Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Promise Perfected - Part 1

So, Israel and his whole household went down to Egypt from the land of Canaan. God had sent Joseph ahead of them to help preserve His nation. They went to be cared for during the time of a severe drought and famine. When they went to Egypt, they were 70 people in all (Exodus 1:5). Little did they know that they would stay in the land of Egypt for over 400 years and during that time, God would mold them into a great people and nation. Egypt was to become the crucible of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s descendants.

The Bible says that after the generation of Joseph and his brothers died, a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power. The people of Israel lost their voice with the new generation of leaders. They had to quit depending on Joseph and the good will he brought to now trusting more in God and His provisions: a part of the perfection process.

The Egyptians not only forgot who Joseph was, but also became frightened about the growing number of Israelites. They said, “Look, the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” (Exodus 1:9-10) So the Egyptians enslaved them and oppressed them by placing taskmasters over them and forcing them into labor to build up some of their cities. They made their lives bitter, but the more they oppressed them, the more they spread and increased.

The king of Egypt even devised a scheme using Hebrew mid-wives to put to death any male children born to the Israelites in an effort to slow their growth. When that did not work, he made a decree that every male born to the Israelites were to be cast into the Nile River to die. (Exodus 1:15-22)

Who would deliver Israel from this oppression? They cried out to God in their suffering…

Next post: The Promise Perfected – Part 2…

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Promise Preserved...

Genesis, chapters 37 through 50, tells us the story of Israel’s sons and of one in particular, Joseph. In the story of Joseph, we see the promise of God’s coming Kingdom preserved through Israel’s sons and Joseph’s faithfulness.

Israel (Jacob) has returned to the promised land of his forefathers. He has received the promise of a land, being made into a great nation and having all nations on earth blessed through his offspring. After the death of his father, Isaac, he makes a tenuous peace with his brother, Esau (Genesis 35:27-29). His favorite wife, Rachel, dies while bearing him her second son, Israel’s twelfth (Genesis 35: 16-20).

The twelve sons of Israel are to become the twelve tribes of the nation Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.

Trouble brews when we are told that Joseph loved all his sons but loved Joseph as his favorite. A few blogs back, I briefly told the story of Joseph. He was a dreamer. He even dreamed and shared with his brothers and father that one day, they would all bow down before him. It just increased the jealousy the brothers had in their heart for Joseph but Israel kept this in mind (Genesis 37:1-11).

The brother plotted and sold Joseph into slavery letting their father think Joseph had been killed by a wild animal (Genesis 37:12-36). However, God had preserved Joseph and the promise through Joseph by sending him to Egypt (Genesis 37:36).

Through a series of God-events, Joseph rose to power in Egypt only to be second to Pharaoh himself (Genesis chapters 39, 40, 41). Joseph interprets a dream for Pharaoh telling him that there will be seven years of abundant harvest followed by seven years of famine. He outlines a plan to save Egypt and her people and Pharaoh rewards Joseph by placing him in charge (Genesis 41:41-57).

As famine covers most of the known world, it reaches Canaan and the family nation of Israel. Israel sends his sons, minus the youngest Benjamin, to Egypt to get food. To bring the story full circle, the brothers wind up having to bow down to Joseph and ask to buy grain (even though they don’t recognize Joseph at this point – Genesis 42).

Again, through a series of God events, the brothers have to return a second time and ask to buy grain. During this time (Genesis 43 to 45), Joseph makes himself known to his brothers, they reconcile and Joseph sends for his father and whole household to come live in Egypt due to the prolonged drought.

There were 70 in all from Israel’s family nation who went down to Egypt. They probably did not know that they would be there over 400 years when they first went. Joseph’s brothers asked him at least twice for forgiveness for what they had done (selling him into slavery and passing him off for dead to their father). Joseph assured them that, “And now, do not be distressed and o not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…” (Genesis 45:5). Later, after Israel’s death and the brothers are afraid once more that Joseph might retaliate for what they had done, Joseph assures them again saying, “Don’t be afraid Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

One final promise was spoken to Israel by God. When Israel was struggling with the decision whether or not to go down to Egypt, God spoke to him in a vision saying, “I am God, the God of your father…Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you and I will surely bring you back again…” (Genesis 46:3-4)

God’s plan will always be accomplished. God’s purpose will always stand. He planned for Israel to become a mighty nation, set apart for Himself. This happened and He used the nation of Egypt and Joseph’s faithfulness to preserve His promise. God’s ways and thoughts are not the same as ours. They are as high as the heavens are apart from the earth. They are as wide as the east is from the west when compared with ours. What God promises, that He will bring about. He is God, there is none other.

