Wednesday, 30 September 2009

All the families of the world

I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." – Genesis 12v3

Abraham could have no idea what kind of promise God was making here. The moment must have been almost overwhelming. God called him to leave everything and then began a list of promises. One of those promises that was through Abraham all the families, or nations, of the world would be blessed.

God was going to make a great nation out of Abraham’s descendents. Beside everything else that could be listed, there is one thing I want to focus on the morning.

The greatest of all the blessings that God was going to provide through Abraham’s seed was the coming of Messiah. Jesus would one day be born as Abraham’s seed. Jesus, Messiah, the Hope of all nations would provide the ultimate blessing of eternal life to the whole world. That alone would be enough to justify this amazing promise. I think, however, there is even more.

I recently read a book called ‘What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?’ While I disagreed with some of the particulars I found the book interesting. The author attempts to point out how society better for everyone one just because Jesus, one of Abraham’s descendents, was born.

Though horrendous things have been done by those who claim the name of Christ, there can be no doubt that the earth has been blessed through Abraham’s seed. Hospitals, charities, and educational institutions have all been built in the name of Christ. It was Christians who worked tirelessly to abolish slavery in the west. Christians have gone to where women were treated as chattel and widows were burned alive with their husbands and through Christ brought change to those societies.

There can be no doubt that the world is a better place because of Christ. His people have blown it, yes, but the whole world has been blessed through Abraham and Christ as his descendent.

Best of all of course is what was mentioned above. Through Christ we can become Abraham’s spiritual seed. God has adopted us as believers into His family. That is the ultimate blessing!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

To a land I will show you

Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.
– Genesis 12v1

Any type of major move involves a mixed range of emotions. Excitement, fear, anxiety, sadness, and joy are among those emotions. When we moved to Ireland in 1995 it was a huge change. People talked about how much faith that took and were gracious in their comments. But we knew where we were going. We knew what town we were going to, we knew few people, and we even had a home ready for us to move into. We had a container of all of our stuff so home would still be home.

Abraham had none of that when God told him to go. 'Get up, leave your people, and go. I will let you know when you are there. I can't even imagine the kind of faith that required. To just go and trust God to let me know when I am where I am supposed to be was an example of what we know call blind faith, The was faith that was not based on what Abraham could see, but faith that was based on God's promises alone.

While we may never be called to leave kith and kin for lands unknown God may still call us to step out of our comfort zone to where things are totally unknown.

Do we have the kind of faith that will step out there and let God lead? Or is our comfort zone just a little too comfortable?

Monday, 28 September 2009

To make a name

And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." – Genesis 11v4

It didn’t take long for man to see his own measure of self-importance. As these people travelled they knew that God’s command was for them to scatter and fill the earth, but they were in their comfort zone. They liked being together. So when they came to this plan they decided to settle right there together and build a tower so high that it would draw them back together.

We might consider this the very birth of secular humanism, the idea that man is great enough that he can survive and even thrive without God’s help. Self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-dependence are all popular terms. Today, much like in this day, mankind seems to think he has outgrown God and can do it all himself.

‘Why should we separate? If we stick together we can do anything!’ ‘What does God matter anyway?’ Things really haven’t changed a whole lot, shut God out and sort things out ourselves seems to be a constant theme of mankind. Utopia has always been man’s dream World governments and world organisations have tried and failed. The Pax Romana, the Holy Roman Empire, the Congress of Vienna, and the UN have all tried to draw man together and make a great name for humankind.

It hasn’t worked. Wars still rage. Man needs God and God knew that when the people settled on Shinar. He stepped in and scattered man. He knew that man left to his own devices could do anything and that the ‘anything’ would be destructive.

The ‘make a name’ concept is not exclusive to the world. If we don’t watch it we can find it creeping into the church. The desire to ‘make a name’ only has one motivation. Pride alone gives us the desire to make such a name.
Pride puts man above God. It did it at Babel and it does it today.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

God’s covenant

Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." – Genesis 9v11

God made a covenant with man. That may not sound like much on first appearance, but think about it for a moment. A covenant is a binding agreement. It is astounding first of all that a holy, sovereign, perfect God would bind Himself to man in any regard. This is even more amazing in that there are no conditions placed on this particular covenant. God simply covenants not to destroy the earth by flood ever again.

Here we find another early example of God’s grace. The “Old Testament God’ is often unfairly portrayed as a God of wrath and anger and violence and cruelty. I think that comes from the fact that people don’t want to see the ‘just’ side of God. It is similar to people who have an inbuilt hatred and disrespect for the police or government authorities. They look for an excuse not to ‘like them’ so much that they are blind to the good things.

And so it is with God. People who see the judgement of the flood can overlook the fact that after that God’s justice is satisfied He gives mankind a second chance, and this time promises that no matter what, He will never judge like that again.

Then He seals the covenant in a beautiful manner. Covenants are sealed by a wax stamp, an embossed seal, a signature, or some other means. Since man was not a signatory to this covenant there was no need for man to sign. Even with the list of commandments given before this, God did draw them into the agreement. He simply made a promise to the world. Even if man did not keep us his part, God would.

