Tag Archives: Genesis

An Acceptable Offering

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” – Genesis 4:3-5

I’m pretty passionate about worship! But in more recent years I’ve seen an increasing emphasis across the church seeing worship as something that ‘does it for me’.

Certainly, taking time to worship God has a positive effect on our lives – but it’s not the primary reason we worship, nor should it be our primary motivation. Worship isn’t about God pleasing our hearts – it’s about us pleasing His!

What I think is interesting about this verse is that God did not look on Cain’s offering with favour. It’s easy for us to think that God will accept an offering of worship from us, simply because we’ve taken the time to do it. Cain sure took the time to do it, and not only that but it was probably much harder work for him to dig up some vegetables and clean them up to bring to God, rather than for Abel to select a lamb and sacrifice it. Yet God was pleased with Abel’s offering, and not with Cain’s. He didn’t just take it because it was brought – he was looking for something in particular.

So just because we bring an offering – it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to please God’s heart. We have to look past just what we like, or what does it for us, and ask the same question that Abel did… what does God want? What does it for Him? For Cain, that would have meant getting outside his own comfort zone, and doing something that didn’t come as naturally to him.

Assumptions

Today, I want to look at ‘assumptions’.

An assumption is defined as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Doing the Math

An assumption is almost the same as faith – being certain of something that you can’t see.  But as humans, we tend to like assumptions because they generally mean less work for us.  If I can just take x for granted, then it means I can get on and focus on y.  Rather than having to go to the effort of walking something out or doing effort in real life,  we do the math in our heads and decide ahead of time if we’ll win or lose.

Sometimes assumptions are really good and helpful, especially in situations where you just need to make a quick decision.  But other times – wrong assumptions can bring all kinds of evil into our world.  Not only that – but acting on wrong assumptions can lead us to do things that are not worthy of us, and put us in positions that we would never have wanted to find ourselves in.

This is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 20:

Genesis 20
1  Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,
2  and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3  But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4  Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
5  Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
7  Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
8  Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.
9  Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.”
10  And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11  Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

Is God Here?

Abraham made an assumption.  He looked at the situation and said:

‘God is not in this place… it’s clear to me’.

Interesting isn’t it – because his Abraham’s son, Isaac, was later to come to a certain place at night, when all was dark and he had a powerful encounter with the Lord – and then He said:

‘God is in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’

Both of them came to a place not expecting to find God, and yet in both situations they discovered that God was already at work.  How often do we make the ASSUMPTION that God is not there.  That there is NO FEAR OF GOD in this place?

For Abraham – that assumption had some dramatic consequences.

  • It caused him to act weird.
  • It caused him to end up lying.
  • He lost his credibility with Abimelech
  • He almost lost his wife

All because he walked into a situation and made an assumption that wasn’t true.

Assumptions Can Hold Us Captive

Sometimes the only thing that is holding us back from walking into all that God has promised us is the jailhouse of our mind.  God calls us to do something – and we say ‘I’ve done the math Lord… it won’t work’.  Sometimes your assumptions based on your experience is what’s holding you back.

This is what happened for the Israelites.  In the well known chapter of Numbers 13 – Moses sends spies out to look at the promised land.  They come back – and they say ‘yeah it’s all good.  all like God promised but the only problem is… walled cities, and giants!’.  Then they say ‘and we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes’.  How did they know that?  Did they have a conversation with the giants?  Did they ask them to fill out this quick 4 question survey?

They made an assumption.  They had no idea what was going on, on the other side of the fence.

But the Bible tells us.  The stories of what was happening to the nation of Israel in the desert:

  • what had happened in Egypt as they left
  • the parting of the red sea
  • water flowing out of rocks
  • divine provision in the desert
  • their clothes not wearing out
  • powerful encounters with a living God

All these accounts were all getting reported to the kings who were living in the land Israel was about to possess.  They were freaking out.  One of the kings Balak, hires a guy called Balaam to try to use witchcraft and cursing against the Israelites.  But everytime Balaam tries to curse Israel – only blessing came out!  You can be assured that story made it around the kings fraternal meeting.

We read in Joshua 5:
1  Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.

The Israelites had wandered around in the desert for 40 years and part of the reason for that is that they were held captive by a wrong assumption.  They thought the giants were waiting for them to cross so that they could beat them to a pulp.  They had no idea that the giants spent those 40 years packing themselves about the day that Israel would finally wake up to the power they had!

