From Slavery to Worship

The exodus of the Israelites is the great defining display of God’s (YaHWeH’s) power, love, and faithfulness. In the exodus, we learn more about God’s character and present and future plans than most stories throughout Scripture.

The song (or poem) found in Exodus 15, immediately after God delivered the Israelites from being crushed by Pharaoh’s army at the edge of the great sea, is acknowledged by most scholars to be one of the earliest poetic texts in the Old Testament. It celebrates YHWH bringing his people out of slavery and freeing them through the waters of the sea (a form of baptism if you will). This Song of Moses, and Miriam’s song at the end, show us YHWH’s character and mission that speak to the actual realities of the exodus, and foretell in a cryptic kind of way, the justice of YHWH in the end:

YHWH’s character and mission revealed through worship (Ex. 15:1-21):
YHWH is a warrior God (1-10; 14-16a) He exacts justice. He does not let the wicked go without punishment. He fights for the oppressed. He makes a mockery of world powers. He’s fierce towards his enemies, and gentle towards his people.

YHWH is an incomparable God (11-12) He keeps his promises. He has supreme power and wisdom. He leads the heavenly assemblies. He rules over the nations. He forgives sin and sets free sinners. There are no gods who oppose him.

YHWH is a redeeming God (13, 16b-17) His love (hesed) sacrificially buys his people back. YHWH is a redeemer: go’el; a Hb. word that refers to any member within a wider family who had the responsibility to protect the interests of the family or a specific member of the family who was in particular need. What’s unique about YHWH being referred at the go’el of his people, was that the go’el had the role to: 1) Avenge shed blood of family members (Numbers 35:12), 2) Buy back any land or slaves to keep them in the family (Leviticus 25), and 3) Provide an heir to preserve each family’s name (Story of Ruth and Boaz). Notice that YHWH as go’el is concerned with a home for his people.

v. 13b: you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
v. 17: You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

The holy abode (sanctuary) and the mountain. The tabernacle and the promised land. The temple and Jerusalem. Jesus and the holy city. This is the progressive importance of the holy abode and the mountain. YHWH makes a home for his people where he is present with them, and he is preparing a home that will one day get rid of all that opposes him.

YHWH sees the homelessness of his people. Their ecological homelessness. Their social homelessness. Their physical homelessness. Their spiritual homelessness. He sees all the forms of homelessness, and through the exodus is shouting out loud to us, I’m bringing you HOME!!!

YHWH is the king (18) His throne, his kingdom, his home, will be the only ones that last forever. YHWH is king, and his rule will never end, which means what he builds will never end either.

YHWH is to be worshipped (21) The glory and beauty of his acts of redemption demand worship to him alone. He is the only one who can bear the glorious weight of worship. This is why man or other created things are not to be worshipped… they weren’t created to bear the weight of glory that comes with worship. We fold under the pressure of worship, YHWH shines!

As we have seen, the unique element about this story of the exodus is that it shows us God’s mission through his righteous character. Our mission as followers of Jesus is first God’s mission that he has invited us into, and the exodus depicts God’s mission in a way that makes our gospel much bigger and comprehensive than we could ever imagine.

But something else this song portrays is the justice that is to come. The question that rings in my ears and many other people’s ears as we read this is, “Does this kind of justice really exist? And if it did, maybe I should be the one who is drowned.”

The great exodus and the crushing of the mightiest nation in the ancient days (Egypt) is a depiction and a promissory note to all of us who are longing for justice, that there will be a day, with no more tears, no more pain, where evil will no longer be at work, and we will be at home with the Ancient of Days.

This great baptism in Exodus is a promise to you and I that evil and injustice never gets the last word. Take heart today in the midst of injustices everywhere, that your fight for justice today is not in vain, and is never going to go unnoticed, ultimately. In a day where systems are protected over people, governments oppress the masses, and terrorists threaten peace and safety, don’t forget that love alone is worth the fight.

Israel went from slavery to worship as justice rolled down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. This day is fully coming, but it has also already come in Christ. Jesus took what we deserved and gave us what he deserved. Today, justice in the courts of heaven can be a reality for you if you have eyes to see it, as we wait for and fight for complete justice on earth.

So what does it mean for us today? It may mean something different for each of us, but I want to close with an excerpt from two friends who I am in fellowship with and do life with. I emailed them and asked them to give me their insight into the Song of Moses in Exodus 15, and here’s what they said this text means to them (us) today:

Philip: “I think it is a picture of how we should praise Jesus for his sacrifice. For his winning the fight for us, it means we no longer need to battle, if we lean on Jesus and put our faith in him the battle has already been won. The only thing left for us to do is to take out our tambourines and sing his praise and do this in a manner that everybody will join us. This seems so simple, too simple, but if we show our joy it will become infectious and others will want to know what is so awesome. This gives us the chance to share the good news.”

Annette: “We are to tell stories where we’ve doubted God and where we know He has rescued us.  We are to sing songs and dance all over the head of evil as we sing of God’s loving, victorious salvation.  We are to tell the stories we so often avoid telling because they are bloody and ugly and because there is no victory without loss.  War leaves behind causalities which breaks the heart of God and too ought to break our hearts.  We have to wear clothes of sorrow and desire for justice as we put on our dancing shoes and play our tambourines as we sing songs that tell the stories where even though we deserved death we have been given the gift of life.”

Praise Jesus.

Sing with tambourines.

Tell stories of our rescue.

Sing and dance over evils head.

Wear clothes of sorrow (don’t brush over our pain and loss in the midst of the battle)

Desire and fight for justice, because it’s coming, it will not delay.

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Hating God

The book of 1 John is a book written not from the hand of a systematic theologian, but from a seeming creative artist with words who knew Jesus intimately and lived out his passion to teach others to encounter the same Lord he did. One verse in particular sticks out to me in 1 John that always ruffles my feathers is 4:20-21:

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

What is Johnny saying here? This is a strong sentence. At first glance I sense that Johnny is saying, “Love for your brother has no bounds because it is not driven or tainted by fear of man, or what man thinks. It is a pure love that can’t be contained… love unleashed… explosive love!”

So I ask myself, “How do we get to that place of unleashed, explosive love?” Many of us have experienced the new birth in Christ and yet we are struggling to love one another (we are not doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly among our enemies). We are often times fake, we gossip, we hold grudges, we judge, we build up walls to dodge, we dismiss, and we elevate ourselves over each other and over other beliefs, we fear being found out, we run from intimacy and protect ourselves from good people.

Dan Allender in his book Bold Love (1992) writes this: “Is it possible to love and hate at the same moment? Even more important, is it possible to hate someone so deeply that love is obscured–to a point of being a functional non-entity (existence)? If that is possible in our relationships with one another, could a regenerate heart have even love for God crowded out by self-interest, fear of others, anger, rebellion, and hatred? I believe that it is not only possible, but the very reason why most of us love so poorly.”

Allender is leading us to think more deeply and critically of ourselves and stop defending our goodness. Believer, Jesus defends your goodness! We must ask ourselves questions like this: Why am I an amateur lover? Why does forgiveness at times mean so little to me? Why do I harbor negative feelings towards someone and never seek reconciliation with them? How can I see brokenness and not give my life to helping those I know who are broken?

This hatred in our hearts is often quiet, dormant, and masked. “How could I hate God? I mean come on, I love and follow Jesus!” But what we neglect to see at times because of our fear of judgement, is that we make decisions daily that show our neglect of God, and if we treated a friend that way, it would be hateful behavior, rude at best.

We must be honest with where and who we are and allow the new birth to take it’s full effect. And this honesty begins with being silenced by the gravity of our condition. God is love, we are not! Silence, not defense, is required for deep change to occur. Contemplate the reality of God’s love next to your love. When we become silent, when we stop defending and fighting for our own goodness, we can look God in His eyes and discover His response, which 1 John 4:20-21 teaches us, that God’s response to His honest children is one of love, acceptance, and presence; not fear, torment and loneliness. It is at this place of brokenness and honesty where we catch a glimpse of the love that the Father has for us. It is great, it is extravagant, it is mysterious.

