Deception and Jacob’s Blessing

This entry is part 331 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Why did God allow deception to be used in the blessing of Jacob. Was Jacob justified, in the eyes of God, to use deception for getting blessing from his father?

Reading the Old Testament from the New Testament perspective is difficult for Christians. In the Old Testament, it is not that God condones or agrees with everything that happens, even by people that he wants to use, like Jacob.

Jacob’s name means “Heel Grabber, or Deceiver.” He was given the name by his parents when he tried to come out of the womb first by grabbing the heel of his brother to pull him back in. But it has the idea of deception behind it.

And it fits Jacob for much of his life. He used deception to get ahead and get what he thought he should have. He didn’t count on trust in God until he met the angel of the Lord and wrestled with him. The only time he has bested is by his uncle Laban, marrying Leah, the older sister, before the one he wanted, Rachel.

Otherwise, Jacob steals the birthright from his older brother Esau when he will only make a suit for him if he will give him the birthright. Esau is so hungry that he agrees to the deal, disregarding the birthright of the firstborn.

Jacob used the hunger of his brother, his desire for immediate gratification, against him to get what he wanted. Later on, not only will he have the firstborn’s birthright, but through deception of his father Isaac, he will gain the elder son’s blessing.

Deception is the larger part of the story for Jacob until God changes his heart in wrestling with the angel of the Lord. But the larger story with Jacob is that God changed his heart. After he changed his name to Israel, “He fights with God,” Jacob became a much better representative for God.

God molded him from the character he thought he needed to get by and succeed to the kind of character he could use to build his nation of Israel off of. God didn’t agree with Jacob’s methods in the beginning, which is why he changed his character name.

Jacob wasn’t justified in the way that he deceived others to get what he wanted. But it’s good to know that the Bible does it show people that are so saintly that none of us think we ever have a shot at pleasing God. In fact, Jacob is not the only one that God changed and used in powerful ways. The whole Bible is full of people who needed God to change them.

So Jacob used his own means in the very beginning of his life to get what he wanted. But he quickly found out that he could not handle wrestling with God. Even though he fought with the angel of the Lord, his hip was displaced and he would remember it for the rest of his life, as it gave him a limp.

The truth of the Bible, and the gospel, is that God changes each of us so that we can know him and serve him. He works from the inside out to change our character and then our behavior. He is working his holy purposes in each of us.

All of us start in the red, far away from God. God gives each of us the opportunity to know him. And as he changes us, we can serve him in greater and more effective ways. He loves us enough to know us, but he doesn’t leave us where we are when he finds us. He is ever working on us to make us who he wants us to be.

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Christianity and Morality

This entry is part 330 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Isn’t Christianity merely a morality?

While Christians espouse a high view of morality because they know and trust in God, the Law Giver, it is not just morality that Christians stand for. In fact, Christianity is much more than morality.

It is first and foremost a religion that espouses relationship with Jesus Christ, God incarnate, and the second member of the Trinity. Christianity contains a number of doctrines and beliefs about God, and especially about Jesus, the Anointed One God sent to save people from their sins and give them eternal life.

Although morality is included in Christianity, it is so much more. Morality is a small sliver of the pie. But it is very important to Jesus. He expects those who represent him on this earth to be good representatives that imitate him in everything he does.

Another concept related to Christianity running throughout the entire Bible is holiness. Holiness also includes morality, but it’s how God works from the inside out. When unbelievers become Christians, God begins a process that works from the inside out, from character to behavior.

Morality is part of the behavioral aspect of holiness, but holiness encompasses so much more. It encompasses all of the things that morality cannot monitor, like thoughts, intentions, motives, and the like. So Christianity is much more involved than just morality.

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God’s Children

This entry is part 329 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Since we are all God’s children, how much should we pray to him?

Actually, all human beings are not all God’s children. Many politicians are saying this so that they sound like they are inclusive. Only people who believe in Jesus Christ are God’s children.

John 1:9-13 explains this principle. As a talks about Jesus, the true light, comes into the world, which does not know him and rejects him. The world refers to all the inhabitants of the earth. Then John makes a distinction between all the inhabitants of the earth and people who believe in Jesus in John 1:12.

He says that to all who did receive Jesus, who believed in his name, God gave the right to become children of God. Then he describes how God’s making those who believe in Jesus part of his family is different from how humans do it (John 1:13).

Although all human beings are not all God’s children, there are some things Scripture says about humanity that also apply to this question. First of all, God placed his image in each of us (Genesis 1:26-28).

Even after the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, humans continue to be image bearers for God. Scholars debate exactly what containing God’s image means, but we know that after the Fall it was marred by sin. But every human being still has the image of God.

