Category Archives: God’s Big Story

Revelation 1:18-The Problem with “Storybook Jesus”

Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

I am blessed by God to be the son of a pastor so that from a very young age I was always a part of Church services. The truths taught there led me to accept the Lord as my Savior, and accept a call to missions.

At the same time there are certain things in Church that annoy me

Near the top of this list is what I like to call “storybook Jesus.”

By this I mean the picture of Jesus that we see of Jesus in storybooks or literature for children.

  1. He is almost always white
  2. WIth long brown hair
  3. Blue eyes
  4. And either holding a lamb, or welcoming a child

I do understand this picture of Jesus is necessary while teaching children. However, the idea of storybook Jesus continues outside of that young age.

Notice for instance the following picture of Jesus on the cross

I do give them credit for making him Jewish with short dark hair. But it seems as if He is having a nice leisurely chat on the cross!

The greatest danger of storybook Jesus is people believe that’s all He will ever be

  1. A gentle shepherd who seeks out the wandering sheep
  2. A loving Savior who told people not to “judge anyone”
  3. A friend who accepted everyone

what the idea of storybook Jesus doesn’t grasp is Jesus did come as a loving Savior, but he isn’t returning as one.

He is returning as a righteous judge

  1. Whose return won’t be met by rejoicing but wailing (Revelation 1:7)
  2. Whose Glory led John the apostle to faint (Revelation 1:12-17)
  3. Who all of the unsaved will hide from (Revelation 6:15-17)
  4. Who will kill so many people at Armageddon the blood will rise five-feet, and travel for 180 miles (Revelation 14:14-20, Revelation 19:11-16)
  5. And Who will cast Satan (Revelation 20:10) and all unsaved into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

Yes there is a place for the storybook Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, but we must make sure people know He will return as King Jesus

Missions Must Have Systematic Theology

Most mornings after devotions I work on notes for a Systematic Theology One class that should be taught in early 2019.

I’m honored that the Lord has allowed me to do this because in my mind a strong grasp of Systematic Theology is one of the greatest needs on the mission field 

This doesn’t mean Vincentian Believers don’t know God’s truth (they do!) but the Great Commission calls us to teach others also.  

Systematic Theology (or theology that’s organized) equips Believers so that they can do and disciple others

  1. By seeing how truth fits into a larger subject (like the character of God)
  2. By having a deeper understanding of that truth 
  3. By knowing how to answer false doctrine or questions about those truths
  4. By being able to explain the truth itself in great detail to others 
  5. And by growing in their knowledge of that truth 

It’s true that Systematic Theology isn’t the most interesting thing in the world or easy to understand.  Thinking through arguments in support Calvinist or Arminian views of God’s providential control when it comes to evil isn’t exactly light reading.  However, it’s worth the effort if I can help Believers understand how a Holy God can allow evil.

Oh it would be easier to continue a ministry of preaching (which I love to do) that applies God’s truth to the challenges of daily life.  But eventually we must embrace a teaching ministry that allows our Church members to find the “steak and potatoes” in a Bible passage instead of just “baby food”

Genesis 3:23-24 When God Isn’t Loving, But He Is Fair

Genesis 3:23-24   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.

Genesis 3:23–24 is one of those passages that those who don’t know Christ love to point at and excitedly say, “See! I told you that God isn’t the loving Father you made him out to be! If God’s so loving, then why would he kick Adam and Eve out of Eden?

The truth is they actually have a point

I mean the Lord is being very unloving with Adam and Eve in this passage. The word “drove” in verse twenty-four gives the idea of forcing someone to leave with force, and for good measure an angel with a sword of fire was left to guard the Garden of Eden.

Reading these verses by themselves we would have no choice but agree with their statement that God isn’t loving…and in a deeper sense that He isn’t fair. This is actually a bigger deal than it may seem since God doing wrong would mean He isn’t Holy (perfect) which is a foundational belief for Christians.

So how do we answer this question? By looking at the larger passage of Scripture [1] or “context” as its commonly referred to

Just like taking one statement a person made in a long conversation could lead to misundestanding, taking one part of a Bible passage almost always results in confusion. So lets take a step back and look at all of Genesis chapter three shall we?

