Thursday, June 13, 2013

Genesis 22

This is one of those passages that people struggle with. How could a loving God ask Abraham to do something as horrible as sacrificing his only son? Isn't human sacrifice detestable to God? What is going on here? I believe that God is sending a powerful two-part message to Abraham and all of humanity through this intense experience. The first message is one of allegiance - who or what are you committed to? We see clearly that God holds Abraham's allegiance. Without argument, after God tells Abe to go and sacrifice his son, he packs up and leaves to complete the task. He straps his son to the makeshift altar and raises the knife to slaughter him. Abraham totally and completely trusts God. He has seen God move so powerfully, so often in his life that he knows that God is greater even than death. Abraham holds nothing back from God and completely trust that God knows what He is doing. How about you? Where does you allegiance lie? Are you willing to trust God with everything in your life? Do you believe that God is in control of everything...even death? It seems like so many of us refuse to fully trust God. We say we trust God, but we always hold something back. We say we trust God...but when something heartbreaking happens - when we lose a loved one, lose a friend, things don't go "our" way - we blame God. Scripture teaches us that God is faithful...that God is just...that God is working all things for the good of all people. Pledge your allegiance to God above anything else and you will be blessed as Abraham was.

The second message is one of love...God wants to lay the groundwork for us to understand the depth of His love for us. Did you see all the similarities between Isaac's experience and the crucifixion of Jesus. Isaac is Abraham's one and only son (By Sarah anyway). An innocent son is condemned to die. The wood that he would be killed on was laid on his back for Isaac to carry. Abraham says, "God will provide the lamb for a burnt offering (Which He does through Jesus eventually)." The similarities end when Abraham is about to kill his one and only son, because God stops him. All of the readers of this story are relieved because we cannot even fathom the depth of sorrow that would coming from killing your own son. Yet that is exactly what God has done for us. He did not stop the hand of the killers of Jesus. He allowed created human beings to kill their own Creator. He felt the sorrow of losing a son. Felt the separation from a integral part of Himself for the first time in eternity. He knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it is to hurt. He was willing to go through all of that so that He could offer forgiveness to selfish people who did not deserve it. That is love!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Genesis 18:22-33

This passage brings up some really interesting questions. Is Abraham more insightful than God? Is Abraham more gracious and concerned about the righteous than God is? Is Abraham's plan better than God's? This passage has the first biblical recording of a discussion between a man and God, where it seems that the man changes God's mind (There are other occasions where this happens later in the Bible - Ex. Moses convincing God not to destroy the idolatrous Hebrew people). These are always difficult passages for readers to understand, because it seems like a flawed, finite human being corrects the one and only perfect and Holy God. How are we supposed to interpret that? If God can be wrong in this situation...if God doesn't know what's best and gets talked out of a course of action by a provably flawed do we know that God's will is always best?

Well, you have to start from the beginning. You have to start from what you know about God, not from what you think you know about God from this one discussion with Abraham. What do we know about God? We know that God is love - I John 4:8. We know that God is just and without flaw - Deut. 32:4. We know that God is holy - Lev. 19:2. We know that God is perfect - Psalm 18:30. These are things we know about God according to scripture (And these are just some of the countless examples of verses that speak to God's perfect nature). So if we start from this place - a place where we understand that God is perfect, just, holy and loving - we know that Abraham could not have been correcting God. God was not wrong in the judgment He eventually poured out on Sodom. The perfect God of love and justice decided that the most loving and just thing He could do for all of creation was to remove Sodom from the earth. That is the truth...that is a fact!

Then why did God allow Abraham to question Him and even concede a point to Abraham in agreeing to save the town in 10 righteous people were found? Because God is love. He knows that Abraham cannot see the big picture (Just like you and I often cannot). He knows that Abraham is confused by his limited human perspective and cannot understand how this decision by God is actually a reflection of His perfect and loving nature. God knows that death is not the end (Because He is in charge of how the "end" is gonna play out). God knows that the few righteous who might happen to be in Sodom would be justified in eternity. God knows that both the righteous and wicked will all face stand before God at judgement, and has chosen to bring judgement day to them sooner rather than later for the sake of all of humanity. The destruction of Sodom is actually an act of merciful love as God looks at the big picture. Yet because God loves Abraham and understands his lack of knowledge, He postpones the destruction to accommodate Abraham's shortsightedness. This story actually just shows us another perspective on God's love and reminds me that God cares about His people. Take heart in that!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Genesis Chapter 12

12:1-3 - This is the covenant that started it all...the beginning of the Israelite nation - a chosen people, a priest nation, a light to the world...from this foundation would come the Savior of the world - God made flesh - Jesus. Did you notice how the covenant starts out? Go! God calls Abram into action. He calls him into leaving everything that Abram knows...the place where he feels go out into the start a nation when Abram and Sarai have never even been able to have any children. God is going to do all the work...God will be ever faithful...but He demands that Abram move...He demands that he go...He demands that He trust in His Creator. As Christians we are people under a different covenant...we are under a covenant bought by the blood of Jesus Christ - God Himself. He paid the price for our failure. He took away our shame. He made a personal relationship with God possible for us once again. And our end of this covenant is very similar to Abram's...Go! And make disciples. Trust that God's way is better. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. Abram trusted God and without a word...he went. If we trust in Jesus Christ and the power of his sacrifice...we will go too. We will leave the "safety" and "comfort" of our little self-focused worlds and MOVE. We will act. We will trust. We will love. We will be true disciples of Jesus Christ.

