Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Selling Your Birthright

I know its been awhile since I've posted and this particular post hits me straight in the heart because its all about trading God for the things of the world.

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted." (Therefore his name is called Edom.) Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright now." Esau said, "I am about to die, of what use is a birthright to me?" Jacob said, "Swear to me now." So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25: 29-34 (ESV)
As you read this passage, we see Esau sell his birthright for nothing more than a bowl of stew and a piece of bread. How little Esau thought of his birthright! When you read this what is your first thoughts about Esau? Do you think him a fool? I know when I first read this I thought, "Esau's pretty stupid."

However, if we stop to think, are we really that different from Esau? We have received an eternal birthright from Jesus. Still, many modern Christians treat that eternal birthright like little more than a piece of rubbish. When the things of the world come around offering us temporary fun and pleasure, we conveniently forget God and our faith. Esau sold his birthright to temporarily meet a physical need, but we will sell our eternal birthright for even less.

Certainly, I am a prime example of this frivolous nature. I know that I should have a quiet time with God everyday, but some days I would rather watch TV, play a video game, Facebook, read a book, go shopping, sleep, or, shockingly, clean the house. What are these things going to give me in eternity that a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, my Father, my Savior is somehow less? I sell my birthright for frivolous temporary things. Esau a fool? Oh, no, Dixie is the fool!

This struggle is not mine alone. My friends, my student small group, and my parents have all struggled with selling their birthright for temporary things. Why are we so willing to sell eternity for the right now? What's so great about the things of this world that we won't fight for the things of the next?

Now, just to clarify, I don't believe that we loose our salvation if we are saved when we fail. No, what I mean when I say we sell our birthright is that we give up our opportunities to experience the Father; to build up a collection of crowns to lay at his feet. I can't imagine how horrifyingly disappointing I will feel when I stand before the God of all creation and know that I have failed him over and over and over. Like Esau when he's tricked out his blessing in Genesis 27, I will weep before him when I am called to account for all the times I sold my birthright for the things of this world. Still, having salvation through His grace, I know forgiveness is mine. In that I can have hope, but it does not lessen the importance of guarding against the world so that I don't sell my birthright.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Snowball Effect- Genesis 13 & 19

(Using The Father of Israel: Trusting God's Promises by John MacArthur)

If you read Genesis 13, you will find that Abram and his nephew Lot are having some problems. They are both wealthy men whose people are starting to quarrel over resources. Abram, being a man of God, offers a choice to his nephew Lot. Let's not fight, my nephew.  Lot, take a look at this land. You choose where you want to go. If you go left, I'll go right.  Abram unselfishly offered his nephew first choice. We see that Lot took complete advantage of the situation.

And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley, and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. Genesis 13: 10-13 (ESV)
Lot's choice would have an impact on his family and eventually on the nations of the area for years to come. Lot choose the world over God. He moved towards Sodom. In Genesis 19:1, it says, "Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom." This would imply that Lot was member of the elders, a man of authority in Sodom. We find in the same chapter that Lot had a house in Sodom as well. Lot had slowly become a part of a society that was so corrupted that God would wipe it off the face of the Earth.  Still Lot is accounted as righteous in the new testament, and in Genesis 19 he protects the two angels who came to Sodom form the crowd of men which desired to sexually assault him. Lot had made choices that would have long range effects. Though God intercedes for him and his family to get them out of Sodom before the destruction, Lot looses his wealth, his wife, commits incest with his daughters, and fathers two people groups who would war with Abraham's descendants and cause them great suffering. Actions have a way of snowballing out of our control. 

On the other hand, Abram takes the less desirable land which leads him far from the sin of Sodom. He continues to dwell in service to God even though like all men he would stumble from time to time. Because he was not selfish and choose the things of this world but instead to choose to rely on God's faithfulness, Abram becomes the father of the line that leads to Jesus Christ. Through JC the whole world is affected by Abram's actions.

What we see is that our actions can have far reaching impact in the lives of others. We have been warned in the Bible not to love the things of the world though we are in the world.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world. And world is passing along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. I John 2:15-17 (ESV)
It is important that when we are faced with choices that we remember that the path to a life of sin begins with a small step, a single compromise. Its like the Casting Crowns song Slow Fade,
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray 
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade
I am reminded of what God said to Cain earlier in Genesis.
"...And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." Genesis 4:7 (ESV)
Sin is waiting to pounce on our lives like an animal on the hunt. I have three cats and you can tell when they are about to pounce on each other. They pull their legs into position, and all their muscles tense up. Then like a gunshot they are off to pounce on what they think is their unsuspecting prey. That is not always the case though. If the other cat was on guard, then they either escape or defend themselves from the attacker. We have to be on guard against the sin that is crouching ready to pounce on us. We are encouraged to do so.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewel of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable, and perfect. Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flows the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)
In Ephesians 6:10-18, we are called to put on the armor of God in preparation for our battle with sin.

