A SENSIBLE LOOK AT GENESIS FOR THINKING PEOPLE
Many people who accept the Genesis accounts believe the earth is in the neighborhood of six to ten thousand years old. They believe the Hebrews were the first [and God’s “chosen”] people. They believe the story of the Tower of Babel–the explanation for various languages. They believe the story of Noah’s Ark–God’s own admission that [he] had made a mistake! So, their God was not so perfect, after all! Did God not admit his “imperfection,” his disappointment in his creation before commanding Noah to build the ark? Fundamentalists are reluctant to see these imperfections throughout “God’s inspired Word?”
They overlook the fact that civilizations far older than the Hebrews existed millennia before the time of Abraham and Moses–the Egyptians, Chinese, Babylonian, Mesopotamians, etc. They fail to take into account the timeline of Moses, who was raised in Egypt and became the deliverer of the Hebrews from Egyptian domination. They credit the writing of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) to Moses, who described in detail his own death and burial!
All of the early Genesis stories, and more throughout the Old Testament, put in readers’ minds the idea that the God of the Israelites–Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim–was in point of fact a very strange God, indeed!
Genesis 3:4-5 tells an intriguing story about how Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the fruit which God had placed in the center of the Garden of Eden, telling the pair that they must not partake of it, because “you must not touch it or you will die.” (Actually, there were two forbidden trees in the center of the garden, according to Genesis 2:9, but it appears, according to Genesis 3:24, it was the fruit of the “tree of life” that was most forbidden.)
I cannot imagine anything more tempting, especially to the innocent, than to make something central to their focus and attention and tell them not to have anything whatsoever to do with it.
My wife tells the story of a beautiful, fuzzy, furry-like cactus that was kept on a table on her parent’s front porch. Many times they cautioned her that she must not touch the cactus because, if she did, the prickly needles of the cactus, as baby-soft as they appeared to be, would stick into her fingers like splinters and it would be a painful experience. Of course, she could not keep her eyes away from the plant and, eventually, she reached out with both hands to caress it. The result was just as her parents had warned, and she suffered greatly as the tiny, sharp spikes had to be plucked from her tiny palms with tweezers.
But, to make the “main” trees more alluring, remember Adam and Eve were told, according to Genesis 2:9, that these trees were called “the tree of life” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Some basic, down-to-earth considerations come to mind. As we came to understand earlier, Adam and Eve were innocent beings. In their nakedness, they felt no shame. At this point, how were they to understand anything at all about life? About good? About evil? About death? Or, even about “knowledge.” They were as pure as newborn babes. Apparently this lack of knowledge only intensified their curiosity. That’s only human!
Their Creator should have been aware of this important detail about them; which tells us, strictly speaking, that they were “set up.” An omniscient God would surely have understood that He was manipulating their simple-mindedness and their lack of sophistication. When the exceptionally attractive and wily serpent arrived on the scene, they were fully primed, as malleable as putty in his hands(?). Eve, and eventually Adam (or vice versa), probably couldn’t take their eyes away from those trees.
Who, by the way, is this serpent [who speaks in a language Adam and Eve understand] and where does it come from? Was it not among the animals that had paraded before Adam to be given a name? It is apparent that it was NOT a snake…certainly not any kind of a snake we know about. The snake was not afraid of the man and the woman. It was not slithering along the ground, tongue flitting in and out suggestively. It sounds as if the serpent was a magnificent creature. Possibly more attractive than the God who came strolling through the morning mists! Or, so the story goes….
To make matters worse, it appears that God had stretched the truth a bit for Adam and Eve, for after having eaten of the fruit(s), they did not “surely die!” Their punishment appears to have been expulsion from Eden, their paradise home. Undoubtedly they lived long enough to produce their allotment of children and, we assume, died of old age. By that time, they had most likely forgotten about the damned fruit from those trees way back yonder when….
Was it God’s original plan for Adam and Eve to be his only human creation? Were they always to remain naked and unashamed? Was it God’s intention that they would live in Eden forever and “fellowship” only with God? If this were the case, God surely would have planned it that way and the whole serpent-temptation-disobedience story line would been wholly unnecessary. Obviously, if God created instantaneously everything that is, God created the serpent. Or, was the serpent, from creation, the “evil” that seems to have coexisted alongside the “good?”
On the other hand, if it was God’s original plan for Adam and Eve to be his only human creation, why were they so well-equipped for reproduction? When or where did they develop a sense of passion?
