Jesus is Our Ark

Week 1, Day 4: Genesis 6-7

In light of the coming flood of judgment thousands of years ago, God provided a means of salvation.  He commanded his servant Noah to build an ark.  The Scriptures tell us that in the construction of that ship only 1 door was placed.  That door alone provided the only means of salvation from the coming flood.  As he built Noah preached and invited even the most sinful to seek refuge by trusting in God’s promise.  In the end only his family entered the door.  The passage goes on to tell us that just before God began to pour his wrath out upon the earth, God, himself, shut the door.

Judgment is once again eminent in our day.  Jesus will return and no one can say for sure when.  When he does he will return as King and as Judge.  He came on a rescue mission in his first coming, accomplishing all that was necessary to offer even the most sinful of people a way of salvation.  And just as there existed only one door into the ark, because he is the only one who actually dealt with sin and earned the righteousness that holy God demands, he exists now as the only way of salvation for sinful people (John 14:6).  That’s all of us (Romans 3:23).  When he returns God will once again close the door and there will be no more chance for those who have chosen to remain in unbelief and stay on the outside of that exclusive refuge.

The invitation is open once again.  The gospel proclaims a rescue that is available through Christ alone.  Anyone can enter by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus.  Will you trust in him today?

Satan’s Tactics have Always Been the Same

Week 1, Day 3: Genesis 3-5

In Genesis 3 we find the story of The Fall.  We see a character enter the creation named Satan who takes the form of a serpent and tempts Eve.  In this brief encounter we can identify several tactics used by Satan in his wooing of Eve. The truth is, the tactics identified here are really the exact same tactics the Evil One uses today in luring us.  We can learn something of both the essence of sin and of temptation.  Notice them with me.

1. Satan is a chameleon.

When we think of Satan, we often picture him the way Hollywood would depict him, gnarly with a red suit, horns and a pitchfork.  But Scripture describes him as one who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).  In Genesis 3 he approaches Eve in the form of a serpent.  Now, for us, that may seem scary.  But for Eve, the serpent would have just been another one of God’s creation in the garden.  Satan knew she was comfortable with all the living creatures there, so he disguised himself, taking the form of something she would have trusted.

2. Satan is crafty.

We can tell that from simply reading his exchange with Eve.  Scripture also refers to him as “the father of lies” (John 8:44).  When he lies, he is speaking his native tongue.  We can say that deception is his heart language.  And he is fluent.  Graeme Goldsworthy notes, “The snake speaks only twice, but that is enough to offset the balance of trust and obedience between the woman and the Creator.”

3. Satan is an historical revisionist.

He twists truth, especially historical truth.  His first words to the woman are not even really a lie.  Have you ever noticed that?  Instead, he begins to cause Eve to question what she has known to be true up until this moment.  “Did God actually say?” he poses.  He loves to speak confusion into clarity.  I believe this is why remembrance is one of the major themes throughout the Scriptures.  God calls us to remember.  Because when we forget, we become vulnerable to the enemy’s most pernicious lies.

4. Satan’s chief desire is not to be worshiped.

Again, Goldsworthy expounds, “The snake does not suggest that the humans transfer allegiance from God to himself, but only that they themselves should consider and evaluate God’s claim to truth.”  Satan is not interested in our worship or allegiance.  His goal is our unbelief.  He desires for us to question God and His Word.  This is one reason why we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.  We must continually remind ourselves of all that is ours in Christ.  We must not wander too far from that truth, or else we might become susceptible to doubt and confusion as to the truth.

