Tag Archives: Sin

REVISITED: Our Existential Problem

Read Proverbs 3:5-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
For the LORD grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6, NLT)

EyeKnow

In the Garden of Eden story we learn that humanity’s downfall was in it’s desire to have wisdom and the ability to judge what is right and what is wrong. Humanity, in its infancy, sought to become independent of God and doing things for itself. Those things, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad; however, the desire to have something NOW, rather than trusting that God will provide those things at the right time, is where the downfall begins.

The author of the Garden narrative saw the attaining of widsom as the downfall of humanity because the “wise” know, and what they know obligates them. In other words, once humanity could discern good from evil, people were then obligated to choose to do good over evil. But that knowledge wasn’t they only knowledge the ended up acquiring; rather, they also attained self-knowledge.

The story recounts how, following eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked. They became keenly aware of themselves and became self-aware and self-conscious. In the feeling of shame of their nakedness, Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together in order to cover their private parts. Prior to them eating the forbidden fruit, of course, those parts were not private and there was no need to be ashamed of them.

This is where I believe the real fall took place. Prior to the deception of the serpent on the tree, Eve and Adam saw each other as one. They did not look at the other as an entity unto themselves. They did not see each other as being separate, distinct, unique or individual. Instead, they saw one another as complimentary parts of the same whole. Hence Adam’s reaction at the creation of Eve, “ “At last! This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.'” (Genesis 3:23 NLT)

Yet, when the forbidden fruit was eaten, man became separated from woman, and woman became separated from man. They hid their bodies away from each other, and then hid themselves away from God. This is important to note because, in this we see what was common understanding in the ancient world: God created us to be in community, to be one with each other, and when we fail to do so we not only separate ourselves from each other but from God as well.

What compouds this reality even more is the fact that humans, even though they had been separated from each other down gender lines (and many more lines that followed that), they still believed they had knowledge of each other. What’s more, humanity grew in confidence in its ability to discern right from wrong, except that it was no longer utilizing that discernment in self-reflective ways, but in ways of judgement against other human beings.

Whether we take this story literally or not is really beside the point. Humans were created to be subjects, in that we are under the dominion of our own personal thoughts,  and are subjective by nature. While we think we know, and we think we have the ability to grow in our knowldedge, the truth is that we are limited in our knowledge, if we know anything at all.

Thus, our discernment is really based more off of what we think as opposed to what we, strictly speaking, know. The best we can say is that we think we know, which betrays the fact that our knowledge is dependent on our thoughts which are processed through our own subjectivity. Confused? What should be pulled from is this, humans have the ability to discern what is right and wrong; however, as subjective human beings, we cloud our judgment of right and wrong with our own personal feelings and justifications. We do so to our advantage and often to the detriment of others.

We should NOT rely soley on our own ability to discern right from wrong, but we should rely on God’s. What that means is that we will envelope ourselves in communities of service and loving accountability (aka churches), we will study the Bible (and its historical contexts), we will model ourselves off of the life and teachings of Jesus, and we will begin to live in a way that truly reflects our TOTAL TRUST in God. Acknowledge your subjectivity, refrain from judgment, embrace humility, and allow God to guide you in your discernment.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
When the Bible says to seek and cherish Wisdom, it is pointing us to Jesus Christ who is God’s Wisdom personified.

PRAYER
Lord, fill me NOT with my understanding, but with your wisdom. Amen.

REVISITED: Bewitched

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14, NLT)

TheWitch01

The lights darkened, the room silenced, and the discordant sound of stringed instruments filled the air in an unsettling and disturbing manner. The sounds of violin and cello cut through me like seraded steel as the theater screen faded in from black to the image of a teenager’s stone pale and frightened face. It was clear from the way that she was dressed that she was living in seventeenth century New England and that she was among a group of people known as the Puritans.

As it turns out, her father is standing trial for not adhereing to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at the time a British colony, because he believes those laws to stand against the teachings of the Gospels. As such he and his family are banished and end up moving out of the village they were in and settling in the wilderness of New England on the edge of a think and dark wood (aka forest). While I will not give away anything, as I run a tight “no-spoiler” ship, this is where the 2016 film, “The Witch”, opens up and where the horror begins.

