Who You Gonna Call?

November 15, 2015

Talking with the right person is important. If you have a complaint about the way you are treated at a store, you want to talk to the manager. If you have an illness that needs to be addressed you call the doctor. If you want to improve your grades at school, you call on the teacher. If you go to the doctor to complain about the salesclerk the doctor will say, “You are talking to the wrong person.”

Now if you want to live life to the full who do you talk to? Well I wouldn’t talk to your alderman. Nor would I talk to Oprah. If you want to live life to the full you need to call on the name of the Lord. Are you a person who calls on the name of the Lord?


The sin of Adam and Eve has had very deep and lasting effects. Gen.4 begins with the birth of Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer while Abel was a herdsman. At some point they both brought an offering to the Lord as an act of worship. Cain brought an offering from the harvest of his crops. Abel sacrificed a lamb from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s offering.

Gen.4:5 tells us that Cain was very angry and his face fell. Notice v.6-7. Sometimes it is thought that Cain’s offering was rejected because it was not an animal sacrifice. But when we look at the laws governing the Old Testament offerings we see that God accepted offerings of grain as well as animal sacrifices. It would seem that there was something going on in Cain’s heart. His heart was not right before God.

This tells us that when it comes to worship we can’t just mail it in. The offering itself is not as important as the heart behind the offering. You remember that Jesus told us that when we bring our gift to the altar, if we have something against someone we need to go and reconcile and then come and offer our gift. God encouraged Cain to assess his heart. “Get your heart right and your gift will be acceptable. Don’t let anger rule your life.” From v.8 we know that Cain did not listen to God. Instead he killed his brother Abel.

In Gen.4:25, we learn that Eve became pregnant and had a son. He was named, Seth. The text reads, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel.” Many believe that Eve is alluding to Gen.3:15. Last week we noted that Gen.3:15 is the first promise of salvation. The offspring of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, of Satan. From what we know about Cain, he embraced the way of the serpent, of Satan. In other words, Cain became one of the offspring of the serpent. Abel’s heart was right before God, but he was dead. And so now we read about Seth. Could it be that perhaps Seth would be the offspring that would crush the head of the serpent? It seems that in Gen.4:25, Eve is thinking back to that word of promise from God. Well, Seth grew up and had a son named Enosh. In v.26 it says, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.” It looks to me as if Seth was someone who embraced God and his ways and he influenced others.

Those who call upon the Lord, trust in the word of the Lord. Now from the very beginning this was the issue that tripped Adam and Eve up. They did not fully trust in the word of the Lord. They trusted the word of the serpent instead, and Cain wanted nothing to do with the word of the Lord.

We live in a day when skepticism and doubt are highly valued and scientific proof is considered to be far more trustworthy than religious truth. And if we are not careful it is very easy for believers to put the word of God on the back burner of their lives. So when it comes to making decisions we do not often consider the word of God. We decide on the basis of what seems best to us at the time without regard for God. Paul reminds us in Rm.1:17 that the righteous shall live by faith.” Paul spoke about the righteousness of God that is available to us, “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” When Jesus walked this earth he said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

When we come to Jesus in faith, we put our confidence in him and his word for all of life. Our confidence in Jesus is not just so we can get into heaven. We are trusting in Jesus to help us live like Jesus would live if he were in our shoes. Many of us have memorized Prov.3:5-6. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Are you living your life by trusting in the word of God?

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit by which we vanquish the fiery darts of the evil one. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Peter writes, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”

Today many do not believe that the word of God is true. What about you? Do you trust in the word of God and the teachings of Jesus enough to stake your life on them?, enough to live your life with Christ by them?


In Gen.4 we see what happens to Cain. Because he killed his brother, Abel, the ground would no longer yield a harvest. The work that he loved was taken away from him. Cain was sentenced to be a wanderer. From v.14 it would seem that the population was growing and Cain feared that by having to wander his life would be in jeopardy. He pleaded with God to show mercy. And God did show mercy. God shows mercy to sinners. He put some sort of mark of protection on Cain. In v.16 we read very sad words, “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” When you are not interested in the word of the Lord what else would you do, except move away from the Lord?

In the rest of Gen.4 we read about the descendants of Cain. Cain went out and built a city and he had a son named Enoch. This is the first reference to a city in the Bible. In v.18 we read about a number of Cain’s descendants through Enoch until we come to Lamech. Lamech married two wives and had three sons. Jabal establishes himself as in innovator in the area of animal husbandry. Jubal is an innovator in music and musical instruments. Tubal-Cain cultivates an expertise in working with bronze and iron. They each established new technologies in the development of culture.

But we also see something else. Cain and his descendants are not godly men by any stretch. In v.23 Lamech boasts of having killed a young man. It sounds as if he is just looking for any provocation to kill others. I don’t want to make too much of this, but surely there is a link between the values and lifestyle passed on from one’s parents. Cain did not honor the Lord. He had no regard for God. So we are not surprised to find that his children and grandchildren also do not honor or acknowledge the Lord.

They accomplish many wonderful things because they bear the image of God and because of God’s common grace, but they do not know the Lord. I suppose many of Cain’s descendants were nice enough people, but they did not care about the Lord. And just to remind us, these would all qualify to be the serpent’s offspring.

In Gen.5 we read about the descendants of Seth. This is the chapter that lists how many years these people lived. They lived for hundreds of years. In v.26 Methuselah lived for 969 years. Various ways of looking at these long lives have been offered. The text is pretty straight forward here so I just accept it as it is.

There are ten names listed in this chapter. What we need to see is that eight of the names include the phrase, “and he died.” Verse 5 says, “Adam lived 930 years and he died.” Physical death is the outcome of spiritual death.

But in v.22-23 we find something different (read). Enoch is said to have walked with God. When a person trusts God their trust is expressed in their walk. Enoch walked with God. Now we have been saying that life to the full begins with God. God exists, so we worship him. God created all things, so we belong to him and obey him. God sustains all things, so we depend upon him. God saves all so we call to him in faith. This is what it means to walk with God. Our primary reference point in all of life is God. Look at v.24. It says, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” In other words, Enoch never died. And while Noah, in v.32, did die at the end of Gen.9, here in Gen.5, there is no record of his death. Interestingly enough, in Gen.6:9 we read that Noah also walked with God.

Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. They experienced spiritual death. They were separated from God. Cain rejected God. They forfeited life. They all died. Enoch was also separated from God because of sin, but he was one who called upon God. Enoch entered into life, life with God. Noah did the same.

I cannot help but draw the connection with the words of Jesus in Jn.11:25-27. At the death of Lazarus, we read that Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."

When a person turns to Jesus Christ in faith for forgiveness and life in the Kingdom of God, that person is made alive to God and begins to walk with God through faith in Christ. Walking with God is part and parcel of receiving his salvation. If you are not seeking to walk with God then you need to think twice about whether or not you have received God’s salvation in Christ. Those who call upon the Lord, walk with God


What does it mean to stand firm in the Faith? As Christians we are told to stand firm in the faith a number of times. In 1Cor.16:13 it says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” In Eph.6:13 we read, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” There is a very interesting verse in Dan.11:32. As Daniel prophecies about the various armies that shall come against Jerusalem we find the phrase, “…but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”

The phrase, “stand firm,” implies that walking with God can be very challenging. In the days of Noah, God saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth. Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” God determined to blot out mankind through a flood.

But look at v.8-9. Here was one man, Noah, who found favor or grace with God. He was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Like Enoch, Noah walked with God.

Noah was 500 years old when he had his three sons. He was 600 years old when the flood came. Some have estimated that it took about 60 years to build the ark. One would imagine that many would have ridiculed Noah as he was building the ark. There was no place to float a boat that big. What on earth is Noah doing? Noah was obeying the Lord. He stood firm in his faith regardless of social pressure. He stood as a witness of living life with God. According to Heb.11:7, through his steadfast obedience to God he condemned the world showing the corruption of the world. Of course no culture, no generation has a corner on corruption. In Mt.24 Jesus makes it clear that at his second coming, it will be just as it was in the days of Noah.

Now, it is important that we put things into perspective here. When you go to Starbucks they will write your name on your cup of coffee. Recently Starbucks rolled out their bright red cups for the holidays. If you are on facebook, no doubt you have seen some of things that Christians are saying about the fact that Starbucks does not put Merry Christmas on their holiday cups. Some have concluded that Starbucks hates Jesus. So instead of having their names written on the cup, Christians are being encouraged to say “Merry Christmas” as their name.

Men and women, is this really the battle we want to fight as Christians? We are not living in a Christian country. We are living in a secular country in which thankfully, there are a good number of Christians. According to cnn.com, “When the cups rolled out in late October, Starbucks vice president Jeffrey Fields said the company "wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories." Doesn’t that make sense for a secular company trying to appeal to everyone? Forcing Starbuck’s employees to write “Merry Christmas” on a cup is not what it means to stand firm in the Faith.

Standing firm in the faith means that no matter what trouble or sorrow comes into our lives we will trust in the goodness of God. Standing firm in the faith means that when we are being pressured to lie or cheat at work, we will refuse. We are people of integrity. Standing firm in the faith means that we will strive to live lives of moral purity. Standing firm in the faith means that we will choose to love everyone, even our enemies. Standing firm in the faith means that we will return good for evil. Standing firm in the faith means that we will be willing to be imprisoned, tortured and martyred for Christ’s sake.

If anyone lived life to the full, it was Jesus. Yet Jesus faced many troubles. He endured the cross, scorning its shame for the joy that was set before him. The joy of the Lord was his strength and the joy of the Lord is in us through the Holy Spirit. When we call on the name of the Lord it does not mean that we will be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease. Rather we must stand firm in the faith.

From looking at Genesis 4-6 it would appear that there was a time when few, if any people were calling on the name of the Lord. And then Seth was born and people began to once again seek the Lord and call upon him. Are you a person who calls upon the name of the Lord? Are you trusting in the word of God? Are you walking with God? Are you standing firm in the faith? This is the way to live life to the full. Amen


Choose Life

November 8, 2015

Fruit for the fruit bowl! When the fruit bowl is filled with fruit it is so inviting. There’s nothing like a good apple or banana, or even a tomato, which is a fruit. But there are times when the fruit looks great to eat, but underneath it is rotting. A bad spot has begun to decay and because it is underneath you don’t catch it right away and the fruit has to be thrown out.

We are talking about living life to the full. Life to the full begins with acknowledging God and enjoying his good gifts within the sphere of his good rule. Many appear to be living life to the full. But in reality underneath or deep in their hearts there is decay. It is the decay of sin. Sin destroys life to the full.


Genesis 1-2 are very positive in nature. All God created was good. Genesis 2 ends with a statement that Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. There was true innocence between them.

Because everything was good, we are not quite prepared for Genesis 3. All of sudden we are reading about a shrewd or crafty serpent. I mean, what happened here? Many suggest that at some point evil entered into the world. We believe it was through the rebellion of Satan. As Christians we do not believe that evil always existed. The universe is not a dualism like in Star Wars. Evil came into existence through the rebellion of Satan against God. And it would seem that Satan used the serpent to corrupt mankind.

The serpent initiates a conversation with Eve. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden.” He twists the words of God and raises a question concerning the wisdom and goodness of God. What kind of God would make all the fruit bearing trees off limits to Adam and Eve? Of course this is not what God said. It was a very misleading conversation starter. Eve’s response is right for the most part, but even Eve says more than what God had said. Eve says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” That is not exactly what God said.

The serpent presented himself as an authority, knowing at least as much as God knows. “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. God is holding something back from you. Your life can be much fuller. There is more for you to know. After all, knowledge is power.”

Now all things were created for God’s glory and for the well-being of mankind. God knows exactly what mankind needs to live life to the full and he provided it. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. As bearers of the image of God Adam and Eve were given dominion to rule over the earth and they were given the gift of community and marriage. In many ways they were already like God.

The quest for knowledge and wisdom is not a bad thing, but the serpent was urging them to seek it apart from God and his good rules. The serpent was suggesting that being created in the image of God was not good enough. They could become more like God than they already were.

