1 Corinthians 16:7 | Who Controls Your Day?

How do you plan your day, week, month? My wife keeps a physical calendar and she writes on the calendar all the events and schedules that we have upcoming. She likes the physical and visual view of that calendar. For work I keep my plans organized in my email. I know what I need to work on based on what email I have not acted on or completed yet. The list never ends and the weekends are always full. I know that the next two weekend are booked and I will need to return to work to recover from the weekends.

For all the planning and all the work I want to remind myself that it is all in vain outside of God. All my plans. All of my vision statements. All my day to day. All of my schedules could be derailed and stopped cold in an instant.  

For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 1 Corinthians 16:7 ESV

All of my everything rests on “if the Lord permits”. We think we are in control and when we are proven to not be in control, we start having anxiety attacks. As I write this, I have a full-blown migraine because I have been so busy the last week, have eaten poorly, and have not slept well. It all catches up with us sooner or later. My planning and busyness has reached the limits of my physical self.

What does God allow and how does “if the Lord permits” impact life? A tour through the Bible will show God allowing and permitting many things. I have below four ways that the Lord permits us to live life and strangely some of them are not good for us.

#1 Basic laws of nature show the limits he has placed on people.

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. Proverbs 27:12 ESV

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 ESV

God has placed laws of human nature on our hearts. If you do stupid things then you will be allowed stupid consequences. As mentioned above I have pushed physically too much and I have eaten terribly and the consequence is that I feel terrible right now while I write this letter. If I make lies and deceit a cornerstone of my life then I will reap the “woes” of evil in my life. These are the rules God put in place when he created and they are just as real and just as consequential as the physical laws of nature like gravity.

#2 Your knowledge of who God is, your faith in him, are a gift given by God.

Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3 ESV

Do you recognize Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father’s work in your life? The very fact that you know who He is and understand that this Creator has given you life is “permitted” by God himself toward you. Be thankful of this foundational knowledge. But even more than that seek a greater understanding of God. A deeper fellowship with Him each day is a blessing to be cherished. God is generous to all who seek him. He will give you wisdom if you ask him.

#3 Feeling a call to work for God? Don’t wait until you got it all figured out. Start now! God may not give you that chance again.

21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21-22 ESV

Have you known the person who talks a good spiritual game but their life does not reflect that talk? For example, someone who wants to serve those less fortunate might say something like “One day I will have saved enough or prepared enough to go off and serve God and others”. This verse where the Disciple said to Jesus, I want to follow you but let me bury my father first has what seems like a harsh response from Jesus. The time is now. Jesus found this disciple of no use. The disciple wanted to wait 5 or 10 years for his father to pass and then he would follow Jesus. Too late for that man and besides he would always have an excuse. If you want to serve Christ, he wants your focus now… not later. Jump if that call is on your heart.

#4 Don’t ignore God’s perfect standard just because he permits bad behavior in a sin cursed world.

And Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. Matthew 19:3-8 ESV

Look at this exchange between Jesus and the Jews. God made man and women to be married for life. But people change and they lust after something better so they want a divorce. So, God put in provisions for divorce not because God thinks divorce is good but because people are evil. Because of our sins he allows or permits life to unfold in less than perfect ways. God “permits” less than righteous options in life but that does not mean we should go in that direction. Plus there are still the negative consequences of human nature that play out even in these “permitted” options. There is a Biblically permitted view of having multiple wives, slavery, murder, and all kinds of bad behavior but that is not because God views them right and perfect. He “permits” this behavior because he knows we are sinners.

Acknowledge all the ways that God permits his grace and mercy to find you in your daily life. Be grateful that you were able to rise from bed and go about your life. Thank him for everything big and small because you would have none of it apart from God.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 ESV

Exodus 12:11 | Door to Mercy

One of the most fearful, memorable, and horrifying judgments on this present earth by God is found in the final plague against Egypt when Moses at the direction of God demanded that Egypt let the Hebrew people leave to worship God. The King of Egypt was stuck in this awful cycle of rebellion, stubbornness, and arrogance against God due to his own selfish and evil nature. In this final plague Pharaoh comes to the end of himself and he finds God’s crushing judgement on his entire worldview.

