Genesis 26

Genesis 26 (NLT)

Verses 26-31
26One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his advisor, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander. 27"Why have you come here?" Isaac asked. "You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land." 28They replied, "We can plainly see that the LORD is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let's make a covenant. 29Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the LORD has blessed you!" 30So Isaac prepared a covenant feast to celebrate the treaty, and they ate and drank together. 31Early the next morning, they each took a solemn oath not to interfere with each other. Then Isaac sent them home again, and they left him in peace.

When Isaac was living among Abimelech's people (the Philistines) he became very wealthy, and the Philistines became very jealous of him. Because of this jealousy, Isaac was sent out of their land. Isaac looked at these people as his enemy, and Abimelech came to him for a peace treaty. As far as I can tell, Isaac didn't even hesitate to accept this motion. I think this is what God wants of me, as a Christian. Not that I really have "enemies," but there are people in my past with whom my relationship ended on a bad note. If any one of these people would approach me today and want to make peace, God would want me to accept and live peacefully with them.


Genesis 21 & 22

"14So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar's shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. 16Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. 'I don't want to watch the boy die,' she said, as she burst into tears. 17But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, 'Hagar, what's wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.' 19Then God opened Hagar's eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink."

This story just tugs at my heart. It's hard to imagine ever being in a situation like this, but I can get a glimpse of Hagar's despair and hopelessness. These verses remind me that God is always with me, no matter how bad my circumstances are or how upset I am. He is always there for me, and if I'm willing to listen to Him, He will comfort me and provide me with enough to get me through.

"1Some time later, God tested Abraham's faith. 'Abraham!' God called.
'Yes,' he replied. 'Here I am.'
2'Take your son, your only son--yes, Isaac, whom you love so much--and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.'
3The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about."

"9When they arrived at the place where God had told them to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11At that moment the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!'
'Yes,' Abraham replied. 'Here I am!'
12'Don't lay a hand on the boy!' the angel said. 'Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.'

Abraham had such strong faith in God. He waited a long time to have his son Isaac (he was born when Abraham was 100 years old). Then God asks Abraham to give Isaac up as a sacrifice. I don't have any children yet, but I still can't imagine having to sacrifice my own child. Abraham didn't even hesitate. He left the next morning to go to the place where God had called him. When God calls me to do something, I need to obey Him immediately. It's really easy for me to put things off for later, but God wants immediate action. I can't relate as much with the sacrifice part of this, but I could translate it over to helping people. When I see people who need help, I need to attend to them right away. God doesn't want me to wait until it's more convenient, and He especially doesn't want me to put it off until I completely forget about it.


Genesis 19 and 21

19:15-17; 26
"15At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. 'Hurry,' they said to Lot. 'Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!' 16When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful. 17When they were safely out of the city, one of the angels ordered, 'Run for your lives! And don't look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!'"
"26But Lot's wife looked back as she was folowing behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt."

The Lord showed such great mercy towards Lot and his family. He sent angels to tell Lot to take his family and leave Sodom, so they wouldn't be destroyed along with the city. Then when they didn't listen, the angels literally pulled Lot and his family to safety. (I wonder how many times God has done this same thing for me...). Once they were out of the city, one of the angels told them to run and not look back at the city. Sodom was horribly evil, and God wanted them to turn completely away from the evil. I think God is telling me to do this same thing. When He rescues me from my sins, He wants me to turn completely away from them. He doesn't want me to dwell on them and long for them. He wants me to choose Him completely. I can't choose God and long for sin at the same time. When Lot's wife looked back at Sodom, God destroyed her. God is showing me that if I choose sin over Him, I will ultimately be destroyed.

"4But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. 5They shouted to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!' 6So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. 7'Please, my brothers,' he begged, 'don't do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two vigin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection.'"

