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. So 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 caving in 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 16

January 16.

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 in turn 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 necessarily for an easy life here on earth (as we have seen 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, and 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 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 in comparison 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 mis-represent 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 his 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, but also 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?

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 13

January 13.

Job & Eliphaz — Job’s suffering & false accusations from his friends.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Job 3
Reading 2: Job 4
Reading 3: Ezekiel 14:12-14

Job’s sufferings continue. Not only is he enduring the unmerited attacks of satan,  but also the unfounded disapproval of his friends.

In chapter 3,  notice how Job laments his woes without once blaming God. This is a good example for us, although I trust that none of us will go through sufferings as extreme as Job’s! To trust God is a commendable response to suffering; to blame God is to place ourselves on God’s throne, implying that we have the wisdom or authority to judge.

In chapter 4, Eliphaz makes the same mistake – presuming to know right from wrong and to assign suffering a cause without acknowledging satan’s interference.

The false accusations are in sharp contrast to Job’s honest, but trusting lament. Let’s be careful to be honest with God and ourselves, whatever our trials, and maintain our trust in the One who judges rightly and rules everything. (And if your friends get all religious on you, maybe find some new friends!).

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 12

January 12.

Job & Satan — Job’s suffering & example of patience.

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

Today we begin the story of Job, which opens with a clear description of the realities of living in a fallen world. The consequence of the Fall is that our forefathers’ disobedience placed this world under the authority of satan. God is still Lord over all, but the lawless one has authority to disrupt God’s rule through accusation and stealing.

This is just what satan does in Job’s life, causing what we mistakenly call “acts of God” to steal God’s blessing from Job. First his family and possessions are destroyed, then his health.

Yet, even in his suffering, Job refuses to blame God. He encounters human wisdom which says this is not fair, but it does not divert Job from the firm conviction that God is good, and just, and thus is worthy of worship, whatever befalls Job.

It is precisely this loving devotion that makes God so pleased with Job. Twice in these two chapters we see God using Job as an example of humanity according to God’s design; a concept satan cannot accept or understand, and so satan seeks to destroy it.

So whatever trials we are going through, let’s follow Job’s example and trust God patiently.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 11

January 11.

The Tower of Babel — Language unites people against God or for God.

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 11:1-9
Reading 2: Psalm 19:1-4
Reading 3: Acts 2:1-21

Today we read some explanations in scripture of the power of language. These are spiritual teachings, not ethnological texts, but we can learn much from them.

First we see that language matters – it has the power to unite or divide. We see this at work today in many spheres of society. Ultimately language is a gift from God because speaking (and the power which results) originates with God. To see what I mean, take a quick look back to Genesis 1!

Second, we see that God’s voice is still speaking today, through the aspects of creation that have not been marred by sin. It is not reported in our godless media, but there are plenty of scientists who come to faith through study of the natural world and the universe. The use of scientific theories to exclude God is becoming as unstable as communism was when President Reagan famously challenged President Gorbachev “tear down this wall.”

And thirdly God shows His power over language on the Day of Pentecost, by supernaturally enabling the disciples to speak in languages they had not learned. This sign made the observers wonder, and brought many to faith in the God who could so clearly reverse the divisions of Babel. The Body of Christ, the Church, is to be a place where diversity leads to unity not to disunity.

So language is powerful, and it matters to God. How can you leverage your heritage and your words for the sake of unity today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 9

January 9.

Noah & the Flood — God’s judgment of sin & Jesus’ second coming

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 8
Reading 2: Genesis 9
Reading 3: Matthew 24:36-44

After the flood we see a fresh start, with God giving very similar instructions to Noah and his family as to Adam and Eve, generations earlier. The covenant is just as one-sided as before: God will bless, protect, provide, and grant long life. There is no requirement on humanity other than to willingly continue in relationship with God to enjoy these benefits. This is a foreshadowing of God’s greater grace to come, both in the Exodus and in the incarnation.

But sin is still in the picture, and Ham (and by implication his son Canaan) still carry an ungodly character flaw: disrespect, and a desire to uncover the failings of Noah. Shem (father of the Semitic peoples, including Israel and the Jews) and Japheth (father of Eurasian peoples) differ in showing respect, and covering their father’s failings. Our heart attitudes matter greatly to God, because God looks on the heart.

In addition, our third reading warns of the danger of taking our relationship with God for granted. It was only those whose relationship with God was current and active that escaped the cleansing of sin in the flood. And our trust in God will be sufficient to carry us through whatever is ahead as the world again veers in ungodly directions. One thing is certain: Jesus will return to complete His victory and re-creation of perfection, as it was before the fall, and we can be ready for that day by enjoying relationship with God, day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Why not pause now and thank Him for giving you eternal life?

Have a great day!
Mark.

January 8

January 8.

Noah & the Flood — Noah’s faith & deliverance from the flood

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 6
Reading 2: Genesis 7
Reading 3: Hebrews 11:7

Our reading plan connects all the key stories of the Bible into One Story – God’s story. Today’s story is one that most people know about (even if it is through inaccurate Hollywood depictions that twist the story for commercial ends). And as we read, we will see that this is God’s story.

Within a few generations, the consequences of sin and disobedience have become so great that God is sorry He ever made humanity. Think how sad it would be if you created a beautiful painting or sculpture, perfect in every way, but it was then vandalized and ruined. Now multiply that feeling to imagine how God felt!

In the midst of all this corruption and disobedience, Noah stands out as the only man who would obey God.

Reading 3 tells us: “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”

Righteousness (relationship with God) comes by faith. It is a question first of what we believe. Then comes the action that shows the faith to be active, real, and able to bring righteousness.

Today, what do you believe, and what will you do as a result? In line with God’s Word, faith and action bring you into righteousness, which we experience as relationship with God.

Have a great day!

Mark.

January 7

January 7.

Enoch — Enoch’s faith in God & message to the world

Today’s Readings:
Reading 1: Genesis 5:18-24
Reading 2: Hebrews 11:5-6
Reading 3: Jude 14-19

Today’s readings are shorter, and focus on Enoch. Enoch’s life, in contrast, was much longer than lives today, yet he is listed as having great faith.

He is known for being taken from the earth by God, but less well known for his prophecy recorded in Jude.

Enoch said “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

So today, with Enoch as our example, let’s examine our words and deeds; ensuring they are rooted in God’s love, and in His Word.

Have a great day!

Mark.