Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Covered or Gone?

It's funny, the things we remember, isn't it?

I have a younger brother, three years younger.  One of our favorite things to do as children was to jump on the bed, trampoline-style.  It's a wonder we did not break an arm or leg.  The light fixtures were not so fortunate, I will add....
At any rate, one day when he was about 3 years old, he was jumping on the bed in my room.  I took the opportunity to tattle to my father about it.  (Brother knew I was running to rat him out.)  When Daddy and I returned to "the scene of the crime", we could not see my brother, although there was a suspicious lump under the bed covers.  Brent, my brother, thought that since he had covered himself, he was "gone".  In fact, when my father winked at me and called, "Brent....Brent, where are you?", Brent replied, "Brent gone!"
 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,b she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the coolc of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”d 10And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Genesis 3:6-11 (ESV)

In both these scenarios the response to a transgression was to hide it.  This is the direct result of sin's deleterious effect: not only does a sin or the general sin condition separate us from a holy God, the situation is usually compounded by our running/hiding from Him.

In both these scenarios the covering was insufficient to take care of the sin.  My earthly father laughingly revealed my brother and dealt with his comparatively minor transgression.  My Heavenly Father dealt with Adam and Eve's transgression as well.  I now want to skip over some verses here and focus on Genesis 3:21 (ESV) - -

21And the LORDGod made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

This act of God involved Him killing animals and making for Adam and Eve clothing from the animals' skins.  Blood from the animals was spilled in order to cover them.  The lives of the animals were required in order to do this.  This is the first Bible mention of blood being shed to address sins.

The word "atonement" means "to cover".  It is a word used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the sacrificial system instituted by God for the covering of mankind's sins.  In the book of Leviticus alone the word appears 40 times.  However, it never appears in the New Testament in connection with the finished work of Jesus Christ.1

Interestingly, the first time the actual word "atone" appears in the Bible is in connection with the building of Noah's ark.2  In Genesis 6:14, Noah was instructed by God to cover the inside and outside of the wood structure with "a covering".  The word translated "pitch", actually means "to atone", or "to cover".  The pitch on the ark protected the structure by covering the wood, so that the waters of judgment could not seep in or overwhelm, during the months-long journey to safety. Similarly, the Old Testament animal sacrifices protected sinners from the wrath of holy God.  The sins were not removed; they were covered.  Best example in Scripture of this is Psalm 32:1-2, where David exclaimed:
  1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

The finished work of Jesus Christ, to whom the Old Testament sacrifices pointed, is radically different.  His spilled blood does not merely COVER sin; it goes beyond to obliterate the sins as if they had never been committed.  Once again, as foreshadowed in Genesis 3:21, God spilled blood to address sin.  This time, however....by spilling the blood of His Son, this once-for-all time, He dealt sin a death blow.  He provided complete eradication, complete justification to the sinner who, by faith, accepts Jesus' perfect sacrifice.  My pastor explains the meaning of "justification" as "just as if I had never sinned".  So beautiful!

You see...atonement was temporary, fleeting and (ultimately) ineffective at reconciling man to God.  Although it was God's idea, atonement was something man did to approach God, an act to temporarily appease God's anger at sin.  It was "as good as it gets" for that epoch of time.  But, in the end and even back then in the OT, it was still faith that reconciled men and women to God.  Even then (see Hebrews 11), it was impossible to please God through any other method than by faith.

God gave His first hint of the true gospel of Messiah Jesus Christ in Genesis 3:15, a verse commonly referred to as "the protoevangelium"3, or "the first gospel".

15I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspringe and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is no mere "covering" described here.  A more accurate rendering of "bruise" in "he shall bruise your head" is a decisive crushing.  The perfectly-delivered work of Jesus Christ has decisively crushed the rule of sin and satan forever.  The eternal, spiritual death that is the legacy of unrepentant, uncured sin no longer is merely "covered" from God's anger.  Through Christ, that sin is GONE.

The verbiage used in the New Testament is radically different from the Old in this regard.  Atonement is nowhere near propitiation, a word used in the New Testament to describe the final appeasement of God's anger over our sin, appeasement provided through Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. The New speaks of Christ's eternal sacrifice - - the emphasis is on its completeness and permanence.  Read through the book of Hebrews, for instance, and you will see this language used throughout.  I love Hebrews 10:1-18, where the writer states that the Old Testament sacrificial system was a "shadow" of the perfect work of Messiah, which was, under the pre-Christ system of animal sacrifices, a future promise, still to come.  Read it and rejoice in your salvation, Christian!

1The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’ ”a
8First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”b
17Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”c
18And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

Hebrews 10:1-18 (NIV)

Hallelujah!  All praise to the Ever-Loving One, who immediately provided a remedy for man's sin condition in Genesis, Who did not leave man to languish in separation from Him.  He is The WayMaker!  And, then, through Jesus Christ His Son, He provided a perfect, eternal path to Him!  Behold, how GOOD God is!

