Genesis 22:9-14 Video Devotional

“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”” (Genesis 22:9-14)

If you are looking for an obvious reference to Jesus in the Old Testament, this one should be about the clearest. The setup to the story has quite the makeup for a scandalous situation – after all, this is the one true God who is asking His most faithful follower to sacrifice His only son (who God earlier promised to Him). What seems like a horrific test of a servant is not what it seems – if you have a little higher perspective.

Just to clear any doubts, God never intended to let Abraham kill Isaac. It was never about that; yes, God was challenging Abraham’s trust, but at the same time God was giving Abraham (and us through scripture) a glimpse into the real sacrifice. We see this in verse 14, “Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

It is commonly accepted that Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac happened on Mt Moriah. That hill also happens to be the same place that King David purchased from Auranah the Jebusite to sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord (2 Samuel 24:18-25). This is significant because the explanation of that passage in 2 Samuel is describing what the true king will be (hint: prophet, priest and king). Even more crucial is that this same hill is also known as Golgotha, or Calvary. This hill that Abraham almost sacrificed his son, but with the provision of the ram, Abraham called that hill “the Lord will provide”, is the very hill that Jesus died on taking punishment for our sins.

The Lord provided on that hill with the words “it is finished” the salvation for everyone who believes. Isaac was a glimpse of the coming rescuer, our Messiah. This is a clear and direct promise to Jesus and foreshadowing of the cataclysmic event that would be required for our salvation. Hebrews says that the blood of culls and goats is not enough to take away the sins of the world (Hebrews 10). Jesus was, and is, and will always be, enough.

Genesis 15:7-16 Video Devotional

“And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”” (Genesis 15:7-16)

In the olden days, it is often quoted that “your word was your bond”. With the number of times I had to sign my name on mortgage papers, I am guessing that line doesn’t mean as much as it used to. No longer can we say, “take me at my word” or “Let’s shake on it” as those phrases don’t hold meaning anymore.

I’m not sure “your word” counted for too much back in ancient times, either. Take this whole idea of a covenant. When this was made between two people, they would cut the animals in half, then each walk in between them to symbolize that if either of them broke the covenant, then cutting them in half would be the appropriate response.

And it is that fact that makes this passage so powerful as a promise of God. Notice who walks through the covenant promise? God ALONE. Abram was sound asleep – meaning that this was a one-way covenant. It had nothing to do with Abram or his (or anyone else’s) actions. This is an unconditional covenant with all of the responsibility squarely on God. This journey He took Abram on is purely to develop the line of Jesus, while showing that He is all-patient and all-powerful.

Our God is an amazing God! Can you share a time when you saw God act unconditionally on your behalf?

Genesis 12:1-3 Video Devotional

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

I wonder what hearing this must have felt like to Abram. A child-less husband, getting on in years is told he will become a great nation and all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. What a promise! What an improbable promise. There are a lot of things riding on this, the first of which is actually having a child; that being a problem for Abram and his bride, Sarai.

What exactly is this blessing? The United States has historically used this verse as their reasoning for holding political ties with Israel. Is that really what God meant? I don’t think so. Looking back through Israel’s history, what blessing could be so powerful that it literally blesses every family on earth? Jesus. Jesus is the blessing – the gospel, the salvation of all humans who believe, which we see in Revelation that is from every tribe, every tongue, every nation. Every family will be blessed with the gift of Jesus.

So why preface it with the “bless those who bless you” and vice versa part? Looking at it in its context makes this answer simple: because God was protecting the line of Christ – the line of the promise. This is proven historically as well. No matter how evil Israel got as a nation, God continued to bless them. Why? Because they deserved it or were entitled to it? No, of course not. They were blessed because of this promise – Jesus was on His way, but the lineage had to be protected and blessed.

God gives promises for a reason – and keeps them no matter what. With God, there is no variation or shifting shadow; no change (James 1). He is faithful, yesterday, today and forever. So for us, that means we are blessed through Abram – Jesus is our gift, our blessing, our salvation!

2 Timothy 1:8-12 Video Devotional

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do.” (2 Timothy 1:8-12)

Creation, fall, redemption. That’s how most people look at the story of the Bible. And, it is true – if you start reading in Genesis 1 and go straight through, that is the liner view we get. However, that is not the actual order of how it happened. As we can see in verse 9 (above), God gave us grace and purpose before the ages began. Let’s unpack that.

Imagine being able to go back before the world was created. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were all sitting around and talking about what they want to do. Brainstorming this act of creation. At that point, while the world was still formless and void, you were on the mind of God. They gave you purpose and grace before creation happened. In order to do that, it also means that redemption was planned before the world was created. I imagine it like this (this is a scenario I imagine – not scripture).