This film, as I see it, is a work of fine art and there is much for us Christians to pull from it. On the surface, the horror is centering on a potential witch that lives in the woods and is preying upon a New England family that is doing everything they can to remain godly and to stay together as a family. But as misfortune after misfortune happens, and as the family becomes more and more certain they are “witched”, the more and more it is that the real horror is revealed.

Right from the opening scene onward, we are made aware that this family is hypersensitive to their sin, to the sin of others, and to the soveriegnty of God. It is not wrong to be sensitive to those things in a healthy kind of way, but this family is overly sensitive, to the point that every conversation is filled with talk about their sinfulness, the wickedness of the world and the uncertainty of their own, let alone anyone else’s, salvation.

At every turn, the family is reminded that they are wicked and sinful and they start to have the feeling that they are “witched” because God is punishing them and handing them over to the devil as a result of their wickedness. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is God’s grace really at play here in this film and in the psyche of the family. Even when God’s mercy is mentioned, it is with the understanding that they are in need of mercy because of their wickedness, and their pleading for it betrays their theology that they worship a God who just might not show mercy to them.

It becomes clear to me, without giving anything away from the actual story line of “The Witch” itself, that the family is bewitched by their own stringent, and horrific, theology. While it is true that God is  sovereign and it is true that we fall short of God’s glorious standard, it is NOT true that God is out to get us for our fallenness. Their theology is so damning that they could never, ever experience the grace and mercy that was already there waiting for them. They were so busy worrying about the prowling devil in the woods that they could not see that they had all they needed to thrive in the wilderness: their family and their faith.

Today’s challenge is this: don’t let yourself get bewitched by a negative and graceless theology. Rather, at every turn, steer clear of the devil by choosing to see the grace of God throughout your life, in your family, and in your community. Community is not perfect, but God is working to perfect it through your presence as well as others. Remember, God saved you from slavery to sin and death, so why negate that by making those things the foundation of your faith? Jesus Christ is the grace of God. That, and that alone, should be your faith’s foundation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The devil’s work is division and separation from others.  God is the great uniter.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from bewitching myself with bad theology. Remind me daily of your grace. Amen.

REVISITED: THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 6: Captives

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NLT)

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Man with hands chained above head, high section (toned B&W)

Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”.

Part 6: The Captives. Standing in the Synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read the passage from Isaiah slowly and deliberately to the people gathered around. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for God has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.” This was a message that, at least in the moment, was resonating with a people who had been under foreign occupation since the days of Assyria and Babylon. This time around their oppressors were Rome and the Jewish people were looking for the Messiah to come and save the day. This text in Isaiah had long been seen as the promise of the coming of the deliverer, the Messiah who was both anointed King and the liberator of the people Israel. Could this Jesus, this carpenter from their own village, really be that Messiah? They had heard of the great and amazing miracles and signs he had performed around Galilee, and they were hoping he’d prove his worth and identity here.

Jesus continued, “God has sent me to proclaim that the captives be released.” There were plenty of captives, for sure! The people in Nazareth knew that. If Rome or their puppet Tetrarch Herod Antipas had it out for you, you either ended up captive, put to the sword or, worse yet, crucified. Just a short while before Jesus was born, King Herod (Antipas’ father), had 2,000 Galileeans crucified for rebelling against his rule. John the Baptist, the one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan, had become a critic of Herod Antipas’ and his wife. As a result, Herod had him arrested and, ultimately, beheaded. Yes, there were many prisoners who were looking for the day that the Lord’s Messiah would come and give them their freedom. The people in that synagogue were no doubt waiting for the day when the Messiah would come and set captive Israel free.

Yet, as the people of the Synagogue were about to find out, Jesus didn’t just have prisoners of Rome and Herod in mind, nor did he see the role of Messiah in quite the same way that they did. It was true that he was purposefully reading that passage in Isaiah 61, and it was true that he was proclaiming to them that he was the Messiah and that he was, in their hearing, fulfilling the words of the prophet. Yet, what Jesus meant by those words was not limited to the political captives of Rome or Herod. Nor was it limited to the releasing of captive Israel from Roman and Herodian oppression; rather, Jesus was about to fulfill the words of Isaiah, by freeing Israel from being captive to themselves. They were captive to their own biases, to the suffering of the “least of these” around them, and to all who were captive in any sense of the word.

