This week, we're reading the story of the flood that God sent to cleanse the earth. Here are a few stand-out ideas to look for as you read that story:
- The depths of human depravity are astounding. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul described sin's deep consequences, and we can look around at pockets of our world where sin has been allowed to take a firm hold. But we ought to be thankful that we do not live in a world that is so completely engulfed in it as Noah did. There are imperfect, but good people around us, and we ought to thank God for them.
- The salvation of Noah and his family from that depraved world was a masterful plan by the Master of Heaven and Earth. When the scale of destruction was so massive, it is remarkable to think that God took notice of one man and his family and gave them the gift of new life. It reminds us that he really does love us—pitiful as we are—and that he has made salvation available to us again and again throughout time.
- God's power through water is nothing short of awesome. In the flood story, he uses it to destroy evil, to cleanse the earth, to purify humanity, to save the faithful, and to restore life. All at the same time. And that power correlates very strongly to the way that God uses water to simultaneously accomplish several things in our lives at the moment of baptism (cf. 1 Peter 3:18-21). It just reminds us again of God's amazing grace toward those who believe.
As you read the story, keep your eyes firmly fixed on what God is doing. Tremble at his power and wrath, and worship him for his glorious grace.
- Dan Lankford, minister
The following is by one of our members, Matt Robison. He delivered this meditation before we took communion yesterday morning, Feb. 10th. We are sharing it here because it is an excellent reminder of God's goodness to us throughout time and at the communion table.
The promise of land to Israel was always a promise of food, always described as a land flowing with milk and honey. God has always provided food for his people, from the very beginning when, on the third day of creation, the dry land immediately began producing fruit and grain.
In the wilderness, Israel was literally provided with bread from heaven. And the first thing Joshua and the people do, after they pass through the waters of the Jordan, into the promised land, is to celebrate a feast. They celebrated Passover. And then they acted as if the land were already theirs.
"While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year." (Joshua 5:10-12)
This was was a pretty bold move. The feasting would leave the people open to attack. They had not fought any battles, nor had they planted a single garden, nor had they won rest from their enemies. But the land was already a place for feasting. When they formally began the conquest, they had already been acting as if the conquest was over. The land was theirs.
The Lord had provided a table in the midst of their enemies. And just because the Manna stopped, that didn’t mean something fundamental about the source of the food had changed.
Look at Deut. 11:10-12. "For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables. But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."
Their food still came from the Lord. It was still His blessing upon them. The food was still very much heavenly food, drinking the water from the heavens, as opposed to the irrigated water of the Nile. The milk and honey of the land was food from heaven, just as dependent upon the Lord’s generosity, and just as miraculous as the Manna. Remember, it is God who gives the increase.
This meal we partake of now is just as bold as that first meal in the promised land. The Lord has prepared this table in the midst of our enemies. And just like the Israelites, we have a promised inheritance, though ours is a better one, one that encompasses all things. And just like the Israelites, we feast in the midst of that promised inheritance.
We feast on the true bread from heaven: Jesus. We sit at a table of a greater Joshua, one who has drawn us through the waters of Jordan in baptism. We are His, and He is ours, and so everything is ours, as Paul tells us at the end of 1 Cor. 3 We do not yet see everything put under the feet of Jesus, but we see enough. Because we eat and drink in faith.
And like the Israelites we will rise up from this feast, confident of our victory. Confident of the consummation of our inheritance. Confidant that we will be more than conquerors. Confident that, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow.
So take and eat the bread and drink the cup. And welcome to Jesus Christ.
- Matt Robison
"For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, `Do not be afraid'" (Acts 27:23-24a)
Paul was a prisoner on his way to Rome for trial. The ship he was traveling on had been tossed by a hurricane force wind for several days. God sent comfort to Paul so that he would not despair. As He passes the good news on to the others that they would not die, Paul mentions God - "to whom I belong and whom I serve."
To Whom I Belong
Christians belong to God. We have been purchased by the blood of Christ. "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Some are unwilling to belong to the Lord. They belong to their jobs, their spouse, their children, their hobbies, etc. Most simply belong to themselves. They do what they want, not what GOD wants. Many are controlled by sin. " ...do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Romans 6:12).
And Whom I Serve
Never forget that, because children of God belong to God, we have a duty to do all that He asks us to do. Paul served God because he belonged to Him. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey? Whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness.” (Rom. 6:16) When we understand that we have given control of our lives to God, we will obey and serve Him in ALL things.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1).
To whom do YOU belong?
- Roger Hillis, evangelist
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31b)
The sentence above is made up of two clauses, and each one of them contains an important reminder—one to drive us on to diligent faithful living; the other to assure us that living like that is worth it.
"If God is for us..." means we must be in a proper relationship with him—one in which we are for him and he is for us. If we are against him, why should we demand that he should be for us? When we live as we should, we demonstrate that we are living for him. So as long as we are trying to do that, we can know with certainty that he is for us.
"...who can be against us?" There are obviously some people who will be against us; persecution is an eternal problem for God's people. But the rhetorical question (and the rest of the context at the end of Romans) shows us very clearly that their efforts will not stand. Jesus said that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his church (Mt. 16:18), and Peter said these words: "Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed." (1 Pet. 3:13-14)
So today, give your best effort to live for God as you should, and as you do that, find peace and assurance in his promise that he is for you and no one else can stand against you.