So, the family of Israel, 70 in all, have gone to Egypt. God has preserved the promise by providing for them. Little did they know that they would stay there for over 400 years and grown into a people too numerous to count.

Next blog: The Promise Perfected…

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Promise Sealed...

God's promise to make Abraham into a great nation and to bless all other nations through his descendants was propagated through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. This promise of blessing is also the promise of a new kingdom, even a new kind of kingdom: God among men. It is something that starts in the very heart of God and is revealed in his creative efforts culminating with man with whom He has intimate community...walking together in the garden in the cool of the day. It is also a promise whereby God is calling forth and setting aside a chosen people, a royal priesthood, which will become the voice for announcing and the vessel for birthing the fulfillment of the promise in one word: Messiah.

But as we see through the remaining chapters in Genesis, the promise fulfilled has a rocky road to travel. It has to go through Isaac the son who was almost a sacrifice. It has to be the chosen Isaac and not the other son Ishmael. Then, the promise has to pass through Jacob. His very name, "he grasps the heel", foreshadows the great struggle that the promise will have coming forth through this "deceiver.' He will struggle with himself, his brother, his father-in-law and even with God before the promise is sealed in his life.

After Jacob has these great wrestling matches, he returns to the scene of where God first spoke to him, Bethel (Genesis 35:1-15). God reveals and seals with him there the promise first given to his grandfather, Abraham. God appears to Jacob once more and blessed him saying, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel...I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you."

Jacob becomes Israel. Israel becomes the seal of the promise that God will raise up a mighty nation, even a community of nations, from the offspring of Abraham. And they will be God's people and a blessing to all other nations. How will this all happen? The story continues...

Our next blog will be about Joseph, Israel's son, and the promise preserved...

Interlude #3 - Haiti Earthquake Update

I apologize for a lack of posting with my regular "Through the Bible Kingdom" theme. I will resume these shortly. However, I do want to pause a bit and update you on what is happening with the Haiti earthquake response and especially from our Baptist Global Response (BGR) perspective...


From the News Media/Disaster Networks –

1. The Government of Haiti has now given an official death toll of 111,481 dead.

2. The main pier at Port-au-Prince and airport are open and functioning allowing much needed aid to arrive. One hundred and fifty (150) planes per day can land. Two hundred and fifty (250) containers can arrive per day. New roads have been made to facilitate transportation and overland goods from the Dominican Republic still seems to be the best route.

3. Two hundred thousand (200,000) people per day are being fed by the World Food Program. Much more is needed.

4. Temporary shelter is still a huge need for many Haitians. Tens of thousands still need shelter.

From Our BGR On-Ground Assessment Team in Haiti –

1. The have completed our initial in-country assessments, given initial relief and have returned to Dominican Republic. They will meet with partners there and then return Monday to the US and help us draft a comprehensive response plan utilizing all Southern Baptist avenues of response.

2. While in Haiti, the team was able to:
a. Establish logistics for supply routes.
b. Meet with local Baptist partners and come up with response plans.
c. Coordinate with Government/NGO groups for future collaberation.
d. Make some initial distribution of medical supplies and food.
e. Distribute $12,000 worth of infant formula/items to one clinic
f. Provide $10,000 worth of food assistance to a Baptist Convention (Mainly rice and beans)
g. Used $4,000 worth of food/aid to a local orphanage taking in people. This is a Christian orphanage managed by Southern Baptists.

From BGR Nashville Office –

1. Through Saturday, BGR has taken in almost $500,000 in gifts/donations for Haiti. We have already release $150,000 of this into Haiti. Almost all of this will be for water, food, shelter, hygiene care and medical supplies at this point. One huge need is infant formula, food and hygiene care items. We project our response in goods (food, water, medical, shelter, etc.) to be in the millions within the first few months. A big "thank you" to all who have given. One hundred percent of all these gifts through BGR will go to direct relief. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

2. We have a good updates and resources such as a great bulletin insert up and available as a download on the BGR website. Please keep checking our website for information and updates at

3. We have begun contacting/informing medical contacts and networks of needs and to be ready for next week’s plan of volunteer/resource requests for Haiti.

