Weekly Devotions

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Pastor Doug invites you to use the weekly devotional to begin thinking about the portion of God's word that we will use in our Sunday Worship.

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For Sunday, March 26 - Peter Denies Jesus

Story Location: Luke 22:31–34, 54–65

Summary: Despite promises of loyalty, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times.

Main Points:

  • Jesus warns Peter that Satan seeks to destroy him; but he is praying for Peter to remain faithful (22:31–32).
  • Peter declares that he would go to prison and even die for Jesus (22:33).
  • Jesus affirms that Peter will deny him three times before the rooster crows (22:34).
  • After Jesus’ arrest, Peter follows the crowd at a distance. When questioned by others, Peter denies knowing Jesus on three separate occasions (22:54–60).
  • At the third denial, Jesus turns and looks at Peter, who leaves weeping bitterly as the guards continue to mock and strike Jesus (22:61–65).
  • See also John 17:9 and John 21:15–19.

Devotion: Jesus revealed to Peter that Satan had to receive permission to “sift” him. This should remind us that Satan is no equal to Jesus, but only a disgruntled angel cast out of heaven. This truth does not mean that Satan is powerless, he is the “prince of this world,” but he cannot do whatever he wants. Nevertheless, Satan was granted permission to destroy Peter’s faith, if he could manage it. Satan failed because Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith remain strong. Yes, it was possible for Peter’s faith to be destroyed by Satan’s sifting. But God knew that instead of destroying Peter’s faith, Satan’s efforts would strengthen it. God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can endure (1 Cor. 10:13)

    Satan did manage to get Peter to do something that he thought impossible – deny publicly his relationship with Jesus. Matthew recounts how Peter declared that he would stand by Jesus even if it meant his imprisonment or death. But Jesus immediately confronted this lie with the truth. Peter would, in order to avoid being detected, deny Jesus three times before a rooster crowed, signaling the arrival of morning.

    Satan gave it his best effort, putting as much pressure on Peter as possible, and he felt it. He was influenced by it. So, instead of revealing his identity as one of Jesus’ disciples when asked, Peter covered it up. He lied about it. He so wanted to convince those asking him, that Peter publicly denied ever knowing Jesus. To be honest, I don’t think that Peter realized what he was doing until he heard the rooster crow. He knew exactly what it meant, and he instinctively looked to where Jesus was being held, and Jesus was looking right a Peter. It was devastating. Peter responded as any believer would whose lie is exposed by God’s truth. He ran from that place and wept bitterly.

    The good news is that Peter was not destroyed by Satan’s sifting, but he was deeply wounded by it. Paul may have had this story in mind when he wrote, “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). The other good news in this story is that the second part of Jesus’ prayer was also answered. He prayed that after Peter “turned again” that he would strengthen his brothers. What Satan meant for evil, God used for good. He did it for Peter, and He will do it for you (Rom. 8:28).

Prayer: Lord Jesus. It is our desire to stand up for you and with you. If Satan is permitted to sift us, as He was Peter, help us stand against Him with the full armor of God. Help our faith survive, that we might grow stronger as a result of the sifting, as did Peter, and may our testimony be used to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.

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For Sunday March 19 - Jesus' Victory - The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

Read the Story: Matthew 26:47–68

Summary: Jesus is arrested and put on trial by the Jewish religious leaders.

Main Points:

  • While Jesus is praying in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas arrives with an armed crowd to arrest Jesus (26:47).
  • Judas greets Jesus with a kiss that signifies to the crowd that He is the one to be arrested (26:48–50).
  • A disciple draws a sword to defend Jesus, but Jesus stops him, affirming that this is how the Scriptures must be fulfilled (26:51–56).
  • Jesus is tried before the high priest, but no honest charge can be brought against Him (26:57–61).
  • When Jesus affirms, by quoting Scripture, that He is as the High Priest said, the Son of God, the High Priest condemns Jesus. Those gathered at the trial spit on Jesus, strike Him, taunt Him, and condemn him to death for what they perceive as blasphemy (26:62–68).
  • See also Psalm 41:9 and Isaiah 50:6.

