Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Messiah Mess, 19 February 2017

Messiah Mess
Series: Ideal Family
Luke 2:41-46

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: The Messiah lived in a messed-up family, too, and was even “left behind.”

Scripture: Luke 2:41-46

Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses. The drama pretty much summed it up, didn’t it?!

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. This even includes Jesus’ family as we’ll see today!

I love to travel. I was blessed to travel to dozens of states during childhood vacations (perhaps my favorite being the celebration of my February birthday at Sea World in San Diego, California…while it was snowing at home in Michigan!). In my undergraduate years, I studied international business and spent a summer in Bolivia. It has been a thrill for me to experience many different countries and cultures, filling my passport with stamps from around the world.

One thing I don’t particularly enjoy about travel is flying. I absolutely love flying itself. I would love to get my pilot’s license if it ever made sense to do so. I love soaring above the clouds, moving quickly through the skies, and thrill of landing. But like many of you, I could do without the meat-market experience of being herded onto a small plane, cramming into a tiny seat, only to have the person in front of me recline his seat into my lap!

When I fly alone, it’s not uncommon for me to be among the last to board the plane. My philosophy is I’m going to be packed into that seat long enough, so I savor every moment of space, whether it’s standing, walking, or even stretching out in a seat near the gate. I typically have a backpack I place under the seat in front of me so I have no need to rush for overhead compartment space. I leisurely walk to my seat, the cabin door is shut, and we prepare for takeoff. Simple and sweet!

There was, however, one time when my lingering in the terminal nearly became a serious mistake. I was in the airport talking to my wife on the telephone when I heard my name called on the PA system. They were preparing to close the door and noticed my name on the “not-yet-boarded” list. As you can imagine, I quickly said goodbye to my bride and raced to enter the plane before I was left behind.

Have you ever been left behind?

I’ve heard stories of people missing flights, trains, and buses but perhaps my favorite “left behind’ story involves Jesus. It is told in six, simple verses:

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:41-46) 

There are so many things I find troubling about this text! How about you? I know, it was a different time, a different culture…but seriously!

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. (Luke 2:41)

This is an annual event. We know they did it at least a dozen times because…

When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. (Luke 2:42)

Some of you have annual trips. You go to the cottage up north. The family makes a pilgrimage to the same campground each year. You celebrate the 4th of July in a particular town. There’s a bike trip you do every summer. In the case of Mary and Joseph, it was their faith tradition which prompted them to travel to Jerusalem for Passover.

After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. (Luke 2:43)

This was not thirty year-old Jesus. He was twelve. I love the phrase “the boy Jesus.” Did he know his parents were leaving? How many children did they have to wrangle as they headed back to Nazareth? It’s about 90 miles from Jerusalem. These journeys were done in a group to guard against robbers, though we don’t know how many were in their caravan.

Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. (Luke 2:44)

“Thinking” he was in their company. That’s what we call an assumption, friends! Can you imagine the conversation? “Where’s Jesus?” “Is he with you?” “No!” “I thought he was with you!”
 
When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. (Luke 2:45)

This has to be one of the most obvious verses in the Bible! I would hope they would go back and look for their lost boy…the boy they left behind! Can you imagine what Child Protective Services would say to Mary and Joseph?!?!?

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46)

I can’t imagine looking for a lost child for three days! I can remember times when I’d lose one of my kids for a few seconds in a story and be on the verge of panic. Obviously, Jesus wasn’t worried. It never says he even knew he was lost! We’ve often spiritualized this entire story by pointing out how devoted Jesus was to studying the scriptures, which is true.

But what happened? How did he miss the flight—err, the journey—back to Nazareth? What kind of communication breakdown caused his absence to be unnoticed for an entire day? Why did it take them three days to look for Jesus in the temple courts when they were in Jerusalem for a religious festival?

