Thursday, September 29, 2011

Abel's Blood

"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,
to the general assembly
and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,
and to God, the Judge of all,
and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and to the sprinkled blood,
which speaks better than the blood of Abel."

Hebrews 12:22-24

These verses come at the end of a discourse about Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. The author of Hebrews loves to compare law and grace, and in this chapter he contrasts approaching Sinai with fear and trembling and approaching God through the blood of Christ. The reason I want to write about this verse is because of the comparison between the blood of Abel and the blood of Christ.

The last phrase says, "which speaks better than the blood of Abel", inferring that the message of Jesus' blood is better than the message of Abel's blood. So, let's start with asking what Abel's blood is saying.

After He murdered his brother Abel, Cain was approached by God:

"Then the LORD said to Cain,
“Where is Abel your brother?”
And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
He said, “What have you done?
The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground."

Genesis 4:9,10

What was Abel's brother's blood saying? What exactly was the message that the blood of this slain shepherd was shouting? He was crying for justice. His life had been taken unexpectedly and without cause, and Abel's blood was crying out to Almighty God for justice.

Now, Abel was a sinner, just like Cain. But in this story, Cain was the one who was reprimanded by the Lord and told to change his ways. Abel was the obedient one. And in this story, Abel's life was taken from him because of his brother's sinful selfishness and rebellion.

So what does Jesus' blood say? Hebrews 12 says that it has a better message, but let's look at the circumstance first. Jesus wasn't a sinner. He lived a perfect life, was persecuted by the ones who should have recognized Him as God but instead competed for popularity with him, was falsely accused, was illegally tried and hung on a cross.

Then on the cross our sins, our guilt, our shame - our pride, selfishness, anxieties, phobias, ugliness, hatred, rebellion and lust - all of it was placed on Him so that He was no longer perfect, but He became full of sin - He became sin who knew no sin...(2 Cor. 5:21) His blood was shed and had a message as well.

So what did Jesus' blood cry out?


Not justice. Not retaliation or revenge.

But mercy.

A much better message than justice, don't you think?

As recipients of His mercy, may we walk today with gratitude for such a wonderful Savior.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cain and Abel

The next story in Genesis after the fall of man is about two brothers, Cain and Abel. They were the first two sons of Adam and Eve, according to Genesis 4. I am not teaching this story next week for a couple of reasons, But mainly because I had to pick and choose what I would want to present in this Bible survey, and though I LOVE the book of Genesis, I couldn't include all the wonderful stories.

So I figured I would touch on the story here on my blog. Here is a brief synopsis of the account:

Two brothers, one a farmer (Cain), the other a shepherd (Abel), bring offerings to the Lord. Abel and his offering of a lamb were accepted by the Lord, but Cain and his offering were rejected. This upset Cain and his countenance fell and he became angry. This is actually the first biblical account of depression.

So God counsels Cain and tells him that he should try again - "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." But Cain does not heed the Lord's counsel and in a fit of rage, he murders his brother.

Because of his actions, God banishes Cain from his family and sends him out to wander as a vagrant. Cain fears that he will be murdered himself outside the protection of his home, so the Lord put a mark on him so that no one would slay him.

Now, there are two things I want to point out. First, did you notice what God's counsel for depression is? If you do what is right, your countenance will be lifted. Modern psychology today says that you cannot do what is right (be functional in society or your job) until you feel better. But God's counsel is absolutely the OPPOSITE of that - if you do what is right first, your feelings will follow.

Flesh that out a bit - if you are a teacher and are battling depression, often times your grading starts to pile up on you. You don't have the energy to grade after school and in a very short time you find yourself way behind. God says, do your work - force yourself to get going - split your pile into five smaller piles and do one pile each day and by the weekend, it will be finished! How will that make you feel? When you do what's right, your feelings will follow...

And second - people often ask who would kill Cain? Wasn't he the first child born to Adam and Eve? Well, it ends up being a math problem. After Abel died, Adam and Eve had another son, Seth. Genesis 5:3 tells us that Adam was 130 when Seth was born. Since Adam was created with age (not as a newborn), it is possible that Cain was 129 at that point. If Adam and Eve were fruitful for that 130 years, including multiple births, and once their children were of child bearing age, they married and had children, it is possible that by the time of Abel's murder there could have been anywhere from 20,000 to 420,000 people on the earth. (Depending on the age they started to have children.)

