Posted in Genesis, Hebrews

Shake To Wake

“’Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe…” Hebrews 12:26-28

Have you ever been driving along and before you know it you realize that drowsiness is beginning to overtake you? Immediately you become awake and fear grips you because of the possible consequences of falling asleep at the wheel. Not only would you and anyone in your car be at risk, but also innocent people in other cars who hadn’t fallen asleep. When I know I’m a bit sleep deprived on a long trip I make sure that I’ve got caffeine and somebody to talk to who keeps me properly alert.

God is shaking America right now. We have gone our own way and done our own thing, yet He is calling out to us. I don’t believe He is shaking us to punish us as much as He is shaking us to wake us up. Some people feel like God would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if He didn’t send His wrath on America. I disagree. Scripture is clear that Sodom wasn’t destroyed because of how evil the worldly people were, but because God couldn’t find a remnant of His people to preserve it. As Abraham sought God’s face for mercy, the Lord promised him that if He could find a remnant of just ten, He would spare the whole city. (Genesis 18:32)

Well God has a huge remnant in America; people that love God, serve God, and seek God day in and day out. His heart is for this remnant to wake up from the spiritual sleeping pills this culture has given us through compromise and idolatry. As Hebrews says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Posted in Genesis, John

Foreshadows

“Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Genesis 22:2

Genesis promises redemption both by what God says to Abraham, “in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed,” (Genesis 12:3) and by events that foreshadow His bigger plan.

First, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham which means, “Father of many nations.” Abraham foreshadows what the Father in heaven will do when He takes His Son, His only Son, and sacrifices Him for our salvation.

Isaac foreshadows Jesus, the only beloved Son of God. He goes up a mountain in the region of Moriah (Calvary is one of the mounts in this region) with wood on his back placed there by his father. (Genesis 22:6) When he asks, “Where is the lamb for sacrifice,” Abraham responds, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” (Genesis 22:7-8) When Abraham lifts the knife to kill his son, an angel stops him, and Abraham then sees a male lamb in a thicket caught by its horns. As that lamb was sacrificed, I can almost see tears in the eyes of the heavenly Father who knows His Son will be the Lamb He provides for the sins of the world.

After this powerful foreshadowing of Calvary, Abraham sends his servant back to his relatives in Haran to get a bride for his son. This unnamed servant represents the Holy Spirit who will be sent back to earth to prepare a bride for the Son of God. The servant brings a small sampling of wealth in his invitation to Rebekah, explaining that his abundantly wealthy master has left everything to his son. (Genesis 25:36) Jesus says, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:15)

Rebekah foreshadows us. The servant asked Abraham, “What if the woman will not come back with me?” Abraham said, “if she refuses, you will be released from my oath.” (Genesis 25:41) The Holy Spirit has authority to invite but not to force. When the servant explains that the invitation is urgent and that he will leave the next morning with or without her, her family asks Rebekah, “Will you go with this man?” (Genesis 25:58) Rebekah then leaves all security she has in her circumstances and goes with this servant on a journey that will end in her being the bride of the father’s only son. Amazingly, nothing less than this happens when we genuinely answer the Spirit’s call today.

Posted in Genesis, Hebrews

A Better Message

“You have come…to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:22a; 24

Before Cain killed Abel the Bible says that Cain invited him out into a field (Genesis 4:8). Cain didn’t want anyone to know what he was going to do, so he did it in a secret place. But there is no hiding sin from God. The Lord said to Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) What was that voice crying to the Judge of the whole universe? It was a cry for justice against Cain. He was guilty of treachery, deceit, jealousy, unbridled anger, and of murdering an innocent victim. When Cain hears that his brother’s blood is crying out to God, he becomes afraid and flees the presence of God to go to the land of Nod; translated – the land of “wandering.”

