Avoid I Trouble

Topical Scripture: Genesis 3:1-7

A Gallup poll released this week noted that Republicans’ satisfaction with America’s direction is at its highest point since 2007. However, Democrats’ confidence in the direction of the country is at its lowest point since 2008.

Is the country getting better or worse? The answer depends on the person you ask.

A Boeing 737 skidded off a runway in northern Turkey last Saturday, dangling precariously off a muddy cliff just a few feet from the Black Sea. The accident shut down the airport, but as one passenger said, “It’s a miracle we escaped.” Was the accident a failure or a miracle? The answer depends on the person you ask.

Your focus usually becomes your reality. What you want to become, you usually become. In learning how to live your blest life, we’ve discovered the positives: living in daily commitment to Jesus and covenant relationships with others. Today we’ll consider the negatives, the attack of the enemy, that which will keep us from lives blessed by God.

The first temptation in human history is still our temptation today, because it still works. Human nature does not change. Adam and Eve were no less susceptible to Satan’s strategy than we are. Let’s learn more about our enemy and find ways to defeat his plans to destroy our lives.

Who is our enemy?

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (v. 1). The Genesis text does not attribute the serpent’s activity to Satan. The devil is nowhere mentioned in the story. But Revelation gives us the rest of the story, describing “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (12:9; 20:2).

What do we know about him? What does he do to us? His names reveal his nature.

He is called “Satan” thirty-four times in Scripture—the word means “accuser.” He accuses us to God, to each other, and to ourselves. Whenever you hear accusation, blame, finger-pointing, know that it comes ultimately from him.

He is called the “devil” thirty-six times in the New Testament. The word means “slanderer.” Whenever someone is gossiped about, slandered, criticized behind their back, you can know the ultimate source.

How effective is he? Satan can claim ownership over every unsaved soul. In John 8 our Lord refers to his enemies as children of their Satanic “father” (v. 44). He is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) who controls this fallen age (1 John 5:19). Christians live in a world dominated by the devil. We are soldiers stationed on enemy soil, living in an occupied country.

Our enemy is a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). He is a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Those who serve his cause engage in physical, emotional, and sexual attacks against each other and the rest of us. Their master wants nothing less than the wholesale destruction of the human race and especially the people of God.

How does his strategy work?

He begins with your needs. His conversation with Eve began with the fruit of the trees in the garden. This was God’s means for meeting her physical needs. The serpent didn’t begin his conversation by talking about a sunrise or sunset, the moon or the stars, or even Adam or the other animals on the earth. He began with the fruit of the trees, because that was what she needed most to survive.

Satan knows what you need today. Expect to be tempted where your needs are the greatest. If your self-esteem is low, expect to be tempted at the point of pride and fame. If you struggle with substance abuse, know that your enemy will engage you on that front regularly. If popularity comes first with you, expect to be tempted to compromise your character for your friends. If you measure success by money, know that materialism will want to be your god and that you will be given chances to compromise your faith to gain it.

For a pastor who wants his church to grow, there are unethical ways to count attendance and attract people. For a teacher who wants to impress you with his knowledge, it’s always easier to plagiarize or fabricate. Satan will tempt you at the point of your need, the trees in your garden this morning.

He questions God’s provision for those needs. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” (v. 1b). If that were true, she and Adam would starve to death. Satan wants you to believe that God cannot be trusted to meet your needs. His will won’t make you as popular, or rich, or famous as you want to be. Your church may not grow as you want it to. Your congregation may not be as impressed with you as they should be. God’s will is not in your best interest.

He minimizes the risk of disobedience. The woman replies that if they eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, they will die. Satan retorts, “You will not surely die” (v. 4a). The risk is exaggerated. God loves you. He would surely not punish you as you fear. The downside is overstated. In our context, he whispers that we can always repent later. No one will know. No one will be hurt. Or, they deserve what they get. Or, they started this. He finds ways to convince us that disobeying God is to our good, and that it’s worth whatever it costs.

He offers a shortcut to your desires. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v. 4b). You won’t have to depend upon his provision any more, for you will be in charge of your own life, and future, and needs. You’ll know good and evil, just as he knows it. No more rules for you. You’ll call the shots. You’ll get what you want, and more. The popularity, or money, or physical satisfaction, or fame you want.