The Story: Jesus and His disciples left the upper room in Jerusalem where they observed the Passover to spend the night in a garden area known as Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives on the other side of the Kidron valley. When they arrived, Jesus, gripped with the fervency of the moment, prayed that His Father’s will be done. Jesus’ disciples were unable to heed His call to stay alert and pray with Him, and fell asleep. They are awakened and Jesus’ prayers interrupted by the arrival of a crowd armed with swords and clubs. They were sent by the High Priest to arrest Jesus, and Judas was leading them.

   Judas had instructed the crowd to keep their eyes on him, watching for whom he would kiss. That person would be the one they had come for, the others were of no concern. Matthew also reports what the crowd could not have heard, the exchange between Judas and Jesus: “Hail, Rabbi” “Friend, do what you have come to do.” In no other story recorded in the NT does this term for “friend” appear, it is really a term for a “companion,” someone you’ve spent time with, but who never became your “philo,” someone you love like a brother.

Judas sent the signal after his greeting, and the crowd swarmed around Jesus, seizing him. One of the disciples drew his sword and defended Jesus. But Jesus commanded that he put it away. Jesus reminded him that He could have called a legion of angels to protect Himself, but that was not His Father’s will. Jesus emphasized that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. As the crowd led Jesus away, His disciples fled. But Peter would turn around and follow them, at a distance.

Jesus was taken before the High Priest, where witnesses were brought forward to make the case that he should be put to death. But none could prove that Jesus had done anything worthy of death. And, as the Scriptures for told, Jesus remained silent. In frustration, the High Priest asked Jesus directly if He was the Christ, the Son of God. To which Jesus replies, “You have said it,” then quoted part of Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. It was enough for the High Priest to conclude that Jesus had blasphemed, that He made himself out to be divine. He was beaten and taunted by those who condemned Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus. We look to your example of sacrificial love, and are stunned. Help us choose God’s will for our lives over our own. Help us to love as you love. Amen.

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Answering Questions Critical of our Faith, For Sunday March 5

Story Text: Mark 12:18-40

Summary: Many that oppose Jesus try to trap him with trick questions, but Jesus uses every attack as an opportunity to teach the truth.

Main Points:

  • The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, raised a complicated objection hoping to show that what Jesus’ taught was absurd (12:18–23).
  • Jesus defended the resurrection by pointing out that their question revealed that they did not understand the Scriptures or the power of God (12:24–27).
  • A Scribe, who were legal experts in regard to living by the Law of Moses, recognized that Jesus answered the Sadducees well. And took the opportunity to ask Jesus to identify the primary Law that was to be kept (12:28)
  • Jesus’ answer focused on the Law’s intent to guide those who follow it to live a life of love for God and one another, instead of a life defined by legalistic adherence to it (12:28–34).
  • Jesus also raised a question that revealed that the Scribes did not understand what the Scriptures revealed about the Christ (12:35–37).
  • Jesus warned against following the Scribe’s example of “righteousness” (12:38–40).
  • See also John 5:28–29 and Isaiah 53:3.

Devotion: Jesus was apologetic. That doesn’t mean that He offered excuses, it means that He defended the truth. “Apologetics” is “speaking in defense.” And in this story we find that Jesus had to defend the truth of the coming resurrection, the objective of expressing love until it arrives, and the need to follow His example instead of the current religious leaders’ examples. And He did this so well, that Mark comments that the large crowd which had gathered “enjoyed listening to Him.”

We are often called on to defend the truth for the same sort of reasons. There are still religious leaders who present themselves as the experts, but who don’t really understand the Scriptures. And, as crazy as this sounds, they don’t understand the power of God either. As a result, they promote “religious truths” that are not biblical at all. Like these ancient Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. Or these Scribes who had managed to turn the Law of Moses into a legalistic system in which they could appear to be “righteous” while at the same time they could take financial advantage of widows. That Just doesn’t sound like love.

Jesus wants us to be careful who we end up following. Just because a leader has the right look, doesn’t mean that they have the right understanding about God. And if their understanding is bad, so will be their behavior. Jesus said that we can judge a tree by its fruit.

Prayer: Lord Jesus. Help us follow You. We desire to understand the truth, live by that truth, and defend it well. Guard us from all who would move us off course. Amen.

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Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, For Sunday, February 26

Read: Luke 19:28–44 

Summary: On Jesus’ last public visit to Jerusalem, He is welcomed as a King.

