Posts Tagged ‘Genesis’
An Epiphany Reflection
“Among you stands one whom you do not know…” (John 18:26)
“In the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.” (James 1:11)
My reflections during this season of Epiphany have been spent on much personal examination. As I practice spiritual disciplines, there is the expectation that measured growth should be manifest from them. While I do these types of examinations throughout the year, the year’s end and the early New Year are times when this examination is much deeper. I am in the process of finalizing my updated Personal Rule of Life; at least what will begin as my rule of life for the 2013 year. This personal rule of mine is not chiseled in stone, but serves as a guide and is subject to change as God’s Spirit would lead and I would obey.
One of the points of my rule for 2013 is my Bible reading. One reading plan I am engaging in is a morning devotional my family is participating in together (The NRSV Devotional Bible). We have just finished reading the Genesis narrative and I have been captivated once again by the incredible relational nature of our Eternal God.
Understanding the great attributes of God, and I use that term “understanding” loosely, it seems that God could have used any number of means to effect His great plan of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration… any of which did not have to include the weak link that is humankind. But He chose to partner with humanity anyway at incredible risk to His Name, His purposes, and the general nature of His plan. Adam, Noah, Abraham…Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were all frail and imperfect role models, but God chooses to partner with them for the sake of His plan and for the sake of you and of me.
This is one of the primary thoughts that has been camping out in my brain. The “relational” part of our relationship with God is one thing I believe we often take for granted. I believe it is easy to assume much of the responsibility of our discipleship and restoration as images of God is placed upon God. Many us will assume any transformation we experience in our lives that resembles Jesus Christ is the work of God—and I believe that is true, but we also bear a certain amount of responsibility in the process of this transformation. We surrender to the work of God in us as we engage in the process ourselves.
Partners with God
Part-ners: Each “ner” has their respective part in the outworking of God’s grand narrative.
“A child that does not grow bigger is pathetic. Soil that does not produce vegetation is sterile. The tree that is barren is cut down. Unless we go forward, we slip backward.” -John Jewell
We cannot afford to take our “parts” and our roles lightly. As we journey with Jesus on the path of spiritual formation and Imago Dei transformation, we share in the process and responsibility of our discipleship. It is not all the responsibility of God; He enables, empowers, and provides as we surrender, submit, obey, and engage. Hear again, it is God who empowers and enables; it is the Holy Spirit who guides and comforts; it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ who walks alongside us in the process. It is the believer-disciple who bears the yoke of obedient surrender and engages joyfully in the process—making plans, strategizing, and taking the appropriate steps to become more like Christ. Restoration and transformation to the image of God does not just happen. The transforming journey of sanctification is lifelong and often fraught with difficult challenges. We engage and we fall down…we get up to engage again. It is through the surrendered looping process that we eventually and ultimately succeed. We celebrate our victories along the way as God celebrates with us and we begin again
If you have lived far from God, you may think you are very near him when you finally start a life with him. The peasant thinks he has been to court because he saw the king pass by one day. New Christians give up their worst sins and beak fewer laws than they once did, but they are still attached to the world. Instead of judging themselves by the gospel, they merely compare themselves with their former lives. If today is better than yesterday, they think this is enough to make them saints. If they can tell you the time and place of their salvation, they probably see nothing remaining to be done. Such people have a long way to go. -Francois de Fenelon
I pause and reflect on God’s life-giving presence in every part of my body, in everything around me, in the whole of my life. The world I charged with the grandeur of God. I dwell for a moment in His presence, all around me and within me as well. The Holy Spirit is deep within my being. I remind myself that there are many things God has to teach me yet, and ask for the grace to hear them and let them change me.
To You, O God, our praise is due. To You we pay our vows, You who hears our prayers. To You all flesh will come with its burden of sin. Too heavy for us, our offenses, but You wipe them away.
My soul yearns for You, O God. My soul thirsts for You, O God; when can I enter and see the face of God? O God, You are my God, for you I long and only you alone. Glory to you, Source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
[25JAN2012] A Ram in the Bush
The other day while taking my son to school, I heard the tail end of an interview with musical recording artist, David Crowder. He was answering questions responding to the recent announcement of the dissolution of his band. The words he spoke that caught my attention were these; “If you’re obedient in your sacrifice, there’s always a ram in the bush.” David was making reference to the Genesis narrative recounting the story of Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-24). I haven’t been able to escape the thoughts those words have evoked…and my thoughts have nothing to do with the end of the David Crowder Band.
The account of Abraham and Isaac begins as follows:
Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am.”
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
One of the first things that grab my attention is the opening line; “God tested Abraham’s faith.” Several thoughts come to my mind about this. First, I don’t think this is the first time that God “tested Abraham’s faith.” Abraham leaving his family for “a place I will show you” was a test of faith. And, so it would seem to me, that most of Abraham’s life subsequent to leaving his father and family in Ur was a series of ongoing tests of his faith. Second, what made this test so much more severe than the previous tests? The significance of this test involved Isaac, and it was on Isaac that all the weight of God’s covenant promise to Abraham was laid. Perhaps it is an issue of semantics, but I might question whether the test was more about Abraham’s loyalty (to God or to Isaac) opposed to Abraham’s faith in God. The third thing I wonder is how this test of Abraham relates to my own obedient sacrifice.
Abraham stands out as one of the major heroes of our faith and the Bible teaches us to model the actions and methods of those teachers who have gone before us (Hebrews 13:7). I ask myself; “What can I learn from Abraham in this particular circumstance?”
- Abraham didn’t stall the process of God’s call and his obedient response. The text doesn’t say, but I can’t help but imagine there was some prayerful wrestling in his decision. What that wrestling may or may not have been can’t be known, but we do know that Abraham resolved to trust God and obey Him with sacrifice in very short order. “The next morning Abraham got up early…and set out for the place God had told him about” (Gen. 22:3).
- Once his decision was made, he was unwavering and resolute in his mission to see it through to completion.