Why do it God’s way, when there’s a shortcut? Especially when no one will get hurt, least of all yourself. Oswald Chambers defines “lust” as the desire to have it right now. Whatever “it” is. Satan is always happy to help you do that.

Think about the last time you experienced temptation. Did the enemy not start with something you thought you wanted or needed? You knew God’s word and will on the subject, but somehow you were unsure that they were the best way to go this time and thought that you could ignore the risk of disobedience. If you went this other way, you could have what you wanted now. Is this not the perennial strategy behind all temptation?

How do we defeat him?

Take these steps the moment your next temptation attacks you.

First: remember that Satan hates you.

Why? Because he hates your Father.

If a terrorist cannot get at the president, he’ll attack his people. The closer to home, the better. There is a war going on between God and the devil, and you are on the front lines. Everything Satan puts into your head is designed to destroy you. No matter how much it appears to meet your need and minimize the downside right now. Every time you are tempted, know that the tempter wants to destroy you. You’re signing a contract with your enemy.

Billy Sunday was right: “One reason sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake.” Years ago, a snake got into our house, so I killed it. I didn’t think twice about it. If only I were so decisive with the serpent who lives in my mind and my world. How do we kill him?

Second, see the end from the beginning.

To use Dr. Phil’s question, how did this work for them? They got the fruit, to be sure. And they lost the Garden where the fruit was found. They lost paradise, and innocence, and joy. They gained punishment, and toil, and death. Satan was more than willing to give up a momentary pleasure to lead them into a lifetime of pain.

See the end from the beginning. Your enemy is willing for you to gain the sensual pleasure of sexual sin now, so long as he can lead you into adultery, the destruction of your marriage, the devastation of your family, and the ruin of your witness. He’s patient. He’s happy for you to have the possessions purchased by your theft, the popularity which comes from your gossip, the power which results from your manipulation. For now. He’s perfectly willing for you to climb as high on the ladder of success and recognition as possible, so your fall will be all the more visible and destructive.

C. S. Lewis’s masterpiece, The Screwtape Letters, contains the correspondence of a senior tempter to a junior apprentice. It is a remarkable glimpse into satanic strategy. For instance, Screwtape advises, “Doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Third, turn immediately to God and his word.

The serpent was “more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (v. 1). He is smarter than you are. This is a battle of wits and wills which you cannot win in your strength, intelligence, and ability.

If Eve had stayed with God’s word, she would have stayed in the Garden. If Adam had put God’s word ahead of his wife’s, he would have stayed there with her. They tried to fight the battle themselves, and they lost miserably. So will we.

There are temptations which you can defeat in your strength. For instance, I am not tempted by alcohol, for reasons which have nothing to do with me. It’s just my circumstances and makeup. So, I am never offered a drink. No one ever asks me out for a drink, or tries to give me a fifth of whiskey for Christmas. But there are other areas where I am tempted, and these I face regularly. Satan is a great economist. He won’t waste his time with issues he knows I can defeat. Rather, he brings those he knows I cannot.

So, every time I am tempted, I must recognize the fact that this is a test I cannot pass, or it wouldn’t be on my desk. I must give it instantly to my Father, going to his word and will, asking for his strength and support. I must remember not to trust my labor but his, turning instantly to God.

On Thursday, June 26, 1947, Peter Marshall prayed on the floor of the U.S. Senate, “We are too Christian really to enjoy sinning and too fond of sinning really to enjoy Christianity. Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; our trouble is that we do not want to do it. Thy help is our only hope. Make us want to do what is right, and give us the ability to do it. In the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Last, if you fall, trust God to redeem your pain. He will do this for his glory and your good. God came to them, because they could no longer go to him. God covered their shame and sin with the first sacrifice in human history, and then with the Sacrifice which redeemed all of human history. He cast them from the Garden, but his Son’s agony in another Garden paved the way for their entrance back into the Paradise of God.

Sin destroys, and scars. The nail can be pulled out, but the hole remains. However, our God can redeem and bless. He had a use for David after Bathsheba, and Jonah after the fish, and Peter after his denials of Jesus. He still has a use for you.


The problem of our world is I trouble. The middle letter of “sin” is I. The middle letter of “pride” is I. I trouble is my trouble, and yours. What do we do about it?

