Tuesday, July 31, 2007
yet they store up their food in the summer;" Proverbs 30:25
Today we live in a world where we can go to the grocery store any day, any time of the year, and bring something home to make dinner. We also live in a world, where for the most part, people work year round, so there's no need to stock up for winter. It used to be (and not so long ago) that most people would work very hard during the warmer months and concentrate on storing food for the cold, lean months. And in many developing countries around the world, it is still this way. Those people are still like the ants mentioned in the Bible. And then there are the people in this country who would be grateful for the opportunity to be an ant and have food squirreled away for another day.
I am grateful for living where we do and when we do, but at the same time, I wonder what I can do to help others more. With Andy being in a seasonal job, we do have to live like ants somewhat. Right now, every chance I can I put food into a canning jar or a freezer bag. Very slowly, the freezer is filling back up, and I'm starting to catch a glimpse of a stocked pantry. Last week, while grocery shopping, I picked up a few things for the pantry, and decided that I should pick up double of everything, so that I could also stock our local food pantry. We are so blessed with the opportunity to be able to grocery shop every week if I need it. I am beyond blessed with the ability to have extra that I can tuck into the freezer for a cold winter day. It's the least we could do to remember those in need all year round.
I find great joy in being an ant. I love that knowing my hard work now will result in wonderful things for my family come January. For example, this week one of the local farm stands will be getting in peaches from Michigan. I plan to go purchase an entire case at a ridiculous price, and then with those peaches I am going to make some jam as well as a few batches of pie filling. Won't that be a wonderful treat in early March! A fresh and juicy peach pie that we will find so wonderful, all because God saw fit to bless us in August.
We have a great God, and I know that all the lessons I am learning now are for a reason. Someday that reason will be revealed, but for now, I think the reasoning is to be an example for my children. They take such delight in checking out the garden and in helping others. Maybe all the jam-making and pickling will come in use for my daughter some day- perhaps she will be a missionary in a developing country and she'll be able to teach gardening and food preservation techniques. Who knows. But for now, I am blessed by every single day and every single opportunity to be an ant.
Monday, July 30, 2007
I thought this was a great verse for today. Yesterday our church did something different for church on Sunday and cancelled service. Instead we spent the morning serving our community in a couple of different ways. It was a blast. We all had a good time- the kids included and got to show God's love in action.
I wanted to briefly point out verse 16 here. "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." You'll notice that it doesn't say anything like let your light shine so that your good deeds may be recognized. Or do good deeds so that you may be glorified. We do good deeds and good works so that God may be praised and glorified. So that someone can look at our work and see that God has blessed us with the ability to serve. It has always bothered me when I do something for church or at church and I get recognized for it. That's not why I serve. I like to think that service can be contagious. Kind of like that movie Pay It Forward. That maybe someone will see me serving (or in this case, our whole church) and get inspired to serve themselves.
There are certainly rewards for serving. The joy in my heart alone yesterday made the work worth it. But then to see my children serving with a happy heart was almost overwhelming. It was wonderful to see the smiles on their faces as they helped paint benches and pick up litter. Yesterday was a great experience. It really was rewarding to serve our community, and I hope we have many more opportunities in the future to do so. I also hope that others will see our example and will serve in whatever way they can.
Friday, July 27, 2007
So Sarah was returned and Abraham did pray for Abimelech and his household. Abimelech asked Abraham why they had entered with deception at the beginning.
"Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.' 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father's household, I said to her, 'This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, "He is my brother." ' "
14 Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, "My land is before you; live wherever you like."
16 To Sarah he said, "I am giving your brother a thousand shekels [a] of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated."
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, 18 for the LORD had closed up every womb in Abimelech's household because of Abraham's wife Sarah." Genesis 20:11-18
The Bible doesn't go into details about Abimelech. We do see that the Lord had affected all the women while Sarah was there, but we also know that God told Abimelech that he will surely die if Abraham did not pray for them. Perhaps this passage is about faith and the power of prayer. God told Abimelech to return Sarah to Abraham, and Abimelech could have chosen to keep her and could have also not believed God when he said that Abraham was a prophet. Yet he did, and a relationship was formed with Abraham and Abimelech, which we learn later on will be of some importance.
