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Monday, October 31, 2011

Compromising a Lot: Road Trip Gone Wild [5 and conclusion]

Lot has compromised everything he is and everything he has!

He has compromised his relationship with Abraham

Lot compromises the blessings of God

Lot compromised his family

And we see, also that…

Lot compromised His integrity

Lot also compromised his integrity as a follower of God. His own family laughed at him when he tried to warn them about Sodom.

The mob at Lot’s door mocked him when he tried to resolve things, by offering his own daughters instead! In "looking out for number one" Lot compromised who he was and what he stood for.


So what can we learn from Lot’s story? What is it about this man’s life that should serve as an example of what not to do?

From Lot we learn of the inherent and incredible danger in living a life spent "looking out for number one".

The decisions reached by Abram and Lot are the same as those we confront every day. We must decide whether to trust in the sovereignty of God or in our own schemes and devices.

We must determine whether to trust in the ‘uncertainty of riches’ or in the God Who "richly supplies us’ (I Timothy 6:17).

We must decide whether to invest in the ‘passing pleasures of sin’ or the future ‘reward’ which is promised by God (Hebrews 11:25-26)

The world’s way of getting ahead is to look out for number one. That was Lot’s way, as well.

God’s way to blessing is looking UP TO NUMBER ONE, and looking out for others.

Jesus tries to teach this concept to His disciples by breaking down all the commandments, and all the laws into two very simple concepts. Look at Matthew 22:36-40:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Love God, love others!

Living a life that follows these two simple rules, can only be lived by faith. Such a life can only cause our faith in God to grow.

The beginning point for every man, woman, and child is to look to God for salvation. We cannot, we dare not, trust in our own shrewdness to get us entrance into God’s kingdom. Faith recognizes our sinfulness and trusts in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary for eternal security and blessing. Our own best efforts are doomed to destruction. Only what God promises and provides will endure.

As we saw with the life of Lot, even the "righteous" people can make mistakes. However, we can avoid compromising the way Lot did by "denying our self" and embracing the life of Christ.

Although we still may experience the consequence of "bad" decisions in the past – God still extends his grace and mercy (salvation) to those who will receive it.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Compromising a Lot: Road Trip Gone Wild [4]

Lot has offered his daughters to the sex-crazed mob so that they will not touch the angels. When we finally get through that selfish fiasco, and the angels must "force" him to leave Sodom, with those self-same daughters and Mrs. Lot.

Then, while he is still on the road running away from Sodom, Lot pleaded with the angels to let him go to the small city of Zoar rather than the mountain that God wanted him to go to. Here again, Lot is trusting in his own ways or his own intuition, rather than God’s ways because he was, as always looking out for #1.

What has Lot compromised by thinking this way?

He compromised his relationship with Abraham

One of the things you notice first about the story of Lot is his apparent closeness to his uncle Abram. From the beginning we learn how Lot "went" wherever his uncle went and his uncle’s willingness to have him along. But things seem to change when their possession increased.

The thing that stands out about the character of Abraham at this point in Lot’s life is his willingness to maintain his good relationship with his nephew.

"So Abram said to Lot, "Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.  Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left." Genesis 13:8-9 (NIV)

Abram had every right to tell Lot where to go. He was the elder, and the one that God made the promise to. Abram risked everything by giving Lot the choice. Why did he do this? Because he was not willing to compromise his relationship with Lot. Clearly, Abraham was not looking out for number one!

He was looking out for peace!

Sometimes we have to make a choice. Every now and then, we have to stop and think, would I rather be right for this moment, or would I rather maintain this relationship?

Is this "thing" that I am fighting for, or willing to take, worth NOT being in relationship with this person....possibly forever?

Contrast Abraham's thinking to Lot's. He didn’t even think twice about it. He was willing to compromise his relationship with his uncle in order to take advantage of the apparent bonanza.

The most unsettling thing that happens when we look out for number one is that we compromise our relationship with those who love us most!

Lot compromises the blessings of God

Something that I think Lot forgot in his choosing was that the only reason he had the possession he had was because he had hung around with Abram, and Abram was being blessed by God. In leaving Abram, Lot was walking away from God’s blessings! He was compromising or "placing in jeopardy" God’s blessing. As you read to the conclusion of Lot’s life you see the impact that decision had on his life.

One of the reasons that Lot was so tormented in the city of Sodom, because he had known what it meant to be in God’s blessing; and now he was on the outside!

Lot compromised his family

ne of the saddest things that happened as a result of Lot’s decision was the "placing in jeopardy" of his family! Notice what happened as a result of Lot’s compromise.

The very safety of his family was compromised in the midst of the international conflict.

Lot's married daughters and son-in-laws refuse to leave with him when he tries to warn them of the impending destruction of Sodom. In fact they "laugh" at him"!They had become "accustomed" to the wickedness in the city.

Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom after being warned not to and is turned into a pillar of salt. She looked back with longing at what she was leaving behind and not believing that the city really was going to be destroyed.

Lot’s remaining daughters commit incest with him in a cave on the mountain of refuge at the end of Lot’s story. Having been exposed to the wickedness of the city of Sodom for most of their lives they saw nothing wrong with what they did.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Compromising a Lot: Road Trip Gone Wild [3]

Lot is rapidly becoming a man of compromise.

