Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb. – Genesis 12:1-9 [ESV]

Biltmore Estate Garden, Asheville, SC | April 2021

The landscape became more and more barren as we drove our 1974 Ford Pinto station wagon across the west slope of the Colorado Rockies. Gaig, and Steamboat Springs were well in the rearview mirror. Rangely – the second point of the dual parish to which I was called – was 20 miles to the south. Vernal, the place we would live for the next four years was 30 miles ahead. We were in the middle of nowhere. A year later, when Diane’s parents visited, I asked her mother what she thought of this beauty. She remarked, “It’s interesting.” It wasn’t her kind of beauty – although it had a majesty and beauty all its own. 

We’ve lived in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, and Texas. We were both born in Missouri, and every state and place we’ve lived since Missouri has been directly connected to our calling. Having determined that God was leading me to become a pastor in the Lutheran church meant moving for school, vicarage (internship), and various congregations in those states (plus the one in Colorado when we lived in Utah).

With all this in mind, you might think that a vocation (calling) is unique to pastor types and their families. And to some extent a pastor has a very unique and specific calling. It is clear and obvious when a church extends a Divine Call. They vote and send a specific document called a, “Diploma of Vocation.” That document explicitly charges one to serve as a pastor. I have accepted calls to serve in the six churches I have served over the past 42 years. 

But vocation is not the providence only of called and ordained servants of Christ. In fact, we’ve all been called to faith by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel message has come to us, and God calls us to repent and believe in Jesus. Fully believing the Good News of Jesus is to follow him. That is a calling that accompanies us wherever we go. 

For Abram (he is yet to become Abraham by God’s renaming), it meant a move to a strange place. Even more challenging than our trip across the western slope of Colorado, it was to a land that God would show him. It’s like this:

God: Abram, get up, take your family and go to a place I will show you.

Abram: OK…where, exactly, do you have in mind?

God: I’ll show you when the time comes.

Abram: Ah, um, OK??? OK? OK. Got it. I’ll go.

There was, however, a very special promise to Abram. That promise would fuel a faith in him that would define him as the father of faith. It still inspires others to go places to which God calls them. And it would become a foundation for Abraham’s righteousness – a righteousness of faith. 

Some people think of vocation as their own personal multiple choice question: Shall I become a lawyer, doctor, teacher, or business person? Better we should embrace our first calling from God: a vocation to repent, believe, and follow wherever God calls us, and whatever we do for a living. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

For your personal reflection and edification…

Psalm 6:1-3
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?

Psalm 36:5-6
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.

Psalm 66:1-4
Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.” Selah

Psalm 96:1-6
Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Psalm 126:1-3
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.

All quotes from the The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The whole world had one language with a common vocabulary. As people moved toward the east, they found a plain in Shinar [Babylonia] and settled there.

They said to one another, “Let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used bricks as stones and tar  as mortar.

Then they said, “Let’s build a city for ourselves and a tower with its top in the sky. Let’s make a name for ourselves so that we won’t become scattered all over the face of the earth.”

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the descendants of Adam were building. The Lord said, “They are one people with one language. This is only the beginning of what they will do! Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them. Let us go down there and mix up their language so that they won’t understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them all over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. This is why it was named Babel, because there the Lord turned the language of the whole earth into babble. From that place the Lord scattered them all over the face of the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9

Dogwood Along the Hiking Trail | Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

My first Call was to Our Savior Lutheran Church in Vernal, Utah, and Trinity Lutheran Church in Rangely, Colorado. In the days of the Oil Shale boom, plans were made for aggressive development of oil-producing efforts. That required more people. And people required places to live. One such place was Parachute, Colorado. Today this is a town of just more than 1000 residents. But in the early 1980’s Exxon corporation decided to build a large residential development. As I recall, it was mostly apartments to house the large number of workers who would live there.

Construction had begun, and buildings were framed. Some were at least partially under roof. Then Exxon decided to pull the plug. It was described this way in a June 1982 Washington Post article:

The traffic rolling past Mayor Floyd McDaniel’s store is disconcertingly heavy. The small town looks alive–and when you are looking for a ghost, that can be unsettling.

More than two months ago, Exxon Corp. pulled out of the $5 billion Colony Oil Shale Project in western Colorado. Construction workers packed their families and U-Hauls and left, and Parachute appeared headed from boom to bust.

It was an amazing sight. Half-framed buildings: abandoned. Unfinished streets: abandoned. Workers just got into their trucks and left town. Plans for people to move in were abandoned. In hindsight it seems wise that we did not invest a lot of capital on a mission start there. That had been our plan. But plans change. And those plans changed dramatically and suddenly. What they thought would be an oil shale boom turned into a big oil pull-out bust!

That’s not the first time plans have changed dramatically and suddenly. Thousands of years ago plans for the city and the tower in Babel were abandoned. They left off building the city. The tower was a flop. Their goals – so lofty – had to be abandoned because God confused their speech and thwarted their efforts. 

You might wonder why God has not done this more often today. From Dubai’s Burj Khalifa to China’s Shanghai Tower to the Lotte World Tower in Seoul to New York’s One World Trade Center, skyscrapers, one after another, reach into the heavens. It appears as though there is nothing we cannot do. He stopped it all then. Why not now? 

I cannot fathom the mind of God. Nor can I suppose to answer for his actions. In fact we might take a note from Job before we ask God to give an account to us for his actions! The fact that God has not stopped these kinds of things just yet may be explained in part by 1 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 

And before we become too quick to pull the trigger of accusation toward others, we must be careful to examine our own hearts. Is there perhaps more hubris and arrogance there than we might wish to admit? Might we need to take heed ourselves? If we do take stock, and discover in our hearts a judgmental self-righteous attitude, we can be thankful that God receives us when we turn to him in repentant faith. That’s something the people in Shinar did not do. And their project came to a sudden stop because of that.

Click here or on the podcast player below for an audio version of this blog post. 

The whole world had one language with a common vocabulary. As people moved toward the east, they found a plain in Shinar [Babylonia] and settled there.

They said to one another, “Let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used bricks as stones and tar  as mortar.

Then they said, “Let’s build a city for ourselves and a tower with its top in the sky. Let’s make a name for ourselves so that we won’t become scattered all over the face of the earth.”

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the descendants of Adam were building. The Lord said, “They are one people with one language. This is only the beginning of what they will do! Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them. Let us go down there and mix up their language so that they won’t understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them all over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. This is why it was named Babel, because there the Lord turned the language of the whole earth into babble. From that place the Lord scattered them all over the face of the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9

Azaleas and Other Flora | Biltmore Estate Gardens, Asheville, SC | April 2021

Our children and grandchildren are scattered all over the world. From Texas to Washington to Germany they range. We’re thankful for Skype, WhatsApp, and airplanes! These allow us to connect either virtually or at least some times in the flesh. Some we haven’t seen in person for more than 18 months. Others much more often. They are scattered mostly for reasons of their vocations. From Accounts Manager, to Naval Officer, to Student, to Satellite Communications support, their vocations have taken them far and wide. 

They, in that regard, are much like us. We’ve lived in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas and Texas. Each move brought on by our pursuit of vocation. I’m sure our parents wished we were more close by, but these are the places God sent us as we followed our calling. We’ve lived in Texas longer than anywhere else now so this is home. But we got here by God’s providential guidance.

When God scattered the people from Babylon over the face of the earth, you might think of it only as punishment. We’ve considered, however, how God brings people low so that they can find grace and mercy in him. Jesus himself said, “Those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but [only] those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Isaiah prophesied that, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low” (Isaiah 40:4). God scatters so that he can gather. 

But there is yet another reason for scattering. And this will prove helpful for those who have been scattered. In Acts 17 Peter says that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27). And when the first major persecution of the church occurred we learn something vitally important.  “But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went” (Acts 8:4).

Maybe there’s more to this scattering than just being scattered. Maybe more than just being pushed out of the nest. Maybe God is intending that people everywhere bloom where they are planted. Like seed scattered, God’s people have a message of grace and truth that takes root and grows in the hearts of those who hear and believe. Centered in Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, it points us toward a future glory and hope in the life of the world to come.

Years ago Diane received (maybe from me?) a miniature wheelbarrow with little garden tools and tiny pots of flowers. On the side was printed, “Bloom where you are planted.” It felt a bit like a prod toward an attitude of  appreciation for the opportunities to serve Jesus’ rule and reign. And while it might be a bit of a challenge, it also lifts our eyes to a greater purpose and calling than seeking our own comfort and the next big deal.

Consider it a great privilege to be part of the Mission of God wherever you may be – no matter how you might have gotten there!

Click here, or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building.“Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.  – Genesis 11:1-9 [NLT]

Unopened Boston Ferns | Biltmore Estate Gardens, Asheville, SC | April 2021

Recently I had the privilege of sharing some insights about strategic planning with the board of Camp Okoboji in northwest Iowa. I enjoyed being in the game again, having at least somewhat of a kingdom impact. I made a pitch for doing missional planning, which is different from strategic planning. Strategic planning sets out goals, tactics, and strategies to achieve the goals of the organization. Missional planning sets out ways to pursue the mission of God. It is a pray and prepare effort, rather than a predict and plan approach.* 

The builders of the Tower of Babel were sold out on the predict and plan approach. They predicted that they could build a tower that reached to the heavens. Then they set about planning and building it. But, their predictions were wrong. They failed to take into consideration the two rules we must all learn:

  1. There is a God
  2. You are not God. 

Their failure to factor these rules into their planning proved fatal to their efforts. The tower building effort failed. They were scattered. Their city was abandoned. Their plans came to less than nothing. Even though the word  babble is not related etymologically to the name of this place, Babel, I can’t help but think of Babel when I hear the word babble. It means to prattle, to talk rapidly and continuously in a foolish, excited, or incomprehensible way. Seems that’s exactly what happened there!

The two rules they failed to take into consideration are only part of the equation for those of us who call ourselves Christians. For God is not merely sovereign. And we are not merely not God. God is loving and compassionate. He is on a mission. And he invites us to join him on that mission. We are not mere pawns in the scheme of eternity. We are heirs of God’s riches. And we are co-missioned to join Jesus as he seeks and saves the lost.

God comes down to confuse their speech. It was part of his mission, but not all of it. Part of the mission of God is, sadly, that of confusing speech, bringing difficulty, standing in the way of prideful endeavors. We might wish he did that more to our enemies. But God’s opposition to the proud is not just so we can have a better life. It is to bring people low in their own strength so that he may lift them up to an eternal blessing by his grace. “For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone’ (Lamentations 3:33).

James tells us that we must not assume we will make plans that will succeed. Rather we must say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will…” (James 4:13). There is great danger in presuming to make a name for ourselves by our plans or predictions. But there is even greater joy in being part of God’s mission and enjoying the eternal blessings of his reign and rule in Jesus. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

*Thanks to Reggie McNeal for these terms. He fleshes them out in his book, The Present Future.

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9

Azaleas | Biltmore Estates, Asheville, SC | April 2021

“It’s Bue-kay, not bucket!” So says Hyacinth on the British comedy, Keeping Up Appearances. She makes certain everyone knows she has Dalton china, a Princess slimline telephone, an only accepts first class mail. She keeps up all possible appearances of being a cultured highbrow personage. It makes for painfully-funny comedy. 

Maybe you know someone like that. I do, and out of love and respect I won’t divulge that one’s identity. Let’s just say, it can wear thin on me. I easily get tired of the pretense. Could it be that I am just better at it (in my humble opinion) than that one? Could it be painful because we’ve been taken in by those who manage to keep up appearances in the face every challenge and obstacle thrown their way? Only later to discover they have feet made of clay.

The problem with keeping up appearances is the impossibility of keeping them up. Sooner or later everyone is unmasked. Sometimes it’s notorious. Epstein. Jackson. Armstrong. All have fallen from their places of fame. They couldn’t keep up appearances. Jesus says, “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed” (Mark 4:22). We can’t hide behind fame, fortune, or fashion the fact that we are fallen broken sinners.

But the purpose for which God will bring us down to reality is not to embarrass nor to shame us. John announced Jesus’ coming by quoting Isaiah, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Isaiah 40:4). Mary rejoiced as she contemplated the child she was to bear saying that God had “scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:51-53). 

God will not allow the people in the land of Shinar to make a name for themselves. They need him. They need his mercy. They need his provision. They need his goodness. They need his guidance. Because they suppose they will be able to make it on their own, he will not allow them to do so. 

Next time your mask slips, and you are found out, don’t be alarmed. Don’t be ashamed. Be honest, humble, and repentant. Acknowledge the poverty of the fig leaves you’ve tried to sow together to cover your shame, and rejoice in the robes of Christ’s righteousness. And remember the promise: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). That’s an appearance that we can anticipate with great joy.

Click here, or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9

Fallen Tree | Smoky Mountain National Park | April 2021

[Note: On this Memorial Day, we honor those who have given their lives defending the freedom we have as citizens of these United States of America. In our family we remember Aaron Clark who was killed in Iraq. He was a comrade of our own Aaron who served with him there. We remember our fallen soldiers and pray for comfort and healing for those they leave behind.
Also…You may have expected to begin looking at Genesis 10 today. Others may wish to reflect on the genealogies that are found there. They chronicle the expansion of Noah’s family, and the chapter ends: “These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood” (Genesis 10:32). So now that the clans have spread all over the world, we have yet another reminder of the sinful nature of man here in the land of Shinar.]

Perhaps you’ve experienced the frustration of unclear or misunderstood language. It’s more and more common for me as I age, and my hearing is less and less acute. Someone will say something and I’ll mistake an f for an s, or a b for a p. But that’s nothing compared to an even more troubling reality most all of us have experienced. Many of us all too many times. Not just a mistaking of words, but more importantly, a misunderstanding of intent. 

Have you been there? Every word you say is perceived to be harmful. Every time you try to clarify yourself, you muddy the waters further. Then you get more angry because you’re being misunderstood – or because you are being thought of poorly. That surely doesn’t help. 

The problem here, however, is not just a difference of hearing. It’s not just that the builders of the Tower of Babel said, “Give me some bricks,” while the one who heard it thought he had asked for sticks. It’s not that when asked, “Are you ready?” And rather than hearing, “No” they thought you said, “Go!” That would be trouble enough. But add arrogance to the equation, and you have a real ballyhoo. Not good.

Even people with different languages can get along quite well in many situations. Patience, a willing heart, and humility of spirit go a long way toward good communication. But the foundation on which this conflict-riddled tower is being built it one of hubris. They are in it to make a name for themselves. And it won’t end well. 

But the only Name that deserves to have something made over it is the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord our God. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. Not at the name of Babel. Not at the name of the United States of America. Not at Israel. Not at Iraq. Not at Great Britain. Jesus is the name above every other name. And he was a man of humility. And he sought to make a place for us by being lifted up on a cross. Humility, love, grace, faithfulness, obedience and goodness combine for our eternal good. Let there be no confusion about that. 

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of the blog post.

For your personal edification and meditation on this Lord’s Day…

Psalm 30:4-5

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 60:11-12

Oh, grant us help against the foe,
    for vain is the salvation of man!
12 With God we shall do valiantly;
    it is he who will tread down our foes.

Psalm 90:16-17

Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 120:1-2

In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
Deliver me, O Lord,
    from lying lips,
    from a deceitful tongue.

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Then Noah said,

“May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed,
    and may Canaan be his servant!
27 May God expand the territory of Japheth!
May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem,
    and may Canaan be his servant.” – Genesis 9:26-27

Small Purple Flowers… | Camp Okoboji, Iowa | May 2021

I mentioned yesterday about how much I love speaking the words of the benediction at the end of worship services. I almost always use the Aaronic benediction from Numbers 6:24-26:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD look upon you with favor and give you peace.

A contemporary version of that blessing has touched my heart many times. That was especially true at my final Sunday as senior pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Cypress, Texas. I’ve included a Youtube link to the song below…

What was and is such a powerful point in the song is the refrain:

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children

Songwriters: Chris Brown / Steven Furtick / Cody Carnes / Kari Brooke Jobe
The Blessing lyrics © Worship Together Music, Capitol Cmg Paragon, Kari Jobe Carnes Music, Writers Roof Publishing

Noah offers a blessing to Shem and by extension Japheth. Even Canaan can be part of the blessing if we understand what is actually being said, and the will, intent, and plan of God. 