God works in mysterious ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. Sometimes the things that are happening to us now do not make sense to us- but they make sense to God. Sometimes that can be tough to remember.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
26 The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Genesis 18:22-26Abraham had a reason for pleading the case for Sodom. His beloved cousin Lot was living there, and I'm sure he did not want to see his cousin wiped out for no good reason. This says a few things. It says for one that Abraham was confident that Lot was still a Godly man, despite living amongst evil. It also says that Abraham loved his cousin very much and wished to see him spared. Abraham continued to barter with God for Sodom's salvation and finally agreed on the number five. If five righteous were found within the walls of the city, the city would be spared. So God sent two of his angels to Sodom to find five righteous men. They found only Lot, who offered them shelter and protection.
"But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."
6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof." Genesis 19:3-8
The angels pulled Lot back inside and told him they were going to destroy the city. The took Lot, his wife, and his two daughters and took them out of the city right away and told them to go away and never look back. As soon as Lot and his family were safe, The Lord did indeed destroy Sodom, as well as Gomorrah. God rained down fire and sulfur and destroyed the cities- the people and all the vegetation. Lot's wife, however, chose to look back and see what she shouldn't have, and because she disobeyed God's instructions, she was turned into a pillar of salt.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
God was giving Abram a new name. The actual name Abram means Exalted Father, and Abraham means the Father Of Many. There is a bit of a difference there. Even more so, since Abraham was 99 years old, and here was God telling him that he will be a father to many. At this point he had his son Ishmael, but God still told him there would be more children in his life.
"God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" 18 And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"
19 Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him." Genesis 17:15-22Something to note hear is that up to this point in their lives, Abraham and Sarah had not been able to have a child. The Bible makes it clear that she was barren- which is actually saying that she lacked the correct plumbing to have a child. It was more than just not having all their ducks in a row- she was missing a few parts. So for God to say this was saying that he was going to perform a miracle for Abraham and Sarah. You'll notice that Abraham laughed at this idea. I am sure it was amusing at the time. Here he is, a 99 year old man, being told that he was going to be a father- that would be amusing to anyone I would think.
This chapter in the Bible is also where circumcision comes from. God told Abraham that all the men in his household must be circumcised as part of their covenant with each other. Abraham complied at the age of 99- every male in his household was circumcised. Ishmael at the time was 13 years old- and that was where the tradition of a bar mitzvah began. Ishmael was the first. Just thinking about all of this at Abraham's age is amazing to me. Here he is, a very old man, just willingly doing whatever God asks of him. His willingness is what God found favor in and why he chose to use Abraham as he did. Abraham was a man of God and often spent time just talking with him. That is exciting to me. To think that he was talking- having a conversation with God- just the same as you and I can talk. Wow.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived." Genesis 16:1-4
At this point in their lives, Sarai and Abram must be frustrated a bit with God. He's literally promised them children, and so far nothing has happened. Sarai reaches the age where she's not able to have children anyway, so she tries to take God's promise into her own hands. She does what many, many normal women do- she meddles. Why is that? And why do we do that? The fact is many women are experts at meddling, and here is the perfect reason to not do it. Because Sarai's plan worked. He took her servant as a second wife and of course, she became pregnant. Even though Sarai though she was telling her husband to do what needed to be done, we see that she is not happy at all with the results.
"When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me."
6 "Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her." Genesis 16:4-6
Both women were unhappy. I imagine that Sarai was a wee bit jealous of Hagar- one for having to share a husband, and two for actually conceiving. And I'm sure on Hagar's side, it was more than a little uncomfortable, being pregnant when they all knew that Sarai was unable. It just made for a really awkward situation. The Bible indicates that Sarai mistreated Hagar, it doesn't say how, but it was enough to make Hagar run away. An Angel of The Lord found Hagar on her way out of town. He asked Hagar where she as going and told him what had happened.