So in v.6 Eve and Adam both eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thinking they will become wise like God. Now God clearly knows all about good and evil, but there is more than one way to learn about good and evil. When I was young my dad took us into New York City to see the Bowery, which at that time was pretty decadent. We saw mostly men, disheveled, lying on the sidewalks, sleeping off their drunkenness. We learned about the pitfalls of alcoholism. While in elementary school I saw pictures of lungs that were ruined by smoking. I learned about the evils of cigarettes. I could tell other stories about the foolishness of lying and cheating. This kind of learning is powerful and does not involve doing the sinful acts.

Of course one can also learn about good and evil by committing the sinful action. That is not the best way. The price is usually high and self-destructive. And that is exactly what happened with Adam and Eve. The knowledge they gained did not bring fullness of life. It brought guilt, personal shame, and vulnerability. Their joyful innocence was taken away and they experienced shame in their nakedness, to the point that they felt the need to cover themselves, to hide themselves from each other. In disobeying God they embraced personal autonomy. They took themselves out from under the good rule of God. They became their own god.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought sin and rebellion against God into the realm of mankind. In Rm.5 Paul points out that there is a sense in which all the descendants of Adam and Eve, share in their sin. In Rm.3:23 Paul clearly states that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us are born with a propensity to disobey God whenever it seems best for us.

You see, our sin is really no different from that of Adam and Eve. The serpent presented himself as reasonable and thoughtful. Sin almost always makes some kind of sense to us. If offers various kinds of excitement, pleasure, security, or wealth. It gives us a feeling of empowerment and control. It seems to make good sense at the time. It seems to fill a real need in our lives. And the thought comes to our mind, “Why would God withhold this good thing from me.” Or, “Really, what is so bad about this?”

In a blog by Scott McKnight about how the cultural mindset of the west squares with the cultural mindset of the church, he writes, “Western culture believes its laws are created by the people, they are for the people, and when the people shift, the laws will need to shift with them.” But in the church we believe in laws that are revealed to us from God. They are not relative. Well sin always relativizes the good laws of God.

Every one of us has disobeyed the good rules of God. We have desired to be autonomous from God in order to live the way we see fit. It is a rebellion against the goodness and kindness of God. As sinners we do not worship, obey, or depend upon God. Nor do most sinners ever acknowledge their sin and seek God for his forgiveness and restoration of life to the full.

II. ALL HAVE DIED. Gen.3:11-24

In v.3 Eve affirms that the penalty for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is death. In Rm.6:23, Paul points out that the wages of sin is death. So what happened after Adam and Eve ate from the tree?

We already mentioned that they lost their innocence. They became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed. One scholar proposes that before they sinned they glowed with the glory of God. You remember how on the mount of transfiguration the clothes of Moses and Elijah became an intense, radiant white. Well perhaps it was similar with Adam and Eve. Once they sinned they were no longer clothed in the glory of God. It’s just an idea.

In v.8-10 we see that not only were they ashamed in their nakedness before each other, they were afraid to be in the presence of God. They had never been afraid before. But now they were.

In v.11 God asks if they ate from the tree. Immediately both Adam and Eve cast blame away from themselves. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. In v.14-19 God pronounces a sentence upon them. First the serpent is cursed above all other animals and sentenced to craw on its belly.

In v.16 a sentence is pronounced upon Eve and all women to follow. There will be much pain in childbirth. And not only that there will be strife and enmity between husbands and wives. From the text it would appear that husband and wife will continually be jockeying for power and control. Husbands would use their brute strength to rule over their wives. So much for fullness of life in marriage!

In v.17 Adam is sentenced to work by the sweat of his brow. God curses the earth so that it brings forth thorns and thistles. Making a living, providing for the family, would become a hardship. So much for the joy of work! And in v.19 God makes it very clear that death would be their lot.

But there is something else. In v.22-24 we see that in order to keep them from eating from the tree of life, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. The sinners were excluded from the life of God. They were excluded from having fellowship in the presence of God. This is spiritual death. They left fellowship and life with God when they chose to no longer trust or obey God. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Just as Satan blinded the hearts of Adam and Eve, so Paul writes, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

And not only were they expelled. God made it impossible for them to get back into the garden on their own terms. This is why Isaiah writes in Is.59:2, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” One further expression of this is seen in the fact that in the Temple a thick curtain separated the worshiper from the presence of God.

Well what would you expect? We might say that God does not go where he is not wanted. And the truth is that men and women are not naturally inclined towards God. Some say that we are totally depraved because of sin. Well that may be. Certainly we are sufficiently depraved to keep us from desiring God and his good rule over and in our lives. All have died. You and I have died in our sins.


Genesis 3:15 is referred to as the protoeuangelium. It is the first announcement of good news in the Bible. Here God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." What is this all about? Well it is God’s promise to bring about the defeat of Satan and all the destruction and devastation that Satan wreaks on the earth through his demons and sinful people. It is the first promise that God is going to set things right. Thus begins the story of salvation.

As the population increases eventually God brings about a people of his own making through the descendants of Abraham. Of course I’m referring to Israel, the Jewish nation. Just as Adam and Eve once enjoyed living under God’s good rule, so Israel was to be a light to the whole world of just how good it is to live under the rule of God in The Promised Land. But the people of Israel chose to follow the rest of the world and not to worship and trust in God. Israel became like the pagan nations around them, practicing idolatry.

After a long time God raised up a Savior, born of a woman, of the tribe of Judah. His name is Jesus. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh. He came to seek and to save people who are dead in their trespasses and sins. He called people to repent of their sins and follow him. In his life we see the goodness of God. In his dying on the cross he bore the guilt of all our sins and defeated the power of Satan. In rising from the dead he made it possible for us to be justified in the sight of God, by forgiving our sins and giving us his eternal life to live.

Jesus opened the way back to God. Do you remember earlier I mentioned that in the temple a thick curtain separated the worshiper from the presence of God? Interestingly enough, in Lk.23:44-45 while Jesus was dying on the cross, we read, “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” And then Jesus died. What happened there? Well Jesus was opening the way back to God, the way back to life. All of us are sinners. All of us are dead in our sins. All of us are offered life to the full through Jesus Christ, if we want it.

