Sunday – August 7, 2016 Genesis 9:18-27 “The Rest of the Story”

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Genesis 9:20-23
Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.”

In Genesis 9:18-29, the history of Noah and his family moves from rainbows (9:12-17) to shadows. Paul Harvey would say, “Here, we learn ‘the rest of the story.’” Yet, one of many reasons I am convinced the Bible is God’s Word is because its authors never covers up the sins of the saints. They refuse to pull punches; instead, they flat-out tell it like it is! When Noah and his family were introduced for the first time, Moses wrote, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9). In the New Testament, Noah was called a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5). He is also included in the hall of faith of Hebrews 11. Noah was a great man of God. If Noah can sin, anyone can sin. This includes you and me. But the point of this story and the whole of Genesis is not merely that anyone can fall but that everybody does.

The time when most Christians fall is on the heels of a great victory. Man’s tendency is to ease up when the conflict lessens.  If it happened to Noah, it could happen to you. Whenever you feel like things are going especially well, beware. Stay humble. The apostle Paul says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor 10:12). We are very vulnerable people. Every Christian is capable of committing even the most heinous of sins. This is why we so desperately require the accountability of a local church and a small group of believers.

This account also serves as a reminder that it is possible for seasoned saints to stumble in the sunset years of their lives. Moses sinned late in his life by striking a rock and taking some of God’s glory to Himself; as a result, he was not permitted to enter to Promised Land. David sinned with Bathsheeba when he was in his fifties. Solomon departed from the will of God when he was old. Past successes do not provide power for future victory. The Bible teaches again and again that godly people can be tripped up before the finish line. This means we must recognize that the greatest of all believers have weaknesses.

The Christian is not a super saint. He is an ordinary person saved by grace. The people of God are upheld by God’s grace. If we are different it is because of the powerful support of God. If we are not upheld we can fall away at any moment. This reality should encourage you and me. If great men and women of God committed sin and God still used them, He can use you and me as well. We need to be honest and acknowledge that Christians are far from perfect but God always uses us in spite of ourselves. The only thing that makes us different is that we are sustained by God’s mercy. If God should let us go we could slip badly. Who can say what we would do if God lets us go?

Sunday – July 31, 2016 Genesis 9:1-17 “A Fresh Start”

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Genesis 9:8-11
Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Ours is not an age that desires to make long-term commitments. The covenant of marriage is often avoided, and vows that are made lack the permanence and commitment of former days. Guarantees are given for a very short period. Contracts are often vaguely worded or are undermined by loopholes and fine print. Strangely, Christians seem to think that clear, contractual agreements are somehow unspiritual, especially between two believers. ‘A man should be as good as his word,’ we are told. And so he should.

This Noahic Covenant is important to us for a number of reasons. If the Noahic Covenant were not still in effect, you and I would be greatly concerned every time it rained. The calm which we experience is a direct result of the covenant God initiated centuries ago with Noah. The Noahic Covenant, in addition to the fact that it is still in force today, also provides us with a pattern for all of the other biblical covenants. As we come to understand this covenant, we will more fully appreciate the significance of all of the covenants, and especially the New Covenant instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ.

A biblical covenant usually involved three things: parties, terms, and promises. Suppose that you were a painter and I wanted my house painted. We could make a covenant together. You and I would be the two parties involved and the terms would include what areas were to be painted, what color, and when the job should be completed. The promise I made to you would be in the amount of money I was going to pay you when the job was finished. Your promise to me would be that the job would be completed as originally agreed. The agreement that we make concerning these elements: parties, terms, and promises, would be the covenant that we made with each other.

When God makes a covenant with us, it normally involves these three elements. The difference is that God alone determines the terms of the agreement, and that God always comes through on His end of the deal. If God is willing to make a covenant with us, and He is willing to bind Himself to that covenant no matter what, what does that say about the relationship God wants to have with us? It says that we can be hopeful about the future, because we worship a God that not only desires our companionship, but who is willing to take the steps necessary to obligate Himself to that relationship.

Sunday – July 24, 2016 Genesis 6:9-8:22 “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, But God Is Not Snoring”

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Genesis 6:9
These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.”

