Saturday, August 30, 2008

Genesis 19:18-22 Partial Obedience

Genesis 19:18-22: But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords! Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest the disaster overtake me and I die; now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.” And he said to him, “Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar.

The angels had just ushered Lot and his family out of his house and urged them to “escape for their lives to the mountains” and Lot has the audacity to say, “No, I can’t escape to the mountains.” It seems he felt that the trip to the mountains might have finished him off. Or perhaps he felt he could not survive sufficiently in the mountainous environment. Instead, he begged the angels to let him escape to a nearby little town. Lot even suggested that this town “was small” with the implication possibly being that “it can’t be as bad as Sodom, could it?” There he would have more of the comforts of life.

I am reminded of the young man who desperately wanted to obey and serve God, perhaps as a missionary if that’s what God wanted. His only request, however, was “please don’t send me to Africa.” Sometimes we feel like that, don’t we? Sometimes we want so much to do what God wants. We know it is best for us. But we allow our human limitations to define the options. We say, “God I’ll do this, but please don’t make me do that. Surely, I’ll still be obeying if I do this?” I would like to say “no, you would not be obeying if you didn’t do exactly what God said,” but I am not sure it is that black and white an issue. This passage gives us an insight into how God works with men and women, and it is not always the way we would predict or expect.
Through His angels, God allowed Lot his request. He agreed not to overthrow that town to which Lot wanted to go. The plan apparently was that He in fact do so, as it was all part and parcel of the ‘Greater Sodom Area’. Although ten righteous ones could not be found in Sodom, God was willing to save this town for the sake of one righteous man and his family. While we as Christians are to flee and escape places of iniquity, our presence often influences God to save or keep back His punishment of a particular place. Christians have an incredible opportunity to impact a town’s, city’s, or country’s future.

Lastly we note the angels indicate that “until Lot moved out of Sodom and arrived safely in the new town”, they could not implement the destruction they needed to undertake. Clearly, God protects and keeps us in time of trouble and disaster in accordance with His plan. The passage ends with the naming of the town Lot’s family would be staying as being Zoar. It was located at the southeast end of the Dead Sea. We first heard of Zoar back in Genesis 13:10 when Abraham was telling Lot to select the land he wanted so that they would separate from each other. Lot looked over the valley of Jordan and scripture says he noticed that it was “well watered . . . like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.” While it too was to be destroyed, it seems God saved it, allowing Lot to dwell in a place he had once felt very desirous. In Genesis 14:2 and 14:8 we also learn that Zoar was known as Bela and its king had joined the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim in the war against Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim. (For more details on this, see comments under Genesis 14.) Because of this grouping, it is possible that the destruction might have been intended to impact all five of these areas, although now we see that Zoar (because of Lot) was saved.

So not only can God sometimes grant us our desire, but He also saves others in the process. However, we must be most careful to ensure that it is truly God and not us that has brought about this change in plans. In Lot’s case, the angelic visitors verbally granted him his request. We need similar assurance before we try to second-guess God’s best for us.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Genesis 19:15-17 When God says, "Get out of Dodge now!"

Genesis 19:15-17: And when the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters, who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. And it came about that when they had brought them outside, that one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, lest you be swept away.”

In the previous passage, Lot is told what he must do to save his family and he goes about doing it, even though they think he’s joking. He returns home most likely as a disappointed man unable to convince his relatives of what is about to happen to the city and to them if they don’t flee. Everyone in his house either goes to bed or stays up all night planning their flight out of the city. We don’t know, but the scripture tells us that when the morning dawned, the angels basically said, “It’s time. Let’s go. Take your wife and your two daughters and go, lest you be swept away in the punishment God is about to release on the city.” Great advice and one would think Lot would act on it without question, especially since he had seen their power exhibited the night before on the men from the city right outside his house.

Then, once again the text adds that famous word that changes so much -- “But” only this time with respect to Lot’s reaction to what God was saying. “But he hesitated.” It is not clear exactly why he did that. Perhaps it was because all of a sudden he just did not want to let go of what was familiar to him. How many times do we hesitate when God says, “Up. Move out. Now.” And how many times does God have to do with us what the angels did with Lot – they seized his hand and that of his wife and daughters and brought them “outside the city.” When God arranges for us to “move out” of a situation He does not want us in, even against our hesitation or perhaps against our will, it is because “the compassion of the Lord” is upon us as it was upon Lot that day. God knows what is coming and we may know too – but only God knows the real impact or consequences on us. He wants us out of that place wherever it may be or that sin whatever it be, because He loves us unconditionally and He has great compassion for us. Yet we often pay Him less heed than men and women pay their commanding officers in the armed forces when they issue similar orders. Still His love won’t leave us there – He forcibly moves us.

