Friends: I just had to pass this on to you. This is more from my friend and pastor David Niednagel from his study in Genesis. David has been my pastor for 45 years. His faithfulness and life-long dedication to the study of God’s word has been a light and a guide to me through these 45 years. David uses the S.O.A.P method in his morning devotional time. Study, Observe, Apply, Pray. If you are looking for a help-method for your daily study time that will help you maximize your fellowship and growth in your relationship with God….try the S.O.A.P method. 😊
3-28-19 Gen 4:25-5:32 The name of the LORD, Yahweh
Gen. 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. …
8 Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died. …
11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died. …
:14 all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died. …
:17 all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died. …
:20 all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died. …
:23 all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. …
:27 all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah. … 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. ESV
In the days of Enosh (About 400 years after Creation) people began to call on the name of the LORD – not just the generic word “god”, a higher power, but by His personal name – Yahweh. His name comes from the verb “to be” – the God who really IS, the Real One. Our English translations normally use the word LORD, instead of Yahweh, and that is unfortunate, because we normally skip right over the fact that He has revealed Himself as our covenant keeping Creator.
Ch 5 lists the descendants from Adam to Noah, all of whom lived from about 770 to 970 years. Because that is so much longer than we live today, most people wonder how that could be, and even the NIV Study Bible doubts those ages are accurate. But just like in Ch 1, Moses goes out of his way to tell how old each one was when his first child was born and how many years he lived after that, and then carefully gives the correct answer to adding the numbers. He intended the readers to believe those ages! There was nothing figurative or symbolic about them. So to try to figure out how they lived so long then, but also account for the ages declining after the Flood, some have supposed it was environmental conditions that made the difference. I have taught that, and it may be true, but I no longer think that was the main factor.
With what we now know about genetics, it makes more sense to see that a “genetic bottleneck” came from all future humans coming from the three sons of Noah. Dr John Sanford, is his book “Genetic Entropy” presents the details that make the most sense to me.
LORD, Yahweh, Thank You that You have revealed Yourself, not just as a “higher power” but as our Creator who has given us a Bible we can trust, and who has made a covenant with human beings. You know us individually, and provided the LORD Jesus as a Savior and King. And You give us Life, not just physically, but the capacity to be in relationship with You, our Creator and Savior. Thank You for the good years You have given Judy and me! Help us live our remaining days for You and for Your glory and enjoying You! I don’t want to waste any of the days You have ordained for me. May I fulfill Your purpose for my life. Amen.
Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner, Regular Contributor, desiringGod.org
Why does God answer yes to some prayers and no to others? Why does God miraculously heal some people and not others? Why does disaster strike one city and not another?
I’ve been pondering these questions since Hurricane Florence devastated much of eastern North Carolina last year. I live in the center of the state, and contrary to the foreboding predictions, we were relatively unaffected. In response, a friend said, “I know why we were spared catastrophe and the storm circled our area and went south. I was praying that God would keep us safe and he answered my prayers!”
I had no words.
I know that God answers prayer. And we need to pray. God tells us to ask, and it will be given to us (Matthew 7:7). But my friend’s words made me wonder if she thought that no one in eastern Carolina was praying. I know people whose livelihoods were destroyed in the storm. Everything they owned was gone. They escaped with their lives but nothing material left. Some of them begged God to spare their city.
One Died, Another Lived
What are we as believers to infer from these natural disasters? Can we simply draw straight lines between our requests and God’s answers? Years ago, I heard a pastor tell of his cancer that went into remission. When he told his congregation the good news, several commented, “We knew God would heal you. He had to. So many people were praying for you.”
While the pastor was thankful for others’ prayers, he also knew God did not owe him healing. Faithful believers throughout the ages have earnestly prayed and yet not been healed. The apostle Paul was not healed in order that God might show that his power could be made perfect in Paul’s weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And then there was my own son, Paul, who died as an infant. We had prayed, fasted, and asked friends to pray for his healing. Several years after his death, we met a man who said when he learned of our loss, “Don’t take this wrong, but we prayed for all of our children before they were born. And they were all born healthy.” We had no words.
Why Did God Save Peter?
In considering the question of when and why God chooses to rescue, I was reminded of Acts 12 which begins, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. . . . So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:1–3, 5). Peter was then rescued the very night that Herod was about to bring him out, to presumably kill him as he had killed James.
Why did God let James die and Peter live?
Peter, James, and John were three of Jesus’s closest disciples. These three were often selected to be alone with Jesus. Yet their earthly lives after Christ’s resurrection were markedly different. John was the last of the disciples to die, Peter was rescued from prison in Acts 12, but church history records that he was later martyred by being crucified upside down.
James was the first of the disciples to be martyred. The Bible records that Herod killed James with no elaborating details. We simply know that Peter was spared while James was not. What are we to make of this? Did God love Peter more than James? Was James’s life less important? Did James have less faith? Were people not praying for James?
Our Father Knows Best
Looking at the fuller counsel of the Bible, it is clear that God has plans that we do not understand. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8–9). Because we believe that death is just a passage into eternal life (2 Timothy 1:10), one that all of us will go through, it ultimately doesn’t matter when we pass through it. God numbers our days before they begin, and he alone determines when we will die (Psalm 139:16).
