Genesis 27-30

I love reading about Jacob. He's one of the most colorful characters in the Bible. Deception, birthrights, blessings, dreams, romance, polygamy, lots of kids, baby-mama drama... His story has it all. But every time I read his story, I'm reminded of this Rich Mullins song called "Jacob and 2 Women" from his incredible album The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 1. Look it up and download it sometime. It's really nice. Here's the lyrics.

Jacob, he loved Rachel and Rachel, she loved him
And Leah was just there for dramatic effect
Well it's right there in the Bible, so it must not be a sin
But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick
And her sky is just a petal pressed in a book of a memory
Of the time he thought he loved her and they kissed
And her friends say, "Ah, he's a devil"
But she says, "No, he is a dream"
This is the world as best as I can remember it

Now Jacob got two women and a whole house full of kids
And he schemed his way back to the promised land
And he finds it's one thing to win 'em
And it's another to keep 'em content
When he knows that he is only just one man
And his sky's an empty bottle and when he's drunk the ocean dry
Well he sails off three sheets to some reckless wind
And his friends say, "Ain't it awful"
And he says, "No, I think it's fine"
And this is the world as best as I can remember it

Now Rachel's weeping for the children
That she thought she could not bear
And she bears a sorrow that she cannot hide
And she wishes she was with them
But she just looks and they're not there
Seems that love comes for just a moment
And then it passes on by

And her sky is just a bandit
Swinging at the end of a hangman's noose
'Cause he stole the moon and must be made to pay for it
And her friends say, "My, that's tragic"
She says, "Especially for the moon"
And this is the world as best as I can remember it
And this is the world as best as I can remember it


Genesis 25-26

Just a quick mid-camp thought about this reading. This verse caught my attention:
Genesis 26:28 (ESV)
They said, "We can see plainly that the Lord has been with you. ..."
Two questions: 1) How plain is it today that the Lord has been with YOU? 2) What adjustment can you make right now to make it more evident?


Genesis 21-24

Sorry for not posting about yesterday's reading. I was busy getting our teens to camp. So I'll hit two days worth of reading today.

Two things hit me about these four chapters:

1) God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. This used to seem to me to be one of the coldest, most heartless acts of God in all the Bible. Obviously God was testing Abraham, but did it need to be so extreme? Many people view this as a test of Abraham's priorities, whether or not God was the first priority in Abraham's life. I really don't think that's what God was testing. I think God was testing Abraham's faith in the promise. God had promised that from the offspring of Abraham a mighty nation would be born. Isaac was more than a son--he was the embodiment of that dream. If this nation was to come, Isaac was a pretty important component of that dream.
I believe down deep inside Abraham knew that Isaac would come through this test just fine. His reply to Isaac's question about the lack of a sacrificial animal says it all.
Genesis 22:7-8 (ESV)
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.
Abraham knew God would be faithful to his promises. Sometimes we feel life leads us off course of God's promises or plans for our lives. Stay faithful. If God promised it, you can bank on it!

2) A family becoming a movement. I like reading this part of Israel's history. It was the beginning stages of a dream and a promise. A promise from God that from one family would come a blessed nation--a chosen people. But for now, they're still just a family trying to be faithful and looking ahead to the promise. I think of Living Hope Church when I read these chapters. I believe God has great things in store for us. I believe God wants us to be a church with a global influence! As I look ahead to what can be, I'm reminded that it all starts with a family. Our church feels an awful lot like a family right now. I want to challenge all you Living Hopers to live in anticipation of the promise, but enjoy our LHC family right now, too.



I just found out that Disney is releasing a new TRON movie that will be 3D and it looks pretty sweet! I loved the original 1982 TRON when I was a kid (10 yrs old). I remember that I didn't understand it all, but that it was one of the coolest things visually I had ever seen. Check out how far they've come in 27 years. Below is the 1982 trailer for TRON. You can view the new TRON LEGACY trailer here.

Genesis 19-20

Okay, these two chapters are messed up on so many different levels. We tend to think of the times that we live in as the most evil in history, but I'm not so sure if that's true. Disgusting as all this behavior is, let me work through it.

Ch. 19 starts out by saying that the two angels went on to visit Lot in Sodom. This reaffirms the idea that of the "three men" who appeared to Abraham, one of them was not an angel and most likely the Son of God.

The next bit of the story is simply disgusting and difficult to read. Every man in the city surrounds Lot's house and demands that he send out the two men so that they may gang rape them. This is where the modern day term "sodomy" comes from. As if this wasn't disgusting enough, Lot behaves in a cowardly/shameful way by offering up his two daughters to be subjected to this act of rape instead. God intervenes in this situation and decided to destroy this wicked city.

