Abraham the Liar

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This is the bud of an apple tree…satan’s lie started it all…God’s revelation started with Abraham

7 Things God hates:

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV)

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

 

Read Genesis Chapter 12:1-20 and chapter 20

Genesis 12 and 20 tell us that  Abraham was a liar.  Lying is listed as one of the things that God hates, so why did God choose him?  Oh, well, you might say, “he hadn’t lied yet when God chose him!”  or “it was only a little white lie, after all Sarah is his half sister in truth.” (After you get done thinking..ooh, yuck…he married his sister – just remember in Biblical days a half sister was okay for marriage probably because a person’s genetic code was still close to perfect, with no mutations!)  So, now, back to the problem at hand….why did God choose someone like Abraham?  (Oh and yes, I know that Proverbs were written after Genesis happened…still it is a statement of God’s character which is true and God does not change, so even in Abraham’s time God hated the same things, just as he hates lying still today!)

So we are back to, Why? Why? Why would God choose someone like Abraham?  To answer this question we have to back up the story a bit….

Abraham was just a normal guy, living his life in his homeland, and raising his dead brother’s son, Lot, as his inheritor because he and his wife, Sarah, had no children of their own.  One day, God comes to him and says, “Hey, Abram, I want you to pack up your family and go to this land far away and I will give it to you.  Also I will make you a great nation!”  What does Abraham do in the face of this request from God? He simply just goes and does exactly what God tells him he wants him to do….he packs up and goes off to this strange land, that he has never been to before, and doesn’t really even know how to get there, or what is waiting for him there!  He just goes, anyway!  He takes that step of faith when God asks him to do so.

At some point Abraham and Sarah are entering a land that Abraham thinks is a land that does not respect God, so he gives off his famous little white lie.  Not only that, he gets Sarah to lie right along with him.  So in Abraham’s mind, if the land is ungodly, then the people might kill him and take his wife because she is beautiful.  Abraham was more concerned about their survival than about the “sinfulness” of lying…and as I pointed out…the idea of exactly what sin was in God’s eyes had not been defined yet for Abraham…the law had not yet been formally given. So for Abraham, this lie was a survival strategy. He and Sarah are in a new land, an unknown land, where they are landless, and think that they are powerless.  Abraham doesn’t understand God’s power.

I think about the statement that Sarah is beautiful and then look at the age given for her at this time, and boy am I impressed!  She was 65 years old and yet, Abraham was still worried that she was so beautiful to look upon that someone might kill him to get her.  Isn’t that incredible, especially in light of the fact that there were no face lifts back then!  Yes, I know that the desert preserves things, but people don’t hold up as well in the desert as scrolls do!  Usually people get all dried out and ugly looking because the climate is so harsh!  It is hard to picture this, isn’t it?!!! Sarah’s continued beauty is probably also because of the lack of mutations in her genetics.  Genetically she was still close to the created perfection of Adam and Eve.

However, that is the truth told to us in the Bible…Abraham was scared…he felt that in a godless land God couldn’t or wouldn’t protect him….he was able to step forward in faith in a huge way, but then stumbled on his fears!

Abraham did not really understand God at all, did he?!! Abraham apparently viewed God as someone to listen to, and that God was promising him something…but he seemed to think that man could interfere with God’s plan for him.  So…he lied!

Did God abandon Abraham because he lied?  No, God took the situation in hand, and made sure that Abraham’s wife was protected, and that Abraham came away from the situation better off than when he started out.  Despite the fact that Abraham lied to protect his own skin…he was even willing to give up his wife to protect his own skin!

So in the end, God arranged things that Abraham got Sarah back, and continued his journey with God.  Abraham learned something about God…he learned that God would be there for him, even when he did the wrong thing, and even when he was scared.  He learned that God was more powerful than any man that Abraham would meet.  God could take a situation that seems out of control, and not only fix it and get it back on the right track, (which through Abraham’s free will it had gotten sidetracked) but God could also make that situation better than ever.