You were made to love and to be loved; to know and to be known. This is how haters become lovers.

The Best Walk Ever (Luke 24:13-27)

The road to Emmaus is a wonderful passage that has a profound impact on the entire story of God. This is because it’s a type of interpretive key, meaning this passage, gives us insight to the OT more than most other passages. Let’s open it up and dig in:

To get caught up in the story up to this point, Easter has already happened, Jesus has conquered the grip and tragedy of death, and now, three days after His resurrection, He is showing Himself to His disciples and many others (1 Cor. 15:6). It’s here that He catches up with two disciples (Cleopas and one unnamed) who are discouraged, while they’re walking northwest to Emmaus.

The disciples had hoped that Jesus would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21)… their way, the victorious way, by coming into town on a white war horse and crush the big mouth (Rome). Have you ever had an expectation that fell far short of what you were expecting? It’s a human emotion.

The gap between what you expected (your dreams, your desires, your plan) and reality (what actually happened), represents loss, disappointment, grief, whether real or perceived. Their expectations allowed them to see the glory of God’s kingdom (Jesus’ life), but they failed to understand the suffering (His necessary death).

Read Luke 24:13-14:
I can imagine their conversation going all over the OT, quoting various passages, wondering what that meant if Jesus isn’t the Messiah, yet did all that He did? What about the prophecies of old, of the Messiah restoring Israel, crushing the serpent (Rome, who was Satan of course)? How does this all make sense?

I would’ve loved to hear this conversation. It’s the type of conversation we all would say, “I give anything to be a fly on the wall for that conversation”, and since Jesus is the sovereign king, He can make those crazy wished a reality. So He pops into their conversation, but He doesn’t allow them to recognize Him.

Read Luke 24:15-19a:
In Christ-like humor, Jesus engages these men, and desires to look into their hearts, which looks like them opening their hearts to Him. Sometimes we think, God knows everything, and He does, but all throughout Scripture God, who knows everything, ask questions to invite the person into intimacy with Him; a conversation.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. Psalm 62:8

This is prayer. Talking to God. Jesus longs for us to share with him our deepest desires, our letdowns, disappointments, pain, etc. He’ll even act ignorant about things to get us to open up! I imagine the brief conversation sounding something like this:

Jesus: What are you guys talking about?

Disciples: Jesus of Nazareth’s death. Where’ve you been? Everyone knows this.

Jesus: Who’s this Jesus of Nazareth and what happened to him?

I love it. We could imagine more of this conversation, but that’s for another day. So the disciples begin telling ‘Jesus’ all about what happened to ‘Jesus’ in Jerusalem.

Read Luke 24:19b-24:
Who else in the universe could brag that they preached the gospel to God in the flesh?! Well… half of it at least. They retell the story of events to Jesus, maybe in tears, but definitely with passion and sadness. At the end of it all, Jesus is dead and now His body is missing. Could it be that Jesus was cursed? After all, He dies on a tree (cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree), and now His body was dug up and stolen (a body that was crucified and didn’t have a proper burial was considered double cursed):

22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 21:22-23

An unburied body was a defilement to the land and would represent a curse to the body (Ezekiel 37 – valley of dry, unburied bones representing cursed Israel for their disobedience). It is at this point that Jesus has heard their hearts, has compassion on them, and begins to let them in on the “BIG SECRET” of the OT.

Are you ready for the big secret to be revealed? It’s Jesus! Jesus is the interpretive key to all of Scripture and all of Scripture was always pointing to Him. Telling the story of Israel, yes, but only because it was through Israel that all the other families of the earth will be grafted into to God’s family and be blessed. It was never about Israel. It was and is all about Jesus being the way for all.

Let me indulge with you for a moment as we reflect on the OT, and my desire in doing this is in hopes of your reading for yourself later, and being able to see Christ, or at least “echoes” and “shadows” of Christ. Maybe you will even see those who “represent” a type of Christ, a savior. The OT is filled with types, shadows, and echoes of Jesus being the Christ, our savior:

Adam was given all he needed for life and godliness, walked with God in perfect fellowship, and still wanted more… Jesus entered into life on the other side of human history, full of pain and trial, was in the wilderness with nothing he humanly needed, and was satisfied in God.

Adam was given garments of skin to cover up the shame of his nakedness… Jesus became the slain creature who covered up the shame of our nakedness.

Adam represents the old man, sin, and death, the old mode of existence, living in the past… Jesus represents the new man, righteousness and life, the new mode of existence, living in the future.

Abel was innocently slain by a jealous brother who’s blood is crying out for justice… Jesus was innocently slain by all of our rebellion, and his blood is the justice that now cries out on our behalf, not our condemnation, even though we were the jealous brother who murdered the innocent (Hebrews 12:24).

Noah built an ark out of trees and got on it, to save his family and the animal kingdom from judgement and certain death… Jesus had a cross built out of trees and got on it, to save not just one family, but all the families of the earth, indeed all of creation.

Noah represents one family’s trek to salvation… Jesus represents everyone’s trek to salvation.

Abraham obeyed God, left his family, his land, and all that was comfortable and familiar to be a new people of God in a new nation… Jesus answered the call of God to leave all the comfortableness of divine worship and go out into the void of broken humanity to create a new people of God, and establish a new nation, a new family, a new way to be human.

Abraham was declared righteous through His faith… Jesus is the righteous One in whom Abraham placed His faith.

Abraham was circumcised to represent a new family that is pure and fertile and would circumcise all the males of Israel from that day forward… Jesus was also circumcised outwardly, but died and rose again to circumcise hearts so that all may be transformed from the inside out.

Abraham trusted God for a different sacrifice when his son Isaac was on the alter about to be slain… Jesus became the sacrifice that preserved Isaac’s life, and desires that all lives may be preserved.

Jacob wrestled with God and was struck in the hip to be reminded the God is with him… Jesus wrestled with God in Gethsemane and was struck on the heel, so we, like Jacob, would only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us, not destroy us.

Joseph was exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh and saved the nations from famine… Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father who forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power make new hearts.

Moses stood in the gap between the people and God as a mediator for a generation… Jesus eternally stands in the gap as the One who cuts a new covenant for people to come to/experience God (Hebrews 3).

Job suffered innocently so God could show forth His power and redeeming grace even though he was condemned by his foolish friends… Jesus was the truly innocent sufferer, who is the power of God to redeem foolish friends (Job 42).

David fought the battle against Goliath because Israel was too scared and lacked faith in God… Jesus, who is the true and better David, allowed the Goliath of sin that we have created, to kill and consume Him so we wouldn’t be killed and consumed (the story of David and Goliath isn’t a story telling us that if only we had enough faith then we could slay the giant like David did; David represents Christ, Israel represents us)

Esther risked her life and the comfort of a palace to save her people from a wicked edict… Jesus willingly gave up his life and the comforts of heaven to make the evil edict take His life so that His people would be set free.

Jonah was cast into the storm to save the sailors… Jesus was cast into the storm to save the nations.

Hosea married a whore to represent God’s love and pursuit of His people… Jesus married the church who continually cheats on Him and acts as if He doesn’t really exist sometimes, yet he loves, pursues and ultimately redeems her back to Himself over and over again.

Jesus is the Rock of Moses.

Jesus is the Bread from Heaven

Jesus is the Water of Life.

Jesus is the Light of the World.

Jesus is the eternal Passover Lamb of God.

Jesus is the true Temple where worship happens in Spirit and Truth.

Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for fallen creation.

Jesus is the divine gladiator.

Jesus is the true prophet, priest, and king.

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega.

Jesus is the Lord who heals.

Jesus is the Great I AM.

Jesus is the All-Powerful One.

Jesus is the God who sees.

Jesus is God with us.

Jesus is the Lord of all creation.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is the Lord of Righteousness.

Jesus is the King of kings.

Jesus is the Lord of lords.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

Jesus is the power of God unto salvation.

All of Scripture testifies to Christ!

