Tag Archives: creation

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 560 – Jesus’ Temptation in the Desert

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/03/16 – 560 – Jesus’ Temptation in the Desert

At some point (it would seem not long after Jesus’ baptism), John the Baptist was thrown in Herod’s jail because he refused to endorse Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife , among other things. Herod was kind of a nut. He didn’t take kindly to people disagreeing with him, but was afraid of what the people might do if he just killed John, since they all believed he was a prophet. So to prison he went.

Jesus, in the meantime, underwent some very hard and special preparation before beginning His formal ministry here on earth.

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

 Notice how Satan always seems to show up when we’re at our weakest point?

 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.”

 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you

    to guard you carefully;

11 they will lift you up in their hands,             

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Notice the one other huge lesson in there for us? Jsus was able to resist the devil not because he was the all powerful Messiah, Son of God. He did nothing magical. He was able to resist Him purely from citing and knowing the scriptures! He didn’t even have to know chapter and verse – He just had to know what it said and what it meant.

After 3 attempts, Satan knew he was wasting his time, so he left, but with plans to come back at “an opportune time”. Scary. What have those times been for you? Has he ever showed up? I know he has for me, unless I was prepared! Satan doesn’t like to lose. He’ll skirt the battle and leave to fight another day if he doesn’t think he has a chance of winning.

This story is barely mentioned by Mark, not mentioned at all by John, but told at length by Matthew and Luke. That’s OK. We might ask ourselves why Jesus didn’t take the easy way out – after all, who would it have hurt? The answer is – it would have hurt countless people as it would have undermined the integrity of His ministry on earth. For all the accusations made against Him, no one could ever find even one wrong that was legitimate.

Another reason could simply be as an example to us. To show us that we can stand strong in the face of adversity, take the unpopular position and carry through simply because it ‘s the right decision. Today let’s pray that the Holy Spirit living in us would transform us into people of integrity and strendth – no matter what the cost.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 559 – Jesus’ Baptism

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
09/02/16 – 559 – Jesus’ Baptism


Matt 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
NIV

Luke 3:21-22
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
NIV

The gospel of Mark also includes an account of Jesus’ baptism, it’s probable that Matthew used Mark’s as his model. The 3 accounts do vary though, just enough to tell us they were written by people with 3 different views of the event. But notice the background, and the most important ‘take-aways’.

First, the ritual of baptism itself. From the earliest days of the tabernacle, there were basins (lavers) for ritual cleansing before making certain sacrifices or participating in certain rituals. Then John came along, and seems to have been going down a different road.

He wasn’t cleansing people for the purpose of performing some ritual, he was hearing their confessions and baptizing them by immersion in the Jordan river! He spent his life declaring that he was preparing a way for the promised Messiah. Some believed him, some thought he was just crazy. But, he was pretty much universally accepted as a prophet/rabbi sent by God Himself. Because of this he drew enough attention that he apparently had a good audience of people waiting to be baptized plus Pharisees and Sadducees that had come to watch one day when Jesus came walking up.

The importance? Many witnesses – which would become extremely significant later on. John recognizes Jesus not as his cousin, but obviously as the Messiah, and protests that it should be Jesus baptizing him, not the other way around. This is important point #2. Of course Jesus insisted. Have you ever noticed that He never asked us to do anything that He didn’t do Himself?
Then the miracle – in front of all those witnesses. The sky opened up, and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form, landed on Jesus, and everyone heard in an audible voice those famous words – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”.

I noted 2 points as being very important. Here’s why. When Jesus’ authority is challenged later on, He has to show that His rabbinical authority to interpret scripture comes from the endorsement of 2 other authorities. So later on, after Jesus had been teaching and performing miracles, we read this:

Matt 21:23-25
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism — where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

NIV

They knew that John’s authority was recognized as having come directly from God, and that John had recognized Jesus’ authority. The second ‘endorsement’ was the one that came from heaven, in front of too many witnesses to be ignored. They knew it, and Jesus knew it. That’s why they had no answer.

It’s always important – even critical – to know where your authority lies. To know why you believe what you believe. It takes more than emotions, more than a warm fuzzy on Sunday morning. Let’s pray today for that deep pull of the Holy Spirit to take root in us, that we would truly want to know.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 558 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
09/01/16 – 558 – Jesus’ Return To Israel

Yesterday we read about Simeon, an old man in the temple who asked only one thing of God – the he be allowed to see the promised Messiah before he died. The moment he saw Jesus, the Spirit spoke to him and he knew who Jesus was, and declared it readily. He went on to dedicate and bless the baby – and make a pretty good prediction about Him as well.

Luke 2:31-38
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

We aren’t quite sure who Anna was either except for what the text says here. I’m not even sure whether she was moved by the Spirit herself or whether she was just believing in what Simeon had said. Either way, she accepted and believed – and began to tell others. You could probably call her the first evangelist!

So why is Luke bothering to give us all this background on Simeon and Anna? I believe he wants us to see that God’s message as much as God’s message is given to the whole world, it is only received by those that are ready and willing to accept it. For example, I can broadcast a radio signal around the globe, but only those people with their radios turned on and tuned to the right frequency will be able to hear my message.

How many of us have our radios turned on, even tuned to the right station, but have so much noise in our lives that we couldn’t hear God if He stepped on our house? By noise I mean real noise – constant music, TV, video games, cell phones, social media etc, plus busy-ness – just always caught up in a hundred little things that really mean nothing in the grand scheme, but make us somehow feel important.

We need to stop. We need to stop being afraid of the quiet, and just stop the noise. Take time to talk to God, and listen for His voice. He has already spoken to you in many ways. He has spoken through scripture. He has spoken through pastors, other Christian (wise) counsel. Just remember the Bible is always the acid test. Any time you think God is telling you something, check to see if it conflicts with the text. If it does, the voice you’re hearing is not from God. Run from it.

It will be tempting. It will sound nice. It will probably be something you want to do anyway, Run from it anyway. You will thank yourself (and God) later. I promise. Try it now. Turn off the TV and the phone. Ask God about the big questions in your life right now. Job? Relationship? Find the relevant scripture. If you need help, call your pastor, or contact me. Then, stay tuned.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 557 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/31/16 – 557 – Jesus’ Dedication To God

Good morning, everyone. I think I finally figured out where the Spirit is taking us with this one. We’ve already done the Christmas story (available here for those that missed it), and now the story of His family’s flight to and return from Egypt, we are going to keep right on going on the story of Jesus’ life on earth.

I’ll try to keep it as chronologically accurate as possible, but we’ve already skipped one important event, so just this once (maybe) I’d like to jump backwards a little bit. We did touch on this and the flight to Egypt in the Christmas story also, but not in this much depth. The event was Jesus’ circumcision.

Circumcision has become quite the controversial procedure today. Not so then, and not so for the devout Jew. God commanded Abraham that, as a mark of their covenant with Him, He and all male members of his family be circumcised. It would later become a controversy even among the first Christians, causing a major rift between Peter and Paul when the church doors were opened to Gentiles, but we can talk about that another time.

For Jesus, there was no question. He would be circumcised and dedicated to God when He was 8 days old.

Luke 2:21-32
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

I remember a Christmas choir cantata some years ago in which we sang a song about this. I had a hard time singing it, just putting myself in the place of this man who had been waiting his entire life asking for only one thing from God, and believing with all his heart that his prayer would be answered. He just wanted to see the Messiah before he died. And somehow, when he saw the baby Jesus, he knew. It was He.

