Thursday, April 10, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Judgment

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Judgment
I wonder when Jesus stopped being Mary’s son and became her Lord. It did happen. There had to have been a change, slow or fast, when Mary no longer looked at Jesus as a child she bore and raised and recognized him for who is was and is—Creator God.
As children grow, we parent less and less in many ways, but this was different. Jesus never was really Mary’s. He was God, and she was just a vessel—a vessel used to bring redemption.
There came a time in history when God brought severe judgment on the earth, not just a nation or region, but the entire earth. Those who peopled the earth were mighty and strong—“heroes of old”—legends that perhaps became myth. Mighty though they were, they were not godly. They should have recognized God for God, but they did not. And then came judgment.
People don’t like to talk about judgment these days. We’d rather view Jesus as Mary’s son, a child. And it is true that Jesus did come as a child, but by the time He agonized in Gethsemane, this was no mere mortal, even in comparison to the heroes of old. This was God, very God. And all those things Mary had pondered in her heart years before surely came back to her again. This was not her son. This was her God.
And even though Jesus brought redemption, He is still a God of judgment. Power and prestige will not remove us from the eyes of God. Redeemer on one hand, judge on the other.
Mary was a vessel—a vessel who recognized her God. We should do no less.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Remaining True

Reading Genesis 5 is like pushing the fast forward button on the DVD where we only see flashes of the sequence. Chapter 5 is a fast forward from Creation to the Flood. Because of the pace, it appears that not much happens and that it moves quickly, but it didn’t. Those people lived hundreds of years.
Chapter 5 portrays an overview of Seth’s line. It stands in stark contrast to Cain’s, which continued to degrade. From the moment that people left the presence of God, they forgot about Him. They became consumed with their own work, their own building, their own talents. And as time marched on for hundreds of years—people worked, took spouses, bore children, and lived for themselves. To live outside the presence of God is to live selfishly, and so they did. And so do we.
Yet, in the midst of large scale degradation, there was one line that remained within God’s presence. It is the line of Adam through Seth. As Seth viewed Adam’s life, so his son viewed his (and his grandfather’s), and his son viewed his, (and his grandfather’s and great grandfather’s), and so on and so on—all through the rising corruption of humanity. All these people made a difference, for good or for bad, for hundreds of years. Adam could have impacted, first hand, family members for 8 generations before he died.
We don’t have 8 generations to pour into. We have one, two, and three at the most. We don’t have hundreds of years to teach and pray. Time was cut short for man’s own good, so that he didn’t have time to bring about his utter demise. But, the time for good is limited as well.
Let’s make every day count—today, tomorrow, and the next. Genesis 5 moves from the beginning to judgment and is as fast-paced as one lifetime. We only get one.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Man

Dear Christa—
When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man” (Genesis 5:1).
“…in the likeness of God…”
That explains a lot about people. From the tiniest cell, all of creation is wonderful and mindboggling.  But of all creation, people are beyond description. The human body and all its intricacies, the mind and its capabilities, the bend toward the spiritual—all these, even in our fallen state, bear a reflection of God. Man who was created only “a little lower than the angels,” is created in the likeness of God.
Man is capable of unimaginable abilities and great good. 
We don’t fly much, but when we do, I always think of how amazing such a thing is. In mere hours we’ve crossed an ocean to take up grandkids in our arms from Germany to England and to all parts of the U. S. Currently, Jay’s mom is anticipating medical procedures that border on the miraculous. We live in an amazing time.
It does not stop there; people are feeding the hungry and lifting the weakest. Not all is bad in our world, and people (Christian and not) are the impetus to mead out goodness. We do so because it brings us joy to help others.  
It’s a characteristic of God.
But, because people are so wonderfully made, it is so easy to forget God—to forget there is One greater. To forget God is to replace God with oneself. To forget God in our goodness is the most dangerous thing in the world. To forget God is to forget we need a Savior. And, in all of man’s glory, we are most fallen and needy and capable of all sorts of selfishness.
The fallen state of our world brings pain, hurt, and remembrance. It causes us to remember that there is One greater, and we need Him. It causes us to remember that earth holds no Eden. 
We cannot look for Heaven on earth. 
It is not here.
All of life is precious, and we should appreciate it, 
be grateful for it, 
and never forget from where it comes.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Hope

Dear Christa—
In the time of grief, in the time of change and heartache, there is nothing quite like a baby to give one hope.

