Genesis 26:22 | No More Time or Space

Getting married and having children is a very personal and individual choice. There is nothing wrong with having or not having kids or having only a couple vs a bunch. But there is a trend in society that would disagree with me and argues that having a large family or having any kids at all is wrong and immoral.

For the most part this trend is not a trend to have fewer children but it is a trend to not have any children at all. There are many reasons for this but my thought is that the underlying reason for not having children is because these young adults never grew up in the first place. They flock to the city and they want to have fun. Kids are inconvenient and expensive. Cities where all the fun happens are not kid friendly. Also, kids put a damper on trips around the world. How can one travel if there are kids to be cared for? Who wants that?

Of course, not having children would never be admitted to in such terms as I have described above and some reading this are offended at me for stating the choice in those terms. Therefore, we must have a better reason for not having children. The rationalization must be noble and moral sounding so as to provide cover for one’s own rebellion regarding not having children. When I was younger the reason to not have kids was that the world is evil and so it would be wrong to bring kids into a terrible society. This was a rare comment and few agreed. The current generations have a much more sophisticated line of thinking. Here it goes… The world is going to end due to climate change so it would be a terrible idea to bring kids into this world but it would also be immoral since these same kids would add to the death of the planet. If this rationalization sounds preposterous then take a second look at just how mainstream the idea has become as found here in the New York Times or the virtue signal given off by the royal couple Harry and Megan when they announced that they will self-limit to just two children for the climate’s sake.

22 And [Isaac] moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” Genesis 26:22 ESV

In the Bible we never see such an idea so let me start with Isaac. He had run into an issue. His household and flocks had been blessed by God so much that everyone around him was terrified at the wealth and power that he had accumulated. His neighbors were filling up his watering holes with dirt and were fighting with him over every spot he tried to dig a new well. So, Isaac kept moving until he reached a place that was not claimed by anyone else. He named this spot Rehoboth which means wide spaces and he gave God credit for the location and the blessings of the future growth into this Rehoboth. This is the biblical view of life. God wants for people to grow and expand filling the earth.

When God created Adam and Eve he gave them a command to multiply.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 ESV

When God released Noah from the Arc to walk on the earth after the flood God gave Noah the same command to multiply.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 9:1 ESV

That command to multiply has not been rescinded and the earth, God’s amazing creation, is not yet at capacity. There are many blessings given by God around having children and growing families. I am not a person with a large family and I am not advocating if one does not have a large family that they have failed at something. However I also agree with the joke/saying “I never met anyone on their death bed that said they wished they had less children.”

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Psalms 127:3-4 MSG

This is the order of things that God has put in place. He made us to multiply and only in our rebellion from him would we embrace an idea to kill babies in the womb or better yet to avoid having them at all. So let me come back to the argument at hand. Should we stop having children because the world going to end because of our presence?

First we can all agree that the world is going to end. This world is temporary. The earth will not last forever and it is in a state of decay. This is because God cursed creation as a result of sin. He did this in order to recreate and restore the heavens and the earth in perfect glory. Second God’s plans and his timing are unknown to us. Our contribution to the end of the planet is only impacted by prayer and waiting on God for his return. God is in control. People having babies or not having babies is not going to leave change God’s timeline.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV

Genesis 25:23 | Will God Claim You?

I was born into an interesting family. Interesting to me but not wealthy or famous. My dad is from one part of the country and during a war he was stationed in another part of the country where my mother lived. These two families from across the country did not mix very much because of the distance and this merger was long before the invent of the internet and social media. I grew up spending time in both worlds and identify with both families. I was born into these families and they are a part of who I am.

At the beginning of human history God brings about the nations through the families of very interesting individuals. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob form the primary linage of the Jewish people a lineage that provides a savior for the entire world, Jesus. What is interesting is that all of the children of Abraham form the foundation of future nations and one example of that is captured in the promise God made to Rebekah, who is Isaac’s wife, about twins that are inside her body.

23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23 ESV

There is so much interesting about these twins who will be very different from each other with one being much stronger than the other. Imagine God telling you that your children will be the fathers of nations? Entire nations will be born from this family. God also makes an even more fascinating qualification about Jacob one of the twins and his parents before him. God claims to be their God. Normally someone will claim to worship or serve a certain God, but God himself claims that he is the God of one of these twins Jacob.

Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament God describes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in this peculiar way. When God revealed himself to Moses through the burning bush, he told Moses that he is the same God that Moses’ fathers knew.

32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. Acts 7:32 ESV

First God uses the present tense to describe his relationship with these patriarchs. “I am” the God of your father not “I was” the God of your father. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob while dead to this world are alive with God in heaven. God knows them still and continues on in his relationship with them. Second God always speaks of the individual relationship he has with each of them. Abraham’s relationship with God was not Isaac’s relationship. Isaac knew God and held his own relationship with God and the same is true with Jacob. Jacob never knew Abraham but Jacob worshiped and loved the same God. Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, did not know God in this way and God never writes that he is the God of Esau.

12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:12-13 ESV

It is a shocking revelation to hear that God “hated” Esau. We dislike to thinking in these terms about God and his thoughts towards us but it is a reality. God and Esau are estranged because of sin but Jacob even in spite of his sins is loved by God. There is a relationship present where Jacob draws near to God and followed in the ways that God wanted for him. Esau did not have a relationship and he did not build a relationship with God.

Today right now as a follower of Christ and a Christian saved by Jesus I know that God loves me. I know that God is my God. Not because of any good deeds, because my sins are great, but because Jesus died to save me. Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham are loved by God because of their faith. I am able to share in this faith because of Jesus. When confronted by God in his burning bush moment Moses believed what God told him. Each of us today has an opportunity to respond to God in faith and trust him. We each have before us the love letter from God to human kind as found in the Bible. Will we believe God as Jacob did? Will we individually be born into this eternal family? Will God be your God? Or like Esau will we be limited to an earthly family and nation? Like Esau will God never claim to be our God?

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 ESV

Genesis 22:2 | Holding Nothing Back

God is demanding and he asks more of me than I want to give sometimes. I recognize that I am a terrible selfish hypocritical Christian. I want all the benefits of being a child of God but I want none of the responsibility and I want none of the difficulties. But God never asks unreasonable things of me. He asks me to be giving and not selfish and I find that difficult. He wants only what is best and at the end of the day I want only to worship and love him. There is a famous moment in Genesis where God asks something unreasonable of Abraham. It would be an unreasonable request of me but Abraham’s life has been leading up to this moment. Because Abraham, who is the father of faith, has built a life that does exactly what God asks of him.

2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2 ESV

Be horrified at the request if you must but don’t judge God with ill intent. There are a few things we need to understand before we judge God incorrectly. We need to understand God’s place and our role in His world to fully grasp how serious God is about reconciling humanity to him as creator.

First the question naturally arises that God is asking Abraham to do something that is evil or against God’s own law. But we need to remember the context. Abraham lived before the nation of Israel is created. The nation state laws of how to worship God had not been written. But Abraham knows how to approach God. He knows right from wrong and has learned directly from his family leading all the way back to Adam. Laws like marrying a close relative have not been put in place (Abraham is married to his half-sister). Moses is not yet born to accept the Ten Commandments from God. So technically there is no law from God against what he has requested at this point in history. Abraham however does not need a law to know that God values life and this request is out of the ordinary. Abraham has a lifetime following God and God had proven himself to be faithful in everything he had ever promised Abraham. If this is what God wanted then Abraham knows that the miraculous is around the corner.

The second thing that stands out is that we are here for God not for ourselves. God gave Isaac to Abraham and if this is God’s plan to accomplish his promises then Abraham has learned to trust and obey. Jesus put it in these terms to the disciples.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

Now some might say God is an ego and God is all about himself. My response is YES! As Creator who made everything to worship him and him alone he is worthy of that adoration. An ego trip is someone who has a beginning and an end demanding undeserved attention. God is not a man or something created. Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is the Creator of time itself. We all exist because of him.