God bless and remember to keep praying for Haiti...

Jeff Palmer

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Interlude #2 - Haiti Earthquake: When Bad Things Happen...

I want to break from our theme of following the promise to Abraham to address what is happening in Haiti right now. As you can imagine, our organization, Baptist Global Response (BGR - see for current updates), is like many others at the moment. We are feverishly scrambling to find the best ways to respond to this crisis. Our Nashville, TN Office is doing a great job in coordinating efforts and we are assessing needs, gathering resources, coordinating with others and, most of all, mobilizing prayer to assist those experiencing this horrible tragedy. Some 40,000 to 50,000 people estimated killed and more will die from injuries sustained and lack of adequate medical care. Some 3 million in need of assistance with the basic needs of life including water, food and shelter.

Some may question 'why' God would allow this to happen? Others with undoubtedly say that this is God's judgment against this nation. Some will say "karma" and again others will chalk it up to fate. Truth be known, we have to be careful to jump to any of these conclusions or questions. We do know that bad things happen to people. It is a part of this sinful, fallen world we live in. When paradise was lost through the choice of Adam and Eve, when they took a bite out of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, sin, death, suffering, injustice, and all the other consequences entered into this world.

Why does suffering happen to one and not the other? Why does one people or one area suffer greater than another? The answer is, "only God knows" and we should be careful in our judgments lest we be judged by the same standards.

What we should ask in times of crises like these is, "what is happening here from a Kingdom of God perspective?"

Through the last few chapters of the book of Genesis (Genesis 37 to 50), we find the story of Joseph and at least one answer to the question as to "why" God allows things like the Haiti earthquake to happen. Joseph is one of twelve sons of Jacob. He is the favorite of his father and naturally incurs a bit of jealousy from the others. One day while his brothers are out tending the flocks, Jacob sends his son Joseph (still at home) to check on his brothers and report back if all is well.

As the brothers saw Joseph approaching them from a distance, they plotted to kill him. "Here comes the dreamer", they said, "let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns...then we'll see what comes of his dreams!" God had shown Joseph in dreams that one day he would rule over his brothers and he had shared those dreams with his family. The jealous brothers were deciding to try and derail the plans of God. They were in for a surprise.

To shorten the story, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Jacob is told that his son, Joseph, is dead. Through a series of God-ordained events, Joseph eventually winds up in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Then, many years later during a region wide famine, his brothers are sent to Egypt to buy grain to tide them over and lo and behold, the person that is there to decide their fate is none other than their brother Joseph, whom they sold into slavery and passed off as dead.

In many respects, Joseph had a tragic life. Sold into slavery by his brothers. Falsely accused by a number of people all along the way. Thrown in prison for a crime he did not commit and forgotten. Until one day, in God's kairos time, Joseph is given a place of honor and a key role in seeing God's Kingdom come!

In the end, when Jacob is dead and gone and Joseph's brothers are afraid that Joseph will now retaliate for all the evil they heaped upon him, Joseph makes this poignant statement...

"Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives..." (Genesis 50:19-21)

Whatever you or I think about what is happening right now in Haiti and in other tragedies around the world, I would hope that we could have the Kingdom eyes of Joseph. I pray that we could look with compassion, act with mercy and not give too much time to judge the situation but simply acknowledge that God is in charge and He is on His throne. Since He is God and who He claims to be, He knows why these things are happening and we are not in the place of God.

May God have mercy on Haiti. May God lead you and I to respond to their needs as an act of faithfulness. And even through this horrible disaster (and beyond), may His kingdom come and His will be done...

Pray for Haiti...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Promise Propagated...

In this blog, I would simply like to take a Biblical look at the promise as given to Abram and passed down to his son and grandson.

In chapter 12 of Genesis (as we have seen), God gave a call to Abram and said...