Main Points:

Jesus sent two disciples ahead to retrieve a colt which he would ride into the city (19:28–34).

The disciples retrieve the colt, prepare it, and create a path for Jesus fit for a King (19:35-37)

The disciples shout that Jesus is the King, and the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke them for doing so (19:38 -39).

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees instead (19:40).

Jesus weeps over the city because of its spiritual blindness and future destruction (19:41–44).

See also Zechariah 9:9 and Psalm 118:25–26.

Devotional: We usually tell this story every year on Palm Sunday, but Luke doesn’t mention palm branches at all. Instead, he talks about clothing being used to create a path for Jesus fit for a King. But before we get into the details of this story from Luke’s perspective, and what we can learn from it, let me remind you that there are four different accounts of Jesus’ life. They share similarities and differences. But when we come to a story like this one, which can be found in all four of them, we gain a better rendition when we compare them. Some of the details may not seem to line up with each other at first glance. In those cases it is helpful to think of each gospel account as a person looking into a house from a different window, and describing what they see from that perspective. And they are sharing that perspective to different audiences, which influences how they share their story of what is happening inside the house. The differences found in the gospel accounts ultimately give us a better understanding of what took place. They also add to the credibility of the Bible, rather than detracting from it. The Bible is the best and most reliable source we have of what took place. Just because Luke doesn’t mention palm branches doesn’t mean that palm branches were not used to pave the way for Jesus’ triumphal entry. It only means that Luke didn’t mention them. We might ask why he would leave out what seems to be an important detail. But then again, maybe it is not as central to the story as we have been led to believe.

 We learn in Luke’s story of the triumphal entry that Jesus knew what was going to happen before it happened. We are told that because of what Jesus knew, He took active steps to fulfill ancient prophecies about the “Messiah’s arrival.” We also learn that Jesus’ disciples were obedient to His commands even though they didn’t understand why Jesus wanted them to do as He instructed. We also learn that more than “the twelve” are referred to as Jesus’ disciples in this story. We also learn that these disciples did not really understand what sort of King Jesus was. They followed Him because of what they wanted Him to be, and would soon abandon Him when Jesus did not fulfill their “false” expectations. People are still disappointed with Jesus when He turns out to be rather different than what they expected or wanted.

We also learn that some of the Pharisees felt that Jesus was manipulating the crowd and confronted Him about it. Jesus explained to them that since His praise was a God arranged thing, and not a people arranged thing, if He silenced the crowd, then the rocks would cry out. That is, God was going to make praise happen and there was nothing they could do about it.

On the “other side of the coin” of being aware of what is going to happen before it happens, Jesus is overwhelmed by what He knew was to happen to the people and city of Jerusalem. He openly weeps. God gives us tears to express our sorrow, and like Jesus, there are times it is best to use them.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Help us to embrace the truth of Your identity as the Messiah who came to save not only us, but the whole world. Amen.

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The Call of Moses (Exodus 1–6) - For Sunday, February 12

Focus: Exodus 3:1-10

Summary: Israel had been in Egypt for over 400 years. God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses reluctantly accepted God’s call. As Israel’s burdens are increased, Israel looks to God for deliverance.

Main Points:

  • After Joseph’s death, a new Pharaoh enslaved Israel’s children (1:1–22).
  • Moses is born, raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, fails to help his brethren, and flees to Midian of escape justice (2:1-25).
  • God speaks to Moses from a bush that burns but does not burn up (3:3–4).
  • God identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (3:6).
  • God tells Moses that he has selected him to tell Pharaoh to release the people (3:9–10).
  • God tells Moses that his name is “I AM” (3:13–14).
  • God tells Moses that Pharaoh will not comply, and God will have to strike Egypt (3:19–20).
  • Moses is afraid that he will fail, and God assures Him that he will not. Aaron is called to help Moses, and accepts his call. (4:1-31)
  • Pharoah, after meeting with Moses and Aaron, increases the demands on Israel and creates greater hardship for them. (5:1-23)
  • God tells Moses that He has heard Israel’s groaning, and because He remembers his covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will deliver them from their bondage. (6:1-30)
  • See also Psalms 90 and Hebrews 3:1-6.

