Genesis

3 Things to Know about Abraham

 

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What made Abraham such a prolific Bible hero?

For centuries, Bible teachers have taught their followers to aspire to his level of faith. The Jewish nation sees Abraham as their father, as does much of the Islamic world. His life was used as an example by Paul, James, and the writer of Hebrews to demonstrate salvation by faith, and living by faith.

Yet, Abraham was not a perfect man and sinned on at least three occasions recorded by scripture. So, what is it about Abraham that has inspired generations of people to follow the Lord more perfectly? Three things:

1. Abraham believed God.

Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This scripture is repeated in Romans 4:3, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

Abraham’s belief in God extended way beyond a vague belief in a divine figure, and went even deeper than a belief in the existence of the God of the Bible. Abraham’s belief in God was a personal trust.

God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham believed what God told him. He literally trusted God with his life. That’s true faith, and it’s the faith that motivated Abraham’s life.

2. Abraham’s faith produced Abraham’s life.

Hebrews 11:8-10 says:

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Hebrews 11 contains a highlight reel of Abraham’s life, recording every major accomplishment he had in the Lord. Before each action, Hebrews states, “By faith.”

By faith Abraham went out to a strange country, not knowing where he went. By faith, he sojourned in the land of promise. By faith he offered up Isaac. By faith.

“By faith” simply means, “Because he trusted God, he obeyed Him in doing this.”

Because Abraham trusted God, he answered God’s call to go to a place that he would eventually inherit, though he had no idea where he was going.

Because Abraham trusted God, he sojourned in the promised land, looking for God’s city.

Because Abraham trusted God, he offered up Isaac when God told him to.

Notice that everything Abraham did, he did because he trusted God. His trust in God shaped his worldview, his values, his decision making, and his actions.

3. His actions completed his faith.

James 2:21-24 says:

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

James 2 is often misinterpreted. Many use these verses to teach that a certain amount of works is necessary for salvation. That teaching completely ignores the fact that James was written to Christians who were already saved.

James 2 is not about salvation. Rather, it is about making your faith complete, or useful. It’s about fully realizing the blessing of your salvation in this world.

Abraham believed God. That trust in God motivated action. His actions completed his faith and allowed God to bless him.

A prime example of this is the birth of Isaac. God told Abraham that he would father a son in his old age, by his wife, Sarah, who, even in her prime could not have children. Abraham believed God, and God regarded Abraham’s trust as righteousness.

Abraham acted on that faith to father a child with Sarah, and because he acted on that faith, God blessed him with a son. Had Abraham not acted on that faith, fathering a son would have been biologically impossible. However, Abraham’s faith, coupled with his action, produced a child. God blessed.

In considering these three things about Abraham, we must ask ourselves the following questions. (1) Do I believe God? Do I have faith? (2) Do my actions reflect the faith I say I have? (3) Am I living out my faith in a way that facilitates God blessing me?

If our actions do not reflect the faith we profess, then we must assess ourselves to see what we really believe, then work to bring that into accordance with scripture. This will also involve learning new actions and new habits, and unlearning some old ones.

If our actions reflect our faith, then we will see our faith completed and God will bless us. If we give God nothing to bless, then we have no reason to expect a blessing.

May God guide you as your continue to seek His truth.

God Is Good To You, And That’s All That Matters

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God loves you.

It may  not seem like it, but He does.

Christian singer/songwriter Rich Mullins once discussed how he once discounted God’s love because God loves everyone. If God loves everyone, what’s so special about me?

The flaw in this way of thinking is that it takes the focus away from how good God is to you, and it compares God’s goodness to you to how good He is to everyone else. When we think this way, there is nothing God can do to please us.

If God loves us and blesses us the same as everyone else, then we are unhappy because we are not special to God. If God blesses others more than us, God is not being fair to us. If God loves and blesses us more than everyone else, then we wonder why? We either accuse God of being partial and unfair, or we believe we deserved the blessing and harbor resentment for others who didn’t earn God’s blessing.

Lost in all this is how good God is to us. We forget how much He loves us. We forget how He blessed us. As Mullins mentioned in the above-linked video, the issue is not how our blessings stack up to others’. The issue is what God has actually done in our lives.