Jesus came to liberate people through truth and awareness. Using the truth, and his example of servant-leadership, Jesus brings liberation to the people who are held captive by their social status. Jesus liberates the people who are held captive by their sins (and which one of us aren’t)? He came to proclaim release for the captives of elitism, of self-righteousness, of pride, of hatred, of bigotry, of hypocrisy, or discrimination, of social injustice and oppression, and of systemic evil. In other words, there is no limit to the understanding that Jesus had of what it meant to be captive. What’s more, if the captives of sin would accept such freedom in Christ, they would be transformed into liberators themselves, working alongside Christ to bring release to all captives in the world (both literal and spiritual). Christ is calling us to be freed by the truth, and to work for the release of all of the captives in our communities and beyond.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” – Jesus of Nazareth (John 8:34 NLT)
PRAYER
Lord, set me free from the bondage that holds me from doing your will in working toward the liberation of others. Amen.

The Face of Evil, part 3

Read Romans 12:19-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NLT).”

Continuing on with the Halloween Franchise, we come up to a whole knew era of the Michael Myers Saga, where he gets a fresh new look from an metal icon turned film director, Rob Zombie. As was mentioned previously, Halloween was based on the film Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock, based off of the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. In that film, we follow Norman Bates, a deranged, mentally ill man who murdered his mother and assumed her identity. It was scary, and Norman did monstrous things; however, you can’t help but pity him because he cannot help himself.

In Halloween, John Carpenter removes the sympathetic side of the killer out. The film starts with what we believe to be a human being…a six year old boy. We then find out that all humanity has left that little boy as he brutally murders his sister. When he finallyreturns to Haddonfield fifteen years later following an escape from a Mental Health facility, he is no longer a “human being.” Rather, he is a “shape”. The mask he wears is a ghostly shape of a face, and he lingers in the dark, awaiting for someone to pass by him in the shadows. In the original 1978 film, and subsequent sequels, Michael Myers is a rage-filled, unrelenting killing machine with no soul, no moral compass, and no awareness of self even. He is evil incarnate.

Rob Zombie, on the other hand, rebooted the original and took it into a different realm. Instead of dismissing the notion that evil is an evolution, Zombie challenges our understanding of what is evil and how it develops. In his film, we see a young Michael Myers, who is ten years old in this version. We see him at first playing with a rat and then we pan downstairs to see his mom ccoking dinner for her husband and kids. You can tell that they are a lower income, working class, and somewhat dysfunctional family.

When we see young Michael again, he’s washing blood off of his hands and a sharp instrument. He had killed the rat. Clearly, this young child is mentally ill. As we learn more about his home and school environment, it becomes clear that Michael’s behavior is a result of surviving abuse and neglect. His step father is abusive and his mother, who is also an exotic dancer, does her best, but that is not nearly enough for her children. Alcholism, sexual debauchery, and abuse exist in the Myers house.

At school, Michael is bullied and is constantly getting into trouble for writing and drawing distrubing things. The point is, the first third of the film were spent establishing Michael’s back story. The second third of the film is spent showing an adult Michael in the hospital as an adult, his eventual escape and his return to Haddonfield, the final third fo the film is spent the usual way, people running for their lives, blood, guts, mayhem and, eventually, Michael is defeated…but not really. There’s always a sequel, and there was a sequel for Zombie’s film.

In this, Rob Zombie is taking us beyond just sympathizing with a sick person and he is taking us beyond seeing evil as just this unpreventable, unstoppable force that we could never participate in or become; rather, Zombie is reminding us that, while evil does exist, human evil does not exist in a vacuum. Things aren’t always so black & white and, frankly, evil begets more evil. Had Michael grown up in a functional, loving, nurturing environment, his mental illness might not have taken the violent turn it did; what’s more, the household he lived in was so eroded by sin that evil was the natural result…and once evil is unleashed, it becomes a nearly unstoppable force that MUST be eradicated.

