After reading Genesis 18 and recounting the wonderful picture of Jehovah and Abraham fellowshipping and conversing; which culminates in the exact promise of a son for he a Sarah; we get to what is one of the saddest chapters in the Bible. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah destruction has been used and re-used to predict the destruction and condemnation of homosexuals. While it is clear that there was great wickedness in the valley cities, there is another reason I find this to be one of the saddest chapters in the Bible. The Life of Lot, nephew to Father of Our Faith, Abraham is a stark reminder of what sin will do to a life. Remember that Lot chose Sodom in Genesis 13. He chose it with his eyes and heart of greed. The choice is similar to the senses used by Eve to make her decision to eat. Now if you didn’t know anything about the rest of the story, you might think he chose wisely. Genesis 13:12 says that Lot moved his tents as far as Sodom. But it also says in verse 13 that the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked against the LORD. Later in Genesis 14, we find the Abram has to come to the rescue of his nephew, for he was taken prisoner. Genesis 14:12 now says that Lot was “living in Sodom.” Even after Abraham rescues Lot and family from the enemies, Lot returns to Sodom. We move forward to Genesis 18, God hears the “outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah and that their sin is exceedingly grave.” Pretty much sin unto death stuff. The LORD does not hide the thing He has planned to do to Sodom [all valley cities]. Abraham, like Moses in the future will intercede on behalf of Sodom – starting with if there are 50 righteous will you destroy? God is holy and just, He says no, this intercession continues all the way down to 10 righteous people; again God says He won’t destroy the cities if 10 righteous are found – but there were more righteous before the Flood  than now. Genesis 19, two of the men [angels] go down to Lot and Sodom. verse 1 says that Lot was “sitting at the gate.” To sit at the gate is a reference to being a city official or person on prominence in the town. Lot has moved closer and gotten more entrenched in the lifestyle of the Sodomites. He is now sitting at the gate, free as you please to be there. But when he sees the two men come, obviously recognizing them as from the LORD, he tries to get them to come stay with him, but the want to stay in the square – most likely filled with all “local activity.” Lot convinces them to stay with him, then all the town wants to come in and take them away and have relations with them – find now the solution for Lot – “Hey here is my virgin daughters, take them and do what you will, but leave these men alone.” WHAT how far has Lot fallen into this gross situation? He even calls the Sodomites “My brothers.” Genesis 19:12 – get your son-in-laws and family out of here, we are about to destroy this place. Lot’s prospective sons-in-laws shrug him off as if he were joking. When morning comes, the men [angels] literally have to pull Lot and family out of the city – even with impending destruction, Lot hesitated to leave. We know that Lot’s wife looked back at what was home and became a pillar of salt. Lot goes to Zoar for he fears the mountains, yet Zoar was just as fearful to live, so when we find Lot and his daughters clear of Sodom they are living in a cave in the mountains. Lot was saved because of the intercession of Abraham and the compassionate hand of the LORD.
Note the downward spiral of Lot; chose Sodom with his eyes and heart of greed. Went and camped by the city, then he moved his tents inside the city, then he becomes a city official, well sort [Genesis 19:9] they only let him think he was one of them. Finally, God has to literally extract Lot out of the grips of sin to save him from total destruction. What was Lot thinking! Oh, wait a minute, that’s what Jesus did to me too. The sad testimony of Lot is that through incestuous relations with his daughters, two nations Moabites and Ammonites become thorns in the side of Israel for hundreds of years. Sin is powerful, it is engulfing and it is deadly. Mere man cannot escape its clutches – it takes divine intervention through the prayers of the saints and the omnipotent power and mercy of God – Let us take heed!
Least we miss this – Abraham interceded for Lot not Sodom and Gomorrah!
