A Mack Family Winter Update

6 Feb

If you would like to read a little update about what’s happening the past couple of months in our family and how you can pray for us, click here!

Humility Obeys…

31 Jan

10 steps toward humility

14 Jan

Video

Benefiting from God’s Word

8 Jan

Video

Pursue Humility

7 Jan

What’s the Old Testament about? part 3

31 Dec

If we are going to understand the Old Testament, there are a couple of key words we have to understand first.

One is kingdom.

Another is covenant.

The Old Testament tells the story of how God is going to establish His kingdom, and it tells that story, through a series of covenants God makes with men.

The very first time, we find the word covenant being used to describe something God’s doing with man is in Genesis chapter 6.  And I am talking about the actual word itself.  Right there on the page. Genesis 6, when God’s speaking to Noah. 

We call this the Noahic Covenant. 

And to understand the Noahic Covenant, you have to understand, that even though we are only a few pages into our Bibles by the time we get to Genesis 6, it’s, been many years since God created the world, and at this point, man is, basically, out of control.

Or at least looks like it. 

You remember, Adam says, I want to define what’s good, not you God, and what that results in, is Cain murdering his brother, that’s first, and then, there’s polygamy by the end of Genesis chapter 4 and people boasting in violence. 

It just like this spiral down in all of our relationships. 

Until it gets so bad that, if you look at Genesis chapter 6, you’ll see, what, is one of the strangest stories we find in the Bible. And it’s a hard one to understand, honestly. But I think it gives you a little of the context, for God’s covenant with Noah because you see it talks about the sons of God seeing that daughters of man were attractive. 

This is Genesis 6:2.

And, you remember this story, and you have to try to figure out who are the sons of God and what are the daughters of men, and, there a number of different ideas of what that means, and, I am not going to get into all of them now, and it’s ok if you think differently than I do. But I think, basically, what it means is that humanity was somehow partnering with demons, sons of God meaning angels, in this case, anti-God angels, demons, and they were, finding a way somehow to marry, women, perhaps, because, they were, thinking they could use the women, to have children, who would, enable them to rebel against God’s plan.

And I am reading a little into the text. 

Obviously. 

So this is not authoritative, in any way, but since the beginning, Satan’s been making plans against God’s kingdom, and it seems like this might be, his plan, God said be fruitful and multiply, and he’s like, let’s mess with that and yet it doesn’t work of course.

And the writer makes that clear in a funny way in verse 4. 

He says, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days.”

And Nephilim basically means, tall.

They just leave the word there like that. They don’t translate it in our Bibles. But that’s what it means. So you are like, wow, the Nephilim, but really, no, that’s that’s the best they could come up with, as a result of this strategic union with women, the best they could do is, have some really tall children, and you know the writer stresses, that wasn’t even very unusual, either because it says, there were Nephilim on the earth in these days and, yet they were also on the earth afterward. 

So, it’s like, sure there were tall people back then. 

But you know there were tall people afterwards as well. 

And whether, that’s exactly what’s happening here the point is that man’s rebelling against God in huge ways. 

And we know THAT for sure, because the text goes on and says, ‘the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,’ which seems as bad as it can get and yet, God’s not going to let man’s rebellion win, and so he appoints a time of judgment.

It’s funny, actually. 

Because if you go back to Genesis 5, in the middle of all the wickedness, there was one man who was really godly, his name was Enoch, and it says he walked with God. And as he was looking at all the sin around him, it must have grieved him, and he had a son, and he named him, Methuselah.

And you know what that name means, it means, his death shall bring judgment and I think that may have been a kind of prophecy. 

Judgment’s coming when this boy dies. 

And God shows mercy by letting Methuselah live for a really long time, and yet he did die eventually, and when he died, judgment came and yet, again, in the middle of that judgment, God shows mercy and rescues one family.

And you know the story, I am sure. 

God floods the earth. Waters cover the earth.

That’s what a flood does, and does that phrase sound familiar, it should it takes us back to the way things were before God started bringing this world into order. 

Because, it’s almost like in this judgment, God uncreated the earth.

And then recreates it again.

Or at least that’s the picture. 

I guess, maybe a different way to say it, is that He gives the world a bath, after which, the text tells us, the ark comes to rest on a mountain and God takes Noah out, into this new world.

