created in God’s image

Category : God

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis: 1:26)

It’s easy to forget we are special.  Life has a way of squeezing the joy from us.  Our co-workers are often more intent on bringing us back down to their level than building us up.  Our family can be more concerned with their feelings than our feelings.  Even our friends can stop us from growing because they like things how they are.  It seems everywhere we look the world is holding us back.

God alone stands out.

In fact, he has gone so far as to share his divinity with us.  It’s right there in Genesis 1: 26, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”  God could have created us in any way he saw fit.  He didn’t create animals in his image.  He didn’t give them special authority.  He reserved that for us.  God shared his divinity with us, what other god can claim that?

So the next time you’re feeling underappreciated or undervalued, just remember, the creator of the universe sees you as important enough to share his identity with you.  And that’s something to hold on to.

Image provided by flickr user Plinkk

the death of a son

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Category : Jesus

Could you kill your own son if God asked you to?  That’s the question Abraham wrestled with as he climbed a mountain with his son.

In most of the Old Testament God speaks with two meaning.  On one level he talks to the people of the time.   He’s literally giving a specific message to Abraham or Adam and Eve.  He is literally saying that Abraham will be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3) or that Adam and Eve’s son will kill the snakes they find near their homes (Genesis 3: 14-16).

However, on another level God is speaking to future generations.  He’s preparing us to recognize Jesus when he comes.  To understand who he is, and why he is important.  For instance, the family blessing in Genesis doesn’t just mean Abraham’s family.  It also means the blessings that will come from Jesus (who was a descendent of Abraham).  And it’s not Adam and Eve’s immediate family that will be at war with the snake.  Jesus will also crush the serpent under his heel by dying on the cross.

Wherever you look in the Old Testament God is planting the seeds of Jesus’ arrival.

That’s what’s so remarkable about the story of Abraham and Isaac.  To us this is so scandalous, so offensive, that we don’t even want to believe that it’s a true story.  But back in Abraham’s time, child sacrifice was common.  Children weren’t seen as something to be treasured.  And if a god required a sacrifice?  So be it.

But as we read into the story we see that duality of meaning.

We first see it as Abraham is heading up the mountain; he places “the wood for the burnt offering” on his son.  What other son carried wood on his back?  Jesus, in the form of the cross.

Next we see it as Isaac, while carrying the wood, asks one question, “Father?…The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22: 7)

Where is the lamb?

That’s a good question.  In fact it’s the only thing Isaac says on that journey.  To the reader, it seems as if Isaac has foreshadowed his own death.  But Isaac is not the lamb.  God spares Isaac from being sacrificed (God provides a ram.)

Although Isaac’s life is spared, his question is never answered.  In fact, his question lingers for the next few thousand years until Jesus comes onto the scene.  Jesus is that lamb that God would provide.  Jesus takes the hit that you and I (and Isaac and Abraham) deserve.  God saved us, just as he saved a boy from being sacrificed.  But it came at a great cost…

photo provided by flickr user Scootie

finding the perfect job

Category : faith

I’m the type of person who likes to have things with nice neat answers.  I don’t like a lot of contradiction or even things that seem to defy logic.  That’s why I tend to avoid Genesis.  While I believe that God created the earth, I don’t see any reason to get into the 7 literal days verse 7 “eras” conversation.  Nor do I really get why the Bible tells us people lived to be 800 years old.   Is that a metaphor?  A real life span?  Couldn’t they count?

For a while I struggled looking for answers to those questions.  Then I realized all of that is less relevant to my life than answering another question: was Jesus a real person?  If he was real (yes) and he was God (yes) then I can simply take his word for everything else.   So if Jesus vouches for Genesis, then that’s good enough for me.   I can’t “prove” Genesis, but I can “prove” Jesus.

Why do I share all of this?  Because over the last few weeks I’ve been doing something called “The Story Formed Life.”  It’s an 11 week course that focuses on the story of the Bible.  This has forced me to wrestle with those topics I haven’t spent much time dealing with.  Particularly in Genesis.