So He sealed the covenant. He placed a rainbow in the sky as the seal of His covenant. That beautiful rainbow is a constant remind of the love and patience and grace of God toward man.

I am grateful for a covenant making and covenant keeping God.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Noah built an altar

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. … – Genesis 8v20-21

It had been a year since God closed the door of the ark. They had been through a whole year of living with and tending the animals, never going outside, and dealing with the unknown.

Then finally the rains stopped, the waters subsided, the sun came out, and the land dried up. Finally, God spoke and said, “go outside Noah.’

Noah did, with his family and all of the animals.

‘The Noah built an altar to the Lord…and the Lord smelled a soothing aroma.’ Noah’s first act on leaving the ark was to build an altar to worship the Lord. The sacrifice on that altar pleased God and was soothing to Him.

Noah knew that the right thing to do after his deliverance was to offer thanks. That thanks pleased God. This is the first recorded instance of man giving thanks to God for what He had done.

Noah knew something that we too often forget. He knew that an attitude of gratitude was vital to our walk with God.

How often do we depend on God through the crisis and lean on him, but then as soon as we get through it we go on our happy way. I know we don’t ‘do sacrifice’ any more, but I think we can learn from Noah’s example. We don’t need to offer up sacrifices of animals like he did, but we do have our own sacrifice that we can perform.

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. – Hebrews 13v15

Friday, 25 September 2009

Thus Noah did

Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did. – Genesis 6v22

What a great little verse. Well, I know they are all great, but you know what I mean. Imagine Noah, all alone amongst men as the one who was upright and walked with God. God came to Noah with the news of his coming judgement and told him to build a massive ark to save his family and the animals of creation from the pending destruction.

What a task! Build a boat that is some 150 metres long, 15 metres wide, and 10 metres tall. Sure, no problem! This was one big boat, and we are not even sure anyone had ever seen a boat before. So what would you do?

Noah apparently had the answer – he did it. Simple enough, he did all that God told him to do. It took him 120 years, but he did it.

‘Doing it’ is a basic part of obeying God and pleasing him. We can learn and study and prepare and research and become the greatest Bible scholar in the world but if we don’t ‘do it’ we are wasting our time.

Just do it. A sports shoe company used that slogan a few years ago. Just do it. Witness to my neighbour? Do it. Take a stand for Christ at work? Do it. Go to an unchurched region and start a church from scratch? Do it. Live for Christ in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (like Noah did by the way)? Do it.

A friend posted the following on Facebook this morning. It was something that Noah knew and that if we remembered we could ‘do it’ as well.

‘The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.’

Noah knew that power. He walked with God. Perhaps if we learned to walk with God like Noah did we could learn how to ‘do it.’

Thursday, 24 September 2009


But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God… - Genesis 6v8-10

Grace. It is one of those words that can stand alone isn’t it? This is the first time that the word grace appears in the Bible and it comes at what, to say the least, is a pivotal moment.

To be honest, sitting here this morning I am having a hard time figuring out what I am going to say about grace. Where do I start with this key word? So much has been said in word and song that I really don’t know where to go.

Here we find a world that was only wicked, where every single thought of man ran to evil. We find a God grieving over what His creation had done. We sense impending doom. But we also find Noah, a just man who walked with God. God would have been fully justified in destroying this sinful world and everyone in it, but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Sin reigned, but God’s amazing, marvellous, infinite, matchless grace appeared. The grace that is greater than all sin came on the scene.

How great was this grace? ‘Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ (Romans 5v20-21) Where sin abounded grace abounded more. Where sin reigned grace could now reign.

I guess the best I can do is to go to a personal application of the universal situation described here from the book of Ephesians. Sin reigned supreme. We were conducting ourselves in the lusts of the flesh and fulfilling the flesh. We were by our very nature, just like those in Noah’s day, the children of wrath.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, while we were STILL dead in our sins, made us alive together in Christ. BY GRACE you have been saved!!

The grace that appears in Genesis 6 runs all the way though to the last verse in Revelation – ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’

But Noah found grace. Praise God that Roger found grace. May we each share that grace with others.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Noah found Grace

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God - Genesis 6v8-10

Have you even been all alone spiritually? I can tell you it is a tough place to be. One of the toughest parts of a ‘from scratch’ church plant is moving to an area where there is no local church. No church, no Christian neighbours, and no where local to have fellowship. It is a lonely spot.

However with a little bit of work and a little travel you can find fellowship. Today we have email, Skype, Facebook, and other ways to stay in touch with fellow believers. We are not really all alone.

Noah had none of that. The world was full of wickedness. Every one around him only thought of doing evil all the time. It was so bad that God’s heart was grieved over His creation. Yet in the middle of all that we find Noah. He was a just man, one who was ‘perfect’ in his day, and he walked with God.

What an example Noah was. I can’t even imagine being in his sandals. No one else, literally no one was there to support him. Not only were there no believers in his workplace or his school or his neighbourhood or where he shopped, there were none anywhere. No Christian Facebook friends, no one to send him an encouraging email – no one.

