Come alive

Read: Deuteronomy 5-7, Mark 12:1-27

Have you ever heard an unbeliever say, “Why should I believe in God? What has He ever done for me?” Well, first of all, if you’re questioning what He has or hasn’t done for you, the first question is moot because there must be a measure of belief in someone in order to question their motives. Second, aside from offering a plan of salvation that leads to eternal life, He hasn’t done anything for you. Why should He? He’s not your God.

Before you get all that’s heresy! on me, let me explain.

Mark 12-27.jpg

This was Jesus’ response to the Sadducees question regarding eternal life. It’s like someone who doesn’t believe in God asking why God hasn’t done anything for them. The Sadducees said there was no resurrection. No such thing as eternal life. Yet they put Jesus on the spot with a question about life after death.

So what then did Jesus mean when he said that His Father was the God of the living, not of the dead?

Then he said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:6 (NIV)

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says this:

God implied that the patriarchs were still alive and that He had a continuing relationship with them as their covenant-keeping God, even though they had died long before… He is still the patriarchs’ God which would not be true had they ceased to exist at death, that is, if death ends it all. And His covenant faithfulness implicitly guarantees their bodily resurrection.

Jesus was not talking about physical death, but of spiritual death. No matter how good you think you may be, we are all born spiritually dead, and there is only one way to overcome that death—to be born again.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

John 3:5-6 (NIV)

I cannot make my point better than the character of P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman:

‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking
Thinking that’s your only option
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day
Sun is up and the color’s blinding
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up to the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

Come Alive, words and music by Justin Paul, Benj Pasek

The dead cannot have the same experience as those who are alive. It’s impossible. There are certain things that God has reserved solely for His children—those made alive in Christ through the rebirth. Anyone who has not accepted salvation through Jesus cannot experience those things—those who remain spiritually dead having either not yet received Christ or having rejected him altogether. Again, it’s impossible.

If you want God to do something for you, you must first do something for Him. Accept Him. Believe in Him. Trust that His Word is true and that all of His promises are guaranteed because of His covenant with His children.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-7 (NIV)

 

The God of my father

Read: Genesis 31-32, Matthew 10:24-42

My grandfather was a pastor. For nearly my entire life, he was my pastor. That is, until he died.

Called to the ministry long before he entered it, he had an anointing to heal. People from all over were drawn to his charisma, his grand personality. He was a strong man in ideals and in faith. When he passed away, another minister preached—yes, preached—at his funeral. A room full of people from every facet of his life, both from church and work, heard this pastor speak of the mantle that would now be passed on. Like Elijah to Elisha, the anointing of Papa’s ministry would pass on, but not just to one person. It would spread. The foundation that he laid would not go to waste. The ceiling of his ministry would become the floor for those who would follow in his footsteps.

What is the significance in those who have gone before us?

All through the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). It was recognised that the men who had gone before had a certain relationship with God. It was generational. And it was important to remember.

…the God of your father…

Genesis 31:29 (NIV)

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac…

Genesis 31:42 (NIV)

Genesis 31:53

“O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac…”

Genesis 32:9 (NIV)

In two chapters of Genesis, there are no less than four examples of God being referred to as the God of a generation passed. Why?

Because God made promises to Abraham and to Isaac. Over and over again, God had proven himself faithful to Jacob’s father and grandfather. In his persistent reference to the God of his fathers, he reminded himself of those promises and that faithfulness.

We may throw away many things from the previous generation, but one thing that should never be set aside is the faith—the God—of our fathers. I don’t for one second take for granted the spiritual foundation that my grandfather laid. I know that he prayed for every person in his family by name every day. He prayed for me. I know that his work and his prayers were not in vain. I know that the relationship with God that I enjoy today has a lot to do with the relationship he had with God while he still walked this earth.

If you are fortunate enough to belong to the God of your fathers, don’t take it for granted. Look into your heritage and see the promises and the faithfulness.

If you are the first in your line, lay the foundation for future generations. Be the Abraham in your lineage.

Let us never forget the God of our fathers.

I know what I’m doing

Remember that time when Jacob stole the birthright from his brother Esau? And he then bought his brother’s inheritance with a bowl of beans? (Genesis 27) Classy guy, right?

Remember that time when God changed Jacob’s name to Israel? (Genesis 32:28)

Why would God bless the one who stole what wasn’t rightfully his? Why did God make promises to Jacob rather than Esau. Esau, after all was the older of the two and, by Hebrew custom was the one deserving of the blessing.

