Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Abram's Name Changed

Abram’s Name Changed
“What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram; now you will be known as Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.”             (Genesis 17:5 NLT)
What’s in a name?
In Ancient and Biblical times names and places were given special meanings. The sons of Jacob’s wives Leah and Rachel were given names that reflected their feelings toward their husband and each other.
   Down through the ages children have been given names for various reasons. The pioneers gave their children names such as charity, faith, hope, joy, grace, etc. because that’s what they hoped they would become. Other parents named their children after former family members, or famous people. My father was named Benjamin Franklin because of his father’s admiration for the inventor and statesman. There were many famous individuals down through history whose names were given to newborns because of their significance, achievements, power, and artistic, poetic, or military background. My two oldest boys were given the Biblical names of Michael Anthony and John Mark with the hope that they would follow in their footsteps. I know of a family who had twelve children and all their names began with a “K”. Although I am sometimes baffled and bewildered by the names I see in print, I’m sure that the parents had some personal reason for the names they chose to give to their children. 
   God in heaven had a divine purpose in his choice to change Abram’s name to Abraham. He had definite plans in mind for Abraham. “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations, I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you and kings will come forth from you.” (Genesis 17:4-6 NASB)
   What is the reason behind your name?

Prayer: Dear Lord, the only name that I want to known by is “faithful!”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Peaceful Separation

Peaceful Separation
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want that area over there, then I’ll stay here. If you want to stay in this area, then I’ll move on to another place.” (Gen. 13:9 NLT)
Arguments among family members are inevitable! Why? There are so many different personalities and goals within a family unit that it is difficult at times for everyone to be on the same page. One party wants to go in one direction while the other has a different agenda.
   This is what happened between Abram and his nephew Lot. They both were very rich with large flocks and herds. The land was not large enough to support them both and strife between their herdsmen escalated until blows were about to be launched. Finally, it got so heated that Abram called Lot over to his tent and said, “Let’s talk this over.” (13:8)
   The method used to settle arguments was much different back then than what we see happening today. Every day it seems that the evening news begins with a report that someone was shot to death over an argument. No discussion! No room for disagreement or different opinions! No thought about the consequences! Just BANG! You’re dead. End of argument. What in the world is going on in our culture today? How did we ever get to this point? Somewhere along the line we lost our moral compass.
   Abram and Lot on the other hand settled their disagreement amiably by agreeing to go their separate ways. Abram took the high road by offering Lot the first choice of the land. He could just as easily exercised his patriarchal authority and sent Lot on his merry way. After all, didn’t the Lord say to Abram? “I am going to give this land to your offspring.” (Gen. 12:6) Abram’s offer was an act of grace on his part.
   How do you settle your differences? Do you insist on your rights? Or do you put self aside and act with love and grace? Let’s follow the example of our ancestor Abram.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to remember that your “grace is sufficient” for all my needs.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Offerings That Please God

Offerings That Please God
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose.” (Gen. 8:20)
What kind of an offering does God want you and me to bring to him?
   During ancient times people brought all kinds of sacrifices to please their gods. The Canaanites placed their children on the altar of sacrifice a practice that our God in heaven utterly despised. That was one reason why God chose to have the Israelites wipe them out of the Land of Promise.
   During the time of Alexander the Great, Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up the image of Jupiter in the Temple at Jerusalem and sacrificed a pig on the altar thus desecrating the Holy Place. He made every effort to suppress the Jews and was the instigator in the War of the Maccabees.
   After the sin and fall of our first parents (Adam and Eve) in the Garden of Eden, God prescribed the offering of an innocent animal as an acceptable sacrifice and means of worship. Abel obeyed his parent’s instructions and brought a lamb from his flock which was accepted, but Cain ignored the instructions and brought produce from his farm which was rejected. Why was Cain’s offering rejected? Primarily because it was the product of the works of his hands and failed to bring glory to God. Man’s works brought about by self-effort is never acceptable to God.
   What kind of offering did God really want from Israel?
    “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of god rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
    What kind of offering does God want from us today?
    “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. “ (Heb. 13:15)
    Are you willing to do this as an act of worship?

