Lucia's Blog: 2013
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, December 26, 2013

BANKRUPTCY OF THE SOUL - A MODERN DAY PLAGUE





"Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds."  Proverbs 27:23

Many people today including Christians seem to live healthy, fine and normal lives to all appearances.  From an outward point of view, they seem to have achieved success, praise, happiness, and fun.   In other words, the American dream.  They don't seem to be suffering from want or neglect.  Their children seem to be doing fine; they're well cared for; they're  well dressed; attending the best schools.  They are definitely enjoying the fruits of their labor.  Sadly, they are spiritually bankrupt.   Their inner heart and soul are malnourished, neglected, lonely, empty and unfulfilled.  Obviously, their souls are crying out and declaring a form of bankruptcy.

"As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because My flock has become a prey, My flock has even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd, and My shepherds did not search for My flock, but rather the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock."  Ezekiel 34:8

Unfortunately, beneath all that outward success there is the inner man who is unsuccessfully fulfilled and satisfied.  His inner life with His Creator is a total failure leading to a devastating bankruptcy of the soul.  Let's never forget that God sees and weighs the hearts of men.  The way He measures growth and success is very different than how we measure it.  He does not count or consider our possessions, material achievements and success as His sole norm of achievement for us. 

"For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered."  Jeremiah 10:21

God wants us, his children, to place Him above all else.  He wants first place in our heart, mind and soul.  He is a jealous God who hates to be replaced by anything else.  We must be careful not to let our lives and hearts become bankrupt before God.  He knows when we lay up treasures inside ourselves.  He sees when we are storing away riches in our soul for His kingdom's sake.

"In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night."  Luke 2:8

Again, as I mentioned before, we can be very successful and be puffed up in our ego or self esteem and become very proud of our outward success, but be completely bankrupt in our souls.  Do we know the state of our flocks, that is our children, our spouses, our brethren and other special people God has placed in our lives to watch over?   Do we care if they know God and His plan to save men?  Do they know us for being the salt and light of this world?  Are we reflecting Christ in our lives, letting our light shine before men?  Are we using the riches God has provided for us such as our children and families?  Did you know that teen depression along with loneliness are at an all time high among those that seem to have it all?  More often than not it is the affluent children that are the most neglected and lonely.  These children long for something more: a satisfied and fulfilled soul.  There are no gadgets, nice cars or perfect image that will take the place of the riches of our souls.  Parents, we must be aware and pay attention to the state of our flock, our children.  We must not go astray; we need to make sure that our flock, our children, remain together.  It is our duty to be truly shepherds who watch over our flock by night.

"WOE to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture! declares the LORD."  Jeremiah 23:1

Pursuing only our goals of achievement and success, wrongly thinking that it is for the welfare of our families, even though it might be well intended, is bankruptcy of the soul.  It is total failure!

"I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing, declares the LORD."  Jeremiah 23:4

True happiness is not the pursuit of outward success only.  Our main priority should be that of the needs of our souls as well as the souls of families and neighbors.   Let's be wise and not be fools and not pursue the wrong things, goals and interests and neglect our flocks.  Let's make it our main goal before our Father in heaven to pursue our flocks' success; to be with them and spend time with them; to watch over our God given riches, our flocks, more than our earthly success.  What godly legacy are we leaving behind for generations to come?

"I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."  John 10:11

May we always remember to store up riches in the bank account of our souls in heaven; the only one we truly are going to be able to take with us.  May we and our children never have to suffer from bankruptcy of the soul and lose our souls for eternity.

Luci

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD




"And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive...." Genesis 50:20-21

Joseph had to endure many injustices at the hands of his brothers who were jealous of him because he was his father's favorite.  His father gave him a special coat of many colors which provoked anger among the other siblings.  As a result of this jealousy, Joseph had to endure betrayal and suffering.  Worse yet, Joseph's dreams made them hate him even more.

As a consequence of this jealousy, Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelite traders as a slave.  These slavers sold him to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials.  In spite of the circumstances, Joseph served as a faithful servant, winning trust and esteem for 7 years. Then everything fell apart for him again.  Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him.  When Joseph refused her, she accused him of taking advantage of her.  Potiphar ended up throwing Joseph into his prison where he had to endure injustice for another seven years.

It is amazing to me that all these injustices were the result of the envy and hatred caused by his brothers.  Do you think that's fair?  In my opinion, if anyone had reason to be bitter, Joseph did.  Finally, after two more years of bondage, he was called before Pharaoh to interpret a dream that he had about a great famine that was going to happen throughout the land.  The extraordinary thing is that Joseph did not mention a word about his injustices, but pointed the Pharaoh to God alone.  It would seem to me that that was his great chance for revenge.  Because of God's favor in his life and his love for God, he was exalted and made second in command in all of Egypt.  He was to be the one in charge of all the food supply and storage for the coming famine.

After 21 years, his brothers heard of the supply of food down in Egypt in the midst of such famine.  Then, Jacob sent the brothers down to Egypt to bring back food.  Eventually, they stood before Joseph not recognizing who he was, because he was dressed like a king.  A lot had changed here.  This was Joseph's big chance to "set things right" and take full revenge.  What would you have done?  Would you, had you been Joseph, have thrown them into prison to let them have a taste of what you had to suffer at their hands?  So often, I hear of  Christians, who have been wronged saying, "I will forgive you, but I will NEVER forget!"

