January 10, 2021
Day 10, January 10, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 21-23, Matthew 4
Theme: On the Mountain of the Lord, He provides!
In Genesis 21-23, we have life and death. The life of Isaac, the potential death of Isaac, the life of Sarah, the death of Sarah. In the midst of life and death, Sarah finds her joy complete in what God has given her. She has had laughter. She never thought she would laugh, and those who knew her well, they certainly would not attribute joy and laughter to her name.
But she has a son, in her ripe old age of 90 and she delights and laughs with joy, that God has provided her a son.
Abraham would have a test come some years after the birth of Isaac. The leading question, will the Lord again provide? The test on Abraham is to see if he will sacrifice his son Isaac. The question I’m sure perpetually on the mind of Abraham is, “will the Lord provide?” God provides a ram, caught in the thicket. They named the location, “The Lord Provides.” A big question of why this is necessary remains with us. But certainly having the recent narrative fresh in our minds, Abraham has had problems trusting in the provision, power and presence of God. He doesn’t trust God to provide a son, so he sleeps with Hagar. Doesn’t trust in God’s provision, power and presence in Egypt, and tells others that Sarah is his sister, and not his wife. There is stark evidence that Abraham is having difficulty trusting God. For all the times he believed in the Lord, there are equal, if not more times that he failed to trust. I suppose we know what that is like.
In today’s New Testament reading of Matthew 4, we see Jesus, tempted in the wilderness. The aim of this temptation, I see a fairly similar test that was given to Abraham. That temptation being, at its most foundational level, questioning: “Will the Lord provide?” Test one: Turn these stones into bread. It begs, “Will the Lord provide for my hunger?” Test two: Will the Lord provide protection if I were to jump from the temple? It asks, “Will the Lord provide His protection?” Finally, Test three: Will the Lord provide power or should I take the easy path? It leans in to Jesus’ identity, “will the Lord provide me power or do I achieve it through some other means?”
And Jesus, deeply and intimately familiar with the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the life of Israel, Jesus knows the Lord will provide. He can trust Him! And he puts it on display. And will display that trust in the provision of God through the rest of his earthly life and ministry. Even unto death.
And from that time on, Jesus began to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God. The good News that God is providing a way forward for us all. A way of comfort and strength, a way of God’s power, presence and provision in our everyday lives. Shortly he will tell us to “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and everything will be provided” (My paraphrase of Matthew 6:33). This is Good News. The Lord Provides. He did for Abraham, He certainly did for Jesus, and in the kingdom of God, He will for you too.
The Lord will Provide!
January 9, 2021
Day 9, January 9, 2021
Scriptures: Psalm 11, Genesis 19-20, Matthew 3
Theme: The consequences of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus!
The very real problem of sin comes to the foreground in our Bible reading today. Enough to make your skin crawl, we have the terrible story of Lot, His family, and townspeople bent on evil acts.
The grotesque nature of the story, makes it a difficult read, for certain. But we are reminded that there is a way forward, there is One who redeems and saves. God rescues Lot, and while not everyone makes it out, Lot and His daughters are rescued.
The Moabites and Ammonites are going to come into the picture soon enough in the grand narrative of scripture. The Israelites will continuously be in contention with them. Remember that Ruth is a Moabite woman. So we will see that the narrative of Scripture will continuously bring about these people and it is important to know their origins. That’s why we get it here.
But the sin, the ugliness of what is happening and the heartache of the death that comes, to Sodom and Gomorrah, the unrighteous getting what is coming to them…this whole scene is heart wrenching.
Matthew 3 comes as a reprieve, a cooling balm on the burning angst over Genesis 19. There is one in the desert announcing the Good News of one who is greater than him, who is coming to make things new. John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus and announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Instead of destroying the cities filled with corruption, God is rescuing them, calling them out, to bear fruit worthy of repentance.
The Savior is coming, and so John baptizes people after they confess their sins. They begin to bear the fruit that is worthy of repentance.
This is how God is dealing with sin in the world today. There is a way out of our certain death. We are also encouraged to bear fruit that is worthy of repentance. We don’t look back with fondness of our previous life that brings death. We look ahead, we look to the cross, we look to Christ! There is a rescue plan in place. Look to Christ, the one who is greater!
Remember your baptism!