5. Satan desires for us to question the goodness of God.

“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'” (Genesis 3:1b)  There are a couple of interesting elements to that question.  First, he connects the negative command with our deepest pursuits of personal happiness.  This is HUGE for us now.  It’s almost as if Satan indicates that God can’t possibly be good if he is actually telling people they can not do something.  How can he be good and burden people with oppressive rules!?  In a culture where personal happiness has become the chief virtue, this may be the greatest way Satan’s deception thrives in our day.  Second, he inflates the negative command.  God never told them that they couldn’t eat of any tree in the garden  On the contrary, he graciously gave them access to every other tree in the garden except the forbidden on (Genesis 2:16-17)!  You see what Satan did there?  It’s as if he wishes for Eve to completely forget every good thing she has and every blessing God has granted her.  In forgetting all that, Satan plants the lie that if she cannot eat of that one forbidden tree, she doesn’t really have anything at all!  How true is this same ploy today for us and our covetous hearts!

6. Satan desires for us to question the trustworthiness of God.

God told Adam that if anyone were to eat of the tree they would die.  Now Satan indicates that God is in fact the one who seeks to deceive (Genesis 3:4-5).  He lures the woman into the forbidden by causing her to wonder if what has been deemed bad by God really exists as the greatest vehicle to greater fulfillment.  Del Tackett, of Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project, asserts, “Satan lessens the seriousness of sin and even beautifies it.  He promises that sin will lead to liberation and self-actualization.”  But, he continues, “Sin never leads to freedom,” as both the woman and man would soon find out.  The same is true for us.

7. Satan offers empty promises built on false claims.

Notice that the fruit of the tree began to appeal to Eve in 3 ways: physically, it was good for food; aesthetically, it was pleasing to the eye; and intellectually, it was good for making one wise.  Satan’s lures are always hollow.  They are always traps set for our destruction.  They never satisfy and they never fulfill.  Interestingly, the warning of 1 John 2:15-17 includes all three of these appeals.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh [it was good for food] and the desires of the eyes [it was pleasing to the eye] and the pride in possessions [it was good for granting one wisdom & knowledge]–is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

8. All that Satan offers is already ours in God!

Do you see the irony in the statement Satan makes to Eve when he alleges, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5)?  God had created Eve in his own image!  She already had what Satan dangled in all the fulness of God’s created beauty; yet, Satan made her forget what she had and strive for what could never be hers in the treasonous form it was offered.

9. The essence of sin is found in the heart, not in the action.

The essence of Eve’s sin does not include the taking a bite of a piece of fruit from a forbidden tree.  The first sin took place in her heart.  The same is true for us.  The sinful actions exist as outward manifestations of what has already taken place in our hearts.  Before she took the bite, Eve had made up her mind that she no longer trusted God.  She no longer contented herself in submitting to her Creator’s authority.  She decided that she would rather be her own authority.  Up until this point God had been the one to deem certain things good (as at the end of each day of creation) and certain things bad (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).  But now we see Eve make such a declaration.  “So when the woman saw that the tree was good…” (Genesis 3:6).  We sin when we decide to stop submitting to God’s authority and become our own authority.  And that is because of the last point…

10. “Every sin that besets us can be traced back to the belief in a lie.”

Those words are offered by Tackett and carry an enormous amount of wisdom.  When we do battle with sin, it is not enough to grit our teeth, clinch our fists and muster up enough strength.  We only see our outward expressions change when the root of the issue has been thoroughly removed.  The root of all sin can be traced back to the belief in one of the Evil One’s lies.  What causes us to act sinfully?  The answer to that question will always come in the form of a lie that we have bought.

What lies have you bought?

 

“What is man that you are mindful of him?”

Week 1, Day 2: John 1:1-3; Psalm 8, 104

This morning I read this from Psalm 8…

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens … When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  -Psalm 8:1, 3-4

And then today I click on a link and see this updated Hubble Telescope picture of what has come to be known as the “Pillars of Creation.”

The article I read (that you can access here), then included an infrared version, which removes the gas and dust and reveals an enormous field of stars!

Wow.  The heavens truly do declare the glory of their Creator!  How can one not look at such majestic beauty and not respond with the Psalmist…

Bless the Lord, O my soul!  O Lord my God, you are very great!  You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.  -Psalm 104:1-2

“All Lives Matter”

Week 1, Day 1: Genesis 1-2

We have all seen the following tagline shouted, posted and displayed in so many different ways:

________________ lives matter!

No matter how you fill in the blank, the statement carried equal amounts of truth.

