Category: Genesis (Page 1 of 6)

Where We Are

There’s one passage in the Bible that tells us where we are right now, what exactly we are called to do, and what is going to happen as a result. Seriously. Thirteen verses that tell us what’s happening right now, what we’re called to do about it and in it and through it, and what’s going to happen because of it.

Today, you might not know any of these things for sure. You might be confused or uncertain about one or two or all three of these things.

Where are we? You tell me! We’re in the middle of a global pandemic that reminds us of the disease and death of 1918. We’re on the front edges of an economic depression that will feel like the 1930s. The racial injustice and violence and demonstrations feel like the 1960s. And the extreme reactions to all of it — the judging, labeling, choosing up sides, hate — feels like we’re headed for a civil war like the 1860s. I don’t know what’s happening. It feels like chaos and like everybody’s lost their ever-lovin’ minds.

And what are we supposed to do? I have no idea! Am I supposed to post on Facebook or Instagram? Or retweet something? No way! Are you crazy? You’re taking your life in your own hands if you try to say or do anything. Whatever I do won’t be enough, it won’t be woke enough, it’ll be misunderstood  or taken out of context. I don’t need that. Somebody needs to do something, but I don’t know who and I don’t know what.

And what’s going to happen? Nobody knows. You’ve probably noticed, the experts change their minds every twelve minutes. They can’t agree on anything. All of it seems so arbitrary. Like it’s not based on facts or truth or science — it’s all on gut. It’s all emotional. So there’s no predicting any of it.

We need a Word from God. We desperately need the truth of God’s Word to tell us where we are, what we’re called to do, and what’s going to happen. We need that clarity and confidence. And I feel very strongly that the middle of Romans 8 gives us that Word. I believe these thirteen verses — Romans 8:18-30 — is God’s Word to us today regarding our current situation.

“The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” ~Romans 8:20-22

The world is in pain. That’s where we are. That’s what’s happening. Creation is groaning out of frustration. The rocks and trees, the animals and birds, the rivers, the people — it’s all subjected to frustration. All of creation is a slave to decay. The whole world is in bondage to corruption. And it’s groaning. Right up to the present time. Right now.

And it’s groaning because of sin. Everything got messed up when we decided we know better than God. We know what’s best for us, better than the One who made us. So when that one man, Adam, went against the will of the Creator, all of creation was infected with his sin. Everything that exists is somehow corrupted by sin.

This goes back to Genesis 3: the groans and the pains of childbirth, the hard work and sweat and frustration, women and men struggling against each other for power and control. And when sin entered the picture, so did death. Everything decays. Nothing is permanent. Every thing that’s living dies. Everything you know, everything you experience, even the really good things — all of it is distorted and twisted. Relationships, work, our bodies, our marriages, the people and things we love — it’s all corrupted by sin and death. Right up to the present time. This is what’s happening right now. This is where we are.

What’s front and center for us right now is the racism in the United States. The discrimination and injustice against minority peoples that’s built into our fallen nature and built right into the systems and structures of this country. It’s breaking news right now. But we know racism is not new. It’s not novel. It’s always been there and it’s never going away.

And violence. Poverty. Selfishness. Greed. Lust. Power. Control. The sins of our society and our own individual sins. They separate us from our God, they divide us against each other, and they devour our bodies and souls.

So people are hurting. People are dying. People are crying out in pain. That’s where we are. The world is in pain.

Peace,

Allan

You Are Blessed By God

You are blessed by God. This is first and it’s foundational and it’s forever. You are blessed by God. This goes all the way back to the very first chapter of the Bible, the very beginning. The very day God created the first man and woman.

“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them…” ~Genesis 1:27-28

God blessed them. The very first words God ever spoke to people at creation is blessing. Before God gives any command or any law, before he gives out jobs or guidelines for behavior, God gives his blessing. God’s blessing is not based on performance or on meeting some expectations. God’s blessings are based solely on the fact that you are created in his holy image, you bear his likeness, he made you and put himself into you. You belong to God and your are loved by God and God is very pleased with you because you are his child.