Notes and Sources:

1    Some would argue Romans 3:25 uses "atonement", but other translations use "propitiation". When you view the original Greek, "hilasterion"{"propitiation"}, is the more accurate rendering. There are a handful of other NT scriptures where the authors quote the OT uses of atonement to prove the insufficiency of that man-initiated act.  Examples: Romans 4:7, 1 Peter 4:8, James 5:20.

2    http://www.judev3.co.uk/1SinsCoveredOrGone.htm

3    https://www.gotquestions.org/protoevangelium.html

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Did God Say That?

This morning I was reading in the book of Judges, Y'all, and that is some sad stuff.  One of these days I may be led to exegete that book; but, if/when God leads in that direction I'd better "gird my loins", because those were some tragic chapters in Israel's history.  People hacking up other people into bits and sending those bits all over the country and such....monstrously sad.

However horrific those and other certain portions of the Holy Bible be, they have their purpose - - to turn our hearts toward The One and Only.

This morning we are going to begin to deconstruct one of the two most heartbreaking stories of the Bible.  (Can you guess the other?  Comment your thoughts in the comments section of this post!)

The Fall of Man

Now, why Satan wanted to destroy God's perfect creation is anybody's guess.  Mine is that he just hates everything God represents and does; therefore, the chief aim of his existence is to destroy all righteousness, all that is "of God".  This is why one of his scriptural names is "The Destroyer" (Revelation 9:11).  Did you know there are more names for Satan in scripture than for anyone else, other than Jesus?  That would make an interesting blog post...

At any rate, Satan in the beginning of today's sad, sordid tale, takes on the form of a "serpent", which some take to mean something like a snake because of the curse God pronounced upon that creature in Genesis 3:14 "on your belly you shall go...".  Satan is called a serpent in both Genesis 3 (the first book of the Bible) and in Revelation 12:9 (the last book).
Others believe the serpent was more of a glorious creature before The Fall.  This fits with Satan's arrogant, prideful nature. He would have chosen the most glorious, beautiful creature to inhabit, not a slithering snake as we know them today.
The Hebrew word that is translated "serpent" describes a creature that, in its own nature, was crafty, subtle and discerning.  God created all creatures with general tendencies, didn't He?  Dogs are frequently loyal companions.  Sheep are generally clueless, and must be led.  Serpents . . . wily.

So, it would not have surprised Eve to hear such words from the serpent, because of the serpent's general nature.  Was telepathy common before The Fall?  Did creatures "speak"?  We do not know.  But, it appears in this passage the serpent, possessed by Satan, spoke audibly; and, Eve was not surprised.  We really have very little information about the wonders of the Garden of Eden before tragedy struck in Genesis 3.

More importantly . . .
We need to carefully consider Satan's malevolent strategy in Genesis 3:1 - - "Did God really say. . . "
This was and is the foundational "first step" down the path to sin.  It was the first temptation recorded in the Bible.  It worked so successfully for Satan there in the Garden, he still uses it today!

The most foundational source of God's word to us in modern times is . . . God's Word, the Bible.  It's not the only source, but is by far the most reliable.  This book, a compilation of 66 divinely inspired books, is often called the Holy Bible, because Scripture is (according to 1 Timothy 3:16) God-breathed.  The "Good Book", another moniker, is full of wisdom, cautionary tales (such as those in Judges, for example), rules, promises, declarations, warnings.  Overall, it shows us how to be reconciled to God, and then, after that relationship is established, to live for His glory.

As such, the Bible is constantly attacked by Satan and his diabolical servants, both human and demonic.  The argument is the same one used so long ago in Eden.  "Is the Bible more than just a book?"  "Is it really the Word of God?"  "Is it full of errors?"  "Is there a God at all?"

When we come face-to-face with the Bible, we come face-to-face with our own sin and resulting separation from this holy God, who has decreed that the consequences of unrepentant sin is eternal death, manifested as being forever separated from God in a place of horrific torment, called Hell.
Not a pleasant message on its own, is it?  Bad news.

But, that's not the end of the story.  God also went about providing reconciliation to mankind, through faith in God, beginning in the Old Testament and culminating in Jesus, revealed in the New Testament as "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6).  That's why the gospel message of Jesus Christ is called The Good News.

For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:22 (NET)

Of course, when Satan was tempting Eve in the Garden, there was no Bible, no Savior.  There was only God's spoken word.  Back then, God (the pre-incarnate Jesus?) communed with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, according to Genesis 3:8.  (Can you even imagine that?!)  And, as such, He continued to share with them about life in that perfect place.  We read in Genesis 2:15-17 about God giving them the command about not eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Eve, and later Adam, chose to willingly reject God's word, because it did not jive with what they wanted to do.  Ahhhh....free will...