So what does life to the full in Jesus Christ look like? Well we can go right to Gen.1:1. Because God is, we worship him. Because God created all things, we belong to him and obey him. Because God sustains all things, we are dependent upon him. Because God saves all things we call to him in faith to deliver us from sin and death. In other words, through faith in Christ we are given new eternal life. Just as the Son of God took on flesh in the person of Jesus, so Jesus comes to live in us. Jesus is embodied in our lives when we call upon him to save us. We become new creations in Christ. The goal of our salvation is transformed living, life to the full.

Now, one more thought and we are done. Some think of salvation much like they think of life insurance. When we get life insurance as long as we pay the premiums we are insured. It doesn’t really make any difference how we live as long as we pay our premiums. Likewise, some think that praying a prayer of faith in Christ for salvation is sufficient to assure them of a place in heaven. It is certainly a first step. When Jesus comes to live in a person he comes to transform that person’s life to be like his own. And so a Christian is one who calls upon the name of the Lord to be saved and then begins to walk in the steps of Jesus. They pursue integrity, purity, selflessness, humility, love, joy, peace, patience, meekness. To claim to know Christ and not pursue these Christ-like virtues is to delude oneself. You cannot enjoy life to the full unless you are living in the fullness of Christ and his ways.

 Angie and I like to watch The Voice. There are some really good singers in that contest. Each coach assembles a team of 12 singers. During the battle rounds the 12 singers are paired up and must sing together. After hearing the duets the coach must choose which of the two voices will stay on his or her team & which will leave. Eventually each team consists of 6 singers.

Men and women, as we live our lives in this world we hear two voices. One is the voice of the world which calls us to find fullness of life in the world by satisfying ourselves with the things of this world. It’s actually the voice of the serpent. The other voice is the voice of God, our Creator. He is calling us to find fullness of life by repenting of our sin and embracing Jesus by faith as our Savior, Lord and King. Which voice will you choose to live by? It’s your choice, and only you can choose. If you choose Christ, you choose life. If you choose the world, you choose death. What is your choice? Amen

Living In Community

November 1, 2015

Eating a meal with dear friends and family can be a wonderful experience. By the candlelight you see the warm smiles and hear the friendly banter of conversation and laughter. For a few brief minutes all is well with the world. Of course it’s not always like that, especially in family gatherings. Sometimes there is so much underlying anger and bitterness that eating together is a strain on everyone.

We are in a series of messages called, “In the Beginning.” And we are thinking about how one can live life to the full. The opening line of Genesis sets the pace. Life to the full begins with acknowledging the God who exists, the God who has created all things and who sustains all things and who saves all things. We worship this God. We obey this God. We depend upon this God and we look to this God to save us from our sins. Abundant living is found in God

Last week we also noted that at the beginning God gave mankind work to do. Living life to the full involves being engaged in work. This week we will see that God has also given us the gift of community. Interpersonal relationships allow mankind to enjoy fullness of life.


When we read the story of creation in Gen.1 we read that God saw that everything he made was good. Isaiah 45:18 tells us that God created the earth to be inhabited. Everything God created was for his glory and for the good of mankind. It was created to bring joy and delight to our lives. It was created for us to explore and develop its potential. But in Gen.2 we learn that there was one thing that wasn’t so good.

As Adam was giving names to all the animals he discovered that there was not found a helper fit for him. In Gen.2:18 God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

As Christians, we believe that God dwells in a complex unity. We believe in the Trinity. God is one in three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I mention this because it is important for us to be reminded that within the Godhead there is interpersonal relationship. There is community, fellowship, and love. Humanity is created in the image of God. We bear the image of God. One of the implications of this is that we were made to have dominion, to reign in the earth. Another implication is that we were made to be in relationship. We are personal, relational people as God is personal and relational.

So it was not good for the man to be alone. This is not a weakness of the masculine gender; this is how we were designed. Isn’t it interesting that in Gen.1:27 it says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Mankind is male and female. We were created to be in relationship with others.

Now let think about this. When God created Eve, he created someone who was obviously different from Adam and yet someone who corresponded to Adam. Adam recognized the likeness and the difference. In our human relationships we benefit from the fact that all of us have similarities and differences. Because we have similarities we are affirmed and encouraged. Just think about how it is when you are talking with someone and that person identifies a feeling, idea, or experience that you yourself have. Immediately we feel we can relate with that person. That person affirms something in us. “I know what you are going through,” we say. “I thought I was the only one who had these feelings,” we say.

And then our differences help us come to know ourselves better as we interact with others. Why is that? It is because the differences between us bring out various dimensions of our personality. Maybe you have a friend who makes you laugh or who challenges you to be better, or who brings out a different side of you. “I’ve never seen that side of you,” we say.

And of course, being in relationship means we can help each other in a whole variety of ways. Adam and Eve were to help one another do what God gave them to do. Being in relationship is critical for our well-being and wholeness as people.

But there is something else that must be stated. The fact that we are created in the image of God means that not only are we valuable to God and treasured by God, but we must treasure each other. You are not valuable just because of what you can add to the workplace or the church. You are not valuable just because you are so intelligent or capable or beautiful. You are valuable because you bear the image of God. Mankind has extrinsic value. Our value comes from outside of ourselves; it comes from God who made us. We also have intrinsic value because each of us is unique. There is no one quite like you.

Men and women, this means we must treasure each other. As Christians we ought to have a general love for everyone. John reminds us that we cannot say we love God if we do not love others created by God. At the most basic level this means there ought not to be one ounce of prejudice or bigotry in our hearts towards any other ethnic group. It is true that because of sin there are many things that divide people and cause strife. But we ought never to demean or degrade or treat with contempt anyone on the basis of their race. When we do that we pour contempt on God himself. Again, if we value or treasure someone it means we will desire what is truly good for other people. And if you are a Christian, you will desire what is good even for those who care nothing for you. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”

Some of us are extroverts and others are introverts. Whatever we may be, we need others and we need to be in relationship with others. Community, communion with other people is one of God’s good gifts for living life to the full.


It is absolutely true that deep relationships can be experienced outside of marriage. We have brothers and sisters and other relatives that we may be very close to. We have close friends with whom we share our lives. But the marriage relationship between a man and a women has the potential for being the deepest human relationship possible.

Because the woman was taken out of the man it is clear that men and women complete each other. They belong together and bring a fullness of life out of their relationship. I also believe that since marriage is God’s design and intention for mankind, marriage is sacred. It is holy and ought to be treated as holy.

