Thursday, April 2, 2015

Things you can learn from Genesis: Part 12

On hanging out in a desert and building Altars (Still)
Genesis 13

So Abram gets the heck out of Egypt. He is back at the Altar, back talking with God, back where he is supposed to be. Notice the clear back track to where he last encountered God. In fact after they arrive at the Altar Abram calls on the name of the Lord.  This is important for us as we hopelessly wander away from God. We need to backtrack to the last place of encounter. Run don’t walk. We so often hide in shame when we need to return to the altar and begin to worship again. Next sentence, quick transition: Abram has another little problem. He has got a lot of stuff post Egypt fiasco. He looks around and it occurs that Lot has a bunch of stuff as well. Apparently they both have so much stuff that it does not all fit in the new place they have settled. Lot and Abram have got an old fashioned problem: Too much stuff and not enough space. Time for a new place? Abram approaches Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between our herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand then I will go left.”

So this is not rocket science. Lot looks around and he makes his choice based on sight. One direction is the Jordan Valley. It has super cool vegetation. It has a water source. It is the obvious choice. We can go all religious here or we can see the choice he made as the one we would all make. Quick pretend thought process. That land over there looks good. God is blessing that land so there I will go. Lot does not have to be thinking in the flesh, he just has to have an understanding of God that leads to prosperity. That makes him pretty normal. So it does not matter what is motivating him.  He can be in the flesh like most scholars argue or he can be following God the way he thinks God leads. (More on this problem in a moment) At the end of the day it does not matter. Lot is not God’s man(Hard Word), Abram is. Lot could have chosen the other direction and the story is unchanged. God is still with Abram. That is the truth of it.   

So depending on all sorts of circumstance the irony is that Lot does not choose left or right but chooses the way they are facing. He chooses East.  So on to what is God doing with Abram. Abram will now go Southwest, which is of course is the direction he is supposed to be headed in any way. Oh this God. Southwest is not fertile yet. It is not fertile until Canaan.  For now west is desert, still. So by taking Abram to the desert God protects him. He brings him into deeper revelation and need of God and he removes him from the place that man would choose. Oh sure Abram has plenty of shenanigans in him but that is for later. And sure enough Lot goes hanging out where man would pick and meets up with all kinds of trouble. This sounds like us a lot. We are more often Lot than Abram. It is just true. We find ourselves entangled with the ways of man more often than we even will admit to. We often do this because we have a fully man created understanding of God. We do this because if we get a little off correct understanding of God then we will follow that path in a very straight line, which with a very small understanding of simple math will lead us forever further from God’s path. (think ray.Think moving away from the point for infinity.) Pretty soon we are explaining all kinds of things that are crazy. Pretty soon we are rearranging all of God’s truths to make sense with the culture that surrounds us.  Pretty soon we are explaining how God is all love and grace and then we are moving God’s morality to be more modern. We are helping God update so he does not sound like some disgruntled grandfather. Pretty soon there is no hell and people just need to be kind and have good hearts and as long as we are loving pretty much everything is permissible because God understands that we are all just some sinners after all. All this happens with one simple choice to go east, just one choice to angle away from the point. Sure I am this crazy person and I get that, except that well, I’m taking my chances with what the Bible says is correct. I’m hoping I look more like John the Baptist than Lot. That’s what I’m going for anyway. So I am leaving it there.

God tells Abram, “ I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth (Oh God and dirt) your offspring also can be counted.  As far as we can tell God does not talk to Lot at all. This is God. He talks to who He wants to talk to. Lot gets to deal with all the crazy people and Abram picks up his tent and moves west. He puts his tent down in wherever nowhere is and he builds an altar. He does this because putting down an altar is hypercritical. Here is the deal. If we don’t put down altars to God all we have is our memory of God. But when we can see where we’ve been with God and see where we are going with God we can choose God far easier than say, oh I don’t know, trying to remember if God ever spoke to us in the first place.(while surrounded by unbeliever and believers who say God doesn't really talk does He?) Think Satan, "Did God really say?" Without the Altar we start wandering back to where all the fertile ground was.  But if we have put down something external from ourselves that says, “This is where God is.” Well we can run to that. Even when it seems to make more sense that God must be with all the people having all the fun in the fertile spot. God gives us place so we can find the light when we’ve edged back into the dark. Make it tangible. Always make it tangible. God understands this. That is why He thought of the altar in the first place.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Things you can learn from Genesis: Part 11

The point of Building Altars
Genesis 12 -13
So when God chooses He also decides the course. This is the thing. It is the thing that we can put our faith and hope in. It is also the same thing that puts us to the test. For some reason we want to be chosen and then we want to choose what comes next. But that is not God’s way. He chooses us. We say yes. We become His; same thing every single time. We do what comes next when He says what comes next. Think Jesus in John 5:19, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” Think John 12:49, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” Think  John 5:30, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” It’s consistent this way. Just do what He says to do and things will go the way He wants them to go.  So God has chosen Abram and off he goes. He is heading to the land that God has chosen for him. When he gets there the place is full of other people. Umm It’s a big world God so there must be a place where we can do this garden, make a great nation thing in one of those places. But this is God’s plan: This place where these other people are. God does not seem too concerned by who got where first. He tells Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So Abram builds an altar. You would think he sets up shop here but instead he moves on. So here it is unclear what is happening. Is he in disobedience?, is he reading God incorrectly? It is difficult to know. He moves on to the hills east of Bethel and he sets up there for a bit. He is still in Canaan, just further Southwest, nearer to Egypt. He builds another altar. But here again he moves on further in the Negeb. And it sort of ends like that. We  are told there is a famine and then Abram takes Sarai and they head into Egypt where he causes all kinds of problems with some antics produced from fear. He and Sarai do this sister/wife thing and it causes havoc for Pharaoh.

So here is where we can relate to the brutal truth of Abram. He is chosen by God and he is walking whole heartedly. He is all in. He leaves home. He is talking with God. He is building altars and he is making sacrifice. It seems that there is no wrong step to be made. In our mind this man should be blessed. After all, we are pretty sure that we should have blessing as we draw nearer to Him. And yet that is not how it plays out. Abram builds two altars in the land and he settles with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And Famine ensues. This is so God. This is consistent God. He chooses, He marks, He leads and then He introduces the desert place. Abram you are chosen so what will you do in the hard times?  Abram heads to Egypt. It is not clear if Abram has entered into sin with this choice. The bible is not obvious with this. However, there are some interesting events that occur while Abram is in Egypt that seem to reveal a separation between Abram and God in this time.At least it seems clear that Abram has altered the relationship on his end.

From the time Abram leaves his home he is in constant communication with God. He also builds an altar everywhere he settles. Finally, he never seems to be worried about the land or who occupies the land. But contrast all that we know with what we see in Egypt. He enters Egypt and he does not set up an altar. He enters Egypt and he does not speak with God. He enters Egypt and we immediately see that he is afraid for his life. This entrance to Egypt is so radically different from his entry to any other place during the journey. So what ensues is a series of odd events. Abram and Sarai pretend they are brother and sister. Pharaoh thinks she’s pretty hot so he decides to date her. He hooks Abram up with all kinds of wealth.  God shows up and plagues Pharaoh’s house with all kinds of troubles. Pharaoh learns that Sarai is actually Abram’s wife and he runs them both out of town. Nobody gets hurt and Abram has improved his bank account by quite a bit. We are told he is very rich. They leave Egypt and head for the altar they set up between Bethel and Ai.

Wow! So here is what we have learned. While it may be true that Abram forgot about God while he was living in fear in Egypt, God had not forgotten him. He protects Sarai by Plaguing Pharaoh. He blesses Abram with valuable property. He has them both run out of town and they run back to Him, back to the place where He had placed them. They run into His arms and He is there. This is an amazing God. We build altars because we will need a place to run to after we forget what it is we are supposed to be doing. He will always be there. He will have orchestrated the return. We build the altar because we are a forgetful people. We are inclined to think we may have been the ones who did the cool thing or we may think that somehow it was fate or chance, random dumb luck. We build the altar because it is the reminder that it was Him, that it is always Him.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Things you can learn from Genesis: part 10

This is not shocking. After the whole scattering incident God seems to randomly choose one of them to be His next person. God does have people. He is a chooser of people. It is one of the things He does. And the way He chooses makes no sense to us. It is just His way. And so He looks about the whole of the earth and He picks Abram. Abram has done nothing remarkable. We are not even told what Abram has done. Unlike Noah he is not even righteous or holy from what we can tell. Now he does set up alters and make sacrifices and these actions seem to indicate he is a man who follows God. But by the same token within one verse of making a sacrifice he is also cruising into Egypt and giving his wife away to pharaoh in order to save his own life. But that is later.

For now it is altogether strange that God has chosen another man period. God says to Abram, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." These are some pretty big promises right there. At this point from what we can see Abram has done nothing. God tells him if you will do something then I will do all these things. All Abram must do is move. Pretty simple. Pack everything up, take all your stuff and your friends and your family and move to the next land on down the way a bit. He did not have to leave anything behind except the land.