"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Abram received this call and blessing when he was 75 years old. At 86 years of age, he had a son through and Egytian maidservant named Hagar (Genesis 16). While the son (Ishmael) was his flesh and blood (and obvious joy), Ishmael was not to be the son of the promise. God brought about his promise through Sarai, Abram's wife, and when Abram was 100 years old, God gave he and Sarai their promised son, Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7). During the giving of the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17), God gave Abram a new name, Abraham, and declared that Sarai would now become Sarah. Also, during this giving of this covenant, Abraham asked God if Ishmael could be the son of promise and live under God's blessings. To which God replied, "As for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." (Genesis 17:20-22)

So, Isaac was to be the son of the promise. This is confirmed a few years later when God asks Abraham to take Isaac his beloved son to the region of Moriah and offer him up as a sacrifice, a burnt offering. Abraham obeys but Isaac doesn't die. God provides another sacrifice, Isaac is spared and Abraham is rewarded by God for his faithfulness with a reiteration of the promise he received some 40 plus years previously...

"I swear by myself, declares the Lord that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me" (Genesis 21:16-18)

Later, after the death of Abraham, when Isaac is facing a famine in the land and goes to Gerar in the land of the Philistines, God appears to him. He says, "Stay in the land where I tell you...I will be with you and bless you. For to you and all your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,..." (Genesis 26:2-5).

Then, the promise is passed on to Jacob as he is fleeing for his life from his angry brother, Esau. Isaac is still alive when the blessing passes on to Jacob. Jacob has deceived his brother Esau out of his birthright and out of his father's blessing (Genesis 25-27). Esau has vowed to kill his brother Jacob for the shame he has endured (Genesis 27:41). Jacob is sent away by his mother Rebekah to preserve his life and to find a wife from amongst her relatives in Paddan Aram. As he is fleeing, he stops and overnights at a place called Luz. There, he takes a stone for his head rest and has a dream where the Lord says to him, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring...I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Genesis 29:13-15)

It is amazing to me that the promise which came through Abram/Abraham has come full circle to his grandson Jacob. What God has purposed, He will bring about. Also, God chooses whom He desires to accomplish His purposes. And it is not the strongest, the bravest, or the wisest. In most cases, it is the small, weak and insignificant He calls and uses to do a might work. His criteria are not the same as our criteria. He looks for those who will have faith and faithfulness to follow Him and His plans.

Those whom He calls and those who follow Him are by no means perfect...just faithful.

For some strange reason, that is comforting to me...

Next...The promise sealed...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Promise Unpacked: God's call to Abram...

In Genesis 12:1-3, God calls Abram to leave Haran and go to a land that He would show him. He also includes (vs. 2 and 3) a promise or "covenant" if you will with four provisions or benefits...

1. I will make you into a great nation...This is a pretty bold statement. Abram was 75 years old and he and Sarai had yet to have children. Not only didn't he know the place (because it was a land that God was going to show him) but he didn't have anyone (save Lot) in his line to start this great nation. No place and no descendants. If Abram was going to become the father of a great nation, it had to be through the power of God.

I appreciate the faith of Abraham here. I'm not sure if I have that kind of faith to be quite honest. The faith to believe and follow when he's never seen the land and there is no direct-line heir in the mix...

2. I will make your name great (and you will be a blessing)...Remember man's way versus God's way? The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) where all the people of the earth came together to build a great tower to "make a name for ourselves..."? Again, I have no real idea as to why God chose Abram in particular over anyone else at that time. I do know that God's plans and God's ways are always right and they will succeed. I constantly struggle with choosing my own way, rushing through life and decisions when I would be much wiser to wait on the Lord and let Him be the one to lead. If Abram had set out to make his name great and to be a blessing himself to others, I think he would have failed (in his own power). But God called and God chose and, thankfully, Abram was faithful.

3. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse...We find out later on that the great nation God brings forth out of Abram and his descendants is the nation of Israel. We will also see God's preservation of the nation in multiple stories as we continue our walk through the Old Testament. it will become very evident that this part of the promise package is true. Constantly, God comes to the aid of Israel in the face of overwhelming odds. And He delivers them for His glory.

4. And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you...Here is the most intriguing component of the promise to me. I can understand how God can take one man/one family and make a nation. I can readily see how He could make their name great and even provide blessings and curses for its preservation. But to promise that all peoples on earth from now and forever will be blessed through this one man, one family? I wonder what Abram and Sarai thought about this? Any one of these promises could be overwhelming to any of us. Imagine God saying that He will make you into a great nation. And while your head is reeling from that, He just keeps going and it gets bigger and bigger.