Prayer: Dear Lord, what better way to worship than to give your praise and thanksgiving?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Military Genuises

Military Geniuses
“There he divided his men and attacked during the night from several directions.” (Genesis 14:15a NLT)
During the Old Testament days we had a number of military geniuses.
   One of my favorite military leaders who showed an extraordinary genius strategy was Abram who took 318 of his trained hired servants in pursuit of his nephew Lot who had been captured by King Kedorlaomer’s army. He divided his small army of 318 men into separate divisions and attacked the enemy at night. Can you imagine how this affected the minds of the enemy soldiers? Did you notice that they attacked them from “several different directions” all at the same time. This was a genius move by Abram. The enemy soldiers panicked thinking a large force was bearing down on them. What happened? Kedorlaomer’s army fled!
   Other Old Testament military leaders who showed exemplary strategic tactics were Barak in his defeat of the Assyrian army commander Sisera, Gideon who used a nighttime strategy to confuse and defeat the Midianites, David who defeated Israel’s enemy Goliath with a stone, and Elijah who defeated the prophets of Baal with fire. These men were successful because God provided them with the strategy and the necessary tools to win.
   During more modern times we have such great military strategists as Skanderberg who used guerilla tactics, Attila the Hun, Ganghis Kahn known for his brutality and sheer terror, Hannibal Barca, Alexander the Great known for his exceptional speed, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Erwin Rommel the father of modern tank warfare and given the nickname of the “Desert Fox”, George S. Patton, and others. These military leaders are all known for their courage in battle.
   We need to show courage as we take a stand for the truth that is being waged by Satan and his enemy forces. Before you enter the battle be sure to make it a daily habit to put on the whole armor of God as described by Paul in Ephesians 6:10-17.

Prayer: Dear Lord, give me the courage and strength to preach and teach the whole counsel of God rightly dividing the word of truth. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Eternal Life is Permanent

Eternal Life is Permanent
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
Wow! Can you lay hold on that truth? “Never hunger!” “Never thirst!” What is Jesus saying? He’s saying, “It’s permanent!”
   Jesus is stressing the permanence of the saving transaction. This saving transaction was offered to the Samaritan woman at the well outside Sychar in the form of a “free drink of water.” Not physical water mind you, but spiritual water. The spiritual water that Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman was so long lasting that she’d  need only one drink.
   The woman thought Jesus was talking about physical water, but Jesus endeavored to change her thinking by saying, “People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give to them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 NLT) There it is again! “It’s permanent.”
   Not only do we see this concept in the story of the Samaritan woman, but we also see it in the interview that Jesus had with Nicodemus. In his nighttime conversation with Nicodemus, our Lord said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) What does Jesus mean? Birth too, is a one-time event with permanent consequences. In fact, we have no way at all of reversing our own physical birth. My spiritual birth, like my physical one is irreversible.
   John repeats the concept of believing in Jesus to receive everlasting life over and over in his gospel. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). How does John put it, “By no means cast out!” Are you surprised to hear Jesus say it again—it’s permanent?
   What a precious promise this is for the person who is in need of assurance! Jesus says if eternal life is permanent then it is fully guaranteed. Wow! What a Savior!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of eternal life to those who “believe.”

Friday, June 12, 2015

Simply by Believing

Simply by Believing
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me has everlasting life.”      (John 6:47)
Is there another statement in the Bible spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ that is more clear on the subject of salvation and eternal life than John 6:47? The only verse that even comes close are the words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31; “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
   These two verses are so simple that even relatively young children are able to understand them. Certainly the average person on the street can understand them. I can find no other verses that are more direct or sublime.
   In fact, it is statements like these that reveal how anxious God is to make His plan of salvation clear, plain, and simple. Although there are subjects in the Bible that are very difficult to understand (according to the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:16), the way of salvation is not one of them.
   Multitudes of people all over the world, both young and old, from all walks of life have received the gift of salvation through these verses and others like them.
   Why then do preachers, teachers, and theologians distort them? Why can’t they accept the simple truth that faith alone plus nothing equals life eternal? Why are they so adamant in attaching conditions to the word “believe?”
   Those who would distort the simple truth of the word of God say that what Jesus really was saying was: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who repents, believes, and submits totally to My will, has everlasting life.”
   Some of these distorters of the truth must have belonged to the Galatian church. Paul said, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel, which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (Gal.1:6-7)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be faithful to your word of truth and not distort it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Absolutely Free