God wants Abram to move to Cannan. Now here is something interesting, in Genesis  chapter 11 we are told Abram was headed there anyway. At some point Abram's dad was headed to Cannan and decided to stop short and set up life in Haran. So God is asking Abram to get to the place where the family was headed to at one point anyway. Abram has big cash flow, lots a family and friends, so he packs everything up and off he heads to Cannan. God has made some big promises. Why not go?

It is a good time to stop and really take a look at all the things not said here. Clearly, Abram has a relationship with God. I mean God has a pretty long conversation with him and Abram is not too shocked about talking with God. Another thing here is that God makes big promises. He does not just say go to Cannan and I will make you happy. He literally promises blessing forever. Beyond that Abram is already super wealthy. He pretty much has everything. But he hears God and God says move to a new land so he goes.

On top of everything God has promised He also adds in a few more things. He tells Abram that God will "bless those who bless you and him who dishonors you I will curse." Now that is pretty crazy. God literally sets it up that all things that occur on earth have two implications. People will receive blessing or they will be cursed. Again this is a critical component of who God is. He has set His kingdom up around a man He has chosen. All people will be blessed or cursed based on how they treat this man and his offspring. The implication is that how people treat this man is how they see God. Think Matthew 25. Think sheep and goats. Think "come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Remember the sheep were all when did we ever see you? And they are told it is all about how they treated the people around them?

See what God did there? He did consistent. He did steadfast. He did unchanging. God has always picked a man and said how you treat this man is how you see me. Oh, think two commands. Think love God and love your neighbor. Think who is this God that He would choose a man, in a town and say move to a new town. Start a new place. Meet new people. He would tell this man I will send you sheep. I will make you known in all the world. And here is how we will do it. We will choose who is for us and who is against us based only on how they treat you. God does this thing just like He did with Adam. He does this "us" and "we" thing. It is always Him but He is always saying look what we did. Think God making people so he can be with them. Think God letting man name stuff.Think unchanging again. This is who He is . . . Always.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Things you can learn from Genesis: part 9

Here is the truth about people. Even apart from God we are capable of the amazing. This is at the heart of our choosing darkness over light. It is pretty clear that we are pretty awesome even when God is not involved. We are capable of tending to the lonely, we can feed the homeless, we can fix the broken hearted. We can set right perceived wrongs. We have the ability to rescue those who need rescuing. We can cure disease. We can make cool stuff that makes our daily lives easier. We literally can do all things.

The earliest thing we figured out how do do was to build giant buildings. It is still one of the great things we do. It is a sign of how advanced we are. If we can make something rise up into the sky we are to be honored and feared among men. It is a bench mark of advancement.

So it is no wonder that the first thing we do after the floods subside and the people recreate, is build. In Genesis 11 we learn that the whole earth had one voice. And we also learn that they decide it's time to build something big. We learn that the people know how to make bricks and that they also know how to stack them and make a tower. They say, "come let us build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth."
Now this is Weird thought process but it is tied up in our wrong thinking.  We think we can be like God by being impressive.

Now these are some interesting developments. The people are pretty impressive. They can and do build things. They apparently can build these things into the heavens. This is no small feat. People are pretty impressive. They also seem to have a goal in mind. They seem to know there is a God and they desire to build a tower to where He is. Beyond that they also seem to have a fear. They have a fear that they will all be separated. They seem convinced that by building they can ward off separation from each other. Hmmm?

God's reaction to the whole event is equally stunning. The Lord comes down to check out the handy work of the people. He is obviously quite impressed. He says of this project, "Behold they are one people and they have one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them."  This is a stunning moment to say the least. God is aware that man kind has continued to discover the limitless possibilities it has when unified and organized. Remember this is post flood, event one. God is looking at what they have done and He knows that if He does not take action people will do more amazing things to glorify themselves. He knows that they contain unlimited creativity and ability. He knows that they can do whatever they set their mind to. He understands that because they are from Him and yet because they have grown evil from their youth God knows that man kind will do all things and move further away from Him. He can see that there may be no way to reconcile this people if he does not step in and actively thwart what they can do.

So he grabs the rest of Himself ( no really easy way to explain the "us"). He says "come let us go down and there confuse their language so that they may not understand one another's speech"  and we are told this works. As they did not complete the building of the city. They all head off in separate directions as they feared would be the case. It is quite an interesting thing that perhaps needs further thought. Why is their greatest fear that they would be separated from each other. In a world that is defined by its rampant individualism is it not then interesting that the great fear is separation from others. My guess is that is still the great fear disguised as self reliance but rooted in the fear of being alone. Stunning that most of us stumble because we seek approval of man. Alone we don't do much one way or the other. 