That is your identity. First and foremost and forever. That’s not just what you are, it’s who you are: blessed by God. And God speaks that blessing over and over and over to you, from that first day of creation glory to this very moment right now while you’re reading these words.

“This is what the Lord says — he who created you, he who formed you, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine… Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.'” ~Isaiah 43

“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!” ~Isaiah 49

Jesus says there’s not one little bird in the sky that goes down without the Father being aware of it. What about you? You’re worth more to God than all the little birds in the world! God knows the exact number of hairs on your head!

Jesus says you know how to give good gifts to your children, and you’re not even that good yourself. How much more does your Father in heaven give to his children! How much more grace does he have for those who belong to him!

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~ 1 John 3:1

Over and over and over again, every page of Holy Scripture reminds you of the blessing.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?… [Nothing} in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” ~Romans 8

You are blessed by God. And it’s not based on your performance. It’s not founded on what you do or how well you do it. God loves you because you are his child. God commits to you and publicly accepts you and approves of you because you are his child. You are blessed by God.

And that’s exactly where the devil attacks you.

Man, this is so important.

Ephesians 6 tells us to take our stand against the devil’s schemes. 1 Timothy 3 warns us not to fall into the devil’s trap. And we know what it is. The devil attacks the blessing. The devil wants to undermine your confidence in Christ, he wants you to doubt your identity as a beloved child of God, he wants you to lose your assurance — your certainty — as saved by Jesus Christ and sealed forever by God’s Holy Spirit.

I believe the devil wants to keep you from believing that Jesus really is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. Maybe Jesus was just a really wise and moral teacher. Maybe Jesus wasn’t really physically raised from the dead — those are just stories. Maybe there are other ways to get to heaven. I think the devil starts there. But his most subtle, most dangerous, and most effective attacks are on your blessing from God, your status as a beloved child who belongs to God.

If the devil can get your brain to believe that God loves you, but your heart to feel like God only loves you if you’re good enough — that’s his goal. If the devil can get your brain to believe that Christ’s death takes care of all your sins, but your heart to feel like that won’t cover the super big sins or the sins you can’t shake — that’s what he wants. If the devil can get your brain to accept that you are saved by God’s grace, but your heart to feel like you haven’t done enough…

The Bible calls the devil the tempter, and he certainly is that. But much more than that, the Bible calls the devil the accuser, the liar, the father of lies. Jesus says lying is the devil’s native tongue.

I’m convinced that most of the trouble in my world and in your world — whatever trouble you find in your heart and your soul, whatever’s not good inside you — is a result of knowing and believing in God’s love for you in your brain, and confessing his mercy and grace for you with your lips, but feeling something different in your heart.

All the research shows that when you ask Christians how they believe God thinks about them — “When God thinks about you, how does he feel? — more than two-thirds of Christians say “disappointed.” God is disappointed with me. Not “I belong to God.” Not “God loves me.” Not “God is well pleased with me.” We don’t feel what the Bible says about God and me, we feel what the devil says about God and me!

Brilliant, huh? And evil.

Peace,

Allan

Greater Things

“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” ~John 1:50-51

When you first come to Jesus, you might think, “He’s not going to fix everything. I won’t get all the answers to every single thing that’s happening in my life. I’m hoping he’ll help me be a better person. Maybe he’ll deal with my loneliness or my marriage problems.”

People are always hedging their bets. Limiting the possibilities. “Maybe I’ll get out of debt. Maybe I’ll find some good friends in church. But Jesus isn’t going to solve all of my problems.”

But when you actually do give all of yourself to the Lord. you find out he’s far more than you ever imagined him to be.

When Jesus says Nathanael will see angels going up and down on the Son of Man, he’s talking about Jacob’s ladder. The Old Testament patriarch had seen a vision of a great ladder between heaven and earth with angels going up and down between the two realms. Sin had created a barrier between heaven and earth, between God and his creation. But Jacob has this dream that someday there will be a way between heaven and earth. A way into the very presence of God. A way for God to live with us and for us to come to God. Jesus is telling Nathanael, “I am that way!” Jesus is the bridge between heaven and earth, between us and God.