This kind of knowledge only comes from one place, and that’s what I wa talking about the other day. It’s being in tune with God’s voice, so that when He speaks, even though it may be through the cries of an infant, you recognize it. Just as the sheep recognize their master’s voice, Simeon knew that this little one was the promised One. I’m pretty sure that’s not what He was expecting, but he was willing to hear. That is what made all the difference.

How is your communication with God going? Have you been able to hear Him lately, or are your conversations still pretty much one-sided? If so, Ask Him again to speak to you. Then BE QUIET AND LISTEN!!!!! If you do hear His voice (no matter which form He chooses to use) thank Him for that and keep up the good work.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 556 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/30/16 – 556 – Jesus’ Return To Israel

Luke 2:41-52
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

No, his parents weren’t neglectful, as if often the first accusation today when reading this portion of the story. It was actually very common in those days when traveling a long distance in a caravan of sorts, with many relatives and friends, for children of his age and even younger to go off and spend time with cousins and friends that they probably wouldn’t see again for a long time., and yes, it may have been for days at a time. So naturally Joseph & Mary didn’t worry until they began looking for Him and saw no sign of Him at all.

When they realized he was missing, they hightailed it back to Jerusalem as fast as they could. There they spent 3 days retracing their steps, trying to find him. When they found Him, Mary tried to rebuke Him, but He ended up scolding her instead! Why? Because she had been with Him for 12 years, and that should have been long enough to have known Him and what kind of person He was. She should have at least had some idea of the depth of His knowledge of scripture. After all, he was teaching the teachers! And they were “astonished

But there is the lesson for us today as well, I think. We who have been with Him for any good length of time should know Him deeply. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that someone ‘gets saved’, they are excited and ‘gung ho’ for a time, but when the warm fuzzies wear off they tend to just coast, and find ways to justify it.

We may have known Him for decades, but haven’t noticed His absence in our lives for decades. We fool ourselves into thinking that we’re safe, somehow immune. But really, none of us are. The fact is, the safer we think we are, the more vulnerable we are in reality. We have to constantly work on our relationship with Christ. Read the Word. Read His teachings. Pray – talk to Him. Pray – listen to Him.

Let’s make our prayer today for that – a restart, a self-check of sorts. Ask Him to examine you. Ask His Spirit to convict you of anything that is keeping the 2 of you apart. With His help, cleanse yourself and start your relationship with Him all over again. Make everything new if that’s what it takes!

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 555 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/29/16 – 555 – Jesus’ Return To Israel

Matt 2:19-23
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
NIV

And here I always thought it was because He attended the Galilee First Church of the Nazarene! Oh well, it mad perfect sense to me .

Ok, I’ll get serious. You may notice there are 2 themes in this story. One is that of God speaking to Joseph through dreams. In fact, this seems to be the only way He did speak to Joseph – ever. The other is the fulfillment of prophecy. Let’s look at the first one first. I talk to many people who say that they simply don’t think that God still speaks to people now the way He did then – through dreams, visions, burning bushes etc. (mostly dreams and visions – the burning bush thing only happened once as far as I know). Because of this, they don’t think God speaks to us at all. Take a moment – what do you think?

But I disagree. I think that God speaks to us just as much if not more than He did then, in the same ways and others. Yes, I think He still speaks through dreams and visions, but we’ve become so cynical as a people that even when someone comes to a group of believers claiming to have had a vision or dream from God, they are thought to be in need of medication and mental health care. We might believe only after every other possibility has been ruled out. If Joseph had acted that way our story would have turned out quite differently!

The second running theme – the fulfillment of prophesy (or more accurately, the pointing out of the fulfillment of prophecy) is just there, I believe, for our benefit. We would most likely miss it otherwise, and it’s important. For all the claims that Jesus orchestrated His own life and even aspects of His death to fit prophesies in scripture, no one can claim that He orchestrated His own birth without at the same time admitting the He is God.

People would still find ways to use His time in Egypt against Him, though. We don’t know how long the family was there, but we have the story of His teaching in the temple when He was about 12, so we know they were back in Israel before that. Because he was teaching, He also had received some very good rabbinical education before that time as well, which in all likelihood would have been obtained in Israel, not in Egypt where the Hebrew God was not worshipped. This training would normally have begun at age 5 or 6.

Those that try to use the Egyptian experience against Him have said that during His time there he was trained by Egyptian magicians in the art of necromancy, This is the practice of supposedly raising the dead, usually for the purpose of foretelling the future. Some claim that he studied this dark art under Egyptian magicians and used it trick people into thinking that he raised people from the dead (like Lazarus).

However, those ‘raised’ by necromancers were more like the people in drug-induced states like the victims of voodoo, or they were not raised bodily, only spiritually (as in a séance). They never walked out of a grave after beginning to decompose and returned to a normal life, as Lazus did, and they never raised themselves!

I’ll have more to say on this story tomorrow. For today, Let’s just say thanks to a God Who still speaks to us today even as He spoke to people thousands of years ago – and then some.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 554

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/28/16 – 554

Well here we are, another Sunday. We’ve made it through another loooong busy week. At least we can look forward to a restful Sabbath, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

For many of us, especially those that are really involved in their churches, Sunday has become more like another workday than a day of rest and worship. We have so much to do before, during and after the service that we barely have time to worship and if we do, we feel guilty about it because we’re neglecting something else. And yet there is this:

Ex 20:8-11
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

What does ‘holy’ mean? It means set apart, specifically for God’s purposes. It means strengthening my relationship with Him through praise, worship and prayer. It means strengthening our relationships with others – most notably our families. So here’s the question for us – does doing all that stuff – really accomplish those goals? If not, should we really be doing them on the Sabbath – our sabbath?

But, if we don’t do them on Sunday, we won’t have time during the week, we say. Don’t you think it’s a lot like tithing in that regard? What I mean is that God will provide for your needs whether they be money, time or whatever. As long as you are faithful, so He will be also.

We often ask people to test Him by tithing. But I don’t remember ever doing the same kind of challenge regarding time for the Sabbath. Maybe we could come up with something like our ‘money-back guarantee’ for new tithers. How about, if you really practice biblical Sabbath and get behind in your work or other essentials, we will do whatever we can to help you get caught up.

We have to do something. What I do know is that all too many of us are so caught up in doing church things that we don’t have the time or energy left to simply be with Him. As a result, our worship becomes hollow and forced – because it’s a reflection of our spiritual lives.

Let’s try this, just for today, and make it our focus of pray today. Then, we’ll maybe try it next week as well. Ask God to help you wake up refreshed on Monday morning instead of exhausted, with another half-dozen things added to your ‘to-do’ list.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 553 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/27/16 – 553 – Jesus’ Return

No, not that return – the first one! I thought that since we’ve been so long in the Old Testament, you may have been wondering when and if Jesus was ever going to come back into the stories. Actually, the entire Bible points to Him.

If you’re reading it right, you should see that everything in the Old Testament points to His coming to earth, the gospels tell of His time here as a man, and the rest of the New Testament either point back to His life and teachings while He was walking this earth, or forward to his coming again. He is throughout the text, and you cannot read it without becoming immersed in Him.

But I thought it would be nice to move into the New Testament for a while anyway. We’ll start with Matthew because hey, why not? – His book is first in line. Besides, he’s the only one who really talks about this event.

