in the Bible, flawed though these people maybe, and know that the same God that used them can also use me!

After Jacob steals his brother's blessing, Esau is ready to kill him. So Jacob flees to the land of Haran, where Rebekah's family is, to stay with Rebekah's brother and perhaps find a wife from among his daughters. (He eventually finds one, but gets a taste of his own medicine and...but that's tomorrow's blog!)

On the way there he stopped at night to sleep and had a dream of a stairway into heaven, with angels asending and desending. There God yet again confirmed his covenant, this time with Jacob. His promises to Jacob were sixfold:
1. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.
2. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth.
3. You will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.
4. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
5. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. 6. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

What a blessing!

When Jacob awoke the next morning, he did something that we see done often, especially in the Old Testament. He took the stone he had been sleeping on, turned it up as a pillar, poured oil on it, and he called that place Bethel ("house of God"), believing without a doubt that the Lord was in that place.

Often times, sometimes of his/her own accord, or sometimes according to God's instructions, we see a person in the Old Testament make a memorial to something the Lord has done, as a physical reminder of the power of God. I'm in the middle of writing what will likely be a 4-part series of reminders/remembrance in the Bible... it seems to be so important to God... how it must be so important for us to watch when God does something in our lives, to take notice, and to remember!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Eleven

Just a couple of observations from today's reading of Genesis 25-26:

It's interesting to get a little bit of a glimpse of Jacob's character (or lack thereof) as he forces his starving older brother to sell him the birthright for some food.

I never realized how much of Isaac's life was just like his father's...the famine, the traveling, the lies, God's blessing, the quarrelling over the wells...

It's a little like deja vu, to read through this account of Isaac's life and read about all the same things that happened to Abraham happening to Isaac.

Project 4:4--Day Ten

Not a lot from today's reading of Genesis 24. This was the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac.

I thought it was interesting that Abraham insisted on the importance of the servant going back to Abraham's family to find Isaac a wife from among his kinsmen, rather than finding a Canaanite wife for Isaac.

I love the siginificance of Abraham's servant praying for guidance...I love that he has learned, perhaps from Abraham, to rely on the God of Abraham.

I also love the reminder we have that God knows what we need and He answers prayers. In the case of this servant, before the servant was even done praying, God sent Rebekah to the well!

Finally, I love the servant's response. As soon as he realizes that God has answered his prayer, he bowed down and worshiped the Lord. Then he got up and couldn't wait to tell what the Lord had done for him.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Nine

Today's reading of Genesis 22-23 includes what is possibly the greatest challenge to Abraham's faith that he ever faced.

Earlier in his life, Abraham heard the calling of God. Because Abraham followed God's instructions, God promised to bless Abraham and make him into a great nation and bless all the peoples of the world through Abraham's Offspring. However, when God made this promise to Abraham, there was one tiny detail complicating matters...Abraham and his wife were "advanced in years'" (they were old!) and they didn't have any children. But God promised Abraham a son by his wife Sarah, and Abraham believed God. And it was credited to him as righteousness.

Fastforward several years, and Abraham has spent most of his life believing the Lord and obeying Him. God finally gives him and Sarah the son he promised them. Then God asks of Abraham the unthinkable...He asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. There's no telling what went through Abraham's mind when God asked this of him. Regardless of what he might have thought, his trust in his God shined through his actions, as early the next morning, Abraham got up, took his son Isaac, a couple of servants, and some donkeys with provisions, and he headed to the place that God showed him.

Abraham was prepared to do what God asked of him, regardless of whether he understood why, or how God would keep his promise to make a great nation through Isaac. Even to read this story now, I'm still not 100% sure why God would make such a promise to someone, then ask such a thing from them. I know the Scripture says that the Lord said to Abraham that "...because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants willtake possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

Many generations after Abraham's death, one of his Offspring would be born. He would live a perfect life, give His life as a ransom for many, and be buried in a tomb, only to be raised back to life. So regardless of the fact that I don't understand why God asked what He did of Abraham, I also know that God would never ask something of a person that He Himself is not willing to give.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."--John 3:16

Discussion Questions:

1. What do you think Abraham was thinking when he took his son to the altar?

--He had to have questions in his mind about why God was asking him to do this, but despite those questions, he was obviously focused on his trust in God to keep His promises. In fact, the Hebrew writer tells us that Abraham believed God could raise Isaac back from the dead if necessary.

2. In your view, what is the most important lesson from the life of Abraham?

--Believe that God sees us, He hears us, and believe that He keeps His promises. He always fulfills His gracious plans in His own perfect time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Eight

Today's reading was Genesis 20-21.