Suddenly, about the time of this story, man and woman become acutely aware of their sexual differences and fashioned coverings for themselves. We are given the sense in spite of the fact that they were aware and alone, they were uncomfortable (ashamed) being naked in each other’s presence.
When God came walking in the garden, was he naked? And if he was not, what kinds of clothing did he wear? As we can see, this picture of an anthropomorphic God in Genesis conflicts starkly with passages throughout the Bible where God is referred to as “Spirit,” and “Love.” Later, we must wonder exactly what God meant when He said, “Let us make man in our image.” Does God look like man, and man look like God? It is impossible to deny that we are given conflicting portraits of the Creator in the book of Genesis and other parts of the Bible. If God is strictly “spiritual,” then we are provided with misleading portraits in the Pentateuch. If God is at least in part physical, then we are mislead by the word pictures of the Gospels and the Epistles.
Nakedness, as we shall see later in the stories of Noah and Lot, seems to have generated or established its own unique set of moral parameters and taboos early on. Since God had told Adam he was going to provide for him a suitable “help-mate,” it seems rather bizarre that they were so soon ashamed to be naked in each other’s presence. And why? When and how did they develop this innate sense of modesty? None of the other animals God created seem to have developed this need for privacy or covering.
The writers of Genesis did not understand the biomechanics of reproduction. They could not have known about the egg and the sperm. Frankly, Adam and Eve must have discovered the pleasures of their carnality without any understanding of conception and reproduction. We certainly have no record of God explaining to them how they might copulate and reproduce. So, it is noteworthy that soon following their rendezvous with the serpent they were ashamed to be naked in each other’s presence. Thus, almost from the beginning we have this distinct connection between sex and sin, and the theme continues unabated through the stories in Genesis. Actually throughout the entire Old and New Testaments.
I spent the better part of 2014 battling insignificance. The book was prophetic and timely, looking back I can see God led me to the book in preparation for what was to come. 2015 if I didn’t know better, I could say it was the year I fell from grace. Everything points to that, health, education, family including church. The reality was this, God wanted me to embrace obscurity.
Anonymous had incredible advice for me:
When we accept that our value is not dependent on what we do or accomplish, we are ironically liberated to do much for Christ. Not “much” in the ways for which we’ve striven up to this point, but “much” in terms of fulfilling the two greatest commandments : loving God and loving others (Matt. 22: 34– 40). It makes sense , doesn’t it? How can we possibly love God or love others from a pure heart while we’re chasing after frivolities to confirm our value?
This is why I love books, if the writer willingly submits to God, their words can become a beacon of life to people they have never met. I came to Christ after reading a book by a German evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke. For that reason, I hold good Christian books in high regard.
There’s nothing I cherish more in Christian books than finding lessons that can draw me closer to God and aid me in experiencing the glory of the Father in the Son. This is why I continue to read and strive to be a better writer.
Although 2015 was a very difficult year for me and my family, there are some important lessons that I learned from my reading that I believe would be helpful to you in 2016 and the years to come.
4 Lessons I learned from Christian books on Prayer
1 Even the heroes of faith struggled in hearing God’s voice
Although Karen Dabhagian’s Travelogue of the Interior explored application of the book of Psalm as a tool for retelling our stories and pouring out our hearts to God in praise and lament, with doubt and faith, a quick side note on faith of the heroes of faith blew my mind. When we think of Abraham as the father of faith it is easy to assume that when God called him it was loud and clear. This might not be true. God could have called him through a still small voice that was easy to dismiss.
2 When I don’t pray it’s not because I don’t feel like it. It’s because I don’t trust God enough
I do not agree with Donald S. Whitney’s assertion in Praying the Bible, “Genuinely Christian people— often do not pray simply because they do not feel like it. And the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things.” The problem with this prognosis is that it doesn’t go to the root of the problem: lack or loss of faith in God. Praying the Bible is an excellent book on using the Bible as a prayer handbook. Sometimes the best lessons we learn come from people who disagree with us.
3 The best way to learn how to pray is by starting to pray
It might look narcissistic to include a lesson from my own book. I have read The Secret Place numerous times and each time I have learned something new. The reason we don’t pray enough is because we do not pray. A prayer life is like a catalytic chain reaction, once it starts it doesn’t stop unless you take away the catalyst or the reacting substances. The Holy Spirit is our catalyst. Prayer is not a subject to be mastered or an area demanding expertise, but a practice that one needs to engage in daily.