Many will come and go with different interpretations of what God is promising to Abram here. We know that this part of the promise is the best and that God plans to send a Messiah, a Savior through this very nation, this very man called Abram. This Savior will be the fulfillment of all that God has been doing in seeing His Kingdom come forth on earth and it all starts with a call and obedience. Amazing!

Blessing all peoples on the earth through this one person? Why? How will it be done? Only God knows and only God could come up with a story like this one!

Next post: The promise propagated...

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Calling of Abram - The Promise

In Genesis 12, God begins to call forth for Himself a race of people, a nation, chosen for Himself. He begins with the calling of a man named Abram and He calls Abram to, "leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1).

And this calling, if Abraham will follow, comes with a promise. To be more exact, it comes with a package of promises...

"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3)

Who in the world was Abram to receive such a calling? What was it about Abram that God saw to which this great opportunity was bestowed upon him? At the point of the calling, the Bible has said very little about Abram except for that he was the son of Terah and had moved from Ur to Haran and that he had taken a wife (Sarai). Later we will learn of Abram's character and faithfulness as he follows God's calling for his life. But my question is why did God call Abram and not someone else?

I have heard and read many explanations through the years to answer this question but the truth is we really do not know. What we do know is that God's ways and thoughts (and actions) are so far above us that there are so many things He does that we cannot and do not understand. As high as the heavens are above the earth, as far as the east is from the west, so are His ways and thoughts are over ours.

One thing that is clear throughout the Abram story and that of his descendants. God constantly chooses the weak, the youngest, the least, and even the foolish to accomplish His purpose. It's almost as if God is saying, "If I can show you that I can do My will through these bozos, I can do it through anyone - even you." It is also apparent to me that God constantly chooses those who are pretty ordinary to say to the world, "Look at what my power can do; take the ordinary and make it extraordinary!" Finally, I think it is also a way of Him making His glory shine forth through a place/person whereby the world has to look and say, "Only God could do that" and He then gets His due honor and glory.

So, we don't know much about Abram, his qualities or his qualifications to be chosen of God. We do know that the important thing was his response to God's calling and overtures. "Leave your country...and I will..." What a great step of faith Abraham must have made. At 75 years old. At an age where, if many of us are fortunate to make it one day, we would be content to sit on the porch and watch grandkids, Abram picked up his tent pegs, family and possessions and followed.

In the end, I don't know why God chose Abram but I guess it really doesn't matter. What matters is Abram's response to following God's call for his life.

May all of us have the same faith...

Next blog: The promise unpacked...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Calling of Abram; the Beginning of a New Model of God's Kingdom on Earth...

In Genesis chapter 12, the story of Abram (later Abraham) and his descendants begins. It is a story of God calling out a people, a community, a model of His Kingdom on earth, for Himself. It is the same love story God had with Adam and creation; a people to be set apart for Himself, to love Him with all their hearts, souls and minds.

God calls Abram (Genesis 12:1-3) to leave his country, his people and his father's household and to go to a land that God would show him. Abram didn't know where that land was. He didn't know what that land looked liked. But he knew God and knew that God was good and choosing anything else would be foolish. Here is a Kingdom truth that we have already pointed out but is worthy of repeating: choose God's way, you choose life; choose your own way, and you choose something much less than what God has planned for you.

I have often wondered about Abram's father, Terah. The Bible says (Genesis 11:31-32) that Terah took his whole family and "set out from Ur in the land of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran."

Did God call Terah to go to Canaan? We don't know but it seems that for some reason, Terah had his heart set on going to Canaan. But the Bible tells us that when they came to Haran they settled there.

I'm not sure what kind of life Terah had. He obviously was a good man. He seems to have taken care of his grandson, Lot, after Lot's father, Nahor, died. He also raised a pretty good son in Abram. But it seems sad to me that the set out for the promised land but settled on Haran. There could be many reasons why: sickness, old age, he was tired, or maybe Terah just found that he liked Haran. I hesitate to think that maybe, for whatever reason, he settled for less than the best: God's plan.

In our lives, it is easy to go through the motions. It is also easy to make the comfortable choices. It is too easy to rely on our own understanding and interpretation of things. I think that sometimes I settle for Haran when Canaan is really where God wants me to be.

To quit looking and judging just with my own eyes, my own values and seeing things through eternity and God's Kingdom, wouldn't that be radical? Maybe I would then quit deciding to settle in Haran and move on to God's promised land...

