In The Storm

Things look a little different around here these days. There are trees, their leaves now golden-brown, bowed low to the ground along the highway. Ditches are deeper, wider. Cracks and widening gullies have appeared on the edges of the woods near our house. Water lines stain buildings in town. Gaps appear where trees used to stand and, in one spot, an entire row of pines has disappeared.

Hurricane Matthew may be long gone, but the evidence of it still remains. Our land is changed. We have been marked by the storm.

I know I’ve been absent here on the site over the past little while. I’ve been watching and waiting as this storm of contention continues to hover over our entire nation. I’ve been wondering what the long-term affects will look like…I’ve been wondering how our land will change…I’ve been wondering how my life will be altered.

We can’t control the storm or the changes time will reveal…but I’ve been thinking a lot about the landscape of my own heart in a time when wildfires of anger are hot and fierce, ignited by careless words…in a time when hatred and fear are raining down…in a time when the ground beneath us seems to be cracking under the pressure of it all.

My instinct is to find shelter, to avoid the storm as much as I can, to keep change at bay.

But I’m reminded, as I watch the constant flow of painful news stories, that Jesus willingly stepped into our storm. He came into the pain, into the sin-filled world, to bring His peace. He didn’t avoid the chaos, but pursued our hearts in the middle of it. He came into the mess of my mistakes so that I could know His life-giving love.

If I am following Him, I cannot pile sand-bags around my heart to maintain my own safety. If I am committed to loving people like He loves people, I have to be okay with exposure to the gales…and I CAN be, because I know that the Peace-Speaker, the One whom the wind and the rains obey, always holds my soul steady in His hands.

We’re all enduring a storm and, one way or another, we’ll be marked by it. But I don’t want to be marked by fear, apathy, anger, or confusion. I want it to be the Holy Spirit teaching and shaping the landscape of my soul as this season continues.

Instead of hardening toward those I disagree with, I want my heart to soften in compassion. I need to strengthen my resolve to become quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, and the first to love. I want to tend even more diligently to these roots so that I am firmly planted in truth, immovable by even the fiercest wind. I want to remain bowed low in prayer. I want a deeper desire to intercede for others who need Him. I want to be more vulnerable, to throw up the windows and open the doors even as the rain pours and the thunder bellows — because I  want to be faithful to go into the world…into the storm…with the good news of Jesus Christ.

We are the children of God, the body of Christ, the citizens of the kingdom of light — so let us live unafraid and undeterred by the schemes of the enemy. Don’t let the cacophony of the storm persuade us to stop singing the song of mercy, grace, and redemption we have been given…it may seem powerful and overwhelming at times, but ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ belongs to our Savior. His voice cuts through the chaos. His truth does not falter. His power and His love do not fail.

Our world will keep changing – but the One who holds its purpose remains steadfast.

He has entrusted us with the call to shine into the darkness, not just to light up our own safe circle…and we can follow where He leads us, knowing that there is no storm strong enough to extinguish the Light of Jesus Christ within us.

Knowing You are with us, we can boldly declare Your name to this world.  Knowing how You love us, we yield to the changes You make in us…conform us to Your image, Jesus, and let our lives glorify the Father.  Remind us, Lord, of who You are…in our hope in You, we can stand firm through every storm that comes into our lives.  

“Death could not hold You,
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names.”

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble…

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – from Romans 12

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Together We Follow: Genesis 12: 11-20

fullsizerender-16There have been moments in my life when I feared that my past sin would alter God’s willingness to use me for His purposes. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever worried that your past would change God’s mind about you or render His plans for you null and void?

If you’ve ever felt this way, then I hope that today’s reading will help to reassure you of your place in God’s heart…

As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”

And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai’s beauty. When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.

Today we see Abram, the man who surrendered his future to God, in an act of deception. Seeing the power of Pharaoh, he allowed fear to motivate his actions. He allowed this new circumstance to intimidate him. Fearing that the Egyptians would take his life in order to take Sarai into the house of Pharaoh, Abram called her his sister – withholding the full truth of her identity as his wife.

Not trusting that God would protect both he and his wife, Abram chose the wrong path to control the situation himself. His short-sighted decision led to Sarai being taken to the palace – it was God, in His mercy, that protected Sarai and brought her back to Abram’s side.

This was a moment for Abram to understand the faithfulness of God…this was a moment for Abram to see the grace of God.