As I re-read Genesis, what stands out is the amount of authority and freedom God gives us.

God gives Adam the authority to name the animals and the freedom to pretty much do whatever he wanted.  It was an ideal place.  If you take your average person today what’s their biggest concern: finding the “right” job.  We spend hours worrying about what we were meant to do.  Billions of dollars searching for new jobs and getting professional development.  Yet we still feel like our work has no meaning.

Adam on the other hand was literally created for his job.

It’s often easy to think of God, especially the so-called “Old Testament God” as someone who’s distant and vengeful.  But the real God of Genesis shows us a God who cares so much for his creation that he gives us perfect freedom and perfect autonomy.  Of course that doesn’t mean absolute freedom and autonomy.  God placed certain rules and restrictions on Adam.

But that wasn’t enough for Adam.

He and Eve chose to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And with it, they gave up their freedom and authority.  They walked away from the perfect job because they thought they could get something better.

How often do we do this?  How often do we give up the authority and freedom God gives us for something less filling?  Something more restrictive?

God gave Moses the 10 Commandments.  And the priests took that and turned it into hundreds of highly detailed laws.  As Christians we take the freedom Jesus brings and wrap it in formal prayers, religious obligations, and moral thuggery.

Obviously we aren’t that different from Adam after all.

Adam and Eve and original sin

Category : Genesis, God, different, failure, faith, sin

……….

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17)

Adam and Eve had one rule: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

That’s it.

And although that was the only rule, they just couldn’t help themselves.  They went ahead and did it anyway.  Sometimes I wonder how quickly it took before they made it to the fruit.  Part of me thinks it happened right away.  I know that when I’m told I can’t do something, that’s the one thing I want to do.  Is that an attitude I inherited from Adam?  Or has it just always been part of who we are as a species?  I don’t know.  But I know that urge is strong.  So maybe they got dropped off in the garden and then started eating forbidden fruit right away.

On the other hand, Adam had a lot of work to do.  There were a lot of animals to be named.  Adam of course did a good job with that.  Well, maybe with the exception of “platypus.”  So perhaps he was just too busy to go off eating forbidden fruit.

Eventually though, Adam and Eve turned toward that tree.  The one thing they weren’t allowed to touch they went after.  Satan knew exactly how to attack them.  He convinced them that God was holding out on them.  So they ate that fruit, and we’ve been paying for it ever since.

It can be easy to believe God wants us to be perfect.  But I’m not sure that’s his goal.  Perfection would mean we were God ourselves (because God is perfect).  And I don’t think that’s what God is going for.  God’s commands to Adam and Eve weren’t about perfection, they were about freedom.  They were about doing whatever they wanted – with one exception.

In fact, God’s first words to Adam were “you are free”.

Yet Adam and Eve still committed sin.  The original sin.  And we’ve never stopped sinning.  If Adam and Eve only had one thing they couldn’t do, what chance do you and I have to not sin?  The answer is “none.”  We will sin no matter how hard we try not to.

There’s part of me that is bothered by that realization.  I want to be perfect and not sin.  But that’s missing the point.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, perfection isn’t an issue.  We are perfect through him.  God isn’t expecting us to be more perfect.  He’s created a way to experience perfection while still making mistakes.

That’s just one of the many amazing and clever things God has done in his relationship with humanity.

Ultimately God is more interested in us growing closer to him than striving for perfection.  He knows that over time we will naturally sin less simply because we are connected with him.  This fact lives in tension with our culture.  We, as a society, believe in  the importance of “manning up.”  But that’s not what God wants.  He doesn’t want us to try harder.

The only thing that will do is cause us to fall down.

Sin may always be part of your life, but it doesn’t have to rule it.

knowledge of good and evil

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Category : Genesis, God, living a life of faith, sin

……….

It seems that we are in a constant search for freedom.  We want to be free; we long to be free.  Yet we always seem to end up in bondage.  This weekend Steve McNair (who always seemed to have a knack of beating my beloved Steelers) was murdered.  The police aren’t saying exactly what happened, but from early reports it looks like it is a murder suicide (or possibly a double murder).  It also appears that McNair was having an affair with a young woman.

