Tag Archives: Trust God

Why Do You Feel Naked?

AdamandEve

The Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 ESV

Background Genesis 3:1-20

Most people are familiar with the story of Eve and the serpent. She suffered from the same ego as any other human being, and when the serpent told her that eating the forbidden fruit would make her equal to God, she could not resist. Her husband could not resist, either, although by the time Eve offered him a taste, she had surely realized that the serpent had deceived her. They both liked the idea that they might be equal to God, but as soon as they heard his voice, the truth sank in. They were not equal to God, and besides that, they were naked!

They heard his voice calling out, the way a friend might call at your back door.

“Yoo hoo! All y’all in there?”

God called in the plural. A translation in Standard English hides that fact, because English does not inflect the second person pronoun to indicate number. That is why I used language that gives you some idea of the difference between singular and plural. Of course, I had to resort to the redneck dialect in which the plural of y’all is all y’all. It is probably the way it would look in a Cotton Patch Creation Story. (See The Cotton Patch Gospel if you wonder what I am talking about.) The important point is that God did not call out just to Adam. God called to both Adam and Eve. Instead of calling back, they hid themselves. They were naked!

Have you ever felt naked? Maybe you dreamed you were on your way to work, stepped out of the car, and discovered you were naked. It still feels embarrassing even after you wake up. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve did not simply recognize that they were not wearing any clothes. They had never seen clothes or heard of clothes. It wasn’t that God would see them without clothes, although they did rustle up some loincloths in a hurry. They felt naked because they realized that God could see through them. Loincloths would not cover up the self-worship that had led them to disobey him.

You probably felt this way as a child after you had sneaked into your mother’s closet at Christmas time and looked at the presents hidden there. You could not resist looking for them, but after you knew, you felt sure there must be a sign on your forehead that said, “I looked.” This is the way Adam and Eve felt when they heard God call. Each of them heard that call as an individual, because that call was plural—both of you. Each of them felt individually guilty, and hiding there in the bushes, each was going over what he or she had done.

They must have looked very sheepish when God walked by and said, “Oh, there you are.” Worse than that, like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Adam burst out saying, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” Genesis 3:10 ESV. God looked right at the naked man and the naked woman, and they were truly naked. No doubt about it. What’s more important, however, He could see right through them. “Who told you that you were naked?” God asked. Silence. No answer. They were still processing their justifications for disobedience. Their minds had to stop spinning their answers as God looked into them and asked, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Genesis 3:11 ESV.

The guilty pair was still dealing with fact that God had not specified one of them. He was speaking in plural, but both were mentally wriggling, looking for a way out. Each experienced God’s words as a personal message, a personal question. Each of them knew that he or she was individually responsible for what had been done. Yet each of them looked for someone to share or simply shoulder the blame. They wanted a village.

Adam started first, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” Genesis 3:12 ESV. Adam blamed Eve, sure enough, but God had brought her into the picture, so he had to takes some of the blame, too. We both ate the fruit, Adam thought, but I would never have done it if she had not made it sound so good. Forget all that bone of my bone stuff. This woman made me do it.

God saw right through him.

Then it was Eve’s turn. She was mulling over what Adam had said. It really was not fair to blame everything on her. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She probably said these words while looking at the ground. She could not have looked God in the eye. He could see right through her! She was naked!

This story of Adam and Eve completely refutes the secular mantra that humans have evolved and are evolving into progressively better creatures. Secular teaching says that the ancient people, primitive and ignorant as they were, simply did not know the truths about morality that humans know today. The people who wrote the Bible were simply unaware of things that humans have discovered as they are evolving toward the ultimate human being. Because of that issue, secular thinkers say that if the Bible ever had any relevance in the past, humans have now outgrown it. However, reading the story of Adam and Eve, or any other story in the Bible, will make it obvious that human beings have not changed since the dawn of history. We still like to be our own gods, and we still like to make our own rules, but no matter what we do, the other truth is that God sees right through us. We are naked in his sight!