To live your blest life, learn how to defeat your enemy. Know that he is very real, and very crafty. Remember that he hates you; see the end of his temptation from the beginning; take it to God immediately. If it’s too late, turn to your Father for his redeeming grace and take the next step toward peace.

Let’s start today with where you are in the garden. What fruit interests you this morning?

Be Your Brother’s Keeper

Topical Scripture: Genesis 4:1–9

An asteroid larger than the tallest building on earth will fly by our planet next month traveling 67,000 miles per hour. Fortunately, scientists say it will miss us by 2.6 million miles.

Are other asteroids a greater threat to us? NASA has been studying Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) since the 1970s. They have found more than 95 percent of the known category of over 15,000 NEOs. But what about the other 5 percent?

We don’t have to look to outer space to find threats to life on earth. Each day’s news brings more reports of disease and disasters. Especially painful are stories of people hurting other people. Worst of all are the personal stories that don’t make the news but scar our souls.

Where have you been hurt by someone lately? Who has attacked you? Lied about you? Hurt you? Stolen from you? Cost you something important? What do you do now?

Meet yourself

As our text begins, Adam and Eve have become the parents of Cain and Abel. Later in the narrative, both bring offerings to God, but Cain’s is refused. Why? And why does the question still matter?

The problem was not that one was grain and the other blood. The key is in the Hebrew word translated “offering” (minhah): a gift offered to a superior as an expression of gratitude for his goodwill (Alan Richardson). The “offering” is to be given in gratitude, not duty; in worship, not work and routine.

And that’s how Abel made his “offering.” The Bible says, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4).

“By faith” means “through faith” or “as a result of faith.” Abel’s offering was superior to Cain’s, for it was offered in faith, not works. In gratitude for God’s grace, not to earn his favor. It is the difference between the person who comes to church because it is Sunday and it’s his habit or duty, and the person who comes to worship to give back to the God who has given everything to him.

We see what our neighbor gives; God sees the heart which gives it. He “looked with favor” on Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s (v. 4). “Favor” means “grace.” God received by grace Abel’s offering of gratitude, but he could not receive Cain’s offering of self-righteous performance and works.

So, Cain’s attempt to justify himself failed. His performance fell short. He felt himself a failure and became “very angry” (v. 5); the Hebrew says that he “burned.” His self-righteous anger was such that sin was “crouching” at his door (v. 7), a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

God warned him: “you must master it” before it’s too late. But he did not. The Bible says that Cain “belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 John 3:12).

One hurts, and one is hurt. Why? And which are you today?

When you’re Cain

Cain is everyman. We all have an Abel. We all have someone in our lives whom we’ve hurt. Think back to the last time that was true for you. Why did you do it? Why did you repeat that gossip, tell that lie, speak that slander, steal that money or reputation or time, hurt that person?

Remember the sin cycle we exposed last week: Satan starts with your problem or need, questions God’s provision, minimizes God’s punishment, and offers God’s position. So, what’s the problem, the need? What starts the cycle by which we hurt others? Here are the leading candidates. Which is tempting you today?

Revenge. Cain convinced himself that Abel was his problem—if Abel’s offering had not been superior to his own, none of this would have happened. We hurt those who hurt us and feel justified in revenge.

Justice. This is Abel’s fault, and he deserves what he gets. We hurt others, but they deserve it, or so we think.

Reward. Cain wins, Abel loses. We’ll see whose offerings are acceptable, now that there’s only one to give them. We steal to get what we want and justify our action by the belief that they won’t miss it, or that we need it more.

Power. Nietzsche called the “will to power” the basic drive in human nature. Sometimes we hurt people just because we can. Cain was older and presumably stronger than Abel, and he could kill his brother, so he did. The “golden rule” in our fallen world is simple: the one with the gold makes the rules. We don’t even know why we did it. We just wanted to, and we could.

We’re all susceptible. We’re all Cain. When last did you hurt someone for these very reasons? G. K. Chesterton was asked to write an essay under the title, “What’s wrong with the world.” His submission: “Dear sir: In response to your question, ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ I am.”

The first step to stopping a sin like Cain’s is understanding why you’d commit it. The first step to stopping the sin cycle is understanding where you are being tempted to hurt today. Which serpent is whispering in your ear right now?

