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THAT LOOKS TEMPTING
Diets can be maddening because they make it so difficult to stick to your convictions. The plan looks great, with a limit on calories or grams of fat per day and a list of prohibited or acceptable edibles. But when offered a piece of pie, you give in to the temptation, forgetting your diet and your resolution to lose weight. This struggle is real. It's war.
This passage right at the beginning of the Bible tells all about the origin of the world, life, people, and work. It also covers husband-wife relationships. Closest to home, it explains how a perfect world went wrong and why human beings have struggled since then against all sorts of evil. It tells about temptation.
Read Genesis 1:1-3:24
Everyone struggles with temptation. We are tempted to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to indulge ourselves in countless ways that God has forbidden. We give in because of Satan (Genesis 3:1-6). Temptation is Satan's invitation to live his kind of life and give up on God's. Satan tempted Eve and succeeded in getting her to sin; soon after, Adam yielded to the pull of Satan's temptingoffer. So sin entered the world, and every person since has been born a sinner. Today, Satan is busy trying to get us to give in to his temptations.
Eve and Adam could have resisted temptation by remembering what God had commanded them. We must realize that being tempted is not sin. We have not sinned until we give in to the temptation. To resist temptation, we must (1) pray for strength to resist (see Matthew 6:13),(2) say no when confronted with what we know is wrong (see James 4:7), and (3) run away from the temptation, sometimes literally (see Genesis 39:12). James 1:12 tells of the blessings and rewards for those who don't give in when tempted.
As you read about the tragic fall of our perfect ancestors, watch the progression of temptation and sin. Then determine to obey God rather than believe Satan's lies. Resist Satan and his temptations, and live.
1 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, "Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?" 2 "Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden," the woman replied. 3 "It's only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, 'You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'" 4 "You won't die!" the serpent replied to the woman. 5 "God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil." 6 The woman ... saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious.... So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
How do you react when someone suggests that you have done something wrong? Do you move to correct the mistake, or do you deny that you have a problem or need to do anything? What about when the critic is someone in your family?
This reading describes Adam and Eve's immediate family. It focuses mostly on Cain, the first son-his choices and what God thought of them. Don't read too fast or you will miss important details-but it's all there, including the most horrifying fact of all: Cain killed his brother, Abel. Our experiences today mirror what occurred between these two brothers, however horrifying, because theirs is the story of what can happen when anger and jealousy rule.
Tangles in the ties that bind-reacting to criticism, jealousy, sibling rivalry-all appear in this passage. The lessons bear remembering, so you'd better go slow.
Read Genesis 4:1-5:32
Cain's failures hinged on his reaction to God's rebuke (Genesis 4:6-7). We don't know why God rejected Cain's sacrifice. But instead of listening to God, learning, and changing his ways, he reacted impulsively. Cain was wrong, yet he would not accept responsibility for or deal with it. He countered God's correction with anger and denial.
After Cain's sacrifice was rejected, God gave him the chance to right his wrong and try again. God even encouraged him to do so, but Cain proudly refused. The rest of Cain's life is a startling example of what happens to those who refuse to admit their mistakes. It also shows what happens when we blame others for our problems and allow anger to build.
As you read this passage, learn from Cain's mistakes. Then the next time someone suggests you are wrong, especially God, take an honest look at yourself, and make the necessary changes.
3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift-the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. 6 "Why are you so angry?" the Lord asked Cain.... 7 "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master." 8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, "Let's go out into the fields." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. 9 Afterward the Lord asked Cain, "Where is your brother? Where is Abel?" "I don't know," Cain responded. "Am I my brother's guardian?"
The end of the world is always near, according to somebody. This person's placard states that we had better change our ways-or die. That group proclaims that the Lord will return one hundred days after the next presidential election. Each week brings numerous alarms from environmental and nutritional activists or religious and political zealots. Most people stopped listening long ago to the warnings of these "kooks" or "extremists," as they are labeled.
That's probably how people responded to Noah. This passage tells the story of the Flood, how Noah and his family built an ark in obedience to God, in response to his warning that the earth would be destroyed. Only a few generations had passed since Adam and Eve, yet Noah was the only righteous person living. The Bible doesn't state that people mocked Noah, but it certainly shows that no one listened to him or to God. This familiar story pictures God's mercy and the consequences when people forget (or stop caring) about their Creator.
The story also gives a snapshot of patience (living in an ark for more than a year); doing what is right in the face of criticism and ridicule ("Why would you build an ark now and here?"); and gratitude (for God's mercy).
Read Genesis 6:1-8:22
Noah got right to work when God told him to build the ark (Genesis 6:22). It seems that other people had been warned about the coming disaster (see 1 Peter 3:20) but, apparently, did not expect it to happen. This is how people today often react to warnings, even warnings from God. Each day, thousands are told of God's inevitable judgment, yet most don't really believe it will occur. Don't expect people to welcome or accept your message of God's coming judgment on sin. Those who don't believe in God will scoff at his judgment and try to get you to deny God as well.
As you read this passage, note God's covenant with Noah to keep him safe and God's promise to the world. Then determine to do what God tells you to do, despite the opposition, trusting him to bring you through the flood.