- Dan Lankford, minister
There’s a new show premiering on February 12, called Miracle Workers. The cable channel on which it will run offers this description: “A comedy set in the offices of Heaven, Inc. When God plans to destroy the Earth, two low-level angels must convince their boss to save humanity. They bet him they can pull off their most impossible miracle yet: help two humans fall in love.”
It is fascinating (and usually disheartening) to see how the secular world thinks about YHWH God. As evidenced by the quote above, we are tempted to think of Him much like the ancient Greeks thought of their gods: flighty, untrustworthy, and sometimes dangerous. Gods like that play with human lives like a child plays with dolls. We think of them simply as more powerful, more aloof versions of ourselves.
But that’s not at all what the God of the Bible is like.
He does not toy with humanity. He does not throw us into chaos or suffering on a whim. Even at times when he responds suddenly or harshly to humanity, he is never at the mercy of his temper. No, the God of the Bible is solid, steady, and unchanging (Psa. 102:26-27). He does not sleep or slumber (Psa. 121:4), so he is always able to help when we need him. He gives us difficulties, but that is because, like any good father, “he disciplines us for our good.” (Heb. 12:7-10) And most importantly, he loves us (John 3:16).
YHWH God is not petty, flighty, or puny as unbelievers might think of him. He is good, he is loving, and he is holy. And we praise him.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
creating the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord,
“and I will heal him."
- Isaiah 57:15-19, ESV
Several weeks ago, this space was used to remind us that it’s important for us to remember basic Bible stories, even (and maybe especially) as adults. Now, let’s add another brick in that same wall: it’s important for us to look for God in those same stories. As children, we usually learn moral lessons from the human characters, and that’s very healthy. As adults, we would also do well to focus on the theological lessons—what YHWH is doing and what that can teach us.
Consider the story of David & Goliath. David’s bravery and faith are encouraging examples to us. But look deeper at what God does to his enemy: he turns things inside-out. Goliath’s head is removed with his own sword, so that the very thing he depended on to rebel against YHWH was turned against him by YHWH’s servant.
Or consider the story of Moses’ striking the rock when he should have spoken to it. Moses’ arrogance is a great reminder for us to be humble. But we can also look in the same story and see what God is doing: using imperfect servants to accomplish his perfect plan. Moses is disobedient to God, and yet the water still flows for the people, because YHWH, who is our God and theirs, is merciful.
This simple transition in our thinking can open doors to things we’ve never considered in God’s great book. One Bible teacher commonly reminds his students: “The Bible is one unified story that points to Jesus.” Looking for God’s activities in classic Bible stories can help us to see the unity of that story and God’s great plan through all of it.
- Dan Lankford, minister
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16)
What a truly wonderful message.
The fundamental belief of an evolution-based worldview is: nothing can happen outside the realm of natural processes. Whatever phenomena may exist, the belief is that they are explainable purely through chemical and physical means. We call this a naturalistic belief because it insists exclusively on explanations from the natural world and deliberately precludes the possibility of anything that transcends nature’s usual patterns.
The problem with that worldview is that it does not leave any room for common human morality. If a person has any sense of what another person ought to do, he has gone beyond the limits of naturalism. Chemical processes are, by definition, a-moral (neither right nor wrong). If all things come only from physical processes like gravity, electricity, and chemistry, then when asked, “What is wrong with stealing? With premeditated killing? With assault on innocent or defenseless humans?” the naturalist can give no logical answer.
In contrast to that system, one of the fundamental beliefs of the Biblical worldview is this: one supernatural being, a God named YHWH, created and sustains all life. And among all living things, mankind is uniquely made in the image of YHWH. And one of the necessary conclusions of that belief is that some things are categorically right or wrong. There are major moral implications. There is a need for common human decency. And only the Biblical worldview can teach us the most comprehensively good way to live that out.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In our daily Bible reading program, we're marching through the Psalms. this past week’s group of psalms reminded us of the Israelites’ story with God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called these “Psalms of Holy History,” and with good reason. The reminders about God’s deliverance from Egypt, about all the times he answered their cries during Judges, and about his marvelous abundance poured out in Solomon’s time should have reminded the people of their dependence on the one true and holy God—Yahweh. Indeed, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4)
All Christians need a working knowledge of Bible stories, because we need the same reminders. One of God’s frequent criticisms of his people during the time of the prophets was, “You have forgotten me” (Isa. 17:10, Isa. 51:13, Jer. 13:25, Jer. 44:9, Ezek. 22:12, Ezek. 22:35, Hosea 4:6). It wasn’t that they had forgotten that God exists, but that they had forgotten the many stories that manifest his goodness and faithfulness to them in the past. And since they forgot the stories of the past, they neglected to trust him in the present.
On one occasion when the disciples forgot to bring any bread on a journey with Jesus, they were afraid that he would be angry with them. But Jesus asked, “Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand…?” (Matt. 16:9) They and all generations of believers need to remember that God has shown himself trustworthy and good. We must remember our Bible stories because they remind us that we can trust God today with anything and everything that matters.
- Dan Lankford, minister