- Abraham didn’t look for alternate paths, plan “B” or “God’s next best plan.” Abraham stayed focused on the mission as God had originally given it to him. Abraham was so single-minded and set in obedience to his sacrifice that it took the intervention of the angel of the LORD to stay his hand from taking the life of his son, Isaac.
- There were multiple opportunities for God to reveal his provision of the ram to Abraham along the way, but it was not until the last second of no return (Abraham’s mind was made up and there was no turning back for him) that God stayed the hand of Abraham and revealed the ram in the bush.
As I reflect on my life I know there have been times that I embarked on a faith mission with God more focused on the alternate routes around the mountain instead of the narrow path up to Moriah. I know many of the tests of my faith have been incrementally leading to bigger tests. I think, if they do not lead me to “passing” the big test, passing the smaller tests was really to no avail. As it pertains to me, and in my present test, I don’t know how long or intricate the test has been orchestrated. In the case of Abraham, he had a knife in his belt for four days with the singular notion in his mind that it would be used to take the life of his son…and still he had little knowledge there would be a ram in the bush. He testified that “God will provide a sheep…” (Gen. 22:8), but he did not know as God had never spoken this provision.
My point with these observations is that Abraham went, he went up the mountain; he was deliberate and intentional with his course and decision to obey God at all cost. I am determined to do so as well. I do not want to settle for God’s plan “B” …I don’t know that one exists. If nothing else, it would probably be my Plan B, and have very little to do with God other than the fact that I had tried to spiritualize and justify my own disobedience. I suppose there is no one else that does that though.
At the end of the day there is this; I think too many folks professing belief in God refuse to answer God’s test to go up to Moriah. He may not be calling us to sacrifice children to test our faith, but we can rest assured that our faith is tested in ways that will be just as serious as the test that Abraham passed. The question that remains is will we be proven faithful. Will we be so obedient in our sacrifice that we too find our ram in the bush?
♦ Genesis 11-35 (Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob)
I’m still in Genesis, reading chronologically through the Bible for the 2012 year. I’ve been journaling many or most of the things that have “jumped out” at me during my reading, but haven’t quite had the time to develop them into blog posts. I do plan on fleshing out my thoughts on some of these points, but I won’t be able to capture them all… that is, if I want to stay on track with my reading schedule. So, I’ll make this “Quick Hits” post a recurring feature of the blog for this year during my chronological journey (see my first Genesis Quick Hits here).
- Gen. 11:31-32 -One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.
Can’t help but wonder about Terah. The Bible doesn’t say if he was someone that heard from God. I’ve got to think that he had some relationship with Him though… He must have introduced Abram to God at some point in his upbringing. I can’t help but imagine that Terah may have set out for Canaan on a similar quest as Abram would years later. The difference though, may be that Terah couldn’t find the deep and abiding trust that Abram found in God… the type of belief and trust that God counted as righteousness to Abram-Abraham. Perhaps this didn’t happen at all the way I imagine it. One thing we know for certain though… Terah was headed for Canaan, the land of Promise, the land that God did bequeath to Abraham and all his following generations. Terah stopped in Haran, put down roots and never pressed on in his journey. As a result of Terah’s “stopping the journey” he never saw the land of promise…he died still in Haran. I don’t want to be a Terah. I want to be an Abram/Abraham. O God, break me…and make me a foreigner wherever You will; transform me and change my name so it reflects the description of a man who believes You and Your Word. Amen.
- Gen. 12:1, 4, 7, 10 -The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed… Then the LORD appeared to Abram… a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
This represents an interesting sequence of events to me: The LORD spoke to Abram, Abram believed and obeyed the LORD, The LORD appeared to Abram (establishing a covenant of relationship), and Abram’s trust in God is put to test as he is “forced down to Egypt where he lived as a foreigner.”
Abram’s life and God’s apprenticeship over Abram/Abraham seems to repeat itself with eerily similar fashion over and over and over again with other men and women in the Biblical narrative. I have read and heard stories of this repeated style of mentoring disciples and friends of God throughout history as well. I have experienced similarities in the sequence of Abram’s mentorship in my own life too. Perhaps my storyline is not as dramatic as the storylines of Abraham, Moses, King David, or the apostle Paul (to name a few), but the voice, hand, and guidance of God’s leadership is no less significant and no less real. Additionally, just as with Abraham, the testing of my faith and gentle pressure from God come to me so I might fully mature in the likeness and image of Christ.
- Gen. 12:10 -…a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
Egypt: In the Bible, Egypt has historically been a metaphor for sin… representing bondage, oppression, and persecution. The Bible also teaches us that we were not originally created as people ruled by sin. When I read the words from Gen. 12:10 I thought we will always live as foreigners and sojourners while in and under the circumstances of bondage—this is a place that people of God, the friends of God, do not belong. While on this earth on this side of eternity, we will all find ourselves in “Egypt” living as foreigners. The promise of Christ and the work of His atoning grace is that we are also people of the deliverance. We won’t always live as foreigners—we are sojourners for a season, but even in our nomadic wandering feeling as though we are without a home… God is Present and with us bringing with Him comforting guidance as we are prepared for our final rest.
…”living as a foreigner” will continue to show up as we continue our journey through Genesis, especially through the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- Gen. 15:1-10 -in this passage of Scripture we are told “Abraham believed and the LORD counted him righteous because of his faith.” God promises Abraham that He will be with him, protection, land, and many descendents. And, Abraham asks God “How can I be sure of these things…”
- Gen. 17:15-18; 18:12 -in these passages God tells Abraham he’ll have a son through Sarah—Abraham “laughs” to himself in disbelief (Gen. 17:17). Later, Sarah hears the Word of God saying again and affirming she will have a child; Sarah “laughs” silently to herself…
Just recently I was reading the Christmas Story in the Gospel of Luke and was intrigued by the parallel of events between the lives of Zechariah and Mary (Luke 1:5-80). What captured my attention were the questions posed by Zechariah and Mary to the angel Gabriel. Both wondered how the prophetic blessings Gabriel announced would happen to them, but the response of Gabriel to Zechariah was very different than the response to Mary. Similarly, as in the case with Abraham and Sarah, both of them “laugh” and question with disbelief the word of God concerning their own prophetic blessing of a child between them. The response of God to Abraham was very different than the response Sarah received. I want to consider this further in prayer and meditation and hopefully answer some of the questions I have; “What are the differences between Abraham and Sarah’s questions?” “What are the differences between Zechariah and Mary’s questions?” “We often have questions, doubts, and disagreements with God; how do these interactions relate or mirror the accounts of Abraham, Sarah, Zechariah, and Mary?”
- Ishmael and Father Abraham…
Gen. 21:17-18, 20 - “God called to Hagar from heaven, ‘Hagar, do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying… Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.’” “…and God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness.”
Gen. 25:5-6 - (Abraham’s “other” descendants) “Abraham gave everything he owned to his son Isaac. But before he died, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them off to a land in the east away from Isaac.”
Gen. 25:9 - In this passage Ishmael and Isaac come together so they might bury their father Abraham. The text doesn’t allude to any conflict or tension between the two men.
Gen. 28:6-9 - Apparently there is some degree of interaction and relationship between the House of Isaac and the House of Ishmael. In this passage we see Esau visiting “Uncle Ishmael” to get a wife… a wife that would be scorned by his parents Isaac and Rebekah
I don’t know what all of this means or if it means anything at all; I’m certainly not finished thinking on it. I do believe that my awareness of the tension between the Islamic world, Jewish world, and Christian world has made me a bit more sensitive to what the Bible might say about these relationships. I do know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the God of Ishmael…and subsequently the God of Islam regardless of how the character and nature…and identity of God may have been subverted or redefined by them or their ancestors. I’m not sure how this transcends to the world we live today, but my guess is that it is relevant and should not be dismissed. Ultimately, I know that Jesus is God and He died to reconcile all of humanity to himself.
- Gen. 26:2-5 - The LORD appeared to Isaac: “Do as I tell you. Live as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you. I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.”
“Live as a foreigner in this land”
- Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel— Gen.25:21; 29:31; 30:2 - A distinguished, if not imperfect, group of women who all experienced lengthy spans of “barrenness.” Each of these women took very long times to conceive and give birth to children. These were also the matriarchs of the covenant promise children of Abraham. For so many years of their lives their wombs “seemed” as though they were “closed” – closed until the fullness of God’s timing was realized. When the fullness of time arrived, God’s fruit is delivered.
I think this is true today as much as it was in the above mentioned accounts. I should never become impatient with what seems like unfulfilled promises…faded hopes…old dreams. God’s promises are true and will bring fruit in due time; my responsibility is to continue to pray and remind myself that God’s timing is everything…and always perfect; no matter how tiring or trying the wait may be for me. Trust, believe, and obey… this is my role. What seems on the outside, barren and without hope can bring forth life in the “fullness of time.” Thus says the LORD; “it is I who brings forth rivers in the desert where there were none before…”
-Something like 20 years elapse from the time Jacob first encounters God at Bethel and when God speaks to him telling him to return to the land of Canaan. We don’t know for sure if God spoke to Jacob during those twenty years or not (the text does not say), but we do know God was active and with Jacob preparing him for the return to Canaan and the fulfillment of the His (God’s) covenant promise to Abraham.
- God is present always.
- God is working always.
- God’ “speaks,” “affirms,” and “reaffirms” with his presence and with his working in our lives
In the midst of Jacob’s oppression and mistreatment by Laban, God was blessing Jacob to overflowing while purposefully fulfilling his covenant will.
God’s mercy “overflowed” on to the house of Laban in not just blessings of protection and wealth, but God even appeared to Laban in a dream warning him to do no harm to Jacob…ultimately sparing his (Laban’s) life.
- Gen. 32:1, 9-12, 22-32
-Angels of God come to meet Jacob on his way back to the land of Canaan. It seems Jacob is on a path to learning humility. He is reminded of his covenant promise to God he had originally made on his first stop through Bethel. He reaffirms his covenant… Inspired by fear and obedience??? Jacob learns humility. Jacob willingly surrenders himself to God and his brother Esau; he refers to himself as “servant” of Esau. Jacob wrestles with God and emerges “forever humbled” with a crippling limp that remains with him the remainder of his life.
- Gen. 33:10 - “…what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is seeing the face of God.” -Jacob to his brother Esau
I wonder about this statement of Jacob and I am curious how often we might observe “the face of God” in others when we approach them with humility while walking in obedience before our God.
- Gen. 35:1-3, 9-15, 27 - “So Jacob told everyone in his household, ‘Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourself, and put on clean clothing… I will build an altar to God. He has been with me wherever I have gone.’”
…God appears to Jacob and renews with him the covenant promise He had established between Himself with Abraham and Isaac. God renames Jacob as Israel…no longer the deceiver, he is the one who has been with the “God who fights” and lived. Jacob’s encounter with God is so life-changing it reverses his identity entirely. Here we see what true repentance is about, a complete turnaround from the life we have previously known.
“So Jacob returned to his father, Isaac, in Mamre, which is near Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had both lived as foreigners.” -Gen. 35:27
There must be something about that “living as foreigners” business…
More on my Quick Hits from Genesis later and I hope to “flesh out” and develop some of these highlights. If you have thoughts or ideas regarding any of them, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share on the blog or contact me using the contact link above.
This past week we started a new teaching series at our church. There was a side comment during the message that got me to thinking about the role of Scripture and the Bible as the means of communication from God to man. The statement that was made which was responsible for this “thinking” of mine went something like this; “God’s Word is the primary way He speaks to us today.” First, let me say that I’m sure I’ve made the same or similar comments many times. Second, as a Wesleyan-Methodist, I’m also a fan of grounding my Bible reading and interpretation through the filter of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral…believing the Bible to be the fundamental authority for all we do. I say all this to make the point that I’m not necessarily in disagreement with “God’s Word is the primary way He speaks to us today,” I’m just trying to think through the implications of this particular belief and position.