We can see the inherent problem with mankind. Those all around us who would argue they can do great things without God are not liars. This is not a secret to God. He recognized this aspect of us even from the beginning. What He has always known is that we are impressive. He did make us after all. But He also understood right from the beginning that everything we do is driven by our desire to be great. It is economics 101. It all works because we act in self interest. When we all work in our own self interest we will be led to create and do things that will benefit all. And God knew this from the earliest moments. He knew that if He was not going to destroy us again that He would have to act to split us into smaller groups. As a fragmented people it would take us longer to re organize and create things apart from Him. All of this to show His perfect plan and mercy.

See we don't need God in order to be impressive. We need God because apart from Him there is no good. Apart from Him there is no light. The truth is that all the impressive things we do leave us trapped in dark. We cannot find good when we have created fake good in the dark. When God set about creation everything He made was good. From that point on all things that we have made are super cool and down right amazing. So amazing in fact that even God can see it. But nothing we have made is good. It is just a fact. We conspire to do evil. There is no escaping that truth. 

The mercy of God is that He loves us. He has made a way. He has caused confusion and delay. And He is using this time to tenderize our hearts. He wants us to know that being impressive is not the same as being good. It is the one thing we consistently get wrong. We can build some cool stuff. We can even fight for worthy causes. But all the cool stuff in the world will not rescue us from the dark. We don't need the light to accomplish cool things. We need the light because in the light is God. At the end of the day that is reason enough. We don't need to build towers to the heavens when we are in the light. We don't need to reach God. He is already here, in the light.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dark and Light again.

I am reading over the notes I have written down every time I come to ihop. Here is something I wrote to myself in March 2011. "Apart from Him we grow in darkness not light." We somehow get confused about these concepts. Because we are people we are absolutely convinced that there is a third choice, a neutral place. For whatever reason our brains want to convince us that there is a place of non movement. But I feel pretty sure that there is not a third option. I feel pretty sure that there is not a neutral moment in God. It seems clear that there is a battle that is rageing. It seems clear that this whole thing is an epic battle between strength and weakness. The heart of God does not see neutral space between Himself and Satan.

When we are in the light we are in Christ. He is light and when we are with Him we are in the light. His light is perfect light so there are not shades of light. There is just light. His light does not get brighter the nearer we are. This would somehow indicate that God's love has a limit or that it fades. God's love is best seen as a perfect circle. It is perfect light from beginning to end. At the edge of the light is perfect light. His light is powerful and radiant. It does not grow dim.

Where the light ends there is not a fading of the light. There is light and then it ends as abruptly as it began. There is perfect light and then there is darkness. Darkness behaves like the light. There are not degrees of dark. There is just dark. We do not move through the dark to discover darker. The dark is perfectly dark all throughout. It is everything outside the circle. Perfect light and then nothing. Just black. Just dark.

This is how God designed the whole thing. Once we are not in the light we are in the dark. For God there are no degrees of darkness. There is just everything that is Him and everything that is not. Degrees of light and dark are man made ideas. It is how we compare ourselves to others. We believe that others are darker than us and that others are lighter than us. God does not have this. God sees who is in the light and He does not see those in the dark. 1 John tells us that God does not fellowship with the dark. In fact it makes clear that He fellowships exclusively with those in the light. In the light there is fellowship. There is no fellowship outside in the dark. All things are made new in the light. Our joy is made full in the light.

He is pretty particular. So to my thoughts from 2011. I'm not sure we grow in darkness. I'm pretty sure dark is dark. But i am also sure that when we are not in fellowship with Him we are fully in the dark. Standing in the dark with no clue we are there. We somehow think there is light around us. But without Him we are absolutely in darkness. Without Him we do not have any light. Not even just a little bit. Light does not work that way. No one in the light is trying to explain degrees of light, hues of light. But isn't it interesting that those in the dark have created and entire system of false light. Those in the dark have made the dark look like light. There are entire systems dedicated to making dark look like light. Dark constantly argues that it has a light. It argues that there are those among the dark who are evil and those in the dark who are good. Having electricity does not create real light. It creates a false light. It is not the sun. It is something like the sun, but not. But the truth is that dark is dark. Even if it looks like light. John 1:5 makes it clear that even though the light(Jesus) came into the dark everything in the dark could not see. The dark is so convinced of it's own light. It can't be confused by the truth.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Things you can learn from Genesis: part 8

The thing about Noah is that he found favor in the eyes of God. There is no mention of what this means. We have really no clue about what it was that Noah did that brought about this distinction. We just know that this is what scripture says. In genesis 6:9 we are told that, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God." that is some pretty sick stuff. There are not a whole lot of people who walked with God. You would be hard pressed to name too many ( I am not counting the thousands that followed Jesus.) you can count them if you want. But still we do not see it listed that Noah did anything extraordinary.

