Dialogue – Genesis 15

And Abram’s reward for defeating the Four kings when he returned home? God visited him in a vision, not just with a proclamation, but with a dialogue.

God said: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance.”

I’m sure at this point “shield” takes on a more vivid meaning after the blood of the battle!

Abram replied: “O Sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus? Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!”

Translated: “Promises, promises – let’s see some action.” Abram is growing weary waiting, looking, anticipating in faith, for God to act. Do you ever feel that way?

God replied: “This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir.” 

God must have seen Abram’s continued skepticism as, “The Lord took him outside and said, ‘Gaze into the sky and count the stars—if you are able to count them! So will your descendants be.'”

Then, “Abram believed.” 

God goes on to give him more details about the promise after Abram believed, but first Abram needed a vision.

Sometimes all we need to obey is God clicking his fingers. We are ready and eager, filled with faith. We’ll pick up and go anywhere.

Sometimes, we are weary of the battle, the wanderings, seeing our own sin and the sin of others. We question, even doubt, the promise we so much wanted to believe in.

Dialogue is the basis for relationship. It’s the give and take. It’s the meeting in the middle. It’s the meeting of each other’s needs.

That’s when God, in his grace, dialogues with us. He woes us with his presence. He does not judge us for our limited faith, our doubts. Instead, he answers us with his truth, and leads us by the hand to remind us of his character. 

He fills our heart with vision.

One Man’s Choice – Genesis 6

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Again, don’t you wish you could see this all as a movie, experiencing what the relationship was like between Noah and God? There must have been a very strong contrast between Noah and the world he lived in. How did he navigate it?

We do know that God felt Noah could be his confidant, his partner in finding a solution against the sin of man. God shared with Noah his emotions and the details of the destruction. He also shared with him a plan of salvation. 

God always has a plan of salvation. Even though there have been consequences for choices, there has always been a plan for salvation. Adam and Eve, although expelled from the garden, were provided for. Cain, with blood on his hands, was allowed to live. Enoch was snatched into heaven. God is just, and he only gives consequences in line with choices. He is also merciful and has a plan of salvation.

Noah had made good choices, before the moment of crisis came. Daily he had refused to walk and talk with those who were moving away from God. And thus he found favor with God.

No only did God want to save Noah, but he wanted to save those Noah was in relationship with. Our relationship with God does affect those around us. And, God knows it’s not good to leave us alone, without “helpers.”

Noah continued to make good choices, building a boat with no water around. His faith was based not on what he could see for himself, but what he could see through eyes of faith and relationship with God. He might not have understood it all, but it didn’t make a difference. His God was telling him to do something…and “he did ALL that God commanded him. “

Noah chose to follow God.

From Bad to Worse – Genesis 6

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth,
and it grieved him to his heart.

Even though there were glimmers of light in the lineage of mankind, chapter 6 certainly lets us know the direction mankind was headed. It’s as if they could not put any controls on the choices they made. Instead, they built lies upon lies until they no longer knew the truth.

Years ago, I did a study on the emotions of God. I needed to answer for myself if God was just a “force” for good (like in Star Wars) or did he exist as a person, a personality, that was like mankind (or us like him) with emotions.

This chapter nearly broke my heart, as I am sure the condition of mankind was breaking God’s heart: his precious creation who he had created in his own likeness and given dominion over everything else he so lovingly created became so wicked in their choices that they no longer ever thought about having a relationship with him. It hurt so bad that he regretted he created man, and it grieved him to his heart. 

My heart breaks in compassion for God. I know how it hurts when one of my children rebels against me, but none of them have come to this hateful, wicked position. Everything mankind does is outside the will of God, the relationship he desired to have with them. Each generation had an opportunity to draw closer, but instead they challenged their identity with him.

Sometimes I look at the world today and wonder how much more sin God can allow without regretting blessings he has given? 

People worshipping the idols of money, power, even violence with no thought of their fellow human beings, much less a God who created them. People challenging how God created them, male or female, and asking others to join them, as if as a pure mob we could out-vote God Creator. People who think that if we say something often enough, it becomes truth.

Remember, “In the beginning, God…”

No matter what comes after, it does not negate the truth. God was before the beginning, and will be after the end. Whatever choices we make will never change it.

But we have to choose a relationship with him.

Victory over Death – Genesis 5

This is the book of the generations of Adam.
When God created man,
he made him in the likeness of God.
Male and female he created them,
and he blessed them
and named them Man when they were created.

It’s almost as if God wants to remind us again that before separating choices were made, God really had provided the best. He created mankind in his likeness, with the ability to have relationship with God. He created them male and female, with the ability to relate to and complete each other. And he even blessed them and named then himself. They had all they needed.