Recap: Things started out pretty good for him. Even though he lost his father, his uncle Abram stepped in and took care of him. His uncle has had direct "conversation" with God about moving away from his home. And, he takes Lot along.

They have both been prosperous to the point that their respective herdsmen are fighting. Abram tries to reach an agreeable solution, so he lets Lot choose where he wants to be. Lot chooses the best land. He moves there, and the dueling kings take him off into captivity. His uncle saves him...

But, Lot still doesn't want to stay with his uncle. He pitches his tent outside of Sodom, and eventually moves into the city.

So, how did Lot lose his way?

The answer is very simple. We see the beginning of it as he speaks to his uncle Abram about the strife between the sheep herders. As Lot gazed over the lush fertile plain of Jordan, he saw the incredible opportunity to improve his place in the world. To improve his way of life. Lot is the perfect example of our human tendency to look out for "NUMBER ONE."

None of us is immune to this tendency, even me. I remember when I was growing up fighting with my cousins over who would get the biggest piece, the best portion, or the most of something! For instance, a single chocolate bar would never be split exactly in half and it was always a given that we would continue to put up a fight about getting the "smaller" half even though the difference was insignificant. One day my aunt thought of a neat idea that I later used with my children. One of us could split the chocolate bar in half, but the other person got first choice of which half to take!

A simple solution to a childish problem. But it isn't really childish, is it? It seems that this characteristic doesn’t truly disappear as we grow older. We just learn to be more civilized, but it is still within our nature as humans to look out for number one.

Lot’s behavior in looking out for number one manifests itself in many ways.

First, he is blind to the dangers of living in Sodom.

When it came to making decisions Lot always seemed to go with what appealed primarily to his earthly appetites and acted as if he were blind to the dangers of Sodom. Lot saw what was best for him in this very moment, without regard to the long term.

When he looked out at the fertile valley of the Jordan plain, Lot saw only how he could potentially increase his possessions in this world instead of the spiritual dangers that were found in the cities of the plain.

It would be naive to think that Lot was not aware of the spiritual depravity in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He and Abram had been in the area for some time and would have had news of the area. Yet, despite this knowledge, Lot still chose to go there.

Perhaps he thought he would be immune to the corruption found in the city. Perhaps he thought he could influence it for good. He would think this because he did so well the last time he moved away from his uncle....NOT!

Instead Lot compromised everything in his life because of his choice.

Lot’s behavior in looking out for number one also has caused him to trust in his own ways rather than God’s ways. Even after seeing how God has directed the life of Abraham, Lot had his own plans and failed to consult God.

After being caught in conflict and being miraculously rescued by his uncle Abraham, one might think that Lot would have wanted to stay closer to his family. No, instead he sells his sheep herder tents and buys a condo in the city.

After a prolonged visit with Abram, now Abraham, several angels head out to destroy Sodom because of its wickedness.

When the angels came into the city, Lot knew who they were. Lot finds himself in a jam when the mob comes to the door demanding that he deliver his guests to be sexually molested.

But, instead of shutting the door in the mobs face and trusting that God would somehow work out a solution, Lot took things into his own hands and diplomatically called the crowd his "friends" and offered them his two daughters instead! What!?

What father in their right mind would do such a thing? Yet, "looking out for number one" meant trusting in his own ways rather than God’s ways.

Even when the angels miraculously delivered Lot from the crowd by making them blind and told Lot God’s plan of destruction for the city, he hesitated when it was time to leave. The angels had to physically grab Lot, his wife (Mrs. Lot), and two daughters to remove them from the city!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Compromising a Lot: Road Trip Gone Wild [2]

Our anti-hero, Lot has been on the road with his uncle, Abraham (Abram). They have been doing fairly well. The flocks have multiplied. They each have their own workers. They have been so blessed that they don't have enough good ground to feed both herds. The workmen start to argue blessed so much that they have run out of room for both herds. The shepherd workers begin to argue.

Abram sees this and speaks with Lot. He offers Lot a choice of fields. Lot, of course takes the "choicest" for himself, leaving his uncle with less-than optimal grazing fields for his herds and people.

It looks like Lot has gotten the better end of the deal, but as we continue into the 14th chapter of Genesis, we learn that Lot finds himself caught in the middle of an international conflict.

Some kings begin warring in the area where Lot and his people are living and the Bible records that they are carried off with all their possessions as captives of war. Abram soon becomes aware of this and rushes in to the rescue miraculously defeating Lot’s captors and freeing him, as well as freeing all the other captives and their possessions.

The Bible is silent about Lot for a while and then he pops up again in Genesis 19. In the previous chapter (18), God communicates with Abraham his intention to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. This is where Lot now resides. Abraham, pleads with God and convinces (hmmm?) God to spare the city if 10 righteous people are found.

This s where we start to speak of compromise and compromising. If you look in the dictionary you will find several definitions.

The first definition is positive - a method of reaching agreement in a dispute, by which each side surrenders something that it wants.

The second definition is much more negative - placing something in jeopardy or bringing into danger, or exposing to a loss of reputation.

