We’ve A Story To Tell To The Nations…

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Our commission is unambiguous and our field of operations is all-inclusive. Our Supreme-Commander has not only been given the authority to carry out this mission, but has given us that authority as well. We have been given the responsibility to go deep into enemy-held territory and liberate captives and bring them back to Headquarters, and then to recruit them to join this mission also. Whether your specific mission is next door or on the other side of the world, all missions are equally-important.

We will face opposition, because the enemy will not give up his captives without a fight. The enemy will do everything in his power to dissuade us from our mission, including turning friends and family against us. The enemy will even try to convince us to join his side instead, but we must not be dissuaded from advancing towards our goal. Our mission is that important.

Do you feel inadequate for the task? You are not alone, because this mission wasn’t intended to be accomplished by “lone-rangers“. This mission requires teamwork, partnerships of like-minded individuals committed to working together. We have the sure-promise that our Commander will accompany us on this mission, and we have another Helper who is pledged to us also, the Holy Spirit.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

I have been blown-away by how God has provided ministry-partners for the Cypress Cove ministry, godly men who have come alongside me to help and encourage me in this ministry. They “get-it“, and they understand how vitally-important it is for us to carry-out the tasks God has given us to do for His kingdom and glory.

We’ve a story to tell to the nations…
1 We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

Refrain:
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

2 We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword. [Refrain]

3 We’ve a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love. [Refrain]

4 We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world’s great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God. [Refrain]

I invite you to prayerfully ask God where and how He can use you for the furtherance of His kingdom, and while you are at it, ask Him to provide faithful companions and fellow-laborers for your mission. We bring Good News, because the Gospel IS Good News!

In Christ,
Steve

2015 In Review

WOW! What a year it has been! How did it slip away SO quickly? They say “Time flies when you are having fun“, but have I really had THAT much “fun“? I must say that the older I get, the faster time seems to fly. So, what happened during 2015?

Writing…
As of today, December 28, 2015, I have posted seventy-eight articles to this blog this year. Of that seventy-eight, eight have been weekly Bible studies, which is an ongoing ministry. I have also started almost fifty articles which I haven’t finished and aren’t ready to publish. I have some series in mind, including a series on the book of Ruth. Stay tuned!

Ministry…
This blog is an ongoing ministry, and early this year, I was given the vision of starting a ministry at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. The organized church does many things well, but ministering to nudists isn’t one of them. My article, “The Role Of Nudists In The Church“, explains why. God isn’t happy with the “status-quo“, so He has commissioned Christian nudists to minister to fellow-nudists.

When I presented my vision of a ministry at Cypress Cove during the Christian Naturists Festival, I received a very positive response. I also had an “Here I am, Lord, send someone else” moment. Could or would God actually use me for that ministry? I didn’t have to wait very long for that answer, because Cameron Bennett, one of the board-members of CNC, promised to partner with me on it. I am not free to give details about his partnership, but I really appreciate what he has done and is continuing to do.

I invite you to go back and read “Even Me…“, “Getting Out Of The “Boat”…” and “Out Of The Boat“, because these articles chronicle my journey from “call” to actually beginning the ministry. Yes, I still have some heebie-jeebies.

Distribution/promotion…
I decided from the git-go that I wasn’t going to be a self-promoter, and I haven’t. I have left promoting this blog up to God for Him to do with as He chooses. As a result, I am continually-amazed at how many and where links show up to this little corner of the internet. This isn’t about me. It is about what God is doing in building up His kingdom in His world. As of this writing, this little “boat” has docked in 84 different countries, and only God could have taken it to several of those countries. I am thankful for every “hit“, every “like“, every comment and every re-blog, because every one of those things encourages me to keep going, to keep writing and to keep posting.

Personal…
My personal high-point was the weekend I spent at Lake Como for the Christian Naturists Festival. We had an incredible time of fun, fellowship, encouragement and worship, and we also consumed no small-amount of ice-cream over the weekend. I made some new friends and met several people in person who I had only met online before. Pam and Lee, the “spark-plugs” at Garden of Eden Church are wonderful people, and hosted the event. Rev. David Hatton, the main speaker, is a dear Brother in Christ, and Cameron Bennett is my fellow-laborer in the ministry at Cypress Cove. Tom and Marilyn Pine are excellent writers and super-people. I don’t mean to slight anyone who was there, but my rememberer isn’t what it used to be.

I have had several other significant events this year, but not all of them have been good. Kicking-off the ministry at Cypress Cove was another high-point, and I am looking forward to our first “public” meeting January 3rd.

Our Senior Pastor resigned abruptly this past February to pursue other interests, and in spite promises to “stay in touch“, he might as well have moved to a different galaxy. We weren’t left in a total-lurch, because we had a very-capable Associate Pastor, who we quickly called to be our Senior Pastor. We also lost our Director of Music and his wife this year, but our Senior Pastor’s wife is a wonderful musician and has stepped into the gap.