But here’s the condition. It’s very similar to the condition that one of the angels placed on Lot and his immediate family. “Escape for your life! But don’t look back. Don’t stay or go anywhere nearby but flee to the mountains because the impact of what I’m going to do to what you left behind may still reach you if you’re anywhere nearby.” What’s He saying to us as we read these verses?

I believe it is this: If we’re involved in sin, He wants us out for our sake. And if we resist, He may forcibly take us out, but once He does, He does not want us wishing we could be back there, longing for the good old sinful times. He wants us removed from the scene so far that there is no way we could re-associate ourselves with it again through the lure of the Enemy. He hates the sin so much He will destroy those involved with it. Let me give you a couple of examples of what God wants may look like in real life. If you are reading or watching pornography and you want to stop, you do not just put the magazines or the books or films away on a shelf or even in a box and store them in your basement. No, you burn them or destroy and make sure they’re gone from the house. If you are involved in a sinful relationship, you do not keep the person’s telephone number in your wallet, just in case. You throw it away along with everything else that belongs to or came from that person. God wants you as far away from the scene of the sin – whatever it be – as possible. You can do nothing less.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Genesis 19:12-14 Our Part in Winning Our Family for God

Genesis 19:12-14: Then the men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” And Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his son-in-law to be jesting.

The two angels understood the gravity of the situation. This recent act of the men of Sodom (see comments on previous verses) was what we would refer to as the last straw as far as God was concerned. God’s messengers had to take immediate action, evacuating those that were righteous and their family. It turns out only Lot was the righteous one. So they asked a question to which they already knew the answer. “Who else is here with you, Lot? You need to take them out of this place.” The list they rhyme off as possible kin is simply provided to indicate that all in the family were to be included. It turns out Lot had more than one son-in-law to be, but we have no other reference to Lot having sons. What is important here is that Lot was allowed to take his family out of danger with him because of his righteousness. However, there is no evidence we can transfer this concept of “familial salvation” to the case of salvation of the believer for eternity.

We know that Lot understood his responsibility to advise his family of the situation and encourage them to escape with him. He was in essence to do all he could to bring them out with him. That’s our role as well when it comes to the salvation of our children and relatives. We can only share the Gospel and then allow God to work in their hearts.

In this short passage, there are three references to the destruction of Sodom: first, the angels say they are about to destroy it; then, they say the Lord sent them to destroy it; and finally, they say the Lord will destroy it. Sometimes we miss the fact that God uses angels, often disguised as men, to do His work. Sometimes He uses fellow believers. But let us not miss the fact that it must be God’s work that needs to be done, not that of the angels, not that of others, not even our own. When we know what God wants to do as Lot did in this case, then we can believe and expect to see it done through whatever means or whomever God chooses. We just need to be ready for it.

So Lot heads out of the house and looks up his sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters. He tells them to get up from whatever they’re doing and get out of Sodom because the Lord will destroy it. That’s the simple message we’re asked to pass on to our relatives, friends, and anyone that God puts in our path today – “repent, change your way, be saved, for God hates evil and will destroy it, punishing those that remain in its grasp.” It is a simple message. Yet, as in the days of Lot, so today – people just don’t readily believe it. Scripture says Lot’s sons-in-law thought he was kidding. As we’ll see in the verses that follow, the fact that people do not believe us does not change what God has said He will do. The difficulty for us is how we deal with that very fact.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Genesis 19:10-11 First recorded physical blindness!

Genesis 19:10-11: But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.

Just in time, my favorite sentence-starting word in the Bible appears – “But”. This time the text does not say “But God” but the reference to “the men” is indeed to the two angels which were referred to in verse one of chapter nineteen. Clearly these were men completely under the control of God, bidding his business and doing his works. They were focused on Him in such a way that they saw things the way God sees them and thus were totally inclined to do as He said.

Attending Beach Church, Myrtle Beach, while visiting my daughter and family, I heard Pastor Dan Grider speak on being “totally engaged to the point of being fully captivated by God”. He said, when that happens we end up “seeing things the way God sees them and thus are inclined to do as He says.” What a goal for a believer! In my opinion, these men, God’s angels, already exhibited that incredible asset.