4 If you see Jesus enough, you too would like to pray like him
The health of your prayer life is determined by the loftiness of your God concept. True prayer proceeds after a paradigm shifting encounter with God. The kind that destroys everything you believed about him replacing it with an authentic panoramic view of his glory, majesty, power and wisdom. R.C. Sproul in The Prayer of the Lord contends that the disciples so the link between Christ’s power and his prayer life. So, they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
5 Lessons I Learned from Christian Books on Preaching
5 Christian bloggers and authors are also preachers
How you view your writing determines how you blog. It never occurred to me that as a blogger and author I was a minister of the word. In Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller wrote. “Christians who are presenting biblical teaching are not to be simply expressing their own opinion but giving others “the very words of God.”… And if they explain the meaning of the Bible faithfully, listeners will be able to hear God speaking to them in the exposition.” Therefore, as a blogger every article I write should reveal God’s voice clearly.
6 The problem with my blog is not the method, but the message
I made a mistake of thinking that my blogging skills would help me improve my blog’s reach, resonance and reactions. I followed all the blogging advice, avoiding boring headlines, writing short paragraphs, adding pictures, search engine optimization etc., it worked for a while, but never gave a lasting impact. Trevin Wax gave me the best blogging advice in Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in all the Scriptures, “I’m convinced that the method is not what matters most anyway; it’s the message. Get the message right, and God will work through a variety of methods. But miss the message, and the best methods in the world won’t bring about transformation.”
7 A good preacher/blogger knows their audience
In blogging, articles that are shared the most have high resonance with the reader. Unfortunately, resonance is often mistook for relevance. For example, churches, especially youth ministries think making the gospel cool will make them reach more young people. Resonance is established when you deliver a message that is sensitive to the listener or reader without compromising the integrity of the gospel. In Preaching the Whole Counsel of God, Julius J. Kim advised ministers of the word to follow Paul’s leading, “Paul engaged in careful audience analysis to discern his listeners ’ spiritual and cultural state so as to present the gospel of Jesus more effectively. Knowing your audience influences the text you select.”
8 Prepare the heart more than the head
Robert Murray McCheyne diary entry on February 21, 1836 described perfectly how I approached blogging for long, “Preached twice at Larbert, on the righteousness of God. Rom. 1:16. In the morning was more engaged in preparing the head than the heart. This has been frequently my error.” This also has been my error, I prepare the head more than the heart. Sometimes, I even neglect the heart and watch it drift away as I continue in my obsession with knowledge and intellectual elitism. John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching attacks the error at its core, “The goal of preaching is the glory of God reflected in the glad submission of the human heart. And the supremacy of God in preaching is secured by this fact: The one who satisfies gets the glory; the one who gives the pleasure is the treasure.”
9 I am a spokesperson for God
J.I. Parker defined ministering of the word as ‘the event of God himself bringing to an audience a Bible-based, Christ-related, life-impacting message of instruction and direction through the words of a spokesperson.’ From this basis, Greg R. Scharf argues in Let the Earth Hear His Voice, “Success in preaching is defined by the extent to which the message gets through to the intended listeners in a form they can recognize as a word from God himself.” He added, “A faithful steward sees to it that all the treasure entrusted to him gets to its intended recipients in good condition.” Therefore, a good messenger cares for the Master, the message, the receivers and the method, in that order.
5 Lessons I Learned from Christian Living Books
10 God wants me to be happy
I have always believed that joy is more reverend than happiness. “It’s not just okay to be happy; it’s right to be happy… If we’re not experiencing happiness in God, then we’re disobeying and missing the abundant life Jesus came to give (John 10:10),” wrote Randy Alcorn in God’s Promise of Happiness. Nothing is as liberating as knowing that God’s happiness is not entirely dependent on my actions or inactions, “We flatter ourselves by imagining we are the primary source of God’s happiness, tilting him one way or the other by what we think, do, and say.”
11 Agreeing with the Word of God is good, but might not help you, at all
You and I both agree that the reason we are spiritually stunted, do not pray more better, are not fruitful and effective in the knowledge of God is because of unbelief. God is good all the time, God loves us, God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient; we know this to be true, we agree with this and yet… Barnabas Piper writes in Help My Unbelief, “Belief that collects knowledge and acknowledges something to be true but doesn’t transform one’s actions is the mere mental-assent part. Christianity is built on transformational belief.”