In our discussion about Lot and his actions, we are focused on the word compromise in its most the negative sense. Lot was a man that placed many things in jeopardy in his life. Even though he is later described in 2 Peter 2:7-8 as righteous, there is obviously evidence that this righteous man made some very bad decisions during his life that compromised many areas of his life.

When we look at Lot’s story we see the process of a life that starts out so well but ends up so badly as a result of the gradual process of a series of poor decisions. King of like a snowball rolling down a hill, or the proverbial slippery slope. It is the story of a man who compromised.

What led Lot to compromise?

We will get into this, but let's start with the "why" or "what" that led him to compromise everything in his life.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Compromising a Lot: Road Trip Gone Wild [1]

We have just completed a series on standing firm by our commitments. So, I thought we’d switch gears and talk about someone who compromised everything, Lot.

Lot is one of those names, that when mention, people will say, "Who’s That?" By examining these lives, we often find some parallels between their strengths and weaknesses, their challenges and accomplishments, their fears and failures – and our own.

So, who is this guy Lot?

We first meet Lot in the latter part of Genesis 11 where we learn he is the grandson of a man named Terah. Terah is the father of Abram (who would later be known as Abraham, the father of Israel).

Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Lot is born to Haran and in the same passage we learn that Haran died fairly young.

So, Lot comes into the care of his uncle Abram. One of his first journeys is with Terah, Abram (later Abraham), Sarai (Abram’s wife, later called Sarah) from Ur of the Chaldeans (where they originally lived) to go to Canaan.

Only, they didn’t make it to Canaan and ended up staying in another place named Haran (the namesake of Lot’s father).

In Genesis 12, God “calls” Abram, who He commands to "…Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1). In verse 4, it says that when Abram gets ready to leave, "Lot went with him." Weird, but the next time we see Lot’s name, it is the same phrase, It is interesting to note that the next time we find his name mentioned it is found in the same phrase:

“So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him.” Genesis 13:1 (NIV)

We can assume from all this travelling together, that Lot had a good relationship with his uncle and wasn’t about to give that up.

In chapter 13, we can see that up to this point, Abram and Lot appear inseparable but then we find that a little strife begins to arise between them.

There is strife starts over the fact that each man’s herdsmen sought water and the best pasture for the animals of their respective master. This competition inevitably leads to conflict between the herdsmen. The Bible says that both Abram and Lot had been blessed with many possessions, "…But the land could not support them while they stayed together." (Genesis 13:6a).

Abram notices this strife and calls Lot to him in order to resolve the issue.

So far, so good…


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lessons in The Flood [Genesis 6, Part 7 / conclusion]

Our final lesson from Noah:

It takes a lot courage and fortitude to stand against the tide, especially when the forces of that tide are very forceful.

So, how do we do it?

Noah did two practical things:

First, he “walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9)

This is a phrase applied to only two people in the Old Testament, Noah and Enoch. I think that is fairly significant. We know that Noah was not perfect (see Genesis 9). But the scripture does tell us that Noah had a relationship with God that was uncommon in that day!

The scripture tells us that Noah and God walked together. What do you usually do when you take a walk with someone? You talk. You get to know each other. That’s the type of relationship they had!

Do you walk with God?

In order to have a relationship with God or with anyone else, for that matter, we’ve got to put in the time to make that relationship strong.

Second, Noah trusted God’s Word (Genesis 6:22)

Notice that God told Noah exactly what was going to happen and what he could do about it. Noah simply obeyed and trusted God to take care of the rest.

It didn’t matter what anybody else said.

What is the everyday application for this?

When you give your word to other people, do they trust it? Do you stand behind it 100%, or do you bend with the wind? When people go out on a limb on your behalf, can they trust you? Or, do they need to constantly look back and see if you are still in their corner?

It’s an old adage, “My word is my bond.”

Is it?


Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons in The Flood [Genesis 6, Part 6]

What other lesson can we learn from this story of Noah, the Ark and the Flood? What else can we take away from this story about desolation, destruction, grace and love?
Our first lesson is that Noah was different than his peers. He was "God's man," long before it was fashionable. He followed God's plan, and worked on the ark and preached to the people. 

But, isn’t there something just a little exciting about being different?

I am a child of the 60s and 70s, and perhaps part of me is still stuck there. but who really wants to be a conformist all the time? Who wants to be just like everybody else? What a boring world it would be if we were all just alike and thought the same things?

Wouldn’t you rather be a little radical? Not an out of control loose cannon. But wouldn’t you rather be someone who actually stands for something, and will fight for what is right, do the right thing, even when the tide is moving against you?

Noah didn’t conform to the world nor its expectations of him!

If you look at scriptural account, Noah preached this rain thing for 120 years. He stayed the course. I’m sure his family was embarrassed. I’m sure his best buds finally pulled away to join the crowd that was ridiculing him. I am certain that he had a doubt or two along the way. Who wouldn’t? 120 years is a long time to work and wait. But, every morning he got up, and went back to work.

God has called him and us to be different! And I personally think that’s pretty exciting, sort of rebellious in a way, isn’t it?

Part of this great adventure of life and faith to which we have been called is to be different.

How different are you?

Are you different from the people around you? Do people sometimes look at you in a strange way, because you’re not like them? You don’t really think like them. You don't always understand the things they think, and you just don’t get a charge out of the same things that they do.