They reached out their hands (and we assume while the door was still open so all in the house could have heard the conversation Lot was having with the men of Sodom) and brought Lot back into the house with them, and they shut the door. I love that verse. It paints a picture that I believe is akin to how God standing beside us, hears and understands all that is happening to us, and if we let Him, He can and will “pull us back out” of whatever trouble, concern, worry, or mire of sin we may be in. And then He shuts the door on it. Whatever it is that is going on cannot have a permanent negative impact on us. It’s a done deal. The door is shut.

Scripture tells us that God’s men then went on to strike “the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness”. Given the order of the two sentences, I have to assume that this was done from inside the house with the door closed. This was indeed a God thing. Can you imagine what the men outside felt as all of a sudden they were unable to see? Here was recorded the first case of physical blindness in the Scripture. All of them were struck, both small and great, and they became unable to find the doorway. The text implies that they kept trying, even in their blindness, to achieve their own evil intention of harming Lot and the immorality they wished to take part in with those they thought were mere men.

I believe God is prepared to do the same for each and every one of us, if we let Him. When we’ve wandered out into the night, He’ll come and stand with you, then pull you back into His safety at just the right moment. Then He’ll do whatever is necessary to protect you from the situation you were in. Don’t you just love it when God inserts the word “But” in your life. Oh, that we would allow Him to do so more often.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Genesis 19:4-9 "Worst father of the Bible" award?

Genesis 19:4-9: Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them to us that we may have relations with them.” But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door.

This is probably one of the most futuristic scenes in all of scripture, or so it seems when we consider the immorality of today’s society. Lot, his family, and the angel visitors that he convinced to stay the night are just getting ready for bed when young and old men from every part of the city surround the house and start calling out loud to Lot. Certainly somebody had been hunting for “new men sightings” in the city and knew exactly that Lot had just received two male visitors. The news got passed on quickly.

The question arises as to whether this mob represented all the men of the city or just some. Clearly the text reads “the men” as compared to “some men”. When you consider this in light of the fact that both God and Abraham believed fewer than ten people in Sodom were righteous and you divide that by half for the purpose of gender and then half again for the purpose of dividing the ‘of age’ males from young boys, then you are left with very few, if any, righteous men – an explanation which supports the idea that this was indeed all “the men” of the city. So here they all are, wanting to have homosexual relations with Lot’s two visitors.

If indeed these men were all of the men in the city, then we could safely assume that Lot in his day to day dealings knew some or all of them. As a minimum, we note that he calls them brothers because that was the custom of the day as neighbors were more closely associated in those days, or because he in fact was a member of their group when it came to certain business or social activities. So he begged them not to insist on violating his guests. His words certainly indicate that he knew what they wanted to do was wicked.

It’s the next part that really puzzles me. Does Lot deserve the “worse father in the Bible” award? Today we would ask, “How can he offer his virgin daughters to the men for sex in order to protect his guests’ honor?” Was hospitality so important that it trumped the sexual purity of one’s children? Was he just as warped in his thinking as the men that banged on his door? Scripture does not tell us. It is possible he thought homosexuality was a worse sin than heterosexual abuse and that falsity continues to this day for many. Did he have an idea that these guests were not just men? Perhaps.

Whatever his thinking and rationale for trying to negotiate with the men of the city the way he did, it was to no avail. Given his opposition to their idea, the men turned against him and jeered him with remarks to one another referring to Lot himself being a stranger among them and now judging them. Their anger intensified and they prepared to treat Lot even worse then they were going to treat his guests. With this intention, they came up to the door of his house.

The whole sight would make a great movie scene – late at night, everyone about ready to go to bed, and the mobs pounding on the door with an unreasonable demand. The landlord goes out and pleads with them, offering an alternative of which they’ll have no part in. Instead, they get more violent and the landlord is now about to be assaulted.

There are at least four lessons here we should not miss. First, we cannot be effective in our own ministry as strangers. Aliens do not sway people permanently. This is something that those working with indigenous peoples around the world are finally realizing. The best type of lasting influence comes from a person’s own kind. That is why missions are turning their efforts more and more towards raising up native Christians to minister to their own people. At the very least, one has to have earned the respect and trust of the locals, before he or she can minister to them.

Second, judging does not go over too well. We so often forget that. We need to get our message across without being perceived as judgmental to the best of our ability. It is important to demonstrate care for the individual without supporting their behavior. Even the best arguments do not work if they appear to be judgmental.