He loves us! He is pursuing us! He’s present right now. He’s in our story today more than we could ever imagine. He is there in the pain and loss. He is there in the earthquakes and storms. He is there in the famine and death. He is there in the daily grind of living paycheck to paycheck. He is there in the celebrations and joys. He is here, right now, beckoning our hearts to worship Him, as one people of God, acknowledging Him as the rightful king of the universe, and inviting us to trust Him afresh today, so that the world might see and experience life.

Redeeming the Graveyard

At the end of the Old Testament, the prophets of Israel were saying that God is going to send a savior, a Messiah to redeem Israel and restore Jerusalem… then God remains silent for 400 years. When the silence breaks… at least in our canon of Scripture, we are given the book of Matthew, and as he begins to tell the good news about Jesus, he starts with dead people. As Ray Bakke says, “he takes us on a cemetery tour.”

You ever noticed that? The beginning of the gospel of Jesus according to Matthew starts with a genealogy… a remembrance of those who are in Jesus’ family tree. What in the world is Matthew doing by doing with this? Well for starters, the first century church sure did celebrate the resurrection well, but totally missed the birth of Jesus. They celebrated Jesus’ death and resurrection (rightly so!), and celebrated the fact that Jesus is the King of kings, and Lord of Lords, but in many ways neglected to celebrate His birth, the moment this great King became one of us pitiful humans, left glory and became a helpless (may I say powerless) baby totally dependent on adult care. Matthew here is reminding us of the importance of the birth of Jesus, and seems to be exposing the “skeletons in the closet” of Jesus’ family tree.

As one would read Matthew 1:1-16, you would realize many things, one being, this seems totally boring! But if you were forced to study this passage (as I was) because you went to school to study Scripture, you spend a little more time pondering the names in this genealogy of Jesus. The first thing that stood out was that there were five women referenced in this list. Why are they there?

The fourth century theologian Jerome say that these women are all here to show that sinners are a part of Jesus’ genealogy, but that interpretation immediately breaks down, because all of the men in the genealogy were sinners too. According to Ray Bakke, Martin Luther was the first theologian to notice that they were all foreigners, except for Mary. This is a significant thought. Let’s try to unpack that a little bot more.

The four moms (not counting Mary) in Jesus’ genealogy appear in verse 3-6: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. What’s Matthew doing by putting these women in this genealogy? What do all these ladies have in common? Here’s a brief summary of these ladies lives as is found in the Old Testament:

Tamar: a Canaanite (Gen. 38); married to a son of Judah named Er, who died because he was wicked. Judah’s second son was supposed to take his brothers wife to give her a heritage (children), but on his way to take care of business, Onan spilled his sperm on the road before he went to “lay” with Tamar. Judah’s third son, Shelah, was not given to her because he was too young, but was promised to Tamar once he grew up. When Tamar realized Shelah had grown up and was not given to her, she took matters into her own hands (remember, no sons for a woman in these days meant there was no inheritance in heaven for her; this was equal to salvation in their minds).

So she went into town after Judah’s wife had died, took off her widow clothes and put on prostitute clothes, and sat at the entrance of the town. When Judah arrived, she welcomed his “business” and she asked him for his credit card (his signet ring, a bracelet, and his staff) to “make sure he comes back to pay”. She gets pregnant that day, and when Judah finds out a few months later that she’s pregnant, the hypocrite Judah said, bring her forth, she must be burned. “As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, ‘By the man to whom these belong (the credit card!), I am pregnant.’ And she said, ‘Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.’ Then Judah identified them and said, ‘She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.’ ” (Gen. 38:25-26).

Rahab: a Canaanite as well (Josh. 2); Again, according to Bakke, she ran a hotel where the lights were dim and the charge was by the hour, not the night. She lived on the wall of Jericho. Her name means “wide”; she didn’t miss a man who came into town. So when the spies from Israel came to scout out the city, she brought them in and hid the Israelite spies because she feared the Israelites God. Her and her family were the only ones spared in the battle of Jericho. She ended up marrying a good Jewish man named Salmon, in the line of Judah, and they bore a son together, and named him Boaz.

Ruth: a Moabite (Ruth 1; Gen. 19), from the country of Moab which was started by an incestuous relationship. Lot (Abraham’s nephew) was spared from Sodom, his wife died, and Lot left the city life and ran to the suburbs, but in doing so, he neglected to find husbands for his daughters, which again, was a duty of a father. So the daughters, seeing that their dad had brought them to the suburbs where there was no hubby to be found, had a plan to gain an inheritance of children from their dad. On two consecutive nights, they got their dad drunk and each slept with him, each conceiving and eventually gave birth to two sons, Moab (father of the Moabites) and Ben-ammi (father of the Ammonites).

So here’s the Moabite Ruth, meets the family of Elimelech (names means “My God is King”) in Moab, because he took his family and left Bethlehem (name means “city of bread”) because there was “no bread” in Bethlehem (oh the irony!). His wife Naomi (name means “pleasant”) and their two sons Mahlon (names means “sick”) and Chilion (name means “dying”) arrive in Moab, and “My God is King” dies. So “Pleasant” has her two sons, “sick” and “dying” take Moabite wives. “Sick” marries Ruth (name means “friendship”) and “Dying” marries Orpah (name means “gazelle” or “fleeing”). To no ones surprise, “Sick” and “Dying” die, and “Pleasant”, “Friendship”, and “Fleeing” are left in Moab, during the time of the judges (everyone did what was right in their own eyes; wicked days) with no men, no hope, no safety.

You can tell by the daughters-in-law names what happens next: “Friendship” stays with Ruth to return to “The City of Bread” because bread is there once again, and “Fleeing goes back home to her family in Moab. Long story short, Ruth becomes noticed by the most eligible bachelor Boaz (son of the prostitute Rahab), who’s wealthy and next in line to redeem (marry) Ruth as her kinsman redeemer (giving Naomi’s family a heritage). Naomi spices Ruth up one night, tells her to shower, shave and put on some perfume and go down and sleep next to Boaz in the middle of the night (as if that’s not creepy or anything!). She obviously does a great job, and the story ends with Boaz marrying Ruth, redeems Naomi’s family, and they had a son named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse. Jesse had a son named David (later to become the “King David”).

Bathsheba: a Hittite from the region of modern day Turkey (2 Sam. 11). Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, the best soldier for king David. Uriah is out at war in the spring and David should have been with his soldiers, but he’s wasn’t, he stayed back at home, hadn’t written any poetry in a while nor killed any men, so on a leisurely afternoon in the palace he sees Bathsheba bathing because she’s menstruating, and sees that she’s beautiful and calls her into his palace and has an affair with her. Lo and behold, she gets pregnant (surprise, surprise!), so David calls Uriah home to cover this terrible thing up. Uriah, being a good dude that he is, denies to sleep with his wife because his men were in the battle field fighting. Even after Uriah gets drunk by David’s decree and still honors his troops, so David sends Uriah to the front lines of the war to die. Then David conveniently marries the grieving widow, and the whole kingdom sees David as a hero. Bathsheba’s son dies, but then gives birth to King Solomon.

Mary: a Jew (Matthew 1) and a teenage girl who is engaged, but gets pregnant by the Holy Spirit and carries the Savior of the world, a story everyone would believe, right? Teen mom, is supported only by her soon to be husband who was persuaded to stay with her because an angel visited him and told him the whole story. They had to leave their home town before she gives birth to Jesus and are on the road as refugees as she gives birth to Jesus, the King of the world, in the line of David.

What’s similar with all of these women? First of all, all of them had question marks and irregularities in their marriages or in the way they conceived a child, or struggled to conceive a child, which could be a way that Matthew is making room for the irregularity of Jesus’ virgin birth that is unique in and of itself, from an unmarried mother. Maybe Matthew is saying, “Mary, I know you’ve struggled with your role in carrying the Christ and being blamed and accused of many horrible things, so here’s some history for you and some mentors who can bring you comfort in your distress.”

We see that four out of five of these moms were foreigners from a Jewish point of view, as Luther has pointed out. Maybe in our context it would be right to call them immigrants. All the nations that these women were from could very well represent all the major regions of the known world at that time. Either way, we know Jesus’ family tree has international blood. Jesus is born with the blood of all the nations, not just Jewish blood. Jesus the Jew, and the Jewish Messiah, had Gentile blood from every part of the world! His plan for all time was all nations (Gen. 12:1-3), after all, they were all created by Him.