And yet he still walked with God. We can cry and whinge and complain all we want, but no one had it like Noah did.

For one thing we can count ourselves blessed that none of us will ever face what Noah did. We can find someone, somewhere, by internet, phone or letter.

On another point though. The next time you sit down for a cuppa tea or coffee with a Christian friend remember to thank them for their friendship. The next time you get that edifying email or a friend posts something spiritually edifying on Facebook thank God for that blessing. Don’t take your local church for granted. We are so fortunate that we don’t have to stand alone like Noah did.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

God was sorry

And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. – Genesis 6v6

These are pretty solemn words. The Lord was sorry that He had made man, and He was grieved in His heart. There is an awesome sadness in reading that man, the pinnacle of creation cause sorrow and grief to his Creator.

What was the cause of this grief? The answer is pretty simple actually. It is in the previous verse. Man’s wickedness was great and he only thought of evil. One thing grieves God. That one thing is man’s sin.

I suspect that that the use of the word ‘sorry’ here is not so much that God regretted what He had done, but that He had sorrow in His heart. I suspect this because that goes so well with the idea of grieving and I can’t get my head around the idea that God could regret something that He did since He is all-wise and all-knowing.

I can take one thing away from this. Sin grieves God. No matter what the excuse, reason, or circumstance sin grieves Him. In the New Testament Christians are warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

I can understand the sin of the world of Noah’s day much easier than I can understand my own sin. I know God. I know what my salvation cost. I know that my sin cost Jesus Christ His life.

The fact that sin breaks God’s heart should be enough to keep me from choosing sin, but far too often it is not. The next time we are in a position to choose sin or right, may we each remember what our sin does to Him.

Monday, 21 September 2009

My spirit will not always strive

And the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." …Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6v3,5

I found it amazing how often cultural stories and myths mimic the word of God. Greek mythology tells of the story of Pandora, the first woman, who was intended to work alongside and help men. She was told that she could not open certain jar (which has morphed into a box, but, of course, she had to open it. When she did all the evils on mankind were released even though she tried to quickly close it. We now use the phrase ‘open Pandora’s box’ when we speak of doing something that unleashes any kind of serious problem.

We can well say that when Eve (the original Pandora) ate the fruit she opened to ultimate Pandora’s Box. When she sinned she passed it on to Adam and sin was unleashed on the world. Cain killed his brother and in a few centuries ‘the wickedness of man was great in the earth and every intent of his heart was only evil continually.’

God looked down and saw the great evil force that man had become. We will look more at how He felt about that tomorrow, but we have an insight to His response back in verse 3.

‘My spirit will not always strive with man.’ God is patient, loving, kind, merciful, gracious, and so much more. He is also holy, just, and righteous. God’s desire is that all men come to repentance. He makes that clear in the New Testament. He woos and calls and leads and direct in order to draw men to Himself. He sends His spirit to work in mankind. But he tells us here that He will not contend with man forever.

We don’t know how long He is going to strive for us. We don’t know the limit. The truth remains that He will not always strive with man. The description of earth in this passage could very well fit today. Wickedness is great in the earth. It does seem that every intent of man’s heart is only evil continually. Judgement is coming – it is certain. How much longer does this world have?

Those of us who are saved have it made, our eternity is secure. It is vital that we share that hope with others because tomorrow may be too late.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Enoch walked with God

So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. – Genesis 5v23-24

Enoch is one of those intriguing characters. He is only mentioned three times in scripture yet he leaves us an amazing example and a wonderful testimony. He is not one of the big names of the Bible like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Mary, or Paul but still his is a name that most Bible students would know.

‘Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.’ From Jude we know that Enoch was a prophet who foretold the coming of the Lord with a vast multitude of His saints. According to Hebrews 11 Enoch had this testimony – ‘that he pleased God.’ That same Hebrews passage tells us that God took Enoch to spare him facing death.

Enoch pleased God with His life. Enoch was God’s prophet who foretold the (what we now know is the second) coming of Christ. Enoch walked with God.

Enoch challenges me. Do I please God like he did? Do I proclaim God’s word like he did? Do I indeed walk with God?

Apart from the calling up of the saints God is not going to just take me without facing death. But how about today, the 20th of September 2009? Will I please God with my life today? Will I walk with God this week? When I die will it be said of me that ‘Roger pleased God with his life’ or ‘Roger walked with God?’

What a challenge.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

In the likeness of God

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. – Genesis 5v1

The concept of the ‘likeness’ or ‘image’ of God is a fascinating one. It does no disservice to the word to say that God made man ‘god-like.’

Saying that almost causes discomfort, doesn’t it? I for one certainly don’t see myself as god-like. When I consider my thoughts, my actions, my attitude, and my behaviour I don’t see much of God.

But there it is – ‘He made him in the likeness of God.’

So how are we god-like? A little explanation is needed here before we look at us.

God created man in His likeness. At creation man and God could walk side by side in the garden. They could have sweet, uninterrupted fellowship. There was no barrier; there was nothing to separate God and His god-like creation.