"Then the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." 10 The angel added, "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count."
11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
"You are now with child
and you will have a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers." Genesis 16:9-12
Tomorrow we see a new name for Abram.
Monday, July 23, 2007
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:32-40
This was part of yesterday's sermon at church. I admit that it isn't vary often that a sermon at church completely captures my attention. But yesterday's message was near and dear to my heart, and encouraged action by us as believers to do more to care for the less fortunate. The Pastor shared some remarkable statistics that showed that the majority of people around the world live on less than $10,000 a year. And actually, something like 20% of the world's poor live on less than $1200 per year. That is staggering to me. And so disturbing. We struggle with making ends meet sometime, and we're technically considered some of the world's wealthiest! Just thinking about that makes me want to do something different.
Then last night, as if driving the message home, I was flipping channels and came upon a show that was showing the life of hoarders. People who hoard stuff, and literally live in awful circumstances simply because they need so much to feel comfort. That right there made me determined that I would wake up this morning and tackle a project I had been ignoring for awhile. I don't know what, but some drawer or cupboard that needs to be cleaned out. And then later on, after the show about hoarding was something even worse, as they were showing people who were addicted to food... my heart went out to these people who consume somewhere around 15,000 calories a day, simply because they can't stop. Both of these shows were about excess, and to me it really drove home the point from the message yesterday that we don't need as much as we think we do.
So many of us have our priorities messed up. (Myself included, to be certain.) We think we have to have the next great thing. We think we need 20 different candle holders, because we never know when we might use them. We need to fill our homes with stuff- with furniture and knick-knacks and just the right curtains because the world says our homes need to be full of stuff. Just the other day I was thinking that I need to dash out and purchase the things to re-do one of our bathrooms. I need new rugs and wall-hangings, even though the current rugs are perfectly serviceable. Thankfully I listened to reason, but it's so easy to get caught up in the gotta-have-it syndrome.
Something I have been working on lately is rearranging things in our home to be more inviting to people. Adding touches of warmth here and there, and removing cold things like excess knick-knacks and objects that serve no purpose. To make our home more kid-friendly, most of the breakable stuff has been gotten rid of, there's just no need to all that stuff! With our small group meeting at our home, it's become important to us to not fill the home with stuff, just because, but to make it warm and inviting. God has blessed us with the gift of hospitality, and we're working to bring our home inline with that gift.
And yet there's all those people out there who have so little... those people who work so hard for each and every morsel of food their family eats. Parents who eat just a bite or two at each meal so that their children can have the nourishment they need. There has to be more that we as Christians we can do to help these people. Something more that we can do than give a few dollars to a cause. I'm not sure what the answer is. But for now, we can take care of our neighbors by doing what we can locally. It's important that we remember our local food pantries and food banks- or organizations like Second Harvest. In many places there are also organizations teaching people how to source their own food- like teaching urban gardening or farming. I'm certain that God's placing all these thoughts on my heart for a reason. It will be exciting to see the path it leads me down in the future.
(Tomorrow I'll get back to Abram.)
Friday, July 20, 2007
14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."
18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD." Genesis 13:12-18
As far as Abram could see, God promised that land to him and his descendants. And not just for Abram's lifetime. You see in verse fifteen that God actually uses the word forever. Forever is a very long time! In addition to having this land for forever, God was also talking about offspring and descendants. This in itself is really something to Abram as well. Abram's wife Sarai is unable to have children, so together they've grown older and without children. Yet repeatedly, God mentions that Abram's offspring will number so many that they will be like dust. That's a lot of descendants!
Shortly after this promise from God, Abram had to go rescue his nephew Lot from an evil King who had taken him captive. He was very successful, and managed to retrieve Lot and his entire household and all his possessions. The Lord then made another covenant with Abram, which we find in chapter fifteen.
"After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward."
2 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."
