The Sabbath – A Holy Expectation – Expect! and Epiphany Quest

I have been feeling a little spread thin lately, kind of like when Billboy Baggypants from Lord of the Beans says, “I’m feeling stretched like chocolate pudding spread across too much ham.” I’ve been longing for lazy days at the beach or anywhere for that matter,  exhausted from the see-saw of being desperately needed one minute, “Mom the FASFA deadline is like today!” and stubbornly rejected the next, “I don’t need or want your help with this!” It’s a whirlwind that quite frankly reminds me of the terrible twos.

A few of my blogging buddies have mentioned a change of attitude about the Sabbath as of late…and it’s gotten me thinking. I admit that in my ministry-minded family, Sundays are far from a day of rest. My son works full time on staff at the church, my daughter is on the worship team, my husband serves with the children and I help count the offerings. We have to leave by 7:45 on Sunday mornings. Church starts at 9:30, we all scramble to our service stations.  After the morning service, my daughter practices with one of her worship teams, so she stays at church all afternoon, while my husband and I go home for a few hours before the whole cycle begins again for evening service.

And I wouldn’t change a thing. We have been a part of our church family for over twenty years, and it is our pleasure to serve God’s people. However, as you see, rest is hard to come by on the Sabbath.

But…there are things I can control. I could begin by not doing laundry or excessive amounts of cooking on Sundays. I could refrain from cleaning and vacuuming.

Because the stirring in me about the Sabbath isn’t about a commandment, but a commitment.

Our family is committed to give a tithe, or a tenth of our income. But how much more precious is time than money? And I never want to be Martha, who is so busy serving Jesus that I never sit at His feet.

The stirring in me about the Sabbath isn’t about law, but about trust.

In a world that has a five day and sometimes even a four day work week, I’m not sure we understand what a exercise in trust that  for the Isrealites that the Sabbath was.  They had to trust Him that they could prosper in a world that was working seven days a week. God was commanding them to sit still for one day, to sit still and remember Him.

And I must sit still and remember.

The celebration of Sabbath is really all about remembering and expectation.  The Jewish people remember what God has done for their people and they look forward to the coming of the Messiah, some even prepare a place at the table for Him!

Have I prepared a place at my table for Him?

The table of life represents preparation, and time set apart to be nourished.  Have I prepared?  Do I set apart a time for me to be nourished in every way?

Then a friend, wrote a post about Saturday being Preparation Day.

I chew.

I ponder.

Epiphany!

What if Saturday is my preparation day? What if I prepare all of my food ahead of time? Clean the house? Lay out my clothes? What if, and here’s the big one, what if I prepare my heart?

Once a year our church has a major conference that people come from all over the world to attend. Our family has always looked forward to this week of services. Do you know why? We prepare for it. In a flurry of excitement, I cook for a week beforehand so that we would have delicious meals ready for us when we come home. The children look over my shoulder at the tasty things I’m making, and their mouth waters for the future.  We plan what we’ll wear so that everything is dry cleaned, laundered and/or ironed. I clean the house spotless so that very little housework is necessary, and the family looks forward to a week with minimal chores.  It is like a vacation at home! I also purchase a fresh notebook so that I can write down what I hear from God through the speakers for the week.  One year, we even anticipated a missions offering and had a garage sale so that we could sow a special seed.

But do you know what the most amazing thing is about all of this preparation? We become EXPECTant! The more we prepare, the more we EXPECT. What if I did that in a small way each week? What if I prepared for the Sabbath, to rest in Him, both corporately with my church family and intimately?  What if I allow my preparations to cause a holy EXPECTation?

Mark 1:3 states, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!‘”

…and a voice has shouted into my wilderness, a wilderness of pouring out to my world without rest. And the voice has instructed me to prepare myself for the King each week, to clear the road for Him, expecting to meet with Him, not just on Sundays, but everyday. Sundays are just practice. A voice has cried out telling me to allow Him to pour Himself into me.

one. day. a. week.