But the times Noah lived in were certainly extraordinary. We are told the earth was filled with wickedness. The word of God makes clear that every single man/woman was wicked. That "every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." That is shocking. The thoughts of all men were evil at all times. Certainly that can't be true? Or could it be that God sees evil as all thoughts not about Him? And if that is true then what? It seems evident that all men were not involved in murder, mayhem and perversion at all times. At least not in the way we define it. But in truth if God sees things in one of two ways. If God sees only light and dark(and I am pretty sure that is what He sees) then this brings into perspective what God was looking at when He decided He "was sorry that He had made man on the earth."

So maybe Noah did not live in such extraordinary times. Perhaps He lived in a time that looks strikingly familiar. Noah walked in the light. I know this because God walked with him. Everyone else. Every single person on the face of the planet walked in darkness. Only Noah's family was saved.

God does a hard reset on the planet earth experiment. He kills off all things including the bugs and the animals. And when the water subsides Noah makes a sacrifice and this so strikes God to the core that God makes an announcement. He says, "I will never again curse the ground because of man." That right there is interesting. It is a promise with a qualifier. God essentially says He will not let man get to Him again. He will not destroy stuff due to the failure of man. He may break stuff for other reasons but it won't be because of what man does. What is even more shocking is the why of the whole thing. God will not destroy things because of man, "For the intention of man is evil from his youth." What just happened God? Here is the thing the hard reset was never intended to fix the problem. God never thought if I reduce the planet to the few who love me it will all turn out good. He never thought this will fix everything. He knew from the beginning that man was evil, that man was always evil and was always going to choose evil.(and that is some crazy stuff right there) The reset did nothing to curb the evil of man. 

In fact what we know is that Jesus comes to do what man always fails to do. Jesus became the sacrifice that stirs the heart of the Father. Jesus is the "pleasing aroma" that so moves God to forgive our ways. Don't confuse what Jesus has done with anything we have done. We only look different because God sees Jesus. He is like this cool window that makes us look different to the Father. Maybe i'm not being super theological there but you get the point.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

One step closer

There are things for me to learn. God has spent the last two months teaching me about His way. There are seemingly simple ways of doing things and then there is God's way. While He can do anything and everything in an instant He uses process to not only refine us but to teach us about us and Him and to bring glory to himself. His way is intense and so much better thought out than my way.

First lets look at just a few things that God has done that begin to show His way in the word. Look at David. God  knows the people want a king and He is raising up a special one for them but in the mean time He let's them have the one they chose. Saul is a perfect storm of a mess. He is the result of human picking. He has massive insecurities which surface in his decision making process. He leads them into dark places and ultimately becomes obsessed with what he wants. He is like all of us.  The life of Saul does not really demonstrate the process of God. It does accurately portray our ways. Act-react. Suffer the consequences.

But while Saul is doing his thing God rasies up David, the nobody son from Podunk Bethlehem. Hey David you are a shepherd.  Play some guitar, fight some animals, sleep outside, suffer for some sheep. Hey David serve your brothers, bring them some food, kill a giant. Hey david go work for Saul, play him some music, lead some armies, go and hide cuz the king wants to kill you now.  Hey David you are going to be king someday go and live in the woods, upgrade to a cave, keep on running. Hey David time to be a leader, here is your crew of rebels, go and live with the philistines.What is all this nonsense? This is God we are talking about here. Hey David Saul is dead go on and lead the Tribe of Judah and some of Sauls crew will continue leading the rest. Crazy, crazy God and His way. We would be all well David you are in charge but god is all David you are in charge eventually.

I have been told that I have type 2 diabetes. God could have done all sorts of things with that. He could make it so that I would not have that disease. After all why should I have it? I am 5'10 I weigh 180. I'm 49 years old. Ok I eat too much McDonald's and ice cream and cereal after midnight. But still. And yet my numbers don't lie. So God can heal me in an instant. Why not? He loves to heal so He can do that. But over the last few months, reading about the life of David, going through some things in my own life, it has become clear that He does process with me. There are things He wants to do to reveal Himself to me. He knows something about me. He knows that I notice better when things take place and then come into alignment. He knows that I marvel at the mystery of seemingly random events that lead to a moment of this is God.

So here I am, doing my glucose tolerance test surrounded by people who look nothing like me and yet are all in the same predicament. Blood tests to find out what is going on inside. The numbers don't lie but they don't tell us we're sick either. That is the first thing God has taught me. There are promises God has on my life. This does not negate the promise. This is just a cave. One step closer is what it looks like.