4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:1-6
Again the discussion of offspring had come up, and once again God was promising a descendant from Abram. Despite the fact that Abram and his wife Sarai are both old, and thus far unable to have children, verse six says that Abram believed the Lord. It didn't mention even once that Abram argued about this or tossed it back and forth in his mind. Just straight up believed that God would give him an heir.
How about us? If God gave us a promise that seems a little out there would we believe it? God has given us the promise of eternal life, yet how many of us truly believe it? I am sure there are times where most of us just look around and wonder if God is real and if all of his promises are real. But then for me, I look out at my garden. The past few weeks some of my plants have fallen pray to some unpleasant little worms. I have diligently been picking them off and trying to keep up with them, but they're still managing to munch away. Well, in just the last few days, the birds have found my worms. And as I'm sitting here typing this I am watching these birds clean off my plants for me. And I am sure they're not missing a single one. If that isn't a gift from God, I don't know what is. I like to think that he did that just for me this week, because he knows how much I am enjoying this garden, and that I hate to see it become worm food. I agree with Abram, that God is righteous. For is it fair that after all this time laboring in my garden for food to feed my family, that I lose much of it to pests? A righteous God provides the birds to take care of it for me. How great is our God!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
"The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
2 "I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."
4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him." Genesis 12:1-7
This shows another one of those moments of faith that I just can't help but marvel at. God just decided one day to tell Abram to leave everything he knew behind. And just like that, Abram said "okay" and did as he was told. No questions, no second thoughts, quite simply he followed God's direction even though he didn't know where or why. That is astounding to me, and almost irrational on the part of Abram. I have to be honest, I wonder if I'd be so willing and so obedient. I read things in the Bible quite often that speak to me, that I can apply to myself and my life. But to have God just flat out tell me that I'm to pack my family up and go would be a bit hard to swallow. I have wondered at times if that type of thing will happen to us at some point. Yet it did to Abram. And not only did he say okay God, but his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot also said, "okay, we'll go too."
It's no wonder that God found favor with Abram. He knew that Abram would be willing to go where he told him, and so he blessed him. He blessed him in a big way, declaring that every single person on earth would be blessed through him. And of course, we all have been, as we see later on in the Bible that Jesus descended from Abram, and Jesus has blessed each and every one of us by giving up his life for us. It doesn't get any greater than that!
So knowing those two things- that God said go and Abram said yes, and that Jesus gave us the greatest blessing ever, could I possibly take a lesson and be more like Abram? I know I've said before that Andy and I were willing. If God told us to go, he'd provide the means and we would go wherever he asked us to. But if the moment actually came...if Andy came home from work and told me that God told him to take us elsewhere, would we do it? Would we just do as asked, no questioning, no complaining. Would we have a willing heart and offer everything in that moment? I like to think that we would.
Abram took God's new beginning for him and ran with it. I'm looking forward to the next few days and seeing how Abram's faith in God remains steadfast.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babe —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth." Genesis 11:1-9
This passage in the Bible proves to me that God has a sense of humor. Look at verse 7: "Come let us go down and confuse their languages..." Doesn't that just sound like a great time! Men who one second were having a conversation suddenly can't understand a word of what the other is saying- and they think in their new language too! I think that would have been terribly funny to witness. Not funny to experience, but funny to see.
This story of the tower of Babel says so much in just a few verses. "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." That right there says it all. These verse tell me that we as people can do anything if we do it together. Working together is the key here in these verses. In two weeks our church is going to do a community service project. We're all getting together to stain a gazebo and park benches in one of our city's parks. It's a pretty sizable gazebo, and if one person were to try and do the work, it would likely take a good week to do it. Likewise, if a group of six people were doing it, but half wanted to use one color, and half wanted to use a different color, they wouldn't get very far, would they. The result would be a mess. Instead, we are going to work together as a group, and the whole process should take just a few hours with many hands.