6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. Exodus 11:6 ESV  

God’s wrath is not looked upon kindly by modern man and many Christians willfully overlook God’s judgment to think and speak only on God’s love. But God’s love is not true unless God’s judgment is also sound. God’s judgment on Egypt is juxtaposed against his mercy for Israel here at this moment in history as recorded in Exodus 11 and 12.

God’s Judgement:

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. Exodus 12:12 ESV

In this final plague where the firstborn in every household dies in one terrifying night God communicates clearly that this death is a result of his judgement on Egypt. They are being judged as we all will be judged based on the life lived in service to self or stuff apart from God who created us. Egypt put their trust in false god’s that promote selfishness and hedonism. Egypt killed the first born of the Hebrew people out of selfish desire to remain in control. Egypt the same Egypt that is keeping as slaves the people of Israel deserved this judgment. It not my judgement or the judgment of the Hebrews or modern man’s judgment but it is the perfect righteous judgement of God who is the creator of all things.

God is also allowing this judgment on Egypt to be an example to the Hebrews and indeed the rest of history since we are still to this day discussing this terrible event and why it happened. God has chosen this moment with Egypt and Israel to reintroduce himself in a permanent way. God is taking control of the narrative and altering the course of human history. From this moment forward people will know God the one true God. No longer will people be ignorant of their Creator.

God’s Love:

11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. Exodus 12:11 ESV

God’s love is found in His mercy. The Hebrews could have been left to the same fate as the Egyptians. But God provided an undeserved way of grace. If the people would follow his instructions and listen to His voice, they could find Passover from the judgment to come.

God instructed them to sacrifice a lamb for each household. The blood of this lamb placed on the doorframe of the house would allow the angel to Passover them in the moment of judgment. Yet there was more to God’s instructions that speaks to us today. There is a realization that this meal must be eaten in haste with nothing left for tomorrow because God is leading those that will submit to his word out of the world and they should be ready to go as one just passing through. Don’t put down the kind of roots that fools us into believing that this is our one best life. But stand with cloak on and staff in hand ready for the life with God that awaits. The Passover meal represents how they should live as one covered by the blood of the lamb.

My Response:

…For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed… 1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

All that happened as recorded in Exodus is but a sample of the perfect justice and perfect love that God is working out to a final conclusion. Judgement is coming on those who willfully live lives in service to their own selfish desires. Our sin will be judged by God just as Egypt was judged. All are guilty of sin before God. I am not here to judge others because I stand condemned as well. Yet because God is also perfect in His love, He provided a perfect Passover lamb in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The blood of this lamb is available but it will only cover households that want to receive and trust God. The Hebrews received the instruction of Moses and were saved. The Egyptians rejected those instructions to trust in their own ways and were condemned by their own actions.

My response to God’s instruction is to yield to Jesus and partake in the grace and mercy God poured out in his Son. I am covered by the blood of the lamb and judgement will Passover me not because of my worth but because of my faith in God’s worth.

Genesis 4:7 | God’s Mercy to a Murderer

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God after the fall continued his fellowship with Adam, Eve, and their Children. I imagine that the relationship was similar to that of the days in the garden where God would be present in some form building a relationship with Adam and Eve. This side of the fall and curse however resulted in need for an offering for sin and an acknowledgment of how one’s sins break the relationship with God. Eve’s first two sons Cain and Abel are recorded providing offerings to God as I would assume Adam and Eve had been doing as well. Their offering may have been modeled after what God did for Adam and Eve after the original sin where God himself killed an animal to provide skin covering for their shame.

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:21 ESV

The outcome of these offerings from Cain and Abel should remind all of just how quickly sin escalates in the heart of men and how it impacts their family and God’s relationship with the creation.

6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. Genesis 4:6-10 ESV

Cain and Abel both provided offerings to God however Abel’s offering was accepted by God and Cain’s offering was not. The acceptance of Abel’s offering resulted in fellowship with God the Creator. In fact the next time this kind of offering is mentioned within the Bible is when God was setting up the regular rules of engagement to Moses and Aaron.

41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. Exodus 29:41-42 ESV

The offering that Abel provided allowed him to meet and speak with God and God accepted the offering. Cain’s offering was rejected but still in God’s mercy and grace he continued the relationship with Cain speaking directly to him to encourage him to do the right thing if he wanted acceptance. Most likely God rejected Cain’s offering because of a heart and motive issue and he warns Cain that sin is “crouching at the door”.

