Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Making a Choice"

This Sunday two teams will play for a football championship in the Super Bowl.  Interestingly, the victor will have experienced some losses throughout the season.  This is somewhat like the Christian life and spiritual warfare.  We sometimes lose battles, but in the end Jesus wins the war!  Sometimes our spiritual losses come as a result of making a poor choice. 

Lot is confirmed in the Scriptures as a righteous man, but his choice in Genesis 13 proved costly.  He chose to live near the very sinful inhabitants of Sodom because the area was beneficial agriculturally.  He experienced such success in the region that he ended up sitting at the gate of Sodom.  This typically meant he had become a leader in the community.  Sadly, though he apparently gained wealth and fame, Lot spiritually spiraled downward.  He was tormented by the sinful behavior all around him but was reluctant to leave even when warned of God's angels to do so.  He had a very sad reaction under pressure in regard to his daughters, seemed to have no effective testimony with his future son-in-laws, and ended up fathering two sons in a most heartbreaking way.

Yet, he is a righteous man.  Incredibly, Lot proves that his righteousness was God's doing, not his own.  Also, God had mercy upon him to deliver him from Sodom's judgment despite his spiritual struggles.  Sometime we too can make very wrong choices and suffer severe spiritual defeats even as believers.  How thankful we can be that despite our struggles and failures the righteousness and relentless love of God carry us to ultimate victory through Christ Jesus!

See you Sunday!

  1. Who was Lot's uncle?  Genesis 12:4,5.  Does being the relative of a person committed to God guarantee spiritual success? 

  1. Study Genesis 13:10-13. What might concern you about Lot's choice? 

  1. Study Genesis 13:14-18.  Though Abram seems to have gotten the lesser benefit from Lot's choice, how do things turn out for him?  Are there any lessons for us in this? 

  1. To Lot's credit -who does he welcome and attempt to protect?  Genesis 19:1-8 

  1. Look at all the sadness surrounding the daughters of Lot.  Genesis 19:8,14,30-36 

  1. How does the Bible give us encouragement about the grace of God to Lot despite his spiritual defeats?  Deuteronomy 2:9; Ruth 2:21; 4:13,21,22; Matthew 1:1, 5; 2 Peter 2:9 

  1. Read this verse about making a right choice.  Joshua 24:15


Friday, January 25, 2013

Taking the Name

We continue our study of the evidence of spiritual warfare this week by moving only a few generations from Noah to the plains of Shinar (what is today the territory of Iraq).  Here primeval history reaches its fruitless climax as man, conscious of his new abilities and bolstered by the common grace of God, prepares to glorify and fortify himself through his collective effort.  What we find here in chapter 11 are the timeless characteristics of the spirit of Lucifer and the systems of this world that he promulgates.

 It is surprising that so many Bible commentators pass right over Genesis 11.  Most move from the conclusion of the flood narrative right to the call of Abraham.  But in doing so they miss another striking portrait of the evil imaginations of the human heart.

 The story of the tower of Babel comes on the heels of God’s reiteration of the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  He tells Adam and Eve to do that.  He tells Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law to do that.  And yet, in the space of a chapter and a half we find the descendents of Noah refusing to follow the will of God, opting rather to follow their own will.  But this is hardly surprising.  Any careful reading of the Scriptures shows that God has tested man under every conceivable condition and found him wanting.  Even in our day there are those who think that bettering man’s environment will help him; they forget the environment of Eden.  Others think that education will save man, forgetting that knowledge was received in the Fall and that conscience failed to keep man righteous.  Still others think that some human collective like the United Nations can enforce righteousness in the world, but those conditions exist here on the plains of Shinar spurring not righteousness, but rebellion.  Thus, the Bible does not teach that man fell once in Eden, but that man always falls when confronted with fresh conditions that are calculated to reveal what he truly is.

As we have seen in previous weeks, the clue to every action is whether it proceeds from the will of man or the will of God.  Man in his rebellion, like Lucifer, says, “Let us”; man in his submission says, “Thy will be done.”

