The best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten have been in the homes of friends as I’ve traveled, and those times are cherished in my heart for the richness in food and fellowship. But in terms of hotel breakfasts, the Radisson Blu in downtown Helsinki, Finland has the most amazing variety, quality, and abundance.
In fact, European breakfasts in general, whether in a home or hotel, make American motel ‘continental’ breakfasts seem like picking food scraps out of the garbage in comparison. So much so, that whenever I travel in America and eat at a motel breakfast (Have they never heard of whole grain?) and hear European accents, I want to both crawl under the table in shame of what we are offering our visitors to these shores, and apologize that this does not represent the best of American breakfast food.
No, our eggs do not normally bounce like Beckum bending a kick around a defender. No, Fruit Loops are not what most adults eat for breakfast. I’m sorry to say motel bread is white, processed, and according to numerous studies, takes more nutrients out of your body just to be able to digest the stuff than all the ‘fortifying’ puts back into the body, so don’t eat it or you’ll end up malnourished while feeling full.
Pick and choose
The Radisson Blu caters to an international customer so offers a wide variety of European, Finnish, and even American breakfast foods done right. Like circling birds of prey guests with the diversity of the UN move slowly among the choices, pouncing on this, alighting on that, loading up on new flavors. There is something for everyone.
The spiritual world of Abram was not unlike the smorgasbord I’ve described above; a god for every need or situation, just pick and choose. You see, there is one scripture above all others that I’ve puzzled on and not understood over the course of over 30 years, and it starts with Abram and his smorgasbord of choices among the gods.
I started asking the Father for revelation on this particular scripture back in about 1979 or ’80, and from time to time through the years I’d revisit the verse, look at verses before and after, and come no closer to understanding it, so move on.
But about 15 years ago I began keeping it on the ‘back burner’ of my mind – you know when you have something on the stove that just needs to simmer, not a full rolling boil, just low heat – so you move that to the back to just sit and cook; that’s what I did with this verse.
Drum roll please
“Therefore it is by faith, that it might be by grace.” Romans 4:16
It didn’t matter the translation, I just didn’t understand it for decades. Why did faith allow grace? I’ve not understood that until the last few years and I’ve never taught on it - but that’s what I want to share with you. It will move you into a deep peace in your walk with Him. At least it has opened a deeper walk for me.
The world of Abram
Abram came from Ur of the Chaldees. This is ancient Sumer, modern Iraq, the Mesopotamia of our earliest history lessons, where modern civilization began. Ur was a capital city, home of the Moon cult, dedicated to the worship of the moon. (Gen 11:27-12:4)
The ziggurat was the highest building in Ur, built upon the highest point. Why was this? It is because to the Sumerians the earth was a flat circle, sealed on the edges by the sky, and beyond that were the stars and moon, to which they could never attain, but fascinated them so. The earth was regulated by the moon and stars, so their lives were very predictable, moving in a circle, always repeating itself, wheels within wheels.
The annual paths of the moon and stars, the rhythm of planting and harvesting, the changing of the seasons made life possible, but the gods that governed all this predictability were beyond reach.
Thus as a priest or priestess ascended the temple steps, appeasing the lower gods of the earth along the way with sacrifices, eventually reaching the top, which was as far as they could go to reach the god who made the sun and moon and stars. This god was the source of their predictability, known to them as the most high god – and completely inaccessible to man.
The rites of the temple involved having sex with a priest or priestess, because they believed if the gods watched people having sex, they would be motivated to fertilize the seed in the field, the fruit trees, change the seasons, and their business deals would prosper and bear fruit as well. That was Abram’s home town.
The whole of the culture of Mesopotamia was built on the regularity of the moon and stars and the manipulating of the gods and goddesses to maintain that regularity, upon which life depended. Life was predictable and rythymic.
It is this predictability in Abram’s life that was about to change, and that change lays the foundation for why ‘it is by faith so that it may be by grace’.
The Lord appeared to Abram and commanded him to leave his home town and country, with the command
recorded in Genesis 12:1. So it was more than merely a voice. In this vision, this visitation from the Lord, God Himself commands ‘You get out now’. (Acts 7:2 tells us He appeared to Abram)
This is the Hebrew word ‘lekhlekha’, which is defined as ‘insisting on immediate action’. It doesn’t mean in a week or a month. It means ‘get out now’ in the most insistent of tones.
Consider how radical this move was. It was stepping out of the circle of life. It was leaving the wheel of predictability to go to a strange land. In Abram’s world no one did anything apart from the predictability found in the moon and celestial gods. Any decision that affected one’s well being always involved the celestial calendar and appeasing and manipulating a god or goddess to first get their blessing, but it always remained within the circle of life.
When the Lord appeared to Abram, He was setting Abram apart from this predictability, from this practice of religious exercise to appease and manipulate the gods. It is the moment He went from the most high god, to The Most High God. This God could not be manipulated.
God came out from among the gods of the world and essentially said to Abram, “Unlike the gods, don’t be afraid my presence in your life, be afraid of my omnipresence in your life.” He is God. Capital G. Later this reverential fear would be noted as ‘the beginning of wisdom’. (Proverbs 1:7)
Bring it on home
For time and space I need to pause here to suggest that the foundation of all false religion is man’s attempts to manipulate God – from which God pulled Abram. To treat God like a god who can be manipulated by our religious exercise, is at least sinful and possibly blasphemous.
From Cain who offered that which came from his own sweat and effort rather than submitting to the innocent blood of the sacrificial lamb, to the Christian who goes to church that extra night because they want God to remember they have urgent needs, false religion is marked by man’s attempt to manipulate God, and indeed, lower Him to the level of a mere god that can be manipulated and cajoled into action. Serving us rather than us, Him.
From the Christian who feels they have to yell at the top of their lungs to express their sincerity or the person dropping $100 bills at the feet of the guest speaker so God would (fill in the blank) heal, prosper, answer - no matter how well intended, He is God, not a god who can be manipulated.
We are not at the Radisson Blu breakfast smorgasbord, picking and choosing which part of God we want to manipulate or sample today like Abram’s neighbors might have chosen which god they needed to manipulate depending on whether they needed a business blessed or crops to grow: The God of healing, I’ll do this. The God of supply, I’ll do this. The God of promotion, I’ll do this. He cannot be manipulated.
And not only that, when God stepped out of the calendar and rythym of Abram’s world, He showed that unlike the gods, He not only won’t be manipulated, He is also unpredictable.
And with that we are starting to see why it must be by faith, which means relationship, not formula – so that it may be by grace. Step off the religious wheel…until next week then, blessings, John Fenn