It makes for kind of an exciting and great adventure, to have people look at you and just not ‘get it.’

If not, then maybe you’re not different enough!

Are you different?

Are you different enough to make a change in our world in a big way?

It takes a lot courage and fortitude to stand against the tide, especially when the forces of that tide are very forceful.

Can you think of a time when you stood against the tide, pushed back against the majority?

What did you feel like when it was over?


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Spirituality in Psalms: Psalm 34 – “Taste and see” + a little Sweet potato pie

As we continue our study of Psalm 34, David has supplies us with information about how to overcome, or be delivered from our fears. See previous post here. He explains in Psalm 34, that this is a 3-step process.

The first step is to acknowledge our fears. Yes, we would like to appear to the world like we have it all together all of the time, that we are the coolest and calmest person walking the earth, but we are not. We are frail human vessels who are frightened at times.

So the first order of business is to “fess up.” Yes, I am afraid and I cannot figure out how to get through this situation.

The second step is to appropriate God’s power. We need to use it, rely on it, and incorporate it into our whole being. Remember, “He has not given us the spirit of fear…” Use the gifts and talents that you have been given.

The third part of the process is in God’s hands. He “encamps around us.” He protects us. He fortifies us. He gets us ready for battle. In the book of Job, it was referred to as a “hedge.” He guards our hearts and our minds, if we relinquish whatever control we think we have over things, and let him do it.

But, as David continues his writing, he invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

These two verbs don’t ordinarily sound like they should go together. But what David is driving at is that he wants us to experience this goodness for ourselves. He wants us to convert our head knowledge into heart knowledge. He wants us to bring all of our senses into play.

You may disagree, but my grandmother made the best sweet potato pies in the world. It is a magical combination of spices that I have never been able re-create.

But, when I smell something close to it, and close my eyes- I can taste that pie and the flaky crust, I can smell the spices in the pie and the chicken we will eat after church, I can feel the warmth from my mother’s oven in our tiny kitchen, I can hear the scratchy crinoline I have to wear under my church dress, I can look down and see my socks and super shiny patent leather shoes.

And the best part? I know that as the most cherished and favored among her grandchildren (well, at least in my little mind), my grandmother will use the extra and the scraps to make me some tiny sweet potato turnovers of my very own. A few scents and I am a child again in a world that is not so scary.

This is what David wants. Yes, we can read about God, we can go to church or synagogue week after week, we can study about it. But until and unless that “something” gets into us and becomes part of us, and unless we let go of the "head knowledge" and step out on faith alone, it is all for naught.

“Oh, Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lessons in The Flood [Genesis 6, Part 5]

So, what are some of the lessons we can take from Noah's flood experience? What can we take away from this story about desolation, destruction, grace and love? 

Noah stood alone for what he believed was right!

Noah had been “God’s man” long before it was cool. When all of his neighbors and friends went about their wicked ways and did what they pleased, Noah honored God. One of the most important lessons we can take from walking along side Noah here is that there will be times when we are called to stand against the tide! And, we all know this can be a very difficult task.

Sometimes the push and pull of the tide can be so strong, it feels as if we will be overwhelmed or overcome by it. There is tremendous pressure for us to conform, to “fit in,” to be just like everybody else. Peer pressure isn’t just something we feel in Middle School or on Twitter. Is it? We all have some of this tension in our lives. 

When the tide turns against us, what in the world are we going to do? Will we be able to stand?

We are each called in some area to stand against the tide! To stand out, to be different from the world!

Jesus says it slightly differently, "For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”. (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).

To paraphrase: It is easy, a true "no brainer" to follow the wide and trodden path; to follow the pack. Doing what is right and standing for truth will ofttimes put you on a different road which is much narrower, and has fewer travellers.

Whether we are talking about church or home or work, we are the “called out.” We are “called out” from the world for a different purpose!

Paul says in Romans 12:1-2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

Paul is saying to us that we should not just soak up everything the world sends our way. Stop and examine it. Stop and examine the meaning, the implications, and the importance of things. Learn from them.

Test the truth of it.

Examine for yourself!

This is one of my biggest bugs. People just “wander” around reciting whatever someone else told them. And they say it with such aplomb and conviction, trying to sound like they either understand it thoroughly themselves, or they know it for truth.

It doesn’t matter if a piece of scripture, a rumor about your company closing or who your boss may be sleeping with. Test the truth of things before you pass them on.

We waste so much energy following other people’s rumors and meanderings, living other people's lives, that we cannot attend to creating and being our own best selves!

Know who you are and what you stand for.

Transform your mind!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lessons in The Flood [Genesis 6, Part 4] + Grace

The eagle has landed. Actually, the ark has come to rest on Mount Ararat. Being the righteous man that he is, Noah, offers a sacrifice to God out of gratitude as soon as he steps on dry land. In response to the sacrifice of Noah, God makes a solemn promise.

"And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Genesis 8:21-22).

God resolves that He will never again curse the ground or destroy every living thing as He has just done. Why would God make such a commitment? Surely He was not sorry for what He had done. Sin had to be judged, didn't it?