Liz, my neighbor-gal, lost her mother back in September, and as her primary emotional-support person, it was a tough time for me also. Liz was up at her parent’s place for the last month her mom was alive. Unfortunately, one of her brothers was there also. Liz was adopted after her parent’s older children were already gone from home, so she has never really been acccepted as part of the family by them. I went up for the funeral, and spent the night in a motel so I could also go to Florida National Cemetary for the committal service. Only one other person she knows from here went up for the funeral. We were the only ones who were actually there for HER. The rest of her “friends” were “too-busy“.

I hate to call Christmas a “non-celebration“, but I have been sick for over a week and didn’t even feel like going to my church’s Christmas Eve service, let alone go somewhere Christmas day. Unlike the previous two years, I didn’t even have an invitation to join anyone for Christmas.

Unfortunately, when even Christians think about “family” for the holidays, they forget about their church-family and those who have no other family to celebrate with. Not all of us have “family” close-by to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with. Christmas isn’t about me or what I want, it is about celebrating the birth of our Savior.

The Apostle Paul, in 1st Timothy 3, lists “hospitable” as one of the qualifications and characteristics of Elders and Deacons, but if my experience is any indicator, “hospitable” is the most widely-ignored of those qualifications. Paul knew that casual-contact between those who had been called by God to lead His church and their flock wasn’t enough. Being “familiar-strangers” doesn’t get the job done. That is the point of hospitality, so that people can get to know each other.

Many years ago, we had a pastor and his wife who took hospitality very seriously. As I recall, their dining-room table seated about a dozen people, and they filled it up for Sunday-dinner EVERY Sunday. Newcomers to the church were invited first, and then others to fill their table up. They considered hospitality to be an integral-part of their ministry to the church. This was brought more forcefully to my attention by the fact that I didn’t have anywhere to go for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Is this part of why many Christians feel disconnected from their church “family“? Has the 21st-century church lost its sense of being a “family“?

Finis…
I have learned over the last three years that my best-laid-plans are likely to go awry, so all I “plan” to do next year is to keep on keeping-on. As Paul counselled Timothy, his counsel applies to me as well. I must stay the course, living my life for Christ and doing what I can to help the spread of God’s kingdom. I have a charge to keep.

Wishing you God’s richest blessings in the New Year, and a Happy Nude Year!
Steve

Bible Study – John the Baptist

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. (John 1:6-8)

There had been no prophets in Israel for over 400 years. God had been silent, and seemingly absent during this period, but He had promised another prophet, a prophet who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. John the Baptist was called to be that prophet.

John the Baptist was descended from the priestly-tribe of Levi, and his miraculous birth and in-the-womb filling by the Holy Spirit set him apart as someone special, and even though he was only on the scene for a short while, his contribution to the kingdom of God was significant. Before we get into his testimony, let’s look at who he was.

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.

24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” (Luke 1:5-24)

There were many priests in many families in that time, so a priest might only get the privilege to serve in the temple once in their lifetime. Zacharias was an old man by the time his turn came around, and even though he and his wife had prayed for a child for many years, they were still childless. They were no ordinary couple, because they both were from priestly-lineage. We are also told that they were righteous before God.

Imagine being at the altar of incense and having an angel appear out of nowhere. Fear would be a very normal response. Gabriel also told Zacharias that their child would be special, the forerunner of the coming Messiah, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
6 And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers, (Malachi 4:5-6)

Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45)

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. (Luke 1:56)

We see fulfilled the prophecy by Gabriel that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.

John Is Born
57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

59 And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. 60 But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63 And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. 64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. 65 Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him. (Luke 1:57-66)

Here, we see the fulfillment of Gabriel’s word that Zacharias would be mute until after the birth, and surprise of surprises, once Zacharias confirmed the baby’s name, his tongue was loosened and he was able to speak.

Zacharias’s Prophecy
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant—As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.”

76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel. (Luke 1:67-80)

Next time…
Next week we will look at John’s testimony concerning Jesus Christ, and after the New Year, we will begin looking at Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry.

In Christ,
Steve

Rejection

What is rejection? Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that they are not important. Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that what you want is more important than your relationship with them. Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that they are no longer a part of your agenda…THAT THEY NO LONGER MATTER TO YOU. Rejection is telling someone by your words and actions that you really don’t care what kind of hurt you are causing them, because you no longer care about them.

What do I know about rejection? In a word…a LOT. Being rejected by others has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a kid growing up, we moved around a lot, so I was always the “new kid on the block“…the “new kid in school“. I might make a friend or two, and then we would move – again.

Because of my Tourette’s, I was teased a lot in school. I was called “twitch“…and worse. Other kids made fun of me by imitating my facial tics. I was a book-worm, and read encyclopedias in my spare time, so my nickname was “Brit” or “Encyclopedia“.

Even my parents rejected me… Probably the worst case of my young life was on my eleventh birthday. My grandfather died on that day, and his death was more important than celebrating my birthday. Rather than celebrating my birthday, dad drove to Illinois to be with his family for the funeral. He couldn’t wait a couple of days, and be a part of his son’s life, before he went to the funeral. His family, and the funeral, were more important than his own son. Maybe that seems trivial, but it isn’t. It was to become a pattern, repeated at various times and various ways.