Day 7, January 7, 2021
Day 7, January 7, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 14-15, Psalm 47 and Matthew 1
What a great connection between the scriptures today, between Abraham and Jesus. We are just coming out of the Christmas season, so the text of Matthew 1 is fresh in our minds and hearts. What we often overlook, or skim past is the opening Genealogy.
Genealogies have become increasingly popular, whole television programs show a celebrity discover part of their family tree and their story.
I’m not sure why people tune in for a celebrity genealogy, but I know why Matthew includes his genealogy. At least, in part, it is tied to what God says to Abram in Genesis 15:2-6
2But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
When we reflect on Matthew and Genesis together, we get a wonderful reminder of the faithfulness of God, to accomplish His purposes.
God will accomplish His purposes. Right out of the gate in Matthew’s Gospel, He is communicating that Jesus is King, an heir of Abraham, and God has accomplished His purposes through His son, Jesus Christ.
Will you believe this? You are a part of something that is more numerous, and more glorious than the multitude of stars in the sky. You are a child of God and belong to the family of God. We will come to see this story draw out in both Genesis and Matthew. For now, we are encouraged to know that God is with us, Emmanuel.
God be with you.
Day 6, January 6, 2021
Day 6, January 6, 2021
Scriptures: Genesis 11-13, Ephesians 6
As I write this, I’m looking out at my children who are enjoying the snowfall we had on Saturday. They are currently building a snow fort. As a father, I couldn’t be prouder. But I know that what they are building, will soon melt away.
The people at Babel are building a tower to reach the heavens. They are building to make a name for themselves. An interesting correlation takes place in Ephesians. Paul calls the people of God to work for the Lord. In everything they do, they do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, serving him wholeheartedly.
When we set out to do our work for the Lord, we can very easily make it about our name and our fame. Scripture is clear, we are created for the glory of God, not the glory of our own. How easy it is, to set out and do something, and get the goal mixed up.
Here comes then, the most important of scriptures for the rest of Genesis, and guides the rest of the story of Scripture. Genesis 12 and the Promise of God to Abraham. Everything is going to hinge on this Promise, this covenant with Abraham.
Much is going to thwart the accomplishment of this Promise. God promises the 4 P’s to Abram. People, Place, Purpose and Privilege. Abram’s offspring will be a great nation (People), they will be a blessing to the nations (Purpose), God will be their God and they will be His (People/Privilege) and give them a land all of their own (Place).
This Promise will undergo great pressure. Abram gets to Egypt, threatens the Promise by telling Sarai to lie about being married to him. “Tell them you’re my sister.” Good idea! Not!
Lot gets in the way of the Promise. We get a little foreshadowing of Sodom and the wicked people who make up the city. More will come on this in our story, soon enough.
The Promise is made, and its already under threat because of human frailty and sin. But God will work to accomplish His purposes.
Our refreshing return to the New Testament, keeps us grounded in what is good about our life and the New Creation. We know that God will accomplish His purposes, despite the failures of Abram/Abraham.
In the closing of Ephesians, we are encouraged to take up the full armor of God. To stand up against the schemes of the devil, stand for what is righteous and good.
We are armed with the Word of God, prayer, truth and the righteousness of Jesus.
The nations are formed in Genesis. And we find that we are called to go to the nations. To stand in the midst of them, and not make a name for ourselves, but to make much of the name of Jesus. We do this, by the power of Christ, and the full Armor of God. The shield of faith is ours!
Family, Let us put on the full Armor of God!
Day 5, January 5, 2021
Scripture: Psalm 8, Genesis 9-10, Ephesians 5
I have so far, very much enjoyed the connections that have come from the reading. Today’s was a bit of surprise, one I didn’t see coming.
“He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent.” (Genesis 9:21)
“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
There is so much happening in Genesis 9 and revealed in Ephesians as well, that to dwell on this connection seems foolish. But there it is, and on deeper reflection, it is the crux of all of the chapters we’ve read today.
In Genesis 9, the flood is over, a covenant is made between God and humankind. God places the bow in the sky, what we’ve commonly accepted as a reference to the rainbow, as a reminder that God will never again deal with the depravity of humankind through a global flood.
God continually establishes a means of protecting His creation, and the next way He does that is protect life. In the opening 8 verses of Gen. 9, we see a protection of life. There is an accounting of blood for humankind, but also for animal life as well. All creation is to be protected and cared for by humankind.