The problem with the flood was that its effect was only temporary. The problem was never with creation, but with sin. The problem was never the animals and the trees, it was with humankind. God has therefore decides that He must deal differently with sin in the future. God’s promise of ultimate and final salvation is renewed in response to Noah’s expression of faith through a sacrificial offering. Until the day when this salvation is accomplished, God assures man that measures like the flood will not occur again.

The the flood serves as a reminder to us of the matchless power and the matchless grace of God. While all the unbelievers found judgment, in the same situation, Noah found grace (Genesis 6:8).

To a certain extent, all of the people of Noah's day had already experienced the grace of God. It was not until 120 years after the initial revelation of a coming judgment, that it actually came. That 120 year period was an age of grace in which the gospel was proclaimed.

The difference between Noah and those who perished was their response to God’s grace. Those who perished had interpreted God’s grace as divine indifference. They concluded that God neither cared nor troubled Himself at the occasion of men’s sin. Noah, on the other hand, recognized grace for what it really is, an opportunity to enter into an intimate relationship with God, and at the same time, to avoid divine displeasure and judgment.

Isn't this how we should view our relationships with each other? When someone forgives us, or gives us a "pass", or offers us grace, then we should take those occasions as golden opportunities to enter into a better, new or renewed relationship. But that's not how we view grace and forgiveness, is it? All too often we take those traits as signs of weakness, but they are not.

The grace of God is clearly evidenced by this promise that he makes to Noah (and us): “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

But Noah, the believer, sees life through a different lens. He sees life under the full and sovereign control of a gracious God:

For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16-17).

Here is another irony of our day. As in the days of Noah, the perishing unbelievers look at life and the world around them as it is and ask, “How could God be there at all and not do anything to right things, to set things in order?” The non-believer then wants to conclude that God is either dead, apathetic, or incapable of dealing with the world as it is. But they (we) never stop to question our own part in the way things are, and what we can do to correct them.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lessons in The Flood [Genesis 6, Part 3]

Man’s evil inclinations are fanned into a blazing inferno by the suggestion or belief that while God may exist, He neither cares about sin nor intervenes into human history to deal with it. Such thinking is fatal.

Notice the condemnation of God of the prevailing attitude of the day: Then He said to me, ‘The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very great, and the land is filled with blood, and the city is full of perversion; for they say, “The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see!” But as for Me, My eye will have no pity nor shall I spare, but I shall bring their conduct upon their heads’ (Ezekiel 9).

God did not conceal His purposes from Noah. To him He revealed His determination to destroy the wicked civilization of that day and yet to preserve both Noah and the seed through whom the promise of salvation would be realized. To Noah it was revealed that this destruction would come about by a flood, and that salvation for him and his family would be by means of an ark.

The ark, now complete, having been constructed over the course of several years, according to the divine design, is entered at God’s command (Genesis 7:1) by both man and animals. Before the flood began, God shut the door. I can imagine that had God not done so, Noah would have opened it to those who later wanted in, but the day of salvation must come to an end. We all would have had some pangs of guilt about leaving our neares and dearest behind.

The source of water seems to have been supernatural. Perhaps it had never rained before (Genesis 2:6). Now the rain came in torrents. In addition the ‘fountains of the deep’ (Genesis 7:11) were opened. Water, both from above and below, came forth for forty days (Genesis 7:12).

The waters prevailed on the earth for a total of 150 days (Genesis 7:24), and then subsided over a period of months. Five months after the flood commenced the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4, 7:11). It took considerable time for the waters to recede and for the ground to be dry enough to walk on. It was a little more than a year that Noah and his family spent on the ark. At the command of the Lord they gladly (I am certain) disembarked.

Noah's first act upon setting foot on the dry earth was to offer sacrifices to God. It was a further evidence of his faith, and surely an expression of his gratitude for the salvation that God had provided.

Can you imagine that? Being confined with a host of animals and ONLY your family members, for a year. I think gratitude would be an understatement.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lessons in The Flood [Genesis 6, Part 2] + A little tough love

We have learned two things so far. The first is that, “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Here we see an emphasis on the fellowship between Noah and God, the closeness of their union. This also reflects the continuity and stability of the relationship. It was a daily walk, it was a reliable relationship.
The righteousness of Noah was based more upon his faith in God, rather than in his fear of the consequences of disobedience. God demonstrates His trust in His relationship with Noah by sharing information about the impending crisis. Granted, if more of the people had become aware of the of impending doom, or if they had believed it was really going to happen, they may have obeyed, However, this obedience most likely would have been out of fear of punishment and retribution.
Faith, and not fear, is the biblical motive for our relationship with God. We can also see this spelled out for us in 2 Timothy 1:7, with regard to our relationship with the rest of the world.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
So, by faith, Noah, having been warned by God about things to come, begins to prepare an ark for the rescue of his household.
It was not Noah’s works (the things he did) which saved him from judgment, but God’s grace. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).
Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that salvation comes to us by grace, through faith; not of works, but unto good works. I know, a little churchspeak there; but, what it is saying is that:
  • We are saved by God’s grace, though our faith - NOT by anything we do. We don't get brownie points on the front end for doing good things. Although, it probably doesn't hurt. We don’t do good work to get grace.
  • And, it is because of this grace that we WANT to do good works. We don’t do good work to get grace.
In contrast to Noah’s righteousness, the rest of the people were basically bad. “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12).
Noah, alone, was righteous in his day. “Then the Lord said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time” (Genesis 7:1).
In and of themselves men were rotten or corrupt. What God determined to destroy was already destroying itself. Man’s relationship to his fellow man could be summed up in a single word, ‘violence’.
The primary expression of our sin is in our rebellion and independent spirit toward God. We'd like to suppose that while there is a small chance that God may exist, He does not really care about our conduct or beliefs. If God does care, He does little about it. We want God to be around if we personally get into trouble. But as long as we are doing okay on our own, we don't want Him to bother us.
The second thing we have learned is that, although this story is familiar, there are things to learn. This is also true for the good and bad recordings we play over and over in our heads. When we come across a challenge in our lives, we are tempted to buckle, because we have been here before and it didn't go well.
Reminder: God has not given us a spirit of timidity, shyness, hiding our heads in the sand. So, pull those big girl and big boy panties up, get you act together, turn the recording off, and move forward!
[a little Tuesday tough love :)]