How moving to me are Joseph's words to his brothers when he finally decided to reveal his identity to them.  His words showed the deep and precious work our God had done in his heart through all the years of suffering.  When his brothers finally realized who he was, they panicked.  But to their surprise and relief, Joseph's touching and precious words reassured them of his love for them, "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good...." Genesis 50:20-21.  What wonderful, moving and precious words these are!   These are words that proceeded from a broken heart, which suggest that all of life's injustices, struggles and sufferings work toward some greater good, for those who love the LORD and are called according to His divine purpose, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for GOOD to those who love God, to THOSE who are called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28.  Can it be that even the greatest sorrows in our lives can bring goodness or be messengers of GOOD?  As difficult as it might seem, this was a great lesson that Joseph had  to learn through his many, many wounds.  So, let's always keep in our minds and hearts that though men might intend to do evil to us, God means it for good.  He is using all of these wounds, sufferings, injustices and evil to bring us into the perfection of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, "For those whom the LORD loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives."  Hebrews 12:6

So with this in mind, let us always remember that until we see God's hands in our sufferings, we are going to be fleshly, pointing at and blaming our persecutors and offenders, for the wrongs they have done to us.  For those who are not walking according to the likeness of God, there can be no room for pain, discipline and value in wounds.  For them, pain is met with resentment and wounding with retaliation.  This is sad, since there can be no healing until we stop assigning blame and allow God to heal our wounds.  Until we come to realize that "God meant it for good."  We are just never going to be able to forgive our brethren and neighbors UNTIL we come and taste of the goodness of God and His wounds at the cross, Hosea 6:1-3.  Without the wounds of restoration, healing and a renewed heart, there would be no desire to follow God and His marvelous light.  UNTIL we see and come face to face with a realization that the wounds that others have inflicted upon us are not the wounds of our enemies, but of a loving Father, we can never be free of bitterness and resentment.  Not, UNTIL we can honestly say from a sincere heart, "God meant it for good....Faithful are the wounds of a friend,"  we will resist God's love for us through His blows and stripes.  God's wounds are for our healing!  They are for good!  "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do the stripes of the inner depths of the heart."  Proverb 20:30.  There is a parallel here with Isaiah 53:5 "by His stripes we are healed."  It is the Father who controls the scourge. 

Another who had to suffer and was deeply wounded was Paul.  He suffered enormously at the hands of his brethren.  He had every right to be bitter.  However like Joseph, Paul decided to see beyond his wounds and those who afflicted him with suffering.  He understood very well, that the real reasons for his scars, "On my own body are scars that prove  I belong to Christ."  Galatians 6:17.  He saw the stripes that were inflicted upon him, not as evil but as GOOD.  A proof of Christ's ownership, II Corinthians 11:24.  Do you doubt that Paul was bitter about the unfairness and injustice he was treated with?  NOT AT ALL!  "For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my BRETHREN, my kinsmen according to the flesh.  Romans 9:3  Let's make it our ambition to have the heart of Paul and Joseph who sacrificed in order to let those who persecuted them be blessed.  Let us all first search our hearts and be at peace with all men as we go forth proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all men!  

May our Lord help us to have the heart of Paul and Joseph who died to themselves in order to bless those who have wronged them.  May we always remember that no matter how much others have hurt us, wounded us, hated and caused deep pain in us, GOD MEANS IT FOR OUR GOOD.  May we always have a sincere heart that is willing to taste of His goodness and His wounds at the cross  in order to forgive those who have wronged us and be able to be free from bitterness and resentment.

Luci

Friday, December 13, 2013

HAMMURABI AND ISAAC - PART II





HAMMURABI - 1792 BC -  The HAMMURABI CODE 

Ancient Babylon is about 55 miles south of today's Baghdad in Iraq.  King Hammurabi inherited Babylon from his father in 1792 B.C.  This king began to expand his kingdom by taking the city of Kish along with other small neighboring cities.  He built up his army, expanded his kingdom and was able to take control of a vast area stretching from Mari to Ur in southern Mesopotamia.

The Code of Hammurabi managed his vast kingdom by controlling trade routes along the rivers and into the Persian Gulf.  He developed a well-known book of laws called the Code of Hammurabi to maintain order.  This code contained 282 laws and was written in Akkadian, the common language of his people.  This was written on 12 tablets and was carved into an eight foot high black stele, a large stone monument.  The Code was then displayed in public for everyone to see.  At the top of this stele was a carving that depicted Hammurabi justice.  Did you know that the early founders of our country chose to include a depiction of Hammurabi along with twenty-three other lawgivers on several U.S. government buildings, including a marble base and the frieze on the Supreme Court Building?  This was done because of Hammurabi's well known focus on law.  This stele had been taken from Babylon in a battle against the Elamites and was therefore lost centuries.  It was rediscovered in Iran in 1901, and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Hammurabi's laws were sorted into groups:  laws to govern business, labor, personal property, real estate, and family life.  These laws were strict and harsh.  They placed responsibility for crimes not only on the criminals, but also on anyone who might possibly have prevented a crime.  The code was very specific, especially in the areas of punishment.  The death sentence required a trial before a group of judges.

