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Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

thanksOn November 26, 2008 I wrote my first blog for Bill’s Blog. It was a very simple blog entitled “Happy Thanksgiving!”, written the day before Thanksgiving of that year. Since then I’ve published 247 more. If each entry averages 600 words, then Bill’s Blog represents about 148,000 words. 

A lot has happened in Sheri’s and my life since that time. A lot. Sometimes we sit down and chat for a long time about the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, the churches in which we’ve ministered, the homes we’ve lived in, the homes we’ve bought, the homes we’ve sold … it’s been a wild and exciting ride. If everything we’ve experienced had been carefully chronicled, the number of words would be in the millions, for sure.

So today, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day 2014, I find myself wanting to repeat the same exact words I wrote back in 2008.  I cannot improve upon them, so I won’t even try. Tomorrow morning, we’ll number our blessings together, which should be a great time. 

Anyway, here are those words. Happy Thanksgiving!

_______________________________________________________

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, 2008. Coming up on my favorite holiday.

Why is that?

It’s the holiday that demonstrates the most comely attitude of the true believer, that of thanksgiving.

It’s a mark of the Spirit-filled life.

It enables one to get their focus off of themselves.

It eliminates complaining.

It takes into account the graciousness of God, and realizes what actually is. We owe everything to God.

I love this day. Friends, family, fellowship, food. A true 4-F holiday.

Signing off.

Bill Holdridge

 

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God’s Answer for Fear

September 3, 2014 Leave a comment

gods_answer

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)

 

When the LORD says “Do not be afraid,” it is because we are afraid. Something has rattled our cage; some sense of impending doom is upon us.Here Abram, the friend of God, was afraid. We need to know why he was afraid, and how the LORD addressed his fears.

Note the phrase after these things. This refers to the previous chapter, the chapter in which we’re told about Abram’s bold venture to rescue his nephew Lot and his heroic victory over four Canaanite kings. The reference to these things means that Abram became afraid after his victory.

What might he have been afraid of? Let us hazard a calculated guess: Abram was afraid that these defeated kings would regroup and come after him with a vengeance! If so, he was in a real tight spot! We can also deduce (from the LORD’s statement in v. 1) that Abram may have been afraid of having everything taken from him that God had given him.

The LORD assuages His friend’s fear by letting Abram know that He Himself would be His protection (his shield). Also, the LORD Himself would be Abram’s exceedingly great reward.

How large a shield do you think the LORD was to Abram? How much protection would the Almighty God provide to our father in the faith?

How great a reward is God Himself? How much does He, all by Himself, fulfill and enrich our lives?

How much does our God love those who believe in Him?

For Further Review

1.  What are you afraid of in your life, right now? What objective reasons do you have for feeling this way?

2.  Using this encounter between the LORD and Abram as a template, how might God personally speak into your situation?

3.  How has the LORD protected you in times past?

4.  How has He brought fulfillment into your life, just by knowing Him?

Tried and True Commitment

September 2, 2014 Leave a comment

downloadAnd the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.  Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, “that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’; except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” (Genesis 14:17-24)

This remarkable passage tells the story of Abram’s return from the heroic rescue of his nephew Lot, after he and his men recovered everything that had been taken by four victorious and powerful kings.

Two men met Abram that day. The first one mentioned was the king of Sodom, the king of that horrifically wicked city. The second was Melchizedek, described as the king of Salem, and the priest of the Most High God. This is the only historical reference to him in the Bible, although he is referred to in Hebrews chapter 7 as proof that there is a priesthood far superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant. Of course the author of Hebrews is referring to our Lord Jesus Christ and His eternal, unchangeable priesthood and intercession on behalf of those who are His (Hebrews 7:1-28; Psalms 110:4). The priesthood of Jesus Christ is infinitely superior to the priesthood under the law of Moses.

In this encounter Abraham would face a very powerful temptation. Many have said that the temptations of pride, money (mammon or wealth), and women (sex) are the temptations that are the greatest dangers for kingdom leaders; here, Abram faces the temptation of wealth. If he received the offer of possessions from the king of Sodom, he would have no doubt been one of the richest men in that part of the world. This was not just a temptation for Abram, it was also a test. Would he keep His oath that he had made to the Most High God? Would he wholly trust the God who owns everything to give him what he needed? Thankfully, Abram passed this test with flying colors.  