So we do have this in common. As far as the question about how much we should pray to God, the answer is that there is never too much prayer. Prayer can be directed toward different divinities. If you are referring to the God of the Bible, anyone can pray to him.

However, the Bible is unclear as to whether or not God will answer an unbeliever. He always listens to those who believe in him, but he may not answer the prayers of those who don’t know him. The best I can understand is that he answers the prayer to know him, believe in him, and trust in him.

God preferred his people, the nation of Israel, when it came to answering prayers and giving them favor in the Old Testament. And he does favor those who are his children through belief in Jesus when it comes to prayer.

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God’s Regret

This entry is part 328 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds
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What does Genesis 6:6 mean “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled?”

This is a really hard part of Scripture. It’s especially hard for us as Christians living in God’s grace to understand why he would feel this way about his own creation, about the pinnacle of his creation.

But look at the context of what has been happening in Genesis 6. It opens by telling us about what we can best interpret as fallen angels marrying human beings, a violation of how God ordered his creation (Genesis 6:1-4).

When God made Adam, nothing in creation could be suited for him (Genesis 2:18-20). If none of the animals were suitable for Adam, and God made woman as a perfect and suitable companion for him, compatible with him in every way, the angels violated God’s order by marrying the daughters of men.

Beyond this wickedness that seemed to cross the line more than anything else humans found they could do do for themselves, their wickedness continued to spiral downward. Now, they not only did wicked things, but every thought of their heart was evil and wickedness all the time (Genesis 6:5).

This was not what God intended for his creation. He wanted a holy and blameless creation that freely chose to worship and serve him, to have relationship with him. But sin ruined all of that. It marred his image that he placed in humanity.

He could see from the way things were going and the intention of humanity that there was no redeeming quality in his creation. In just six short chapters of Scripture, humanity had completely become corrupt and was unredeemable.

So he found the one person in all of the world who was still righteous, Noah, and made a plan to start over with him and his family. He regretted making humanity and creation because of the corruption and how quickly it happened.

There was no way for him to have any relationship with humanity because of the sin and wickedness that was rampant not only in human actions, but also in human thought.

It gets even worse, as he says he is sorry for making humanity and all his creation because of the sin and corruption that was upon the earth (Genesis 6:7). We can’t even fathom how bad sin got throughout the earth.

But it all defeated his purpose for creating everything in the first place. So he was going to start over my making a flood to wipe clean the entire earth and start over again. He would need a redemptive plan that was bigger than just re-creating earth the next time.

This is why Jesus came to earth, to be the redemptive Messiah who would wipe away the sin itself instead of just fixing the outside. He is the perfect fulfillment of God’s plan to restore creation to himself.

Much of the situation of God being unable to relate to his creation the way he wished, and the wickedness that went on in those days before the flood is summed up in Genesis 6:3. There, God says that is Spirit will not always abide with humanity

Jesus has opened the door for all who believe in him to have eternal life once again with God forever. One of the greatest refrains of all of Scripture is, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”

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Michael the Archangel

This entry is part 326 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Is Michael the Archangel included in the important areas of biblical prophecy?

Michael the Archangel only appears in several biblical texts, Daniel’s writings (Daniel 10:21; 12:1), Jude 1:9, and Revelation 12:7. He also shows up in very popular Old Testament Apocrypha or deuterocanonical texts.

Because of the prophecy-rich nature of Daniel and Revelation, many people become curious about angels and how they affect end times events. Indeed, God uses angels throughout the book of Revelation to do everything from heralding the events to carrying them out.

Michael the Archangel seems to be the one in charge of the host of heaven. He is the commander of the military force of God’s angels. Every time he does show up in Scripture, he is fighting a battle or is part of one.

For instance, he is called one of the “Princes” doing spiritual battle in the book of Daniel. Each time he shows up, he is relaying a message to Daniel about the spiritual battles that have kept his answers to prayer from coming to him sooner, and being the protector of Israel.

In Jude 1:9, Michael fights with the devil over the body of Moses. We don’t know exactly where this account comes from, but the church father Origen claims that it comes from lost work called “The Ascension of Moses.”

The other place Michael is mentioned by name is in Revelation 12:7, where Michael leads all of the other angels in battle against Satan, the Dragon. This seems to be a war that divided the entire angelic host, pitting one against another. It seems that this is the origin of the difference between demons and angels.

John gives us a rare glimpse into the spiritual battles that occurred in heaven. The problem is that we cannot tell exactly when this battle happened. Most scholars put it at the beginning of time, so that John is looking back at it as part of the understanding of why the Dragon is after the woman in the desert.

Jesus might reference the same thing when he says he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18). Some prophetic texts seem to be speaking of more than a human king whenever they address the same type of issue (Isaiah 14:12-16; Ezekiel 28:1-10).