This Sunday when I come home for the precious few hours between services, I will be eating food that I’ve already prepared on a paper plate. I will be taking a bath or a walk or whatever sounds the most rejuvenating. I will meditate on what He has said to me throughout the week. I will rest in His arms, because with Preparation comes Expectation.

What ways can you prepare so that your expectation is heightened?

182. Clear beautiful water.

183. Living through the wine press.

184. Robins flitting and fluttering on my deck railing.

185. The neighbor’s wind chimes clanging in March wind.

186. Unprojected sunshine.

187. The spring call of a cardinal.

188. My snoring dog.

189.  Bird song waking me.

190.  Getting the kid’s FASFA’s done!!! 🙂

191.  Trusting God to provide for their college education.

192.  Epiphany! about Sabbath and Expectation.

193.  Only a few weeks until I am done with school…forever.

194.  The privilege of getting to encourage and mentor young mothers today.

195.  A day just to catch up.

196.  A dog who wants to be close to me.

197.  A pink frosted morning.

198.  A good book.

199.  A night with no tv.

200.  That I’m finished reading the Odyssey!  Yay!

201.  That I’m almost finished teaching the Odyssey.

….finding heaven with Jen:

…sharing with Shandra:

Wrestling For Grace – Epiphany Quest

A Temple I Called Hope by Jamie Iain Genovese (jamieiain)) on 500px.com
A Temple I Called Hope by Jamie Iain Genovese

I’ve been studying Jacob….and my Western mentality keeps getting in the way. Why choose him God? We “Good Girls”, we struggle to understand. He wasn’t a nice man.

And I follow him on his journey, hoping for an epiphany.

He begins in a place I am familiar with. He begins by running from his past. He tries to outrun consequences, but only prolongs them for another time. And I can understand this, because even “Good Girls” do that.

But even in his running, God meets him on his way. He shows him a glimpse of His glory, and what he’s missing by avoiding Him. And grace is hard to understand, as is favor and righteous judgement. All I can do is shake my head and wonder at mercy given.

JACOB'S LADDER by Michael Goyberg (MIGO-Photodome)) on 500px.com
JACOB’S LADDER by Michael Goyberg

For Jacob makes some rather proud promises to God. “If you take care of me, then I’ll make you my God.” As if he’s doing God a favor. Have I acted like that? Like my service to God is a favor to Him? And Jacob calls this place the House of God. So he travels on, away from God’s house, but not away from his challenge to God, because, you see, God did take care of Jacob. abundantly. At this point, grace is even harder to understand, because good people struggle sometimes, they struggle just to make it. The “Good Girl” in me asks again: Why him, God? Why Jacob?

After years of prosperity the Lord reminds Jacob of his deal with God. Jacob is tired. He is tired of being deceived and deceiving. He and Laban have spent years trying to outsmart the other. God has called him to return to Caanan. Do you know what Canaan means, dear one? It means “humbled”. Though Jacob has become what those around him would consider great, he has some unfinished business with God, and the road to this end requires humility, something Jacob has not displayed.

Now that Jacob returns to face his past, his present comes chasing after him. The deceit and bickering continues, for unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel has stolen from her father. The two men, make a covenant and a monument to remember it by, but to Laban it is only a “heap of rocks.” To Jacob? “A heap of witness.” Now I see a glimmer of integrity in Jacob, a man who understands commitment and covenant. For where one man sees some rocks another sees covenant witnessed by God. Each man promises not to cross over that place. Jacob chooses to change camps, to reassociate himself with his own family, with the house of God, renaming the place Mahanaim “the place of two camps.”

How many do we know who refuse to leave behind the old camp? The people who encourage a dependance on anyone but God? I begin to understand; these whys of Jacob. Why he is chosen. Why he is venerated.