After escaping Sodom, Lot and his two daughters are living in a cave. His daughters decide to get him drunk and sleep with their father so they will have children. Again, disgusting and shameful behavior.

Ch. 20 has us back with Abraham and Sarah, with Abraham once again behaving in a cowardly way by pretending to be Sarah's brother and allowing a king to pursue her.

When most people read these two chapters they tend to focus on the homosexual sins mentioned here. But as I was reading it, the behavior that was the most disgusting to me was the overall low view and shameful treatment of women during this time. Wives and daughters were treated as property--as assets to be used for whatever one needed them for. This was never God's plan! It's tempting to read these Biblical stories and assume that God must have been okay with it because it's in the Bible. Not so. It was just as shameful and sinful then as it would be now.


Genesis 17-18

In today's reading we see God continue forward with his covenant with Abraham. The practice of circumcision is established to set God's chosen people apart from the rest of the world. God finally tells Abram and Sarai when their son will be born. He changes their names to Abraham and Sarah. And to top it all off he even gives them a visit.

When Abraham sees the three men who have come to visit. He recognizes something special about them--something divine--and responds accordingly. When he says, "Oh Lord, if I have found favor...," the Hebrew word used (Adonay) that the ESV translates as "Lord" is a word that is only used for God in the Old Testament. This indicates that he recognized something of a divine nature in one of the men. I believe this is probably one of several times in the Old Testament that Jesus appeared personally to deliver a message. Most scholars agree that there are other occasions when you see the phrase "the angel of the Lord" (instead of "an angel of the Lord") and the individual is addressed specifically as "Adonay" (Lord), that it is God the Son making an appearance.

One specific verse I want to point out:

Genesis 18:12 (ESV)
So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?"

No reason. I just think it's pretty stinkin' funny!


Genesis 15-16

This may be my favorite reading so far in this study. There's some really good stuff here. God comes to Abram in a vision and makes an incredible promise to him.

Genesis 15:5-6 (ESV)
And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Several things strike me about this. 1) If you're having trouble believing God's promises, maybe you need a change of scenery. Get out of the tent and look up. Look at your life from God's point of view. A lot of times we get a sort of spiritual cabin fever. Our lives close in on us and we have trouble seeing the bigger picture. 2) When we step out on faith and believe God's promises, it means more to God than moral living. Good deeds don't equal righteousness; faith equals righteousness!

Right after that, God gives Abram full disclosure:

Genesis 15:12-13 (ESV)
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 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."

God tells Abram that just because he made a promise of a great legacy to Abram, doesn't mean the road will always be easy or pleasant. This is a HUGE thing for us to remember. God has made many promises to us. Some have been completed and some we're still waiting for. What we need to remember is that if bad things happen in our lives, it doesn't mean that God has broken his promises. We see the hear and now and feel momentary pain, but God sees the BIG picture. Stay faithful, because God is faithful!

In fact, in ch. 16 we see Abram and Sarai get impatient with God and take the dream into their own hands. The results were disastrous. Not only in what we read in the Biblical account, but even still today. The descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac have been warring for thousands of years. God's way is ALWAYS best, even if we can't see it or understand it. Wait on the Lord!


Genesis 13-14

One of the primary things we learn from these two chapters is the integrity of Abram. He sought peace among those whom he loved even if it meant the possibility of getting the short end of the stick. He also was trusting in God for blessings, not men.

The book of Hebrews compares Jesus to Melchizedek, whom we read about here in ch. 14. Jesus is like Mel in that he is both our priest AND king. In our lives, we need to put him in the role of priest--spiritual leader and example. But we also need to allow him the role of king of our lives--sovereign leader and worthy of honor. Check this passage out.

Hebrews 7:15-22 (ESV)

This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,

"You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek."

For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

"The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
'You are a priest forever.'"

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.


Genesis 12

Genesis 12:7 (ESV)
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this Land." So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

It's amazing to me how many times in the Old Testament when someone experiences a really powerful moment with God, they immediately follow it up with a really dumb or cowardly decision. Here we see Abram and Sarai go to Egypt and Abram lets the Pharoah have his way with Sarai just to save his own skin. God has just told him that through his offspring he would build a great nation, but he's more worried about what the man Pharoah might do to him than he is about being faithful to God or his wife.

