Category: Genesis (Page 1 of 7)

Marital Sex Prioritizes One-ness

The title of this post shines a bright light on my misguided leanings toward using alliteration in the main points of my sermons. It’s a preacher cliche, I know, but I’ve got it bad. Looking at it in print like this, “prioritizes” feels like a stretch. It probably was.

This is an important post today. This was the second most important part of Sunday’s sermon. We need to pay careful attention to this point about sex in our marriages because our culture, and in many ways our own Christian culture, doesn’t see this. Sex is where a married couple experiences and expresses their God-ordained unity and equality. Our culture — again, even our Christian culture — can put blinders on us so that we see this truth throughout the entire Bible, but we look right past it.

“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command.” ~1 Corinthians 7:3-6

The husband has ownership of his wife’s body. Her body belongs to him. Well, yeah. Duh. Everybody knows the husband is the head of his wife.

No! The wife also has the exact same ownership of her husband’s body. His body belongs to her. The husband owes his wife sex. And the wife owes her husband sex. You see what Paul is doing here. The marriage partners are not in a hierarchical relationship where one is over the other. There is no flow chart or chain of command in a marriage. Marriage is a relationship of mutual and equal unity and submission with each partner having equal authority over the other.

Paul does this throughout the whole chapter.

In 7:10-11, he says a wife cannot divorce her husband and the husband cannot divorce his wife. In 7:12-16, Paul says a Christian man who is married to an unbeliever must stay married to her and a Christian woman married to an unbeliever must remain married to him. In 7:32-34, he lists the pros and cons of marriage for a man and then he lists the exact same pros and cons for a woman. Paul is bending over backwards to treat husbands and wives totally and unmistakably equal. In a Christian marriage, the wife has authority over her husband. She does. She owns his body and he cannot deny her his marital obligation. In the exact same way, the husband owns the wife’s body and she cannot deny him.

That’s provocative, huh? What does this mean, that the husband and wife are completely equal?

One flesh. Unity. This is the one-ness.

The first explicit mention of sex in the Bible is in Genesis 2. It’s the same line Paul quotes in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 6.

“The Lord God made a woman from the side of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” ~Genesis 2:22-24

When we read this, we think it’s only talking about a physical, sexual union between two bodies and two sets of body parts. But it means so much more than that. Marriage is leaving your parents and uniting with another so profoundly that the husband and wife actually become one new single person. Every aspect of the two lives are sewn together. The man and woman merge into a single, legal, social, economic, emotional, physical, spiritual unit. They give up their rights and independence. They give themselves completely to one another. And one of the most important ways that’s experienced and expressed is sexually.

Sex is the God-created way to give your entire self to your spouse. Sex is God’s way for a man and a woman to say to each other, “I belong completely and exclusively and permanently to you.” That’s why sex outside of marriage is illegitimate and opposed to the will of God. It’s not just body parts; it’s not just a casual, physical act.

If Paul were only talking about body parts, he’d say, “The one who unites himself with a prostitute unites himself with a prostitute.” 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 every level of their lives. Don’t unite with someone sexually unless you’re willing to unite with that person emotionally, personally, socially, economically, legally, and permanently.

Tim Keller said you could paraphrase the 1 Corinthians 6 passage like this: “Don’t you know the purpose of sex is always one flesh? To become united to another person in every area of your life. Is that what you’re seeking with the prostitute? Of course not! So don’t have sex with her!”

The priority is one-ness. The Bible repeatedly talks about the joy of the sexual union that’s meant to drive husbands and wives toward each other. The Old Testament word is “knowing” each other, which is one of the main purposes for marital sex. If all goes well, your honeymoon should be the worst sex of your life. By God’s design, intimacy grows the more you know each other. The more you learn, the closer you get, and the better it gets. Scripture tells married couples to delight in sexual union because it connects you.

