January 24

January 24

Abraham & Circumcision — The sign of circumcision vs. spiritual circumcision.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 17

Reading 2: Romans 4:7-13

Reading 3: Colossians 2:11-13

Today Abram and Sarai are given new names by God, indicating their change of covenantal relationship with Him. Both names have a breathy “h” syllable added: Abram to AbrAHam, Sarai to SarAH. This syllable sounds like God’s name, YAHweh, and indicates God’s nature being incorporated into their natures.

And as a sign of this covenantal relationship, Abraham and every male from then on is to be circumcised. This is not the means of entering the covenant but the external sign of an internal change. It is similar to the sacrament of water baptism in the Church – it does not impute salvation, but it is a sign that salvation has been received. Paul explains to the Romans and the Colossians the spiritual significance of circumcision and the relationship between faith and salvation.

Today, you can celebrate that you are saved by faith and that any external signs of that transformation are simply that… …signs. Have you been baptized as a believer? Why not ask to be baptized if you have not?

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 23

January 23

Abraham & Hagar/Ishmael — Abraham doubts God’s promise & God blesses Ishmael.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 16

Reading 2: Genesis 21:8-21

Reading 3: Galatians 4:21-31

If you think back to the very start of our readings, in the first three chapters of Genesis, we see a woman who is guided by her own understanding, yet deceived, and a man who is willing to do what the woman says, even when it contradicts what God has told him. This combination leads directly to sin.

We could say the same thing about today’s chapter. Sarai comes up with an idea to help God out and fulfill the promise from years earlier by human means. And Abraham agrees with her, even though this was NOT what God had said. The result is Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations today. When we see Arab terrorists wreaking havoc in the world and seeking the destruction of Jews and Christians, it is part of the fulfillment of the promise given to Hagar by the angel in Genesis 16: “This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

But we can also trace the redemptive hand of God in these readings. God promises to bless Ishmael because he is Abram’s son, just as God promises to bless us (despite our wildly sinful tendencies) because we are trusting Jesus.

At the same time, Hagar gets a different view of God through her sufferings.

How about us? Do we try to help God out or hurry His plans? Maybe you identify more with weak Abram, who would not stand up for what was right and allowed his wife to lead him into sin? Perhaps you have experienced the redemptive power of difficulties and suffering – giving you a new perspective on God? As you read today, I suggest you journal any parallels in your own life as you read Abram and Hagar’s story and reflect on the heritage and influence of Ishmael.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 22

Pause and Reflect: Unconditional Love

After reading about God’s unconditional love yesterday, it seems a good opportunity to pause and reflect again. We seek to do this every seven or eight readings.

In your quiet moments today, why not begin to list the ways God has shown His love to you? You can return thanks to Him for His grace and worship him for his loving-kindness.

You can also catch up with any readings you missed and review your notes from this week.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 21

January 21.

Abraham & God’s Promise — Abraham’s faith in God & God’s unilateral covenant.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 15

Reading 2: Jeremiah 34:18-20

Reading 3: Romans 4

Have you ever experienced something so amazing that it was hard to believe it? One time Jane and I were given a car late at night. It was parked outside our apartment, and the first we knew of it was when the keys and title dropped through the letterbox in our door. It was hard to believe initially, but that car was a great blessing to us early in our marriage.

Imagine how Abram felt when God made this one-sided covenant with him! Look up and see the stars – you will have that many descendants! You and I would have trouble believing that (given that Abram and Sarai were old and childless). But we are told, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

And then God shows Abram how he can be sure of this promise, utilizing a smoking fire pot and flaming torch passing between the halves of the animals God had commanded Abram to spread out before Him. This represented God making a covenant (it was the way important agreements were concluded in that society).

And for us also, faith is the key to receiving God’s covenant love, forgiveness, and eternal life. We cannot earn salvation. We can only receive it by faith. It is a gift from God through Jesus.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 19

January 19.

Abraham & Lot — Lot’s choice of land vs. Abraham’s promised land.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 13

Reading 2: Nehemiah 9:6-8

Reading 3: Acts 7:2-5

Abraham and Lot are traveling together (with all their families and herds), and quarreling begins to erupt between their families. So Abraham gives Lot the choice of where to live.

Lot naturally chooses the best land, but before long, he finds himself surrounded by sin, which leads him astray. By contrast, Abraham finds his land to be a land of blessing, where God makes promises to him and expands his territory. There are many ungodly residents in the land, but God will drive out all Abraham’s enemies.

Nehemiah reminds us that God is always true to His Word, and so fulfills all His promises. Even though Abraham and Sarah are childless, God promises that their descendants will inherit this land.