But he still has that old fear to face. His brother. The man whom he hurt most. Last time he heard from Esau, he pledged to kill Jacob. Still he presses on; on through his fear. In his distress, he sends men before him to plead his case. But this isn’t enough. He can not send another man to see the face of his brother, to look in his eye; to face his greatest fear; the fear of asking for forgiveness.

Fear by marlow starr (marlow)) on 500px.com
Fear by marlow starr

He sends a present, a generous gift, and separates that which is precious from that which is commonplace, keeping those precious ones close to him and sending the commonplace before him. He prays once more, no longer an arrogant young man hoping to outrun his consequences, but a humble, mature man building his courage to face what has long terrified him. No longer a man attempting to cheat God out of a blessing, feeling that God’s blessing, like the birthright and blessing of his father was owed to him, something he deserved. Instead, he pleads, “I am not worthy of the least of of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast shown thy servant.”

And he was left alone. There is a part of the journey which we must travel alone. We can not send someone to do our dirty work; what we fear most doing. We can not buy our way out of it, though a gift may be a wise predecessor to our words. We must wrestle, struggle with the will of God. all. by. ourselves. We must not let go until we have the grace to continue on. For the journey is never something we can do on our own. In our own wisdom, or talent or skills. It always requires a wrestling. A wrestling with our own desires, fears and lack of confidence.

I wonder if Jacob knew that he was wrestling with God while he was wrestling with God? At first it only states that he wrestled with a man, until he asked his name. Who is it that you contend with, believing them to be your battle in life, your struggle? Do you truly wrestle with them, or with the will of God in your life? “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…”

And he calls this place “the face of God”. And having seen His face, Jacob returns, broken and soft. When he sees his brother, he says that he sees the face of God. Did Esau look like God? He did in the fact that in order to be entirely right with God, Jacob had to search the eyes of his brother for forgiveness. And now God’s forgiveness was complete in Him.

Brothers by Frédéric Mars (Marsup)) on 500px.com
Brothers by Frédéric Mars

What fears do you face? Pray with me for grace, dear one? “Lord, give me the strength to wrestle with you long enough to receive grace to face my fears.”

Broken

Jacob's Ladder - Cheddar Caves and Gorge

Jacob’s first “experience” with God was in a dream.  He was running from the brother whom he had wronged, afraid for his life.  And yet, God met him where he was.  He revealed to Jacob His power, and gave him promises should he return someday to the land of his ancestors.  God meets us where we are.  Even when we are running from our past, He gives us His words as a promise if we should return.

Jacob dreamed once again, after he had lived with Laban.  He married Laban’s daughters, worked for him, and now God asked Jacob to leave Laban, and return to his own people.  This dream was God reminding Jacob of the promises that He made to Jacob and that Jacob had made to Him when fleeing from Esau.

What promises has God made to you?  What vows have you made to Him?  Has God ever reminded you of His promises?  Has He reminded you of your promises to Him?  Could it be that He is reminding you now? Today?

In Genesis chapter 32, Jacob once again sees angels, and he names the place Mahanaim meaning “two camps.”  Despite the Lord’s encouragement, Jacob is still afraid.  He divides his possessions and family into two camps.  One will go out in front of the other in case Esau and his men attack, then he will be able to save himself and his favorites.  I wonder if part of Jacob is afraid to face his sin?  Afraid to look Esau in the face and own up to his trespass against his brother?

Have you ever had to face a family member or friend whom you have wronged?  Is there someone you need to face today?

Ge. 32:9-12

9And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

10I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

11Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.

12And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

This is a much more humble Jacob.  Suddenly, this is all about God and not all about him. First of all he says, “I want to remind you that I’m only here, because I’m being obedient to you. And you said that it would be well with me.”  He reminded God of His promise towards Jacob.  But now, the gratitude and thanksgiving of Jacob are astounding. He recognizes that he is unworthy of God’s blessing. Up until this point, Jacob is consistently taking matters into his own hands, even trying to influence nature with the rods and the goats, but now he is in a situation that only God can deliver him from.  And with great humility, he makes his request, one that he doesn’t deserve; safety from his brother. He reminds God of His promise, essentially saying, “You can’t fulfill this promise in me, if I’m dead!”  Essentially he’s like a child saying to his Father, “You said!”