That’s why the Bible does not allow married couples to abstain from sex. He calls on both the husbands and wives to fulfill their marital duty or, literally, the original Greek is more like give what is owed. Do not deprive or defraud, don’t cheat your spouse of what is rightfully hers or his. It’s something each partner owes to the other. So it should never be used as a bribe or a reward for good behavior or something you withhold as a threat or punishment. We joke about making somebody sleep on the couch or we say so-and-so is in the doghouse. No! That’s not right! Now, you don’t insist on sex on demand. Each spouse must be sensitive to the emotional and physical state of the other. But one partner can’t consistently try to get out of it.

The only exception Paul allows — he says this is a concession, he doesn’t like it — is if both spouses agree together to abstain from sex for a limited time for the sake of an unusually concentrated period of communion with the Lord. Maybe a retreat, maybe fasting, maybe concentrated prayer — something big and unusual. But then they should come right back together. It’s a concession, he says, not a command. The Bible does not allow marriage without sex, not even if both spouses want it. Because marriage without sex is not marriage. It’s something, but it’s not marriage.

Couples who have settled into a sexless marriage, in which they’re just living together like roommates, have given up on God’s plan for strengthening their union. Your sex life is, in a lot of ways, of course, your business. But your sex life is for the purpose of making your marriage stronger, making your love deeper, and making your commitments richer. That means your children are dependent on your sex life. Trust me, they don’t want to hear about it. But they’re depending on it. Your church is also dependent upon your sex life, although we don’t want to hear about it, either.

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At the halfway point of the season, the Cowboys are 5-3 and do not have a win against a team with a winning record. They lost to the 1-7 Cardinals! How good can they be?!?

The easiest part of their schedule is coming up now with games against the Giants, Carolina, Washington, and Seattle. After that, it’s Philly, Buffalo, Miami, Detroit, and Washington. If Dallas has any chance at all of catching the Eagles in the NFC East, don’t they have to sweep these next four?

Peace,

Allan

The Creator is Still Creating

The word “create” is used six times in Genesis 1-2. It’s used seventeen times in Isaiah.

In Isaiah, God’s prophet is speaking to God’s people who are living in a dark and dreadful place. Because of their sin, they have been separated from the place God put them. They’ve been scattered and driven away by the Babylonian Empire. They’re living in exile in a foreign land. But God promises that because he created them and saved them and because he loves them, he’s going to create in them and for them something brand new.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket
or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?…
…Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?…
…Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry hosts one by one, and calls them each by name…
…Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth!”
~Isaiah 40:12-28

The Spirit of God who hovered over the deep darkness in the beginning continues to move, he continues to create. Genesis 1-2 is not just telling us how the world began. It’s not just an origin story to tell us how the sun was made and how the elephant got its name. It is a testimony to the ongoing creation work of God’s Spirit in our world right now.

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I, the Lord, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know, may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
~Isaiah 41:17-20

The word “create” is not just what God did one time for one week a long time ago. “Create” is what God does today for his saved and called people. The men and women he has placed on this earth and given life and purpose — God creates in them and for them still!

“This is what God the Lord says —
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand…
…See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare!
Before they spring into being I announce them to you!”
~Isaiah 42:5-9

God’s people felt so uncreated in captivity. They felt so empty and dark, so unformed and unfit for where they were and what was happening around them and to them. Isaiah brings every detail of the Genesis creation stories right into the present, right into their lives and their place right now. God reminds his people, “Hey, I’m the Creator! I make brand new things out of nothing! I shine light into darkness! I bring life to where there isn’t any!”

“Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made…
…I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.”
~Isaiah 43:7, 15

This is creation language from Genesis. I made you. I formed you. I created you. You don’t think I can do it again?

“I have made you, you are my servant;
O Israel, I will not forget you.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me, for I have redeemed you…
…This is what the Lord says — your Redeemer who formed you in the womb:
I am the Lord, who has made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself.”
~Isaiah 44:21-24

Nothing Israel could do was going to make any difference. God’s people were standing around empty-handed and confused. It was dark and they were dead. They were helpless. Hopeless. Nothing made sense anymore. Everything they were experiencing was totally foreign from what they thought they knew. The only hope they had was for God to do in them and for them something only God can do: create.

