Questioning God

“I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” That first question led to many more for Moses.

Once drawn in, he was confronted and commissioned by God to be ambassador to Pharaoh on behalf of enslaved Israel. Immediately, Moses began to question God. He questioned …
 
  • ·       God’s choice, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?”
  • ·       God’s word, (But) “What if they do not believe me listen to me?”
  • ·       God’s enablement, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor  since you have spoken to your servant.”

I get Moses … I understand his questions. There have been many times when I have had similar misgivings about God’s ability to use me. Let that soak in! When we focus on ourselves, the obstacles or the audience … we end up asking outrageous questions of God … like “Are you able?”

I’m grateful for a questioning God. He asked Moses three types of questions that every Christian needs to hear:

What’s in your hand? When Moses doubted that anyone would take him seriously, God asked, “What is that in your hand?” A wooden staff became a writhing serpent from which Moses ran. Something Moses had within his grasp, something he viewed as ordinary, became extraordinary when relinquished to God.

Who made you?  When Moses lamented his powers of communication, God asked, “Who gave man his mouth?” The point is crystal clear, the Creator knows best the capabilities of his creature. If the Designer of the human tongue says, “You will be my witness … to the ends of the earth,” we assume nothing about our abilities, but rather trust wholly in the enabling power of His Spirit.

Who is on your side? When Moses persisted in fixating on his own capabilities, or lack thereof, God showed him that he had allies. God put Moses in partnership with his brother Aaron, so he didn’t have to face Pharaoh alone. This human support was grace upon grace, because God’s first word to Moses should have been enough. Remember Moses’ question, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” God did not answer that query with a moral boosting pep talk … but with the greatest words of strength anyone could ever hear … “I will be with you.”

I’m not expecting you to see any flaming bushes … but every believer in Jesus Christ has some clear callings on their life backed up by clear promises about God’s enabling presence. What ordinary resources do you possess that could be radically transformed by obedience? What could you surrender to the hands of your Creator? What could you accomplish for the Kingdom in His power and in the company of His people?
 
 


Stating the (Not So) Obvious

“Who did Seth marry?” If Adam and Eve were the first two people, where did their sons get wives? The simple answer? The Bible doesn’t say. There are wildly speculative answers that propose two creations and two races, but these don’t square with Scripture … or the Gospel.

The Bible is unambiguous in teaching that all humans now living trace their ancestry to Adam and Eve. Genesis records Adam and Eve’s special creation, then in Chapter 3:20 we’re told, “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” The New Testament carries this teaching forward. Jesus used our first parents as the historical foundation for His argument against divorce. Paul told the Athenians, “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth.” Acts 17:26  Passages like Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 teach that sin entered our world through the first man, Adam … and that salvation came through the second Adam, Jesus Christ. In other words, our common ancestry is not just a question of history … it’s a question of Gospel.

So, if all human life originated with Adam and Eve, where did those first wives come from? I’ve only found one answer that makes sense while remaining faithful to Scripture … Seth married one of his sisters, or possibly a niece. God’s prohibition of such relations was not given until the time of Moses. Abraham was married to his half-sister, but the Bible in no way condemns that union. Both Isaac and Jacob were married to their first cousins. Prior to the Mosaic law, marriage with close relations was not forbidden.

Was it even possible that Seth married one of his sisters? None of Adam and Eve’s daughters are mentioned by name, but we know they existed. Genesis 5 tells us that Adam was 130 years old when he fathered Seth. The passage continues, “After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.” We know that Adam had at least two sons (Cain and Able) prior to this time. We are not really told when his daughters were born. One statistician estimated that if Cain and Able married and had children, Adam and Eve might have had as many as 32,000 descendants by the time Seth was born. A daughter of Eve born anywhere close to Seth’s age had time to mature to child-bearing age, since Seth did not become a parent until age 105. Even in recently recorded history, one woman is known to have birthed 69 children and she only lived to be 79. Given the longevity of the first humans, and the number of children born to each generation, imagine how exponential the population growth could have been!

As you read … feel free to submit questions to Pastor Jon.
 
 


Happy New Year!