All this to say, when Cain makes that complaint, it was a valid complaint.

Enough on Cain...I'll write more on Abel another day...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Final Note on Lucifer

"The LORD God said to the serpent,
Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life..."

Genesis 3:14

For those of you who were at study today, there is one more suggestion I want to make regarding Satan. The verse above is the first half of his curse and it is because of these words the assumption is made that the serpent was a snake. Now, while that may be true because snakes slither on their bellies and probably eat their share of dust, I want to think about what the meaning of these verses could be if the other option were true - that the serpent was simply a name for Satan and this part of the curse was meted out in Satan's life.

For starters, I struggle thinking that a snake was cursed to crawl on its belly because of Satan's sin - did the snake have a will? Did the snake have the choice of whether or not Satan would take up residence and tempt Eve through its skin? It just seems like these curses were brought upon the three characters who had responsibility in the fall and does cursing the snake fit in?

The second half of the curse (about bruising the heel of the Messiah and having his head crushed) is undoubtedly about Satan. So what if the first half is about Satan as well? What if he was cursed to crawl on his belly? What if his wings were clipped or his legs and/or arms were removed? Is it possible that Lucifer was handicapped in the garden? That would certainly feed his anger toward God, wouldn't it?

Okay, today's lesson was long enough...I just forgot to add this little tidbit and wanted to give you one more thing to think if you didn't get enough this morning...

Notes for Lesson Three

Lesson 3 – Fall

Genesis 3

I. A closer look at Marriage

· Woman was created as a ____SUITABLE________ helper – Gen. 2:18

· Woman was ____NOT____ an after thought

· Ephesians 5:22,28,29 – lays out basic marriage instructions

o Husbands ______LOVE___ your wives

o Wives _______SUBMIT_____ to your husbands

· The Perfect Marriage Diagram:




II. Enter Satan – Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19

· He is a _____CREATED________ being

· When did Satan fall? Genesis 1:31-2:1

· Rev. 12:4,9 infers that _____1/3_____of the angels fell with Satan

III. Enter Sin – Genesis 3

· How did Satan approach Eve?

· Why did Satan approach Eve?

· What was the big deal about that tree?

· What was Satan’s bend on the truth?

1. God _____LIED____

2. You can be ____GOD_____

3. You can be the ___LEADER______

· I John 2:16 lays out the components of temptation:

1. Tree was good for food – lust of the ____FLESH_____

2. Tree was pleasant to the eyes – lust of the _____EYES______

3. Tree was able to make her wise – pride of ____LIFE______

· Faith definition: Faith is ______BELIEVING_____ the Word of God and __ACTING____ on it, no matter how I _____FEEL___, because God promises a good ___RESULT______

· Adam and Eve had perfect, sinless communion with God – Genesis 3:8-19

o What did sin do to this fellowship? _BROKE IT___ - Genesis 3:7,8

o What is the result of sin? ___DEATH__ - Romans 5:12; 6:3

o What does sin do to man’s heart? __MAKES IT WICKED____ - Jeremiah 17:9

o Who does sin affect? ___EVERYONE____ - Romans 3:23, Isaiah 64:6

· What was the effect of sin on marriage and life in general?

· Sin broke man’s covenant with God, but God still provided for man – Gen.3:21

· The promise of a Savior – Genesis 3:15


3 accomplishments of sin:

1. _____GUILT____

2. ___CONDEMNATION________

3. _____SEPARATION_____

3 accomplishments of salvation in Christ (Romans 8:33-39)

1. No _____GUILT____

2. No ____CONDEMNATION_______

3. No ____SEPARATION_____

In Christ, we are completely restored!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Few More Eternal Covenant Verses...

John 6:65 - For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father...

I Corinthians 1:18 - For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God...

I Corinthians 1:26-31 - ***This is a good one*** - For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, SO THAT NO MAN MAY BOAST BEFORE GOD. But by HIS DOING you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, just as it is written, LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD...

John 15:16, 19 - You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain...if you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you...

John 10:26-29 - But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand...

II Thessalonians 2:13 - But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth...