To be faithful as a Christian in an evil day, you must learn to stand alone. You will repeatedly face pressure to violate your Christian standards and go along with the crowd. As a Christian teenager, you’re with some friends who are passing around a joint. What will you do when it comes to you? All the other kids are experimenting with sex and talking about their adventures. Will you go along with the crowd? Everyone has an illegal copy of an upcoming test. Will you join them in cheating?

Christian adults also face constant pressure to compromise their faith. At work, the boss expects you not to be totally honest in dealing with customers. On a business trip, your associates are all going to a porno movie and want you to join them. At family gatherings over the holidays, the rest of the family are gossiping about another family member. No one likes to be ridiculed or rejected. We all want to be liked and included. We don’t want others to think that Christians are a bunch of prudes who can’t enjoy life. So we’re easily tempted to go along with the crowd rather than to stand alone for Jesus Christ. But if we yield, we dishonor God and lose our distinctive witness for our Savior.

Let me put it plainly: If you don’t consistently spend time alone with God in His Word and in prayer, you don’t have a walk with God! If you don’t have a walk with God, you will not be able to stand alone as Noah did. You will be more conformed to this evil world than you are to Jesus Christ. Peter writes that just as the early world was destroyed by the flood, so “the present heavens and earth by [God’s] word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). His conclusion is, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (3:11).

If you worked for a company that you knew was going to be dissolved by bankruptcy, your attitude toward that company would change. You wouldn’t put your future hopes in it, because it has no future. If you heard that the government was going to shut down a bank because of insolvency, you wouldn’t rush to invest your money in that bank. God has said that this evil world is doomed. He has promised “a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Like Noah, we must redirect everything in our lives – our time, our money, our goals – in light of God’s warning of judgment and His promise of deliverance in Christ. We must stand alone in this evil day by walking with God.

Sunday – July 17, 2016 Genesis 6:1-8 “Sons and Daughters of Men”

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Genesis 6:5-8
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

Have you noticed that we have become specialists at shirking responsibility and blaming others for our actions? If I overextend myself financially, it’s not my fault; it’s the fault of easy credit. If I get lung cancer, it isn’t my fault that I chose to begin smoking; it’s the fault of the tobacco company. If a man in a rage shoots and kills his neighbor, it isn’t his fault; it’s the gun manufacturers. If a drunk driver goes the wrong way on the highway, hits a school bus and a number of people are killed, the Ford Motor Company is sued for making an unsafe bus. We’ve even got “no fault” divorces now, so that if a marriage doesn’t work out, no one has to take the blame. And people aren’t guilty of perverted behavior anymore; it’s in their genes. We blame heredity, environment, chemical imbalance, temporary insanity, job pressures, poverty, prejudice, and abuse.

Now certainly those things can contribute to who we are and can cause problems for us, but we have taken it to an extreme that says that no one is accountable for their behavior anymore. The message of the Bible runs contrary to our societal views. The Bible states that mankind is sinful. As a result, God must judge man’s sin. Yet, although God must judge sin, the Bible also teaches that He loves mankind and invites man to enter into a relationship with Him. Genesis 6:1-8 shares this tension.

Ultimately, God’s sorrow means action must be taken, not that a great cosmic mistake has been made. God is a living person and, as such, He can and does change when the occasion demands it. He does not change in His character, person, or plan. But He can and does respond to our changes. Our heavenly Father’s heart breaks when we disobey Him. To cause Him such grief in light of all that He has done for us in Christ is the height of ingratitude.

If our world, like Noah’s, is provoking the judgment of God, how is He warning us today? In the Old Testament, when a nation slipped so far away from God that its people no longer read His Word or heeded the prophets, He warned them of impending judgment through national or natural disasters such as an invading army or a locust plague. Today, He warns us in the same ways. When we hear of a nation invading another nation or a country self-destructing into civil war or a volcano erupting or a tidal wave sweeping villages away or an earthquake leveling entire cities or a forest fire devouring hundreds of thousands of acres of woodlands or a drought shriveling millions of acres of farmland or an epidemic threatening to wipe out a nation’s entire population, are we hearing the warning of the Creator demand, “Repent! Judgment is coming! I am holding you accountable for your wicked, willful ways?”

