This is one I haven't heard in a while...
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Questioning the “Flood Story”
I remember a Biology teacher that I had back in high school. I loved his class and delighted in learning about the amazing living things we share our planet with. One day in class, one way or another, it came up in the conversation that he was a Christian and he was talking about his belief in the Bible. However, he made sure to point out that in spite of his belief of the Bible as the Word of God he did not believe in the account of the Great Flood because it was just “too unbelievable”.
Let’s briefly examine a few common objections that unbelievers bring to the debate about whether or not the Great Flood actually occurred:
Where would all the water come from?Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, earning it the nickname “Blue Planet”. The majority of that water is saltwater, with the rest consisting of freshwater. And most of Earth’s freshwater is found in snow, glaciers and ice caps, including the those found in the polar regions. It’s interesting that many of the same people who decry the Bible and, subsequently, the Flood account easily forget that one of the major environmental concerns of our time is the melting of the polar ice caps and rising sea levels due to the rising of Earth’s temperatures! The preacher of the church I studied with while in college believed that Earth was as populated as it is today (His reasoning: “Why would there be a need to flood the entire planet if it wasn't fully populated?”). There certainly seems to be enough water in one state or another that would make this possible! The Biblical account mentions, in addition to rainfall, the "...fountains of the great deep were broken up..." (Genesis 7:11). While this may have been considered beyond comprehension at one time, current scientific discoveries lend some support to this mysterious phenomenon mentioned in Genesis.
How would one man collect all of the known species on the entire planet?This was probably my Biology teacher’s gripe with the Flood account. The biodiversity of our planet is staggering: There are millions of species on planet Earth today and new species are being discovered every other day it seems. This does not take into account the number of subspecies that additionally exist. For example, just think of the different types of frogs around the world adapted to the most diverse of ecosystems. People who question the Flood account point out just how difficult it would be to gather all of these creatures and put them on a boat. Honestly, I’m not sure how Noah went about doing this and we can only speculate. Perhaps God intended for him to collect the major species (or "kinds" as Genesis mentions) of the planet, not counting the various subspecies? Is it possible that the species that Noah collected for the Ark adapted to their present ecosystems following the Flood? While some Christians may debate the plausibility of Darwin's theory of Evolution, there is no denying micro-evolution which is proposed to lead to the various species and subspecies we encounter. Is it possible that the various subspecies we see today descended from the Flood survivors?
It’s just too unbelievable!This is the one that gets me... It's understandable to hear this from scoffing nonbelievers, but I'd like to shift focus to believers for this particular point. I've actually heard people claiming to have faith (like my Biology teacher) say this! The thing I can’t believe is the audacity of these “believers” to pick and choose verses that they will accept and those that they won’t. To me, it just goes to show weak faith and poor respect for God’s Word on their part. You think that he Flood is too difficult to believe? So you’re saying that you believe the accounts that detail God’s ability to resurrect the dead are true (the very basis of Christian faith), but the Flood account is false? These accounts are written in the same, divinely-inspired book! The Bible is full of "unbelievable", miraculous things, but one of the fundamentals of our faith is that we have an all-powerful God! If God created the world, the forces that govern it, and the creatures that inhabit it, surely He is powerful enough to make the bring about the Flood! Certainly, with an all-powerful God, nothing is impossible if it is in His will!
|Yup... Among other things. What of it?|
Possible Evidence from other Sources - Despite the many people that would seek to discredit Flood account, it’s interesting to note that numerous ancient cultures around the world (Native American, African, Asian, European) have their own “Flood myth” that are somewhat similar to the account in the Bible. Is it possible that this account had been handed down through generations since the time of flood as humanity repopulated the planet and broke off into their own cultures?
In the end, it all comes down to faith. Obviously non-believers will always doubt the intangible. Whether it is an event that occurred long, long ago or an all powerful God, all we have to rely on is our faith... And we shouldn't be ashamed of that!
Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
But rather than debate and discuss the validity of the Flood story (After all, as Christians, we ought to believe the entire Word of God), let us examine a few lessons that the Flood account from Genesis can teach us about the nature of God, the importance of obedience, and a few other points.
God’s Attitude toward Sin - Genesis 6:1-7
Our study of the Flood account brings us to the 6th chapter of Genesis. One of the first things we can learn from this account is God’s attitude toward sin. Genesis 6:5-7 states, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Even the Earth itself seems to have been affected by the iniquity of man.
Genesis 6:11-12 - The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
Due to the sinfulness of man, God decided to wipe the Earth clean through a great flood.
God gives Grace (To those who walk with Him) - Genesis 6:8-9
Despite the wickedness of all of mankind, Genesis 6:8 tell us that “...Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”
Genesis 6:9 gives great credit to Noah, stating that “...Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.”
Today, just like in the time of Noah, we should know that it is possible to live righteously in an unrighteous world! Today, just like in the time of Noah, God gives grace to those who walk with Him!
God spoke to Noah
Throughout the Flood account, we see that “God spoke to Noah.” This phrase (God spoke to Noah or said to Noah) is repeated numerous times through the account of the Flood.
Through His Word, God speaks to us even today.
Are we listening as Noah did?