In this passage we see Abraham, our giant of faith, fall into the same temptation he struggled with years before. He deceives Abimelech by, again, asking Sarah to say that she is his sister. It is interesting to note, and also serves as a warning, to see someone of such great faith struggling with a particular sin.

Next in our reading is the birth of Isaac. The only thing I want to note is that God keeps His promises. All the time. Can I get an amen?

Unforunately, we run into some problems with Ishmael and Isaac, so Sarah asks Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Abraham is reluctant until the Lord tells him to go ahead and do what Sarah has asked. Noteworthy is that these problems are arising as a result of the actions that Abraham and Sarah took when they didn't necessarily have faith in God to do things in His own time. They tried to speed along the process by doing things their own way, and there are negative consequences as a result.

However, God is gracious, in that He reassures Abraham that He will make Ishmael into a great nation as well, because he is Abraham's offspring. Again, when Hagar and Ishmael are in the desert, "the God who hears" hears their cries of distress and provides for them. The scripture says that "God was with the boy as he grew up."

Again, only one question for today:

1. In choosing Isaac and rejecting Ishmael, is God cruel? Arbitrary? Gracious? Sovereign?

--Above all I believe He is Sovereign. He chose whom He was going to fulfill His plan through, before Ishmael was ever even born. Even though Abraham and Sarah tried to do things their own way, God assured them that His promise would be fulfilled through the child of Abraham AND Sarah. However, He also assured Abraham that He would bless Ishmael just because he was Abraham's son. I think God was gracious in doing so. And even though Ishmael was sent away, God continued to be with him.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Seven

One Week!!! Woo hoo!!!

Okay, enough of that...back on track...Genesis 18-19

In this story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the one thing that strikes me as the most interesting is found where God tells Abraham that He is going to destroy Sodom. But Abraham asks Him, "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?" Then he bargains or pleads with God, asking God if He would be willing to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people...or 45...then 40...30...20...10. Ten righteous people. God agrees to spare the city for the sake of 10 righteous people. Unfortunately, those 10 people cannot be found, and the cities are destroyed.

But here's the great part...

If in yesterday's reading, Hagar praised the Lord as being "the God who sees me", then this reading causes me to praise the Lord as being "the God who hears me." Mind-boggling to me that the perfect God who created the universe and everything in it would create us in His image and so desire a relationship with us that he listens to us and is willing to alter his plans for the sake of the righteous.

Only one discussion question for today:

1. How is the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah relevant today?

--In today's society, post-modern thnking leads people to believe that there is not absolute truth, no real black-and-white, right-or-wrong, and everyone today does, as was said of Israel in the times between the Judges, "what is right in his own eyes." However, this story serves as a powerful reminder that our God, the Righteous One, determines what is right. Above all, He is holy, and sin will not be tolerated. His judgment will come and it will be both swift and complete. At the same time, He is a God of grace, showing mercy to those who believe Him.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Six

Day 6...

Genesis 15-17...

There were several things that I really liked in today's passage. First off, God tells Abram that He is his "very great reward." Rewards were always fun and exciting...something to look forward to when you did something right. This may be superficial, but I like thinking that God is fun and exciting...Someone to look forward to spending time with!

One major lesson we should try to learn from today's reading is that God is in control and His timing is perfect. God had made a promise to Abram, but he and Sarah decided to take matters into their own hands to ensure that God's promise was fulfilled. The end result was negative all around.

As a result of that negativity, Hagar, Sarah's maidservant, ran away. But when she was at her lowest, pregnant, and alone in the desert, the angel of the Lord appeared to her. He told her he had heard her misery. He told her to return home. He promised that Ishmael's descendants will be numerous as well. Before Hagar went home, she named the place "Beer Lahai Roi", which means, "well of the Living One who sees me." She praised the Lord as being "the God who sees me."

I LOVE that!!! I can't help but think of the Psalm 139, which says, "Where can i go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your Presence?" Rather than reading that from the perspective of trying to get away from God or hide from God, I think of it as a reminder that even when we, like Hagar, are at our lowest, no matter where that may be, God will see us and take care of us.

Finally, today's passage ends with God giving Abraham the covenant of circumcision. This is such a major sign of the covenant between Abraham and God...and of the promise that God makes to bless all people through Abraham. I'm reminded of a couple of really good NT passages:

"'Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.' Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised."--Rom. 4:7-12


"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."--Gal. 5:6

Only one question for today:

1. In the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, whom do you like the most? The least?

--I don't know that there's one that I like the most. All three of them tried to take matters in their own hands in order to speed along God's timing, and it didn't work so well. I kind of dislike Sarah, though, for mistreating her maidservant to the point that she ran away.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Project 4:4-Day Five

In today's reading we're introduced to one of the people in the Bible who interests me just because he seems to receive the most praise for his belief in God in the New Testament!

