Chapter OneJANUARY 1
THAT LOOKS TEMPTING
Diets can be maddening because they make it so
difficult to stick to your convictions. The plan looks
great, with a limit on calories or grams of fat per
day and a list of prohibited or acceptable edibles.
But when offered a piece of pie, you give in to the
temptation, forgetting your diet and your resolution
to lose weight. This struggle is real. It's war.
This passage right at the beginning of the Bible tells
all about the origin of the world, life, people, and
work. It also covers husband-wife relationships. Closest
to home, it explains how a perfect world went
wrong and why human beings have struggled since
then against all sorts of evil. It tells about temptation.
Read Genesis 1:1-3:24
Everyone struggles with temptation. We are tempted
to lie, to cheat, to steal, and to indulge ourselves in
countless ways that God has forbidden. We give in
because of Satan (Genesis 3:1-6). Temptation is Satan's
invitation to live his kind of life and give up on God's.
Satan tempted Eve and succeeded in getting her to
sin; soon after, Adam yielded to the pull of Satan's
tempting offer. So sin entered the world, and every
person since has been born a sinner. Today, Satan is
busy trying to get us to give in to his temptations.
Eve and Adam could have resisted temptation by
remembering what God had commanded them. We
must realize that being tempted is not sin. We have
not sinned until we give in to the temptation. To resist
temptation, we must (1) pray for strength to resist (see
Matthew 6:13),(2) say no when confronted with what we know is wrong (see James 4:7),
and (3) run away from the temptation, sometimes literally (see Genesis 39:12). James 1:12
tells of the blessings and rewards for those who don't give in when tempted.
As you read about the tragic fall of our perfect ancestors, watch the progression of temptation
and sin. Then determine to obey God rather than believe Satan's lies. Resist Satan
and his temptations, and live.
1 The serpent was the shrewdest of
all the wild animals the Lord God
had made. One day he asked the
woman, "Did God really say you
must not eat the fruit from any
of the trees in the garden?" 2 "Of
course we may eat fruit from the
trees in the garden," the woman
replied. 3 "It's only the fruit from the
tree in the middle of the garden
that we are not allowed to eat.
God said, `You must not eat it or
even touch it; if you do, you will
die.'" 4 "You won't die!" the serpent
replied to the woman. 5 "God knows
that your eyes will be opened as
soon as you eat it, and you will be
like God, knowing both good and
evil." 6 The woman . saw that
the tree was beautiful and its fruit
looked delicious So she took
some of the fruit and ate it. Then
she gave some to her husband,
who was with her, and he ate it,
How do you react when someone suggests that you
have done something wrong? Do you move to correct
the mistake, or do you deny that you have a problem
or need to do anything? What about when the critic
is someone in your family?
This reading describes Adam and Eve's immediate
family. It focuses mostly on Cain, the first son-his
choices and what God thought of them. Don't read
too fast or you will miss important details-but it's all
there, including the most horrifying fact of all: Cain
killed his brother, Abel. Our experiences today mirror
what occurred between these two brothers, however
horrifying, because theirs is the story of what can
happen when anger and jealousy rule.
Tangles in the ties that bind-reacting to criticism,
jealousy, sibling rivalry-all appear in this passage. The
lessons bear remembering, so you'd better go slow.
Read Genesis 4:1-5:32
Cain's failures hinged on his reaction to God's
rebuke (Genesis 4:6-7). We don't know why God
rejected Cain's sacrifice. But instead of listening to
God, learning, and changing his ways, he reacted
impulsively. Cain was wrong, yet he would not accept
responsibility for or deal with it. He countered God's
correction with anger and denial.
After Cain's sacrifice was rejected, God gave him the
chance to right his wrong and try again. God even
encouraged him to do so, but Cain proudly refused.
The rest of Cain's life is a startling example of what
happens to those who refuse to admit their mistakes. It also shows what happens when
we blame others for our problems and allow anger to build.