Abram had Divine help. Melchizedek had brought him bread and wine (symbols of communion), and had blessed him with a spiritual blessing. In response, Abram paid a tithe of everything to the priestly king. Armed with strength from God, Abram was able to keep his word and stand strong against temptation.

For Further Review

1.  Note that in Genesis 14 Melchizedek fulfilled the function of a priest, operated in the power of a prophet, and held the title of king. How do these positions compare with the offices and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ?

2.  First Abram was blessed by Melchizedek, then he went face to face with the king of Sodom. Why is the order of these two meetings important?

3.  How important is it to you to stand against temptation, or to pass a test from God? What is at stake in either case?

A Profile of Courage

September 1, 2014 Leave a comment

????????And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar. And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. (Genesis 14:1-16)

It was four kings against five, in a war being waged over very typical issues—subservient kings stopped paying tribute to their master, king Chedorlaomer. For twelve years they had been under his rule, but enough was enough, and they rebelled.

The war did not go well for the rebels, and they were soundly defeated. Included in the ranks of the defeated were the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram’s nephew Lot, who by that time had been living in Sodom, was taken captive along with all his possessions.

News of this horrible chain of events was communicated to Abram, who quickly sprang into action. Having armed his 318 servants, Abram and his men went after the captors, came upon them after a pursuit of 200 miles, fiercely attacked them, and rescued Lot, everyone with him, and all their possessions. It was a tremendous act of courage on Abram’s part, and a fortunate outcome for Lot, who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, living in Sodom.

The digression in Lot’s piety is made plain in scripture. First, Lot longed for the places of comfort and abundance, then he lived near Sodom, and finally he lived in Sodom. Eventually, this man … whom the Bible calls a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-8) … lost all influence living in the corrupt community of Sodom. His soul was vexed by the evil all around him, but he was powerless to effect any change in that city. Thus, Lot’s life becomes a warning to believers today. We are not to love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If we do, the Father’s love is not in us (1 John 2:15-17).

For Further Review

1.  Consider the courage of this man Abram. What do you think? Do you think he was at all afraid? If so, how do you think he dealt with his fear? How does 1 John 4:18 influence your answer?

2.  Consider the commitment of Abram to his nephew Lot. Note that even though Lot was in fact Abram’s nephew, the scripture calls him Abram’s brother as well. Now consider 1 John 3:14,16. How do these verses affect the kind of commitment we should have with other true believers?

3.  How can we avoid a digression in piety, as occurred in Lot’s life. Refer to 2 Peter 1:5-10 to help you with your answer.

Spiritual Recovery

When something bad happens, you have threeThen Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 13:1-4)

Sometimes, true believers need to go into what might be called recovery mode … into a season of spiritual restoration which will lead to more fruitful days ahead. Recovery mode is usually made necessary because of our sins or errors in judgment.

When Abram finally returned to Canaan (“the South”), he was in such a condition. It had been a rough time for him in Egypt. Perhaps driven by fear, perhaps driven by feelings of necessity—Abram went into that land to make it his home. But God had not called him there, and the situation was made worse because he lacked confidence in the providence of God (and because his wife Sarai was a beautiful woman). Abram did not yet fully believe that God was in complete control of the affairs of his and his family’s lives, so he relied upon partial deception to steer clear of trouble.

Abram’s sins were ultimately exposed, and Pharaoh ordered him and his family to leave the country in shame. Therefore this man of God had nowhere to go but to the place God had initially called him. He went back to Canaan, eventually making his way to Bethel in the north, to the exact place where he had once lived.

It was at that very place that Abram called—once again—on the name of the Lord. There was the altar there, his previous place of worship. And so once more, Abram bowed in dependence upon the One who had called him.

There is a definite pattern in Abram’s story: first, he errs and gets into the kind of trouble that sin and unbelief always produce; second, he is brought face to face with his sin and faces the consequences; third, he goes back to the beginnings of his faith, to a memorable and pleasant time when it was well with his soul and spirit; and fourth, he worshiped and got his eyes fixed wholly upon God.

When we face such a recovery process, the Lord takes us through these same kinds of steps. It’s humbling to go through it, but necessary for spiritual growth. The branch that bears fruit must be pruned that it might produce even more fruit (John 15:2). The humble in God’s sight are lifted up by Him (James 4:10). We go down, He raises us up (Psalms 147:6).