Noah’s (Obedient, Working) Faith - Genesis 6:13-22
God gave Noah a list a very specific instructions concerning the construction of the Ark and the gathering of the creatures that would be taken onto the Ark.
Despite the specific and tedious commands that God imparts...
- Never once do we see Noah questioning God (Wouldn't cedar be just as good as gopher-wood?)
- Never once do we see Noah adding to what God commanded (What about adding another window?)
- Never once do we see Noah taking away from what God commanded (Do I have to take the snakes aboard? I hate snakes!)
Genesis 6:22 simply states - Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.
A major theme in the book of Hebrews is the concept of faith without works being a dead faith. God is pleased by an obedient, working faith. In Hebrews 11:6-7, we are told that we should strive to be as faithful as Noah - But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Noah could have easily ignored God’s warning, but when he was warned, he moved with godly fear. Just imagine how different the account of the Flood would have turned out if Noah had not taken action!
However, it would appear that Noah took God seriously and was completely obedient in following God’s instructions. Do we have the same attitude?
God is True to His Word - Genesis 7
God pledged to destroy every living thing back in Genesis 6. Sure enough, by the end of Genesis 7, God has done what He said He would do.
There are many who claim to be believers today who choose not to believe in the existence of Hell, arguing that a loving God would not condemn anyone for eternity. However, Hell is declared as a harsh reality throughout the Bible.
2 Peter 3:1-7 - Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Just as God said He would bring about the Flood, He will also bring about judgment to all.
As scary as that may be, God offers us a means of escape, just as He did for Noah.
God Saves the Faithful Genesis 8
Once again: God promises that Judgment is coming!
Matthew 24:37-39 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
We must realize that God is not slack concerning His promise. Just as the Flood was promised to cleanse the Earth, Jesus will return and we will be judged someday.
2 Peter 3:8-9 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
God offers us salvation from our sins through His grace. Just like Noah, He commands us to take action!
1 Peter 3:20-21 ...In the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God has a plan for our salvation. Baptism is likened to the waters of the Flood, only now water serves as a means of our salvation. Instead of building an Ark to be saved from the condemning waters of the Flood, God offers the cleansing, saving water of baptism and repentance.
Do you desire the salvation God offers?
Are you willing to obey as Noah did?
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious blood of the Lamb.
- from the hymn, "There's Power in the Blood"
Filled with oxygen and nutrients necessary for survival, it goes without saying that blood is a precious substance that we could not live without. There is a lot of emphasis put on blood in the Old Testament. One of the Ten Plagues of Egypt turned the water into blood, the Israelites marked their doorways with the blood of lambs, and, of course, worshipers in the were commanded to make sacrifices of various livestock.
Blood also has a deep significance in the New Testament.
Hebrews 10:1-4 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
As previously mentioned, while under the Law of Moses during the duration of the Old Testament, the followers of God would make sacrifices of livestock as part of their worship. These sacrifices served to cover up their sin for a time. However, as we just read in Hebrews, these sacrifices were not sufficient to take away sin completely.
In the various Bible studies I participate in, a common point of conversation is the injustice of Christ's death on the cross. Certainly, the humiliation, torture, and cruel death of Jesus - the very Son of God - is an awful event. However, it is important to remember that it is also a blessing to us as Christians even to this day.
The Bible, particularly the New Testament, is filled with "role-reversal" illustrations: The first will be last and the last will be first. To be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, one must humble himself and become as a little child or a servant.
Similarly: The cross - the most unjust of crimes that could possibly be committed by mankind - is at the same time the most significant event. It is our salvation.
Christ offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for all of mankind for all time. It is through His blood that we are cleansed and able to stand justified before our God.
Another hymn we sing from time to time asks: "Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?"
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Now commonly used to express an idea central to the mathematical field of study known as Chaos theory, the butterfly effect is an enduring image often credited to the influential Science Fiction/Fantasy author, Ray Bradbury and mathematician/meteorologist Edward Lorenz.
While whether or not the flapping of a tiny butterfly’s wings can cause a cataclysmic storm on the other side of the world is still up for debate, the big idea behind the butterfly effect is essentially this: that everything, even the littlest, seemingly most insignificant of things can have a majorly profound effect on the world.
The Bible itself is filled with examples of little things having subsequent major effects. Recall that Goliath was brought down with a pebble. A simple haircut cost Samson his strength. Jesus was betrayed with a kiss.
James 3:3-4 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.
Let us examine some little things and ponder the huge impact that they can have on us spiritually.
Faith and Mustard Seeds
Matthew 13:31-32 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
If you have ever seen or held a mustard seed, you know that it is indeed a tiny seed. But, as Jesus points out in this parable, the seed is capable of great things once it takes root. What was once a minuscule seed actually has the potential to become a large tree capable of supporting a flock of birds.
When the apostles were unable to cast out a demon and asked Jesus why, He used the illustration of the mustard seed once again.
Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
At first, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their unbelief, only to tell them that they had just a little faith that all things would be possible.
Leaven and Sin
Leaven makes many appearances throughout the Bible and is used in a number of analogies and comparisons. Generally, leaven is likened to the propagation of sin. Therefore, in the case of this particular illustration, the little thing yielding great change is for the negative.
