Jesus

Those Things That Are Right

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Sunday we asked God to grant us the spirit to think and do always those things that are right. Our Old Testament Scripture reading gave us the example of Joseph.

You’ve likely heard Joseph portrayed as a braggart and a tattle tale, perhaps in an effort to explain his brothers’ jealousy.  Perhaps some teach him that way in an effort to justify their own jealous tendencies.

Some say Joseph bragged about his dreams.

But Scripture doesn’t say he bragged about them, it merely states that he reported them. And just because your brothers are jealous doesn’t mean you made them jealous.

Remember Cain? He was so jealous of his brother, Abel, that he entertained murderous thoughts.

God found Cain stewing in his anger and asked, “What’s your problem? If you do what is right, I’ll bless you, too.  Sin is crouching at your door, don’t answer it.”

But he did answer it. When given the choice between yielding his heart, mind and behavior to God and being blessed, or stubbornly holding onto his anger, he took the anger and killed his brother.  Abel wasn’t killed because made Cain jealous.  Abel was killed because Cain wanted to do what he wanted to do and be blessed anyway. And he hated that God doesn’t work that way.

The assumptions we make about how Joseph reported his dreams are shaded by the bits of our personality we project onto him. When I read the account of his dreams, I don’t imagine Joseph bragging at all.

What do you do when you have a really wild, vivid dream? Do you report it to whoever is at the breakfast table?

I think that’s what Joseph was doing, just reporting a couple of weird, amazing dreams and naively believing his family would be amazed by them, too.

What about Joseph as a tattle tale?

There appeared to be just cause right there in our bulletin: “Joseph brought an ill report of them to their father.”

That’s how all the modern translations I’ve consulted tell it. But the Septuagint – the original translation of the OT from Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek – tells a different story.

The Septuagint says it was the brothers who brought a bad report against Joseph. They were the tattlers. The exact wording: “And they brought against Joseph a bad fault to Israel, their father.”

“But,” Scripture continues, [in spite of the bad report] “Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age.” No reason other than he was born in his old age.

I keep hearing from friends who are becoming grandparents that grandkids are so much more enjoyable than kids. Perhaps because you can relax and enjoy children more when you are no longer striving for all the things for which youth strives.

In addition, Joseph as a braggart and snitch isn’t congruent with the character he displayed during the rest of his life.

Joseph was seventeen when his dad sent him to Shechem to check on the health and safety of his brothers. Some 17-year-olds would say, “No way! I’m not going. They hate me!” But not Joseph. He said. “Okay, (Septuagint: I’m ready).”

Being hated by your siblings is a long, lonely road to walk, and Joseph walked it, all the way to Shechem.

When he finally arrived his brothers weren’t there. At that point, some teenagers would shrug their shoulders, return home and say, “They weren’t there.” But not Joseph, he went the extra mile – the extra 20 or 30 miles to be more accurate – to Dothan.

That’s what always doing the right thing looks like – going the extra mile, even when you’re hated. Even when you’re really tired of being hated.

The rest of Joseph’s story reminds me of a book from my childhood. Remember it? The one with the guy in a parachute on the cover?: “Fortunately Ned was invited to a surprise party…” “Unfortunately the party was 1,000 miles away.”

Unfortunately going the extra mile got Joseph sold into slavery.
Fortunately “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and the Lord gave him success in everything he did.”

That phrase recurs several times throughout Joseph’s story. “The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in everything he did…” Perhaps that is the key to always doing what’s right. Having the Lord with you, talking you through it.

But what came first, the chicken or the egg? Did Joseph always do what was right because the Lord was with him or was the Lord with him because he always did what was right?

Scripture tells us that God chose David to be the second King of Israel, because, as he said to Samuel, “He will do whatever I tell him to do.” Perhaps God chose Joseph because he was the same sort of man – one who could be counted on to do the right thing – to yield his heart, mind, and attitude to God.

So Joseph found favor in his master’s eyes and became his trusted attendant. But either Joseph was really hot or Mrs. Potiphar was really horny, either way, she pursued him relentlessly and when he wouldn’t acquiesce to her request, she accused him of rape and he wound up in prison.

