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Genesis 22

We are introduced to Abraham at the end of Genesis 11. Abraham is the foundation of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Pentateuch makes it clear that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was one of, if not the most, beautiful women in the world at that time. Two kings sought to marry her when she was a senior citizen because of her beauty and Abraham lied trying to save his life.

In order to get to this point in world history, Abraham had to pass several tests. There were at least three tests in Abraham’s life where he could have thrown his hands up and quit. He could have said, “Why me, God?” or he could do what he did do, which is to move through these circumstances.
1. He had to leave his hometown of Ur where he was rich and had status (Genesis 12:1-9).
2. He found when he arrived in the Promised Land that he was in a famine (Genesis 12:10).
3. God told him to sacrifice Isaac and they walked three days to get to the place indicated (Genesis 22).

In Genesis 15:6 we are told that Abraham “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” The apostle James cites this verse and claims that because of his faith, Abraham became the “friend of God” (James 2:23).

Some of these tests were not huge, but together they establish a picture of Abraham as a person whose faith was genuine. After the last of these, God said, in Genesis 22:12, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

What kinds of tests/trials have you been through? What was your response? “Why me?” OR “God, help me.”

James 1:3-4, mentions personal trials and obedience in following through to success, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Don’t forget to share your stories with us! We’re eager to hear how God is moving in your life during this sacred season of prayer.

Tuesday, 2/20, Prayer Prompt:
Genesis 6:11-22

Can you imagine hearing a voice in the middle of the desert telling you to build a boat 600 feet long? This ship was probably the largest wood building the world had ever seen. God did not build it but gave Noah directions to build the ark. And then Noah spent 120 years walking miles around his property with his three sons finding tamarack bushes to build this impossible ship, while people all around him were pointing fingers at him thinking he was crazy.  You may be able to hear these people, “Oh, that is that crazy Noah building this ship hundreds of miles from water. We don’t even know what rain is, but he thinks enough water is going to fall from the sky to float this great big ship out here in the desert. Water has never even come before; I bet it won’t come now.  And those animals he thinks are going to fill the ship? I bet the lions will eat him or the elephants will trample him.”

Abraham obeyed God on the top of a mountain with only his son and a ram but Noah obeyed in the center of the city with constant derision for over 100 years. Every day he got out of bed knowing people were going to make fun of him. Both Abraham and Noah were acting crazy by standards of the day. Were they right to obey God’s instructions? Was Noah’s faith proved true? Yes, but not for many, many years.

Today, through our Sunday morning study of Acts, we have been challenged to be missional neighbors. Who are neighbors to whom you can reach out? Ask God to bring opportunities your way to build relationships and to be used in their lives. Listen to the Holy Spirit when He asks you to take in your neighbors’ garbage cans or just to give a smile and a wave. He may ask you to do more than that. Will we ever know if it was worth it? Maybe not for many years, and maybe not until heaven. But should we obey? Yes! There is joy in obedience. Let’s be friends with our neighbors and guide them toward the Lord and heaven.

Wednesday, 2/21, Prayer Prompt:
Daniel 1

The Bible instructed the Israelites in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 to eat only approved things, and when Daniel, probably a young man of Jewish nobility taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, these were the Jewish laws with which he was raised. He was trained in the king’s court and then elevated to a high rank in the Babylonian and Persian kingdoms.

But when he was brought to Babylon from Israel the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the  nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all  wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and  competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the  wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:3-5 ESV). 

Daniel and his friends were part of that group.  The four of them requested not to eat the king’s food and to eat water and vegetables, instead, in order to follow God’s laws.

“Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.”

There is much to learn in this story. Eating what tastes good isn’t necessarily good for us.  A good diet is healthy. God blessed the four young men for being obedient and doing what was right. And the four of them asked humbly to be able to follow the laws of God that they had been given.  Once again, we are reminded to listen to God and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.  Spend time today praying for what He wants you to do and take time to listen to what He says.

Thursday, 2/22, Prayer Prompt:
Acts 8:26-40

Philip was one of the seven Deacons listed in Acts 6:4, “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochurus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch.” Interestingly, at City Park in Antioch, CA, there is a plaque stating that Antioch, CA was named after Antioch of Syria.

