Author: Stefan Seeling

Cereal or Bacon

Written by Stefan Seeling
on February 4, 2015 in Devotionals

February 4, 2015

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Bible Reference

Genesis 4

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Cereal or Bacon?

In the story of Cain and Abel, God prefers one offering over another. We have all heard many theories about why. Some theories are better than others, but if we are honest, hardly any do justice to the text. Take the text seriously. Read it slowly. Does God choose Abel’s offering because he prefers meat? Or because Abel had greater faith or offered “first fruits” while Cain did not?

Upon close examination, it is interesting that Cain and Abel give offerings to God without explicit command to do so, or instructions about whether to offer cereal or bacon. It may also be important that Cain takes after Adam in tilling the soil. Abel offered the “firstfruits”, but Cain’s grain is not somehow inferior. Is God just making a random, arbitrary choice?

Cain is not condemned because of his offering. He is not even condemned for his anger. Who wouldn’t be angry? God responds a certain way to Cain’s emotions:

The Lord wants to know why Cain is so out of sorts. God tells him that if he “does well” — presumably, handles the situation — then the matter will resolve itself. Otherwise, if Cain does not manage his rage, then he will be compelled to deal with lurking sin (4:6–7)

Instead of controlling his anger, Cain lets it have full sway over him and murders his brother (4:8).

God does not actually condemn Cain when rejecting his offering. Cain’s sin was in his future, not his past (4:6–7). God did not even regard Cain’s anger as sin. The story implies that once sin enters the world its consequences are not proportionate, predictable, or symmetrical. Cain was a victim of that outcome. Still, he might have responded very differently. As the Lord had urged him, he could have handled the situation. It would surely have been difficult, but it was hardly impossible.

Rather than accepting that his parents’ actions had made his life painfully and unfairly difficult, he exacerbated the problem by increasing the world’s sinfulness with the callous, brutal murder of his brother. Cain sowed the ground not with seed, but with his brother’s blood.

When Cain is afraid that the consequences will be too much to bear, Lord protects Cain from suffering what his brother suffered by marking him as off limits. Ironically, this gracious act on God’s part is another form of unfairness. Grace, however, is the best kind of unfairness. Since God’s final word was a gracious one, Cain will have a life beyond this terrible episode a little farther east of Eden (4:16).

See more: http://blog.spu.edu/lectio/ending-it-all-and-starting-over-genesis-41%E2%80%93622/

Cain’s life is a gift of grace after an act that was punishable by death. He even has children and builds a city. Pretty good for a guy who is cursed. But he will not carry on the family business anymore, and the consequences of his actions have repercussions throughout the rest of his life and the overall biblical narrative. Still, the dominant theme of these first four chapters seems to focus more on grace than on depravity. This story is less about bacon and cereal than it is about grace and the need to discern reactions to emotions.

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Ragin’ or prayin’?

How should we view our emotions? Are they sinful? How does God respond to emotions in this text? What does God’s response say about disobedience and emotion? What does God condemn, actions or emotions? What are some ways we can avoid letting emotions lead to harmful actions?

Posted in Devotionals

A Flower on a Mountainside

Written by Stefan Seeling
on January 28, 2015 in Devotionals

January 28, 2015

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Bible Reference

Genesis 3:7 – Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

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A Flower on a Mountainside

What has gone wrong? Adam and Eve have changed their perception of their bodies. Their prior state of nakedness is lost when covered by fig leaves. Prior to their disobedience, Adam and Eve did not need to hide anything about themselves from God or each other. What does it mean that they are seeing and covering? What does this verse imply about the bodily lives of Adam and Eve, the bodily life of Jesus, and our own bodily lives?

In this verse, humans come to see themselves in a new way. This new understanding causes them to begin to feel shame and their nakedness becomes a source of fear in exposure in contrast to a soft, transparent state of relationship with God and each other. Adam and Eve’s perception of their bodies change, and with it changes their relationship to creation, God, and each other. They engage in a mechanical process to order creation in a way contrary to its original purpose. These fig leaves represent an effort to hide aspects of themselves from God and each other. The fig leaves create distance from each other and God, but the relationship is not completely destroyed or obliterated. In Christ, God enters the world completely exposed to others and to God. Christ puts on the fig leaves we have created in order to remove them and restore a right, honest, fully exposed relationship to each other and God. When he is raised on the cross naked, all fig leaves are removed for all of us. Jesus is scandalously exposed during his birth, life, death, and resurrection. This enables us to live into slowly exposing ourselves to each other and God more rightly.

