Monthly Archives: August 2013

Themes from Joseph

Joseph’s story wasn’t just this random tale set amongst the other stories of the Bible.  It was a very pivotal set of occurrences that needed to happen to bring about God’s plan, which stretched far into the future.  It is amazing to think that as far back as Abram, even before he was Abraham, God articulated the plan He would bring into effect in the vast reaches of the future —

“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.’”  (Genesis 15:12-15)

Everything that happened to Joseph led to the implementation of God’s plan.  He had dreams, which made him even more unpopular with his brothers.  His brothers sold him into slavery, which led to him being in Egypt, the stage on which God would make the number of Abraham’s descendents multiply to thousands upon thousands.

And all along it was up to Joseph to keep his integrity.  As long as he did, God was with him, and prospered him.  This is one of my biggest themes for life — that if you persevere in doing the right thing, giving it your best, it will work out.  If you give up or give in, things aren’t as good.  When I first worked after my college graduation, I worked at a daycare.  It started out being a really rough job.  But I tried to do an excellent job, and I was able to move up through the ranks to have a better position there and be able to enjoy by job more.  When things fell apart in our church in 2003, it was hard.  But we held onto what we knew was best, and kept trying to do the right thing.  Now we feel like we have been blessed beyond measure.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered.”  Gen 39:2

“When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.”  Gen 39:4

(Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife when she tempted him) “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”  Gen 39:9

Being righteous did not keep Joseph from trials.  In fact, God used these trials to prove Joseph’s character, and to bring about His plan.  And STILL, Joseph maintained his integrity, and God blessed him.

 “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.”  Gen 39:20-22

Joseph remained humble and gave glory to God.

(Regarding giving an interpretation for Pharoh’s dream) “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires . . . The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” Gen 41:16, 32

And because of this, people saw God, that He was real. 

 “Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

I pray that God will work through me, as I give glory to Him, and that people can see that He is real.

It is so encouraging to see how God poured out blessings on Joseph, and healed his heart of the pain caused by the trying times.

“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”  Gen 41:51-52

This is awesome!  It is powerful.  Joseph never forgot God.  He was the only one in the land of Egypt who worshiped God.  It had been so hard for him to be hated by his brothers, treated badly by them, separated from all he loved.  Yet he held to God, and after long years of trials, God blessed him in a way that began to heal him.  He gave Joseph a family of his own, people to finally love him.  It does my heart so much good to see this.

Finally, Joseph is reunited with his brothers, and after testing them to see if their hearts are still hard towards him, he weeps to have his family with him once more.  The brothers have changed, they have learned their lesson.  Joseph is able to see the big picture, that he went through difficult times, but it has all worked out for the good.  I couldn’t help but shed some tears too, as I read the culmination of the story of Joseph.  It is a happy ending.  The brothers are able to get past their guilt.  Jacob is able to see the son he had grieved over for years.  Joseph can not only have his beloved family with him, but provide for them and their future.  Most importantly, he can see that he is honored by God by being a part of God’s great plan.

“And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Gen 45:5-7

CAN I HAVE THIS KIND OF FAITH, that no matter what happens to me — illness, lack of success, the loss of loved ones —  I believe God is still prospering His will through my life?  I have seen God heap his blessings on me after times of heartbreak, after years of grief.  As I think of the story of Joseph, may it remind me of the character of God, and how He has worked in my life in similar ways.

The themes of the story of Joseph are the same as through all of Genesis — that God works his plan through righteous men who maintain their integrity through trials, and that God wants to bless immeasurably those who follow him.  I have loved this study of Genesis, where I see the connections in the Bible more than I ever had.  It used to be that the stories were flat to me, only mildly interesting.  It didn’t make a lot of sense why they were a part of the Biblical narrative, and why they occurred as they did.  I am finally seeing them as bright stars that are a part of the constellation of meaning in the Bible.  I see God revealed through them, and his awesomeness reinforced through them.  I am excited to continue this Old Testament survey!

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The Power of Connection

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.”  John 17:21

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

“…so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Eph 4:12-13

The goal is unity.  From the moment He walked with Adam an Eve in the garden, God wanted a connection with man.  Jesus provided a way for this to happen.  The purpose of the church is to facilitate unity.