Keep in mind that sin has a Snowball Effect. We are not islands in the sea of life, but we are bound together like the blocks of a Jenga (I am sure this trademarked and I most certainly do not own it) game. Choose the wrong block and the whole tower comes crumbling down. We may only touch a few lives, but those lives touch other lives and on and on. Yet like Abram, when we make the right choices that also effects the people around us. Ultimately you have to decide which snow to make your snowball out of- the yellow snow or the white snow.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Faith and Obedience

After over a month stewing in the juices of Genesis 1-11, I am moving on the next section. Beginning at the very end of the geneology in chapter 11 and continuing for the next 13 chapters the bible tells us about Abram (later Abraham), his immediate family, and the consequences of his choices.

At the very beginning of chapter 12, we find that the Lord has spoken to Abram.

Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those that bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Genesis 12: 1-3 (ESV)
For whatever reason Abram did not fully obey God's command at first. In Genesis 11: 31, we know that Abram traveled with his father, his nephew, and his wife from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan, but they only made it to Haran. It is only after the death of his father that he continues on his journey to Cannan.

Who was Abram that God would choose him from all the masses of humanity to begin this journey that would eventually lead to the salvation at the cross of Jesus Christ? Was their something special about Abram? In Genesis 6, we know that God choose Noah because he was a righteous man. We find no such distinction in the Bible for Abram when we first meet him. All we know is God said to Abram. Go leave all that you know and do this thing and I will bless you. We should be thankful that God knows the hearts of mankind. Abram, though with shaky steps that sometimes dragged slowly along, stepped out into the unknown. He had faith that the one who had spoken to him would carry through.

His obedience was rewarded by a response from God. When Abram had come to Canaan, God appeared to him and revealed a little more of his plan.

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7 (ESV)
Unfortunately our fears will derail our lives if we let them. Abram though a man of faith took his eyes off the prize when he went into Egypt. During this sad time, Abram lies, basically has prostituted his wife (receives riches/gifts from pharaoh for his wife/sister), and does nothing to retrieve her from Pharaoh's harem. You see he was afraid that the Egyptians would slay him because Sarai was so beautiful even though she was in her 60's at least. He did not remember that the Lord had yet to fulfill his promises so he was not going to die. His faith wavered, but God intervened to get him back on track. He plagued Pharaoh and his house until Sarai was returned to Abram. Abram must have been exceedingly embarrassed as he was standing before Pharaoh being chastised for lying about his wife and doing nothing when Pharaoh took her.

We often forget that God is faithful and that he intends good for us.

And we know that for those who love God all things work for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV)
He is there for us when we need him.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10 (ESV)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (ESV)
Sometimes it hard to take that first step in faith. We can not see the entire plan that God has for us. Sometimes like Abram, we are called to just go. It's not until we act in obedience to God that he reveals that next step to us. Yet if we continue to sit back in fear, we may miss out on the greatest moment of our lives. God doesn't need you, but he wants you. If Abram had failed the call, God would have found someone else to ensure that the world was blessed. Fortunately, Abram reached out and took the hand of God. He demonstrated his faith by being obedient to the will of God. And as we know (or maybe you don't but stay tuned) through Abram, all the world was blessed. From Abram came the line that lead to Jesus Christ whose sacrifice blessed all the world with freedom from sin.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Grief, Camp, and back to the beginning.

It's been a while since I posted anything.  A lot of things effected this temporary hiatus. I went to visit my family, Matt came home, a horrible grief filled weekend, a week of Camp Whatever, recovering from camp, and finally kicking my self in the metaphorically butt to get back to having a daily time with God.

On the Thursday before I went to Camp Whatever (Lifepoint Youth Camp), I received two horrible phone calls back to back. My best friend from high school, Ami Raymer,  had died from a brain aneurism on Wednesday. I called and left my mom a message telling her I would be coming home for visitation/funeral. She called me back two times in 30 minutes: one to tell me my uncle (my father's twin) had been in a wreck, second time to tell me that he had a heart attack (causing the wreck) and had died. I felt like I had been hit with a brick. A thousand thoughts whirred through my mind and heart. Shock kept me from really grieving. In my mind, I thought did I hear her correctly..."did she really mean Uncle Dan?? Ami really gone?? What should I do about Camp? When would my Uncle's funeral be? Should I just call them and tell them I could not go? Should I make arrangements to get to camp on my own?? What about packing? I need to do laundry. I need to pay all the bills. I need to pack. Do I own enough black skirts/dresses for three days at the funeral home? Oh, God, I need you right now. Oh God...Oh God...what do I do?" 