Why would God do this?  God is a God of promises, he is faithful to keep his promises, and more importantly for us to know:  God knew who Abraham was, inside and out…as it says in Genesis 18:19 (KJV):

1 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

God chose Abraham because he “knows him” not just the outer person, but the inner person.  God knew that Abraham was descended from Shem the first of Noah’s son’s.  That is where we get the term “Semite” as a term synonymous with “Jew”.  Shem was one of the sons who covered his father’s nakedness. (Genesis 9:25-27) God knew that Abraham was “begotten” in the lineage of Noah…the term “begotten” means to be the same as, or sharing all the characteristics of the father you came from.  It is not just a term about who sired you.  It has much more meaning that just who your Dad was…it is a meaning that says, “they are me…they are all the things that I am” whenever, this term is used it is saying in our modern day terms, “they are a chip off the old block!”  God knew that Abraham was just like his father, who was just like his father, who was just like his father, and so on back to Shem who was just like his father, Noah.  God knew Abraham’s lineage, and he knew that Abraham would not only follow God, but he would teach his children to follow God.

God just needed to teach Abraham, who he (God) really was.  Abraham is the beginning of the story for all of us really.  He is the one who God chose to reveal himself to.  He is the one who God decided to use to show us all of his character and all of his plan for the salvation of man.  It all started with this simple man…who stepped out in faith, but then stumbled with a lie.

The point here is that although God despises lies, he is still able to use and develop someone who is faulty and sinful and lies.  Abraham doesn’t continue to lie…he turns from his lying ways, and learns to draw ever closer to God…he keeps stepping out in faith continually…to the point that the Bible calls Abraham who did something that God despises, “a righteous man.”

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First Fruits – First Thoughts

IMG_0418Deuteronomy 26:1-15 (NIV) When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the first fruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Nameand say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the land the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the Lord your God.Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean,and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer,subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lordbrought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him.11 Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household.

12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13 Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them. 14 I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me. 15 Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

There is a lot of thought and talk about First Fruits in the Christian arena.  Most of it is about tithing, which is literally true.  The idea of the tenth came from Jacob in Genesis 28:20-22 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (ESV)

 To paraphrase this statement: Jacob said, be with me, take care of me, and I will make sure to honor you with a tenth of all you do for me.  

The question becomes…does God need us to give him a tenth?  The answer should be, “no!”  God doesn’t actually “need” anything that we are giving him.  He already owns it all…he was the one who created it and still has control of it, even now.   What God is asking for is the acknowledgement that he is “our” creator, he is “our” God.  He is looking for us to think of him “first” whenever we “first” receive our blessings. We should not be giving a tithe because we are “told” or we “should” or we “have to”; the idea behind the tithe is that we are to honor the relationship we have with God.  With God it is always about our relationship with him.  We must have a relationship of obedience in order to honor God.

If you go into Genesis 4:1-7 and look at the story of Cain and Abel this first fruits idea gets confusing because God rejects Cain’s offering of fruit of the soil, and accepts Abel’s offering of meat.  I know that, about now, you are really thinking of the irony  that God rejected fruits and vegetables from Cain, but that what is talked about in Deuteronomy is the very same thing the fruit of the harvest.  If you notice, though it doesn’t say that Cain brought his “first fruits” or even if the fruits he brought were nice looking or were blemished.  It just says he brought some fruit.  It is very clearly stated that Abel brought of the “firstlings” of his flock.  In other words, Abel thought of God first and foremost when he reaped his blessing from his flock.  It wasn’t about it being meat, or fruit.  It was about Cain’s heart in making his offering.  He clearly was not completely honoring God in his heart, and that was the reason for God’s rejection of his offering.  God wants our heart to be full of love for him and for our fellow man whenever we make our offerings to him.

So ask yourself this question whenever you are offering something to God….are you offering it in the manner of Cain, or are you offering your best with your whole heart in love of God?

2Corinthians 9:7  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)

 

 

 

 

What is your Ebenezer?

