Archive for February, 2013

countryside-scenic-209

I’ve been reading Genesis the last couple of weeks and thought I’d share some truths that have really been driven home for me. This is by no means a summary or synopsis of the entire book of Genesis. It’s just seven truths that seem particularly important to know:

  1. Human beings are the most important of God’s creations, but this leads to responsibility, not license. (Genesis 1:26-28)
    God made human beings as His image. In short, this means that human beings were created to represent God and make His presence known and felt in Creation. For more details on this important truth, read All the King’s Men (and Women!): Humans as the Image of God.

  2. Sin introduced division, death and despair. (Genesis 3-4)
    Because of sin, there is division/separation between humans and God, between one another and between humans and creation. Separation from God, the Author and Source of all Life, means that human beings die physically. The Fall also introduced despair and futility, meaning that human beings now work hard but often have little or nothing to show for their efforts.
  3. God is committed to the preservation of the human race and His intentions for us, in spite of our rebellion. (Genesis 5-7)
    The genealogy of Gen. 5 and the story of Noah’s Ark together demonstrate God’s continuing commitment to the human race, but also indicate the necessity of His response to evil. Evil will be dealt with, but those who will trust in God will be preserved.
  4. Some of the most significant things start very, very small. (Genesis 12)
    God has chosen to fulfill His plan for humanity through the family of Abraham. God called Abraham who responded in faith and was told that all the peoples of earth would eventually be blessed through Abraham’s family which ultimately was fulfilled by the person Jesus of Nazareth about whom it was said “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  5. God’s timing is not like ours which makes faith necessary to benefit from His blessings. (Genesis 17-22)
    From our limited perspective, it is not always easy to understand why God does exactly what He does or why He does it when He does it. However, God is good and can be trusted. Unfortunately, God’s refusal to accommodate to our timetable means that we often decide to take care of things ourselves. Failure to trust God always complicates things immensely.
  6. God’s people are not always better people, but they are always better off because of His faithfulness. (Genesis 26-38)
    Many of the stories of Abraham and his descendants clearly demonstrate that these were faulty, fallen men and women. Genesis does not see them through rose-colored glasses or cover over their sins. We see them exactly as they are and it’s not pretty. Throughout the book of Genesis, their sins come back to haunt them, demonstrating for the careful reader that they are not exempt from responsibility simply because they are God’s chosen. But God’s redemptive hand remains steady, guiding them to greatness that is undeserved but is ultimately necessary for His plans to be fulfilled.
  7. God is in charge, regardless of what circumstances may suggest. (Genesis 39-50)
    The story of Joseph’s mistreatment by his brothers, ending in his enslavement in Egypt, is ultimately the story of God’s redemptive plan moving forward not just in spite of human sinfulness, but even because of it. Perhaps the most important statement in the book of Genesis is found in 50:20 where we read that Joseph said these words to the same brothers who once sold him as a slave and then told their father he was dead: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Those who commit evil are responsible for it, but even evil will ultimately serve God’s purposes.
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Missing-The-Target

Biblical principles are a foundational part of Western culture, regardless of how much revisionist historians try to say otherwise.  Statements drawn directly from the Bible have always been, and remain, part of the fabric of our conversations. But it’s interesting to me how often our culture completely misunderstands the very principles it so loves to quote.

Case in point:  CNN recently posted an editorial on Pope Benedict, which included this quote: “One of the Bible’s paradoxical statements comes from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: ‘Power is made perfect in infirmity.’ The poetic statement proclaims that when we are weak, we are strong.” (CNN.com)

Ok, first, that verse isn’t from Galatians, it’s from 2 Corinthians 12:9 (how ’bout a little accuracy in reporting, CNN?).  Second, the verse doesn’t say that simply being weak makes us strong.  It says that when we acknowledge our weakness and trust in God instead of ourselves, His strength flows into us unobstructed, making us strong in ways we could never be on our own.

I’m not sure if this particular verse tops my list of most-quoted, least understood verses, but it’s definately in my top 5. Here are the other four:

1. Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13) – This doesn’t mean that all killing is wrong (war and capital punishment are not prohibited) but rather that murder (taking of a life for malicious, personal reasons) is wrong.

2. Do not judge or you too will be judged (Matthew 7:1) – Doesn’t mean that no moral judgements are to be made about anyone or anything, but that rash, baseless and uncharitable judgments are to be replaced by evaluations that are based on careful consideration of God’s Law and such judgments, when carefully formed, are to be expressed with charity and righteous intent.

3. Money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10) – Actually, it says that the love of money is the root of all evil.  Jesus said essentially the same thing in Matthew 6:24.

4. Spare the rod and spoil the child (Proverbs 13:24) – Actually, it says “He who spares the rod hates his child, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”  The point isn’t that not spanking kids spoils them, it’s that those parents who love their children will discipline them because of that love.

Bonus:  Cleanliness is next to godliness (??) – Can’t be found anywhere in the Bible.  Sorry, Mom.

 

 

 

I’ve been thinking about bitterness lately.

I haven’t been thinking about it because I’m bitter, at least not at the moment.  I’ve been thinking about it because I’m writing a book on how not to miss God moving and one of the chapters (the one I’m working on right now) is about Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42.  Actually, it should probably be Martha and Mary because I’m pretty sure Martha is the older sister, but we usually turn it around because Mary is the one we all have been told we’re supposed to emulate.

And certainly Martha got herself in a little hot water with Jesus, so she’s not the ideal model.  But here’s the thing:  the more I study that passage in Luke, the more convinced I am that Martha’s big problem wasn’t busyness as we’ve so often heard.  It was bitterness.  I’ve got lots of good evidence to back up that claim and if you like, you can read an extended article about it here.  But in short, Martha didn’t get rebuked because she was busy doing things for Jesus.  She got rebuked because somehow in the midst of serving Jesus she got so bitter that she blew up, not only at her sister but at Jesus too.

That’s the thing about bitterness:  it poisons the well of our soul, leaches into everything we are and robs us of joy.  It keeps us from taking pleasure in what we get to do because we can’t stop thinking about what others aren’t doing for us. It chains us to “I can’t believe they won’t…” and keeps us from ever thinking “I get to…”

And here’s another thing I’ve learned about bitterness:  it usually starts creeping in when we begin focusing on what hasn’t be done for us rather than on Who we are doing it (whatever it is) for.

I know for a fact that’s a spiritual truth, but I think it’s a secular one as well.  Men get bitter when they focus on what they have to do for their wives rather than on the fact that they have brides to care for.  Women get bitter when they focus on what they have to do for their husbands and forget that they get to care for their knights in shining armor.

Who, rather than what…that’s the remedy for bitterness and, consequently, the first step in reclaiming joy.