Debbie W. Wilson is an award-winning author, Bible teacher, and former Christian counselor who speaks and writes to connect fellow sojourners to the heart of Christ. Her books include Give Yourself a Break, Little Women, Big God, and Little Faith, Big God.
She and her husband lead Lighthouse Ministries, a non-profit Christian counseling and Bible teaching ministry. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, Debbie still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Connect with Debbie, find free resources, and learn about her books at debbieWwilson.com.
When you think of Abraham, what comes to mind? His physical descendants include the Jews and the Arabs. From Abraham came the three main religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jesus, the Messiah is a direct descendant of Abraham. Abraham is known in every corner of the world. What a great name he has.
Did you know his greatness springs from a promise God made with him? As we’ll see, it was more than a promise. It began with a binding covenant God made with Abraham.
My friend Joe Thompson has studied covenants extensively. He points out that to understand a covenant, we must understand a covenant’s original meaning. Most think of a covenant like a contract. “A covenant is to a contract as a car is to a bicycle. Both may transport you but there is a world of difference,” he says.
Joe contrasts the difference between a contract and a covenant:
- Contracts deal with the exchange of goods and/or services and can be broken if the other party defaults.
- The purpose of a covenant was to establish and/or secure a relationship.
The first biblical mention of a covenant appears in Genesis 6:18 when God promised to spare Noah and his family from the pending flood. The second time occurs when God promised to never again destroy the earth with water (Gen. 9:11). God gave us the rainbow as a sign of this covenant (Gen. 9:13).
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Perhaps the sacrifice of serving alongside Paul began to wear on him. He saw other men his age settling down and enjoying the pleasures of this life. Would it be so wrong to sample the good life?
Joy. Who couldn’t use more joy? Someone once said joy comes from having our priorities in the right order—God, others, and then you. Putting God first brings joy to our hearts. But how do we always put God first when sick children demand our attention or work deadlines hang over our heads?
Many pastors and Bible teachers suggest getting our priorities right by putting God first on our list of responsibilities and interests. They list spouse, children, work, and ministry underneath Him. While a list helps us visualize how our priorities rank, another illustration works better for me.
Instead of looking at God as the first on a long list of commitments, I like to picture my life as a pie cut into slices with God as the hub. Making Him the center means His influence permeates every slice of my life. As circumstances change, God will lead me to invest more time and energy into different pie slices. Sick children require more attention. Some projects will cut into time that would normally be allocated to other areas. God directs and empowers all my time according to the need at hand.
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My husband needed to pick up a receipt from FedEx. He sensed the Lord prompt him to grab the Krispy Kreme gift card on his desk as he was leaving to give to the man who’d helped him over the phone. My husband is a generous man, but Larry had envisioned offering the card to one of his counseling clients whenever it seemed appropriate.
An argument rose in his mind. What if I see a family that could really use this card? What if I wish I’d saved it for a hurting client? Realizing not every thought comes from the Lord, he prayed, “Lord, if this is You, when I arrive, have me engage with the person who helped me. Otherwise, I’ll save it.”
The man that greeted him identified himself as the one Larry had talked with on the phone. However, Larry’s doubts persisted. What if a client needs this more? But when he remembered his prayer, he obeyed the impression and offered the man the card. He left not understanding why the Lord wanted him to give it to this man but with the peace of knowing he’d obeyed God.
Can you relate to Larry’s struggle? Do “what if”s” ever cause you stress? Have you considered the influence of the little word “if”? An “if” in the wrong place can undercut peace. Too often I’ve allowed a “what if” or an “if only” to rattle my emotions.
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I walked into a gathering, and there she stood, smiling and chatting. When she saw me, she turned and threw her arms around me like I was her best friend. I stiffened not knowing how to respond to the woman who’d lied about me and other family members only weeks earlier.
Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies. What did He mean? What does “loving your enemy” look like? And why would He ask us to do this?
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Our nine-month-old standard poodle showed me what “sick as a dog” means. I called my husband to give the vet’s report. “Max will die if we don’t do surgery.”
“A righteous man is kind to his beast. Do the surgery,” he said.
When I said “I do” to Larry, I couldn’t have foreseen all the times his character would impact my life—even to how we treat our pets. Proverbs 12:10 says, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Kindness to animals is godly. In fact, caring for them is part of our purpose.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’” (Gen. 1:26).
God made us in His image “so” that we might take care of the animals. Could it be that as image bearers we most reflect God when we tend His creatures? Adam, the first man, spent his first day on earth working with God naming the animals.
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals” (Gen. 2:19-20).
Imagine how fun it was for God to introduce Adam to the various members of His creation. I’m sure they shared lots of laughs as Adam came up with names. “Let’s call the one with the funny nose a ‘rhinoceros.’”
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Many of us who grew up in church know the story of Abraham and Isaac. After waiting his entire long life for a promised son, God finally provides Isaac. A few years later, He commands Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. A closer examination of this story reveals many connections between this sacrifice and Jesus' death on the cross. Studying these parallels then reveals more about God's immense love for us, and how far He was willing to go to save us.
Most of us today have a clean and neat image of the first Christmas in our minds. But in reality, both Mary and Joseph experienced a bevy of emotions and challenges that included betrayal, fear, and loneliness. Most of us are familiar with Mary. But Joseph, and the incredible faith he displayed, is also worth a deeper look.
What rolls off your tongue more easily, complaints or gratitude? While reading about Brother Andrew, a missionary who smuggled Bibles into communist countries, I asked myself that question. In God’s Smuggler, which chronicles Brother Andrew’s efforts, he said he knew whether someone was ready to be a missionary by their conversation. When someone complained more about the communist system than praised the goodness of God, they weren’t ready.
I’m afraid, especially during this election year, I’ve grumbled more than I’ve talked about God’s goodness. After reading Brother Andrew’s words I’m making an effort to change that.
Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without grumbling and disputing so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
Paul lived in a crooked and perverse generation. Yet, he did not use that as an excuse to gripe. In my efforts to stop grumbling I realized something: it’s not enough to try to stop complaining. Nature abhors a vacuum. We must replace complaining with its opposite — praise and thanksgiving.
Ephesians 1 provides the cure to complaining. It reminds us to bless God with our lips for all the ways He’s blessed us. Praise stops grumbling and flows more readily when we focus on the riches we have in Christ. Let’s count some of these blessings that even a crooked and perverse culture can’t squelch.
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Did you know the book of Proverbs is broken up in such a way that we can read one a day for a month? That's a great way to work in some of the wisdom of this book into your everyday life! Let's take a look at a few passages, and what they can teach us in our modern world.