"30Afterward Lot left Zoar because he was afraid of the people there, and he went to live in a cave in the mountains with his two daughters. 31One day the older daughter said to her sister, 'There are no men left anywhere in this entire area, so we can't get married like everyone else. And our father will soon be too old to hve children. 32Come, let's get him drunk with wine, and then we will have sex with him. That way we will preserve our family line through our father.' 33So that night they got him drunk with wine, and the older daughter went in and had intercourse with her father. He was unaware of her lying down or getting up again. 34The next morning the older daughter said to her younger sister, 'I had sex with our father last night. Let's get him drunk with wine again tonight, and you go in and have sex with him. That way we will preserve our family line through our father.' 35So that night they got him drunk with wine again, and the younger daughter went in and had intercourse with him. As before, he was unaware of her lying down or getting up again."

These verses show how the evil of Sodom rubbed off on Lot and his family. The men of Sodom wanted to rape the men (angels) who were staying at Lot's house. Lot was doing the right thing in protecting his guests from these sinful men, but he was willing to give up his daughters' purity to do so. There had to have been a better way to handle it. He was so accustomed to the evil ways of Sodom, that he wasn't able to see clearly. He didn't see anything wrong with offering his daughters to the men.

Later on (after they had been rescued and Sodom had been destroyed) Lot's daughters became desperate to preserve their family line. They devised a plan to get their father drunk and sleep with him in order to have children. They were able to get Lot so drunk that he didn't even know that his daughters had sex with him. This shows poor judgement on everyone's part. They had all been corrupted by Sodom's evil. The daughters were able to devise this plan and didn't appear to find anything wrong with it. Lot allowed himself to become so drunk that he wasn't aware of what was going on.

It's so easy to let evil creep into our hearts. It starts by just being around it. Next, we become accepting of it and don't see anything wrong with it. Last, we act on it. I need to keep myself sharp and remember that sin is not okay. I need to remove myself from situations in which sin is likely to rub off on me.

"1The LORD kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would."

God had promised Abraham and Sarah that they would give birth to a son. They were both past the age of having children, so they struggled with their faith that God would provide. Abraham was 100 years old when their son was born. I can understand how it was hard for them to believe they could have a child at this age, but God promised them on several occasions that it would happen. And He delivered, just as He said He would. God always follows through on His promises. Why is that so hard to believe sometimes? I need to have faith and trust that God knows what He is doing.


Hebrews 5 and Trusting God

Verse 7
"7While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God."

How often do I pray like this? Not often enough. Jesus really meant His prayers and put everything into them. I tend to hold myself back in my prayer life. I need to give everything I have to God!

God listened to Jesus, because He maintained a deep reverence for God.

Reverence (noun)
1. a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe
2. the outward manifestation of this feeling
3. a gesture indicative of deep respect

Jesus displayed all of these. Not only did He have respect and awe for God, but He showed it. I must continually give glory to God. Something as simple as bowing while speaking to God shows respect and reverence. I need to remember my place before God... He is above me, not the other way around; Nor are we equals.

Today I had a little lesson in trusting God. Often when I have a problem arise, I pray about it, but I don't give it completely to God. I still stress and worry about it, even though I have asked God to help me. This shows a lack of trust in Him. When I do this, I'm basically saying, "God, will you help me? ...I know you say you will, but I don't really believe you will solve it for me, so I'll just keep on stressing about it." I really need to learn to go to God (whole-heartedly!) and then trust Him! He has never failed me in the past, so why do I think He would now? Anyways, today I was really struggling with something, and I prayed to God about it. Then I told myself that I need to actually trust God, and let the worry go. After that, I knew that I needed to take action, and I was able to do so with a calm attitude, thanks to God. I knew in my heart that God would take care of my problem, if I would only allow Him to. So end of story, I was able to take the steps to work out my problem, and all is good now! It's amazing what can happen when I trust God!

It's also important for me to remember that God has His own timeline and way of making things work out. If I pray to God about something, and it doesn't get solved or answered the way I want, that doesn't mean that God isn't listening to me. He is probably just answering my prayers in another way than what I have set in my mind. If I would have an open mind about it, I may be able to see more clearly what God is doing. Afterall, He knows what I need better than I do.