By about my thirteenth birthday, mom no longer came into the bathroom and talked to me while I took my bath. Perhaps that was to teach me “modesty“, but in the long run, it taught me that she no longer cared enough about me to take special time for me. Sure, I was getting to be a “big-boy“, a “young man“, but other than the fact that my sexual equipment was getting bigger, and getting hair around it, I was still the same kid she had brought into the world just a few years later…but I wasn’t to her. As I got older, my parent’s lives got busier and busier, and they had less and less time for me. I no longer “mattered“. I was rejected. When I didn’t do well in English, dad simply grounded me until I got my grades up. Never mind that he had been a college-English instructor, and could have helped me, but he didn’t have the time. I didn’t matter, just my grades.

After my sophomore year of high-school, we moved again, so my dad could pastor a church in Oklahoma. Again, I was the “new kid on the block“…the “new kid in church“…the “PREACHER’S KID“, and I wasn’t welcome. Sure, there were other kids my age in the church, but they already had their own clique, and I wasn’t welcome. Whether it was in church, or elsewhere, I didn’t “fit-in“. I was an outsider looking in. I vividly remember those interminably-long church-bus rides between Oklahoma and church-camp in Colorado. The rest of the kids carried on, cut-up, and generally had a gay old time…and sang “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love“, while I sat…lonely and rejected. I hated that song for many years, because it represented what they should have been, but weren’t…loving. Even at camp, about all the people that had anything to do with me were other pastors. One particular pastor stands out in my mind as having the kind of love that I wasn’t getting elsewhere.

After I graduated from high-school, instead of going to college…like all the other kids I graduated with did, I went into the service. Once again…out of sight, out of mind. I was just a fleeting shadow, and not worth keeping up with.

After I got back home from my time in the service, I met and married a lovely young lady. She supported me through two years of college. I got recruited right out of college, so we moved to where my new job was.
Along the way, we had four kids…three girls and a boy. That presented its own unique set of challenges, because particularly when they were young, my wife’s full attention was devoted to them. While we did have some “us” time, it was never the same. I was “dad“…I was the “provider“, but the husband-wife relationship had been seriously disrupted. After we had been there about a dozen years, my wife started getting home-sick. She was very close to her family, and being over five-hundred miles away made that difficult for her. When I saw the handwriting on the wall, that the work for the group I was in was being seriously curtailed, we decide to move back “home“. That really was the beginning of the end of our relationship and our family.

Things seemed to hum along for another couple of years, and then my work started taking more and more of my time. I worked a lot of overtime due to me responsibilities. My wife and kids spent more and more time with her family, and less and less time with me. Her mom got to the point of needing 24/7 care, but her family was unwilling to put her in a nursing home, and the only person in the family that didn’t have an outside job was my wife, so she became her mom’s caregiver. Not only was our husband-wife relationship stretched from having four kids, but it got stretched thinner by her caring for her mom. I was no longer her #1 priority. At one point, she even demanded that we buy her mom’s house and move in with her. I refused that demand, because it wouldn’t have been good for anything but her being able to take care of her mom even more. The house was also way too small for our family. I saw less and less of my wife and family.

My wife started realizing what her actions had done to our family, but by then, the damage was all but irreparable. Her health was also suffering, and she refused medical help. She also refused any form of marriage counseling. She took her own life shortly thereafter. I am sure that she thought her death would unite our fragmented family, but it totally destroyed it. Suicide may be the ultimate form of rejection, because it is totally self-centered. Suicide tells those affected that they aren’t worth living for…

Because her family blamed me for her death, the very people who should have rallied around me didn’t. Old friends and family became mortal enemies, and they did everything in their power to destroy me. One brother-in-law even threatened to kill me. I had to move out of the community because I was no longer welcome there. Her family even poisoned my own kid’s attitudes towards me, so that they didn’t even want to see me or have anything to do with me. It has been over eighteen years since their mom’s death, and they still refuse to have anything to do with me. My oldest daughter threatened to call the police if I tried to contact her again. I am still not welcome in that community. The bitterness and hatred still run that deep. BTW…those people even call themselves “Christians“. Where is their love?

About a year later, I remarried, and shortly after we got married, we moved completely out of the area. The first place she started rejecting me was in the bedroom. Even though we didn’t have a truly-active sex-life, it went to non-existent…from sex every few weeks, to sex once every two or three years. That marriage lasted until I lost my eye. She decided that I was no longer part of her agenda, and she divorced me. She couldn’t even be bothered to send me a “get-well” card, let alone come and be with me in the hospital. I was thrown away with yesterday’s trash.

A few months after that divorce, I met another lady, and we started courting. I had a steady job, and she was disabled and unable to work. We got married, and as long as I had steady income, I was the greatest guy in the world. After she got her disability, and I lost my job, I became expendable. I was no longer part of her agenda…no longer desirable…thrown away with yesterday’s trash. Oh, we can’t forget that she had promised faithfully to NEVER do to me what my previous wife had done, but she did…

Maybe I should have gotten wiser, and avoided further romantic contact, but I had never been a “happy single“. I was “wired” to be married, and that was how and where I was happiest.