Questions and Thoughts
When I heard the pastor say the Bible is the primary way God speaks to us today, the question popped into my mind, “why?” I’ve been thinking about the “why” for the past few days and some ideas have come to me that might be relative to some bigger questions and challenges regarding overall discipleship. For instance, challenges presented in the process of “teaching and training disciples who teach and train disciples.” Another challenge comes with teaching people how to truly “feed themselves” or become “self learners.”
Our premise statement is; “God’s Word is the primary way He speaks to us today.” The first question that comes to my mind is this: “Is the Bible the primary way that God wants to communicate with us?” My first response to this question is, “I don’t know…” I do agree, as I’ve already said, the Bible is the foundational authority for God’s communication. Therefore, I think we filter any extra-biblical communication: prophecy, divine words of knowledge, visions, dreams, and etc., through the Bible. This position of mine summarily agrees with the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, “by scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture. However, sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God. Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today. [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Although I agree with the tenet of Sola Scriptura, this doesn’t naturally assume (in my opinion) the Bible is the primary way God desires to speak with his people today.
The second question I have falls quickly upon the heels of question one: “If the Bible is not the primary means of God’s desired communication with his people, what is?” I think the primary means of communication is built on and in holistic (all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength) relationship… In my opinion, this is interpreted as “walking with God.” This was the first recorded relationship between God and man (we find this in the opening chapters of the Genesis account in the Bible; God walking in the cool of the morning in the presence of Adam and Eve). I recall also this style of relationship was highly favored by God with His friend Enoch…so much so that He “took” Enoch. I think this was the type of relationship God enjoyed with Abram/Abraham as well; a relationship built upon “hearing,” “obeying,” “trusting,” “questioning,” “conversing,” and “following” God. The commonality in these relationships is there was no written word of God at that time we know of.
As I pondered over these questions, some other ideas came to my mind. I wondered how God initiated and nurtured these relationships between Himself and His friends and what examples might be used to support the “how.”
Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve been reading through the Bible chronologically, so the life of Abraham is prominent in my mind. Consequently, he tops my list of people who were “friends of God.” The first thing I notice about Abraham and the lifelong friendship he developed with God was that he (Abe) was driven to the desert; “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). As soon as Abram “heard” and responded with “obedience” to this word from God, God appeared to him (Gen. 12:7). Following this initial encounter, there ensues a lifelong friendship full of adventure, ups and downs, revelation, and spiritual development for Abraham and his family with God.
As I continued to consider this example, I was reminded of others… Moses too was driven to the desert; Midian was his first desert encounter and that was followed with another forty years of “friendship building” before he was also “taken” by God (not necessarily an Enoch exit, but I digress).
David, the man after God’s heart, was also driven to the desert; Elijah had a desert experience too where he learned to “hear” God’s voice in a uniquely gentle way…and I’m sure there might be other Old Testament examples that I’m not remembering off the cuff.
New Testament examples of this “desert experience revelation and friendship building experience with God” are prominent as well. John the Baptist comes to mind; he was the man who lived in the wilderness in solitude and in relationship with God. Jesus, the man, was driven to the desert where his relationship and dependence on the Holy Spirit was tested. Jesus emerged fully empowered and fully trusting God’s word and witness to him; “I only speak the words I hear from my Father, I only do what I see the Father do…” Paul, too, recounts his experience of being driven to the desert for a season in Arabia where he was taught the ways of Jesus by the glorified Christ personally (Gal. 1:1-17). Again, I’m sure I’m missing some people and might be missing the point entirely, but it seems there is a common path being followed to my thinking. God desires intimacy and personal “face time” as a primary means of relationship building.
Reflecting on these examples, I see do recognize God’s conversations with these people as being responsible in large part for the Bible as the Word we have for us today. Moses is credited for writing (or at least is credited for the oral transmission of) what we have in the Torah or Pentateuch. David is credited for the majority of the Psalms. Jesus is the example and inspiration behind the Gospels and Paul is credited with writing the church epistles and pastoral letters. All of these acknowledgments point to what seems to be a connection between relationship and Word…in these examples, the relationship preceded the word for the most part, at least in the form that we have come to rely upon today anyway. What does this mean? I’m not sure and don’t feel comfortable making some definitive statement based on my “raw” thoughts, but another example comes to mind to illustrate where my ideas are drawing me.
The idea of people who are sight challenged and maybe completely blind come to mind when I’m thinking about the Bible as the primary means of God communicating to us today. The person who cannot see with their eyes becomes more reliant upon their other senses in order to “see” or interact in the world in which they live. (Of course, the same might be said for the person who cannot hear, but we’ll stick with the sight example…). I have read and have witnessed in television documentaries where people who are blind are able to hear better, have a more highly developed sense of smell, more sensitive to touch, and overall more sensitive to the use of all their senses more so than the person who sees well.
I think the person who is sight challenged is not necessarily compensated for their handicap as much as they have learned to use their other senses to a degree that God has enabled anyone to use them. The problem might be that we favor one sense over another and become lax in the use of our other senses. Like unused muscles, the skill and precision of use of those senses becomes atrophied and we rely upon their input and use less and less.
I also think considering the Bible as the primary means of communication from God might be problematic for creating strong disciples. We assume, because of the gains in global literacy that people read or know how to read, but that may be a faulty and dangerous assumption. Additionally, and I realize this may be a bit of a generalization, but I think there is supporting evidence that western society is heavily influenced by the ancient Greek philosophy (reason, logic, separation of the mind from the heart/soul). Subsequently, many people read the Bible with a certain detachment even if the detachment is inadvertent or subconscious. The result of this is there are a great many people who struggle to really “hear” God through Scripture…this is especially true if they do not sense an emotional response when they read it. There is also the consideration that while we point folks to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and proclaim “all of Scripture is inspired and useful…” most do not read “all” of the Bible and gravitate only to portions that make them “feel” good or are easier to understand. Again, the result of this tends to be a lopsided and sometimes even heretical view of God.