12 Your redemption narrative is a tapestry of God’s grace
“A life story doesn’t just say what happened, it says why it was important, what it means for who the person is, for who they’ll become, and for what happens next,” writes Julie Beck in The Atlantic. Lee Strobel interviewed Christians across the US from different economic and social backgrounds in The Case for Grace revealing how Christ’s goodness transforms people by giving them a new identity. From former drug addicts to infamous warlords, Strobel showed that facts and events do not craft a person, instead, “contributes a piece to the grace puzzle, showing how grace goes beyond forgiveness to acceptance and even adoption by God; how it restores hope when none is left; how it extends to the most heinous circumstances; and how it allows us to forgive those who caused our most intimate wounds — and even to forgive ourselves.”
13 Suffering people don’t need your sermons, they need you
Have you ever heard people say Christians are a bunch of pretentious liars? If you haven’t it’s probably because you haven’t hanged around people who are suffering. I will be praying for you, tell me when you need anything, all things with workout for the good, it is God’s will: these are some of the clichés we use to harass people who are suffering. InJust Show Up, Kara Tippetts who went home after a long battle with cancer advised, “But when we show up for one another we invade each other in love, and become witnesses to the truth that trials and sickness and pain are not the whole story.”
14 You win the battle against sin by turning to God and not yourself
Our spirit is regenerated, we renew our minds daily, but our bodies are not yet sanctified. This means the battle against sin is real, even though we might want to deny it. Fleshly desires is left untamed, give birth to temptation and when temptation is fully ripe leads to sin. How can we lay aside all the weights, especially the sin that easily ensnares us? “If turning from God to our own ways is the core of sin, then salvation involves the very opposite. Instead of turning our backs on God and defiantly choosing to sin and be estranged from him, we turn around to face God and submit to him,” advised A.C. Chukwuocha in The War Within: Christians and Inner Conflict.
3 Lessons I Learned from Christian Books on Productivity
15 I don’t have to be productive
The reason I am always trying to do a lot of things; blogging, writing books, both on science and Christianity, research, graphic designing etc, isn’t that I am very talented, but I long for significance and recognition. In the groundbreaking book on Gospel-Centered productivity, What’s Best Next, Matthew A. Perman had a paradigm shifting view on productivity, “The only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be productive.” I want my boss to know that I am smart enough, so I work extra hard, but I don’t have to. I want WordPress to honor me by featuring me on Discover, so I write good headlines, post regularly and write engaging unique content, but I don’t have to. I want to write a book on Writing in 2016 hoping it sell more copies, but I don’t have to. I want my blog to have at least 10,000 followers by the end of 2016, but I don’t have to. What I truly need is to glorify God through faithfully stewarding for the good of my family, friends, community and church.
16 It’s okay to say no
I’m a yesman. I find it difficult to say no to other people, except myself. In the end, I deprive myself of rest or moments of reflection. It takes faith to say no. Tim Challies quotes Randy Alcorn in Do More Better, “The key to a productive and contented life is “planned neglect”— knowing what not to do and being content with saying no to truly good, sometimes fantastic, opportunities. This happens only when you realize how truly limited you are, that you must steward your little life, and that of all the best things to do on the planet, God wants you to do only a miniscule number.” And adds, “You haven’t begun to live a focused and productive life until you have said no to great opportunities that just do not fit your mission.” I believe saying no is an act of great faith and I should do it more often.
17 I am not perfect and I shouldn’t waste my time trying to be a perfectionist
I have a big problem with perfection. I am a perfectionist and it’s a big problem considering it might have caused me thousands of dollars in the emergency room. Anxiety attacks, depression and so forth. The cause of perfectionism for me is acceptance and fear. I have wrongly wired my brain to think that people accept me because of the greatness and exceptionality of my work. On the other hand I am afraid of failing. Daniel Hochhalter was a PhD candidate in England. After many years of study he failed and gave some important advice in Losers Like Us, “Achievement, I thought, brings status, and status brings value. I feared that when achieving ceased, my status would crash and my value would evaporate.”
Following the Christmas holiday I don’t need to tell YOU that your family is……..well, challenged. I have one myself. I had an aunt that my mother disliked so much she never talked to her brother but, because of family dynamics, I needed to allow her to sing her warble of some song I didn’t even know at my wedding. I had another aunt who, in the 1950s got a (whisper here) divorce and all we ever heard was “don’t come running home to us if you have problems with your husband.” Not exactly a helpful life lesson.
So, we all have less than perfect families, and if we are true to form, we don’t do such a great job at parenting. We do what we know, so unless you have sought out a parenting class, you will have a tendency to teach your children in the same dysfunctional way you were raised.
