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An Unfinished Work

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. [Ham was the father of Canaan.] These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth. Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.” Genesis 9:18-21

Image result for vineyard + imageHere we see a point of view shift. The flood narrative to this point has been focused on Noah, but now God shifts the lens to include Noah’s sons–Shem, Ham and Japheth. Noah had no other children. So these three men and their wives repopulated the post-flood earth.

Shem means name or renown. Ham may mean hot, heat, warm, or brown. And Japheth means may he expand.

And in this shift, the author also mentions Ham’s son, Canaan; a name which has several possible meanings: flat, low, merchant, trader, or that humbles and subdues. From this we can infer that Canaan was already born by the time of the incident to follow.

Though we know that Noah had sufficient time to plant a vineyard, cultivate it through grape production, harvest grapes, press them and ferment them into wine, we don’t know exactly how long after the flood this event takes place or how old Canaan was at the time.

The sons and grandson’s name meanings may or may not have any story significance here, however their mention leads up to a small but important narrative.

Now, God does not mention His thoughts on the fact that Noah ended up drunk on homemade wine. We know that God chose to save Noah from the flood because he was favored for being upright [righteous; Genesis 6:9] in the sight of the Lord.

Upright does not mean perfect or sinless. And the Bible certainly warns against drunkenness [Galatians 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3; et al.]. Hebrews 11:7 tells us that Noah became an heir of righteousness because of his faith, but in this post-flood account Noah is described as a man of the soil.

Interesting.

The last person to be described as such in scripture was Cain [Genesis 4:2], though we know that Adam himself was charged with working the ground for his food [Genesis 3:17]. And we know that both men were identified as sinners.

All of this shows us that we can know for certain that the ground was still under the curse of sin and that Noah–like Adam and Cain before him–was still a sinner saved by grace, as were his sons. He allowed himself to become drunk, and, in this drunken state, slept naked in his tent. This is reminiscent of the three verses in Genesis 4 devoted to Lamech McCain in that it shows us that–after all of the destruction and devastation of the flood–there is still sin in the world. The work of redemption was not finished. And as was the case with Abraham [Galatians 3:6], it seems that Noah was credited as righteous because of his faith, not that his own righteousness was enough to save him from sin.

Just because we accept Christ in our lives, doesn’t mean that our sin nature instantly disappears. But when we allow Christ to be Lord of our hearts, we begin to become more like Him. Where God is, sin cannot be also.

Have you asked Jesus to be Lord of your life? Do you put Him first in all your ways? Will you allow Him to show you any sin that may be harbored in your heart so that He can root it out and you can become more like Him?

From the Student Question Board: What If I Just Really Don’t Like Someone?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7

Image result for not getting alongRemember back to the Garden of Eden when sin entered the world and God let Adam and Eve know what the effects of this would be? Notably, the effects of sin are: guilt, shame, fear of God [as well as separation from God], experiencing both good and evil, spiritual warfare, emotional and interpersonal struggles, pain, sorrow, decay of the physical world and body, and ultimately death.

The answer to the question that was asked–What if I just really don’t like someone?–is sin. How?

The scriptures list many specific sins [i.e. Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:2-4; et al], and, to be sure, these lists contain many things not-to-like. But sin exists in all of our lives [Romans 3:23]. So it is the effects of sin in my life–interpersonal struggles, guilt, shame, experiencing both good and evil, pain and sorrow–that keep me from liking all of my fellow man. And it is also these same effects of sin in their lives that make other people seem unlovely and unlovable to me.

However, we have to  remember that Jesus died to forgive us and to take the effects of sin from our lives. It’s not easy–no one can say that it is easy to learn to behave contrary to our sin nature–but it is possible and commanded by God that we love every other person on the planet just as much as we love ourselves [Mark 12:31].

So what if I just really don’t like someone? First, recognize that this dislike is the result of the sinful nature. Second, don’t try to hide it from God, He already knows anyway. Instead, ask God to help you to love this person. And not the late twentieth-century cop-out kind of love when some people actually said, “I don’t like’em but I love’em with the love of the Lord.” No, when God says to love others, He meant that we need to learn to like them for real–that’s the only way to genuinely love them as God commanded.

Again, it’s not always easy, but it is possible with God’s help. And remember–But by the grace of God, there go I–a more honest old saying that just means, remember that my sin nature makes me just as unlovely and unlovable to other people as they are to me. But God has called them to love me too, despite my faults.

Got a sin nature? [That’s rhetorical. We all do.] But do you recognize that you are a sinner? Ask God to show you the sin in your life, specifically where it pertains to being able to love everyone that He brings across your path. Because if we can’t love the ones He sends our way, how will we ever win them to Christ?

From Figs to Britches

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21

Image result for Types of Native American clothingFrom the first sin on the planet to the last, only bloodshed can atone–that is make amends, make reparation, make restitution, or set to right. Adam and Eve’s very first sin allowed evil into the world, exposed their shame and guilt, riddled their relationship with God in fear, and required that an animal be sacrificed to cover their nakedness.