Ultimately, this belief or position that the Bible is God’s “primary means of communication” has a number of potential pitfalls and is the reason for my question; “Is the Bible the primary way that God wants to communicate with us?” I still don’t know the real answer to this, but I am inclined to believe God wants holistic relationship, meaning minimal or no separation in the opportunities to connect with his children. I believe he desires to speak to us in every single facet and means that are presented to us in the course of a day… the Bible, of course, always being the filter that we test our communication through (eg., Sola Scriptura and Wesleyan Quadrilateral).
After processing some of this, I’m thinking our task as ministers, teachers, disciplers, and influencers is to teach this to people who are hungry and “have ears to hear,” teaching them that God is always speaking–as often and as loudly outside of the written word as he is inside of the written word. (I have some other thoughts about this here)
As we become more attuned and sensitive to the way God communicates and become more familiar to the many ways that God speaks, we will grow more deeply in relationship with Him by simple virtue of the fact that we are spending more time with Him… ultimately practicing the presence of God in all things (Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach are examples that come to mind notwithstanding the Biblical references I mentioned earlier).
Still thinking… I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
[04JAN2012] Our “Cain”tankerous Attitudes — East of Eden
I mentioned in my last post there were some things I wanted to share about the short narrative account between God and Cain (The son of Adam and Eve and brother to Abel). What follows is the first portion of this narrative to help set the stage for sharing my thoughts:
1 Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
6 ”Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” -Genesis 4:1-7
We can only speculate why God accepted the gift of Abel, but not that of Cain; we don’t have enough information, but I assume there might have been something about the nature of the gift and the attitude that it was given to God. My reasoning for this speculation is the wordings in several translations indicate that Cain brought “some” of his harvest and Abel brought the “firstlings” of his flock. The point that seems evident to me is that Cain simply brought “something” to God, but Abel brought his best.
The account continues and tells us that Abel and his gift was accepted, but Cain was not accepted nor was his gift…this put Cain in a mood—”This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.”
Now, one thing I find very interesting and encouraging, Cain is not disregarded by God. God responds to Cain as a Father or so it seems. The first act of God to reject Cain’s offering is akin to an object lesson, similar to an object lesson I might use to illustrate a life discipline to my own children. I might ask my son to sweep the garage and driveway, when he announces he has completed the chore I inspect the job and I find it half done, carelessly, and hurried. I inform him it is unacceptable and I do not acknowledge it has been completed and wait for a response to engage a teachable moment.
I think this might be what was happening with Cain and God in this moment of offering. Maybe this was the first opportunity to bring the “fruits of their labor” and vocation…this might have been the first test of their acknowledgement of God as overseer of all their life. I’m speculating again. In either event, Abel gets it right and Cain does not, but God doesn’t leave Cain hanging. God loves Cain and engages him in conversation; “Why are you angry, Cain? Why do you look so dejected?” I can see Cain in my mind’s eye, pouting with angry eyes…biting his lip and refusing to answer God’s questions. As God sees the bitterness and resentment of Cain’s heart, he continues; “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Cain turns and storms off, refusing to acknowledge God’s words or receive the instruction as the loving discipline that it was meant to be.
1. Ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable
2. Difficult to handle
The next portion of our narrative reveals how Cain decided to deal with his dejection; rather than receive God’s counsel to “do what is right…” Cain plots to eliminate what he perceives as the problem. The story continues as follows:
8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
9 Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” 10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. 16 So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. -Genesis 4:8-16
As I was reading through this brief interaction between God and Cain, my thoughts begin to fill with examples of how similarly our lives parallel the response and actions of Cain. Perhaps we do not all respond with a physical act of violence, but I’m sure that violence has been committed in many of our hearts when we feel as though we have been misunderstood and wronged… For us, it does not matter that we may have been the ones responsible for bringing discipline upon ourselves because of lax or misplaced attitudes; we feel offended and mistreated and want to respond to that, sometimes defensively and other times offensively and aggressively.
So, what I see… Instead of “doing right” Cain plots to eliminate his brother and follows through with an act of murder. I am surprised by the surly and irreverent attitude Cain presents toward God’s questioning. I can’t help but think that Adam and Eve must have recounted details of their own personal relationship with God and his character to their sons. It seems Abel learned something from them and may have enjoyed an intimate and personal relationship with God…understanding something of His nature. It only makes sense to me that the same knowledge of God and invitation to relationship with him was available to Cain as was available to Abel. God’s exhortation to Cain reveals this too; “You will be accepted if you do what is right.” Surely Cain realized the omnipotent power and authority of the Great and Eternal Creator God; surely, he must have. But his reaction and response to Him was so flippant and disrespectful.
God calls Cain to the carpet for his irreverence and his crime against humanity as the repercussions of his actions begin to fall back upon him. But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
The original curse upon Adam for his disobedience was remarkably similar to Cain’s curse. Adam was banished from the Garden and was cursed to labor and till the ground for his survival. Cain is cursed on top of Adam’s curse; no longer will the ground yield good crops no matter how hard he works for them… and he is banished from sharing community—never to have a place that he can call home, “from now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
The amazing similarities and parallels shine forth to me in light of Cain’s response to these pronouncements of God in response to Cain’s act of atrocity upon his brother Abel. First, Cain never accepts responsibility for his action. He never once gives assent to the instruction God had originally presented to him during the offerings of sacrifice when his gift was first rejected.
The second thing(s) I notice is how Cain fully exposes the depth and depravity of the human condition; his subsequent response and actions reveal what may be the hidden nature of many people.
- Cain chooses to be angry at God—rather than “do what is right” he chooses to harden his heart remain angry.
- Cain chooses to place blame on Abel for his own rejection—rather than accept responsibility for his actions, he projects his failure upon his brother.
- Cain chooses to allow his jealousy to have dominion over him—rather than heed God’s advice, Cain allows his frustration, anger, and jealousy to fester into murderous rage that consumes him.
- Cain chooses to act out on his rage with the murder of his brother, Abel—Cain succumbs to the ultimate act of self-centeredness by taking his brother’s life.