Adam and Eve’s creation of new “technology” (fig leaves as loincloths), can take many forms in our lives today. We hide behind legalism (idolatry of law), materialism (idolatry of security in things ordered by our oppressive will), and narcissism (idolatry of self). These fig leaves separate us from our bodies as we become separated from God and each other. Instead of being vulnerable, we use more and more to cover ourselves up.

Jesus corrects our improper coverings. He enters the world naked. He is God, fully exposed as a baby human to God and to the world. He puts on our loincloths in order to make us able to take them off again. He lived in a culture of legalism, narcissism, and materialism. But He hides nothing from His Father. Jesus is scandalously vulnerable throughout his life.

Jesus is God as human, naked on a cross. His resurrection is the resistance of a vulnerable life achieving victory. Imagine a flourishing beauty and softness of a flower on a harsh mountainside. It is resistance to harsh, life-depriving surroundings. It is not covered by any invented processes contrary to original purpose. It derives life from being fully exposed to the sun (Son). Delicacy is beauty and strength in hard conditions. God is the provider. This exposure is freedom. The harsher the condition, the more profound the power of flourishing beauty. When exposed on a windswept, freezing cliff face, it is tempting to try to cover oneself, but to do so is to cut off oneself from life.

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Be the Flower

Through Christ, I wonder what it looks like to be rightly vulnerable with God and others. We cannot hide behind how we look, what tricks we can do, or who we know. How can we be more truthful about who we are, who God is, and how to interact with God and the world like Christ?

Posted in Devotionals

Smart Progression

Written by Stefan Seeling
on January 21, 2015 in Devotionals

January 21, 2015

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Bible Reference

Genesis 1-3

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Smart Progression

“Wut, son?! You want me to read three chapters?! You must be crazy, dawg!!” These chapters are the DNA of the rest of the Bible. We cannot know what to make of any of it without a proper understanding of the foundation. Learning the DNA of getting down the hill is the same way. You don’t drop into the Freeway Jumps at Breckenridge on your first day ever shredding. Don’t start an understanding of scripture without learning the right progression. This book is not about dinosaurs or carbon dating or any kind of science as such. It is about who God is, who we are, and our relationship to God, each other, and the world.

“Creation is foundational to everything that follows in Scripture” so let’s take a closer look:

“The biblical image [of a formless and void something] may be purposely designed to frustrate our efforts at imagination. It begins to dawn on us (no pun intended!) that you are confronting a picture of chaos.” Now it gets interesting. In the context of chaos God speaks, and everything changes.

“You hear only three little words (two in Hebrew!) — “And God said”—after which nothing is the same (1:3).”

“the totality of creation — the material universe in all aspects, vegetation, the animal world, and humanity — is pronounced good and, ultimately, very good (1:31).” Our bodies matter (pun intended). Another important fact is that order emphasized. God brings order out of chaos. That is what is in His DNA. He finishes with the crescendo of male and female in his image, which was explained in another WWW.

Now let’s see about the interaction of God with creation (Gen 2:4-3:24):

“The Lord God takes the damp ground (2:6), forms a man, breathes life into him, and the man becomes a living being (2:7). Besides being a bit confused by this vegetation business, we also have to deal with the fact that the Lord’s creating mode is novel. God is now presented as a sculptor.” According to the narrative, man is made to work the ground, but God plants the garden and waters it. In all the beauty of the garden, God tells man to stay away from one thing. “You might surmise that with so much to eat and so little to avoid, the man would have little trouble watching his diet.” And something is “not good,” the fact that man is alone. Again, see previous WWW. God makes animals from the ground and even consults man to name them. Then woman is made and everything is right… For a second. Unfortunately, disobedience enters. The serpent is “wise” (see original Hebrew) and tempts humanity with a “godlike” knowledge. Finger-pointing ensues. God curses the ground and serpent and distributes punishment. The news that woman will be ruled over is very bad (3:16) and should never be conveyed otherwise. This disobedience has an effect upon everything. But God’s grace is evident in his providing clothing so that they could survive outside the garden and in the fact that they do not die immediately, there would be children, and ground would still make food. “The story would continue. It could have been worse, much worse. God’s grace got the better part of God’s judgment.”