  1. Eve is tempted by Satan to rebel against God by eating forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1)
  2. Even tells Satan that she couldn’t eat the fruit because it would lead to death (Genesis 3:2–3)
  3. Satan tells Eve God is being unfair, and she along with Adam decide to rebel by eating the fruit (Genesis 3:4–6)
  4. The moment after rebelling they were overwhelmed with guilt and shame because of their sin (Genesis 3:7–8) and hide from God
  5. When God gives Adam and Eve opportunities to repent of their sin they refuse to, and just blame each other instead (Genesis 3:8–13)
  6. God responds by cursing Adam and Eve (3:16–20) and casting them out of Eden (3:22–24)

In the midst of this chapter a clear truth comes out…Adam and Eve knew they had done something wrong

This is why they covered themselves

And hid from God behind a tree

And refused to confess their sin

Blaming someone else instead

My point is God isn’t just randomly throwing Adam and Eve out of the garden for no reason. He was bringing to them the consequences of their actions; consequences that they clearly understood were coming [2]

In other words what we see here is part of the normal parent/authority figure-child relationship that’s experienced every day, and in no way seen as cruel or mean.

 

 

As someone who works with children a lot I’ve developed a set of rules commonly referred to as “Mr. John’s Rules” [3] and review them all the time. The thing I love about these rules is it allows the children to pretty much discipline themselves.

After bringing a child to a chair apart from a group I will get down on one knee (looking them directly in the eyes) and have a conversation that goes something like this

Me: So what’s going on today?
Child: I’m mad
Me: Okay what are you mad about?
Child: (child’s name) kept talking to me
Me: Oh I see…now help me remember…what do we do when someone keeps talking to us?
Child: We raise our hand and ask the teaching to move them or us
Me: Did you do that?
Child: (looking down) no
Me: Okay so that’s why your going to stay here for five minutes

 

 

Do you see how the child before even sitting down KNEW what he had done wrong? There was a part of him that knew even before I asked him to go to the back he wasn’t supposed to talk to the other student. Notice that in the same way Adam and Eve aren’t dragged kicking and screaming out of the garden. This is because they KNEW that eating the fruit was act of rebellion against God!

The fact is God brings to use true justice…not the kind that we desire [4] but justice that flows out of His true Holiness and perfection. So there are many excuses we can make when the judgment of God comes upon us (I wasn’t ready, you aren’t being loving, etc), but we can never say that it isn’t fair.

 

[1]: paragraph before and after that passage, the chapter it’s included in

[2]: Gen. 2:15   The LORD God took the man kand put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lyou shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

[3]: I use ones learned from the Good News Club Ministry…Sit Up, Hand Up, Look Up, and Zip Up

[4]: I get rewarded even though I didn’t obey

Genesis 3:17-19 A Curse That Becomes a Blessing

Gen. 3:17   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

Genesis 3:18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.

Genesis 3:19 By 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,
and to dust you shall return.”

Sometimes I like to imagine what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned against God (Genesis 3:6) because Scripture explains it as being perfect.

  1. No pain or suffering
  2. No frustration/anger
  3. And most importantly no death

However following Adam and Eve’s rebellion their relationship with God (Genesis 3:7–10) and one another (Genesis 3:11–13) was completely broken [1]. A curse from God then followed that meant (particularly for Adam) the world was broken as well (Genesis 3:17–19).

A big part of this curse God placed upon the earth is production or provision for Adam’s family will come as a result of hard work. Instead of everything being caused to grow by God (Genesis 2:5–6, 2:9) it’s now Adam’s responsibility to bring growth. The Lord is clear that instead of being easy like before their rebellion, this will take incredibly hard work [2].

But the curse goes much deeper than just creating a need for work.  God here is taking the thing that Adam and Eve find their greatest identity (happiness) in and instead turning it into a source of frustration.

Eve’s greatest joy was found not only in a close relationship with her husband, but having children and nurturing them. I’m in no way saying that all women have to have a child in order to validate themselves. Instead females have been given gifts that lead more towards the nurturing of children than men.

God responded by making this a source of pain.

Gen. 3:16   To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.

Note that this doesn’t just refer the act of childbirth, but the raising “bringing forth” of children will bring pain or sorrow to the life of Eve [3].

Adam’s greatest joy was in providing for his family, or being “productive” by completing difficult tasks. Again this doesn’t men cannot be nurturing because I happen to be a male who has gifts in that area. But in most cases a man feels most fulfilled when they are able to provide and care for their family.

Today instead of being a source of identity production and provision is almost always a source of frustration because it calls for incredibly hard work [4].

Why would God do that?

Seriously why would He take the things that Adam and Eve enjoyed the most, or found the most happiness in, and then turn them into a curse?