This is an urban text that ought to speak to the urban realities that we all face in our city, Christ our savior not only has Gentile blood, but he came out of a dysfunctional family, and he made sure these women who have suffered were honored and remembered, and he died to redeem their pain and loss.

Jesus is the mixed-racial (mestizo) Savior of the world! Jesus’ family is Middle Eastern, Asian, European, and African (and likely more), nations that many Americans love to hate, but the gospel won’t allow this. This genealogy of Jesus crushes racism. It wasn’t only my sin that was atoned for, but the sins of every ethnic and racial class in the world.

Jesus’ arrival marks a new beginning with the very reason of His existence to restore shalom (the way things were supposed to be). Matt. 1:1 says: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ” The word “genealogy” in Greek is the word “genéseōs” (genesis; beginnings, origin) which the reader would have been immediately reminded of Gen. 2:4 and 5:1, where the exact same expression was used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint; LXX). With this echo from the book of Genesis we were meant to hear and realize that the arrival of Jesus as the Messiah marks a new beginning, a new creation, a new way to be human. This is good news indeed, especially coming from a cemetery tour.

And finally, at the end of this genealogy, we learn that Jesus is the end of the time of preparation (Israel waited and prepared for the Messiah to come, and Jesus fulfills the end of their wait). Here’s verse 17: “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”

Let me explain this to you. 3’s and 7’s were considered to be marks of completion and perfection in Hebrew and Greek cultures. 7 days of creation (complete creation); Jesus died and rose again 3 days later (perfect Savior), etc…

When you double three 3’s and seven 7’s, you make a statement of being “as perfect as you could ever get; the end of the line.” Matthew gives us three spans of time, and then he tells us there are 14 generations in between each span of time (in case Math isn’t your gift, that’s double three’s and double seven’s; pretty perfect and complete!).

Maybe Matthew is trying to tell us that “Jesus is the end of the line.” As far as the OT story goes, it has run its completed course in preparation, and now its goal and climax is found in Jesus. Jesus, the Savor with Gentile blood from all the nations, dies to give us His blood for all the nations. This is not just a good Christmas text, but an Easter one as well. And because this Jesus offered this for us, He has freed us to move into other people’s family trees (their pain and agony and loss) with equal intention and love, and be the presence of Jesus to those who are suffering and broken. And all this from a boring genealogy!

Stop Lying

Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying, but was unable to become a pilot in the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly around the age of 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store. Twenty years later he decided to do so. His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawn chair, cut the anchor, and then float above the city at a height of about 30 feet for several hours. He planned to use a BB gun to burst balloons to float gently to the ground.

So this retired Vietnam vet, Larry Walters, and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and obtained helium tanks from California Toy Time Balloons. They used a forged signature from his employer at FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. On July 2, 1982, Walters attached the balloons to his lawn chair, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and strapped himself into the chair in the backyard of a home in San Pedro. He named his ride “Inspiration”. He took a BB gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera.

When his friends prematurely cut the second cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep, he streaked out into the sky as if he was shot from a canon where he leveled off at a nice cruising altitude, not of 30 feet, but 16,000 feet. At first, he didn’t dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause himself to spill out. For several hours he drifted, cold and frightened. He slowly drifted over the primary approach corridor for LAX airport. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry. The pilot radioed to the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair… with a gun! Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating at 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures went into full alert. Larry finally shot enough balloons to lower himself down safely into some power lines in a nearby neighborhood.

He was immediately arrested upon landing; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” After his flight, he was in brief demand as a motivational speaker and he quit his job as a truck driver. He was featured in a Timex print ad in the early ’90s.

Good ole Larry Walters needed a good friend to be honest with him: “Bro, I know you can’t just sit around and you’re going stir crazy inside, but come on dude, drop that idea and let’s rent some Harley’s, drive up the cost, and have a beer on the beach.”

Apparently his girlfriend Carol didn’t love him enough to be honest with him. “Yeh baby, okay… sounds like a great idea! Let’s forge your bosses signature, buy some weather balloons and lie about what we are using them for! Excellent idea!” That’s the kind of idea my 3 year old, not a middle aged man and his adult girlfriend.

Honesty! This is a big topic, isn’t it. Many of us have been that friend who should’ve said what was truthful and we didn’t because we loved ourselves more than our friends. Being honest with one another these days seems to be optional.

You know those hidden camera shows where they stage actors and actresses who are picking on an overweight lady, totally humiliating and tormenting her with words and laughs… in public. Over the period of 4 hours, they only have a handful of people (out of thousand passer-by’s) stand up to these actors and actresses and confront their unjust behavior.

Where has our honesty and character gone? Where has our regard for others, and for our own behavior gone. Where’s the love man? We need a revolution of honesty and truthfulness. We need this because the central defect of evil isn’t necessarily sin, but the refusal to acknowledge it.

The passage that I was given to teach on tonight, deals exactly with this honesty problem, but we are going to have to do some work to figure out how we can be freed up to have the character and courage to be honest people. Turn with me to Colossians 3:9: Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices. “Now that’s a strong statement Paul…are you assuming I’m lying to people? Why do you have to assume things? But whatPaul’s doing, is he’s making a comment on the heels of an unfolding letter that we must briefly unpack. Let’s look at Col. 3:5-8:

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:
sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

8 But now you must put them all away:
anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Paul is hammering Christian living in light of Christ being all and in all (Col. 1:15-23; 2:6-15). Thus, these commands and urgings (or we can call them imperatives) from Paul are not legalistic nor meant for you to “obey or else”, rather they are an urgent call for the Colossians to live in light of who they are in Christ (remember the indicatives). If we had the time, (I encourage you to do this yourself later tonight), I could slowly walk through Col. 1-2 and teach on all that is already true for believers:

-Reconciled to God through His death and resurrection.
-Christ in you.
-Established in faith.
-Your faith in Him has joined you in His death, thus receiving the reward of His death and resurrection which will be a glorified body that will appear with Christ in glory!
-You were made you alive when you were dead.
-Your sins were forgiven.
-You were given the power of God over the authorities that once condemned and damned you.

Because of this O’ Colossians, seek the things that are above (Col. 3:1). Set your mind on the things Christ has made you. Christ is coming back and you will appear with Him; not only appear with Him, but will be with Him in all His glory. This is your inheritance. This is what Christ has done for you. You are free not because you are righteous, but because Jesus is righteous. Stop pretending to be holier than thou, admit your sin, and be honest with one another. Plead the case for the widow, orphan, oppressed, stand up for those who can’t stand by themselves, don’t pretend you don’t see the injustice, etc…

This is why I believe Paul says at the end of these two lists above:
v. 9: Do not lie to one another. Don’t lie about your sin, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices… The old self is not only these actions, but the denial of you being in need of help from Jesus… 10 …put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator… This happens through on going confession and repentance of these sins that you must learn to put away, sins that you commit, but also, like those who over look injustice, sins you commit through inaction. You will never learn or change in a healthy way as long as you are not honest with yourself and others. In other words…

Be honest with each other. Quit pretending to like someone and then insult them all the more by talking about them behind their back. If your homeboy talks too much and doesn’t get the hints that everyone else is giving him, honor the dude and be honest with him. If his zipper is down or he has food n between his teeth, tell him! Don’t act all cool with him then go to another group of friends and talk about how much he annoys you. That’s not what Christ saved you into…

There is a false unspoken rule among many believers that if you don’t have it together, then you’ve got to claim it, and stop acting like you don’t have it together, because you are new in Christ. Well let me blow up a myth for you tonight: being reborn and made new in Christ doesn’t undo the past and doesn’t take away the pain and dysfunction you have because of your past or current situation. No, there is a real thing that theologians call sanctification (becoming more like Christ).