You can almost hear Jesus laughing. “Oh, wow, you think I’m the Messiah. I’m sure you think I’m going to grab a sword and raise an army and destroy our Roman oppressors. No, I’m going to show you far greater things than that. Overthrowing the Empire won’t change the human condition. Winning a war or building walls or establishing or protecting some worldly kingdom is not going to defeat sin and death. That’s not going to restore all of creation.”

Jesus is saying, “I’m more than that. I’ve punched a hole in the wall between heaven and earth! I’m going to take you, Nathanael, right into the holy presence of God!”

Jesus is always more than anybody’s looking for. He always exceeds our expectations. He doesn’t just have all the answers to the big questions; he IS the ultimate answer to every question.

“I tell you the truth,” he says. And we can trust him.

Peace,

Allan

Salvation Through the Promise

All the add-ons and extras are being ripped down on the west side of our church building at Central, preparing for the construction of the new façade and entrance. The stairs and foyer and overhang in front of the offices are gone and the porch and foyer in front of the Gathering Place exist no more. It’s loud and there’s a lot of dirt. The whole building shakes with every blow of the heavy equipment against the concrete foundation. The daily changes are noticeable around here now — on the outside and the inside. Things are falling off the walls in Vickie’s and Gail’s offices.

 

 

 

 

 

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“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.” ~Galatians 3:16

“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… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ~Genesis 12:2-3

This promise reveals and establishes God’s universal intent and plan for salvation: all peoples on earth will be blessed through Abraham. It’s universal. It’s for the whole world. God calls Abraham out of the blue and says, “I will bless you and you will be a blessing. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Paul says Abraham believed that promise and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham was saved by believing in God’s promise, by trusting in God’s Word. That’s how the covenant was established.

Abraham didn’t make a covenant with God; God made a covenant with Abraham. God did not lay down any conditions for Abraham to meet. In fact — you can look it up! — when God ratifies the covenant in Genesis 15, Abraham is sound asleep. It’s a covenant of pure grace.

God’s people are chosen by grace. God establishes the relationship by his own initiative apart from any law. They’re his people before there is such a thing as the law. The promise came first. The relationship came first. God’s people never obeyed the law in order to be saved. God had already saved them by his promise. There’s a big difference between “Do this and I’ll save you” and “I’ll save you so you can do this.”

Salvation is founded on God’s promise. And that promise is unchangeable.

What God promised Abraham is eternal. It’s irrevocable. God’s promise can’t be nullified, modified, or altered in any way — not by anybody’s personal preferences, not by any group’s cultural or national agendas, not even the Law of Moses can change God’s promise.

“The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.” ~Galatians 3:17-18

The law is really a latecomer to the salvation scene. The law doesn’t change the eternal arrangement God made with Abraham and his descendants. The promise is unchangeable. So the way we relate to God today is the same was it’s always been and always will be: through faith, not through works of the law. God saves people when they trust his Word, when they believe his promise, not when they keep all the details of the law.

The law is not God’s most important revelation. It’s the promise. God’s eternal promise and our faith in that promise to save is the basis of everything God has planned for us and his creation. Faith, not works, is the foundation of our righteous relationship with God and with each other.

In Romans 7, Paul says the law is holy, righteous, and good. But we are unholy, unrighteous, and not good. The law doesn’t make us sinners; it reveals to us that we are sinners. The law is a holy mirror that shows us we have dirty faces. But you don’t wash your face with a mirror. We are cleansed, we are made holy and righteous, and good, by the faith of Christ and our faith in Christ — the fulfillment of God’s great promise.

Peace,

Allan

Sex Needs Marriage

SexKissB&W

“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’… Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” ~1 Corinthians 6:16-20

The apostle Paul forbids Christians from having sex with a prostitute. But the reason he gives is fascinating.

