Thanksgiving 2017

I am thankful to be alive!

Last Thursday, November 16, I took some time off work and drove myself to a hospital for a stress test, on the recommendation of my nephew. Days earlier my doctor and I had ruled out heart problems because an EKG and blood tests showed no evidence of heart problems.  My cholesterol levels were great. So, we began to look for other causes of my month-long chest pains.  After this stress test, I thought they would give me an inhaler and send me on my way. Instead, because I still had chest pain, they put me in a wheelchair and rolled me over to the ER. After donating lots of blood into those little vials they attach to your arm, letting them x-ray my chest, and many more EKGs, the ER doc told me I had heart damage. They wanted to do an angiogram the next morning. I have not yet had the stress test.

I have not been afraid. This is important. Many people I count as friends do not believe in God. I do. My faith in Him is based on strict intellectual questioning and discovery. There is also a credible, emotional part and a precise act of my will integral to my faith. Faith in God is not stupid, where the intellect shuts down. Faith is an act of the whole person, not just a hidden little personal, unexplainable, foible unique to me. For years, God has been teaching me to listen, believe, trust and obey. Last Thursday the faith He gave me was tested.

My family, on the other hand, was in agony. I know this agony after watching my dad, mom and brother die. My having no fear did not help them. I will not minimize the fear and distress caused by watching someone they love hover over the possibility of dying suddenly, and of having no control.

Friday morning the 17th a cardiologist did an angiogram that revealed at least one aorta 100% blocked.  He could not get the wire in it to look in it. Absolutely no blood was getting through. Had they been able, the doc would have inserted a couple of stents and I could have been on my way, after a few days in the hospital. Instead, they put in a heart balloon because my heart was not working as well as they wanted. I awoke enough for them to tell me I was being moved to Mercy General for “immediate heart surgery”, bypass surgery. Lots of other fun stuff happened that day, too. Disneyland was a better option for a family vacation, hands-down.

Saturday Morning the 18th was open-heart surgery. Apparently, I bumped someone in line. For those of you who know me, I don’t bump people in any line. What was happening was not by my design. At this time, I have zero control over anything happening to me. There is a difference between relinquishing control and keeping responsibility. Even laying on a gurney ready to go into surgery I am responsible for my attitude, how I treat others and for my family. Relinquishing control gives another the responsibility to care for me because I realize I cannot care for myself. They must do that which I cannot do. Having a relationship with God is like this. (Ask me and I will gladly explain more.)

Wearing a little, flimsy hospital gown is normal for hospital stays. My garments violated no hospital stereotype. When they took me into surgery, I was basically naked and shaved. What was the temperature in Surgery? 38F!  Okay, another thrilling ride. The anesthesiologist (everybody working on me had already come by to meet the body they would be cutting up and putting back together) told me to take a deep breath. I woke up a moment later with two thoughts: “I’m alive.” Remember, I have had no fear so I will explain later what being alive meant to me (but not today). My second thought was “rub some dirt in it.” This is a new phrase to me, given by my son, who just completed a Spartan Race without doing any penalty burpees. I’m not getting out of the work of living so easily. I am still dependent on my family to care for me but those responsibilities that are mine are still mine.

Monday morning the doc released me from ICU so I walked from there up one floor to a regular room. The day of surgery I had already gotten out of bed several times, standing and sitting in the room. Sunday, I spent more time in a chair than in bed.  Some of you will know the trauma that a body has before and during open heart surgery. Double bypass. Every appendage has something sticking out of it. And then there is my chest. I have a picture if you want to see it.  If I was supposed to do something, I concentrated to make it happen.

Death is a game changer. Facing death demands facing life first. I have a belief that has everything to do with looking at facts. I believe the evidence that a man was raised from the dead. I believe Jesus Christ died at the hands of the Romans at the prompting of the religious leaders. I believe the trauma He suffered far exceeded the little bit of pain I have been in. People wanted to torture Him to death. Almost no one wanted to help Him. Everyone who saw Him die knew He was dead. Then they saw Him alive.

No one wanted me to die. People worked hard to keep me alive. But no one can will me to live. Had God wanted me to die, I would have died. God did not want me to die. (Did they have to use a catheter, though?) I am emotionally touched at the compassion and patience of just about everyone who did something for me over the seven days and six nights I was in the hospital. I pushed the help button (I know that’s why it is there) more than I think I should have. No one who responded frowned or made me feel that I should have been doing what I was asking them to do. I can never express enough admiration or appreciation for the Staff at both Kaiser in Roseville and Mercy General in Sacramento.