When you’re Abel

Now let’s reverse things. You’re Abel—you’ve been hurt, and you’re tempted to respond with revenge, justice, reward, or power. You’re ready to perpetuate the sin cycle. What should Cain have done before he killed his brother? What should we do when Cain hurts us? Let’s remember the answer to the sin cycle we discovered last week, and apply it here.

First, be honest about your pain.

Listen to your life. Don’t cover up your hurt, or excuse it, or pretend it didn’t happen. You really were the victim of slander, or gossip, or theft. Identify the person who hurt you, and why he did it. If you won’t admit your pain and your desire for revenge, justice, reward, or power, you’ll react before you can respond. You’ll say or do something which you’ll regret for a long time. Remember that you cannot unring a bell. Be honest about your hurt today.

Second, trust God’s provision.

Know that he knows and cares: “The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground'” (v. 10). Your Father knows that you are hurt, and by whom. You may think that no one knows the injustice you’ve suffered, but One does. He knows when you have been hurt, and by whom, and why. Any father hurts with his children, our Father most of all.

Third, respect God’s punishment.

God acted for Abel: “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (vv. 11–12).

I looked up the subject of divine vengeance this week and discovered ninety-one biblical references. Here’s one example: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them” (Deuteronomy 32:35).

Before Paul quoted this verse, he instructed us, “Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).

There are certainly times when God uses the legal system to bring about his justice. That’s why we have laws dating back to the Ten Commandments and punishments in place to fit the crime and deter its recurrence. We are to give the person who hurt us over to God and his justice.

Last, give God his position.

Be sure he’s Lord of your heart and life, whether he is Lord of those who have hurt you or not. You are not responsible for them, only for yourself. Don’t let their sin cause you to sin. Don’t let their slander draw you into slander. Be sure you are right with God, and humble before him. Know that there but for the grace of God go you. You may not have done what they did, but you have probably done things they’ve not thought of doing. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All who seek God are saved by God’s grace (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). As you give the one who hurt you over to God, be sure he is on the throne of your heart as well.

And when you cannot do this, ask God to help you. Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44). If you cannot pray for those who have hurt you, pray for God’s help to pray. And it will be given to you.


Corrie ten Boom’s story is familiar to most of us. Her family was taken by the Nazis. She was forced to watch her sister Betsie’s slow death in a concentration camp. Of all her family, she alone survived the Holocaust.

In The Hiding Place she tells how it all came back one unexpected evening: “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

“He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’

“His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often . . . the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

“I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When he tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself” (The Hiding Place).

Today we have met the first human question in the Bible: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” What is your answer? Who is your brother today?

One and One Makes Three

Topical Scripture: Genesis 2:18–25 / Ephesians 5:21–33

A friend shared with me these “reasons to be a man”:

  • Phone conversations are over in thirty seconds flat.
  • You know stuff about tanks.
  • A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
  • You can leave the motel bed unmade.
  • You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
  • Wedding plans take care of themselves.
  • Your underwear is $10.00 for a three-pack.
  • Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
  • If another guy shows up at the party in the same outfit, you might become lifelong friends.
  • You are not expected to know the names of more than five colors.
  • You can “do” your nails with a pocketknife.
  • Christmas shopping can be accomplished for twenty-five relatives, on December 24th, in forty-five minutes.
  • It’s all true.

We’re learning how to live in ways God can bless. Last week we talked about God; today we’re going to talk about men and women. Last week was vertical; this week is horizontal. To live a life blessed by God, we must live in daily commitment to Jesus as Lord, and in daily covenant with each other.

Clearly, our marriages need encouragement today. In America in the year 2012, there was one divorce every thirty-six seconds, nearly 2,400 a day, 16,800 per week, 876,000 per year. Half of all American children will witness the breakup of their parents’ marriage.

By contrast, a “covenant” relationship can revolutionize your marriage, your dating relationships, your friendships, and your own sense of identity, purpose, and joy. As we continue our walk through Genesis, let’s learn how to experience covenant relationships today.

Relationship as contract

Nearly every relationship in our culture today is contractual in nature. The simplest dictionary definition of a contract is “a promise enforceable by law.” The contract requires the mutual assent of two or more persons. If one of the parties fails to keep the promise, the other is entitled to legal recourse.

