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Showing posts from January, 2014

Praise Instead of Pain

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If Jacob thought that he had escaped the intrigue by running away from home and going to live with his relatives, he was sadly mistaken. The lies, manipulation and deceit continued in his uncle’s home. He worked for seven years in order to gain the hand of Laban’s daughter, Rachel, only to end up with Rachel’s older sister, Leah. Then he worked for another seven years to finally get Rachel. This story is recorded for us in Genesis 29.

But it is Leah that captured my attention this morning. Her father basically “sold” her into a loveless marriage. His excuse was that tradition dictated that the oldest daughter marry before the youngest, but it does sound like he bothered to find her a husband during the first seven years that Jacob spent working for Rachel’s hand.

In any case, we see the hand of God in all this mess. “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:31). God gave her someone to love and someone who would return that love.…

"If," "Ands" and "Buts"

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I had a conversation with a person recently who was really angry at God. It seems that He hadn’t delivered what she expected of Him. She felt that she had fulfilled her part of the obligation and that He should have kept up His end by giving her a smooth and trouble-free life.

As I was reading Genesis 28 this morning I was reminded of that conversation.

Jacob was sent away from his home, probably to keep some distance between him and Esau, though Rebekah avoided bringing up the falling out between the brothers by telling her husband that she was concerned that Jacob would marry the wrong kind of girl if he wasn’t sent back to her hometown to find the right one (Genesis 27:46-28:1, 2). Isaac didn’t remember, or chose not to remember, that his own father had looked after that without him having ever to leave home (Genesis 24). It seems like dealing with the lies and deceit, and their consequences, was not something this family did well.

In any case, Jacob left home and began his journey t…

What if...?

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Lies and deceit.

That’s what Genesis 27 is about. The fact that the Bible records the shameful deception of an old man and the breakdown of a family, causes some people to believe that God gives at least tacit approval to bad behaviour. They fail to see the bottom line. The Bible acknowledges that men are sinful. It clearly shows the devastating consequences of those sins. It makes no attempt at a cover-up. At the same time, it speaks loudly about a God who takes even the sinful actions of men and works out His purposes despite those sins.

In Genesis 27 we are told how Jacob, at the instigation of his mother, deceived Isaac and won the blessing that belonged to Jacob’s older brother, Esau. It’s not the first clue we have to just how dysfunctional this family was. In Genesis 25 we find parents who play favourites, and we discover how little Esau thought about his privileges as the eldest. He sold his rights as firstborn to Jacob for a bowl of stew—that was Jacob’s price for feeding his …

This is a Test

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It’s easy to skip over. It’s just one word at the beginning of a story, but it is one word that makes all the difference to what follows.

Some time later God tested Abraham” (Genesis 22:1). It was a TEST. God knew His man. He also knew that from this test would come one of the most graphic illustrations of the grace of God delivered to us on the cross by Jesus Christ that the world would ever see.

Abraham was to take his only son to Mount Moriah and there sacrifice him as an offering to God. Of course, we know what happened. When Isaac asked his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was, Abraham replied: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (22:8). God knew His man, and Abraham knew his God. When the test was over, Abraham named the spot “The Lord will provide” (22:14) because that was exactly what the Lord did.

It was a TEST. As I read the story this morning I thought of some dear friends who are sitting by the bed of their newborn daughter. The prognos…

Hurry Up and Wait

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Abraham was seventy-five years old when he set out for the land God promised to give him (Genesis 12). At the time God also promised to make a great nation out of him. He had to wait twenty-five years to even get to the first step of “great nation” status. That was when his promised son and heir, Isaac, was born (Genesis 21).

Genesis 21 begins with: “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him” (21:1, 2, emphasis mine).

It was a “hurry up and wait” situation, one that neither Abraham nor Sarah always dealt with appropriately,

Sound familiar? “Hurry up” is relatively easy, but “wait” is not.

But the important part of the lesson is found in those bolded portions of these two verses. God did “as he had said.” He was faithful to “what he had promised.” And God delivered what he had promised “at the very time God had promised him.”  Yes, it took twenty-five ye…

Sort-of Sister

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One of the things I like about the Bible, and one of the things that people criticize about it, is the honesty with which the Scriptures deal with people. I’m sure we don’t have all their “wrinkles” recorded for us, but there are enough to make us realize that even the saints weren’t always so saintly. That’s an encouragement for us because we then know the extent to which God showed them mercy and grace, and can be assured that the same will extended to us in our weakness. To those who criticize this “revelation,” I can only suppose it is because it robs them of the excuse, “Well, they were perfect and I’m not, so since my case is different I don’t have to pay attention to what the Bible teaches.”

Anyway, in Genesis 20, we have an example of the unsaintly act of one of the prominent saints of the Bible. To add to the problem, Abraham is about to be caught doing the same thing that he got in trouble for doing before. It seems he had not learned the lesson. One more, fear for his own s…

Mouth in Neutral

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Oops, wrong answer!