Though we often cannot understand God’s purposes in this life, we can be sure that James’s life as a disciple and his death as a martyr was intentional. Everything God does has purpose (Isaiah 46:10). Because of that, we can be sure that at the time of James’s death, he had accomplished what God had called him to (Philippians 1:6), while Peter’s work on earth was unfinished (Philippians 1:24–25).
Living or dying, being spared or being tortured, being delivered in this life or the next is not an indicator of God’s love for us or the measure of our faith. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, and our future is determined by what he knows is best for us (Romans 8:28, 35–39).
Paul understood this principle well when he said in Philippians 1:21–23, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Departing this world and being with Christ is far better, because eternal life is far better than life on earth. No matter what this life holds, we will eventually be deliriously happy in heaven, where God has all of eternity to lavish us with his kindness (Ephesians 2:7).
Suffering Is Not Punishment
Even though I know these truths, I have often been discouraged that others have been rescued while I was still suffering. Prosperity gospel proponents have told me that if I had prayed in faith, my body would have been healed, my son would have been spared, and my marriage would have been restored. It was all up to me. If I just had the faith, I would have had a better outcome.
Their words have left me bruised and disillusioned, wondering what I was doing wrong.
But that theology is not the gospel. God’s response to our prayers is not dependent upon our worthiness but rather rests upon on his great mercy (Daniel 9:18). Because of Christ, who took our punishment, God is always for us (Romans 8:31). He wants to give us all things. Christ himself is ever interceding for us (Romans 8:31–34).
If you are in Christ, God is completely for you. Your suffering is not a punishment. Your struggles are not because you didn’t pray the right way, or because you didn’t pray enough, or because you have weak faith or insufficient intercessors. It is because God is using your suffering in ways that you may not understand now, but one day you will. One day you will see how God used your affliction to prepare you for an incomparable weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). This is the gospel. And it holds for all who love Christ.
Article by Jon Bloom, staff writer, desiringGod.org
Why is humility so important to God? I mean, it’s really, really important to him. Listen to the kinds of things Jesus said:
Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave. (Matthew 20:26–27)
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3–4)
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
Humble slaves rank first in God’s kingdom, only the humble childlike get into the kingdom, and the meek will be given dominion over the world. These are statements are so radical they sound nearly ridiculous.
Did He Just Say That?
I wonder if we’re too familiar with these sayings. I don’t know about you, but I have found it disturbingly easy to dissociate theological truths I intellectually assent to from what I functionally believe (the ways I actually behave). If statements about humility like these don’t throttle us, I doubt we’re really hearing Jesus — given how much we are not like this by nature, given how unappealing serving is when we must actually sacrifice our own pursuits in order to do it, given how little we want to be regarded as childlike when it comes to how others actually think of us, and given how not meek we feel when someone else actually offends us.
Did you catch what’s at stake? If this kind of humility doesn’t characterize us, we “will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). It’s the same sort of statement Jesus made about those who aren’t born again (John 3:3). It’s the same sort of statement Paul made about the sexually immoral, idolaters, the greedy, drunkards, and revilers (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). Do you, by your behavior, put pride in the same category of seriousness as sexual sin? I think God considers pride to be worse. Nowhere in Scripture does God say the most sexually pure are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
What is it about humility that God esteems so much? What’s so great about humility?
An Alien Ethic
That’s a question many critics of Christianity ask. Some view statements like “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26–27) as so alien to human experience that they are completely unrealistic, however altruistic Jesus’s intentions may have been.
Others go much further and call Jesus’s humility ethic evil. Karl Marx considered it an opiate to pacify the proletariat masses so the bourgeoisie could keep their economic grip on the means of production. Friedrich Nietzsche abhorred it as doing nothing but enfeebling the human race, encouraging the whole lot of us to behave precisely in ways that keep us from pursuing the ruthless strength we need to survive in a brutal, uncaring universe.
Indeed, the humility Jesus commends here seems alien, otherworldly. It was alien to Jesus’s disciples when he made the statement to them. James and John were angling for the seats of eternal honor (Matthew 20:20–21), moving their ten comrades to get bent out of shape, since each figured he had a fair claim to those seats (Luke 22:24). This was the greatness they knew. They lived in a world where greatness was defined by social position, where scribes and Pharisees loved their seats of honor (Matthew 23:6) and rulers loved lording (Matthew 20:25). They lived in the world we live in. What world did Jesus live in?
Memories of a Lost World
When Jesus called the disciples to pursue greatness through the humility of serving others, he wasn’t merely calling them to be countercultural; he was calling them to be counter-natural — or better, to be supernatural. None of us is born with this character quality. If Jesus’s humility ethic seems alien, it’s because it is. It is the ethic of a foreign kingdom (Matthew 18:1), a better country (Hebrews 11:16).
Actually, that’s not exactly right. It’s more accurate to say that humility is the ethic of a former kingdom. For the kingdom of heaven was the original administration of earth, and humility was the ethic of Eden. The domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13) is the actual foreign kingdom that staged a coup at the forbidden tree by enticing Adam and Eve to stop trusting fully in God and start leaning on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). And the foreign kingdom’s pride ethic prevailed.
But the Bible tells us that humility will once again be the prevailing ethic of the future kingdom, when the evil foreign power is at last overthrown, and every knee bows to the supremely humble King of kings (Philippians 2:5–11). When we finally see him, we will know that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven indeed is the servant of all.