- Cain still refuses to accept responsibility for his actions—Cain replies to the Lord: “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer…”
Cain’s words in response to God’s justice reveal that he holds God responsible for the punishment of his crime against humanity and his brother; “You have banished… You have made me a wanderer…” He still doesn’t get it. And, apparently he never does…
The narrative of Cain and God ends with a sad explanation and counting of the genealogy of the House of Cain. Verse sixteen of Genesis chapter four reads as follows: “So Cain left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Although this is an argument of silence, it might be plausible… It seems that Cain went on with his life without ever returning to fellowship with God; in effect, turning his back to God and forever giving Him the silent treatment. It also seems the curse of Cain continues with his progeny. Several generations following Cain was born a man named Lamech who continues the murderous legacy of his great-great-great grandfather; “One day Lamech said to his wives, I have killed a man who attacked me…” Nothing more is heard of Adam’s lineage through the house of Cain.
I have witnessed these same chain of events on a much smaller stage countless times. I know in my own life I have committed acts against society by my own choosing and then wanted to blame others when repercussions began to swallow me up. I have seen these actions of Cain in the rearing and discipline of my own sons. I think it is part of the nature that Adam has passed on to us, but it doesn’t have to end in the way of Cain… we don’t have to be irritable and disgruntled humans… “Cain”tankerous, as it were. We can choose to listen and act on the exhortation of God’s words; “do right…” We can accept responsibility and own our actions rather than project fault upon others. We can live according to the humble and surrendered life of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, and walk in intimate relationship with God…never to turn our back on Him and never to live silently outside of God’s presence… to the east of Eden.
♦ Genesis 1-10
I’m really enjoying my reading from my Chronological NLT. I’ve been filling pages in my journal just as quick as my little hand can go, but I haven’t had time yet to flesh out the ideas “popping” into my head. I’ll share some of my brief notes from the past few days… but I do plan to spend a little time developing a few of these, so you’ll probably see them again in the not too distant future.
- God’s Pocket Watch: reading from Gen. 1: 14-18 was truly inspiring as we are told, “Then God said, ‘Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them mark off the seasons, days and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.’ And that is what happened. God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.” After reading this my imagination kicked in and I had this thought of the universe in all its splendor, immensity, and precision is almost depicted as if it were “God’s pocket watch.” He set these heavenly bodies in place to “govern” and “mark” seasons, days, and years… There are Scriptural references that state the “fullness of time” with references to the signs in the sky also. My mind continues to wander and explore this metaphor, but I think it is pretty cool to imagine the universe and cosmos as God’s personal and handmade pocket watch.
- I was moved to praise and give thanks to God for my wife…particularly on my 24th wedding anniversary as I was reading the following words: “The the LORD God said; ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” (Gen. 2:18) I was moved to tears of joy and gratitude as I thanked God for doing this for me… making a helper and soul mate who “is just right for me.” A few verses later I read a verse that is familiar to me, but was moved in my spirit again as I pondered these words; “Now the man and the woman were both naked, but they felt no shame.” I thought this seems a metaphor for an open and honest communication style between a man and woman in intimate relationship… here there are no secrets or separate lives—the couple live openly and honestly aka “naked and unashamed.”
- Subduing Sin: God speaks to Cain—”Why are you angry? Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 4:6-7) There is a lot here to talk about, but what immediately caught my attention is God’s instruction and exhortation to Cain to “subdue sin and become its master.” Wow. I think we are too quick to allow sin to master us…and this even after the full atonement of Christ and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us to overcome the sin in our life. Here God tells Cain thousands of years before Jesus to “subdue sin and become its master.” I am encouraged… if God told Cain he could master sin…and if I have the overcoming power of Jesus Christ dwelling within me, well there should be no stopping me from becoming the master over any sin in my life. I think this passage has emboldened me to take even greater strides toward “walking as Jesus walked.” I’ve got more thoughts about this discourse between Cain and God, especially following the murder of Abel, but I need to save that until I get it all written down and fleshed out. Expect to see more about this in the coming days.
- One last thought and I’m done for now… From Genesis 5:1 (NLT) an incredible statement that continues to reverberate back and forth between my mind and soul sending electricity through every fiber of my being. It reads as follows: “When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself.” We are fearfully and wonderfully made I look up at the stars and I’m blown away by how incomprehensibly vast and marvelous the universe is… and yet God made it to be his personal cosmic pocket watch. He made us to be like himself. How much more awesome is each human being? Wow.
[02DEC2011] God Has Come-Advent Week 1 Reflections
God Has Come
God has come. How has this changed our reality? For some people, Christians included, their paradigm has not changed much, but historically, physically, and spiritually… God Has Come.
Yesterday, while driving to complete some errands, I was cruising the radio stations and stumbled upon an “oldie” (I hate that term) station. There was a song I recognized from my youth by a group called the Human League, titled Human. As I listened to the song, the lyrics from the chorus began to taunt my spirit and I was suddenly reminded again of how deceptive and conflicting the messages of a world without God are to a people into whose lives God Has Come.
The chorus lyrics of Human go like this; “I’m only hu—man, of flesh and blood I’m made; I’m only hu—man, born to make mistakes…” This is the paradigm so many people live in…Christians included, and it is a lie. Sadly, it is a lie that many people have embraced so whole-heartedly it is the only reality they are willing to know. The Good News is this: God Has Come! So, when I hear the words “I’m only human…” from a song or from someone’s lips, I respond; “Really?” “Only human…?”
The Bible teaches us that mankind is the handwork of God created in His very image (Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:7), the very pinnacle of His creation. It is also written that every man and woman is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Really; I’m (we are) only human?
As I think about the Genesis story, I can only imagine what it must have been like. I imagine our omniscient God looking down at the lifeless dust that was the body of the first man He held in His hands… The thoughts of this soon-to-be most prized Creation betraying Him, but knowing in advance that He would redeem, reconcile, and restore that betrayal with His very life. This knowledge the impetus of this first-man creation; aware that He, GOD, would one day descend to live in the flesh He was now creating… Only Human? This lifeless dust, frail by our imaginations, would one day be the dwelling place of the Immortal Creator of all things… The God of the universe would one day inhabit a frame made of bones created from the dust of the earth that He also had created. The lungs into which He breathed spirit and life into would one day be the lungs that carried life-giving oxygen to His own heart and brain. And, we have the audacity to refer to ourselves as “only human… I’m only flesh and blood.”