In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to observe the feast of the unleavened bread, which was symbolic of their status as a Holy, chosen nation before God.
Jesus used the imagery of leaven to describe hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) and false doctrine (Matthew 16:6-12).
As you know, leaven is added to dough or batter to cause it to expand. Paul points out that, like leaven, a little bit of untruth can spread if we are not careful.
1 Corinthians 5:5-8 …Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
A Speck in Your Brother's Eye
Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
A germ may not seem like much, but entire nations have fallen to plague throughout the generations. Sin is kind of like that. A little white lie or a small grudge is just enough sin to give the devil a foothold in your heart.
Ephesians 4:25-26 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.
There’s an old saying, “The devil is in the details.” While this particular idiom refers to a different situation entirely, I think that some truth in the statement could be applied to our discussion here. If we’re not careful, it’s the little things that could pose the biggest threat.
The Powerful Tongue
James 3:5-12 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
James compares the tongue to a spark that ignites a great forest fire. Indeed, the words that we say have a great impact on those around us. They can build up or tear down. How carefully do we choose the words that we say in passing?
I read a story about a manager who was fed up with his company’s policy on human relations. The majority of the company’s communication was done via e-mail rather than face-to-face meetings to save time. The manager decided that this was not the way he wanted to do business and was determined that he would go up to his employees and tell them in person just how much he appreciated their hard work and give them two reasons why he admired them. A few days after the manager had done this, one of his employees approached him and handed him a gift. Unwrapping the poorly wrapped present, the manager found an expensive watch. Feeling a mixture of genuine surprise and guilt -knowing that he hadn't given his employee a raise in some years - the manager, after thanking the employee asked him, “How did you afford this?” The employee told the manager that he had sold his gun and went on to explain that the very weapon was intended to be used to take his own life, which he had been contemplating for months. He told the manager that the only reason he changed his mind and decided to not go through with suicide was the manager’s words from just a few days before. As he held the gun to his temple and was just about to pull the trigger, he remembered the manager’s words of kindness, withdrew the gun from his head, and marched to the pawn shop. The manager’s words, just uttered in passing, saved the life of his employee.
Words, just a few little syllables, can be the difference between life and death.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue…
We would do well to remember the lyrics from the hymn, “O the Things We may Do”:
“Just a word or a song as we’re passing along, they will count in the great by and by…”
Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
The widow had but two mites, two little, nearly worthless mites. A mite was the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation at the time, being worth about six minutes of an average daily wage. However, as Jesus pointed out, this was all that she had, making it all the more valuable.
Are we willing to sacrifice what we have? Even out of our abundance?
The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin and Sparrows and… Us
As we well know, quantity does not always equal quality. Little amounts of things can be worth a lot.
In Luke 15, Jesus told a series of parables about lost things: A lost sheep and a lost coin (and a lost son if you continue reading)
Luke 15:4-10 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
God cares about the little things too. Just as we care about little things - lost possessions of great worth - here on Earth, God cares about each of our souls. One soul may not seem like much when compared to the multitudes of souls out there, but, as we just read; one sinner repenting is worth a lot to God.
Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Become as Little Children
Matthew 18:1-4 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
If there's one that that children definitely love to do, it is has to be exercising their imagination and engaging in play. I recall playing countless games with my cousins growing up. From "Little White House on Top of the Hill" to staples like Hide-and-Go-Seek, we entertained ourselves for hours on end.
Now that I'm an uncle, I get to play with a new generation of youngsters and it's great to see that kids haven't changed that much. With my younger nieces and nephews, it's hilarious to participate in their play and attempt to keep up! One minute, you'll be a pirate. The next, you'll be a patron at a restaurant. Sometimes you're the cop, other times you're the robber. In spite of a child's boundless imagination, their attention span is very limited, so you never know what you'll be playing in a given afternoon!
Little children will sometimes “play church”.
But is our worship merely nothing more than “playing church”?
Reluctance to Play
We must understand that real Christians are not playing; they ought to be fully committed.
Romans 6:17-18 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Ephesians 4:5 …one Lord, one faith, one baptism…
Colossians 2:12 …Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Singing Without Understanding
We may even make up words, for example: “ANDY walks with me, ANDY talks with me…”
Other times words may be confused altogether.
But as true Christians we are commanded to sing with sincerity and understanding.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.
The Lord’s Supper
But as a true Christian, the bread and the fruit of the vine represent the body and blood of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is to be done with all reverence.
1 Corinthians 11:23-34 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.
True Christians should always remember the proper emblems and conduct in their observance of the Lord’s Supper.
True Christian giving is a sacrifice and a responsibility of individual members of the church.
2 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
Christians continue in the Lord’s work always, even outside of Sunday worship services!
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The Lord’s work is never done! We should always be examples to others, in and outside of church. We are Jesus’ representatives!
Matthew 5:13-16 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Let us examine ourselves: Are we just “playing church”? Or are we truly serving God?
Note: This is based on a favorite sermon that John Baxter would preach from time to time at our church. I added some of my own musings to flesh out my notes from his lesson.