What has God promised you either in dreams or in His Word?  Are you on the first part of the journey as when Jacob was running from what God called him to do?  Or has God given His second call, and now it is time to move on?  Perhaps you are at Mahanaim where you are of two minds thinking, “Should I go forward and do what God has asked?” or are you afraid because of your past? Do you feel unworthy of His promises?

Gen 32:24-31

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

25And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

26And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

27And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

28And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

29And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

30And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

31And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.

And Jacob was left alone. What happens when we are left alone? When there is no one else to run to? No one else to fix our problems? Jacob wrestled with God. He comes to the end of Jacob and makes demand on God to meet him…alone and empty. Now his stubbornness works for him, because he will not let go until he receives a blessing. Now it is God Who gives the Pillar-Builder a reminder. As a sign of this blessing, God breaks the sinew in his thigh.  Bible scholars and scientists alike say that this sinew spoken of in this scripture is the toughest sinew in the human body. A war horse couldn’t break this sinew. But God broke Jacob at his toughest point; his stubbornness, his self-sufficiency, his guilt and now his feelings of unworthiness.

This man who wrestled with his brother even in the womb, fighting to come into this world first; who tricked his brother out of his birthright; who deceived a blessing out of his father; who fought with Laban over his wages; has now fought with God over His blessing.  And now, he has come to the end of himself.  and he is broken.

Are you broken before God? Are you at the end of yourself, and tired of struggling…alone? Dare to wrestle with God, dear reader. You will never be the same…it was then that Jacob was renamed from “supplanter” or “deceiver” to Israel or “struggle”. God sets Jacob’s very name as a monument to remember a moment with Him. A moment that would change Jacob forever. Will you wrestle with God and have your destiny made sure?

Making Pillars: Testifying to God’s Goodness

Jacob was not a nice person. Taking advantage of his brother’s hunger, he tricked his brother out of his birthright. He was a deceiver. That is what his name means. He willingly fulfilled his mother’s instructions to deceive his father so that he received the blessing that was rightfully Esau’s. Jacob was a swindler. He made deals with Laban, and then tried to influence nature against Laban, for his own prosperity. The only thing really endearing about the youth of this biblical character is his love for Rachel. Continue reading

Cotton Candy Christianity

Cotton candy

Isaiah 55 (MSG)
“Hey there! All who are thirsty,
come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money—everything’s free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food,
your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best,
fill yourself with only the finest.
Pay attention, come close now,
listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.
I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you,”

Everyone is thirsty. We are all longing for something to fill a void. But sometimes we don’t know it, because we stuff ourselves with a bunch of fluff; things that aren’t nutritious or satisfying. Cotton candy tastes wonderful! But it melts in your mouth immediately, and never gives a satisfied, full feeling. There are so many ways the human race does this. Unbelievers and believers alike try to add meaning to their life by what they “do”. But this Scripture clearly states that we are trying to pay for something that He’s provided free of charge! Or how often have we run to cozy pj’s and an evening of Lifetime movies for the comfort only time spent pursuing the Comforter can give?

Jesus likened Himself to a tall drink of water!

If you read the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, you’ll see that Jesus called Himself Living Water that satisfies forever.

Drinking from the well that satisfies! Jesus didn’t spend time telling this woman how wonderful she was. In order to drink this Living Water, she had to hear some things that were difficult to hear. But she was thirsty, and she recognized the answer when He came to her.

How many of us would stick around for these difficult words? Most of us would run faster than our legs could carry us! But the Son of God made her aware of her thirst, and she wanted to quench this thirst more than she wanted to hear nice things about herself.

Jesus likened Himself to bread!