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15 ESV

What Cain should have done is repent of the anger in his heart and turn toward God to do what he knew would be the right thing to do. God clearly indicates that He would have accepted Cain. Even after Cain had killed his own brother God in a display of undeserved mercy gives Cain an opportunity to repent for what had happened, but Cain rejects the grace of that moment by claiming to not know about what happened to Abel. God knew what happened so the questioning from God to Cain is an opportunity for Cain to turn away from the sinful path and to restore the relationship.

God provides that same opportunity for people today. While we are all sinners that deserve death because of our rebellion, God has provided his own substitutionary payment. He provided an offering we could not provide ourselves so that we can be like Abel standing before the Creator accepted and in fellowship. God’s advice to Cain is still true to people today and even more so because God has revealed his saving grace from sin in Christ.

7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him… 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:7-8; 14 ESV

 

Genesis 3:17 | The Curse with a Promise

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Genesis chapter three is a pivotal entry into the history of creation. It is the event that changed the course of mankind and explains why the world is the way it is today. Without Genesis chapter three it would be impossible to understand the evil and hardships of this present world. What happened then that directly links to now is that the first man and woman living in a perfect habitat broke fellowship with their Creator. Two people without a care or want found the one thing that was off limits and started a rebellion that is still ongoing today.

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:2-5 ESV

Why is there evil in the world? Why is life hard? Why is there death? Why are so many relationships difficult or strained? Why is there war? Why would a loving God create such a world that we see today? The answers to these and many like them are found here in chapter three as the consequence of what happened on that day at the beginning of the created world.

As a result of what our grandparents Adam and Eve did on that fateful day God leveled out three curses one to each participant in this first transgression. I will cover the First curse to Satan and Third curse to Adam in this post and leave the second curse to Eve for another time. The Third curse that was leveled that day was on Adam and this curse impacts all of the created world.

17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19 ESV

In this curse there are three parts that impact humankind in general and make up the order of the fallen world we live in. First is that Humans would live in pain and hard work all the days of our lives. The ground will not give to us without work and perseverance. Even then what we work for will be fraught with thorns and disease. Imagine the created world that God had looked at in the beginning and saw as good has now become a source of pain and toil for all that live in it.

20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. Ecclesiastes 2:20 ESV

Second Humankind will face death itself. We once were created to live forever with God in the perfect world, but now it is a guarantee that we will return to the dust from where we came. I can’t imagine the weight of such a concept on Adam since before this moment death would have only been an abstract idea and not a reality in the perfect world that God had created.

For the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23a ESV

Third this curse impacts more than just Adam and Eve it impacts all of creation including the universe itself. The weight of sin and rebellion to the Creator is so serious and is so destructive that the entire universe has fallen. A sun that was created to live forever will one day fail. We see evidence of the failure when looking out into the universe and see stars that have exploded causing destruction in all directions. A current fear of mankind is that one day an asteroid could crash into this planet ending all life. What had once been created for perfection and eternity is now temporary.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Romans 8:20-22 ESV

However devastating this curse was to Adam and to everyone reading this post the First curse God made was to Satan and in this curse we find the present hope we have Christ.

14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 ESV

There are two curses in this section that we should take note of. First is the curse that all animals must endure along with everything else. Have you ever wondered why God made the mosquito? They are irritating and they carry disease. Why would God have looked at the mosquito and thought to himself this is good? The result here is that animals and insects are all under the curse. Whatever their original purpose they are now only twisted curse infused replicas of the original. Animals were not originally created to kill and hunt each other. There was no death before these curses.

The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. Isaiah 65:25 ESV

Second and take note of this is the promise of God to undo the harm Satan intended. Through the offspring of Eve God will strike a crushing blow to Satan’s head and while the blow will be painful to the offspring of Eve it will not be fatal to this future person of promise.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 ESV

This curse to Satan is a promise to us that God would restore what was broken. The curse that God laid out is actually a blessing because this present world must be destroyed in order to create a new heaven and new earth free from the broken relationship that was caused here in chapter three. Without the curse and the eventual destruction of what had once been perfect we would live on forever in pain and toil forever struggling without a relationship with our maker.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV

23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23 ESV

We live in a brief moment of grace that God has provided in this cursed and dying world. Turn from your rebellion against God and seek salvation in the promised savior. Our hope and our future lies only in Christ and the restoration he provides from what happened to creation so many years ago.