And here we see that God is the one who lets fall the axe. He kills one of His own creatures to cover the sin of the man created in His own image and the woman who was taken from his side. But why did God need to make them clothes form animal hide when Adam and Eve had already covered themselves in fig leaf clothing [Genesis 3:7]?

Clearly, God’s message to them is that the fig leaves were inadequate. Perhaps Adam and Eve didn’t cover enough of themselves. Perhaps the fig leaf garments would have worn out too quickly so that they would regularly find themselves remaking their clothes. Perhaps the evil that they’d allowed into the world would too easily tear through fig leaves, hurting Adam and Eve. Whatever the exact reason, we can be sure of one thing, their chosen sin-cover was insufficient physically as well as spiritually.

The same is true of our lives today. All we like sheep have gone astray [Isaiah 53:6]. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans3:23]. There is no one righteous, not even one [Romans 3:10]. Unlike Adam and Eve, we were born into sinful human bodies and a sin-bound world. But just like them, God has offered a sacrifice to make amends for the sin we’re in. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life,” [John 3:16].

When we try to say, “I’m a good person,” or, “I’ve never hurt anyone, at least not on purpose,” we’re trying to cover ourselves with fig leaves just like Adam and Eve did about 6,000 years ago. If we try to extract from the Bible a checklist of works that will get us into heaven, we’re denying the truth that blood must be shed to atone for our sins. Scripture is clear, that the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23], but it is also clear that our own sinful deaths will never gain us access to eternity with our holy Creator in heaven. Only Jesus–the Son of God–and him crucified in our place can secure our eternity.

When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we–like Adam and Eve before us–put on the fur garments that God has specially made to cover our sins. For all of us who are baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ [Galatians 3:27]. And it is His righteousness alone that can enter heaven’s gates one day.

Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice for your sin? Or are you trying to cover yourself with good works in hopes you can do enough to gain eternity?

Pain and Sorrow

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

Image result for pregnant bellyEve was the second to act disobediently [the first being the serpent] and the second to receive the consequences for her sinful actions. Right from their creation, God gave Adam and Eve the command to be fruitful and increase in number [Genesis 1:28]. However, God didn’t originally create childbirth to be painful for women. This is a direct result of the Fall.

However, beyond childbearing, the original Hebrew and earlier translations of this scripture indicate that the pain and sorrow would also extend into childrearing, that is raising children.

Again, God originally intended for human families to have perfect, sinless relationships with each other. In this sense, God’s pronouncement of Eve’s consequence is more of a statement of–you dropped it and it broke.

You disobeyed, despising my warning that death would come. The first death is your relationship to Me, your Holy Creator [for where sin is, God cannot be also; 1 John 3:9]. The second death–as a mother–is having sacrificed a right relationship with your children. For all earthly time after, sinful natures have brought mothers sorrow in raising their children.

That is not to say that there is no good. It is just to say that evil was never intended to be present in human relationships.

Beyond the mother-child relationship damage, Eve’s relationship with Adam would now also be strained. There would be tensions over authority. Since God was no longer the Sovereign in Eve and Adam’s hearts [because they’d traded their Godly citizenship], Adam would now rule as Eve’s earthly authority.

Now, the feminists out there might be thinking, “This is so sexist. That’s exactly why I don’t believe in God.”

Well, fast-forward to Galatians 3:28. Here we see that Christ’s redemption–of our Godly citizenship–on the cross restored relational equality. Again, it wasn’t God’s intention for any human to be subservient to another, but the sinful nature is selfish. People sinful-naturally needed an authority hierarchy, because sin dethroned God from their hearts. But Jesus died to set it to right.

Secondly, we have to be very careful not to decide there is no God just because we don’t like what He might have to say. That is Satan’s lie rearing its ugly head in our lives all over again. “You can be like God, knowing…”[Genesis 3:5]. You can decide for yourself. If you don’t like what He says, then whatevs! Just pretend He doesn’t exist, and do your own thing.

As Christians, though, we should be living as one redeemed. Our marriage relationships [whether present or future] should be characterized by mutual love and respect, with Christ ever at the center. And, yes. When we can’t come to an agreement over a decision that can’t be done two ways, Christian wives need to submit to their husband’s final say as the authority. [But hopefully you married him because you love and trust him!]

Is there any part of God’s Word that doesn’t sit well with you? Pray and ask God to soften your heart to Him, to help you to surrender to His omniscient wisdom. Pray and ask God to help you to understand the matter from His perspective.

Telling the Story Again

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.” Hebrews 11:22

Image result for Egyptian heiroglyphics about IsraelitesDuring Joseph’s life, the Israelites were living in Goshen, a nice Egyptian neighborhood, where they were treated fairly and lived as freely as any Egyptian citizen. However, Egypt was not their home. So Joseph spoke about the exodus that would take place over 400 years after his death and left instructions to make sure that his bones were carried out and buried in his homeland.

This was not the first mention of the exodus in scriptures. In Genesis 15:12-16, when God made His covenant with Joseph’s great-grandfather, Abraham, He foretold that the Israelites would be foreigners and then slaves for 400 years. He also let Abraham know about the good things that would happen when his descendants came out of this slavery.