“We should create a race of beings that we can love and bless. We could show them the purest form of love and pour that love out on them in droves. Let’s give them real, sacrificial love. We should give our life for theirs! Sacrificing for our creation would show them the best love. Jesus will go to earth, sacrifice Himself to free people from their sin and give them eternity and purpose. Cool – let there be light!”

Redemption, creation, fall. That is the actual order of how the world came to be. Before the ages began, friend, you were on God’s mind. He has had a purpose and plan for you, along with loads of grace, waiting for your time on the earth. You were intentional, planned and are fully loved – from before the ages began!

That’s the God we serve, follow, trust and love. Enjoy Him today!

Genesis 3:14-15 Video Devotional

The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

A promise. Whether it is small or large, a promise is one of the key components of trust. Parents are judged by their children on their ability to keep promises. Politicians are judged on their ability to keep promises. When promises are broken, trust begins to erode. When they are upheld, the foundation is secured. People need kept promises. It gives us comfort, confidence, and consistency necessary to step out in faith.

This is important in our relationship with God as well. After all, He created us this way and promised us many things; He’d never flood the earth again (Genesis 9), we are never alone (Hebrews 13), He loves us unconditionally (Romans 8), we are created intentionally and given purpose (Psalm 139), etc… God’s keeping of these promises gives us a consistent Lord that we can trust, rely on and step out to serve in the midst of risk.

With that in mind, this promise in Genesis 3 is quite vital. He tells the serpent how it will all end. Evil (sin) will bite His heel, but He will crush its head. This is the initial promise of Jesus and is laid out perfectly on the cross. Evil thought it ad scored the major victory with Jesus’ lifeless body hanging on that tree. But, on the third day, Jesus crushed its head by rising from the dead and securing forgiveness and eternal life for all who trust in Him.

With this curse handed to the snake, God promised that good would win, evil would be defeated and destroyed, and restoration would come. That’s a pretty amazing promise!

John 14:1-7 Video Devotional

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7)

While working with Nari through her morning devotionals, we discussed Genesis 9 (the promise of the rainbow) and the power and impact of God’s promises. It is amazing that the rainbow – something so peaceful and consistent – it one of the best reminders we have that God always fulfills His promises. The rainbow has been a consistent presence at every rain since the promise to Noah. That is huge! Why? Because it shows us that God keeps His promises!

That’s why this passage in John 14 can be so comforting; this is a promise from Jesus. He is going to prepare a place for us and will come back to take us there. That means this is NOT the end! It means there is something different; something better. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus created the way to heaven. The mansion of mansions is waiting for us.

Be encouraged my friends! This difficult trial is not the end. Blessings to you!

Hebrews 12:1-3 Video Devotional

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

I may have good excuses for being exhausted lately, but they are nothing compared to friends that are taking extra jobs, including night shift work to provide for and protect their families. People who are doing what it takes to properly care for their loved ones are to be commended during this time (and any time, for that matter). 

And even they are not alone in this. Everyone is exhausted. Mentally, physically, socially, emotionally. Maybe even spiritually. This is a time when we can very easily be weak and become more prone to sin. I know temptations have been higher for myself and I am sure I am not alone in that.

That’s where today’s verses come in – friends, this is an long range situation we are in and we have to endure through it. There is no option; either we endure or we die. To do that, we need to shed the sin and get ourselves free of entanglements – then stare straight at Jesus and run! He will give us the strength and energy we need – just keep your eyes on Him.

As a way of running towards Jesus and connecting with the hall of fame in Hebrews 11, please reply to this thread or make a new post and tag me/the church in it and share your testimonial. What was the key turning point that brought you to trust in Jesus? I would really love to hear your story. Blessings to you!

James 1:26-27 Video Devotional

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

There are 3 churches in California filing suit against the Governor over the “right to congregate”. Pastors have been arrested for holding church services and some churches have been absolutely devastated by COVID-19 because they continued to hold services. As people begin to push and long to get back to normal life, this question and argument will only intensify. What to do?

I pose to you today the age old question for Christians – are my rights more important than someone else’s? Do I hold onto my rights or lay them down for another? We see Christ’s example in Philippians 2. Let me challenge you today that there is no righteous indignation toward China or the Wuhan province for the outbreak of this virus. What happened, happened and it does not one any good to dwell or blame.

Instead, I entreat you to pray for them – lift them up to God and ask that He would save them through Christ. Pray that He would use this pandemic for His glory and to spread His gospel across the globe. Pray that the gospel would be as contagious as COVID-19! Then ask how you can participate in the sufferings of Jesus – maybe there is something you don’t need (or a right you don’t need to hold on to) that can make it easier for someone else to meet Jesus.

Any thoughts? I would love to hear how you are processing this conundrum between getting back to normal life and staying extra cautious for the sake of others. Have a great afternoon!