Hebrews 2-4

"So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it."

It takes more than mere belief to be a Christian. I must continually seek out Christ and follow His teachings. If I'm not diligent in my pursuit of Christ, I could easily drift away from it.

"Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested."

"15This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."

These verses about Jesus are so encouraging! He became human and was tested and tried, just as we are. He knows what we are going through; He has been there! When I feel overwhelmed, I need to remember that Jesus has been here and knows what I'm going through. I need to come to Him in prayer and ask Him to help me when I'm struggling!

"7That is why the Holy Spirit says, 'Today when you hear his voice, 8don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness."

"Remember what it says: "Today when you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled."

"God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: 'Today when you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts."

These verses all refer back to Psalm 95:7-8: "7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! 8The LORD says, 'Don't harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.'"

(Meribah means "arguing," and Massah means "testing.")

Basically, God is making it real clear that when He speaks to me, I should listen to Him! The Israelites missed out on the Promised Land because of their bad attitudes and disobedience to God. I certainly don't want to miss out on all the wonderful things God has to offer me! It's so easy sometimes to avoid or talk myself out of something that God puts on my heart. When God speaks to me, I need to listen and obey, not turn away from Him.

"12For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable."

God's word (the bible) is meant to be more than just a good story to read. It's a powerful life-changing tool. The bible exposes things about myself that I need to be aware of and change. If I read it with a true open heart, I can see where I fall short in God's calling for me.

Also, I can't hide my heart and my true intentions from God. He knows everything about me. Thinking about that fact makes me ashamed for my past (and sometimes even my present). I am very blessed that He is willing to forgive me and wipe my slate clean day after day! I also want to do my best to please God and live the way He wants me to. When it comes down to it, my heart really has to be in it! God knows if I'm just going through the motions.


2 Timothy 3 & 4

Verses 1-4
"1You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. 3They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God."

Paul gives Timothy a glimpse of what the last days will look like. Doesn't this sound a lot like people today? We should make sure we are prepared to stand before our Lord and be judged according to our lives lived here on earth. The end could come at any time, and I need to stay on my toes and make sure I am ready for it.

I also want to try my best to avoid becoming like the people Paul speaks of. He says that they will love only themselves and their money; I need to be caring and giving and not put too much weight in money. Paul says that these people will be boastful and proud and scoff at God; this means that I need to be humble and give all glory to God, not myself. Paul says that they will be disobedient to their parents and be ungrateful; I need to obey my mom (and all authority figures, as long as they don't conflict with what God commands me to do) and I need to be grateful for all that I have, whether little or much. They will consider nothing sacred; I need to remember that God is holy and that everything on this earth belongs to Him. They will be unloving and unforgiving; I need to love (not the feeling of love, but the action... putting others ahead of myself and doing what I can to help them) and I need to be forgiving (no grudges, bitterness, or resentment!). These people will slander others and have no self-control; I need to be careful not to partake in gossip and I need to continually practice self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good; I need to be compassionate, sympathetic and merciful, and I need to always try to do what is good in the Lord's eyes. They will betray their friends; I need to be faithful and loyal to my friends. They will be reckless; I need to be careful, cautious, and responsible. They will be puffed up with pride; I need to be humble (notice that Paul mentions twice that these people will be proud...). They will love pleasure rather than God; I need to remember that life with God is eternal and the pleasures of the world are temporary.

Verses 2-5
"2Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 3For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 5But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you."

God tells me that I should spread His word. Until Christ comes again, my work for Him is not done! I need to be ready to serve him at any time, even if it's not convenient for me. Also, rather than turn a blind eye to people who are sinning, I should patiently and gently help them to turn away from their sins. This is not something that is easy, and I personally need God to give me the courage to do this. I know that He will provide, I just need to make sure I'm willing to go there.

