A History-Making Decision

Genesis 11.27-13.1

“What is the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make? What made the decision so difficult?” Was it the cost…comfort, convenience? Was it fear of the unknown? Was it the stakes?

God gives Abram a simple (not easy) command…”Go.” Abram was to leave everything he knew – country, relatives and family – to go to an as yet undisclosed location. The blessings that follow are contingent on his going…on his obedience. But his obedience is predicated on faith. So what faith are we talking about? Genesis 3.15. But how does Abram know about Genesis 3.15. Don’t forget that Abram is a direct descendant of Adam through the line of Seth, and of Noah through the line of Shem. He comes from those with a spiritual heritage of calling on the name of the LORD, of walking with God, of believing the Seed promise of 3.15. Much like Noah who was described as righteous and blameless…not because he obeyed, but because he found favor in the eyes of the LORD…he believed the promise of 3.15…so he obeyed, now Abram will be called on to obey because he too has found favor, is righteous through faith. That’s important for us to keep in mind. There can be no obedience without faith.

The call of Abram in Genesis 12.1-3 is a key event in the biblical story. It ranks up there with Genesis 3.15 in the OT. It ties together both creation and redemption…it echoes the creation mandate and carries forward the plan of redemption, the search for the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman. It showcases God’s grace and reveals His heart for His creation. And it’s fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus’ charge to His early followers to “make disciples of all the nations” is a reflection of “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” It would be hard to overstate the importance of this passage.

But God’s call required a response. To experience what God had in store for Abram, he had to step out in obedience. He had to go. He had to be a blessing. For the Israelites to experience the blessings of the covenant at Sinai, they too would have to walk in obedience. That would cost them their comfort and convenience…they too would have to leave what they knew. They would have to embrace the unknown. They would have to risk everything. They would have to give up their definition of good…of doing what was right in their own eyes and trust that what God was calling them to really was good…that it was life. They had to believe that God truly loved them and wanted their good. And they would have to love Him in return.

What would have happened to Abram if he would have refused God’s call? Would he have lost his salvation? Not at all…but he would have lost his destiny. He wouldn’t have experienced the good that God had for him. The trip to Egypt illustrates this truth…Abram was to be a source of blessing to the nations, but he ends up being a source of cursing to Pharaoh. Thankfully not the last word when it comes to Abram.

I appreciate the honesty of a friend of mine who said, “God calls us away from our life and to His life. Something twinges when you say ‘leave comfort and convenience’ I don’t know what it is in me yet, but I need to. I know that fear, jealousy, pride – will keep me living my life. I’m tired of the cliché ‘comfort zone’, but it’s accurate. I need comfort. I need predictability. The life I am drawn to meets my expectations and has very few surprises. Does this sound like the life God calls people to? Noah, Moses, the judges, the prophets, the disciples? God called people to be kings and slaves, warriors and shepherds. But He called them away from themselves. I am convicted that I am, for the most part, living my life, proceeding with my plans, doing what seems right in my own eyes. I don’t want to go blindly after whatever seems to be the opposite direction. I do want to obey. I do want to move in faith to the life God is calling me to. I have set out on journey of faith, but what do I keep dragging around with me. What tethers me to peace? Is is faith or is it my inability to let go completely? Am I creating my own peace and not trusting God’s?”

But what about you? As important as Abram’s call was to the working out of God’s plan in salvation history, Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, calls us all to “Go” or better yet to “Follow”.  And that call is every bit as important on a micro-level as Abram’s call on a macro-level. Jesus calls us to leave our comfort and convenience, to leave what we know, our old life, and follow Him. A simple command, but not an easy one. It means that we have to embrace the unknown. We have to risk everything…but only in this sense: we have to die to defining good in our own eyes and trust in what He has revealed as good. Maybe that’s a new job…maybe building a relationship…maybe making a kingdom investment that financially doesn’t seem to make sense…maybe it’s a call into ministry… Whatever it is, experiencing the good that God wants for you requires obedience. It means taking the risk.

And like Abram…and the Israelites…you will fail. But God is still faithful, and He is patient. Proverbs 24.16: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

My prayer for us is that we would the courage, like Abram to take the risk, and enter into the wild adventure of a life spent with Jesus in His kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Confused

Genesis 10-11

Why are we so fascinated with making a name for ourselves? As I thought about this passage, I wondered why Moses included this story about the tower. Is it simply to explain where the different languages and people groups come from? Surely there is a bigger purpose. He wants to teach the ancient Israelites something about God. So what is Moses trying to teach them and us from this account?