Once you grasp this concept, you are going to start seeing it everywhere. When I was young, I once noticed in the margin of my mother's Bible the letters EC. I asked her what that was and she told me whenever she saw the Eternal Covenant in the Bible, she would mark it.

It was everywhere...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Light of the Eternal Covenant

Ephesians 2:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing
in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

This choosing was part of the Eternal Covenant - The Father chose for the Son a people for His own possession - The Father promised to give them to Jesus and Jesus promised to pay the penalty for their sins which would result in their holiness and blameless condition...

In love He predestined us to adoption
as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself,
according to the kind intention of His will,
to the praise of the glory of His grace,
which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

This predestined condition was part of the promise - God's grace would be displayed upon His chosen children freely, paid through the agreement with the Son, all before the foundation of the world was formed...

In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.

Jesus agreed to put on flesh and die for His people - this would bring forgiveness through grace - He would fulfill the covenant of works given through the law on our behalf...

In all wisdom and insight
He made known to us the mystery of His will,
according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
with a view to an administration suitable
to the fullness of the times,
that is, the summing up of all things in Christ,
things in the heavens and things on the earth.

Through His choosing, the blinders are removed so that we can understand His plan and His actions, which God designed to be offered at the exact right moment -
Jesus, the Creator of man would also be the Savior...

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance,
having been predestined according to His purpose
who works all things after the counsel of His will,
to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ
would be to the praise of His glory.

His purpose, His will - we are the recipients of a great inheritance
that was completely out of our reach,
but for Jesus Christ and the Eternal Covenant...

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth,
the gospel of your salvation—having also believed,
you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
who is given as a pledge of our inheritance,
with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession,
to the praise of His glory.

The gospel of our salvation
the sealing of the Holy Spirit
the pledge of our inheritance
the redemption of God's own possession -
All of this was done to accommodate
the fulfillment of the Eternal Covenant...

God's own possession...what a precious description...

Do you see it?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"He Is" by Aaron Jeoffrey

Here is the song I mentioned on Tuesday at Bible study. Thank you, Lori Moeller, for sending this link to me! It's worth the full seven minutes...

Monday, September 12, 2011

His Delight

This is my dad.

As a little girl...yeah...even as an adult...I worked hard to bring him joy.

I think he'd say I didn't need to work at it, but from my end of the relationship, bringing my dad joy was something I wanted to do.

There was something about his laugh - it came from his gut and when he was really happy, you could see it all over his face.

It started when I was little. He wasn't around a lot because he was building his companies - gone from 6 a.m. till 6 p.m., returning tired and worn out. Mom was wise to keep me and my two sisters quiet in the evenings. But I would sit by the television and be the human remote. Changing channels was one way that I could be a help to him. (Yes, this was WAY before remotes were on the scene.)

Dad loved sports, so I became a sports fan. I can remember watching a college football game with him once and he said to me, "You'll remember this moment for the rest of your life because you'll never see a play like that again!" I don't remember the play, but I remember my dad's thrill and excitement - and I got to share that moment with him.

He loved sweets, so I learned to make cookies. I can remember him telling me, "The dough is too dry...or too wet...oh, this one's just right!" Even when he was on a diet, I would figure out how to make him something sweet within the parameters of his program. It didn't always taste that great, but it sure made him smile.

If I could recommend a movie that was up his alley, his eyes would sparkle when watching it. When I directed the children's choir or sang in an ensemble, I would keep an eye on him to see if he was smiling.

Now dad wasn't perfect by any means. We had our rough spots. He was a sinner saved by grace, just as I am, and trust me, I let him down a lot. But here's my point this morning - As his daughter, I had the desire and ability to bring him delight.

Did you know that as children of God we can bring our Heavenly Father delight? Not to earn His affection - He already loves us more than we could ever understand. But the scriptures place God in a Fatherly position so that we can identify with the relationship He offers us.

Proverbs 11:20 says, "The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight."

Proverbs 12:22 says, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight."

Proverbs 15:8 says, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight."

Oh, I want to bring my Father delight! I want to make Him smile, to let Him know how much I love Him by my actions. In everything I do, I want to be able to look at Him and see Him smile. Not because I am earning anything - I can't possibly do that. I can't take off some of my debt by being a good person. My debt is paid by Jesus and I cannot improve on perfection.