An angel (Ἄγγελος messenger) told Philip to go south to the road to Gaza which is the same direction as the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza today.  “And he rose and went.”  Philip ran across an unnamed Ethiopian eunuch, a court official wanting to know more about the Book of Isaiah, and he was reading from Isaiah 53. Philip ran up in this desolate desert and asked the Ethiopian in his chariot, “Hey, do you understand what you are reading?” and the Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone teaches me?” So Philip jumps in the chariot and they ride until they find water. Then, the Ethiopian gets baptized. So both Philip and the Ethiopian were obeying what they knew to be true. And then an interesting miracle happened. “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away,” back to the north.

So what?  Listen to what Wikipedia says, “Christianity in Ethiopia dates back to the ancient Kingdom of Aksum, when the King Ezana first adopted the faith in the 4th century AD. This makes Ethiopia one of the first regions in the world to officially adopt Christianity.” Wikipedia states that today there are between 36 and 49.8 million Christians in Ethiopia. Wow! In this case, obedience to the Spirit of the Lord led to evangelism that bore fruit centuries later.

What does God want you to do?  Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV) says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.”  Spend time today in prayer, asking God what He wants you to do.

Friday, 2/23, Prayer Prompt:
Acts 15:36-41

In Acts 12:12, Luke introduces Mark this way, “And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.” John Mark is frequently just called Mark, but before he wrote one of four gospels of Jesus Christ, he had a unique history.

We next meet Mark in Acts 12:25,“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

One of the mysteries of the history of Christianity is Acts 15:38, “John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas in Pamphylia and left the work. The Bible does not say why Mark deserted, and there have been many suggestions as to why he left.

“Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best    not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed” (Acts 15:37-40 ESV).

Paul was an interesting guy, but he could change his mind and did so with John Mark. In Colossians 4:10, Paul writes, “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’ cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him).”

Paul later writes in 2 Timothy 4:11, Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

By Philemon 24, Paul includes Mark as part of his team, “as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, and my fellow workers.”

And by Barnabas’ encouragement and Paul’s humility in realizing he made a mistake, we have the Gospel of Mark.

Spend time today in prayer, reflecting not on your mistakes, but on what God will continue to do in your life. Philippians 1:6 (NIV) says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Saturday, 2/24, Prayer Prompt:
Exodus 33

Moses was a baby born into a family of the tribe of Levi while the Israelites lived in Egypt. This was during the time when the Israelites were slaves and were being persecuted.  It was also during a time when all baby boys were to be killed.  But when Moses was born, his mother saw “that he was a fine child,” and she hid him as long as she dared.  She then placed him in a prepared basket in the Nile River. He was found and raised by an Egyptian Princess and had an Egyptian name. It appears that he spent much of his time with the prince who became the Pharaoh whom he challenged to “let my people go.”

One day, he killed an Egyptian and ran from Pharaoh. He spent days and weeks by himself as a shepherd with just his sheep in the desert where he met his wife. Then God intervened in the life of Moses.

Moses saw a form of God at the burning bush. Eventually he talked with God in Exodus 20 as Jehovah gave the Decalogue (10 Commandments). He also ate lunch with 73 leaders of Israel bringing Heaven to earth in Exodus 24:9-11. Later, God and Moses talked, and God granted Moses’ wish to see the Glory and back of God (Exodus 33).

Moses was enjoying the quiet life of being a shepherd, and he didn’t much care for the job that Jehovah had chosen for him of leading Israel out of Egypt.  We see more of the character of Moses as an angry man who hit the rock twice when told to hit it once. On the other hand, Moses led upwards of three million people from one nation to another, unprecedented in world history. 

Moses was a real person who had flaws, as we can see from the above examples.  He got angry, he got frustrated, but Moses, even if somewhat belligerently, did what God asked him to do, no matter how much he didn’t want to. Once he died in Deuteronomy 34:10, his epitaph read, “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom he LORD knew face to face.”

Would you like that said about you? Do you want to have the mind of Christ? Do you want to be a man or woman after God’s own heart? Jesus said in Luke 18:1 (NIV) “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” God honors our prayers.  Be perseverant.  Keep praying and obeying.  God never gives up on us.

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