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Life Is Not A Screenplay

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.’ He also said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” Genesis 9:24-27

Image result for Cinematic TechniquesOn an individual level, Ham behaved sinfully. He could have repented and apologized to his father. He could have confessed before his son Canaan that his actions were wrong. And perhaps he did do some or all of these things. Scripture doesn’t say. However, even when we are sorry, actions always carry natural consequences. And one of the natural consequences of sin is coming under a curse [Genesis 3:14 & 17]. By curse, I don’t mean some magical incantation, rather an almost prophetic utterance of the wrong that will befall someone.

Canaan was cursed to become a slave to his own family, while his uncles–Shem and Japheth–received blessings for their righteous choices. Looking ahead, we learn that Canaan became the father of the: Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites [Genesis 10:16-18].

The Canaanites–aka descendants of Canaan–became the inhabitants of the Promised Land [Genesis 15:18-21]. The five clans in bold, are repeatedly mentioned in scripture as the people that the Israelites–descendants of Shem–needed to drive from the land in order to take possession of it [Exodus 3:8, 17; 12:5; 23:23; et al]. However, the Israelites were not faithful to drive out all of the Canaanite peoples. Some did in fact become their slaves, others were killed or driven out, and a small remnant were left alive and later intermarried [contrary to God’s command].

But history was not written by God in advance as a screenplay for us to walk through. Despite the pronouncement of the curse, Canaan could have repented and raised his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord as his grandfather Noah had done. Imagine how different scripture and world history would be if that had been the case. If each generation faithfully passed on and received, not just the truth of God, but the desire to enter into a personal relationship with Him.

Many generations later, a Canaanite descendant would choose to revere God, to make the kind of righteous choice that her ancestors Canaan and Ham did not. And God brought Rahab back into His blessing, made her a member of his own family by her faith [Joshua 6:25; Matthew 1:5]. God is not willing that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9], but each one is allowed to choose all the same.

We are all descended from sinners, but like Shem, Japheth and Rahab, we can also all make righteous choices by faith. Despite your sin, God is not willing that you should perish, but what do you choose? Do you choose to read books/magazines, or watch TV shows/movies that gratify the desires of your body? Or do you choose righteousness–to save those pleasures for the time and place in life for which God has designed them?

Confronted with the Truth of God

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Hebrews 11:31

Image result for scarlet cordRahab was a woman of ill-repute among her people. We don’t know why she came to this profession, and we don’t need to. Because–like all sinners–her past was washed away when she was justified by her faith–her absolute certainty in what she hoped for, but couldn’t see. But how did a poor, sinful woman of an idolatrous nation come to place her faith in a God she had never known?

In her own words, Rahab told the Israelite spies–the ones that she had hidden from her own King’s messengers–“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear of you. We have heard how the Lord…and our courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below,” [Joshua 2:8-11].

Even though Rahab was not raised in the fear of the Lord, when she heard of His great works, her whole heart–intellect, will, and emotion–turned to Him. She recognized Him for who He alone is–the One True God of heaven and earth.

And the scriptures write that, “she was not killed with those who were disobedient,” [Hebrews 11:31]. Meaning that everyone else who heard of God’s works also had the opportunity to recognize that there was no other like the God of Israel. Everyone else had the opportunity to acknowledge Him as the One and Only God and to submit their lives to Him by faith. Like Rahab, God would’ve seen all of the inhabitants of the Promised Land–rather than be routed by the sword–turn back to Him.

Instead the king and citizens of Jericho maintained faith in themselves. They believed that they could withstand the Israelites in their own power despite what they’d heard about their God. Perhaps they didn’t believe that the stories were real. Perhaps they thought themselves stronger than the Egyptians or better defended than other cities. Perhaps they truly believed the stone idols made by their own hands were really real. Regardless, when God presented Himself to the people of Jericho, they denied Him as God.

Rahab alone turned to Him. Rahab alone did not fear those who could kill the body, but feared instead for the loss of her soul [Matthew 10:28]. And not only was she physically saved, God brought her into his literal family–the line through which Jesus would be born [Matthew 1:5].

If you are a Christian, you know how Rahab felt when she recognized who God is and that she needed and wanted to trust in Him alone. But what about those around us?

Whether we have been saved since a young age or only recently, we become a light to everyone we encounter. When they look at us, do they see the Almighty God at work? Do they hear of His great works in our lives and through our speech? Are they confronted with the truth of God in us?

Seed of Faith or Spore of Doubt?

by Kristen C. Strocchia

“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land: but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.” Hebrews 11:29-30

Image result for tree and mushroomIt’s not often that we read about the Israelites’ corporate faith, but here the writer of Hebrews–as inspired by God–commends their faith. By absolute certainty in what they hoped for, but couldn’t see, the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea.

By Moses’ faith, God parted the sea, but if the people failed to believe God they would never have walked through the watery walls. They would have turned back, or been crushed by the Egyptians, or–like the Egyptians–been drowned by the waves.

But despite witnessing God’s awesome power at work, this generation turned from their faith and grumbled against God [Numbers 14:1-4]. Consequently, they passed away in their desert wanderings.

Forty years later, by a renewed corporate faith, the youth from the Red Sea parting  obediently marched around Jericho behind the ark of the covenant. Armed with nothing but trumpets, marching orders and the command to shout on cue, this next generation stormed the gateway city to the Promised Land and saw God deliver it miraculously into their hands.

This generation went in to take hold of the Promised Land, but their faith–and that of the generations after them–eventually gave way too [read Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets].

Without their initial belief, the Israelites would never have seen these two great miracles. But even having seen them, they lost their absolute certainty in what they hoped for, but couldn’t see.

The difficulties of life and the murmurs of others seeded doubt. And just like a tiny mustard seed of faith can grow into a mighty tree that moves mountains, so a tiny spore of doubt can decay the faith of individuals and, eventually, an entire nation.

We must be careful then what we allow to inform our faith–family, friends, feelings, circumstances–or God Himself? Have you surrounded yourself with those who seed faith or spread spores of doubt? Both can take root and grow, but only one to the glory of God.

How about you? Do you tend to be a seed or a spore to those around you?

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?