“And she [Eve] gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel.”
Tragedy is unexpected. Tragedy hurts. Tragedy makes us think of God.
I have often wondered how through all those hundreds of years that the first couple lived, did Eve look at her reflection in the water with regret. We all live with regret. Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us can hold up a clean slate. That’s exactly why we need a Savior and exactly why Jesus came. He came to clean our slate.
It’s true that Eve had to live with her sin, one immensely worse than any we’ve committed—the fall of the entire human race. But, Eve knew something else; she knew that God was true. He said that to eat of tree would bring death. He said she would bare children in pain. He said He would send a Savior.
I’ve seen two babies born—the firstborn of our daughters. (Now, I’ve been relegated to babysitter.) It’s an interesting experience for a mother to see a daughter become a mother. And after the pain, there is joy.
A new baby brings joy. A new baby brings hope. I’ve watched my grieving mother caress baby Helen, and there was joy in the midst of pain. There is just something wonderful about a baby. A baby puts the focus on life, not death.
So, Eve gave thanks when Seth was born. Perhaps she’d thought the Savior would come through the line of Abel. He did not. He came through Seth—the child of hope.
Tragedy is unexpected. Tragedy hurts. Tragedy makes us think of God. And God gives us hope.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

From Genesis to Now: In the Presence of God

Dear Christa—
It seems to me that even though Adam and Eve were sent from the Garden, they still dwelt in a place in which the presence of God was more evident than other parts of the world, not the Garden but a place still called Eden. Apparently, not every child of Adam and Eve had chosen to stay there, but Cain and Abel had. I wonder about these things from Cain’s response to God when he was told that he must leave the land.
Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me” (Gen. 4:13).
Though Cain’s offering had not been accepted, he still dwelt in the presence of God. God talked to him directly, even if in correction. It is a wonderful place, the presence of God. I wonder what it would be like to commune with God as they did.
Cain is an interesting person. He does not want to obey God, yet he doesn’t want to be hidden from His presence either. For, to be hidden from His presence is to be a restless wanderer on the earth.
The world is filled with restless wanderers. 
I see them everywhere. 
Sometimes, I think I am one. 
At times I am.
Maybe God’s presence was evident in the land because it was filled with people like Abel, one who worshiped God. I do believe there is a spiritual type of protection in the presence of believers. It’s a prayer that Christian parents pray over their children—that they will not be hidden from His presence. 
It’s a prayer, Christa, that I know you pray for yours.
Our children are scattered not just across the States but across the globe. And I pray whether far or near that they seek out fellowship with believers, that they will live and worship in the presence of God.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Never Alone

 Dear Christa—
The LORD said, “What have you done?

Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”
God sees all, hears all, knows all. Not a moment escapes His awareness. Not a moment is disregarded.
Feeling alone today? Feeling like no one knows, no one understands? There is a God who holds this world together, and not a sigh escapes our lips that He does not notice.
We are never alone.
And, we are also never alone in our sin. I have a poster above my classroom door that asks, “How do you act when no one is looking?” It’s a penetrating question, really.
It’s so easy to disregard “little” sins. Perhaps Cain’s anger turned into jealousy. Perhaps he didn’t think it such a big deal. Perhaps he sat alone at night and during the day and dwelt on God’s attitude—one that had rejected him and accepted his brother.
So, one day—with intention—Cain said to Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And I don’t have to say what happened there. But God took notice.
God punished Cain, and it appears that Cain never did repent. Instead his response was self-directed as always: “My punishment is more than I can bear.”
At times we relate to Abel. At times we are wronged. At times we feel so alone. Yet, God is there. He knows our hurt; He knows our pain. And, He does not let those things go.
At times we relate to Cain. No one wants to be associated with Cain, but the Bible is clear. We have all sinned. And, when I sin, God is there and He takes notice and He will not let it go.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Genesis to Now: Selfishness

Dear Christa—
Simply put, Cain was selfish. It’s no wonder that one of the first vignettes of beginning times deals with selfishness.  
Selfishness is the hinge that opens the door to sin. 
We need look no farther than our own selves to see clearly that at the root of sin is selfishness.
Cain and Abel brought gifts to God. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel brought his in faith and Cain did not. When God looks deep within to my motivation of why I do what I do, why I live the way I live, does He see a heart of faith that seeks Him, one that depends on Him, one that is grateful to Him—or does He see selfishness, selfishness that’s seeking what I want, a focus on me? 
When God looked favorably on Abel and not on Cain, Cain was angry, very angry, and it showed on his face. Cain was mad at God, but he did not act out toward God. So often, anger toward God is denied and retaliation is directed toward a brother, a good brother.
Knowing Cain’s anger toward Himself, knowing Cain would focus that anger on Abel, God sought out Cain and He said, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
At the root of sin is selfishness. It’s all about me—my life, my desires, my everything.
A selfish heart is as natural to people as a baby’s first breath. How can one ever master it? These might help.
Acceptance: Sometimes we’re in a mess because of our own decisions, but sometimes it’s right where God wants us. I guess the trick is knowing the difference. If we’re where God wants us (in this job, in this marriage, in this illness), we need to be all right with that. That is faith.
Caring for others: Does every decision start with “what I should” or “what I want”? Do we live according to biblical principles or every selfish desire? To live biblically often requires some self-discipline. It’s what gets a mother up in the middle of the night and sends a dad to a job he doesn’t care for each morning. That is not easy, but it’s being faithful.
Rejoicing with others: “The grass is always greener…” And on this snowy February morning, I think it’s greener anywhere but here. Someone else’s life is always going to look better if we let ourselves go there. Be glad for someone else’s accomplishment or blessing. Trust in a sovereign God. That is faith.
God knows who we are. He knows our passions. He knows our hearts. And we must master the selfishness within, and we can only do that by faith in a faithful God.