When we try and make a name for ourselves…it is rooted in pride…and what is pride but giving ourselves the worship that God deserves, it’s worshiping ourselves as god. It’s rooted in pride, is often expressed in rebellion and leads to confusion. It confirms our own sinfulness…the truth that every intent of the heart of man is only evil continually. The first recorded group project does not turn out so well…it is a monumental act of rebellion with far reaching consequences. It echoes the sin in the Garden, and the promise that you can be “like God”. The sin of Babel is both pride and rebellion, the making for ourselves a name so that we might be famous. It’s the throwing off of the yoke of obedience and even dependence to declare ourselves sinfully independent. And it’s a refusal to obey God…defining good for ourselves apart from what God has revealed…”Let’s build a tower and a city so that we are not dispersed over the face of the earth.” The effects of the fall from Genesis 3 continue. The root cause of sin was not dealt with in the judgment of the flood, only its effects on people and creation at that time. In addition to Noah and his family and the animals, sin hitched a ride on the boat and continued its reign over mankind and all of creation through Noah and his descendants.

No doubt God judges sin. But even in His judgment we still see His mercy, His amazing, undeserved love. In the shadow of the flood of Genesis 6–8, God could have chosen a much more severe punishment for their sin. Instead He puts a halt to it. Man’s rebellion does not thwart God’s purposes. God acts in sovereign ways to accomplish what He wills. God’s plan for man after the flood was that they multiply and fill the earth. Now they will fill the earth. 

Babel once again highlights the consequences of man’s attempts, through sinful independence, to be his own god.

The cycle continues. God’s faithfulness…our rebellion. The image-bearers failing to image Him, to reflect our perfect, benevolent, beautiful Creator God to His creation. Yet God continues to pursue…the Seed of the Woman. Genesis 3.15.

But what about you? Where do you find yourself building towers, looking for fame, rebelling against God, making a name for yourself? The desire for selfish independence and for god-status is still alive and well. We’re still building towers. But God hasn’t given up on us. Moses reminds us once again that the Seed of the Woman is coming…that He has come in the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, to do what we could not do…provide the way back to God. To conquer sin and death. To restore the image so that we might return to Paradise. That by faith in Jesus, who lived the life that we were supposed to live, totally obedient and dependent on God, who died the death we deserved to die, that through faith in Him we could participate in the most absurd gift exchange in the universe…His righteousness for our sin…so that we can have life…a different kind of life, real life, eternal life with Father God in His kingdom. I don’t understand it, but am amazed by it. I can’t explain it except for God’s incredible, amazing love.

My prayer for us this week is that we recognize our own tower-building tendencies and turn them over to Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Great Deluge

Genesis 7-8

“­­­How serious do I take sin?” As I reflected on this passage, I couldn’t escape the seriousness and the severity with which God deals with sin in this story. He created a good world…perfect harmony, perfect peace, naked and unashamed, heaven on earth, paradise. And then that world is devastated…it is crushed by man’s rebellion. And sin infects all of creation.

We might ask “Why must all creation suffer for our sin?” Because we were supposed to be the caretakers. We were responsible. And our sin tainted everything. And when we were cursed, so was our dominion. So why the flood? Violence filled the earth instead of the image. Loss of the sons of God. And sin has consequences…serious consequences. End of the world kind of consequences. So much so that God chooses to destroy the good world He had created and start over.

But God remembered Noah. What a powerful statement! In the midst of horrific judgment, mercy still prevails and the search for the Seed will continue. God is not done with His creation. Even when it seemed that all hope might have been lost.

Noah saw first hand not only the devastating effects of sin on his society, he also saw the severity of God’s judgment on that sin. And that glimpse of the consequences of sin against the backdrop of God’s mercy prompted worship.

But what about you? How seriously do you take your sin? Are you aware of its consequences? I believe that it’s only when we see the severity of our sin that we begin to understand God’s amazing grace, and only then can we fully worship. A low view of sin = a low view of grace and vice versa. But my sin and your sin is serious. Its deadly and it necessitated the death of God’s Son…Jesus…the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman. Sin required a death…and not just any death. In order for the guilty to be rescued, to be redeemed, the innocent would have to die in their stead. And so the Perfect One, willingly did just that, He laid down His life so that we could be rescued. He fully took care of the sin problem so that we could have a different kind of life, and so that we could fully represent God’s image as He intended.

My prayer for us this week is that we would take our sin seriously…and that we would take God’s grace seriously…and that that would cause us to worship.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Prelude to Disaster

Genesis 6

“­­­­­Have you ever gotten carried away, you know, caught up in the moment, followed the crowd? Why was that? Good outcome?” As I reflected on this passage, I was reminded of the LORD’s warning to Cain…“And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Sin’s desire is not for our good, but for our destruction.