This should challenge us to not only avoid being so quick to make judgments, but it also should challenge us to really reflect on the ways we might be contributing to the sin and evil in the world. That is not to say that such mindfulness will result in nobody slipping through the cracks, but it would help us to ensure as few do as possible. Let us be a people who not only avoid being overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Let’s reverse EVIL and by turning to God and beginning to trust him to help us LIVE the lives we were created to live.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to avoid evil but also help me to confront and resist it when it presents itself. Give me the courage and the strength. Amen.

The Face of Evil, part 1

By Rev. Todd R. Lattig

Read Romans 3:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)

One of my all-time favorite horror films is John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was inspired by another one of my favorite horror films, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The two films have been monumentally impactful in the horror genre. What’s more, the two films are connected to each other because the two lead actresses are literally related to each other. That’s right, Janet Leigh, who starred in Psycho, is Halloween star, Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother. In fact, in 1998 for the 20th anniversary of Halloween, both Jamie Lee and Janet Leigh starred together in Halloween: H20.

Trivia aside, there’s a lot we can learn from Halloween; however, before we do, we need to look at it’s predecessor, Psycho. In that film, Anthony Perkins plays a seemingly kind but socially awkward motel owner who incidentally meets Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she stops for the night due to the rain being so bad. Seeing that the Bates Motel had vacancy, she pulls in and meets Norman (Anthony Perkins) who checks her in and offers her food.

What Norman doesn’t know is that Marion had stolen $40,000 from her employer’s client and was on the run. Her boyfriend didn’t know she was going to pull this off, nor did her sister. So, no one knows that Marion is at the Bates Motel, let alone where she might be. What Marion doesn’t know is that there’s more than meets the eye at the Bates motel and, as a matter of fact, we find out that not only is Norman a perverted peeping Tom, but his “mother” is super jealous of other women.

That last fact, sadly, cost Marion her life. While taking a shower, Norman’s “mother” came into the bathroom slowly and silently, ripped open the curtin and stabbed Marion to death with a large kitchen knife. The scene was more than memorable, it literally scarred some people enough that they refused to take a shower again. Of course, Hitchcock being the brilliant director he was, the scene was pulled off without ever showing the knife connect with the body and, in pure Hitchcock fashion, the blood shown going down the drain was actually Bosco Chocolate Syrup because Hitchcock discovered that it looked more red in the Black & White format. Even shooting in B&W was purposeful, as Technicolor was widely available at the time and Hitchcock chose not to shoot it that way.

Of course, I put the word “mother” in quotes because we learn that Norman’s mother is really dead. Norman was into taxidermy and, after poisoning her, he preserved her well and kept her in the basement. To compensate for the loss of his overbearing mother, Norman dressed up like her, imitated her voice and assumed her identity.

As it turned out, Norman was a very sick man who had Dissociative Identity (formerly known as Multiple Personality) Disorder. He was Norman some of the time, he was Mrs. Bates the rest of the time. As Norman, he was a frail, lonely, insecure, awkward boy in a man’s body. As Mrs. Bates, he was cold, demanding, cruel and, as we find out in the film, jealously murderous.

The beauty of this film is how forward thinking it was in terms of mental health. It’s shocking conclusion, with Norman completely gone and Mrs. Bates being completely the dominant personality, really forces the viewer to come face-to-face with mental illness. One cannot hate Norman at the end of the film. Sure, he horrifies you, but there is a level of pity you have for him. His victims should not have died, not even his cruel mom, but he is a victim in all of this too and he cannot help himself.

In our society, we often look at killers such as Norman Bates as being the “Face of Evil”, but Psycho challenges this. Was Norman evil? I mean, yes…what he did was evil, but was Norman Bates, the man, evil? Or was he a sick individual who slipped through the cracks only to turn up when it was brutally too late? Psycho was a very 1960s way of looking at what we call “evil” and trying to put the humanity back into it.