Instead of ending in catastrophe under the wrath of Pharaoh, this incident leads to Abram and Sarai leaving Egypt to go on with their journey into the future God had promised them. God’s faithfulness did not change when Abram’s focus faltered. His promises did not disappear because Abram chose deceit.

This is grace.

When we don’t deserve it, God comes to rescue us. It’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross. It isn’t our righteousness that prepares us for God’s purpose, but His redemption power in our lives.

If we decide to sin and go on without repentance, without turning from our wrong, then we are the ones to walk away from our place in God’s plan for us…we can, in our continued disobedience, miss out on the abundant life God would intend for us. Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians sorrow without repentance leads to spiritual death…but Godly sorrow that leads to repentance results in salvation.

When we didn’t deserve it, when we didn’t earn it – we received rescue from our sin… and this grace that God has given out of His great love continues to affect every aspect of our lives.

Don’t let regret about the past keep you from His promises for today. 

Our past sin? Our sin that has been forgiven? Our sin that has been removed from us, as far as the east is from the west? (Psalm 103:12) Those wrongs may have changed us, may have taught us, may have taken us the long way around our dreams, may have brought the discipline of the Father to us…but those sins no longer define us. His mercy does. His redemption power is stronger than our sin – and so, YES – He will still use you for His glory. YES, He still has a purpose for you. YES, He will be true to His promises.

Our lives become a story not of our sin, not of our losses, but of His grace and victory in us. Our lives become a story of transformation, of a new creation made in us. Our lives become a story of hope – knowing what He has done for Abram, for Sarai, for you and for me…He can do for anyone who will believe.

 

 

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith. I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.-from Philippians 3 

Together We Follow: Genesis 12:10

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Into the unknown, Abram followed God. Not knowing where the road would lead, he set off into the future. He believed the promise of blessing. He believed the promise of a homeland. He believed the promise of family and purpose. He believed God – so, with Sarai at his side, he left behind what was familiar…he chose the uncertain path, staking his life in the One who would go before him.

They entered into Canaan. They traveled through parts of the land, getting to know this new place. They made altars. They made camps. They began to settle in, with worship in their hearts.

And then?

Genesis 12:10:  At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.

Famine.

How could this be?

In this place of promise, there was need. In this place where God had led them, there was barrenness. Where they expected blessing, hardship showed up.

Abram had another choice to make — would he keep Canaan as his goal? Would he hold onto what had been promised or  would he give up hope? Would he still accept what God had given, even when the gift held such a difficult season?

I don’t know about you – but if I’d been there with Abram and Sarai, I’m quite certain this turn of events would have unraveled my confidence in our decisions. I might have tried to turn back for the familiar home I’d left behind.

But Abram didn’t do that. Instead, he went into Egypt. And Genesis doesn’t say that Abram abandoned Canaan, finding a new home in that neighboring nation…no, he lived as a foreigner there. He wasn’t settling there, but only staying for a while.

Did they wonder why God allowed famine to come to Canaan at this time? I don’t know if Abram questioned it, but I do wonder at the timing. Knowing that God is good and His purpose was to reveal Himself to Abram and all of his descendants, I wonder what this famine was used to accomplish in the heart of Abram.

Perhaps He knew the time had come to show Abram that it wasn’t the blessing that was most important, but the Giver of the gifts. Perhaps God wanted Abram to learn that no matter the circumstances, He would remain with him.Perhaps He wanted to teach Abram that each step – when taken in obedience  – leads us closer to His full purpose. Situations may not look like what we imagined they would…but He uses each circumstance to strengthen, discipline, and deepen us.

This is how Abram kept his course – by looking to the One who had laid out the road before him. In times like these, we have to keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of our faith.

The enemy could have used this famine as a tactic to distract, discourage, and deter Abram from his relationship with God…I feel it’s pretty likely that he would have been working, all the while, to undermine Abram’s trust in God. I can almost hear his voice, whispering – go back. Go home. It’s safer there. It’s easier there. He brought you this far and for what? For famine? For failure? 

And they could have gone back…but they had set their hearts on the promises of God. They were no longer looking for what had been, but for what would be. A life fashioned from their own hands was no longer enough to satisfy their hearts — now that they had seen Him, now that they had heard His voice – they were looking for a home built by God.

Nothing else would satisfy.

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Have you ever been in a spot like this? Have you obeyed God, walked in His way, and found obstacles in your path? Have you listened and planted, worked and waited – only to have a field barren of harvest?