These all help to shed light on how Satan came to be and what his aim is in attacking God’s people. Such prophetic texts to help us understand the enemy better. But as far as I understand Bible prophecy, especially about the end times, it is Jesus who will face off with Satan and the battle of Armageddon with his saints and angels and defeat him. The credit goes to Jesus, not Michael the Archangel.

Beyond biblical sources, many people are hungry to learn more about angels. There is an entire study of theology devoted to angelic matters, called angelology. It’s my opinion that people can get caught up in these minor matters of the Scriptures and devote too much time to them before they have fully engaged with major doctrines.

It’s not that we can’t, or shouldn’t, study angels in the Bible. It’s that we must give them the same amount of weight that the Bible gives them. Mostly they amount to God’s celestial servants, doing whatever he tells them to. They play a role but are not the main story of the Bible.

As far as deuterocanonical texts, Michael the Archangel is often found and described in 1 Enoch, a very popular piece of literature around the time of Jesus in first century Palestine. First Enoch “fills in” a lot of Jewish belief about angels and is very much connected with eschatology, or end times events.

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Your Heavenly Employer Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Your Heavenly Employer

Everyone works. In fact, we often ask what others do before who they are. Think about it. When’s the last time you met somebody and ask them about anything other than, “So what do you do for living?” So much of who we are is tied into what we do.

And Scripture is not silent on the subject. It talks a lot about work. In the next five posts, we will break down what the Bible says about our work, what God expects, and how he expects us to represent him in what we do.

Genesis has always been a thoroughly interesting read. There are so many things that leave us with partial answers to our questions. Consider the environment of the Garden of Eden.

Most scholars accept the idea that this garden is at least a template of what believers might expect in heaven for eternity. Our redeemed minds spend much time and resources thinking on noble things, like what heaven will be like.

But there’s something interesting about the Garden of Eden. As much as many of us would like from work to no longer be part of heaven, as we see in the man-made utopias in our entertainment, this is not the case.

From the very beginning, God gave Adam work in the garden. If the Garden of Eden is a place that gives us a hint of what heaven will be like, work will be part of human existence until the end. And then in eternity, although the Bible doesn’t really say, I would imagine there is work for us to do.

Productivity and satisfaction from completing work is fundamental to human existence. We need to see progress. When I was in high school, I read a book by Elie Wiesel entitled, “Night.” He lived through the Nazi concentration camps in the 1940s.

One of the most compelling stories in the book is how the Nazis would make them dig a hole in one side of the camp, move the dirt, and put it in a pile on the other side of the camp. Then they would make them shovel the pile of dirt, transported to the other side of the camp, and dump it in the same hole.

He said that many of the Jews lost their belief in God through these exercises. The futile efforts of moving dirt from one place to another, simply to put it back where it was, drove many of them mad. Humans need rest, but we also need to be productive, to have purpose in life.

God knows this about us. And so work is part of who we are. But in the Garden, after sin entered the world, God cursed the ground and made work much harder than it was beforehand.

The Bible is full of a robust theology of work, as some have called it. Let’s take a look at what it has to say about the human endeavor of work.

A God-Pleasing Work Ethic

When we consider the work ethic expected of believers, we can start at the very beginning. Many people do not have a job that brings them joy or satisfaction. Some work long hours, or even hate their jobs.

Others, in an attempt to keep up with the Jones’ or to run the rat race because of the false hopes of the American Dream, run themselves ragged and end up with health issues. Work takes up so much of our lives that it can easily become our master.

But what does the Bible teach about work? Will we work in heaven? Is work part of the fallen world? Does God have any rules about work? As we trace the Bible’s principles on work, let us start in Genesis.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam was given work to do before the Fall. In Genesis 2:15-17, God puts Adam in the garden to work it. This tells us that God intended work to be part of what humans do.

We are hardwired for purpose through productivity in our work. We must have both. Work is hard, if not impossible, when we cannot see the reason or purpose in it. It’s unnatural for us to not produce anything. Even in just sitting around, we produce something: waste. We must be productive creatures, and God made us this way.

Work in Eden

In Genesis 3 at the Fall of Man, God cursed the good thing He gave in Adams work. In Genesis 3:17-19, God cursed the man because he did not lead by example nor did he stop his wife, Eve, from sinning against Him.

Adam did not take his role as the leader in his home and lead his wife in righteousness. Because of this, Adam, and every human being who works, found work much harder to do.

The curse first affects his ability to eat from the Tree of Life. This means that no longer will he live immortally. He will be subject to death because of his sin. His work will be cursed so that it is harder to achieve the same success.

Now, tending to the ground and fields is work instead of joy. All the days of our lives, we will toil for all we consume. Work is harder and less fulfilling because of the Fall of Man. It’s not that we were never supposed to work, but that we were supposed to receive enjoyment and fulfillment even from our work.

Conclusion

As we see from the beginning of the Bible, work is not a curse. Harder work is. But it didn’t begin this way.  And if the Garden of Eden is a template for what heaven will look like, work is part of God’s plan for humanity.

God designed us to work. It’s not an evil thing added because of sin. It’s something God made us to do. And even those who don’t enjoy working would tell you that when they complete a project, finish off a checklist, or share good things about the things they produce in their work, they enjoy seeing something completed well.

We’re going to continue on this theme of work throughout the Bible. Scholars call it the theology of work. This is only the beginning of what the Bible has to say about our work ethic and what we do for God. In the next couple of posts, we will be addressing two extreme poles of understanding our work ethic.

Have you ever thought to look through the Scriptures and see what they say about work? Leave a comment and tell me what you think these extreme poles of work are.

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Languages of the Bible

This entry is part 325 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds
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Was the Bible originally written in three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek?

Yes, the original manuscripts of the Bible were written in these three languages. The Old Testament is written almost completely in ancient Hebrew. Parts of Daniel were written in Aramaic. And the New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

The Hebrew of the Old Testament varies based on when it was written. Some books are harder to read than others. For instance, most of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) is written in an easy-to-read form. Sentences are not constructed for harder reading.

When you get into some of the later Hebrew, it is more complex. This makes sense because languages get more intricate the longer they exist. The only time they get simpler, as we will see with Greek, is where they become the lingua franca of the day. By this, I mean that the more different ethnic groups use the language, the simpler it becomes in everyday business and conversation.

Some of the hardest parts to read of the Old Testament Hebrew are the Hebrew poetry. Because of the mix of poetic and prose speech, they become more difficult to translate and interpret. By far the hardest is the poetry itself. Hebrew poetry has beautiful imagery, but it is harder to interpret, like any poetry.

Because Daniel was in exile in Babylon and Persia, Aramaic became the language of the Israelites in captivity. Daniel is mostly written in Hebrew. But the languages are very similar. Mostly the digs and the personal pronouns are different from Hebrew. It is only partially difficult to translate these sections of the Old Testament.

In the days of the New Testament, Greek was the lingua franca of the day. It was used for commerce and anytime you would run into a foreigner. Just like English today is used throughout the world for commerce and as a common language that most people though, Greek was the language of the first century.

As you got into local areas, you would see the local language. Anytime you weren’t from around that place, Greek was the best way to communicate. Most people learned Greek because of Alexander the great and his mission to colonize the world. Everywhere he went, he did not only win the war but he made it his mission to take the Greek culture and language to the rest of the world.

He was so effective that even the Romans relied on Greek instead of Latin to communicate with local groups of people. They were the kind of civilization that didn’t reinvent the wheel. The Romans contributed to society and culture in other ways. They are probably best known for their building of roads and their ability to answer the “how” practical questions of their day.

The Greeks were best at philosophy and answering the “why” questions of their day. So the Greeks laid the foundation for a common culture across the world while the Romans used whatever was available and concentrated on the practical problems of their day.

For this reason, when the New Testament writers wrote their books, they wanted to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Jesus Christ. So the best way to do this was to write them in Greek instead of Aramaic, the language of most of the New Testament writers.

It was so much easier to write in Koine Greek instead of local languages. They wouldn’t have to translate the Scriptures from place to place. Instead, they could rely on the common language of the day. Koine means “common” in Greek. Koine Greek was the common language in the first century. Everyone was using it for commerce, so it was perfect for spreading the gospel.

No matter where they went, most of the people in those areas would know Greek. In truth, Jesus came at the right time in human history. Paul says that “at the right time” Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law (Galatians 4:4).

The Greeks laid the foundation for spreading the gospel through language and culture. And the Romans constructed the roads that Paul, other apostles, and Christians traveled to take the gospel everywhere in the known Roman world.

If Jesus what have come earlier than the time he did, these foundations would not be in place throughout the world. The gospel would have been harder to spread. So this is why the New Testament writers used Greek. Everyone had instant access to the message of the gospel.

Just like the Old Testament, different books of the New Testament are harder or easier to read. John may be one of the most interesting writers of the New Testament. All of his writings are easy to read on the face of it. The hard part is when he uses more complex concepts and allusions. Although it’s easier to read, it is rich in the way that he uses the Greek language.

Some of the harder Greek of the New Testament happens for two reasons. The first is that you have some writers who were not necessarily proficient in “good Greek.” My best example of this is Peter. He was a fisherman, so he owned a business and had to do business in Greek, but he was still “a Galilean” who was considered uneducated in his day. His Greek is harder to read because he didn’t have the greatest grasp of the language.

Other writers, especially Luke, wrote Koine Greek than most. He almost borders on classical Greek as he writes Luke and Acts. When you read these books, they are harder to translate because he is almost using Attic Greek instead of Koine Greek.

Throughout the Bible, you have different levels of each language. Over 40 authors and 1600 years will give you a wide variance even within each language. But the amazing thing about the Bible is how God has used it to reach billions of people with his good news.

The writers of each of the time periods throughout human history have written out of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But the languages they used were perfect for the situations they were in. Old Testament writers used Hebrew because these books were written in Israel for the most part.

When the language of the day switched from Hebrew to Aramaic, Hebrew was mostly used for religious matters, and in the temple. When Daniel went into exile, he turned to Aramaic because the Israelites spoke Aramaic more than Hebrew in exile.

The writers of the New Testament used the language of the day everywhere they went. The gospel could be heard and understood without having to learn a whole bunch of different local languages. This made it possible for the gospel to be spread across the entire Roman empire. Everyone from Europe to Asia Minor could hear the gospel in Greek.

God uses languages in a powerful way. He makes sure that his message can be heard no matter the culture or time. Because he created language, he knows how to use the most efficient means to spread his word to everyone so that we will be held accountable for the choice we make to follow Jesus or not. We can’t blame language and not being able to hear the gospel for the choices we make.

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Meaning of Genesis 1-11

This entry is part 324 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds

When analyzed in depth, what does Genesis 1-11 really say?

Genesis 1-11 is one of the most interesting passages of the Bible. So many questions come from trying to explain everything from creation to the flood to how nations came about. But we must remember that Genesis 1-11 is not meant to explain every possible thing since the beginning of creation.

Genesis 1-3 tells the account of creation. Genesis 1 is designed to present a poetic interpretation of how God created the universe. The key from this passage of Scripture is not to understand all of the scientific possibilities of how God made everything. Moses wrote these chapters to show that it was God who made the universe, not chance, or gods.

In Moses’ day, there were all kinds of creation narratives. Each one of them had a different take on creation and have gods of the day in different cultures were involved in creation. Many of them gave the idea that creation was an accident or a mistake.

But what Moses wrote the first three books of the Bible, he showed that a loving and caring God created the universe and humanity. We are not a mistake. We are the pinnacle of creation

While Genesis 1 presents an overall poetic view, looking at all of creation, Genesis 2 zooms in on more specific details, like creating the animals and the pinnacle of creation, humankind. It’s sometimes hard for readers to see this telescoping from big creation to small creation.

To be more specific, Genesis 1:1 starts out with the largest picture. Some people propose what is called “gap theory” between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Moses is going from the overall big picture Genesis 1:1 to a smaller picture throughout the rest of Genesis 1. There is no gap. There is only the zooming in from the largest picture of creation to a smaller one and how God spoke everything creation into existence from nothing.

In Genesis 2, he zooms in even further, focusing on animals and the creation of humanity. He spends time to explain that God rested on the seventh day after created for six days. Then he zooms in on the fifth and sixth days of creation

Following the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, Moses continues to elaborate on the first family of creation and their children. Cain and Abel get into a spat about who’s sacrifices are better. God prefers the sacrifices of Abel, giving Cain desire to kill his brother.

But Cain is banished from God’s plans for the earth, and Seth, the third son mentioned from Adam and Eve becomes the one who carries the godly line. We get to see both the line of Cain and the line of Seth through Genesis 4-6. These contain the genealogies that explain the family lines of Cain and Seth and the differences between these two lines.

Genesis 6 begins with some of the most curious parts of Scripture. We hear about what most scholars believe is angels marrying the daughters of men. The results of these marriages give us some of the best material for our imaginations to consider.

Whatever happened in those days of Noah, it was so bad that God decided to start over with creation. He sent the flood throughout the entire earth. He began a restart of all of his creation. Sin had become so rampant in wickedness was so devious that God started over instead of fixing the problem.

We read about Noah, the only righteous man left throughout all of the land. God commissions him to build an ark, a giant boat to house all of his creation in the animals and his family. They wait out the entire flood together and restart creation after the fund.

This makes all of creation before the time of the flood a mystery to us. People lived for hundreds of years, almost a millennium in some cases. We can’t even fathom such long life as God limited the number of human years to 120 in the best of circumstances.

This makes it much harder for us to believe the reality of what it was like to live before the flood. Many people challenge the records of Genesis for this very purpose. They consider it fictional at best. But the fact is that the world before the flood was much different than it is today. A worldwide flood had drastic effects on the planet and life as we know it.

From the time of Noah, we find out that sin and wickedness were not eradicated from our world. Through accounts like the Tower of Babel we learn that humanity still had wicked goals, like trying to reach the heavens where only God dwelt.

This is where we learned of the differences between many languages and countries. The table of nations shows us how different nations came about through different lines of Noah’s family. And at the end of Genesis 1-11, we meet a man named Abraham who will be the chosen person to start the nation that God chooses himself.

Even Christians can admit that Genesis 1-11 contains many mysteries that we will never figure out this side of heaven. But just because we don’t understand everything written within these pages of Scripture doesn’t mean we can’t trust that God is telling the truth about everything that happened in prehistory. Moses uses reliable sources as he writes these chapters of the Bible for us.

Sources like the genealogies and the table of nations, along with strong oral tradition, are reliable and acceptable resources at the time of Moses’ writing. Beyond this, anyone who believes in the Scriptures as a Christian understands that Moses wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and God does not lie (Numbers 23:19).

So what do we get out of reading these first eleven chapters of the Bible? I think one of the most important theological takeaways from this section of Scripture is that no matter what God did, evil continued upon the earth. Even after trying to restart creation, evil is pervasive enough to show up again.

Sin is dangerous. It never stops. No matter what we do, we cannot stop sin on our own. Willpower is not enough. We need the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s help to resist temptation and sin.

Another take away is that God will have to do something more drastic than re-creating earth. He will have to send his one and only Son to pay the ultimate penalty of death and substituted himself in our place to save humanity from sin and wickedness. Nothing else will work.

This foundation is laid Abraham’s account. Through him God chooses a nation from which to bring forth the promised Messiah, his Son Jesus, who can forgive sins and bring humanity back into relationship with God, as Adam and Eve do in the garden of Eden when they walked with him in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).

These eleven chapters lay the foundation for God’s desire to dwell with his creation, with us. Throughout history he has intervened for the sole purpose of knowing us as his creation and dwelling with us forever.

Genesis 1-11 tell the accounts of how God does everything possible to maintain relationship with humanity despite sins effects. With every step, he is moving toward redemption of his creation. He is not a God far off who does not care about us. He wants to know us and he wants us to know him.

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Complaining

This entry is part 323 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds

Where in the Bible does it say not to complain?

The idea of complaining can encompass several concepts, such as grumbling and being discontented. We complain when we aren’t happy or don’t want to do what should be done. So here are a few areas of the Bible that talk about this type of attitude.

The first thing that comes to my mind is Israel in the wilderness. The people were always complaining to Moses that he had dragged them out into the wilderness to die or face hardships. It got on God’s nerves, and there are several places in the Old Testament where the people paid for such complaining.

They complained against God’s ordained leadership in Moses and Aaron. They complained that they didn’t have the kind of food they wanted. On this occasion, they want meat instead of the manna that God sent them every day so faithfully.

God was so angry that he sent them quail, and many of them died from eating it (Numbers 11:32-34). Instead of being thankful for God’s provision, they complained about it. He didn’t get them exactly what they wanted on the menu. So those who thought eating the quail would be such a good idea suffered sickness because of their complaining about God’s provision.

Some scriptures that deal with the idea of grumbling as part of complaining come from places like Philippians 2:14 and 1 Peter 4:9. The contexts of these verses are in the apostles telling Christians about their attitude in what they do. Paul says to do all things without grumbling.

Peter says, speaking specifically of showing hospitality to other Christians, to do it without grumbling. Sometimes we can begrudge being hospitable to others. Even though they are brothers and sisters in Christ, that doesn’t mean we’re going to get along with everyone.

Either there must have been some of these attitudes among Christians in the churches of Paul and Peter, or they were laying out the possible problems and “nipping them in the bud,” so to speak. Either way, we are called to a higher standard even when we don’t enjoy doing something.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” (Philippians 2:14, ESV)

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9, ESV)

In other ways, the Bible speaks about our attitude in a different way. Instead of mentioning grumbling and complaining, it talks about the positive aspects we cannot carry out by grumbling or complaining.

One example is of Paul calling the Corinthians in giving of their offering to be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:6-11). You can’t hand over money or goods cheerfully and grumble and complain at the same time. It must be one or the other.

Cheerfulness is an attitude of the heart, just as grumbling and complaining are actions that come from a discontented heart. I have found that anytime money is involved, the true nature of our attitude always comes out.

Sometimes we are able to choose how we spend our money or who we give it to. But there other times that we don’t have a choice. We pay taxes and bills, not wanting to give the money to those things. But when we choose to give our money to a certain thing, we must be careful to not do it begrudgingly, especially when it is to the works of God.

A final place I can think of when I hear the words “complain,” “grumble,” and “discontent” is when I think about Paul’s characterization of the contented Christian life (Philippians 4:11-13). People often quote verse 13 about everything under the sun.

But it actually has a very specific context in which Paul is describing how he has learned to be content in every situation. He’s had it good and he’s had it bad, but he has learned how to be content the matter what situation he finds himself in.

The strength of Christ does not refer to superhuman ability, giant biceps, or power over our situations. It refers to the ability to be content to matter what situation we face. We rely on Christ in the good times and the bad.

This means that we should not complain or grumble when we run into situations we do not enjoy. Whether we are poor, in bad health, under persecution, or a host of other trials and problems that may come our way because we serve Christ, we need to learn this life of contentment to be truly at peace and able to handle these situations.

It’s not that nothing can affect us either. Christians are not Stoics. But we turn to Christ and he gives us his peace in every situation. This brings a contentment to us that the world cannot understand. We may not like the situation, and it may even cause us pain, but through Christ we can gain the strength to be content in any circumstance because of him.

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Empowered for Life

This entry is part 56 of 56 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

I used to watch a Tim Allen show called “Home Improvement” when I was a teenager. I always got a kick out of hearing him say, “More power,” and then grunt over and over. He even taught his boys how to do the same thing.

The thing is that Tim was always getting in trouble as he sought more power. The hospital probably had a private room just for him. I hope he got paid well on his cable TV show Tool Time to pay for all of the damages he caused.

Many Christians don’t know that God wants to give us power like we’ve never seen before. It’s the power to do many things for him in this life. But they operate on half power, or maybe even less. It’s God’s hope and desire for us to live in the full power of the Spirit all the time.

But this isn’t just raw power for power’s sake. No, the New Testament outlines the kind of power Jesus wants to place in your hands. First of all, we know that he wants this power of the Spirit for us.

Before he left the disciples in the beginning of Acts, a book that details the power of the Spirit they operated in regularly, he told them to wait in Jerusalem in the Upper Room until they received the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5, 8).

It’s true that everyone receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation and is sealed in him (Ephesians 1:13-14). But most Christians don’t operate in the immersed power of the Spirit. Either they aren’t taught about this next step in their walk with Christ or they don’t seek that full immersion in the Spirit.

I went to detail the power of the Holy Spirit the New Testament shows us. If you don’t already know about this power or walk in it regularly, begin seeking the Spirit for all he has for you when you see what he wants your life to be like.

Power to Resist

Many of the Christians I have met throughout my ministry over the years are still focused on resisting the devil. There is scriptural precedent for this (James 4:7). They are so focused on it that they can’t see the rest of the Christian experience.

For them, the Christian life is all about digging in our heels against temptation and sin. It’s about fighting the devil on every level. These are the kinds of folks that think he is after them, and only them, all the time. They grow battle-weary and see no hope for anything greater.

They ask questions like, “Why, God, is the devil always after me?” They have a persecution complex. It’s not that there isn’t persecution from the world, but they think they are Elijah in the wilderness telling God they’re the only true believer left.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Living a life full of the power of the Holy Spirit means that we do have power to resist the devil, temptation, and sin. But not in our own ability. It’s when we have a vibrant, connected life with Jesus through the Spirit. That’s when we see this power to resist temptation and sin.

There is so much more to the power of the Spirit. Yes, his power works in our favor with temptation and sin, but he wants to go beyond defense.

Power to Submit

James also tells us to submit ourselves to God (James 4:7). He tells his congregation (and us) that when we draw near to God, he draws near to us (James 4:8).

Did you ever realize that the power to submit to God is the power to draw close to him and grow in intimacy in our relationship? This can only happen by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit searches our hearts and minds. He knows us, and becomes the intermediary between us and Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:9-11).

The Spirit knows us completely. And only through him can we achieve intimacy with God. He gives us the power to submit to God, to listen to and obey him. And it is through this process of listening and obeying, practicing what the Spirit leads us to do, that we grow in godliness and holiness.

Instead of concentrating only on the fight at hand, we can become dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:1-3). This doesn’t mean we don’t worry about temptation and sin anymore. It means we are more intent on following after Christ and being fully surrendered to him, including those places we may still struggle with in our character.

We used to seeing a song that talked about this very idea of focusing more on Christ than the world and its temptations.

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me

The world behind me, the cross before me

The world behind me, the cross before me

No turning back, no turning back

Power to Witness

I mentioned Acts 1 earlier where Jesus told the disciples to wait until the “promise of the Father.” This is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. That’s what Jesus wanted them to wait for before they jumped into ministry.

Why did he want this? Because he knew they would be much more effective for them after they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. There are several misunderstandings of this baptism, though. Some say that it is the same as salvation.