Monday, October 17, 2011

Lessons in The Flood [Genesis 6. Part 1]

This is a story we all know well, even if we’ve never spent much time studying the Bible. The familiarity of this story is probably the greatest obstacle to our learning from a study of it in Genesis. We approach this story and this text with our minds alreadymade up, thinking that there is little or nothing new about it that should alter our thinking or impact our behavior.

Text: Genesis 6:9-8:22

Most of us feel that the only themes in this story are those of judgment and destruction and, to a degree, that's true. Judgment is certainly one of the themes in this event, but there is a much greater theme, that of the saving grace of God. While we should not ignore the warnings of this text, we should not lose sight of the encouragement contained there as well.

Of course we have to start with a little background. 

  •  The reasons for the flood are given in Genesis 6:9-12.
  • The revelation concerning the upcoming flood is given to Noah in verses 13-21.
  • The order to enter the ark is given in Genesis 7:1-4. The record of Noah’s obedience to his divine instruction is in Genesis 7:1-4 and 7:5.

While the flood was intended for the destruction of mankind, the ark was intended to save Noah and his family and to ensure the fulfillment of the divine purpose for the creation and the divine promise of salvation of Genesis 3:15.

The key to our understanding of this event is to see the contrast between Noah and those of his generation.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9).

Noah’s character is described by the words, righteous and blameless. The word righteous (Hebrew: saddiq), is a word commonly used in reference to men. It means that they conform to a standard. Since Noah conformed to the divine standard, he met with God’s approval. The things that God sought in man were present in Noah.

Without any pretense of perfection, Noah was a man who took God at His word. He met God’s expectations for man, while the rest of mankind was wicked.

The second expression used for Noah is 'blameless'  (verse 9). The Hebrew word is tamim. This Hebrew wprd encompasses the idea of being ‘complete. ’ So. from this, we can add to Noah’s character that he was well-rounded and complete.

Stepping back from these two technical expressions, Moses summarized the righteousness of Noah by simply writing that, “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Managing our Fear: Psalm 34 [Bible Study]

We have recently started a Bible Study Class exploring several of the psalms. This week we started our study with Psalm 34.

Find Bible study notes here.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

How to raise a bad seed [5 / conclusion]

The first step toward raising bad seeds and rebels, is that we can do nothing and be very successful at this. If this is our goal. David has been very good at doing nothing. Absalom was in Geshur for three years after murdering his brother Amnon. Joab, David’s general cooks up a scheme to get Absalom back to Jerusalem. That brings us to our second point.

If you want to raise a rebel, follow your friend's advice instead of God’s Word. In our lives, we usually have various people around us who want to give us advice. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Joab uses David’s emotions to try to bring Absalom back. David may have convinced himself otherwise, but he allows himself to be manipulated. He doesn’t try to check in with the Word of God or even with his godly counselors.

David knew that the Law would not allow Absalom back in Israel, but he sets it aside in favor of a “friend’s” advice. David follows his own hearts and his own desires. Sounds a little willful, too.

And here we are right next to David again. When people want to do the wrong thing, we can talk to enough people who will twist things around for us and make it sound almost right.

The third step down this slippery slope is to allow the Outward (appearance) to be emphasized instead of the inward (heart and mind). David knew that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). And, in Proverbs 31:30 we read, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”

Absalom’s popularity was not based on the fact that he was Godly. It is not even based on the fact that he is the smartest or wisest lad in the country. His popularity is based solely on the fact that he was handsome. Kind of like the rockstars today. We delude ourselves into thinking that beauty or talent can overcome any sin or wrongdoing. What a low state the nation of Israel was in. Look at verses 25-26:

For all of his beauty, Absalom has turned out to be a horrible person. No one can regret this more than David.

When we:
  • turn a blind eye to wrongdoing,
  • we continually alter the rules of engagement,
  • we constantly shift or blur the line between what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and
  • we focus all of our attention (and theirs) on something the child can do, or how beautiful they are...
we rob them of the moral compass we are intended to be for them. And, worse we screw up their moral compass. Soon or late, this child will discover that the world is not their footstool. They will learn that there are rules in dealing with the world; there are right and wrong ways to treat other people. They will discover that they have no idea how to get through life once their beauty (or talent) betrays them.