I happen to be on a fast; fasting sugar, potatoes and wheat flour. That’s everything worth eating, right? My grocery bill has suffered! All of the inexpensive “fillers” are out of my life. Eating right and living a healthy lifestyle comes at a cost. At the very least you will spend more energy pursuing physical health, and more than likely it it will cost more money as well. It is impossible to put a price of soul satisfaction. But the Good News is that the price has been paid! All we need to do is choose the right spiritual food. Sometimes we prefer to hear words that are melt-in-your-mouth morsels rather than a tough piece of meat that requires much chewing and a month to digest. We become offended with our pastors and teachers and ultimately God’s Word, because they are no longer “encouraging” and yummy to our delicate taste buds.

Eating healthy food isn’t easy…especially if you aren’t used to it. It takes hard work and discipline to train your body to desire the right things. Because of my fast, I’ve had bread on the brain, so it struck me hard when I came across this Scripture from John 6 in the Message.

27″Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”

28To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”

29Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”… 35-38Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

I find it curious that both Isaiah and Jesus, when likening spirituality to food and drink also speak of commitment. The only time that I’ve survived a fast or diet is when I’ve been committed to that decision as a lifestyle.

Another portion of Isaiah 55 states,

6-7Seek God while he’s here to be found,
pray to him while he’s close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life
and the evil their way of thinking.
Let them come back to God, who is merciful,
come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.

We always assume we can live any old way and come back to Jesus anytime we decide to. But this verse provokes an interesting thought. It insinuates that there are times when God is closer than others, and that we must capitalize on these times.

The woman at the well, recognized one of these times. Jesus was close at hand, and she allowed Him to make the most of this opportunity.

We tend to think that we can eat junk food until we’re in our 40’s and 50’s and still enjoy optimum health. But that’s not true! And so it is in our spiritual lives. There is a time table of health, and consequences to pay for how we’ve treated our bodies. The longer we sow junk into our lives, the harder it is to abandon our old way of life.

Let me encourage you today. Throw in your lot with Jesus! Stop trying to satisfy yourself with sugary air! Come to the well of Living Waters…and have the discipline to hear and do hard things. He is the Bread of Life, and just like a great loaf of bread, He fills and satisfies. Check your spiritual “diet”. Are you trying to survive on cotton candy?

Perhaps taking private communion this week would be a good reminder of ensuring proper spiritual food. Will you join me in doing so?

Whole Hearted Attention

Deut 4:29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.

What does it look like to do something with your whole heart?

Perhaps a more poignant question would be, what does it look like when we do something half-hearted?

When I do something half-hearted, only part of my heart is excited about the task at hand. Maybe I have something else I’d rather do, or maybe there is another task pressing for my attention. Sometimes our heart can be there but not our soul. Soul translates to mind and emotions. How often I find myself at the bottom of a page in the Bible and realize that though my eyes were moving back and forth, I was making a to-do list in my head. Whatever the case my focus is not in one place, and worse yet, my desires are divided. It reminds me of this commercial…

Does the man want to be on the date? How does this make his lady friend feel? What kind of reward will he receive for his pursual?

Often times, we expect great reward for seeking God as half-hearted as the guy in the commercial. We put in “our time”, but our heart is not in it.

Doing things whole heartedly takes discipline. In a world that constantly interrupts with notifications of various kinds, I’ve found that conversational etiquette has suffered. It is no longer considered rude for a grown person to be reading and responding to a text while in conversation of a real live person. (I am sheepishly grinning because I’m also guilty of this.)

Forcing all of yourself to be truly with someone is more difficult than ever in this electronic age, but we can not seek the Lord with our whole heart without this practiced discipline. May I challenge you to spend a few minutes today truly being with God? Turn off the tv, leave your cell phone in another room and force your mind to be stayed on Him. The reward is great for He promises that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart.