Sunday – July 10, 2016 Genesis 5:1-32 “Getting a Grip on Genealogies”

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Genesis 5:21-24
Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

Enoch did not walk with God in a secluded environment; he was a spokesman for God in the ungodly marketplace of his day. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Enoch did this, but from the passages in Genesis and Hebrews we can safely infer that Enoch served God right up to the day God took him.

Enoch lived his intimate and obedient life of progressive maturity for 300 years – three centuries. And so at the age of 365, while still a young man, “he was not, for God took him.”We don’t know how this happened. He may have been picked up in a chariot like Elijah (2 Kings 2:11-12) or he may have been beamed up directly by God. Somewhere in the days of his fellowship with God, God revealed to him He did not wish Enoch to die. Amidst the endless dying that had gone on for thousands of years, God planned to give a demonstration of His power over death. And Enoch believed God. By faith Enoch was taken up (Heb. 11:5).

But notice that Enoch did not always walk with God. The first 65 years of his life were quite another story. Evidently, he reflected for 65 years the same godless attitude as those around him. You ask, “Well, what started him walking with God then?” And the answer is given to us here. It was not receiving his Social Security payments when he reached 65, but it was the birth of a son, a boy whom he named Methuselah. The Bible says so. “Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years.” So it was the birth of this baby that started him walking with God. Surely there is more to this than simply the fact that he became a father. I have noticed that becoming a father has a profound effect upon a young man. It makes him more thoughtful, makes him more serious, more sober in his outlook on life. It does have a very beneficial effect but there is more to it than that. And it is revealed by the name that Enoch gave to his son. Methuselah is a very interesting name. It means, literally, “His death shall bring it,” or loosely translated, “When he dies, it will come.” What will come? The flood.

Enoch, we are told in another passage of Scripture, was given a revelation from God. He saw the direction of the divine movement, looked on to the end of the culture, the comforts, and the mechanical marvels of his own day, to the fact there must come an inevitable judgment on the principle of evil in human life. He saw the certainty of destruction of a world living only to please itself. When he saw it his baby was born, so, in obedience, evidently to God’s Word, he named the baby, “When he dies, it will come.”

Sunday – July 3, 2016 Genesis 4:1-26 “Raising Cain”

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Genesis 4:7
And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

God didn’t accept Abel’s offering out of arbitrary unfairness. Nor did he accept it because it was Abel’s best effort. Abel was, by nature, just as much a sinner as Cain was. God accepted it because Abel offered it in faith in response to God’s word. It had nothing to do with Cain’s efforts or Abel’s efforts. It had everything to do with God’s just requirement for a blood sacrifice to be the only means of approaching Him.

Let’s suppose that you are a football fan, and you really wanted to go to the Super Bowl. You went down to the stadium and started to walk through the turnstile. The ticket attendant says, “Where’s your ticket?” You say, “Oh, I don’t have one of those silly pieces of paper. But I want you to know that I am a committed football fan. I watch every game. I know the statistics on every player. There is no more dedicated fan than I.” He will say, “I don’t care; you need a ticket.” So you leave the stadium and go find an artist. You have him draw a ticket with a picture of a football player on it. He writes on it in neat letters, “Super Bowl Ticket.” You go back to the stadium and hand that ticket to the man. He looks at it and says, “What’s this?” You say, “That’s my ticket. You said I needed a ticket to get into the game.”

You could argue with him all day that your ticket is prettier than those printed tickets everyone else is giving him. You can tell him how much effort and expense you went to in order to have that ticket made. He won’t care. The only way to gain entrance to the game is to present the ticket issued by the proper authority. It has nothing to do with your character. It has nothing to do with your dedication as a fan. It has nothing to do with the effort or expense you went to in order to produce your own version of it. It has everything to do with it being the ticket required by the management for entrance.

