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.                                  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Husbandry

Dear Christa—
Nate loves to garden. One of his happiest days of the year is when his seeds arrive—in January no less. I’ve watched him crank up his rototiller and till up half his backyard. I’ve also canned tomatoes with him, ate his sweet corn, and been the recipient of his hot peppers. He may be a policeman by night, but he’s a farmer by day. He also loves animals. At the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Kansas, I’ve watched him scratch a little calf’s nose, while holding tiny Elliott and encouraging her to do the same. It’s no wonder she loves animals the way she does. She spends most of her day hugging her dog.
And there’s something just natural and good about digging in the soil and tending animals. It’s so much related to humanity that in English we have a word for it, husbandry. Now, that’s a word we don’t hear much nowadays.
Cain and Abel were farmers back in a time when there was no doubt about who God is. Though they were fallen in nature, God talked right to them. And they brought God offerings—offerings that were both a blessing from God and the result of their hard work.
It’s much the same today, really. We should use our gifts, which are from God, to serve God. So often we just get busy working and using our gifts that it’s easy to forget that the things we do well are blessings from God. Everyone has things they love to do and are good at, even though mine don’t include growing a great garden. But, it’s important to remember to be grateful for the talents that we have and not to use them just for our own benefit.
And blessings from God should be developed through our hard work. As a teacher, nothing frustrates me more than a smart, lazy kid. Developing our talents to use to help others has a way of making us happy. It’s kind of funny. It seems like if we only do things for ourselves it would make us happy, but it doesn’t.
Nate enjoys working in his garden, and he really enjoys having the kids tag behind him and showing them how things grow. It’s a good thing to recognize blessings from God. Tragically, it was something Cain forgot.