The code of Hammurabi divided the population into three classes:  the awilum(the king and his court, landowners, high officials, craftsmen and professionals), the muskingum(those who owned no property, the beggars) and the wardum(slaves).  Penalties for offenses were less severe for the awilum class.

The following are some of Hammurabi's Laws:

1.    If any one steals the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death as well as the one who receives the stolen thing.  They were both supposed to be put to death.
2.    If any one receives into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or a freedman, and does not bring it at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.
3.    If fire breaks out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out casts his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and takes the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.
4.    If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the corn which he has caused to be ruined.
5.   If any one fails to meet a claim for debt, and sells himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or gives them away to forced labor:  they shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or the proprietor and in the fourth year they shall be set free.

Apparently, after the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began using the Babylonian names for the months of their calendar, sometime after 600 BC.  The Babylonian calendar was based on 12 lunar months, each named for a different god.  The year began in the Spring and was divided into three sections:  beginning, middle and end.  As with the Jews, the Babylonians began their day at sunset rather than midnight.

A consideration of Babylonian history shows us the impact of Babylonian influence in the lives of the ancient Israelites.

Luci



ISAAC - PART I


 "Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'''' 
Genesis 22:10-12


GIANTS OF THE FAITH:  ISAAC

When Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah bore him a son whom they named Isaac, meaning laughter.  On the day that Isaac was weaned, possibly at the age of three to eight years old, Abraham threw a party, Genesis 21:1-21.  "Weaning" is of course the end of a child's nursing stage, but in the Ancient Near East, this was more than just that; it was a milestone in a child's life.  It was a cause for joy in those days since many children died in infancy.  Weaning feasts were very common in those days.  At the party, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac, "Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.  Therefore she said to Abraham, 'Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.'"  Genesis 21:9-10.  She asked Abraham to get rid of the boy and his mother.  What exactly caused Sarah's anger is unclear.  But, the fact is that Sarah wanted it to be clear that Isaac was the favored son who would receive the inheritance.  We read from Galatians 4:29 that Ishmael persecuted Isaac.  Sadly, Abraham had to send Ishmael and his mother away.

After some time had passed, The LORD appeared to Abraham telling him to take Isaac to the region of Moriah to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering (the location is unknown, but the name means "ordained by God,").  "And He said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offered him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.'"  Genesis 22:2.  The burnt offering consisted of cutting up the entire animal into pieces allowing it to be consumed by fire.  God's request might have seemed shocking to some; even outrageous!   Abraham seemed to be familiar with the idea of human sacrifice from his time in Ur.  Again, we see an Abraham used to facing difficult tasks which demanded a great FAITH.  Remember, he obeyed God when He asked him to leave his family to go into an unknown country.  He sent away his first-born son Ishmael--but this task was far from the hardest and most dreadful of all.

Abraham's GREAT FAITH is remarkable and we can see it emphasized in the story.  His FAITH is so GREAT that he offers no OBJECTION or remark, but simply sets out to OBEY.  This is beyond words.  In genuine OBEDIENCE he and Isaac set off the next morning with a donkey and two servants.  He offers no explanation to his servants or to Isaac.  After three days of traveling, they finally approach the mountain that God had designated for the sacrifice.  Here is what Abraham tells his servants, "Stay here with the donkey. and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you."  Genesis 22:5.  He is implying that he and Isaac will return when Isaac won't.  He says nothing about a sacrifice, despite having gathered wood for the burnt offering.  When Abraham and Isaac are alone, Isaac asks his father the obvious question:   "My father!"  And he said, "Here I am, my son."  And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"   And Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."  

When they finally reached the site, Abraham builds the altar arranging the wood for fire.  Then he binds his son Isaac and lays him on the altar.  Notice, no words are exchanged and there is no evidence of any struggle at all.  What an emotional moment this is!   Here we see an Isaac who is TRUSTING his father and an Abraham who is TRUSTING his God.  As Abraham was raising his knife and preparing to kill Isaac, and angel of the LORD cries out from heaven saying:  "Abraham!  Abraham!"  And he said,  "Here I am.'"And he said, 'Do not  stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I KNOW that you FEAR God, since you have not withheld your SON, your only SON, from me."' Genesis 22:10-12.

Then Abraham raised his eyes, probably weeping for joy, and sees a ram behind him, caught in the thicket by his horns.  He offers it up as a burnt offering to the LORD in place of Isaac.  He names that mountain "The LORD Will Provide" because God did indeed provide the sacrifice, just as Abraham had told Isaac.  Abraham's GREAT FAITH is AMAZING.  His FAITH has survived God's testing, and God is immensely PLEASED with Abraham.  Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, saying "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will GREATLY bless you and I will GREATLY multiply your SEED as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your SEED shall possess the gate of their enemies."  Genesis 22:15-18.  Abraham's OBEDIENCE to God is our best example and motivator!  We need to be like Abraham who placed his life in God's hands, trusting God's judgment more than his own.  Abraham placed his utmost FAITH in God believing with all his heart that God is Master of life and death, and that God is ALMIGHTY able to do the impossible.  Did you know there are similarities between Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac and God's REAL SACRIFICE of His own Son, Jesus Christ?