The level to which we understand this is how we come up with a bevy of diets to protect life. At the heart of this text, is an understanding and perspective about God and creation. He loves it deeply and His desire appears to be to keep there from being bloodshed and disregard for life, be it plant life, human life or animal life. All life, all of creation is of deep importance to God.
In comes then, the fall of Noah, after the promise of God to protect the earth, Noah gets drunk with wine.
Noah painfully reveals once again that while there are protections in place on creation, and commitment from God to deal with sin differently, sin is still present amidst creation. The brokenness of the world is still there, still wreaking havoc on families, friends, neighbors and creation.
The accounting of life from the blood then, comes into play in the book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
We are brought near the shedding of Jesus’ blood. Genesis 9 and the accounting of blood, becomes the means of our redemption. More will come into play, as we explore the books of Leviticus and Exodus. What we know is the blood of the Lamb of Jesus, the life blood in Him through the Grace of God, becomes our life.
So, we are encouraged, to leave the life of the flesh, the darkness and evil of the world. Leave debauchery behind and be filled with the Spirit. We are called to leave drunkenness behind, the abuse of something good, and called to be filled overflowing in the goodness of God.
Something new is happening in Jesus Christ. The flood may have started the creation over with a reset. But sin was still very much there, real and problematic. Today, there is forgiveness of our sins, and new life made possible through the blood of Jesus. A flood of mercy pours out at the cross. Sin is forgiven, and new life is ours.
Be filled with the Spirit!
Day 4 - January 4, 2021
Scriptures – Genesis 7-8, Ephesians 4
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Did the flood change the condition of the human heart?
“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:21)
What is God’s response to the human condition?
We know that it is Jesus Christ. God in the flesh. He is the one who will give us a new heart. He is bringing new creation:
“17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)
Discipleship, following Jesus, can become a really long list of things you do and don’t do. Sins to avoid and commitments to keep. Social occasions to avoid, and social occasions to attend. We reduce discipleship to a different social calendar with the avoidance of vices and embracing of virtues.
All of it is nothing, if the inclination of our hearts aren’t changed.
You are being made new, created to be like God in what is truly righteous and holy. That’s Paul’s message, to those who remained living in the old ways. He says, “put on the new self.”
When God arrives in Jesus, suddenly what’s on the inside really matters. The Pharisees are condemned, even though they appear to be righteous by their lawful activities. Jesus knows their hearts, and despite their best appearances, they are far from God. And those who traditionally are viewed far from God, Jesus draws nearer to them, sometimes declaring their faith greater than any he found in Israel.
Ephesians is written after the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. So Paul writes with the luxury of knowing something special about the world. It’s possible now, in light of Jesus life, death and reign, to live a new life. New creation has come, and Paul wants to let everyone in on what God has done. For Paul, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)
Jesus does what the flood can’t do. The flood cleansed the outside. It did nothing for the condition of the human heart. So old ways stayed the same. Yet the cross cleanses us through and through. The Lord descends and ascends. And in His ascension He gifts us, graces us with His Spirt, with Spirit-filled people, to build us up and build us together. To fill us up in every way, to fill the earth with the glory of God.
Today’s a good day to ask God for him to search our hearts, to know our anxious ways, and lead us to the way of everlasting life. (Psalm 138)
Today’s a good day, to remind ourselves of the condition of our hearts, and what Christ has done, at the cross, to make us new.
You are new, through the cross, through and through.
Day 3, January 3, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 5-6, Psalm 12, Ephesians 3
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The thought never occurred to me to read Genesis alongside Ephesians. But here it is, this beautiful connection between the travesty of the human race, hell-bent on destruction, and the grace of God and new life through Jesus Christ.
We are taking a very high overview look at the text through my daily devotions, and I intend on popping down for closer looks from time to time. One instance here is to take a look at the limitations of days. In God’s grace, he limits the lifespan of humankind. Why is shorter, better? My friend John Nugent would argue that the shortening of days is all a part of God’s redeeming plan to protect creation. A possible way God keeps his creation from running in the direction of destruction is to limit the power and lifespan of humankind.
We see the “sons of God” taking women to be their wives. The jury is out on who these individuals are, and a google search will run you down several contradictory theories. The simplest and best answer to me is that the “sons of God,” were powerful men, who took what they wanted. They were perhaps kings, “men of renown.”
That of course is speculation, and the best we can do with the information we have. But it stands to reason that this is a good limitation, that powerful people would be limited in their days. If someone like Hitler could live and rule for 800 years, we’d have some very serious problems on our hands.