36 And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:36-40 ESV

Finally, God has never asked of anyone something he himself has not already done or would be willing to do himself. The epistle Hebrews makes a great point about Jesus. He is a priest who can sympathize with each of us because he has experienced temptation, sorrow, pain, and death. Jesus has experienced first hand rejection and he knows how hard it is to be poor and in want.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV

God asked the unreasonable of Abraham a most horrifying task. Yet that is exactly what God did for you and me. He gave up his own son so that we might have life. God did not have Abraham actually go through with the request but God himself did sacrifice Jesus his own son on the cross. Isaac could not be that sacrifice but Jesus the son of God would be that perfect sacrifice.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17 ESV

God has not withheld anything. He is the creator who has made life, salvation, and grace available to all who would trust him. Abraham loved God so much that he would not even withhold his own son from God. God loves us so much that he did give Jesus for us. Would that we all yield to this moment of grace and proclaim Jesus King and Lord of all.

Genesis 21:11 | Displeasing Choices

Christianity is “sold” as something that will make one happy. So, what happens when that bill of goods turns out to cause conflict and places you in a no-win situation? An interesting situation just like that happened to a women’s soccer star who choose to withdraw from playing on the women’s national team rather than play in a game that required her to wear a Pride teamed jersey. Being invited to play on the national team was probably a dream come true. In a personal social media post, she says she prayed about the choice for 3 days and then walked away from playing on the national team. While being a christian means we must love everyone she felt conflicted that wearing a jersey like this crossed a line. While it is possible to love others one may not always agree with she also did not feel it was her duty, that the national women’s soccer team was asking of her, to celebrate everything that the pride flag represents. So, what happens when trying to live for Christ is crushing and displeasing. What happens when choices are presented that will not make one happy as a Christian?

Abraham, the father of faith, faced a terrible choice that made him very unhappy. Following what God wanted caused him untold loss and grief. Abraham had a son with his wife’s slave. I know this statement sounds terrible to our modern ears and even in this time thousands of years ago what Abraham did to have this son was not right before God yet the reality is that he has a son by this woman who is not his wife. When his wife Sarah has her own son she instantly becomes jealous and protective of this newborn over the son of her servant. Sarah’s motivation is selfish but she is not wrong. Human nature being what it is these two sons would eventually be at odds over who would be an heir to the promises of God and the wealth of Abraham’s household. Sarah demanded that Abraham send his other son away to prevent this future conflict.  

11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. Genesis 21:11 ESV

Abraham was not happy about what his wife is demanding. I have no doubt that he was proud of his first son and loved him. How could he not. God delivers bad news to Abraham…

12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. Genesis 21:12 ESV

There is no way this made him “happy” like what is sold to some about Christ. Just choose Jesus he will make your life better is not always true. Choosing Jesus will make life harder for some. This soccer player must have felt like she was in a situation that had only unhappy choices. Peace in her spirit by choosing Jesus or sadness to let her dream to play on the national team go. Not to mention the grief she will receive from her teammates and the public at large. But that is nothing compared to a business executive living in a culture of bribes to get things done becomes a follower of Christ and looses out on all business because the executive is convicted by God about the sinful nature of bribes. Worse yet what about those Christians who were killed in front of cameras by ISIS? Renounce Jesus or choose death. That is a very displeasing choice.

23 And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? Luke 9:23-25 ESV

Abraham could have rejected God’s direction to send the boy away. It was a no-win situation for Abraham. He would not have any part in his own son’s life. The wounds might never heal. But he denied himself and gained life for all of us today. Through Sarah’s son the second born to Abraham is a family that leads to birth of Jesus. From even this moment God was directing history to save humanity from our sins. Today each of us has a chance to throw our broken lives at the mercy of God and gain not this world and the success of what the world values but gain life in eternity with God the maker of heaven and earth. God tells Abraham as well as us today “Be not displeased” at the tuff choices or the self-denial for through me you will be saved. When this short life ends those in Christ will live for eternity with God in heaven.

Genesis 15:12 | Glory after the Darkness

Abraham has a dream and it is a very normal dream to have children and build on the land where he lives. God has promised Abraham that his offspring would inherit the land yet Abraham is getting older and he had no children. Abraham has done the hard work of waiting and trusting God. We are told that Abraham’s trust in God is what made Abraham righteous. One can imagine the pressure of those around Abraham fighting for a spot to inherit all that he has accumulated because obviously God had failed Abraham.