Third, timing is everything. One wonders what impact Lot had on these men prior to this evening. What stand did he take when similar issues arose in day-to-day life? To leave the appeal to one’s sense of morality in a heated moment in the middle of the night may be too late. We must not miss the opportunities we have to make wise inputs into the lives of others as we watch them embarking on a road which leads to destruction.

Finally, let us not forget just who is standing nearby. God’s angels had not yet gone to bed.

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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Genesis 19:1-3 Being Available for Service

Genesis 19:1-3: Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” The said however, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square.” Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.


The King James Version does not specify who these two angels were but the New American Standard refers to them as the same ones that visited Abraham (two out of the three referred to in Genesis 18:2). They approach Sodom and Lot is sitting at the gate of the city. This is reminiscent of Abraham sitting at the door of his tent in the previous chapter. When Lot saw them and realized they were strangers, he rose to meet them as was the custom. But he also must have determined that there was something more to them than just travelers for he bowed down with his faced to the ground. He called them “my lords” not unlike Abraham called them and he, like Abraham, invited them to stay at his house to refresh, eat, and spend the night before going on their way.

The first thing to note is that this time there were only two angels, not all of the three that had visited Abraham. Since Genesis 18 talks about the Lord being among them, we can assume that the Lord was not present in this case.

Interesting also is the fact that they initially declined his offer indicating they would spend the night in the city square. There is no reason given for that and anything we say is purely conjecture. It is possible that they had a lot on their minds as they may have known God’s intention with respect to Sodom and they wanted to pray for the city. It is also possible that they did not want to spend the night in Lot’s house because of his daughters and propriety. We can only assume, but not know. What we do know is that Lot, again like a good host, urged them strongly to accept his offer. They did so on his strong insistence and he prepared a feast for them to enjoy.

When we consider what happened next, the decision to stay with Lot was indeed a good one. The point here is that if we do our part, even if it is simply to be hospitable, God will do His. As we become available to Him, He works on our behalf directly and/or through others.

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Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Genesis 18:26-33 Negotiating with God

Genesis 18:26-33: So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” And Abraham answered and said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, wilt Thou detroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once: suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” And as soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed; and Abraham returned to his place.

Perhaps the notion that many of us carry that Jewish people are great negotiators able to squeeze the best deal from any transaction originated with this story from the life of Abraham. God somehow conveys to Abraham that He will be destroying Sodom and Abraham commences to negotiate how the city might be saved.

He asks for God to refrain from taking His planned action if fifty righteous people could be found in Sodom. God agrees. Seeing how easy that was, Abraham takes his chances, admitting that he is nothing before God but dust and ashes, and asks the Almighty to spare the city for the sake of five fewer righteous people. God agrees to not destroying Sodom for the sake of forty-five righteous ones.

Well, that five was easy, so let’s try another five thinks Abraham and goes for it. And God, once more agrees. Well, thinks Abraham, if we can get two fives, we can get a ten all in one shot. But he knows by now he is really testing God’s patience and so he said, “Please don’t get angry, but would you save the city for the sake of thirty righteous people?”

Now being who He was, God knew the end result. He knew there were not sufficient righteous people in Sodom to save the city. So what was going on here? Was He playing with Abraham? I do not think so. He agrees to save Sodom for the sake of thirty, and later for the sake of twenty, righteous people because He wants Abraham to realize the situation the city is in. Sometimes we have to come to grips with the depravity of our society ourselves before we can watch God work through us. Sometimes we have to realize that God has to do it His way and not our way. That is also true for our own lives as well as the lives of our loved ones. As a natural father, I would not allow my children to go through some of the trials they are facing, but then I realize that our Heavenly Father has attributes I lack – like ultimate wisdom and the ability to see the end and not just the present. Yet He allows me to implore Him for the sake of my children, but importantly to establish and strengthen my own faith and trust in Him. I do not think God was angry with Abraham or He would have said so.

Still, Abraham asks Him not to be angry and dares to speak to Him again, although this time, he said it would be his last. Abraham asks God to save the city for the sake of just ten righteous people thinking “surely, there must be ten like that there.” God agrees once more, takes Abraham at his word that he would not ask again, and immediately departs once He finished saying He would agree. And the scripture says, “Abraham returned to his place.”

We can do all the bargaining we want with God. But in the end, we realize that God’s plan was the right one, and often the only one. Yet, in the process of our negotiating, we are able to talk it out with Him. We are able to grow in our relationship with Him. We are able to learn more about Him. When we’re done, He’s done and then He holds us to that agreement. He goes about carrying out His part. All we can do is “return to our rightful place”, wait for Him to work it out, and come to the realization that we are safe in His care.

