Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Lamech’s Boast

Do parents influence their children, grandchildren, and future generations? The answer is an emphatic “yes!” Whether for good or bad, we are giving them a lasting example. They learn from us what life is all about and what conclusions we have drawn. If we have concluded that God is our creator and that our primary purpose in life is to live for his glory, that will be portrayed. If, however, we have concluded that our goal is to live for our own glory and satisfaction, that will be imbibed by our posterity.

Lamech was a descendant of Cain. He was a violent, boastful man who had two wives. It is not difficult to see Cain’s influence in Lamech. Cain had an anger problem that he could not control. It was so out of control that it caused him to murder his brother. Cain could not deal with rejection without resorting to violence. He wore his anger as a badge, and Lamech learned to do the same.

The boast of Lamech (Gen 4: 23-26) is the boast of one who devalues life. Lamech bragged about killing a man for wounding him and another young man for merely striking him. Can we make a connection here to our age? It is shocking to see so many movies, video games, and rap music that devalue life through violence while glorifying the exploits of the perpetrator. Our society is plagued with the boast of Lamech. Those who follow Lamech will ultimately find they have made the wrong choice.

I have heard the same story a thousand times. It is the story of Cain and the boast of Lamech. It is the story of living life “My Way.” He tells me, “I pursued my happiness, but I could not find it." The story suddenly changes from a boast to a sob, one filled with pain, heartache, and brokenness without remedy. With difficulty I listen to the regret, "He promised that it would fulfill the heartache and satisfy the longing, but it was a lie." The story ends with disgrace, a shame that torments its victims. She looks up in tears and says, "I never thought it would turn out like this." They are lives that are broken in a thousand pieces. There is nothing in this world that can put a life like that back together—only God in his grace can do that! Lamech can be seen today in so many places with his desire for vengeance and violence. While Cain’s descendants lived out Lamech’s boast—the descendants of Seth called on the name of the Lord. What a contrast! There could not be more of a difference than between Lamech’s way and Christ’s way. Lamech boasted of killing and getting his way, while Christ says to forgive and keep on forgiving.

Sometimes we wonder “Can I make a difference in this world?” “Can my life do any good in a world that is so lost and so dark?” The answer is a resounding “yes,” if we like Seth call on the name of the Lord. “God, please help me to be a good father or mother. Help me, Lord, to be a godly worker on my job and work for your glory. Help me to share your love and your grace with those around me. Help me to forgive as you have forgiven me.” In doing these things and living a dependent life on the Holy Spirit, your life will shine as Paul says as “stars in the universe.”

In the text of Hebrews 12:1-2, we see a grand stadium filled with great men and women of renown. They are Abraham, Joseph, Jochebed, Moses, Debra, Daniel, Jeremiah, Paul, and thousands more. They are standing as the race prepares to begin. Each of us takes our place at the starting line, and we are encouraged to empty our pockets of any unnecessary weight that would slow us down. We are told to focus our eyes on Jesus and run with grit. Remember how Jesus ran this race. He looked at the joy that was before him—the pleasure of seeing all of us redeemed from our sin. Looking at that joy helped him endure the cross and set aside its shame and finish his mission. What can you set aside, and what shame can you disregard so that you can run this race to the finish line?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Way of Cain

Murder has become all too common in America. I live in one of the murder capitals of the United States, St. Louis. The first murder recorded in the Bible is that of Cain murdering his brother Abel. Jude calls the whole ordeal the Way of Cain. Everything got its start over jealousy with Abel’s offering that was accepted by God and Cain’s resentment of God for not receiving his offering.

The primary difference between the two offerings was that of the heart. It came down to attitude. Cain did his own thing when he offered his offering, but Abel came to God on God's terms. Cain was proud and arrogant and refused correction even when God graciously tried to help him.

Cain premeditated the murder of his brother, but before he executed the horrible deed, God reached out to him in mercy. God painted a word picture for Cain to help him fully understand the gravity of his situation. If he chose to follow his hate and resentment, then he would regret his decision for the rest of his life. If he mastered his feelings and did what was right, he would greatly benefit. God described sin as a beast crouching at the door ready to pounce on him (Gen 4:1-16). If Cain did not master it, the monster would tear his life in pieces. God warned Cain that if he let this beast out of the cage, things would rapidly progress far beyond his control. The same goes for all of us in our stubbornness to win arguments and lose the war. This is what happens in marriages everywhere. God speaks to us through our consciences and many other ways and beckons us to do the right thing. When we refuse, we let the beast of our selfish nature out of the cage to assail those around us.

Cain stood at a fork in the road with two ways before him, one was God’s way and the other his. God's descriptive words about sin as a crouching beast never penetrated his hard heart, and he in willful disobedience went the way of Cain. Is this not a picture of our lives? Here we get a portrayal of ourselves in the story of Cain and the patience and kindness of God to prepare us for what is about to occur. What we see is not flattering because it is an accurate depiction of our rebellion against God. That sinful nature does not belong just to Cain; it belongs to each of us.