When He is silent…when the answers aren’t immediate…when the answers are not what we would have chosen…do we still trust Him?

What if we never see the reality of God’s promise or the harvest of our labor in this life-time?

Can we trust that His eternal vision sees the outcome we cannot? Can we trust that He is using our lives in ways we cannot yet understand, for this present time and the age to come? Can we hold onto what is yet unseen, trusting the reality of our eternal home that we will one day call our own?

Can we trust in His faithfulness, even when it feels like we have taken a detour that makes no sense, a circumstance that feels like setback, a fall that feels like failure?

I think we have to re-define our definition of success when it comes to our lives. Merriam Webster’s first explanation is this:  the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.

But what if success is actually, simply, the delight of our Father?

What if success is being content in all circumstances because of His presence?

What if success is laying ourselves down and picking up a cross, following Him?

What if success is seeking first the Kingdom of God, putting His name above our own?

What if success is finding joy and beauty in even the smallest moments of our lives?

What if success is being transformed more and more into His image?

What if success is the overflow of His love into the people He has placed on our path?

What if success is giving all – whole-hearted, whole-soul, whole-life to Him, with only the aim of pleasing Him?

What if success is walking with Him, not for what we will gain, but because we love Him?

What if success is developing faith that believes Him, chooses Him, reveals Him through our lives?

What if success is one day hearing ‘well done, good and faithful servant’, as we enter into the City of God?

Isn’t this the kind of success in which a heart can still sing in the midnight, in the storm, or in the famine?  Isn’t this the kind of success that brings real life?

I believe, with all my heart, that this is the only kind of success that satisfies our souls in every season of our lives.

We won’t understand every road we take, every turn or stop…but it isn’t our role to control the outcome of all that we do – that is the work of God and only He can do it in a way that will be both for our good and for His glory. It’s our role to keep trusting, to keep following, to keep obeying the One who loves us.

*****

If this is where we are right now — earnestly seeking to follow God and finding ourselves, still, in famine or fire, storm or desert, disaster or silence – I hope that we will remember that the One who called us to this place hasn’t gone anywhere. God is still here with us, even when it feels like we are walking away from what we thought would be our future…in the waiting and in the wandering, He is here.

So let’s learn this from Abram: don’t give up and don’t go back.

Don’t let the enemy dissuade or deter you. Don’t let anything talk you into going back to the way things were before…set your eyes on the One who will complete the work He has begun in you. No matter what – His promises are sure. He will do what He says He will do.

Hold onto tightly to your hope. Hang on, with all your heart, to your faith. Famine or plenty, Egypt or promised land, calm or storm, darkness or day – He remains. He stays the same…and He is the satisfaction of our souls.

 

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.-1 Peter 1:6

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.-Hebrews 11: 13-16

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies…

…That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.-2 Corinthians 3:8-10, 16-18


 

Together We Follow: Genesis 11:10-32

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Genesis 11:10-32

This is the account of Shem’s family.

Two years after the great flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. After the birth of Arphaxad, Shem lived another 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Arphaxad was 35 years old, he became the father of Shelah. After the birth of Shelah, Arphaxad lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Shelah was 30 years old, he became the father of Eber. After the birth of Eber, Shelah lived another 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Eber was 34 years old, he became the father of Peleg. After the birth of Peleg, Eber lived another 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Peleg was 30 years old, he became the father of Reu. After the birth of Reu, Peleg lived another 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Reu was 32 years old, he became the father of Serug. After the birth of Serug, Reu lived another 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Serug was 30 years old, he became the father of Nahor. After the birth of Nahor, Serug lived another 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

When Nahor was 29 years old, he became the father of Terah. After the birth of Terah, Nahor lived another 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

The Family of Terah

This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living.  Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor’s brother Haran.) But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children.

One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.

 

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Shem’s descendants have ended up in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans. We meet Terah and his sons here. But they don’t stay in Ur – Terah moves with his son, Abram,  daughter-in-law, and grandson away from this city. He begins this journey with the idea of ending up in Canaan, but settles in Haran.

This is the beginning of something special in our history…and as we go through the next chapters, we’re going to see God call Abram to finish the journey to Canaan.

Since the garden of Eden, God had not given a specific spot on the earth to His people as a Home…but over the course of the next few days, we’ll read about how He does just that for a man and a woman who will hear His voice and follow where He leads.