Some people would be angry and bitter about now. But not Joseph. How do I know he wasn’t bitter and angry? He reached out to others, even in his own need.

The Lord was with Joseph in prison and Joseph was put in charge of all the other prisoners. One morning he noticed a couple of the new guys looking dejected. He sat down and asked them what was wrong. They had both had disturbing dreams the night before. Joseph said, “I’m pretty good with dreams, let’s hear ‘em.” After hearing the dreams he told the first guy that his dream meant he would be restored to his position as cupbearer to the king within three days. The cupbearer was thrilled and relieved. Joseph said, “When you get out of here mention to Pharaoh that I don’t belong here.” The cupbearer said he would.

But, he didn’t and Joseph languished in prison another two years.

Two more years of faithfully performing the duties placed in front of him. Two more years with his dreams on hold.

You can dwell on all the bad things that have happened to you – sold into slavery when you were just trying to help; exercising sexual integrity and being falsely accused anyway; helping someone who doesn’t help you back. You can rehearse all the injustices and conclude that God doesn’t care, or you can look for all the ways He helped you in the midst of it all and be grateful.

You know the rest of the story. Pharaoh had a dream that no one understood, the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph, Joseph interpreted the dream and even offered a brilliant plan to deal with the impending famine. He was made second in command of all of Egypt, was reunited with his dad, wrestled with prospect of reconciling with his brothers and in the end did the right thing.

And, if you know the whole story, Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were greatly blessed.

What lessons can we glean about always doing right as we watch Joseph’s life unfurl?

  • Go the extra mile, even when people hate you. Be good for goodness’ sake.
  • Do your job well, even when you thought sheaves were going to bow down to you and you’re someone’s slave instead; give it your all even when you thought your life was going to be greater than it’s turning out to be.
  •  Take a compassionate interest in others, help them even in the midst of your own need.
  • Let God be with you, even when you are languishing for two more years. Let Him still be with you. Listen to Him, yield your heart and attitude and thoughts to Him.
  • Consistently do the right thing and your children will be blessed with a great legacy.
  • Trust that what the haters mean for evil God means for good. God always means for our good.

In order to trust you have to think right.

Which brings us to Sunday’s gospel reading (from Matthew 14).

Mark and John gave a slightly different account, but Matthew told us that Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side of the lake.

He made them get into the boat. That’s an important detail.

After He dismissed the crowds, He went up the mountain by Himself to pray.

By the time He finished praying, the boat was quite far from land. The disciples had been battling wind and waves all night and they were probably exhausted by the time Jesus caught up with them. So when they saw Him approach – walking on the sea – they were terrified. Not because the waves were battering their boat – some of them were seasoned fisherman, they knew how to handle wind and waves. They were terrified because they thought they saw a ghost.

How do you think right when you’ve been up all night battling strong winds and now you think you see a ghost?

You look at the facts:
Fact 1: Jesus made us get in the boat. It wasn’t our idea.
Fact 2: Jesus sent us to the other side of the lake. He didn’t, as Beth Moore so brilliantly pointed out, send us to the bottom of the lake.

Conclusion: So what if it’s a ghost? The second Jesus sent us ahead to the other side of the lake our arrival was guaranteed.

Same right thinking applies when you are Peter, endeavoring to do what only God can do.

What God invited you to do.

Peter got out of the boat and started walking toward Him. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and began to sink.

Peter had complete confidence in Jesus’s invitation until he saw the strong winds.

Reminds me of the first time I water skied: I grabbed the rope, the boat pulled me right up and I was skiing and having a really good time slipping in and out of the wake. And then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be doing so well on my very first attempt, and with that thought I let go of the rope.

People can’t walk on water.

But when Jesus is the One doing the inviting, we can. So what if the wind is strong? His will is stronger. When He invites you to “Come,” He will get you there.

Or do you think He plays cruel tricks? Invites us and then lets us sink or swim?