Overall, that is a great thing because, as easy as it would be to view Norman Bates as less than human or a monster, he really is not much different than you and I. The only difference is how his mind works and, truthfully, all of our minds work a bit differently. Norman Bates was a man who was created and loved by God. No, God did not wish for Norman’s life to go down the path it did; however, since when did that give us the permission to BE GOD and judge?

In fact, one of the many faces of evil is JUDGMENT. People who think they are God enough to pass judgment are putting on evil as their way of life. That does not make THEM evil, but their judgmental attitudes are evil for sure. So, before we start getting all self-righteous, we really do need to take a back seat to God. Let us remember that, no matter how awful a person may be acting, they are still a child of God and we are called to love everyone…not judge them.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Evil is as evil does.

PRAYER
Lord, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Amen.

God’s People, part 4: Noah

Read Genesis 6-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

noaark

Part 4: Noah. The story of Noah is exciting, devastating, tedious, complex and even horrific. It is all of those things wrapped up in a four chapters. When the name Noah is heard, most people think of him as the guy who built the really large boat, boarded animals on it two-by-two, and went on a 40 day cruise to Mount Ararat. During the cruise he and his family sat around a lantern lit room, with the smells and sounds of animals joining in their family Christian camp song sing-a-long. Then add in the images of ravens, doves, an olive branch and, finally, dry ground.

Upon land, we remember that Noah was so stoked to be on ground again that he built an awesome altar, upon which he celebrated with his animal and fowl friends from the boat by slitting their throats, draining their blood down the altar and burning their flesh. This scent of burnt flesh and blood, of course, was to God what Calvin Klein’s Eternity for Men is to me: intoxicating. God loved it so much, that from that time forward God realized he had made an “oopsy”, and put a rainbow in the sky as a sign that he would never, ever flood the earth again.

Okay, so that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it does pretty accurately sum up the story of Noah as most people recall hearing it in Sunday School. Granted, the Sunday School version is missing all of the blood and sarcasm; however, that is the gist of the story as it is commonly remembered.  Yet, if you took the time to read Genesis 6-9, I am sure you came across elements you didn’t even know existed in there.

Focusing on Noah as a character, the Bible says that Noah found favor with God. God was so upset with how corrupt humanity had become that God was desiring to destroy all of Creation. The flood, in essence, are the tears of God pouring down over a people who are so wicked they could care less. What were the people’s sin? The only thing that is mentioned is their violence.

We can only guess why Noah was so favored by God as the Bible does not give us any clue. One thing is for sure, Noah was not favored by God for being perfect. In one of the more obscure passages in the Bible, we find out that Noah had a bit of a drinking problem and, when he passed out in a drunken stupor, one of his sons saw Noah’s nakedness.

There has been much scholarly debate as to what was meant by Ham “seeing his father’s nakedness.” The story is written in a way that leads one to take it literally, that Ham literally saw his father naked. But without getting into narrative, theological, or cultural debates, we can focus on Noah’s reaction to that instead.

When Noah finds out that Ham has seen him naked, he curses Ham’s son, Canaan. What an odd thing to do. Why would Noah curse his grandson over the fact that the boy’s father saw him naked? What’s more, whose fault is that anyway? Was it Ham who got his father drunk? Was it Ham who unclothed him and laid him spralled out naked on the ground? Not according to the story! Yet, Noah forces Ham to bear the guilt of his own shame!

Despite all of this, Noah is still remembered as being favored by God. No doubt, Noah was favored by God, even if he didn’t always live up to God’s standard. Then again, which one of us live up to God’s standard?  Which one of us always gets things right? If we are honest, we know that none of us do; yet, God favors us.

Let us learn from Noah. Let us learn what it means to be faithful, even when God seems to be asking for the outrageous and/or the impossible. Let us learn to be obedient and to do as God has asked us to do. Let us learn to take responsibility for our own sins and repent of them. Let us learn to hold ourselves accountable, rather than scapegoating others in order to sheepishly hide ourselves away from the blame. Let us, indeed, learn from Noah, who is but one person among God’s people.