                                                                                               52 Key Bible Stories (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2021)

We learn in this story that God is in control of all things. And He chooses to use broken people, like Moses, to bring about His plans to keep His promises. Moses was reluctant to accept God’s call to carry God’s message of deliverance. God persuaded Moses that he was the right person to represent Him. To do so, God answered all of Moses’ objections. In the end, Moses relented, trusted God, and was used in a mighty way.

               Most of us can relate to Moses because we object to God’s call to carry God’s message of deliverance. We have just as many valid objections, and God has an answer for every one of them too. There are differences between Moses’ call and our call, but there are also a lot of similarities between the two. You may not have a burning bush moment, but you will have a great commission moment.

               Just as Israel was ready to be delivered, so are God’s people who are still slaves to sin. Jesus was absolutely right when He said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Mt. 9:38). Looking at all the lost who are near you may seem like way too much for you to do. It might even seem like harvesting just one is impossible. But don’t worry, just remember that God is with you in the same sort of way that He was with Moses. It might help if to take your eyes off the whole field, and look for one stalk where you can begin.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to recognize Your call on our lives. Amen.

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Joseph in Canaan - For Sunday, February 5

Joseph in Canaan: Genesis 37-47

Summary: The story of Joseph explains how God kept His promise to Abraham. Through Joseph, and in spite of his suffering and troubles, God blesses all the nations of the earth.

 Main Points:

  • Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob (Whose new name becomes ‘Israel’) (37:3).
  • Joseph shares two prophetic dreams with his family in which he rules over them (37:5–11).
  • Joseph’s brothers conspire to kill him, but settle for selling him into slavery (37:12–28).
  • While in slavery in Egypt, God blesses Joseph even in the midst of suffering and injustice (39–40).
  • Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams; he becomes the second in command in Egypt (41).
  • Joseph confronts his brothers. His brothers, especially Judah, experience a transformation (42–45).
  • Jacob, Joseph’s father, goes to Egypt with all of his family (46).
  • God reaffirms his promises to Jacob as he had done with Abraham (46:3–4).
  • See also Genesis 41:39–43 and Genesis 45:8.

52 Key Bible Stories (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2021).

Consider: There is always more to the story. And to understand a story best you have to go back to the beginning. This story begins with Jacob, who had by this time in his life acquired the nickname “Israel.” This Hebrew name meant “Contends with God” and it was given to Jacob after he spent a night wrestling with God (Genesis 32:28). Later, “Israel” became the name given to Jacob’s offspring and to the nation that they eventually formed. “Israel” appears 2,431 times in the Bible. It appears in 34 of the 39 books in the Old Testament, and in 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. It is clearly an important name. The reason that “Israel” is the most significant name in the Bible apart from those referring to God is that “Israel” were the descendants through whom God’s promise to Abraham to redeem all people was kept.

       Before Israel became a nation, they were a family living in the promised land. Jacob was a son of Isaac. And Jacob had 12 sons and a daughter. They were not all from the same wife, and this may be part of the reason they did not get along. This part of their story begins when the next to the youngest of these siblings, Joseph, who was also his father’s favorite, was only 17 years old. His older brothers recognized that he was their father’s favorite, and hated him for it. They were so upset over it that they couldn’t even talk civilly to Joseph. And their attitude didn’t improve when Joseph would report to their father that they weren’t on their best behavior.

       Joseph had two dreams, the meaning of which was obvious: His brothers, and even his father and mother would bow down to him. Joseph shared these dreams with his brothers, and they hated him all the more. And his father, when the dream was shared with him, didn’t like it either. Joseph’s brothers’ anger had grown so much that they wanted to kill him, and even made a plan to do it. But, because they were not all in total agreement, they ended up selling him into slavery, rather than killing him. But they convinced their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.

       There are a lot of lessons to learn from this story, like God’s ability to accomplish His plans with broken people. And how God can bring about good things from situations that were meant to cause hardship. And how repentance and forgiveness is a much better path than revenge and deceit.