God has said that the only ticket into heaven is perfect righteousness. No one has it. No one can achieve it. But in His grace, God offers it as a free gift through the death of His Son, the only acceptable Substitute. Coming to God with that ticket robs us of all pride in our own goodness and good works. But it is the only ticket acceptable at heaven’s gate. Cain didn’t like that. His pride in his own efforts made him angry when his ticket was rejected. He was angry at God, but also at his brother, who got in by showing the right ticket. His anger led him into depression and jealousy. It all stemmed from his pride which he tried to present to God on his own terms. Sin always stems from within.

Sunday – June 26, 2016 Genesis 3:1-24 “What a Difference a Day Makes”

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Genesis 3:2-5
The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan’s promise had, in a backhanded way, come true. Adam and Eve had, in a sense, become like God in the knowing of good and evil (Verse 22). But there is a great difference as well as some similarity. Both man and God knew good and evil, but in a vastly different way. Perhaps the difference can best be illustrated in this way. A doctor can know of cancer by virtue of his education and experience as a doctor. That is, he has read of cancer, heard lectures on cancer, and seen it in his patients. A patient, also, can know of cancer, but as its victim. While both know of cancer, the patient would wish he had never heard of it. Such is the knowledge which Adam and Eve came to possess.

God had promised salvation to come in time through the birth of the Messiah, who would destroy Satan. Adam and Eve might be tempted to gain eternal life through the eating of the fruit of the tree of life. They chose knowledge over life. Now, as the Israelites too late tried to possess Canaan (Numbers 14:39-45), so fallen man might attempt to gain life through the tree of life in the garden.

It would seem that had Adam and Eve eaten of the tree of life they would have lived forever (Verse 22). This is the reason God sent them out of the garden (Verse 23). In Verse 24, the sending out of the two is more dramatically called driving out. Stationed at the entrance of the garden are the cherubim and the flaming sword. I cannot help but think of Paul’s words when I read this chapter, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22).

“How cruel and severe,” some would be tempted to protest. In today’s legal jargon, it would probably be called cruel and unusual punishment. But think a moment, before you speak rashly. What would have happened had God not driven this couple from the garden and banned their return? I can answer it in one word – hell. Hell is giving men both what they want and what they deserve forever. Hell is spending eternity in sin, separate from God.

Sunday – June 19, 2016 Fathers Day Malachi 1:6-14

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1 John 2:13-14
I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

Happy Father’s Day men! The problem with Father’s Day is that many of us wonder if we really should be celebrated. We know all that has transpired over the last 12 months as we come to this day and we wonder what Father’s Day is really about? When we have a good job and provide for a good home and a few nice things, we are told that men only focus on our jobs and do not provide that illusive term which magazines and television shows throw around as the new, yet undefined standard of quality time to their families. And then when we spend time with our families and build relationships with our children we are told that we have not provided for the financial needs of our family in the ways they have been accustomed too. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Men have been the butt of jokes in sitcoms, news stories, and time around the office water cooler. Many men come to Father’s Day and think that it is only a holiday invented by the greeting card and tie companies for getting excess merchandise out of their warehouse and into your house. The jokes which the world trumpets are not funny to men who take God’s call for their families seriously. Each joke is another jab against men who want to do what is right as they try to enrich the lives of their families and to encourage their children in the way they should go. Can we, who are in the Body of Christ, realize that the job of Father is more than just a title or an act of biology? That men, despite what the world tells them, know in their hearts that they have a duty to care for their household, and make sacrifices of what they could do in order to do what they should do?

I am not an apologist for men, for there are many that have refused to do what they should, failing to care for their wives in a way that is godly and their children in a way that encourages them to grow in the wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord. It is time for sincere thanks and appreciation for all that husbands, fathers and men in general do? Today is a day to say thank you, to appreciate all that our earthly fathers have done for us and given to us. Let us honor fathers for their sacrifice, and encourage them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ so that the love they have shown us this year will abound more and more so we will have new things to praise God for next year. Let us thank them for their desire to follow the Lord and contribute to the needs of their families, and to pray that they will continue to grow and be conformed to the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who only did what He saw the Father doing.