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY
“Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites.” – Unknown J
“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” – Howard Ruff

PRAYER
Lord, help me to not only read the Bible, but see myself in it. Help me to follow the examples of faith and learn from the examples of weakness and sin. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 3: Cain and Abel

Read Genesis 4:1-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed His approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.” (Hebrews 11:4 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

cain-and-abel

Part 3: Cain & Abel. I could not devote two devotions to Eve and Adam and not follow up with one on Cain and Able. In fact, a lot could be written about these two brothers, for there is more here than meets the eye. It would be easy for me to focus on how Abel was rigtheous and Cain was a murderer; however, I do not think the story is quite that simple. In fact, in Hebrew, there is definitely some nuance going on here.

Let us start with Abel. The English word, “Abel”, is a transliteration of the Hebrew word, הֶבֶל, which is pronounced heh’-bel ( I bet you didn’t see that one coming). It is the same word as the Hebrew word, הֲבֵל, which means emptiness or vanity; something transistory or unsatisfactory, which is often used as an adverb. I am not entirely sure why Abel is given that name, in light of his character of faithfulness in the Bible; however, the ancients did nothing accidentally.

What I love about Abel is that there is room to speculate on him. Perhaps he was given that name because of his unsatisfactorily short life due to being murdered. Perhaps he was given that name because the author wants us to recognize a character flaw in him, which all the more heightens the mysterious grace of God who favors Abel for an act of faithfulness despite his flaws. Those are two possibilities, though I think there is one that is much more likely than those.

I believe it is the author’s way of showing how sin has crept in, even into the family structure. Cain was the first born and, thus, would have all the rights and inheritance afforded to him when his parents died. Abel would only get what was left over. The human system of Patriarchy had begun to take root, and the effects of that would ultimately kill Abel and harm many others like him, as well as women who were not considered to be equal to men.

That, then , leads us to Cain, who was the first born and oldest brother. Because of his privileged position as the eldest brother, Cain expected to be favored over Abel. He felt entitled to that. Cain quickly learned that God doesn’t play favorites off of human-made systems of  oppression. God favored the younger of the two brothers and, in essence, gave the blessing to Abel and not to Cain.

This, of course, enfuriated Cain and, as we all know very well, he plotted to murder Abel and carried it out in a field when no one was looking. Cain’s entitlement left him bitter toward Abel. What’s more, he was jealous of the fact that God favored Abel over him. That jealousy led to the murder of his own brother. Yet, God proved Cain’s jealousy to be unfounded, for God never rejected Cain at all. Even after Cain murdered Abel, God still chose to show mercy and grace. The story doesn’t exactly word it that way, but the grace is certainly there. Cain got to live a full life out, and was ultimately protected by God against anyone seeking vengeance over the death of Abel.

This story is very much relevant to us today. Most of us may not murder our siblings, but we do support and uphold oppressive human systems that bring harm to others. We often do so without even realzing it and, even if we did realize it, we feel justified because our social standards favor us instead of those who are being oppressed. Think of immigration laws, or welfare, or anything that most of us don’t have to deal with, all the while being very judgmental toward those who do. The story of Cain and Abel, should teach us that we are no more worthy of favor than anyone else. God created and loves us all. If we choose to be proud and entitled, we only do so to our own detriment. For God will show favor to the meek.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Those who stand tall have the furthest to fall.

PRAYER
Lord, humble me and teach me to be meek. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 2: Adam

Read Genesis 2:4-25; 3:1-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second Man, came from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:47 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

AdamAndEve01

Part 2: Adam. As I think is evident from the last devotion, Adam tends to be more favorably viewed than Eve. The text is often read very sympathetically toward him; however, I do not believe that we are reading the text the way it was intended to be read. In fact, I believe we are reading more into it than is really there. Before I move forward, I want to make this point very clearly: Neither Adam nor Eve were greater or worse than the other. They both were the first humans, they both chose the way they did, and they both have something valuable to reveal in each of us regardless of what sex we were born.

We often to think of the first male human being’s name as, “Adam.” What many do not realize is that Adam is the English transliterated word for the Hebrew word, אָדָם, which is pronounced aw-dawm’. This Hebrew word literally means, humankind or human being. In this context, this human being happened to be a male; however, the meaning of the word adam is actually broader than that. So, when the Scripture says that “the LORD God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed life into his nostrils”, the text is actually saying that the LORD God formed the human being out of the dust in the ground, and breathed life into his nostrils.”