This is why we all need Jesus. One evening Jesus had a visitor who was slinking around for fear his friends would see him with Jesus. In today’s world, most Christians have friends who treat our faith with either dismissive humor or with skin-shriveling scorn. We can identify with Nicodemus. His friends completely rejected Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises, but Nicodemus was troubled. He needed more information. He came to Jesus with questions, and Jesus answered them. He explained to Nicodemus who he was and why he had come.

Jesus told this curious man, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” John 3:17 ESV. Jesus came to earth a long time after Adam and Eve, yet he said that the world was still a mess. Jesus had not seen any evidence of humans evolving into something higher. He did not, however, leave Nicodemus in despair. He gave Nicodemus a reason for hope. He said, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 ESV.

We are all naked before God. He can see that we are too busy worshiping ourselves to pay any attention to what he says. He knows we are all lured by the idea that we can become our perfect selves by exercise of will and determination without needing a voice in our heads or an imaginary friend. He knows that we also rather like the idea that the Bible is outdated, and we can ignore it.

But we still wonder: if these things are true, why do we feel guilty without knowing exactly why? Each of us is just like Eve. Just like Adam. We try to hide from God, too, going so far on occasion as to deny his existence, just like the secular thinkers all around us.

God confronted Adam and Eve, and he punished them severely, but he held out hope for them and their children. He rebuked the Tempter and promised that evil would not triumph, because God would take action to set things right. God said,”I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” Genesis 3:15 ESV. This word of judgment was simultaneously a prophecy that evil’s apparent victory in the lives of Adam and Eve was an image limited to time and space. Viewed from God’s throne, the story would have a very different ending.

We need not stand naked before God, because we can sing with Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10 In Christ, we are, in the words of the hymn, “clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!”

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP / IWoman / CC BY-NC

Hymn credit: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, by Edward Mote The text is in the public domain. source: http://www.ccel.org/a/anonymous/luth_hymnal/tlh370.htm

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love, available on Kindle

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How to Stop Influencing the Culture

Recently Jim Denison’s blog included a list of eleven things Christians could do if they wanted to avoid changing the culture. The daily news makes it quite clear that the culture does not want to be changed by Christians, but this is the first time I have seen anyone, Christian or otherwise, lay out a real plan to put a stop to Christian influence in the public forum. It is a good plan. It sounds quite realistic. Here is the list provided on the blog:

  1. Stop trusting God
  2. Refuse to try new approaches
  3. Withdraw from the non-Christian world
  4. Trust in yourself more than in God
  5. Ignore personal character
  6. Don’t take time to pray and reflect
  7. Put your faith in people rather than the Lord
  8. Trust the church rather than the Spirit
  9. Lose your focus on the gospel
  10. Be afraid of change
  11. Lose your passion for Jesus

All of the items on the list make complete sense if your purpose is to avoid making waves. The first one is the one that really sets the tone: Stop trusting God.

If churches and Christian social service agencies actually trusted God, they would not be applying for federal grants to operate. If Christian colleges actually trusted God, they would not accept federal student aid for their students. If Christians nation-wide actually trusted God, they would not vote for and advocate for government programs at all levels of government to do the work Christians are supposed to do in this world. To say that is not to wish that poor people had no place to go for help; it simply means that Christians have always known that Christ calls them to serve others. However, when Christians advocate for the government to take on that role, they are really saying they would rather give the government high taxes than give God generous offerings. Why is that so?

If individual Christians and the organizations of Christians really trusted God, they would be praying and serving and giving to the work of Christ, and the poor would receive the care they need. Every time Christians put their complete trust in God, God provides. The World Mission Prayer League is a fine example. This Christian organization does not apply for funds from any government body. It puts its trust completely in God, and God provides. Their accomplishments around the world demonstrate what can happen when people completely trust God.

If you take the time to think and pray about this whole list, it will be personally transforming. Do you really want to see an end to Christian influence in the world? Or do you yearn for Christians and all other people to be free to live according to their faith? What do you see in yourself that is contributing to the demise of religious liberty and the God-given right to worship and serve him in all places at all times? Do you trust God completely? Do you actually trust God to act or do you think it is all up to you? Do you ever really take time to pray about the problems you see every day? Do you believe that God cannot bring his kingdom to pass if your chosen candidate loses the election? Do you actually have a passion for Jesus?

