Archive for January, 2010

Does God Intervene on Earth?

January 31, 2010

Title: Does God Intervene on Earth?

Text: Acts 5:5, Jonah 1:3-4, 8, 10, Exodus 12:12, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, 1 Corinthians 10:19-22

Time: January 24th, 2010

The recent earthquake in Haiti and the subsequent discussion about whether God may have permitted or even caused it because of the country’s obsession with the religion of Voodoo led me to address the whole issue of whether God is able to bless or curse individuals and nations. The answer is that indeed God has in the past and is able now in the present to bless or curse both individuals and nations because of good or bad activity on their part. This whole topic was sparked by comments by broadcaster Pat Robertson that Haiti was founded on a slave revolt which relied heavily on a Voodoo ceremony in which the leaders of the revolution supposedly made a pact with the spirits to serve them if the revolution succeeded. It did succeed and evidently the Voodoo spirits have kept the population of Haiti bound to the original spiritual agreement and as a result have brought a curse upon the nation ever since. The secular news media reacted to this idea with ridicule and scorn. One news reporter criticized Pat Robertson for his primitive idea of an “interventionist God,” in claiming that the curse of God might have something to do with Haiti’s problems. I guess the news reporter’s understanding of God is that he’s a “non-interventionist God” or in other words, that God doesn’t concern himself with getting involved with the activities of people on earth. He thinks the whole idea that the Haiti earthquake and Voodooism and God could somehow be connected is ridiculous, because after all, according to this reporter, God doesn’t intervene on earth, so then, any talk of him intervening is absurd. But when I heard the newsman’s reaction to Pat Robertson’s comments on Haiti I reacted the opposite way. I thought to myself, “Yes, God is an interventionist God and he could very well be connected in some way with the earthquake in Haiti.” The Voodoo ceremony that was done before the slave revolt which dedicated the revolution to the Voodoo spirits could have offended the Lord and could have bound the population of Haiti in service to the Devil. The resulting problems the people have had for over 200 years could be the result of a spiritual curse upon the nation. God’s displeasure could be upon the tiny island as a result. It isn’t an absurd idea that consequences result from spiritual decisions made by Haiti’s founders hundreds of years ago. And also, there is nothing ridiculous about God intervening in the lives of individuals and nations. It’s just that in today’s day and age of secularism which borders on outright atheism at times, the notion that spiritual and moral decisions and actions resulting in negative consequences isn’t popular. Today, we like to think we are in charge of our own lives. We like to believe that we control our own destinies and we generally reject any idea that would limit our own personal freedom to be and do anything we want. If God intervened, even occasionally, then we couldn’t claim total freedom. We’d have to admit to being dependent. We would have to think about obedience to God’s moral and spiritual laws or else suffer the consequences for disobedience. That is something most people today don’t want to think about. But it’s something that the earthquake in Haiti causes us to grapple with once again. Does God intervene in the lives of men and women? Does an “interventionist” God exist? Let’s see what the Bible says. (more…)

Does God Bless and Curse Nations?

January 31, 2010

Title: Does God Bless and Curse Nations?