       Long story short – While a slave, Joseph was respected for his integrity, industry, and management skills. But, his unswerving faithfulness to God’s ways got him in trouble. He was blamed for something he didn’t do, and ended up in jail. He found favor among those running the jail because of those same qualities. His reputation as an interpreter of dreams landed him an interview with Pharoah that led to a job offer that fulfilled the dreams of his youth. His family would be reunited in Egypt, where they were blessed under his care. But like everyone else in Egypt, they ended up selling themselves into slavery to survive.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for keeping your promises to Abraham’s descendants. Raising up a nation through whom you would bring redemption to everyone who calls upon your name. Amen.

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Abraham's Faith - For Sunday, January 29

Abraham’s Faith (Genesis 22:1–18)

Central Idea: Abraham passes God’s test

Main Points:

·        God instructs Abraham to offer Isaac, his only son, as a sacrifice (22:1-2)

·        Abraham obeys God (22:3-6).

·        When Isaac sees no animal to sacrifice, he asks his father about it (22:7).

·        Abraham tells Isaac that God will provide (22:8).

·        Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isaac, but the angel of the Lord calls out his name (22:9–11).

·        Abraham’s faith is redefined by his fear of God above anything else in his life (22:12)

·        A ram is provided to replace Isaac on the altar (22:13–14).

·        The Lord affirms his covenant with Abraham (22:15-18)

·        See also Hebrews 11:17–19 and Romans 8:32.

52 Key Bible Stories (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2021).

Consider: This story begins “After these things….” What things? All the things that had transpired as God had kept His promises to Abraham. He was blessed, his name was known, he was a blessing to others, he was prospering in the land of promise with his child of promise. What could possibly go wrong?

       God tested Abraham. Not the academic sort, but by asking Abraham to offer a human sacrifice. And not just any human, but his one and only son. God’s test raises all sorts of issues. Wasn’t human sacrifice prohibited? Why would God ask anyone to do something that is so obviously wrong? But instead of trying to understand why God had asked this of him, or questioning His motives as we might have done, Abraham trusts God so completely that he simply begins to obey.

       Abraham gathers everything he needs to offer his son as a burnt offering. Then he heads to the place where God had directed him to go. It was not the first time Abraham had taken his son to offer a sacrifice, which is why Isaac noticed that something was missing, the animal, and asked where it was at. Abraham does not reveal to his son what God had directed him to do. Instead, Abraham answered in faith, “God will provide the lamb.”

       But when they arrived at the spot, God had not provided a lamb. So Abraham continued to do as God had instructed him. He arranged the wood, he bound his son, and he laid his son on top of the wood, then, he picked up the knife to slay his son. At the last possible moment, the angel of the Lord intervened, calling out Abraham’s name. Who answers, “Here I am.” Abraham was told not to harm his son. It is one thing to go through the motions of obedience when you know the “rest of the story” - that God isn’t going to make you do what he asked you to do - and quite another when you don’t. When all you have to go on is what God said. Do you obey as Abraham did? 

       Abraham was told, “for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son…” Abraham looked up and saw the ram God provided, caught in the thicket. He released his son, and sacrificed the ram. Abraham’s faith was tested to see what he really feared. Fear can be a very good thing. After all, tear of the Lord, we are told, is the beginning of wisdom.

       Abraham’s obedience foreshadows what God does for us. We are in the shoes of Isaac, and Jesus, God’s one and only son is the lamb that God provided to take our place.

Prayer: Lord Jesus. You took our place. Thank You. Amen.

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Abram's Call - For Sunday, January 22

The Beginning of Redemption: The Call of Abram (Genesis 12:1–9)

Summary of the Call: God begins the history of redemption by directing Abram to leave his country and family. If he would, God promised to create through him a new people, in a new place, with new possibilities. And Abram’s trust that God would keep His promises is expressed in his obedience to go.

Main Points:

  • God calls Abram out of Ur to go to another land (12:1).
  • God promises Abram to make of him a great nation and to bless him (12:2).
  • Abram’s journey is one of surviving famine, keeping peace in the family, and wars (12:10-14:24).
  • God makes a covenant with Abram to give him a son and a land (15:1–21).
  • Sarai, Abram’s wife, tries to solve the impossible without God’s help, which results in a child that had not been promised to them, Ishmael (16:1-16).
  • God gives Abram a new name, Abraham, to go with his new identity; and a new obedience, circumcision, which was to be a sign of the covenant between him and God (17:1–27).
  • God brings judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, while bringing assurance of keeping His promises to Abraham. Turmoil defines the relationship between Hagar and Sarah, Lot escapes God’s judgement with his daughters, and Abraham and Sarah move to a new land (18:1-20:18).
  • Abraham and Sarah have the child of promise, Isaac; Sarah and Hagar have to be separated; and Abraham makes a covenant of peace with the King of the new land where they live. (21:1-34)
  • See also Deuteronomy 26:5 and Romans 4.