But then Adam and Eve blew it – one fatal sin, one stupid choice, one selfish act – and the god-likeness was gone. Moral decay and human destruction came on our mortal race. The likeness of God was replaced with the likeness of sin.

Ever since then man has found himself the captive of sin. Death came with sin and death was passed on to all men. The fellowship that came with god-likeness was broken. A chasm appeared where once there was fellowship and unity.

Then, while we were still without the strength to be like God, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Whereas one man’s sin brought death, separation, and ungodliness, another Man’s life brought life, union with God, and godliness.

Godliness, or god-likeness if you will, means righteousness, holiness, and justification with God. All that was lost at one tree. Praise God Jesus made it possible to be restored at another tree.

‘In the likeness of God’ – gone through Adam - but restorable through Christ.

There is a challenge for those of us who have had that image restored on the Cross. When people see us do they seen godly men and women who reflect the likeness of God in this world, or do they see just more of the filth of the world?

May others see the ‘likeness of God’ in our Christ filled lives today.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Men began to call on the name of the Lord

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, "For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed." And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD. – Genesis 4v26

After a history of Cain’s family the narrative returns to Adam and Eve’s family. God gave Eve a son in the place of Abel. This son Seth had a son named Enosh and when he was born men began to call on the name of the Lord.

Things can get really confusing here if we try to think on a timeline. The Bible does not necessarily always flow in a smooth historical chronological narrative. We are also not privy to all the details of all the events. Obviously somewhere along the line Adam and Eve had daughters who married their sons. Hundreds of years may have passed by. I read one commentator who said that the birth of Enos happened 240 years after Creation, but I have no idea how he came up with that figure.

Anyway, back to the story. When Enosh was born men started to call on the name of the Lord. Something happened here. There seems to be a monumental shift in humankind here. People already acknowledged God. Eve did so when God gave her children. So acknowledging God was nothing new. But with the birth of Enosh they began to call on Him.

I am not totally sure about all that is going on here, but I can’t help but remember the verse that says, ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know if Adam and Eve were saved or not, but with Enosh’s birth there is a shift from acknowledging God to calling on Him.

There are plenty of people who acknowledge God today. Most people in fact would probably give Him some sort of acknowledgement. But there is a huge difference between that and calling on Him. There are millions out there who would acknowledge Him, but refuse to call on Him for salvation. The mindset seems to be, ‘It’s nice that God is there, but I really don’t want Him involved in my own life.’

Ignore God, acknowledge Him, or call on Him. Only one of those options has hope for eternal life.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Am I my brother’s keeper?

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" – Genesis 4v9

Notice how long it took for ‘looking out for number one’ to be a part of human culture. Cain brutally kills his brother because of his jealousy. The sin that ‘laid at the door’ and sought to rule over Cain won out. He chose poorly, he chose his own way instead of God’s way.

Able’s blood lay on the ground as evidence of Cain’s sin. ‘Where is Able? God said? “How should I know, am I in charge of Able?’ Cain replied. Cain acted like the only one he had to watch out for was himself. What did he have to do with Able?

No wonder that we have to be reminded over and over and over again in the Bible about our responsibility toward each other. When it comes right down to it we really want to focus on us, but what does God say?

Just one example will suit. What did Jesus say when He was asked to summarise the Law? ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heats and soul and strength.’ Okay, that’s grand. That makes sense. But He did not stop there – ‘…and love your neighbour as yourself.’

It is not good enough to just ‘watch out for number one.’ While I can’t control everything ‘my brother’ does there is a sense where I am his keeper. Like it or not God puts us in families and societies. Even if we wanted to we cannot close ourselves off and ignore others.

Although chances are pretty slim that we would actually murder anyone, we often do terrible harm to those around us when all we care about is us. If they make me look bad, I want to ‘get them back.’

Cain meant the question as rhetorical. “Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Well, in a very real sense, the answer is ‘Yes.”

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Sin lies at the door

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." – Genesis 4v7

I read this passage this morning. Then I made a big mistake – I read a couple of commentaries to see what others thought. When I was done I realised that there really is no consensus to what is talked about here. Different Hebrew scholars all have different views. So, I am going to just record what I saw in the verse this morning.

Cain was furious at God. His sacrifice had been refused while his brother Able’s sacrifice was accepted by God. Cain’s response was to go to God with it. God’s response – ‘Why are you complaining? If you do the right thing it will be accepted. If not, then sin lies at your door.’

We are not told why Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable, but it is obvious that Cain did. Maybe his sacrifice was not a blood sacrifice. Maybe it was because it was not from the best of his crops. Maybe he just had a bad attitude. God told him, basically, ‘if you had done the right thing it would be obvious, but if not the sin is just as obvious.’

If we are honest we have to admit that we know when we do wrong. Try as we might to mask it, we know. Our sin is right there at the door as clear as it can be. We really can’t play games with it.

The last phrase in the verse is greatly debated. I was happy to see that several scholars agreed with my first opinion. Here it is, take it or leave it.