Matt 2:13-23
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

This event, which has come to be known as ‘The Massacre of the Innocents’, has come under fire in recent years, like many of Christianity’s belief’s. The problem is that the Roman historian Josephus, who is considered the most reliable non-Christian source of factual history of that day, never mentions a word about it! This is admittedly remarkable, especially in light of the way he reported so many of Herod’s other transgressions – including the execution of 3 of his own sons.

In fact, it’s not found in any written work for about 4 centuries, when Byzantine liturgical work says that about 14,000 were killed. There was another Syrian list that claimed 64,000, and a Coptic work that claimed 144,000! You’d think with numbers like that, Josephus would have at least mentioned it.

More realistic numbers put the population of Bethlehem at an estimated 1000 people at the time, so the probable number of boys 2 years old or less would have been around 6-20, and maybe another 12 in the surrounding areas. With killing so rampant, Josephus could well have ignored it in his own reporting if this were true.

I know that sounds terrible, but think about it. Have you watched the news here lately? We’ve had 463 murders in Chicago this year already – we’ve almost matched the total number of shooting victims from last year with only 2/3 of the year behind us! Another way to look at it is this: today is Day # 240 of the year, so we’re averaging almost 2 murders/day in Chicago alone – not counting surrounding areas, and with 2739 shootings well over an average of 10 shootings/day.

Here’s the question. Unless one of these affected you personally, are you even shocked by it anymore? How many of these even get their names mentioned on the news, unless the circumstances of the death were unusual or sensational – like a police shooting.

The real question for us as Christians is this: do you believe the text? Do you believe that the prophecy was fulfilled here through Herod? If so, what are you willing to do to defend your faith? Study? Argue? Debate? Surrender your entire life?

Let’s make that our prayer for today. Ask for that ‘Blessed Assurance’ that His Word truly is His Word – and the He work in us to remove any and all lingering doubt. And even if a bit pops up here and there, pray for the courage to move forward, to stay obedient anyway. Be blessed.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 552 – The Tower of Babel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/26/16 – 552 – The Tower of Babel

(Note: Sorry about all the typos yesterday – I had to do a sleep study the night before so of course, I was far from rested when I wrote the devotion. After a few more hours of sleep, I re-read it and saw how bad it was. Oh well – at least it got out there, right?)

Yesterday we finished our story of Noah and the Flood, and followed his family tree as it branched out into many nations, including that of Shem whose line eventually led to Abraham. However, before we leave Genesis, we can’t ignore one last brief but important story. We pick up here:

Gen 11:1-4
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

For me, the first question that comes to mind is the usual – why? Why build such a monstrosity? This tower so tall that it would reach all the way to heaven? Why not keep on doing what they were supposed to do – which was to multiply and fill the earth?

The answer, I think, is in verse 4 and ironically shows the same kind of conflicting emotions many of us still struggle with today. The first and most obvious is pride. They wanted to “make a name for ourselves”. The second though, may not be quite so apparent. They also wanted to “not be scattered over the face of the whole earth”. In a word, I believe that they were just insecure.

Prideful and insecure at the same time? Do those two go together? I think they do. In fact, I think a lot of people put on a false front – act as though they are the best at something, or the most prideful just to cover up their insecurities. If you can make others around you feel more insecure than you do, then they’ll be less likely to challenge you. On anything. That doesn’t seem to be a bad plan, in that it often works when dealing with people. However, it was a little different in this case.

Gen: 11:5
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel — because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
NIV

The lesson here is pretty simple. People have, and continue to try to find ways to get to heaven that are basically end-runs around God’s plan. Why? I don’t know, really. If you are obedient to Him, and live your life as He commands and teaches, you will live a better life anyway!

There are hundreds if not thousands of people out there who will teach you ‘easy’ paths to heaven, if you’ll just buy their DVD set, or give to their ‘church, or buy their books, or whatever. But the Bible is clear:

John 14:6
“ Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I almost wrote that there are no easy paths – but then it occurred to me – Jesus is the easy path. Let’s just give Him the glory due this morning, shall we? What a gift He has given us – an “easy yoke”.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 551 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/25/16 – 551 – Noah & the Great Flood

Gen 9:28-29
After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

So ends our account of Noah, but we still haven’t made it full circle back to Abram and Sarai yet. There is one more pretty well-known story missing. Let’s see if we can get there in today’s reading. As you can see from the short passage above, God still hadn’t shortened man’s lifespan. If you go on to read Genesis 10, it looks like a very dry genealogy of Noah’s family. But if you read it carefully, there are some hidden gems of knowledge sprinkled in there. I’ll try to summarize for you.

The sons (descendants) of Japheth are mentioned first. They became seafaring peoples, and so became very spread out and spoke many languages.

The descendants of Ham did indeed become the Canaanites, also the Assyrians and pretty much all of the other enemies of Israel that we hear about later on. They built cities like Babylon, Nineveh, Sodom and Gomorrah. The descendants of Shem lived in the eastern hill country. It was Shem who would eventually become the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Abram, who became Abraham after making his covenant with God.

If there is one thing that’s obvious from reading the Bible, it’s that man was very obedient when it came to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. They weren’t just raising families – they were building nations! But they weren’t being obedient in all things.

I notice as I read about the Line of Ham, for instance – everyone that we think of when we think of evil in scripture seems to have come from him, all that I already mentioned – all the ‘ites’. The Philistines, Goliath would have been part of that. Of course, those that were supposed to be on Israel’s side were no slouched at doing the wrong thing either – just look at the history of their kings!

It just seems that once we let sin take hold in our lives there are no limits to the damage it can do or the extent it will take you. Someone once said ‘Sin will take you where you never thought you’d be, and where you never wanted to go’ . Ham started by disrespecting his father. Some of us start with a little ‘innocent flirting’. Some start with a ‘little white lie’. But it’s just like a snowball – it keeps getting bigger and bigger, faster and faster until its out of control and has taken over your life – and now you don’t know how to stop it.

Others around you are getting hurt, and you still can’t stop it. Everything you have is being destroted as this monstrosity you have created rolls ever faster down an ever increasing slope – and you can’t stop it.

But I have some good news for you today. There is oone person who can. It’s not you, it’s not your dad, or your mom, or your best friend. It’s not even all of them together. It’s Jesus Christ. And all you have to do is ask.

So let’s make that our prayer for today, OK? If you are wrapped up in that snowball, or love someone who is – pray. If you’re not, pray a BIG prayer of thanks that God pulled you out before it was too late.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 550 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/24/16 – 550 – Noah & the Great Flood

Genesis 9:20-27
Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. 27 May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.”

This is the part of the story we tend not to talk about in children’s church, for some reason. But it’s one of those important parts, one of the reasons we do these ‘Bible Stories for Grownups’, right? There are a number of aspects to look at here, and as usual, a number of accusations and even some controversial viewpoints.

First off, many have suggested that our hero Noah was a nothing more than a drunk who caused the whole thing to happen. However, there’s nothing to suggest that he was habitually drunk in this or any other passage. In fact, you might recall that when we were introduced to Noah in Gen 6:9 he was called “a righteous man”, or in the King James “perfect in his generations”. So by his known history, I hardly think we can pin that label on him.

Whether or not Noah was an alcoholic would not have excused Ham’s behavior. From his walking into his father’s tent uninvited and without permission to looking at his nakedness to telling his brothers about it – everything we see shows us a great disrespect for Noah, and possibly worse. According to Wiersbe’s Bible Handbook the Hebrew word used for nakedness (‘erwat) is connected in Leviticus 18 &20 with sexual immorality, for which the Canaanites were well-known.