And with many hands we can do more for God. Our church has started working with other churches in the area to do projects for the community, and pray together for our community. We can do so much more for the people in our community by working together, rather than each going our own way and doing our own thing. Or worse, competing against each other for some reason. I just know that fruit will come of our partnership, that God will bless our endeavors by us working together.
At the same time, I love that this passage in the Bible is also practical. It simply tells us how different languages came into being. It's a practical thing that someone might question. We are also told that at this point the Lord scattered people all over the earth. So we now now how a lot of indigenous people came into being. What these verses don't say, and what I wonder is how these people were scattered. Did they simply go their own ways, and many of them took to long solo voyages across seas and plains? Or was it a divine scattering, with people finding themselves in the Amazonian Jungle or the Siberian Dessert. Just another one of those many questions to ask God when I get to Heaven.
One last point I want to make about these verses is about God's intervention. Just as we saw with Noah, God kind of let the earth take it's own course for awhile. And then, when the timing was perfect, God became directly involved and changed the course. When the timing was perfect for him and his plans. That is a seriously exciting thought to me! Certainly we see other examples of this in the Bible, but it also makes me wonder about today. What does God dictate as perfect timing in our lives to intervene? I think about when Andy was let go from his previous job. Odd to think about it now, but that was truly an act of God. Andy is a loyal person and will stick with a job- he was determined to stick with his job, and then he was suddenly let go and an even better job came along just a few hours later. God directly intervened twice in one day. Once on the heart of Andy's boss to let him go, and once on the heart of Andy's new boss to hire Andy. Now Andy loves his job, and he has had great opportunities to witness to his co-workers. He has been able to plant many seeds, thanks to God's direct interference.
So my question today is this: Has there been a point in your life where you can see God's sudden interference? Sometimes it's not obvious, and sometimes it's not obviously good either- as in the case of Andy being dismissed. How could that be a good thing? God always has his reasons, and it's up to us to be open to his reasons, and willing to accept his interference whenever he sees fit.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
God was sorry he made man. Wickedness ruled, and men were more interested in pleasing themselves than pleasing God. On all the earth, there was only one man who still worshipped God and placed his faith with God. And that was Noah. It's very clear that Noah had faith in God once he started building the ark. A giant boat to hide from the rain in a land that had never seen rain. It took Noah years to build the ark- many, many years, and despite the ridicule he certainly faced from his peers and colleagues, he continued to follow God's direction. That is a major leap of faith!
Of course, just as God said it would, the floods came and covered the earth- 22 feet above the highest mountain top! Think for a second about how much water that is- the circumference of the earth was actually different for a time! And then it took 150 days for the waters to recede and for God to re-make the earth. When Noah and his family and the animals left the ark, the first thing they did was perform a sacrifice to God to thank him for a second chance. God gave them a new promise that we still have with us today. God promised to never again destroy the whole earth and all living things. He promised day and night, summer and winter, and planting and harvest.
"Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. 21 And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. 22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Genesis 8:20-22
What I love the most about the story of Noah is the promise of a new beginning. New beginnings are always exciting and just a little bit scary- you never know what is going to come of a new beginning. And just as God gave Noah and his family the opportunity to start over in a new world, he gives us the opportunity to start over every single day. Every day we can wake up and love God all over again and do our best to live that day in a Godly manner. Many, many days we fail as humans. There are many days where I look back at my day and I think that was not a great day. I was not the best Mommy to my kids or I spent too much time with that book today, or I did nothing to glorify God today. But then I get to go to bed and wake up with a whole new day and another chance to live life right.
Every day is a new chance, and the best part is this is a new day for everyone. Whether you are 5 or 95, today is a new chance to give today to God. Regardless of how bad yesterday was, it's in the past and doesn't matter today. God loves us and wants to give us as many chances as we can to give our lives to him. Every day we have that chance for a new beginning, a fresh start. And while Noah took that fresh start and built a massive boat that took him many, many years, God just wants to help us build a new life that is pleasing to him.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Anyway, I've been reading a rather dull book over the last day. And while it is dull, one of the main characters pointed something out that made me smile, and it does fit in with what we've been studying in Genesis. And that is the subject of food. Quite simply put, God made us to enjoy food. He could easily have made us to exist on grass, or a simple vitamin, or even nothing- giving us what we need from sunshine alone. Instead, God gave us the wonderful senses of taste and smell (which are completely intertwined). God also gave us an amazing variety of foods to put into our mouths. Think about it- think about squash for example. How many varieties of squash are there? From summer squash to winter squash, there has to be at least 50 varieties. God didn't need to do that. He could have given us one squash, and instead he gave us dozens of varieties, each with their own characteristics.