 Put your hands out in front of you, palms down as though you’re grasping something.  That’s the attitude of taking.  And that’s the attitude we see here.  Now turn your hands over, palms up.  That’s the attitude of receiving, and it’s that attitude that God tells will lead to comfort and rest.

 Perhaps the whole key to life’s story lies in saying, “Lord, do it all.”  The terrible thing about the latter prayer is that God does let man do what he wants to do, and the result is failure and frustration.  We see that in Adam.  We see that in Cain, we see that in the first Lamech, and we see that here in the descendents of Noah.  But as the writer of Proverbs says, “God’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all His paths are peace.”  Rather than taking God’s name and submitting to His will, they do like Lucifer seeking to make a name for themselves.

 In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Taking the Name”, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Note the significance of the direction “east” in the Scriptures.

2.      What do you make of correspondence between Genesis 4:17 and Genesis 11:4?

3.      Who is Nimrod and what role does he play in this account (Genesis 11:1-9)?

4.      What is the nature of this tower that they begin building?

5.      Why does the writer give us the building material detail in verse 3?

6.      What is the relationship between the tar (bitumen) and the tar Noah applies to the ark?

7.      What’s the significance of God “coming down” in verses 5 & 7?  Can you think of any other Scriptural examples of God coming down?

8.      What is God saying by confusing their speech?

9.      The words, “let us make a name” are one word in Hebrew – Shem.  What does this tell you about their sin?

10.  How does the story of Babel, mirror your story?  How is God’s judgment here a foreshadowing of His plan of redemption?

See you Sunday!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

In the Days of Noah

This week we continue looking at the “Evidence of Conflict” between Satan and God Almighty.  Someone has said, “Our lives are not properly understood until there’s an appreciation of the conflict waged by Satan against God.”  It’s a conflict in which every one of us is engaged whether we like it or not; and Jesus knows it.  In the final week of His earthly ministry Jesus turns to His disciples and says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19.  He’s warning of the realities of the conflict.

When I was in high school in Virginia the Charismatic Renewal was in full bloom.  High school and college students from across our area were being regenerated by the power of God and filled with the Holy Spirit with a wide variety of evidence of radical change.  Some, without provocation, piled books and records together and burned them.  Others left behind drugs and alcohol.  Still others redirected their career plans and moved in the direction of full-time Christian ministry.  But I’ll never forget what one guy did.  Possessing excellent artistic skills he took automotive paint and painted the following words on both back panels of his GTO:  “In this world you will have tribulation.  But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33.  Though I didn’t fully appreciate his selection of verses back then, I certainly do now.  Indeed, the condition of the world in the early 1970s seems quite tame when compared to what we face today.

Sunday’s text puts us squarely into the jaws of Satan’s frontal assault against God and His creation.  In less than three chapters Satan has conspired not only to fuel the wickedness of every human heart, but directed his demonic henchmen to breed with the daughters of men.  We often sing, “These are the days of Elijah,” and indeed they are.  All around us today we see dry bones being resurrected to newness of life.  And yet, like Noah, we are also living in the days of Noah where satanic forces run roughshod and God’s promises seem shaky.  That’s why this text is so important.  It provides us a clear picture of how God determined before Lucifer’s fall to gain the absolute, eternal victory.  It’s the strategy to be employed whenever you’re living in the days of Noah.

In preparation for Sunday’s message “In the Days of Noah” you may wish to consider the following:

1.      How is human pride an assault on God’s sovereignty?

2.      What is the purpose of juxtapositioning the Enoch and Lamech of chapter 4 with the Enoch and Lamech of chapter 5?

3.      What is the meaning of the name Lamech?

4.      What danger is there in the sons of God marrying the daughters of men?

5.      What is the reason for Enoch to name his son Methuselah?

6.      How is Methuselah one of the greatest illustrations of divine grace in the Scriptures?

7.      How is 369 years more important than 969 years?

8.      What is the foundation of Noah’s righteousness?

9.      In what ways does Noah demonstrate faith in God?

10.  What does God mean in Genesis 6:3?

11.  Why cover the ark with tar on the inside and outside?

12.  How is Jesus like Noah and the church like the ark?

See you Sunday – come hell or high water!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Walking the Walk"

Welcome back to our sermon series Jesus Wins as we continue to learn about spiritual warfare.  Last year's sermons took us back beyond the beginning to where spiritual warfare started - Heaven.  After Lucifer's rebellion and God's judgment on him, the Bible records the continued battle here on earth.  We have seen the satanic attack against Adam and Eve as well as Cain and Abel. Thankfully God promises (Genesis 3:15) and provides (Genesis 4:5) victory!