52 Key Bible Stories (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2021).

Consider: The majority of the descendants of Adam and Eve did as they had done. They were beguiled by Satan’s lies about the difference between right and wrong. Even after God pushed the reset button a couple of times (the flood and the tower of Babel), these descendants kept distancing themselves from God and His definitions of right and wrong. They did this by using their God like ability to decide for themselves what was right and wrong. Even so, they felt a need to have a relationship with someone greater than themselves, they just didn’t want it with God. So they created their own gods so they could feel good about living by their own standards. Love was not absent from these descendants, but it did not define their lives. Thankfully, there was always a remnant of people among them who did their best to retain a relationship with God and His ways.

             The story of redemption begins with an unlikely hero whose family came from this remnant. His name was Abram, which meant “Father High above.” His faults are glaring as this story unfolds, but his faith in God was resolute. We learn that God first approached Abram in order to establish a covenant with him. God told Abram what He was going to do for Abram and through his descendants, and what Abram would need to do if he wanted it too. He did. His decision to pack up everything and move to a distant land was viewed by everyone else, except his wife and nephew, as crazy. Did I mention that Abram was 75 years old at the time of his call?

             We learn that God promised to make Abram a great nation, that He would bless him, that He would make his name great, that He would make him a blessing, that He would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him, and that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed. And all Abram had to do was go to the land that God would show him. It happened to be the same land that Abram’s father had set out for, the land of Canaan, but his father only made it part way before settling down in Ur. Abram would finish that journey.

             Abram fully trusted that God keep His promises, but keeping his own part was not a solo event. Abram took his wife, Sarai; his nephew Lot; all their persons, all their livestock, and all their possessions. They looked more like a migrating caravan than a family on a camping trip. It was a slow trip, but step by step they followed God’s leading until they came to the promised land. It was a journey full of twists and turns. There are tales from it that inspire obedience, and warnings from it that encourage caution. All together these stories reveal God’s faithfulness, and what it took for Him to shape Abram into the father of the faithful through whom the offer of redemption to the whole world would come.

Prayer: God, thank you for loving the world so much that you provided a way for us to make our way back to you. Amen.

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Human Rebellion - For Sunday, January 15, 2023

Human Rebellion (Genesis 3–11)

Summary: Not satisfied with their place in creation, Adam and Eve act on the Serpent’s temptation that awakened their desire to be like God. Their rebellion had immediate as well as cosmic consequences: Sin and death enter the world, and so began a new chapter in the history of man that is characterized by the consequences of disobeying God’s commands.

Main Points:

  • The serpent tempts Eve by questioning God’s word, love, and provision (3:1–5).
  • Eve eats the fruit, as does Adam (3:6).
  • God expels them from the garden and curses the serpent and the ground (3:18–19).
  • Sin creates brokenness between humans and God, humans and nature, and humans with each other.
  • The following stories of Cain and Abel, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel illustrate the consequences of sin in creation (4:1–11:9)

See also Romans 5:12-21 and Hebrews 3:15.

52 Key Bible Stories (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2021)

Read: Focus on Gen. 3:1-24 (Then read chapters 4-11)

Consider: In this story we are reminded that Adam and Eve’s original sense of right and wrong came strictly from what God revealed to them about it. Yet, even then, they were given the freedom as to what they would do with that information. They were not forced to obey. It was the serpent, who is still in open rebellion against God, who didn’t like that they chose to obey God. So, in the guise of innocently bringing up questions about God’s truthfulness concerning what He revealed to Adam and Eve, and suggesting that God’s motivation might be purely selfish, the Serpent convinced Eve that God was intentionally preventing her and Adam from becoming wise so they would not become like Him.

