Uncategorized

Abraham (Part 1)

The Bible doesn’t work like a Facebook highlight reel or a Greatest Hits album. When you read the Bible, you get to see the Truth – the good, the bad and the ugly.

greatesthits

 

Abraham accomplished a little of each while he was on earth.

He became the Father of Many Nations after God called him out of his homeland with the promise of a new land and many children. Abraham displayed great faith in his journey, but it wasn’t without some bumps in the road.

Genesis 12:1-4 (NIV)
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

God got Abraham’s attention when he was 75 years old and still living at home with his parents. God told Abraham to leave his father’s household and go to the land that He would give him, the land where all of his descendants would live.

The cool thing is that Abraham left home!

The crazy thing is that he was 75 years old and childless.

But Abraham decided to trust God and set out on the journey of a lifetime.

So far the story of Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had been about infertility, but they were willing to see what God was going to do with the next chapter of their story.

God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many. He told him to go out and count the stars if he could, and that would be how many descendants Abraham would have.

Abraham was chosen to be the father of the Hebrew Nation, the Jewish people, who would come to also be known as the Israelites, but first he would endure some waiting and wondering.

Waiting and Wondering

On the journey away from home, Abraham wondered if maybe God’s promise about being the father of many didn’t include a natural born son. Maybe it meant he would leave his inheritance to a faithful servant who was like a son.

So God made the promise a little more clear.

Genesis 15:4-6 (NIV)
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

God assured Abraham that he would have a son – his own flesh and blood, and God had already promised to give him land as well, land that his son would inherit. These were two valuable promises to a man providing for his wife and hoping for a son to carry on the family name.

Ten years later, and still not pregnant, Sarah wondered if maybe she could assist God in fulfilling His promise to Abraham. She came up with a desperate idea that would make Abraham a baby daddy.

Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV)
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

Sarah hoped that Hagar could produce a son for Abraham. It was a common practice at the time, but it wasn’t a God-honoring practice.

Abraham quickly and quietly married Hagar, and they conceived a child. This was Sarah’s plan, and it worked, but do you think it made her happy?

Genesis 16:3-5 (NIV)
3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

Sarah quickly realized her mistake. But rather than repenting and dealing with the reality of the mess she made, she became jealous of Hagar. Her resentment and hatred built up, and she pointed the finger at Abraham and tightened her fist against Hagar.

Abraham and Sarah both took their eyes off God.

They took their eyes off the promise, and in the process they brought hostility to their home, divided their marriage, and forgot to value Hagar as a child of God.

Hagar decided to leave the whole mess. (Can you blame her?) She ran to the desert, pregnant and alone. But God saw her and heard her crying. He spoke a blessing over her baby boy, and Hagar found enough strength from Abraham and Sarah’s God to go back home and give birth to Ishmael. His name means “God hears.”

More Waiting

Thirteen years later, in the middle of this mess, God got Abraham’s attention again.

Genesis 17:1-5 (NIV)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

God gave him a new name. (I’ve been calling him Abraham all along, but his name was originally Abram.) God changed his name from Abram, “exalted father” to Abraham, “father of many.”

God gave Sarah a new name, too. Up to this point, she may have been feeling a bit invisible, maybe even forgotten by God.

He kept speaking to Abraham, not to her.
She was still childless, although I’m sure she prayed for a child for over 50 years.
God allowed her servant to become pregnant and have a baby boy.
Her name, Sarai, means “quarrelsome,” which is exactly how she was feeling.

But God gave Sarai her new name, His blessing and His promise for her.

Genesis 17:15-16 (NIV)
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Her Name: Sarah means “princess of many”
Her Blessing: She will become a mother of kings
Her Promise: She will become pregnant and have Abraham’s baby – a baby boy!

God clarified the promise and breathed hope back into Abraham & Sarah’s story.

Genesis 17:17-19 (NIV)
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

I’m sure Abraham wanted to trust God in this, but instead, he laughed, and so did Sarah.  God named their promised son Isaac which means “he laughs.”

Genesis 18:14 (NIV)
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

I love that God asked this question.

Throughout Bible Basics, I encourage you to ask yourself questions while reading the Bible.

– What do you learn about God?
– What do you learn about yourself and your relationship with God?

When you interact with the Bible, the questions go both ways. Sometimes God’s Word will ask a question of you like, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” or “Do you really trust me?”

Chapter 21 tells us how this chapter ends, and while it’s great, it’s not the end of the story.

Genesis 21:1-3 (NIV)
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.

This will always be God’s response:

He will do what He has promised. Nothing is too hard for Him.