Our children’s teachers have a contractual obligation to be qualified in the subjects they teach, and to teach those subjects. Our political leaders have a contractual obligation to fulfill the responsibilities they have assumed. The people painting your house have a contractual obligation to do what you are paying them to do. If they don’t want to complete the job, or you don’t want them to, you have contractual recourse and steps to consider. The relationship can be ended at any time by mutual consent or through legal process.

This is the view our society has taken of marriage as well. Our culture is convinced that marriage, like all other relationships in our society, is negotiable, subjective, and arbitrary. It’s a contract which can be ended at any time by either partner.

Relationship as covenant

This contractual view of marriage and relationships is completely contrary to God’s word and will. In the beginning of human history, God had made Adam, but not Eve. Then our Maker said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

“Helper suitable for him” points to a superior who helps an inferior, a stronger person helping a weaker person. Man needs woman, and woman needs man. We are each other’s “helpers” in life. We are each made differently; we need each other.

Man’s need was so urgent that God performed a special, miraculous creative act to meet it (vv. 21–22). Adam certainly approved of the result: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (v. 23).

With this result: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (v. 24). Even in that perfect, pre-fallen Garden of Eden, life was not complete alone. So, God gave man his soul mate, the person who completed him, the one who made his life complete, fulfilled, and joyous. He still does.

And he intends the man and woman to live in covenant with each other. A contract is conditional; a covenant is unconditional. A contract can be ended by either party for just cause; the covenant is unending and eternal. A contract is based on human expectations and performance; a covenant is based on God’s will and kept by his power. And that is the relationship he intends for a husband and a wife.

How to live in covenant

So, how do we live in covenant relationships? Ephesians 5 provides the guidelines we need.

The text begins: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). “Submit” translates the word for a voluntary decision to serve. It is in the middle voice in Greek: “choose to place yourself in submission.”

Not the submission of an inferior to a superior, but the choice to support and serve on the part of an equal. It is an ongoing, present-tense commitment, made not just for the wedding but for all the years of the marriage. And it is a commandment, not an option. How do we fulfill it?

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (v. 22). Your husband’s greatest need is encouraging support, to know that he is respected. You are the person whose respect he needs most. When you submit to him, encourage him, and support him, you meet his heart’s cry and fulfill your God-given role in his life and heart.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” (v. 25). Your wife’s greatest need is loving security, to know that she is cherished and wanted. You are the person whose love and admiration she needs most. When you love her, finding ways to express your attraction, gratitude, and commitment to her, you meet her heart’s cry and fulfill your God-given role in her life and heart.

What does every marriage need? One expert summarizes: “Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished.” Every marriage needs encouraging support and loving security.

This is God’s intended covenant for your marriage, and for your other relationships as well. The men you know need your respect before they need anything else. The women you know need your appreciation and security before they need anything else.

Jesus stands ready to love them through you, if you will stay in his Spirit and power. If you will live in constant communion with him. If you will surrender your marriage and relationships to him, he will fulfill his covenant in and through your life.

Are there circumstances by which this covenant can be broken biblically? There are three. This is the subject of another message, but we’ll survey them briefly here.

First, if an unbeliever abandons a believer: “If the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances” (1 Corinthians 7:15). If you are married to a non-Christian who refuses to stay in the marriage, you are not obligated to that person.

Second, if one of the partners commits adultery, sex outside of marriage. Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).

I believe a third biblical condition to be abuse, whether emotional or physical, which threatens life and future. The sixth commandment is plain: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). James 2:11 adds: “He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

Life comes first. Sometimes we must choose between commandments. When Corrie ten Boom and her family were harboring Jews, and the Nazis came looking for them, the ten Booms had to choose between lying and murder. If we must choose between a destructive, threatening, abusive marriage and life, we choose life.

Sometimes divorce is the lesser of two terrible options. But even when there is abandonment, adultery, or abuse, divorce is the last resort, to be considered only after there has been every effort made to restore the relationship. Only when one partner refuses to continue the process toward healing.

I am convinced that God can heal every marriage whose partners want their marriage to be healed. And he will give you not a better marriage but a new marriage. Not a better home but a new home. A home built on the covenant commitment which he will empower by his grace.

