Archive for February, 2010

What God Likes

February 23, 2010

This week we look to Genesis to see what God values. God creates the heavens and the earth, but he doesn’t dwell on the heavenlies; Most of the narrative describes the creation of the earth and calls it good. What then does our Lord value? The Earth. And in the creation, humanity takes prominence and even called, “very good.” Conclusion: humanity is important to God. He then describes various human achievements. Genesis Five shows us Jabal, who was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. He is the first to create community and commerce. His brother Jubal gave us culture as he was the father of music. Tubal-Cain gave us technology and tools. But their entire generation is wiped out in the Deluge. The only accomplishment God was looking for in humanity was righteousness, which he finds in Noah. Thus, God cares about righteous people above all.

Our culture is filled with those who value the earth more than the people who inhabit it. We have people who think the most important things are community, commerce, culture or technology. These have there place, but what we learn from Scripture is that what our Lord truly values is righteousness. The fathers of these important human contributions all perish. Even the good creation, something God Himself took more time to create than humans, perished in the flood.

Today’s question is simply, where do you put your value in this life? Is it creation, community, commerce, culture, technology… or is it righteousness. Saving or developing any of those good things without doing it in righteousness secures its demise. But being a person of righteousness, according to Genesis is what our Lord values above all, and so should we.

The Ugly, Thin & Hungry Cows of Genesis 41

February 15, 2010

Genesis 41 begins with the dream of Pharaoh. Seven good-looking and heavy heifers are eaten by seven scrawny and ugly cows. This dream is interpreted by Joseph concerning a time of great harvest, seven years long, to come but following those seven years of prosperity, seven years of famine will be upon them. The famine will be so severe that all the surplus from the seven previous years will be wiped out. They will be but a memory, eaten by the seven gaunt years.

Isn’t that the truth in so many different ways? Ever have a time of greatness and all is well? Then, when the famine in our lives hits, it hits hard and in our ugly, hungry and thin lives we devour our memories, our former glories, our good-looking and prosperous past? We can’t even remember “the good ‘ole days.” They are devoured. Our current conditions blind us to the fact that God had provided for our famine with years of plenty.

We must not abandon God when the famines hit – when all you worked for to have a better life for tomorrow… he gave you more than you needed so that when the hard times come, you are provided for. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you wont have years of famine, its believing God will and has already made provisions for you. But we must be careful to guard our hearts, lest we see the ugly lean cows devour our bountiful and beautiful bovines of before.

The lean cows devoured the heavy happy ones – the good memories are a vapor. Do not let the circumstances of today sour your perspective on the past and God’s glorious future for you. Yes, you may have seen seven great years, and now you are living in seven horrid years – but remember that God prepared you for such a time as this, and the story is not over after these 14 years… are you able to survive the test of the lean years? Trust God has it all figured out and walk in the way he has sent you – through want and plenty, in sickness, poverty and loss there will be health, prosperity and gain as well. Amen.

Cain’s Curse (Genesis 4:3, 11-12)

February 12, 2010

Cain brought an offering to the Lord. The difference between his offering (“some of the fruits of the soil”) and Abel’s offering (“fat portions of some of the firstborn of his flock”) was not the quantity, but the quality. Each brought some – but Abel brought the best part of the firstborns. But Cain doesn’t bring the firstfruits. Who do you put first? When it’s time to tithe, who gets the first cut? When it comes to your time, your talents, your treasures — all of which came from our God — who gets first dibs?

God accepted “some” of the firstborn fat from Abel. It doesn’t say “all.” But He got the prime stuff and the first cut; not the left overs. We must make sure that we honor God with the gifts He gave us. Yes, we can have some too (think about it – God only asks for 10%, you get to keep 90%!). But your cut comes second. God created and sustained, you tended and harvested. Give Him what is do…

“Why,” might you ask, “should I give first?” Well, because God tends to curse the very thing we love and are gifted for if we do not acknowledge the Giver of the gift. Cain’s punishment is that as a splendid farmer, he doesn’t get the great harvest from working the ground like he used to. “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you.” Oye. The very thing he excelled at became his curse. His blessing became his bane. God takes away the very gift you do not first acknowledge Him with it…

So here is the warning. What has God given you (everything)? And how have you honored Him with it… first? with the best? You can have 90% and give God the left over 10% and be like Cain, having nothing. Or you can give 10% of the first and God will greatly bless your remaining 90%. Your choice – do not let your gift become your curse. Give God the Glory Due His Name. Amen.