Absolutely Free
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
How many of you would love to receive a gift that cost you nothing? No requirements, no reciprocation required! Nothing you could give or do would suffice! It is absolutely free.
   This truth is found in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-20. As the story unfolds we hear the younger son saying, “ Father, give to me the share of the estate that falls to me. So he divided his wealth between them.” (v. 11) With money in hand the younger son left home for a distant country where he lived it up and wasted his inheritance. Penniless and starving he hired himself out to a pig farmer. The only thing he had to eat were the “pods” that he was feeding to the pigs. (When I worked on the farm, we called that chore “slopping the hogs.” It was the lowest and most miserable job of the day.
   The son thought to himself, this life is a bummer. Even my father’s paid servants are better off than I am! So why don’t I go back, admit I was wrong, and ask my dad to let me work for him?
   Are there people today in that kind of situation? Like the Prodigal Son they are willing to admit their sin, but are doubtful as to how they will be received. Will they make the same mistake as the son, and think they must work in order to gain acceptance? Will they try to strike a bargain with God? The son decided to return and say, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” (Luke 15:19)
   Fortunately for the son, he never got to utter those words because his father was looking and waiting for him. When he saw him coming he compassionately ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him before the son could even utter a single word. The son’s acceptance by the father was offered “absolutely free.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, your grace is sufficient and free to all who will believe.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Broken Heart Decision

A Broken Heart Decision
“Now the Lord observed the extent of the people’s wickedness, and he saw that all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them. It broke his heart.” (Genesis 6:6 NLT)
How could human beings become so degenerated in such a short period of time? The flood took place around 1656 B.C. and at that time God said the people were totally evil. No wonder God finally had to say—enough is enough. Can you visualize a broken hearted God? I believe tears must have cascaded down his face as he contemplated what to do about the situation. How difficult it must have been for Him to say:
     “I will completely wipe out this human race that I have created, Yes, and I will destroy all the animals and birds too. I am sorry that I ever made them.” (Gen. 6:7)
   Have you ever had to experience the kind of pain that God must have felt from a broken heart? Perhaps a close friend that you prayed for and witnessed to for many years who suddenly dies—it breaks your heart.
   God looked down upon a darkened world and saw only a small flicker of light. “But Noah found favor with the Lord.” (Gen. 6:8)
   One man among thousands or even millions was found to be righteous. Wow! Only one among so many. God doesn’t even declare that his wife, or sons and wives to be righteous. Only Noah—one man!
   As you read this account, you think-- how is the society today any different? Aren’t people becoming totally evil today? Hasn’t violence taken over our society? What is life worth today? Apparently not much more than a “bullet.” What will it take to end the violence and bring peace?
     There will be no end to violence and peace will not come until our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the prince of peace, comes to establish his kingdom.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are looking forward to Your return. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Giving our Best

Giving Our Best
The Lord accepted Abel and his offering, but he did not accept Cain and his offering. This made Cain very angry and dejected. (Genesis 4:4-5)
As I was reading in Genesis the above verses caught my attention. The first question that entered my mind was: Why did God accept Abel’s offering and reject the offering of Cain? Didn’t they both bring the best they could to God?
   Several factors are involved in the two offerings and the motives behind them.                         First of all, Abel brought a pre-approved offering. It is obvious from the context in Genesis chapters three and four that God had instructed the Adam’s family what kind of offerings he would accept. Abel was obedient and brought a sacrificial lamb, but Cain was disobedient and brought an offering that was the product of human effort—an offering of works. God was not about to accept an offering that reflected upon man’s achievements and elevated man to a place of prominence instead of the Creator.  Cain may have thought that he was giving God his best when, in fact, he was offering his worst. 
Secondly, there is the matter of attitude in the offerings presented. Abel came humbly before God with an offering that revealed a subservient attitude. Cain, on the other hand, brought an offering revealing an attitude of arrogance and pride. The Scripture is very clear when it says that “pride goes before a fall”. Cain fell right off his arrogant perch and landed in humiliation and shame.
   God said to Cain, “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Gen. 4:6-7 NLT)
   What kind of offering are you bringing to the Lord? Are you giving him your best? Is your motive pure? Is it an offering that you know in your heart God will approve and accept? Or are you bringing an offering reflecting pride and your achievements? The Scripture is clear when it says, “God will not share His glory.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me always bring to you a sacrifice well pleasing to you.