Next, the promise to Abram...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Interlude #1 - It's not sacred vs secular but eternal vs temporal

Permit me to digress a bit (blogger's prerogative) and return to the choice of Adam and Even in the garden. When they chose to disobey God and choose their own way (at the prompting of the Adversary), whether they knew it or not, they were choosing for themselves (and consequently us) the temporal over the eternal. You see, the choice to take that forbidden fruit was in reality the temporal or temporary things to take priority in their lives.

Think about this. The knowledge of good and evil is a temporal concept. It is something that will pass away and become irrelevant when the Kingdom of God comes in full. Just like sin and death will be no more, just as there will be no more pain or suffering, just like the need for evangelism will cease, the knowledge of good and evil will become obsolete. For we know that in His Kingdom coming these things will have no standing.

I have preached the idea that there is a huge separation in our lives today between the sacred and secular. I have even made the statement at times that we should live our lives as if it were all sacred. But I think I have been wrong.There is nothing sacred about a child that dies of hunger. There is nothing sacred about a community that is 80% HIV positive. And there is nothing sacred about genocide, hatred and enmity between brothers.

I think Satan likes to keep us thinking and discussing the divide between secular and sacred because he knows the true issue at hand is the eternal and temporal. In truth, if we saw our lives, our relationships, our possessions, our positions, etc., in the light of eternity, I think it would make a tremendous difference and the secular/sacred debate would be a moot point.

What if I started living my life tomorrow with asking the question of everything I do, "is this eternal?" I think the Enemy of Old would shudder and heaven would rejoice! Maybe I would be a little closer to the Kingdom of God as well...

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Battle is On…God’s way versus man’s way

After chapter 3 of Genesis and the banishing of Adam and Eve from the garden, the great battle begins that will take us through the rest of the Bible. It is a battle for the heart of man. It is a battle of absolute good pitted against absolute evil. It is a battle of the Kingdom of God coming in full and His will being done.

The battle will manifest itself in story after story. It is seen in the constant struggle of God’s way versus man’s way. God has chosen and provided a way, the way for us to live. It is life in fellowship with Him. It is life according to His laws, His precepts and His plans. It is a life that surrenders and submits to His way forsaking all others. It is the way of being a part of His coming Kingdom.

Man’s way constantly struggles and fights against God’s way. It is the way of our own choices living life as if God did not exist. Or even worse, God is real but irrelevant. It is a way that the evil one, Satan, urges us to live by using temptation, doubt, and lies. Satan will constantly ask, “Did God really say?” He will consistently contradict God and God’s plan for our lives. He will enjoy seeing us choose our ways, our thoughts and our reason over God’s perfect plans and law.

Make no mistake. The battle is a kingdom struggle. There can be only one king and one kingdom in our lives. We cannot serve two masters.

In the next few chapters of Genesis (chapter 4 and following), we see this Kingdom battle unfold as brother kills brother (Cain and Abel, chapter 4), God sends a great flood but saves Noah and his family (chapter 6-9), and man tries to exalt himself on par with God (the Tower of Babel, chapter 11). The message is clear: choose God and His Kingdom and live; choose any other way and suffer the consequences.

One truth that emerges throughout this Kingdom epic is that there are no doubt hardships as well as joys when we commit to follow the way of the King. However, the consequences of choosing not to follow, of not becoming a part of His plan and His way for our lives, yield much worse consequences.

So, how will God begin making His Kingdom known and visible on the earth? Next time, we begin to answer this with the story of the call of a man named Abram…

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Paradise lost...

As you might guess from these first posts, I am taking a little more time to get through the first few chapters of the Bible in my 2010 quest. Things will speed up as I go along but these first chapters of Genesis are so foundational to the story of God's Kingdom coming that I feel the need to camp here a bit before moving on.

As Chapter 3 of Genesis begins, God has created everything. He has created man and woman and placed them in a specially prepared Garden for them. (Genesis 2:15) He has given them everything they, water, fellowship with Himself. The only requirement He gives Adam and Eve is that they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for if they did, they would surely die. (Genesis 2:17)

Here's where the enemy, Satan, enters the story. Satan is a part of God's creation as well but from an older time. Satan was one of the angels who has chosen evil as his way. He was originally good but fell because of his pride. He even took a good number of angels along with him in his fall and now they serve him as his demons, fallen angels. His sole purpose is to defeat the divine plans of grace of God towards mankind. He is the ruler of a powerful kingdom in his own right but is still subject to God's rule and reign. He is frustrated and anxious because he knows that his time is short and he will be defeated. He and his followers will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity. But, for the meantime, he is the great adversary, the father of all lies, the deceiver; and his greatest pleasure is to keep you and I from entering and living in God's kingdom.