It is a good list for self-examination the next time you step out of the daily chaos and take time for prayer. Ask God if he has something for you to do in his work of bringing the kingdom near to people. Ask yourself if you trust God to empower you to do this work, or do you actually believe you must do it all by yourself.

If someone asks you, of course you won’t answer that you don’t want God’s kingdom to come near. Yet deep down you must ask yourself if you really trust God to accomplish that work.

When the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, as recorded in Mark 4:35-41, the disciples, riding in the boat with God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, were not able to trust that God could take care of God, let alone them. They cried out, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” They looked at the situation and instead of trusting God, they were afraid. We all live in that same place – at the intersection of fear and trust. Satan tries to drag us over into fear and we scream out angrily at God for failing us. Jesus doesn’t let go of us; we let go of Jesus.

Jesus calls us away from fear to trust. He asks us to live in the midst of the chaos and tumult of the massive ocean storm without losing our trust that he will be with us through it all. Like the World Mission Prayer League, we must be willing to step forward, storm or no storm, and trust that Christ will not abandon us. We must trust that he will not fail to accomplish his purposes. We must trust that he will not let go of us.

There are many challenges to our faith in our culture. There are a variety of responses we can make. None is more important than that first item on the list. We will never be able to influence our culture to become more Christ-like unless first and foremost and above all other loves and loyalties we trust God alone.

 

Trust God and Do Not Fear

 

Readings for Sunday, November 11:  1 Kings 17:8-16     Psalm 146     Hebrews 9:24-28     Mark 12:38-44

 

Mark 12:38–44

 

 

 

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

 

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

 

In today’s reading Jesus pointed toward some of the people in the culture around him who constantly called attention to themselves, who served nobody, faked religious fervor and actually stole from widows. These people spent all their time making names for themselves. He pointed to scribes and other religious leaders as scurrilous mongrels.

 

Then he nailed his point. He sat where he could see the collection plate as people entered the temple. We don’t know for sure what it looked like, so just imagine the plate that is passed each Sunday in your church. As people entered they dropped money into this plate, and some of them dropped a great deal of money. Of course, Jesus had only moments before been talking about how some of those rich people obtained all their money. He never said that all rich people were thieves, but he did point to some specific ones who stole from poor widows. As he watched the parade and the offerings, along came a widow with two tiny coins, which she dropped into the offering plate.

 

The Bible tells us that Jesus never needed anyone to tell him about people, because he saw through them all. He saw through the self-centered and self-righteous scribes, and he saw through this widow with her tiny coin. Then he made his point about people again. He said, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.” In Jesus’ eyes, her tiny coins outweighed all the other money in the plate.

 

She was a widow. Jesus had just pointed out that many of the scribes who came ahead of her with their big gifts acquired those gifts by stealing from people like this widow. For her to give anything at all was a huge sacrifice. She could easily have told herself that the scribes had already made her offering with her own money as they passed by. Instead, this widow did the thing Jesus wanted most: she trusted God.

 

Throughout the book of Mark, Jesus reproaches people for being afraid and admonishes them to have faith. He tells them not to fear what is coming, or what might come, and he tells them to trust God. This widow exemplified everything that he wanted from his disciples.

 

Once when they were all caught in a storm at sea, the disciples got upset. No, they were not upset; they panicked. They screamed at Jesus, who was sleeping peacefully through the chaos. “We’re dying here! Don’t you care? Do something!” Jesus stood up, looked at the storm, and said, “Muzzle yourself! Or I’ll do it for you!” The storm shut down to a dead calm. Just like that. Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “What is the matter with you? Don’t you have any faith?”

 

Jesus and the disciples were on their way to the house of Jairus who had begged Jesus to heal his daughter when someone ran up and said, “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” Jesus heard what they said and he turned to Jairus. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said. “Only believe.” Then, even though everyone was laughing at him, Jesus proceeded to raise the little girl up from the dead.