The stark contrast with the behavior of Ham’s brothers tells us the same story, as does Noah’s prophecy upon awakening. Shem and Japheth took great care to make sure that not only they, but no one else, would see Noah in that state again. When he woke up, Noah must have been surprised at being covered, and it probably didn’t take too long to solve the mystery.

It’s here that we read the only actual words of Noah in scripture, and they are not just an angry rant at his kid! They really are prophetic words that became all too real just a few generations later.

I often find myself wondering about kids and parents. How can the children of seemingly good or even great parents, raised as Christians, knowing what is right, go so far off track while others from what we would deem to be marginal or even bad homes turn out great? I wonder how, when God was cleansing the earth, He allowed Noah’s 3 sons to go along when He ad to know that one of them would became the father of so much evil? I mean, why look for trouble, right?

But then my thinking always has to come full circle, back to me. People look at me now and tell me what a great Christian they think I am. (I don’t feel that way a lot of the time – I feel much weaker than that). But, there was a time when not too many people would have looked at me and judged me to be that, at least from outward appearances (yet at the time I thought I was).

I can only say with certainty is this – I don’t know why. But I’m glad He does what He does. I’m glad He gives us second chances. And thirds. And fourths. And fifths. And….you get the idea. I’d be willing to bet that in all the time from the boarding of the ark to the forming of the nation of Canaan, God was hoping against hope that Ham would change his mind – repent and return to Him.

Again, it’s only that freedom of choice that gives our relationship with God any meaning at all. But it’s that same freedom in our human weakness that gives us trouble as well. Solution? Stop depending on your human strength – it is not sufficient! We need to be completely, utterly dependent on God and His strength – period. How’s that for a setup for prayer today?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 549 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/23/16 – 549 – Noah & the Great Flood

I should have done this yesterday, but I want to say thanks for your understanding and your prayers during these last couple of weeks. Maybe I should have been writing about Ezekiel’s valley full of dry bones rather than the flood – it would have fit right in! The truth is that we going through a crisis in our family that I never imagined happening, and I became physically ill on top of that, and just ran out of strength and motivation. But once again the prayers of many, but most of all the answers of One carried me through, and although it will be a long time before everything is again set right – we are on the track. Thank you again.

Anyway, yesterday we left Noah and God talking about about some new rules regarding food. Man could now eat meat – but not meat that still had blood in it. For the first time too, animals had a fear of man, and for good reason as they would now be hunted. But now we come to one of the most famous covenants between God and man in the Bible:

Gen 9:12-13
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Most of us are familiar with God’s promise that goes along with that rainbow – that He would never again destroy all the earth with a flood the way He had. Whenever a covenant was made there was a visible mark of some sort made as a signal – a reminder to people of that covenant. In our marriage ceremonies today we generally use a ring (yes, on the finger).

In Old Testament and even New Testament days it may have been a tattoo of some kind on the hand or wrist, which would be shown to strangers as they approached telling them that ther is a covenant partner who will avenge you should anything bad happen to you. Some people believe this is where the practice of waving began.

For this covenant between God and all mankind the lines at the tattoo parlor would have taken forever, so God made a rainbow instead. Notice that it’s not only intended to be a reminder for us but for God as well. The text goes on:

Verse 18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.

Now why point out that Ham was the father of the Canaanites? What was so different about him – or them? Or are we getting ahead of ourselves? Stay tuned! All I’ll say for now is that the Israelites had to come from one branch of the tree, and their enemies another, right? So, where’s the 3rd branch in all this? So many questions, so little time.

For today, let’s say a prayer of praise that God still thinks us worthy of keeping His covenant with us even though we so consistently break our end of the deal. Ask Him to send His Spirit to strengthen us so that we can live in righteousness – not having to fall to sin every day of our lives. His Word says we can do it – do you believe it?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 548 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/22/16 – 548 – Noah & the Great Flood

The rain fell for forty days and forty nights. However, Noah and his contingent were floating around for over a year! By the time the waters receded and the ground was dry enough that much time had passed. The text says that the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. This would be in what is now eastern Turkey.

According to the Bible, God told Noah and his family to leave the ark and take all the animals out as well. Needless to say, Noah was one happy guy – and he wasn’t afraid to show it!

Gen 8:20-22
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

Now, I think it’s important to remember that this was God’s promise to Himself. The promise He was about to make to Noah was just a little different, and I’ve heard a lot of argument about it over the years:

Gen 9:1-3
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

This is the first time that God specifically gave man permission to eat the flesh of animals in addition to plants – with one stipulation:

Verse 4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

Why the difference? Because here as throughout scripture, God is saying that the life is in the blood, and that life must be respected as His gift. Think about how reverently the blood is used in almost every sacrificial ceremony throughout the Old Testament. What was it that washed away our sins again? Oh yeah – the blood of Jesus! When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we drink the juice of the vine that represents the blood of the Lamb.

It was always so. From the time of the fall, an innocent life had to be sacrificed so clothing could be made to cover the shame of their nakedness. This wouldn’t have been necessary had they not sinned. Cain spilled Abel’s blood into the ground, and the ground cried out to God.

So it is with many of the things God gives us. They are ours, but not to be treated any way we see fit, or carelessly. God’s gifts must always be seen as such, treated with care and reverence, respect and love. If you received a personal gift from Princess Kate, would you toss it around till it hit the floor, leave it there for people to walk on? Yet how often we receive beautiful gifts from our King, don’t even bother to thank Him, and treat them as though they were meaningless? Then we complain when we think we deserve more.

Don’t let this happen to you. Recognize each and every gift He gives you for the precious blessing that it is. Thank Him for it, care for it. If you can, pass it along to someone who will care for it in the same way.

How about we make that our prayer for today – think of at least 3 of those gifts that you haven’t thanked Him for, and do it now.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 547 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/09/16 – 547 – Noah & the Great Flood

Gen 6:11-16

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month — on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.

 That last line gets you, doesn’t it? . “Then the Lord shut him in.”

 God didn’t wait for Noah to think about it any longer. He didn’t prolong the pain of watching as the waters began to rise. I still have this picture of Noah’s neighbors standing outside in the rain making fun of him and his family, even after witnessing the miracle of the animals coming in two by two.

We still do that today, you know. We watch miracles day after day, and rather than recognize them for what they are and give God the glory that’d rightfully His, we chalk them up to ‘science’ or coincidence – luck. I heard that a few weeks ago about the big bang and the primordial soup theory that all these chemicals got mixed a certain way and spontaneously created life, and the fact that the planets aligned perfectly to support life etc, etc, etc; and the fact that any of these things by themselves is mathematically impossible let alone all of them together. One of the top scientists supporting evolution explained it all by saying that we were just “incredibly lucky”.

What’s that? You don’t see miracles all the time? Really? Here’s the definition of a ‘miracle’ from Dictionary.com:

  1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
  2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.

Did you watch the Inner Life of a Cell video I pointed you to a few weeks ago? Have you looked at the incredibly complex chemical, electrical and physiological processes that are involved just too allow you to have an opposing thumb so that you can pick up that cup of coffee? How about the development and birth of a baby without defects?

If you can show me a human that can reproduce those events, I’ll concede that they are not miraculous. Back to Noah.