After Abraham's FAITH is tested, Sarah dies at the age of one hundred twenty-seven and he buries her in a cave he had bought from the Hittites, Genesis 23.  It is then that Abraham realizes that his life is coming to an end and doesn't want his son Isaac to marry a Canaanite.  So, he sends his servant on a quest for a match for Isaac.  Abraham's servant was trusted to find an acceptable match for Isaac in another country where he knew no one.  What a tremendous responsibility this servant was given!  Apparently, this servant had full knowledge of Abraham's affairs.  He showed loyalty to Abraham as if he were his own brother.  He certainly shared Abraham's FAITH in God.  This is demonstrated in his prayers and deeds throughout the story.

The servant promised to find a suitable wife for Isaac from Abraham's own family back in Mesopotamia.  Abraham made him seal his promise in a very personal way; he, the servant had to place his hand above his thigh.  By placing his hand on this area and by swearing in the name of God, the servant was binding himself to Abraham's God.  Notice, that the lands where his servant was traveling were filled with the gods of those lands.  Abraham wanted to be assured that his servant was not going to turn aside from the true God.  The servant promised that he would not let Isaac marry a Canaanite, but that he would find a suitable wife from Abraham's family.  Also, Abraham wanted to be assured that his son Isaac and his seed were not going to be corrupted.  Abraham set a standard that was going to be upheld years later when Joshua led the Israelites into the promise land.  This is what we read:  "Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they play the harlet with their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invite you to eat up his sacrifice; and you take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlet with their gods and cause your sons also to play the harlet with their gods."  Exodus 34:15-16.

The servant sets out with 10 camels and great quantities of supplies and gifts.  When he reaches Northern Mesopotamia he stops near a well.  Both he and his camels are in need of water from the well.  It was common in those days for young unmarried women to draw water in the evening.  He is hoping to meet Isaac's match.  He prays to the LORD to show him which girl he should choose for Isaac according to what he asked for.  He will ask an unmarried girl at the well to give him a drink from her jar.  The chosen girl must not only give him a drink, but his camels also.  In this way, he would know the Lord's choice for Isaac.  It was not customary for young unmarried girls to speak to men outside of their home, much less a foreigner. Nevertheless, Rebekah fulfills all of the prayer's requirements.  She draws water for the servant and offers water to the camels until they are full.  She is also part of Abraham's family.  Another requirement she fulfills. She is unmarried and beautiful.  God goes beyond the servant's request in such a bountiful way that the servant has to bow down and worship.  What an amazing God we have!  When he realizes that Rebekah is the one, he gives her gold bracelets for her arms and a ring for her nose.  This is a sign of a marriage arrangement.  The servant gets invited by Laban her brother to dinner.  He tells Abraham's story to Laban and her father, Bethuel.  After hearing the story, both Laban and her father agreed that Rebekah would be a good match for Isaac.  Rebekah is not consulted about her own marriage, which was normal for a patriarchal culture.  When the deal is made, the servant then takes Rebekah and returns to Abraham, but Laban and her mother ask him to delay, "But her brother and her mother said, 'Let the girl stay with us a few days, say ten; afterward she may go.'"  Gen. 24:55.  The family consults Rebekah and she agrees to go with the servant immediately.

When Rebekah and the servant arrived in the Negev,  Isaac sees them from afar.  When she sees Isaac approaching, she finds out he is her intended husband, she veils her face.  Isaac and Rebekah are married in Sarah's tent.  What a  beautiful "fairy tale" love story!

The following are some parallels between the Genesis stories of Ishmael and Isaac:

Gen. 21:12
God orders Ishmael to leave
Gen. 22:2
God orders Isaac's sacrifice
Gen. 21:14
Leave in the morning with supplies
Gen. 22:3
Leave in the morning with supplies
Gen. 21:16
Ishmael is about to die
Gen. 22:10
Isaac is about to be sacrificed
Gen. 21:17
Angel calls to Hagar
Gen. 22:11
Angel calls to Abraham
Gen. 21:18
Ishmael will be a great nation
Gen. 22:17
Isaac's descendants will be innumerable
Gen. 21:19
God provides a well
Gen. 22:13
God provides a ram


May our Lord help us to have Abraham's OBEDIENCE.  His obedience to God is our best example and motivator!   May we be like Abraham, who placed his life in God's hands, trusting God's judgment more than his own.  

Luci

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

ABRAHAM THE PATRIARCH - PART II



After 10 years of God's promise to Abram about a son, Sarai's desperation reached a peak.  She offered her Egyptian maid Hagar to Abram hoping that she would bear him a child in her place.  This was a common practice in those days.  It is found in the Sumerian law code from around 1800 B.C. and an Old Assyrian Marriage contract from around the same time.  According to their customs, the child born this way would belong to Abram and Sarai and not the servant.  Hagar became pregnant. She began to look with contempt, Genesis 16:4.   It was then that Abram gave Sarai permission to do with Hagar as she wished, "But Abram said to Sarai, behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.  So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence."  Genesis 16:6.  Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar, and she fled from her.  An angel of the LORD appeared to Hagar as she was resting beside a spring in the desert.  Did you know this is the first appearance of an angel in Scripture?  Here, we see a loving God who cares for the weak and helpless.  The angel told Hagar to return to Sarai and SUBMIT to her, but at the same time comforted her with the promise that she would bear a son named Ishmael and his descendants would be too numerous to count.  Hagar gave birth to Abram's first son.  His name was Ishmael, chosen by the Lord, meaning "God hears."  Abram was  86 years old when he was born.