We are not redeemed and made perfect and skip the whole “being made like Jesus” part. No, the struggles, the pain, the failures, the confessions, the forgiveness that is granted, all of that is what is used to make you like Jesus and that process doesn’t stop until you die or Jesus returns. So stop lying to each other. The Christian gospel is about truth, and there is no place for false truths in the Christian community.

How do we do that? Maybe you’re hearing me tonight and you are all in, you want to be done pretending. You want to grow up into your salvation and have real deep abiding friendships, ones that matter and bring joy into your life. Here’s how you begin to grow up emotionally and stop lying to one another:

1) If you haven’t already, trust in Jesus today. Be honest with Him. Allow Him to be the One you trust and worship, not yourself, not your boyfriend or girlfriend, not your family, only Jesus. This happens by confessing your sin, that starts like this: I’m a sinner. I need help. Help me Jesus.

2) Ask for forgiveness from those you know you have either outwardly or secretly wronged. Make things right. Confess to them that you were a fraud and that you thought you could be more acceptable by dissing them, etc.

3) Be honest with yourself. If you take the time to think about how you really feel, what you really think, and how often you stuff feelings, emotions, griefs, etc… You will be able to come up with a long list of areas where you haven’t been honest.

For example:
-Have you ever had a problem arise and you ignored it and hoped it went away?
-Have you ever went somewhere that you didn’t feel safe and pretended to be okay and never tell anybody, and now you live in fear and anxiety about going back to that person/place?
-Have you ever lied about how you are feeling (whether good, bad or indifferent)?
-Have you ever been full of fear all night and went on your next day without telling a soul?
-Have you ever put on a smile, when inside you were raging with anger?
-Have you ever seen someone wrong another person (in any way) and act like noting happened or didn’t see it?
-Have you ever said yes to someone that would’ve made you feel bad if you said no and became resentful and bitter toward that person, but never told them?
-Have you ever ignored a glaring weakness in a friend just because you wanted to date them or be associated with someone of their social status?
-Have you ever been manipulated by a friend and never confronted their manipulation?
-Have you ever put on certain outfits to make people think you were wealthier or happier than you were?

All of these questions are just to get you thinking about how much we are not honest with each other. We’re like those on the hidden camera show where someone is needing help by a bully and 99% of the people just walk by & pretend they didn’t see it.
You see, we are all really good at pointing our fingers at others, our leaders, our parents, our friends, the Republicans or Democrats, our professors… but if we were to be honest with ourselves, we know we are the same frauds we think they are.

We must be honest with ourselves and admit that our way of looking at ourselves and glossing over our own actions while we secretly judge others is a terrible way to live. We need a truthful revolution because:

-We can be a dynamic, gifted speaker for God in public and be an unloving child, spouse, or parent at home.
-We can function as a worship band member or church leader and be unteachable, insecure, defensive, and sleeping around.
-We can memorize books of the Bible and still be unaware of our depression and anger, even transferring it on to other people who don’t deserve it.
-We can fast and pray one day a week for years as a spiritual discipline and constantly be critical of others, justifying it as discernment, and pretending you’re more mature.
-We can lead hundreds of people in a Christian ministry while driven by a deep personal need to prove ourselves because we are plague by a sense of failure.
-We can pray for deliverance from the demonic realm when in reality we are simply avoiding conflict, and repeating an unhealthy pattern of behavior traced back to the home in which you grew up.
-We can be outwardly cooperative at work, but unconsciously try to undercut or defeat our supervisor by coming habitually late, constantly forgetting tasks, withdrawing and becoming apathetic, or ignoring the real issue behind why we are hurt and angry.1

Are you tracking with me? We need not lie to one another. Why? How can we feel so safe to let our guard down and be honest about ourselves, our pain, and why we are struggling to love people and be honest with them? Here’s how:

Jesus wants the honest one who’s been broken. Jesus didn’t come for those who are not sick and broken. He came for the sick, the broken, the truthful ones about their wretchedness. He tells us this Himself. Jesus Christ lived the obedient life you and I couldn’t live, and died the death that you and I deserved to die, and conquered death that was going to crush us, SO THAT, you and I could be reconciled to the true Father, the good Daddy, who loves us and only wants us to be honest with Him and trust Him.

This is where Paul is going in Colossians. O’ Colossians, you can jump into this radical new way of living that is terribly dangerous and could seem like relational suicide to some of you, but it is the only way to live. You were created to live in the light, for Jesus is light and has brought you into it by grace through faith in Him.

Will you take Jesus at His word tonight and be honest with Him and others, and receive what you were created to receive? Be honest with one another, and start by being honest with yourself.

Let’s Pray!

Awakening!

Over the last 300 hundred years there has been a series of Christian awakenings that have taken place in America and then spread throughout the whole world in many ways.  After the reformation, and the bloody and gruesome years of Christians killing one another because they thought they had a corner on the market of God’s interpreted gospel, we see a great awakening of the church break into history.

The “city on a hill” Puritan dream collapsed in the mid 18th century (1700’s) and God burst into our history with this great move of His Spirit under such men as Theodore Frelingheisen, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Samuel Davies. The gospel was preached with boldness and love, prayer was central to the Christian life, and lives were changed and brought under the obedience and Lordship of Jesus Christ because God chose to move and the church exposed the lies of the day. This period of time is called the first great awakening, which took on many different forms.

A second great awakening during the early part of the 19th century broke out after the death of the first great awakening under such men as Henry Ward Beecher, Asahel Nettleton, and Charles Finney who called people back to Jesus, His gospel and submission to Him in the midst of a church that had been overtaken by the story of the day, rather than God’s story. This awakening led to great transformation and heart change that brought about obedience to Christ in daily living and a heart for prayer.

A third great awakening brought new life in the mid to late 19th century after the second great awakening died off. This awakening, like all the rest were birthed in fervent prayer (1857) preaching of the gospel with boldness and love, and a commitment to the true story of the world, not the story of the day. We see this awakening burst into history through men such as D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday. This particular awakening carried into the 20th century under men such as William Seymour who was the leader of the Azusa Street Revival in 1906.

A fourth great awakening yet took place in the mid 20th century (1940-1960) which brought the new revived evangelicalism that had previously died after the third great awakening because of Christian liberalism and fundamentalism that stopped believing and living out the core of the gospel. So guess what God used to ignite this fourth great awakening? You guessed it… the prayer and the preaching of the gospel with godly confidence and love. Men such as Billy Graham and David du Plessis were key figures in this great awakening.

According to church historians, there hasn’t been another awakening in the church that is equal to any of the previous four in the last 300 years. If there were to be any movements that would be equal to awakenings in America over the last 300 years, we would have to go to China, nations in Africa, South America, and certain parts of India, but not in America. Why is that? I have a few ideas of what could be our problem in America, things that I’ve observed as we have planted Kineo over at 37th Ave and Camelback.

The beginning and end of each of these great awakenings are similar to varying degrees. They all began with a growing unrest with the culture’s status quo, the culture’s false stories that have won out over and above God’s story, and the church retold and lived out God’s story in a fresh new way. These awakenings usually ended with the church growing comfortable and lulled to sleep by the culture’s story that in-filtrated the church and became the more dominant story and the church didn’t know it.

We are on the heels (by 40 or 50 years) of the fourth great awakening and the church is ripe for another awakening, but something powerful has been standing in the way, and the church is still having a hard time noticing it. It’s because every culture has a story that is the dominant story that directs life. It’s the true story you think you are living in.

The great thinkers of our day call our culture “postmodern”, some even say “post-Christian. Post means “after”, so our culture is after the modern era right now. The modern era made science and reason THE god, the god that was placed in the ultimate position over and above the God of Scripture, and eventually in the modern era, many believed that we have killed God because we do not need Him anymore… we have science and reason that can answer all our questions now.

A modern mind would say that industrialization (build systems to grow business) was what the world needed and anything that went against this worldview was oppressive. Well, the gospel didn’t disagree with industrialization, but it did say that it wasn’t the answer for a utopian society. So the gospel (and Christians) were minimized and viewed as narrow minded and ignorant.