It is important to note that the man is not named throughout all of the second creation story found Genesis 2:4-25. This person is simply referred to as “the man”, or the human being. Thi human being clearly male in anatomy and in gender; however, he remains unnamed. This is truly ironic, being that this nameless man is the one who takes it upon himself to give everything else names. This man, as he was created, thought of other beings as precious enough to name. Naming something also denotes being in relationship with it. Here we have the first human being, seeking to be in relationship and putting the other (in this case God’s creation) first. Indeed, and it was good.

Again, it is far easier to look at the wrongdoings and shortcomings of Adam. It is easier for us to focus on the fact that he ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that he sheepishly blamed Eve when God was holding him accountable, and that his sin ultimately led to the first animal sacrifice, the switch from being one with Creation to dominating and destroying it, the switch from vegan to omnivore (where we kill and eat animals for food…compare Genesis 1:29-31; 2:16-17  to Genesis 9:1-4) and, of course, the first sibling rivalry, which in turn led to the first account of murder in human history.

Whether you are one who takes these accounts as literal, historical fact or not is beside the point, because either way, these stories are meant to convey a truth to the reader. Adam was created to be creative, to be loving, to be a partner, to be in relationship, and ot be the caretaker of all God’s creation. Adam was created to put others first, and to also take care of himself. It isn’t until Genesis 3, where the tragic sin occurs, that the man is given the name, “Adam” by the narrator.

What I think is important for us to realize, is that we, too, are adam. We are human beings and we were created to be exactly what Adam was created to be. We were created to create, to love, to partner and form commmunity, and to be the caretakers of each other as well as God’s creation. Yet, just like Adam, our sin gets in our way and, as a result, we fall from the ideal of what we were created to be.  Yet, God did not give up on human beings, and become one. God took on the very flesh given to adam and became adam. We of course, know the second adam to be Jesus the Christ, who showed us the way to be truly human according to God’s great redemptive plan! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are all Adam’s children – it’s just the skin that makes all the difference.” – Navjot Singh Sidhu

PRAYER
Lord, help me beyond my human sin and lead me from the state of the first Adam, to the redemption and glory of the second. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 1: Eve

Read Genesis 2:4-25; 3:1-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live.” (Genesis 3:20 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

AdamAndEve01

Part 1: Eve. When we think of Eve, we tend to think in negative and sexual terms. That last one may make you uncomfortable to read, but it is true. Eve is commonly known as the mother of us all, but only because she chose to disobey God and lured Adam to do the same. Her sin, as it is commonly understood, led women into having labor pains and to the establishment of patriarchy (aka women being under the dominion of men). Sadly, our common way of understanding things does an injustice to Eve herself, and it has been damning for women throughout the millennia.

I also think that our tradition, in this regard, does an injustice to the Scriptures themselv es, as I think we tend to lay more blame on Eve than we do on Adam. My reading and interpretation of Scriptures leads me to a different place. By focusing on the sin of Eve, we also miss the beauty of her inherent goodness that is a reflection of the divine image of God. While the story has Eve coming from man, it is only because God realized that man was incomplete without woman. The story is kind of comical in how it is structred because God sets out to create a partner for Adam and has to give it a couple of attempts before getting it right.

The first time round God gave Adam animals, but ended up finding out that humans and animals don’t make a good match. Then God tries again and this time puts Adam asleep and forms woman from Adam’s rib. In other words, Eve was not a sheep or a donkey or a horse or any other animal. Eve was another human being like Adam, made from the same flesh and blood. The important thing to note is that Eve completed Adam.

Yes, Eve did sin, but it is important to realize that it was Adam who God told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That was a direct command from God to Adam before Eve was even created. Presumably, as the story never specifies, Adam told Eve; however, it’s no wonder that Eve was the vulnerable target for the shrewd and crafty serpent. She had less of an understanding  as to why they could not eat from that tree, and so the serpent lured her in. Despite that, Adam is still culpable because he was the one who truly knew better.