When my first husband left me I spent many moons in a battered boat trying desperately to figure out what I had done to deserve abandonment. I rowed hard against a sea of accusations because Job wasn’t the only one who had bad friends. I evaluated my imperfections against the, in some cases, greater imperfections of my non-abandoned friends trying to make sense of it all. I felt like my life was doomed.

And then God climbed into the boat and reminded me of the facts.

He reminded me of that Sunday morning in April when I was getting ready for church, I was being baptized that day. And as I zipped myself into my floral dress, a thought floated through the air, “He’s going to propose today.”

He, I figured, was my boyfriend, who was also being baptized that morning. We had only been dating 4 months and we hadn’t talked at all about marriage so I just let the thought float right on by. I finished dressing and then practiced the Scripture verse I had chosen to recite before the dunking.

And sure enough, sitting on a sofa together in the pastor’s office – dry clothes back on, hair dried – waiting for the rest of the service to end, he did indeed propose.

And there were the facts: God knew that the marriage would end even as He floated that thought to me on that April morning. Perhaps that’s why He whispered it, So I’d remember that He was well aware that I was getting into the boat.

And even though He knew it wasn’t seaworthy, He didn’t try to stop me. He loves me and He didn’t try to stop me.

It’s not like I was rebelliously getting into a lemon of a boat. He was a christian, I was a Christian, his parents were happily married. I did my due diligence.

I hadn’t made a fatal mistake. I hadn’t married outside of His will. I wasn’t doomed. God knew and He allowed. He loved me and He still allowed. And if me getting into what He knew would turn out to be an unreliable boat was okay with Him, then from now on, it would be okay with me. I still couldn’t say the d word but I would trust that God meant it for good.

Praise God for always meaning it for good,
for speaking truth to our battered souls,
for taking the oars from our flailing hands,
for urging us on as we walk the lonely road,
for directing our thoughts as we languish for two more years.

Praise God for giving us the spirit to think right and do always those things that are right, even when life is habitually hard, that we, who cannot exist without Him, may be enabled to live according to His will.

Amen.

#unfurl

 

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Light

A Nugget for Your Noggin.

I’ve excavated some old Biblical logic in hopes that you will bury it in your brain:

I was reading my Bible Study Fellowship notes while savoring a hot cup of my good friend joe (with cream). The topic was John’s vision of the throne room and everything was clipping along just fine.

“The Bible speaks of other believers who received visions of God’s transcendent nature and character,” a new paragraph began, and it mentioned Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

Good, good, good and good.

And then:

“The apostle Paul was ‘caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.’”

Whoa! What?

When was Paul “caught up to paradise”? I checked the footnote to see what Scripture they based that statement upon.

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.  Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,  or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  2 Corinthians 12:1-7

How does Paul saying he knew a man who was caught up to the third heaven translate to HIM being caught up to paradise?

I was too comfy and too lazy to get out from under the cozy afghan on my cozy sofa to brave the 22 chilly steps (44 round trip) to my library to grab The Bible Knowledge Commentary, so I stayed put and checked an online commentary.

Matthew Henry: “for doubtless [Paul] himself is the man in Christ of whom he speaks.”

Doubtless? I’m in doubt.

Mr. Henry proceeded to commend Paul for his humility in not referring to himself directly. Paul’s humility? Since when? In that very same chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote:

I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing.  I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.  How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!   2 Corinthians 12:11-13

Paul’s defensive and accusatory remarks don’t sound like the model of humility to me.

Even his self-deprecating remarks come off as humble brags. Take this one, for example:

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. Philippians 3:3-6

And then there are all the I, I, I’s of 1 Timothy 2: I urge, I was appointed, I am telling the truth, I am not lying, I want, I also want, I do not permit.

John often referred to himself indirectly as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and it was well within his personality to do so, he did so consistently and there are verifiable incidents that tie that descriptor to him.

But indirectly and humbly referring to himself in the third person was NOT within Paul’s personality and no where else was it his m.o.

