Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hope

 Rejoice in hope,
be patient in tribulation,  
be constant in prayer. 
Romans 12:12   

This has been my theme verse lately. In fact, HOPE has been my theme word lately. I love when a certain word keeps popping up everywhere...it's a sweet reminder that God still speaks to us. I don't really have anything else to say...just thought I'd share this. I know when life gets crazy and things get stressful...especially around the holidays...remember where your hope is. Our hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ...his strength...his mercy...his sacrifice..his love.

Blood Speaks

This morning Mickey Connolly gave a message about the progression and effects of sin using the biblical stories of Cain and Abel and the lesser mentioned Lamech in Genesis 4. I've learned that they parallel today's world more than I ever thought.
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.
The entire human story after the fall of Adam and Eve begins with something called total depravity, which was something I had always heard the concept of, but never really knew there was a name for it. I looked it up and some of its synonyms include: absolute inability, radical corruption, and total corruption. It's the Augustinian theological doctrine that says we all inherit and are polluted by a sinful nature that we got from Adam as a result of the fall of man.

Because of this total depravity, the call to love God and love each other is regularly violated, as we first witness in Genesis 4.

See, originally Adam and Eve thought (because of Genesis 3:15) that when Cain came, he would bring some sort of deliverance. There was this great hope in him. In fact, the name Cain literally means "he has come". But that's definitely not how the story turns out.

If you went to Sunday school as a kid, or if you just read Genesis 4 at the beginning of this post, you know that it all started when Cain and Abel bring sacrifices to God and Cain is upset when his offering was not accepted while his brother's was.

What we need to look at first, and what tends to get overlooked, is the reasons why Abel's offering was accepted and Cain was not. There are two reasons.

One, Abel brought God his best and Cain just brought something.

Two (the deeper reason and the reason for the first reason for those of you who just like reasons), Abel was a righteous man, and Cain was not. Their offerings were a reflection of their heart natures.

This leads to another question of if we are all born with a sinful, worldly nature, like Cain, how does anyone become godly, like Abel?

That is done only through God's electing grace.

But through God's common grace, in verses 6 and 7, God appealed to Cain to attempt to restrain his sinful nature. He did this through a promise and a warning, a lot like a parent to a child.

"If you do well, you will be accepted" was God's invitation to Cain to repent. God was giving him a choice.

There is always a moment we have with our conscience before we do something where we are given the same choice that Cain had here.

Verse 8 gives us the very first picture of active enmity between the godly and the worldly.
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then in verse 9, the story becomes reminiscent of God's response to Adam's sin, but there's a big difference in the fact that Cain's heart toward God was hardened by his sin and Cain rejects God's invitation to repentance.

Cain gets pretty snippy with God.

Then we see in verses 10 through 12 that as sin spreads, so does its curse.
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.
And yet God extends common grace to Cain in spite of his sin and his reaction to his punishment in verses 15 and 16 when God promises to protect him.

We then see how very quickly the progression of sin after Cain goes away from God into Nod.

When I first read about Cain going to Nod, I just assumed it was only a place on a map, but Nod is the root of the Hebrew verb "to wander". It references a nomadic lifestyle and is described as a place of no home and no rest, a life lived outside of the presence of God. It's another curse of sin.

In the traditional fashion of the progression of sin, look at what Cain does next in verse 17.
Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.
He builds a city!

Even though Cain is cursed to be a wanderer, he builds a city to live in, and even though God promises to protect him, he fortifies his city. This is a huge example of humans trying to render God unnecessary and trying out self-sufficiency.

Now let's just fast forward 7 generations to Cain's descendant, Lamech.

Lamech realizes that children equal power, so in order to have more children, he becomes a polygamist. And even though Lamech's children seem to be forefathers of technology and arts (another evidence of common grace), God is not in any of their progress because of their sinful natures toward Him. They made technical progress, but moral failure.

In fact, it was Lamech who wrote the world's first poem, but it was all boasting in Abel's murder and a murder that he had committed himself. In verse 26, he even says that he will protect himself rather than rely on God's protection.

Ironically, Lamech is never heard from again.

Sadly, we as human beings have more in common with Cain and Lamech than we do with Abel. And at one point, like it did with Cain, Abel's blood cried out against us from the ground. But the blood from the ground at the foot of the cross cries out for us as well, speaking a different word. Jesus' blood speaks forgiveness and grace instead of crying for justice.

Hebrews 12:24 says:
To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Scripture vs. Society: Politics


This is definitely a difficult post for me, especially in light of this monumental presidential election tomorrow. To be quite honest, I've been staring at my laptop screen for the past half hour completely at a loss for words, not only because I'm not remotely into politics, but because this is a hot button issue that I'd like to be able to address clearly and in a way as to not cause unnecessary hostility.

I think a good place to start, that is often overlooked is Psalm 33:12
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."
I really don't think it gets anymore simple than that. God blesses nations who look to Him, honor Him, and acknowledge Him as the Lord. And I believe at one point, that was the United States, but lately we have really been straying from God as a nation. Do we claim God as our Lord anymore as a nation?

Thomas Jefferson believed that the Bible was "the cornerstone for American liberty"and put it into our schools because of it. Now there are no traces of Christianity left in our public schools out of respect of "political correctness".

Abraham Lincoln said "the philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next". When I heard this, I got instantly nervous for this country. And I don't want to come off as some religious nut with an agenda, but really think about that last paragraph for a minute.

So what should we do as a Christian community on election day? Does the Bible really have much to say about politics?
Romans 13:1 "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."
But wait, I thought the people picked the president in this country?  We do...but we also have to remember that God picked the president long before our world even existed. 

All I'm trying to say is, I just believe that that's how God is trying to work through us to institute our authorities. He is giving us the rulers we ask for. It's our responsibility to make sure we choose leaders that support biblical values, not just go for the lesser of two evils (even if it feels like we don't have a choice). 

I know that statement has caused some tension due to Billy Graham's very public plea for citizens to do this, but I think he was 100% right in this opinion.

But what are these values that we are looking to our political authorities to hold? How should we vote?
  • I will vote for the most pro-life candidate, because God hates the shedding of innocent blood. 
    • Proverbs 6:15-19 - There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
  • I will vote for the most pro-Israel candidate, because God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who don't.
    • Genesis 12:3 - I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
  • I will vote for the most pro-debt reduction candidate, because the borrower is a servant to the lender.
    • Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender
  • I will vote for the most pro-work candidate because God says if a man (able-bodied) does not work, let him not eat.
    • 2 Thessalonians 3:10 - For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
  • I will vote for the most pro-marriage candidate, because God is for marriage as defined in:
    • Genesis 2:24 - Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
  • I will vote for the candidate who most closely believes government's purpose is to reward the good and punish the evil.
    • Romans 13:1-7 - Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
  • I will vote based on God's word.
    • 2 Timothy 3:16 - All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.
  • I will vote knowing that whoever gets elected, God is the one who puts all men in authority.
    • Daniel 2:21 - He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.

All this to say. We (Chelsey and I) are not telling you who to vote for. We are not endorsing any specific candidate. We will both vote according to what I shared earlier and implore you to do the same with careful prayer and consideration. No matter who is elected...we need to remember that he is a sinner and cannot lead our country in a perfect manner. We can be confident that God has placed him in authority and we can trust that God's plan is the best one. Therefore, we can as always, continue to pray for our leaders...and obey the laws of the land as God has instructed us to do. We will never have a perfect president...but we have a perfect God. As long as we put our faith and trust in the one who reigns over us all...it won't really matter who is elected because we are already taken care of by the God whose plan cannot be thwarted.