 We now come to the example of Enoch.  In a world where Satanic influence had brought spiritual ingratitude and ignorance (Romans 1:21), moral corruption (Genesis 6:5) and persecution of the righteous (1 John 3:12), Enoch stands as a model of spiritual victory.  In addition to proclaiming God's message and pleasing God (that was said of Christ as well) he is said to have "walked with God"!  This ultimately led to God translating him out of this life without dying!

Walking with God speaks to me of humble companionship.  That is what God sought in the very beginning with man (Genesis 3:8).  It is what He requires (Micah 6:8) and it is what pleases Him.  It reminds me of the Aesop Fable about the Tortoise and the Hare.  The Hare was fast but through pride and procrastination lost the race while the Tortoise plodded to victory.  So spiritual victory can come by the grace of God to those who keep walking faithfully with Him!  Walk on!

See you Sunday.

1. Study Genesis 5.  What is different about Enoch from all the others in this chapter?

2. Study Hebrews 11.  What is similar about Enoch with all the others in this chapter?

3. Who was Enoch's son?  Genesis 5:21

4. Do you think there is any special significance to the word "after" in Genesis 5:22?

5. What similarity do we see between Enoch and the Lord Jesus Christ? 
     Hebrews 11:5; Matthew 3:17

6. What similarity do we find between Enoch, Elijah and certain believers?  Hebrews 11:5;       
      II Kings 2:1, 11; I Corinthians 15:51

7. A key to spiritual victory is boldness - note the bold stand of Enoch in a wicked world. 
     Jude vv.14, 15.  Who gives us spiritual boldness? 2 Timothy 1:7


Friday, January 4, 2013

"Your Example Matters"

The ball has dropped, a new year has begun.  I hope your 2013 will be filled with blessings.  
The question this week as we prepare for Sunday is:  Does your example matter?  Or, put another way, does your character matter?   I could easily say your character defines your life.    As I sit here and look at my own life and the people who influenced me the most, it’s not so much their words as it is their example. 

In I Samuel 16:7 the Lord says to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things men look at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”.   Paul says to the Corinthians, "Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you in the holiness and sincerity that are from God.  We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.  In I Timothy 4:12 Paul says “Set an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”   Paul knew that each of us is being watched by others, that we are an example to those we rub shoulders with, and that our actions either support or negate our words.
What does a good example get you?  It’s probably only one thing.  A good example gives credence to your words.  The writers of the Heidelberg Catechism say it this way:

 Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A.       That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.    He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.  He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven, in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

 Q.  What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

     A.       Three things:
               first, how great my sin and misery are;

   second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
   third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

Setting a good example is the call of God on your life because of what He’s done for you and to you.   It’s how we show we are thankful for such deliverance.  He died that you could have life and be free from the power of sin in and on your life.  He then clothed you in His righteousness.   He imputed it to you as if it was your very own. He then gave you the Holy Spirit who dwells in you and empowers you to live for Him. You cannot do it on your own; your righteousness does not come from you. It comes from Him.  He calls you, he empowers you, and he changes you to be more in the image of His Son.  
 So my example doesn’t save me.  It doesn’t make me more righteous.  However, if I am made righteous and the Holy Spirit dwells in me, my example and character should reflect it.   It’s like one of the people who influenced me said, “You’re a saint, live like one.”   You’re free, as the song puts it, free to run, free to dance, and free to live for Him.  See you Sunday as we talk about our example.

1.      Who in your life are you most like?

2.      Who do you look for when you need an example?

3.      What does Paul mean when he says in Philippians 2:12, work OUT your salvation?   (Notice he doesn’t say work FOR it.)

4.      If you get the chance, memorize Colossians 3:17.  

5.       Who looks to you as an example?