 

Jesus wanted people to have faith in God. He did not want them to be afraid when bad things happened. He did not want them to fear during good times that bad things would certainly follow. I had a friend in college who did that. If things were good for her, she would say something like, “Things are just too good to believe. Something bad is about to happen.” When things went wrong for her, no matter how far between such events, she always said, “See! I told you so!” Jesus did not want people to feel that way. Jesus did not want people feel that they were at the mercy of malicious, invisible powers. He did not want people to think that life is a lottery where some people draw winning tickets while others draw zeroes.

 

When Jesus burst on the scene at the beginning of the book of Mark, the first words he spoke were these: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Jesus began his ministry by asking people to believe that God cared so much about them that he had come to be among them. When Jesus saw a widow, a person who might well have seen herself as a victim of society in general and rich people in particular, he saw a person who might well fear that if she parted with the last two coins in her possession, she could starve. In fact, even if she clung to those coins and used them to buy food, they were still the last money she had. She might defer her death, but she might still starve. Jesus rejoiced in seeing that she actually did trust God with her future. She came to the temple, the place God had designated for his presence on earth. The widow came to meet God, and she felt such gratitude for God that she could trustingly give God the last coin in her possession. It is an image of grateful faith that everyone could learn from.

 

It is the same faith that Jesus asks from each of us. Everyone faces risks in life. There truly are no guarantees. People who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after the megastorm surrounding Hurricane Sandy could easily feel victimized and defeated, but this is not how Jesus would have them feel. Jesus would ask them to trust God and use the gifts God places in their hands to find their way forward. He asks the same thing of pastors arrested in Iran for telling Muslims about Jesus. He asks the same thing of Christian families in Indonesia fined two months’ salary for praying with their neighbors. He asks the same thing of a Christian pharmacist in the USA who must choose between his career in pharmacy and his convictions that God does not want him to supply abortifacient drugs even if a doctor prescribes them. Jesus asks each of us to trust him with our lives. He asks us not to be afraid to trust him with our lives. He praised the widow who put her whole life in God’s hands by offering up her last two tiny coins.

 

Mark does not give us the details of the widow’s remaining days. It is just one of many ways Mark invites each of us into the story of Jesus. He does ask us to think about what the woman did, and he does ask each of us if we trust God that way. Do we really trust God with our lives, or do we create as much security as we can and then fret for fear it won’t be enough to keep us safe?

 

I’m as guilty as the next person. In our life, I worry incessantly about having sufficient food to keep us healthy between grocery stores. When we are cruising, we don’t know when we might be trapped in a remote anchorage while a big storm passes, and I worry that we have not made adequate provision in our anchoring technique or in our food and fuel supplies. I worry that we forgot to stock enough medicine or warm socks. Mark asks me to stop fretting. He doesn’t tell me to stop using my common sense, but he does remind me that Jesus really wants me to trust God for our lives and well-being. When I read that many Christians suffer arrest, fines and imprisonment for their faith, I know that my fretting over salt, coffee and fresh bread is quite trivial. Some of Jesus’ followers really do trust God with their lives and live daily trusting that he will give them the strength to endure misery I can’t even imagine. It shames me.

 

Sunday, November 11, 2012, is designated by Open Doors USA as International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Today, tomorrow and Sunday would be good days to pray for Christians in the body of Christ around the world who trust God with their lives, such as Makset Djabbarbergenov, a house-church leader being held in a Kazakhstan jail at the request of his native Uzbekistan. It would be a good time to meditate on all the fretting we do about our comfort and safety while others are suffering great discomfort and no safety because they trust God with their lives. Join Christians around the world this Sunday in prayer for the persecuted church. As I pray with them, I will try to learn to let go of my trivial issues and learn to trust God with my life the way they trust God with their lives. Maybe one day all of us will join the widow whose story inspired today’s reading as we rejoice in the blessing of life forever with the Christ who died for us, because he loved us so much that we can, indeed, trust God with our lives.