~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 13:5-15:21 ~ Matthew 5:27-48
Psalm 6:1-10 ~ Proverbs 1:29-33
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Old Testament - These are some great readings today about Abram and his faith! Chapter 13 verse 9 stood out to me today as Abram was trying to settle the arguments between his and Lot's herdsmen over pastureland - "I'll tell you what we'll do. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want that area over there, then I'll stay here. If you want to stay in this area, then I'll move on to another place." I guess what I really like about this is Abram is giving Lot the first choice of the land. It seems like Abram his confident that he will personally be okay with whatever 2nd choice is left-over to him because he is in a relationship with God. I like this. And I hope that we each do this in my life from time to time. Think about this random example - parking spaces in a crowded mall can be hot commodities and arguments can ensue. What would it be like if we let others get the first choice and we continued on in confidence that we will be okay with whatever 2nd choice is left-over to us? Who knows - maybe we'd end up with the parking space in the boonies - and get an extra quarter mile of a walk for exercise... maybe not such a bad 2nd choice? Is it possible for us to get in the habit of letting others get the 1st choice of things whenever there is an argument about to ensue - and us being confident that 2nd choice will still be great for us - maybe in ways we don't foresee? And confident that because we are in a relationship with God? Below is an image of Abram and Lot in Genesis 13 about to part ways -
Chapter 14 verse 14 also stood out in regards to Abram's character - "When Abram learned that Lot had been captured, he called together the men born into his household, 318 of them in all. He chased after Kedorlaomer's army until he caught up with them in Dan." I don't know about you... but I'll be honest. If my nephew got captured by a band of marauding kings and their army, I'm thinking I might just let my nephew go and chalk it up to very bad luck on his part... But not Abram! When he heard the news that Lot had been captured, it looks like he did not even blink! He called together his household immediately and they were off and running after Kedorlaomer's army. Yes, they were chasing after an army... again, I'm not so sure I would do this... though, hopefully, maybe I now would if I can keep in mind Abram's character here.... What about you? Would you chase after an army? Is there maybe someone in your life who has been "captured" by something - an addiction, a sadness, some bad luck - and will you go chasing after that person and help to free them from the "army" that has ensnared them?
In verses 17 through 20 in chapter 14 we read about Melchizedek. And I definitely would like to get others opinions on this - Who was Melchizedek? The reason I ask this question is due to Hebrews Chapter 7 - click on this link to read this chapter of Hebrews. (Hebrews 7 is well worth the read at this point in our Genesis journey.) I guess my thinking currently is that Melchizedek was a very great priest - but I'm not sure he was Jesus Christ preincarnate? But, again, I'm willing to listen to others on your thoughts on this. My thoughts on this is that Hebrews 7 seems to be saying that Jesus is "like" or "in the order" of Melchizedek - but not quite saying Jesus is Melchizedek. I read there are 4 basic theories on who Melchizedek is - 1. simply a king of Salem and Abram was showing him respect, 2. Melchizedek was a standard title for the kings of Salem. 3. He was a "type of Christ" and he illustrates a lesson about Christ. or 4. He was Jesus preincarnate in a temporary body form. So - whaddya think? Below is an oil painting by Peter Paul Reubens, circa 1625, of Abram and Melchizedek meeting -
Genesis chapter 15:9-21 is the first Abrahamic Covenant. It was an unconditional divine promise to fulfill the grant of the land to Abram and his descendants. Verses 5 & 6 in chapter 15 are powerful - "Then the LORD brought Abram outside beneath the night sky and told him, "Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that--too many to count!" And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD declared him righteous because of his faith." And verse 6, the preceding sentence to this one I think is important for each of us to consider. Do we believe God's promises? What are God's promises for us? Do we have faith that God's promises for us through his son Jesus are true? Even if we've been walking with faith for a while now - are we still as "on fire" with our faith as we once were? Can we pray to God to show us his promises anew (or maybe for the first time) for our lives? Can we pray to God for faith like Abram's? It is believed that in the dark night sky of the ancient near east Abram could have seen up to 8,000 stars in the sky. Perhaps when God said the words above in verses 5 & 6 Abram saw a view of something like this below (image taken from NASA's Hubble Space telescope of the Sagittarious Star Cloud) -
New Testament - Matthew 5:27-30 are Jesus' teachings about adultery. And really I think these teachings, along with many others in the Sermon on the Mount, are even more so about what is going on inside our hearts. Jesus discusses how the law says clearly how we are "not to do" something - it's very apparent and very "exterior" if we commit a sin like adultery. Jesus says that the exterior/apparent/obvious sin is wrong for sure - but Jesus is equally as concerned with what's going on in the "interior" - inside our hearts. Jesus proposes that if we have looked at someone lustfully with our "interior", we have committed the same sin as if we had actually committed adultery on the "exterior". Do you see how Jesus' teachings in today's readings are really focusing on the condition of our hearts? How is the condition of your heart today when it comes to these teachings?