9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. 10 Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. 12 God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt. 13 So God said to Noah, "I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth! 14 Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior...." 22 So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.
GENESIS 6:9-14, 22
SHINE THE SPOTLIGHT
We build monuments to great moments and great people. "Lest we forget" is etched on the bronze plates of more than one statue. But monuments are more than just memory aids; in building them we want, above all, to glorify something. We want to honor a person or idealize an event.
Shortly after the Flood, God made a covenant (or agreement) with Noah and his descendants. But soon the people forgot God, his goodness, his deliverance, his judgment, and his promise. And they became impressed with themselves, so much so that they decided to erect a monument-to themselves. They built their tower to glorify their greatness; it became, instead, a memorial to their (and our) greatest foolishness-human arrogance.
We can learn several lessons in this passage: (1) God is good and merciful to us. (2) God is greater than we are. (3) All humans are connected by sin.
Read Genesis 9:1-11:32
The people in this story built the Tower of Babel for the whole world to see (Genesis 11:3-4). This tower was most likely a ziggurat, a common structure in Babylonia at the time. Usually built as temples, ziggurats looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading up the sides. Standing as high as three hundred feet and often just as wide, a ziggurat would stand out as the focal point of a city.
Today, people may not build statues, temples, or pyramids, but they still erect monuments (achievements, expensive clothes, big houses, fancy cars, important jobs) to call attention to themselves. When used to give personal identity and self-worth, these otherwise worthy pursuits take God's place. God gives us freedom to develop in many areas, but not the freedom to replace him.
As you read, check out the attitudes of the builders in the story, and consider any "towers" that you may be building. Tear down anything that stands in God's place.
1 At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. 2 As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. 3 They began saying to each other, "Let's make bricks and harden them with fire." ... 4 Then they said, "Come, let's build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world." 5 But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. 6 "Look!" he said. "The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! 7 Come, let's go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won't be able to understand each other."
DO YOU TRUST ME?
No close relationship can function without trust. Like a huge diamond, hope is the largest, most precious, most irreplaceable component of every relationship. It is so difficult to get and yet so easy to lose.
This passage opens with one of the most significant events in the Bible-Abram receiving God's call. Abram's calling established the covenant (or agreement) by which God created the nation of Israel, his chosen people. Abram's move to Canaan and the challenges he faced living there with his nephew Lot stretched his faith the way life's challenges often stretch ours. With this calling God posed the question to Abram: Do you trust me?
This story also includes lessons about selfishness; generosity; helping out family; taking risks; and honoring God.
Read Genesis 12:1-14:24
God promised to bless Abram and to make him great. There was one condition to this promise, however: Abram had to do what God wanted him to do (Genesis 12:2). This meant leaving his home and friends and traveling to a new land, where God promised to build a great nation from Abram's family. Abram obeyed, walking away from his home, his comfort zone, accepting God's promise of even greater blessings in the future. Abram believed God, and he demonstrated his trust through his actions.
It's difficult to step out in faith. We know the past and can feel secure in the present. The future, though, is unknown and risky. But when God leads, we can follow, confident that his way is best.
As you read this passage, watch Abram live by faith. And think of where God may be trying to lead you to better serve him. Don't let the comfort and security of your present position make you miss God's plan for you. Be flexible and willing to change.
1 The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you." 4 So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth-his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran-and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem.
PLEASE WAIT ...
Right turns on red, your keyboard's escape key, and speeding tickets all testify to our hatred for waiting. More often than not, when we hear "Please wait," we want to say, "No, thank you." We are often asked to wait, and are often not good at complying.
It's a small wonder, then, that Abram and Sarai stopped waiting for God. We see their faith weaken and fail when Sarai and Abram agree to bring Hagar into the process of starting a family. As a result, Ishmael is born. Despite Abram and Sarai's impulsive decision, God reaffirms his promise and establishes the covenant of circumcision-a permanent sign of his relationship with Abram's descendants.
As you read, watch for other lessons on patience; trusting God to do what he promises; and not taking matters into your own hands.
Read Genesis 15:1-17:27
Abram and Sarai had trouble believing God's promise and began thinking up creative ways to manipulate events and have a child (Genesis 16:1-3). A married woman who could not have children was shamed by her peers and was often required to give a female servant to her husband in order to produce an heir. The children born to the servant woman were considered the children of the wife.
When Sarai gave Hagar to Abram, they were acting in line with the custom of the day, but this action revealed their lack of faith that God would fulfill his promise. Consequently, a series of problems arose. This invariably happens when we take over for God and try to fulfill his promises through efforts that are not in line with his specific directions. In this case, time provided the greatest test of Abram and Sarai's faith and their willingness to let God work in their lives. Sometimes, we, too, must simply wait. When we ask God for something and have to wait, we are tempted to take matters into our own hands and interfere with God's plans. Do your continual prayers seem to go unanswered? Do you feel yourself getting impatient with God as you wait for him to fulfill his promise and meet your need? Consider what God might be teaching you in the process. Obey God, and trust him for the outcome.
Excerpted from the one year THROUGH the BIBLE devotional by David R. Veerman Daryl J. Lucas Copyright © 2007 by Livingstone Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
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