Jesus’ Not-So-Perfect Family

Perhaps no other story shows us how Jesus did not come from an Ideal Family. He was sinless, but his parents were not perfect. His siblings weren’t perfect. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that his half-brother, James, acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah…and they lived together! How did James miss the clues:

  • - The family dog died…until Jesus brought it back to life!
  • - Mary ran out of bread…until Jesus multiplied the loaves until there were leftovers
  • - Wine was served at every meal…even when they only had water to drink!
  • - Jesus won the Fantasy Football league every year!
  • - His brother seemed to have a Messiah complex and thought he was perfect!

I’m being facetious, just playing a bit, but seriously, Jesus’ family wasn’t perfect. Like ours, they surely had struggles, conflicts, and parental mistakes.

Perfect Parents

I used to think perfect kids came from perfect parents.
I used to think “bad” kids came from “bad” parents.
I used to think some crazy thoughts!

The truth is parenting matters, but there are no guarantees. Some of the most godly people I know came from seriously broken homes…and some of the most godly homes have produced some seriously wayward children. Despite the flaws of Mary and Joseph, I’d say Jesus turned out pretty good!

So What?

As we close out this series, there are a few things I want you to remember…

  1. 1. You and your family are messed up.
  2. 2. You are not alone. We’re all messed up.
  3. 3. We need God’s amazing grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness.
  4. 4. God loves to extend that grace to us. We don’t deserve it.
  5. 5. We need to encourage one another to follow Jesus, every day. As Thomas George said a few weeks ago, we need to be sanctified…daily filled with the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus. The true test of our growth is not biblical knowledge or church attendance but how well we love…God and others.
  6. 6. Loving others begins with our family. It’s often easier to love strangers than those gathered around the dinner table.
  7. 7. Finally, we are all family. We are members of both a biological family and a spiritual family. Look around. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have spiritual siblings. If God is your Father, He has given you brothers and sisters…for better or for worse!

Jesus said the world will know we are His disciples by the love we have for one another.

As members of God’s family, we fail and sin, but our Dad is perfect. He perfectly calibrates discipline, work, and play. He provides us with tough and tender love. Daddy knows best.

Throughout this series, I hope you’ve been encouraged regarding your own family. I hope you’ve been challenged regarding your own family. How can we avoid the tragic mistakes of others? How can we bask in the forgiveness and grace—unmerited favor—when we mess up? How can we fully embrace our roles as moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins?

Families can be messy…but they also provide us with the greatest opportunities to learn, grow, serve, and experience joy.

As your brother in Christ, I’m grateful for you. I love your encouragement, appreciate your constructive criticism, and need your prayers. Together we are seeking to know and love God and His children…and welcome new spiritual siblings into the family.

King's Chaos, 12 February 2017

King’s Chaos
Series: Ideal Family
Psalm 3

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: The “man after God’s own heart” was punished for his great sins yet experienced amazing grace.

Scripture: Psalm 3

Good morning! My name is Kirk and today we’re continuing our series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. We all need help…so let’s pray!

PRAY

Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve been a collector of baseball cards. I never cared much for the gum that Topps used to include with their cards, but it continues to be a thrill for me to open a pack and see which players are inside. I’m much too young to see Babe Ruth’s face or Mickey Mantle’s eyes looking back at me, but I love to get players from the Philadelphia Phillies or Detroit Tigers—my two favorite teams—or rookie cards or superstars. My favorite cards in my collection include Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, and even a Michael Jordan from the year he tried to play baseball.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have Bible character cards. “Hey, I’ll trade you a Noah for a John the Baptist!” “What’s more valuable, the card of Abram or Abraham?” “I’ve got a rookie card of Jesus…in the manger!”

Obviously Jesus is the most important figure in the Bible—in human history—but if I were to collect cards of other biblical characters, I’d probably be most excited about David. First and foremost for me, he was a musician and songwriter. The psalms are my favorite book of the Bible, and he wrote most of them. As a boy, he killed a lion and a bear…and then Goliath the giant (1 Samuel 17). His music was so powerful, it would bring relief to the tormented king, even causing an evil spirit to flee (1 Samuel 16:23). David became so popular, the crowds would celebrate him over and above King Saul, the man whose thrown he would later possess (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11; 29:5). David was a mighty warrior, a powerful king, and best of all a man after God’s own heart.