Only the Humble Can See
But I still haven’t answered the question: What’s so great about humility? Why does God rank it as such a high quality of human greatness? I believe it’s because humility is the only state of the soul that allows us to accurately perceive and value truth and glory for what they really are. Only the humble can truly see.
We’ve all heard some version of the adage “pride blinds.” That’s exactly what it does. Pride keeps sinful man from seeing God (Psalm 10:4). Pride keeps us from seeing our approaching fall (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is the light in the eyes of a wicked heart (Proverbs 21:4), and “if then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:23).
But humility puts us in the frame of mind to be able to see. Which is why God “leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way” (Psalm 25:9). Only the humble can be “pure in heart,” and therefore only the humble can “see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Pride sees the self as the supreme value, and views everything else as means to enhance the self. It’s insatiable, and it can be deadly. But in humility, one does “not to think of [one’s self] more highly than [one] ought to think, but . . . think[s] with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3).
The humble person accurately sees God’s place, his own place, and everyone else’s place in the world. The humble person sees himself as a sinner in desperate need of God’s mercy, and having received it through the supremely humble servanthood of God in Christ (Philippians 2:5–8), finds it more blessed to give to others than to receive so that they might maximally enjoy the mercy of God forever too (Acts 20:35). Having this mind, he sees existence, the world, beauty, redemption, and judgment as incomprehensibly bigger than himself and so full of glories that he is overwhelmed and can’t contain it all. His humility allows him to see, and what he sees humbles him.
Eyes Open to Glory
Why did Jesus say only the humble can enter the kingdom? Because only the humble can see the kingdom. Why are the greatest in the kingdom the servants? Because the more humble we are, the more reality we truly see, the more of God’s multifaceted glory we truly see, and therefore the more joy we experience, and therefore the more we want others to experience that joy. What makes humility so great is that it’s God-like.
In calling us to meekness, Jesus is inviting us to abandon the bankruptcy of pride and have the eyes of our hearts enlightened that we may know “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). He’s inviting us share in the very joy of the Triune God, the most humble Persons in existence.
Friends: We continue with my good friend and pastor, David Niednagel. He uses the S.O.A.P method in his morning devotional time. Study, Observe, Apply, Pray. If you are looking for a help-method for your daily study time that will help you maximize your fellowship and growth in your relationship with God….try this S.O.A.P method. 😊
Genesis 3:20-24 Garments of skins
3:20The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. ESV
Adam’s attempt to clothe himself with leaves was not acceptable to God. God provided animal skins – which meant the animals had to die – a blood sacrifice. God told Adam in 2:17 that if he disobeyed he would die. Here we see the first example of God providing a substitute to cover the sin of a human. The animals had done nothing wrong. Adam and Eve had. The animals were innocent substitutes that covered the guilt of the people – a picture of what the Lord Jesus would do 4000 years later.
So the guilt of Adam and Eve was covered, but they were not allowed to stay in the garden and eat of the tree of life and live forever. To live forever in a world of increasing wickedness would be terrible! Death after many years of that would be better than living with an aging body and burdened heart. So, they were forced to leave the garden and live in a hostile world, full of sin and pain. It was the consequence of their rebellion and it not only affected them, but every human who has ever lived since that time.
Lord, we don’t normally think of death as a good thing – and it isn’t. But I can see Your mercy in it, especially for believers who are welcomed into Your presence to experience YOU and other redeemed people who will no longer sin, and we will also have a new body. I want my life to count as long as possible and bear fruit that will last forever, but more and more I am willing to leave this world behind and I look forward to being with You. Until then, thank You for Your blood shed to cover my sin and guilt! Thank You I can look forward to a wonderful eternity! Amen
Friends: The next two days we continue with my good friend and pastor, David Niednagel. He uses the S.O.A.P method in his morning devotional time. Study, Observe, Apply, Pray. If you are looking for a help-method for your daily study time that will help you maximize your fellowship and growth in your relationship with God….try the S.O.A.P method. 😊 Blessings, dh
Genesis 3:17-19 A world of pain and suffering
17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, andto dust you shall return.” ESV
God first pronounced a curse on the serpent, then the woman. Here He cursed the earth and the man. Adam had listened to the voice of his wife. That is a good thing, but not when her words call him to disobey God. In Rom 8:20 Paul says the curse on the earth is still in effect until the return of the Lord, – there are now thorns and thistles, and it will take hard work and sweat to make a living. For thousands of years billions of people have struggled and suffered diseases, broken relationships, earthquakes, murder, injustice and sorrow – all because Adam and Eve ignored God’s clear commands. They rejected His authority over them and ate fruit from the only tree that God said they could not. They had thousands of other trees, but for the “freedom” to make their own choice, they took away the freedom of every human since then. Was it worth it? Even to them?
One of the main questions people raise against the idea of God, is if God is supposed to be good, how do we account for all the pain and suffering in the world. How could/would a good God allow all this suffering? This section gives a clear answer to that. God does not just allow it, he warned Adam that if he ate from the fruit of that one tree – if he rejected God – he would unleash evil on the earth. God warned Adam, but he did not take God seriously. The world is full of pain and evil because of their sin. He made them with the capacity to make real choices – choices that have real significance and consequences – choices that even lead to death. God did not make us “bullet proof”. We can (and do) experience physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual pain. Because of sin death entered the world. And because all sin, all will die and then face the judgment of the Creator.