I love thinking about that. That God designed us to enjoy what we eat- and he gave us the raw ingredients we need to prepare something wonderful to eat.
"Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." Genesis 9:3
"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" 1 Timothy 6:8
Food sustains us and nourishes us, it gives us the nutrients we need to keep our bodies healthy and strong. Our God is a kind God to give us the means to enjoy those nutrients. I can't help but think about a protein bar in this case. Have you ever eaten one? They're really not tasty at all. Yet, many people eat protein bars because they lack the desire and the time to prepare something healthy to eat, so they get their nutrients from something that is not delicious. God could have given us feed like cattle- given us "protein bar trees" from which to pick mundane food. And since God gave us all these wonderful foods and ingredients to enjoy, I can say that I think God wants us to enjoy life as well.
We have a great God whose mind is endless and full of endless possibilities. I love that he created food not just for our sustenance, but also for our enjoyment. What a great God- and what a fun thought to start my Monday morning with.
Friday, July 13, 2007
"Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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." Genesis 4:6,7
Cain had a chance to listen to God there. God told him that the feelings he was having were of a sinful nature, and to master them before it was too late. Cain didn't listen.
"Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him." Genesis 4:8
And then Cain was confronted by God as to his actions, and here is Cain's reply.
"Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"
"I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
10 The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."
13 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 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."
15 But the LORD said to him, "Not so ; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden." Genesis 4:9-16
Just as his parents before him, Cain did not confess to God his sin outright. He tried to hide it, but of course, God knew. And again, like Adam and Eve, Cain's punishment was exile. Sin was a part of man at this point, it was a matter of controlling it. As part of Cain's punishment, he was also unable to be killed, so he didn't have an easy way out of his misery. Instead he moved on, found a wife and produced a family. It was a productive family, each man contributing to the accomplishments of civilization- such as music and metal forgery. And by the 5th generation, we see that man once again begins to call on the name of their Lord God as their Lord.
We also see at the end of chapter four that God is a gracious God. For to Adam and Eve, he blessed them with another son, Seth. I imagine that Adam and Eve were pretty distraught over their sons. First their eldest son kills his little brother, so they are without their youngest son. Then Cain is exiled, so they are also without him. I am certain that Seth was a gift for them- to help them with their grief.
It's interesting as we move onto chapter 5. Right off the bat, we see that men at the beginning lived a very long time. Adam himself lived to 930 years old- having Seth at the age of 130. Then we see the descendants of Adam, through Seth right up to Noah. They all lived so long! All except for Enoch- here is what it says about Enoch:
"When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." Genesis 5:21-24
God simply took Enoch away! At that time, he was 365, which was young. The Bible says that he walked with God, so I like to think that God so enjoyed his company, that he took him to Heaven to live with him in eternity. It's interesting that all of these men lived so long- had one prominent son, and then "many sons and daughters". I imagine that over a lifetime that spans some 900 years, that could be a lot of sons and daughters! They certainly had ample time to be fruitful and multiply didn't they?
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Oh that serpent was sneaky and deceptive! He wanted Eve to disobey God. He began by taunting her- "Did God really say you can't eat the fruit from the trees?" To which she replied "Of course we can eat the fruit from the trees- all except one." He opened a window that got her thinking about the forbidden tree. Eve then explained that death was the result of touching that tree, and the serpent told her that she would not die- instead, she would become wise like God Himself. Now God had told Adam and Eve that death would be the result of disobeying him. But the serpent convinced Eve that she wouldn't, in fact, die as a result. He twisted the truth to something she would listen to. It didn't take very long for the serpent to convince Eve to eat of the tree. He also never actually suggested that she eat from the tree...all the questions he asked brought her to her own conclusion.