The people probably got quieter when the water got knee-high, maybe started to worry when it hit their thighs and they had to load their kids into anything that would float. Remember, these were desert dwellers for the lost part, not a lot of boats lying around. I’m guessing that by the time the last of them were sitting on the mountain peaks watching the waters rising to take them, they were thinking ‘I should have listened’. But Noah and his family saw none of that.

I think that very often God ‘shuts us in’ to protect us from the things He knows will hurt us the most. I For example, in my work as a paramedic and nurse I have seen Him prevent people from seeing the horrific images of loved ones lost in traumatic ways. He helps us to remember the things we need to heal, and shuts out those that do nothing but hurt. Sometimes we do need to deal with those too, but when we do, He’s always there with us.

I think today’s prayer is pretty simple. Let’s just thank God for His protection – for ‘shutting us in’ when we need to be. For not letting us linger at the precipice of a sinful world even though it’s because we care so deeply about the people in it.

 

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 546 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/08/16 – 546 – Noah & the Great Flood

Gen 7:1-5

The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

5 And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him. NIV

What do you suppose Noah was thinking when he heard that? ‘Well, here we are. I finished the boat, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to collect all those animals in 1 week! And how do you even tell if you have a male and a female mosquito? And why?’

I think a better question might be this: what do you suppose you would be thinking? Would you be afraid? Probably. Would you want to try to warn your friends? Most likely. Would you try to talk yourself out of believing that you really heard what you heard again?

I do know this – a lot can happen in 7 days. When you have to wait for 7 days, it can seem like an eternity. But I’m guessing that for Noah and his family, it went by pretty quickly. You see, the next part of the story in scripture actually does read like a Hollywood movie script! Noah didn’t have to go and get any animals at all. The text says that all these pairs of animals “, came to Noah and entered the ark” (v9).

I can almost imagine the look of relief on Noah’s face as all he watches all his work beginning to come to fruition, but also mixed with dread because he knows what that means for everyone else. What I can’t imagine is what his neighbors must have thought or looked like as they watched these animals from all over the world come together and board the ark. Maybe at least a few were thinking ‘oops’? Probably not.

Sadly, I honestly think that their eyes had been so blinded by sin that they didn’t accept the truth until they were neck deep – literally. I hope that the noise of the rain and the animals was loud enough to protect Noah and his family from hearing the screams for help from those outside as the water lifted the great vessel from the ground, and as it floated away in the darkness.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay true and watch others – those who you love – sink in the waters of sin. It hurts. But the truth is, it’s not your choice whether or not to rescue them. I think that’s why God has given His promise:

Rev 21:4

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” NIV

He knows that everyone we love won’t be standing at His throne in the end. Remembering and mourning forever would be forever painful. So, I think He takes care of us – forever. What we must remember while we walk in this life is to do the best we can to show the truth of Jesus Christ to others – starting with our loved ones, and pray that they make the right choices.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 545 – Church

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/07/16 – 545 – Church

Have you ever just felt like giving up?

I think that at some point, most of us have. The end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding – but just barely. Actually, it’s been one of those weeks. You know, where there’s been way too much busy-ness, with way too many problems piled on, to the point where you can hardly think, let alone pray, or write. You look forward to having a day off. Staying home just one Sunday wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Oh, to sleep in…

Or what about those times when you really can’t make a service – at least not the one you would normally attend? What do you do instead? Is it OK to take the day off? Or do you have to do something else to make sure you get your gold star in God’s big attendance book?

Well, we’ve talked about this before from various angles. The bottom line is that whether or not we are participating in a church service at any given moment, we should be worshipping God in whatever we do. Still, there’s something special about that weekly service.

It helps to focus on God. It reminds us why we live the way we live, or at least reminds us how we should be living. It should lift our eyes up from all the busy-ness towards heaven. It should give us hope. That’s a great service! We know it’s important that we attend as often as possible, right?

 Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. NIV

Yes, we can listen to a service on the radio or watch one on TV or the internet. We can even actively participate in those services by praying with the people as they pray and singing when they sing (instead of running for a sandwich or coffee). But in the two short verses above, look at what we’ve missed.

Has anyone ‘spurred you on’ or encouraged you to love more – to do good more things? In short, to become a better, stronger Christian? Have you felt strengthened and supported by them after this oh-so-tough week? Flip it around – How many of those people on the screen have been encouraged in the same way just knowing that you are out there watching them (even if they did)? Yes, we both know the answers – they were rhetorical questions.

The reality of our lives is that occasionally things do come up that necessitate our absence from the services we would normally attend. People get sick, family crises happen etc. But my warning for you is this – Satan always attacks when we are at our weakest. We are weakest when we are farthest away from our support systems.

If you absolutely can’t make it – fill that time with personal contact – read your Bible, pray, listen to sermons or participate in a broadcast sermon. They aren’t bad – just not as good as being there. If you’ve fallen into the trap of staying out of church for whatever reason, you are living in a very dangerous place, spiritually speaking.

Find the church God wants you to be in – and start attending. Will it be perfect? No – it’s filled with imperfect people. Might someone say something ignorant and offend you? Yep – same reason! Might the preacher say something that you don’t like or agree with? Of course. If it’s biblical, take it to heart and thank him. If not, send him a well thought out note or make an appointment to discuss it.

Whatever you do – don’t stay away too long. We need you. Really.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 544 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/06/16 – 544 – Noah & the Great Flood

Gen 6:13

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.

 I would say that God was pretty clear with Noah, wouldn’t you? Once again, I would love to ask 100 questions – like what did Noah do first, how did people react when he told them etc? But sadly, we are npt given the opportunity, and really, I don’t believe that Noah was either. I know there are plenty of movies that tell of him trying to talk to people and get them to repent, but scripture really shows us none of that.

Remember, if people hadn’t been completely corrupted, God would not have been pushed into such extreme destructive measures in the first place. So you might notice that God didn’t tell Noah to go out and warn the people. He didn’t order Noah to give them a deadline to repent or else. He simply announced that their time was up.

But even so, He was going to save a few to give the earth a fresh start – a new chance. He had chosen Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. Call me cynical, but I’ve always thought that maybe part of the problem, the reason mankind fell back into sin so quickly after the flood, was not that Noah himself wasn’t a righteous man – the text tells us he was. But it says nothing about the spiritual state of the rest of the family.

Evangelist Corrie Ten Boom, who was famous for surviving the Nazi prison camps in WWII after helping hundreds of Jews escape occupied Holland, used to say “God has no grandchildren.” That’s true. The Bible never mentions any. It only ever talks about the ‘children’ of God. Something to think about. What does that mean for us?

We can’t be saved for our children. As much as we love them, our faith will not carry them to heaven. We can and should teach them all we can, lay the foundation as best we can. But ultimately it’s up to them. They get to make the same decisions as you and I. Not fair, you say? Well, look at it like this. Our faith can’t get them to heaven, but neither can our lack of faith condemn them to hell.

No, whatever work Noah may have had as a prophet was done. Now he was simply a ‘DIYer’.

Gen 6:14-22

14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark — you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

I’ve often asked myself – if God gave me these instructions, could I drop everything and get busy? Or would I talk myself into believing that they were the result of last night’s bad pizza or my own imagination, or simply procrastinate until it was too late? I think the key is in recognizing God’s voice when you hear it, so that when He tells you something this important you can be certain it’s Him. And the key in that is to not only speak to Him often, but to listen for His response.