God knew Cain’s heart. He knew that sin sought to rule over Cain. He knew that anger was seething and was Cain was capable of doing. And yet, God tells Cain – ‘You should rule your sin, don’t let it rule you.’ God gave Cain a choice – let sin rule over you or you rule over it. It is a choice a lot like the choice Adam and Eve had.

Sin still seeks to reign today. For those of us who are believers sin lost its power when Christ conquered death. We may attack and be critical of Cain’s upcoming choice, but we have a power over sin that he did not have.

Our sin choice is even more appalling than his.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Dust to dust

In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." – Genesis 3v19

“Ashes to ashes – dust to dust.’ That doesn’t sound like much of a summary of life, does it? Yet that is what we often here at funerals. Sadly, there is a truth to it, When it is all said and done we will return to the dust that man came from.

Although life spans are stretching out, we still must deal with that fact that unless Jesus comes back we are all going to end up back in the dirt. We can’t do anything about that.

There is something we can do something about though. What are we doing on the meantime? What are we doing during the ‘to’ in ‘dust to dust?’

Much of scripture speaks of the brevity of the span between dust and dust. Life is like a vapour, it appears for a little and then vanishes. It is like the wild flowers in a field which appear and then wilt away.

‘For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.’

That passage from Psalm 90 really ties this in with yesterday’s thought. Seventy, eighty years, maybe a few more, and it is all done. I am not an old man, but the seventy year mark is much closer than birth now.

What have I done with years I have before I return to the dust? I have redeemed those precious few years?

A few weeks ago I mentioned a Twilight Zone episode where a man lives for 2000 years. The story ends when he finally dies, his body decays quickly, and at the end the wind blows away the dust that is left. That image has a sense of finality to it. I am not going to live 2000 years. Chances are, even at the best, I will be returned to the dust before this century is half way over.

I can’t fix what I have done with the fifty some years that have passed. What will I do with the rest?

Monday, 14 September 2009


To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." – Genesis 3v16-19

Labour. The very sound of that word sends shivers up and down some of our spines. If you are reading this in the morning you are probably ‘looking forward’ to labour of some sort. Labour means work. Whether it is physical labour or mental labour it just means work. For some it means straining muscles and for others it means straining brains or emotions. For the vast majority of us there is always work to be done.

Then I think of a different kind of labour, and this one I hesitate to mention. For most mothers who read the title of this thought this morning another image probably came to mind. Thankfully I have never had to go through that, but I have been there for six labour and deliveries and been around loads of women in labour. My thoughts go back to when our first child was born way back in 1978. Talk about labour! Mary struggled for almost sixteen hours with her first labour. This was real effort. It was hard work getting that boy delivered. Even I was worn out and I didn’t have the baby! With our second the labour was tough because our son was quite large. At one stage I joined hands with a nurse and we pushed on the baby to help Mary deliver him. ‘In pain you will bring forth children’ rings true.

I remember some jobs I have had. One was installing heating and air conditioning systems. It involved crawling in dirty smelly crawl spaces and in incredibly hot attics. In other job I cleaned nasty, stinky, foul toilets. I understand the ‘sweat of your face.’

I am not a gardener, but recently I had to cut back some rose bushes in our front garden. Not because I wanted them pruned, mind you, but because I could not get in the car without getting scratched. That was a week ago and I still have scratches from the thorns and for several days could not work one thorn out of my thumb.

It’s obvious that all that is said here is true. Why do we have all those things to deal with? Because actions have consequences. All Eve thought about when she took that fruit was what she thought it might do for her. She did not consider all the implications. She and Adam suffered and all of us ever since have suffered as well.

The next time we are involved in some serious and heavy labour, let it remind us that sin has consequences.

Sadly, labour is relatively minor part of the consequences of choosing sin.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The first gospel

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." – Genesis 3v15

Did you ever notice how theologians like big words? Think about it – every major Bible truth has a big, foreign sounding word. I wonder why we do that?

Sorry, I got distracted there. Well, here is an example of what I mean by theologians liking big words. Genesis 3v15 is often referred to as the protoevangelium. How is that for a big word? Literally, I think, the word means ‘first gospel.’ At least that is what it looks like. I think for those of us who speak English that is a great way to describe this verse.

After the fall, and in the midst of God’s curse on Satan, humans, and the earth itself God interjects some good news. The day will come when Satan will bruise the heel of Eve’s Seed. Sounds like bad news, not good news. But there is more. Her Seed would crush Satan’s head.

What is He talking about here? The answer is in Galatians 4v4-5 – ‘But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.’

Note that God did not tell Satan that ‘their seed’ would be the centre of this bruising, but ‘her seed.’ From the very start the concept of the virgin born Christ was set in place. Eve’s seed, the virgin born Jesus Christ would one day indeed have his heel bruised on the cross. It would seem like a terrible blow, and if Satan did not remember this proclamation he may have ‘revelled and howled at the war he thought he had won.’ But in the back of his mind he must have wondered at the words that completed the prophecy ‘and He shall crush your head.’

In all those years Satan had never seen God fail to fulfil a promise. Deceive himself as he might he knew reality and he knew that God was not going to be wrong. But maybe, just maybe this time…

But no. ‘But then, in the dark of the grave the stone rolled away in the still of the dawn on the greatest of days.’ Jesus took the ‘breath that shattered all death with His life!’