We do them a great disservice and injustice by not actively parenting. Parenting is not easy. There are difficult conversations you must have with your children. You must occasionally say "No" to some things.

Yes, we must let them be children, but no one wants a bad seed on their hands. Eventually they will probably outgrow you...if they live that long. It's a hard world out there.

Parenting is not easy. To paraphrase Betty Davis (I think)...it's a bumpy ride. But we must take our responsibilities seriously, for the good of our children.


Friday, October 14, 2011

How to raise a bad seed [4]

None of David's sons was so in love with himself as Absalom. And, David is to blame. The Scriptures reveal to us some of the mistakes David made. We will look more closely at a few of these. According to the Bible, all Scripture is given to us to be instructive. 1 Corinthians 10:11 that all of these things happen to them to be examples.

"These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  [1 Corinthians 10:11-13, New International Version (NIV)]

All scripture is designed to be instructive or helpful to us. To paraphrase the above: Nothing that will happen to you will be new. Perhaps it will be a new experience for you, but in the history of mankind, there is precious little that is novel. Many people have faced whatever situation, circumstance or "bind" you find yourself in currently. Even when we forget to be gracious and merciful to ourselves and to others...we have a Father who will help us endure it, and overcome it. That fact should give us an inner confidence and assurance that we can get through anything. But, I digress... :)

Back to David. How did David raise such a self-absorbed child as Absalom?

First, just do Nothing. After Absalom murdered Amnon, David did nothing. Absalom had become a fugitive of his own will, but he was never truly, officially banished by David. Look at 2 Samuel 13:38-39, “So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.” After Absalom disappeared, David had already assumed he was dead, and acted as if he were.

Many parents are unwilling to seriously and strongly confront issues in the right way. There are always excuses. You know, "they are too young'" "they are too old," "I'll talk to them / restrict them / punish them later when its more convenient," "I don't want to embarrass them," "I don't want to embarrass myself," and on and on...

It never does any child, or for that matter, anyone else, good to ignore what is in their heart. We still love them, but it is our responsibility and obligation to correct and confront them about what's going on in their little lives. The whole point of parenting is to end up with responsible adults, who can function in the greater society. And, soon or late we all discover that the greater society will not cater to our every whim.

There is nothing at all wrong with David’s love for Absalom, but there is no excuse for having overlooked Absalom’s sin. He is using it as an excuse to hide from what he needs to do; to hide from what he has failed all these years to do as a father.

The simple truth is that is we really need do not have to do anything special to raise a rebel. The Scripture says we are each born with sufficient wickedness already within us to rebel without having anyone teach us anything. In other words, we are born rebels.

Instead of doing nothing, we must be proactive parents. We cannot simply let children raise themselves according to their own heart and desire. Proverbs 22:6 tells us we need to proactively instruct our children: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Matthew Henry’s commentary rephrases it saying, “Train them up, not in the way they would go (the bias of each of their corrupt hearts would draw them aside), but in the way they should go, the way in which, if you love them, you would have them go.”

[conclusion tomorrow...]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to raise a bad seed [3]

OK, back to work. Let's recap:

The king, David, has been busy running the nation and ruining his own life, he hasn't spent much time paying attention to his family. The most handsome man in the realm is David's favorite son, Absalom. Unfortunately, being handsome has also made him prideful. He has slain one of his half-brothers for raping their sister. But, rather than being executed, David has sent him away from the realm. David, however, still longs to have him at his side.

David ultimately allows himself to be tricked by Joab (one of his advisers) in order to bring Absalom back home after three years, with the stipulation that he cannot see David face-to-face. Absalom begins to work his way back into the good graces of the people, as well as David.

Absalom's motives were purely unjust. He wanted to possess the power that his father had. He begins by telling people on the way to see his father that the king did not have time for them. Not only this but, he also told them, "if only I (Absalom) were to be appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice." (2 Samuel 15:4)

Absalom may be pretty, but he's not stupid. He knew that if he could gain the love of the people, he would have been in good standing with the people, and probably, eventually king. Eventually Absalom is successful in gaining the hearts of all the men in Israel and one of the servant tries to warn David.

Now it is David who  flees in fear that his people would turn against him. Absalom follows the advice of his friends, Ahithophel and Hushai, about how to overtake his father. During the chase Absalom and all of that pretty long hair of his gets caught in a tree. One of David's men finds Absalom hanging in an oak tree that his hair and reports it to Joab. Joab was angry that the man had not killed him and goes to do it himself. He stabs Absalom in the heart with three javelins. Then, ten of the armor-bearers took Absalom down from the tree, threw him into a big pit in the forest, and covered him up with a large pile of rocks.

Even after everything Absalom has done to him, David still loved him. When he heard of his death he cried "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you - O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33) Joab rebuked him for mourning so long and told him that he should return to Jerusalem and resume his rightful place on the throne.

This story is the epitome of indulgence rather than parenting. It is no great secret that indulgent parents tend to raise children who are self centered. How could King David, the "man after God's own heart," raise such a self-indulgent, self-centered, and selfish child?