Our reading this week includes Genesis 11-15. These chapters tell an ongoing saga of mankind – left to himself he will make a mess. Sure is the condition of a depraved mind. Mankind without the Holy Spirit resident within, cannot accomplish the work of God. 1 Cor. 2:14-3:6 clearly identifies three different men. The first is a Natural man, clueless about spiritual matters. Then second is the Spiritual man, who is judged by no one, for he is in harmony with the Lord Jesus. Finally, the third man is a Carnal man, one who has experience salvation, yet lives like an unredeemed man. The Tower of Babel story is about mankind living in a self-created society trying to “be all he can be.” It is a clear case of mankind trying to make a name for himself without God. A closer look and we find many of the same thought that Satan had in Isaiah 14:12-14, about becoming God. However, no matter the number of attempts – man cannot be God, so he tries to become “his own god.” The Father in heaven will not tolerate the “creation trying to be the Creator.” In the aftermath of the Babel dispersion, the nations are created. Each man went unto his own language. The other problem here was that man was supposed to go forth and subdue the land – nope, they congregate in the Plain of Shinar. Disobedience cannot be blessed, but even on the discipline of the Lord there is mercy and hope. Out of the Babel event, we follow the lineage of Noah, and Shem to Terah and ultimately Abram. In chapter 12, 15, 17, and 22 Yahweh has made a promise that is eternal. Repeatedly, Jehovah affirms his promise to Abram. Something of note here, it wasn’t until Lot separated from Abram – the original conditions finally are achieved when God called Abram from Ur. I could spend the rest of this blog post on the drift, departure and discipline of Lot, but something greater is present in chapters 12-15. Abram was 75 when told that he would have descendants like the sand of the sea and stars in the sky. We might wonder why God had to keep repeating the Promise to Abram; well we find the same thing today is equally applicable; vision leaks, we have to be told over and over again the Plan. It is understandable that in order to have a “big” family and that all families of the earth will be blessed through you; means that you must have an heir. It was 25 years before Sari had Isaac. The point here is that we must wait for it! I watch some videos on Facebook or whatever social media, and the video will tell me to “wait for it” so I try to patiently wait expecting something to happen, if I get distracted I then have to reload the video, because in my waiting, I get bored waiting and missed the part I was to be waiting to watch! The Promises of God are yes! 2 Cor. 1:20. The familiar passage in Isaiah 40:31 – rings true here. Do not take matters into your own hands – wait for the LORD to do what only He can do. See it takes the Power of God, in the Man of God to accomplish the Plan of God. Another verse, do not grow weary in well-doing for at the proper time we will reap a harvest in due time. Waiting is hard, especially in ministry – we, Pastors want things to go quickly, or at least faster than a turtle’s pace. Obviously Abram did too. He approaches God after the Lord tells “Him I got your Back” – “you keep telling me I am going to be great – it just isn’t happening, what is going on. Do you need my help?” Abram offers to make a servant named Eliezer of Damascus his heir – man’s solution almost never works. Now the Father is very long-suffering towards us to, that is He is merciful, and His mercy endures forever. Gently, God tells Abram again that the Heir to the Eternal Promise will come from him and Sari. A wonderful moment takes place, the Lord leads Abram outside and says “look up, now count the stars, if you think you can.” At that moment Abram sees two things – first there are a myriad of stars, the task would be impossible; second Abram realizes just how small he is – yet God has included him in the Plan. I hate to go ahead, but we all know what is coming – Abram can’t wait, so Sari, offers Hagar an Egyptian maid as the “channel for an heir.” Right intentions do not overcome wrong implementation. Isaac came 25 years after the Promise was given, man’s answer – Ishmael came 13 years. Ishmael becomes the father of the Arab nations – and you wonder why they are fighting! Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they shall run and not faint walk and not grow weary, but will sprout up like eagles wings. But you and I have to “Wait For It!”
Our reading this week was about the epic Flood and Noah. The Flood is the Missing Link in understanding our current earth condition. The scientists have argued for decades about how old the earth is from their scientific dating tests. The problem with dating and understanding the “Origins and Beginnings” of our planet usually doesn’t include the Flood account in research and scientific hypothesis. While the Bible is not a science book it does hold the key to understanding our world. The problem with what scientists “think happened” and what actually happened is a result of science starting from the wrong point of reference. The academic world always starts with what the “have”; by this I mean that they are trying to discover the formation and history of Earth from a faulty model – using what is in front of them. Well if the science world is using what they presently have available to them to test, observe and analyze, they will always come up with the wrong conclusions. Including the Flood event is imperative to understanding why things are the way they are today. In Genesis, we quickly find that mankind fouls things up. In the time of Noah, only the 8th generation from Adam, the world has entrenched itself in evil – fleshly satisfying activity. Only Noah has found favor with God. Build the Ark with is 450x75x45 feet for those who are not versed in cubits. It takes a hundred years to build; Noah’s sons only know the building of the Ark. I can’t imagine what life must have been like during that process. The reason for the Ark, God is going to cause it to rain for 40 days and 40 nights – up till now it hasn’t rained. [Genesis 2:6] This is an important clue to climatic conditions of earth [think of a terrarium, where the environment generates its own watering system of dew/vapors or a hot-house effect]. We see such a condition in a limited scale in the Amazon Rain Forest – which causes fauna and vegetation to grow huge.