And Adam and Eve did what God called them to do, to multiply and have dominion over the earth. 

This chapter details the lineage from Adam through Seth. Remember that Abel is dead, and because of his choices, Cain is separated from his family and included in a different linage. This lineage seems cut and dry until you come to Enoch.

Of Encoh it is written, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” 

Everyone else died. Everyone except Enoch, who made the choice to “walk with God.”

Don’t you wish you could have seen their relationship, heard their conversations, seen Enoch turn away from bad choices?

And this is the first time we get a glimpse that “walking with God” means victory over death!

The curse for sin on mankind is death. But God, in his grace, is larger than his curse. He sees into the soul of a man. And God has power over death.

Does it remind you of Jesus? Resurrection from the dead. Could this be the first hint of the redemption to come?

But as we head into Chapter 6, we see a very contrasting story… 

Where Are You? Genesis 3

Then the whole picture of perfection dissolves with one statement:

“Where are you?”

God created mankind like himself, in his own image, so there could be relationship, so there could be trusted dominion.

But God also left a door open to mankind. The birds, plants, animals, all followed God’s ways because of how they were created, without spirituality, without relationship that includes choice. But to mankind, he left open the door to choose to relate to him, to respond in gratitude and love, to be able to work on “dominion” together.

I have no idea of how much time passed between Adam’s creation and this choice. It must have been wonderful, God and man in perfect relationship. We get a little picture of just watching them name animals together. I imagine God bringing creatures before Adam, and Adam responding to each one in awe and admiration for what God had done. The vibrant colors, the intricate designs, the amazing ways of responding to heat and cold – they all must have amazed Adam and Eve.

And think about them in the garden, having dominion over them. Again, I don’t know completely what this means, but I would imagine the scene would have been more merry than Disney’s Goldilocks in the forest, playing with the creatures!

Then enters slithering doubt enters and everything grows dim.

I wonder if things would have been different if Adam had not tried to cover his sin with words or skins? What if he had run to find God, to confess his doubts, failings, and now new power? What if he had fallen on his knees, would have God extended forgiveness, grace and mercy in that moment?

We’ll never know, because it didn’t happen that way. No only did Adam sin, but he did not repent and ask forgiveness, blaming others who blamed others.

God, as he is all knowing, knew this was happen, but I can’t help but think it crushed his heart. He wanted Plan A to work and loved every minute that it did. But he also knew that eventually, he would need Plan B.

The rest of the Bible is Plan B, less than God’s perfection in relationship to man in his own image, and the road back to his perfection in relationship.

And he’s still calling us into relationship, “Where are you?”

How do we answer?

Helpers – Genesis 2

Then the Lord God said,
“It is not good that the man should be alone;
I will make him a helper…

The story continues to unfold – out of a beginning, out of a God, out of a creation, out of a unique being created in God’s image.

This spiritual state in which God created mankind made him relational.

God is relational. Remember Genesis 1 – “Let us make man in our own image?” God is an “us” and “our.” It’s hard to wrap our heads around “us”, especially at this beginning point without the rest of scripture, but there are parts of God who uniquely relate to each other. They are one, but separate, and they fulfill each other.

In the same way, man/Adam desired something that was equal to him, who had a spiritual side, who could be one with him, relating to him, completing him. In all of creation, there was nothing like him. Only God, by creating from a part of Adam something that was “flesh of his flesh” and yet uniquely different (for completeness), was able to finish his creation of mankind “in his image.”

We are created for relationship, and just like Satan attacks the other foundational premises, he attacks relationships. He tears us apart and reinforces the thought that we would be better off as an island, alone. But even if as an individual we could be better off, mankind as a whole would not.

We were created to be “helpers” to each other.

How can I do that today?

Mankind – Genesis 1

Then God said,
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
And let them have dominion…”

Creation has so many twists and turns, and there is a part of me that would like to inspect each nuance, but we would be here for eternity! In fact, I bet that part of what we will be fascinated with…for all eternity. 

But if I’m just hitting some high points, it’s got to be the creation of mankind. After all, the Bible is the story of God’s relationship with mankind. So we have to look at mankind’s beginning…

“Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.”

Much has been written about what this means, but with my limited intelligence, it seems simple to me. Mankind has a sense of God, of spirituality, that none of the rest of creation conceives. Mankind asks the questions, “Is that all there is?” and “Is there more beyond me?”

They long for a connection with their creator.

Some have argued that we don’t know if animals or plants want connection with God. They have a dependency on what God provides, but they don’t seem to be looking for relationship, unless we project our own emotions onto them.

And because man has spirituality within him, God gave him purpose, to have dominion over all the earth God just created. Now, we might debate if this was a good or bad decision but remember this was before sin. I’m sure God, creating man in his own image, had hoped that he would have continued in his image, with holy, responsible dominion over the earth.