So let’s get logical: In the context of 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 – where Paul is arguing that he is equal to the apostles who actually walked with Jesus – a humble, indirect statement just doesn’t make sense.  If ever there is a time to speak boldly and directly it is when arguing a case or asserting one’s credentials.

Perhaps it was due to Matthew Henry’s impressive and exhaustive work that this doubtful interpretation has been promulgated in commentaries ever since. Even by my beloved BSF – who taught me to read the Scriptures for myself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

When I read, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven,” for myself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,  I hear Paul saying that he knew someone who had been given a vision. And that person may have shared it with him. Or that person may have told him he couldn’t share it with him.

And I wonder whether that person was John, because John and Paul may have very likely crossed paths in Ephesus.

Or perhaps it was someone else altogether.

All I know for sure is that Paul DID NOT say that HE was “caught up to paradise.”

So why does the church twist Scripture and logic and temporarily change Paul’s personality in order to say he did?

Perhaps, when it comes to the church’s love affair with Paul, the lover is blind to its beloved’s blemishes.

#buryitinyourbrain

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Jesus

Stick with me, honey, I’m a genius.

Conversation on the way home from church:

The Hub:  What was the point of the sermon?
Other than that we shouldn’t sacrifice our children.
Which kind of goes without saying.

Me: Perhaps he was talking to those who might be sitting in front of their computers being radicalized by groups like ISIS.
Because those groups do sacrifice their children.
Strap bombs to them.
Perhaps he was speaking to that.

Still Me: I was thinking, as the Scripture was being read, that had God not stayed Abraham’s hand He would have left a huge and eternal opening for the accuser.

In order to eternally zip the enemy’s lip God would have to be both Abraham and Isaac.

The Hub: You’re right, that’s the only sacrifice that would put Him above reproach.

Me: Can’t accuse a guy of anything who’s willing to make the sacrifice AND be the sacrifice.

I went on: Father Ken mentioned that in Biblical times people thought they were pleasing God by sacrificing their children.

You want an animal sacrifice? The best of my flock? I’ll do you one better…

But God didn’t ask for one better.

And so it still is today, we try to add to what God has done for us, to what He requires of us.

Rather than being simply and humbly grateful.

Perhaps that was the point of the sermon.

I looked out the car window.

“Stick with me, honey, I’m a genius.”

“I know,” he replied, “that’s why I brought it up. I knew you’d have insights.”

***

I watched a Netflix movie on my computer last night while the hub was watching a NASCAR race.

Have you seen it?

That movie, this morning’s Scripture and the video I posted earlier today, all feel somehow tied together.

In my soul.

Perhaps because “God knits man in his mother’s womb slowly and wisely.  [Closure, insight, forgiveness, healing] should be born in a similar way.”

Watch the movie, wouldya’?, so we can discuss.

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life

Traveling Light

A friend shared something kind of interesting yesterday morning: Researchers asked a sampling of people what three words they most wanted to hear. The most common response was, “I love you.”  The second most common response was, “I forgive you.” The third, “Dinner is ready.”

Those 3 phrases sum up the gospel:

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

John 21:12: “Come and have breakfast.”

Later in the day my daughter and I were discussing her aversion to the word doctrine. Aware that there is nothing wrong with doctrine per se – it’s just a set of beliefs – she supposed the thing that makes it aversive is the way we Christians bog down our beliefs.

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My honey vanilla latte, her toasted coconut latte and sustenance.

She told me what her friend’s professor said about doctrine: “I used to try to carry all the church’s doctrine the way you would carry all your grocery bags into the house at the same time. But I kept dropping some.  Now I carry very few bags. Like three.”

Three is enough.

Bag 1: God loves us.

Inside the bag: He stepped into our mess of a world to show us what He’s really like.
He’s actively redeeming and restoring His creation.

Bag 2: God forgives us.

Inside the bag: The cross and three words: “It is finished.”

Bag 3: God has prepared a place for us.

Inside the bag: Our daily bread and an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

I love that Jesus prepared breakfast for His friends after He was resurrected.  You’d think after such a glorious feat He’d do something a little more regal.