There are many times when God’s response to our dullness surprises me. Many people go into spasms when the wrath of God is mentioned. True, God isn’t one-sided. His wrath is a real and current part of His character. So is His grace. Neither one can be emphasized at the expense of the other.

Here in Genesis 15 we have an example of God’s grace when wrath might have been our response if we had been in God’s “shoes.”

The Lord appeared to Abram in a vision and said: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1).

I would hope that if God appeared to me in a vision and said those words, I’d be so overwhelmed by such a wonderful promise that everything else would fly out of my mind and I’d fall flat on my face before Him in worship. What could possibly be better that having God personally tell you that He is going to be your protector and your reward?

But Abram’s response is more typical of what mine, and yours, might be. Instead of focu…

The Better Choice

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We can only guess at some of the political intrigue that might have been going on that formed the background to the stories of the Bible. We don’t often take into account the cultural tensions that affected how even the saints lived out their lives. In Genesis 14 we catch a glimpse of some of those dynamics of life in the Middle East during the time of Abram.

The tensions between the city-states of the time are seen in the early verses of the chapter. One set of kings pitted against another set of kings is described in Genesis 14:1-9. But it appears that even Abram had to protect himself from greedy predator kings by making his own alliances (14:13).

Unhappily, Abram’s nephew, Lot, got swept up when Sodom was overrun in the conflict. When the patriarch of the family heard the news, we discover a different side to Abram. The threat to his family brought out the warrior in him and he rallied his household to go in pursuit of his kinsman. Not only did he rescue Lot and the others with h…

Cracks in the Sidewalk

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There wasn’t room for both families. Abram had prospered by the time he returned to Canaan from his ill-advised journey to Egypt. So had his nephew, Lot. Tensions between the servants of the two households reached dangerous heights. Genesis 13 describes the agreement made between Abram and Lot. The patriarch’s nephew chose to occupy the lush plains of the Jordan near Sodom and Abram moved to the area around Hebron.

By covenant, all this land would someday belong to Abram’s descendants (Genesis 12:7). Resting on that promise, he could easily allow Lot to make his own choice as to where he wanted to settle.

It was at this time that the Lord renewed his covenant with Abram. Genesis 13:14-17 tells us, “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever...Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.’

When…

The Quintessential Multitasker

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After a year in his floating zoo, Noah must have wondering if God had forgotten all about them and if they were doomed to becoming the world’s first perpetual cruise line.

Perhaps Moses, considered to be the recorder of these events, wormed his way into Noah’s mind and somewhat tongue-in-cheek wrote: “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded” (Genesis 8:1).

As if God could forget!

We know theologically that God doesn’t forget but sometimes, in the midst of our daunting life experiences, it feels like He does suffer from memory lapses or gets too busy with other things to concern Himself with our affairs. I’d wager, if I were a betting person, that Noah had his moments when he wondered if they had been abandoned on the high seas.

Isaiah writes, speaking of God: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forge…

Shut In

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Yesterday, the husband of a good friend of mine went home to be with the Lord. Andrew, a young husband and father of two pre-schoolers, fought his leukemia valiantly and with a demonstration of faith seldom seen. He was a scholar with, according to worldly wisdom, a long life of great contribution to society and to the Christian world ahead of him.

God had other plans. Many will struggle with his death. Many will toss the “why?” question back and forth in frustration and anguish. I have no answers.

But as I was reading Genesis 7 this morning I thought of Andrew’s wife, Suzanne. I thought of his family. I thought about others who are passing through deep, deep waters and perhaps struggling with those same questions.

After Noah had built the ark and gathered all the animals into it, the Scriptures say: “Then the Lord shut him in” (7:16).

The skies opened up as they had never before been known to do. The fountains of the deep let go of the water reserved in them. The world, as men had kno…

Enough

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My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3).

One of the jaw-droppers in Scripture has always been the length of time that men used to live. When Adam and Eve sinned, part of their punishment, and ours, was mortality—lives numbered in years. But they lived many years—hundreds, in fact. For man to live forever in sin, and to suffer forever the consequences of his sin, was not God’s plan. So He took away that possibility by ousting mankind out of the garden and away from the tree that represented immortality (Genesis 3:22-24). But He allowed men and women the time needed to populate the earth and the time to consider their sinful state and do something about it. But by the time we get to Noah’s day, bad choices had been made on a global scale.

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).

No…

A New Beginning

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Empty. Dark.

Then God went to work and changed it all.

Genesis 1 records how everything began, how a Creator took what was empty and dark and made it into something beautiful and good.

The Bible is a book of redemption, of restoration, of reconciliation. Right from its first chapter that story is told: emptiness can be filled—with God; darkness can become light—because of God.

In the beginning God created...” (Genesis 1:1).

The beauty that God created will be spoiled and soiled, sullied and sacrificed but the lesson remains: With God, because of God, emptiness can be filled and darkness can become light.

John 1:14 tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word as with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of men, The light shines in darkness...

Jesus was there, from the beginning, on a mission to fill emptiness and to banish darkness…