God loves us, even though we’re unlovable. God gave His only begotten Son for us, sent Jesus to die to pay our debt, so that we could be redeemed and live eternally in His presence. God took the refuse and brokenness of our lives, transformed us, and has healed us. He did all of this, knowing that we can never repay Him.

The issue is not what God has done for others. The issue is what God has done for me. And as long as I continue to compare myself to others, and as long as I continue to compare God’s goodness to me to His goodness to others, I will never fully realize the blessings He has poured out on me.

In Genesis 29:31-35, we see the story of Leah, Jacob’s first wife. Leah’s story is a sad story. She wasn’t considered attractive in her day, no one wanted to marry her, and the only way she was married to Jacob was because her father tricked Jacob into marrying her.

Soon after her marriage to Jacob, he married her sister, and favored her sister. Her sister, Rachel, was considered very beautiful and desirable. All of her life, Leah lived in Rachel’s shadow, despite the fact that Rachel was the younger sister. Now, her sister had stolen her husband.

Jacob disregarded Leah. He favored Rachel. There was no worse form of betrayal than what Leah felt. Yet, Jacob still had relations with Leah, because in Genesis 29, Leah began having children.

Her first son was named Reuben, meaning “See, a son!” Her reasoning was that God had seen her affliction, and now that she had given Jacob a son, he would love her. He didn’t.

She named her second son Simeon, meaning “heard.” Her reasoning was that God had heard she was hated, and gave her another son.

Her third son was named Levi, meaning “joined,” because after three sons, surely her husband would be joined to her now. Wrong.

Her fourth son was named Judah (celebrated), because now she will praise the Lord.

Notice the progression. She transitions from being preoccupied with how Jacob feels about her, and ultimately comes to a place where she can just praise God for how good He is being to her. She stays in that place of blessing and praise until she notices that Jacob is having children with Rachel’s handmaid. So, Leah provides her handmaid, and you can tell by the naming that her praise to the Lord has waned.

The point is, the more Leah was focused on what God was doing for her, the happier she was, regardless of how Jacob treated her. The more she focused on what Jacob was doing, the less happy she was.

So, the lesson we learn from this is this: Yes, life is unfair. Yes, things happen that shouldn’t. Yes, your pain is legit and real. Nonetheless, God still loves us and blesses us in our despair. Don’t discard that love, and don’t miss those blessings because you are focused on what God is doing elsewhere. Don’t miss God’s grace because you are focused on what is wrong. Look to the Lord, trust Him, recognize those blessings, enjoy them, and praise Him for it.

Yes, God loves you. Yes, God loves everyone else, too. That’s not the point. God loves you, and that’s all that matters.

Why read about the creation in Genesis?

Familiarity with passages of scripture can often rob us of the blessings of God’s truth. All too often, we breeze past familiar verses, thinking that it is pretty basic, and that we already know what they say. The truth is that deeper meaning and Spiritual nourishment can be found in those familiar passages.

One good example of this is in the Genesis account of creation. One might be tempted to skim through that passage thinking, “Yeah, God created the heaven and the earth,” and completely miss the implication of it. So in the interest of maximizing our blessings from scripture, let’s take a closer look at Genesis 1-3.

Genesis 1:1 famously tells us, “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.” I cannot read that verse without thinking of a dear Christian friend of mine who emphasized the first four words, “In the beginning, God!”

God was there in the beginning, and He is the beginning. He pre-existed everything. This means He created everything. This means, having created everything, He is more powerful than everything, which means He is more than capable of overcoming that which overwhelms me.

Another observation from the Genesis account of creation is that it demonstrates God’s character and attributes to us. Romans 1:20 tells us that “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

In examining the attributes of God from the creation of the world, we readily see three attributes in Genesis 1.

God creates order from chaos in Gen 1:2. The Earth was without form and void, but the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. The resulting creation is demonstrated throughout the rest of Genesis 1, and can still be observed in person today.

God creates abundance where there is emptiness. Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Earth was “void,” or empty. By the end of Genesis 1, we see a world created with abundant resources.