Text: Genesis 4:9-12, 12:1-3

Date: January 17th, 2010

I’m sure you’ve heard about the terrible earthquake that hit the tiny island of Haiti this past week and how it has left the country in devastation. I’m praying for that nation, as I’m sure you are, that it can recover and the people can once again have homes to live in and water to drink and food to eat and the other basic necessities of life. I’m also sure that by now you’ve heard the comments by Pat Robertson which have caused so much controversy in the news media, but if you haven’t here’s what he said on the 700 Club television show: “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French … and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.” Wow! What a statement – especially in the midst of all the tragedy and suffering those people in Haiti are now experiencing in the aftermath of a category 7.0 earthquake. Now the secular press have repeated endlessly this quote and have made fun of it as a total absurdity. And it certainly is an example of pastoral insensitivity – coming at such a terrible time for the people of Haiti, and coming from the comfortable chair of a prosperous American. It’s not the kind of thing you’d say in the midst of so much suffering and pain, such as they have now in Haiti. But apart from pastoral concerns, what about the statement itself? Could there be any truth to it? Does God bless – or in this case – curse nations? Of course the secular news reporters and media outlets of today think the whole question is absurd because they don’t really believe in God, or if they do acknowledge God or a god, he’s only a far away and transcendent figure incapable of knowing or being known. But I suspect that most modern journalists and media executives, along with most of the secular establishment today, are either atheists or at best agnostics who either don’t believe in God or don’t believe in him very much. And if that’s the case, talk of God cursing or blessing people or nations is absurd, from that perspective. But for genuine Christian believers, for those of us who believe the Bible and the teachings of classic Christianity, there is nothing absurd about the idea of God blessing or cursing nations or individuals. Now in the midst of the tragedy in Haiti, in the light of all the pain and suffering taking place there now, I don’t think I would take the time to open up a discussion about whether God is cursing Haiti now or not, instead, I’d rather spend time recruiting people for prayer and assistance to help the people recover from the earthquake. Then, afterwards, when Haiti’s population has somewhat stabilized or recovered, then, it would be important to discuss whether there might be anything to ask, “Is God cursing Haiti?” But since so much scorn and ridicule has been heaped on someone – Pat Robertson – for merely suggesting the possibility that God can curse or bless individuals and nations, I wanted to respond from a biblical perspective. The idea that God blesses and curses nations is not absurd. The idea that God has cursed Haiti is not absurd. We need only turn to the Bible to find that indeed God has blessed and cursed individuals and nations before; there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t do the same again. In fact, many of us have warned the United States and other nations of the Western World that unless we repent we too may fall under the curse of God as a nation. That concept is not absurd, even though it isn’t pleasant or inspiring. But the hope would be that whatever nation or individual under a curse might be rescued from it through repentance and faith and obedience in God. But we must first deal with the truth and not deny its possibility. So let me take a few minutes to demonstrate from the Bible that individuals and nations might be blessed or cursed by God. Then, finally, I’ll say a few more things about the island of Haiti. (more…)

And God Said, “Let us Make Man in Our Image”

January 10, 2010

Title: And God Said, “Let us Make Man in Our Image”

Text: Genesis 1:26

Date: January 10th, 2010

We are into the second Sunday of the New Year 2010 and into week two of our study in the Book of Genesis. I’ll be going through the early chapters of Genesis in order to explain some of the most foundational truths of the Christian faith. Christianity is unimaginable – so is Judaism for that matter, and Islam as well – without the Book of Genesis, because it really does describe the beginnings, just as the name “Genesis” means.   The most basic concepts of Christian faith and doctrine are outlined in Genesis. It sets the whole context for the Gospel solution of the New Testament. From Genesis we learn about God as Creator. We learn about the origins of earth and the first man and woman created in the image of God. We learn about the first law given – and the first violation of law. We learn about death and punishment for the first time. We learn these and other foundational truths upon which later Old Testament and New Testament revelation builds upon. Yes, without Genesis and the truth it contains Christianity would be impossible. So it’s very important to properly understand this first and foundational book of the Bible, in order to properly understand the rest of the Bible. Like I said last week, I’m starting a new year reading through the Bible; every January I begin again reading it through. The readings start in Genesis and work their way through to finally the Book of Revelation at year’s end. But like I said before, in order to read through the entire Bible in one year it’s important to zip along at a pretty fast pace, which causes a problem in terms of trying to think through and properly understand what is being taught. This is especially the case in the Book of Genesis. Within the space of fifty some chapters we are introduced to all the basic issues that the rest of the Bible addresses. If we get the foundational teachings wrong, we’ll be off track the rest of the Bible. So it’s very important for me to slow things down for myself and also for others as I go through Genesis so that I don’t misread or misunderstand something that might cause confusion later on in the Bible. The first basic issue I’m tackling is Creation. Let’s think through what the Bible says about how God created the heaven and the earth. Let’s ponder how God created men and women in his own image. Let’s reflect on how God’s law was given and how mankind fell into sin – and the results and consequences that followed. All of these are outlined in the earliest chapters of Genesis. Let’s take some time today and work our way through these issues. Why? How does all of this fit into my life in the early twenty-first century? Because perhaps the biggest things we gain from our faith in this life is meaning and purpose. And we can’t find meaning and purpose in life unless we understand where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. Genesis gives us a foundation for answering these questions – the rest of the Bible develops these themes further. So if you want a life of meaning and purpose, instead of merely being successful at surviving like an animal may survive, then learn and understand the teachings of Genesis. God will use them to give your life meaning and purpose. Today, oddly enough, I’d like to tackle specifically the differences between cavemen and mankind as created in the image of God. What does the Bible have to say about this? (more…)