And makes him a promise. 

Specifically, He makes a covenant. 

Genesis 9:8, 

“Then God said, to Noah and his sons with him, ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you.”

And I am saying, that word, covenant, is really important.

That’s why I am telling this story. 

And yet.

I know. 

It’s also kind of unfamiliar.  

I mean, what is a covenant. 

A covenant is basically a promise. 

But, not a promise, like I will come to your house tomorrow. 

It’s a more formal promise. 

It’s something like a contract, actually, a covenant, but a contract, doesn’t necessarily involve a relationship, and yet a covenant, always does. 

Which is why wou don’t talk about marriage, as a marriage contract, so much, as you talk about the covenant of marriage. It’s a legally binding obligation, a covenant, like a contract, BUT, it’s more personal, in that, it involves a certain, unique kind of relationship. 

And so obviously in the Old Testament, there were different kinds of covenants.

If we are looking at covenants in general. 

Like. 

You might have a covenant.

Between equals.

Which is, an agreement between people that are on the same level basically.

And then you would also, have a covenant, in the Old Testament, between a superior and an inferior. 

So.

Say like a powerful nation.

Might enter into a covenant relationship with a less powerful nation, and that covenant was a formal agreement, between the two. 

And. 

Most of the time, in the world of men, that would mean, the superior nation, expected, demanded, certain things from the inferior one.

Like we will make a covenant to protect you.

If, you, the inferior, do these things, that we want.

If you keep the covenant, you would be blessed, and if you didn’t, you would be cursed. 

But there’s another kind of covenant, which is different, that could be made between a superior and an inferior.Where the more powerful one, would actually, make commitments to the less powerful one.

So. 

The first kind of covenant, we might call a treaty.

And the second kind, we might call a grant.  

Or, like a gift. 

And that’s the kind of covenant that God makes with Noah in Genesis 9. 

It’s not a treaty. It’s a grant. It’s a gift. 

Because, God’s more important than Noah, and so, Noah doesn’t have the right to demand anything of God, and yet God, graciously stoops down, to make a promise to Noah and to all of Noah’s descendants, and even to the animals, actually, and in a sense.

To the earth itself. 

In the Noahic covenant. 

It’s like God’s making a commitment to the world itself. 

“Behold,” God says.

“I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.”

And God says in Genesis 8:21. 

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.”

And again in chapter 9, verse 11.

“I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And what’s happening is God’s making a commitment. 

He’s making a promise. 

After He’s hit reboot on the world. 

And this promise is so important. 

Because after, Adam sinned, and the world got really bad, and God judged it, you are kind of like yeah, I mean, that’s good, I mean, those people were so evil, and yet, as you think about, you are also kind of like whoa, wait.

Because what if the world becomes that bad again?

It makes you wonder, is God, maybe, just going to be be done, with the whole kingdom plan?  

So He promises toward the beginning of the Bible that, no. 

He’s not going to be doing this over and over and over, the next couple thousand years, where, man sins, and he wipes the world out, and man sins, he wipes the world out, the way he did here. 

Which is huge. 

That’s a big commitment. 

Because as we look at that original picture.

Though we’ve got hope, because, God’s promised He’s going to defeat Satan, with how evil the world gets, and this first, massive, outpouring of his judgment, you might wonder, if that means, He’s just going to decide to wipe just absolutely everything out.

And, so, He gives us hope, here, that He’s still, committed to creation.

Not just to cursing. But to to blessing.

And that He’s going to patiently allow this world to remain.

Until He provides the solution He promised for what man’s done. 

And you know. 

It’s cool if you are reading the story. This is like let’s start over. 

In Genesis 9, He basically, reaffirms the whole plan, He shared in Genesis 1, and gives Noah, very, similar commands, to the ones, he gave Adam. 

You see He’s putting Noah in the world, the way he put Adam.

I mean. 

Adam and Eve were the only people on the planet. 

And. 

Noah and his family are the only people on the planet. 

And. 

Adam and Eve, were in the Garden, on the mountain.

And.

Noah and his family come out of the ark, on the mountain. 

And. 

Adam and Eve, were perfect, and experienced fellowship with God, and while, Noah wasn’t perfect, he was righteous man, blameless in His generation.

And Noah walked with God. 