As I wrote in my last blog, I am seeing how vital it is to maintain an encounter with Christ.  This is something I have been doing more of lately — interacting with him, enjoying fellowship with him, asking him before I do something to give me wisdom.  My latest challenge has been stomach issues.  Yesterday I thanked God for this weakness, because it forced me to go to Him so often to ask for help and guidance.  I couldn’t rely on my normal energy level and clear mind.

The power of connection.  I watched a really cool documentary this week called, “I AM.”


It was done by Tom Shadyac, the director of movies like “Ace Ventura” and “Bruce Almighty.”  Shadyac got a concussion in a bicycle accident that gave caused him to have lingering depression.  When he finally came out of this depression, he was motivated to make a movie about what is wrong with the world, and what we can do to change it.

After interviewing many famous thinkers —  including Noam Chomsky, Lynn McTaggart, Desmond Tutu and Howard Zinn — Shadyac concluded that all of creation is connected, and that humans are biologically wired to cooperate and empathize with one another, not be separate and competitive.  The movie pointed to how, for instance, birds decide which way to fly in a cooperative way, one flap of a wing at a time.  It showed how bacteria in a dish of yogurt is affected by the strong emotion of a nearby person.

Although Darwin touted survival of the fittest, he also said the strongest human instinct is sympathy.  Our throats will choke and our eyes fill with tears at moving situations.  We are hardwired for a compassionate response to the trouble of others.  We’re born to be our brother’s keeper, said those interviewed in the movie.

If God desires unity with us, if this is what was  important to Jesus (that we abide in him, that we would one day be one), if the goal for all time has been for us to dwell eternally with our Lord, then our job IS to be our brother’s keeper.  We need to bring all into a state of connectedness with our Heavenly Father.

We need to be Christ’s ambassadors, urging people to be reconciled to God. And reconciliation can only happen with repentance.  I was studying the Bible for the first time with a campus girl yesterday and we read Acts 17:30, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

We need to be fishers of men.  Jake mentioned Sunday how the idea of being a fisher of men originated in Jeremiah.  God would search out those who lived in “wickedness and sin. “Behold, I am sending for fishermen, declares the Lord, and they shall catch them.”  (Jer 16:16)

There is a wonderful, encouraging message of God’s love, and His desire to be close to us, but it requires the proper response from us., one of utter reverence.  This is not a warm fuzzy spiritual philosophy we’re dealing with, but the MOST HOLY ONE.  Although I believe the time of miraculous gifts has passed, this passage in I Cor 14:24-25 still illustrates our job to show others who they are before God, “But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'”  

I keep working my way through Ezekiel.  Here is one of the most famous passages, which also has to do with reconciling man with God.  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved. . . I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”  (Ez 33:7-9, 11)

The last part of the movie “I AM” dealt with the ways we can help the world to be better. Here are some things that were said.

  • Change happens because YOU are concerned.
  • By loving our enemies, we heal their damaged souls.
  • It makes our heart sing to use our talents to make world better.
  • If none of us do anything, nothing will change.
  • There is no such thing as a tiny act. One positive action can change the world.

And the last thing someone said is something I love.  Desmond Tutu looked at the camera with hope and joy in his eyes, and related, “God says, ‘I have no one but you.'”

It is up to each one of us.  It is up to us to “remain in the vine.”  It is up to us to interact with our brothers and sisters to foster unity and maturity.  It is up to us to make the world a better place by reconciling others to God, and calling them back into the state which they were created, “hardwired,” to be.

It is up to us to help bring about God’s ultimate plan -to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”  (Eph 1:10)


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The Power of an Encounter

I have been listening to Doug Jacoby’s podcasts on worship.  I just heard one on seven confessions statements in the book of John.  I LOVE this!  Jacoby talks about seven people who encounter Jesus and clearly see that he is the Son of God, the Messiah.  It is encouraging to realize that all manner of people could see this about Jesus.  It was not this obscure philosophical thing.  He wasn’t just thought of as a good teacher who the masses were attracted to.  People who interacted with him could tell there was something profoundly divine in him.