Taking the form of a serpent, Satan asked Eve, "Did God really say..." to which Eve replied, "...but God did say that we must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:1-3) But Satan, the adversarial deceiver said, "You will not surely die...For God knows that wen you eat of will be like God..." (Genesis 3:4-5)

Eve listens to Satan, sees that the fruit is good and pleasing (and desirable for gaining wisdom) so she took some and ate it. She also gave some to Adam who with her and he also ate it. (Genesis 3:6)

Paradise lost...Life as God had designed for the first man and first woman gone with the bite of disobedience. Why did God allow this to happen? Why in the first place was there a tree placed in the garden that would force them one day to make a choice? A choice that could bring about sin, death and separation from the Lover-Creator? What was God thinking?

The Lover-Creator in His infinite wisdom knows that love cannot be true love unless one chooses to love. It is only the choices to love or not to love that makes our love genuine and strong. Angels created with no choice to worship or not worship God would be simple slaves. Adam and Eve in a garden with no choice would be no more than robots obligated to their Creator.

Was it risky for God to create us this way? Yes. Does it even seem crazy or counterintuitive that this would be God's way? Maybe (at least to me). For whatever reason (that is far beyond my finite mind), God the Lover-Creator has made his Kingdom a Kingdom of choice: to love and follow Him and His plan and way for our lives or to love and follow our own selves and plans.

God wants us to find His Kingdom here and now and for all eternity. Satan wants us to deny God's Kingdom and follow the ways of the world, our own choosing. Satan would like nothing more than to drag you and I down to his level, literally.

In the last part of the fall story (Genesis 3:21-24), we see a picture of God's love and care for His first man and woman creation. He makes garments of skin for them and clothes them. He then drives them out of the garden away from the tree of life so that they won't eat of it and live forever. He knows that man and woman in their fallen state need to die in a physical sense so that the true self, the soul, has the opportunity to live with Him forever.

Round 1 - Paradise lost. However round 2 and the follow rounds are the story of how paradise can be regained! It is all about His Kingdom coming and His will being done! And our choice to regain the Kingdom in our hearts and lives.

It is an story of epic proportions...

Friday, January 1, 2010

It is not good for the man to be alone...

In Genesis 2, when God had created everything and proclaimed that it was very good, he "rested from all His work" on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). Then the Bible tells us that "the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15) And when God saw man in the garden, He said that it was not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18)

This was the making of "the helper", Eve. A woman from the bone of Adam's bones and flesh from the flesh of Adam's flesh. But God's decision not to leave man alone was deeper than even the need of man for a helper companion. For from the very heart of God, no part of His creation is complete in and of itself; it all belongs in community.

From God's proclamation of, "let us make man in our own image" (Genesis 1:26), we see His plan and even nature in and for community. John Eldrege says in "Epic", "How wonderful to discover that God has never been alone. He has always been Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has always been a fellowship. This whole Story (about you and me) began with something relational."

Here's some good news about God's Kingdom. You and I were never meant to have to find it out on our own. Our very natures are created in, for and through community...the perfect community found in our one and only God! He created us for Himself, for one another and for the blessing of His overall creation. We are in the middle of a great adventure, a great love story, in which God Himself is the hero and, believe it or not, we are the sought after beloved! And it is not just you or I as individuals being sought by God. It is all of us that God seeks like a red-hot lover...the race of man, called out and sought out by the great Creator God. The creation being pursued by the Creator! Amazing!

This is what the story we are in is all about. God's Kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. This present earth, this present heaven, this present body, is passing and will pass away. Yet during this time of passing, we are being offered even wooed to find the true meaning to this life and even into eternity! The Kingdom of God.

I have heard it said from psychology that there are three basic inherent needs in all people: the need to belong, the need for significance, and the need for security. Though these are classified by science of human nature, they ring true and can only be truly fulfilled when we return to the Creator God's plan for our lives: to find these things by finding our place in His Kingdom!