According to the text, a man is to leave father and mother and hold fast to his wife. In other words the husband is to cherish his wife and put his wife’s welfare above that of his own parents and family. So sacred, significant, and intimate is the marriage relationship that even one’s parents must not be allowed to interfere. Cultivating marital love requires everything we are and have as persons. Husbands and wives are to hold fast to each other.

Why is this important? It is because they become one flesh. There is not just intellectual and emotional intimacy; there is physical and spiritual intimacy. This physical and spiritual intimacy involves the total person and involves such vulnerability that it requires the protection of a covenant in which husband and wife promise to hold fast to each other at all costs. And of course, through physical intimacy children are often brought into the world. And children need a mother and a father. So husbands and wives must hold fast to each other even in the difficulties of raising children.

In marriage everything is shared. There is no need for pre-nuptial agreements. Pre-nups are for people who do not trust each other. In marriage we are devoted to the highest welfare of our spouse. In marriage we lay our lives down for the good of our spouse.

One can quickly see why marriage provides stability for society. Healthy, secure marriages create stable families which build strong societies. Promiscuity has never done any person or any society any good.

Jesus quoted these verses when teaching about divorce. Divorce is not in God’s plan. In Malachi we read that God hates divorce. In Dt.24 we learn that God permitted divorce as a concession for the hardness of people’s hearts. He permitted divorce because hard heartedness often destroys others. Jesus permitted divorce in the case of adultery or porneia. Porneia is not just adultery; it refers to any kind of sexual infidelity. Paul added the situation in which an unbelieving spouse deserts the marriage. Divorce is never mandated. It is best if husband and wife can forgive and renew their covenant. But hardness of heart sometimes makes that impossible.

But wait, I’m just being my serious self here. Marriage was given before sin ever entered into this world. Marriage is a common grace from God. It is for the good of people and helps to provide fullness in life. When a man and a woman put God first in their lives and then get married, the potential for fullness of life is wonderful. It is so wonderful that in Eph.5 Paul tells us that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church.

There are many wonderful marriages in the world. But there are also many dysfunctional and destructive marriages as well. Let me say a couple of things.

If you are in an abusive marriage you should probably separate. Physical and emotional abuse is far from what God ever intended. I’m not saying you should immediately get a divorce. But you should separate for your safety and wellbeing.

But what about those marriages in which there is no abuse but there is great unhappiness and dysfunction? Well, if you are a Christian I urge you to begin by looking at yourself. What negative traits do you contribute to your marriage? What dysfunction have you brought into your marriage? It is important to address these things, perhaps with a Christian counselor. We all bring the good, the bad, and the ugly into our marriages. As Christians our main goal is to see our character transformed by the renewing of our minds. The goal is not to change your spouse, but to be more like Jesus in the way you live with your spouse. Your spouse has issues as well and you must pray for him or her, asking God to work in their lives. But as you pray for your spouse, make the necessary changes in your life with God’s help. Write those changes down and begin taking steps towards a new you in Christ.


God is so gracious that he makes it possible for humans to find joy in interpersonal relationships including marriage. Many unbelievers have deep friendships. Many unbelievers enjoy wonderful marriages. I can tell you that these good friendships and marriages are only as good as the people involved embrace Godly values. Even non-Christians can be trustworthy, loving and kind.

However, unbelievers display these good values from a heart that is basically dominated by self-interest. Unbelievers do not have the Holy Spirit. They lack the resources necessary for deep personal transformation in their lives. They are left to their own resources and when bad things happen they are often not able to persevere and forgive. Meaning and purpose is temporal and often rooted in self achievement, other people, and material wealth. All of these things will eventually fail us.

In previous weeks we pointed out that the book of Genesis begins with God. All things, except for evil, find their source in God. Because we are created in the image of God our primary reference for life is God. Acknowledging God as our Lord and Savior and King is how we begin to enter into the kingdom of God and life to the full. Jesus reveals this God in all his goodness and love. So when we embrace Jesus by faith we embrace God, our Creator.

Because God is the Creator and Sustainer of our lives real, lasting meaning and purpose in life comes from him. Living according to his good rules, living like Jesus, holds promise for abundant, eternal living.

This is why I say that knowing God is the most important relationship of your life. Men and women, sometimes I am fearful that there are people in our congregation who had some kind of spiritual experience at some point in their lives, but in fact their Christian life has not progressed very much beyond that. Maybe you came forward when an altar call was made and you felt the presence and power of God in your life. Maybe you were in deep trouble and you called upon the Lord and the Lord rescued you. Maybe you prayed a prayer of salvation. Maybe you found yourself on the mourner’s bench because you felt it was time to come to God. These are all wonderful and even enriching experiences.

But I wonder, is Jesus alive in you? Is your life being transformed by Him? Some people come to know Christ but they remain bitter, angry, unkind, and selfish. They do not see all that much reason to be in community with the people of God. They come to church when they feel like getting up, but corporate worship of God is not high on their agenda.

If after getting married to Angie, I continued to live as if I was not married, paying attention to Angie only when it seemed convenient for me, not living with regard for Angie, you would truly wonder what was wrong with me. Because when a person gets married their whole life is lived in regard to their spouse.

Well when a person turns in faith to Jesus Christ, because he is God in the flesh, because he died and rose from the dead that we might have eternal living, because he is the reigning King who has all authority in heaven and earth, we follow him and seek to live under his good rules.

The truth is that some professing Christians are just not interested in living under the rule of Christ. Some professing Christians are counting on a spiritual experience they had at some point in their lives. Some are counting on their baptism. But Jesus said, “Follow me.” “Obey all that I have commanded you.” In Jer.9:23-24 it says, “Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." Do you know God through faith in Christ? Assess your life today. Are you living as someone who knows God through faith in Christ?