What was true in Abram’s life, will also be true in ours. When God lifts us up, we will be back. When He produces more fruit, it will be evident to others. When He raises us up, we will be strong … once again … in Him.

For Further Review

1.  Can you think of a time when through your own sin or error in judgment, you found yourself in a difficult situation? How did the Lord help you come through that time?

2.  How important is it that we are honest about the paths we may have taken that got us into spiritual trouble? How does 1 John 1:8-10 help in answering this question?

3.  Proverbs 24:16a is an interesting passage and pertinent passage with regard to spiritual recovery. How does that verse encourage you toward spiritual health?

When Faith is Stumbling Faith

abram egyptNow there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.” So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had. (Genesis 12:10-20)

Although the text doesn’t say so specifically, some Bible commentators believe that Abram should not have gone down to Egypt to escape the famine. They believe Abram should have remained in the land of promise, and that the LORD would have somehow provided for him there. They point out that later in the Bible’s history, Egypt became a picture of the world; therefore, for Abram to go to Egypt in a time of trouble was tantamount to going to the world for help instead of going to God Himself.

This is a tenable point of view. After all, God called Abram to Canaan, not to Egypt. And, Abram being in Egypt did not work out too well. On top of what happens in Genesis 12, they brought an Egyptian slave girl back to Canaan with them, and that resulted in further complications for this family (Genesis 16).

Nevertheless, Abram ended up in Egypt. Then another problem was created, stemming from the fact that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. To have her, the Egyptians could very well have killed Abram. So Abram concocted a plan which involved the telling of a half-truth. Sarai was indeed Abram’s half-sister, as they had the same father (Genesis 20:12). But the fact remained: she was primarily Abram’s wife. Thus, his half-truth was really a lie.

Pharaoh had no idea he had been lied to. God’s mercy kept him from sinning against Him and against Abram, although it required radical measures (the plagues against Pharaoh’s household) to get the king’s attention. Apparently, that was what Pharaoh needed. Later, ten plagues were required to convince another Pharaoh that he should let Israel go away from Egypt.

While being merciful to Pharaoh, the LORD was also being merciful to Abram. He too was kept from egregious sin … he was kept from sinning against the LORD, and from sinning against his wife by putting her into an immoral and potentially dangerous situation.

For Further Review

1.  Have you ever relied upon the world (1 John 2:15-16) in a situation wherein you actually should have relied on the Lord? What was the outcome? What did you learn from that situation?

2.  Why is a half-truth actually a lie? Why is it morally wrong to lie?

3.  Cite an example in your own life when the Lord kept you from committing a horrible sin. Now consider Matthew 6:13. Why is it important to pray that prayer every day? 

 

God’s Promise of Land to Israel

August 25, 2014 1 comment

landSo Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South. (Genesis 12:4-9) 

There is no escaping the fact that included in the promises the LORD made to Abram was the promise of the land. This promise was not just for Abram, but also for his descendants (Genesis 12:7). Specifically, God was talking about Abram’s descendants that would come through his heir. That heir was most definitely Isaac, and not Ishmael (Genesis 15:3-5, 15:13, 17:5-9, 26:1-3; Exodus 6:6-8, 32:13, 33:1, Deuteronomy 1:6-8, 9:5, 34:1-4). Therefore, the promise of the land was to Israel, and not to the Arabs.

God could make a promise re: the land because He owns it. He can give the land to whomever He chooses.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. (Psalms 24:1)

This promise of the land is repeated and made more specific throughout the rest of the Old Testament. See Genesis 13:14-17, 15:18-21; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Jeremiah 30:1-3; Amos 9:14-15 as examples. This promise communicates God’s purposes and faithfulness as He fulfills His promises to Israel. Only those who reject the Bible as God’s authoritative word will deny these truths.

It is significant that Abram built an altar to the LORD right after God made him these promises. It was time for him to worship. It was time for Abram to consecrate himself—to offer himself to God. God’s Word elicits such a response. When we learn of His commitments to us, it is natural and right for us to react with worship.

For Further Review

1.  Where do you stand with regard to Israel’s current status in the land? Upon what have you based your viewpoint?

2.  Consider God’s faithfulness with regard to Israel. Learn something about their history. How do God’s ways re: Israel encourage you in your own walk with God?

3.  Remember the last time you remembered or received a promise from God. How did that translate into worship in your life? If it did not, it is not too late. Worship now!