Jeremiah 29:13 in the Message says, “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

Do you want Him more than anything else? Get serious about finding Him. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s my prayer for you, it comes from Psalm 40 in the Message Bible:

But all who are hunting for you—
oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you’re all about
tell the world you’re great and not quitting.
And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:
make something of me.
You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—
but God, don’t put it off.

What seems to be your biggest distraction while seeking Him?

<img src="http://i1196.photobucket.com/albums/aa405/CEOLIVOS/onyourheart.jpg
“/>

….finding heaven with Jen:

Epiphany Quest! – A Blogging Neighborhood Bible Study – Week 1

After praying and fasting I feel that the Holy Spirit has directed me towards a theme for the Blogging Neighborhood Bible Study in 2012. I take this task with trembling and trepidation, for I recognize the weight of responsibility I carry in sharing God’s Word with others…but o that I would cause a hunger and thirst for a desire in you, dear reader, for your own personal quest. O that you would desire to journey towards the epiphanies He holds for you and you alone, your own Pilgrim’s Progress of sorts.

So, as simple as it may seem, the theme for this year’s Bible Study is found in the name of this blog. Journey Towards Epiphany. And its name is so appropriate this week, in that January 6th is the ancient Christian celebration of Epiphany. The celebration that marks the first Gentiles to find Him as Christ the King.

I am overwhelmed by the mystery of it. Who were these men? How far did they travel? What does it all mean to me? And the first thing that I am struck by is their willingness to listen to their hearts. These men were more than likely Zoroastrians, but more importantly they were Truth seekers. They went beyond the common knowledge of those around them to find what they knew to be true.

You see, the Gospel had been prophesied to the Magi in the book of Daniel during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar, and the Magi of the New Testament likely studied what Daniel and his friends predicted. Just as Abram was called from pagan moon worship to follow a personal God, a Father, these men were called from earthy magic and from astrology to Astronomy. For the Heavens delcare His Glory (Psalm 19)…and they saw it. They had heard about the Truth, and they recognized it.

We only see what we seek for. Many things go unnoticed simply because we have not determined to notice. Days go by without really living; errands and laundry, and work lived without intentional seeking. Ann has inspired me to notice gifts…and my life is richer for it. Now, I hope to inspire you to notice the leading of the Magi in you.

There is a wise man in all of us. One that has seen or heard some “Truth”, something that causes our spirit to cry out “Yes!” I encourage you to take a moment to remember. What was that last morsel upon which your spirit fed? The last bit of Truth that sparked a flame? Now fan the flame.

For the Magi, that bit of Truth was what they heard from previous generations about a coming King. And the more they sought the Truth, the more they found Him. For when we seek Him we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13) Friend, what can I say to implore you and I to seek Him with our whole beings? For when we seek Him, we will find Him. Seek and you will find. Knock….pound on the door…until it is opened. (Matt. 7:7-8) For our determined purpose is that we may know Him. (Phil 3:10)

Do you know Him? Do you want to know Him more? Quest for Him. Live from epiphany to epiphany. Feed on Him as He is the Bread of Life. Thirst for Him as He is Living water, and you’ll never thirst for anything else again.

Seeking scriptures:
Deut. 4:29
Pro. 8:17
Isaiah 55:6
Jer. 29:13
Matt. 7:7-8

Luke 11:8-10
Luke 15:7-9
Acts 17:26-28

If you care to share, what was your most recent epiphany?

Sharing with Ann and Jen and Shanda

Faith: God’s Gift to Man

Icebreaker:  What do you consider a great reward?

Text:  Genesis 15:1-6

1)  Even though Lot and Abram parted ways, Abram comes to Lot’s rescue when he and his family are kidnapped.  There was still the covenant of blood between the two.   Q:  Have you ever had to help someone that you’ve decided to back away from?