Eve did eat of the tree and shared it with Adam. They immediately felt shameful, and since there was no way to hide what they had done, instead, they chose to hide their nakedness. They fashioned some fig leaves to cover themselves. Where they have been completely open and without shame or fear a few moments before, Adam and Eve now felt both. They felt shame at what they had done, and at being naked. And they felt fear from God, as we see then that they hid as God walked through the garden.
Notice both Adam and Eve's reaction when confronted by God about their wrong doing. Adam said that Eve made him do it, and Eve said the serpent made her do it. Neither of them confessed to doing wrong of their own accord. And of course, death was the result of their disobedience. Not physical death immediately, but where they could have potentially lived forever, God gave their lives a time limit. That may have been punishment, but it also may have been mercy. Mercy because he was sparing them from living forever with the knowledge that they sinned against Him. There was also the consequence of spiritual death. There was a closeness between God and Adam that was gone- partly because Adam sinned, and partly because he was not open with God about it. He blamed his wife, instead of confessing what he himself chose to do.
Adam and Eve had to leave their beautiful garden. And God didn't just make them leave it, he placed a flaming sword and cherubim at the entrance to keep anyone from entering again. The Garden of Eden had been placed somewhere in the Mid-East of the world as we know it. The Bible references the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers when talking about the garden. Imagine being in this lush green and beautiful garden full of growing things. And then you have to leave it and work the sandy ground on the outside. That was Adam's punishment. They were in paradise, and sinned, and had to leave it. As Adam and Eve toiled and worked hard from that moment on, I bet they regretted sinning in the first place. Part of Adam's curse was that they food he ate would be a result of the sweat of his brow. That meant he had to work for every bite of food from that point on, instead of just plucking it from a bush or a tree as he did before.
We can learn a lot from Adam and Eve. For me today, it's owning up to my mistakes personally. Not blaming it on someone else or blaming a poor decision on circumstances. I make the conscious choice to do what I shouldn't, and I need to confess my sins in that manner to God. As hard as that may be, it will be far better to confess and admit my sins up front rather than hide from them and cause a barrier in my relationship with God. Some 3500 years after they've sinned, and we're still learning from Adam and Eve.
Tomorrow, Cain, Abel, and Seth.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
23 And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." Genesis 2:16-25
Here at the end of chapter 2 we finally get to meet the first man. We meet Adam, who was created in God's image. At the moment Adam was created, he was flawless- without sin and without knowledge of evil. Think of a young child who does not know the difference between right and wrong- a child who only wants to please their parents. I imagine that is what Adam was like. He obviously was an intelligent man, naming all the animals and recognizing that none of them were his equal. Adam wanted a companion, so God made him one.
At first I was wondering about this. Adam wanted a companion that was his equal. I mean, Adam could have as many conversations as he wanted with God- why would he need a companion on top of that? But then I thought about going for a walk...going for a peaceful walk down a country road or path. It's always nice to get away alone for some peace and quiet- but it's even better with a companion to share it with. Here Adam was in a beautiful garden, taking careful care of his Lord God's creation. And he wanted someone to share this beauty with. That's not difficult to comprehend.
So God put Adam to sleep and removed a rib bone, which he used to form woman. That is where the name woman comes from- meaning "of man". Then we get to the last verse, which causes snickers in every Sunday School classroom- they were both naked, and were not ashamed. This means so much more than simply without clothing. Yes, they did not have clothing, but being naked in this instance also means that they were completely unprotected and vulnerable-they were exposed in every way. They were sinless. They had no idea there was such a thing as evil, or even that anything they did could be considered wrong. They were completely honest with each other, and completely honest with their God. Seems to me that we could all stand to be a little more naked. (Not literally, of course) :-)
Tomorrow I'll be looking at chapter 3, and the consequences of sin.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Genesis 1:20-31
I think the word good has a dual purpose here. Let's think about that. When I make a cake, I go through each step exactly as it should be, mixing, baking, assembling, frosting, decorating, etc. And when it is all finished I stand back, scrutinize it, and declare "that's a good cake." Good meaning nice at that moment. But there is also the Biblical goodness. Without corruption or bad behavior. As God created each day, he sat back, looked at it and declared it good- both nice and without corruption.