The other night at dinner, Angie and I were talking and I said, in many ways, salvation is so simple and yet it is almost too simple. How does a person inter into abundant living with Christ? Well, it involves a step of faith. It calls for faith because we cannot see God. If we desire to know God through faith in his Son, Jesus, then we simply call to him and ask him to save us and to give us his abundant, eternal life to the full. Now here’s the thing. You really need to think about whether or not you want Jesus and his life to the full, because living out life to the full involves new ways of thinking and acting. Those new ways of thinking and acting are embedded into life with Christ. As we trust in Christ and put our confidence in him, he will help us through his Holy Spirit, to follow in his ways. It will involve effort. Our sins will be forgiven, eternal life will be ours, and transformation of character will begin as we live his life in us. Do you know God? Do you want to know God? Then turn to Jesus Christ.

Work! Work! Work!

October 25, 2015

In 2014 the Washington Post said that the average work week is 47 hours. When I was growing up the average work week was 40 hours. But according to Wikipedia, in the 19th century it was estimated that the average work week was over 60 hours per week. Work takes up a large amount of our time. We sort of have a love-hate relationship with work. We need to work and yet we are happy whenever we can get a day off.

We have been talking about living life to the full. Living life to the full begins with acknowledging God. But interestingly enough, work also has a place in our living life to the full. In Genesis 1-2 we see that meaningful work is God’s gift to mankind.

I. CARE FOR THE EARTH. Gen.1:26-31; Ps.24:1; 115:16

In Ps.24:1 we read, “The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Since God created the heavens and the earth, it all rightfully belongs to him. And because it belongs to him, there is a sense in which all that God has made is holy. There is a sacredness about creation because God created it. We do not worship the earth or anything that is made from the earth. We do not worship the sun, moon or stars. That would be idolatry. We worship God. Creation speaks to us of the beauty and greatness of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” So it all belongs to him.

But that said, there is a sense in which mankind shares in the ownership of creation. In Gen.1:26, we read, “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." Verse 28 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Psalm 115:16 says, “The heavens are the LORD's heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.”

Clearly God has granted to mankind a stewardship over his creation. In Gen.1:28 we find two different words that help us understand our relationship to the earth. The first word is “subdue.” It literally means “to bring into bondage.” According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, “…‘subdue’ in Gen.1:28 implies that creation will not do man’s bidding gladly or easily and that man must now bring creation into submission by main strength.” The second word is “have dominion.” It basically means what it says. We have rule over the earth.

There are some implications that flow from this. First, I see this as an invitation from God to explore and study the earth and all that is in it. If we are going to subdue and have dominion over the earth in a responsible way we need to know as much about it as we possibly can. Because of this I would say that scientific research is what God would have us do. In Gen.2:20 Adam gave names to all livestock, birds, and beasts. I don’t know how Adam did this but he must have had some way of organizing and categorizing the various animals. He was learning about his environment. We continue to do the same.

But a second implication is that we must care for the earth. Since we have been given a stewardship we must exercise our stewardship in a responsible way. The earth is ours to subdue, but it continues to belong to God and because the earth is God’s property we are to respect it. This isn’t difficult to understand. As you know Angie and I live in the church parsonage. We have been given a stewardship that allows us to live in the parsonage as if it were our own home, but in fact it is not our home. It belongs to the church. If we trash or destroy the parsonage or let it fall apart, the congregation would not be happy. So we try to be responsible with that which does not belong to us.

So what does it mean to be good stewards of the earth? This is not an easy question. Over the many years in which this earth has been occupied by mankind, it has become apparent that mankind does not respect the fact that the heavens and earth belong to God. In 1992, American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer, Wendell Berry, spoke at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KT. Berry identifies himself as a Christian. The address was called, “Christianity and the Survival of Creation.” In the address Berry says, “We have no entitlement from the Bible to exterminate or permanently destroy or hold in contempt anything on the earth or in the heavens above it or in the waters beneath it. We have the right to use the gifts of nature but not to ruin or waste them. We have the right to use what we need but no more, which is why the Bible forbids usury and great accumulations of property.”

I don’t know what you believe to be true about climate change and global warming issues. I don’t know how you feel about strip mining, or the abuses that take place in the raising of poultry, pork, and beef. There are many specific concerns when we speak about our stewardship of the earth. You may feel that there is nothing you can do to make a dent in caring for this earth. But that is not true. There are many things that can be recycled. We can try to be more energy efficient. We can try to conserve water. We can walk, ride a bike, or take the train. We can try to avoid polluting the earth with toxic chemicals. There are many ways we can be responsible in our care for the earth. If you want to read more about this you can go to www.greencommunityconnections.org.

God has given us a stewardship. It is a holy calling to treat this earth with the same care that God took in creating it. When I was growing up I was taught that if I borrow a tool from someone I need to return it as clean, or cleaner than when I received it. In other words I must take care of it because it isn’t mine. Well, this holds true for our stewardship of the earth. We are called to care for it. It is part of our God given work. If we do it well, we will find joy in the earth and it will contribute to our fullness of life.


In Gen.2:5 we learn that when God created the earth, “there was no man to work the ground.” After God created man, in 2:15 we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

All of this took place before Adam and Eve sinned. In other words, work is a gift to us from God. It is part of God’s common grace to all mankind. By giving mankind work to do, God was providing a means for living life to the full.

Work enables us to be engaged in life. Work allows us to produce something that contributes to the wellbeing of society. Work enables us to provide for ourselves and our family. And lest you think that work is something to be avoided, just try to go for a long stretch without work. People become depressed. They feel useless and hopeless when they cannot work. Work is a gift from God.

Now what kind of work are we talking about? Well in Gen.2:15 we see that God put Adam into the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Clearly Adam’s first job was agrarian in nature. He was given the task of developing the earth’s potential.

I’ve shared this story before, but it fits here. Years ago a farmer bought a field that was in terrible shape. It was filled with rocks, weeds, and briers. He worked hard to clear the field and eventually sow seed. After a few years of hard work, the field looked abundantly beautiful. The pastor was driving by and stopped and said to the farmer, “My look at what you and God have done together.” The farmer said, “Well, I don’t about that. You should have seen the field when God owned it.” Adam was called to develop the earth’s potential.

As we move forward in Genesis, in Gen.4 we read about a descendant of Cain named, Lamech. Lamech took two wives. Adah had two sons, Jabal and Jubal. About Jabal it says that “he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.” About Jubal it says, “he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.” Zillah, the other wife, bore Tubal-cain. It says that Tubal-cain was the “forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.” I point this out to show that mankind developed various kinds of technology, unleashing more and more of the earth’s potential.