“I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” Genesis 15:7-8 ESV

God assures Abraham that he will have an inheritance and this land will belong to his children. But Abraham asks for more from God than an assurance. How will he know that God’s promise is real when he does not even have so much as a child that he can see with his own eyes? God responds with a vision of the future and this vision is described as “dreadful” for Abraham.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Genesis 15:12 ESV

Just as Christ had to endure the cross before his glory God presents to Abraham a full picture of what will happen for generations after Abraham is gone. Abraham is told about Egypt and slavery. He is told about the Exodus and then after more generations the people, Abraham’s people, would inherit the land just as God promised.  

13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:13-16 ESV

It may have been a shock to Abraham if he was thinking the inheritance would be immediate. But within this vision it is clear that God is going to do all this. God is in control. History will be ugly and messy but it will be accomplished just as God desires. Abraham only needs to wait and watch.

Jesus had much of a similar situation trying to explain to the disciples that there would be darkness before glory. The disciples were excited and hopeful at the idea that Jesus would be a king. Jesus would kick Rome out of the country and bring Jerusalem back to glory. They knew God had promised to do that but they could not grasp the idea that God has a longer-term plan at play.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Matthew 16:21-22 ESV

Abraham waiting and watching was all that was required. Peter only needed to wait and watch to see the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. God has promised and God will deliver. When I look back at my life there has been much anxiety and desire for certain things. But truth be told much of that was wasted energy because God had already gone before me and God had already prepared a life for me in advance. After the wait and after the storm God will be glorified and we who are his children will after the wait and after the storm be eternally with our father and creator.

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Hebrews 10:12 ESV

Genesis 14:22 | The Priestly King

There is so much packed into the brief narrative in Genesis Chapter 14. An entire epic could be told from this one chapter. First there is a war involving that infamous city Sodom where they are overtaken by rival kings. Then there is Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who is captured in this skirmish. Then there is Abraham coming to the rescue with a band of 300 men from his own household. Abraham not only rescues his nephew Lot but the king of Sodom and his people. As if that were not interesting enough after the victory a mysterious previously unheard-of priestly king shows up to congratulate and bless Abraham. In return Abraham gives this priestly king a “tenth” of everything!

There is so much between the lines that we are left to think on. If Abraham had 300 fighting men how many did the kings he defeated have? I imagine that his force was much smaller. Abraham did not live in a city and he was not recognized as a king the way the nations forming around him were building.

In the midst of this narrative I am struck by this interaction between Abraham and the king of Sodom.  

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ Genesis 14:22-23 ESV

The king of Sodom is grateful to Abraham. He wants only his people returned and based on what is right in the spoils of war encourages Abraham to keep anything else he wants. Abraham tells him that he will not keep even the strap of a sandal that belongs to the city of Sodom. Now what strikes me is that Abraham gives us an insight into the preparations he made before marching into battle.

We are given a glimpse into a shrewd leader of his house hold who kept a defense force ready be called up in a harsh lawless world. So, we know Abraham has capabilities physically but we also see that Abraham was prepared spiritually. He tells the king of Sodom that before going to battle he made a promise to God that he would not take the spoils. Was this because of something God asked him to promise? The way Abraham states this is like God has told him he is going to win but he wants him to promise to not take a thing because Sodom is not to be trusted. Success and wealth will be given to him by God not wealth that comes from the world. Abraham “lifted” his hand to God and agreed to the plan.

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:18-20 ESV

The second thing that jumps out is this mysterious figure of Melchizedek the king of Salem who is recognized as “priest of God Most High”. There are some instant facts that jump out. 1) The first priest mentioned in the Bible. 2) He is both a king and a priest which is significant 3) Abraham gives him a “tenth of everything” with the implication that Abraham gave this priestly king 10% of all of his existing wealth not the spoils of war since we have already recognized that Abraham did not take any spoils of war. Like I stated earlier there is so much packed into this short narrative.

The fact that Melchizedek is both priest and king is significant and worth exploring.

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1-3 ESV

Melchizedek is recognized as a resembling Jesus who is the only other priest and king. In the organization of the nation of Israel the kings and priest were not the same. The priest would appoint a king based on God’s direction. There was a separation of duties. Even today the Government and the Church are separate by design. Christ came to establish a church with his death on the cross but when he comes a second time he will return as a king bringing all nations and people into his authority.