Lord, our world is so broken, and so full of hurting people. We know that will continue till You return. But thank You for the “offspring of the woman” who died to provide our forgiveness, and lives to allow us to come back into relationship with You. Thank You that we can now be agents of reconciliation for individuals, and for our world. Help me always take You seriously and never think I am smarter than You. Help me trust You and obey You with a glad heart, and use me to help others come back to You too. Amen
Friends: This is from my good friend and pastor, David N. He uses the S.O.A.P method in his morning devotional time. Study, Observe, Apply, Pray. If you are looking for a help-method for your daily study time that will help you maximize your fellowship and growth in your relationship with God….try this S.O.A.P method. 😊 David is studying in Genesis these days and I thought today’s S.O.A.P. was a natural add-on piece to the Default System series we just finished a few days ago. Blessings, dh
3-20-19 Gen 3:14-15 The offspring of the woman
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring andher offspring; he shall bruise your head,and you shall bruise his heel.” ESV
God had warned Adam that disobedience would cause a lifetime of evil and separation from Him. 4000 years after that Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) There has been 6000 years of evil, pain and suffering for all humans, because of Adam’s sin. (Rom 5:12) But here in Gen 3, a few hours after that sin, God pronounced a curse on Satan for his rebellion and deception. And He promised that one day “the offspring of the woman” would crush his head.
Lord, Your Word contains the warnings and the promises to make sense of all the pain and suffering in this world. Help me/us remember Your warnings that there are terrible consequences of sin, and never take it lightly. Thank You for this promise immediately after Adam’s sin of the coming Savior. And Thank You Jesus that we can “take heart” that You have overcome Satan in spite of the great evil there is all around us – and in us! There is no other source of forgiveness for sin, or hope for the future than “the offspring of the woman” – our LORD and Savior! Amen!
(article by Jon Bloom, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org)
The gears of God’s justice sometimes grind slowly — so slowly that we may not even notice them turning during our brief sojourn on earth. We even begin to wonder if they’re really turning at all.
Asaph writes, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But . . .” (Psalm 73:1–2). But what? But Asaph had really struggled to believe that. His biblical theology and history told him God is good and God is just, but as he looked on the way things evidently operated in the “real” world around him, Asaph read a different narrative.
He watched unashamedly wicked people prosper, seeming to avoid the hardships most of humanity is subject to (Psalm 73:3–5). He watched them violently oppress others without God seeming to lift a finger to stop them or protect the oppressed (Psalm 73:6–8). He watched them in their luxuriant ease blaspheme God with apparent impunity (Psalm 73:9–12). Like many suffering Christians today, he watched while the godless flourished.
Hard on Those He Loves?
Meanwhile, when Asaph looked at his own experience, he couldn’t help wondering why in the world he was fighting so hard to keep his heart clean and his hands innocent, only to find himself “stricken and rebuked [by God] every morning” (Psalm 73:13–14). What’s with that?
Hard on those who love him, and seemingly easy on those who hate him — that looks a lot like turning justice on its head. Asaph’s “feet . . . almost stumbled” over whether God truly is good to Israel (Psalm 73:2). He could have said, as Teresa of Ávila allegedly did, “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder why You have so few of them!”
Thus, Asaph is endeared to us — an ancient friend who understands. He understands the hard experience of living in what can look and feel like a world of inverted justice.
Where Bitterness Takes Root
We know deep down God can’t approve of this inversion. The fact that humanity shares such a massive consensus regarding what’s just and unjust bears witness to what God considers just and unjust. Philosophers call this the “moral law.” Theologians call it God’s law written on the heart (Romans 2:15–16). Even the unjust bear witness to this reality by what they desperately try to conceal (or rationalize if their power is removed and they are held to account for their actions).
But when they aren’t held to account, when they do as they unjustly and wickedly please and God doesn’t intervene, we try to understand. And, like Asaph, we can find it “a wearisome task” (Psalm 73:16). We can become “pricked in heart” and embittered in soul (Psalm 73:21).
Here’s the real danger: the indignance we feel toward injustice — the way we’re supposed to feel toward injustice — can metastasize into bitterness in our soul toward God and his apparent lack of concern and willingness to take action against injustice. This can turn us “brutish and ignorant” (Psalm 73:22), leading us to fall away from God (Hebrews 3:12) or to distort his word into saying what it does not say, because in our lack of faith, we cannot bear it. Few things drive us to twist the Scriptures like the problem we have with evil and the pain it can cause us or those we love. This is a “root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (Deuteronomy 29:18) that defiles many, as Hebrews warns us (Hebrews 12:15).
Counsel for the Embittered Soul
So, what do we do when, like Asaph, our heart is pricked and we feel that bitterness in our soul that makes us question if God really sees, if he cares, if he’s really in control, if he really exists? The remedy God provides us against the brutish ignorance of unbelief is simple, but it is profound, and it is pervasive:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5–8)
This can sound so trite, so cliché, when what we want from God are answers— and, more immediately, action! This is not cliché. This is the Bible — all of it. The Bible is God’s book of justice. The whole thing is about God’s justice — about his ultimately making every wrong right and exhaustively settling every account of every moral agent, visible and invisible to us, that has ever perpetrated even the smallest injustice. Nothing will be missed, for God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Numbers 14:18) without fully satisfying his holy, righteous law — the one to which all our consciences bear witness.