My family was there. My wife was my advocate. I cannot imagine the agony and stress she was under. My children talked and listened, slept and were there. It is hard watching someone you love suffer. My sister drove in from over the mountains. Friends came. Wow.

My immediate family exchanges gifts on Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. I came home the day before Thanksgiving. Thank you, Lord for my life. We enjoyed ourselves on Thanksgiving.

 

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Dirt

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV)

God told the man that when he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. Adam ate the fruit from the tree but he did not immediately, physically die. God’s command states that when he dies (physically) he will die (spiritually) (“you will die die” Genesis 2:17).

Now God tells Adam that he will live his physical life by hard, frustrating work, and that when it is his time to die he will become dust, or dirt. The very ground he works to grow food to live will claim him and he will become indistinguishable from it as his body deteriorates back to dirt. “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). God used dirt to make the man and to dirt the man will return when his body dies.

What happened to Adam happens to all who follow him. Had he obeyed God then those who followed would have received God’s blessing. That he disobeyed God, rebelling against Him, means he was sentenced to separation from God and the earth was cursed. We are not going to speculate about the probability of whether people would have individually rebelled against God if Adam had not. We do not know and cannot know the answer to that question. We do know sin infected all of humanity because of Adam’s rebellion. We do know all people die and their bodies become dirt after a time. Once the body is dead it cannot be made alive again by natural means.

Scripture does not use the term “federal headship.” Yet, Scripture is filled with historical examples of the children and citizens bearing the consequences of the actions of their fathers or leaders. “Federal” is a system of government where the leaders speak for the people. It is not a democracy where each has an equal voice but a system where the leaders are charged with the responsibility of implementing the will of those they represent. It is not fair but it is just.

Adam died. His body, after his life was no longer sustained, returned to the earth from which he was made and over which he was to have control, or dominion. He kept dominion as part of the image of God but lost the ability to exercise dominion. Before the fall, he was God’s representative over the earth. After the fall, the war began between those who hate God, even as they were created to know Him intimately, and everything pointing to God.

God makes it clear to Adam, and to all who follow him, that though they work and fulfill their responsibilities, they are still wholly dependent upon Him for their lives. Yes, people have to work and their work is both painful and stressful. God, after the rebellion of the first man, calls people to turn either toward Him or allows them to run away from Him. Those who turn away from God will work in their own effort and accomplish only what lasts a short, unfulfilling time. Those who turn toward God, acknowledge their inability to accomplish anything without God’s direct intervention. Physical death becomes the great equalizer among all people. Either there is a truthful and honest admission of separation from God because of sin or there is an attitude of not needing God, which is rebellion.

Thorns and Thistles

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

Because Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had said he was to not eat from, sustaining his life and the lives of his family by growing food would now become difficult and even painful. God cursed the ground, not Adam. This is a serious consequence for everyone who comes after Adam.

God had already told the man the ultimate consequence of eating the fruit from the forbidden tree would be death. Not just physical death but spiritual separation from that which sustains life. The man would be separated from God. When God cursed the ground His declaration was on top of the absolute justified sentence of death and separation. Yet, by not cursing the man, and all men, God leaves open a way for reconciliation, just as He did with the woman’s sentence. The consequence of her rebellion was pain in childbirth, with sorrow in raising children, with the knowledge that a child would come who would crush the head of the serpent. God, while holding them accountable for their rebellion, takes upon Himself the ultimate consequences of their actions.

When Adam prepares the ground to plant, then plants the seed so a crop will grow, thorns and thistles, weeds, will also grow. A weed is a plant growing where it is not supposed to grow. If Adam plants wheat and flowers grow among the crop, the flowers are weeds, taking up soil and nutrients meant for food. God says that “thorns and thistles” will grow where Adam wants food to grow. There will always be weeds, making Adam’s job more difficult. He will have to constantly pull the weeds so his crop will continue to grow.

Thorns and thistles are a constant reminder of the rebellion of Adam and the presence of sin. Adam will wage a constant war against sin as he works to sustain his life. So, too, all who follow, as they work will have to wage a uncompromising war against sin, while sin is waging an unrelenting war against them. The weeds want to take over the crops just as sin controls every thought, motive, action and consequence and wants to take over the life.

Work, to keep the thorns and thistles at bay, becomes hard. Adam will sweat as he works to get food for himself and his family. Perspiration is not evil. Avoiding perspiration by avoiding work, is rebellion. Is it not the intent of everyone who works to come to a time in life where they no longer have to put an abundance of effort into sustaining life? Those who do not have the discipline of work will not have the discipline to wage war against the sin which continually assaults.