I did go to camp after a very grief filled weekend. I was weary heart, mind, body, soul, but I got up after 4 hours of sleep Monday morning and finished packing, vomiting & etc. (to nasty to say) from a horrible IBS flare up, and went to camp.  

Some people might say why did you go? I'm sure they would have understood if you had said you couldn't. I had made a promise to myself and to God you see. Not a bargain, but a promise. He has so blessed me in life that I can quit my job in the middle of an economic crisis, and I have not been doing a very good job in the service department of his kingdom. I had said I am going to give you all these things that are on my heart God about my job and my future, and I am going to spend the month of June focusing on you, preparing my heart for you, and I am going to go to Camp Whatever and serve you. I gave this promise with out any expectation of return other than it bringing glory to God. What more do I deserve really and truly!

So I went weary in ways I can not even give words to...and God healed my grief and restored my soul. He gave me a heart for some of the most troubled and beautiful (inside and outside) young women I have ever met. I was blessed in my grief and loss because I was faithful. I came  out of camp physically weary, but made whole.

It's taken me about a week to finally get over being lazy and get back to my study of God in the words of Genesis. Today I wrapped up the first 11 chapters in the guides I am using. Even though my Bible is already filled with notes about those chapters, I had new insights to add and new connecting verses to note in what space I could find. Now I am about to tackle the story of Abraham. God had been revealing the inner workings of his heart to me. I hope you will continue to take the journey with me.

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God  except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might  understand the things freely given us by God. I Corinthians 2: 10-12 (ESV)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Round and Round

I think I may have mentioned in my first post that my goal is to not just read the word of God, but to dig in deep and really get the word of God. So in light of that goal I decided to start with Genesis and move slowly, methodically, with deliberating seeking of God's revelation.

I am still working my way through the first few books of Genesis because of this.

I went to McKay's yesterday in order to get some more books/perspectives/interpretations on what I have been reading- Some I agree with, some that make my head spin around and around because it is really deep/intense/wordy, and some that just connect it with me and the larger picture of the Bible.

At times I feel like I've stepped in a quagmire and yet at other times I feel like God is using all of this to deepen my faith. Challenges make me think about why I believe what I believe.  If I disagree with a perspective I am finding that I now have verses (even when I can not specifically name them) that I have read that can back up what I think.

Even though I am not posting everyday, I feel like I am stewing, simmering, soaking,  and absorbing the word. I challenge you to do the same. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

A not so subtle hint

Today read John 2:1-12. This is about the wedding feast where Jesus turns the water into the wine.
This verse stuck out of me especially in the light of yesterday's revelation.
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 1: 11 (ESV)
He will manifest his glory so that others might believe. He gets the job accomplished with or without our assistance.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Laid on my heart...

Along with my study of Genesis, I have also been doing daily readings and prayer to prepare for my trip to Camp Whatever. (I feel like I'm all over the Bible, Genesis for quiet time, John for quiet time per Camp Whatever, James for Sunday Morning, and Phillipians for small group.)

Anyway  I felt like the past couple of days despite my quiet time that I was just really far from God. Perhaps my quiet times are just revealing a void that was already there or perhaps I have not been open to what he was saying. I have been ardently praying the last few days as my small group leader's mom is in the hospital with a brain tumor. However, I do not think I have doing very much listening.

I finished today's study of Genesis- a general overview of the themes in what I have been learning. I just did not feel the voice of God. So before I did my readings from John that are part of the study we've been asked to do to prepare for Camp Whatever (youth camp) I asked that God speak to me. I wanted to be open to what he had to say. Answer BOOM! Like a flood of information God reached out and smacked me upside the head!

Here's what I read (lengthy but you'll need to read it to get what comes next)...

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Phillip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know of me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, Truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." John 1: 43-51 (ESV)
The first thing I noticed was this. Jesus called Philip and he believed. What was Philip's response? He went and told Nathanael. From the way, I read the passage Philip knew Nathanael prior to this. Though it is not stated, I feel like Nathanael is a good friend of Philip's. Obviously, Philip wanted to share with Nathanael this important news.

However, Nathanael was incredulous, but curious. He heard what Philip had to say and went to see Jesus at his friend's request. He required more convincing. Even before the two men make it to Jesus, He reveals himself in a way that proves beyond a doubt to Nathanael that he is the Son of God.