Eve should have basically shut the serpent down.  But, instead, when confronted with the question, "Did God really say that?", she added to what God had said.  Take a look at Genesis 2:

15The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

And now, compare Eve's words in Genesis 3:

2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

Did God say in Genesis 2 that the First Couple could not touch the fateful tree?  No, He did not (although staying far away from it would have been a great idea...).

Instead of believing God, Who said eating the fruit would cause death, Eve believed Satan, who promised that she would become more wise by eating it.  She believed whom she wanted to believe.

4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

After believing what she wanted to believe, she did what she wanted to do. 

...doubted God's Word
...listened to God's enemy
...lusted with her eyes
...exerted her own will
...touched the fruit
...beguiled her husband, Adam,
and ate the fruit.

Sin by inches.

Then, Adam, who could have influenced Eve to leave that tree alone, went along willingly and later blamed Eve for the disastrous escapade. A case of "passing the ... fruit (buck)", as it were!

With those actions of Adam and Eve, all of creation immediately began to deteriorate, to die.  This is because, as God had warned and as Paul states in Romans 6:23 (NET) "the payoff of sin is death".  Not just physical death, but eternal, spiritual death.

The philosophy of this world, so heavily influenced by Satan and his servants, has not changed.  The Enemy of Our Souls' opening salvo, the essential question posed is:  "Did God really say that?"





Wednesday, August 8, 2018


I was talking with a friend yesterday who remarked wistfully, "Things are very different today, Gena."  The remark was made in connection with our sons who play video games online with friends for entertainment, whereas in "our day" kids played together in person - - on playgrounds, on sports teams, in the neighborhood, etc.  One could argue that the old ways were better, although I'm not going to fight that battle over the issue of online gaming.  There are higher stakes.

I'm referring particularly to human sexuality.  (Yes, this is going to be one of "those posts".)

Today's text, as we continue our Genesis study, is Genesis 2:18-24 (NET)

18The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” 19The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found. 21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
“This one at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family.

We live in an age of extreme sexual perversion, as defined by the Bible.  The passage above is pretty clear as to the created, biological differences between man and woman.  The differences are stark, and they are intentional on the part of the only all-wise God. 

Yet, many have rejected the Bible as God's standard for holiness, and it shows in our modern-day society.  The Bible says that when there is no righteousness among a people, where there is no godly perspective, they perish (Proverbs 29:18).  So true.  We are witnessing the incremental disintegration of American society, day-by-day.  This is not merely an American phenomenon.  Other countries have slid even further down the slippery slope of perversion than has "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave".  We are living, world-wide, in the age of Romans 1:21-28 (NET).

21For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 27and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.

***People allowed to use any public restroom they so choose, (a pervert's playground).
***Parents "allowing" their young children to "choose their own genders".
***The increasing "acceptability" of deviant sexual behavior - - - marital infidelity, homosexual behavior, and, most recently (you may not have noticed) ...
***Pedophilia.  Yes, people are beginning to broach that "orientation" and proclaim it a legitimate "sexual persuasion".
***Bestiality being condoned is on the horizon, I have no doubt.

Those who dare to speak out, counteracting popular culture with unchangeable biblical truth against such perversions are labelled sexist, unloving, hate-filled and so forth, whether the biblical truth is spoken with tenderness or with bile.  It's not, after all, the tone that is unacceptable.  It is the content of the message that is declared as "hate".

How beautifully the Bible describes God's intentions and commands for human sexuality to manifest and flourish!
It begins with a sad scene:  "no companion who corresponded to him was found" (vs. 20). Although Adam reviewed and named hundreds, perhaps thousands of species, there was not any like him, none even approaching him in splendor, in intellect, in the possession of a "living soul".  He was alone.  :(

Over all of God's creation, He pronounced each phase as "good" or "very good", but this is the first time He pronounced something as "not good".  "It is not good for man to be alone" (vs.18).
Accordingly, God created the magnificent creature who beautifully corresponds to a man:  woman.
Oh how beautiful the correspondence!  How beautifully men and women fit together! 

The Bible is replete with differences between men and women, although neither was designed to be  independent of or "better than" the other (1 Corinthians 11:11).  These differences cannot be overlooked or explained away simply because someone does not "like" what God has to say.  Here are some of those:
***God gave man the leadership of the family unit (1 Corinthians 11:3)
***God assigned the duties of priesthood to men, not women, in the Old Testament, and this is borne out, played out similarly, in the New Testament with the admonition that women are not to teach men in ecclesiastical matters/settings (1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35)
Those are just a couple of examples.