As I'm typing this it hit me that we don't see as much of this behavior in the New Testament. In fact from the book of Acts and onward, we see extreme examples of boldness in the face of pain or death. What's the difference? Were the NT believers stronger in their faith than the OT believers? I don't think so. I think the key difference is the constant presence of the Holy Spirit. After Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the lives of all believers, everything changes! Peter who showed cowardice by lying and saying he didn't know Jesus after Jesus was arrested, suddenly starts showing courage in the face of death. The other 10 disciples who ran and hid when Jesus was arrested all eventually gladly give their own lives to serve him. Why? Because they're walking under a new power now!

By the way, it's the same power we walk in. God the Holy Spirit also dwells in us and wants to guide us toward lives that are marked by faith and boldness. Make a choice today to embrace that power and the knowledge that right now, where you sit, God is IN YOU!


Nirvana Just Got Rick-rolled

This is the worst offense ever committed against rock! (But it's pretty ingenious.) Mash-up of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up. (By the way, I looked a lot like Astley in high school.)


Genesis 9-11

This reading contains two really interesting stories that can be confusing to our modern minds.

The first tells of a day when Noah got drunk and naked. We don't have a lot of details but he was obviously behaving shamefully. Where the story gets confusing is when Ham comes in. Ham sees Noah and tells his two brothers about it. Evidently this was a big taboo, because his behavior gets him in a lot of trouble with Noah. Some scholars have speculated that Ham must have also done sexually perverse things to Noah in his drunken condition, but since the text doesn't go there, neither will we. I think Ham's sin was that he dishonored his father by treating the situation too lightly. He was open about looking on his father's shame and shared it openly with his brothers. His brothers were very respectful in the way they dealt with the situation. I think it all goes back to "Honor your mother and father."

The second story is the tower of Babel. The people of the earth get together and decide to build a great city with a great tower. God doesn't like this and confuses their speech, giving us all the different languages of the world. For us, it seems like building a tower shouldn't be such a big deal. In fact, it should probably be celebrated, right? The issue with God wasn't the tower. The issue was the rebellion of the people. God's plan was for them to disperse and populate the earth. They choose the exact opposite and start building a man-centered society rather than one that is centered on God. The initial population of the earth is too big of a deal for God to allow them to screw up, so he confuses the languages which causes them to disperse as he originally planned.

We are also introduced to Abram who we'll be reading a lot about next week.
Monday's reading: Genesis 12.


Genesis 7-8

This story of Noah, the ark, and the flood is one of the most recognizable stories in the whole Bible. But I think we forget the gravity of this moment in time. It's been watered down (pardon the pun) by cute Sunday School pictures, nursery bedding, toy arks and animals, etc... I think for most of us when we hear Noah's ark, we think cute floating zoo. That's a mistake.

The reality is that other than the day Jesus was crucified, this was earth's darkest day. There was nothing cute or pleasant about it. Pretty much every living thing on earth was destroyed. I guarantee you even the mood on the ark was dark. God's justice and power was unleashed on this planet in a terrible way. Humans had become so evil, that basically God felt he needed to "reboot" creation.

It's also a strong reminder that another day of judgment is coming. The Bible teaches us that there will be another "reboot". There will be a new heaven and new earth. Those who are following Jesus Christ, will receive an eternal reward complete with a new body and a new name. Those who have rejected the gospel, will receive eternal punishment.

Rather than turning this story into a cute children's "fairy tale", we should remind ourselves of it and learn from it.

Genesis 5-6

In this passage we learn the genealogy from Adam to Noah, that people were living for 100s of years, and we get the set-up for the great flood.

Two verses I want to point out.

Genesis 6:8 (ESV)
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Genesis 6:22 (ESV)
Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

You think there might be some sort of connection between these two verses? ;-)


Genesis 3-4

In these two chapters we see the first sin and it's followed up by the first murder. I love that right on the heels of that first sin, we also see the first allusion to the coming remedy for this new sin problem--Jesus! Here's what God says to Satan (the serpent):

Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
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.

A loving God frees his prize creation to make their own choices, they rebel against their creator, he immediately starts the process of making a way back for them. Awesome love!

I also like the bit when Adam and Eve are hiding from God and they hear him walking through the garden. Imagine being able to live so closely to God that you recognize the sound of his footsteps--you know when he's approaching. Someday we'll be restored to that level of closeness with God!


Genesis 1-2

There is so much in this passage that I hardly know where to begin. I really believe that a proper understanding of these first two chapters of the Bible are key to shaping your overall view of the message of the Bible. Here are some themes that I hope you'll embrace as you read this.