In the last 40-50 years, the modern way of thinking has been refuted by “postmodern” thinking that realized there was no “one true” story that was true for the masses. Rather, everyone has their own truth. This is called relativism, that has led our culture in a selfish pursuit of pleasing ourselves because our story and our need is real and true for us, so it’s only right to get what I want; which is where consumerism (your way right away) and individualism (it’s all about you) has come from.

This understanding of the world has so permeated every part of our culture, even the church, and is now expressed in the way we live our lives (Chuck-E-Cheese, entertainment, comfort, leisure), build and run our churches (building or business), and conduct businesses (for individual profit to fund our habits often to the neglect of the needs around us).

Let’s take Chuck-E-Cheese for an example. You get $10 in tokens to get as many tickets as possible to fuel the need for your child to get a cheap thrill of buying a toy that costs 50 cents that will break within one day. Then the kid will get upset and want another toy that costs 50 cents to make or not even care in some cases because their options are so great. “Darn you Chuck-E!” says the parent, but they never see the god of consumerism and individualism that has controlled their decision making. This is consumerism and individualism at it’s finest. It can be summed up in two words:
“I (individualism) want (consumerism).”

If we were to take this one step further, materialism is fueled by “I want” because it takes money to get what we want. So “I want” therefore “I work to make money” so that “I can get what I want” has controlled our culture, even Christians.

It seems at times that we believe the answer to everything is material:
– Give money to the poor and they will get better by good programs.
– Send money to the missionaries and they can reach the lost.
– Build good facilities and then we can be established.
– Get better resources then people will be reached.
– Get economies to flourish in the poor communities, then they will thrive.

Now, while all these things may be necessary eventually, and “very good”, they are not the answer as we have seen over the last 50 years. What’s missing? Well, what did we see in the first four great awakenings? A discontentment with the cultural status quo among believers that drove them to prayer, righteous living, and a re-telling of the gospel story with a new godly confidence and Christ-centeredness that spoke against the subtle idolatrous story of the day. Christians radically altered the way they lived.

We need another movement today that is thoroughly Christ-centered and Spirit-filled. The life cycle of all movement, churches, schools, and people go through the same process: birth, growth, maturity and consolidation, and death or decline. We are in decline or death in many areas of Christianity in America namely because we have bought into the individualistic, consumeristic, materialistic idolatrous story that has lulled the church to sleep. We need to live by the tune of a different story.

The only thing that can interrupt the above mentioned life cycle is God’s grace to the church that is given by the power of the HS and is usually poured out on those who aren’t just calling on the Lord with their lips, but with their obedience to Him (1 Peter 3:12). We need a renewal that brings about a new heart for prayer and for obedience in our daily lives. How can we wake up from our comma?

We need to know the true missionary story of God, believe it and live it out!! This is the only story that can rival the other stories of our culture in such a way that will dismantle the strongholds and bring about another great awakening in our day. Here’s the story:

CREATION: God created man and woman in His image (vice regents) and likeness (sons/daughters), meaning that we are to be kingly servants of God in this world as well as His children who rule and have dominion over this earth in such a way that they display the beauty and worth of God. He placed them in the middle of Paradise…the Hebrew word for God’s original creation and plan is called “shalom” (universal peace and flourishing, the way things are supposed to be).

God created: How have you usurped God’s role in being the giver of all things? How did you get to where you are today? Hard work? Faithfulness? Blood, sweat and tears? We must identify where we have retold the creation story with our lives in a way that says, I say God created, but I really believe I created, or money crested, or wars created, or capitalism crested, or America created.

FALL: But something terrible happened! Man let their kingly role get to their heads and thought they could dethrone God and totally went against what He had established. At that moment God’s shalom was shattered into pieces and man waged war against God and shalom. But God wasn’t going to let the brokenness of shalom prevail because He loves us and He loves shalom.

Mankind sinned: How have you been lulled to sleep with your role in all this mess? Where have you placed wrongful blame? Where have you not taken responsibility? What do you see as the problem that needs to be fixed that makes you out to not be the worst part of the problem? Abusers are the problem? Wars are the problem? Irresponsible consumers/stewards? Bad economy? My marriage is the problem?

REDEMPTION: What happened next is God called a people who were not a people, blessed them, gave them a new name, a new place to live, and a new purpose to be alive. This new people (who we are going to call Israel) started with Abraham, whom God made a promise to, that He will bless Him “SO THAT” he will be blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12-17)

God blessed these people, and over the next thousand years or so they grew in number as free people and as slaves. God redeemed them out of slavery and gave them precepts that would help them live a shalom-like life. Before He gave them the specifics, He told them that He wanted them to know why He was doing this. He wants them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6).

This is God’s plan for God’s people for all time: To be a kingdom of priests (a people group who God blesses so that they can mediate God’s blessings to other people groups who do not know Him, because ALL the earth is His);  And a holy nation (a people group who obey God and resist idol worship and are in the world to display the beauty and worth of God, yet create a counter-culture, a more attractive culture than that which the pagan world has created). You tracking with me?

So the rest of this story is basically a commentary on how Israel “can be” a royal priesthood and a holy nation and also “how they utterly failed” in living out God’s mission. We see Israel time and time again running back to their own vomit, prostituting God’s grace once they are comfortable, and only calling on God when times are bad, never taking a collective stance against the culture.

And then we have the fulfillment of all prophecy’s that God set in place from before the beginning. Jesus, the God-man, came to redeem man from His sinful state, crush the head of the serpent, and restore our broken relationship with God. The perfect life of Jesus, His death, resurrection and ascension sealed the deal for all who submit to Him! Jesus took what we deserved and gave us what He deserved!

Jesus is the solution: If we’ve been lulled to sleep by a different story than this, then we (even though we don’t say it with our words) believe that Jesus isn’t really the answer for us. If the problem for you (see above; the Fall) is the law breakers, then your solution is to take care of the lawbreakers. If the problem for you is your marriage, then fix it and get out of it and things will be better. Same goes with your job, the economy, your past, wasteful spenders, injustice, etc. We must believe and retell the true story of God and let this story tell us what’s true.

God is the creator and sustainer of all things and I am here because of Hid grace and because He has seen fit to allow me to be born in this country and this date and not in rural India 1250AD. I am the problem and my sinfulness must be exposed and God must do something on my behalf if I am to be delivered. So Jesus came and took my place. This story must be retold with words, actions, and conviction. This is the only story powerful enough to save and refute the idols of our day.

RE-CREATION: This must happen because there will be a day when Jesus will return to judge all who have not submitted to Him, and the true story of the world and will restore shalom and gather His people. This is the utopia the world wants, but most don’t know they want it or how good it will be. This is the final outcome, not world peace through capturing men like Kony, although he needs to be captured. Not globalization that seeks to brings wealth and food and good economy to all as the final outcome, although we need to labor in that manner. Jesus’ return and restoration of all things is utopia!

When that day comes, Satan will be defeated and crushed and thrown into the lake of fire for eternity!! There will be no more freedom for him to roam and steal, kill and destroy!! The presence of sin will be removed because God will glorify our bodies in the order of the firstborn Son, Jesus. A new heaven will come down to earth out from the old heaven, and God will make His dwelling place with man, and this whole earth will be re-created, shalom re-established!1 Romans 8 says us and ALL of creation are groaning and longing for this day. Christ’s return will so utterly undo sin and it’s effects, the whole universe will feel His redemption. Every nook and cranny that has been marred by sin will be renewed, remade.

But until that day comes, we are caught in the middle of post-resurrection Church era and pre-new heaven and new earth era, in the already not yet. This is the true story of the universe and we are to live in light of this gospel story of Jesus, not the gospel story of America, consumerism, individualism, etc.

Want to see the gospel grow and God’s kingdom expand and our generation be awakened? Want to see our generation live in light of the true story of the universe Want to plant churches that have the power of the HS? Start with you!