Blessing to Cursing

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

God blesses and God curses. When God created Man in His image He blessed them. To bless means to kneel before and give a gift, as a father would kneel before his child and give them something precious. Here, God creates Man in His image, for relationship with Him, and gives them control over the creatures of the earth, gives them fruitfulness to fill the earth, and gives them the work of bringing the earth under their control.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

When Adam rebelled against God, ignoring His specific instruction, God reversed His blessing. He turned what He had blessed into a curse. God’s blessing and God’s curses carry the eternal power of God to carry out and fulfill His decision. But, God did not take away what He had given. He still wants Man to be fruitful and fill the earth and subdue it. Man’s rebellion corrupted and compromised the ability to do that for which Man was designed. God cursed the ground not Adam.

God tells Adam his work, beginning with taking care of the garden which was his home, has gone from joy to pain, from fulfilling to tedious. The word “pain” is the same word God uses to describe the pain of childbirth for his wife and all women who follow.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

There is no comparison between the pain and sorrow of having children and that of working. For the woman, the pain is intense but short in duration. For the man, the pain is continuous and lengthy. For the woman, the sorrow of raising children is daily, until they are mature and able to have and raise their own. For the man, the sorrow of growing food attacked by weeds and thorns is a constant struggle, “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”

Life is now hard and unforgiving. Because of their rebellion, what was meant to be cared for with confidence and success now becomes tedious and frustrating. The ground will no longer yield to Adam’s direction and dominion, becoming resistant and rebellious to his direction.

The curse levied against Adam is the exact opposite of the blessing. The sentence takes away the ability to perform and function as he was originally created while leaving the image of God to draw him back to his Creator. God still desires relationship making the pain of work a tool used to draw Man to Himself.

Adam’s Sentence

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; (Genesis 3:17 ESV)

God now turns His attention to sentencing the man. In this verse God uses the word man as a proper name for the first time. Up until now the word adam means man, the human race comprising the gender man and woman. In this verse, there is an article preceding the word Adam making it a proper name.

Adam’s sentence, because of his rebellion, is the third declared by God to those present. This just sentence carries the gravest consequences for all people. To the Deceiver, inhabiting the serpent, God’s sentence is a “curse” truthfully predicting that a Son who will come from the woman will crush it even as it tries to hurt Him. To the woman, God sentences her to pain in childbirth and conflicting desires for her husband, to be over him and protected by him. God does not use the word “curse” with the woman. To the man, God uses the word “curse” as He did with the Deceiver. God’s just sentence is pain and suffering in work.

But first, God declares the reason for the sentence. For the Deceiver, the reason is “because you have done this” tempting and lying to the woman about what God said. For the man, the reason is “because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’” (see Genesis 2:17). The Deceiver cast doubt on the words of God to those created in His image. Adam completely rebelled against the word of God, spoken directly to him.

Listening to the voice of his wife does not mean everything she said up until or following this time was contrary to God’s will. Adam cannot claim ignorance of the debate had between the woman and the Deceiver. Nor can he claim ignorance about from which tree the fruit came that she gave him to eat. We have none of the words spoken by the woman to Adam at any time after she was created and while they were living in the Garden of Eden. They talked. When she handed him the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we do not know what was said but he knew from which tree the fruit was plucked. We do not know if he questioned her about what she was doing or why she plucked the fruit and took a bite. We do not know if they argued or if she went through the entire discussion she had with the Deceiver. We do know she plucked the fruit, took a bite then gave some to her husband and eat also ate.

Adam was given dominion over the earth. He was put in charge and was given the responsibility of caring for that which God had made for Himself. His act of rebellion showed he could not be trusted to do that for which he was created. Adam bears responsibility for his rebellion.

God confirms what theologians have labeled “federal headship” by making Adam ultimately responsible for the sentence of separation from God for all people. Because he sinned all sin. Federal headship is a theological idea foundational to Christ’s redemptive work. Just as Adam’s sin brought death, spiritual separation from God, to all people, so Christ’s just and righteous act brings spiritual life to all people. (See Romans 5:12-21.) But not all people will claim Christ’s righteousness because they desire to cling to Adam’s rebellion.

Just Sentence

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

God’s just sentence for the woman is two-fold, with both parts having two elements. In the first part the woman will have pain and sorrow in childbirth followed by pain, sorrow and hardship in parenting children. Even though Jesus speaks to the joy of having children (see John 16:20-22), because of our fallen nature there will always be pain and suffering intermixed with the joy.

