Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Look Who's Standing By The Ark

Before God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden He made them a promise. The entirety of scripture is based upon that promise. Whenever we read God's Word we must read it through the lens of the words spoken to the serpent in Eden in Genesis 3:15, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." The essence of the promise was this: Satan will always be crawling along on his belly striking at the heels of men in an attempt to sink his venom of disobedience into them in hopes of bringing them down; but God will come slamming down upon the head of Satan with a death blow from His heel. The promise of Genesis 3:15, however, doesn't state it in that order! The order of the promise is that the death blow comes before the striking of the serpent. Why? Because God wants us to know how the story ends before the next strike of the enemy takes place. The enemy will strike again, but when he does, we can rest assured that the head that struck us will be crushed by the heel of the Almighty!

Likewise, God told a childless ninety-nine-year-old man, "You will be the father of many nations . . ." -- Genesis 17:3. God begins with "nations" when we would be happy to begin with a "child." God loves to tell us the ending first. Knowing the ending helps us face the battles along the way. One such glimpse of how God does this can be found in Joshua 8. This comes shortly after a battle that didn't go very well at first -- the battle for Ai. The battle didn't go well initially because man was waging it on his own terms rather than on the terms of God. Once the people of God were back on track the battle was easily won.  It is at this point that God takes us 'back to the future' with this description of the scene, "There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing those who carried it . . ." -- Joshua 8:32-33. Did you catch it? Did you see what  God just said? Look closely this time, "There in the presence of the Israelites . . . All Israel, aliens and citizens alike . . . were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord . . ." Did you catch it? "Israel" which means 'struggles with God' is no longer composed of a small group of descendants of Shem! Abraham has begun to father nations! Long before Christ the aliens were included among the people of God. Before the land promised to Abraham was ever distributed among the tribes, the aliens were included among the people of God. "They were standing on both sides of the ark of the promise of the Lord!" The aliens in Israel, which God had promised Abram that he would father, were not placed on a reservation on the West Bank of the Jordan or on a tiny strip of land in Gaza. They took part in the promise of God. Why? Because they were children, not born in the ordinary way, but born of God. Children not born of the law on Sinai, but born of promise. Paul tells us centuries later, "Now you, brothers like Isaac, are children of promise. . . Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son" -- Galatians 4:28, 30.

The fact that aliens are included in the description of Israel before the land was ever distributed is an inconvenient truth for many evangelicals today in much the same way as it was when Paul wrote Galatians. Perhaps you could take some time today to pray for believers living in the West Bank and Gaza, remembering that the Ark of the Promise no longer dwells on the temple mount in Jerusalem, but now rests in the hearts of God's covenant people, "born not in the ordinary way; but as the result of a promise." May Bethlehem, the city in which our Savior was born, be blessed by His presence today. May Bethlehem experience the same peace that we so easily pray for Jerusalem.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl TakeAway

One of the best decisions that I have ever made was to not hook up a television in our new home five years ago. As a result when I walk into my home I have an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility. I hope that others feel that same peace when they enter through our door.

When the kids at the middle school find out that our twin daughters don't have a television at home they can hardly believe it. They ask them, "How do you live without a television?" After watching the Super Bowl at a relative's home last night; we think the better question would be, "How do you stand having a television in yours?" Please do not misunderstand me. I am not on a mission to rid the world of television. If that happened I would have no place to go to watch the Super Bowl. Who could possibly live without that? What would I do without a place to go to watch men wearing tights and helmets focus all of their attention on a pointy leather ball? How could I possibly manage without seeing goats eating Doritos, people dancing in tights while wearing pistachio nut costumes, or the elderly with the wisdom of decades making a midnight run for the border and the tattoo parlor? Child protective services should probably be sent to my house immediately and take away my children because I deny them their daily dose of such socially enriching programming. My poor kids spend all their time filling the air with music at the piano, and playing cards and board games with their parents around the kitchen table where only an hour before they had to endure the torture of eating a home-cooked meal and spend time talking about their day with mom and dad. Appalling! What is the world coming to when parents like myself are allowed to raise their kids under such circumstances! In the summer months they spend all of their time outside playing volleyball, taking walks, and reading in the shade -- utterly horrible!
They are being denied the American Dream. How will they ever fit in to such a vibrant cultural mosaic if they are continued to be denied the stimulus that modern culture provides?

I'm sorry, but the utter stupidity of what I witnessed and refused to witness (the half-time show) bothers me tremendously. I mean no disrespect to the players or the game of football. The game itself was a well-played game by both sides and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was everything else that surrounded the 11 minutes of actual play that causes me to stick my neck out with the expression of these thoughts. The message that was broadcast between snaps of the ball last night was that good parents wake up with an agenda full of fun and games for the kids and refuse to rest until the kids are satisfied. They don't even seem to mind if people are duct taped to the ceiling of their home! This dad minds! This dad will not be calling the cable company anytime soon and if I find somebody duct taped to my ceiling I can guarantee you that you will see my picture in the paper because I'm going to go nuts on somebody.

If you are worried about me, please don't be. I haven't gone crazy. The rest of the world has.

What I witnessed last night was the trampling upon of the offer of grace from a loving God. A deliberate slap in the face of righteousness. "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is time to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." -- Hebrews 10:29-31

"He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." -- Hebrews 10:38

May God awaken our nation before it is too late. May the righteous come out of their shells, stick out their necks, and march forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. Pardon me for coming out of my shell, but I just can't sit at the side of the road any longer and do nothing.