The “one flesh” in Genesis 2 that Paul uses here and in Ephesians 5 means more to him than just the physical union. If he were just talking about body parts, he’d be saying, “He who unites himself with a prostitute unites himself with a prostitute.” Duh! No, he says don’t unite yourself with a prostitute because remember, “The two will become one flesh.” One person. The man and woman who have sex are united at all levels of their lives. Don’t unite with someone physically unless you’re willing to unite with that person emotionally, personally, socially, economically, and legally. Paul is crying out about the abomination of physical oneness without all the other kinds of oneness that God designed to go with it.

Tim Keller says you could paraphrase Paul’s statement like this: “Don’t you know that the purpose of sex is always one flesh — to become united to another person in every area of life? Is that what you’re seeking with the prostitute? Of course not! So don’t have sex with her!”

Now, our culture says just the opposite of what Scripture says and what God’s Church has always taught and practiced. Our world finds the idea of abstinence from sex until marriage as ludicrous. Our culture can’t even comprehend the idea. Yet this is the unquestioned and uniform teaching of all the Christian churches for all time — Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic. Right down the line. Forever. Not because the Bible has a low view of sex, but because it has such a lofty one. Sex has a divine purpose inside marriage. But when sex is separated from marriage, it can be devastatingly dangerous.

Sex makes you feel deeply connected to the other person even if you use it wrongly. That’s the way God designed it. And it works. Even if you experience it outside marriage. Sex makes you feel deeply and inseparably connected to that other person, even if you don’t want to be. As you’re physically joined, you find yourself feeling marriage-like connections even if you’re not married. You feel like the other person is obligated to you, even though that person doesn’t have the obligation to even call you the next day. So it’s messed up. And it leads to jealousy and hurt feelings and obsessiveness if two people are having sex and they’re not married. Sex makes it really hard to break up with somebody even when you and all your friends and family know you should break up. You feel so deeply connected. You feel a “forever” because that’s how it’s designed. If it’s separated from marriage, though, sex can trap you in a horrible relationship.

If you’re not married, the instruction from Scripture and the expectation of your church — and this won’t surprise anybody — is that you adopt the Christian ethic and practice chastity: No sex if it’s separated from marriage. Now, that will be very difficult, especially in a culture that will give you no support for your conviction. So, you’ll need the Christian community. You’ll need your church to act as a people and a place of open and supportive and loving family. You’ll also need the love and grace of Christ and the boldness and power of the Holy Spirit. And you should be able to find that in your church family, too.

Peace,

Allan

Sex Is From God

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.” ~Genesis 2:24

The first explicit mention of sex in the Scriptures is in the second chapter of Genesis. This is the same line Paul quotes in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 6 when he’s talking about marriage. Man and woman, husband and wife, are to be united to become one flesh.

You know, when we read this, it looks like it’s only talking about a physical, sexual union between two bodies. But it actually means a whole lot more. When Genesis 6:12 says all flesh had corrupted their ways, it doesn’t just mean bodies. It means all people. When Joel 2:28 says God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, it means people, not just bodies. It’s like if I said I was going to “count noses” in the worship center on Sunday or do a “head count.” I’d say, “I’ve got 985!” (preacher count) and you would know I’m not talking 985 noses or 985 heads; I’m telling you how many people are in the room (more like 700). It’s very common to use a part of a thing to represent the whole thing.

So marriage is leaving your father and mother and uniting with another so profoundly that the man and woman actually become one new single person. We’ve talked about the word “united,” or “cleave” in the older translations. It means to make a covenant or a binding contract. Every aspect of the two lives are sworn together. The man and woman merge into a single, legal, social, economic, emotional, physical, spiritual unit. They give up a lot of their rights and their independence. They give themselves completely to one another.

To call the marriage “one flesh” means that sex is a sign of that personal and legal union and the means to accomplish it. It’s the God-created way to help you give your entire self to your spouse. Sex is God’s ordained way for two people to say to each other, “I belong completely and permanently and exclusively to you.”

Now, we’re not done with this. Today’s post just really sets us up for tomorrow and Thursday.

Peace,

Allan

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