God is working with a timetable toward this end that is long — and our lives are short. We may not see the justice needle move much during our time under the sun. That doesn’t at all mean God is not relentlessly and fearfully moving toward the terrible, unfathomable destruction of evil.
We must trust him with all our hearts and not lean on our own very limited perspective and understanding of the “real” world. If the catastrophe of Eden teaches us anything, it teaches us that we are ill-equipped to manage the knowledge of good and evil. The bitterness of soul that Asaph describes is a warning that it is time to hand God back the fruit before it bears something poisonous and bitter in us.
How God Treats His Friends
If the eucatastrophe of the cross of Jesus teaches us anything, it teaches us that God does not take injustice lightly — that he is, in fact, willing to go to extremes we would never imagine in order to fully settle accounts. At the cross, God’s righteous unwillingness to clear the unjust kisses his righteous desire to pardon the repentant unjust and be at peace with them (Psalm 85:10). It is the miraculous moment when the righteous Judge takes upon himself our unrighteousness, paying for it in full that we might become his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is the place where God becomes both just and the justifier of the unjust ones who put their faith fully in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
This is how God treats his friends: he gives his only Son for them in order to give them eternal life (John 3:16).
It is this God, and the remembrance of his mercy foreshadowed in the old covenant, that Asaph beheld when he “went into the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17). Then his perspective on justice changed. He saw the long-term end of the short-lived unrepentant wicked. God was not inattentive or inactive as they brazenly oppressed and blasphemed.
Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. (Psalm 73:18–20)
He saw the mercy in his being “stricken and rebuked,” for it was this very discipline that kept him from going astray (Proverbs 3:11–12; Psalm 119:67). And he saw an approaching judgment upon those who were not being led to repentance by the kindness of God (Romans 2:4). He remembered the long-term end of his short-lived afflictions: “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24), the same hope the apostle Paul expressed (2 Corinthians 4:17).
How Bitterness Leaves
And when Asaph gave up his wearisome task of trying to understand how God can let injustice and evil persist, and instead trusted God with all his heart, the bitterness left him. And out of the healing and refreshment he experienced, he sang,
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26)
Thus, if we have ears to hear, God is endeared to us — our far more ancient and future Friend who understands how hard it can be for us to endure evil while he “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). For it was his compassion that moved him to inspire these words in our friend, Asaph, and make sure his song of the rescued cynic was preserved in the canon to help rescue us from our bitterness of soul.
(Happy Birthday to my mother…Ellen Mae Snodgrass Hester 1925-1999)
When You Do Not Know What To Do
(article by Dave Zuleger, Pastor, Lakeville, Minnesota)
When was the last time a trial came so swiftly and forcefully that you did not know what to do?
My wife has lived in chronic pain for eight years. Recently, however, she woke up one morning with new health concerns that brought another hard, confusing, and frightening reality — a heavy one laid on top of the one we’re already living with day to day. We had just moved to a new home, and were going to a new church. I was the new pastor of that church. Our newborn was only six weeks old.
We felt like the armies of our circumstances were closing in around us with nowhere to go. As a husband and father, I felt completely off-balance. No one could encourage me. I felt helpless to help my wife, overwhelmed by the weight of her suffering. Why, God? Even after years of her chronic pain — and seeing the good God does through it — I felt like I was back to square one of faith, just clinging by a thread. I was supposed to be pastoring others, but I felt like I could speak but one word to God: “Help.”
Around that time, I found a story of a king who felt helpless to protect and care for the people he was responsible for. A king also overwhelmed with fear. King Jehoshaphat finds out that there is a “great multitude” coming soon to attack his people (2 Chronicles 20:1–2) — an army they know they cannot compete with on their own.
Most of us will never feel what he felt; we will never literally be under the attack of a great army marching up to our door. But we can all relate to overwhelming circumstances in our life that make us feel trapped, helpless, and certain we won’t make it much longer. The Bible is honest about how King Jehoshaphat felt when he got the news about the army of certain doom heading his way — he was afraid (2 Chronicles 20:3). His response to that fear is remarkable. He calls a fast in all of Judah and gathers the people to seek the Lord and his help (2 Chronicles 20:4).
This is not a natural human response. If someone asks us how we are doing at church, the answer almost automatically spills out, “I’m good.” Our profiles put our best, most carefully portrayed images of strength and sufficiency forward. We don’t readily admit that we’re often afraid, broken, lonely, despairing, failing in sin, and struggling to see or trust God.
Jehoshaphat could have pretended he wasn’t afraid. He could have acted like he had it all together. He could have gathered the generals and made the best plan possible. Instead, he gathered the people, admitted his weakness, and sought the help of the Lord together — instead, he prayed. He prays, “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). He not only runs to God in prayer himself, but he also calls others to pray with him.
Did You Not, Our God?
While Jehoshaphat is admittedly afraid and without a good plan himself, he is not despairing. In fact, his prayer rings with boldness and steady hope in the God of his people. Where does his courage come from?
Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you — for your name is in this house — and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.” (2 Chronicles 20:7–9)
Jehoshaphat’s hope is built on the promises and presence of God. It is God’s name that dwells in Judah, and therefore his glory is at stake in this great horde marching against them. Jehoshaphat knows that God is passionate about his glory and faithful to keep all his promises, so he appeals to him with great confidence and directness knowing he’ll find well-timed help because of the covenant love of God (Hebrews 4:14–16).