1Samuel 7:8-14  We read about the Philistines coming to attack the Israelites, and how God makes a great thundering sound and it scares them off.  Then Samuel the prophet sets up a stone in remembrance and calls it “Ebenezer” and said, “thus far the Lord has helped us”

Whenever we think of the word Ebenezer, most of us think of Charles Dicken’s story entitled The Christmas Carol and the character of Ebenezer Scrooge.  I wonder if Charles Dicken’s was aware of what the word Ebenezer meant when he chose that name for his character?  From reading about Charles Dicken’s religious background, he probably did know the meaning of the word when he  chose that name for the character.  It is definitely an ironic name for a person to whom God had given great blessings of wealth, yet who did not think to consider God at all in his life.  Much less to thank God for those blessings.

Ebenezer is a Hebrew word which means, “stone of help”.  As you can see from the use in the Bible the stone was placed by Samuel to remind the people of Israel each time they passed by it, that “God had helped them thus far”.  That is an excellent reminder to all of us.  Each time we have doubts or worries in our lives if we remember that God is our “stone of help” or “Ebenezer” then we will rebuild/bolster our faith. Sometimes these memorial stones which are found throughout the Bible are called “Standing Stones” but the purpose is always to remind the people of God what God has done for them in their lives.

We have a lot of large grandiose memorials in our country and around the world…most of them have little to do with God, but memorialize people or events in history.  The Ebenezer stone did not have any writing on it to tell anyone why it was there.  In Biblical times the people just knew the stones, and it was passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth what had been done by God which caused the stone to be put there.  It was a means of glorifying God from one generation to the next continually.

Just as Ebenezer Scrooge failed to glorify God until the end of the story, when little Timmy said, “God Bless us everyone!”  We often fail within our families to recognize what God has done in our lives and to share that information with those around us.   This is what witnessing is all about…we not only need to witness about who Jesus is and the salvation that is offered to us, but we also need to show that our faith is a living and effective faith in our life.  It is not just some mysterious end of life you won’t go to hell thing, but it has an affect on your day to day existence.  So today please think of where God has helped you in your life…and as it says in the famous song, “Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings”….make God your Ebenezer…your “stone of help”.

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What is Faith?

I think starting with the basics is the way to go.  A friend of mine and I started studying the Bible many years ago, and we wrote out an outline of the basics topics that every Christian should know about their faith.  We used several resources which I will list for you here so that you can get them also if you wish:  

1.)  Halley’s Bible Handbook, 2.) Strongs Exhaustive Concordance, and 3.) Unger’s Bible Dictionary.  

These books are of great use in understanding the background of the Bible and also in finding verses on a particular subject.  The Concordance allows you to look up a word in a verse and find all the verses using that word.  We started studying the subject of faith by looking up all of the verses with the word “faith” in them.  It took us a long, long, long time, and we wrote a lot of lessons on the subject of faith.  As you can imagine that word is used incessantly throughout the old and new testaments of the Bible.  It is the obvious crux of Christianity.  It is the thing that God wants most from us.  Another way of looking at the word, “faith” is to use the word, “trust” because you cannot have faith unless you make a decision to trust in God.  Just look at how the Bible defines the word faith:

FAITH

Definition of Faith:   Hebrews 11:1  Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV)

Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV)

These are biblical definitions, but I think it is more clear to say in our modern language that: Faith is believing in something that you cannot see, and may never have solid proof of it being true. 

For instance, Children believe what they are told by people in authority, such as Parents and Teachers.  They believe this based on their past experience that these adults have their best interests at heart.  For instance, if you go into the road in front of a car you will die…Most children take this on faith, and thankfully do not run out and find out if they are going to get hit by a car.  Faith is built on trust.

Read the  story of Noah (Genesis 6:9 – 9:17)  The reason we chose this story was because, Noah spent his life honoring God, and he stands out for that reason, also, he was told to do something which required a tremendous amount of faith, build a boat, when it had never rained before.  He probably took a lot of jeering, and hassling from the general corrupt and evil population because he was so different from them, and for his faith in general, not to mention the boat building.  It probably took him quite a number of years to build the boat, as evidenced by the mention of his age of 500 years before God told him to build the boat, and 600 years when the flood came.