After being divorced for about two years, I met another lady. She had been down many of the same roads I have been down, including being a widow. She seemed to be the “ideal” wife. At least she talked a good talk. We got married in December 2013, and less than six weeks later, she moved out…while I was out of town at a doctor’s appointment. All she left was a note. We had sporadic contact for a few months, and then abruptly she wanted to move back home with me. That lasted exactly two weeks, before she moved out again. A couple of weeks later, she texted me and told me that she is in love with another man, and would be filing for divorce shortly. Oh, we can’t forget that she had promised faithfully to NEVER do to me what my previous wife had done, but she did…

Perhaps that is the most unkind cut of all…leaving me for another man. That tears at the very heart of who I am as a man. It is rejection – in spades. She has thrown me away with yesterday’s trash, because I am no longer what she wants in life. I was a brief interlude, but little more. She claims she is sorry for what she has done to me, but her actions show that her remorse is only superficial. She is unwilling to do what is necessary to start undoing the hurt she has caused.

Do I know a bit about rejection? I could probably write a book on it, but what would that accomplish?

Rejection – when a person willfully and deliberately hurts and discards another person who trusted them to never do that. Someone else knew quite a bit about rejection.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

One of His close associates, Judas, betrayed Him. Another close associate, Peter, denied him, not just once, but three times, after he swore that he would NEVER do that. When He was arrested, only Peter and John tagged-along behind the mob to His trial. John is also the only disciple who was there when He was crucified. All the rest had turned-tail and ran. Mark fled the scene of His arrest naked.

Yes, Jesus Christ knows a few things about rejection, and He keenly-feels our rejection with us. Who better to turn to in our pain?

In Christ,
Steve

Refining Our Sexuality

These days, lots of people are busy redefining their sexuality. Whether it is their sexual orientation, or whether they are transgender, they want to redefine their sexuality based on their belief system. They want to be something they were not created to be. What I want us to do is REFINE our sexuality, to be more like we were intended to be.

What does it mean to refine something? In classical usage, refine is to remove the impurities, and get back to the pure material. As we go through this brief discourse, I want us to be about refining our sexuality into the purity our Creator intended from the beginning. We need to put off the dross and drivel that our society has put on us.

“26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28

In the beginning, God created us, male and female, in His image. Our ideal sexual state must be our guiding light for refining our sexuality. It is also the basis of our true sexuality.

We were created sexual beings. Our sexuality is inextricably linked to who we are as human beings. Our sexuality (true gender) is imprinted on every cell in our bodies. Thus, I am not a male just because I have male sexual equipment, but every cell in my body bears the genetic imprint of my maleness. I am not a male BECAUSE I have male equipment…I have male equipment BECAUSE I am a male. Yes ladies, the same holds true for you. You are not a female BECAUSE you have female equipment…you have female equipment BECAUSE you are female. It is all in our DNA, and our DNA (our sexuality) was determined at the moment of our conception. We aren’t born to BE sexual beings, we are BORN sexual beings.

By way of example…there is a man in the UK who has NO external genitals. If he were to choose his gender based on his genitals, or lack thereof, he could choose whatever he wanted, including gender-neutral. But while his body may appear gender-neutral, every cell in his body screams MALE. He is a man, although he has nothing to show for it. He was born that way, and it was as a result of a genetic anomaly. He is still a sexual being, although he has no way to express his sexuality through sexual activity. BTW, he is also a nudist.

SO, let’s fire up the refining pot, and throw in all the false ideas we have built up about our sexuality. What will emerge, shining like the sun, is our sexuality, as God created it to be.

Let’s start with our overall bodies, because society feeds us false ideals on a very regular basis. Gentlemen, start your engines! Be realistic… Does your body look like the male models you see in the media? Are you a Chippendale? Do you have six-pack abs? Are you a “pretty-boy“? I’ll bet the answer is NO on all counts. Are you skinny, or are you fat? Are you short or are you tall? Do you have a lot of hair, little hair, or no hair at all? DOES THAT MAKE YOU ANY LESS OF A MAN? With that social sexuality dross, we are going to throw in the purifier of the truth, that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “IDEAL. You are no less of a man if your body doesn’t conform to society’s false “ideals“. We will get a bit more intimate shortly.

Ladies, start your engines! I believe Danica Patrick has done a marvelous job of retaining her feminity, even in the male-dominated world of NASCAR racing. Ladies, it’s your turn to throw your social sexuality baggage in the pot, because you are hammered daily with false “ideals” also. So ladies, are you a model, or even a super-model? Would you be considered for a photo-shoot with Playboy? How about for Sports Illustrated? Are you an actress? Do you have your own hair-stylist and makeup artist? Are you a sex-symbol? Do the people that take pictures of you routinely photoshop or airbrush-out your blemishes and imperfections? I’ll bet the answer is NO on all counts. Is your hair always perfectly done? Do you hate to leave the house without makeup? Are you skinny, or are you overweight, or maybe about average? Are you tall, or are you short? DOES THAT MAKE YOU ANY LESS OF A WOMAN? Ladies, throw your social sexuality ideals into the pot, and we are going to throw in the purifier of the truth, that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “IDEAL! Ladies, you are no less of a woman, NO LESS FEMALE, because your body doesn’t conform to society’s false “ideals“.