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Tower of Babel

ba·bel

babəl,ˈbā-/
noun
a confused noise, typically that made by a number of voices; a scene of noisy confusion

quotationMarks

 

As a self-proclaimed grammar geek, I tend to fixate on punctuation when I read. In the story of the Tower of Babel, it’s the quotation marks. Within these quotation marks, there are two separate conversations.  If you go with me on this, even if you’re not a grammar geek, I think you’ll appreciate taking a closer look at both conversations.

Continue reading “Tower of Babel”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Noah (Part 2)

When God told Noah to move his family, (I’m just filling in the pieces here) I bet Mrs. Noah had some questions about their temporary housing situation.

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Today as I write this lesson about Noah, my family is in the middle of a move. In just a few weeks we will be packing up and moving from Arizona to Southern California. Our temporary housing has been secured, but we have only seen it online. Today my husband is walking through our rental house in California for the first time, and I have lots of questions about the details of where we will be living. Is that extra space really a bedroom or just a glorified closet? What is the square footage? Will our furniture fit? Is there space for all of our stuff, or do I need to have a garage sale? How close is it to the school? How close are the neighbors? Is there air conditioning?

My questions are not about why we are moving or whether or not God is leading our family. I trust God completely with my life and my future, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions about some of the details.

If God told your husband to build a gigantic boat because a catastrophic flood was coming, you might have a few questions about the details, too.

Each detail of the plan was likely met with a question:

Genesis 6:13-22

Genesis 6:13 (NIV)
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”

I bet Mrs. Noah was quick to ask what would happen to their family. “Is God relocating our whole family? The kids, too? And their wives?”

Genesis 6:18 (NIV)
“But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.”

Noah had three sons (vs. 10): Shem, Ham and Japheth, so that makes eight people on the move.

Genesis 6:14 (NIV)
So make yourself an ark…

I bet Mrs. Noah asked something like, “What’s the square footage?”

Noah had never built an ark before, so God gave lots of details.
He would build an ark of cypress wood with rooms in it, 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.

All that square footage meant they wouldn’t be traveling alone. “What about pets?”

Genesis 6:19 (NIV)
You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.

So that’s a yes to pets. Two of every kind, male and female. Genesis 7 explains that Noah should also take 7 of every kind of clean animal. These would be used in a sacrificial offering to God on the other side of the big move.

Well now, that probably brought up a whole new set of questions: “Where will we put all of them? How many bedrooms? Bathrooms?”

It is estimated the ark could hold 100,000 sheep-sized animals, but they weren’t just hauling sheep-sized animals, so there were likely about 35,000 animals on the ark.

When God gave Noah instructions for the ark, he said to make “rooms” inside (vs. 14). Think of something like “nests” for each animal – perfect for hibernation, and I’m guessing the sons were put in charge of mucking the stalls.

My first question about a new house is, “What is the kitchen like?” So I’m betting Mrs. Noah had similar concerns.

Genesis 6:21 (NIV)
You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.

This must have been an overwhelming task. I’m guessing Mrs. Noah probably asked, “What moving company are we using?”

Genesis 6:20 (NIV)
Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.

Will come to you? I guess migration is a possibility in this scenario. Animals weren’t afraid of man just yet since God didn’t clear them for food until after the flood. And God did set man up to rule over the animals, but even so, I have a hard time imagining Noah and his sons wrangling 35,000 wild animals into an oversized cage through one door.

God can do things that are impossible for man to do, and I believe He can communicate with animals, so maybe He just whispered in their ears to make a beeline for the ark, and they did. The animals came to Noah.

Check out what happened in Genesis 7:8-16

“When is our move-in date?”

Genesis 7:4 (NIV)
Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights…

“What’s our lease agreement?”

Genesis 7:24 (NIV)
The waters flooded the earth for one hundred and fifty days

So it rained for 40 days, but then the water continued to build for 4-5 months and then took 7 months to recede.  Noah & family were in the ark for over a year!

God takes care of the details

We often worry about details over which we have no control.  Noah and his sons couldn’t have possibly forced all those animals to get to the boat AND go in the boat AND stay there!

We worry about these details that God is already taking care of, but we neglect to take care of our attitudes, our relationships, and our responsibilities that ARE under our control.

When you trust God to lead you, you will obey His commands and trust Him to take care of the details.

Trust builds relationship

Genesis 8

Genesis 8:4 (NIV)
…the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat

I have to wonder if the animals started to get restless without the rocking motion of the waves. If some of the animals had been hibernating on board, perhaps the sudden stop startled them out of their slumber.