In the same way, even when we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances, steady hope lives and endures in the promises of God to us in Christ. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will lead us even in the valley of the shadow of death, pursuing us with his goodness and mercy all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:4, 6). Jesus will not break a bruised reed or put out a smoldering wick (Isaiah 42:3). Jesus will pour out his all-sufficient grace as we boast in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord as he works all things for our good (Romans 8:28–39).
When we are afraid, we pray with confidence because of these sure and steady promises — promises that are ours because Jesus bled and died to make us sons and daughters of God.
God Spoke Through Whom?
As Jehoshaphat draws the people together to pray, God sends strength and encouragement in an unexpected way. The Spirit of God fills, not Jehoshaphat, but a man named Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14). Jahaziel rises and declares, “Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s’” (2 Chronicles 20:15). Do not fear; God will fight for us. And despite everything we can see, we will win(2 Chronicles 20:17).
The particular word of hope that needs to be spoken does not always come to the king — or, in our day, to the pastor or small-group leader. As we suffer, share our burdens with one another, and seek the Lord together through prayer, God very often will speak through someone else.
Our individualized society, at least in the West, has often invaded our churches. We gather together once a week to sing, pray, take the Lord’s Table, and hear God’s word preached (still a beautiful thing!), but often don’t actually live like a blood-bought family — at least not like the one we see in the New Testament (Acts 2:42–47; 20:28).
Members of the early church were so close, and the self-giving love of Christ was so prevalent among them, that none of them counted any of their possessions as their own. They gladly met the needs of one another. The apostle Paul calls Christians to join him in prayer, so that as many pray and God answers, God gets more glory (2 Corinthians 1:11). It feels simpler and easier and more comfortable to keep our struggles to ourselves and search for our own answers. But God has placed believers in a body — in a family where he manifests his love through mutual care and prayer.
In other words, if we don’t let other people into our trials and crises, we miss out on the blessing we might have received from God.
What Is Our Victory?
The people of Judah received Jahaziel’s word with joy. The next morning, Jehoshaphat calls them to believe the word of the Lord, and they march out to face the army. Oh, that we would pause when the circumstances are hard and ask ourselves if we believe the word of the Lord, receiving the Spirit’s witness of the Father’s care for us in our hearts (Romans 8:15–16).
Again, they do a surprising thing. They send the band out first (2 Chronicles 20:21–22). This is not sound practice for winning a battle. It is sound practice for worship, when you trust the God who has given you a promise. As they begin to sing, the Lord routes the greater, stronger army. Israel praises his name for the great victory.
You might be thinking, How can I worship when it seems like the Lord is not winning the battle that way for me? How can we worship as we march into what seems like overwhelming odds, without a specific word from God about our situation?
The answer is that our victory in Christ is as sure as the victory promised to Judah, if we believe what God has said in Christ. The Bible promises us that, whatever we may face or suffer or lose in this life, those whom God predestined are called, those called are justified, and those justified are glorified. It is certain. Our future is secure. For us “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Welcome God (and Others)
We can lay down our self-sufficiency, invite others into our fears, and then pray and worship expectantly, knowing that one way or another, our victory is sure. As sure as Judah’s victory over the Moabites and Ammonites.
As my bride and I have walked through our current trial, we’ve felt God lead us to let people into the war with us. And we have been overwhelmed by the prayers and encouragement we have received. Under God, they have sustained us and held up our eyes to Jesus in the midst of what feels, at times, like overwhelming pain and fear.
God will work in and among his people to save and sustain us as we boldly approach him together. He has designed his universe to work this way, so that we are weaned off of self-sufficiency, into fuller dependence on him for everything we need, so that, over and over again, he gets the glory.
Conclusion of article: Friends: In early 2017, I wrote a series called ‘Let There Be Light’. It was the original work, a short series, that was the catalyst for the Daily Light devotional studies. Chapter II of that original series was “The Default Program”. I continue to receive regular feedback from people from all walks of life who tell me that reading The Default Program opened their understanding as to the operation and function of the sin nature that dwells inside all human flesh with its purpose to keep non-believers blinded and separated from the light of God…and to keep believers from growing in their relationship with God and becoming all that God desires for them to be as to bearing much fruit. People share that the information provided in this series helped them to come to a personal relationship with God and has helped them to grow in their relationship with him. Thus I want to share Chapter II of the series with you over the next 4 days of Daily Light. I pray that God will use it to give you freedom and power to experience more of His love and purpose for your life ‘so that’ you can have more light to shine His light out into the darkness of the world around you. 🙂 DH
The Default Program (Chapter II – 3 parts) by Don Hester
Identifying and Understanding the Default Program (Chapter II, Part 3 conclusion)
So here we have a catch 22. A catch–22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules (Wikipediea.org).
The main objective of the sin nature’s default program is to keep believers living in a less-than ‘full’ state. It is to keep the believer blind and deceived and distant from the experience and understanding of Gods design for ‘full.” It is a default program that provides the ever illusive promise of gratification and satisfaction within a false reality. It is an alternate reality that is designed to keep the system user from ever realizing or achieving the original designer’s purpose and intention. The default program installs a never ending loop and replay of its basic premise, which in reality is a lie-loop. The idea of the loop can be likened to a hamster running on a wheel in a cage. It constantly is moving, but not reaching an intended destination. The goal of the default program is to keep us content and confined within a false reality so that we can never fully achieve our ultimate God intended destination of ‘full’. It is a false reality and can never achieve ‘full’ joy, full peace, full love, or full understanding. It uses the same premise that it used with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (My paraphrase from Genesis account: ‘Surely God did not mean that if you ate this delicious apple that you would die…surely not…what he didn’t want you to know is that if you did eat it..you will be like God.’) Lies, more lies, and deception are the core tactics that are used by the sin nature.