I hope you’ll continue reading with me as we re-discover the beauty of God’s promises to Abram…and, through him, hope for the entire world.

*map from A Survey of the Old Testament by Andrew Hill & John Walton

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 5

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On a day that I’m feeling the weight of a hard week, it is good to remember God’s faithfulness. It’s good to remember that when He makes promises, He keeps them. It’s good to remember that if we center our lives on Him and seek Him with all our hearts, He will be with us in every circumstance, He will stay with us in every unexpected place in our lives, He will complete the good work He started in us…He will make a way for things to work out for our good, even when we can’t see how it’s possible.

This family tree we’re reading today reminds me of all that.

We see a lot of family trees recorded in scripture. It’s a lot of detail, I know, but it’s written there for us. The beautiful purpose of every preserved name, noting every generation that follows the first man and wife, shows us the fulfillment of God’s promises that the enemy would be crushed by the seed of Adam and Eve.

We can see that God’s faithfulness kept going and going, through every generation. We can see that He knew every name – He was present with His people. We see that He delighted in their friendship — for Enoch, a man who sought after God with His whole life, God bypassed death. Because he invited God into his every day, God was there. He came to where Enoch was and walked with Him…and when the time came, He simply took Enoch from the Earth and brought him into the heavenly kingdom.

I don’t know if you might have a heavy-heart today or if all is well…either way, we have the same truth that this passage reveals. He knows us…He is unfolding the fulfillment of the promises He has made to us with every passing day. He has already come to where we are…and He didn’t leave. He is with us. From this life to the one-day of His Kingdom that we will see with our own eyes and walk with our own feet, we are invited to abide in Him. He is our safe place. He is our refuge.

This is the written account of the descendants of Adam. When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself. He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.”

When Adam was 130 years old, he became the father of a son who was just like him—in his very image. He named his son Seth. After the birth of Seth, Adam lived another 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.

When Seth was 105 years old, he became the father of Enosh. After the birth of Enosh, Seth lived another 807 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.

When Enosh was 90 years old, he became the father of Kenan. After the birth of Kenan, Enosh lived another 815 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.

When Kenan was 70 years old, he became the father of Mahalalel. After the birth of Mahalalel, Kenan lived another 840 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.

When Mahalalel was 65 years old, he became the father of Jared. After the birth of Jared, Mahalalel lived another 830 years, and he had other sons and daughters.Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.

When Jared was 162 years old, he became the father of Enoch. After the birth of Enoch, Jared lived another 800 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.

When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

When Methuselah was 187 years old, he became the father of Lamech. After the birth of Lamech, Methuselah lived another 782 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.

When Lamech was 182 years old, he became the father of a son. Lamech named his son Noah, for he said, “May he bring us relief from our work and the painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed.” After the birth of Noah, Lamech lived another 595 years, and he had other sons and daughters.  Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died.

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Together We Follow: Genesis 4: 17-26

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Today, we’re reading about two lines that descend from Adam and Eve.

The first begins with Cain. The last time we saw him, he’d just received mercy from God. Even though he shattered his family — even though he killed his own little brother, breaking the hearts of Adam and Eve, he was given the chance to go out into the world and make a life for himself.

The book of Romans tells us that the kindness of God is to bring us to repentance — but this chance to humble himself, this undeserved chance to change does not seem to alter Cain’s heart. We can see this in the unfolding of his lineage…although we see how he builds a city, how his family focuses on skills and crafts, how they seem to make their names known – we don’t see any mention of offering, of sacrifice to the Lord, of worship. We don’t see that Cain teaches his children or their children about the Creator. We do see that one of his descendants, Lamech, is not afraid to break the pattern God into place for marriage and takes two women as wives. We also get to hear how he boasts to his wives, Adah and Zillah, about his murderous act to kill a young man who has injured him. Instead of showing distress at this violence, he refers to the mark of God’s mercy placed upon his forefather Cain, multiplying for himself the vengeance promised to anyone who would touch him.

This does not sound like a generation taught to be grateful for God’s grace. This does not sound like a generation taught to live wisely, but perhaps to take mercy for granted…perhaps, even, to exploit it. This sounds like men choosing their own way, their own needs, and their own pride.

We will see, as we continue into the next chapters, that these generations descend into evil and violence. We will see that their greed and disregard for God leads to a world unsafe and a Creator with a broken heart.