Finally the day arrives when the door of the Ark is closed, inside is all the animals [2×2 and 7×7], plus 8 people – Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives. The rains come – but how they come is the key available to understanding the surface of the earth and the deep oceans of today. In Genesis 7:11 we learn of two sources of water, the “great deep burst open, and the skies were opened.” This is significant because the water fell from the sky, but also burst forth from the ocean floor! In other words that which was down jutted up and that which was up sank down. This probably happened through the shifting of tectonic plates and the formation of our land masses now. I believe as do many other “young earth” proponents that for the first time, there became an atmosphere as we know it today. Yes I believe in the “canopy theory.” The atmospheric conditions after the flood are radically different from before. In the “Canopy” there is minimal effect of the moon and sun – mankind lived longer because he was not subjected to the current “radiation” and climatic conditions as we are today. This has all been verified by the fortunate observance of the Mt. St. Helen volcanic eruption. Geologist have been able to document their observation of the aftermath and find remarkably similar results – again visit http://www.icr.org for more information. The Ark and people were sealed up for one year and 10 days from the time the rains started. I cannot explain how the animals were taken care of during that time – but God enabled it to be so. Sometimes we can get caught up into the Flood epic and forget what God was doing. Mankind had become so evil and sinful – God determined to destroy not just mankind but all creation as it was during that time. A New Beginning, with a very select – faith few in Noah’s family. I hope as you read this you will understand it was not the Plan of God/Creation that failed – it was the sinfulness of man. Romans 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of god. Sin must always be dealt with. There is the symbolism of the Ark saving people from the water, as a picture of man being saved from the waters during the Exodus and our own Baptism. Something we need to remember – even though we are so sinful; God doesn’t give up on mankind – He redeems him! Of course we have the rainbow as God’s covenant promise that the world/creation will not ever be destroyed by water [net time it will be by fire]. So in a disastrous situation, God’s Promises and Mercy are evident.
Preaching for Revitalization takes two paths. Both paths are necessary and vital for success. The first emphasis must be placed on preaching for renewal; and the second is to challenge the congregation to new vision and ministry. In most if not all revitalization situations, there is an apathy or lethargy prevalent in the congregation. I like to use the word Revivalization to explain what needs to happen in declining and plateaued churches. I guess you could explain my thoughts about the preaching necessary for revitalization and some old fashioned “Hell fire and brimstone” preaching. The kind of preaching that brings strong conviction about the way people are or are not living. Revivalization is a combination of revival and re-visioning. It isn’t a far cry to say that every church needs revival; even the healthy growing churches. Revival is the renewal of our commitment to the Lord as sovereign over our lives. Usually there has been a lapse of hunger for spiritual things in the life of the church. Now revival is a much debated topic even among evangelicals. How does revival happen? Can revival be orchestrated and planned or is it just something that happens without any kind of preparation on the part of the people. Many books have been written on the topic but two that stand for me are Eight Keys to Biblical Revival by Lewis Drummond and Quest for Personal Renewal by Walter Kaiser. These two authors dig deep into the dynamics of revival. G. K. Chesterton has been quoted many times about revival “Put up the Sail and Wait for the Wind to Blow.” This thought puts the work on both mankind and God. We must do what we need to do for revival, but revival is what the Holy Spirit brings. As a sail boat needs winds to move, even so the sail must be up to catch the winds when it does blow. But the preaching that will prepare for revival is strong, powerful sin exposing and condemning preaching. The whole premise with revivalization is that the Church is unhealthy and dying; Holy Ghost preaching is necessary to bring the life back into the congregation. Now you must understand that that kind of preaching is not readily accepted today by most; and you may lose some folks when you quit being politically correct in your sermons. In order for a congregation to begin to seek the Lord and spiritual healing they have to know that something is wrong. If the church is satisfied and feels no threat of decline and death, they will not be inclined to seek the Lord for restoration. In this revival preaching there must be bold pronouncement against the “sins of the church.” This will require much prayer and study by the pastor. The pastor must know what the problem is even if he is the problem; the barriers and roadblocks must be exposed and dealt with. I call this my “killing the elephant in the room” preaching. The length of time spent on reviving the congregation can vary with each church. It is most important to convey to the church that something is wrong, and they are the key to making it right again.