1) Grow up into your salvation (confess hidden sin, stop pretending, be controlled by the gospel story, not by the culture of consumerism, individualism, busyness, etc, and stop trying to justify yourself before God, live in your brokenness let Jesus justify you by believing what He did for you and let His grace be the motivation of all that you do)

2) Obey God’s word (that means you read it and know it and study it, you pray and ask for God’s Spirit to fill you with the grace to obey Him, you live your life among unbelievers in an honorable way as a holy priest, seeking to bless the sojourner, the widow, the poor, the outcast, you go when He say go, and you stay when He says stay; radical, sacrificial obedience)

3) Remain united (holy, living stones need other holy, living stones to make what God wants with His people (a spiritual house), we need each other and we need to stand together more than ever, we must be more united which means we must rally around Jesus’ death and resurrection and let other disagreements be secondary and non-divisive)

God help us as we pray for and live towards another great awakening for Your glory and our good!

Seeing Jesus in Scripture (Creation and Fall)

Intro
Two men walking to Emmaus, and Jesus meets up with them after he had been resurrected, but the two men didn’t recognize Him. Jesus asked what they were talking about and the two men were amazed that He didn’t know what had happened. So they told Jesus about this “Jesus” who was a prophet that they had hoped was the one to redeem Israel, but he was crucified, and now His body is not in the tomb, but some women said they saw and angel who told them He was alive:

25 And [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

This is why we are going through the story of God, so we can interpret the Scriptures that concern Jesus, which concern us, and our transformation and mission.

In the Christian worldview, God created all things and His creation is seen as a gift from God. Under no obligation or necessity, and out of His great pleasure, He created us inside this vast universe, living on earth, breathing air, enjoying sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings, relationships and many other things that we enjoy on this earth. God graciously gifted all these wonderful things for us to steward and enjoy!

Christians have always believed in creation by an omnipotent, sovereign God. It’s only been since a couple hundred years ago that the origin of creation has been debated in what we call the “age of reason” or the “Enlightenment”.

But there needs to be a disclaimer about the creation account before we begin to unpack it. It’s far too easy to read the first chapters of Genesis with the questions of our time: “Were the days of creation 24 hours long?” “How long ago did this happen?” “Is this history or myth?” “How does this square with modern views of science and evolution?” Of course, these are important questions and we can probably learn some things from Genesis 1-11 that are relevant to them.

But we don’t learn very much from a text if we ask it questions that it was not written to answer. Genesis is answering questions like: “What are human beings? What are we here for? What is our relationship to the nature and the world? Who is God and what is He like? Genesis 1 is not about the “How” of creation but rather about the “Why”.

Jesus in Gen. 1
So if we were to begin with Moses, he wrote the first five books of the OT. So open your Bibles to Genesis 1:1-2 and let’s look for the Jesus.

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

There He is. Did you catch that? He’s there in the first verse, but we learn this later in God’s story as we read passages like this:

In Colossians, Paul speaks of Jesus being “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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.” (Col. 1:15-16).

Then the apostle John brings further clarity to this reality as he teaches about Jesus Christ being the “Word” (or words of God) at the “beginning” as he starts off his gospel: “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

So it’s clear that we see the Trinity at work in creation: God, through Jesus, by the movement of the Spirit, creation of the world begins; the Spirit and the Word.

At the beginning of our universe as we know it, God existed and acted. He receives no introduction or explanation. He simply is present, acting in the most profound manner imaginable. He is the creator. He is the center of life, and truth can only be known through Him, since He is the Creator of all things. Alright, back to verse 1.

Exposition of Gen. 1: Creation Account
Gen 1:1: “created the heavens and earth”: the word “created” is the Hebrew word “bara” and is only used of God, never of human activity. Humans may “make” (asa) “form” (yatsar) or “build” (bana), but only God creates (bara; ex nihilo; out of nothing).

Gen. 1:2: “and the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving” This verse shows the utter need at the outset of creation for God to move and the power by which He will move and create (by the Spirit).

Gen. 1:3: “And God said (God speaks! This is the word of God), ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” We learn here that God speaks, and whatever He says happens exactly the way He says for it to happen. Also, in vv. 2-3, we see God using two instruments to create with:

The “Spirit of God” (the movement) and the “Word of God” (the authority). In the creation of the world, and in the re-creation of believers in salvation, the Spirit and the Word work together to bring life where there is death. God never brings life and growth without the Word and Spirit.

Also, notice that in verse 2 there is darkness, and in verse 3 there is God speaking light into darkness. This is God’s MO (mode of operation). In 2 Cor. 4:6 we read: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” (referring to Gen. 1:3) has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So right out of the gates, as God is revealing Himself to mankind, He is revealing His plan to redeem mankind through the Son being the light that reaches into the dark hearts of mankind to take their old hearts, and give them a new heart, a new birth. This is God’s gospel being revealed to us from the beginning.

And starting in verse 3 on through the end of the chapter, we begin to see repetitious patterns appear that teach us about God’s gospel. Let’s look at them:

1. “God” with the word “made” or “created”. “God” appears 35 times in the first 34 verses. He dominates and overshadows everything. Nothing happens unless God makes it happen. Nothing is made or created except by Him. And notice there is no argument or fight with other gods during creation…that’s because there aren’t any!

2. “and God said”: This phrase is found 10 times in this chapter and indicates the divine command which called things into existence at will.

3. “and it was so”: This is used 6 times in this chapter to affirm that the creative command of God was perfectly accomplished and is powerful. We do not see God saying, “I’m going to do this” and then go do it. Almost always, he says: “Let there be…” and immediately “it was so”. Our words only express the intention to act, but God’s word is an action itself.

4. “it was good” or “very good”: This is found 7 times in the passage and it demonstrates the benevolence and wisdom of God in creation. It also serves as a type of benediction (a closing utterance). In verse 31, we have a kind of ‘master benediction’, where God sees “all that he had made… was very good”.

5. “separate” or “separating”: This word is used or assumed 6 times in the passage. The initial act of creation (v.1) is ex nihilo (Latin for “out of nothing”), but after that God’s creative work consists of elaborating, distinguishing, separating, and “drawing out” the creation into greater complexity.

6. “and there was evening and there was morning: This phrase occurs 6 times and shows us that there were days that were allotted to creation and by which God worked within. It’s clear to see that the division of the creative work of God into six days is a repetition in and of itself.

The Imago Dei: Created in God’s Image
Gen. 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”: Up until now, the phrase used for God creating things has repeatedly been “let there be”, whereas this verse shifts unexpectedly to “let us make”.

This suggests a few things to the reader: 1) that something big is about to go down on the 6th day; 2) that God says “us” and “our image after our likeness” which begins to teach us of the Trinity; and 3) an ancient Near Eastern Hebrew would take this to refer to a divine counsel that is taking place in the heavenly realms, which leads us to believe that the “man” being made is being given dominion over the earth while the heavenly beings are being stripped of their dominion in this realm.

“in our image”: The Hebrew word here for image is “selem” and indicates physical resemblance or concrete similarity. It comes from a root word which means “to cut or carve”, much like a statue is made that depicts a great king, etc. In the ANE, the word “selem” would be used to refer to “rulership”.

“[and] according to our likeness”: Likeness is “demuth” in Hebrew, and indicates abstract similarity. It comes from a root meaning “to be like.” In the ANE, the word “demulth” would have implied “sonship”

Ruler and Son/Daughter. This is fully realized in the person of Jesus. This is who you were created to be from the beginning, but you will never fully know it until you know Jesus. Humans rule in ways God didn’t intend. We must look to how Jesus ruled (i.e. power through weakness; sacrificial love; covenant keep Son/Father)

What does the Imago Dei not mean for us?
– It does not mean we are gods, halflings, angels, or animals (incarnation as a different creature)
– It does not mean that we are just a body (materialism/atheism).
– It does not mean we are just a mind (we think therefore we are).
– It does not mean that we are just a product of our environment (born rich therefore you are valuable / abused therefore you are useless / born in a corrupt society, therefore you are corrupt). Ultimately you are not a victim of your own society.
– It does not mean we are just souls (the body and mind are not apart of our true humanness – body and soul).
– It does not mean that we are just creatures with emotions who feel, hurt etc…

Gen. 1:26b: And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. Let “them” together rule over this earth, as co-regents, exercising authority over the created things and elements that God gave them.

Gen. 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.” Human intimacy and sexual complementation is implied in the Hebrew words used here for “male” and “female”.