In the beginning, the world was dark. God’s first creation was light. So, we see that God shines light into darkness. Furthermore, He separates the light from the darkness, giving a picture of our future deliverance.

Then, in Genesis 2, we read about how God created man, and placed him in the garden of Eden, giving him abundant food and a great living space. This demonstrates the loving care God gives us.

However, in Genesis 3, man rebels. Believing that eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would elevate them to God’s status, thus freeing them from His authority, Adam and Eve ate, and thus rebelled against God.

God responded by offering them redemption (Genesis 3:15) and covering their nakedness.

If you want an idea of Who God is, read about Him in the creation. What you will learn is that He is good, loving and merciful, even when we don’t love Him back.

The life of Joseph teaches that God has a plan and is present with us in all things

Born the son of his old age, Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his brethren. He gave Joseph leadership roles within the family, made him a fine, multi-colored coat, and had the young man check in on his brothers who worked in the field.

Joseph dreamed dreams that indicated that God would one day set him in a prominent role, not only in the family, but also the world.

His brothers tired of his dreams, and his reporting their bad behavior, so one day, the threw him in a hole before selling him to slave traders. They covered their crime by tearing his coat and dipping it in animal blood to make it look like Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

As a slave, Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold to a high-ranking nobleman by the name of Potiphar.

At this point, the Bible tells us one key detail about Joseph, that the Lord was with him. In fact, the Lord was with him to the point that he prospered every thing that he did, and Potiphar saw that. Therefore, Potiphar made him the manager of his entire estate.

Things went well until Potiphar’s wife, angry that Joseph had rejected her advances, falsely accused him of trying to assault her. Joseph was then thrown into prison.

Yet, despite his circumstances, God was still with Joseph, to the point that even the Egyptian jailer could see it. Therefore, Joseph was placed in charge of all the other inmates.

While serving as jail trustee, Joseph interpreted dreams by two inmates, one the former butler of Pharaoh, the other, Pharaoh’s former baker. The dreams foretold that the butler would be restored to Pharaoh’s house, but the baker would be executed.

That prophecy came true, which led to Joseph being invited to Pharaoh’s palace to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which foretold of a coming famine. Having interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph was placed in charge of the entire Egyptian nation, and led the Egyptians through the worst famine in their history, and was able to save his own brothers (who had sold him into slavery) as well as his father from starvation.

Joseph’s story, chronicled in Genesis 37-50, tells us how God uses even the worst of situations to our benefit, and how He plans our lives in the process.

Looking at Joseph’s story early on, his dreams involving his brothers’ sheaves of grain bowing to his sheaf not only indicates that he would become the family’s leader, but also that he would provide his family with sustenance. The sheaves of grain very likely pointed to the fact that it would be a lack of grain that would not only propel Joseph to his position of leadership, but also create the situation where he saves his brothers by providing grain for them.

The dream about the sun, moon and stars bowing to him showed that his prominence would even rise above that of his parents, possibly to the point of global prominence. That eventually happened when he became ruler of Egypt.

In order for all that to happen, Joseph would have to go to Egypt. When his brothers sold him into slavery, God used that to place Joseph where he would need to be in order to save his family and become their patriarch.

One final note from the life of Joseph, when his brothers came to Egypt, after a quick test to check their character, Joseph forgave and reconciled with them. There’s a lesson we can all learn from that example. Check out the above-posted “Point” podcast, and feel free to come visit with us Sunday.

God loves you when no one else does

The Bible does not only record God’s law and promises, it gives us real-world examples of things that happened to people, some of which was very messed up. Mankind is sinful, and therefore we can make life into a total disaster, either for ourselves, or someone else.

Leah was a good woman, but she wasn’t the most attractive woman of her day, and the guys were not interested in her. Her father, Laban, feared that he would not be able to find her a husband, so he tricked Jacob into marrying her.

Jacob, for the record, was in love with Leah’s younger and more beautiful sister, Rachel.

So, her father basically pawned her off, her husband is in love with another woman (whom he eventually marries and makes her share the house with), and she is completely isolated, rejected and alone. I mean, this is one of the most devastating things a woman can go through.