Thirteen years passed and Sarai was still childless.   Abram was 99 yrs. old when an angel of the LORD appeared to him a sixth time.  He commanded Abram to "walk before me and be blameless"  Genesis 17:1 and reaffirmed his covenant with Abram.  He also changes Abram's name to Abraham, which means "father of a multitude of nations."  Sarai's name was changed to Sarah, meaning "princess".  She also received God's blessing.  As a sign of the covenant God commanded Abraham and all the males of his household to be circumcised. Abraham as always obeyed God.  And from that time forward Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and all Jewish males bore the mark of "circumcision."

In a seventh encounter with God, Abraham and Sarah were visited by three men, Genesis 18. These men were angels who told Abraham that Sarah would have a child.  When Sarah heard this, she laughed, perhaps in both joy and disbelief.  Abraham was 100 years old when Sarah had a son whom they named Isaac, meaning "laughter." Genesis 21:1-7.

Ishmael was 13 years old when Sarah bore Isaac, the true son of God's promise. Although Sarah had born a son to Abraham, he always retained a special place for his first born son, Ishmael. Here jealousy begins to resurface.  Sarah demanded that Abraham send Hagar away so that Ishmael could never share Isaac's inheritance.  Although, Abraham was upset, since he cared for his son Ishmael, God promised that He would take care of Ishmael.  So, he sent both Hagar and Ishmael away with a small supply of food.  When the food supply ran out, Hagar laid Ishmael beside a bush to die. Ishmael cried out, and God heard his cry.  An angel of the LORD spoke words of comfort to Hagar, repeating the promise that a great nation would rise from Ishmael.  What an amazing God we have! God cared for Hagar and Ishmael.  Ishmael grew into manhood becoming an expert archer .

What an awesome God we have!  God's ability to fulfill His promise to Abraham is a great testimony of His power over human life.  He proved that He can do the impossible.

Luci

ABRAHAM THE PATRIARCH - PART I



The following is a summary of what my children and I learned on Ancient History about Abraham:

Abraham's father Terah was from the line of Noah's son Shem.  The name "Terah" was associated with the moon, "yareah" and thus the moon god.  Terah did not have any children until he was 70 years old.  He had 3 sons,  Abram, Nahor and Haran.  Terah's son Haran died early leaving behind his own son, Lot, who was Abram's cousin.  Sarai was the daughter of one of Terah's many wives.  Abram later married Sarai who was his half-sister.  Intermarriage between family members was very common in those days.  Extended families were closer-knit than they are today; husbands often had many wives which meant that half-brothers and half-sisters often grew together;  language barrier was common with people outside the family group.  There were cultural and religious differences outside the circle of family members.  Abram's father, Terah was an idol worshiper and an idol merchant.  We read of this in Joshua 24:2, "And Joshua said to all the people, thus says the LORD , the God of Israel, from ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods."  Abram did not learn about the One True God from his father.  The Sumerian of Ur believed that their purpose on earth was to serve their gods.  They considered their kings to be gods. They made human sacrifices when a king died.  This was their final worship service to their god-king.  This system made the death of a king a terribly sad occasion.

Abram received a call from God about leaving his hometown Ur and set out to Haran, "Now the LORD said to Abram,  go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so shall you be a blessing; and and I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse.  And in you ALL the families of the earth shall be blessed."  Genesis 12:1-4; Acts 7:2-4.  It must have been difficult for Abram to leave behind everything that he owned and knew to build a new home in an unknown and unsettled country.  When God called Abram to leave his country, his people and his father, He didn't tell Abram where he was going.  The following are 7 elements of God's call to Abram:

1.  "I will make you into a great nation."  From Abram's seed would come a great nation.
2.  "and I will bless you."  Abram was going to enjoy material prosperity.
3.  "I will make your name great."  Abraham's name would be renowned beyond his lifetime.
4.  "and you will be a blessing."  God was going to bless Abraham and his seed.
5.  "I will bless those who bless you."  God was going to bless those who blessed Abraham and his seed.
6.  "and whoever curses you I will curse."  God was going to punish those who cursed Abraham and his seed.
7.  "and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."  It was through Abraham's seed that God was going to provide a future blessing to all, the Messiah.

Abram's amazing faith is a great example to us.  He obeyed God by taking his family and his brother's son Lot and set off to an unknown land.  It was at Shechem that God suddenly appeared to him promising him all of the land around him.  There he built an altar for the Lord as worship.  It took a lot of faith for Abram to do what God told him to do.  He did so believing God's promises, "Then he believed in the LORD, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6; Hebrews 11:8-12.


Luci

Monday, November 25, 2013

IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  
I Thessalonians 5:18


Thanksgiving can be careless or a deeply rewarding event. It all depends on what we make of it. Tables across the country will be set for the celebration of Thanksgiving.  Words and prayers of thanksgiving will be offered.  We are grateful for our abundant food, good health, our homes and our children.  It is so easy to give thanks when life is smooth, and everything is going our way.  In fact, in such times we find it easy to thank God for all He has done for us.