In the Beginning God Created . . .

January 6, 2010

Title: In the Beginning God Created . . .

Text: Genesis 1:1

Date: January 3rd, 2010

We’ve just passed into another new year (and another decade) in 2010, and for me that means starting over again in reading through the Bible in one year. For about twenty years now I’ve read through the Bible every year using the Tyndale House One-Year-Bible. Every five to ten years I’ll change versions just to keep my Bible reading fresh and see God’s Word in a slightly different way with a different translation. I started out reading the New International Version years ago, then after five years switched to the New Living Translation, then after a couple of years switched back to the New International version which I’ve been reading for the last ten years. This year I’m going to try to read still another translation, maybe the King James Version. But this habit of reading through the Bible in one year has produced such blessings in my life that I always encourage everyone to do it if they don’t already have a Bible reading plan. I find that by having a plan for reading the Bible I’m disciplined to actually keep to reading the Bible every day instead of leaving it to chance. The One-Year-Bible has a reading from the Old Testament and from the New Testament and from the Psalms and Proverbs each and every day. Once I read each portion of the daily reading I then pick some verse within the reading and make note of anything particularly interesting that I want to remember, so that each day I have something from the Old and New Testaments that I’ve learned. In that way, I can grow in my knowledge of God’s Word and also be inspired and encouraged in my spirit each and every day. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a way to read the Bible on a daily basis. Now beginning every New Year in January the Old Testament readings are from the Book of Genesis dealing with the Creation account. Unfortunately, the daily readings move pretty quickly through the verses so that by the time you get pass the reading for January 1st you’re already through the Creation. That’s frustrating because it really needs more attention than just one day. So in order to slow things down for myself I’ve decided to give a message on the Creation account found in Genesis in order to help myself and others understand just how God created the universe. Now I’m aware that there is something of a controversy as to how to interpret the 1st chapter of Genesis, so I’d like to map out what I understand to be the different possibilities as to understanding the biblical account of Creation. I also understand that modern science has something to say about the universe as well, and I’ll try to include a little bit of that understanding as it comes up, but mostly deal with what the Bible actually teaches. My goal isn’t to answer all the questions raised by science and the Bible concerning Creation, but to put the issues within a framework in which to begin addressing the questions. We’ll start with this one verse, the very first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now the big question is – how did God do it? There are three possibilities. (more…)

What Kind of Peace at Christmas?

January 2, 2010

Title: What Kind of Peace at Christmas?

Text: Luke 2:8-20

Time: December 20th, 2009

Every year during the Christmas season we hear politicians and celebrities talk about Christmas and its promise of “peace on earth.” This understanding of Christmas is also heard in popular songs, such as Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas:

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free
Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth
Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmas we’ll see a land
with no hungry children, no empty hands
One happy morning people will share
a world where people care
Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no man has fears
One shining moment, my heart ran away
From our world today
Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmas man will not fail
hate would be gone and love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart
Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmastime

Now the theme of popular culture in words and songs is “peace on earth” at Christmas, but is that the real meaning of Christmas? The prevailing idea today is that Jesus was born into the world at Christmas to bring world peace, but is that idea true? We’ll look at the passage where people get the idea of peace at Christmastime and find out what it really means. Luke 2: 8-20 (read). Let’s focus on this specific verse, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests,” Luke 2:14, NIV. Or, as the old King James Version says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The word “peace” is used, but from the context it’s used differently than the popular understanding today. Let’s explore this issue further and find out what we can learn so that we really grasp what God is trying to say to us at Christmastime. (more…)