God graciously limits lifespans, to protect all of creation.
We hear of the corruption of the human condition, as well as a genealogy. And we are told of faithful people like Enoch, and Noah. We don’t know much about Enoch, he doesn’t appear to die. And then we have Noah, who walks faithfully with God.
He is commissioned to build an Ark. God’s rescue plan. God is ready to do away with all of creation. But he doesn’t, because He sees a faithful man in Noah.
Psalm 12, highlights again the problem of the human condition. “Human depravity is celebrated.”
We often think that today is worse than yesterday. That the depravity of humanity is much worse than it could have ever been. But the Bible reminds us that is not the case. The days of Noah, the evil and depravity was so great, God’s only response was to start over.
Hear Paul’s encouragement:
“7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”
God dealt graciously with Paul, that he might preach the boundless riches of Christ.
And having the genealogy fresh in our minds, it really stands out in my mind and heart:
“14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
There is so much there to reflect on, but at the heart of it all is that the depravity of man is not greater than the boundless riches of love, found in Christ Jesus. God’s means of helping creation is to give us His heart and his boundless love. God’s plan is to redeem and save.
Let every generation give God Praise!
Day 2 - JAnuary 2, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 3-4, Ephesians 2
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Today’s theme is about the brokenness and suffering of sin, and the redemption of Jesus Christ.
We are all too familiar with the pain of Genesis 3 and 4. It is truly the most heart wrenching of chapters in all of the Bible. It explains our heartache and grief, the sin and suffering of the world. It gives us an understanding of why there is death.
Death isn’t something that God intends for us, and He has worked painfully, sacrificially and powerfully to redeem and save us. That’s the message of Ephesians 2, a perfect companion to Genesis 3 and 4. It skips a whole bunch of the story, of which we will certainly be reading about soon enough. But it reminds us again, what it is that we have in Jesus. He has taken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. He has saved us, through Christ, through his grace. It’s not something we earned, not something we did, but what he has done to rescue and save us.
So while we sit in the heartache of Genesis 3 and 4, we also can rest in the peace, hope and joy of a redeemed life in Jesus Christ.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:1-10
God be with you.
Day 1, January 1, 2021
January 1, 2021
Scripture Reading: Psalm 148, Genesis 1-2, Ephesians 1
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Happy New Year! My prayer is that we grow closer to God and closer together in 2021.
Today’s devotion is centered on creation. Opening in Psalm 148, we see creation celebrating its Creator. All praise is given to God, the creator of the Heavens and the Earth.
We then turn to Genesis 1 and 2, where we recount, once again, the familiar passage of God’s creative work over the 6 days, and the 7th day of rest. There is, of course, a treasure trove of information on Genesis 1 and 2. We could speak at length in regards to creation, whether it is created in a literal 7 days, or if it is simply metaphorical. We can go down several trails investigating creation and Creator. But at its most basic level, Genesis 1 and 2 functions as a argument for the mighty power of God. This God, created the heavens and the earth. He is forming and filling the creation. He also creates humankind in His image. These three things, forming, filling and image bearing, become increasingly important as we navigate every day life.
All people are created in the image of God. All of our ethics, what is right and wrong, in how we treat one another, it all comes from understanding that we are all image bearers of God. I’m not going to mistreat someone (or at least I’m going to do my best to avoid it!) because they are created in God’s image.
God isn’t reduced to idols, because his image is reflected in humankind. It is difficult to fully understand, but it is also quite simple. The way I treat others, is how I treat God. The golden rule, of loving others and loving God, fit together perfectly. How I treat one, is how I treat God.
Ephesians 1 brings us back to the theme of creation and forming and filling as well. This time, it is identifying that God is at work in forming and filling something completely new. A people who reflect His wisdom and goodness in the world. He forms the church. He resurrects Christ from the dead. This power that was at work in the creation of everything, was at work in the new life of raising Christ from the dead, and it also at work in forming and the church. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
God forms his church, to be the image of Christ in the world, to offer our praise and glory to God (Psalm 148), to fill the earth with Christ image and love.
God forms us together to be the image bearers of Christ.
The natural response to this is to see the importance of loving God, and loving others.
The challenge and encouragement today is to praise our Creator, by loving all that He created. Who is someone to love today? Someone who you have had a difficult time seeing as an image bearer of God? Go, be kind, loving and gracious. Worship God, by loving your neighbor.
God be with you.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.