Sin always takes us further than we want to go. It wants to master and enslave us. It over-promises and under delivers. It seduces and lies to us. It captures us. And it can easily become contagious. The whole premise behind peer pressure or mob mentality. Folks will do things when caught up in a crowd that they would never do alone. Just ask those who had called on the name of the LORD, who walked with God…the descendants of Seth, called the sons of God.

A couple of weeks ago we talked about violence in the context of the first capital murder trial. We said that violence is a physical attempt to eradicate the image of God. And instead of the image of God permeating the earth, violence attempted to erase it. And so God will take drastic measures.

I love that in the midst of the chaos, Noah shines as a beacon of hope. That even in the midst of a world gone haywire its possible to walk with God…that through faith in the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman…he could be considered righteous and blameless. That his unquestioned obedience will lead not only to his own deliverance, but also the rescue of his family and of the animals. It is possible to live a kingdom life in a fallen, corrupt and violent world.

But what about you? Where do you find yourself conforming to the world? Where do you find yourself compromising? What happened to those who once called on the name of the LORD in Noah’s time, the sons of God? They compromised. They began to focus on the earthy rather than the heavenly. They saw that the daughters of men, the daughters of Cain, were beautiful/good. Just like the woman, who looked, saw and took from the forbidden tree, they looked for what pleased them, rather than what pleased God. And the results were disastrous. The most violent, the most cruel, the most powerful become the most famous. Realize that conformity to the world, compromising your walk with God never ends well. But I love that Moses continually reminds us of hope…the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman who will one day come in the Person of Jesus to defeat the serpent, to right the wrongs, to restore the image and lead us back to Creator God.

My prayer for us this week is that we would so walk with God, as Noah did, that we too can resist the allure of the world that invites us to compromise and experience the joy of living lives as kingdom citizens.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Family Tree

Genesis 5

So…“What kind of legacy are you leaving?” As I reflected on this passage, I was reminded of the importance of legacy. What am I passing down to my boys? Will the generations to follow be those who “call on the name of the LORD”? If someone were to read my genealogy years from now, what would stand out. This week’s passage is easily overlooked, but we should consider the important implications of it.

Adam had several sons…two are highlighted. Cain and Seth. Same parents, but very different destinies. What made the difference? Surely not upbringing or environment. Each made a choice. But that choice had ramifications for those who followed.

Cain’s rebellion and murder would mark his family line. Not all are painted to be the worst of the worst, but the literary markers that Moses gives us show that they are no less seed of the serpent, focused on the earthy, living in rebellion against God. Lamech is just the worst of…murder, polygamy, pride, twisted good. So what identifies the seed of the serpent today? Same kind of things. Focus on the earthy. Rejection of the heavenly. Rebellion against God.

And Seth’s (Enosh’s) choice to “call on the name of the LORD” would mark his family line as well. Not all are painted to be the best of the best. In fact we are given very little detail even of the heroes…Enoch and Noah. But again, the literary markers that Moses gives us show that they are no less seed of the woman, focused on the heavenly, seeking to live in relationship with God. Enoch is the best of…walking with God. So what identifies the seed of the woman today? Same kind of things. Walking with God, which is only possible through faith in Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman.

But what about you? What kind of legacy will you leave? Much depends on where you are right now. Are you walking with God? Are you pursuing a life with Him in His kingdom? Have you trusted in Jesus? Do you have a heavenly perspective? If so, teach your kids. Introduce them to the story. Remind them often. Pray for them and with them. Show them what it means to join God’s grand rescue mission of pulling folks out of the flames of hell.

But maybe you are not walking with God. Maybe you’re not pursuing a life with Him in His kingdom. Maybe you haven’t trusted in Jesus. Maybe you are totally focused on the earthy. If so, beware. The path that you are heading down leads to destruction. Building earthly kingdoms is a hollow pursuit. The tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a somber reminder. Fame, fortune, success…heroin, overdose, death. He was a captive in need of rescue. So are some of you. But hope is possible because God delights in plot twists…to rewrite our stories. Only He can change your legacy because the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman has already come in the Person of Jesus and has defeated the Adversary. And by believing in Him, you can be reconciled to Creator God and have a new destiny, a new legacy.

Until next time…stay salty.

Murder 1

Genesis 4.