God wants all people to be saved. Jesus came to call all people to himself. He died for the sins of the world, and commanded his disciples to make disciples of all peoples. The Hebrew nation can be thought of as Shem’s progeny, and Japheth be seen as the Gentile nations. And while Canaan is mentioned as a slave to these peoples, let’s not be too quick to jettison the descendants of Canaan. For a Canaanite woman sought Jesus’ healing for her daughter (there’s the issue of children again!). And Jesus – after seeming to turn her away – commended her faith and healed her daughter. Read it here

Oh how I pray that our children and their children, and their children will remain under the blessing of God! And the delightful truth is that by faith they can be! It’s not a matter of ancestry. You don’t have to be a fifth-generation-bonafide Texas Christian. Make no mistake, it’s a great legacy to claim and pass on! But legacy and progeny is not the formula for God’s blessings. What good would a blessing be if there is no faith to receive it?

The formula is: God’s grace, love, kindness, mercy, and forgiving redemption + Faith. We receive the fullness of God’s grace and gifts by faith. And that promise is to us, and our children, and their children, and their children…for a thousand generations! Amen.

Click here for an audio version of this blog post. 

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;
    a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
    and let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
    and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
    and let Canaan be his servant.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died. – Genesis 9:24-29

Yellow Daisies | Biltmore Gardens, Asheville, SC | April 2021

One of the great privileges I had over the past 40+ years of pastoral ministry is that of pronouncing the benediction at the end of the worship service.

The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The LORD look upon you with favor [lift up his countenance], and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

Whenever I’ve spoken the benediction, I have done so with deep sense of privilege and good will toward the worshippers. I need that blessing and so do the people. I say it like I mean it because I do. Curses…not so much.  

Of course, I’ve been inclined to offer a curse to the driver who pulls into my lane on the highway (I do own the road after all!). And if someone needlessly prevents me from getting to my parking spot at the grocery store, I might not be inclined to offer a blessing. Not sure that’s a curse, but I sure don’t think of blessing them. Your dog keeps me awake all night: No blessing. You have a party in the apartment above mine into the wee hours. No blessing. 

One Saturday night at 10:30 PM, our next door neighbor was revving his motorcycle again and again. No blessing: I went over to him and said, “I’ll make you a deal. You don’t rev your motorcycle at 10:30 and I won’t run my chain saw tomorrow morning at 6!” That was not a blessing. Maybe I do employ a curse more often than I thought. 

Noah offers a curse and a blessing based on the behavior of his sons. The youngest son who just had to tell his brothers about their dad’s drunken nakedness is cursed. Canaan, Ham’s son, will be cast out. He will serve his brothers. The Canaanites would ultimately be conquered by the Hebrews in the conquest of the Promised Land. Noah’s curse might simply be a foretelling of what would actually happen many years later. 

The blessing Noah offers provides a look forward to the Hebrew people who would, alone, hold true to the faith for many centuries. This blessing now goes to the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. And they come from every tribe, nation, and tongue. No longer are certain people groups more or less favored by God. His grace now comes to all people.

Not only does the blessing come to all people, God’s people are to be servants of all. Jesus calls upon his followers to serve others as a show of true faith and discipleship. 

Jesus called [his disciples] to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28

It is a sad commentary on the sinfulness of man to learn that some people used this Genesis text to justify enslavement of African people. This is a wrong hearted and wrong headed notion. I love Matthew Henry’s comment: This [text] in no way excuses the covetousness and barbarity of those who enrich themselves with the product of their sweat and blood. God has not commanded us to enslave Negro’s [sic]; and without doubt, he will severely punish all such cruel wrongs.”

There are two significant incidents of cursing in the New Testament. One is actually on the lips of Jesus in Matthew 25. He says, “Depart from me you who are cursed…for I was naked, hungry, sick, and in prison…and you did not [help me]. It is clear that those who must depart from Jesus’ presence are cursed, and not that he curses them. On the other hand, Paul offers a curse to those who would preach a “gospel” different from what he delivered to them. 

There is no other hope and no other blessing than that which is in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of all who believe. It is God’s delight to offer and give those eternal blessings. It glorifies Jesus, and God’s glorious grace.

Click here or on the podcast player below to listen to an audio version of this blog post.