2)  In doing so, Abram came against several kings and armies, and won.  However, he may have created many enemies for himself.  The king of Sodom expected Abram to keep the spoil from this skirmish, but Abram refuses.  This next chapter begins with God telling Abram not to fear, but that He is Abram’s shield, AND that He is Abram’s reward.  Perhaps Abram was afraid that by protecting Lot, he had opened a can of worms politically for Himself.  Perhaps He was second guessing his decision not to take any of the spoil, but here God tells him that He is his reward.

3)  Abram responds with “What will you give me?”  He understands that God means to bless him.  He sounds like he’s reminding God of His former promise.  Q:  Have you ever had a child remind you of something that you’ve promised them?

4) God decides to give him a point of contact…the stars in heaven, so that whenever he sees these stars, his faith can be encouraged.  I  have a friend whose husband had to go out of the country for three weeks.  His two year old daughter was starting to lose sight of how long it would be before daddy would be home.  So, she made her daughter a chart.

My friend gave her little girl a picture of faith…something that she could look at when she started to believe that Daddy would never come home.  Q:  Has God ever given you a visual so that you were able to keep the faith?

5)  Richard Foster says:  “Faith in the promise itself is also a gift of the Promise Maker.  Even our faith is a gift from God!  We can ask God for more faith.  He will encourage us when we feel weak in faith.

6)  Now, God says that Abraham believed, and He counted it as righteousness to Abraham.  There still was no proof that God would do what He said, but Abraham believed nonetheless.  He trusted God at His Word.  Hebrews 11:1-2 and 6 says, 1Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see. 2God accepted our ancestors because of their faith…6No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Here we see again reward and faith spoken of together.  a)  We must believe in God.  b) We must believe that God is a rewarder.

7)  Hebrews 11:8 says, “Faith led Abraham to obey when God called him to go to a place that he would receive as an inheritance. Abraham left his own country without knowing where he was going. ”  Faith causes obedience to God’s instructions.  God’s instructions lead to an inheritance (or reward).  Faith leads you to the unknown.  Q:  Tell of a time faith has led you to the unknown.

8)  By faith Abraham stayed and waited for the promise  according to Hebrews 11:9-10.  I am sure there were many times Abraham looked up at the stars for encouragement.  Q:  What can we look to for encouragement in our faith?  Romans 10:17

9)  Q:  How can we increase our faith?  In Luke 17, the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith.

10)  Jude 20 says that praying builds up our faith.  Let’s pray and ask God to build our faith the way He did for Abram.  Remember:  Faith in the promise itself is also, a gift of the Promise Maker.  Richard Foster

Settling Strife and Deciphering God Purposed Relationships – Blogger’s Bible Study

Icebreaker:  Tell of a time when a sibling or your children had a disagreement over an item?

Text:  Genesis Chapter 13

Looking back to the end of the last chapter

1)  After God told Abram which land belonged to him, he traveled there to find that the land was occupied and then there was a famine.

2) Abram went to  Egypt (even farther from his “Promised Land”) with his family to escape the famine.

3)  Abram became very rich there.

4)  Abram returned to the place where he celebrated God’s goodness…to the altar where he acknowledged what God had done in his life.  Genesis 13:4  Q:  What kind of “place” can we return to after hardship, and circumstance make things look as though God’s promise will not come through?

5)  Abram sought to end the strife between Lot’s workers and Abram’s workers.  In his desire to put an end to the strife, he offered Lot his choice of land.  When seeking to end strife, it is important to keep the other person’s best interest in mind.  Q:  What kind of strife do you find yourself in?  How can this be resolved?

6)  So Lot chose the best for himself.  From the beginning, Lot has not been a blessing to Abram.  Perhaps this is because Abram was told to leave his family, and Lot came along.  Now he chooses not to honor Abram with the kindness of giving him the best of the land. He also chose the cities and the cultures that were existing rather than the plains.  This choice plays into Lot’s life later, because he seems to never have left the culture of his past.  He moved as close as he could to the most evil city around, and according to verse 13 surrounded himself by sinners.  Q:  What happens when we surround ourselves by an evil culture and sinners?