  • 1:34   John the Baptist:  “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
  • 1:49   Nathanael: “Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.'”
  • 4:42   Samaritans: “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.'”
  • 6:69   Peter: “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’  … From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.  ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.'”
  • 9:38   Blind man:  “Jesus said to the blind man,  ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ . . . ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’  ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’  Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.”
  • 11:27  Martha: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
  • 11:50  Caiaphas: “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. . . . Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation…”
  • 20:28  Thomas: “Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Reading these verses is great because I can start to think it is hard for people to come to faith.  These passages show it is not.  When I was flying to Oregon on vacation, I sat next to a woman who insisted that if someone reads the Bible, they will believe.  She grew up not knowing much about God.  But she was given a Bible and when she started to read it, she began to believe.  We had someone over to dinner last week who told us his conversion story.  Ten years ago he didn’t have much use for God.  He started coming to church and studying the Bible because his wife was doing it.  He told church members straight out he wasn’t interested.  But as he began to study, he began to come to faith.

An encounter with Jesus, either in person or through the word of God, is powerful.

You know, I was praying this morning that God would forgive my intermittent discontent — seeing a nice spacious house and wanting it, seeing people who are successful and wanting that.  People who encountered Jesus didn’t struggle with discontent.  They gave up everything they had and followed him.  There was no allure in material possessions, no allure in accomplishment.  This is what an encounter with Jesus does.  We realize that he is HUGE.  It rocks our world.  We see something that will fill that barren empty spot inside.

And now, every answer is in Christ.  He fills everything in every way.  (Eph 1:23)  Cradled in him, we will bear much fruit.  (John 15) Nothing can separate us from his love.  (Romans 8)  We can bask in him, revel in him, confide in him, converse with him.  He is there to give us guidance and wisdom.  (John 14)  He wants to bear our burdens and give us rest.  (Matt 11:28)  He believes in us and has vision for us. He sticks to us like glue.  He strengthens us.

Jake preached yesterday about how people forget that Jesus is GOOD NEWS.  As the Samaritans proclaimed, he is the Savior of the world.  How can we live our lives in a mundane way?  We are saved, forgiven, walking in the light.   And as for me, I don’t have to feel insecure, ineffective, or impotent.  I have a purpose.  I am never alone. I have hope.  I offer hope to others.

An encounter with Jesus changed lives.  A series of encounters with Jesus changed history.  Encountering Jesus today, and every day, will change me.  Bringing others into an encounter with Jesus will change their destinies, and ultimately, change the world.


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The Power of a Seed


“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  John 12:24

The picture above shows redwood tree seeds.  Although you can’t tell from the picture, the seeds are being held in a paper towel on someone’s hand.  They are pretty small.  The ranger who was holding them compared their size to a flake of oatmeal.

Now compare this to the size of the grown tree.   All of the circle of trees in the picture below come from the root system of the tree that is now the stump in the center where my husband is standing.  One seed produced all of these trees, which are huge in diameter and unbelievably tall.


“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.  Jer  32:17

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?”  Gen 18:14

As I remember staring upwards at the mighty and majestic redwoods, I know that the God who made them can certainly do anything!


But there is always a struggle in growth.  I started this blog with the verse that says a seed must fall to the ground and die to produce many seeds.

  • If I want to be productive, I must sow in self denial and loving others sacrificially.
  • If we want the church to grow, it will start with death to self and repentance.

This sounds depressing, but it is an encouraging concept, because it tells me what works.   I want to see God work in beautiful amazing ways.  And I find myself working hard, getting worn out.  It’s so simple that what I need to do is die to self, not be self propelled.

Let me plant one seed of caring for someone when I feel selfish and grumpy, one seed of perseverance when I feel like giving up, one seed that’s an invitation to church to someone who doesn’t seem to be open, one seed of prayer when I’m tired and want to veg.

Let me plant the seed that is an act of faith.  Jameson preached this past Sunday about imitating the faith of Jonathan in I Samuel 14. He challenged us to put ourselves in situations where God can do something.  “Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, ‘Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.'” (I Sam 14:6)

We have to get our of our comfort zone to take this step of faith.  I keep forgetting that growth involves struggle, indeed, it requires struggle.  The seed must die. I look around me at the  struggles that those I care about are going through, and I am anxious.  But it may be that they have to go through that challenge in order to become the person God wants them to be.  They have to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  (Phil 2:12)

I have LOVED doing the Old Testament survey I’m working on.  Stories that were mundane to me now shine when I put them in the context of God’s overarching plan, when they reflect the themes of God’s character.  One story that impressed me was that of Jacob.  When he wrestled with the angel, God said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have prevailed.”  (Gen 32:28)

Jacob went through struggles, but he prevailed.  God intended that His will would be carried out through Jacob, and that all mankind would be blessed through him, but first Jacob’s character had to be tested.  He had to go through trials and hard work in earning matrimony with his love, Rachel,  and in earning wealth. . . and much more.