Now there was that whole Bathsheba incident that led to David committing adultery, murder, and likely rape. Oh, if only that never happened! Then again, as we’ve noted in this series, all of our biblical heroes besides Jesus are flawed. They sinned against God—and others. Like us, they needed the amazing grace offered by Jesus who died to provide forgiveness, salvation, and reconciliation.

But let’s not get bogged down with David’s dark chapter. He had a son named Solomon who built the Temple and was blessed with wisdom, wealth, and women.

Royal transition is always exciting. Queen Elizabeth just celebrated a record 65 years on the throne in England. Someday soon her heir, Prince Charles, will most likely reign as king.

Near the end of his life, King David assembled all the officials of Israel and said,

Of all my sons—and the LORD has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. (1 Chronicles 28:5)

So David blesses Solomon, he becomes king, and everyone lives happily ever after. Right? Hardly.

David said he many sons. Remember Cain and Abel, sibling rivalry? Imagine many sons with different mothers!

These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron:
The firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel;
the second, Daniel the son of Abigail of Carmel; 
the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; 
the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
and the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah. 
These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months. 

David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, and these were the children born to him there:
Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba  daughter of Ammiel. There were also Ibhar, Elishua, Eliphelet, 
Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet—nine in all. 
All these were the sons of David, besides his sons by his concubines. And
Tamar was their sister. (1 Chronicles 3:1-9)

That’s quite a clan!

Now here’s how David’s story ends:

David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. He ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor. His son Solomon succeeded him as king. (1 Chronicles 29:26-28)

But let’s back up. Last week we noted how sins can be passed from one generation to the next. Blessings work that way. Curses work that way. We often become like our parents, and our children follow our example. Jacob was deceitful like his father Isaac who was deceitful like his father Abram.

David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba may have some connection to a horrific event that would occur among his children. David’s firstborn son, Amnon, fell in love with his half sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13:4) and raped her (2 Samuel 13:14) causing chaos in David’s family.

When King David heard all this, he was furious. And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:21-22)

Understandable, right?

Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled. (2 Samuel 13:28-29)

Do you see why I entitled this message, “King’s Chaos?”

We simply don’t have time to cover all of the stories of David and his family, but if you turn to 2 Samuel chapter 15, we see Absalom wreaking more havoc on his family. He decides he wants to customer service for the king’s subjects!

Reading from the
New Living Translation

After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!”

When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn’t let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and kissed them. Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel. (2 Samuel 15:1-6, NLT)

You see where this is going, right? David’s son, Absalom, tries to seize control

A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!” (2 Samuel 15:13, NLT)

“Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.” (2 Samuel 15:14, NLT)

“We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.” (2 Samuel 15:15, NLT)

So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. (2 Samuel 15:16, NLT)

It is in this context that we read Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.
  
LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me! 
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 
I will not fear though tens of thousands 
assail me on every side.
Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked. 
From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people. (Psalm 3)

David flees his son and in 2 Samuel chapter 18, we read

During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.” (2 Samuel 18:9-10, NLT)

“What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a hero’s belt!” (2 Samuel 18:11, NLT)

“I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.” (2 Samuel 18:12-13, NLT)

“Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him. (2 Samuel 18:14-15, NLT)

This is great news, right? Not to David.

Then the man from Ethiopia arrived and said, “I have good news for my lord the king. Today the LORD has rescued you from all those who rebelled against you.” (2 Samuel 18:31, NLT)

“What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?” 

And the Ethiopian replied, “May all of your enemies, my lord the king, both now and in the future, share the fate of that young man!” (2 Samuel 18:32, NLT)

The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” (2 Samuel 18:33, NLT)

So What?

I’ve heard stories of some dysfunctional families, but David’s is one of the most bizarre. Incest, rape, murder, adultery…yet the patriarch, David, is called a man after God’s own heart.

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ (Acts 13:22)

But what does this have to do with us thousands of years later?