Abraham after the success of war is blessed by a Christ like person and his reaction is to submit to this authority and give him a tenth of “everything”. Melchizedek is a surprise and Abraham recognizes God’s presence. The implication from the author of Hebrews is that Melchizedek has no father or mother and came just for this moment to Abraham to bless him. The implication is that Melchizedek is Christ in a moment before his birth. If this seems to be a surprise it should not because God is always at work intervening and directing the lives of people.

15 [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20 ESV

Jesus is the first of all creation. The image of the invisible God. God made himself into the form of a man Melchizedek, king of Salem which “by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace” (Hebrews 7:2 ESV). And Abraham recognized him as head of the church and glorified him as God. We who live in this moment of grace and peace with God have a clearer revelation of who Jesus is and what he has done for us to reconcile all things to himself than what was available to Abraham. Dear reader if you have not already done so is now the time to be reconciled to the priestly king who created us and gave us life? He is near if you will draw near to him and recognize him.

Genesis 12:1 | Step out in Faith

A famous concept and statement is “Step out in faith”. It means that one will take a physical action based on an in immaterial belief and this statement is applied to all kinds of life situations. Stepping out of an airplane with a parachute would be a moment of faith for me. I know intellectually how the parachute works but that moment of stepping out of the perfectly good airplane into a free fall requires some kind of faith that I don’t have. Taking a new job requires a step of faith especially if one quits a perfectly good paying job to try something new. The first time I moved to a new job my anxiety went up because all I had was a letter proposing a start date with the new company and on faith I was writing a letter of resignation for my current job. What if this letter for the new job is not real? What if they back out and I am left with no job at all? I was stepping out in faith and the reality made me nervous. Steps of faith are moment of life defining challenges. They are not quickly forgotten and taking that step of faith requires something more than passive observation. A physical action based on an intangible belief. The Bible contains many of these examples and they have been inspirational and challenging to me.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1 ESV

In the beginning of the world before the establishment of strong central governments God asks Abraham to leave the security of his family’s home and his kinsman’s protection to travel to a location not yet revealed. God asked Abraham to take a step of faith.

6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Galatians 3:6 ESV

God loved Abraham not because he was a “good” person or because he followed the law (the ten commandments will not be written for at least 400 more years), God loved Abraham because Abraham trusted God and he demonstrated that trust by stepping out in faith.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8 ESV

There are many biblical examples of stepping out in faith. This faith did not require that one clean their life up first or that they have everything worked out. Many times, the stepping out in faith is messy and stressful and there is nothing messier than Peter stepping out of the boat in faith.

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31 ESV

Bold Peter is the only Disciple who even attempted to get out of the boat in the storm and how many times has the reader heard God asking something that is impossible and scary? Peter got out of the boat and “walked on water” which is more than anyone else in history can say. Taking that first step of faith may not be the hardest part for some but then when the reality and the harshness of the situation comes flooding in it may be even more difficult to stay the course. When Abraham left home one wonders if he missed those comforts? Did he encounter difficulties or hardships that might have made him want to return? Peter was overcome by the realization that he did not step out of a boat on calm waters but in the middle of a storm and choppy waves. Jesus stepped in and asked him a question. What happened to your faith? Why did you doubt?

I have taken many steps of faith in my life and when the next step comes I will be able to look back and see that God, Jesus, has been faithful to take care of me in that transition between what was and what he has called me to be. Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I go kicking and screaming. Sometimes I don’t take that step right away. But I know intellectually Christ is faithful and true. If I will take the step he will be there just like he was with Peter to “immediately reach out his hand” the moment I need him.

For some reading this God is calling you to take a first step with him. That first step of action is scary but it is a step in which God will be there and he will be pleased. He is calling you to be in relationship and that step will be credited to you as righteousness because he asked you to step out in faith for him.