Today when you pray, give Him equal time. Just sit in silence and allow Him time to speak to you. You’ll be amazed at how hard that is to do. But you’ll also be surprised at how wonderful it is when you finally, assuredly hear His voice.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 543 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/05/16 – 543 – Noah & the Great Flood

Well, I see you’re still here, eh? Then you’ve made the right decision! I’m glad! Anyway, now that we have the background material behind us, we can begin the actual story.

Gen 6:9This is the account of Noah.Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

I have always thought that the simplest statements are usually the ones that carry the most impact. (Soooo, right now you’re asking why I write so many long run-on sentences? All I can say is this: please don’t give me a hard time–I haven’t had my coffee yet)

I think that if I could have God say just one thing about me besides “I love you”, that would be it. “He was righteous”. “Blameless”. That says so much about the man Noah, does it not? Yet, we can throw it all away in one fell swoop with the pen of a Hollywood screenwriter.

That simple statement says even more when we consider the next two.

Verses 11-12

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways

Again we see the broad generalizations, the sweeping overviews that take in all people and tell us of the totality of their depravity. We look around us today and see the battle against evil raging. There was no battle then. It was over, and good had lost. Not only was the battle over, but the war between good and evil was about to end.

I can picture the commanders of the two armies in their headquarters. Satan in some lavish palace that He had taken from some poor soul – much like Hitler during WWII. I see him with His feet up on a priceless old table, drinking champagne from a beautiful crystal glass that was once used by some great high priest, then smashing it into the fireplace in premature celebration of his apparent victory. He had but one skirmish left to win, and that against an old man and his small family. No problem. Either He would win it or Noah would be dead soon, after that his sons would soon succumb to pressure to be like everyone else. Then the world would be his.

Then, I picture God, heartbroken but knowing what He must do. His heartbreak comes not from defeat, He has known all along that He would never know that state. His heartbreak is for the loss of those He created and loved as His own children, who turned away from Him and must now be cut off. It is for the beautiful earth He fashioned out of nothing, which now must also be destroyed.

President Harry S. Truman was the one who made the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to end WWII. I imagine God’s heartbreak might have been similar to what Truman might have felt – if he had had to drop the bomb not on Japan but instead on Lamar, Missouri – his hometown.

Once again we see a God who is not the angry, vindictive ‘Old Testament God’ that we keep hearing about, but a merciful, loving Father God Who does everything He can to turn people away from evil for hundreds if not thousands of years before He resorts to drastic measures. Why? Because He loves us that much.

Still, there comes a point when our sin nature – our self-centeredness starts affecting others and hurting them. That’s the point at which our ‘right’ to do as we please ends. That’s the point at which we begin to force God’s hand – He can either allow us (and through our evil and rebellion, Satan) to take over His world and destroy His innocent children, or He can step in and stop it.

00Let me ask you a simple question. If it were a bully threatening your innocent child or your home – what would you do? Today, let’s ask God how we can help Him (for a change) in this battle?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 542 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/04/16 – 542 – Noah & the Great Flood

Gen 6:5-8

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth — men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air — for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

How quickly we go from God looking at His creation and seeing that it was good to looking at the pinnacle of His creation and seeing that he was purely wicked. This man (not any individual man, but mankind) that He loved so much had completely turned away from Him, willingly chosen to live in disobedience to Him.

To understand verse 5, you should know that although there are a number of Hebrew words for ‘heart’, the one used here was libow [lay-bough], which had a broad definition meaning the will, intellect, feelings – pretty much the center of the being. Why is this so important? Because it changes the meaning so much.

God wasn’t grieved because of what men were doing – He was grieved because of who they had become! The next part of the verse ‘on the earth’ tells us that the problem was universal. In other words, not just some people, not just most people, but all people. “Every inclination” meant more – not just some of the time, not just most of the time, but all of the time. Except for one.

What has always amazed me about this entire story is that in the actual reading we find the exact opposite picture of God as the one I’ve always heard about (and by the way, continue to hear about). People seem always to talk about an angry, vengeful God who could not or would not control His temper, and just because people were exercising the freedom that He gave them, He killed all of them.

But that’s not the God we’re reading about here, is it? The God we see here is a heartbroken, grieving Father whose children have gone far astray. They have gone where they have gone freely, and have no desire to return. They know the evil they have done and are doing, and they are not remorseful in the least. They know the wrong and the harm they are doing, yet they are teaching their children to do the same or worse. And because He has given them that freedom to choose, the Father is broken. Hurting.

Some of you might understand a little bit, especially if you’ve raised kids who have gone ‘off the reservation’. At this point, God was really faced with only 3 choices that I can see.

  1. He could have just let things go and disappeared. Walked away and let Satan have the world that He created. That would have been great for us, right?
  2. He could have wiped out everyone liked we spoke of when Adam & Eve first disobeyed – started with a clean slate. But then we have the same problem, don’t we? That pretty much negates free will for us.
  3. He could have salvaged the remnant that was still good and given us another chance. A chance to start over and do things right. As we know, this was His choice. Noah and his family would be that remnant.

Why does an all-knowing God keep allowing us to start over, giving us chance after chance when He has to know we will fail Him? I think it’s for the same reason we parents give our children multiple chances to do things right. We may know that chances are they’ll make the bad choice, but we keep trying to teach them the lesson and give them another shot, hoping that they’ll make the right one next time.

God’s still waiting for some of us to make that choice today, isn’t He? It might be you, or it might be a family member, a neighbor. Today might be the day they need to hear that lesson from you. It might be something as simple as this – God isn’t an angry, vengeful God at all. But He does love us enough that His heart gets broken because of the things we do, the people we become.

Let’s pray about that today, OK? Who is it that God wants you to reach today?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 541 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/03/16 – 541 – Noah & the Great Flood

 

OK, as you probably all noticed yesterday, I made a mistake. There are really 2 more stories before we run back into Abram and Sarai. These are the story of Noah and the story of the Tower of Babel. This is a short but important one, and if you all behave I’ll even tell you the right way to pronounce ‘Babel’ when we get to it!

I saw one of those sad but funny videos about a week ago, a man-on-the-street interview in which people were asked in they believed that Noah was a real person and whether the story told about him was true. Many of them said that they didn’t believe he ever was a real person, because a fish couldn’t really swallow a man whole like that. Others said that it was just a story designed to scare kids into being good. Some said things like ‘It’s a story. I can’t believe in a god who would do such horrible things.’ I’ve heard similar ones in the past in which people thought Joan was Noah’s wife. Think about it – it’ll come.

To those of us who know the story and believe in the Bible as God’s Word, some of the responses may draw a chuckle at first. Then, we feel guilty as we think about how lost is the person who is making that remark. They have either never heard, ignored, or rejected God’s Word completely. No matter which, it’s no laughing matter.

The really sad part is that we can’t help those that reject Him, or truthfully, even those that are ignoring Him. Those 2 things are pretty much the same. But we can help those that have never heard – if we know the stories and if we have a foundational knowledge of the Bible. Hmmm… Maybe that should be our next one – the story of the Bible itself. What do you think? Anyway…

Gen 6:1-4

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days — and also afterward — when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

Saturday I wrote that the 120 years referred to in verse 3 meant that our lifespan would be decreased from the 800 plus years that many were living before that time. However, there are some that believe that this was meant more as a warning – a sort of countdown to the flood. Regardless, after the flood, men no longer lived anywhere near as long as they did before, so you decide. Maybe it was both.