As you read this passage, learn from Cain's mistakes. Then the next time someone suggests
you are wrong, especially God, take an honest look at yourself, and make the necessary
3 When it was time for the harvest,
Cain presented some of his crops
as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also
brought a gift-the best of the
firstborn lambs from his flock. The
Lord accepted Abel and his gift,
5 but he did not accept Cain and
his gift. This made Cain very angry,
and he looked dejected. 6 "Why
are you so angry?" the Lord asked
Cain 7 "You will be accepted
if you do what is right. But if you
refuse to do what is right, then
watch out! Sin is crouching at the
door, eager to control you. But
you must subdue it and be its
master." 8 One day Cain suggested
to his brother, "Let's go out into
the fields." And while they were in
the field, Cain attacked his brother,
Abel, and killed him. 9 Afterward the
Lord asked Cain, "Where is your
brother? Where is Abel?" "I don't
know," Cain responded. "Am I my
The end of the world is always near, according to
somebody. This person's placard states that we had
better change our ways-or die. That group proclaims
that the Lord will return one hundred days after the
next presidential election. Each week brings numerous
alarms from environmental and nutritional activists
or religious and political zealots. Most people
stopped listening long ago to the warnings of these
"kooks" or "extremists," as they are labeled.
That's probably how people responded to Noah. This
passage tells the story of the Flood, how Noah and his
family built an ark in obedience to God, in response
to his warning that the earth would be destroyed.
Only a few generations had passed since Adam and
Eve, yet Noah was the only righteous person living.
The Bible doesn't state that people mocked Noah,
but it certainly shows that no one listened to him or
to God. This familiar story pictures God's mercy and
the consequences when people forget (or stop caring)
about their Creator.
The story also gives a snapshot of patience (living
in an ark for more than a year); doing what is right
in the face of criticism and ridicule ("Why would
you build an ark now and here?"); and gratitude (for
Read Genesis 6:1-8:22
Noah got right to work when God told him to build
the ark (Genesis 6:22). It seems that other people had
been warned about the coming disaster (see 1 Peter
3:20) but, apparently, did not expect it to happen. This
is how people today often react to warnings, even warnings from God. Each day, thousands
are told of God's inevitable judgment, yet most don't really believe it will occur.
Don't expect people to welcome or accept your message of God's coming judgment
on sin. Those who don't believe in God will scoff at his judgment and try to get you to
deny God as well.
As you read this passage, note God's covenant with Noah to keep him safe and God's
promise to the world. Then determine to do what God tells you to do, despite the
opposition, trusting him to bring you through the flood.
9 This is the account of Noah and
his family. Noah was a righteous
man, the only blameless person
living on earth at the time, and he
walked in close fellowship with
God. 10 Noah was the father of three
sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now God saw that the earth had
become corrupt and was filled
with violence. 12 God observed all
this corruption in the world, for
everyone on earth was corrupt. 13
So God said to Noah, "I have decided
to destroy all living creatures, for
they have filled the earth with
violence. Yes, I will wipe them all
out along with the earth! 14 Build
a large boat from cypress wood
and waterproof it with tar, inside
and out. Then construct decks and
stalls throughout its interior"
22 So Noah did everything exactly as
God had commanded him.
GENESIS 6:9-14, 22
SHINE THE SPOTLIGHT
We build monuments to great moments and great
people. "Lest we forget" is etched on the bronze plates
of more than one statue. But monuments are more
than just memory aids; in building them we want,
above all, to glorify something. We want to honor a
person or idealize an event.
Shortly after the Flood, God made a covenant (or
agreement) with Noah and his descendants. But
soon the people forgot God, his goodness, his deliverance,
his judgment, and his promise. And they
became impressed with themselves, so much so that
they decided to erect a monument-to themselves.
They built their tower to glorify their greatness; it
became, instead, a memorial to their (and our) greatest
We can learn several lessons in this passage: (1) God
is good and merciful to us. (2) God is greater than we
are. (3) All humans are connected by sin.
Read Genesis 9:1-11:32
The people in this story built the Tower of Babel for
the whole world to see (Genesis 11:3-4). This tower
was most likely a ziggurat, a common structure in
Babylonia at the time. Usually built as temples, ziggurats
looked like pyramids with steps or ramps leading
up the sides. Standing as high as three hundred
feet and often just as wide, a ziggurat would stand out
as the focal point of a city.
Today, people may not build statues, temples, or pyramids,
but they still erect monuments (achievements,
expensive clothes, big houses, fancy cars, important jobs) to call attention to themselves.
When used to give personal identity and self-worth, these otherwise worthy pursuits
take God's place. God gives us freedom to develop in many areas, but not the freedom
to replace him.
As you read, check out the attitudes of the builders in the story, and consider any "towers"
that you may be building. Tear down anything that stands in God's place.