We, His children, have an abundance of blessings bestowed on us for which we must be thankful. Consider some of the many blessings:

  • Family.
  • Good health.
  • The freedom to worship God.
  • The Gospel of Christ.
  • Our redemption.
  • The hope of eternal life.
  • The freedom to home educate our children.
  • Air to breathe.
  • Water to drink.
  • Food to eat.
  • The everlasting Word of God.
  • And most of all our Lord and Savior:
    • Who redeemed us.
    • Who cares for us.
    • Who sympathizes with our weaknesses.
    • And who has sworn never to forsake us.  
If you have any of these many blessings, then you are more than rich.

“The blessing of Jehovah, it maketh rich; And he addeth no sorrow therewith.”  
Proverbs 10:22.

We must also be thankful for His Son, who gives us victory.

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.  ”Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Even as it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”  
Romans 8:35-37

Being grateful is the key to spiritual victory.  Joy is the result of a grateful heart. A thankful heart is the product of a person who chooses always to give thanks no matter what the circumstances.  It is the person who never compares himself to other people but always to Christ.  It is the heart that realizes he is rich beyond measure because he is a child of God and that in Him he finds His portion. It is the heart that is always looking for reasons to be content and give thanks.

Therefore, we must learn to appreciate and be thankful for God's loving kindness.  Notice what David once said:
"Blessed be the Lord, For He has made marvelous His loving kindness to me in a besieged city."  Psalm 31:21

There is nothing more critical than finding oneself in a besieged city.  It is as bad as one's circumstances can get.  Yet David acknowledges God's loving kindness toward him.  God heard his crying prayer for deliverance.  He made David aware of His love and kindness for him.

  • Are we aware or do we acknowledge God's loving kindness toward us?  
  • Can we fathom the depth of His love for us?  
  • Have we forgotten Romans 8:38-39?  
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Sadly, many become anxious when things are tough, and life is difficult.  They lose heart and become discouraged.  In those dark moments, they find it hard to understand the purpose of our trials. They become anxious about the unknown.  They are overwhelmed!  Despair is the opposite of true THANKSGIVING.  When our affections are on earthly things and not on God, we are in danger.  We tend to cling to our immediate circumstances rather than to God.  Only God can fill our hearts with His peace.   It makes us not only anxious but also insecure.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near."  Philippians 4:5-6

We must always remember that God is in control.  God is already in the future because He stands outside of time.  Let's never forget His beautiful and faithful promises we find in Matthew 6:28-34:  
"And why are you anxious....Do not be anxious then, saying, what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or with what shall we clothe our selves?  For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you..."

Our God wants us to live in His peace.


"And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:7.  
He doesn't want us to become weary and anxious.  He wants us to let go of the bondage of anxiety. It doesn't mean that we will escape feeling sorrow or stress, but we will find a satisfying deep calm in our hearts.   Such tranquility can only come from trusting God with all of our hearts.  We must always have the disposition to give thanks to God no matter what our circumstances are.  YES, we must have a heart of thanksgiving even in death, in life, in sickness, in health, in abundance and poverty.  This is what God wants and expects of us. He wants grateful hearts!

Let's consider what Paul tells us:  


"The things you have learned and received  and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you."  Philippians 4:9.  

Paul makes us aware that it takes practice to accomplish and achieve this peace.   We must dwell in His Truth and guard it in our hearts to have this peace.  A muscle is strengthened with a lot of exercise.  In the same way, our spiritual strength is developed by a lot of practice enabling us to defeat anxiety.  We cannot let Satan lie to our minds and emotions.  This surely will drive us crazy!  We can't afford to walk his pathway of lies and anxiety.   Anxiety is just that—a great, big lie.
"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened."  Romans 1:21.

Let's remember that our God is not a God of chaos and anxiety.


"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline."  2 Timothy 1:7.  
Anxiety is not of God but rather the work of Satan. He, Satan, uses this as a weapon against us; to distract us from the PEACE of God. The only way to defeat him is by dwelling in God's Truth, fixing our eyes on Him.  Dwelling in lies, trusting that we are in control and not God, is of Satan.  We must always know that God holds us in His hands; and that He is the author of time; that we are here temporarily; and that He has control over everything.  So, my question is, What is there to become anxious about?

What did Jesus do before He went to the cross?  Let's read I Corinthians 11:24.  


"And when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, this is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me."  

It was just hours away from His painful death on the cross.  Jesus gave thanks!   We have so much to give thanks for:  not so much for material riches, but mainly for God's love for us in sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins so that through Him we could be redeemed and have access to eternal life.  Let's never take for granted God's immeasurable grace.   So, when you find yourself discouraged, remember always that we have all we need in Christ.  He is the fullness that fills all in all.  Why not take a moment to give thanks?


"Saying, Amen, blessings and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen."  Revelation 7:12.

May our Lord help us to give thanks always no matter what our circumstances are.  May we live in His peace trusting in Him with all of our hearts, minds, and souls.  May we keep calm and know that He cares for us.  May we never forget that He is near.  To Him be the glory.