Think about that creation for a minute. There were plants in the soil that no man had planted, there were fields of grain that no one cultivated. There were trees bearing fruit in orchards that no one had tended from young. There were sheep roaming in herds without a shepherd to guide them to eat or drink...God created all that- and there wasn't even any rain yet! The first rain doesn't come until later on with Noah...the plants lived and thrived with a mist that would rise from the ground. Not a day goes by that I don't marvel at my garden. That God could create a plant such as a tomato that bears the most wonderful fruit. And contained within just one fruit is hundreds of new seeds to grow new plants. It's amazing to me! And when I read Genesis and see that God created all the plants in one day... that's a lot of work! Think of all the varieties of plant life around the globe. He created each and every one for a specific purpose. No wonder God rested on the seventh day!
1 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; 6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:1-7
I think I won't go as far as I'd intended today and we'll stop here at verse 7. There is a change here that I think shouldn't go un-noticed. You'll see that in the first chapter of Genesis, right up to verse 2:3, God is referred to as simply God. Then he rested and blessed his day of rest and at that point, the Bible refers to God as Lord God. It's an official title, and one that to me conotates power. As a living breathing example, we can use the movie Star Wars as an example (maybe not a good example, but it works.) To all the people underneath him, the character of Darth Vader is called Lord Vader, a position of power. To the Emperor above him, he is simple Darth Vader, never called Lord Vader except in mockery.
In Genesis this is a moment in the history of the earth where God assumed his Lordship over all he created. And aren't we glad he did! He could have very well created what he did, took a few looks at it and decided it wasn't quite what he had in mind and scrapped it all. Instead, he took great pleasure in what he created and decided to take the earth and all its inhabitants under his wing. Without God we literally are nothing. As verse 2 says, we are void and without form. Aren't I grateful and humble that God decided he did want to be our Lord God after all.
Tomorrow we meet the first man and first woman.
Monday, July 09, 2007
I've decided that at least for a little while, I want to blog about the beginning, or Genesis to be specific. How can you not love the book of Genesis, it is after all, where many of our favorite Sunday School stories come from. But I want to do a little more in-depth study of it. I have a study guide called Promises and Beginnings, Examining Excellence in the Creator's Ways by Jack W. Hayford. We'll see how it goes for a few days. If I feel the study guide is not working like I want it to, I'll figure out something else.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Genesis 1:1-2
Now doesn't that just grab you right off the bat!? The earth was completely without form and void. It was nothing. Imagine that simple thought, that the earth was nothing. It's actually something to comprehend that it simply wasn't. Generations can't imagine what life was like before cars and televisions, imagine there being simply nothing. Then it gets better.
"3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day." Genesis 1:3-5
Then God spoke. Truly, he said "let there be light" and there it was. All he did was speak! And something came into being. And the first thing he called into being is light- there was no light prior to his speaking, the nothingness was simply darkness. If you've ever been in the country or in a forest at night when there is no moon or stars, you know the meaning of darkness- it's difficult to even see your hand in front of your face.
One of the facets of Genesis that I want to explore is God Himself. Our Lord is the Creator and the God of all beginnings. By taking a peek at Genesis and really taking it apart we can see how Our God began everything and see many of his promises to us. He is faithful and just, and in Genesis we can see this unfold before our very eyes if we know where to look for it. Tomorrow I'll begin at the beginning at Genesis 1:1 and go through 2:25, we'll look at the Creation and the introduction of Man to God's Creation.