An important thing to notice is that Noah could have told God “no, and decided not to build the ark at all.”  Noah always had the freedom to do just that.  However, long before he was asked to build the ark, Noah had already made the decision to follow God.  Following God  a is decision that you make, not a feeling that you have It is not something that is thrust upon you by God, and it is not something that should be swayed by your emotions!  God takes his commitment to you seriously, and he wants you to take your commitment to him just as seriously.  He wants you to trust in him, even when things don’t look good to you.

 Everyone has challenges in their lives and satan really goes at you whenever you make a decision to follow God, or even when you start to have some further spiritual growth in your Christian walk. The Bible clearly tells us that we will encounter difficulties in our lives as Christians.  James 1:2-3 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (NIV)  The key is to keep fervently and unswervingly following your decision to have faith even when you are experiencing turmoil and upheaval in your life.  Noah had a bunch of turmoil and upheaval, but he never gave up his trust in God.  He is one of many excellent examples of faith in action in the Bible….faith not based on what he could see (then it wouldn’t be faith), but belief in what he could not see and acting on that belief.

Here are a few questions for you to think about:  Have you made a decision to trust God no matter what happens?  How did that affect your life as a whole?  How did it affect your day to day life and your relationships with others in your life?

Try starting a journal and writing your answers to these questions in it.  Add any new discoveries you make about God to the journal as you go along.  You don’t need to make daily entries, but do try to make regular entries and take time occasionally to look back at older entries and watch your faith develop over time. There is a reason it is called a “living faith.”  Things that live continue to grow and mature and change as they live.

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“Old Faithful” geyser Yellowstone National Park  always can be trusted that it will go off at it’s appointed time.  God designed this spectacular display!

The Purpose of this blog site

The purpose of this blog site is to share what I have learned about how to study the Bible.  I believe that there are many people who would like to study the Bible, but have no idea how to go about it.  A friend and I have been studying and writing lessons for many years now.   I have been told that the way I am able to explain things from the Bible in an understandable way is a gift and that people enjoy it.

I really love God and really enjoy studying the Bible. It seems that many churches do a very poor job of teaching their congregation about God’s word, and don’t put an emphasis on learning it and growing a personal close relationship with God.

I was recently listening to a radio minister who brought up the idea that churches have forgotten that their main purpose is to preach Christ and the gospel of Christ, the salvation of souls.

I have often felt that many people misunderstand what God wants from them because they are busy in the church and after a while they are so involved in doing “good works” that the “good works” take the place of God, and become the road to salvation in their minds.

There is nothing “good” that you can do other than to offer yourself to God by accepting his son’s sacrifice for you and repenting of your sins against God and asking the Holy Spirit to come and live in your heart, and then doing your best to live a life obedient to God in honor of Jesus’ sacrifice for you.  All the “good works” we do are as “filthy rags” when compared to the work that God did with his son, Jesus Christ.  You cannot replace obedience to God with a bunch of “good works.”  God is not sitting up there with a book and checking each day with a “oh today they did enough good things to make up for yesterday’s bad things” check mark!

Isaiah 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.(King James Version of the Bible)

I wish that everyone who reads this blogg would do it for the purpose of learning more about God and drawing closer to God; but please remember that the “good works” that you do are in honor of the “good work” that God completed in his son, Jesus Christ, on your behalf!  Christ is the message of salvation…good deeds are not!  Good deeds are like a thank you gift from you to Jesus/God/the Holy Spirit in appreciation for the gift that they have given you!  They are also a way, for us to spread the word and be living witnesses of who Jesus Christ was/is. We are to live in the world, but set ourselves apart from the world by our beliefs and behavior! If you are just going to church and sitting in the pew and doing good works, then you should ask yourself….what next?  what can and should I be doing as a Christian to draw closer to God and better understand what his plan is for my life?

Romans 12:2 (New Living Translation) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

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One of God’s beautiful sites:  Yellowstone Lake at Yellowstone National Park

God gives us beautiful things to enjoy looking at so that we may be affected by his serenity when we are stressed.