So…“Why is the world so fascinated with/prone to violence?” As I reflected on this passage this past week, I was reminded over and over that ours is a culture of violence. Not only the seemingly senseless acts like that of mall shootings, school shootings, drive-by shootings, violence in the schoolyard, the workplace and behind the closed doors of many homes, but also the violence we celebrate in movies, at sporting events, in music, on TV… Like we said last week, God created a perfect world. All that He made was good, including the man and his wife. It was paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? Again, it’s difficult to describe the catastrophic results of a single act of rebellion. Welcome to life as we know it. Every act of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

Cain’s act of violence…murdering his brother Abel…was just the first in a series of acts of violence that have colored the history of mankind blood red. Death would be a natural result of the curse, but murder is a microwave version that exposes the darkness of sin. It’s a direct result of the enmity, the hostility that the seed of the serpent (wicked) have toward the seed of the woman (righteous).

What is violence? It’s an affront to the image. Every act of violence is a physical attempt to eradicate the image of God. It flows from the serpent who is the enemy of God and of what’s good. And the ironic thing is, that the enmity is not just between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, but also between seeds of the serpent (and if we are honest, between seeds of the woman as well). When we celebrate violence, you can bet the serpent’s pleased.

But the good news…the bookends of this entire episode both include reference to the LORD and the hope of Genesis 3.15, that LORD would send the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman to defeat the serpent, to rescue us and all of creation, to provide the way back to Creator God. And He did just that in the Person of Jesus who absorbed every act of violence from the murder of Abel to the last violent act that will be perpetrated on planet earth when He was nailed to the cross. The innocent died for the guilty, so that we might be reconciled to our Creator by His grace through faith in Jesus.

But what about you? Violence is one aspect of suffering that is the result of sin. Along with pride, it reflects the character of the serpent, who we are told, was a murderer from the beginning. He likes nothing better than to see the image destroyed. Those of us who have trusted in Jesus…the seed of the woman…are at war with the seed of the serpent. Yet, as Paul reminds us, our struggle is not against flesh and blood…our warfare is against an unseen enemy and not against the captives he’s taken hostage. We are on a rescue mission – braving the horrors of hell to pull folks out. We are our brother’s keeper. Hope is possible because the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman has already come and has defeated the Adversary. And now we wait with all of creation for the time when He will come back to set all things right…for the new heavens and the new earth.

My prayer for us this week is that we would war against a culture of violence in our own lives…that we would see others as image-bearers, that we are our brother’s keeper, and that we would join God in His grand rescue mission of pulling folks out of the flames of hell.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

The Wages of Sin…Is Death

Genesis 3.

“Why do bad things happen to good people…in other words, How did we get into this mess?” God created a perfect world. All that God had made was good, including the man and his wife. It’s paradise…heaven on earth. What happened? It’s difficult to describe the catastrophic results of our first parents’ single act of rebellion. Welcome to life as we know it. Every instance of violence, every natural disaster, every awful thing that has happened since is a direct result.

What was the sin of the garden? It was rebellion. It was pride in its purest form. The Image-bearers were not satisfied with merely bearing the Image…they wanted to be the image. Instead of trusting their loving Creator who had so “fearfully and wonderfully” made them, who had entrusted them with imaging Him to His creation, who had made them king and queen on planet earth, they rejected Him and spurned His love. They sought to oust Him and take His place. They wanted a shot at the title.

As readers of the story, we want to shout, “No! Don’t do it! You don’t know what you are doing!” But lest we too quickly fault our first parents, we see that same act of rebellion repeated legion in our own lives. If man and woman in a perfect environment fail to follow God on their own, what hope would the Israelites have being surrounded by peoples who only sought their ruin. What hope do we have? Our only hope is God. Only He can give us the desire and the follow-through to follow Him. I love that the LORD God (Yahweh Elohim) shows up.

That’s why I love Genesis 3.15…what we couldn’t do for ourselves, God will do, when He sends His Son as the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman. Whose dying words, will be, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!” It’s the key to the entire Bible, the proto-evangelium, the first gospel, the beginning for the search for Messiah. The OT chronicles the search for the Seed and Israel’s failure in following God. The NT tells of us coming and the implications thereof for those who would follow God.

But what about you? Do you find yourself asking like Job, why is this happening to me? Why do bad things happen to good people, and why do good things happen to bad people? Our expectation from the garden is suffering. Those of us who have trusted in Jesus…the seed of the woman…are at war with the seed of the serpent. Guess what side the culture is on? Adam gave up not only his innocence in the fall, but also his right to rule. He gave that to the serpent…“the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”  So those who follow God suffer both the effects of a fallen world, and the attacks of the enemy who is hell-bent on destroying us. But hope is possible because the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman has come and has defeated the Adversary. And now we wait with all of creation for the time when He will come back to set all things right…for the new heavens and the new earth.

My prayer for us this week is that we would recognize the amazing love of God who didn’t give up on us even in our rebellion, but who has pursued us and did what we could not do, provide the way back to Himself through Jesus, the Head-Crushing Seed of the Woman.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster