Tag Archives: hope

Playing the Blame Game – Genesis 3:9-19

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” ~ Genesis 3:13

In reading this passage during my morning time of Scripture, I immediately empathized with Eve. I recall several occasions on which, as a young boy, my parents caught me doing something wrong, and to avoid the consequences I knew I deserved, I tried to shift the blame from myself onto somebody else. Even in adulthood, with the light of the truth shining in my face, the easiest means of escape often seems to be a shift of blame or a change of subject. We all do it; we all seek to protect ourselves when confronted with the reality of our own sin.

Here is where it all started. The serpent deceived Eve and Eve, knowing it was wrong, ate of the forbidden fruit. Eve in turn offered it to Adam and Adam, also knowing it was wrong, ate the fruit. God confronted Adam with his sin and Adam blamed Eve, and when confronted by God, Eve blamed the serpent. Each of them sinned, and each tried to pass the buck when confronted with their wrongdoing. At least we’re consistent!

Although the serpent initiated the sin, God punished all three – Adam, Eve, and the serpent – and the punishments still apply to their descendants today. The first ever Blame Game failed to deliver the outcome Adam and Eve desired. God saw through the charade and issued a just and severe punishment.

These days, we often respond to sin with a wink and a nod. “Boys will be boys” after all. But sin, all sin, is a big deal in God’s eyes, and in His righteousness He demands accountability. Remember, we always have a choice when faced with temptation. And when we succumb to the siren song of the serpent and commit that sin we know we shouldn’t commit, there are consequences. Sure, we try to shift the blame, and our rationale may sometimes contain a grain of truth. But that does not excuse us from the sin we committed.

As I considered this passage I was struck by the hopelessness of sin. Have you ever caught yourself doing something you know is wrong and wondered, “how the heck did I get here?” I have. It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening. It’s disappointing. The Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even felt this way at times:

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. ~ Romans 7:19-25

Where, then, is our hope? Our hope is in the One who gave His life as the complete and perfect punishment for all of our sins – past, present, and future. That Hope’s name is Jesus. Without Him, we are lost. With Him, we are forgiven and we look forward to eternal life in His holy presence! With that knowledge, we seek to live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him – not to save ourselves, for that is impossible – but as a loving response to the selfless action of a loving God.

Yes, we will stumble. We will succumb to the serpent’s siren song. We will sin. And when we do, God calls us to lay our sins at the foot of the cross, trusting in the everlasting mercy, love, and grace He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ, to all who believe. Through faith in Him and Him alone, we are justified and made righteous. Therein rests our hope.

True Hope

Amid the tumult we’ve seen over the past week or so, the rush of the holiday season has begun. As protesters in Ferguson burned businesses, looted stores and blocked traffic, and as many Americans exchanged accusations of racism and bigotry, television advertising was amuck with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” commercialism. Thanksgiving seemed all but forgotten amidst the rush of news, misinformation and retail advertising as many American consumers looked ahead to Christmas even before the sun rose Thanksgiving morning. As I ponder the current state of our nation and the frenzied rush to feed our lust for material things, I’m tempted to despair. But as that temptation begins to overtake me, I am moved to seek God’s Word.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~ Isaiah 9:6-7

God’s Word reminds me that my hope is not grounded in humanity. My hope lies in Someone far greater than any human being or any human institution. That Someone, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, came to Earth to live, die, and be resurrected to save us from the very sin that is increasingly enveloping our society day by day. This passage from the prophet Isaiah is just one of many Old Testament prophecies concerning God’s promise to send His Savior into the World. That promise, given by God to men and women of all races, was fulfilled some 2,000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus.

Let us pray for our society. Let us pray for Michael Brown’s family and for Officer Wilson. Let us pray for awakening and revival. Let us pray for reconciliation. And as we do so, let us focus our minds and our hearts on Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promise, the Baby of Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate in just a few short weeks. For true hope rests in Him and Him alone.

The Voice Behind You

Adversity and affliction are good things. Yes, I’m serious. We all face adversity and affliction at certain points in our lives. While usually manageable, sometimes it seems they are about to overtake us and we become discouraged, frustrated, or angry. If you are in that situation, I offer here a different perspective for consideration.

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help. As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:19-21

Have you ever considered the notion that adversity and affliction could be our teachers? Have you ever considered them as bread and water? When we are walking with God, adversity and affliction are all of these things.

Adversity and Affliction as Our Teachers

We all experience difficult times in life; times during which adversity and affliction seem to rule the day. As they are happening, life can be difficult. It can be painful. We may feel as if we are in a deep, dark cave with no escape in sight. All we want is to be out of the cave and back in the light. Once we are delivered from the cave we take a deep breath and move on. As I consider those times I realize in hindsight that they have molded and shaped me into the man I am today. I learned lessons from having gone through those difficulties. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, adversity and affliction were teaching me some very important life lessons.

God teaches us here that adversity and affliction are, in fact, teachers. He uses these difficult times for our ultimate good! Knowing that, and walking through life trusting the Lord, I now handle adversity and affliction completely differently than I did in the past. Instead of anger, I am eager. Instead of downcast, I am positive. Instead of experiencing stress, I experience peace. I trust God: I know I am being taught. I know the difficulties will end. And I know that, upon escaping the cave, I will look back and appreciate the lessons I have learned.

Adversity and Affliction as Bread and Water

This blew me away the first time I read this. Why does God refer to “the bread of adversity and the water of affliction?” Bread and water are the basic nutrients of life. Prisoners being punished used to be put on bread and water diets – no pleasure food, just the basic nutrients needed to keep them alive as they served their punishment. As Israel traveled through the desert after their release from Egypt, God provided manna and water to nourish them on their journey. Bread and water are important to nourishing and preserving life. Could it be that adversity and affliction are somehow important, too?

Just as I can look back on times of adversity and affliction in my life and realize I have learned lessons from having experienced them, I also realize in hindsight that I am a better person for having experienced these things. I have gained confidence. I have gained wisdom. I have gained compassion. My faith in God has been strengthened. I am a better man, and even more important, I am a better Christian. Indeed, I have been greatly nourished through the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, and I thank God for that nourishment.

The Voice Behind You

God’s promise given to us through the prophet Isaiah (30:21) in this passage is one of my favorites in Scripture:

“Whether you look to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.’”

Read it again. And again. Do you hear the compassion? Do you hear the caring? Do you hear the Love? You see, when we walk with God we are never alone. He is always there, teaching us, nourishing us, guiding us, and loving us. Adversity and affliction will come. It’s OK. God has proven time and time again that He will use them for our ultimate good. God cares about your life and He cares about mine. He cares about what is happening to you and to me right this very moment. His path is perfect, and when we tune in to Him, He will show us the way out of that cave. At all times, but especially during times of adversity and affliction, we must listen for His voice. We must be in His Word. We must be in prayer. And we must listen.

Prayer for Today

Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing mercy, grace and love. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me thus far in my life, and thank you for being that voice behind me, showing me the way. Help me, Lord, to be in your Word and to walk with You through all my remaining days. Through Jesus I pray, AMEN.

It All Starts Here

It hit me like a ton of bricks as I read my Bible this morning. This passage beautifully states the foundation of all that I know to be true:

Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. ~ Psalms 90:2

This reality puts my life into proper context, even as my heart breaks for this lost world. You see, man seeks to understand the foundation and purpose of our existence, and in doing so has concocted many theories and false gods to try and explain the basics of who we are and why we’re here. Since man’s reasoning is not perfect, man cannot discern the truth on his own, so we adopt beliefs with no true foundation, even going so far as to say that what is true for you is true and what is true for me is true, even if those so-called truths conflict. What a sad state of affairs!

We cannot come to an understanding of our purpose for existence until we understand who God is. God is the sovereign creator of all things – including man. He is not made; He was not born; He was not created. God is not constrained by time; He is eternal. He is holy. He is just. God is God. How do I know this is true? God says so, in His Word. Yes, it’s that simple.

What freedom this knowledge gives! I serve the Creator of all things, the sovereign God Almighty! Praise His Holy name! Standing upon this foundational truth, I go back into His Word and learn about His amazing love for each and every one of us. God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation, points to one Person: Jesus Christ.

Has it been awhile since you’ve read your Bible? Open it today. God is waiting patiently to reveal Himself to you.

He Is Risen!

This fundamental Truth will set you free: that our sovereign God created all things. He created man in His image to be in relationship with Him. Sin entered the world through the man Adam, and all generations to follow are under its curse. God didn’t abandon us to sin, however. He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to walk the earth – fully man and fully God. Jesus is the only man to have ever lived a life free of sin, and thus, He was the perfect sacrifice. Out of perfect love for us, Jesus went willingly to the cross and died to take our punishment. But it didn’t end there:

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. ~ Matthew 28:1-11

We cannot “earn” our way into heaven. The only way to eternal life is through faith in Jesus Christ. He took my punishment, and he took yours. Today, Easter Sunday, all of Christendom celebrates this Truth.

He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

Happy Easter!

hir

Photo credit: flipflopspearlsandwine.com

New “Normal” Begins Today!

With my employer’s announcement on January 16 of the company’s acquisition by a private equity firm, my work schedule imploded. There were special projects and additional meetings as we worked with our future owners to gather documents needed to complete the sale. There were temporary changes in procedure, which although necessary, were often disruptive. Some in the office were stressed and worried while others did their jobs without any evidence of worry or concern. Not a worrier by nature, I fell into the latter group as I handled the workflow changes and calendar disruptions as they came while I looked forward to the scheduled February 14 close. Fortunately, the sale closed as scheduled and I now look forward to our new “normal”.

As I sit here on the first Monday morning following the Friday close of sale, I wonder: what is “normal” anyway? What, exactly, am I looking forward to?

Certainly, with new corporate ownership comes change. Working under private equity ownership at various stages in my career has yielded a mixed bag of experiences ranging from stressful and unpleasant (working for a PE firm that focused mainly on cutting costs by reducing head count) to new and refreshing (working for a PE firm that shared growth goals and allowed us the flexibility to work towards achieving them). How will this one conduct itself? Sure, they said all the right things as the transaction was pending, but what will they do now that the sale is final and they are at the helm? What will our new “normal” look like?

Truth be told, it doesn’t matter. They can do what they like. I cannot control or even influence what our new “normal” will be. Many in this situation find that fact downright scary, but I know better.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Joshua 29:11

When God delivered this message to Israel through the prophet Joshua, Israel had been exiled to Babylon. Talk about a new “normal”, Israel was living it! God promised that He was in control; that there was an end game to their exile. His plan would be revealed in due course. In the meantime, He told them to live their lives – build homes, build families, build careers – God told them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Joshua 29:7)

I said earlier that I am not, by nature, a worrier. I don’t worry because I trust God’s plan. This aspect of my nature is not my doing; it is a gift from God. Whatever happens, He has an end game in mind. All He expects of me is to work with our new owners in earnest and do my part to execute their plan. God’s plan for me in all of this could be a myriad of things – maybe a promotion, maybe increased job security, perhaps a new career altogether. Whatever it is, it will be grand. So as I head to work on this, the first Monday morning under new corporate ownership, I will stand firmly on the promise that God delivered to an exiled Israel and trust God for my new “normal”. That, my friends, is a relief. God is good, indeed!

True Light ~ John 1:6-18

Have you ever felt like your life was muddling along with no real direction or no real purpose? Have you ever looked at what is happening in the world around you and wondered, “why?” Have you ever sensed that there is something bigger and better than what this world has to offer and wished you could wrap your mind around that concept? I believe that most of us have felt these things at one time or another.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. ~ John 1:6-18

Absolute darkness

Absolute darkness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As John continues his introduction of Jesus, he refers to Jesus as the Light. The answers to the questions cited above can be answered through Him. You see, when sin came into the world it enveloped humanity in darkness. Sin seeks to blind us from God’s truth, and in doing so, becomes the focus of the human life. Why do we sometimes feel that we lack purpose? Why do people lie, cheat, steal and kill? Why don’t we readily see that God has a greater plan for us than this? It’s because of sin.

Fog

Fog (Photo credit: rchughtai — “not very active”)

Sadly, many of the very people Jesus came to save didn’t recognize Him. That continues today. Our world is cloaked in darkness; the evidence of sin in the world is all around us. Sin causes humanity to reject God’s truth, embracing human wisdom instead. It motivates us to seek position and power for ourselves, even if we have to climb over the backs of others to succeed. Sin rationalizes sin, from the driver cutting off the driver alongside him because of a perceived driving discourtesy all the way through the spectrum to a society rationalizing killing the unborn in the name of “choice”.  Sin clouds our vision as it seeks to forever separate us from our Creator.

English: Flame. Around the base are the words ...

English: Flame. Around the base are the words “Jesus – Light of the world” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus didn’t come to light the way to a more prosperous life; He didn’t come so we could be happy campers on planet Earth. Jesus came as the True Light to expose sin for what it is and to win the victory over sin once and for all. As sin seeks to envelop us in darkness, Jesus brings Light into the world. Through Him the darkness is overcome and we instead live under His grace and truth. Are we who believe perfect and free of sin? Of course not. But through Jesus, the Light of the World, we are saved from the eternal separation from God that sin delivers. Through His sacrifice on the cross we are sanctified (made perfect) and freed from the bondage of sin. We look forward to spending eternity in the glorious presence of our Creator. Until that day comes, we seek to live lives that glorify our Lord and Savior.

As John’s account of Jesus continues to unfold, let us walk in the Light together as we seek God’s Truth for humanity.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to save us from sin. Help me to live a life that witnesses to the promise of salvation that comes only through Him. In His name I pray, AMEN.

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