Jesus told us about a foolish man who built his house on sand, and a wise man who built his house on rock. The same storms came against them both. The first fell; the second stood firm (Matthew 7:24–27). The difference was not their materials, architect, or builder, but their foundation. If your home and relationships are built on any foundation other than the Lordship of Jesus Christ, you have built on sand. And the storms are coming.


When Jesus is Lord of your covenant relationship, one and one makes three. A man, a woman, and the Lord; two people and their God. That’s the way to hope, help, and joy.

So, which is your marriage: a contract between two people or a covenant with God? What about your friendships at school, or relationships at work? What practical steps can you take to move from contract to covenant this week?

First, commit to the marriage or relationship.

Decide that divorce is not an option. There will be times when that commitment to your covenant is all that gets you through a hard place and time. But it will.

Second, determine to meet the needs of your spouse or friend.

It’s not about you. Your husband needs encouraging respect and support; your wife needs nurturing love and security. Look for ways to provide it. Refuse to undermine it.

Make an inventory of anything that could harm your relationship. Ask a friend to pray with you and hold you accountable in areas where you struggle. Seek professional help if necessary.

And be proactive in meeting the other’s needs. John Gottman of the University of Washington says, “In couples that stay together, there are about five times more positive things said to and about one another as negative ones. But in couples that divorce, there are about one and a half times more negative things said than positive.” Look for ways to meet the other’s needs.

Third, verbally commit to your covenant together.

Pray together that God would protect you and strengthen you from any attack of Satan. He hates everything God has created, including your marriage and family. He will do all he can to attack and undermine your commitment to each other.

Marquis Clarke, a Christian mother and blogger, made this simple but powerful vow: “I want my life and my marriage to look less like the world and more like Christ.” Do you?

Solo Climbing on Mt. Everest

Topical Scripture: Genesis 1:26–31

If you’re planning a solo climb of Mt. Everest this year, I have bad news for you: the Nepalese government has amended its mountaineering regulations. They are now prohibiting foreign individual climbers from scaling all mountains in the country without an escort.

One reason for the new prohibition: Nearly three hundred people have died while trying to climb the world’s tallest mountain. More than 200 bodies are still on Mt. Everest, some because they cannot be retrieved and others because it was their wish to remain on the mountain if they died there.

Climbing Mt. Everest solo is not only an aspiration for many—it is a proverb for us all.

You and I were designed to depend on our Designer. We were created by God for relationship with God. We are cars that need a driver, tools that need a carpenter.

When we try to scale the mountains of life on our own, we are destined for failure. But when we climb with our Guide, we can go higher than we ever imagined.

Across the next several weeks, we will explore the book of Genesis together, learning how to walk through life in the power of God. As my wife taught our sons, the key to life is living a life God can bless. We will find principles each week for living our “blest life.”

What challenges and opportunities lie before you? How can you climb your mountain in the power of your Maker?

Let’s begin at the beginning.

How did we get here?

For thirty-five centuries, the Judeo-Christian tradition has taught us that we are created by God and that his creation is “good.” That our purpose and identity are found in the fact that we are God’s creation, that we are each given lives of purpose and eternal significance.

However, recent generations have done battle with this foundational belief and emerged victorious in our culture.

Isaac Newton determined that the universe operates as a machine, according to fixed laws.

The “deists,” Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin among them, believed that while God created this mechanical universe, he has nothing to do with it now.

Then Charles Darwin taught us that God did not create our lives at all, that we are here as the product of random, chance evolution.

Along the way, philosophers taught us that we cannot know this world, however it came to exist, but only our personal, subjective experience with it. Your ethics are just your truth, and you have no right to force them on me or anyone else. I may disagree with homosexuality or sex before marriage, but who am I to tell someone else how to live? Tolerance is the great value of our day.

Postmodernism is the result, the worldview that dominates our culture today. It claims that all truth is subjective and personal. There is no “reality,” only yours and mine. Our lives have no real destiny—this is all there is. You can believe what you want about the origins of life and its purpose and destiny, so long as you tolerate my beliefs.

Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard: “Many people who accept evolution still feel that a belief in God is necessary to give life meaning and to justify morality. But that is exactly backward. In practice, religion has given us stonings, inquisitions and 9/11. Morality comes from a commitment to treat others as we would wish to be treated, which follows from the realization that none of us is the sole occupant of the universe. Like physical evolution, it does not require a white-coated technician in the sky.”