1. David’s passion is endless. Sure, it is misdirected when seeing Bathsheba bathe, but he has a deep love for God. Read the Psalms. He loves his family, even when they go off the deep end. When his son Absalom—who is trying to destroy David and his men—is killed, rather than rejoicing at the death of his enemy, he weeps at the loss of his son.

The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” (2 Samuel 18:33, NLT)

Parents love their kids, through thick and thin (even teenagers!!!). It’s a special bond. They say love is blind, and while that usually refers to romance, it can sometimes apply to parenting. David loved his kids. Our heavenly Father loves HIs kids, too. Always.

2. One spouse is enough! I don’t want to make light of this, but so much of David’s chaos came from multiple wives bearing multiple children and a family tree that looked more like spaghetti than an oak. One man marrying one woman and creating children mirrors the Trinity of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all One, doing life together, each serving a unique, complementary function.

3. Sin always has consequences, whether immediate or over time. We can only imagine David’s legacy had he (and Solomon) avoided sexual sins (there’s so much we don’t have time to cover here).

4. God’s grace (unmerited favor) is sufficient. Despite his flaws, God used David…and his family, both then and thousands of years later.

Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. (2 Timothy 2:8)

His amazing grace is available to you and me today.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Atrocious Abe, 5 February 2017

Atrocious Abe
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 12:10-13

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Jesus, not Abraham, is the ultimate example of a godly husband.

Scripture:
Genesis 12:10-13

Today we’re resuming our series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. And the mess begins with the marriage. We all need help!

Abraham is one of the most important figures in human history. Some have called him, “Father Abraham.” When I was a child, we used to sing a song about him.

“Father Abraham had many sons/many sons had Father Abraham/I am one of them/And so are you/So let’s just praise the LORD.”

I think the reason it was so popular is it had motions that accompanied the music. Nevertheless, it taught me a bit about Abe. I like to say Abe not merely to make him sound a bit more hip and cool, but because it applies to both of his names. You see, Abraham used to be Abram, much like Paul used to be Saul.

A few weeks ago, we talked about righteous Noah and how at the end of his biblical story he is drunk and naked, not the most noble place to be! One of the lessons from Noah is even the godliest people are imperfect, and your good deeds in the middle of your life are no guarantee that your ending will be as positive. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes years to earn trust and seconds to lose it. Perhaps that is one reason Jesus said,

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

He did not say, “Pick up your cross and you’ll be set for life.” He said to truly be his disciple requires daily surrender. We can never rest on our past accomplishments.

Abe’s story ends well.

Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)

But let’s back up.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Imagine God says, “Go to the airport, board this airplane, and begin a new life wherever the plane lands.” Would you do it? Would you go? Would you leave your home, friends, family, and even your country to follow the LORD?

For centuries, people have been doing this very thing. Some of you have been led by God overseas. You’ve sacrificed, studied new languages, and said goodbye to everything you’ve known in this life to obey God. That’s faith!

If God calls you to relocate, you had better be sure you’re hearing from God and that it’s not bad lunch! I can think of two occasions when our family followed God’s prompting to move. The first was moving to Ann Arbor in 1998 to plant a church, launching a brand-new ministry from scratch. God was so good and faithful to us despite our humble beginning as a church of three in our living room!

The second big relocation felt like an international move for us. As a Michiganian, I always considered Ohio a foreign country and when God called us to Toledo we were so surprised! Now, of course, we love Toledo!

But I don’t say that to pat ourselves on the back for our great faith. Instead, it was God’s vision and clear direction which made both moves no-brainers for us. I’m sure Abe could relate. Listen to what God promises him:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth 
will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

That sounds good, right? Would you go to Michigan or Ohio if He promised that to you? What about Canada? Mexico? Africa?

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. (Genesis 12:4-5)

Obviously, he didn’t board a plane. This was a land journey of about 400 miles…without motorized transportation…with his family…

Have you ever traveled 400 miles with your family…WITH motorized transportation?! That’s about from here to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:6-7)

That’s a special moment! Look at this land, Abe. It’s not yours, but your offspring will get it someday. But don’t stop now! We’re not there yet!