God as Creator
God's creative power is one of my favorite attributes of his. To have the power to create something from nothing is a power that I don't think humans will ever be able to fully understand. And the fact that we live on this beautiful planet that is a constant testament of the awesome power of God...it's a humbling feeling to me! Also, I love that at the end of every day of creation, God proclaims that his work was "good", but after creating humans, it was "very good". We're God's favorite handiwork!

Free Will = Love
It's easy to read the bit about God placing the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden and allow ourselves to think that God was setting up some sort of tricky test for us. But the opposite is true. That tree is actually one of the first visible evidences of God's love for us. God could have created us to be mindless followers, forced to do the right thing and forced to do his bidding. But he doesn't. He wants us to CHOOSE loving him...or not. He knows that love is only love if it's freely given and freely chosen. That tree represents God freeing his most valued and loved creation, in hopes that they will return to him!

Men and Women
God clearly shows us that we need each other. Men and women are meant to complete each other, help each other, and so much more. Think about this: a perfect God created the entire universe and proclaimed it all to be good. But when he looks down and sees this lonely man, he says something different. This is the only aspect of his creation that God said wasn't good. Man needed a companion. There was a void in man's life that even God wouldn't fill. We've heard that we all have a God-shaped hole in our lives that only God can fill. But this passage also teaches us that we have a people-shaped hole in us. We need each other, too!


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I'm reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies today on my day off. I've been wanting this book ever since it released a couple of months ago, but it's been out of stock every time I go into my local Borders. They finally had it yesterday! I'm only about 40 pages into it and officially declaring it AWESOME!

PPZ is by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith took the original Austen classic and added the undead to it to make it more interesting--brilliant! In fact the book is about 85% Austen's original story word-for-word.

Here's one example of a change:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

Too sweet! I've made it clear before that I'm a big fan of the zombies, so this is right up my alley. I love this teaser from the back cover:

Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.


Slumdog Disciples

I thought I'd go ahead and put this out there, because I'm so stinkin' excited about. In August I'll be doing a 4-week sermon series that I'm calling Slumdog Disciples. This is one of those series that I just feel is locked up inside me and I can't wait to get it out!

If you were to ask me, What's the biggest thing that is keeping Living Hope Church from just blowing up and becoming everything God wants it to be?, my answer would immediately be self-doubt. I think it's common in many other churches as well. This is the area that Satan attacks us the strongest. I look at our Living Hopers and I see potential world-changers! Men and women who absolutely have what it takes to advance the Kingdom and charge Hell with a water pistol. Unfortunately, LHC has too many people that are crippled by self-doubt. They just can't see themselves as disciples. Or they can't believe they have what it takes to be what they know God is calling them to be.

I felt I needed to address this and it reminded me of the line from Slumdog Millionaire, "What can a slumdog know?" I was like, that's all of us! God doesn't expect us to be Super-Disciples. A slumdog disciple is enough. This series is about "discipleship for the rest of us". I feel God is getting ready to unleash something on our church. I can't wait!


Genesis Study

At Living Hope Church we occasionally do e-BibleStudies. Everybody reads the scheduled reading on their own and just interacts through email sharing their thoughts about the passage. Next Monday we'll be starting a study of Genesis. I thought I'd open this up to the blogosphere, so if you'd like to follow along here's the schedule. I'll be posting my thoughts about the daily readings. Feel free to leave comments with your own thoughts or questions.

7/13 - Genesis 1-2
7/14 - G. 3-4
7/15 - G. 5-6
7/16 - G. 7-8
7/17 - G. 9-11
7/20 - G. 12
7/21 - G. 13-14
7/22 - G. 15-16
7/23 - G. 17-18
7/24 - G. 19-20
7/27 - G. 21-22
7/28 - G. 23-24
7/29 - G. 25-26
7/30 - G. 27-28
7/31 - G. 29-30
8/3 - G. 31-33
8/4 - G. 34-36
8/5 - G. 37-38
8/6 - G. 39-41
8/7 - G. 42-44
8/10 - G. 45-46
8/11 - G. 47
8/12 - G. 48-50


Snowflake Bentley

I was just reading about a man by the name of W.A. Bentley who made it his life's work and calling to do something that to most would seem unimportant or trivial. Bentley spent the better part of his life photographing snowflakes. In fact, he was the first to do so.