God also put Abraham and Isaac through trials.  Abraham obviously had to prove his allegiance to God by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac.  But I am also struck by the nomadic life God called the patriarchs to lead.  They were often on the move, with no place to call home.

This impacts me because I was just gone for a week, and I realize how different it is when I am traveling.  When I am home, I look forward to that time in that evening when I lay aside whatever I am doing and have a relaxing time of reading or watching Netflix.  When I am traveling and staying with people, I have a different mindset.  We will stay up talking.  I don’t expect a time to be self indulgent.  It’s all about serving.

It’s easier to have a servant mindset when I don’t have the comfortable routines of home. I think of how Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  Luke 9:58   Jesus didn’t have the option of being self indulgent.  For him, it was always about serving.  I think this may be one reason God had the patriarchs wander, to keep them reliant on him, and not on their comfort.

Unless a seed dies. . . May I learn to die more, to be uncomfortable more, be less self indulgent, living a life where it is about the ever increasing glory of an incredible God who created the redwoods, and millions of equally amazing things.

Even through fire, these trees stand strong.

Even through fire, these trees stand strong.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matt 19:26

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Partnership in the Gospel

Lubbock Mission Church

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”  Phil 1:3-5

While I was on vacation, it was a good time to revisit some books on my kindle that I hadn’t finished.  One I read was “True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia” by Jerry Bridges.  There is one chapter in this book that was perfect for this week of vacation when we visited two churches — one in Portland and one in Lubbock, Texas.  This chapter was about how we need to be partners in the gospel with Christians in other locations.

Bridges describes the meaning of the word used for “partnership” in Philippians 1, “koinonia,” as a commercial business association. He said that Paul, “considered those dear friends in Philippi to be actively engaged with him in the spreading of the gospel to other cities, even though most of them never left Philippi.”

Bridges pointed out that most of us just think of fellowship with other believers like a sort of social interaction and spiritual edification, but we don’t think of ourselves as being in partnership with them.  The thing that struck me was that Bridges pointed out that we all have the great commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  But most of us will never make it our of our hometowns.

Yes, we need to reach out to those in our area, but we also have a responsibility to participate in the great commission by building partnerships with sister churches.

  • We need to give materially to support other churches.  Paul wrote, “when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.”  (Phil 4:15)  The Philippian church teamed up with Paul and supported his missionary work through their gifts to him.  The cool thing about this is that when we do this, we are assured of a spiritual return on our investment!  “Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.”  Phil 4:17
  • We need to pray for other churches.  The Philippians were praying for Paul.  In joy, he told them, “I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Phil 1:19) In several of his letters Paul pleaded for prayers for his ministry.  “Brothers, pray for us.”  (I Thes 5:25)  “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”  (Eph 6:19)  “If we are truly to be partners in the gospel, we must commit ourselves to pray for missionaries. . .in a consistent, meaningful way,” said Bridges.  He encouraged us to pray specific prayers for ministries, not just general “bless them” prayers.

So I have started praying for other ministries around the world more.  The perfect place to start is by praying for the churches we visited — those in Portland and Lubbock.  Both churches had great people who were so passionate about God. I was inspired, and filled with excitement to see these churches grow and be used by God!

I have been coming across things in Facebook involving ministry needs to pray for.  Here are a couple of pictures I’ve printed out and put on my refrigerator as a reminder to pray.  One shows the sending off of five disciples who will be giving themselves to do the One Year Challenge in Beirut.  The other shows a church in the Philippines that is going through struggles.