       Making a choice based on false information from someone who is intentionally trying to deceive you is still an act of rebellion. Both Adam and Eve knew God’s command. And they intentionally broke that command. But what God did not tell them is that there would be more consequences related to their choice to gain the knowledge of good and evil. Even so, that consequence alone should have been enough to deter them from eating the forbidden fruit. And it had, until the Serpent told them that eating it would not cause them to die. But, if they had fully trusted God, then they would have questioned what the Serpent was telling them that differed from what God had revealed to them.

       It was the apostle Paul who rightly said, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” Faith is trusting God to reveal to us what is good and evil, and being so persuaded, acting upon it. Eve, because she did not trust God, ate. Adam was with her, and when she handed the fruit to him, he ate. And, as the Serpent promised, their eyes were opened. They immediately knew what was good, but they also knew what was evil. And looking at themselves, they knew that they were naked. This had not been an issue before, but it was now. The good they saw when looking at themselves did not vanish, but it was now corrupted with their new knowledge of evil. They recognized their own potential to be deceived, their selfishly motivated desire to choose what God said was evil, and their willingness to believe that the consequences of doing so would not be as bad as God says. Lust, shame, abuse, fear, and humility were among those evils of which they were now aware.

       How were they to protect themselves from what they now knew? Their solution was to hide from each other by covering themselves, and while clothing helped, it did not banish the evil related to their physiques. In addition, they now feared how God would react when He saw them. So, they hid from Him too.

        God never pulls away from us, it is always us who move away from Him. God knew exactly what had happened, but He, like the good shepherd He is, went to find them. God called out, “Where are you?” And Adam answered, “I heard, I was afraid, I hid.” And God responded, “Did you eat from the tree that I told you not to eat?” And Adam tried to shift the blame, “The woman you gave to me….” And the woman did too, “The Serpent deceived me.” All three were wrong in what they did, and all three are punished by God.

       The following stories of Cain and Able, Noah and the Flood, and the Tower of Babel all affirm how man’s God like ability to know about good and evil, his continued desire to be like God, and his penchant for choosing evil over good, further deteriorates man’s relationship with each other and with God. And it sets the stage for God’s love to set things back to the way they are supposed to be.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for breaking sin’s mastery over us. Help us to trust You in all things. Amen.

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Adam and Eve - For Sunday, January 8, 2023

Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:4–25)

Summary: The untold story of the sixth day: How God created the first man and woman, and joined them together as one.

Main Points:

·        God creates Adam from the dust of the ground, and places him in the Garden of Eden (2:4–8).

·        A description of the trees and rivers that form the Garden of Eden (2:9-14).

·        God forbids him to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2:15–17).

·        God teaches him that, unlike the rest of creation, there is no her (2:18-20).

·        God creates Eve from one of Adam’s ribs; Eve is the suitable helper for Adam (2:21–25).

52 Key Bible Stories (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2021).

Consider: We are given in the second chapter of the book of Genesis the hitherto untold story of the sixth day of creation. This chapter zooms in, revealing more detail. It answers the most important questions that were not addressed by the brief account of what God did on the sixth day in the first chapter, but it does not answer all the questions you might have about it.

It may have been a while since you read this story for yourself. So, take the time to do so. You’ll discover that among all the good work God accomplished each day, there were two things on the sixth day that were deemed not good: Eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the first man living in the garden of Eden alone.

READ: Genesis: 2:4-25

More Considerations: Like any series of stories, a brief review from the last episode sets the scene for the one that is about to be told. The story of God’s creation of the earth and the heavens is summarized as progressing from a place with no shrubs, no rain, and no man (and presumably no animals, although that isn’t mentioned), to one in which streams rise to water the land. While the rest of the creation story doesn’t make it into the summary, it is assumed. And we learn something new, that God, when shaping the earth and the heavens, also created a garden in Eden.

       When a story is told, many things may get left out of it. What is included depends upon the lesson that the storyteller is emphasizing. The creation of a garden was not central to the story of beginnings told in the first chapter. Nor was how God created Adam, but it is central to this story. We learn that God shaped the first man from the dust of the earth. Then, using His own breath, God gives the man life. Understanding that there is no life without God is central to this story.