Their sexual acts teach us that man is a planter and a woman is a receiver. We hold a complimentarian position when it comes to man/woman relationships. We are different, have different roles, and created to accomplish different things (pregnancy, nursing, relationships, etc…)

The man needed the woman to complement him as much as the woman needed the man. In this relationship there is a corporate aspect to the image of God. Your image is not fully realized in and of yourself… you need the other sex. We were created for this integrated relationship on all levels of existence.

Read vv. 28-31: Be fruitful, multiply, subdue, rule over all that God created, and God said that all the he had made was VERY GOOD!

Read vv. 2:1-3: God rests, which teaches us that we are to rest. Sabbath is good, but it was not to be held religiously, rather it is to be held to help preserve shalom; the way things were supposed to be…Gen. 1 (universal peace and flourishing)

In Gen. 2, we see more of a micro or detailed view of what God created, and some clear Garden of Eden rules get implemented for the shalom of Adam and Eve. Within this SHALOM, God gives man a tree of life that they can eat from freely that will preserve their created order and allow their life to never end.

But God also created another tree called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and this tree was off limits, and if they eat the fruit of that tree, they will surely die.

Genesis 2 on Marriage
Read Gen. 2:18-25: Here we see the way in which God created Eve and the marriage institution, and we can learn a lot about marriage, which we will just briefly touch on because of time:

1. All this was created before the entrance of sin, so sex is a very good thing between a man and a woman whom God has made one (in a covenantal relationship); it’s not sinful.

2. God made a woman to be a helper for the man (not, daddy’s little helper, and not someone to help you get an orgasm) but rather in the same fashion as Psalm 54:4: Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.

3. God made one woman for Adam, He didn’t create 30 women and run them by Him like He did the animals and have him pick the one he liked the most. God intends for a man and a woman to have one partner in their life; not multiple. This is why porn is destructive. A man can have thousands of partners who have his heart and now his  wife is sharing her husband with many women. No wonder marriages suck!

4. God intended that man’s standard of beauty be the woman that he marries. Before you get married, you need to pray about who it is that God wants you to marry and it better not be only based on how she looks, because if it is, she will change after children and age and you will want to find someone else who looks like the woman you married earlier.

So the man’s standard of physical beauty was meant to be his wife and change as his wife changes. If your wife is short, you like short. If your wife is large, that means you like large for now. You may say, “what if she used to be skinny?” “then you don’t like skinny anymore!” Got it!! Be content with what you have. This goes both ways.

5. God created a man and a woman to be married together. Two different genders with two separate parts. God has always intended for marriage to be between a man and a woman. God did not create another man for Adam and then a woman and give Adam the choice. If that was the way God intended things to be, then it was no fair for Adam. But that’s not how it was intended to be. Any kind of sexual relations outside of a covenantal marriage between a man and a woman is destructive and wicked.

6. A man was meant to leave his mother and his father and become one with his wife and hold fast to her. That means he moves out of his parents home and stops being a mama’s boy. He grows up. He acts like a man and leads, loves and protects her; and the woman expects him to. The two become one and share life together unlike any other relationship in their lives. Are you sharing life with your wife, or are you hiding things in your life with her? Are you holding fast to her, or your own selfish sexual desires?

All of the above was to convince you that God is good, He is the creator of heaven and earth, the maker of mankind who placed His image on us, gave us the role to be co-regents with Him, to reign over the earth and everything in it, gave us all that we need (food, friendship, a place to live, good sex within His boundaries of marriage, the ability to reproduce, and Himself). This is the way things were supposed to be. This is a great picture of the Hebrew word “SHALOM” (universal peace and flourishing, God’s way).

The Fall of Man
And you guessed it, the unthinkable happened… something very terrible goes wrong in this great story. Man, whom God created to represent Himself to the world, chooses to disregard God’s rules, and tries to be like Him.
A serpent in the garden approaches Eve and begins to plot against her so that she would be like him, and not God. We call this serpent, Satan for lack of better words.

What was Satan’s strategy to Eve?
1. To question God’s word (“has God said” 3:1)” One twist of God’s word here was Satanic and so poisonous that it has affected every man that has ever lived. Rather than rebuking Satan, Eve entertained his lies. and was deceived by him (most crafty beast in the field). Eve chose Satan over God, and pride over humility. Do this sound familiar in your life?

2. To discredit God’s word (“you surely will not die” 3:4) (implications) Satan discredited God’s word by planting a seed of doubt in Eve’s heart as to whether or not she will actually die if she eats of the fruit. This is why believe every word of the Bible and seek to understand what every passage says.

3. To slander God’s character (“God knows that the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil” 3:5). (implications) Satan now has Eve in his grip and totally turned the whole page in Eve’s head and has her believing that God is holding out on her for selfish reason and that God is in some way trying to protect His deity, but actually God was protecting man’s well-being.

The Silence of Adam
Men! Where was Adam during all of this? Why was he silent? (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, he was made to love her, protect her, care for her, provide for her and honor her….and he stood by watching, letting Satan work his wife over // he was checked out: football, porn, working on the car, working out…wake up dudes and get in the game!)

When sin entered the world, the effect on our relationship as male and female was devastating. God comes to Adam after he had eaten the forbidden fruit and asks what has happened. Adam says in Gen. 3:12: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

In other words “It’s her fault (or yours for giving her to me!), so if somebody must die for eating the fruit, it better be her!” It is right here that you have the beginning of all domestic violence, all wife abuse, all rape, all sexual slurs, all the ways of belittling woman whom God created in his own image, etc.

Gen. 3:13: Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” “Don’t kill me, kill the serpent! Give the serpent what I deserve. It’s all his fault!”

It is here that you have the beginning of blaming and not taking responsibility for your own sin. It is here that we have the origins of identifying everything but “sin” (worship of anything but God) as the problem (wars, Democrats/Republicans, the wealthy, men, women, etc…)

God then goes on to curse the serpent and the ground that Adam and Eve live on, and brings great complication to all of life (pregnancy, marriage, strife, etc…)

So what is sin?  

Sin is rebelling against God. He is the Creator of all things, therefore, He sets the standard of everything. So ultimately, sin is preferring anything above God.

Cornelius Plantinga Jr. calls sin a perversion against God’s gracious plan. Shalom was created in the Garden of Eden, and sin “vandalized” shalom.

As humans, we prostituted the greatest gift we could receive from God by distorting/ruining “shalom”. Thus, the heart of all the evil we see because sin stems from idolatry. Idolatry is anything we prefer above God.

D.A. Carson says that sin is “the de-godding of God. It is the creature swinging his puny fist in the face of his Maker and saying in effect, “If you do not see things my way, I’ll make my own gods! I’ll be my own god!” (Christ and Culture Revisited, 46) Wow, sin has created one big ball of UGLINESS!

Question: How in the world does this ugliness point to Jesus? Answer: It points to Jesus because it begs for the healing that only Jesus can bring to the relationship between men and women, between man and his relationship to the earth, between himself, and most important of all, between he and God. It is very clear that at this point, we need radical help!

And just what are the first glimpses of Christ-like help do we see in this passage?
1. Gen. 3:14: 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. This is called by some scholars the “proto-euangelion” or the first proclamation of the good news foreshadowing Jesus’ advent (coming). The serpent WILL be crushed by Jesus taking what Adam, Eve and the serpent deserves, by dying on the cross to pay, once and for all, the penalty that mankind deserve for their rebellion.

2. Gen. 3:21: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. The shame of their sin was not going to escape them unless they were covered. God in His grace kills an animal (sin produces death; this was the first death recorded in Scripture) and uses it’s skin to make garments for Adam and Eve to have their shame covered. One day, Jesus will come and cloth them for good, never to have their shame be able to be exposed…garments of Jesus’ righteousness.

At the end of chapter 3, God sends Adam and Eve out of the garden away from the tree of life, lest they eat of the fruit of that tree, which would cause them to remain in their broken and sinful state that they were in. So kicking them out of the garden was grace as well, and was God’s way of saying, I’m not going to let you remain this way!

LET’S PRAY!