What can I take away from this story that will help me?
  • Good friends share the message of Christ with their friends
  • Jesus will reveal himself. You just got to share your story.
I distinctly got the impression that God was saying, "Dixie, what's the problem?"

He likes to let me figure these things out on my own. You see my best friend is not a Christian. To get you to understand how I feel about this friend let me refer you to a friendship found in the Bible.
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. I Samuel 18:1 (ESV)
I feel like my soul is knit to hers. I love her as my own soul. Unfortunately, I've not been demonstrating that. 

You see if I love her that much, I believe that there is everlasting life, and that to not having a relationship with God condemns you to hell, and I choose not to tell her about the Savior who died to free her from that fate....well, frankly, I suck as a friend. Not mention I must not think too highly of my own soul.

So God is trying to tell me...you tell her about me...and I'll reveal myself to her. 

Now maybe she reads this and maybe she doesn't....I don't really know for sure. If she does, she knows who she is and I'm sorry for sucking as a friend. And I have... I haven't said too much about God, because I was afraid I would loose you (which frankly would rip a chunk out of my chest which I would never get back). Now, I know if I don't tell you about God that you are already lost in the long run. As much as I know God will wipe away my tears in an eternity without you, I'd rather have you there with me! So don't be surprised if I start bringing up God in conversation (don't worry he's going to provide me the opportunity)...I love you as my own soul so how can I do anything less. 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Gloat or Cover?

As I look back over the last few weeks study of Genesis, I am taking a deeper look at each of the characters that have been presented (Using- Before Abraham: Creation, Sin, and the Nature of God by John MacArthur) in these early chapters. Today, I study about the sons of Noah- Shem, Japheth, and Ham.

We don't seem much of them until after the flood. All that is noted before that is that they and their wives got on the ark. So we know they had experienced the divine intervention of God through their father's obedience. 

Genesis 9 pick up the story after the flood. For the first time, we are shown a shameful moment in Noah's life.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank the wine, and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. Genesis 9:20-21 (ESV)
Noah got drunk, and then he got naked.  Noah was a man who walked with God, but like all men he was a sinner when he took his eyes off of God. What we see next in the story are two different responses when we witness the sin of others. The first is Ham's response to his father's sin and shame.

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.  Genesis 9:22 (ESV)
What was Ham's knee jerk reactions? To run and tell his brother's. Ham did not try to cover up his father's, but went to gossip about it with others. He gloated over his father sin. How often is this our response to someone's sin and shame? We like to spread about other's mistakes.  We love gossip. How do I know? Ever seen those magazines by the cash registers at Walmart, Kroger, etc. We feed off other people's shame and sin. In our own relationships we are just as guilty. When someone tells us something or we catch someone doing something wrong we can't wait to text, call, tweet, facebook it to someone else.

However, God does not expect us to have this kind of response so we are shown what godly people do when they are made aware of someone else's shame. 

Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Genesis 9:23 (ESV)
These two brothers made aware of their father's shame, don't run and tell anyone. They immediately devise a plan to cover his shame. In fact, they are so caring that they walk backwards so as not to even look on it. What love they showed their father that day! We demonstrate love when we cover another's sin.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 (ESV)
What does it mean to cover someone's shame? Does it mean we ignore it? Absolutely not! However, we do not go spreading someone's shame to everyone we meet. We are to seek to bring restoration to a person who has sinned.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
But how exactly do you go about doing that...Don't worry the Bible provides an answer.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15 (ESV)
STEP ONE: Go and talk to the person alone! Don't take your posse or a group. Don't blab it about! Go and deal with this person in person, but remember you are there to help restore not to tear down.
But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. Matthew 18:16 (ESV)
STEP TWO: Get some witnesses who can back up what you are saying and let them talk to the person. Find people who already know about it. People who like you understand that the point is trying to bring them restoration. DON'T BLAB IT TO EVERYONE! This requires a great deal of discretion and discernment to decide who to approach about it.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:17 (ESV)
STEP THREE: Tell the church. This could be a minister, leader,  or other christians in the church. We still aren't blabbing it to everyone. We are diligently seeking restoration. Thus we are going to our brothers and sisters in Christ to speak with them.

If steps one through three fail, God reminds us that sometimes this will happen and that we should let them be set away from us. Jesus is talking to the Jews in this passage. They did not associate with Gentiles and tax collectors. So basically, Jesus is saying shake the dust from your sandals and step away from that person. Why? Because you must keep yourself, lest you be tempted. Ancillary to this is  that you still aren't going about and spreading gossip. You are walking away from the situation knowing you have tried according to the word of God to help restore this person.