Yet, that still misses the ultimate point being made here. Eve did not let her sin weigh her down. She became the mother of all despite many painful and tragic circumstances. Also, while sin may have entered the world through the first people, so did true LOVE. Why, you might ask? Because, through Adam and Eve’s choice came God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate embodiment of God’s faithful, unconditional love. Christ is the clear choice God has given us in regard to away out of our sin and back into a relationship with our Creator.

We all make choices and those choices all bear consequences. But that does not make us any less God’s people. The story of Eve drives that point home. Eve did not let sin have the final word and, as such, she became a part of God’s redemption plan as God would choose to become one of her descendents and redeem the world. God does not want you mired by your choices or their consequences, but wants you to move forward from them, like Eve did, and allow God to guide you toward being who you were created to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Grace is a much more accurate word to use when dealing with the state of human existence. God gives us unmerited favor through Jesus Christ, and since Adam and Eve, our lives have depended on it.” – Monica Johnson

PRAYER
Lord, I acknowledge that I am a sinner. Still, despite my sin, give me the perseverance of Eve who moved beyond her sin, was fruitful and multiplied. Because of Eve’s faithful perseverance, your Son Jesus Christ came into the world and conquered sin and death. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Evil Begotten

Read Romans 12:9-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Maleficent2

Boy do my wife and daughters know how to make me feel special. Several years ago, for Father’s day, following church and fellowship, they treated me out to see: Disney’s “Maleficent”, which stars Angelina Jolie in the title role. What a spectacular film to get to see and it actually exceeded my expectations, which were quite high, in ways I never foresaw.

While I am not going to ruin the film with spoilers, I will address a theme that is predominant in the film in a way that does not give away anymore of the plot than the trailers and/or previews give. The movie starts off with a young fairy named Maleficent, who was actually anything but Maleficent. She was kind-hearted, thoughtful and filled with the love of life. But all of that changes after her heart, her trust and her hope are broken because of the evil deeds of a greedy and vengeful king.

The evil that was perpetrated against her land, and the evil that was perpetrated against her and her kind, caused her to grow angry and resentful. It drove her to hate the king and all humans for what they had done toward her. It spiraled her downward into becoming a hellish, shadowing, and vengeful queen seeking to bring curses against the ones who sought to destroy her. Evil had begotten evil.

For those of you who have seen the original Walt Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty, you know what becomes of Maleficent and what the evil begotten above did to her. Evil never stays in one place and it found it’s way into the life of an innocent girl named Aurora, who was to be princess of the land. Because of Maleficent’s evil curse, this princess was doomed to be in a “sleep like death”, which could only be broken by “true love’s kiss.” What a sad and tragic story indeed. Where does the evil end?

Some of you might be screaming, “Time out! Why is it that this world wants you to sympathize with the villains? Who cares why Maleficent did what she did?!?! It was wrong and there is no excuse for it!” That is true, there is not excuse for the evil that Maleficent perpetrated on others; however, the world is not so black and white. It is easy when we look at the Maleficents of the world and point the finger, but not so easy when we are forced to look in the mirror at ourselves. How has evil affected you? How have you let the hurts you’ve endured and the challenges that you have faced to effect you? Have you ever lashed out at others because you yourself were hurt and/or vulnerable?

For each of us, the answer to these questions and others like them will be different. Each of us carries around our own set of baggage. Each of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and have been a participant in sin, and even evil, whether we realize it or not. The point of this is not to shame you or make you feel guilty, but to humbly liberate you from the judgmentalism we so often get trapped in.

Sitting in the judgment seat of God (as Maleficent ended up doing), is not the way to stop evil in its tracks; rather, the best way to stop evil is to simply choose not to participate in it and to counter act it with our love and compassion. We have the choice to repent of our own participation in evil, to reject its pull on our lives, and to rise up out of it with the strong wings of God’s grace. Though we have all suffered, one way or the other, as a result of evil…we can choose not follow suit. So, say NO to evil and YES to the “true love” that God is willing to fill you with.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. – Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 5:44-45

PRAYER

Lord, pull me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Fill me with your forgiveness so that I may forgive. Amen.