Archive for October, 2014
“And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9).
John the Baptist’s words of warning are a constant reminder that salvation isn’t a birthright but new reality, rooted in the will of a benevolent God, and realized in the crucified, resurrected, exalted Christ and all those who are born-again. Those clinging to any other ideology speak a word of judgment against themselves.
“And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
Neither Israel nor the church is allowed to live the life of faith in isolation. Our personal faith is never just personal; it’s never just about you and God. We, who have been delivered out of our own barrenness, must now seek to meet the need of others. As we have experienced grace, we must be gracious; having received mercy, we must be merciful. An inward faith will make you more religious; an outward faith more Christlike.
“And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:15-16).
Is your thinking of a past that was, or an anticipation of God’s future? Thinking locked in the past assumes that there is no newness to be experienced or gifts yet to be given by God. This perspective leads to either excessive pride or cynical despair; that the world is ours alone for the construction of our future, or there is no heavenly power to effect real change. We are either leaning by faith into and unknown future or dying in the wilderness thinking about the past.
“And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse” (Genesis 12:2-3).
The call of God extended to Abraham is representative of all those who would join the family of faith. It is a call to renounce and depart from all things safe, comfortable and familiar, and to venture forth into a place of not knowing. Ironically, when this journey of faith is embraced, it is accompanied by a promise from God that provides the very things we crave–security, well-being, prominence, and prosperity; things the world tells us it can offer, but cannot.
“Sarai was barren; she had no child” (Genesis 11:30).
From childless wombs, to the formless earth, to an exiled people, and broken lives, barrenness is a state of being often described in scripture. It is in such emptiness that we observe the emergence of God’s life-giving action. The inexplicable grace that God speaks into the vast wasteland of our brokenness is a needed reminder that what He does is never dependent upon the potentiality of the situation or person being addressed.
“This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on (Mark 12:43-44).
Jesus didn’t just teach us about loving sacrifice, he had the audacity to position himself near the treasury; to watch people give and then pronounce judgments regarding their hearts. In a society that tends to measure its heroes by the number of zeros in their checking account, we would do well to recognize that God’s heroes are those who have zero to offer and, yet, give all that they have. That’s the real bottom line.
“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Being and joyful and experiencing peace are but the byproducts of a faith tracking upward in maturity; that is confident in the claims of the gospel, and shares a deep-driving conviction regarding the mission of the church. These are the prevailing premises of the promised peace that God desires to give. Where they are absent the promise goes unfulfilled.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:9).
The fratricidal saga of Cain and Abel is but a backdrop to the larger story of Cain’s skewed relationship with God; skewed because a brother has been violated. It’s one of scriptures strongest reminders that the life of faith can never be reduced to only a vertical dimension between you and God, but has symbiotic implications for all horizontal relationships. It is this knowledge that makes us our brother’s keeper.
“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).
Anger, jealousy, frustration, and disappointment at the inequities of life are debilitating emotions that give evil the opportunity to pounce and consume us, if we do not respond in appropriate ways. God’s challenge to Cain, to do well and master his negative emotions, is the challenge we face each day. We are not hapless victims. While Genesis 1-3 describes the fall of man, these words in chapter 4 remind us that we do not have to live as a fallen people. We are to make choices and decisions based upon our faith and trust in God, not the emotions of the moment.
“And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Genesis 4:4-5).
In the attempt to defend God, much speculation has been offered as to why he had no regard for Cain’s offering–Cain’s heart wasn’t right; blood offerings are superior to grain; God prefers shepherds to farmers. The problem with these, or any other such vain attempts, is that they have no biblical basis. Instead of allowing the capricious freedom of God to be part of the story, we feel the need to explain it away. The bottom line is life’s unfair; life east of Eden is a broken, imperfect existence that continually disappoints. Even so, God’s grace is the thread that continues to be woven through the redeeming of all creation.