I used to have frequent contact with a very lovely little lady. Ruth is all of 4′ 10” tall, with a very petite frame. She is a Registered Nurse, a mother and a believer, and she is all woman. I also worked with another tiny lady…Betty, who is also under 5′ tall, and is half Japanese. Another little lady who I used to know, who is also a believer, is a Captain with a large county fire department. She is one tough lady, but underneath her toughness is a true woman. Pam may make 5 feet tall…

SO, now we have refined away the dross of those social “ideals” from our sexuality, and you have discovered that your sexuality is purer, and getting closer to the true ideal, which is God’s ideal. Without getting into details, the “sexperts” have done men a great disservice by publishing the results of their “research“. Men, your endowment is determined more by your genetics than any other factor, and if you are comparing yourself to porn-actors, that isn’t a fair comparison. Male porn-actors are generally more well-endowed than “normal“. Mass media has likewise done women a great disservice but putting before us some artificial “ideals” of what a woman “should” look like. Recently I saw two pictures of the same model, one “as-photographed“, and the other was the results of their air-brushing and photo-shopping. Those two pictures almost looked like they were taken of different women. Even the models themselves often have trouble recognizing their own pictures after they have been altered. Mattel has also done a huge disservice to generations of girls who have grown up believing that “Barbie” is the “ideal woman“. One woman has spent tens of thousands of dollars on surgeries to “remodel” herself to look like Barbie. Ladies…yours is determined by genetics also.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Our bodies were created by God, and He called His creation “very good“, so contrary to the British website and TV show, Embarrassing Bodies, we need have no embarrassment about our bodies and their parts. I have a female urologist, but I am NOT embarrassed to be seen by her during the annual “well-man checkup“. I am also NOT embarrassed to talk to her about things like my erectile-dysfunction, something she believes should be treated to enhance my overall sense of well-being. We talk every time I see her about how well the ED medication is working and whether we need to adjust the dose. That is “wholistic” care.

Guys: God only created one Adam

Ladies: God only created one Eve.

Folks: The rest of us are copies of God’s originals, and I have no idea how many generations have passed since Adam and Eve walked this earth. Each of us IS a special creation, and our job is to accept how God created us, and fulfill our role in His world. Yes, that includes our sexuality also, because we can not divorce ourselves from it. It is an integral part of who we are.

Variants…
As I previous mentioned, there is a man in England who was born with no visible genitals, but he is all male otherwise. There is also another variants that occurs occassionally, and that is someone who is born with both male and female genitals – a hermaphrodite. That anomoly is the result of one too many chromosomes getting transfered at conception. It is real, and has been medically-verified.

Trans-sexuals” believe that their “brain-wiring” is different than their physical sex. They believe that they are “wired” female in a male body, or “wired” male in a female body. Some go as far as to have “gender-reassignment” surgery, however, changing the visible “plumbing” doesn’t change their biological gender. Most Christians will assert that their “original-plumbing” is all that matters, however I am more compassionate towards them. The Fall brought changes to everything, including our bodies. Prior to the Fall, there would never have been any possibility of birth-defects, and yet we need not look very far to come in contact with someone who is affected by physical or mental birth-defects, and some are affected by both. Hence the possibility of a person being “wrongly-plumbed” for their “brain-wiring” is not out of the question.

Same-sex-attraction (homosexuality) is a life-choice. Contrary to what many would like us to believe, they are not “born that way“, although some may have experienced some event, or series of events, early in life which might have influenced their choices. One young man told me that he has known that he is attracted to other males since he was seven or eight years old. Any sexual activity at that age is wrong, and may have been sexual abuse. I have known both men and women who have been in hetero-sexual marriages before they decided they are homo-sexuals. One lady I used to know had a very abusive marriage to an absolute jerk, which was attested to by a mutual friend who has known them for many years. She was constantly put down by a man who considered himself “superior” to her, although she is an extremely intelligent and talented woman. Had he treated her right, they might still have a happy marriage. She has chosen to be in relationships with a woman instead. One man confided in me that he had been married, and he and his wife had children together, but even though he was in a homosexual relationship, he knew it was wrong, but wasn’t sure how to get out of it. It isn’t always easy to just walk away. They are not “gay” or “lesbian“. They are men and women who have chosen to be in same-sex relationships.

I need not “advertise” that I am a “straight” man, because I have been married four times and I am the father of four children. Only those whose sexual-preference is same-sex feel the need to “advertise” their preference. I don’t have a problem with either how I came equipped or my God-given gender-role. I can’t imagine myself any other way. How about you?