Next, God makes a statement that has been misinterpreted and misused by men to enslave woman, making them lower than, and certainly not equal to, the gender man. God does not state woman are inferior nor does He demand they be submissive to men.

There are three words we need to know, spoken within the context of the first rebellion against God, in order to begin to comprehend God’s sentence. They are “desire” “contrary to” and “rule.”

Desire means to long for. The word is used only three times. Once here and then in Genesis 4 when God tells Cain that sin desires him. “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV). Desire mean craving, as a beast craving to violently devour. Finally, the word is used in Song of Solomon. “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song 7:10 ESV). The beloved has the strongest emotion for the object of His desire. He wants to consumer her to the place of making her a part of Himself. This desire of the Beloved for the Loved is consistent with Jesus’ eternal desire for those who are His.

“Contrary” is simply the word “to” but is translated “contrary to.” This word can mean the motion of moving toward or against, but is not necessarily physical movement. Moving toward someone suggests coming to agree with them while moving against someone suggests aggressive intent. It can also mean simply in addition, in regard to or reference to, according. Taken within the context of the woman’s first interaction with the serpent, the Deceiver, and her reasoning to disobey God, the word suggests that because of sin and rebellion the woman will strive against the thinking of her husband. There will be intimate movement toward and a striving against as part of the sentence of God.

Finally, God uses the word rule. This word is translated dominion but is not the same word used for Man’s dominion over God’s creation. It is the same word God uses when He creates the sun and the moon and places them to “rule over the day and over the night” (Genesis 1:18 ESV). When God says “he will rule over you” God is saying the husband will hover over, as in to provide for, the wife. This word does not give any man despotic control over any or every woman, but fits the actions committed by the woman. God initially spoke to the man about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the woman. We know the man spoke to the woman about God’s prohibition because of her words to the serpent. Still, it was the woman who first ate the fruit and then gave it to the man, and he ate. She was the one who first violated God’s directive but it is the man who is being held completely responsible for the act of rebellion. She should have followed his directive just as he should have followed God’s.

God’s just sentence for the woman does not just apply to the first woman but to all women. All women have pain in childbirth and sorrow and joy in raising children. All married women, because of sin, tug and pull against their husbands in an effort to control. Unmarried women also strive against men, because of sin.

Pain

Studies in Genesis 3

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

God now turns His attention to the woman. His curse for the serpent was that it would crawl on its belly and eat dust. His curse of the Deceiver is that the offspring of the woman, someone down the line, would crush its head while it vainly struck at His heel. God’s judgment to the woman is two-fold, that she would have pain in childbirth and that her husband would rule over her even as her desires would be contrary to his.

Life, after the fall, is filled with suffering. I am a man and have no concept of the pain experienced in childbirth. Yet, the life of a child moves from the safety of the womb to the harsh environment outside the womb. But it is not the life and pain of the child God is addressing but the pain the woman will experience by having children. Her suffering begins during pregnancy, spikes during delivery, then continues throughout the life of the child even when the child matures into an adult.

When God declares “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” the word pain is also translated toil, sorrow, hardship, hurt. This word is used only three times in Scripture. God uses the word to describe the pain of childbirth in this verse. God also describes the pain of eating the fruit of the man’s labor in the next verse, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life” Genesis 3:17 ESV). The word is then used in Genesis 5:29, the hopeful prophecy of Lamech for his son Noah, to bring relief from the painful toil of work.

Jesus talks about the pain of childbirth as preceding the joy the child brings to the parent. In the context of His statement He alludes to the pain of losing Him to death is similar and will bring eternal joy of having Him after His resurrection.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:20-22 ESV)

Why pain in childbirth? Is the pain supposed to be a reminder for all women that their first mother rebelled against God? Is the pain supposed to point to the sentence of the Deceiver, who will strike out at the children of the woman and hurt them, or Him, but will then be crushed? Can we assume there would have been no pain in childbirth had the first couple had children before rebelling? According to Jesus, the pain of childbirth points to the pain of His passion, for Him and for those who are His, because it also points to the eternal joy of being with Him (see also Romans 8:18).

Please note, neither the woman or the man are cursed. They are judged and sentenced. They will die physically because that was the determined consequence for eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They will bear the consequences of their actions and those who follow them will also suffer because of their rebellion. One of the consequences of their rebelling is pain, suffering and sorrow for all, including Jesus who was fully God and fully man the way God originally intended.