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8)

Abram is obviously devoted to God. He must be quite the altar builder!

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. (Genesis 12:9)

So far, so good. Then we get to this unusual story.

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. (Genesis 12:10)

Remember, God promised to make Abram into a great nation. That means he will become a dad…eventually. In a sense, he was invincible. He
couldn’t die! God always keeps His promises. Always.

We’ve never experienced a famine, but I can imagine it would be scary. We all need to eat. But we don’t see Abe consulting God about what to do. Maybe God was going to miraculously feed Abe manna and quail. Perhaps God wanted this couple to travel to a place other than Egypt. We don’t know, but there’s no indication that Abe followed God into Egypt.

Have you ever faced a challenge and ignored God? Have you ever taken matters into your own hands rather than consulting the Creator? I confess I have. We often talk about making Jesus the LORD of our lives. That means He’s the boss. He’s in charge. He is always consulted before making important life decisions. Always.

But let’s suppose God told Abram to go to Egypt (which
is possible).

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-13)

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

First, Abram is worried about himself. He’s sure his wife Sarai will be fine. The plan isn’t even for Abe to lie, but for his wife to do his dirty work! She’s supposed to lie for him! Now I’m sure if she loved her husband, she would obviously be concerned for his welfare, too. But Abe’s plan is hardly going to benefit her.

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. (Genesis 12:14-16)

Let’s give credit to Abram. He was right. The Egyptians found his sister—err—wife to be beautiful. She was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. What would Pharaoh want with a strange woman in his palace?!

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:17-20)

Abe’s plan worked. His life was spared. But what an ordeal. Can you imagine how Sarai must’ve felt during this whole experience? Abram receives grace—unmerited favor—despite his selfish, deceitful behavior. He became a biblical hero and the father of many nations, but this episode did not cause him to win Husband of the Year!

So What?

Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. Twice! It happened again in Genesis chapter 20. Look it up!

Parents—and grandparents—it’s important to remember the next generation(s) is watching you. Whether it’s interpersonal conflicts as we saw in the drama or habitual sins like dishonesty, children often become like their parents.

Abraham’s son, Isaac, lied about his wife being his sister! It’s in Genesis chapter 26. You can’t make this stuff up! I know the Bible’s true, if only because nobody would fabricate these embarrassing stories and call them sacred scripture!

One thing we continue to see in this series is the imperfections of the heroes of the Bible. I find this encouraging, knowing I’m not alone in my weak faith, selfishness, pride, and sinfulness. Obviously, the message is not, “Husbands, lie about your wives because it’s the biblical thing to do,” but rather a message of what NOT to do…and hope when we fail.

Jesus

Jesus, ironically, sets the perfect example for husbands to follow…love and sacrifice, not selfishness and lies. Where Abram failed in the desert, for Jesus, the desert was the site of one of his finest hours, resisting temptation despite forty days of fasting. Paul famously wrote to the church in Ephesus

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:25-30)

That’s what real marriage looks like—true love that’s not based on feelings, but rather on commitment, even when it’s costly.

Jesus loved us, the Church, to the point of laying down his very life.

Jesus has entered into your suffering and into your disgraces and into your depressions and into your shames and into your pains. The cross is not just a redemptive place for the follower of Jesus. The cross is also the solidarity place where God joined us in our deepest death. Perhaps you’ve lost a friend who got drunk and then had a fatal car accident, or perhaps you’ve lost the joy of family togetherness because of divorce, or perhaps you’ve seen a friend waste away from some disease, or perhaps you’ve got a tattoo on your body that evokes bad memories. The cross is about that, too.

At the cross Jesus enters into our pain, into our tragedies, into our injustices, and into the systemic evil we have created and into the sins we have ourselves committed. But his solidarity with us is also an act of redemption.

-
Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Nake Noah, 15 January 2017

Naked Noah
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 9:20-25

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Even the best parents are human and make mistakes.

Scripture: Genesis 9:20-25

Today we’re continuing our new series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. This even includes Jesus’ family! We all need help…so let’s pray!