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Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Genesis 18:22-25 On Challenging God

Genesis 18:22-25: Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, “Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

The Lord agrees to go down to Sodom to check out the outcry He has heard and Abraham quickly steps in to capitalize on that. As the men turn away, eager to move on to their destination, Abraham remains in his spot before the Lord. He approaches Him and asks whether God really intends to destroy the righteous with the wicked.

Interestingly, the text in this or the previous verses gives no indication whatsoever as to what God intended to do when He got to Sodom. All we know is that He was not happy with what He had heard in their outcry. So, one of three things happened which led to this question. First, perhaps Abraham knew God well enough to know what He would do when He called someone’s sin ‘exceedingly grave’ as He did in verse twenty. Secondly, Abraham may simply have assumed what God would do. Thirdly, there was more conversation between them than what the text indicates.

If the third possibility was indeed the case and there was more conversation than what we are provided with, then clearly this can also be true of the rest of scripture. That is, we may only have the highlights and critical aspects of any conversation in scripture and indeed there may be more in the account we have of any given incidence. That is a real and most probable possibility. Those of us who to try to understand scripture and interpret it for our own use must be careful to base our interpretation on what we have in scripture and to clearly indicate when we are extrapolating our interpretation based on what else we ‘assume’ was taking place or may have been said.

For whatever reason, Abraham asks God to consider sparing the city if there were fifty righteous people He could find. What I find most strange is that here is Abraham speaking to the all mighty God and saying, “Surely it is not like you to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Surely, you are not going to treat them the same. That’s not you at all, God. You are the Supreme Judge and you must deal with justice.”

Wow. That reminds me of getting sass from my children when they were young and would find some inconsistency in my life or thinking. How dare they? It reminded me of accusing my father of lying in front of my uncle. Boy, was I sore for days after that. How dared I? Yet Abraham was somehow able to question or challenge God in this manner. Perhaps it was due to his friendship with God. Perhaps he felt that as the Lord’s recent host, he could be so bold. Perhaps because of the covenant God had made with Abraham, this mortal felt he could appeal to God in the way that he did.

How would you have reacted to such a challenge if you were in God’s shoes? I would be taken aback and probably react negatively as I did when my young children challenged me or as did my dad when I challenged him in public. The next few verses reveal God’s reaction.

The point here though is the thinking behind Abraham’s challenge. When studied more closely, we see that very question indicates Abraham had an understanding about God’s character. God was a fair and just Judge who loved the righteous and would punish the unrighteous. Abraham also felt that God would deal with those that approached Him on behalf of others. Because he both asked a question and also made observations about what God would not do, it is not clear whether Abraham was hoping to point out to God that He made an error in His approach to this matter, or whether Abraham was actually hoping to change God’s mind. In any case, Abraham felt he could approach God.

We may not always have a case to present before God, but how wonderful it is to know that we can have a relationship with Him like Abraham did. We can approach our God as freely as Abraham did. I know people that feel they cannot, that God has no time for them because of their past. When they need Him most and when He is most willing to listen and care, they themselves make that impossible. That is indeed tragic.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Who's Faith Is It Anyway OR How the Press Impacts Evangelicals

Who’s Faith Is It Anyway or How the Press Impacts Evangelicals

I recently realized that many of us Christians are indeed “sheep”. And I don’t necessarily mean the kind that Christ calls His own (although He calls us that). I mean the kind that are dumb, willing to be led around by anyone and everyone that wants to ‘shepherd’ us. The latest example is how the media and some politicians, rather than we ourselves, are defining the role that evangelicals and others have played in the past and will be playing in the next American election. Here are a few examples I’ve picked up from both the media and partisans on this very point:

• “Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama.” – Alan Keyes, Republican Senate candidate in 2004.
• “Obama is emerging as the candidate with the greatest chance in decades to coax at least some Christian evangelicals and other churchgoing voters away from the Republican fold.” – MacLean’s magazine, July 7, 2008.
• “If this election turns out to be as close (as the one in 2004), religious groups could make a big difference.” – John Green, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
• “There are signs of a potentially historic shift.” – MacLean’s magazine, July 7, 2008.
• “Evangelicals are waking up to the idea that abortion is not the only moral issue.” – Stephen Mansfield, author, The Faith of George W. Bush.

With Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy dead, and Pat Robertson awfully quiet at age 78, the press (again not us) points to popular preachers of today and tells us Joel Osteen simply urges people to vote, T. D. Jakes has not endorsed any candidate, and Rick Warren is not openly partisan and seems to be embracing broader social concerns than what evangelicals have traditionally worried about. It tells us that more and more Christians feel that neither political party made a difference on abortion, but the Bush administration was immoral on the issue of war and terror. It tells us that evangelical organizations like Sojourners out of Washington are devoted to fighting poverty and ending the war in Iraq. It (not us) tells us younger evangelicals care more about the environment than their elders. The implication is clearly, “What’s the matter with the rest of us?”

The Pew Forum tells us that the greatest loss of support for George Bush between 2001 and 2007 came from white evangelicals aged 18 to 29. A recent Pew poll says that only 57 per cent of white evangelical Protestants support the Republicans, down from 62 per cent in 2004. The press says this is an opportunity for the Democrats and Obama to gain votes – enough to win the election.

Why is this happening? Well, for starters all of the above are true. Bush has lost many Americans over the war. Current popular preachers are staying silent. Christians are giving up on winning certain issues, and focusing on those for which the Democratic Party seems to have a stronger platform. The ‘moral majority’ is dead and the Christian left is starting to take charge once more. But there’s another reason.

Barack Obama is speaking more openly about his ‘faith’ and feeling at ease doing so. John McCain considers it a personal matter. In addition, he has alienated many Christians on his stance on certain traditional Christian issues. With nothing to gain in those areas by sticking with McCain, many are investigating the move to the left.

Here’s what the press wants us to think and believe and they say it through the words of Douglas Kmiec, a pro-life conservative Roman Catholic: “You should not have blinders on about the rest of your obligations to your fellow neighbors: addressing the needs of health care, to provide a family wage for a working person, and it certainly requires that you pay attention to the use of warfare, and whether it has been justifiably applied in a limited circumstance.”

However, they clearly seem to also be telling us, by their silence, that Christians, especially evangelicals, can have blinders on about the very “faith” of the candidates in the upcoming election. Take a closer look.

I believe there’s enough evidence that Barack Obama is not a Muslim. But he also takes a postmodern, theologically liberal approach to scripture putting less weight on some of Paul’s instructions on lifestyle and more on the Sermon on the Mount. While the press admits this approach is not for everyone, it points out that it is gaining popularity. It then suggests that Obama’s type of faith may be just the ticket at this time when the face of evangelicalism is changing.

Okay, so how does all this relate to church leadership? I believe as leaders we have a responsibility to encourage our congregants to think for themselves and not be led like sheep by anyone else, including the press. I believe we also have a responsibility to help them ask some questions, in fact some of the same questions the press asks. For example, “Regardless of a candidate’s own faith, what is his attitude towards Islam?” Some of Bush’s troubles with evangelicals started when he spoke of the Muslim and the Christian God as one. Or “What is the value of a candidate’s faith when he totally misunderstands the difference between O.T. law and N.T. grace?” as Obama did in his famous June 2006 speech in which he said it is difficult to translate the Bible into secular law. He spoke as follows: “Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?” I, for one, place no value on any man’s comments about his own faith when he talks like that. His very questions indicate he has very little of any true understanding of Scripture and God’s plan for man. He wants us to allow our faith to inspire, but not to dictate, public policy.

Hopefully, we don’t want just an inspiring faith that cannot be applied to life and reflected in public policy in a nation that is predominantly Judeo-Christian. And besides, tell the Muslims that their faith should only inspire, and not dictate. Tell them that Sharia law is no good. In Obama’s thinking, being against abortion because God is against it is not good enough; he wants us to explain to everybody’s satisfaction, including an atheist’s, why abortion violates moral principle. As for John McCain we may well ask, “Why is he so silent about his faith? Could it be he really does not have anything substantial to offer in that department?”

I also believe we have a responsibility to get together and speak with one mind on this topic authoritatively for ourselves. If not, we should at least get together and say, “what’s going on in American politics today, or at least the abuse and misuse of true faith in American politics today, really does not concern us because it does not change the Truth!”

But then again, that’s my take. What’s yours? Are we really in a “damned if we do and damned if we don’t” situation? What are you telling your congregation as the election nears? Although I do not for a minute believe any of us have an in on what our Lord would say or do in any situation, the famous adage “WWJD?” seems to fit well here. And most importantly why has there not been a definitive voice for Christian church? Is it because we’re to not bother with all this? Help me out.

Until next time,

Ken Godevenos

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.