But nope.

He made them breakfast.

I’ve been teaching the Bible these last two years via an international Bible study. Next year they’ll be studying the book of Romans. And I’m not going to teach.  I don’t want to bog kids down with a heavy load of doctrine. I just want to carry three light bags.

Dinner is ready.

 

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church nonsense

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Dogmatism

I’ve been too knackered to read or write anything these past two weeks.  I won’t go into the details but it has to do with my mom falling and injuring her hip (CT scan next week), both of my dogs having a nasty bout of diarrhea (clean-up in aisle 2), and me working just about ’round the clock to prepare for a presentation.

Profound exhaustion.

But then last night I went to the newly renovated Strand Theater in the newly rejuvenated Pontiac to see Phillip Phillips. Just Phillip, Dave Eggars, a guitar, a cello and a voice. In an intimate setting.

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It was outstanding.

Brian Vander Ark opened with skills of his own.

So today I had enough rejuvenation of my own to read a little something and I read this:

“Here’s the thing: Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. The phrase is never found in the Bible. And the whole biblical witness runs contrary to it.”

I was only three paragraphs into the article and I was exhausted again.

Because I’m tired of statements like that one.

Untrue overstatements to support a point.

Correct, the phrase “personal relationship” is not found in the Bible (lots of phrases to which Christians adhere are not found in the Bible), but that doesn’t mean the whole Biblical witness runs contrary to it.

When God rebuked Aaron and Miriam in Numbers 12 He said, “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face…”

In Exodus 33, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”

Isaiah wrote, “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend...” and in another place, he wrote “look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.” [emphasis added]

God said of David: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”

John referred to himself as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  When Peter, learning how he would die, looked at John and asked, “What about him?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

And there was Job who, after a long personal discourse with God said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

A quick survey of the whole biblical witness (and these are just the first few that come to mind)  reveals that God had many unique, personal relationships.

Oh, oh, oh I just thought of more: Jesus revealing Himself personally to Mary at the tomb and then to the disciples minus Thomas and then to Thomas personally with a personalized revelation tailored to his specific need to believe…

We know from Scripture that He made promises to individuals as well as to nations.

He still does.  He still has unique, personal relationships with individuals AND He has corporate relationships with nations and with the church at large.

Things are rarely one or the other when it comes to the way we practice religion.  They’re almost always a little bit of both.

Which is why dogma wears me out.

#knackered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jesus, life, war on women

Purple Reign

I’ve been prompted to share an excerpt from my Bible study today, so go get your Bible.

Before you open it, answer this question:  Who was created first, Adam or Eve?

You said “Adam,” right? Everyone does.

Now read Genesis 1:26-27, 31.

Who was created first?

That’s right, they were both created AT THE SAME TIME!

Together. On the sixth day.

Why does almost everyone answer incorrectly?

This might shed some light:  Look at Genesis 1:11-13.  When were plants created?

Now read Genesis 2:1-7.  According to verses 4-7, when did the plants “spring up”?

Not until after man was placed in the garden to care for them.

I love to host Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  I spend many happy hours poring over recipes in order to create the perfect menu.  The menu is completed weeks before the meal is actually prepared.  Long before the first potato is mashed, I know exactly what will be on the table.

The point is, God created everything in those 6 days but some of what He created didn’t appear until later.  As soon as He speaks something into existence, it exists, even if it cannot yet be seen.   Take a minute to think of other things that God spoke into existence long before they appeared on the earth?  What comes to your mind?

This concept is key because many think God created man first and woman was an afterthought – someone created later to fulfill man’s need.

That misunderstanding has caused a lot of pain and suffering and is a big factor in sex trafficking.

The important truth is, we were created at the same time.   

If you’re still not convinced, look closely at the third phrase of Genesis 1:27.

What does it say?

What pronoun is used?

Yep, the pronoun is plural.  Them. Two were created.

According to Genesis 1:26-28, why was “man” (humankind) created?

See? Woman wasn’t created for man; man and woman were created together to represent God’s image. Stop and think about that for a minute.