Luci


Monday, November 18, 2013

BLAME YOURSELF !

There is a tremendous temptation on the part of both children and adults to shift blame. This can be damaging and overwhelming at times. This rotten behavior of shifting blame has been around since the beginning in the Garden of Eden.  Our first father, Adam, modeled this behavior. Of course, it is so much easier to focus on blaming others than to take full responsibility of our own personal actions. But, this blame shifting is only a sign of living an unrepented life, cowardice, fear, immaturity and why not a combination of all. We must learn to first see the beam in our own eye before focusing on our brother's mote, Matthew 7:1-6. This is vital to restore peace in our homes and the church. We must be willing to take responsibility for our own actions in order to live a life that pleases God and lead others to Him. The only way to victory! Consider the following poem.

Blame Yourself !

There’s a nasty green temptation that afflicts most everyone
To skirt responsibility when we’ve done something that’s wrong.
Instead of ‘fessing up like men to the blackness of our heart,
We focus on the other guy’s fault and emphasize his part.

Here’s a hardy, healthy maxim given long ago by Dad,
With a world of wealthy wisdom which will triumph over fad:
God has given you great mercy; You’ve been spared the very worst.
Be gen’rous to others — Blame yourself first!

The poor response by Adam on the day he broke God’s Law
Was to shift the blame to Eve using an argument of straw,
Thus establishing for Mankind this most unattractive flaw.
Learn from his mistake — Stop and blame yourself!

When you’re feeling kinda fickle ‘bout the pickle that you’re in,
Teary puddles you’re producing, as your noodle cooks the sin,
But complaining while explaining never leads to a win-win.
Take a breath, think again — And blame yourself!

When befuddled and besmirched, without a horse before the cart,
It’s ever so convenient to forget Your own wretched part,
And recount with gory details His worst mistakes from the start.
Bite your tongue, take the hit — Just blame yourself!

There’s a way to say “I’m sorry” that’s clearly not repentance,
Taking some responsibility to minimize your sentence,
While giving him the lion’s share with most self-righteous vengeance.
This is not true contrition — Blame yourself!

When you’re backed against the wall, because you’re in a rotten mess,
Next you feel the pressure mounting, and you’re needing to confess,
But by shifting blame to others, you won’t mitigate the stress,
De-escalate the crisis — Blame yourself!

There’s another type of shifting reminiscent of a snake.
It happens when you twist and turn the other’s words and then take
Advantage of their absence through your sad one-sided remake.
But that’ll really bite you — Just blame yourself!

If you break the Ninth Commandment, just to save your precious skin,
Using just a little half-truth, so it doesn’t seem like sin,
But a half truth is a whole lie, and another form of spin.
Better focus on your part — Blame yourself!

By sustaining all your blaming, as you prosecute and try,
Your convincing is evincing such a self-deceptive high,
Your evasion becomes persuasion: You believe your own lie!
But that doesn’t change the truth — Blame yourself!

If you blame others less, and blame yourself more,
It may rub against the grain, and feel an awful chore,
But by doing you’re subduing pride and opening a door!
For future hope and peace — So blame yourself!

A gentle word assuages wrath, and less fire kills the flame.
Speak to your brother privately, or he may put you to shame.
Don’t accuse him before others, lest your tempted to defame.
And while we’re on the subject — Blame yourself!

When life is looking mighty grave, and your heart hungers for health,
Take a queue from the Word, quickly take the Bible off the shelf.
Stop and ask the living God to help you learn to die to self.
Be a truly humble man and blame yourself!


Anonymous
Luci

Saturday, November 16, 2013

COURAGE


It is to be able to face difficulties and dangers boldly, and to trust in God's strength in all the circumstances of life. We need this COURAGE the most when we are facing and fighting our spiritual battles and fighting for our FAITH, I Timothy 6:12.

If we don't fight against Satan boldly, we will surely fall into temptation and let him win. We must fight with COURAGE and God's help to win and come out victorious against our enemy. But, this can ONLY be accomplished IF we obey God's commandments and are willing to submit to HIS authority. What can Satan do if we resist him with the strength of our God? Let's have the COURAGE to do what is right and fight for the LORD ! The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the RIGHTEOUS are bold as a lion Proverbs 28:1

Friday, November 15, 2013

CASTING INSULTS AT YOU !


Have you ever been accused, insulted, slandered, lied or hated for doing the right thing or taking a stand for the TRUTH? The Lord says rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, Matthew 5:11-12. By doing this you are blessed! At that moment you may not feel all that blessed, but our Lord Jesus tells us that when we suffer for the sake of righteousness we should count it as an honor He is giving us, knowing that our reward in heaven is GREAT. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is GREAT, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When our Lord Jesus is the One that governs our hearts, we are always going to want to do His will and be concerned about pleasing Him instead of men. Our main goal as Christians must be that of being approved before Him instead of the approval of men. It is our God we must fear and not men! If God is for us, we must not be concerned about who is against us. He will fight beside us if we hold fast to His Truth. It doesn't matter what men think of us. It doesn't matter who is attacking us. Their insults and attacks will fall like broken arrows at our feet. I will fear no evil and what man can do to harm me for the cause of Christ and righteousness. And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you shall suffer for the sake of RIGHTEOUSNESS, you are BLESSED. And do not fear their INTIMIDATION, and do not be TROUBLED. But sanctify Christ as Lord in you hearts, ALWAYS being ready to make a DEFFENSE to everyone who asks you to give an account for the HOPE that is in you, yet with GENTLENESS and REVERENCE. I Peter 3:13-15.