In my opinion, any man who sells his inheritance for a bowl of stew isn’t really worth the blessing of the birthright, but that’s beside the point.

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, God knew what he was doing?

In Jacob’s old age, he moved to Egypt in order to survive the seven year famine. His youngest son, Joseph—who had been sold into slavery by his brothers—was second only to Pharaoh. Joseph went through a lot before obtaining his position of power. I don’t think that, in the midst of his imprisonment, he was thinking much about it being a part of God’s grand plan. But it was.

Upon revealing his identity to his brothers, Joseph says this:

“I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives… God has sent me here to keep you and your families alive so that you will become a great nation. Yes, it was God who sent me here, not you!”

Genesis 45:4b-5, 7-8a (NLT)

Joseph was able to recognise God at work in his life as well as the lives of his family. You’d think he’d trust in God’s plan.

When Joseph’s father, Jacob (the guy who stole the birthright), decided to bless Joseph’s sons as his own, Joseph made to correct his father.

“No, Father,” he said, “this one over here is older, Put your right hand on his head.”

Genesis 48:18 (NLT)

Jacob’s response:

“I know what I’m doing, my son.”

Genesis 48:19 (NLT)

Jacob knew firsthand that God’s plan can work outside of cultural tradition. He knew that the younger could surpass the elder. He knew what he was doing. Just as God knew what He was doing allowing Joseph, the youngest (at the time), to be sold into slavery.

God doesn’t need us to help Him make decisions. He knows what He’s doing.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 46-48, Matthew 14:22-36

The next generation

I was talking with my mother the other day of someone we know to have been raised in a Christian home. His wife was also raised in a Christian home. Somehow, though, the faith was not established in either of them and they soon walked away from all faith. When he was later diagnosed with cancer, rather than returning to the faith of his childhood, he turned to spirit healers and other forms of faith.

What happened?

If you read through Psalm 78 (long though it may be), you’ll find account after account of similar actions. We’ve read it already this year in previous books of the Old Testament. Israel follows God. Israel turns from God. Everything goes wrong. Israel turns back to God. It’s a never-ending circle of advance and retreat.

Asaph, the writer of this Psalm begins with a bit of a reminder before going into the history of Israel.

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from old.
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast.
whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Psalm 78:1-8 (ESV)

What would happen in a single generation if mothers and especially fathers, would teach their children to set their hope in God? If today’s children were taught to love and honour God and each other?

Asaph saw his fathers’ folly and urged the present generation not to make the same mistake. What if we did likewise? How much could we change the world for the next generation?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 78; Romans 7

Sounds familiar

Sometimes, when I read the Bible, I forget that it was written thousands of years ago and not last week. Today David’s words ring as true as ever.

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God.”
Fools are evil and do terrible things;
none of them does anything good.

God looked down from heaven on all people
to see if anyone was wise,
if anyone was looking to God for help.
But all have turned away.
Together, everyone has become evil;
none of them does anything good.
Not a single person.

Don’t the wicked understand?
They destroy my people as if they were eating bread.
They do not ask God for help.
The wicked are filled with terror
where there had been nothing to fear.
God will scatter the bones of your enemies.
You will defeat them,
because God has rejected them.

I pray that victory will come to
Israel from Mount Zion!
May God bring them back.
Then the people of Jacob will rejoice,
and the people of Israel will be glad.

Psalm 53 (NCV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 53-55; Acts 27:26-44

Your God

When you think about God, in what terms do you think of Him? Is He all around you? Is He far away? Is He off in the far reaches of the universe? Or is He at your side? Is He the God of your mother and father? Or is He yours?

But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

1 Samuel 30:6b (ESV)

God is personal. He wants to be personal to you. He doesn’t just want to be the God of your parents. He wants to be your God.

David was known to be the man who chased after God’s heart.Was he without flaw? Goodness, no! David was just as faulty as the rest of us – if not more so. But if you read through the Psalms of David, there are countless lines where he calls out to “my God”. Unlike other accounts where God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David makes God personal.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

Song of Solomon 6:3 (NKJV)

If God has seen fit to make us His, how much more should we make Him ours? In our imperfections, guilt, and shame, God still claims us. In his perfection and righteousness, why wouldn’t we want claim Him for ourselves? Why would we leave God to be the God of our ancestors rather than making Him our God.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 30-31; Luke 17:20-37