A Pleasing Aroma

February 9, 2010

Leviticus begins with chapters devoted to the sacrificial/offering system. One interesting point is that different sacrifices are for different functions but that certain sacrifices are a pleasing aroma to the Lord while others are not. Offerings given to God to honor Him – ones that are freely given and not required, and ones that are in concert with fellowship, one with another and with God – they are pleasing to the heart and the nose of God. But those that are required because of atonement for sin (whether intentional or accidental) is not mentioned as a pleasing aroma.

I think that’s an interesting point. God doesn’t like the sacrifice – there is a penalty for sin, and that demands action, but it’s not something He delights in. However, when we are coming to God with offerings (not sacrifices for atoning sin) God is well pleased. God is glad we can have contrite hearts and make things right between our church family and with Him, but what truly pleases Him is a freewill, just to say I love you, out of the abundance of our joy, offering…

Valentine’s Day is coming up. It is one of those must-remember-your-spouse days. What if you went and picked out a bunch of cards and stashed them in a drawer and during the year, when your spouse least expects it, out of the love in your heart, give them a pre-Valentine’s Day reminder of how much they mean to you?

You want a blessing in your marriage, go beyond the obligatory holidays. You want more in your spiritual life, give more of your time, your talents, your treasure to the One who gave you time, gifted you with talents, and got you employment. Give Him a freewill offering — not only is it a pleasing aroma, but God is known to react with “pressed-down, shaken-together, spilling-over” loving kindness – just like your spouse when they are recognized without commercial marketing…

Give God (and your spouse) something that resembles a pleasing aroma. Warm their hearts on the every-days. You can’t have a great marriage when you only buy flowers after a fight to say, “I love You” or on Birthdays, Anniversaries, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day… It’s the same with God. Only coming to Him when you are sorry, praying only on the high holidays just doesn’t cut it. You want religion or a relationship? You want the institution of marriage or a soul-mate-spouse? Then give them a pleasing aroma in your freewill offerings… bless them and find the blessing of a truly inspirational relationship. Amen.

Grace and Mercy in John 3:16

February 6, 2010

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This one verse explains God’s great grace and mercy to us in one complete package. Grace is, “getting what we do not deserve” whereas Mercy is, “not getting what we do deserve.”

Grace is when you owe someone money today but are given an extension to pay your debt. That’s a “grace period.” You don’t deserve it  but out of the kindness of your friend, you receive it.

Mercy is when you are convicted of breaking the law but the judge doesn’t throw the book at you. You deserve the maximum, but he extends leniency.

Jesus Christ was given because we are convicted of sin – and the penalty will be us, or Christ. We are not off the hook. God’s love doesn’t ignore our sin. But God provides the way out. Christ does it all, our job in salvation is to believe… to change our way, and believe. And then the Lord extends mercy (we shall not perish) and grace (but have eternal life).

The Rock and The Droplet

February 1, 2010

There is a story that Rabbi Akiva once observed a steady drop of water boring a hole in a rock. When we first think of it, it seems absurd that water can change a rock – especially a drip. But the power of repetition, and the power of the “less is more” can make an impression on the hardest of rocks.

How much more so can the steady drip drop of the Scriptures make an impression upon our sin-hardened hearts of stone? Often I have people say they want to get into Bible reading as they have slipped away from their devotions. So they take up a Bible-In-A-Year plan, or sit down to hours long steady reading. I tell you, a 5 gallon bucket of water dumped upon the surface of a rock will do little to make an impression – it will be wet, but otherwise only the surface will be changed, and only for a short time. But the steady drip, the small continuous amounts of water tap-tapping at that rock will alter the rock. The same is with the Scripture. Take seven minutes a day, every day and read the Bible. Let it sink in, slowly marinate your soul and in a year, you may not have read the whole Bible, but you will find yourself indelibly, and markedly changed.

Rabbi Akiva didn’t start truly studying the Bible until he was in his 40’s. After he saw that drip, he knew he could be altered too… “If drops of water can make an imprint on a stone,” he reasoned, “then even I can learn Torah.” You are never to far off, too old or too anything to be impressed by the Scripture, if you allow it to affect you, a little at a time.

So take the 7 minute challenge – 7 minutes a day, 7 days a week. Read, think, pray. Allow a little Scripture to change you a lot — instead of a lot of Scripture change you a little.

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