The story is told of the master escape artist Harry Houdini.  On one of his European tours, he had himself handcuffed and shut in a Scottish town jail.  Once alone, Houdini quickly got out of the shackles, and started to work on the lock on the cell door.  He tried everything he knew but he couldn’t get the lock to turn.  Finally, completely, exhausted… he leaned against the door… and it swung open so unexpectedly he nearly fell headlong into the corridor.  The jailer hadn’t locked it.  Houdini made an assumption!

Like A Little Child

Jesus said – if you want to get into the kingdom of heaven, you’ve got to become like a little child.  Little kids trust implicitly.  They don’t do the math, because they don’t have the experience.  They TRY THINGS.

There’s sick people in our world that God wants to heal, but they’re surrounded by Christians doing the maths, rather than taking the action.

There’s doors of breakthrough that God has placed in your life today – but we too often don’t walk through them because you’re we’re the maths rather than taking the action.

There’s people who are waiting to get saved, but the Christians are doing the maths, instead of taking the action.

Abraham says ‘God is NOT in this place… it’s clear to me’.  But yet God was.  Isaac says ‘God was in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’.

Which one is it for you?

Is God not in this place because of what you’ve seen and experienced?  Or is God in this place – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Is God not in your workplace because of what you’ve seen and experienced thus far?  They don’t fear God, they don’t care about Him.  Or is God already at work in your workplace… and you haven’t even been aware of it?

Is God not in your family… because they rail against your faith and mock you for what you believe?  Or is God already at work in your family – and you weren’t even aware of it?

The Key To Becoming Prophetic

“Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”  – Genesis 18:17

 

There was nothing seemingly special about Abraham.  His claim to fame was that he simply believed God.  When God spoke, Abraham listened and obeyed.

This simple obedience proved to be the key for Abraham increasing in his ability to know what God was going to do next.  A person with faith is a God-magnet, and so supernatural activities began to occur around Abraham’s life.

But the key is a very simple one – have faith in, and obey what God has already shown you.  Many people want to grow in prophetic power to know what God is saying about the future, or to have supernatural experiences with Him.  But God won’t necessarily bring greater words to those who haven’t listened or responded to his smaller words.

Training in the prophetic starts with obeying the small promptings of the Holy Spirit.  To believe God for something impossible, to turn away from a particular sin, to share a seemingly insignificant word with someone.  Abraham had become so good at believing God, so reliable at walking out what God wanted… that God said to Himself… “can I really hide from Abraham what I’m going to do next?”.

As we learn to be faithful with the little things… this same question will grow in God’s heart towards us too.

A Vital Step

“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” – Genesis 17:2

Was reading this morning in Genesis, and I was struck by this verse… The Lord says to Abram, walk faithfully before me and be blameless… THEN I will make my covenant with you.  This is AFTER he has received numerous promises from God about the land he would inherit and the number of descendants he would have.  The covenant was the covenant of circumcision – the cutting away of the flesh near the male reproductive system, and God notes that it would be an eternal covenant.

So God gives Abram a series of promises – and these promises came for free.  Abram didn’t have to do anything to receive the promises.  But in order for him to walk in the promises and see them outworked would require something – a blameless walk and faithfulness – outwardly symbolised in the act of circumcision.

Fortunately (especially for the guys) – physical circumcision isn’t required for entry into the promises of God today.  The Scriptures show clearly that the outward act is no longer needed, just as the death of Jesus replaced the need for the outward act of sacrifice.  Yet this eternal convenant is far from over.

We receive the promises of God by faith, and for free.  God speaks to us about our lives and future and shows us the plans he has for us.  We don’t have to do anything to receive the promise of God.  But to walk in that promise, and see it come to pass – something is required, which is circumcision of the heart.

Just as the Old Testament circumcision was a cutting away of the flesh near the male reproductive system, the circumcision we embrace as Christians now is a spiritual one – the cutting away of our own abilities to bring about our desires and dreams.  It’s no accident that the covenant of circumcision follows the account of Hagar and Ishmael, where Abram heard the promise of God, but plunged in and tried to bring it about through his own wisdom and strength.

We receive the promises of God for free.  But the price we pay to walk in those promises is a holy life, with our abilities and wisdom surrendered to the will and mind of God.  What we can accomplish in our own strength remains the greatest enemy to what God can accomplish through us, if we will simply trust and believe.