In my sermon Sunday, I spoke about how science is actually a form of theology. It is the process of revealing the handiwork of the Creator. Snowflake Bentley is the perfect example of this. In an interview he made the following statement:

"Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were a miracle of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind. I became possessed with a great desire to show people something of this wonderful loveliness, an ambition to become, in some measure, it's preserver."

Bentley went on to say the he felt his field of work was serving The Great Designer. Wouldn't you love to spend your life revealing the beauty and majesty of God? What's keeping you from doing it?


The Shack

I know I'm a little late getting on this bandwagon, but I finished reading The Shack today so I thought I'd throw in my two cents about this book. There are many differing opinions about The Shack. Some think it is amazing and life-changing, while others find it heretical or even poorly written. I land somewhere in between the two, but leaning more toward the opinion that it's a great book.

For those of you who have been living in a cave, William P. Young tells the story of Mack who suffers a terrible family tragedy and then has an encounter with the three members of the Trinity in a small shack in the woods. Mack learns about the nature of God, redemption, forgiveness, suffering, love, and much, much more.

I really don't know where to begin a discussion about this book. So I'm just going to shoot some bullet points of thoughts I have about it. Here goes.

-- First of all, The Shack is a work of fiction and should be read as such. It is not the Bible. It is not a theological treatise. It is a fictional story. A firm grasp on this fact puts to bed much of the controversy in my opinion. It is one man's attempt through fiction and allegory to paint a clearer picture of the nature of our triune God. As such, it is not perfect. All allegories eventually fall apart or are lacking in some way. This is true of The Shack.

-- One of the big reasons people are upset by Young's portrayal of God is how the members are physically manifested. God the Father is an older African-American woman who goes by the name Poppa (the name that Mack's wife uses in her prayer life to address God). Jesus is pretty much Jesus - a carpenter of middle-eastern descent. The Holy Spirit is a flighty Asian woman called Sarayu. Many people really get hung up on the Father being portrayed as a woman. However, Young clearly explains the reason for this.
Mack has a hard time accepting God as a father-figure because of his own abusive father (a problem many people have). In the story, God explains that, for Mack's benefit, he knew it would be easier for Mack to relate to a female manifestation. Later in the book, when Mack is finally able to forgive his own father, Poppa begins manifesting himself as a man. While most of Scripture refers to God as masculine, God also uses feminine imagery to reveal his nature. In the Bible God is seen as a woman in labor (Is. 42:14), a mother nursing her children (Is. 49:14-15), a mother who comforts her children (Is. 66:12-13), a woman seeking a lost coin (Lk. 15:8-10), or a hen gathering her brood (Mt. 23:37).
The fact is that God is not a man, a woman, or a lion (as C.S. Lewis depicted him). God is God. He reveals himself to us in many ways. While I prefer to stay faithful to Scripture by referring to God as masculine, I don't see a major difficulty with Young's fictional portrayal.

-- There has also been discussion of an incorrect portrayal of the relationship between the members of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the hardest to understand. How can God be one and three, equal but submissive, etc...? If Young's fictional representation of the Trinity has holes in it, it simply means he's human. We can no more understand the nature of God, than an ant can unravel our own DNA.
I felt though that The Shack gave me some real flashes of truth that I hadn't thought about before when it came to God's nature. Sometimes when I try to understand the Trinity, I feel like I'm looking at one of those Magic Eye pictures. Before you figure out how to screw up your eyes and bring the image into focus, you occasionally get glimpses or flashes of the image, but can't quite nail it. You see a corner of the picture come into focus, but when you try to see the whole it goes back out of focus. For me, God is like that. I get glimpses or flashes of truth. Just when I think I'm beginning to understand, I lose the focus, my brain hurts, and I'm left with more questions. I believe it will be clear someday, but not until I'm able to look at it with new eyes (eternity eyes).

-- Like I said, the book is good, but it's imperfect. The allegories do break down in places. It gets too preachy at times. It's even a bit cheesy occasionally. But it's also tragic, beautiful, moving, insightful, humorous, and much more. In my opinion, there's much more to appreciate about this book than criticize.

-- A little closing advice for reading The Shack. Go into it with an open mind, a proper perspective, and a box of Kleenex. I cried in at least 3 different parts. The opening section which details Mack's family tragedy was really difficult for me to read as a father. The insights Mack received during his stay at the shack, were quite thought-provoking and I needed to rest between chapters and let them roll around in my mind a little. And last, but certainly not least, while this book is inspiring for many and helping many people process their own personal tragedies, it's important to remember that it's just a story. It's not the Bible and shouldn't be a substitute for the Bible.