Now if this is all true (and it appears to be) my question is simple.  Why?  Why did McNair feel the need to be with someone other than his wife?  Was it because he felt trapped?  Was it because he wanted the freedom of sexuality?  Because it sure looks like what he got wasn’t freedom, but pain and suffering.

When God created Adam and Eve he gave them one command, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17)

Adam and Eve had complete freedom.  They could have any fruit but one.  Yet they couldn’t resist that tree.  And they exchanged their freedom for suffering.

They thought God was holding out on them.  They thought that rule was silly, and just God being insecure and maybe even a jerk.  They thought they knew better than the person who created them.  They thought they could violate the one rule God set forth.

Have you noticed how we didn’t get knowledge of good, we just got knowledge of evil?

Adam and Eve already had complete freedom.  They already had a perfect relationship with God.  They were even soul mates.  They lived in comfort.  They were provided for.  They lived without fear and guilt.  What they got wasn’t knowledge of good – they already knew that just by looking around.  What they got was knowledge of what it means to suffer.

Steve McNair is no different than any of us.  We all sacrifice our freedom for temptations.  For some of us we give up freedom of heatlh to feed an eating disorder or drug addiction.  Some of us give up freedom of love to experience the bondage of lust and pornograhpy.  Whatever it is – we are all exactly like Steve McNair – vulnerable to temptation, because we think God is holding out on us.

As you go about your week, remember this story.  Don’t sacrifice your freedom for bondage.

retirement

Category : Genesis, God, bible, faith, taking action

  

Abraham was 75 years old when God showed up and said, leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

Think about that for a second.  75.  Most of us are hoping to be long retired by then.  And here God was taking a man and changing the course of human history.  Apparently the excuse “I’m too old” or “I’m too tired” or even “Haven’t I worked hard enough already?” doesn’t hold much weight with God. 

doing it my way

Category : Genesis, God, faith, trust

  

It’s hard to trust God.  Partly because we don’t believe that the promises he makes us are going to happen.  “God’s a busy guy, he’s probably just distracted” we tell ourselves.

And so we do it our way.

We take matters into our own hands instead of waiting for what God has promised.  At least this is what happened to a guy named Abraham.  The Bible tells us Abraham and his wife couldn’t have children.  In fact they were actually too old to have children by the time God got around to making his promises. (Genesis 12:4)

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like a promising start to me.

On top of that, it took 25 years for God to fulfill his promise.  But Abraham didn’t know it was going to take that long.  So after waiting about 10 years he got impatient.  (10 years is more than generous, right?)  And decided it would be a good idea to sleep with his servant.  A perfectly acceptable thing to do in that time.  But it wasn’t what God wanted him to do.

We want to do things our way, because at least we can see what we’re doing.  We figure where there’s movement there’s progress.  But that’s not really the case is it?  Sometimes all that movement means we’re just stuck on the treadmill and can’t get off.

So often forcing the issue with God makes things worse.  I’m sure Abraham thought it was a good idea to sleep with his servant.  This way at least he had some kind of heir.  Heck, his wife was the one who suggested it.  But this just isn’t the way we were designed to live.

And so there were consequences.

Interestingly the first person to be affected by this decision was his wife – who became jealous.  The second to be affected were the child and mother.  The third: Israel itself, because Ishmael and his sons “lived in hostility toward all their brothers.”  (Genesis 25:18)For those of you scoring at home, that’s pretty much the hat trick for bad decisions. 

Why is it that we try to force God’s hand?  We convince ourselves that we know better.  And we plow on ahead, even when, deep down, we know better. 

Sometimes we just have to take him at his word, and wait.

Which brings us back to the beginning: it’s hard to trust God.  Not just because we don’t trust God; because even when we trust him, waiting is so difficult for us.  Fortunately for us, God always follows through in his promises, just like he did for Abraham.