Moving Into The Next Season

Then God said to Noah,   “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.  Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” – Genesis 8:15-17

 

If it weren’t for the ark then Noah, his family, and all of the animals would have perished in the flood.  Noah’s faith in God led him to make preparations for and to move into something that would protect him and transition him into the next season.

But when the waters receded and the ground was ready, it was time for Noah and the others to move out of the ark, and into the earth.  God had multiplication, growth and prosperity on His mind – and the ark, as important as it was for the season they’d been in, couldn’t hold them for what God was calling them into.

In the same way, we go through seasons and there’s times when we’re ‘battened down’ and ‘hiding’ in the grace of God while storms blow through our lives.  In these moments it’s easy to develop a ‘seige mentality’ – wondering where the next attack or disaster will come from.  But at it’s best a seige mentality is a maintenance mentaility – it’s not a growth mentality.  There has to be a change in our outlook, in our vision, in our faith – to move us out of our own ‘arks’ and into the promises of God.

It’s a new season for Noah, and perhaps to encourage him to take the step – God gives him a promise… that He will never destroy the whole earth by flooding it again.  He gives Noah His word that the season has absolutely changed and it won’t go back to how it was.

Noah believed God the first time, and built an ark.  How important it was that Noah believed God the second time!  Otherwise he could have found himself living out of the ark… just in case.  How many people in our world have been through a traumatic experience, and cannot transition into a new season because they’re holding on to their old ark… just in case?  That which once protected them becomes their prison.  That which once saved their life now serves to limit them.

God gives us His great and precious promises to coax us out of where we have been, so that He can bring us into a fruitful and blessed place.  That’s His intention and goal.

In His Image

“When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God….. When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image…”- Genesis 3:1-3

When Adam and Eve were first created, they were made in the likeness of God – formed in His image.  Perfect and powerful, every part of them – body, soul and spirit – replicated the glory of their Creator.

But sin entered the human race, and like a disease it infected not only Adam and Eve, but their offspring as well.  So it’s noted here that the sons of Adam were born ‘in [Adam’s] likeness’, not in the likeness of God.  Sin had contaminated mankind, and every generation of people since that time has lived with the consequences of Adam & Eve’s decision .

There’s a couple of things I take from this:

1) We must be born again.  Perhaps you’ve seen a photocopy of a photocopy?  With each generation the quality decreases.  It’s a lot like that with the human race.  In order to walk in the fullness of who we’ve been made to be, we must be born again – a Photoshop touch up is not enough – we need a complete regeneration.  This is what Paul talks about when he describes us as ‘a new creation in Christ’.  The moment we confess our sins to God, and hand the keys of our lives over to Him, we are born again by the Spirit of God.  It’s a whole new page, a clean sheet to start from.

2) As leaders, we must be committed to forming people into Christ’s image, not ours.  Even the best, most inspirational leader is still only a reflection of who God is.  Every person has been uniquely made, and our responsibility as leaders is not to make people like us, but to make them like Jesus.  Paul said “I am in labour until Christ is formed in you”.  He wasn’t looking to make a bunch of Paul-clones, but rather like a great father – he was seeking wisdom from above as to how to encourage and form his ‘children’ into the shape that God had called them to be.

God Is A Finisher!

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done – Genesis 2:1-2

I’m a great starter!  I get lots of ideas for things, and have found myself on the starting line of numerous projects over the course of my life.  Unfortunately I can’t always say that I’ve also found myself crossing the finishing line.  Anyone can start something – but not everyone finishes what they start.

But God is a FINISHER.  He doesn’t leave things incomplete.  It’s absolutely against His character and nature to do so.  When he begins something, He not only intends to finish it… He WILL finish it!

This gives me great hope when I read verses like:

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” – Philippians 1:6

My life is a work in progress.  But the one who is working on me is unbelievably persistent!  He… just… keeps… going… until… it’s… done! 

So… if God is a FINISHER and a COMPLETER – and He’s called me to be conformed to His likeness, then I too have to get serious about finishing what I start. 

There’s a process here too – FINISHED… RESTED…. BLESSED.  When something isn’t finished, we find it hard to rest.  We keep thinking about it, it dogs us at the back of our mind.  There are many people walking around today stressed simply because of the number of half-finished things they’ve got going on.  Completion brings rest.  And rest brings blessing.  To enter into a life of rest and blessing – one of the most practical things we can do is COMPLETE things!!