And. 

God commands Adam, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and you know what, he makes the same exact command to Noah. 

Only now.

It’s. 

In a world that’s under the curse.

And so there have to be some modifications, and God has to talk to Noah, about some things he never had, to talk to Adam about, and yet, you still can’t help but wonder.

As you are reading and you look at Noah, on this mountain if Noah will be able to do what Adam couldn’t. 

And again.

It’s funny. 

Because the word Noah sounds like the Hebrew word for rest.

And you remember that was life in the kingdom, at the end of Genesis 1, REST, enjoyment, blessing, and so you are looking at Noah, in this new world, wondering if, he’s the promised seed, who is going to bring that promised REST, after all, that’s his name, and. 

Yet it doesn’t take you long to discover, he’s not going to be able to establish the kingdom. 

Because. 

Like. 

How, Adam, in the Garden, ate of the fruit of the tree and ended up naked and ashamed, not too long after, he comes out of the Ark, Noah ate of the fruit of the vine, and ended up naked and ashamed.

And once again.

From that point, the world just keeps getting worse and worse. 

It’s basically. After the reboot. The same old story. 

It’s Genesis 3 to 6 all over again. 

Until basically, everyone joins together, in rebellion against God, refusing to submit to God’s authority over them, by, trying to establish a kingdom for themselves. 

And this Genesis 11. 

The Tower of Babel. 

And. 

Babel is a city. 

And you know, actually every other time in the Old Testament you read the word Babel, how it is translated.

It’s translated Babylon. 

And the reason they translate it Babel here is because the word Babel sounds a lot like the Hebrew word, for the judgment God brought on the people, kind of like how the English noun Babel sounds like the verb to babble.

So it’s a word play. 

But. 

You really could. 

Call this the Tower of Babylon. 

And what’s happening in the Tower of Babylon is basically the same thing that was happening in the Garden of Eden, only now, on a grand scale, if you think about it. 

Because in the Garden, Adam and Eve, sinned, trying to be like God, and at the Tower of Babel, you have the whole earth coming together, to exalt themselves over God. 

We will make a name for ourselves. 

And Adam and Eve wanted to be god, meaning to have, the ability to define good and evil for themselves.

And at the Tower of Babylon everyone is gathering together and basically, saying, that they are defining good and evil now, only, in the exact opposite way than God had said. 

You remember God had said I want you to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and at the Tower of Babel, people said, no, that’s not good for us, which, of course, is why God, stoops down, once again, and judges man.

And yet, even, as he judges man, in Genesis 11, we find him taking, another step forward, in his great restoration plan.  

It’s like again. 

Every time man does his worst, every time it looks like, man’s done the single most evil thing he could possibly do, God, steps in and, uses that moment, to take another step forward, in His plan for fixing, what man has broken. 

When Adam and Eve sin. 

He makes a promise to defeat Satan. 

When the whole world is going crazy, doing evil things, He rescues Noah and then reaffirms His commitment to creation. 

And when oeople join together to shake their fist at God. 

God.

Chooses.

A very old man.

And makes another covenant, which, we’ll look at next time, because it lays out God’s basic plan, for rescuing the world.

What is the Old Testament about? part 2

19 Dec

We are looking at the Old Testament.

What is the Old Testament about?

Obviously you know the Bible is divided into two parts.

The Old and New Testament. 

It wasn’t always called that, by the way, the Old and New Testament. Those were names given to them, I think, around the third century a.d. and some of what we are talking, will help you understand why. 

But. 

One reason understanding the Old Testament is so important is because you won’t understand the New Testament if you don’t. So much of the New Testament is hard to understand, apart from the Old Testament.

Even.

Seemingly simple things. 

Like. 

John the Baptist’s statement, “Behold the Lamb of God” seems pretty strange unless you know something about the Old Testament.

A simple way, to start understanding the Old Testament is by seeing, the Old Testament is telling a story. 

It is not a random collection of materials. You remember. It is not a book of disconnected sayings. It’s telling a story about what God’s doing in this world. 

And.

If you wanted to summarize the main theme of that story, you might say, it’s a story about, the Kingdom of God. 

The reason for the story is the glory of God. 

The hero of the story is the Son of God. 

And the subject of the story.

Is the kingdom of God. 4

Which.