Noah sent out a raven, then a dove. He sent the dove out three times. The first time, it just flew back to him, indicating that the water was still covering the land. The second time, the dove brought back hope in the form of an olive leaf. And the third time, the dove never returned to the boat.

Then God told Noah he could come out of the ark.

Genesis 8:15-17 (NIV)
Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”

Noah’s family must have been so relieved to finally be released from the ark. Their temporary housing situation was likely feeling smaller and smelling stronger as the days parked on the mountain dragged on.

But stepping out into the bright sunlight probably prompted another question, “Now what?”

God destroyed the earth by flood because He wanted to slow down the progression of sin. Now He would set up Noah as the authority to rule over the people.

Then He sent Noah and his family out to start over with new adventures and strong relationships.

Genesis 9:1 (NIV)
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

Blessing always follows obedience

Living out the adventures God takes you on can take you through a wide range of emotional highs and lows. It must have been overwhelming for Mr. & Mrs. Noah to think of starting over. It must have felt lonely, like being stranded on a desert island.

Noah and his family needed a reminder of why they had committed to all of this change.

In Genesis 6:8, God mentioned a covenant He was making with Noah and his family.

A covenant is a promise, a contract, or a mutual agreement.

Chapter 9 has a lot more to say about that covenant.

Genesis 9:13 (NIV)
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

God gave a reassuring promise with a colorful reminder: never again will a flood do such destruction. As long as the earth remains, the seasons will always come as expected, and a rainbow will be visible when it rains as a sign to all that God will keep His promises.

Noah obeyed everything the Lord commanded.
It doesn’t say he understood everything the Lord commanded.

Proverbs 3:5,6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

You can trust the God who keeps His promises to lead you and your family through every detail of life.

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Noah (Part 1)

When I get stressed, I eat chocolate. Some people drink coffee or soak in a bubble bath or take a walk. I should probably choose a walk over chocolate, but who has time for that? Semi-sweet chocolate chips are my go-to for a quick fix.

What if I made God my go-to in times of stress?  Turning to God and His Word leads to peace and doesn’t stick me with that empty feeling I always find at the bottom of the bag of chocolate chips.

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Noah’s situation was stressful. The details were overwhelming. God told Noah to lead his family to build a huge boat to avoid a flood in a community that had never seen rain. Then he would need to herd hundreds of wild animals into a boat-shaped cage. Can you even imagine the stress that weighed on Noah each night as he struggled to sleep?

I wonder if Mrs. Noah stashed some chocolate in a secret compartment on the ark.

The Bible says that Noah wasn’t overwhelmed with all the details because he walked with God. He’s also described as righteous and blameless. Who was this guy and how did he get to this point? I’m glad you asked.

Continue reading “Noah (Part 1)”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

The First Sin

My first grade teacher was the principal’s wife, so we often enjoyed the privilege of her husband stopping by our class parties. Mr. Madison embodied the same magical presence as Santa Claus, so when he stopped at my table and looked at the tree I was drawing, my heartbeat sped up. He showed me how to make a few of the branches look more natural by drawing a little circle at the end. I tried it on a few branches, and wow! This little touch changed everything! Before long, my tree was looking so artistic! I was so proud and wanted to show it off to Mr. Madison. He took one look at my circle laden branches and gave a big Santa belly laugh, and my cheeks felt hot. He wasn’t trying to embarrass me, but I felt so ashamed. His reaction opened my eyes, and I realized that I had misunderstood his instructions. Rather than enhancing my tree by drawing circles at the end of a few branches, I added circles to every branch, making it appear naked.

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Adam & Eve felt no shame

…until their eyes were opened, and they were led to believe there was something wrong with being naked. But who fed them that lie?

In Genesis chapter 3 the enemy is at work as soon as Adam and Eve are joined together in marriage and called to live out the mission that God has for them:

– to rule and subdue the earth (authority)
– to increase and multiply (adventure)
– to walk with God and get to know Him deeply (relationship)

Continue reading “The First Sin”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament, Uncategorized

One Helpful Word about Eve

If you could describe yourself with just one word, what would it be?

just one Word-jamielanedesigns

God uses just one word to describe the first woman in Genesis 2, but what He has to say about Adam before Eve was created gives insight into the one word He chooses.

Only once in the Creation story does God declare that “it is NOT GOOD.” After 6 consecutive days of creating and declaring, “it was good,” God forms the first man with His own hands and then declares, “it is not good for the man to be alone.”

Before God created the first woman, He was pleased with how His creation turned out. He formed the earth and sky, and then He filled them up. Everything was made to fulfill a purpose, and that was good.

So it is a stark contrast for God to declare that something is “NOT GOOD.”