20 No unbelief made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20-22 ESV

Galatians 3:23 | Under Guard

Anyone who has ever become entangled with the government criminal process will understand just how difficult it is to meet all of the demands placed on individuals by judges, law enforcement, and the uncaring underbelly of bureaucracy. Even after serving a sentence of imprisonment there may be some kind of house arrest or limits on movement. There are fines and fees that must be paid endlessly for all the bureaucracy. The individual now also has a record that will follow them around hindering employment or causing grief with any future interactions with law enforcement. To those without strong family support, those without strong motivation to rise above, or even those who have no strong examples on how to move forward it can all seem very self-defeating like it is a trap that one can never be free of. Paul the primary author of the New Testament lived this kind of life of imprisonment at the hands of the Roman government. He uses this firsthand experience of imprisonment and abuse to explain how the law and faith work in the life of a Christian.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. Galatians 3:23 ESV

The laws of God, think the 10 commandments, hang over the head of every person ever born. Murder (hate), lies, theft, and not honoring God our creator to name a few are laws that every person ever born has broken repeatedly. In a past conversation someone told me that as long as we follow the ten commandments all will be good with God. I asked the person to list the ten commandments for me. The person became nervous because they did not know all ten. How can a law we don’t study or know be a law that we can follow to be right with God? Paul tells us that we are under house arrest because of the law. The word he used here actually means “to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight” (Strong’s G5432). The physical breaking of the law of God imprisons us spiritually. We can’t flee and we can’t get away from it. Living life anyway you want and as the youth of today like to say living “my truth” does not free anyone from the imprisonment of the law. The law is written to prove to us how broken and rebellious we are toward God who created us. The law represents a problem we have with God. We are entangled in this mess without support and without a way forward on our own.

God who is righteous and just in giving the law is also loving and compassionate so he has provided a way to be restored. Paul states we are imprisoned until faith is revealed. Faith is the family support, the lawyer, and the mercy of the judge. Freedom from the law and freedom to be restored in right relationship with God is found in faith. The faith Paul says is revealed to us is found in Jesus Christ. Peter using the same word Paul used to describe our situation under the law uses it to describes faith. Faith is a protective guard that allows us to become unentangled from the defeat of our failure at the hands of the law. 

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3;5 ESV

God’s power has provided a guard of faith for salvation. Salvation once received and secured is then guarded not by following the law but by believing and trusting in Jesus who was able to follow the law perfectly. You are God’s creation, he loves you, and God is calling you to be free from the city besieged by the law. Salvation and freedom are available to those who turn their lives over to Christ in faith that he has a better way.

Matthew 10:13 | Be Worthy of the King

Stuck in my head is a song by Housefires called Build My Life. The key adjective in this song is “worthy” an appropriate word used to describe my response to God.

Worthy of every song we could ever sing.
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring.
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe.
We live for you.
Jesus the name above every other name.
Jesus the only one who could save.
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe.
We live for you.

He is worthy. He is perfect. He is the creator. I exist because he imagined me. He is good and gracious. He is worthy and acknowledging Him as worthy is an appropriate response to God. Yet the adjective worthy cuts both ways. Is it possible for me to be worthy of Him? In the gospel of Matthew Jesus instructs his disciples on how to carry the good new of God to people and he speaks of being worthy. Jesus tells the disciples that they will be worthy of the needs provided by the people they visit. And the people the disciples visit have an opportunity to be worthy of the miracles and message that the disciples carry to them.

9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunic or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart…. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. Matthew 10:9-11; 13 ESV

The Greek word ἄξιος (axios) in this text is translated as “deserves” and “worthy”. Axios is an adjective describing the disciple, the host of the town, and the town itself. Axios means that something is of equal worth or it is befitting of the situation. While I know God is worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration Jesus tells the disciples they need to be worthy of the situation and that the people they speak with need to be worthy of the message the disciples carry.

It is an interesting challenge and as Jesus tends to do, he turns the tables over and makes me rethink my approach to the world. Am I worthy of the situation? Worthy to teach God’s word? Worthy to carry his Message? I am worthy to receive it? Would my life be described as “Axios”… befitting of the call from God?

Jesus later on in gospel of Matthew provides a parable about being worthy and meeting the standards of God. In the parable heaven is compared to a king who is going to have wedding feast for his son. The invites have gone out but none of those invited show up to the wedding. Worse yet the invitees murder the messengers of the King. After dealing with the murders the King still plans to host the wedding party.