Paul warns Timothy that there will come a time when people are not willing to listen to what God has to say, and they will seek out leaders who will only tell them what they want to hear. This sounds very much like America today. It saddens me that this is what it has come down to. I feel like I easily know more people who reject God's truth than people who accept it. This can be very discouraging, and it's really easy to lose hope for all those who reject Christ. I just need to have faith and keep trying to reach those who are lost.


2 Timothy 2

Verses 3-7
"Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things."

First, Paul is telling Timothy to be like a soldier. Through this, God is telling me that I should not allow myself to be overcome by the things of this world. I can't please God if I let myself get caught up in the things of the world (read: materialism). It's okay for me to own things and like things, but I can't let them rule my life. I need to remember that the things of the earth are temporary, but my life with God is eternal.

God is also telling me that I can't "win the prize" unless I follow the rules. In order to follow the rules, I need to know what the rules are. The only way for me to learn the rules is to read God's Word (the bible). Once I find out what the rules are, I need to put them into practice and try my best to follow them.

Last but not least, God is telling me that I will be rewarded for my hard work for the Lord. I may not always see those rewards in this life, but I know that God will reward me in my next life. I don't know exactly how it will happen, but He has promised that there will be rewards.

Verse 10
"So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen." (Italics are my own for emphasis)

Wow. Anything? Talk about a serious love for God and His will!

Verse 12b
"...If we deny him, he will deny us."

If we deny Christ in this life, He will deny us in the next. This is a really sad thought for me, because I know so many people who have chosen to deny Him up to this point. I can only hope and pray that their hearts will be softened and they will turn to Him instead of away from Him.

Verse 13
"If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is."

This verse provides me with hope. It is really good to know that even if I am unfaithful to God (which is bound to happen at times), He won't turn His back on me. He still wants me to return to Him, and He will accept me with open arms. God is so wonderful!!!

Verses 25-26
"Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants."

These verses tell me a lot. First, they are reminding me that when I try to spread God's truth to nonbelievers, I need to do it gently. I'm not supposed to be condemning or harsh or argumentative. I'm supposed to be gentle. It's so easy to get into heated arguments involving religion and beliefs, but this doesn't accomplish anything. If I want to reach nonbelievers, I need to speak gently to them about God. Also, I don't need to do the convincing. God simply wants me to bring it up and share Him with these people. God is the one who will do the convincing, but I need to provide an opening by sharing Him.

Here are some examples of what I mean:
-I could invite a nonbeliever to church. Sure, they may turn me down... again and again and again. But I should always keep the option open to them. I never know what God is doing in someone's heart, they may change their mind one of those times.
-If I help someone out, I should be open about the fact that my actions are a result of what Jesus has done for me. I should offer to share His news with them. I can share my personal experiences and my point of view without coming off as pushy. Like I said, I don't need to convince them, I just need to open it up to them.

I just came to another realization when reading these verses. Nonbelievers often think that they are "free" because of their choice not to believe. They don't have to answer to God, and they can do whatever they want. These verses tell me that they are not free at all! They are being held captive by Satan, and they don't even realize it! They think that they are free to do whatever they want, but they are really trapped into doing what the devil wants them to do. Freedom only comes through Christ; only He has the power to break through the sins that hold us captive!

Amos 5

Amos 5 (NLT)

Verse 14
"Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the Lord God of Heaven's Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed."

This verse seems simple enough, but I think it has a lot of information in few words. Not only am I told to do what is good, but I'm told to run from evil. This seems pretty extreme, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Evil can be very cunning and persuasive. It's easy to get pulled in without even realizing it. It's also easy to think that we can be around evil and still resist its temptations, which may be true some of the time. However, we're all human and we have been born to sinful nature. Satan knows this, and he knows how to use it against us. It seems to me that God doesn't even want us to take the chance of getting sucked in. Turn, and run from evil!!