In giving mankind work, God clearly intended that mankind take initiative and put his mind to work in developing new skills and better ways to do things, all the while caring for the earth in a responsible way.

In Col.1:10, Paul writes, “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” In Col.3:23 Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” In 1Thess.4:11 Paul tells us, “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” Of all people, believers are called to do their work, whatever it may be, as unto the Lord. When we do this, our work becomes the Lord’s work. We work to bring honor to His name.

Now this is not so easy. Much that goes for work today can seem meaningless. My dear brother was serving as a campus pastor in a multisite church. Unfortunately his campus was closed down. My brother is four years younger than me. Over the last number of years he has discovered that most congregations do not want to hire a 58 year old man to be their pastor. He has gotten close, but the churches seem to go for the younger guy. Today my brother works in a plastics extrusion factory. It is drudgery. But I must tell you that my brother has looked for ways to increase his ability to make a meaningful contribution in his work. He looks for opportunities and takes initiative.

You may not be satisfied with your job. Maybe it doesn’t pay enough for you. Maybe you don’t get along with your co-workers or supervisors. Maybe you don’t like the work. Okay. If you can find another job, go for it. But do not undervalue the work that you have. As a Christian, God has placed you to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ, and God has called you to do you work for his glory. He wants to use you for good where you work. It is not always easy. Weariness and drudgery often robs our work of meaning. Try to be faithful and to do your work with a good attitude. Put it in your mind that God is using your job to shape and mold you in your character and conduct.


In the creation account of Genesis 1 we find the phrase, “It was good,” six times. The seventh time it appears it refers to everything God made and says, “It was very good.” God took delight in what he created. And then we come to Gen.2:1-3 (read).

Think about this. God rested on the seventh day. Really? Does God need rest? Of course not. The work of creation did not diminish God in any way. Instead what we have here is a very important theme that God initiates for mankind. It is the theme of rest and worship.

In Gen.1:27 we see that mankind is created in the image of God. Not only does this give mankind significant value, but it tells us that our point of reference is not the earth, but God himself. This is why we have been saying that fullness of life begins with God. We experience the greatest fullness in living when we are most like God.

So God rested on the seventh day, delighting in all that he had made. Throughout the scripture the seventh day, the Sabbath, is a special day. The third commandment in Ex.20:8 says, “"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” This is reiterated again and again in the Pentateuch. In Heb.4:9-10 we read, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

The principle of Sabbath is found before the Law of Moses is given and even after Jesus did away with the Sabbath observance as a law to be followed. Sabbath has to do with rest and worship. Today the church observes Sunday, the Lord’s Day as a day of rest and worship.

Now this principle is very important. First it is important because it calls all people to acknowledge the Lord and his greatness and goodness. We begin the week with worship of the Lord. There are many Christians who find it convenient to forget about this. Sunday is no different from Saturday. In one sense that is true. Every day is a day for the Lord. But in the history of the Church, Sunday is the day given to corporate worship. This allows us to begin the week with God front and center. “Oh,” you say, “I can worship God at home.” Indeed you can, but few really do. Christianity was never meant to be merely a personal experience. God is calling out a people unto himself. Believers belong to the Church of Jesus Christ and we worship together.

Second, this principle of Sabbath is important because we all need a day of rest. God never intended that we define our lives by our work. I realize that there may be seasons when we must work overtime or put in extra hours, but this ought not to be the rule. Everyone needs a rest, a break. We need a day when we can rest and recharge. I do not believe that observing a Sabbath means we just sit around and read our Bibles. I like to work outside or with wood. It’s how I recharge. Sometimes after Sunday worship, I just sit quietly at home because I feel as if I’ve been talking so much.

But our resting is a resting in God. It is a delighting in all that God has made and done in our behalf. It is not just a day for ourselves; it is a day for ourselves in relationship with God and his Son, Jesus, who is our very life. Sabbath resting enables us to live life to the full.

You may be wondering, “Okay, so what’s the point?” Good question. Some of us do not even think about how we might respect God’s good earth. We may have develops habits that exploit the earth. Some of us get by on our jobs with as little work as we have to. We don’t view our work as a gift from God. Some of us never take a Sabbath rest. We are busy, busy all the time. In other words, we do not live our life as unto the Lord. Such living does not bring life to the full. What changes do you need to make in your relationship to creation and work? Amen

In the Beginning - Pt.2

October 18, 2015

When an elderly person dies we sometimes say, “She lived a full life.” In one sense, everyone who lives a long life lives a full life because so much happens to us as we live our lives. But living a full life is not necessarily the same as living life to the full. A person who lives life to the full is a person whose life is infused with purpose, meaning and joy.

3. How does one enter into this kind of life? Well this morning I would like to continue the message from last week. Last week noted that, to live life to the full we must begin with God.

I. GOD IS – And because God Is, our response is one of worship

II. GOD IS THE CREATER OF ALL THINGS – We belong to Him and obey Him


What is it that holds the universe together? I googled that question, and was very interested in what I read. Physicists says that there are four fundamental forces in nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force. According to livescience.com, “As its name implies, the strong force is the “strongestforce of the four. It is responsible for binding together the fundamental particles of matter to form larger particles.” I went on to read about quarks, hadrons, baryons and mesons, along with protons and neutrons. I also read about gluons, not to be confused with Clingons. Listen to this statement. “The strong force is carried by a type of boson called a "gluon," so named because these particles function as the "glue" that holds the nucleus and its constituent baryons together.”

I don’t really understand this, but I am fascinated at the way physicists have been able to identify these various building blocks of the universe. One wonders where it will all end. Well, I want to suggest that it will all end exactly where it all began. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

But not only did God create the heavens and the earth. We believe that this good God is the One who sustains the universe and our lives. Listen to these verses. In Neh.9:6 we read, “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.” Even more specific, in Col.1 Paul is describing Jesus Christ and in v.17 he writes, “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Add to this, Heb.1:3 which says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This universe and our lives are held together, sustained by God in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Who knows how deep the Physicists will be able to penetrate into the foundational building blocks of the universe? According to the Scriptures the ultimate and final gluon is Jesus Christ. I’ll never forget my reaction when Col.1:17 first registered with me. It hit me, “Wow, it’s not as if God holds things together like a rubber band might hold a stack of cards together. Rather, all things are holding together in Jesus Christ. Christ is at the center of it all. Everything adheres together in Christ.