For us, do we take God at His Word? Do we trust His promises and provision, even if we seem to be walking through an ungodly and barren land? Faith holds on to God, even when the promises seem impossible!

Together: Have you ever made a choice based more on the benefits to you than God’s direction and promise? How did that work out?

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 18

January 18.

Abraham & Deception — Abraham’s fear of people vs. Sarah’s faith in God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Genesis 12:10-20

Reading 2: Genesis 20

Reading 3: 1 Peter 3:1-6

Fear of man can be a terrible thing. In Abraham’s life, it is closely connected with faith and becomes something of a repeating pattern (today’s readings bring together two occasions when Abram/Abraham makes the same mistake. One is in the future in the chronology of his life). Despite great faith, Abraham also commits some obvious sins because he is afraid of those around him, especially if they have authority and power.

God takes care of Sarah, though, showing the fruit of her own faith in Him. And the two of them become examples for all of us (not in acceding to fear, but in learning to relate rightly together as husband and wife).

So today, let there be no deception in your life, only faith, and trust in God!

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 17

January 17

Abraham and God’s Call — Abraham’s faith to follow God & the promise of the gospel.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 12:1-9
Reading 2: Hebrews 11:8-10
Reading 3: Galatians 3:7-14

Today we begin to study the story of Abraham – the Father of faith. God’s promise to Abraham is stirring and challenging. The challenge is one-sided: Abraham has to do as God says, and all the consequences are on God’s side of the deal! But God’s purpose is clear – that through Abraham, all the peoples of the world will be blessed. That refers to every people group, every tribe.

And with this calling comes a responsibility – to be faithful – which creates a choice for everyone else. God says He will bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who treat him with contempt. As we exercise faith in Jesus, we are included in Abraham, inheriting the promises.

Those promises are not for an easy life here on earth (as we have seen in the past few days in Job)! Instead, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that Abraham’s example underlines that this is not our home. We are citizens of another Kingdom!

That citizenship we share with Abraham. It is a gift that comes by faith, not works. We cannot earn that Kingdom as a reward for religious good behavior; the gift of eternal life comes by the kind of faith that says “yes” to God and is willing to leave the status quo to go where God directs.

Where has He taken you on your journey of faith? And how have you seen His promises fulfilled along the way? Why not jot some memories in your journal today after you have read the passages?

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 16

January 16

Pause to reflect

At suitable points in our readings, we pause to reflect. This enables you to review your notes on the readings, catch up on any readings you have missed, and dialog with God.

As we read, we are immersing ourselves in the logos – God’s recorded Word. As we pause, reflect, and listen to God, He adds His rhema – the spoken, Spirit-breathed Word.

In a quiet moment today, draw aside and ask yourself – what is God saying to you? And how will you respond?

And remember, you are welcome to comment on the posts if something significant stands out to you.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 15

January 15

Job & God — Job’s suffering & God’s compassionate mercy.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Job 38
Reading 2: Job 42
Reading 3: James 5:9-11

After Elihu concludes his speech, reminding Job of God’s great power, God joins in. Chapter 38 is full of examples of how incapable man is to explain so much of the universe. We are tiny compared to the God who created everything, yet that God ” is full of tenderness and mercy,” as James reminds us.

Job knows this, too, as we can see from the tone and content of his reply to God in chapter 42. I love Job’s conclusion: “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” All that suffering was rendered valuable to reach the destination Job has found – to rest in God’s justice and love whatever befalls him.

And from that place of surrender, God blesses Job and restores him. God also restores the three friends who had so woefully misrepresented God. It is not God’s desire that anyone remain under condemnation or judgment. Repentance (expressed here in a sacrifice) is all that is needed for relationship with God to be restored.

Who do you know who needs to hear how Job’s story reveals God’s heart? Why not reach out to them today with encouragement and hope? (and remember not to misrepresent God in the process!).

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 14

January 14.

Job and Elihu – Job’s suffering and Job’s foreshadowing of Christ’s suffering.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Job 16
Reading 2: Job 32
Reading 3: Matthew 26:62-68

Job’s friends are determined to prove Job has sinned and deserves his suffering. Job is equally determined to maintain his innocence and trust in God.

In this way, Job foreshadows the suffering of Jesus.

And Elihu points out the error of Job’s friends but is also angry at Job for refusing to admit fault. His speech shows the enthusiasm and heart for justice that is common among the young and the sharp edge and impatience that can accompany it—these contrast with Jesus in Matthew 26.

So today, we have an early glimpse of what Jesus went through for our sakes. Why not take a few moments to reflect on this and to thank Him?

Together: discuss Jesus’ suffering, and pray prayers of thanksgiving together.

Have a great day!

Mark.