Suddenly, with one breath the battle of was over. The Bruised Seed became the Crushing Seed.’ The words of the First Gospel came to fruition.

Thank God for the protoevangelium, or the first gospel, or whatever you choose to call it! The great fact is that it was fulfilled!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

It’s Not My Fault!

And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." – Genesis 3v11-13

Have you noticed how nothing ever seems to by anyone’s fault? I heard of (not verified) a teenage girl who became pregnant. When her parents confronted her she said “I don’t know how this happened!’ I don’t know if the story is true or not, but I would not be surprised.

Modern counsellors, psychologists, and such seem to think that the most important thing is that person feels good about himself and not feel guilty for what he does. I watched a programme yesterday about teens that were on their way to serious trouble. They were not willing to take the blame and either were their parents. ‘He’s a good boy,’ one mother wept, ‘he just got in with the wrong crowd!’

I will admit that people do affect our choices. We can get in with the wrong crowd who can influence us, but at the end of the day only one person is responsible for our choices.

I don’t know why people think they need to convince others that they are not to blame for their choices. From the very first sin people have made excuses. Pardon my parrowphrase of the passage above.

God: Adam, what have you done? Who told you were naked? Did you eat from The Tree?

Adam: God, You gave me that woman! And she gave me the fruit, so I ate it. Its not my fault!

God: Eve, what have you done?

Eve: It’s not my fault – the serpent tempted me and I ate. It’s not my fault!

This is the ultimate ‘pass the buck’ scenario. ‘It’s not my fault, it’s hers!’ As long as people have this mindset nothing is ever going to get sorted and society will continue to ‘wax worse and worse.’

More on this later, but sin has results. Our sin has consequences for us and for others. The sooner we realise that the better.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Hiding from 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 coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?" – Genesis 3v7-9

Anyone who has dealt with children knows that there is an age where their first response to doing something wrong is to try and hide from mum and dad. They think that maybe, just maybe, that if they can’t be found they won’t get in trouble. They don’t think about the fact that they have to come out sometime and face the consequences. They don’t realise that no matter how hard they try to hide there are consequences for their wrong doing.

Adam and Eve were no better than those bold children. They sinned and they knew it. They saw their nakedness. They realised that they were busted. So they tried to hide from God, the same God who created them and the garden where they were hiding.

That’s even sillier than the bold child. They tried to hide in the place that God had made. How foolish was that?

It is easy for us to sit back and chuckle at that bold child hiding from mum and dad. It is easy for us to look at Adam and Eve and wonder how they could be so foolish to think they can hide from the God who created them.

But hold on a second. Who are we to talk? Do we really think that we can hide our own sin from God? Maybe since a lot of our sins, or mine at least, are sins of the heart and mind they are different?

Think about that for just a second. God created my heart, my soul, and my mind just as surely as He created the trees and bushes where Adam and Eve hid themselves. We can no better hide our inner sins from God than Adam and Eve hid their sin or the bold child can hide from parents.

Hiding from God? Sorry, but it just can’t be done.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

When will we ever learn?

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3v6

Okay, the song that brought this question to my mind this morning has nothing at all to do with the topic at hand, but perhaps the question does.

We find Eve talking to Satan. He has already questioned God’s authority. He has already questioned God’s word. And there in front of Eve is the original Forbidden Fruit. She saw that the fruit would be good food. She saw that it was lovely. And she saw that it would make her wise. The temptation was just too much. She took it, had a bite, then she passed it on to her husband.

And so it all begins. The world would never be the same. Forbidden fruit does indeed seem the taste the sweetest, or so we are led to believe. The same things that appealed to Eve draw us today. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are still the things of the world that Satan uses to draw us into sin. These are things that we are told not to love, but we do. We still reach out, grab the forbidden fruit, and eat it.

You would think we would learn, wouldn’t you? You would think we could look back at Eve and say something, ‘Wow! That was really dumb. I am not going to act like her!’

But we do. Every day, over and over the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life scream out and draw us away from God’s way.

When will we ever learn?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

You will be like God

Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." – Genesis 3v4-5

I remember one of the original Star Trek episodes about a young, spoilt, capricious god who caused all kind of problems for Capt. Kirk and the Enterprise. At the end this god’s parents have to sort things out and restore order so that the crew can live for the next episode.

This is only one example of many where an appeal is made to man’s desire for godhood. Literature from virtually every culture in history has noted stories about how man acquires attributes of deity. Most of the time man ‘blows it’ and we see the vanity of man achieving godhood.

Yet the desire remains. It is part of our make-up. Satan used that desire in trying to convince Eve to sin. ‘You won’t die if you eat that fruit,’ he says, ‘God knows that if you eat that fruit you will be just like Him.’

How that must have appealed to Eve. From our perspective we can see the foolishness of her choice. We have hindsight, the word of God, and the literature of the ages to mould our thoughts. Surely, we know that we would fail as god just like the boy-god in the Star Trek episode.