Actually it is quite easy to do this. It hardly requires any effort at all. It takes work, effort and the pouring out of ourselves into them, to raise children who do not see themselves as the center of the universe...


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Churchspeak- Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So!

I think one of the things that scare people away from church is the language we all like to use. As with many of our jobs away from church, we develop a kind of short-hand way of communicating. If I used standard short-hand from my job here, you'd probably have no idea what I was talking about- VSD, LSO, LAVH, CMP, blah, blah, blah…. We communicate in ways that the people around us, "the in crowd," can easily understand.

This presents us with three problems in our witnessing to others.

The first and most obvious is that if there is an in-crowd, there must be outsiders. It divides us into two groups of people, those who are in "the-know" and those other people. The others are not like us. Well, don’t we want them to be like us? The gut reaction, non-thinking answer is, "Of course we want them to be like us!" But I am always pulled back to the Apostle Paul's way of thinking about this..."follow me as I follow Christ." I don't want to help people be like me. I don’t even want them to be like Paul, although that’s a closer approximation to Christ than I am. I want to help them be like Christ!

The second issue is that this is usually an inauthentic (fake) kind praise, worship or reverence. Even though this may make it easy for us to say things quickly and succinctly, I don't honestly think most people who use these catch-phrases all the time know what they are talking about most of the time. Too often we get lazy about investigating things for ourselves, and we suffer for it. And our witness suffers for it. And, MOST importantly, others suffer for it!

The third issue, and I don’t remember where I heard or learned this but it is a sentiment I completely agree with. If people don’t understand what you’re saying, then you have failed to communicate with them.


Do you know where that's from in the Bible? Psalms 107:1-3

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south.” Psalms 107:1-3 (NKJV)

Our responsibility as thinking Christians is to understand, verify and test the quality and truth of the information we are taught, before we pass it on to others as part of our witnessing to them.

So, let’s check it out…

WHO are the redeemed, and what does it mean to be redeemed? 

To understand a thing we must first be able to define it. Very simply put, redeemed means to buy back, to turn something of value in and to get something of value back.

Illustration: I know that no one reading this blog is old enough to remember S&H Green stamps. But, when you went shopping at certain stores, you would get a bunch of stamps corresponding to the amount of money you spent. Actually they were probably 1 cent on the dollar, or less when my mother was doing this. Anyway, you took all these stamps home, and had your child (that would be me) lick them and paste them in a flimsy book supplied by the company. Who knows how many people touched those books and stamps! When you had enough of these books sitting around, you looked through the catalog and “cashed” them in for a prize / gift. Of course, this meant that you had to drive to the other end of the state to accomplish this. And, even as a child I didn’t think these “gifts” were in step with the value and effort it took to get enough stamps.

Others may disagree, but I think this is an adequate illustration of Biblical redemption. Something of incredible and immeasurable value, Christ’s life, was turned in for something of dubious value, our souls.

Christ's death is central and key to the gospel message. Why is it so important? Remember, back in Genesis, we moved away from God, and went our own way following our own free will. So Christ came and paid a price to redeem us (pay for our sins) and offer us reconciliation (reunion) with God. Jesus Christ's shed blood is the basis of our reconciliation to God. The Biblical use of the term redemption involves being delivered from punishment; that is, redemption implies that we are freed from the consequences of our sins. Christ made the sacrifice so we wouldn’t have to face our just punishment.

Paul wrote, "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour" (Ephesians 5:2).

So, who are the redeemed? Those who are blood-bought children of God. 

We have further witness from Paul: In exhorting the elders of the church at Ephesus, he said: “…shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28

Witness of Peter: “…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Peter 1:18-19 (NKJV)

Witness of John: “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Rev. 5:9

Christ has given His very life for us. He sacrificed all so that we may have open and clear access to Our Father…

Now that we know who the redeemed are, and how they got that way, what are the redeemed to say?

The redeemed are to tell of the love, goodness, mercy and grace of God. Tell that He saved us and that He will save anyone who comes to Him through Christ. The Gadarene demoniac, found in Mark 5:18-19, is a great example of the saving grace and power of Jesus. When Jesus cast out the demons from the man, he wanted to become a disciple of Christ, but Jesus had another ministry in mind for this redeemed individual.

“And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." Mark 5:18-19 (NKJV)

Where should the redeemed say it?

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them.” Mark 16:15, 20

When should it be said?

All the time. Here we go back to the psalmist, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalms 34:1 (NKJV)

And from Paul: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV)

Why should the redeemed say so? 

There are certainly many more reasons than I can list here, but here are four:

1. Because God deserves the praise and the glory. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor...” Revelation 4:11

2. Because our Lord commanded us to do so. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20. [The Great Commission]

3. Because we each have a testimony to tell. Your friends are more interested in what God has done for you than what He did for Paul or Peter, James or John! They can read about the apostles in their Bible, but they can actually see you with their own eyes and hear you with their own ears!

4. Because the world needs to hear what we have to say…so tell them the message of God’s love, mercy and grace!


God has put every one of His children on His “witness list”. Every day that we live, every place that we go and to every person we meet, let us all “SAY-SO” for Jesus.


(originally posted 3/1/11)