List some words that describe God’s image:

One of the words on my list is royal.  After all, He is the King of Kings.

What is the royal color?

We were created purple.

What color do you get when you combine blue and pink?

It takes both male and female combined to represent His image.

Both pink and blue are an equal and integral part of God’s royal image.  Woman can never be purple alone and neither can man.  It takes both, working together, to fully represent the image of God.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Genesis 1:28a says, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

God blessed us and spoke His purposes for us as a unit – before we were separated.  These purposes were for purple, not for pink or blue alone.

Read the rest of Genesis 2.

In verse 15, the Hebrew word that has been translated “take care of” or “keep,” depending on your version, is shamar, which means “to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect.”

If everything God created was good, from what/whom did the garden need to be protected?

If you said, “Satan” then you are correct.

Hold that thought and move on to verse 18: “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” [emphasis added]

Why did things go from “very good” in Genesis 1:31 to “not good” here?

I wondered so I looked. And I discovered that a more accurate translation of verse 18a would be “It is not good for the man to be as one.”

The word for helper here is the Hebrew word ‘ezer.  ‘Ezer appears 19 times in the OT and in all but one occurrence it is used in reference to divine help, as in:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

So when did the church twist divine help into subservient help?

God is our helper, but He is certainly not our servant.

Some translations call woman a “suitable” helper, King James calls her a “help meet.”

The Hebrew word translated “suitable” or “help meet” is neged.  The definition:  “in front of, in the sight or presence of, before the eyes of, face to face.”

Man and woman existed together as part of the “mankind” God created on day 6 and formed in chapter 2, all wrapped up into one.

Now God was about to separate them out so they could see one another face to face.  They would no longer be as one. Now they would be two, representing God face-to-face, side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder.

(I’ll tell you about the fabled rib tomorrow.)

You’re not in a hurry are you, because I am about to pull it all together.

God created mankind in His image and His image is triune.  Three separate but equal parts.  Therefore it makes sense that man and woman would be separate but equal parts.

I love Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. I had it engraved on the inside of my first husband’s wedding band. (Oh well.)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” Separate but entwined we are stronger than if we had remained as one.

I believe things went from “very good” to “not good” because there was an enemy lurking against whom we would have to defend ourselves.

Look back at Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:15.  God gave us two purposes – represent His image on earth and protect His garden (Genesis 2:15) by subduing His enemy (Genesis 1:28).

The word subdue in Genesis 1:28 is the Hebrew word kabash.  It means “to subject, force, bring into bondage, tread under foot.” If everything was good at that point, what on earth would need to be “forced, tread down, brought into bondage,” except His enemy?

So let’s recap: God created mankind purple. But there was an enemy lurking so He separated us out into pink and the blue and then what did He do at the end of the chapter?

He entwined us right back together again.

God entwined the wisdom of woman with the strength of man because two can defend better than one.  He intended for us to join arms and conquer the enemy – parents protecting their families, congregations protecting their communities, the church at large protecting the world.

We have a purpose people.

In what ways do you dream of joining arms with your present or future spouse (and/or church) to represent God in your community and keep the enemy at bay?

The hub and I dream of owning a lodge where we can host retreats and minister to anyone who needs spiritual refreshment.  (He would do that by taking them fishing.) The lodge would have a large kitchen where I would cook for our guests, nourishing them physically as well as spiritually.  I dream of it being a place where young adults can learn to eat well and love well.  I see it as God’s peaceful presence in whatever community He sets it.  Excuse me while I create some menus…

  • Excerpted from Spider Lake © 2010 Julie Hintz

#purple

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Jesus

Straight Up Temptation

The Lessons Appointed for Use on the First Sunday of Lent:

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11
Psalm 32

The Collect

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Sermon

I saw God mighty to save when I was working as a messenger in a law office. I worked there for a year while I took the LSATs and applied to law schools – just to make sure law was what I wanted to do.

One of my many duties was to occasionally sit in for the receptionist while she was at lunch. The phones were quiet one day and I had a verse to learn.- 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.”