Anger must be dealt with head-on. It cannot be ignored or passed over because it will become with time an uncontrollable beast. Parents, you cannot overlook anger in your child. I don’t care how sweet the child is. You do a disservice to your child and all the people who will ultimately be in his or her life.

Immediately following the murder of Abel, God confronted Cain. He showed no remorse, no sadness, and no regret. Cain’s flippant attitude when asked where his brother was, was "Am I my brother's keeper?" God responded that Abel’s blood cried out from the ground to him. Do we not see Cain’s flippant attitude in New York’s new law to kill unborn and nearly born babies? Though this law follows the way of Cain, every baby murdered through abortion and infanticide cries out to God.

Following the murder, Cain’s life is a picture of a broken man or woman, still rebellious, still unrepentant but disconnected from those around him or her and from God. The curse of humanity today is the curse of broken relationships. The brokenness of connection with God and with others. Cain experienced isolation that is itself a curse. What Cain was created for and longed for he was denied, and this is the consequence of the way of Cain.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Covering for Shame

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they experienced shame for the first time in their lives. They made a futile attempt to deal with the shame by making coverings for themselves out of leaves. Their coverings were inadequate because they hid from the presence of God. Because of their disobedience, sin entered their world, and it forever changed. The loss they experienced had to be overwhelming—their intimacy with God and each other and even their environment drastically changed.

Shame is always tied to loss: The humiliation of a lost reputation, the pain of a disintegrated family, the regret of a lost opportunity. Adam and Eve knew the shame of the lost Garden. The garden’s custodian, Adam, was sent away never to return. This sense of loss is pictured in Ezekiel’s words to Israel in his prophetic message: “Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was” (Ezekiel 21:26). If left to our shame, we could not bear it, but God extends grace and mercy to us.

If attention is the motor of the mind, then emotions are the fuel of the mind. You and I can identify with this. When you cannot concentrate on a task, you find it difficult to finish. When you experience shame, your attention and emotions are significantly affected. Tasks remain unfinished for lack of passion and motivation. What you want to do you cannot do. Imagine how the ability to concentrate and the accompanying feelings were now turned upside down for Adam and Eve.

The shame and pain they experienced as a result of their sin and the curse is endemic of all of us. The curse was pervasive, but someday we look forward to the end of that curse. Isaac Watts expressed that in “Joy to the World”: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”

How far does the curse extend? It finds its way to each human heart! The hiding of Adam and Eve in the garden from God for their shame is found in every person. The shame of not being good enough, smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, is seen in all of us. The futile attempt to hide our failings only causes the shame to grow even more powerful. But one day God will restore Eden and remove the curse. This world’s attempts to make a genuinely shameless society are entirely futile. We will only honestly know a shameless world in heaven.

God made garments for Adam and Eve from animal skins (Gen 3:21). Animals had to die to mitigate the shame of the first couple. Mitigate is a good word. It means to alleviate or lighten the load by reducing the burden of depression or weight. Our sin is mitigated through God’s mercy and grace. The burden does not go entirely away because sin has consequences, but God through his mercy and forgiveness mitigates our burden. When parents learn to alleviate the shame of their children, they are doing what God does for us through his grace.

Our attempts to deal with shame in our lives, especially the shame that comes from sin—our own and the sin of others, are inadequate. We repress the shame, we ignore it, we blame others, we project our shame on others, but none of this will alleviate the shame. Our attempts to cover our shame are woefully inadequate—as the coverings of leaves that Adam and Eve made for themselves. We need the covering that God gives us.  This is what God did for Adam and Eve. Through the death of Jesus on the cross, God has provided a covering to every one of us for our shame that our sin has caused us. Just as animals shed their blood for Adam and Eve to have a covering, Jesus shed his blood to make redemption for us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A World Turned Upside Down

Every ani­mal was made for man. That is clear in the creation account where God gave jurisdiction over all the plant kingdom and animal kingdom to man (Gen 1:29-31). Animals were created for and were to be subject to man. God does not want animals abused or the innocent shedding of blood even of animals, but clearly, animals are subservient to man. Today we see this order being perverted. Animals are regularly given more importance than humans. You can go to prison for destroying a turtle’s eggs or harming an eagle’s nest, but you can kill your baby with immunity through abortion. This week, New York passed a law that allows for abortion up to the moment of birth. Virginia attempted to pass the same law this week, and it failed by one vote. The governor of Virginia says it is all right for the baby, after it’s born, to be put to death if that is the choice of the mother and the physicians. The mother and her doctor can have a discussion as to whether or not they want the baby to live after it’s born. California, Vermont, New Mexico, and other states are moving in the same direction.

How is it possible that the killing of animals and even unborn animals is cruel, but the killing of unborn humans is permissible? Many people say that they are not for abortion but are pro-choice. There is only one option here. To be pro-choice is to be against the baby’s choice. It sounds noble to stand for a woman’s right to choose, but it also sounds barbaric to understand that the woman’s choice means death to her infant. We cannot ignore the fact that the infant past 18 weeks feels pain—horrific pain when it is aborted! It is indeed a world turned upside down when there is more protection for animals and even unborn animals than there is for an unborn human.