Our reading covered Genesis 12-14, where we get to see God interacting with Abraham. The first thing that I love about Abraham is that he seems to have no issues with following wherever God may lead. For us, so often we may feel God's Spirit urging us to do somethng or leading us in a particular direction, and for whatever reason, we still have some fears/reservations. Abraham, however, didn't even know what God was urging or where He was leading. God just told him to go "to the land I will show you." It's one thing to follow God when you know exactly what He wants from you. It's another entirely when you don't know, but you're willing to blindly follow Him.

However much of a giant of faith Abraham may be, it's in this readng that we also see that he was human and he still struggled. Rather than trusting God to care for and protect him, he asked his wife to lie about their relationship.

Finally, this passage was also interesting, as we see Melchizedek, the first priest mentioned in the Bible.

On to the Questions:

1. What was God's purpose in choosing Abraham and his descendants--and is it unfair of God to single out one group as His people?

--God chose Abraham because he was obedient. And He chose Abram in order to ultimately bless everyone through him. So, in my opinion, it is not unfair, for God can accomplish His purposes through whomever He chooses, as long as the person He chooses is faithful to allow God to work in his/her life.

2. What six things did God promise to Abraham's descendants? (Gen. 12:1-3)

--I will make you into a great nation; I will bless you; I will make your name great; You will be a blessing; I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you; All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

3. What is the significance of Melchizedek in chapter 14?

--Melchizedek is the first priest of God that we see in the Bible, as he ministers to Abram, blessing him in the name of God. Abram, in turn, gives him a tenth of everything. Also, as a GINORMOUS fan of the book of Hebrews, I just gotta point out that the Hebrew writer will later compare Jesus to Melchizidek, saying that Jesus is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Four

Today's reading covers Gen. 10-11. This doesn't include too much to comment on, and in fact, none of our discussion questions are over today's reading material. Today's reading included the story of the Tower of Babel, and the descendants of Noah, particular those of the line of Shem, from whom would descend Abram, the father of the Hebrews.

There were, however, a couple of things that caught my attention in the story of the Tower of Babel. The first of which is that God was displeased with an attitude of pride. One of the reasons the people decided to build tower to the heavens was "so that we may makea name for ourselves".

Another interesting thing for me was what the Lord said about our abilities as humans working together: "If as one peole speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them."

Nothing, huh? Seems like some pretty impressive ability. Let us just always remember that our abilities come from Him.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Three

Today's text covered Genesis 6-9, the story of Noah and the flood. A couple of quick things that I noticed from this reading:

God is pained because of mankind's sin. He is truly saddened and grieved. It's different for me to think of God with emotions like that. But also, to me, that seems to be the reaction of a God who loves his people and is saddened that He is separated from them, not able to have with them the relationship that perhaps He originally intended.

After the flood, God makes a covenant with Noah. This is the first time we see Him make a covenant with a person, and it's just exciting to me, knowing the future covenants He will make, and knowing that above all, He's a God who keeps His word! Also, he put a rainbow in the clouds as a reminder of that covenant. Seems like often He uses a sign for His covenants with His people.

Discussion Questions:

1. What does the story of Noah, the flood, an the rainbow tell you about God?

--God is grieved by sin. He will not tolerate it. He is holy and just, and sin will be punished. However, He desires to walk with us, and He will show mercy and grace to those who are obedient to Him. God is One to keep His promises and uses a sign as a reminder of His covenant with His people.

2. What passages in early Genesis reveal how God views and deals with sin?

--So far we've seen three examples of God dealing with sin. We see Adam & Eve in Gen. 3, Cain in Gen. 4, and the entire world in Gen. 6. In each of these situations, we see God's reaction to sin. We see that it separates us from Him. We see that He desires us to overcome it. We see that it saddens Him greatly. Yet He loves us enough to give us that freedom of choice in the first place. In each situation, the sin must be punished. However, in each situation, we also see His desire to show grace.

Prayers for Guidance......for a friend...

"In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; in Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation."--Ex. 15:13

"You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."--Ps. 73:23-26

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."--Ps. 119:105

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your Presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me."--Ps. 139:7-10

"Let me hear Your lovingkindnes in the morning; for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul."--Ps. 143:8

"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedess, to undo the band of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like the midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."--Is. 58:6-12

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place."--II Cor. 2:14

"I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life."--John 8:12

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you."--Ps. 32:8

"For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones."--Prov. 2:6-8

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."--Prov. 3:5-6

"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, 'I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you shoud go.'"--Is. 48:17

"May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ."--II Thes. 3:5

"I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my glory rejoices, my flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever."--Ps. 16:7-11

"The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand."--Ps. 37:23-24

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"--Micah 6:8

"I will ask the Father, and He will gve you another Helper that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."--John 14:16-17

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Two

Day far, so good!

