Lucia's Blog: 2013-12-01
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

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, December 2, 2013

COURAGEOUS VOYAGE: DYING TO SELF

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9


God commands and expects us to be strong and courageous.  We have no other option because it is a command!  There is no room for cowardice.   The apostle Paul prayed for courage that he might preach the Word of God with all boldness and so must be.  Nevertheless, courage is something that we must have as we walk the path of righteousness with God's help. 

Courage doesn't necessarily involve fighting a battle, climbing the highest mountain peak, or defying the strongest storm.  Courage is the way we walk the path God wants us to walk without straying.

Jesus is our perfect example of walking the path of courage, the path of righteousness.  He modeled it.  He walked the path opposed to the culture of that time when He healed the cast-offs of society.  He touched the lepers, Matthew 8:1-4.  He exposed the Pharisees' adultery, hypocrisy, and neglect of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  He cried out against their habit of lying and retaliation against their neighbors.  He said,
 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven"  (Matthew 5:20).  

Jesus spoke against their greed for earthly treasures.  This must have taken a lot of courage!  He told them that what they valued was of no value at all.
"Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.  Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven... "  (Luke 6:22-23). 

  • Jesus is our best example of dying to self.  
It takes a great deal of courage to die to self every day.  There was no selfishness in Jesus. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a Savior.  Jesus simply lived a life of sacrifice, dying to Himself for us.   He died to what might have been His own ambitions and earthly desires.  Although He was God and was richer than any of us, He did not use that for His own benefit.  Let us never forget that our Lord Jesus became poor for us! 
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men"  (Phil. 2:5-7).   
"For you know the Grace of poverty our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich"  (II Cor. 8:9). 
Jesus always cared for the wellbeing of His flock.  He lived for everyone else but Himself.  He died to Himself! It must have taken lots of courage to die a cruel death on a cross and not run away.  
"And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed"  (I Peter 2:24).
"Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24).  
Our selfishness must be crucified with Him when we are baptized into His death.  Let us take a moment and meditate on this.  Through Jesus' blood, we crucify all our selfish desires, ambitions, lusts, greed, and all those things that make us stumble.  Yet, we seem to keep living for self!  This, of course, does not produce in us the good fruit of peace, but rather strife and hypocrisy. 
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy"  (James 3:16-17).

  • Dying to ourselves demands a lot of courage:  
When we die to ourselves, we bear pure, sincere, and merciful fruits.  Life-giving fruits! My question is, how can we live only to ourselves pleasing the desires of our flesh, knowing that this produces only strife and hypocrisy? How much better it is to live for God and the ambitions He has set for us, which reap a bountiful harvest of peace!  The choice is ours.
Lest we forget, Jesus has already walked the path of courage, the path of righteousness for us when He died that cruel death on the cross.  Through His death, we have peace and life-giving things, rather than strife, hypocrisy, and evil things.  Remember that we must live in that same courage and sacrifice all the days of our lives.  Let us not take for granted Jesus' shed blood that we may live in the fullness of life every day!  
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit"  (John 12:24). 
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me"  (Gal. 2:20).

Therefore, let us arm ourselves with the mind and purpose of Christ to bear abundant fruit to His glory as we walk His path of courage and righteousness.
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does."  (I Peter 4:1-6)

To show His love, our Lord Jesus was crucified and died for me. To show my love and gratitude for Him, I must die to self, be crucified with Him, and live for Him daily.

May our Lord give us the courage to die to ourselves so that we may live a rich and abundant life to His glory. 

The following poem expresses the courageous voyage of dying to self, being crucified with Christ in our daily walk.



"Crucified With Christ"

As I look back
On what I thought was living
I'm amazed at the price
I choose to pay
And to think I ignored
What really mattered
'Cause I thought the sacrifice
Would be too great.

But when I finally reached
The point of giving in
I found the cross
Was calling even then
And even though
It took dying to survive
I've never felt so much alive.

For I am crucified with Christ
And yet I live
Not I but Christ
That lives within me
His Cross will never ask for more
Than I can give
For it's not my strength but His
There's no greater sacrifice
For I am crucified with Christ
And yet I live.

As I hear the Savior
Call for daily dying
I will bow beneath The weight of Calvary
Let my hands surrender
To His piercing purpose
That holds me to the cross
Yet sets me free.

I will glory in
The power of the cross
The things I thought were gain
I count as loss
And with His suffering
I identify
And by His resurrection power
I am alive.

And I will offer all I have
So that His cross is not in vain
For I found to live is Christ
And to die is truly gain.

For I am crucified with Christ
And yet I live
Not I but Christ
That lives within me
His Cross will never ask for more
Than I can give
For it's not my strength but His
There's no greater sacrifice
For I am crucified with Christ
And yet I live.


Luci