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

Adam needed a “helper.” Some Bible translations say, “helpmeet,” but what does that word even mean?

You’re already learning to ask two important questions in Bible study:
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Another valuable question in Bible study is:
What does this word mean? What did it mean in the original text?

The Old Testament text was written in Hebrew, so it can be helpful to use a resource like www.blueletterbible.org where you can search the meaning of a specific word.

Helper = EZER

The Hebrew word for “helper” here is ezer (ay’-zer), and it’s worth looking into how it’s used in the Bible:

Ezer describes Eve’s role as helper in Genesis 2.

Ezer also describes God’s role as Israel’s strong helper in times of trouble. It’s used 16 times in the Old Testament; here’s one example: Deuteronomy 33:29.

Ezer is also used as a powerful Hebrew military word meaning warrior.

It makes sense that God would use military language to describe Eve’s role and to mobilize her into action. God created Eve with a mission.

Continue reading “One Helpful Word about Eve”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Adam & Eve

History is full of men & women who have reshaped our world in one way or another. But no two people have turned history so significantly or as permanently as the first man & woman: Adam & Eve.

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As you look at the life of Adam & Eve in the second chapter of Genesis, you can ask yourself two key questions:

What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Continue reading “Adam & Eve”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Creation (Part 2)

God didn’t create anything to leave it empty.

FullSizeRender

 

My daughter and I went to one of those pottery painting places, feeling creative and optimistic about our Pinterest-inspired intricate design plans.  We both chose to paint oversized coffee mugs, and after they had been fired in the kiln, we were pretty smitten with our creations.  The first thing we did was to fill them with ice cream and enjoy what we had made!  We hadn’t spent all that time carefully painting useless display mugs that would just sit empty; we were excited to enjoy what we had created.

God didn’t create anything to leave it empty. He created the heavens and the earth, and then He filled them up with plants and trees, the sun and moon and stars, fish and birds and all kinds of animals. After He had spoken all of nature into being, He looked at all of His creation and saw that it was good.

Continue reading “Creation (Part 2)”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Creation (Part 1)

The beginning is a good place to start.   
 "The Beginning" Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.
If you’ve ever decided to read through the Bible, then you’ve probably read the story of Creation because it’s right there at the beginning of the book. It’s a good place to start because it will give you a knowledge-base to build on as you learn more about the Bible.

 

The Creation story answers some of life’s biggest questions like, “Where did we come from, and why are we here?” But in order to find the answers to these big questions, you will want to do more than just read the words on the page.

It’s the difference between reading and studying scripture.

When you study scripture, you interact with it by asking questions and taking notes. You engage scripture by drawing a picture in your mind or on paper of what the scene may have looked like. You look at it from different points of view so that you can be sure to discover the meaning of the scripture you’re studying.

Asking yourself two basic questions will help you move from reading to studying the Creation story:

Two Questions
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

First Question: What do you learn about God in the first verse?

God is eternal – At the beginning of recorded time, He was already in existence.
If you’d like to read more about how God has always existed, check out https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/where-does-god-live/what-was-god-doing-before-creation/

God is Creator – He creates something from nothing.

Genesis 1:2-5 (NIV)
“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.”

Continue reading “Creation (Part 1)”

Bible Lessons, New Testament

The Lord’s Prayer

If you have questions about prayer, you’re in good company.

praying-hands-on-bible-black-and-white

If you’ve ever worked up the nerve to ask the question, “How do I pray?” then you’ve probably gotten an answer like, “Praying is easy! It’s just talking to God.” Or, “Everyone knows how to pray!” But everyone doesn’t know how to pray.

Even Jesus’ closest friends asked Him how to pray. They spent a lot of time with Him, saw Him perform miracles, talked with Him about life, and heard Him teach, but they still had questions about prayer.

Jesus’ answer to the question, “How do I pray?” is known as the Lord’s Prayer:

Matthew 6:9-12
The King James Version reads like this…

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Maybe you memorized this prayer when you were young, or you’ve heard a grandparent recite it at the dinner table on holidays.

Let’s take a closer look at this model prayer by breaking it down line by line.

Our Father…

The Lord’s Prayer starts by addressing God as “Our Father.” This is super important because when you call someone by name, the name you use creates a relational context. It makes a statement about the nature of the relationship you have with another person.

My name is Rene Clark, but not everyone calls me by that name. My kids call me, “Mom,” my nieces and nephews call me, “Nay Nay,” my students call me, “Mrs. Clark,” and my husband calls me, “Babe.” (Love ballads by Styx deeply influenced our relationship in the ‘80s.)

Continue reading “The Lord’s Prayer”