Are you here by chaos, chance, or coincidence? A cell floating in a pool of water that mutated to its present status? If your past has no purpose, your future has no plan. And Martin Heidegger is right: you’re an actor on a stage, with no script, audience, or director; courage is to face life as it is. Jean Paul Sartre was right to title his most famous play No Exit, and his autobiography, Nausea.

His story is ours. Or is it?

God’s answer to the question

Here’s how God’s word begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Everything starts with him. You say life began as a cell floating in a pool of water—Genesis asks where the water came from. You say life began as a cataclysmic, natural Big Bang—Genesis asks where the big bang came from. It all started somewhere. Genesis says it started with God.

And you and I started with him as well. God made us as part of his universe, and in fact as its crowning work: “Let us make man,” God said. When he made the other days, he called them “good.” But when he made us, he called his work “very good” (v. 31).

We must agree with him, or nothing else I’ll say today will matter. If you think you’re nothing more than random, chaotic chance, with no intrinsic value or design, you’ll not be interested in a conversation about purpose and destiny. So let’s examine what Genesis says God made.

Think about the organ with which you think. Your brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells, called “neurons.” Each neuron is connected to surrounding cells by a network of fibers called axons and dendrites, and has as many as ten thousand fibers leading from it into other cells. As a result, the number of possible interconnections between the cells of your brain is theoretically many times larger than the number of atoms in the entire universe.

New research shows the human brain may be able to hold as much information in its memory as is contained on the entire internet.

Consider the ears with which you are hearing these words. The human ear works with the brain to turn vibrations into sound…20-20,000 a second. Your heart is no larger than your fist, but it will beat on average 100,000 times a day, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood.

The average adult has 100,000 miles of blood vessels carrying blood throughout the body. The average tongue has between 2,000-8,000 taste buds. 206 bones make up your frame; some 640 muscles cover those bones. You are special.

In fact, you are made in God’s “image” or “likeness” (v. 26). An “image” is a representation of something, as with a “mirror image.” God says this is true of us—not of anything else in creation, just you and me.

Four biblical imperatives

What does it mean that you and I are uniquely created in the image and likeness of our Creator? Consider four biblical imperatives.

One: Be a good steward of God’s creation.

Genesis says that “the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). “Work” translates the Hebrew abad, which means to nurture or sustain. “Take care of” translates shamar, which means to protect, preserve, or guard. When we misuse the skies and soil, rivers and oceans he made, we violate the stewardship he has entrusted to us.

Scripture is clear: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Earth belongs to God, not to us. We are to manage it for the purposes and glory of its Maker.

At the same time, our planet was created to serve us. God made it to meet our physical needs (Gen. 1:29-30; 9:1-3). By his design, our lives are sustained by its resources. We have a spiritual obligation to develop and utilize these resources in ways that honor God and his creation.

Such stewardship includes our bodies, gifts of his creative grace. For Christians, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and reflect on our Owner and Resident (Gen. 1:27; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 12:1-2). We are to extend this care to the physical lives of others.

Two: Care for human life, beginning at conception.

David said to the Lord, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). The Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). We belong to our Creator and King from the moment we are conceived.

Three: Serve the neediest members of society.

This obligation begins with the preborn, who are the most innocent and helpless of us, and extends to the diseased, the elderly and the infirm. They are all creations of our King and residents of his realm.

Four: Seek shalom for all.

Biblical “peace” is more than the absence of conflict—it is the presence of righteousness in our relationship with God, others, and ourselves. Our Father wants our best, and calls us into a divine-human partnership by which we are to serve him and one another.


Name your mountain today. Ask God to help you manage his resources as his partner in his creation. Ask him to help you care for others and offer his shalom to all. And remember all week long who you are and Whose you are.

Theodore Roosevelt was one of our greatest presidents. He was also a man who knew his place in the universe.

His friend, the naturalist William Beebe, would often visit him at the White House. They would typically step outside before retiring to bed and look up into the night sky, searching for a tiny patch of light near the constellation Pegasus.

Then they would chant together, “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our own sun.”

After a moment of silent awe, the president would turn to his friend and say, “Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed.”

Are you small enough to go to God?