1 At one time all the people of the
world spoke the same language
and used the same words. 2 As
the people migrated to the east,
they found a plain in the land of
Babylonia and settled there. 3 They
began saying to each other, "Let's
make bricks and harden them with
fire." . 4 Then they said, "Come,
let's build a great city for ourselves
with a tower that reaches into the
sky. This will make us famous and
keep us from being scattered all
over the world." 5 But the Lord came
down to look at the city and the
tower the people were building.
6 "Look!" he said. "The people are
united, and they all speak the same
language. After this, nothing they
set out to do will be impossible for
them! 7 Come, let's go down and
confuse the people with different
languages. Then they won't be able
to understand each other."
DO YOU TRUST ME?
No close relationship can function without trust. Like
a huge diamond, hope is the largest, most precious,
most irreplaceable component of every relationship.
It is so difficult to get and yet so easy to lose.
This passage opens with one of the most significant
events in the Bible-Abram receiving God's call.
Abram's calling established the covenant (or agreement)
by which God created the nation of Israel,
his chosen people. Abram's move to Canaan and the
challenges he faced living there with his nephew
Lot stretched his faith the way life's challenges often
stretch ours. With this calling God posed the question
to Abram: Do you trust me?
This story also includes lessons about selfishness; generosity;
helping out family; taking risks; and honoring
Read Genesis 12:1-14:24
God promised to bless Abram and to make him great.
There was one condition to this promise, however:
Abram had to do what God wanted him to do (Genesis
12:2). This meant leaving his home and friends
and traveling to a new land, where God promised
to build a great nation from Abram's family. Abram
obeyed, walking away from his home, his comfort
zone, accepting God's promise of even greater blessings
in the future. Abram believed God, and he demonstrated
his trust through his actions.
It's difficult to step out in faith. We know the past and
can feel secure in the present. The future, though, is
unknown and risky. But when God leads, we can follow,
confident that his way is best.
As you read this passage, watch Abram live by faith. And think of where God may be
trying to lead you to better serve him. Don't let the comfort and security of your present
position make you miss God's plan for you. Be flexible and willing to change.
1 The Lord had said to Abram,
"Leave your native country, your
relatives, and your father's family,
and go to the land that I will
show you. 2 I will make you into
a great nation. I will bless you
and make you famous, and you
will be a blessing to others. 3 I will
bless those who bless you and
curse those who treat you with
contempt. All the families on earth
will be blessed through you." 4 So
Abram departed as the Lord had
instructed, and Lot went with him.
Abram was seventy-five years
old when he left Haran. 5 He took
his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot,
and all his wealth-his livestock
and all the people he had taken
into his household at Haran-and
headed for the land of Canaan.
When they arrived in Canaan,
6 Abram traveled through the land
as far as Shechem.
PLEASE WAIT .
Right turns on red, your keyboard's escape key, and
speeding tickets all testify to our hatred for waiting.
More often than not, when we hear "Please wait," we
want to say, "No, thank you." We are often asked to
wait, and are often not good at complying.
It's a small wonder, then, that Abram and Sarai stopped
waiting for God. We see their faith weaken and fail
when Sarai and Abram agree to bring Hagar into the
process of starting a family. As a result, Ishmael is born.
Despite Abram and Sarai's impulsive decision, God
reaffirms his promise and establishes the covenant of
circumcision-a permanent sign of his relationship
with Abram's descendants.
As you read, watch for other lessons on patience;
trusting God to do what he promises; and not taking
matters into your own hands.
Read Genesis 15:1-17:27
Abram and Sarai had trouble believing God's promise
and began thinking up creative ways to manipulate
events and have a child (Genesis 16:1-3). A married
woman who could not have children was shamed by
her peers and was often required to give a female servant
to her husband in order to produce an heir. The
children born to the servant woman were considered
the children of the wife.
When Sarai gave Hagar to Abram, they were acting
in line with the custom of the day, but this action
revealed their lack of faith that God would fulfill his
promise. Consequently, a series of problems arose.
This invariably happens when we take over for God and try to fulfill his promises
through efforts that are not in line with his specific directions. In this case, time provided
the greatest test of Abram and Sarai's faith and their willingness to let God work in their
lives. Sometimes, we, too, must simply wait. When we ask God for something and have to
wait, we are tempted to take matters into our own hands and interfere with God's plans.
Do your continual prayers seem to go unanswered? Do you feel yourself getting impatient
with God as you wait for him to fulfill his promise and meet your need? Consider
what God might be teaching you in the process. Obey God, and trust him for the outcome.