The ubiquitous greeting for this first week of 2019. So, what would it take? What would have to happen so that in 359 days you would look back and say … “This was a happy year.”
 

Would weight loss do it? Better health? Being more appreciated, more loved, more understood? How about financial stability or better yet prosperity? Maybe leaving Panama for “home.” I hope this isn’t the case, but someone out there thinks it would take a new spouse.

Let’s get real … nothing on that list can guarantee happiness. Body builders have image problems. Some people get praised all day and never hear it. There are deeply loved people incapable of receiving love. Some rich are desperately empty and unhappy. You’ve romanticized home and your troubles and unhappiness might follow you there. You could change spouses and discover you’re the one that’s hard to live with. Things and people can contribute to happiness, but they can’t guarantee happiness. And let’s just take our honesty all the way … health, love and wealth are nowhere guaranteed. Past generations of Christians expressed their hopes for the future with hymns like this …

Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what he deems best – lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.

Help me then in every tribulation so to trust your promises, O Lord, that I lose not faith’s sweet consolation offered me within your holy Word.

Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, e’er to take, as from a father’s hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, till I reach the promised land.

Or as the Apostle Paul said, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11–13

Whatever this new year holds, I pray that faith’s sweet consolation will bring you peace and joy in abundance as you trust our kind and sovereign God.
 
 
 


Fourth Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Love


Since 2008, Hallmark has produced 158 Christmas romance movies. 2017 was their record year with 33 original movies. Well … “original” might be a stretch. The movies are, at best, formulaic. They all feature pizzicato strings in their soundtracks and I’m pretty sure those are the same warbling carolers in every show. My research shows that there are at least 15 different Hallmark movies where the love interest turns out to be … wait for it … a prince of a tiny country that no one has ever heard of. And then there’s the surprise plot twist where the love interest turns out to be a princess from a tiny country that no one has ever heard of. So, the only thing original about Hallmark is their use of the word “original.”

I doubt anyone from their management team would argue with my assessment. Romance has been a moneymaker for Hallmark from their inception in 1910. But even they, I think, are surprised by how love sells at Christmas. It is their most lucrative time of year.

“The Candle of Love” may sound like one of Hallmarks Christmas movie titles, but it’s really about the greatest most original love story every told. In this story, a baby born in obscurity and poverty turns out to be the ruler and rescuer of the world. This morning’s candle reminds us that God’s plans for us grew from his love … and that we are to grow in his love.

God’s people in other times waited and trusted in the promise of Messiah. And … the Christ was born just as God had promised. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

God’s perfect gift of love teaches us to look forward to eternal life and to the promise of Messiah’s return. But our hope in Him is not just about “then,” it’s for today. Jesus left us this instruction until He returns … A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

Enjoy a couple (or ten) Hallmark love stories this season. But really … what are they compared to the Christmas story? Let’s revel in that love and then lavish it on others.

(Disclaimer: My interest in and knowledge of Hallmark romance movies is purely hypothetical.)

 
 


Third Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Joy


A small nativity has followed us around for years. The largest figure is barely an inch tall. Each character once had a small gold loop of thread and for many seasons they hung on a tiny tree that adorned my office desk. They are not the somber, awestruck crowd you find in most nativity scenes. Every character is smiling. Baby Jesus is smiling … even the animals. These are not little smiles, they are giant, swooping, ear to ear, face rearranging grins. If you ran into such a crowd of people, it would be difficult to not ask … “What are you all smiling about?” It’s an infectious little scene.

Israel anticipated and hoped for her promised Messiah. God had never failed to make good on His word … surely their faith was not in vain. But then came long years of silence, no prophetic words, no visible signs that He was working on their behalf. But today, we light the Candle of Joy and remember how the news of Messiah began to break through that silence …

To a young virgin … “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

To her questioning groom … “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

To shepherds watching their flocks … “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.

Good news of great joy … for all people! This season let’s be the people who carry that unquenchable joy. There’s an old saying, “Smile and the world will wonder what you’re up to.” They might also wonder what we know. Maybe our little nativity got Christmas right. Smiles all around!