Last week we began our series with a look at the First Family, Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel. Today we’re looking at one of the greatest heroes of the Bible, Noah. You know Noah, the guy with the ark and the animals. Many people think his wife’s name was Joan (of Ark)! Let’s take a look at Noah’s highlight reel. If you turn to Genesis 5, he is mentioned for the first time in verse 29.

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah  and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5:28-31)

Noah’s dad was 182 years old when he was born! Wow! You thought Abraham was old at 100. But Lamech was just a kid compared to Noah the dad!

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32)

Let’s take a moment for reflection. Imagine Noah coming to First Alliance Church to dedicate his newborn son and happens to mention he was born in 1517! Sure, people lived longer back then, but 500 years? And that’s when he became a dad!

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:1-3)

That settles the old-man issue!

A few verses later it says

The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6-7)

Let that sink in for a minute. God regretted making humans. No wonder He sent a flood.

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

The sentiment is repeated in the next verse…

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. (Genesis 6:9b)

So God tells Noah to build an ark (6:14) because, as He said

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. (Genesis 6:17)

Of course God had Noah and his family enter the ark along with pairs of animals, and…

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22)

God gave Noah further instructions…

And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him. (Genesis 7:5)

And if you’re keeping score…

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. (Genesis 7:6)

There are so many details to these Bible stories we simply miss in Sunday School flannel board presentations!

So we have the flood.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. (Genesis 7:24)

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. (Genesis 8:1)

Later it says,

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. (Genesis 8:13-16)

God loved Noah and his family. He was a righteous man. He obeyed God. His obedience essentially saved living creatures from extinction.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” (Genesis 9:17)

The writer of Genesis mentions again Noah’s three sons and then tell us

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20)

Great. Who doesn’t love grapes? Grape juice. Raisins! Noah’s dad was a farmer so planting made complete sense. But…

When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. (Genesis 9:21)

Wait a minute! What is happening? Noah is drunk and naked?! The two often go together, by the way! The Japanese have a proverb which says: “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man.” Fortunately, he’s inside his tent where nobody can see him. But this is Noah! Righteous Noah!

God created a garden, Adam and Eve at forbidden fruit, and found themselves naked.

Noah planted a garden, ate—or drank—too much fruit, and ended up naked.

In both cases their sin was shown in their nakedness. They disobeyed God. Sins are felt by the following generations.

Did we need to include this in the Bible? Can’t we just call Noah a superhero and stop after the rainbow? Actually, no! First, we are all descendants of Noah and his sons. Second, we get to see how even the most righteous people in the Bible were not perfect. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We’ll see this throughout this series.

We also see how sin affects others…families.

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. (Genesis 9:22)

Was that necessary? Why did Ham enter the tent in the first place? Seeing your dad naked is…well, it’s never good! He could’ve covered his dad and left quietly, but he tells his brothers. He disrespected his father, leaving Shem and Japheth to intervene.

But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. (Genesis 9:23)

Love is looking out for the best interest of another person. It doesn’t condone sin. It doesn’t cleanse sin (only Jesus’ blood can do that). But love does cover sin (1 Peter 4:8). Did you see what I did there?!

The relationship between a father and son is special. The video earlier showed an “ideal” relationship and then a real one. That’s not to say we should be flippant about things such as borrowing/loaning money from relatives, but sometimes relationships can be complicated. Nevertheless, we are to honor our parents. This is one of God’s Top Ten (Exodus 20:12). Honor your father and your mother. Shem and Japheth honored their dad. Ham did not.

So Noah gets drunk and naked, his youngest son, Ham, saw him naked, his brothers to cover him, and…

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, 

“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” (
Genesis 9:24-25)

This passage has been wrongfully used to support racial prejudice and even slavery. Ham saw his dad and his son Canaan gets the curse? Actually, this is best understood as a prophecy describing what will happen to Ham’s descendants, not necessarily a curse from Noah to his grandson. Later in Jewish law children could not be punished for the sins of their fathers (Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-30; Ezek. 18:1-4). What we do know is the Canaanites were conquered by the Israelites (Genesis 14:8-12; Exodus 3:8; Numbers 13:29; Joshua 3:10).