Verse 4 is the intriguing one here. Who were the Nephilim [NEFF ih lem]? They are only mentioned one other place in the Bible, in Numbers 13:33. It was the name used by the Israelite scouts who had gone into the promised land to check it out, and came back so afraid of the giants (Nephilim) there that the people chose to disobey God and not enter, which of course resulted in their wandering in the desert for another 40 years.

The word itself doesn’t mean ‘giants’, though. It actually means ‘fallen ones’, which has led to some interesting interpretations. Some theologians have taken it to mean that these are fallen angels who have come to earth, been attracted to the human women they saw, married as many as they wanted, had many children by them and in so doing, spread much more evil into the world. There are a lot of problems with this theory, not the least of which is that angels are asexual beings – they are gender neutral. Which is fixed in theory #2.

Theory #2 says that these fallen angels, not having bodies of their own, inhabited or possessed human bodies to do all the things stated above. Because of their great powers, the people they possessed often became the great rulers, kings and warriors of the world. There are still problems with this theory also, as some of these people would have had to survive the Flood, or the demonic angel would have had to invade a second time afterward.

Myself, I like theory #3. That’s the one in which God saw these people as ‘fallen ones’, they were a race of rather large people whose genes were carried on down to some of the Philistines (as in Goliath), but people saw them as great and powerful heroes and rulers.

Whatever they were, they obviously cared nothing for God or His laws. For this reason, they obviously played a major role in bringing society to a point where only 8 people were ‘rescuable’, and even they were far from perfect, as we’ll find out later on. Yet God still saved them.

He could have wiped the slate clean and started over. But He didn’t. He could have just saved some babies – pure and innocent. But He didn’t. So many choices. Yet, He chose us. Now it’s our turn to choose Him, today and every day. And that, my friends, is your prayer for today.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 540 – Noah & the Great Flood

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/02/16 – 540 – Noah and the Flood

Well, today I guess we’ll say goodbye to Cain and his clan, as the text moves on to the next story which is ???? You, over there in the back. That’s right, the story of Noah. Now this is what I’m thinking. Let’s keep going in Genesis and work through that story, which will bring us back to the story of Abram. I’m sure you all remember that we already studied Abram and Sarai just about 1 year ago. You can download or review it here if you like, or go to dear-kids.com and click on ‘Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups’, then click on ‘Abraham & Sarah’.

Since they have us convinced we live in a democracy, we’ll take a vote. All in favor say aye? All opposed say nay. The imaginary ‘ayes’ have it! How about that – just as reliable as a real election process!

Joking aside, if the Spirit has been putting something on your heart that you would like us to work on, please let me know. If not, please make it a matter of prayer. At this moment I’m thinking maybe something from the New Testament, but I’m really not sure yet. The only stories we’ve done from the NT are the Christmas story and Paul’s story. But there are plenty more in the Old yet as well. Please give me some feedback in the next week or so on this. Thank you.

Back to Genesis. In Gen 5:27 we learn that Methuselah lived 969 years, longer than anyone else we know of. He and his wife had Lamech (remember Lamech?) when he was 187! By years you might think he was old when he became a father, but by percentages – he was just in his prime! Lamech, flowing in dad’s footsteps, had a son when he was 182. He named the boy Noah. (he did have other children after Noah, but their names are not given. Lamech only lived to be 777, but at least he was around long enough to see his grandchildren, Noah’s 3 sons. Noah had his 3 boys when he was 500 years old! Somehow, I don’t think people aged the same way we do back then – and we don’t have to wait long to find out why.

Gen 5:32-6:3

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

 6 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” NIV

When we think about the Great Flood, God wiping away all humanity from the face of the earth, we shudder that He would feel that such a radical move is necessary. But consider the drastic disciplinary and preventative measures He tried before He got to that point. It seems that men were using their long life spans to become more and more evil instead of more godly. It often seems to me as I look back on my life that there just wasn’t time to learn the lessons that I needed to learn, let alone to really act on them.

Now that I’m on the downhill side, I’m trying desperately to put some of the most important ones in this book (and website) so that they might get a head start. At the same time, I do this knowing in my heart that I may well be wasting my time, at least with some of them. They’ll never crack the cover.

I think that must be just a little bit how God felt. He gave us life, and that in abundance. The first thing we did was to disobey Him. The very next generation was so controlled by the same sin nature that murder was committed with no remorse. Within a few more, the evil within had taken over to the point that it controlled His entire creation. Can you imagine creating something beautiful only to have someone else take control of it and use it for his or her own evil purposes? I think of great scientists whose discoveries, the result of a life’s work meant to help mankind, were turned into horrifying weapons of mass destruction.

If we could take away one lesson from this short passage today, I think it would be this – there are limits to God’s patience. Just because He is all-loving does NOT mean He has to accept everything everyone does. In fact, it pretty much means the opposite. It means He loves us too much to allow the evil in this world to go on forever. He has set the limits. He has set the time. He has given us the choice.

The rest is up to us. And there’s your prayer for today. Will you be a part of God’s plan? Or will you be one that’s left back when the time comes either for evil to be purged from the earth, or simply one that’s not ready when He calls you home? It really doesn’t matter, you know. The preparation is the same. We all just need to be ready – every moment, every day.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 539 – Cain & Abel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

08/01/16 – 539 – Cain & Abel

Gen 4:22-24

22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

 “Adah and Zillah, listen to me;

wives of Lamech, hear my words.

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for injuring me.

24 If Cain is avenged seven times,

then Lamech seventy-seven times.” NIV

Saturday we talked about the similarity in names between the descendants of Adam on Seth’s side and those on Cain’s side. But there is still more to this passage, we need to take one more look at it before we can finish up our story.

Looking ahead into the genealogy in Chapter 5, we learn that Enoch was the 7th in line from Adam on Seth’s side. Lamech was the 7th in line on Cain’s.

There’s a great contrast shown between the 2 men. In the brief passage above, we get a glimpse into Lamech’s heart – what kind of man he was. Apparently there are several ways to interpret these verses, but here’s one I find most interesting, and it seems to make the most sense. It is very likely that some of the ‘tools’ made by Lamech’s son Tubal-Cain were the first metal weapons. This would have given anyone in his family a great advantage in any fight.

Lamech may have been showing off his weapons, or simply boasting to his wives about what he had done He seems pretty sure that God would protect him. After all, Cain had murdered Abel in cold blood, Lamech had killed someone in self-defense, right? So what’s the problem? Once again I’ll quote Wiersbe:

“The Hebrew verbs can be translated in the future tense: “I will slay anyone who wounds me and will not need God’s protection, for with these weapons I can avenge myself seventy-seven fold!” Seen in this light, it is the first expression of arrogant defiance and warfare in the Bible.”(from Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament © 1993 by Victor Books/SP Publications. All rights reserved.)

Whoa. On the other hand, Enoch (Noah’s great-grandpa) was a godly man. He was so close to God, in fact, that he ended up being one of only 2 men in history that never had to die, but were taken directly to heaven by God!

Gen 5:21-24

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. NIV

Our lesson to be learned from Enoch is laid out for us clearly later on:

Heb 11:5-6

5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. NIV

So what was the difference between Enoch’s faith and that of Lamech? Obviously Lamech believed in God as well – in his arrogance he believed that God would somehow have to protect him after what he had done. The answer is in the rest of verse 6 – “he rewards those who earnestly seek him”.

 What does it mean to earnestly seek Him? It means to follow Him as closely as possible, with your whole heart and mind. It means to be obedient to His commands and His teachings. It means to surrender your entire life to Him, to let His Spirit take total control, and never take it back. It means to love Him as the Father, Son, and Spirit – as Savior and as Lord of your life – all day, every day.

