THINK: Do you know where you came from? What's your family history? Is it full of fond memories? Perhaps you know little about it. Or maybe your situation is filled with so much pain and dysfunction that you don't want to think about it. Whether your family experiences are peaceful, proud, pretentious or painful, God has a greater plan and place for you in His family. Throughout history He's worked out His plan with you in mind. At just the right time He sent His Son, Jesus, who took your pain and paid the price for your sin with His own life. He now provides forgiveness for sin, freedom from your past and hope for the future. Ultimately He gives eternal life to all who entrust their lives to Him and become part of His forever family.
RESPOND: Why do you think the Bible contains such extensive family histories? What purposes do they serve? (See 1:1 note.) What do they reveal about God's plan? (See 1:1 note, subpoint 2.) What particular family lines do these genealogies trace, and what's the ultimate objective of this record? (See 1:1 note, subpoint 4.) How do these records relate to other parts of the Bible, and what do they reveal about previous biblical writings, such as the Genesis account of creation? (See 1:1-4 note.) What family history begins in chapter 2? Who was "Israel" before God gave him that name? (See 2:1 note.) What eventually happened through "the sons of Israel" (2:1)? Through which tribe of Israel did Jesus' family line come (2:3ff)? (See 2:1 note.) What do these details reveal about God and His plans?
PRAY: Pray for your family members. Give thanks if you have good relationships with them. If not, pray for healing in the relationships. If family members don't know Christ, pray for their salvation. Give thanks to God for His intricate and loving plan and for the detail and perfection of His Word. Pray for the spiritual salvation of Jewish people who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
ACT: Do something specific and practical to help, assist or encourage as many of your family members or people in your household as possible. Be a good example of Christlike character in all you say and do.
THINK: In what ways has God blessed you? What are you doing with those blessings? Are you enjoying them? Are you taking them for granted? Are you hoarding them? Or are you sharing them with others? God wants to bless you, and He wants you to enjoy those blessings. But He doesn't intend for you to keep His benefits to yourself. There's certainly enough of God's goodness to go around. The same applies to any influence God gives you. He wants you to make the most of it to honor Him and encourage others. Don't let past experiences - good or bad - keep you from enjoying and using your blessings and influence in the present to fulfill God's plans for your future.
RESPOND: Why is special attention given to David's descendants? (See 3:1 note.) How does this relate to God's plans and promises? How can this concise overview of biblical history (e.g., the list of all Judah's kings in 3:10-16) help you gain a better perspective and grasp of the people and sequence of events in the Bible? Why is Jabez singled out in 4:9? (See 4:9 note.) What can you learn about God from this description of Jabez? What can you tell about Jabez's heart and character from this brief account? In what way did Jabez refuse to limit his future by what happened in the past (4:9)? How does this inspire you regarding your future? Why do you think Jabez wanted more territory and blessing from God? What makes the difference between people who want these things for selfish reasons and those who want them for honorable reasons? What does the account of Jabez reveal about God's blessing and protection? (See 4:9 note.) Why do you think God answered Jabez's request? What can you learn from Jabez's prayer and can it serve as a model for those who desire to have significant influence for God?
PRAY: Pray that you'll always behave honorably. Ask God to bless you in ways that you can in turn bless others. Ask him for influence so you can bring honor to Jesus and inspire others to trust Him. If there is anything in your past that still troubles you, give your concern to God. Ask Him to help you get beyond this once and for all so you can get on with His purposes. Pray that past pain and failures will not keep you from future joy and success.
ACT: Think of some way in which God has blessed you that you can in turn use to bless or benefit someone else. This may involve giving something tangible or it may mean encouraging someone with whom you share a common experience. It could also mean using a talent or ability to serve or inspire others. Perhaps you are in a position of influence that can help provide someone with an opportunity they might not otherwise have.