But do we really ‘get it?’ Let’s try a test. How often do you and I think we could do a better job than God is doing? When things are going wrong and we can’t figure it out we can be tempted to wonder if God really knows what is going on. When babies die and great tragedies strike we can sometimes join the world and ask ourselves why God allows this to happen.

The problem is simple – we are not God. When we think that we are no better than Eve. ‘If I were God I would not let that happen!’ It is Satan’s same deception that continues on today. It worked with Eve. It is sad that it still can work with us.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

More cunning

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" – Genesis 3v1

What is the first thing that come s to mind when I saw ‘the devil?’ Chances are that the mental image is of a little angry guy with red skin, horns, pointy teeth, a pitchfork, and a long tail with a point on the end. He is probably surrounded by flames and has an evil and lascivious grin on his face.

In The Wizard of Oz the good witch was beautiful, sweet, and tender. The wicked with was ugly, bent over and cruel. We have this idea that evil is synonymous with ugly and beauty is synonymous with good.

The sad thing is that it simply is not true. If Satan had appeared to Eve as above, we would not have the problem with sin. If evil always looked like the bad witch no one would want it.

But Satan doesn’t do it that way. He is more cunning and subtle than any other creature. He is sly, beautiful, and alluring. If the Wizard of Oz were shot using the reality of good and evil the bad witch would be just as pretty as the good witch. Dorothy and Toto would have never been afraid her and she could have tricked Dorothy out of her ruby slippers.

One of the greatest lessons we need to keep in mind is the truth that Satan is not going to be ugly. Sin is going to look appealing. Don’t watch out for the guy with the pitchfork. Watch out for most appealing things that come across your path. There is where the evil tends to cunningly hide.

Monday, 7 September 2009

It is not good that man should be alone

And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." … Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. - Gen 2:18,25

I am one of those guys who can really indentify with the phrase ‘it is not good that a man should be alone.’ I do not like to be alone at all. If I have to take the car into the mechanic, about a 20 minute drive, I want some one to go with me. I don’t like being at home alone for more than a couple of hours. I just don’t like alone-ness.

Not all are as bad as I am, but we are social beings. God knew this on the sixth day when Adam was all alone naming the animals (that must have been a busy day). So, in this recounting of the sixth day of creation we learn that God created Eve from Adam in order to solve the dilemma.

Before sin ever entered into the world God established the very first human institution, the home. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall be one flesh.’ God’s plan for society is based on the home. While sin has messed that up and tragically far too many homes have been destroyed, this is still God’s plan. We know that is true because the New Testament repeats the same instruction. We have seen over and over that when families are weak society is weak.

I look back over the years since God gave me my ‘helper.’ There have been times when we were ‘alone.’ However, the truth is that when that happens we are alone together. Now matter where we have gone or what we have done in those years we have had each other.

I could not be more grateful for my ‘helpmeet.’ Thank God that He had a way to deal with the aloneness.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

A thing so lovely as a tree

And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." – Genesis 2v9,16,17

‘I think that I shall never see a thing so lovely as a tree…’ I think most of us can indentify with that sentiment. There is something special about a tree. As we walk Mary and I talk about trees ‘with character.’

One of those trees is in front of the estate where we live. We simply call it ‘The Big Tree.’ Our kids have grown up with memories of The Big Tree. ‘I’ll meet you at The Big Tree’ rang out through the years. We don’t hear much of that anymore, but The Big Tree is till there.

In the very beginning we find that man’s first dilemma involves trees. God put loads of beautiful trees in the garden. There were good to look at and their bore fruit that was good to eat. (Hmm, on a side thought, does that mean that all trees bore tasty fruit before the fall?) Amongst those trees were two special trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. One of these, the tree of life, obviously would do what is said – give life. The other tree is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What was the result of eating the fruit of that tree? ‘The day you eat of it you will die.’

Two choices – life and death. It seems like the choice would be clear.

But, stay tuned.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

God breathed

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. – Genesis 2v7

Adam is different from all the rest of creation. All the rest of creation was. Well, created. We read something more about Adam though. God formed him out of the dust of the ground. I have read, but not researched, that man is indeed composed earthly elements. So God formed man. There he is, nothing more than a lump of clay.

Then something different happened. God ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.’ Adam’s lungs filled with breath, his heart started beating, he stood up, and the human race began.

Physical life started when God’s breath entered Adam’s lungs. Without the breath of God they would have been no life.

God’s breath gave far more than just physical life. In 2 Timothy 3v16 we read of God’s breath again. ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God…’ The word ‘inspiration’ of course refers to the breath of God. Just as Adam’s physical body would have been useless without the breath of God, our spirits would have stayed dead and useless apart from the impact of God’s word.

Praise God that He not only did He breath physical life into Adam, but through His word He breaths eternal life today.

Friday, 4 September 2009

God rested

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. – Genesis 2v1-2

God rested. Now there is something to think about. God finished up His work, and then He rested. Why did He have to do that? Why would a God with all the might and power and strength in the universe stop and rest?