“Behold! I will create new heavens and a new earth!
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind!
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.”
~Isaiah 65:17-19

God, create in us something new. Breathe in us, O God. Form us. Make us. Bring to us your light and life. Create in us your Spirit and your holy image.

God’s Spirit is near. God’s Spirit is hovering over our darkness and emptiness and our sins. God’s Spirit is moving.

Peace,

Allan

The Creator is Near

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” ~Genesis 1:1-2

Before God created the heavens and the earth, there was no creation. There was nothing. Emptiness. Darkness. Chaos. Formless and void. No life. No shape. No nothing.

But God’s Spirit is near. God’s Spirit is hovering, moving over the darkness and emptiness. God looks into the formless void, he looks into the lifeless deep. And he creates. God breathes. And God speaks.

Let there be light! And there was brilliant light.

Let there be skies and seas and dry ground! And there were oceans and continents and tropical islands and vast deserts and lakes and plants and trees.

Let there be lights in the sky! And there were suns and moons and galaxies and billions of stars and morning and night and months and years and four different seasons.

And God created life! Life in the waters and life in the skies. Great varieties of birds to fill the air and amazing kinds of fish to fills the seas and rivers and lakes.

And God created the animals! Wild animals and livestock. Creeping things. Beasts and cattle. Little bugs and giant hippos. Amphibians and mammals and those weird monkeys that look like Jimmy Durante.

And God saw that it was good. It is all very good, every bit of it. And we know it’s good. It’s all so good. Why does the Grand Canyon take your breath away? Why do people weep at Niagara Falls? Why do children squeal with delight trying to catch a butterfly? Why do we put pictures of snow-capped mountains on our laptops? Why do we brag so much about the West Texas sunsets? Because it’s all so good. Everything our God creates is good.

But it’s nothing compared to what comes next. All of that is just a warm up for the main event. All the goodness and greatness of the first five-and-a-half days of creation are nothing compared to the goodness and greatness of God creating people. When God created man and woman, he blew the top off the whole thing! God creates man and woman from the dirt of the earth and into his own image. God’s holy image. And he breathes into men and women his own holy breath, the breath of his eternal life, his Holy Spirit. If you want to look at the apex of God’s creation, if you want to see God’s masterpiece, you look at people. It’s us.

We say things like, “I need to spend more time in God’s creation” and “I really sense the presence of God in creation” or “I love being in God’s creation.” We’re usually thinking about a day in the mountains, not a day with the in-laws. We much prefer time spent at the lake over time spent with people at work or church.

The way the Bible reveals creation to us, you and I are the very best part. We are the “very good” of God’s creation.

The truth of Genesis 1-2 is that our God is the Creator. God is the initiator, God is the power. And it’ s all good.

God said. God made. God created. God blessed. God gave. God formed. God breathed. God placed. God called. Over and over again, in a rhythm, in a cadence. There’s purpose here, there’s control. Where there once was darkness, God creates light. Where there was emptiness, God fills by his grace. Where there was chaos, God brings his divine order. Where there was no life, God breathes his holy breath of eternal life. And it’s all so very good.

But maybe things don’t seem so very good to you. Maybe your life or your place where God has put you isn’t so good. Maybe your life feels formless and empty. Is there a void or a darkness in your life? Does chaos reign instead of calm? Is there a pain in your soul? Is there bitterness in your heart? How much disappointment is in there? How much hurt? How much sin?

And you pray, God, create in me something new. Breathe in me, God. Form inside me. Make me. Bring to me life and light. Create in me your Spirit and your holy image.

Well, God’s Spirit is near. God’s Spirit is hovering over your darkness and emptiness. God’s Spirit is moving over your pain and your void. God is hovering. He is the Creator. And he is moving. He is near.

Peace,

Allan

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

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