The answer is our identity is only to be found in God [5]. As His creation, we were literally made to be “plugged into” Him as our source of strength or hope. Unfortunately we are sinners who given a choice between God’s way and our own will choose ours twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.

God knows that we will choose things other than him as our source of identity or strength. But He also knows that nothing else is big enough to bring us true happiness.

Here’s how author Matt Papa explains it;

The triune God is the only thing large enough and interesting enough to bear the weight of glory, and ultimately worship. Anything else will break your heart [6]

Knowing this “idol” [7] will break our heart God in His sovereignty takes it away from us.

As that thing we love most is ripped out of our hands [8] we will be tempted to curse God . But in those moments we must remember that thing he takes away will only break our hearts.

 

 

[1]: Instead of confessing their sin, Adam and Eve tried to hide their failure from God, and refused to confess it

[2]: it will bring thorns and briers (thistles) instead of plants

[3]: there will be many sorrows and frustrations now because of broken selfish relationships

[4]: There is still satisfaction after a job well done, but the amount of work involved in finishing that job definitely makes things difficult

[5]: Acts 17:24–25

[6]: Papa, Matt (2014–10–28). Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ (p. 33). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[7]: something we find our identity in other than God

[8]: money, relationships, control, etc.

(Genesis 3:12) Why There Are No Prince Charmings

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Genesis 3:9-12

Genesis 3:9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Dear Ladies,

I really hate to tell you this…but there is no such thing as prince charming.

Of course most of you already knew that didn’t you 🙂

Originally in the Garden of Eden God gave man the role of protecting or caring for, and providing for his wife Eve [1]. Please understand this isn’t God’s way of saying women are constantly weak and need help.

Instead this is His way of fulfilling a woman’s desire to be loved (cared for) and a man’s desire to be respected (able to care for those he loves). The truth is most women I know are MUCH better decision makers than men, however that doesn’t change the fact that Adam was the one who was supposed to be making them.

Yet something strange happened in Genesis 3:6

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Eve comes to her husband Adam with a fruit he knows they aren’t supposed to eat and says “here eat this.” Now Adam’s responsibility as the protector and defender of his wife was to tell her “no we shouldn’t rebel against the command of God!” but he doesn’t do that. Instead Adam eats the fruit and by doing so allows Eve to become the decision maker [2].

So what’s the big deal? By doing this Adam is rejecting his responsibility (calling) to care for Eve. This is why instead of admitting his own failure to God after eating the fruit and hiding, Adam chose to throw Eve under the bus [3].

And from that point on ladies the marital relationship was totally messed up.

Here’s how God explained what her relationship with Adam would become in Genesis three.

Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (emphasis added)

“your desire shall be for your husband” here refers to the husband’s place of decision-making, so God is saying “you will want to be the one in control”. “He shall rule over you” gives the idea of demanding control over someone.

God tells Eve from now on the marriage will be about control. You will be trying to gain it, and Adam will be trying to keep it.

Now honestly marriage isn’t like that every moment of the day. However any of you who are married know the smallest, most ridiculous things can turn into a huge argument or fight over who gets their way.

It should be pointed out God didn’t want things to be like this. In His plan the husband and wife would selflessly put each other first, and by doing so become a picture to the world of what God is like [4]. But Adam and Eve were given a choice (Genesis 2:16–17) with the results of that choice being among other things man’s unwillingness to fulfill his role in marriage.

Oh that doesn’t mean they NEVER will protect or provide for you. There will be moments of “emotional love” of course.  And because of Christ’s death on the cross the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to be men of God, however there is still a sinful nature that wants our own way.

The bottom line is ladies you can’t rely on prince charming riding in on a white horse.

Thankfully you have something much better.

God promises in Scripture that He will protect and defend those who are faithful to Him.

  1. Psalm 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
  2. 1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
  3. Isaiah 46:4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save

Of course this doesn’t mean God will give you whatever you want. But take comfort in the fact that in times of need He hears your cries, will never ignore them, and responds in a way that’s best for you.

And while your at it take comfort in the fact that there aren’t any prince charming’s.  Because while broken and selfish relationships do bring pain, they also remind us that our only true source of hope is God.

  1. some Bible scholars believe Adam had already failed Eve because he should have been there to protect her from Satan’s temptation  ↩
  2. http://wilburninmelbourne.com/2015/07/genesis–39–12-learning-to-say-help-and-thank-you/  ↩
  3. God is both loving and nurturing, while at the same time Holy and Righteous  ↩
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