But the disciples already know Jesus. This is something that happens after they are saved. John the Baptist baptized people for repentance, one of the main parts of salvation. But Jesus baptized with fire, a symbol of the Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 2:3). So Jesus is the one who immerses us in the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who brings the power in our lives.

What is the purpose of baptism in the Holy Spirit? We see it on the Day of Pentecost. The apostles received boldness to witness about Jesus and God’s glory like never before. Those who were timid in the Gospels are now empowered in Acts.

Something that freaks a lot of people out about the baptism in the Holy Spirit is how you know you receive it. When you are water baptized, people know because you get wet. In the same way, you know you are baptized in the Holy Spirit when you speak in tongues(Acts 2:1-4; 10:46; 19:1-7; 1 Corinthians 14:18).

Speaking in tongues is the language of angels or of humans (1 Corinthians 13:1). It is an unlearned language the Holy Spirit speaks through us. It’s showing he is controlling the one thing we can’t control, our tongues (James 3:8). If he can control the thing we can’t buy our willpower, he can control our whole person and bring us into holiness.

How do we receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit from Jesus? It all starts with seeking the Lord for this baptism. Next, like the apostles, we must patiently wait on the Lord to give us this wonderful promise of the Father.

I have found that through praise and worship many people receive. That’s what the apostles were doing on the Day of Pentecost. They were praying in the Upper Room. There is something about loosing our tongues to praise God that Jesus takes and looses the Spirit to speak through us about him. Remember that the Holy Spirit always speaks about Jesus (John 16:14).

And as I said before, the way you know Jesus has immersed you in the Holy Spirit and all of his power for all of his purposes in you is that you will speak in a strange, different language that you did not know before. It opens the door to empowered service to God.

Power to Serve

The next empowerment that the Holy Spirit gives is gifts to minister for him. These are gifts to serve others, not to make us look good or feel good about ourselves. They allow us to be used by him to help others.

The gifts are powerful because the Holy Spirit uses them as he ministers to others through us. We become a conduit or a vessel for the Holy Spirit to use. And oh the things he can do through us as he uses his gifts!

The New Testament tells us all about these gifts. You can find lists of the gifts of the Spirit throughout the New Testament. There are different categories of gifts. There are no complete lists of the gifts. The Holy Spirit has the prerogative to creatively do whatever he wants to through us.

Here are the three basic categories the gifts of the Spirit fall into:

  • Service Gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
  • Leadership Gifts (Ephesians 4:11)
  • Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

It’s not that a person who doesn’t operate in the baptism and gifts of the Spirit can’t serve others or be effective. It’s the level of effectiveness that comes into play when a person surrenders to immersion in the Spirit and is used in his gifts regularly.

Power to Battle

The Holy Spirit also empowers us for the spiritual battles all around us. Paul introduces spiritual warfare in several of his letters. Probably the most well-known is the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Sometimes it goes unnoticed that one of the last things he talks about after the armor is praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Praying in the Spirit involves passages like Romans 8:26, where the Spirit intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.

But it also refers to our personal prayer language, praying in the Spirit, in the spiritual language, speaking in tongues we received when we were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Paul makes a distinction between the gift of speaking in tongues for service that must be interpreted and speaking in tongues as prayer and praise to God (1 Corinthians 14:2, 4-5, 15, 17-18).

John tells us that greater is he (the Holy Spirit) in us then he (Satan) that is in the world (1 John 4:4). This doesn’t only speak to our war with temptation, desires, and sin, but also to the spiritual battles we face against the enemy.

Paul speaks of the battle of the mind, taking captive all of our thoughts so that they serve Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). So on all fronts, from our old desires to temptations to battling Satan and his demons, the Holy Spirit is not only our defense but our offense.

Conclusion

These are just some of the ways the Holy Spirit’s power works through us from the Scriptures. Power is not for us, but we become willing vessels to be used by the Spirit however he wishes. And now I must stress the most important part of this entire post.

The spiritual gifts, the baptism, the power we receive, none of it is worth anything if we are not growing deeper and deeper in our relationship with the Spirit. If we are not found in the Vine, Jesus himself, we can’t do anything (John 15:4-5).

No one wants to end up like the seven sons of Sceva who tried to cast out demons by the names of Jesus and Paul without having a relationship with Jesus (Acts 19:13-16). They found themselves naked and bleeding, humiliated because they operated in spiritual warfare without knowing the Persson, Jesus, behind the power.

All the power I have spoken of flows through the Holy Spirit. Only when we are connected to him can we receive from him and be used in service to Jesus. And the power of the Spirit comes when he brings it, not when we do. He is in charge. The moment he is not, we’re doing it on our own.

What experiences have you had with the Holy Spirit? Leave a comment and tell me what your life is like when you are connected to the Spirit.

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