In the second emphasis of preaching the focus is on “what to do” in restoring the church to healthy. The church will be hungry for direction if they are truly revived. Their spirit will thirst for the things of God again. If all that happens is the church is awoke from a slumbering sleep without something constructive and important to do, they will nod off again at best, or seek elsewhere to find the “winds of God blowing.” This part of the revivalization is most important for if the leadership does not have a plan or vision of where and what he expected the church to do, then no matter what kind of revival preaching occurred, they people will just be worked up into a frenzy and left to flounder. Just as the pastor/leadership conveys what is wrong with the church, there must be Challenging preaching to mobilize the now spirit revived congregation. Some may look at this part of revitalization preaching as vision casting or ministry focus. Either way the leadership would have to work through a strategic plan process to establish goals and benchmarks of where the church is supposed to be going. I have heard that vision leaks, this is true, so the congregation will need to have the vision constantly communicated to them. This where break down usually occurs. Pastors preach for change in people, but give very little application of what that looks like in personal lives and the church. Application preaching enables the church to take the Gospel with them into the community. The goals and vision forming must be done before the revival/renewal preaching begins. The whole dual emphasis preaching will take time. Revival and revivalization does not happen overnight. There may even be a need for preparatory preaching before leading into a revival phase. Now all of this preaching does not need to happen during a Sunday morning context. There are a number of ways to bring the sense of urgency to the church. Some of those could be through an in-depth walk through “Fresh Encounter” by Henry Blackaby and Claude King; or Solemn Assemble and Lay Renewal weekends. The point is something has to change in the way the church does “Church” and ministry. Something that has been overlooked to this point in the article is Prayer. None of what I have presented or suggested will work if there is a lack of prayer. The prayer of the people the pastor and leadership is absolutely essential. One day prayer vigils will not be enough, there must be persistent prayer. [Luke 18:1-5] The bible says that somethings will only come by prayer and fasting. [Matt 17:21] Here is the power of revival and revitalization – prayer. But if the people won’t pray, no “blowing of the Holy Spirit” should be expected. I love the Old Testament verse – 2 Chronicles 7:14, if My people which are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and heal their land. God is willing, the question is are we? I know that verse sounds so cliché but God has honored His word in the past and is willing to do so again, If Only!
It is fitting that this first blog for 2017 be about the Beginning – for we all have this “natural” new start with the New Year upon us. What we do with it, as far as success or failure is yet to be determined. My hope and prayer is that each of you will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to know the peace of God which passes all understanding. Now on to the Book of Genesis – the book of beginnings. We learn of OUR beginning, not God’s. There isn’t anywhere in the bible that tells us where God came from, and how He came to be. “In the beginning” refers to when God began to do His creative work. Now I have to predicate this study in Genesis with a caveat, there is no way to address the entirety of Genesis and all that it discloses. Even in my own reading, I found more questions to ask than before. The blog will try to give a synopsis of our reading. Obviously this will be limited to time and space.
There is great debate on the “day” definition. Are we to think that each day is a 24 hour day or some era of time, like an age/time span? This has been debated over and over again. The struggle with the “day” is the need for us to have a long enough time to reconcile the findings of scientific experiments; that and reconcile the long life span of the early primordial fathers. I have an example that may shed light to this. In John 2, Jesus turns the water into wine. The wine was chronologically only minutes old, yet it tasted aged or mature. When we try to reconcile the scientific measurements of time, they are given as chronological time, yet when God created, He is not limited to Chronos time, but kairos time. In other words the earth and all of creation was as old as God wanted them to be when He created them. Adam was a mature being, he had the ability to fend for himself, oil in the garden and the ability as an intellectually developed man to name all the animals. So when we hear that billions of years ago scientific remarks, we must remember that their findings may be true, but that the earth was the age that God wanted it to be [or appear] when He created. I am a young earth proponent. This means that I hold to an earth that is 12,000 years old or so. I don’t have time space to go into why, but the explosion of Mount St. Helen’s and the geological data recorded clearly establishes the argument for a young earth. ***note look at http://www.icr.org for more information.
When we look at the creation week, we find that God was in fact preparing the earth and universe for the habitation of mankind. Mankind is placed in an already mature, producing agricultural environment. It is interesting, that the old question of which came first the chicken or the egg is answered in chapter one. Clearly and repeatedly we find that everything reproduced after its own kind. This eliminates evolution from the macro sense. Chronos time doesn’t start until day four. [Genesis 1:14-19] Our time is marked by seasons and orbits, God’s is not. In creating God created by “speaking into existence” all things – this is called Ex Nihilo – from nothing came. When we think of the absolute power of God – the things He spoke into existence had to come about for His power is omnipotent!
Genesis 1:26-28; gives us the implied Trinity existence – “Let Us” the plural use indicates the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in cooperation creating man. Now man was created from dust, formed and fashioned by God – unlike all other creation. Also, man became a living being – a soul person by virtue of the “breath of God” breathed into man. As God created, His commentary about what He created was – It was good, but mankind, the pinnacle of creation He says It is Very Good. In Chapter 2, we get a synopsis again of creation; plus the addition of woman; being formed from the side of man. The institution of marriage is captured for us – the reason “It is not good for man to be alone.” God created deliberately, by design and with dutiful functions for all of creation. Male and female were created by God – the ongoing distortion of what mankind is doesn’t change the fact that God created Male and Female; only two gender identities. It doesn’t matter how someone “feels” what matters is how they were created biologically and physically.