Today's reading was from Gen. 4-5. This included the account of Cain and Abel, and the genealogy from Adam to Noah. A few things struck me as interesting in this text.

We get to hear God give his first advice on dealing with sin. After Cain and Abel made their sacrifices and God accepted Abel's but not Cain's, Cain was angry. God said to him, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

Unfortunately Cain did not follow this advice about mastering sn; rather, he killed his brother, Abel. God punishes Cain for this. Yet, this leads me to the second thing that jumps out at me in the text. God gives Cain a punishment, and Cain claims that it is too much for him to bear. So God eases the punishment a little. This is the second time in only two days of reading the Bible so far, that we have seen God show mercy. I just love the fact that we have a God who loves and actually enjoys showing us His glorious grace and His matchless mercy!

Finally, in this reading was also the account of one of only two men that were mentioned as having never experienced death. Of Enoch, the father of Methusaleh, the Bible says, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." It makes me wonder what kind of a relationship Enoch had with God. The Hebrew writer only tells us that it was "by faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." The one thing we know for sure is that Enoch was a man of faith.

The discussion questions for this reading are below:

1. Why did God accept Abel's offering but not Cain's?

--The Hebrew writer says Abel's sacrifice was better. I don't know if that means what he actually offered was better, or if his heart was better. (I know our God is obvious about the fact that in worship, obedience is important, but the attitude of the heart matters most to Him.) The text in Genesis reads interestingly enough, though. It says Cain brought some of the fruits as an offering, but Abel brought the fat portions of the firstborn of his flock.

2. Based on these chapters, would you describe humans as basically good, with some weaknesses, or basically evil, with some redeeming features? Or both?

--I think, based on thse chapters, humans are basically good, with some weaknesses. However, when Adam and Eve fell into temptation and sin entered the world, things became really skewed. Those "weaknesses" are heartbreaking, as the world and everything in it, which God created perfectly, now feels so messed up on some level.

Thankfully...this is only Day Two...and the Story doesn't end there! Stay tuned...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Project 4:4--Day One

Happy New Year!!!

I woke up this morning and was excited to get this project underway! Project 4:4 is being initiated by the leaders of my church as a church-wide effort to read through the Bible in a year. We are using F. LaGard Smith's "The Daily Bible" edited into 365 chronological daily readings. We plan to not only read through the entire Bible this year, but to spend time in our assemblies and in our classes studying and learning from His Word together as a church family.

Today's reading was from Genesis 1-3, covering the account of creation and of Adam and Eve. The very first thing that I was struck with as I began reading this passage was that it starts with "In the beginning, God..." It all starts with God. Even beyond that, God is mentioned 32 times in the first chapter alone...a chapter that only has 31 verses! He's mentioned, on average, more than once/per verse!

"In the beginning, God..."

"God said..."

"God saw..."

"God made..."

"God called..."

"God set..."

"God created..."

"God blessed..."

God, God, God, God, GOD!!!!! It's all about Him.

In order to aid in this particular study of the Bible, our church put together notebooks to give out to us, with loose outlines for the weekly readings and study questions that we can prepare to discuss in our classes. I've decided to make an effort to write/blog about each of the daily readings and to use that notebook as a guide, sharing my answers with all of you here. Three of this week's questions pertained to today's reading.

1. How is the "image and likeness" of God reflected in human beings?

--God's image is reflected in us as He has made us spiritual beings, intended to live forever. He has given us dominion over all His creation. He has also given us a higher level of intelligence, with a conscience about what we do, and the freedom to choose our own actions.

2. What can we learn from Adam and Eve about dealing with temptation and sin?

--The most obvious thing we learn is to run away from it. Sin and temptation have so many consequences, none of which are good. Before they sinned, life was, quite literally, perfect for Adam and Eve. Temptation began by Satan making them feel discontent. Then, after indulging themselves, life was complicated. They were ashamed, and they hid. They laid blame and made excuses. They had to deal with the consequences of their sin, the worst of which being that these people, intended to live with God forever, had been separated from Him because of their disobedience.

3. How has your resistance to sin been tested by Satan?

--Satan tests my resistance in a couple of ways. Jesus refers to him as the father of lies, says that lying is his native language, and I feel that's how he operates most of the time: not flat-out trying to get us to do wrong, but deceiving us into not realizing what we are doing and the consequences that go along with it. Also, though, I can sense him starting off with me sometimes, like he did with Eve, by simply trying to convince me to be discontented with my situation.

Perhaps that's why the apostle Paul spoke of learning to be content in every situation and taught that godliness with contentment is great gain.