God created mankind with a purpose, with a power, that the rest of the earth does not have…

Which is still true today.

Who Are We? – Philemon

Who Are We? – Philemon

Paul is making a request in the midst of relationship, in the midst of a context – past, present and future. He’s already written about this, but now he goes into it deeper, and I feel it deeper…

I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus –

Paul identifies himself as “old.” Depending which imprisonment theory you go with (Rome or Ephesus), Paul is either old in age or older in seniority. But I don’t think that was what Paul meant…

He felt old. He felt limited. He felt vulnerable, and needy.

I’m getting older, and I identify with him.  As you age, you are so much more aware of your limitations – the limitations of your knowledge, skill, physical strength, what your body can and can’t do.

He was feeling his age as well as his limitations, as a prisoner. I have to confess, in this world of Covid, at times I’ve felt as a “prisoner” even though I believe in the cause!

We’re all getting older. For some, that’s exciting. But for many of us, we know our days of greatest impact may be behind us. We tend to look forward through the eyes of our children, physically and spiritually.

What can they achieve? We find purpose and meaning through them, carrying on the message of Jesus through their lives.

And we find joy.

Love’s Sake – Philemon

Requests carry risk.

though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to what is required,
yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you…

Requests get our desires out into the open, maybe even exposing a need.

Paul had the “authority” over Philemon. He was the leader of the church, the father of the community of faith. He had paid the price for them to hear the gospel. So in this community of faith where he could have made demands based on his position of authority, he chose to go a different direction – the direction of love.

Paul never lacked boldness, but in this situation, he chose love.


Could it be because he is making a request for Philemon to not use his authority, but to choose love?

Philemon has the authority legally, as Onesimus’ owner, to press charges on his run-away slave. He has all legal rights, while his slave has none. 

Paul is appealing to him not about power, but about love, compassion, mercy.

All of us have a certain amount of power in our relationships. If nothing else, we have the power to leave the relationship. We also have power to hurt the other person, or the power to encourage the other person.

Paul is making the point clear – Philemon can use his boldness, his power, his position to hurt Onemimus. Or…he can use it for “love’s sake” and express not just love for his brother in faith, but his love for a man who has been a father in faith.

Paul modeled the choice before he made the request, not using his authority but deferring to love.

How can I use my boldness, power, position in relationships to encourage others, to show love, mercy and forgiveness…

For “love’s sake?”


The Request – Philemon

Now we get to the meat of the letter, the real reason Paul is writing Philemon. 

Evidently, Philemon owned a slave, Onesimus, who went missing probably with some of Philemon’s money or property. He ended up with Paul who told him about Jesus and led him into faith. He’s now appealing to Philemon to restore the relationship.

I give the summary not as a “spoiler alert” but it’s hard to look at the request in the midst of the whole. Requests God makes of us are in the midst of a whole. First, there is what comes before the request, the request, and what comes after the request.

Paul, throughout his intro, has laid a foundation of two important principles, setting the stage for the request – Philemon’s relationship with Paul, Philemon’s relationship with God, and Philemon’s relationship to others.

Love and respect define Paul’s relationship with Philemon. Remember all the endearing words Paul used? Beloved, my fellow-worker, my brother, love, joy, comfort – each identifying the connection they have. Paul let Philemon know he remembers him in prayer and heard of his good works. He wanted God’s best for him.  He also made the contrast that while Philemon is experiencing freedom, enjoying success in ministry, Paul is a prisoner. 

And then there is Philemon’s relationship with God, the grace and peace he has received in his life. Like Paul, he had received forgiveness of sin and the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. Paul talked of Philemon’s love and faith in his Lord and master, Jesus. His life had been dramatically changed since he heard the gospel message.

Philemon lived his relationship for all to see – those in the community as well as those in the church. Paul addressed the church in his house and talked of Philemon’s “love and faith” towards the “saints.” But even more so, Paul prayed for Philemon’s “effective” witness to others. Philemon had put a stake in the ground as a Christ-follower.

Requests are not made in a vacuum.

A request comes from someone. The relationship with that person is critical to how I receive the request. If it’s from someone I love and respect, I lean into it, want to hear it, desire to respond.

My response is connected to my relationship with God. If that is good and we’re in fellowship, it goes one way. If I am not and am rebelling, wanting my own way, it will probably go the other.

And if there is any doubt, I also need to take into account how others will see my response. I have an opportunity to show to others love and faith and be a witness of the grace and mercy God has given me.

What request is God currently making of me? How is it grounded in others, my relationship with Him? Will it build faith in others, or tear down?

Great questions to ask myself. Decisions are not just mine. They don’t occur in a vacuum. They occur in relationships.