Lebanon OYC

Philippines Need

Amen!  I love this new focus.  I love thinking of my brothers and sisters in churches around the world who are pouring out their heart to others in the hope that they will become Christians, who are joyfully enduring challenges because they want others to know how wonderful love and Lordship is.  May we all exemplify the spirit of what Paul wrote in Romans 15:30:

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”

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Cool Themes in Genesis

God hears and cares for the downtrodden, the least of these:

  • “You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.”  Gen 16:11 (Speaking to Hagar)
  • God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.” Gen 21:17
  • “When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children” Gen 29:11

God can do anything:

  • “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”  Gen 18:14 

God desires a people who will walk before Him, honor Him, love Him above all else:

  • “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.  Gen 17:1
  • For I have chosen (Abraham), so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”  Gen 18:19
  • “Now I know that you (Abraham) fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Gen 22:12
  • “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Gen 22:18
  • “The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully” (Abraham speaking) Gen 24:40
  • “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” Gen 26:4-5 (Speaking to Isaac)
  • “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the LORD.’ So she named him Judah.”  Gen 29:35  (The line of Jesus is through Judah, the child named to praise God.)

God provides: 

  • Then God opened her (Hagar’s) eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.”  Gen 21:19
  • “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.”  Gen 22:13-14
  • “He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, ‘Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.'” Gen 26:22 (Isaac speaking)

God wants to bless man with abundance: 

  • “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, 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.”  Gen 22:17
  • “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him.”  Gen 26:12
  • “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you…And now you are blessed by the LORD.”  Gen 26:28-29 (Locals talking with Isaac)
  • I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying…Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”  Gen 28:14-15 (Speaking to Jacob)

God goes before us and is with us: 

  • ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success,”  Gen 24:40
  • “Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you.”  Gen 26:3
  • “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Speaking to Jacob)  Gen 28:15

God’s character is one of love and faithfulness:

  • “Praise the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not withheld His kindness and faithfulness from my master.”  Gen 24:27

God is working His will, and does not favor those who do not honor His will:

  • So Esau despised his birthright Gen 25:34
  • “whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.”  (Judah’s son Onan did not seek to carry on the line of Judah by giving his brother’s wife a child after his brother’s death.)

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Boundless Holiness

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.”  Lamentations 3:22

I just returned from vacation.   Unhindered by my schedule and the usual limitations of my life, everything seemed bigger, everything seemed more possible.  I felt this sense of the vastness of God.


I visited redwoods that were taller than any trees in the world, and live to be 2,000 years old.


I floated down a river that seemed to go on and on.


I encountered one beauty of nature after another.

I felt a continuous flow, a welling up in my heart of love and goodness from God, a spring that never fails.

I have so many new thoughts I want to share, but for now, I am in wonderment at the boundless holiness of God.  “His mercies never cease.” God’s mercies are never exhausted, worn out, or depleted.  They never run their course and reach completion.

Here are some other verses that describe the limitless qualities of God:

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. Lam 3:32

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  Deut 33:27

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;”  Ps 103:11

“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.”  Ps 117:2

Look at what the wording of Ps 117:2 reveals — His love is great: Literally this means His love is “prevailing,” strong and mighty. It endures, above all else.  As it says in I Cor. 13:8, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” 

Faithfulness: This can also be translated His “truth.”  The root word is “aman,” like amen.  God is true.  There is nothing false about Him.  He is solid.  He is real. He is dependable.  He is the one thing we can hold onto in this slippery world bound by entropy and filled with capricious individuals.


“Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.”  Ps 96:9.  Because God is beautiful, I can live a life of beauty.  I can reflect His glory as I go through my days.

I can have a peace that passes understanding.

I can have spiritual fruit that reflect His abundance — more and more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control. “Against such things there is no law.”  Gal. 5:23

When I reside in God’s holiness, all things are possible. I am transformed.

May I not feel limited or constricted.  May I instead erupt in ceaseless praise to the God who manifests Himself in wonder after wonder, whose positive character qualities are without measure.

“May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting.”  I Chron 1:36

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever.”  Ps 5:11

“Be thankful always.  Pray continuously.  Give thanks in all circumstances.”  I Thes 5:16-18


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Being the Lens for God


I have been studying the themes of the Old Testament.  As I thought about Moses and Abraham, I reflected on how different is was at that time, when God could not find any righteous people.  Later in Jewish history there were thousands and thousands of people who thought of themselves as God’s people. When I read about them, it is obvious that not many of them really were His people.  They worshiped idols.  They committed many sins.  But to them, it wasn’t obvious..  They still saw themselves as God’s people.