Ephesians 2:11-16 Video Devotional

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:11-16)

Friends, as funny as some social media memes can be, plenty of others are made out of frustration and even anger. I have seen numerous posts and memes calling for the virus to be named after the Chinese or the Wuhan province; violence against Asians (New Yorker); and people blaming the Chinese for the virus. This is sad.

Whether or not any of it is correct is irrelevant. The problem is that the saving power of Christ brings people together under unity. With that as our banner, why on earth would we want to build up a dividing wall against other cultures or ethnicities? Jesus broke that down!

The point of what I am saying is this: because of who we are as the church and our calling to spread the gospel of PEACE, maybe we should live it out in our actions and not propagate, share or encourage behavior that puts a target on anyone’s back (literally or physically). They will know we are Christians by our love, dear friends.

Genesis 1:1-2:3 Video Devotional

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 1:31-2:3)

Humanity is naturally inquisitive. We can’t help but look at things and desire to understand how it works; what makes it tick. This is no different when we look at spiritual things. We want to understand how God did certain things. Miracles astonish us because they defy natural order; crisis-es (such as the one we are dealing with today) frustrate us, because there is no clear answer; and death frightens us because we can’t see past it.

If we can’t take it apart and figure out how something works, as humans, that things becomes bothersome. We are naturally curious; we have to know the answer. This part of our being is a good thing and has led us to many advancements in society, but is not all good. It has a tendency to push us past of point of acceptance on some things and refuse to take the answer we are given. Again, in many cases this is good – but it is not always.

Case in point: the tendency in reading the first chapter in Genesis is to seek to find how God created. We look for details and connect “facts” together. Many read this chapter literally. They see words like “morning and evening, the first day” and take that as a 24 hour period. They read what happens on day 5 and make conclusions from there.

The problem is that Genesis 1 is not a literal, step by step recount of the act of creation. Reading the complete “creation account” of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is not prose with detailed evidential backing. It is a song; a poem. Look at the rhythm, the rhyming, repeated phrases. It reads more like a beautiful worship chorus than evidential law.

This doesn’t necessarily change anything; but it shows us that we are asking the wrong questions here – our curiosity has gotten the better of us. Instead of asking how or why God created, Genesis 1 is more interested in answering the question of WHO created. Who is this God that took chaotic nothingness and gave it order, made it beautiful, and gave it life?

I challenge you to read Genesis 1 everyday for the rest of this week and dwell on the God who did it. His power, His beauty, His goodness. Enjoy the music of creation; not just the words on the page, but the sounds of birds chirping in the backyard, the wind humming through the trees, and the laughter of a loved one. Don’t worry about how He made this world. Just enjoy the God that did. He gave this world life and personality – which means He has personality and desires love and relationship with you. He is artistic and this world (including the truth of what we are going through today) is His art!

Philippians 4:15-23 Video Devotional

“And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philippians 4:15-23)

One of the things that is really cool about this letter is that the church followed through! This book ends on a high note because the Philippian church continued to live out loud and participate in the sufferings of Paul (and Jesus, most importantly).

This allows Paul’s closing remarks to be encouragement focused on continuing the journey together. Their gift/sacrifice has been received and they are participating in the work of God. Paul then finishes with the reminder that God will supply everything they need according to the riches of His glory in Christ.

Friends, the application is clear and simple. When you put God first, He will take care of everything else. Put His needs above yours, which is a great way to participate in Christ, and He will supply every necessary thing. Blessings to you all!

Philippians 4:10-14 Video Devotional

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” (Philippians 4:10-14)

In the previous verses, Paul had just laid down his challenge, which was to focus on Christ and on the good. Turning things personal, Paul recaps the main point of the letter (participating with Christ means participating in His suffering for the sake of the gospel) by sharing how his hardships are teachers for him in his own personal growth. He knows he can be content and face any situation, because, in Christ, he can do all things.

The 13th verse here is famously misunderstood the world around. So many times this verse hangs in weight rooms, ball parks, motivational signage and anywhere else people want to “succeed”. There is a similar problem with Jeremiah 29:11 – so I know the plans I have for you; plans for a hope and a future… The problem is that God was telling the Israelites that while they were heading into exile in Babylon. Paul is not claiming Christ’s strength to win a prize; he is calling on Christ’s strength to thrive through the enormous challenges of his current situation.

He can face prison, persecution, pain. He can deal with fighting, fear, and fakers. Regardless of the situation he is in, Paul is prepared because the strength of Christ is in him – because Christ is in him through the Holy Spirit. We can face pandemic, panic, and even poverty, because we are citizens of Heaven!

Please share in the comments what you are enjoying most about this quarantine. What brings your heart contentment during this time?