Blessings!
Steve

The Heart Of A King…

Their homeland was deserted, their Capitol was in ruins, and what few people were left of their nation were scattered far and wide. A marauding army had swept through their country slaughtering men, women and children, razing cities and towns, and taking anyone they didn’t slaughter captive. Their temple had been reduced to rubble, but not before the marauders looted everything of value. The situation looked hopeless. Then there came a decree…

This scene could be part of our 21st century world, but these events took place about twenty-six hundred years ago. The people were the children of Israel, their capitol was Jerusalem, and their captors were from the Babylonian empire. God had used the Babylonians to punish the children of Israel for their idolatry, just as He had promised, but it was time for their exile to end. Then there came a decree…

The children of Israel still didn’t “get-it“. Even after being taken captive several times, the children of Israel kept going back to their idol-worship. Each time they repented, God delivered them. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat… God was faithful to them, but they weren’t faithful to Him.

The Proclamation of Cyrus
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1)

While it might be easy to get the impression that Cyrus was a “godly” man, he was quite the opposite. He was as big a heathen as those who had gone before him. If we pay close attention to what he said, he never acknowledged that “The Lord, the God of Heaven…” was HIS god. He was, like the Pharaoh in Egypt, simply following orders.

God had given favor to the children of Israel allowing them to raid the Egyptians of gold, silver and other precious things when they left Egypt. God likewise gave the children of Israel favor to raid the Persian kingdom of everything they would need to rebuild the temple. The children of Israel made quite a haul, and if we look back at just what was needed for the tabernacle, it was quite a haul also.

Our world…
As we look at events in our world, both locally and globaly, it would be easy to lose heart. Evil is rampant, including in the halls of government. Many politicians wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped them in the face, and lying has become a way of life. What is good for the people, particularly Christians, no longer matters. What matters is keeping them and the global string-pullers happy. It seems to be too late to ask if things will actually get better…but…

Sometimes we lament that God isn’t taking care of the “big” things while we forget how many “small” things God does frequently. “Divine Appointments” is about three “small“, but no less important things that God has “handled” for me recently.

Pharaoh and Cyrus were no less evil and no less corrupt than our current leaders, and yet, when God spoke, they listened, and did what He told them to do. God is still in control, whether we see it or not. As we saw in “Bible Study – The Birth Of Christ“, God caused Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, to “arrange” for Mary and Joseph to be in Bethlehem at the appointed time. There is not one king, one president, or any other leader who is beyond God’s control. By the way, NOBODY is beyond God’s control. Do we not believe that God could do the same in our day?

I believe He can. How about you?

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – The Birth Of Christ

The Word became flesh…

As we close-in on Christmas, we come to the most important event in human history, the birth of Jesus, because without His birth, there would have been no crucifixion, and thus no redemption. The birth of Jesus Christ was the hinge-pin of redemption-history, tying the Old Testament to the New Testament and the promises to their fulfillment.

Mary’s visitation…
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary’s reaction to this announcement isn’t surprising, considering that she was young, perhaps 12 to 14 years-old, and she still wasn’t married yet. Yes, she was engaged, but she was still living with her parents, as was the custom. This was Gabriel’s second earthly-visit in the last few months. He had visited Zacharias just six months earlier, and now Elizabeth, who had been unable to have a child, was in her sixth month of pregnancy. God had done the impossible for Zacharias and Elizabeth, and He was going to do the same for Mary. Once Mary was assured that this was of God, she responded with faith and trust.

The song of Mary…
And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

When Mary visited Elizabeth, she was with her own eyes that God had enabled Elizabeth to get pregnant. In response to God’s goodness, she praised God in this very beautiful song. God, in His covenant-love for His people, was providing a Redeemer and fulfilling His promises given long ago.

Joseph’s visitation…
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

Betrothal was much more binding than mere engagement, and the only way a betrothal could be annulled was by divorce. Mary was pregnant, but they weren’t married yet. If he divorced her, she could be charged with adultery and potentially be stone, because that was the penalty for adultery. The baby wasn’t his, as a check of her virginity would verify. Of course a check of her virginity would also show that she was pregnant even though she was still a virgin. God didn’t have to break her hymen to make her pregnant.

Joseph was in a sticky-situation. Would anyone actually believe Mary’s story of being visited by an angel? Did he actually believe it? All he knew was that his decision would be life-changing. Did he already have hopes and dreams for their future together, dreams that this turn of events might change? We are told that Joseph was a “righteous man“, so he didn’t want to make a rash decision. He had probably had several nearly-sleepless nights before finally falling falling asleep in exhaustion. It was then that God visited him through an angel.

The angel reminded Joseph of the long-awaited prophesy that Emmanuel, God with us, would be born, and he was going to be the “father” of the Messiah. Whatever doubts Joseph had were quickly put to rest, and he responded in faith and took Mary home to be his wife.

How hard was it for Joseph to not have sex with Mary, his right, for the next nine or so months, particularly since a marriage wasn’t “official” until it was consummated? Even though Mary would still be a “virgin” after the baby was born, Joseph would not have the honor of “deflowering” her. We are simply told that Joseph kept her a virgin until after Jesus was born.