7) Dr. Robb Thompson says, “If God wants to bless you, He brings a person into your life, if Satan wants to curse you, he brings a person into your life.”  Q:  Tell of a time when either of these things has happened in your own life.

8) The Lord reaffirms His promise to Abram after the strife, and Lot are away from his life.  It is possible that Lot was keeping Abram from all God had for him in some way.  Q:  What are some circumstances that you’ve witnessed either in your own life or the lives of others where a person has held someone back?

9)  Dr. Robb Thompson also says, “There are rules both to enter into and remain in relationship.”  Q:  How does the story of Abram and Lot exemplify this? QWhat does this story teach us about changing the proximity of a relationship?

10)  The people we allow access into our lives make a difference.  This week, inventory your relationships and decide which relationships are there as a blessing, which are there for you to be a blessing, and which are there to distract you from His purposes.

The Blogger’s Bible Study – Temptation – Genesis 3:1-12

Icebreaker: Have you ever had a bad habit that you just couldn’t break? What is that habit, and if you are free from it, how did you break it?

Read: Gen 3:1-12

1. Scripture doesn’t say that God said not to touch the tree. Either God spoke with Adam alone, and Adam exaggerated what God said in order to keep Eve away, or Eve exaggerated to the serpent.

Question:  Have you ever exaggerated in order to keep someone away from evil? What might be the danger in this?

2. In verse 5, the serpent says that God knew that if Adam and Eve ate the fruit that they would be like God, but we’ve already learned that Adam and Eve were already like God, they were made in His image.  Satan tempted them to believe that God hadn’t done enough for them, that He was withholding something good from them.  He sowed a seed of ingratitude.

In the book 1000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp says, “Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”

The temptation Satan gave Eve was to believe that God hadn’t given her enough, that God is not good and does not have our best in mind. Isn’t that our temptation today? To believe that God is not good. That He doesn’t care about us or our worries and fears, our problems and temptations?

Question:  In what area have you been tempted to think that God hasn’t done enough, doesn’t care or doesn’t understand?

3. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

How did Jesus resist temptation?
Luke 4:1-12

Jesus was tempted in his body, mind and spirit.
a) Body – food, lust, hunger, fulfillment
b) Mind – riches, power
c) Spirit – Whom will you worship, God, Satan, self?

At each point Jesus used Scripture to fight temptation. Satan used Scripture as well, so not only did Jesus have to know Scripture, but He had to understand it’s intent.

When Jesus was tempted at Gethsemane, how did He resist?

He gave up His right and His will. He trusted that God’s plan had His best in mind…Mankind’s best in mind.

So then, as our example, Jesus shows us that the key to overcoming temptation is to know what God said and to submit to His will.

Eve knew what God said, but she added more to it. When confronted with the fact she wasn’t good enough, she didn’t submit to the fact that God had given her all that she had need of and she didn’t submit to fact that God is good, but instead believed that perhaps God was holding back goodness. She knew what God said, but didn’t trust Him (Jesus successfully resisted this in the Wilderness).   She didn’t submit to His Will (Jesus successfully resisted this temptation in Garden of Gethsemane).

Dr. Robb Thompson says that we must be careful to apply our life to the Word, not the Word to our life.

Question:  What is the difference between these two thoughts, and how can they help us in the area of temptation?

4) When confronted with their sin, Adam blamed Eve and ultimately God, and Eve blamed the Devil. Adams said, “It was this woman, and YOU gave her to me. It’s not my fault.” Eve said, “The Devil made me do it!”

Question: Do you tend to blame others, God or the Devil when you are confronted with wrong choices?

5) “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll ALWAYS be there to help you come through it. I Cor 10:13 Message Bible

When we find ourselves overwhelmed by temptation, we can ask Jesus to help us. He was tempted in every way, He can sympathize with us. He understands.

Application:  This week find Scripture to help you in any temptation you are facing and practice humbling yourself to submit to God’s will concerning that area of your life.