In the interest of changing that here are TEN RULES TO BETTER FAMILY LIFE:
- Recognize that the reason you love your friends more than your family is because your friends let you do the shit your mom and dad won’t. That doesn’t mean that shit is good. It still is shit. Your parents literally cleaned up your shit as a baby and into your childhood, but now it is time for you to realize that your actions have consequences and you really need to accept responsibility. When you grow up, your relationships with the long term people who are on your life path AKA your family, will improve.
- Let go of anger. We want to be RIGHT! We want others to know they are WRONG! Let it go. It is not a helpful manner of communication. If you really feel strongly that your little sister or your second cousin is on the road to perdition, sit down calmly, maybe with a cup of lavender tea (ha ha) and ask why they feel their pathway is going to bring them the life they want. LISTEN. They probably will not come around, but at least you’ll understand better and maybe they will turn to you when they recognize they need to change their ways.
- Look in the mirror. Recognize your own flaws. Now praise your skills realistically. Understand that each of us is made of the entire ability spectrum. You and your buddies are not the only ones who can do things right. Even your parents get it right some of the time.
- Learn from others. Yup, even that warbling aunt of mine probably had something worthwhile to share with me……hard for me to imagine but I am remembering her with a child’s memory. If you are an adult, you can go where I was unable to perceive.
- Look at your children. We watched Home Alone again this Christmas and a few things were obvious to an outsider that the family members did not perceive. Be fair when you think over your kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t have them do what YOU wish you could have done as a kid if they are not interested. Help them develop their own interests. Help them learn to read and research.
- Look at your children again. Help them learn life skills like cooking, sewing buttons and hems, how to wash laundry and iron to press a shirt to make a good appearance, and how to swim. A man who expects his wife or girlfriend to do all the cooking does not realize the stress that constant task causes. More importantly, he never sees her face light up in pleasure when he prepares her a nourishing meal. A man who can cook is sexy.
- Look at your children again. Teach your kids to change their oil and their tires. You may not be that proficient yourself. Learn it together. Your daughters too. Watch your tendency for sexism. Let your sons and daughters learn they can access the entire array of arts and skills.
- Tell stories to your kids. Turn off the television and the electronic gadgets. Have one evening a month (or more) when you gather to share the stories of your childhood. Keep it as upbeat as possible. Your baggage with your parents need not be their baggage. Tell about adventures you had when you were tested and succeeded. Tell about times you thought you could do something but failed and how you responded to that experience. Let them tell stories too. Use a talking stick to pass the right to talk around the circle.
- Explore together. Food is an excellent vehicle for exploration. Move away from what you know. I remember when we visited England for the first time and I asked for bangers and mash at a pub because I had read about it in numerous British stories,. The server paused and then said, “You know that is nursery food?” In other words, for little kids. That was okay, since it was a new experience for me, but it is not okay for you to turn to mac and cheese every few days. Time to learn new tricks. You are an adult now. You have control over your gag reflex and will not barf into your plate. Really. Taste new things. You need not repeat if you honestly do not like it. But your world will open when you explore the amazing variety of flavors from all over the world.
- Realize, if you change your ways, your birth family members may make some snarky comments. That’s when you get to practice your smile and say, yeah! I’m doing great and I’m proud of my kids! And mean it.
Comedian Jim Jeffries tackled one of the most controversial subjects in the U.S. gun control laws.
Jeffries was once the victim of a home invasion in which he was tied up and beaten with his girlfriend, who was also threatened with rape. You’d think he’d have some cause for carrying a gun, no? Wrong! He brilliantly nails why Americans need to make a case for more gun control:
I’m going to say some things that are just facts. In Australia, we had guns. Right up until 1996. In 1996, Australia had the biggest massacre on earth. Still hasn’t been beaten. Now, after that they banned guns. In the 10 years before Port Arthur, there was 10 massacres. Since the gun ban in 1996, there hasn’t been a single massacre since. I don’t know how or why this happened….maybe it was a coincidence, right?
Now, please understand, I understand that America and Australia are two vastly different cultures with different people, right? I get it. In Australia we had the biggest massacre on earth and the Australian government went–that’s it! No more guns! And we all went–yeah, right then, that seems fair enough.
Now, in America you have the Sandy Hook massacre, which little, tiny children died and your government went….maybe we’ll get rid of the big guns? And 50% of you went – FUCK YOU, DON’T TAKE MY GUNS!
Now, nobody is saying take away all the guns. But seriously, can’t we get common sense regulations in the gun business to help prevent gun violence? Close gun show loopholes and (gulp—I can already hear the hate mail hitting my inbox) perhaps, maybe not sell weapons designed for war purposes?