The catch 22 is we are born with a capacity to realize God’s design for living life to the full, but we do not have the ability to realize or achieve it ‘without’ God’s source and supply. Without God’s light shining into our darkness and illusion, we have no reference or basis for ‘true full’. Thus from our birth, we are tricked into thinking that quarter-full, or half-full, is true full. The default program uses every experience we have within our quest to seek satisfaction for our created needs and seeks to create a false definition of ‘full’. Its mechanism is to keep us busy in seeking ‘full’ satisfaction for our needs but blinding us and preventing us from seeing that ‘full’ can only truly be realized and achieved by entering into a relationship with God for source and supply of all our needs. We are stuck in a loop of darkness and deception. The default program mechanism’s primary objective is to keep the light of God’s truth from entering into the darkness and void of the loop of false reality.
The spirit of man was designed to be ‘full’ of God, with God. It can be likened to a pump. The pump must receive input from one side to produce output on the other side. The kind and type of what it takes in as input is what it produces of like and kind in output. The sin nature seeks to be the source and supply for input into our pump. It works hard to block us from coming to understand that its like and kind supply can never fully fill our spirit and give us ‘full’ joy, peace, love, and understanding.
The most powerful ability of the sin nature is that it works at an invisible level and cloaks its operation under a blindfold of illusion. It even creates an alternate reality for our mind as to what we define and how we define and determine ‘satisfaction’. It actually overrides the original designer’s programming and installs its own default program for how we can achieve ultimate satisfaction for all of our desires and needs. The programming provides distortion, half-truths, lies, dead-ends, road blocks, and detours to steer us away from the pathways of understanding that lead to light and truth. One of its major tactics is to provide pathways to gratification of our needs. It provides a false illusion of satisfaction. Once we taste of the illusion of satisfaction, the default program has the ability to write new code and it imprints the pathway, process, and memory of the illusion of satisfaction into our minds to install a go-to default pathway. Over time, the effect of the sin nature’s default go-to pathways become a false-natural behavior for us as to what we know and understand or believe about how to fulfill our needs. Thus we become stuck in the default systems lie-loop. And the power of the sin nature’s ‘blindfold’ effect over our mind keeps us from seeing that we have been deceived.
The ‘god’ (Satan) of the default program, sits back in the control chair in his dominion of darkness and he laughs at us and delights in our blindness. He watches us run on our wheels in our cages that we build within our illusion of what and how life should operate. He is thrilled to have us find pleasure and contentment within our false reality of what satisfies us in our pursuit to fill our needs. He loves that we are ‘comfortable’ and content in our delusion of living life ‘full’ within his prescription for full. And he is relentless in his objective to insure that the default program is constantly working inside our operating system to keep us comfortable and content at living life less than at ‘full’ as God designed us to live. He delights in pushing his gotcha-again button on every occasion that his default system steers us back onto the wheel so that we are once again duped by the influence of the default go-to programming.
As ‘believers’, all of us, get stuck in the default programs loop of deception. We all have our areas of personal struggle. The sin nature is at war against us. It jerks us back and forth inside the loop as it provides its half-full doses of joy and happiness and its doses of pain, sorrow, sadness, and failure. It loves to push the gotcha-again button and cause us to feel the sorrow and guilt of condemnation. It knows when to inject us with some new placebo that gives us a short term dose of joy, love, gratification. It works in each one of us the same, but differently. For each, its objective is to create a customized illusion to create that ‘just-right’ degree of satisfaction and gratification in our pursuit and seeking to fulfill our needs. Even our blessings, the warmth of our home, our food, our cars, our toys, our pursuits, interest, hobbies…all of these good things…the default system creates a distorted view as to their value to us that is fashioned to appeal to our need for comfort and gratification.
As believers, it is vital that we know that the sin nature’s primary mission is to do everything in its power to keep us from realizing and achieving God’s design and intention for us to be fully functioning. It seeks to damage our internal ability to have faith, to see faith, and to understand how to operate ‘in faith’. Ultimately it seeks to keep us from glorifying God and achieving his highest and perfect plan for our lives.