Could be really helpful as you read it.

When you are confused about some of the details, you can go back, and say, ok, but I know what the story is about, and how does this maybe fit into that.  

Knowing what the story is about could be really helpful.

So long.

As you know what the Kingdom of God is. 

Obviously.

And because there are lots of different ideas about what the kingdom of God is, in the previous post, we went all the way back. 

To the very first place.

We get a picture. 

In the Bible.

Of the kingdom of God.

And that’s on the, very first two pages. 

You might remember. 

We said. 

If we wanted to be very broad.

We could define kingdom of God, as God’s rule, and we see that in the opening chapter of the Bible, as God’s making this world, He’s clearly, the One in charge. And yet, we can be more specific, and need to, because most of the Bible, is concerned with, a more specific facet, of God’s kingdom.  

The Bible tells us God is in charge of everything.

Obviously. 

But it doesn’t just tell us God is in charge of everything.It tells us that He is using His power and wisdom to accomplish something specific.

Which is pictured.

In the Garden of Eden. 

The Garden of Eden is like a prototype.

A blueprint of God’s plan for this world.

If someone says, what was God making this world to be, you could say, we get a small picture of what He was making this world to be in the Garden of Eden. 

Because. 

After watching God make everything in the first chapter, the second chapter of Genesis, begins. 

You remember. 

With God resting on the seventh day. 

And God resting seems strange, because a God who makes the universe doesn’t get tired. And yet, that is an important beginning to this chapter, because it helps us understand where God was going with creation. 

He made the world.

He created man. 

He gave a man a job. 

He declared it all, very good. 

And then He rested.

In other words, He enjoyed, and that’s not just a side note to the story, that’s pointing toward the goal of all this creating God’s doing, this is was God’s intention for creation, it was supposed to be so enjoyable, and what does that enjoyment look like?

I think.

We see.

What it was supposed to look in the Garden of Eden. 

God intended the world. 

To become His special dwelling place.

Where we would experience His special presence and serve Him, by exercising authority and rule, on His behalf. 

And.

One cool way to see that. 

Actually. 

Is.

By.

Contrasting, the beginning of the Bible’s story, with the ending. 

A good way to test, if we are right. 

About the story. 

Is by looking at.

How the story ends. 

And. 

I wonder if you’ve noticed. 

As you’ve done so. 

The parallel between the beginning of the Bible and the ending. 

Because. 

In the beginning.

Genesis 1 and 2. 

You have.

God creating the heavens and the earth. 

And you have.

God saying, let there be light.

And you have God giving man the responsibility to rule. 

And you have man experiencing God’s special presence in this garden with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And the tree of life. 

And.

In the end.

You have, a new heavens and a new earth. 

 And you have, God’s light. 

John says, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” 

And you have God, enabling man to rule. 

“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom authority was committed.”

And ultimately.

Revelation 22:5.

“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light and they will reign forever and ever.”

And you have this city, that’s like a garden.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city, also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.”

And, I am saying, the beginning and the end of the Bible, come together to give us a pretty clear idea of what God’s plan for the world is. 

Here’s the plan. 

God’s establishing a kingdom.

Where.

Man rules over the earth as His representative.  

And.

Enjoys His presence. 

And blessing as a result. 

 I mean. 

We see that.

At the end of the story. 

And, we see it, way back at the beginning. On the very first couple, pages. We know where this is headed.  God gives us a glimpse, in the Garden. 

Where.

God and man.

Have a perfect relationship. 

Where man and woman.

Have a perfect relationship. 

And where man and the world.

Have a perfect relationship. 

Which of course, isn’t how it is is any longer.

And. 

Again. 

We saw after giving us a picture of the kingdom, God identifies the problem. 

And.

It’s a big one.  

Because. 

In spite of God’s amazing kindness, man turned his back on God, and you can read the story in Genesis 3, and you’ll see, man’s, act of rebellion, had devastating consequences.

Which is pictured in some graphic ways in the story. 

If you look at it. 

As the man and woman. 

Hide from God. 

Genesis 3:8. 

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

And they are hiding, because they are afraid. 

They say. 

“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself.”

And that’s there to say to us. 

Their relationship with God is broken. 

Obviously. 

And so is their relationship with one another. 