Now, I need to say there are some balancing statements I should make, but the truth is this: if we are living in an Only Human, Born to make mistakes reality, we are living in a paradigm that is in active rebellion against all that God has planned, created, and willed.
“For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” -Athanasius
It is true that as redeemed and reconciled people we are invited into living union with God. It is also true that this state of union and reconciliation does not free us from the mortal frames that our souls share with the Holy Spirit. We are subject to the same frailties as the God, Jesus, was when he inhabited human flesh; we grieve, we are hungry, we bleed when we are cut, we bruise when we are beaten, and unless Christ returns before…we will also die… just like He did. None of these human frailties changed who Jesus was and I do not believe he was ever heard saying anything resembling “I’m only human…” And, we certainly know He was not born to make “mistakes.” The only part of humanity that is flawed is the nature of Adam; this is the sin nature, and it was the sin nature that Christ Jesus came to cure… for once, for all, and for ever. So, yes, we will suffer while we still wear the clothing of mortal flesh, but we are anything but “only human.”
The moments of life while we yet live that cause us to groan (Romans 8:19) on the temporal side of eternity are the reminders of our longing for the Kingdom to come. When we feel persecuted, oppressed, and down-trodden we can also remember that we are bearers of the glory of God Almighty (John 17:22). While our perfection in total may yet be incomplete, we are confident in the perfection through Christ that we share in the now, while we wait. We strive to live each day as a glorious “sin free” image of the resurrected Christ who dwells in us, but if we miss that mark we have an advocate who knows our struggles and weaknesses that intercedes on our behalf…
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:1-6)
Only Human? I don’t think so. If there is any concession to being “only human” perhaps it was the time before Jesus…and even then I have a tough time with the thought; however, even if I grant that concession, that was then and this is now: God Has Come! This is the revelation of the reconciliation through the incarnation and this is the Good News!
It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
I close this reflection with the words to another song our church choir is performing as we respond to this season where we remember the birth of our Savior-King Jesus, the God who came to inhabit the very flesh He created, so we might be reconciled as the immortals He created us to be that we might live in eternal community with Him as He had always planned, purposed, and willed. Alleluia, GOD HAS COME—Emmanuel God with us!
** Link to the song here “God Has Come” so you might listen to it as you read and pray through the words.
God Has Come with O Holy Night (words and music by Paul Marino and Greg Nelson)
There were shepherds on a hillside gazing up at the sky.
From a distance, they heard voices and saw a glorious light…so bright.
Allelulia, God has come.
Emmanuel, God with us.
O holy Child, O blessed One;
Alleluia, God has come.
As we gather, like the shepherds, to worship the King,
How our hearts are filled with promise; with wonder we sing,
And join the chorus in the heavens, singing, “Glory to God…on high.”
Allelulia, God has come.
Emmanuel, God with us.
O holy Child, O blessed One;
A thrill of hope—the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
Allelulia, God has come.
Emmanuel, God with us.
O holy Child, O blessed One;
Alleluia, God has come.
My Bible reading along with a few other excerpted readings from other sources took an unexpected turn this morning coming together to bring home and highlight the thought of single-minded devotion to God. This isn’t a new thought for me…or others for that matter, but it needs reminded in me from time-to-time. It seems no matter how “devoted” I think I am to God and/or how intimately in communion with Him I believe that I am, I lose focus…I get distracted and my affections begin to wander. I would rather that never happen in me and I would like to believe that I have singleness of heart, but time and time again I am reminded that I am not faultless in my single-minded devotion to my Lord.
I am reading through for a second time a book by Ronald Rohlheiser titled The Restless Heart. I read this book the first time while I was spending a month at the Pecos Monastery in New Mexico. I haven’t blogged or posted a review on this book yet because I’m still processing and “stewing” in it. Rohlheiser writes the following:
We are more busy than bad, more distracted than nonspiritual and more interested in the movie theatre, the sports stadium, and the shopping mall and fantasy life they produce in us than we are in church. Pathological busyness, distraction and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual lives. -Ronald Rohlheiser
Even when I am intentional about not busying my life, I still busy my life. I think it is a subconscious reality that while we are on this side of eternity we will forever be battling “busy” distractions; this is one of the unforeseen results of Adam’s choice of self over God. The subsequent consequence for us from this is the struggle to remain focused on relationship with our God as we meander through the daily business of life. Such is the price of original broken fellowship between me and my Creator God. And so I pray: “O Lord, purify my heart to long for the one true thing and be distracted by nothing as I seek to know You with unbroken fellowship, undistracted devotion, and complete purity of heart. Amen.”
Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and that there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing. -Teresa of Avila
According to St. Teresa, if we are to will one thing and seek undistracted devotion, it will mean purposeful separation from “many things.” In other words, in order to say “yes” to God, it will be necessary to say “no” to many things. I think this is made clear in some of the words of Ronald Rohlheiser as he describes our busy distractions coming from temporal, fantasy-fueled, indulgences that feed our restlessness…these are some of the things we must say “no” to in order to find our way back to the path of time spent with the One who is (or should be) the real object of our devotion.
I was reading about Jacob this morning from Genesis and was caught up in mid-sentence with these words out of chapter thirty-two; “…and Jacob was left alone, then someone came and wrestled with him through the night” (Genesis 32:24). It says; …and Jacob was left alone. The context is Jacob’s return to his homeland. He is fearful of his brother Esau and sends ahead of himself all his family and all his estate. Forget whether or not Jacob is acting out of cowardice or self-preservation or any other motive. The point here is that he is alone; all alone. It is in this alone place and vulnerable place, this isolated place…that Someone comes and wrestles with him through the night. This is a moment of crisis and a pivotal point in the life of Jacob. His attitude, his nature, his physical state, and his name are all changed (this might be a metaphor for all of his soul, all of his mind, all of his heart, all of his strength). He is now, Israel, the one who has wrestled with God face-to-face. He is the man who is forever changed because he was alone with God.
“Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.” (Psalm 84:4)
I’m glad to be reminded of the cost of single-minded devotion and the reason for it. I am easily distracted. Setting aside intentional moments, literally scheduling alone times with God, are the ways and the means to remain focused on the will of one thing. Yes, it will mean saying “no” to many things. It will also mean a lessening of affections toward many things that used to captivate my attention, but I know this is good… replacing the ravenous restless hungers of my flesh with the soul satisfying presence of God is what my heart truly longs for. I am encouraged by the words of Jeremiah from Lamentations.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline. Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands. (Lamentations 3:21-28)
“…and Jacob was left alone, then someone came and wrestled with him through the night”
“O Lord, purify my heart to long for the one true thing and be distracted by nothing as I seek to know You with unbroken fellowship, undistracted devotion, and complete purity of heart. Amen.”
LENT—Day 5: The Choices We Make [2011MAR14]
Lenten Meditation (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7)
15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
“…and he (Adam) ate it.” (Genesis 3:1-7)
I wonder if Adam gave thought to the choice that he made on that day… and if he did, what did he think the repercussions might be if he disobeyed God. The wonder comes as I consider the choices I make as well as the choices that others make. While I fall short of full adherence to the Butterfly Effect, I do believe that no choice is ever made in a void. I think the decisions and action choices we make are all made from some influencing factor on our decision making process to begin with. Then, once a choice is made, it will have some reciprocating influence… at the very least it will now become part of the filter we use in the next decision or choice we make. Therefore, I believe no choice is ever made in a void.
Returning to Adam and the Genesis account, we read God telling Adam “don’t eat, you’ll die.” I may miss the mark, but what if Adam thought, “okay, worst case scenario… I die.” The reason I postulate that idea is because I have done this. I have made decisions and acted on my choices based upon scenarios where I was the only person that existed. In my “decision world” I would often not consider collateral damage. I was often “too large” to see the fallout of my choices affecting others. I think this too epitomizes why pride is such a devastating sin, but let’s consider Adam some more.
“The beginning of the pride of man is to fall away from God… Original sin is common to all, regardless of the personal sins of each other.” ~~Augustine
When Adam disobeyed God’s edict and he was confronted by God about it, I believe the reason Adam hid was the fear for his life. I mean, after all, that is what God had told him… “You eat you die.” That is not exactly what happened though. When God spelled out the essence of what “die” actually meant, there were repercussions and horror that Adam most likely never considered. God said to them (Adam and Eve) things about childbirth. What did they know about that? Maybe Adam was just born with understanding about childbirth, we don’t know, but I think it unlikely. Can you imagine what it must have been like? The first pregnancy??? Eve with morning sickness; did they eat something poisonous? Eve starts “swelling” with child… what were their thoughts. Then Eve goes into labor, screaming in pain, and a child burst into the world in a bloody mess from between her legs. I wonder what that first experience must have been like. I wonder if Adam gave thought to the sweet bite of fruit that had brought him to the moment he was experiencing with Eve. I wonder also if Adam was brought back to the day he held the fruit in his hand when he looked over the broken body of a son who had suffered at the hand of a brother. I wonder if Adam thought; “what’s the worst that could happen if I eat from this tree God told me not to eat from; I’ll just die, but maybe I won’t.” Maybe he won’t indeed.
As I said, I don’t think our decisions or our choices suffer any less gravity. I look back on the choices I have made and wince. Yes, I have been forgiven the trespasses that I committed, but there are still scars that remain on the lives of people I trespassed against and there are still scars on me. All of them (scars) the result of choices, some I have made and other scars from choices made by other people… sometimes even people I never knew. This is the gravity of our choices.
I bet Adam never gave thought to starvation, cancer, AIDS, earthquakes, tsunamis, bigotry, genocide, or fratricide. He might have just thought on the worst case, he’d just die. The problem was he only thought about himself… and that’s where we usually make our critical mistake too.
“O LORD, I pray… have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.” –Psalm 41:4
Advent: Remembering and Longing for Eden…
Remembering…pondering from beginning to end
(Genesis 1-2) God created the heavens and the earth and it was good. And God created human beings, man and woman, then He blessed them and said:
“Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground… See, I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life…” Then God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good! (Genesis 1:27-31)
It was good. It was right. It was perfect… God and man walking together in perfect unity, and it was very good. The tragedy is that we (mankind) weren’t satisfied with God’s very good. In our effort to improve His Creation (Genesis 3) we created a “fail” of epic proportion. While our nature and soul have been created with Divine and Eternal DNA (Genesis 1:27 and Ecclesiastes 3:11), we have been doomed to disease, deterioration, destruction, and death because of our disobedience and rebellion against God, our Creator-Sustainer. We have struggled…groaning laboriously for the day of reconciliation since we became outcasts and enemies of God. And so, we long for Eden…we long for true reconciliation; we long for the ultimate and eternal City of God, the New Jerusalem where God will live with and alongside man as Friend, Father, Savior, King, Creator, and Sustainer (Revelation 21:1-8). This is the hope looking forward.
Advent: Remembering and longing with repentance… Hope; looking forward (Isaiah 11:1-10)
“In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will really to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.” (Isaiah 11:10)
Joan Chittister writes in her book, The Liturgical Year:
“Advent, from the Latin, means “coming.” But Advent is not about one coming; it is about three comings. The great spiritual question the season poses for each of us is, which coming are you and I waiting for now? At this moment of our lives, at this present stage of our spiritual development, what we’re waiting for surely determines how we will wait for it… Advent asks the question, what is it for which you are spending your life? What is the star you are following now?”
I’ve shared some thoughts about a musical release from Phil Wickham that has really moved me in recent months. As I remember and long for my Savior’s return and His righting of all things, I am drawn even more to this song, Eden. I cannot imagine what Adam must have thought, how he must have felt after breaking union with God…remembering when the stars were young…meeting His Friend and Creator at the gates of Eden to play and converse with God about the mysteries of the universe. Yes, I long for ultimate reconciliation…I want to be naked and unashamed with my God…in Eden.