Clear enough? ‘Earnestly’ is a BIG word, isn’t it? Too big for us to handle on our own. Good thing He’s willing to help us, if we would just ask Him, right? So, what are you waiting for? Go and ask Him.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 538

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/31/16 – 538

Theologian A.W. Tozer had this to say about worshipping God:

“If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship him on one day a week.”

What do think about that? Agree? Disagree? Does this mean we have to go to church 7 days a week?

Not at all. Just in case you haven’t picked up on it, and I’ve been so lax as to not make the point, man’s main reason for being here since we were created has been to worship God – every day, in everything we do. In our culture, we have traditionally set aside Sundays as our ‘church day’. Unfortunately, in doing that, we’ve ended up relegating our worship time to not only that day, but the hour or so that we’re actually in a worship service.

We compartmentalize our lives. We separate our work lives from our family lives, our social lives from our spiritual lives. And mostly, that’s OK. The problem is that we can’t separate the spiritual part from any other – because that is who we really are, and so we carry it with us wherever we go.

A person simply can’t be a Christian for an hour a week, and spend the rest of the week ignoring the teachings of Jesus. But don’t just take my word for it:

1 John 2:1-8

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

 3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

 7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. NIV

As Christians we cannot ignore corporate worship – the gathering together with other believers. I know some of you don’t attend church on a regular basis. Maybe you’ve been hurt by a church. That happens, I’ll grant you. But you haven’t been hurt by Christ – and all of His churches are NOT the same. Maybe you’re just too busy on Sunday mornings. Well, there are plenty of churches now that offer Saturday or even weekday services.

The point is simply – obedience. Every minute, every day, in everything you do. Whether you’re at church, at home, at work. Alone or with friends or in a crowd of strangers. Obedience to Christ.

This is true worship, isn’t it? And isn’t today a good day to start?

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 537 – Cain & Abel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/30/16 – 537 – Cain & Abel

Gen 4:19-22

19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

 As we read the history of Cain’s family, we see several things. First, the wanderings of a nomadic people descended from Lamech. Do you recall that they were sent to live in the land of Nod, ast of Eden? The name ‘Nod’ comes from a word meaning ‘restless wanderer. The rest seemed to do well as they became musicians and metalworkers, artisans and craftsman. They did well that is, until you consider that it was all material, earthly things. We have to ask the question – how was their relationship with God?

 

 Verses 23-24

23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;

wives of Lamech, hear my words.

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for injuring me.

24 If Cain is avenged seven times,

then Lamech seventy-seven times.” NIV

Unfortunately, the example given us in Lamech tells us that it didn’t take but a few generations for Cain’s line to get so far away from God that they didn’t even feel guilt about committing murder any more! Lamech is actually bragging about it, and instead of seeing God’s mercy in protecting Cain from people who might want to seek revenge, he is demanding that God basically become his personal bodyguard. It’s no more than a joke to him.

In the meantime, things were happening on the other side of the family as well.

Gen 4:25-26

25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord. NIV

I’ll let you read chapter 5 for yourself. It’s the record of Seth’s family tree, and if you do, you’ll see that similarity in names that I mentioned earlier. The Bible Exposition Commentary maks an excellent point about that. It says this:

Genesis 4:16-24

What does this similarity in names mean? Perhaps it’s God’s way of telling us that the godless line of Cain (which is still with us) does its best to imitate the godly line of Seth. After all, Satan is the counterfeiter. He can imitate the names of the true believers, but he can’t produce the believers. There’s an Enoch in both genealogies, but Cain’s Enoch didn’t walk with God and one day disappear and go to heaven! (v. 24) “What’s in a name?” Nothing, if you don’t know and belong to the Lord!

 In this commentary, Wiersbe points out the tragedy of the 2 lines coming back together and the one corrupting the other – until it got to the point where there were only 8 righteous people left on the face of the earth!

We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. For today, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to see through Satan’s many imitations that are out there right now ready to trick us and bring us into sin. That He would help us to realize that the only way we are immune is to stay within His power – none of us is strong enough to keep all the evil surrounding us (and within us) at bay under our own strength.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 536 – Cain & Abel

Before you say anything, I know you already got this by accident a few days ago. I just figured I’d send it again on the right day just to keep us all on track.  Pastor John

 

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

07/29/16 – 536 – Cain & Abel

Whatever the reason, God decided to show Cain mercy after he killed Abel. Have you thought about why He may have done that that as you went through your day? After all, Cain was pretty much unrepentant. He never said he was sorry, or even showed remorse. The obvious punishment for the crime would have been ‘an eye for an eye’, wouldn’t it? Cain’s life for Abel’s. Yet that’s not what God chose to do.

Instead, he made Cain and his descendants wanderers (nomads) who would always be scrounging from the land for enough food to live on. This was a stark contrast to what things were like before. Remember, Cain had likely been a farmer (his sacrifice had been “fruits of the soil”). So, he would no longer be able to follow the calling that God gave him even to support his family or be a contributing member of God’s creation. Still, probably better than a death sentence.

Well, the Bible never does come out and tell us in so many words why God decided to be so merciful. Yet why do we need to look so deeply for a reason? Isn’t God’s love enough? I believe that God’s heart had already been broken when Adam & Eve had decided to be disobedient, and more so when Cain killed his brother. I believe His heart was broken not only for Abel (whose spirit was now apparently back with God), but for Cain, whose disobedience had changed the course of history for so many generations.

Before we move on, it’s also important to note verse it’s also important Gen 4:15, in which God promised “15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”

 Skipping to verse 17, we read a synopsis of the genealogy and brief history of Cain’s line. Now wait, before you groan, let me assure you there are some really important and interesting things to be learned from this one.

Gen 4:17-22

17 Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.

 Does anything jump out at you yet? How about the fact that although they were supposed to be wanderers, Cain built a city and named it after his first son? The speculation is that this may have been just to prove that he could. The sad part is that as the Bible Exposition Commentary points out, an earthly city is the only kind the unrepentant Cain will ever see.

The other thing is the similarity in names with other more familiar Bible names, like Methuselah. In fact, (spoiler alert) in a few more verses Adam & Eve will have another son named Seth. Seth will be a godly man, and when we put Cain’s line next to Seth’s, the name similarity becomes remarkable. Yet in every case, the best that Satan can do with the godless line oif Cain is to produce poor imitations – counterfeits of the men that God can produce.

Isn’t that one of our biggest problems as Christians today – ‘counterfeit’ Christians? People who claim to be believers and followers of Jesus, but are not? These are the people who want to be known as Christians when it’s beneficial for them, like many politicians right after a tragedy, but have no use for Christ in their lives otherwise.

It is those who claim Jesus as their Savior but refuse to allow Him to be their Lord. It’s the ones who think it’s enough to proclaim their faith by forwarding every Facebook post or email about Jesus but won’t attend a worship service or witness personally to a neighbor.

When you get to heaven and stand before Jesus one day, do you honestly picture Him saying “Hold on a sec’”, while He checks your Facebook status?

Jesus has said it simply – the one who loves Him is the one who obeys Him and lives according to His teachings. How simple is that? We can talk/email/forward all we want. But if we don’t live our faith, well… Let’s pray today for conviction. If we are not all that He wants us to be, ask for His strength and guidance to help us to become the person that really is pleasing to Him.