And eventually, they are cast out of the Garden. 

Sent into exile. 

In fact. 

One of the saddest lines, in all the Bible has to be, Genesis 2:24, where Moses says.

“God drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and the flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

And so it’s kind of like. 

The Old Testament.

Opens with a question. 

The question. 

Because. 

Obviously, God’s plan for this world was amazing, but, it doesn’t take man very long, to completely rebel against, that plan, and be judged for it, and so we are asking, as we look at what man’s done, if there’s any way to fix it?

Is the kingdom gone?

Is it over?

Because. 

It might feel that way. 

And. 

Really. 

The next few chapters of Genesis make it clear, man by himself, is not going to be able to fix what he broke, because everything, just gets worse and worse. 

After being cast out of the Garden. 

It’s murder in Genesis 4.

It’s death and judgment in Genesis 5. 

It’s every intention of man’s heart, being only evil continually, by the time we get to chapter 6. 

In fact. 

It’s like we are seeing the opposite of the kingdom. The anti-kingdom, being established. And yet, at the same time, we have hope, because you remember, God made a promise.  

At the very beginning of the Bible.

Genesis 3:15. 

One of the most important verses.

In the Bible. 

In the middle of executing judgment, God preaches the first gospel message. 

As he’s. 

Speaking to the snake. 

And ultimately to Satan. 

He says. 

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.”

And enmity means.

There’s a battle that’s going to go on, between godly people and Satan and his followers, God will put enmity, it’s not just going to be Satan and his followers.

This is a promise.

There are going to be a group of people whom God raises up, who are going to be godly, and who will be engaged in a battle against Satan, and that battle is going to rage on and on, until eventually God says, one of Eve’s descendants, will rise, and defeat Satan.

Through suffering and conflict. 

“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

And from that point on. 

What do you think godly people were doing?

They were looking for that descendant of Eve to come, and they were trying to figure out how, God was going to use one of Eve’s descendants to overcome Satan, and they were trying to figure out exactly who that descendant was going to be.

I think we might see that in what Eve says at the end of Genesis 4. 

For example. 

She bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring, seed, instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”

And I think we see. 

That.

In Genesis 5. 

When Lamech fathered a son named Noah. 

He says. 

“Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”

And.

He’s hoping. 

And.

Godly people have always been hoping, for the descendant of Eve, to come, who would defeat Satan, and they have been wanting to know how He was going to come and what He was going to do and part of the purpose of the rest of the Old Testament, actually.

Is to help you understand exactly who to look for.

And how God’s going to keep the promise He made in Genesis chapter 3 through Him.

And one major way He reveals that, is through something we call covenants. 

Now.

We are getting to it. 

And.

I think, this is cool. 

Because. 

This is a little Bible study. 

And. 

We are working here. 

I know. 

But.

I want us to all understand our Bibles, and, how the Bible works.

And. 

While. 

The kingdom of God is the theme, right?

And. 

While, we kind of got to know a little of what that is in Genesis 1 and 2, why it isn’t like that right now, in Genesis 3, and why’d, we have hope, that God’s going to fix it, in Genesis 3:15.  

There’s. 

A lot. 

We don’t know.

At this point. 

In our Bibles. 

In terms. 

Of. 

Who. 

Exactly. 

And. 

How. 

I mean. 

We know.

One thing about the who. 

It’s going to a descendant of Eve, but that’s pretty broad. 

And we know one thing about the how, it’s going to involve, him crushing the head of the snake as the snake bites his heel, so we know there’s some sort of final victory, through suffering, and conflict.

Which is a lot actually, to know, considering this is just the first three pages of the Bible, we are talking about.

But at the same time, it’s still pretty general. 

If you think about it. 

Which is why.

The rest of the Old Testament slowly but surely reveals, a little more, a little more, and a little more, about how God’s going to accomplish this victory, and one big way, it reveals that, is through these things, we call.

Covenants. 

In fact. 

I once heard someone say the story of the Bible is a story of Kingdom, through covenants. 

Covenant.  

Is a big word. 

In the Bible. 

And. 

Yet it’s also kind of unfamiliar, and so in order to help you understand the story the Old Testament tells, in the next several posts, I want to walk through some of these covenants, and their significance for understanding how God’s going about saving the universe.