Rather than getting into divisive debates as to what God has obviously commanded, let's revel in our roles as men and women.  Let's enjoy the male and female relationships our wise Father has given us by appreciating and celebrating the differences!  And, Christians, let's lovingly hold firm to the biblical standards for men and women, as we live out our faith, as we shine the light of truth and righteousness in this dark, sin-bound world.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!  #SoliDeoGloria

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Saying Thank-you

My week has been a bit insane.
Look, when I don't post for a week?  You know "sumpin' is up".
The biggest single reason for my absence?
<Doctor's appointments>
In fact, my past TWO weeks have been over-populated with doctor's appointments, not just for me, but for some of my "nearest and dearest" as well.
Now that I've explained my absence, let me get on with the crux of this post.

I'd like to tell you that when I first got up this morning I went straight into the Word, but I did not.

Half-asleep and still stinging from the alarm clock, I laid my bleary eyes on Twitter, coffee in hand.
Last night, Hubster and I went to see Dinesh D'Souza's new movie, "Death of a Nation".  I had liked it so much I'd decided on the way home to send Mr. D'Souza a tweet of thanks.  But, last night became this morning.  To my delight, the hashtag #HowISayThanks was trending.  Who knows how that happened, in the sometimes (well, often) cultural wasteland of Twitter?  At any rate, I used that hashtag and cast my thank-you into the Twittersphere.  Then, I decided to look at what others were tweeting with that hashtag, just out of curiosity.  Here are some of the ways Twittophiles say thanks:
- - - by "liking" and "retweeting", (naturally . . . this was a Twitter thing, you know....)
- - - baking them muffins and giving them a big hug
- - - by listening to them when they have listened to me
- - - by washing their car for them
- - - with a handwritten note, like a civilized person
- - - with a poem
- - - by telling them directly and meaning it sincerely
- - - with gentle kisses
- - - by buying them a thank-you gift
- - - by getting up early for them
- - - with a song ("Thank-you For Being a Friend", e.g.)
- - - with an obscene amount of chocolate
- - - with a smile and spoken thanks
- - - by posting their bail (errrrrrr......)

Well, you get the picture.
It is important to thank those who have sacrificed for us.  Often, that means sacrificing for them.
Almost always, a good "thank-you" requires a sacrifice of our time.  But, it can also include a sacrifice of our resources (money), our words, our physical affection.
It is important to choose our method of thanks well.

Thanks-giving is a love offering of various levels of magnitude.  One of the best books for guiding us in communicating love is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.
Here are the five:
- - - Words of Affirmation
- - - Quality Time
- - - Acts of Service
- - - Physical Touch
- - - Giving/Receiving Gifts

The author asserts that most of us have both a "giving" love language and a "receiving" love language.  In some cases, both are the same.

I have a loved one who shall remain nameless for the sake of this illustration.
This person's receiving love language is Gifts.  It is NOT physical touch or words of affirmation, most definitely.  In fact, those are deemed to be offensive (touch) and cheap (words).  This person's giving love language is "acts of service".

It is important to know your target's love language when delivering a thank-you, if at all possible.  What we tend to do is to operate either out of etiquette (a good default position, but can be somewhat sterile), OR we operate out of our own receiving love language, which can have varying degrees of success, depending on the recipient.

Here are some additional, biblical ways we can show our love and thanks for people care about:
- - - share the eternally life-changing gospel message with them
- - - pray for them (Philippians 1:2-4)
- - - counsel them with wisdom (Proverbs 27:9)
- - - lay down your life for them (John 15:13) This is the greatest thanks ever, and what Jesus did...

So, before I in just a moment get ready to attend my mother's annual, paternal, family reunion, let me give some words of thanks (in no particular order):
- - - That my mother spent only a day in the hospital this week
- - - That my younger son returned safely from a long road-trip yesterday and was given successful surgeries over the past two weeks
- - - That I have such great, great friends, including the one who had lunch with me yesterday
- - - That I have the privilege to serve the Only True God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- - - For those who read and receive God's blessing through my writings here
- - - For my Beautycounter clients
- - - For my wonderful church family (not just friends, but family who do life with me)
- - - For my many family members who sacrifice for each other and still want to spend time together
- - - For those who fight for righteousness daily, in the avenues to which God leads them.  They are warriors in God's army and give up much to tell the truth.

These are just some of my reasons to be thankful today, and just a paltry way of saying "love and thanks".

One of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture for walking a resplendent walk is the one I have in a hand-drawn, freestyle, framed print by my niece, who is so talented in visual art (among other things).  It is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16Always rejoice, 17constantly pray, 18in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Let's resolve to give thanks for this beautiful day and for all God brings our way in it, and to pray for and thank others for the blessing they are in our lives.