My challenge both to myself and to anyone who is reading this is to start covering the sins of others. Don't be another link on the gossip chain. Seek to restore those who have fallen out of God's will. It's time to live a life that demonstrates the love of Christ which covered all our sins with his perfect sacrifice.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cain and Abel-Who Am I?

Are you a Cain or an Abel?

We all seem to start out much like Cain. In Genesis, we see a man who knew that God required sacrifices to Him because of the Fall. However, Cain much like most humans wanted to do things his way and not God's way.

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, Genesis 4:3 (ESV)
but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry and his face fell.  Genesis 4:5 (ESV)
God being every merciful and full grace offered Cain another chance.
The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." Genesis 4:6-7 (ESV)

But I'm afraid that the story does not end well. Cain was not interested in another chance. In fact, he goes on to murder his brother. God gives him another chance, but the sad tale of Cain ends with a continual rejection of God's grace and will.

How like Cain we all tend to be, we give God only what goes along with what we want to do. However, as soon as God's will diverges from ours, we get angry, our faces fall, and we sink deeper into sin. We like Cain refuse God's unending grace; we refuse to be reconciled. We are no longer interested in doing well and sin is crouching at the door waiting for us to turn from God.

There is another side to the story in Abel. Abel acts on faith in God and trusts that God's way will reconcile him to the Father.

and Abel also brought  of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering. Genesis 4:4 (ESV)
Just as God has slain the animals to have skins to cover Adam and Eve after the Fall, Abel gave a blood sacrifice. Note that he was not only obedient, he was also generous in his offering to God. Abel gave the firstborn or the best of his flock and the best parts of the sheep to God. Abel held nothing back, giving God his all. He chose to embrace the grace of the Father through faith and obedience. We are reminded in the new testament of Abel's faith.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Hebrews 11:4 (ESV)
Keep in mind that though each brothers choice of offering reflected the inner heart, it was the offering itself that was unacceptable or acceptable. Though it may seem to be harsh to us, Cain was not being obedient to God and thus his offering was refused. God's way is the only way to God. For us, Jesus is the only way to God.

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 (ESV)
Furthermore, we see that the brothers, though a true historical event, serve as representation or metaphor for the choice we are given to be the child of God or the child of the devil.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his own brother. And why did  he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. I John 3: 4-12 (ESV)
Right on, John! I certainly can't say it much better than he did. Cain chose to be a child of the devil. He choose sin over God's redeeming grace. Though we may continue to struggle with sin, we will not continue to practice sin if we are to be Abel's. God's seed in us make it impossible for us to continue to live in sin. I know we all fall down from time to time because we are after all human, but we will choose to turn to God for forgiveness and life change when we are born of Him.

Who do you choose to be? Cain or Abel? A child of the devil or a child of God?

Monday, June 8, 2009

A personal intimate relationship...with me?

Do you ever feel like God just isn't there or think "why would God want a relationship with me?" Does He really care? Is He really there for me?

Today as I study Genesis, I revisited the Creation of Adam and Eve. Now my first post talks about the special role that God designed for women and how amazing and important that role can be when it is truly understood. Today I want to talk about the personal intimate relationship that God wants with mankind.  He initiates this desire from the very beginning of our creation. Let's walk through how he did that...
  • Intimate Creation
God got his hands dirty when he made Adam. He made him from the dust of the ground and breath of life. 

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:7 (ESV)

Everything else seems to be have been made by divine fiat (God's verbal command), but with man he took his time, he involved himself in his creation. 

Furthermore he did the same with Eve. 

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up the its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Genesis 2: 21-22 (ESV)
He got up close and personal when he made mankind-both male and female.  

Finally you are the only creation that he made in his image. 
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...." Genesis 1:26a (ESV)
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (ESV)
  • Intimate Care & Provision
Not only did God get personal with creation he made a special place within creation for Adam and Eve. He had already declared that creation was good, but He went a step further and made the Garden of Eden for them.
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Genesis 2:8 (ESV)
God provided not only for their needs but for their pleasure.
And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.   Genesis 2:9a (ESV)
He didn't just provide food but he made the ones that were pleasant to the sight to spring up. 

He gave Adam a job to do. Adam was tasked to work the garden of Eden and keep it (Genesis 2:15). Now maybe that does not seem like such a grand thing, but I've had idle hands before. If you are an intelligent being, boredom is not fun. 

Finally he provided companionship when he made Eve. (Genesis 2:16, 21-24)
  • Intimate Relationship
God was looking for a relationship not just in passing, but deep and meaningful. He did this by giving man choice in obedience (Genesis 2:16-17), allowing self-discovery in the search for a companion (Genesis 2:20), and giving man creativity, wisdom, and intelligence (Genesis 2:19-20).

He gave Adam the choice of being obedient to the commands of God by placing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden.  God did not need a zombie or a robot. He wanted man to choose to have a relationship with him.

God begins vs. 18 of chapter 2 by saying that it was not good for man to be alone, but he does not create woman until vs. 21-22. In between this time, Adam names all the animals, but discovers none that are fit to be his helper. God gives Adam the chance to come to his own conclusions before he makes the woman.

Finally, God gave man creativity, wisdom, and intelligence. Adam named all the animals in between the time of his creation and that of the woman's creation. From Genesis 1, we know man was made on the sixth day of creation. Adam had all the skills necessary to observe, get to know, and name each animal in a short period of time. As I said earlier, God did not need or want a zombie or a robot. He wanted a creation that demonstrated thought so that he might have a relationship with them.


I can only imagine how God felt as he carefully made and cared for the very first man and woman. He must have loved Adam and Eve so much, but all along he knew that they were going to fail Him. How His heart must have broken as He made them! It takes a strange and powerful kind of love to love when you know you are going to get hurt. That love drove our creation, but he refused to leave mankind in sin. Even as He made Adam and Eve, He already planned out their (and our) salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. 

Just as God desired a personal intimate relationship with Adam and Eve, He desires that from each of us. Jesus' sacrifice is sufficient to save the whole world, but only applies to those who believe. (John 3:16-17). Furthermore, we are given the Holy Spirit that we might know God. As Paul tells us in I Corinthians 2:10-12, only the spirit that is in a person can know a person's thoughts. Thus, only the Spirit of God can comprehend His thoughts. God gives you His Spirit that you might understand him and what He has freely given.

God wants a personal intimate relationship with ME! And with YOU!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Are you building a Tower?

Today's lesson revolved around the beginning of Genesis 11. The first part of this chapter is about the the Tower of Babel. Noah's family has survived the flood, and generations have come. The earth is being repopulated. 

The theme here : We keep doing the same things over and over. 

You would think that having come in after God has completely wiped out all other life on the planet save for you and yours it would take a little longer for mankind to jump back into the same old life. However, the story in Genesis 11 is that man forgets what happens and why it happened.

Over and over in the passage we find that the Tower is a testament to man's glory and not God's.
"...come let us build ourselves....let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." excerpts Genesis 11:4 (ESV)
It was all about them. They were trying to be like God and escape God's commands.

They had forgotten that everything was gift from God. They were taking the very gifts that God had given them and were perverting and abusing them. God had given them the gift of speech which allowed them to communicate with one another and with him. They were using this gift to defy God.

Mankind is no exception to this perversion of God's gift. Speaking about speech specifically, we lade it with profanity, use it to pervert the gift of sex i.e. 1-800 phone sex numbers, con and lie to people with our speech, and spew hate and racism. I am no exception to this sin. I struggle to keep my language clean and at times to tell the truth. I have said things that promoted hate and not love. Admittedly I have not called a phone sex number, but in God's eyes I have already sinned.

Still in the midst of this story of man's arrogance and his failure, God's grace and mercy are shown. He had promised not to destroy all life again, and these people were committing the same sins that had led to his wrath before.

And the Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propse to do will now be impossible for them." Genesis 11:6 (ESV)
He saw that the world was on the same track as before and he moves to prevent man's decline.
"Come, let us go down and there confuse thier language so that they may not understand one another's speech." Genesis 11:7 (ESV)
God's confusion of their language is an act of mercy on mankind. He moves to save them from their own sin. His will is done despite mankind's attempt to defy him.

Even today we are using our gifts to build Tower's to our own glory and defy God.
Some examples:
  • longevity research
  • attempting to escape the boundaries of earth by living in space
In and of themselves these things are not bad, just as building a tower was not bad. But when we build those towers, study those things for our own glory and to defy the will and commands of God then they become sin. When we seek to escape his will, we have trailed into the realm of sin.

What are your Towers? How are they hindering your relationship with the Father? 

As I talked about Noah in my last post, we are often called to live on faith. The builders of the Tower of Babel were called to live on faith. God's command to Noah,
..."Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." Genesis 9:1b (ESV)
The were called to have faith that God would provide for them as they filled the earth. They choose not to have faith as shown in verse 4 when they proclaim their reason for building the tower.  
"...lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. " Genesis 11:4b (ESV)
They choose to rely on their own skills and ingenuity. Still as the passage comes to a close we find that God's will was fulfilled despite their attempts to defy him.

So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Genesis 11:8 (ESV) 
...And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:9b (ESV)
His will is done no matter what you do. You can try to build Tower's in defiance of him, but you can not escape his will. We have to find and tear down those tower's in our lives that are a testament to our glory and start building a tower out of our life that is for the glory of God.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Living on Faith: Noah's Ark

Today's lesson took me into the familiar story of Noah's ark and the Flood. Like anything in the Bible, God can use stories we know like the back of our hands to reveal new insights to us.

Beginning in Genesis 6 and continuing through Genesis 7, we are walked through God's justice and mercy on a corrupt world. Noah and his family are spared from the wrath of God.

Noah is commanded to build an ark in Genesis 6:14

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Genesis 6:14 (ESV)
Now that may not seem like such an unusual command, but what if you had never seen rain before? (see Genesis 2:5-6) That makes it seem a little more absurd. 

I can only imagine how people might have mocked and ridiculed him. I imagine it was somewhat similar to the scene in Evan Almighty where the crowd is jeering at him because he has built the ark, but no rain is coming.

Still we can look at this passage and see a common thread.
Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9b (ESV)
Noah did this: he did all that God commanded him. Genesis 6:27 (ESV)
And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. Genesis 7:5 (ESV)
...as God had commanded Noah. Genesis 7:9b (ESV)
Noah lived out his faith and was rewarded with something tangible. He and his family were spared from the wrath of God when He flooded the earth.

Have you ever been asked to do something you thought was absurd by God? Did you think, "REALLY, GOD?!? Are you serious?!?"

I can think of several examples in my own life where God has said in my heart "Do this!"

Example 1- During college I got a job at Spencer's (not a very Christian-like place to worK). I was working a ton more hours than I was hired to work and I was trying to take summer classes at the same time. I needed the money, because for the first time in my life I was living on my own in an apartment off campus. However, in my gut, God kept saying, "Quit! I will take care of you."  I resisted unwilling at first to take that leap of faith. Finally, I agreed and turned in my two week notice. I had no prospects for a job, only the assurance from my heavenly Father that he would make sure I was taken care of.

Example 2- Last year our church did a Sacred Gathering where the church was asked to fast and we came together each evening to worship and seek God's will.  During one of the first nights we prayed over the youth by asking their names and laying on hands. I don't remember the young man's name that I prayed over, but I do remember that on the final night of our fasting God said without any question, "Go and pray with that young man!" In my heart, I wrestled with God on this...."Are you serious? But God that will be embarrassing. I don't know if I can do that, God"  God was adamant and so I surrendered to His will and went to the young man. I said, "God is telling me to pray with you, will you pray with me?" So we prayed.

Sometimes we have to walk out on faith and be willing to take a chance for God.  Or as Pat (the pastor of Lifepoint Church) said....Put your "YES!" on the table.

There are numerous examples of people who God called to act on faith.

Esther is called to act on faith to save the Jews. She knew that going before the king without summons was a death sentence, but she trusted that God would fulfill His plan to save His people.

Abraham is called to leave his home so that God can bless him and make a great nation from him. Again he is called to act on faith by sacrificing Isaac his promised son.

Hosea is commanded to marry a whore.  Can you even imagine that one? ...Dixie, I want you to marry a male whore...."Do What!!! Are you kidding me, God?".... But Hosea obeyed and became a living metaphor for the love of God and his relationship with the Israelites.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

I know sometimes we can't see God's purpose, but as Mordecai reminds Esther....
Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 4: 13-14 (ESV)
God will complete His plan, fulfill his will regardless, but he's asking you to come along for the ride. He can do it with you or he can do it without you.

God rewards our faith in different ways. From my previous examples....

Example 1- I turned in my 2 week notice and I had a job babysitting for a professor starting two days after my last day. He kept his promise and took care of me.

Example 2- I later met the young man I had prayed over during a outreach mission. He was dating a young lady who was in the small group of a woman in my adult small group. He came with her to help us as we worked at a local housing community. God was using this young man for his kingdom just as I had prayed for that night months before.

So the next time God asks you do something absurd or that seems ridiculous or potentially embarrassing, say YES! and do all that he commands. Just like Noah, Esther, Abraham, Hosea, and many many more.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Woman's Role

As a Christian, I have often faced disdain even from other Christians about my own beliefs about a woman's role in the church. I have been called anti-feminist. I have had words put into my mouth stating that I did not believe that women should hold jobs such as doctors or lawyers, because I felt that women should not be the head of a church. (That is untrue...I think women can be excellent doctors and lawyers if they so choose)

I have often struggled with the concept of submission as stated in the Bible. Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 (ESV). It is difficult as an independent and intelligent women to reconcile myself to the idea of submission to anyone. The world would have us to believe that submission is slavery. The words are not synonyms. 

Dictionary.com defines submission with the term to submit. It defines submit with the following words to allow, to yield, to defer. Slavery is defined as bondage, being owned. Submission is a willing choice; slavery is not.

Although are human nature is to struggle against the position of leadership that God has placed the male in, He is asking me to choose to yield and defer to my husband just as Jesus choose to yield and defer to the Father's will. 

Now I have been doing a study of Genesis as part of my daily time with the Lord. I want to work my way through the whole Bible not just reading each verse, but taking the time to read, pull part, put back together, and understand the truths that the Father has reveled to us in His holy words. My study today was about the Fall of mankind, but I went back to read the previous chapter about the creation of man and woman God reached out and revealed some things to me. Please keep in mind that God's words are His and these revelations are what I feel he has revealed to me about those words. You will have to ask Him to reveal their validity and truth or lack there of.  Do not simply accept anything I say, but allow Him to discern it.

With all that said, lets look at the verses in question so that you know where I am coming from.

Then, the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. " Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the fields. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,  "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Genesis 2:18-23 (ESV)
While I read this, I am using a commentary by John Phillips, Exploring Genesis:An Expository Commentary. He makes a references to a statement by Matthew Henry, "...the woman was taken from Adam's side- not from his head to rule over him, not from his feet to be trampled on, but from his side to be equal with him, from under his arm to be protected, from close to his heart to be loved." (Phillips p.53)

Yet beyond all of this I see that in Eve's creation, the role of a woman is far greater than Satan would have us believe. Instead of a lesser being or a weaker being, we are made equal though different. Satan's lie sometimes is that because we are made from man we are weaker. NOT TRUE! 

Look at from what Eve is made: Adam's rib. 

What is the function of a rib? From what I can tell having ribs myself, they protect two of the most vital organs the heart and the lungs. Without these organs, human life is unsustainable. Futhermore, the ribs support the frame of the upper body. (Keep in mind I am not a medical expert and these are only my personal observations.)

So if we view ourselves from that which we are made our role as helper is incredibly more valuable that we give credit. We are to protect and support.

  • Protection
The ribs are protecting the most vital organs, so to women must protect the hearts of men. People may say that men are less emotional than women, but I would argue from my own experiences that men love deeply and intensely. They are sometimes more emotionally fragile than women. We have to guard those hearts when they are made vulnerable to us. 

I lay as evidence on the table my brother's experience. My brother dated a young woman and had asked her to marry him. My brother is a fairly typical male specimen. Slow to open his heart to others, but when he does he gives his all. This young woman cheated on him and broke off their engagement when she learned she was pregnant with this other man's child. My poor brother was emotional devastated. He thoughts turned dark and suicidal. Fortunately with time his wounds healed. The young woman failed in her role as protector.

Additionally, look at all the men in this world who are deeply broken by a mother's failure to guard and protect their hearts.  Proverbs details the qualities of an excellent woman.

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31: 11-12 (ESV)
I recently read a book that details how men think. I was amazed at how deep their need for intimacy and love ran. Equally, I was shocked at how easy it was to leave lasting wounds on their hearts. Gird yourselves for battle women, you must be prepared to guard the hearts of your husbands and sons from your actions and the actions of others. What a powerful role you have as a woman!
  • Support
Bones are an integral part of the bodies structure. Without your bones you would be a blob, unable to move. They are the foundation upon which the complex human body is made and will endure long after the rest of you is gone. As you are made from this foundation that supports the body, so also you are made to support others. This is not a role for the timid or weak. The Holy Spirit is often portrayed as a helper. You also have this role. It is many faceted role requiring you to wear any number of hats- comforter, provider, counselor to name a few.

As wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, we are called upon to do many things to support those around us. Much like an army would most certainly fail without its support personnel so too would our loved ones without our support. Returning to Proverbs 31 we see a woman supporting her family far beyond the traditional roles we have been told a woman holds. Not only is the woman the cook, keeper of the house (vs. 15), a wife, and a mother (vs. 28), she is a real estate investor, an entrepreneur, a merchant, a weaver, a philanthropist, a teacher, and a counselor just to name a few.  She supported her household so well the Bible says she was "...not afraid of snow for household..." (vs. 21) and that "...she laughs at the times to come." (vs. 25).  When you are fulfilling your role as a woman, you have security for the future.

WOW!!! God made a woman to be so much more that just a slave, but he did not make us to struggle against men for power and authority. He made us equals with tasks we are perfectly suited for that require as much strength and ability as any role that he made for a man.  I certainly feel empowered by that and I hope you do too.