No doubt Abraham told his promised son, Isaac, what God had said concerning their descendants, as well as about the promised inheritance. And Isaac told his son Jacob who told his sons, including Joseph, who now told the story with the promise again to the generation after him. And for 400 years of slavery, the Israelites faithfully passed down the family history of God’s promise and Joseph’s request to take his bones with when the time came.

In Joshua 24:32 we see that the Israelites kept this inherited responsibility–just as God kept His covenant with Abraham–and they buried Joseph’s bones in his homeland–the Promised Land.

We who have accepted Christ have also been adopted into Abraham’s inheritance [Galatians 3:29]. We too have a story to tell and a promise to pass on. Like Abraham and Joseph, God has already told us what will happen in the end, both times of great tribulation and of great blessing [see Revelation]. By faith–absolute certainty in what we hope for, but cannot see–we too can leave instructions about what to do when Christ returns for us; though if we have told the story faithfully, hopefully those we know will also have accepted Christ and left with us.

Are you telling the gospel story to everyone you know? Are you giving each person you encounter an opportunity to choose eternal life? Aren’t you glad that someone was faithful to tell you the story again and give you that opportunity?

Tenting for Jesus

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place that he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10

Image result for Abraham's Tent in the Old TestamentUnlike his predecessors, Enoch and Noah, who walked with God, Abraham walked before Him–in front of/before His eyes. And God called him to walk blameless before Him [Genesis 17:1].

Tall order from a perfect, holy God.

By faith, though–absolute certainty in the inheritance he could not see–Abraham gave up his earthly father’s inheritance to accept the land that God promised to him. A land that Abraham had never seen. A land where he was a complete stranger. A land where he never settled down to live in more than a tent for his whole life. And neither did his son or grandson after him, because they became heirs of a promise to come rather than an earthly inheritance.

Why did Abraham pack up his wife and all his earthly possessions to become a wanderer in a foreign land? Because he intellectually accepted that there’s more to this life–more to this world–than the human condition. He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness [Galatians 3:6].

This faith was credited to Abraham, just as belief in Jesus is the believer’s righteousness.

It made absolutely no earthly sense for Abraham to leave his father’s wealth and inherit a nomadic life in a tent. Just as believing that God sent His son, Jesus, to die for our sins and living our life for Him makes absolutely no sense by the world’s standards today. But scripture affirms that, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles,” [1 Corinthians 1:23]. To anyone who is not a Christian, it doesn’t make sense.

But when people despise us, mock us, reject us for our faith, it is because they are doing these things to our Lord Jesus Christ, to God the Father Himself. As the songwriter once wrote, this world is not my home, I’m only passing through. Abraham pitched a tent for life, the eyes of his faith firmly rooted in God’s promised land. We pitch our tent by keeping the things of life in a proper, heavenly perspective.

Are you tenting for Jesus?

Without

Image result for faith without deedsby Kristen C. Strocchia

“Just as the body without spirit/breath is dead, so also faith without deeds/good works is dead.” James 2:26

Dead. No matter what I believe about God and what He can do, if I do not obey Him, if I do not act on the faith that I have, I am as good as a dead man walking. I am as good as the world’s shiniest and fastest car with no gas.

What deeds is the writer of James speaking about? Whatever God asks of me.

How do I know what He’s asking of me? By reading His Word. By maintaining close conversation with the Lord through my prayer relationship. By walking this world with my eyes and my heart wide open.

Maybe God will ask me to share my lunch with someone who forgot theirs or to befriend the smelly kid at school. Maybe He will ask me to share the gospel with the class president or pray with the class bully. Maybe He will simply ask me to say and do what is right according to His Word [and this He is definitely asking of all of us at all times].

Regardless of what God asks of me, one thing is certain, if I do not respond with obedience, if I do not act on my faith I am like a body that’s not breathing. I am like a car that can’t leave the driveway. Dead.

Image result for faith expressing itself in love“…if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2b-3

But let’s say my faith is very much alive. I gave, befriended, shared the gospel, prayed, and said and did what was right according to scripture, but I didn’t actually love any of the people that God sent me to, then none of it meant a thing. None of it is of any value to me. I miss out on the blessing, because I can’t grow in God without loving the people He sends me to. It’s like Jonah being sent to Nineveh. He was so angry with God for saving those people because Jonah himself didn’t love them at all, and Jonah missed the true blessing of the good work that he’d done.

“What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” Galatians 5:6b

The Galatian church fought about whether Gentiles becoming Christians had to be circumcised–by the same obedient faith that God called Abraham to–just like the Jews. They knew what God’s Word said. But by their fighting it’s obvious that they didn’t love one another. The apostle Paul, who wrote Galatians, basically said, Look guys. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to get circumcised or not. He recognized this choice as a physical act. A deed not connected to New Testament faith, but to Old Testament faith. A deed that had no value because the church had missed the point. God hadn’t called these new believers to act on someone else’s faith. But He had called all believers–just as He does today–to act on their faith in love.

What is God calling you to do today? Do you have the love for God and others to make your obedience count?