Maybe we haven’t sinned in the same way Cain did, but our sins also cry out to God for justice. We may be able to justify our sins to ourselves and to other people, but we can’t justify them before God. He knows everything, even our motives, and the truth is we’re guilty. Can the holy and righteous Judge of the whole universe ignore the cry of justice against us because of our sins?

No, He can’t. He has heard the cry of every injustice on this planet, so in His holiness He demanded a just penalty be paid for our sins. He knew that if we paid that price ourselves it would mean we would be separated from Him forever, so in His great love for us, He decided to pay that penalty Himself. Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood to fulfill the cry for justice our sins demanded. Today His blood is speaking a very different message than the blood of Abel.

It speaks to God and to us about our forgiveness because our penalty has already been paid. It speaks to us of a new beginning with God every day. It speaks of my justification – just as if I’d never sinned – before God. Instead of fleeing God’s presence in fear, it assures us we can run to God with confidence. Instead of living a life of wandering without God, the blood of Jesus speaks to us of a life filled with purpose as we partner with God.

Which voice are you listening to today? Is it the one that speaks of fear, guilt, and judgment? That is not God’s voice, but only the accuser’s. God is speaking to you and me from the cross about His love, His forgiveness, and a new beginning.

Posted in Genesis, Romans

No Fear

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15

God doesn’t want us to be afraid. Fear is a slave driver that steals joy, peace, and love from us each day and reduces the potential of our lives. Fear of sickness; fear of financial lack; fear of rejection; fear of the future; fear of getting old; etc, God wants to free us from the oppressive power of fear.

According to our text, the Holy Spirit was given so that we would have confidence that God is our Daddy (Abba) and that He will help us whenever we cry out to Him. As I have been studying Genesis I’ve noticed that the biggest issue all of the Patriarchs faced was fear. God came to each one of them at different times with the exact same message: “Do not be afraid.”

Abraham had just freed Lot from his captors but knew that the defeated armies would seek revenge on him. He was afraid. The Lord then spoke to him, “Do not be afraid, I am your shield.” (Genesis 15:1) Not just “a” shield; but “your” shield.

Isaac kept having wells stolen from him that were needed for survival. He finally dug a well that seemed safe, yet he was still afraid. God came and spoke, “Do not be afraid. I will bless you.” (Genesis 26:24) God wanted Isaac to have something more than present provision; He wanted him to be free from living in the fear of future lack.

Jacob was old and was afraid he couldn’t make the long trip to Egypt required by his circumstances. Once again, God spoke and said, “Do not be afraid… I will be with you.” (Genesis 46:3-4) He didn’t just want to get Jacob from point A to point B; God wanted Jacob to enjoy the trip without any fears. He wants the same for us.

He is our Defender, Provider, and Guide. No fear!

Posted in Galatians, Genesis

Heaven’s Laugh

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” Genesis 21:6-7

The joy Sarah experienced when she had Isaac (Isaac means “laughter”) would be shared by others when she told them the story. She was barren, Abraham was too old, and she had given up on having children long ago. People would laugh for joy because this child was tangible evidence of three things:

  1. God is alive. Because of the circumstances, this was clearly a miracle that only a living God could do.
  2. God is good. Life can be harsh and frustrating, but this child was a desire fulfilled that gave Sarah, and anyone who would hear about it, a taste of how good God is.
  3. God is gracious. Sarah had tried to have a child her own way through Hagar, and then laughed cynically when she heard God’s promise of her having a child. (Genesis 18:12) When she was asked why she had laughed, she lied because she was afraid. Yet God did the miracle anyway! God does wonderful things, not because of our great faith, but in spite of our imperfect faith.

What does this have to do with us? Everything. “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28)  The God who owed us nothing but death, gave us eternal life. The one who was heading to hell is now on the path to heaven.  The life that was degenerating in isolation is now regenerating through adoption into God’s own family, by the Spirit of life.

We are the miracles that should bring heaven’s laugh into this dark, cynical world. God loves us and Jesus died for us!  Don’t forget to laugh today at how wonderful these simple truths are.