The birth of Jesus
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Mary and Joseph had a “divine-appointment” in Bethlehem and the Romans unknowingly arranged it. That must have been an arduous journey for them because Mary was “due” any day. Even though this was Mary’s first baby, she was still a “little girl” by modern-day standards, barely old enough to get pregnant, let alone have a baby. Bethlehem was packed with travellers, so it was no wonder that the local Inn was full. All that was left for shelter was a stable, maybe the innkeeper’s stable.

We can’t imaging a more humble “delivery-room“, but the coming King wouldn’t ever live in a palace. There had been no “baby-shower“, so all Mary had to wrap her baby in was strips of cloth, which she may have brought along just for that purpose. There were no doctors or nurses, and probably not even a mid-wife. Joseph, who had never helped deliver a baby, had to help her with the delivery. Maybe he had swept some of the manure out of the stable and put some fresh hay in the manger, but there was nothing “sanitary” about this delivery. They may have not even had a “clean” knife to cut the cord with. The baby’s first bed was a manger, a feed-trough for animals, but it was better than if Mary had delivered her baby on the road.

Emmanuel, God with us, was born that night. The Word, who had taken on human-flesh entered into our world, and the world would never be the same.

Celebration!
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Even though Jesus was born into humble-circumstances, God orchestrated a celebration of His birth. Angels serenaded a bewildered group of shepherds who were camped nearby for the night. I wonder if anyone else saw the heavenly show? The shepherd didn’t waste any time checking out the marvelous news, and with the shepherds, we should glorify and praise our wonderful God.

Glory to God in the highest! Thank you for your indescribable gift!!!

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and a healthy and productive New Year!
Steve

In The Beginning…

We all had a beginning, but before our beginning, someone had to begin the beginning. We find two very important “In the beginning…” passages in the Bible, Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-3. The first three verses of John 1 explain and expand on Genesis 1:1, so let’s take a look at both of them.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

The human mind cannot comprehend “timelessness” or “eternity” because we are constrained by both time and space, however God is NOT constrained by either time or space. God is timeless and eternal, and the only time He felt the constraints of time and space was in the person of Jesus Christ during His earthly sojourn. When God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, He experienced our constraints with us. Jesus was not able to be in more than one place at a time.

At some point in eternity, God put His finger down on that point and declared it “the beginning“. God started the clock. That fact blows my mind.

In the beginning, God…
John spared no expense in telling us Who started the clock. The divine Word, God’s message to humanity, started the clock. If we substitute “the Word” for “God” in Genesis 1:1, we get, “In the beginning, the Word created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

We are also told that the Word became flesh, thus the Eternal Word is none other than Jesus Christ. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

I have to conclude that when God knelt in the dust and fashioned the first man, He was creating the “prototype” of the very human-body He would take for Himself in the fullness of time. Is it any wonder that we are created in God’s image? God could not have created us any other way.

Our beginning…
Was our beginning merely a “chance” event, or was it “pre-planned“? Those who believe that God doesn’t have an active role in our lives would call it a “chance” event. They would say that one “lucky” sperm outran all the other 250 million-plus sperm through the gauntlet and got to the egg first and still had the stamina to penetrate and fertilize the egg. If that is the case, we are all products of “chance“, and a I could have just as easily been named “Stephanie“.

If our beginning was a “pre-planned” event, God ushered one chosen sperm to its intended rendezvous, and who and what we are is no “accident“. This passage may shed some light on our beginning…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

I would have to conclude that we are not here by “chance“, and that you are reading this at this moment by divine-appointment also. Oh, and it is no “accident” that I am writing this…

Predestination…
If our beginning was not a “chance” event, neither is anything else about us, including our salvation. There are many God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians who don’t believe in Predestination, believing that “free-will” trumps God’s sovereignty. If that belief is carried to its logical-conclusion, their “god” is a hand-wringing wannabe who just “hopes” that people will accept the free offer of salvation. While they will never admit that their theology must strip God of what makes Him God, that is what they are doing. That must also mean that our salvation is only a “hope“, not a “take it to the bank” reality.

God did give us “free-will“, however, before coming to Christ for salvation, our will is enslaved to our fallen-nature. Many people say “To err is human“, but the reality is “To err is being fallen“. We will not realize our true humanity until we are sinless and glorified, because we then will be able to love God with all of our being and love our neighbor as ourselves. Adam and Eve were truly-human before their fall into sin, and Jesus Christ showed us His true humanity by living a sinless life.

I love and worship a sovereign God who has guaranteed my salvation, along with my own glorious resurrection. He is the God of the Bible.

Eternity…
Many people believe that the end of human history as we know it is near, and that we will soon make the transition from our mortal, earthly existence to our eternal state. Will God stop the clock and still the hands of time, or will He keep time going for our benefit?

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

I get the sense from this passage that the departed Saints in heaven are still aware of time, and that time is passing too slowly. Even as spirit-beings, they are still conscious of what is going on around them. So much for the false-doctrine of “soul-sleep“. Moses and Elijah certainly weren’t “sleeping” when they appeared with Jesus on the mountain during His transfiguration.