12:10-20 - Thank you Abram...seriously, thank you. I hope this doesn't sound terrible, but from time to time I need confirmation that I am not the only screw up in the world. Just before this, Abram leaves everything he knows to blindly wander into the desert because he trusts God. That is is an amazing picture of faith...I want to have faith like that! Yet, a short while later he is heading into Egypt and he decides to forget all about trusting God and take matters into his own hands. He lies and gets his wife to lie...he takes advantage of Pharaoh financially ...his choices lead to his wife being apparently becoming one of Pharaoh's concubines...he royally screws up! Abram, who will become Abraham...the Father of the Jewish nation...the man revered in the Old and New Testaments because of his faith...he had moments where his faith was lacking. And I am sorry for that, but I also need to know that. I need to have the hope that this story brings. God continues to work even through our failure. God continues to love us, even when our actions show that our faith is lacking. I need to be reminded from time to time that God's faithfulness never fails...even when mine does.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Genesis 11:1-9

I preached on Sunday and talked about the humorous nature of Genesis 11:5 - "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower. which the children of man had built." Why is this funny? Because the people were building a tower to the heavens, right? They were putting themselves on equal ground with God...making themselves "gods" through their hard work. Now I realize that is more heartbreakingly sad than funny...but the hilarious part is how the ancient author describes God's interaction with the tower. He has to go DOWN from the dimension He exists in to get a good look at the tower. This so-called "Tower to the Heavens" is so far below the majesty of God, that He has to come down to get a good look at it. It's funny. Imagine God getting down on His hands and knees like a child looking at ants in the grass and saying, "Oh, that's a cute little tower to the heavens!" LOL!

Why is this important for us to understand? Because we need to take some time to think about the things that we give all our time and effort to. We need to think about the things that worry us...the things that bother us...the things we pour endless amounts of resources into. Do they really matter? Are we making a bigger deal out of them then we need to? Do you worry too much about how you look...what you wear...what you accomplish...what you own...who you much you are liked? Because those things are just tiny little towers when viewed from an eternal perspective. What matters is loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. What matters is loving others as much as we love ourselves (And that's saying something isn't it!?). What matters is living our lives as if we actually believe that "Jesus is Lord." If Jesus is Lord, all the things we worship and get caught up in and obsess over and freak out about matter less and less. If Jesus is Lord, than I am not. If Jesus is Lord, than my worth is not tied up in what I accomplish or what other people think of me. If Jesus is Lord, than nothing can destroy my freedom. Let go of the tiny towers you are holding onto and cling to the huge God who loves you!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Genesis Chapter 7

A few thoughts on the Noah flood narrative...

7:5 - How would you like that to be said about your life? "And (Your name here) did everything the Lord had commanded of him (or her)." What a legacy...what a way to be known by the people around you! This is such a simple verse...such a simple way to live your life that Noah models for us. God tells Noah that the whole earth is going to be flooded. Tells him to build a huge boat (Do people even know what boats are at this point?). Tells him to pile wild animals on this thing and get ready for the entire earth to flood like a giant washing machine cleaning off all the vile sinfulness that exists. (Genesis 6:5 tells us that every single thought of the people on earth at this point was corrupt - every moment they were thinking only of ways to serve themselves and please themselves.) And how does Noah respond to these insane sounding instructions...he immediately does everything that the Lord commanded him to do. So many times it seems like the things that God is calling us to do are impossible. Bless those who curse you? It seems like the people God is calling us to be are crazy. Love your enemies? But if we have the courage to follow in the footsteps of Noah...the faith to trust that God knows what He is doing...the wisdom to believe that God's way is better - we will see God at work boldly in our lives just like Noah did. I need to stop making excuses for myself and live out the life God is calling me to live. How about you?

That was the challenging part - now on to the fun sidebar discussion...

7:11 - I like the term the English Standard Version of the Bible uses, "The windows of heaven were opened...". I think maybe there were different types of cloud layers at this point in earth's history. Maybe the clouds were insanely low and thick so that the entire earth was like a greenhouse...enabling the people to live hundreds and hundreds of years.You will notice that after the flood, the ages of people start to drastically decline. Maybe God caused the greenhouse clouds to collapse causing the flood and He didn't put them back the way they were? What do you think?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Genesis Chapter 3

Verse 4 - In my sermon this week, I focused on the Tower of Babel and we talked about how the invention of the brick made people believe that they could "be like gods." In Genesis chapter 3, we see that human beings have always been fallen for the same line. Whether it is whispered in our ear by the Deceiver or springing from the selfishness within ourselves...we give into the temptation of wanting to be like God. And the sentiment is understandable - God is awesome! God is perfection. God is holy. We want to be like God because He is everything we are not - there is no weakness within Him...there is no flaw within Him...He is God. But the reality is...the truth is...the thing that we have to get into our thick skulls is...we are not God. We are not gods. We are never going to be gods. We are human beings, and you know what? There are some amazing things about that too. God Himself blessed us by creating mankind in His image. He gave us life. He infused us with His creativity. He made us for community. We are truly blessed...but we are not God. When we stop obsessing over how to become gods...we will be able to find satisfaction in who we really are...children of God who are passionately loved by God.