He also said, 
“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” (Genesis 9:26-27)

The chapter ends by telling us

After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died. (Genesis 9:28-29)

What a life! What an ending!

So What?

I realize this is an odd passage. The point is…don’t plant a vineyard! Actually, that’s not the point, though alcohol can lead to a host of problems.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18)

Genesis 19 tells an even more bizarre story where two girls got their dad drunk and slept with him in hopes of getting pregnant! Ewww!

I think one takeaway from today’s text is even the best parents are human and make mistakes. Noah made the faith hall of fame.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

Noah was a righteous man, but his story didn’t exactly end on a high note.

How will your story end? Your past righteousness is valuable, but today is the first day of the rest of your life. How will you live it? Every day we hear stories of people behaving badly. But by the grace of God so go I. We’re all susceptible to sin, as we saw last week, especially when we are
HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. I pray you will honor your parents and/or be honored by your children. If you drink, I hope you are of age and do so responsibly. Consuming alcohol is not forbidden in the Bible, but drunkenness is clearly a sin…and can lead to other sins. I hope and your pray your most righteous days are ahead.

Credits

Some ideas from Be Basic by Warren Wiersbe.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

First Family, 8 January 2017

First Family
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 4:2-8

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Sibling rivalry is nothing new…and can be fatal!

Introduction

We’re beginning a new series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. This even includes Jesus’ family! We all need help.

We begin our series with a look at the First Family. I’m not talking about the Obamas, but rather Adam and Eve. The story of creation in Genesis is well known, as is their sinful eating of the one tree in the Garden that was forbidden. Everything changed at that moment. Thousands of years later we still bear the consequences of their sin.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 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 from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

After they ate from the tree in what is called “The Fall,” God issued His punishment:

To the woman he said, 

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

All moms are familiar with the pains of childbearing (even if they’ve had a C-section). But notice the relational curse. Some suggest it is more accurate to translate the Hebrew this way: “Your desire was for your husband.” She would now be mastered by him, ruled by him. Note this is not God’s design. Generations later Paul would instruct the early church by saying to spouses…

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

The idea of ruling over another person is the result of sin. Much could be said of the marital wars that result from pride and power oppressing a spouse who is to be loved. Jesus would later address our temptation to rule over others to his disciples.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

There’s a recipe for healthy, God-honoring relationships: serve one another.

Cain & Abel

Unfortunately, family problems are not limited to marriages. Parenting brings its own share of joy…and heartache. Rarely do siblings rush to serve their parents together as we saw in the “ideal” video! Parenting one child is a tremendous challenge. A second child introduces an entirely new dynamic: sibling rivalry.

How many of you have a sibling? How many parents have more than one child?

Sibling rivalry dates back to…the very first siblings. The first kids joined in on the conflict and dysfunction started by Adam and Eve. Genesis chapter four begins

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.  She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. (Genesis 4:1)

Cain is the leading character in this story. He’s mentioned sixteen times. He’s the older brother. His birth is celebrated by him mom.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:2-5)

On its own, this passage isn’t clear. Is God a carnivore? Is He allergic to fruit? Hardly! The simple answer is we don’t know. Some have suggested the necessity of a blood sacrifice, but the text doesn’t say, nor do we know Abel’s sacrifice contained blood. Abel brought the firstborn of his flock—his very best—but we don’t know if Cain brought his best or not. We just know Cain was very angry because his brother’s offering was acceptable and his was rejected. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Cain wasn’t rejected because of his offering, but his offering was rejected because of Cain: His heart wasn’t right with God. It was ‘by faith’ that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4), which means that he had faith in God and was right with God.”

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)

This event with the offerings is the beginning of recorded sibling rivalry, but hardly the end. Ishmael persecuted Isaac. Jacob fled his brother Esau fearing his life. Joseph’s brothers nearly killed him, instead opting to sell him as a slave. The very person/persons we are closest to often cause the greatest hostility. If anyone should have your back it should be your brother or sister.