The Bible tells us this story, not to legitimize it, but rather to show how God works through the disasters that man makes in life.

No one loved Leah but God, and God loved Leah in a way that no man could. He shows His compassion on her by giving her children, and He transforms her life from one of affliction and loneliness, to one of blessing and praise. By the time God finishes with her, she doesn’t need Jacob’s love, praise or affirmation. She has God’s, and that’s all she needs.

The same principles hold true for us. God loves us, even when no one else does. If we let Him, He will transform our lives from that of anger, depression and hopelessness to a life of praise and blessing in the midst of the storms. Will you trust God to do so?

When God is distant

Have you ever found yourself in a place where God seemed distant, or silent? Perhaps you’ve experienced troubles in your life, and you can’t feel God’s presence. Perhaps you look at the condition of this world, and wonder if God even cares.

That is where Jacob was in Genesis 28. Jacob had to flee for his life after tricking Isaac into giving him the family’s blessing. His brother Esau sought Jacob’s life, and Jacob knew that there was no chance for living in peace back home.

So, with the blessing of Isaac, his father, he lit out for Haran to live with kinfolk, and to find a wife. In Genesis 28, he stopped for the night in Luz. Sleeping outside, he made a pillow of stones, and rested. As he slept, he dreamed of a ladder reaching into Heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. Standing at the top of the ladder was the Lord God.

Standing at the top of the ladder, God introduced Himself as the LORD God of Abraham and Isaac. Though Abraham had died, God was still His God, as Abraham was alive in Heaven. Though Abraham had died, God was still alive. He did not die with Abraham.

God also identified Himself as the God of Isaac, who still lived. Not only did God still live, He was still involved in the things of the world. Jacob likely felt that God was distant. God assured him that He was working His plan.

In this episode of The Point, we see how God reaffirms His presence and plan, how God reaffirms the covenant and promises salvation, and how God promises His blessing on His people.

Seeking the Lord

Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, couldn’t have children. She was barren, which was a mark of shame on young women during Old Testament times. In order to restore her honor, Isaac “entreated” the Lord, meaning he had a time of worshipful prayer where he poured his heart out to the Lord. The Lord heard, and the Lord responded, and Rebekah conceived.

Rebekah became pregnant with twins, who fought within her womb. Rebekah, keenly aware of the blessing God placed on her family, wondered what the fighting meant. So, she “inquired” of the Lord, meaning she followed, learned from, studied, and then asked the Lord for understanding. The Lord gave her understanding.

Jacob understood that God had given his family the blessings of Abraham. Jacob wanted that blessing. Esau was first in line for the blessing, but could have cared less. Therefore, Esau sold the birthright to Jacob in exchange for red bean soup.

All three sought out the Lord in one way or another. In this episode of “The Point,” we learn why their prayers were powerful, and why Esau’s sin was so grievous to God.

The Life of Abraham

Abraham’s life was summed up in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.”

Many people regard Abraham as a righteous man, however, it was his faith that berthed his righteousness. God saw Abraham’s faith, and therefore regarded him as righteous.

Abraham’s faith guided his actions. It was his faith that motivated him to obey God, and to believe His promises.

So, to learn what we can from the life of Abraham, we first have to have a proper understanding of faith. Faith simply means a deep-rooted trust. You not only believe in God, but you believe God! You take Him at His word, and thus you obey Him.

That faith, that belief is what saves you. It’s what gives you hope for the return of Christ. It’s what you express when you give to God. And that’s what Abraham’s faith was all about. We explore those issues in this episode of The Point podcast.

The Tower of Babel

The world’s first tyrant to build an empire was Nimrod, an ambitious, valiant, yet rebellious warrior who built a kingdom by providing for his people in successful hunts, putting down opposition on the battle field, and by building influence around his Type-A personality. First in war, first in peace, first at the dinner table.

Nimrod’s downfall, however, came in his rebellion against God. He built a kingdom in modern day Iraq, and the people decided to build a tower to reach into Heavens. Essentially, they were trying to invade Heaven.

God’s response shows His patience and grace, while also showing that He will not tolerate sin and rebellion.