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:8-14 ESV

The original guests were not worthy so the servants invited everyone they could find both good and bad. Would these new guests be worthy? There are four responses to this invitation in the parable. Ignore the King and be cutoff by your own choice. Attack the bearer of the invitation which is an attack on the King himself. Accept the invitation without any intention of being respectful which will result in being cast “into the outer darkness”. Or accept the invitation and humbly recognize the King’s authority. A King who is good, just, merciful, and loving. Only one of these responses allows me to be worthy of this King. Only through Jesus living in me could I ever rise to the standard befitting the situation.

13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. Matthew 10:13 ESV

Matthew 8:29 | Demons

Do you believe that demons exist? When I was younger the idea of creepy monsters or evil aliens would make me unnerved. I remember as a teenager watching, of all things, Larry King on CNN. He was broadcasting his show from the middle of a cornfield at night. They had set up a stage with bright lights focused on him on this stage. He sat at his desk in the normal talk show format, but in the background was darkness and the outline of corn stalks. His topic was a special on aliens and I was completely unnerved and found the setting a little scary. I would not have been surprised if Aliens announced their presence to Larry King on that stage at that very moment.

Any look through history will find stories of demons, goblins, and monsters off all forms that kill and terrorize the population. In contemporary America one would not be hard pressed to find mainstream scientists or celebrities convinced that aliens exist. Yet from within these same groups one might be hard pressed to find public acknowledgment that demons and specifically Satan exist because we are now “civilized”. This is because contemporary America is a materialist society. Only the material world matters. Only the physical world is real. Ghosts, goblins, and demons are fun stories but Aliens are real because they exist in the material world. It is hard to believe in God let alone evil demons when one is cutoff and blind to the spiritual nature of humanity.

28 And when [Jesus] came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.29 And behold [the demons] cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:29 ESV

The gospel accounts make regular notice of Jesus encountering “demon possessed” people. All four gospels reference demonic encounters as if this was normal. In this instance the author uses the Greek word δαίμων (daimōn) which means inferior gods to describe that these men living in the cemetery were possessed by. While these so called gods were tormenting the people they possessed they also tormented anyone that came near. When they approached Jesus the demons cried out asking if he had come to torment them before the appointed time. It is an interesting exchange.

While all this talk of demons is normal in the New Testament one would think that demons would be spoken of in the Old Testament but that is not the case. Very few times do scholars translate any Hebrew texts using the word demon. The Hebrew word for demon שֵׁד (shed) only occurs twice and in both instances the author is referencing rampant idol worship making clear that the idols of wood, metal, and stone that the people worshiped were the retail front of evil demons.

37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters. whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Psalms 106:37-38 ESV

Every generation deals with this spiritual reality in their own way. The ancient people worshiped demons by way of idols and false Gods and contemporary Americans worship demons by way of materialism. The contemporary culture ignores that we are more than our physical bodies. Most ignore any spiritual reality at all fooling themselves into thinking that the materialism or science they worship is somehow void of spiritual truth. Worshiping themselves they are influenced by the demonic without even being aware.

Demons hate God and want to destroy his image on earth. Since mankind was created in the image of God then we are all a target of their hate. It is no wonder that child sacrifice has always been a marker of their presence. Imagine God’s people sacrificing their own children to a demonic idol in the old testament. Is it not horrifying? How could they be so barbaric we think. Now realize that this same child sacrifice continues today but in a much more accepted way through abortion. Babies are sacrificed to the gods, demons, of materialism and convenience every day.  

They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:17-18 ESV

When I was younger the idea of occult or aliens caused me to fear. As an adult I recognize the demons that they represent and my fear of the unknown is no more. Jesus was not afraid of the demons in fact they were exposed from their hiding places and became afraid of Him. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) reference demons more than 40 times between them. This is far more than the rest of the Bible combined. Jesus deals with our physical needs but he primarily is concerned with our eternal spiritual state. Is it no surprise that the demonic was exposed and dealt with everywhere he went?

Where have demons set up shop in your life? What do you worship that is not the one true living God? Jesus came that we would have freedom and life restored to worship our maker.

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10 ESV