Let me add this is true spiritually, too. Often our greatest critics are not distant strangers, but rather the people who sit beside us on Sunday mornings or those in our small group. May it never be! We are called to love one another! Always!

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Cain obviously disobeyed God. God encourages Cain to do what is right. He is warned that sin is near, personified as a crouching demon waiting to strike.

Heather and I had some interesting conversations this past week about satan, demons, and temptation. I can’t say either of us are experts on the subject, but I am certain angels and demons are both real. God and satan are both real. We are in the middle of a spiritual battle between good and evil.

There are moments when we are especially vulnerable to temptation. For many of us, it is when we are

Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

HALT!

Jesus faced these temptations—essentially all temptations—during forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Fortunately, he was prepared and able to resist satan’s most deceptive lures.

Unfortunately Cain opened the door. He succumbed to temptation. What sin is lurking at your door? Do you carry grudges? Are you bitter? What about lust? Gossip? Worry? Gluttony? Paul instructs

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

If only Cain had been so wise. His sacrifice was rejected, but the story gets worse. Much worse.

Have you ever been jealous of a sister or brother? Maybe they got straight A’s while you struggled to pass the class. Perhaps they were Olympic-bound while you were the last one to cross the finish line on Field Day. Envy is ugly. Sibling rivalry is real. Comparing ourselves to others is dangerous…even deadly!

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)

This may have been the first human death. Here’s the summary:

- Abel obeys God
- Cain disobeys God
- Cain is envious and adds to his disobedience and sins by killing his brother

Our relationship with God and our relationship with our brothers and sisters cannot be separated. We love God by loving our neighbor and we love our neighbor by loving God.

Most of us will not be murdered by a sibling! At least I hope not! Yet many are emotionally destroyed by the actions of a jealous sibling.

Because he is a better musician, I’m going to…
Because she got married before me, I’m going to…
Because she’s the first one to have a baby, I’m going to…

Cain disobeys God by bringing the wrong sacrifice.
Cain disobeys God by killing his brother.
Cain disobeys God by lying about the murder.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” 

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

God does everything He can to prompt repentance. He’s always seeking to save the lost, the broken, the criminal, the sinner.

Martin Luther’s definition of sin was “man curved in upon himself.” Sin is always focusing on yourself, always choosing yourself over God or others, placing yourself at the center. Sin means even when we do good things (help the poor, attend church gatherings, etc.), it’s always about us, about furthering our agenda, about giving us the self-image we want to have, about engaging so long as it makes us feel good. Sin is so insidious that when we look like we’re serving others, we’re really serving ourselves.

Repentance undoes sin. That was God’s desire for Cain and us. Repentance. Change.

God had questions for Adam and Eve, too, not because He was clueless, but rather to draw out a confession. In both instances, God calls them out.

The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:10-12)

A passage that began with a blessing ends with a curse.

Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13-14)

But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’S presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:15-16)

Cain’s not sorry for his sin, but only for his punishment. Like so many sins, one led to another and then another. Perhaps the most tragic statement of all is that “Cain went out from the LORD’s presence.” I never want to be there. And it began with jealousy and sibling rivalry. By the way, in church many have visited the “land of Nod,” but today we don’t know exactly where it was!

So What?

There are two types of people in this world: those who honor God and those who dishonor God. We don’t know the details, but the contrast between Cain and Abel is obvious.

There are so many applications to this passage.

- Obey God
- Love your siblings—biological and spiritual
- If you’re jealous Let it go. Give it up. Life’s too short.
- Know your weaknesses and areas of vulnerability to temptation
- Repent when you sin. Don’t cover it up. God knows. He sees it all.

If you are in the midst of a broken relationship of any kind, seek reconciliation. We talked about this last Sunday.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

If it’s not possible, stay on your knees. Cry out to God. Your story’s not over yet. Change is possible. God is faithful.

Credits

Some ideas from Be Basic by Warren Wiersbe.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

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