In giving a defense of our Hope and the Truth, we must always remember to respond in a Christ-like manner. But, if we respond in an ungodly way, this will not only bring confusion and provocation, but will bring reproach and dishonor to the name of our Lord Jesus. And keep a good conscience, so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better.... that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. I Peter 3:16-17.

Let's always imitate the beauty of Christ, even when we are contending for the Truth. We can be very direct and reproof them severely that the may be sound in the FAITH (Titus 1:13), yet let's answer in a way that glorifies and gives reverence to our God. Don't return reviling for reviling, I Peter 3:8. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16. Let's fight for the Lord with zeal, but with self-control !

Luci

Friday, November 1, 2013

DEALING WITH DISILLUSIONMENT

The prophet Jeremiah was overwhelmed with disillusionment and dispair. He begins to curse the day he was born and wondered wny he was even born and did not die before birth inside the womb. This is what he says: Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow, so that my days have been spent in shame? Jeremiah 20:18. Do you think this is an exaggeration? Not at all. We read in chapter 20 that the chief officer had him beaten with 40 lashes then placed him in stocks. Possibly, he was tortured with such a device that caused his body to bend double. Imagine this happening after he was beaten! Why did he suffer this? Was he guilty of any crime? Absolutely not! He had simply declared the Word of God. He did what was right, but in return, what he received was punishment. His once trusted friends mocked him, throwing his own words back at him, calling him the name that God by phophecy had given to Pashur, the priest, Magor-Missabib, meaning "terror on every side. That hurt him, no? His prayers were full of loneliness and complaints: O LORD, Thou has deceived me and I was deceived; Thou has overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.... for me the word of the LORD has resulted in reproach and derision all day long, Jeremiah 20:7-8. We can surely see a man in despair, anguish. This prophet of the LORD is struggling with persecution. I think that deep down in his heart he's questioning God's presence in a moment when he needed Him the most. What feelings of despair! We all have thoughts like that, don't we? Many, many times they come with long and dark suffering when the pain just won't go away. We feel, like the prophet, as if we are being beaten without mercy! We see this when our marriage vows are broken, tragedy strikes us, or the death of a very dear and loved one and injustice prevails. Sometimes, we question God's justice. God's silence can disillusion us sometimes. We begin to question why He permits such things to happen when we know and are aware deep in our hearts that this defies His character. It is then that we are tempted to say like the phrophet: I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name.... Jeremiah 20:9. So many times we see this happening with outstanding preachers. They quit and go after a secular job, this is the work of satan! It is then that we need to remember what Jeremiah admitted: ...Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it, Jeremiah 20:9. This fire was one of confidence, hope, determination. His disillusionment was replaced with God's reassurance. Let's always keep in mind what Jeremiah said: .... Nothing is too difficult for Thee, who showest lovingkindness to thousands.... great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to the fruits of his deeds, Jeremiah 32:17-42. The LORD'S lovingkindness indeed never ceases, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.... Lamentations 3:19-32; These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world, John 16:33.

CREATION & THE FIRST PEOPLE

I am enjoying my studies with my children on World History from a Biblical worldview. It is amazing how much I am being educated while I am educating my children. We are doing Ancient History from Creation to the Fall of Rome. We just started doing CREATION AND THE FIRST PEOPLE. We did some Apologetics where we discussed God's creation Vs. Evolution theory.  This last one suggests that everything we see is the result of impersonal time and chance. We discussed why God as our Creator is the major foundation of our Biblical beliefs. For example: IF God did not create everything, then He would be just a part of creation, meaning that He would be one god among many gods, and not the TRUE GOD. If GOD did not make man, then man OWES nothing to GOD, meaning gratitude, reverence, obedience and worship. IF GOD is not man's CREATOR and SUPREME JUDGE, then why did He offer us salvation through Jesus Christ? IF GOD did not create the first man Adam, whom the BIBLE calls a "type of Christ," Romans 5:14, I Corinthians 15:23, WHY is it that we have a second Adam in Jesus Christ, Romans 5:18-21.

We compared Biblical creation account with Mesopotamian creation myths. Here is a few of them: 1. In the Biblical creation account, God created everything simply by SPEAKING IT and there was life. In Mesopotamian creation myths, creation arose out of conflict; battles between the gods, and reaction to another god's action. 2. In the Biblical creation, God created thoughtfully, carefully, lovingly and well. In Mesopotamians myths, the gods created selfishly, rashly and angrily, and made mistakes. 3. In Biblical creation, God made man in HIS own image. Man was the pinnacle of God's creation. In Mesopotamian creation myths, man was created for 2 purposes: feeding and serving gods. 4. In Biblical creation, God commanded each part of creation to "be fruitful and multiply" without demanding that they perform any rituals or magic. In Mesopotamian creation myths, the gods often refused to give man what he needed unless he performed rituals and sacrifices they demanded.