I memorize best by writing things out so I wrote the verse on a sheet of paper. I wrote it again and again until it filled both sides of the page. Halfway through the hour the phone lines started ringing and by the time Kathy returned from lunch my paper was buried under a pile of messages.

Kathy took her seat behind the desk and I rushed out to file a motion.

When I returned to the office a few hours later Kathy called me over to the reception desk.

“I assume this is yours,” she said, holding up the page.

Before I could apologize for leaving it behind she continued, “Thank you. It saved my life.”

One of our clients had been flirting shamelessly with Kathy. She was a lovely, Christian, married woman who politely declined his indecent proposals time after time.  But it’s hard to resist a wealthy, powerful, charming, persistent man who makes you feel desirable, so that day at lunch she decided that when he came in that afternoon she was going to say yes.

And then 1 Corinthians 10:13 emerged from under all those messages.

Help is always on the way.

This morning help is right here in the lessons in our bulletins.

Genesis 3 helps us recognize the tempter when we see him.

The Old Testament

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made.

The Hebrew word translated serpent here is nachash.  It is from the root word meaning “divination, enchantment, sorcery”.

The Hebrew word translated “wild animal” means “to live, have life, remain alive, live forever.”

That’s why, contrary to all the artist’s depictions, I don’t picture Eve talking to an actual snake. What intelligent woman is going to listen to a snake?

A more accurate translation would have her talking to an enchanter.

Scripture says the devil masquerades as an angel of light. Ezekiel said he was, “the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.”

The Hebrew word translated beauty is from the root word yaphah (yaw-faw), which means “to be bright, beautiful, handsome, fair”.  So instead of a snake, picture someone shiny. (I picture a young Robert Redford.  He was shiny.)

“Now shiny boy was the slyest, most hypnotically charming being which the LORD God had made.”  (Genesis 3:1 JHV – Julie Hintz Version)

Is your mind set on the picture here?  Eve has just encountered a bright, shiny, hypnotically charming replica of the One she conversed with each evening in the garden.  Sin has not yet entered the picture.  She knows nothing of evil.  Distrust has not even entered her perfect mind because distrust has not yet entered her perfect world.  Shiny boy knows he’s golden, so he makes his move.

Tempters always look good in the coming; they don’t look like a snake until the going.

You know what I mean.  You’ve met someone who looked shiny in the coming. It wasn’t until after he/she betrayed you, deceived you, broke your heart, that you said to your friends, “He/she is such a snake!”

Remember, he wasn’t condemned to crawl on his belly until the end of the chapter.

He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’”
Look back at the first paragraph (Genesis 2).  Did God say they couldn’t even touch it? He commanded the man – because the woman had not yet been fashioned – and in relaying the command to the woman, the man embellished.  “Don’t even touch it, Eve, don’t even think about touching it.”  Actually, he hadn’t named Eve yet. “Don’t even touch it, woman, don’t even think about touching it.”

It’s important in this temptation avoiding life to see for yourself what God actually said; go directly to the source.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So 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, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

See how crafty he is? He even uses noble desires. Wisdom is a good thing, so how can desiring it be sinful? It isn’t. The sin wasn’t in the desire for knowledge, the sin was in the grabbiness.

Shiny boy portrayed himself as being more generous than God.  I see this temptation everywhere these days. The subtle temptation to believe that we humans are kinder, more compassionate than God. We’re not.

(Note to self: When someone wants me to do something that contradicts what God said, no matter how much that someone may look or sound like God, say to that shiny person, “Hold up, let me run that past God and get back to you.”)

Further down in the chapter we’re told Adam and Eve were afraid when they heard God coming, so they hid.  Do you think they had known fear before? This knowledge of good and evil that was supposed to be so great didn’t turn out to be so great.

And so it always goes with that snake.

I wonder if God would have invited them to eat from the tree the second they passed the test.  Once they showed they would trust Him, obey Him. (You can read Boot Camp for more on that.)