This verse also states that you should do these things "so that you may live." As simple as those few words seem, they speak volumes to me. This tells me that if I don't turn from evil... if I let it live inside of me... if I willingly take part in sinful deeds... etc, etc, etc... I am DEAD. Whoa. Extreme? Maybe. But God makes it clear that we are to turn to Him and REPENT of our sins in order to be saved. I can't really live for God and love Him and still choose to live in sin. Sure, I may slip up (because I'm human, and I'm destined to sin no matter how hard I try not to), but God is just asking that I acknowledge that I messed up, ask him to forgive me, and try my hardest to turn away from my sins. Now that doesn't sound so extreme. Even more, I know that if I do this, "God will be your (my) helper." He will help me. It's great news to me that I don't have to do this on my own (because I would surely fail)! I am so thankful that God has allowed me to truly LIVE!!! (If you haven't experienced life through God, you are missing out!!!!)

Verses 21-24
"I hate all your show and pretense--the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living."

The Israelites were living horribly sinful lives apart from God, but they were acting like they were religious. Sadly, this happens way too often. God is telling the Israelites (and us!!!) that he doesn't want a big show of fake religious ceremonies and such. He doesn't want me to go to church on Sundays and live a life apart from Him the rest of the week. He doesn't want me to make sacrifices and sing hymns and praise Him if it's all an act. He wants me to truly turn to him and live a life that is pleasing to him.


2 Timothy 1

2 Timothy, Chapter 1 (NLT)

This is Paul's last letter written to Timothy. Imagine being in Paul's place. He has been put in jail for preaching the Good News of Jesus and the salvation He has to offer. Paul knows that he will soon be put to death for his beliefs, yet he still has the faith to continue believing and trusting in God. Not only that, but he has the courage to still be forthcoming about His beliefs. He didn't tone down his beliefs (or the preaching of those beliefs) just because persecution came his way. I can't even imagine going through the things that Paul (and other persecuted believers) have gone through. I say to myself that my faith is strong enough and nothing could make me deny my beliefs, but it's hard to really know without being in a situation to test that. I pray that God would give me the strength to profess my belief in Him no matter what my circumstances.

Verse 3
"Timothy, I thank God for you--the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers."

I think this is wonderful. I love how Paul tells Timothy that he is constantly praying for him. This is something I really struggle with; I need to remember to pray for people much more often than I do. I also should not hesitate to let someone know if I'm keeping them in my prayers, because I could be withholding from them some much needed encouragement.

Verse 8
"So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, either, even though I'm in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News."

No matter what, I should never be ashamed to speak up about the Lord! Before I was truly saved, I was ashamed to talk openly about God and my beliefs. I don't know why, but I was under the impression that it was something to keep quiet about. Then I met someone who changed my whole point of view on this. He was very, very open about his beliefs, to anyone and everyone. At the time I was really shocked by how open and forthcoming he was about it. It was soon after this that I was saved and now I understand. My relationship with Jesus is definitely not something to be ashamed of! Actually, it's quite the opposite! I love the fact that Jesus is in my life, and I would love to share that with anyone who is willing to listen. Unfortunately, what I want to do is not always what I actually do. I'm a shy person by nature, so it's often hard for me to share my feelings about anything, even my faith. I pray that when I am confronted with opportunities to share my faith, God will give me the strength and courage to simply speak up!

Also, Paul mentions that I will likely suffer because of my faith in Jesus. I admit that I have not encountered serious suffering for my beliefs. Sure, a lot changed in my life when I was saved. For example, I changed the way I was living my life, turning away from sin instead of letting it control my life. Sometimes it seems more fun to live in your sin, but this comes at a very high price (not worth it for me!!!). My change in lifestyle led to a change in friends. I grew apart from most of my friends, and although this has been hard, it's nothing compared to the suffering some people have encountered for their faith. Regardless of how severe my suffering for Christ is, Paul tells me to be ready for it. He also reminds me that I can get through it with the strength God gives me! I'm not expected to be able to overcome this suffering on my own.