       When we consider that the garden God grew had trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food the idea of God’s provision is central. Everything man needs to survive is here. But there are two special trees: One whose fruit would give life, and one whose fruit would give the knowledge of good and evil. Man’s ability to choose, and God’s permission for him to do so emerges as this story is unfolds. God seeks to protect the first man, warning him that if he were to eat of that second tree he would die. It is important for us to observe that God does not prevent the first man from choosing poorly.

       Next comes the part of the story where Adam begins his work of caring for the garden, which included naming all the creatures that God had made male and female. And by this process God teaches the first man that he is does not have a female helper as does the rest of creation. He doesn’t need domestic help. He simply cannot take up the common directive given by God to be fruitful and multiply without a suitable helper.

       The details of how God created this helper, and why the first man named her “woman” raises a lot of questions. But it does provide the reason why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his woman, and how they become one flesh. For some, this is an uncomfortable part of the story, but it reveals an important part of life for which we were created. And we learn, as this story closes, that in the age of innocence, a man and a woman can be naked and unashamed.

Prayer: Elohim, the God who created humanity. Help us to understand that you created man and woman to be together as one. Amen.


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In the Beginning - Our Origin Story - For Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023

Creation: (Genesis 1:1–2:3)

Summary: God creates and blesses the heavens and the earth, the creatures, the plant life, the people. God is the owner and true King of the universe.

Main Points:

The Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - participate in the creation.

The six days of creation, followed by a seventh day of rest.

God creates humans in his own image and gives them rule over all the earth (1:26–28).

See also: Psalm 90:2 and Hebrews 1:2.

(52 Key Bible Stories, Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2021)

Consider: What are we to gain in our understanding of the world around us by this ancient description of the beginning? What from it can we learn that by mere observation we would never come to know?

First of all, we learn that there was a beginning, a starting point, a moment when the heavens and earth were created by God. A beginning has been theorized by scientists, but they don’t all agree about it, and many of them don’t like that such a conclusion affirms the Bible’s creation narrative, so they often do all that they can to disassociate their conclusions from what the Bible reveals. But they need not have done so, because naturalistic scientists would never affirm that it was God who created the beginning. They will only accept a naturalistic cause as a valid explanation. Which is unfortunate, since it was God who initiated the beginning.

       We also learn a name for the Creator: “Elohim.” It is a word composed of the “three or more plural ending” attached to the root word “El” (which means “strong” and was used as a general reference for any deity). Gods, for the ancients, had to be strong enough to do what they could not do for themselves. In retrospect, the plural ending fits well with the Bible’s revelation that the God who is strong enough to create the heavens and the earth is plural in nature (Father, Son, and Spirit).

       The Hebrew term translated “create” literally means “to cut,” for cutting was how they shaped something from its natural state, like a branch, into something useful, like a shaft for an arrow. God is depicted as shaping the earth out that which was previously formless, void, and dark. Everything God did to shape the heavens and the earth, down to the smallest detail, is claimed to be not only good, but very good (v. 31).

       We learn that there was a progression of six successive “days” in which God shaped the heavens and the earth. “Yom,” which is translated “day,” meant “warm.” A day ended when the warmth ended. But the beginning of the cycle did not start at next morning. It began at evening, included the night, and the next “warming.” This term was primarily used to speak of what we know as the 24 hours that it takes for the earth to rotate as warms itself from the sun; but “Yom” was occasionally used to speak of a longer period of time, like a season; or a specific point in time, as in “the day of…”

       And we learn that the focus of God’s creation is us. “They” (Elohim) shaped “Adam” (the first people) in “Their” (Elohim) image and likeness, and let “them” (Adam) rule over all that was created. We are told more about how God shaped the first male and female later in the story. But in this section we are told that Elohim shaped the heavens and the earth with everything that “Adam” might need to be fruitful and multiply. And after all this was done, Elohim rested for a day; and encouraged “Adam” to do the same.

       We learn from our origin story answers to our questions about identity and purpose. We are not the result of incidental mutations that have left us with only a driving need to survive until our existence ends with our last breath. We are much, much more.

Prayer: Elohim, thank you for shaping a world into a place where we can thrive. Help us to recognize your handiwork and take up the purposes you have set before us. We rejoice in all the goodness that Y’all created. Amen.