The OT helped us see that the tempter is shiny and sly. Eve said “the deceiver tricked me and I ate.”  If he can trick Eve, he can trick us. Smart as we are, Eve was smarter. She was an original, we’re copies of a copy of a copy…

So let’s learn from the Master.

Right out of the gate, the devil tried to wreck  Jesus’ ministry.

The Gospel

Matthew 4:1-11
(Right after He was baptized) Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Just a casual, harmless, sly little suggestion.  You’re hungry, make yourself something to eat. No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong. If he had turned those stones into bread His whole mission would have been aborted.

He had to be one of us in order to take our place on the cross.  Can you turn stones into bread? I can’t either.

So if He did something we can’t do He would no longer be fully man.

“But wait,” I hear you thinking, “Jesus did miracles all the time.”

Yes, He did. But He only did what he saw His Father doing and He only said what He heard His Father saying.

And His Father wasn’t making bread that day.

As a human, He was completely dependent on His father to do anything of spiritual, miraculous value. Just as we are.

We can’t take matters into our own hands – if we could, Dixie would be happily pooping by now – so neither could He.

That’s why He said, “One does not live by bread alone, 
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

There are more important things in life than our physical appetites.

We’re going to be hungry for all kinds of things and the tempter will exploit every one of our physical weaknesses.

Let’s not get grabby, let’s not take matters into our own hands, let’s take only from the Father’s hand.

If you scroll down to the last sentence of the Matthew passage it says this: “Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.”

I imagine they brought something a whole lot more satisfying than some crusty bread.

Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ 
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Are you kidding me?  ‘If you are the Son of God’? Please. What did He  just say at my baptism, right before I was led out to this place?  This is my Son.

Okay that’s my paraphrase. He actually said, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”   But they’re kinda’ the same. Either way when God clearly says something, it’s an insult to doubt it.

Temptation comes on strong when we think we have something to prove.  This one probably hits teenagers the hardest. Do I have what it takes? Am I desirable?

Tell them they do.  Tell them they are.  Tell them they have nothing to prove. Every day during Lent tell them in big and small and subtle and true ways that they have what it takes. Leave no doubt.

Again, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

All the kingdoms of the world were not his to give but he’s a liar so who cares.  He has no problem promising what he knows he can’t deliver.

The temptation here was to bypass the cross; to take the easy way.

“You don’t have to suffer,” the devil hissed, “you don’t have to die for these people.  Just worship me and I’ll give you an earthly kingdom.”

This last attempt must have been tempting.  Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. He said so Himself. If there had been any other way He would have taken it.

But Jesus didn’t come to gain an earthly kingdom.

He knew that eventually every knee would bow to Him and every tongue in heaven and on earth would confess that He is Lord.  He knew that in order to draw all men to Himself He would have to be “lifted up” on a cross before being lifted back unto His heavenly throne.

He wasn’t going to settle for a cheap imitation of the heavenly kingdom He already possessed.

Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God, 
and serve only him.’”

In other words, “I’ll take what’s behind door number God.”

Let’s not settle for the cheap imitations that the tempter offers and then doesn’t deliver.

Let’s give up cheap imitations for Lent.

The devil, who had the audacity to tempt Jesus, uses these same tactics on us.

He exploits our physical appetites and weaknesses.

He exploits our pride.

He exploits our fears and dreads.

How was Jesus able to cut through these tough temptations like a hot knife through butter?

He trusted in His Father’s provision,
He was confident in His Father’s love and
He kept His eye on the better prize. Us.

May we be like Him.

P.S. I didn’t say this in the sermon, but here’s why I think was translated as snake:

The Hebrew word translated serpent here is nachash (pronounced naw-khawsh’). It is from the root word nachash (pronounced naw-khawsh’), which means “divination, enchantment, omen, sorcery”. The root word and the derivative are identical in spelling and almost identical in pronunciation. Here’s what the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says:

“Because of the similarity of [the two words], some make a connection to snakecharming. More contend that there is a similarity of hissing sounds between enchanters and serpents and hence the similarity of words.”

Just a little bonus for my fellow word nerds.

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