This is just the first mention of rest in the Bible. Moses father-in-law had to come to him and encourage him to rest because he was taking too much on himself. God will later use this example to make rest a part of His law. Jesus Himself had to come apart and rest.

But God, why did He rest? Simple, He knew about us and He set a pattern for us. He knew that rest is vital. A lack of rest will wreck us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. That, of course, does not mean that we can be lazy and waste the time He gives us. We do need to remember the need to take care of ourselves and part of that care taking is rest.

Balance is a theme that runs throughout the word of God. Work hard, be diligent, fight the fight, and redeem the time. But at the same time don’t forget to rest. If we forget that we become useless to ourselves, our families, our workplace, our church, and even to God.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

It was very good

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. – Genesis 1v31

One of the reasons I love living in Ireland is that I love the scenery. I love the places where the countryside is untouched and unspoilt. Sometimes we can come across places that are so pristine it looks like we might the first people to ever see it, well accept for the road of course.

When I drive to the youth centre where I teach literacy I avoid the motorway and drive over the foothill of the Dublin Mountains. There is a place where you round a bend and have a marvellous view of Dublin harbour. I think what it must have been like for the first people who saw that view, long before Dublin filled the plain. It must have been amazing. Before Dublin grew out to Tallaght and created Tallafornia there were fantastic views of the Dublin Mountains. I could go on and on.

As I read this passage this morning I tried to put myself in Adam’s shoes (well, his bare feet I guess). . When he first woke up he did so to all the beauty of God’s perfect creation. There were no buildings, no roads, and not the slightest hint of pollution. There was no buzz of overhead wires and no traffic noise. He saw quiet, absolute beauty. Then, to top it all off, God gave him Eve.

Can we get just a glimpse of why God would say “It was very good.’ Only one thing could possibly mar the picture. Hidden in the deep recesses of Adam’s heart was the ability to make his own choices, but more on that later.

‘It was very good.’ But, what else could it be? Everything God does is good, because He is the essence of good. He is good everyday, all the time. There is nothing ‘not good’ in or about Him.

It was very good – but sadly there is another side to the story.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Let there be light

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light… – Genesis 1v2,3

Interesting, isn’t it that the story of creation starts with darkness? There was no form or shape, nothing but darkness. This was a darkness that we cannot even imagine. I guess the closest we can get is when we are on a cave tour and the guide turns off the lights. That kind of darkness is almost palpable. There is a great relief when then light comes back on.

So the Bible starts in darkness and ends in light and hope. Out of that primordial empty shapeless darkness comes God’s voice. ‘Let there be light’ and from then on everything changes.

It is interesting that at the very end the light comes from God because there is no sun, moon, or stars. When we go back to the very beginning we find out that God gives light without those same bodies. The sun, moon, and stars don’t come around for a few more days.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. When He begins His work the light appears. I contend that man lost this light when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Though the sun, moon, and stars continued to shine, this beginning light was gone.

There is, of course, a spiritual application for this truth. The whole world is lost in the darkness of sin. Without the Light there would be no hope. Man would be forever trapped in his darkness.

John 1 is something of a spiritual equivalent to Genesis 1. It even starts with ‘In the beginning…’ At the very start of John 1 we also read about light in the darkness. Jesus is the true light that come into the world, but the world did not comprehend it.

‘Let there be light,’ God said at the very beginning. Today He says the same thing, but the world rejects His true Light because it prefers spiritual darkness that hides its deeds and its sin.
When we were saved we received the Light. Our job now is to let that light shine in a world still trapped in darkness.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

God created the heavens and the earth

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1v1

Andrew Peterson sings folk music with a Christian slant. I enjoy it. It is quiet, peaceful, relaxing, and greatly thought provoking. One of his CDs is called ‘Love and Thunder.’ The first song on the CD is about the faith of Sarah and Abraham. It speaks of faith and of the truth that God is in control. The last song on the CD speaks of the truth when it is all sad and done, love will still be left. The interesting thing is that at the very end of the last song he ties in the theme of the first song. It is an intriguing tool to tie the whole CD together.

I was reminded of that CD this morning as I returned to Genesis. The last section of Revelation speaks of the new heaven and new earth. As I read through that I was amazed at the similarity to the first heaven and first earth. The theme of the very end ties right back into the very beginning.

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ There is a lot packed right into that simple phrase. It deals with the whole question of origins. In the beginning God was already there. Eternality is hard to grasp because we don’t live in that realm. God’s presence is not debated or discussed. He was just ‘there.’ Take it or leave it, believe it or not, He is just there.

God created the heavens and the earth. That answers all the questions. If we can’t trust the very first sentence in the Bible how can we trust the rest? If we can’t trust this first line we might as well throw all the rest of it away because the Bible is based on one big, fat lie. If we can’t trust Genesis 1v1 how can we trust Revelation 22v20,21?

Like Peterson’s CD the whole package ties together. The end sends us right back to the beginning. Unlike Peterson’s CD, where I can pick and choose the songs I want to listen to, the Bible is the whole package. I can’t just grab what I like and reject the rest.

My reaction to the rest of the Bible is based on a simple question; do I have the faith to trust the very foundation?