Sunday – May 29, 2016 New Series ”The Book of Genesis”

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Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

A surveyor must always begin from a point of reference. So, too, history must start at some definite place of beginnings. The Bible is, through and through, a historical revelation. It is the account of God’s activity in history. As such, it must have a beginning. The book of Genesis gives us our historical point of reference, from which all subsequent revelation proceeds. In this book we find the “roots” of the inhabited world and the universe, of man and nations, of sin and redemption. Also, we find the foundation of our theology. I would consider Genesis as the starting point of all theology.

Genesis is particularly crucial in the light of the doctrine of progressive revelation. This doctrine attempts to define the phenomena that occur in the process of divine revelation. Essentially initial revelation is general while subsequent revelation tends to be more particular and specific.

Let me try to illustrate progressive revelation by an examination of the doctrine of redemption. The first promise of redemption is definite but largely undefined in Genesis 3:15: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Later in Genesis we learn that the world will be blessed through Abraham (12:3). The line through which Messiah would come was through Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau. Finally in Genesis we see that Israel’s coming ruler will be of the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). Later on we learn that Messiah will be the offspring of David (II Samuel 7:14-16), to be born in the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Literally hundreds of prophecies tell in greater detail, the coming of the Messiah.

I would like to suggest that we approach the book of Genesis as the book presents itself to us. I believe the first verse makes clear the way we must approach the entire work .This account either explains it all or it does not explain it at all. Some books begin, “Once upon a time … ” and when we find such an introduction we immediately understand that we are reading a fairy tale. Genesis 1:1 is totally different. The mood is authoritative and declarative.

The claim implied by this verse is much like that of our Lord when He presented Himself to men. No one can logically tip their hat to Jesus Christ as a “good man,” “a wonderful example,” or a “great teacher,” He was either Who He claimed to be (the Messiah, the Son of God), or He was a fake and a fraud. There is no middle ground, no riding the fence with Jesus. Jesus does not deserve mere courtesy. He demands a crown or a cross.

Sunday – May 22, 2016 “I Am the Way, Truth and Life”

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John 14:1
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”

Which of God’s commandments would you say is the most difficult for you to obey? Perhaps you would say, “The commandment, ‘Do not lie’ is most difficult because when I’m in a tight spot and I can twist the truth just a little, it seems harmless.” Perhaps you might point to the command of Jesus not to lust as one being very difficult to obey in a sensual society. Or what about Paul’s commandment: “Do all things without grumbling?” Maybe you have thought complaining is your spiritual gift. There’s no way you could obey that commandment, right?

Indeed, there are many difficult commandments. I think one of the hardest commandments to obey is: “Do not let your heart be troubled.” There’s so much to be troubled about: potential war and terrorist attack, corruption, crime, and economic pressure. If you weren’t feeling troubled, you probably are now. On top of the various national and international troubles, there are many “what if?” scenarios. What if I get cancer? What if I’m in an accident? What if one of my children dies? What if I lose my job? All this and much more can bring on heart trouble. That’s why some have said that we live in “The Cardiac Age.” Everyone seems to have heart trouble.

In the midst of a discussion of heart trouble and anxiety is Jesus saying: As difficult as your troubles and trials are right now, please know that the church is going to accomplish God’s eternal purposes. If you’re feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, observe the kingdom work of the church. The church is touching lives not only in our country, but throughout the world. When everything that could go wrong seems to be going wrong and your heart is hurting, please know that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church and God’s kingdom will advance. As difficult as your individual heart troubles are, they are momentary (2 Cor 4:16-18). God assures us that as we take our eyes off of our own troubles and focus on Christ’s work in His church, we will be strengthened.

I’m here to tell you that I understand what it is to experience heart trouble. Some days I am not the husband that I want to be and this hurts my heart and grieves me deeply. When I see Gwen growing up so quickly and recognize that I am losing opportunities to influence her, I can’t help but have heart trouble. There are times when the task of pastoring is overwhelming. I feel at times that this church needs someone whose skills are different from my own. Sometimes I am so confused about which way to go that I am almost paralyzed. I share these things with you for a reason. I know some of the heart trouble that you feel. What gets me through is what God is doing in the world in and through His church. May you and I take our heart trouble to the Savior and pray that He helps us take our eyes off our own concerns and put them on His work. Believing leads to seeing.