There is a war going-on on planet earth. The bottom line is eternal life and death. We are in the battle. There is the side of light and truth, and there is the dark side. If we are a believer, we are on the side of light and truth. The rules of war have allowed the dark side to have the ability to interfere with our ability to become a great and powerful warrior on the side of light and truth. This ability works at an invisible level under a cloak of deception. It is so powerful that it can keep us from even realizing we are warrior in a battle. It can keep us from seeing our destiny, our potential, our high calling to engage in battle. Mostly it seeks to keep us busy, preoccupied, and content and comfortable ‘so that’ we will not come to life in the ‘full‘. (end) 😊
Con’t from Friday: Friends: In early 2017, I wrote a series called ‘Let There Be Light’. It was the original work, a short series, that was the catalyst for the Daily Light devotional studies. Chapter II of that original series was “The Default Program”. I continue to receive regular feedback from people from all walks of life who tell me that reading The Default Program opened their understanding as to the operation and function of the sin nature that dwells inside all human flesh with its purpose to keep non-believers blinded and separated from the light of God…and to keep believers from growing in their relationship with God and becoming all that God desires for them to be as to bearing much fruit. People share that the information provided in this series helped them to come to a personal relationship with God and has helped them to grow in their relationship with him. Thus I want to share Chapter II of the series with you over the next 4 days of Daily Light. I pray that God will use it to give you freedom and power to experience more of His love and purpose for your life ‘so that’ you can have more light to shine His light out into the darkness of the world around you. 🙂 Don Hester
The Default Program (Chapter II – 3 parts)
Identifying and Understanding the Default Program (Chapter II, Part 3)
We have carefully sought to establish that all men, as a consequence of the ‘fall’, are born with a ‘sin nature’ that is at work inside their body. The ‘sin nature’ is also identified in the bible as the old self, old man, and the flesh. The sin nature belongs to the realm of evil and is controlled by Satan. We defined this realm in prior posts as the ‘dominion of darkness’. Its purpose is to create a false reality, an illusion, to blind the mind ‘so that’ it cannot ‘see’ the truth and light of God. Its purpose is to keep men in darkness.
II Corinthians 4:4 NIV “The god (Satan) of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light..”
1 Corinthians 2:14: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Romans 8:7-8 NIV “…because the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so.”
Galatians 5:17-23 NIV “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
The sin nature has such ‘influence’ over the mind that it can create the illusion that the truth of God is foolishness. It seeks to make the mind hostile to the truth of God. From the time of our birth, the objective of the sin nature is to set the mind on a path of self-gratification as defined by the sin nature that is in contrast to and in opposition to God’s design and intention as to the ‘truth’ of how we are designed to function in life. From birth, the default program of the sin nature goes to work to ‘blind’ the mind from ‘truth.
The bible divides all men into two classes. These classes represent the difference between children of God or children of the devil, spiritual or of the flesh, believers or non-believers. It defines the difference between actions, behavior, and attitude of the old man and the new man and those that are born of the flesh, or born of the Spirit.
The sin nature has a different agenda as relates to its objective for the two classes. It uses different approaches and techniques to achieve its purpose within each class. We will simply refer to the two classes as believers and non-believers. Most of what we have defined heretofore speaks to the effect of the sin nature as relates to non-believers. Its primary objective is to keep a non-believer as a non-believer. To keep him ‘blind’ and in darkness to the light of truth about God. To keep him from ‘divinely knowing’ God. The default program of the sin nature literally installs a ‘block’ over the light of ‘truth’. It is not that non-believers are unwilling to see the light of truth, to see ultimate spiritual reality, or to see God’s highest and best for us. No. It is that the effect of the operation of the sin nature literally makes a non-believer ‘unable’ to see, to come to, the light of truth.
Once a person comes to ‘divinely know’ God and belongs to the ‘believer’ class, the sin nature’s focus and objective shifts to a secondary agenda. That agenda is to keep believers from becoming a ‘mature’ and fully functioning believer within God’s design and intention and plan. The sin nature, the old self/man, the mind of the flesh, continues to work inside of the mind of a believer to keep them from becoming all they can become as a believer. The default program of the sin nature uses schemes and tactics within its ability to install and re-play preconceived and erroneous beliefs and limited or false ideas and works to keep its programming as the minds primary ‘default’ go-to program. The default program’s primary mission is to keep the ‘old’ way of thinking and acting as the default go-to in our thinking and decision making process.
The sin nature’s default program, from our birth, works to define the ideas and thinking that drive our activity and our ideas. As an apostle and a ‘believer’, Paul wrote:
Romans 7: 23 NIV “..but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members…”
The ‘mind’ of the sin nature, is referred to in the New Testament translations as the ‘sinful nature’ and the ‘flesh’. It is best defined in Romans 8:7-8 NIV “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”
The first question of the Westminster Catechism is: What is the chief end of man? The answer given is: The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27 NIV “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
John 10:10 NIV “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they you may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 14:27 NIV “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
God’s purpose and intention in creating us is ‘so that’ we can enter into a personal relationship with him ‘so that’ we will glorify him and live our life to the ‘full.” God designed us within our three dimensional capacity of mind, body, spirit, to have the ability to experience ‘life’ within a prescribed order of expression that he defines as ‘full’. Not half-full or partially full, but ‘full’. God designed for us to have a ‘full’ body/mind/spirit experiential understanding of love, peace, joy, happiness, and understanding. He designed us to have an internal hierarchy of needs that causes us to ‘seek’ to fully achieve the highest level of satisfaction and gratification related to his design for the fulfillment and expression of those needs. God designed what our needs would be and he designed the ‘source and supply’ for how we would fully achieve those. He wired us to fulfill our needs within his design for fulfillment. God designed that our ‘needs’ can only be fully realized and experienced in and through an interactive and dependent relationship with him. God designed our internal operating system to be connected to his operating system. God designed that all of our needs to achieve ‘full’ on the satisfaction/gratification reality gauge required our being necessarily dependent on him/God to be source and supply for our needs. God designed the requirement into our human operating system that we could not achieve ‘full’ status in our joy, peace, love, understanding, without having his provision of source and supply. God designed our operating software to work in conjunction with his operating software ‘in order’ that the ‘full’ operating objectives and system potential could be realized and achieved. (conclusion tomorrow)