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Police lives matter.

Hispanic lives matter.

Disenfranchised lives matter.

Gay lives matter.

Outcast lives matter.

Female lives matter.

Male lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Terminally ill lives matter.

Unborn lives matter.

But, what is the basis for that statement?  Certainly a meaningless, purposeless existence resulting from a Darwinian evolutionary philosophy cannot provide a basis for any of those statements to be made.  There is simply no room for any of these statements within the idea of Survival of the Fittest.

The basis of that statement, however, no matter how you fill in the blank, can be found in the opening chapter of God’s Word, the Bible.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:26-27

Every person, every life, has dignity because that life has been created by God, in the image of God.

I heard one of the most profound statements a couple of weeks ago from an older gentleman in a video series our Sunday School class is currently watching.  He said, “You don’t give dignity to a person; you affirm it.”  How incredibly true.  Every single person has dignity, and because that dignity is from God we could never give what has already been attributed by him.  But we can, and should, affirm it.  In everyone.  No matter who they are.

Everyone has worth.  Everyone has value.  Everyone is worthy of dignity.  Even though we may disagree, we must affirm the dignity in every person.  Even though we must stand on Truth and expose sin, we must affirm the dignity of every person.

Not a bad commitment to make as we ring in a New Year.

New Year Questions for the Church Member

As a covenant community, the members of my church, Westwood, intentionally seeks ‘meaningful membership.’  I love that we are a church that takes our covenant seriously, but I will admit that the contents of that covenant I have made can sometimes be out of sight, out of mind.  How can we keep that from happening?  How can we keep the contents of our covenant ever in our minds and in our hearts?  How can we truly seek to see that our membership is really meaningful?

I have been thinking for some time that, at least for me, some sort of assessment might help me in answering these questions.  Earlier this year I spent some time thinking through our membership covenant.  As I read through each portion I began to jot down questions that might help me in truly seeking the things that I have promised to seek.  We included these questions as an insert to our Corporate Worship Service bulletin earlier this year as Pastor Gerald spent 6 weeks focusing on church membership.  I wanted to once again put these before our members as the calendar turns to the year 2015.  Perhaps you might spend some time meditating on these questions and, beyond that, strive to set some goals in visioning the church member you would like to be in the upcoming year. Continue reading

Our Life’s Response to this Christ Child

On Sunday our pastor led our congregation in a study of Isaiah 11:1-12.  In this passage, Isaiah further expounds upon his prophesy of a coming child that he introduces in chapter 9, the One who will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6).  On one level this prophesy offered encouragement to the Israelite people in that time who had been taken captive and forced to leave the land God had given to them.  They could be reminded of God’s plan and his faithfulness to complete that plan.  Even though things were bleak for them currently, God would return a remnant of his people to the promised land in order to finish what he had started through them.  God had promised Eve that he would provide a seed of a woman who would crush the head of the serpent.  He then promised Abraham that this seed would come from his lineage.  Isaiah reminds the Israelite people that despite their own disobedience that has led to the current captivity and banishment of Abraham’s ancestors, God’s plan has never gotten off track.  He will fulfill what he has promised. Continue reading

Giving to God what is Marginal

God’s rebuke of his priests in Malachi offers a sobering picture of the reality of marginal giving for the Church today.  To understand this, we must fully understand the context of this heavy passage in light of the entire biblical narrative.  In his indictment, God accuses the Priests of “offering polluted food upon my altar” when they “offer blind animals in sacrifice…and those that are lame or sick” (Mal 1:7, 8).  Now at first glance we may simply believe that God chastises his priests for the mere fact that they have broken his law, which indeed they had (see Lev 22:17-25; Deut 15:21; 17:1).  True, the priests were guilty of offering what was easy instead of what was commanded; however, the context and very purpose of the sacrificial system in which the priests participated forbids us to stop at that interpretive level. Continue reading