See more at: http://blog.spu.edu/lectio/

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Taking it from the bunny hill to the park (or backcountry)

Is there anything in this narrative that is challenging or jumps out at you? What does this say about who God is? We can see he is gracious, what else? How are humans to relate to God and each other and the rest of created order? These are the questions this text is designed to answer, read it carefully to find out!! Then take that new trick to the big features (e.g. apply it to your life). Imagine what it must have been like for man to walk with our Creator in obedience and celebration of his provision and goodness!

Posted in Devotionals

Creating with the Creator

Written by Stefan Seeling
on January 14, 2015 in Devotionals

January 14, 2015

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Bible Reference

Genesis 1-4

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Creating With the Creator

We are always trying to create when we are shredding. Create new lines, new features, new tricks, new styles. What if we were without gravity? Or mountains? Or snow? Our creativity depends not only on creation, but on the creator, and our likeness to His creative personality. Genesis 1:26,27 says that we are all made in His image. Style is important. Not because we need to look cool, but because our self (body, sould, mind) is in God’s image. We also need to treat others like that is true of their self. The only way we can know these things is through the Old Testament. It is at the start of the Bible for a reason.

“The only Scriptures Jesus and his earliest followers recognized and appealed to as God’s authoritative word were those Christians would eventually call the Old Testament.”

“Genesis 1 through Exodus 19 — accents amazing, divine grace; then Exodus 20 and following demonstrates how God’s people are to respond to that grace. Biblically speaking, grace always precedes law”

“Genesis begins with the foundational story of creation (Genesis 1:2–2:4a). As God subsequently engages the created order (Genesis 2:4b and following), human beings co-operate with God (by tilling and naming) to produce an idyllic garden setting.”

However, disobedience leads to expulsion and a depressing downward trajectory as humanity becomes increasingly wicked (Genesis 3–11). As we might expect, every human failure prompts divine punishment. Disobedience in the garden (Genesis 3) leads to judgment on the woman, the man, and the serpent. The first murderer is condemned to be a perpetual fugitive (Genesis 4). After people become incomparably wicked, worldwide destruction by means of a flood results (Genesis 6–8). Even after this devastation, significant failure persists. It is even found in the family God rescued from ultimate judgment as well as in the people of Shinar who egregiously challenged the divine agenda (Genesis 9:20–27; 11:1–9). The situation remains bleak.

But that is not the end of the matter. Each act of divine judgment has a corresponding act of divine grace. In the garden, God provides appropriate clothing for the human couple. Furthermore, they do not die immediately as was threatened (Genesis 2:17; 3:3). God spares the first murderer from capital punishment. When sin reaches titanic proportions, God provides the means for starting over (Genesis 6:5–8). Even the sin that infects the family of Noah, whom God saved from the great flood, does not prevent its repopulating the earth, which is an implicit act of grace.”

See more at: http://blog.spu.edu/lectio/

Dr. Spina makes the point above that God is not an “angry God” in the Old Testament that goes to anger management seminars and then sends Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus himself conceived of His Father in Old Testament framework.

When we take seriously what Genesis is saying about humanity, God, and the world, we come to understand how important creativity is, how important having fun (OT parallel to feasts, celebration, Sabbath) is, and how important God’s seeking us out is.

The main point of the Old Testament is to make us realize that God is seeking us. Our lives can be a response to his seeking. Let’s live in gratitude that He has found us.

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The Bible (OT and NT) are revelation

I wonder how we can take more seriously the texts that Jesus took seriously. Read them more maybe? What does Genesis 1-11 reveal upon closer reading? Are there things that surprise or challenge you? What pictures does it paint of God, humanity, and the world/universe? Remember, when being creative, you are co-creating with God (Genesis 2).

Posted in Devotionals