God was looking for a few righteous men to build His future on.  Would He have chosen me?

One of the themes I have seen from the beginning of the Bible is how God wants to have fellowship with man, to walk with him, to have a relationship with him.  He called out to Adam and Eve in the Garden, “Where are you?”  He set up a covenant with Abram so he could have a relationship with man, and so He would have a people who were His very own.

I was struck last week in a sermon by Richard Allowaye in which he said God wants us to petition Him in prayer because He wants us to spend time with Him.  He doesn’t just want to hear our requests.  Our requests compel us to spend time with Him, to have fellowship with Him, and that is what He desires.

But from the beginning of the Bible, I see how God was also looking for those with a righteous heart.  Adam and Eve did not make good choices and God cast them out of the Garden.  But Noah was the kind of man God was seeking, even if he was the only one. He trusted and obeyed God by building the ark.  Abram was also the kind of man God was seeking.  He believed the promises of God, and it was counted as righteousness.

Would he count me as righteous?  Of course I am saved and that makes me righteous.  But do I have a righteous character?

What does God look for?  He looks for faith.  He looks for obedience.

He looks for devotion. “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” II Chron 16:9

And what convicts me most right now is that in addition to these things, God looks for HUMILITY, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul”  (Deut 10:12) “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”  (Isa 66:2)

Today, as I listened to a recent message by Francis Chan, I was convicted by my pride.  I realized that my desire for recognition and accomplishment can be synonymous with wanting people to focus on me, not God, even if I think I am doing things for God.

Pride is ugly.  I just read about a speech Robert Mugabe made as he celebrated being elected again in Zimbabwe.  He called himself the greatest African leader ever, and said Nelson Mandela was a  ****ing coward.  In looking at Mugabe, I can see how repulsive pride is.  But now I need to turn that focus on myself.

Last night when I got with the Columbus women, Amy talked about humility, and said the person she wants to be “when she grows up” is someone who only thinks of herself as a tool of God.  That is a great goal for me as well.

My goal must be to be the lens that focuses others on God, not on myself.

I got with Bethany a few days ago, and she said, “If I have taught the women nothing else, I want the women to know that the answer is always knowing God more.”

I fervently want people to know God more, to see His awesomeness, His radiance.    But I didn’t see until now how much I can get in the way.

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Themes of Abraham

See which of these themes still hold true today —

God planned incredible blessings for Abram and future generations.

  • After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  Gen 15:1
  • “Look up at the sky and count the stars–if indeed you can count them. ..  . So shall your offspring be.”  Gen 15:5

Faith is what is important to God: Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.  Gen 15:6

God’s plan would involve much hardship before the time of blessings: Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.  Gen 15:13-14

God’s plan will only be carried out at the right time.  “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”  Gen 15:16

God’s chose Abraham to create a people of His very own, who would revere Him.  “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”  Gen 17:8

God chose Abraham because he had the character to set the standard of righteousness for all generations: “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”  Gen 18:19

A righteous man is of great worth to God: “Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous….Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?….. Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten (righteous men) can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  Gen 18:20

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Themes in Genesis

The more I read the Old Testament, the more I am amazed.  The whole Bible comes together more.  I understand more about God, and I am more in awe of Him.

I am beginning to put together an Old Testament Survey, focusing on themes that continue through the whole Bible, New Testament included.  This is today’s entry.

We are made to be noble.  We are made in the image of God

  • “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  Gen 1:26

God wants to shower us with blessings.

  • “Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Gen 1:29
  • Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground–trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.   Gen 2:8-9

God wants to fellowship with us, He wants a relationship with us

  • Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  Gen. 3:8-9

God gives us boundariesGod expects for us to fight to make good choices and live up to being made in His image.

  • “And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Gen 2:16-17
  • “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 rule over it.”  Gen. 4:7

But mankind has not made good choices, but instead pursued his own selfish desires, and this grieves God.

  • “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”  Gen. 6:5-6

Still, there have always been a few individuals who stand up for what is right, and look towards God.

  • “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”  Gen 6:9

God established covenants with man, facilitating a RELATIONSHIP with them and allowing Him to BLESS them.

  • I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  Gen 9:11
  • The Lord had said to Abram… “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;….and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  Gen 12:1,3







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