Posted in 1Timothy, 2Peter, Genesis, Hebrews, John, Revelation

The Tree of Eternal Life

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” Genesis 3:5

After the enemy questioned the Word of God by asking Eve, “Did God really say that,” he questioned the character of God. In the text above it’s as if he’s saying, “God is holding out on you and doesn’t have your best interests in mind.” Once Eve took this bait, she could justify taking matters into her own hands to accomplish what was “best” for her. Instead of trusting God, she became suspicious of Him, and disaster followed. Is anything different today?

The irony of the attack quoted above is that God was offering Adam and Eve something only He possessed,  but it could only be found in the other tree; the tree of life. We find out in Genesis 3:22 that this tree would more appropriately be called the tree of eternal life because whoever ate its fruit would “live forever.” Adam and Eve were being offered, in the fruit of this tree, the very life of God who “alone possesses immortality.” (1Timothy 6:16)

Today God is offering eternal life again through another tree; the cross. His purpose is not to restore us to the state of Adam and Eve before they fell, but to give us the eternal life they never embraced. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What will happen to those who don’t come to the cross and eat of the life only Jesus can give? They will outlive their bodies and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27), and then be cast into hell to pay for their sins against humanity. (Revelation 20:11-15)  After that they will be destroyed in hell (Matthew 10:28), be consumed by its fire (Hebrews 10:27), and perish like the beasts (2Peter 2:12) when they experience the second death of the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

Let’s trust God’s heart for us and receive the eternal life He died for us to have!

Posted in Genesis

Walking with God

“Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:24

You were made to walk with God. Before the fall God would meet with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day to walk together in a place of intimacy. After they fell, He gave a promise and a picture of what He was going to do in Jesus Christ to restore the place of intimacy, but it doesn’t seem like anyone until Enoch really got a hold of what God was after. Enoch walked with God. It doesn’t say he did any great thing, or that he built any huge monument, or that he held any important position; the Bible just says that he walked with God. This is the heart of what God wants from me and you.

We owned a Siberian husky named Kayla who was very hard to walk with.  I’d get out of the house and be jerked forward because Kayla couldn’t wait to go as fast as possible, but was restrained by the leash that would practically choke her. To take the strain off, I would start to run with her and we’d go along for awhile like that until she found something interesting along the way and then stop, so suddenly it would cause another jerk on her neck as I ran past her because I couldn’t stop as fast as she did. I’d wait patiently for awhile and then have to pull hard, once again almost choking her, to get her to leave the thing she was enamored with. I just wanted her to walk by me, but that rarely happened.

I think this is a good picture of God and us. As young believers we are often filled with our own ideas and zeal so we run ahead of God. We get self-righteous because others aren’t doing as much as we are, or being as “holy” as we think we are, and the whole time the Lord is trying to pull us back to the place of intimacy where He is the center of attention, and not us. Or we get enamored by something along life’s way and we get stuck. It could be a sin, our work, sports, shopping, or even a hobby that so dominates our thoughts and attention that God is put aside.. The Lord begins by pulling gently and then has to tug harder, because we aren’t responding.

My favorite part of our walk was when we got in the country and Kayla could run free because there was no danger. I loved to see her run uninhibited and then gladly run to me when I called her. This is the freedom God wants for each of us. 

The Lord doesn’t want to have to continually discipline us to keep us safe; He wants us to draw near willingly and learn to simply walk with Him.

Posted in Genesis

Intimacy with God

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3:7-9

You and I were created for intimacy with God. After the fall God came to the garden to walk with Adam and Eve and they were hiding from His presence. That walking with Him was a habit is evident by the reason they were hiding: “They heard the sound of the Lord walking…” How did they know it was the Lord and not an animal or the wind? I think it was the time of day He regularly came, and He never missed this appointment. You’d think that their sin would have caused the Lord to stay away, but He came as He always did as if to say, “I haven’t left the place of intimacy, you have.”