On the other hand, the third son that is born to Adam goes a different way — we aren’t shown, in this passage, a long line of descendants. We’re told that he had a son, named him Enosh, and that they began to call on the name of the Lord. Without much detail, it’s easy to see — Seth taught his son about the Lord…and he had this knowledge because of his parents.

We will soon see that this knowledge mattered – as it set the course for their own personal lives, their own relationships with each other and with God…it also mattered for the course of humanity.  As the generations unfold, we will come to a righteous son whose knowledge of the Lord, in the middle of a time with every other heart turned toward doing evil, will be the bridge to a new covenant with the Lord.

I want to remember that this difference between the two lines didn’t happen all in one swooping action. We’ve already seen that Cain’s crime wasn’t an abrupt change of character…it was a series of decisions that led to that fatal hour in the field. It was a series of choices that led to a family not seeking God’s face…just as it was Seth’s choice to raise up a son who would know the Lord.

It’s in the day-to-day, in the routine hours and minutes that we decide – is my heart set on God? Am I honoring Him on this random Tuesday night? Is praise on my lips when I wake up in the morning? Do I show His character to my children when we are scrambling to get ready for school, taking care of chores, getting through homework? When I am out in my neighborhood, in my town -do I show His love to the people I meet?

Are my moments lived in a way that adds up to a life reflecting my Father?

Our moments do matter, more than we can know. Our lives matter for this present time and for the generations that will follow us. May our days — our minute-by-minute decisions, our actions, our words, our hearts — stay surrendered to God, so that our lives will point to Him.

Genesis 4:17-24

17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.  To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.

Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.

Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

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And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”  And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 4:2-16

 

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I went on my first run in about a week and a half today, easing back into my morning routine after being sick. Walking the path that I usually take around the neighborhood, I immediately noticed that some changes had come during my absence.

A thread of cool air, an unmistakable touch of autumn, was woven into the morning wind. My neighbor’s bright green grass was dotted with brown leaves. The trees standing at the edge of the woods were all green the last time I ran through — but today, they were spotted with yellow, orange, and red leaves.

The changing leaves have far from taken over – it was, probably, a subtle shift — but one that I noticed because I have been looking at these trees and these yards all summer long. Because I’ve been paying attention all along, I saw the signs of an approaching fall.

There’s a lot that can be taken from today’s reading, but it’s a simple message to my heart today.

God knew Cain. He had always known him. He could see his heart. He knew every motivation, every intention, every feeling. He knew what Cain’s heart had been created to be…and so He could see the signs of change. Maybe He saw jealousy marring the surface of Cain’s soul, bitterness beginning to grow. Perhaps it was anger or insecurity drying out Cain’s joy, his peace. However it looked — God knew Cain, and so He recognized when he was struggling…and He wanted to help him. He wanted an abundant and free life for him. So He gave this first son of Adam a warning and an encouragement.

But Cain didn’t listen.  Instead of subduing sin, he stretched out his hands and let the enemy take control of him, binding him with anger and violence.

 

And I wonder — how many times have I dismissed or ignored the voice of the Holy Spirit? How many times have I not given Him space and time to speak to me? How many times do I choose my own voice…or the voice of someone else…or, worst of all, the voice of the enemy?

Let us see the simple facts here — God knows us. He knows our hearts, what they can be in Him…and He sees every subtle shift, every little change in us as we live.

When He speaks to us — if it is warning, if it is encourage us, if it is to tell us our next step — oh, I pray that we will put aside our pride, our fear, our wish to control, our busy-ness, our anger  (whatever it may be!) to listen. He knows what we need — He knows when it is His living water that we require, His pruning hand, or His gentle healing. He knows when we need discipline. He knows how to help us defeat the schemes of the enemy. He knows when we need comfort. He is our Creator and our Father–His intentions for us are good.

He wants to help us.

We decide whether or not we will let Him.

Lord, soften our hearts. Open our ears. Help us to know Your voice…help us to know when it is You speaking to us. Let us be aware of Your presence and actively listening for Your words. You KNOW us — and You know exactly what we need. We are like Cain – we are marked by Your mercy, Lord. When our just end could have been death, You gave us life. We know that You broke the bondage of sin for us — and it isn’t our past sins that define us, but Your sacrifice. Help us to LIVE in that victory. Help us to remember that we are more than conquerors through Your love – we are no longer slaves to sin, to fear, to shame. Teach us to hear every word that You speak — and to not just hear, but obey, growing to be ever more like You. 

 Genesis 4:2b-16

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

 

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

 

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.

So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.