A Place for All People

In Mark 11:17, Jesus talks about the temple in Jerusalem and quotes a passage from Isaiah 56:7 that states, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations." In this passage, we see God's desire that the Jerusalem Temple and the entire nation of Israel would be a vessel that the Jerusalem Temple and the entire nation of Israel would be a vessel that would bless the rest of the world. When this temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian Exile, the new construction of the facility even included the "Court of the Gentiles," which was an outer court where non-Jews could come and witness God's people worshiping and serving the one true God of heaven and earth. The temple was created to be a place for all people, as well as a witness to the world that God was preparing to redeem mankind through the future sacrifice of His chosen lamb, the Lord Christ.

Week 3 January 14-20, 2018

In the Bible, we learn a lot about the heart of God through the dreams of men.

These dreams are not whimsical stories of wishful thinking, but divinely-inspired visions that capture the mysterious will of a sovereign Creator who has a special plan for His people.

We read in the final chapters of Genesis that Joseph not only dreamt about his own future as a ruler over his brothers, but he later interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh as a warning from the Lord that would help an entire nation prepare for a severe famine. In 1 Kings 3, we witness the prophetic dream of young King Solomon, who pleaded with God for wisdom to shepherd Israel and in return received his request, along with an abundance of riches and honor from God's generous hand. And in Daniel 2, we see the prophet Daniel exercise a divine gift to interpret the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar, as he explained the vision of a giant statue symbolizing the eventual rise and fall of several world powers under God's control.

But, as we turn to the pages of Genesis 28 in this week's reading, we need to consider the divine implications of another famous dream that shows us the desire of a heavenly Father to be close to His children.

In this dream known famously as "Jacob's Ladder," God constructs a majestic ladder that reaches from the heights of heaven to the depths of the earth. On this ladder, He appoints His angels to ascend and descend in plain view for His servant Jacob to see. Immediately following this vision, God promises to give Jacob a rich inheritance of land and an abundance of offspring to inhabit that land.

But the greatest promise that God makes in this dream is what strikes the heart of Jacob: God promises His presence.

In Genesis 28:15 the Lord says, "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 promised you."

In this promise, we see a God who wants to be a true father to Jacob. We also see, just one verse later, that Jacob's celebration of God's presence is more cherished than everything else he was promised, proclaiming, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it."

As you celebrate your walk with God through faith in Jesus Christ today, have you taken time to mediate on how wonderful it is that above every blessing God could possibly offer you, most of all He wants to give you the gift of His daily presence?

Proclaiming the Promise of the Lord's Presence

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Getting Up and Getting Out

In Genesis 39, we witness the story of Joseph being seduced by the wife of his direct supervisor Potiphar. Although he is wrongly accused and later imprisoned because Potiphar's wife framed him as a rapist, Joseph still demonstrates how all people of God should react in the midst of sinful deception: He fled. Genesis 39:12 says that Joseph "left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house." God later blessed and restored Joseph because of his innocence and integrity, and He will bless us to if we are committed to "getting up and getting out" when we are standing face-to-face with sin.



Living by a Law of Love

Living by a law of love seems so simple, yet we know it is not easy. When we encounter the teachings of Jesus Christ in the gospels, He tells us that every Old Testament law can be summed up by two things: Loving God and loving others. In Mark 12:30, Christ says the two greatest commandments are to "Love the Lord your God with all the heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself."

This love is not primarily an emotion, but a commitment to put God and others before ourselves and desire their greatest good at all times. We need to remember this command is something we pursue to honor and represent God, but it must be done in God's power and not ours. Only the work of God's Spirit in our own hearts can enable to love Him and love His creation the way He intended us to.

The Mandate & Mystery of Christ's Return

When it comes to predicting the events of the end of the world, we only know three things for sure: (1) Christ is coming back in bodily form; (2) Christ will not come back until all the nations have been reached with the gospel; (3) No one knows the day or time Christ will return. Two passages in this week's reading point to this reality. Mark 13:10 says "The gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations" before Christ returns, and Mark 13:32 states, "Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." These words should comfort us and also encourage us to stay focused on building God's Kingdom before His Son's return. It should also lead us to run in the other direction when someone claims to know the time or day of Christ's return, because Jesus has plainly told us that He Himself does not know when He will come back, but only God the Father does.

Calling Out to Our Creator

God gives us a wonderful invitation in Psalm 145 to call out to Him for His rich blessings, abiding presence, and sovereign protection. This invitation comes complete with a list of our human responsibilities and His divine responses. In verses 18-20 He tells us to call on Him, fear Him, cry to Him, and love Him. In response, He promises to draw near to us, fulfill our desires, hear our words, save our souls, and preserve our lives. This passage reveals to us God's fatherly heart and supreme power, but also the significance of making genuine human choices each day that pursue God's blessings and direction for our lives.

Tips to Keep You on Track

As we continue our reading this week through the final chapters of Genesis, we will get a more intimate look at God's power and purpose throughout the life of Joseph. When you study the final nine chapters of the book, pay close attention to the suffering that Joseph endures because of his faithfulness, as well as God's purpose to use those trials to achieve a greater good, for both people and nations.

Week 4 Readings: January 21 - 27

-Day One:  Genesis 41-42; Mark 16

-Day Two:  Genesis 43-44, Psalm 24; Galatians 1

-Day Three:  Genesis 45-46, Psalm 108; Galatians 2

-Day Four:  Genesis 47-48, Psalm 25; Galatians 3

-Day Five:  Genesis 49-50, Galatians 4