I know these can be seen as "hard teachings." Please note that I do not believe that Jesus is advocating self-mutilation in these readings - he is being figurative, not literal, in his speech about gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand. (someone can be blind and still lust) But he wants the point to be that strong. These teachings are obviously important for us to meditate on and learn from. I am sure we all know it is true that what we "think" can often become what we "do". So, it seems to me that Jesus is trying to stop us from even committing sin at the "thinking" level, because it may later manifest itself into action. Or - even if it does not manifest itself into action the thinking of the sin can actually affect us just adversely as much as the actual doing of the sin. Let us not let our minds wander into cloudy territory, but let us keep our minds clean and focused on Jesus, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness. Jesus' teachings today in Matthew 5 can certainly keep us from cloudy thinking and the confusion of internal sin -
I do actually want to say a few more things about the whole adultery / lust issue brought up in today's readings. And it is this - probably many of us have struggled with lust, or are struggling with lust right now. I have. And I know many of my friends who have. I am very saddened by many things I have seen and heard and experienced over the years. However sad I am or have been though, I am sure God grieves for us so much more. I guess I just want to encourage anyone now who is reading this that might be struggling with lust or pornography or adultery or pre-marital sex etc. - there truly is freedom from what you are struggling with. And that freedom ultimately only is found in the healing love of Jesus. I just pray that you will do everything you can to allow Jesus to free you from what's enslaved you - seek professional counseling, find an accountability partner, confess your sins, read empowering books about freedom from what you are struggling with, avoid R-rated movies or Hollywood entertainment magazines if you need to, avoid situations or locations that will tempt you, and above all pray to Jesus and ask for healing continually. He will heal you. It may take time. But he will heal you. God bless you as you work your way out of this and into amazing freedom! God will get you there! Let the healing begin!
FYI on a great book I read recently by Lauren Winner, with a title that may alarm you, but don't worry, it is by an evangelical Episcopalian author and is well done! "Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity" - I read this book late last year and was profoundly impacted by it. It is a great overview of God's plan for sex within the boundary of marriage and chastity outside of marriage. I'd say the book is probably best for 20 or 30 somethings. I'm not sure that I'd give it to teens. 40+ single somethings could get a lot out of it too. If you are single and in your 20s or 30s or know someone who is, please check this book out. Lauren is also author of "Girl Meets God", a great book about her being raised Jewish but then coming to faith in Christ in her early 20's. She's a good author! For anyone who subscribes to Christianity Today's Books & Culture magazine, check out her wonderful article on the ministry of sleeping 8 hours a night. It's brilliant! :) Actually, I just found her article on sleep online here.
Psalms - As I read Psalm 6, it seems very penitential to me - like David was making a confession of sins and praying for forgiveness from God. As you read through these verses, have you ever felt like this? I have. And it ain't fun. But, it's part of the healing process. I do think we need to allow ourselves to get fully broken before God before we get fully healed. We can't mask over or hide from God what's really going on - we gotta put it all out there on the table before God, for him to be able to truly fix it. However - there is great encouragement and confidence from David in this Psalm in verse 9 - "The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will answer my prayer." The Lord will hear your plea! The Lord will answer your prayer! Please plea and pray to him if you need to. He will listen and answer.
Proverbs - Proverbs 1 verse 31 is a strong teaching to consider - "That is why they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way. They must experience the full terror of the path they have chosen." I guess what jumped out at me is the simple word "path." Such a simple word... but a profound one. Every single day there seem to be various paths in front of us. Various options. Choices we can make. Paths we can take. Paths that can lead to light and life. Paths that can lead to full terror. What type of path are you on now? Are you on the right path? Who is leading you down this path? Is it God? I'll close with one of my favorite Proverbs, that I have memorized and repeat to myself often, which also discusses paths - Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Let us pray for straight paths today!
Comments from you & Question of the Day - Based on our readings in Matthew chapter 5 today about lust, are there any good books or websites you can recommend related to achieving victory in this area of our lives? Or any habits or practices of yours that you are comfortable sharing about how you avoid the sin of lust in your life? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking the "Comments" link below!