But I can bring the Father delight.

And that's a cool way to spend my day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where were you?

9/11 has become the new Kennedy assassination event.

I can remember people saying, "Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?" and then a long story would ensue. It always bothered me that I couldn't remember where I was - I assumed I was at home with my mom, doing something that a young toddler would do.

Then I found out it happened 18 months before I was born - go figure.

Now the question has become, where were you when you heard about the attack?

I was milling around my ladies Bible study room, getting ready for the study to begin. It was 9:15 a.m. on that Tuesday morning and the women were just starting to trickle in. There were two new ladies attending the church at that time, Carla and Lucy. I didn't really know them well. They came bustling in the room and pulled me aside.

"We just heard on the radio that two planes flew into some buildings in New York City. We thought you should know."

I'll never forget the look in their eyes.

What? Two planes? The room was filling with women and there was a bit of a buzz, plus a lot of confusion - were there two planes or did a plane hit two buildings? As I quieted the women down to start the study, we decided to pray for the families of the people on the planes and for the people in the buildings.

Ten minutes later our building manager knocked on the door. The Pentagon was also hit. I think that's when it hit me. I don't know why it took me so long but hearing that Washington was a target made my heart sink into my stomach. We stopped the study and prayed for President Bush and our leaders. We prayed for the families again and we prayed for ourselves. It was a very strange feeling.

We did finish the study that morning. I can remember calling Dave on the way home. He had gone and picked up our son at the local high school. They assured him in the office that Calvin was safe, but Dave said to them, "He needs to watch the coverage of this. This is a turning point in the history of our nation."

The rest of the day we all sat glued to the television. Do you remember when the towers fell? Do you remember the smoke and debris filling the streets? Do you remember the people running for their lives? How about the brave fire fighters who risked and lost their lives that day? What about all the amateur camera footage? The people holding pictures of their loved ones as volunteers sifted through the rubble?

What a time for our nation.

So, please comment for me. Tell me where you were when you heard about the attack. Keep it short, but this is a good exercise in remembering.

One final note - the verse that stayed in my mind during those initial days was from II Timothy 1:7 - "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline." I told my ladies at study, "We are believers in Jesus Christ. We have nothing to fear. The world needs to see a different reaction from us that what they are seeing around them."

It was a powerful time for a testimony, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Go Ahead - Be Fanatical

Last night Dave and I watched a pretty stupid movie. We thought it would be funny, but it was hardly mediocre. I won't even share the name because it was that bad. However, I do want to share a few things that I learned.

"Christian" has become a negative word in today's society.

As a matter of fact, "Christian" is normally prefaced with the word "fanatical".

One of the characters in the movie last night was a Christian. She littered her speech with hallelujah and praise God, was a staunch creationist, vehemently and angrily defended her beliefs, never cursed, swore or "fornicated", and spoke with a somewhat King James type vocabulary.

Until she was convinced that God didn't exist.

Then suddenly everything she had lived for was thrown out the window. Apparently it is satisfying to make fun of Christians and then show them converting to atheism, which apparently means to desire to "fornicate" and swear at will.

This character was really just a side note, but it was definitely meant to be comical. At one point in the movie the comment was made about her fanatical and angry Christian preacher/father, "Why is it they never learn?"

So here comes the moment of honesty - a lot of the things that this character said when she was still a Christian are things that I have said or that I have heard readily said in the church. The writers may have exaggerated the character, but they were accurate in their usage of our terminology and beliefs.

Here's what I learned:
  • We are not responsible for what people do with our message
  • We can't let movies and Hollywood portrayals of us place a bushel over our light
  • If we're labelled "fanatical" we're probably doing what we're called to do
  • If we're not considered fanatical, we may be being too quiet with our faith
  • Eternity is a long time for us to not speak about Jesus Christ
  • Fornicating and swearing really isn't as glamorous as Hollywood wants it to be
  • We have been given the Great Commission - we are responsible for the message, God is responsible for salvation
  • The world's opinion of us is changing for the worse, which will only make our job harder - that's okay because if God is for us, who can be against us?
So, I guess even rotten movies can be educational. Remember, "if the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you..." John 15:18. Their angst is towards God, towards His precious Son and the Holy Spirit. We're in good company...
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord..." Psalm 150:6