Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Baby Wars in Genesis- Life Can Get Messy

In Genesis, the records we read are portraits of the families of men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We can read about their wives and children. There are parallel stories of Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ismael, Jacob and Esau that show two divergent ideologies. Some of these men had multiple wives, some of them were monogamous.  As humanity developed, things became more complex and stained. God's original intent for man was being undermined by something other than the love of God.

In Chapters 29-30 the battle of the child-rearing wars exploded with the offspring of Jacob. He had 12 sons and a daughter named Dinah. In all of this Jacob, had 2 wives and two surrogate wives. The wives named the children with names that protrayed the baby war. From a human nature point of view, the difficulties and disfunction are understandable. Added to this a pinch of religion and it can be looked upon as one big mess. Is is any wonder that the offspring of Jacob had issues?

The men and women of the Old testament were human beings full of faults and failures, a result of snacking off the tree of knowledge of good and evil. All of the the idiosyncrasies of culture exist because of choice by man. God provided life, love, and contentment. In man's attempt to improve on God's provision, things got messy. It is written all over Genesis.

Man hasn't changed. Neither has God! God has unceasing love for man. He provides a way out. Man has got to remember that God is not a 'controlling' God, he is a 'free will choice' God. In providing choice, he sent his son as THE plan of salvation.  He did not send a policeman, a politician, a lawyer, Big Bird, a mountain, a sunset or even a denomination or non-denomination. His plan is His plan. It is in what Jesus Christ did that we obtain real life, not only in this world, but in the one to come. All God asks is that we recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ and believe the extraordinary miracle that God raised him from the dead. Then, in a miracle above all miracles God gave us help by sending His very essence in the form of His spirit to energizes, help, instruct and direct our paths in His Word. He is so willing to deliver, no matter how dark the world gets.

 God is everything good. He deserves no blame for the darkness of the world. When darkness fell on the earth it was another force that caused it. God IS light! There is no darkness in Him whatsoever.
1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all
The stories about the men and women in the Genesis provide us with a big picture of how loving God is in helping His people even in the most dire challenges.
(NIV) I Corinthians 13:4-8b: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails......

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Love is a Big Word!

Last night I read II and III John and was amazed at how many times the word 'truth' is used. John refers to 'truth' in one way or another 28 times in I, II, III John (all three contain 7 chapters in total). Another word quite frequently used by John is 'love'. In all of John's writings love and truth are interwoven throughout like a beautiful vibrant tapestry.

Recently I heard about someone reciting the pledge of allegiance and substituting the word 'love' for 'God'. Are we 'one nation under God'?  The answer to that is: 'probably not'. When someone says 'one nation under love', I have to ask: "How do you define love?" Where do we learn what love is? Where do we learn how to love one another?
I John 5:1-3 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
Love and truth are intimately intertwined for someone who believes in God. We don't define love; God does. As I have been working through Genesis, I have realized even more emphatically, that God's love permeates the whole Bible. Genesis is a foundational book for understanding the love of God. It has added a richness to reading things in the New Testament. The epistles of John are some of the last writings recorded in the Word of God. God is faithful to His Word throughout.

In I John 3:12, there is a reference to 'the way of Cain' from Genesis 4.  Cain reinvented God's word to suit his own thinking and lashed back at God in disagreement when confronted by God Himself. Cain's brother Abel was annihilated in the process. This is not the way of love and truth.

In our modern times, this 'reinventing' of God happens more often than not. At present, there is a growing trend to see love as synonymous with 'tolerance'. Tolerance may be involved as a part of loving someone, but 'love' is a much bigger word. We cannot redefine love outside of truth. In order to really love, we need to understand how God loves and believe that He can work in us. We get that understanding by delving into God's Word. It is the truth that manifests love and sets us free and then we can truly help others.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

At The Well

The Isaac record in Genesis 26 is very interesting. Isaac dug a lot of wells. Wells were and still are extremely important in that area for livestock, farming and life in general. Abraham's wells had been filled in with earth by the Philistines. Isaac re-dug them and renamed them by the names his father had used. His servants dug a well in the valley of Gerar. Herdsmen needed water for their flocks and the herdsmen of Gerar contended with Isaac for the well so he called this well Esek ('strife'or 'contention'). When they dug the next well the same thing happened, so Isaac called the well Sitnah (opposition, hostility and accusation). Finally he dug Rehoboth.
Genesis 26:22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.
This record brought to mind a section in the New Testament referring to Isaac's son Jacob's well: 
John 4:12-14 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
I always get goosebumps when I read those verses. Jesus Christ was making a beautiful illustration about who he was and he meant for her life. She lived in Samaria. Samaria was a  city in the northern part of Israel. In the Old Testament, Assyria conquered the inhabitants of that region and had taken them captive to Assyria, replacing them in the region of Samaria with five foreign tribes (II Kings:17:23-24) each having their own gods to worship. When the captives came home they intermixed with these tribes. They became a group of people who were looked down upon by the Judeans who thought they themselves were the true descendants of Judaism. The Samaritans were shunned and considered a half-breed to those who lived in Judea.

Ever since I can remember, sitting in church as a child, I have wondered so many things about God. It wasn't until I focused on the Word of God that I felt that I had any solid answers. I found out about Jesus Christ and his implications to the spiritual life. He is the way, the truth and the reality of the fountain of living waters. We receive the very nature of God in the gift of holy spirit through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God.

I spent time looking into many different types of churches: small groups, large groups, organic churches, traditional churches, non-denominational, and mainline churches. I went from well to well to test the waters. Sometimes I found wells that were filled with earthy things. Sadly, I also found wells that involved strife, hostility and accusation. Religion can be cruel and confusing at times. Finally, I found Rehoboth in truly understanding the Lordship of Jesus Christ! It was the beginning of sonship and the end of feeling shunned or being labeled as a half-breed.

True discipleship is not about sheep lapping the muddied waters of religious rituals. True discipleship comes from digging one's own well in the Word and expecting crystal clear bubbling water from the fountain. Sometimes we get help from other fellow-seekers. Sometimes we feel very much on our own. Regardless, God always provides what we need!
Isaiah 12:2-3 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cliff Notes

In the events in Genesis, it is clear that the godly patriarchs interacted with the political leaders of those early times. It was Adam's son, Cain, who built the first city ('polis' in Greek). Nimrod who was the great-grandson of Noah (and also established cities), was a leader who stood against God politically. Abraham, Joseph and Jacob interacted with the Pharaoh. Isaac and Abraham dealt with Abimelech, the kings of Gerar.  Some of these rulers benefited God's people, others were destructive. Political cultures have been around since the beginning of time.

The culture we live in today is extremely polar politically. Have you ever wondered if Jesus would have been a Republican or a Democrat?  Many Republicans today believe Christianity is best represented by Republicanism. Likewise, there are many Democrats that think they are the loving Christian party. Jesus Christ would have been neither! He was the son of God. He loved as his Father loves.  His handling of political people and issues would have been based on the Word.  Matthew (who was a tax-collector) recorded a great incident about Jesus' handling of a tax situation:
Matthew 17:24-27 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money (didrachma = 2 drachma= half shekel temple flat tax of Exodus 30:11-16)  came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented (jumped ahead of) him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute (kensos=poll tax)? of their own children, or of strangers?  Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money (strater = 4 drachma coin): that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
In our culture today, the President's children pay taxes if they work.  In Bible times, the king's children did not pay taxes. In Matthew 16:16, Peter already had acknowledged that Jesus was the son of God. He was the king's son, therefore exempt from taxes. The Hebrews were not there yet in their thinking.  Jesus handled the situation by  providing a humble (Romans 15:1) miraculous solution that would avoid scandal. Miracles often occur for the benefit of those watching. He sent Peter fishing. Peter pulled up a fish that had a coin worth 4 drachmas in it's mouth. God supplied money for the tax for both Jesus and Peter.

Politics often engages in cliff-hanging because of conflicts of interests. It seems like such a no-win situation. We  can only look to God for what we need. The job of a leader is not to promote his own ideology but to serve. Misusing scripture as a means to an end is repugnant to God. Our belief system is set in God's Word. We don't pray to our leaders for what we need, we pray for them to make wise and just decisions, free from unsavory pressures.  God is our sufficiency. So what do we do with everything that is going on today? Paul had a great solution:
1 Timothy 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.





R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we got to talking about respect and the current culture. He made a statement to me t...