And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

2 Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” 8 All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone. (Mark 9:1-8)

Our new-beginning…
We become “new creations” when we are saved, but we will not realize the fullness of being “new creations” until we are resurrected. Our bodies, which in this life are plagued with disease and decay, will be raised in perfection, immortal and eternal. I am looking forward to that glorious day when my body is fresh and new, when I can join David in dancing naked before the Lord.

The same God who created all things in the beginning has promised our new-beginning.

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:5)

I say with John, as he closed out the book of the Revelation; “Even so, come Lord Jesus!

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Promises II

And the Word became flesh…

As we saw last week, the coming of a Savior – the Messiah, was foretold through promises given to Godly men and women beginning in the Garden of Eden. We saw how God preserved a holy line, beginning with Seth, up to and through the great flood, establishing the house of Shem as the lineage from which the Savior would come. We are now up to the promises given to Abraham, that Isaac would be his heir, and that all nations would be blessed through him. As we pick up there, we will see how God selected certain families to carry the guide-on towards the coming of the Savior.

Isaac Is Born
21 Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. 2 So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. 4 Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

8 The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. (Genesis 21:1-8)

The Offering of Isaac
22 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1-19)

Isaac’s Sons
19 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”

24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:19-34)

Jacob’s Deception
27 Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 2 Isaac said, “Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; 4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die.”

5 Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. 9 Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. 10 Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.” 11 Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.” 13 But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” 14 So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. 15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.

18 Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” 20 Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God caused it to happen to me.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 And he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he said, “I am.” 25 So he said, “Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.” And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come close and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, 
“See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed; 28 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; 29 may peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”

30 Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 Then he also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” 32 Isaac his father said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” 34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” 36 Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 But Isaac replied to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.

39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him,
“Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. 40 “By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck.”

41 So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! 44 Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, 45 until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”

46 Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?” (Genesis 27)

Jacob Is Sent Away
28 So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.” 5 Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. (Genesis 28:1-5)

Jacob’s Dream
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Genesis 28:10-22)

Jacob Wrestles With God
24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip. (Genesis 32:24-32)

Closing thoughts…
As much as we would like to think that all the patriarchs were “saints“, they weren’t. When God didn’t provide the promised son soon enough to suit Abraham, he took matters into his own bedroom with another woman. Jacob was a master of dirty-dealing, bilking Esau out of both his birthright AND his father’s blessing. While we didn’t look at the chapters dealing with Jacob’s marriages and his dirty-dealings with his father-in-law, he was no “saint” there either. Jacob didn’t “deserve” the wonderful promises God gave to him, but God gave them anyway. These things should remind us that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called“, and as inadequate as we may feel to do the work of the Lord, we have His sure-promise that He will be with us all the way.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Promises

And the Word became flesh…

As we look back to the beginning of God’s relationship with His people, there is an unbroken chain of promises which were given to faithful men and women in the Old Testament. These are signposts which point forward to the culmination of God’s redemptive plan. Redemption is woven into the very fabric of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. The Incarnation wasn’t a “chance-event“, rather it was part of God’s plan from the beginning of time.

The first promise…
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Godly line of Seth…
25 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:25-26)

Enoch…
21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. 22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:21-24)

Line of Noah…
9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Genesis 6:9-10)

God’s covenant with creation…
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:20-22)

8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, 15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

18 Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. (Genesis 9:8-19)

In the line of Shem…
24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.”

26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. (Genesis 9:24-26)

10 These are the records of the generations of Shem. Shem was one hundred years old, and became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived five hundred years after he became the father of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters.

12 Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah; 13 and Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters.

14 Shelah lived thirty years, and became the father of Eber; 15 and Shelah lived four hundred and three years after he became the father of Eber, and he had other sons and daughters.

16 Eber lived thirty-four years, and became the father of Peleg; 17 and Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Peleg, and he had other sons and daughters.

18 Peleg lived thirty years, and became the father of Reu; 19 and Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after he became the father of Reu, and he had other sons and daughters.

20 Reu lived thirty-two years, and became the father of Serug; 21 and Reu lived two hundred and seven years after he became the father of Serug, and he had other sons and daughters.

22 Serug lived thirty years, and became the father of Nahor; 23 and Serug lived two hundred years after he became the father of Nahor, and he had other sons and daughters.

24 Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and became the father of Terah; 25 and Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after he became the father of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters.

26 Terah lived seventy years, and became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. (Genesis 11:10-26)

Promises to Abram…
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

Abram and Melchizedek…
17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

God’s covenant with Abram…
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”

2 Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)

The Sign of the covenant…
17 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. 2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.”

3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. 7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

9 God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” 19 But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” 22 When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

Birth of Isaac Promised
18 Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 17:1-22, 18:1-15)

God, in His providence, always maintained a line of Godly men and women down through the annals of time, men and women who were destined to be part of the lineage of the coming Savior. God hadn’t given up on His human image-bearers, and He was willing to do what it took to restore fallen humanity to a right relationship with Himself. We are privileged to be able to look back in time at these important events.

In Christ,
Steve