He asked, “Where are you?” not to get information, but to bring this first couple to a place of confession. This is the first question God asked in the Bible and I believe that He is still asking it today: “Where are you?” People today are hiding from God and from one another and it is leading to emptiness and depression because we were made for intimacy. Some of us hide in our work, others in bitterness, still others in alcohol, entertainment, or pornography, yet God is still asking, “where are you?”

Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” The killing of an innocent animal to make a skin is the first physical death in the Bible and it points to the need for a sacrifice to make atonement. Jesus was the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for the sins of the world. All that was required for Adam and Eve to have God clothe them was to take off the fig leaves they had sewn to hide themselves, and put on the skin God had made. Today God calls us to lay down whatever front we’re hiding behind whether it be pride, religious behavior, or our own self righteousness, and confess our faith in His sacrifice. He Himself then clothes us with the righteousness of Christ so that we can be forgiven and restored to His Presence. He’s still asking, “where are you?” today because He still longs to walk with each of us in the place of restored intimacy.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Daniel, Genesis, Hebrews, John, Matthew, Psalms

The Gifts of the Magi

“Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

As we think about Christmas let us reflect on the gifts given by the magi which speak to the Gift given by the Father to the human race. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2Corinthians 9:15)

  1. Gold – The gift given to kings. The magi didn’t come to worship one who would become king; they came to worship Him who was born king. This caste of wise men from the east were likely in the order of Daniel with access to his prophecies. Daniel gave the time Messiah would appear (see Daniel 9:24-27) and alluded to His Divine nature as well as His universal rule. “One like a son of man…was given power; all the peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
  2. Incense – The gift offered by priests. In the Old Covenant kings were from the tribe of Judah and the family of David; high priests came from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron. But God’s promised Messiah would be both king and priest as was an obscure person in the Old Testament named Melchizedek. (Genesis 14:18) David prophesied about this new order of priesthood that meant there would have to be a new covenant: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
  3. Myrrh – The spice used for burial. Messiah would not only be the priest to offer sacrifice; He Himself would be the sacrifice. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The shepherds who were called to witness the birth were rabbinic shepherds whose job it was to watch over the lambs that would be sacrificed in the temple. On Christmas, God called them to watch over the Lamb that would replace all other sacrifices. “Jesus sacrificed for our sins once for all when He offered Himself.” (Hebrews 7:27) Let’s remember the true wonder of Christmas is the One born for us.
Posted in 1Corinthians, Genesis, John, Mark, Proverbs, Romans

The Power of Words

“Have faith in God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” Mark 11:22-23

 When God speaks everything changes!  There may be darkness and chaos, but when God speaks, light and order come in response to His word transforming the world. (See Genesis 1)  But what happens when we speak?  I don’t believe there is intrinsic power in our words, but I do believe that our words can be filled with power if we speak out loud what God has spoken to our hearts.

 Speaking expresses faith.  Romans 10:10 says we believe with our hearts and then speak with our mouths resulting in salvation.  What we believe about God and the world will affect what we speak and what we speak will then affect the world around us.  Proverbs 18:21 says, “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

 So what is God speaking to this world?  May our hearts be filled with the truth of John 3:17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”  We are not called to be positive in a negative world; we are called to be redemptive in a fallen world.  We don’t ever have to live in a bubble that denies the brokenness and darkness all around us; we only have to believe that God has a redemptive plan for everything and everyone who is broken and dark. 

 Moses allowed himself to become frustrated and hit the rock when God told him to speak to it.  The rock, which represented Christ (1Corinthians 10:4), had already been struck (a picture of Jesus dying on the cross), so God wanted Moses to have enough faith to just speak.  If he had spoken to the rock it would have flowed with water for all the people, for God was the One telling him to speak.

 Today He’s telling us to speak His redemption over our own lives, the lives of our loved ones, and over this nation.  What are you speaking?