The implication of this is that our good God is the one who is sustaining your life and my life at this very moment. We are dependent on him for life. And if we are dependent on him for life, then we are dependent on him for living, for God is more than just a life source. So what is involved in sustaining the universe and our lives?

Well, in order to sustain something adequate provisions must be supplied. Proper environments must be maintained to support all that has been created in the universe and on earth. In Ps.145:15-16 we read, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” In Ps.73:10 it says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” But not only is the Lord’s provision necessary for sustaining our lives, we need the Lord’s guidance. Consider Ps.23. Quote it with me, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Prov.3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Throughout the Scripture we see that God is deeply invested and involved in the lives of people like you and me. 2Pt.1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”

The question is, do we live in dependence upon God? Because this God exists we are called to worship him. Because this God is our creator, we are called to obey him. Because this God sustains all things, we are wise to depend upon him.

In Mt.6:31-33 Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

In these verses the gentiles refer to unbelievers, those who do not know God through faith in Christ. We might say that unbelievers are left to themselves. That is not completely true because the Bible teaches that God is so gracious that he even sustains the lives of those who do not acknowledge him as God. But as far as unbelievers are concerned, they must secure their own lives. This is why they are so concerned about having enough. When you are concerned about having enough of anything, you never seem to have enough.

For some reason, as my grandfather grew older he was very concerned about having enough underwear. After he died my dad and uncle found all sorts of brand new underwear, never used. Well, he was concerned about that and just needed more.

Men and women it is not just unbelievers who are anxious about their lives. To me this matter of trusting God is one of the most difficult lessons for us to learn as Christians. Do we really believe that God has our back and will provide what we need as we seek first his kingdom, his rule in our lives? Israel of old was plagued by the sin of unbelief. They were constantly doubting God’s promise to care and provide for them. Because of this they were constantly guilty of idolatry as they fixed their eyes on the nations around them and not on God. Our culture is obsessed with material wealth and possessions, and many in the church have their eyes fixed on what can be had in this world. What are you leaning on to make it through life? What are you trusting in? Are you leaning on your own understanding or are you trusting in God for your life and needs?


Any discussion about God must include the truth that God is the Savior of all. And it is hard to even know where to begin because so much of the Bible highlights the saving grace of God.

Early on Adam and Eve got into trouble because they disobeyed the command of God to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God said that in the day they ate of that tree they would surely die. Of course they did eat from that tree and they immediately experienced a spiritual death which eventually brought physical death. Through Adam and Eve sin entered into the world. Sin is found in the hearts of all men and women and sin has deeply affected the earth. In fact, God put a curse on the earth, and on Adam and Eve, and on the serpent used by Satan. There is nothing in this world that has not been ruined by the destructive presence of sin.

And for today, let me emphasize that every person who has ever walked this earth, with the exception of Jesus Christ, is a sinner. We are not just sinners because we commit sin. We are born as sinful people. In Rom.5:17-19 Paul is contrasting the effects that Adam’s sin and Christ’s life has on people. Paul writes, “For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.” There is a sense in which all mankind participated in the sin of Adam and as a result every person is born with the sin nature of Adam. This sin nature is readily apparent in each of us. It is seen in the fact that no one has to teach us to be disobedient or to desire and scheme to have our own way. We are all by nature selfish, manipulative, rebellious, defensive and violent. Our hearts and bodies are riddled with sin. Our deepest thoughts and desires are laced with the selfish poison of sin. Sin is natural to us. We don’t even have to think about it.

One more thing: Because sin is rooted in self-centered idolatry, we live in a state of rebellion and disobedience to God our Creator. In Is.59:2 it says, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” We are alienated, separated from God and the eternal kind of life that God always intended for us to have because of sin.

Throughout the Bible we see many examples of how God intervened to bring deliverance, salvation to mankind and especially to his people, Israel. God is a saving God. The greatest expression of salvation is seen in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. In sending Christ to this earth in the form of man, God was providing the only means whereby our sins against God and others can be forgiven. In Rm.6:23 Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

What did Jesus do? Well he came to this earth in the form of a man and showed us in his life, teachings, and miracles how wonderful it is to live in the kingdom of God. He died on the cross bearing the guilt and penalty of our sin. He took our punishment. In Jn.3:16 it says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Not only did Jesus die for our sins, he also rose from the dead to eternal living. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is God’s provision of salvation to all who will turn from their sin and embrace Jesus by faith as their Savior, Lord and King.

And let me add that this salvation brought about through Jesus Christ is for all creation. The Apostle John calls Jesus the Savior of the world. And in Rm.8 Paul reminds us that all creation is groaning, waiting to be set free from its bondage to corruption. In fact the Scripture teaches that there is going to be a new heaven and a new earth. God is the Savior of all.

Unfortunately not all are interested in this salvation. Many refuse to embrace Jesus because they prefer to live their lives apart from God. They do not want God interfering in their lives. And the stakes are very high, for to enter eternity without Christ as one’s Savior, Lord and King is to choose an eternity in what the Bible calls Hell. It is existence completely void of God and his goodness. Whatever love, joy, and goodness you find in life now, will not be found in Hell. There is no fulfillment in Hell. You need to embrace Christ

Because of God’s common grace that he bestows on everyone, men and women are able to experience much that is good in this world. But sin has brought great hurt, pain and sadness to our lives on earth. In fact there is so much more that God has for us. In Jn.10:10, “Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Fullness of life is found in knowing God through Christ the Savior, trusting in God’s sustaining hand, obeying God who created us, and worshipping God who alone is God. Have you entered into this fullness of life in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ? Amen

In the Beginning

October 11, 2015

I would say that most people desire to live a meaningful and full life. Obviously there are some who are deeply scarred because of many hurtful experiences and some of these people live with deep dysfunction and are angry and even pursue evil. But most of us, despite our flaws, want to be good citizens and neighbors. We want to have good character because we believe this will help us live full and meaningful lives.

The reality is that it is difficult to be that guy, that girl. We find that selfish desires and pride are deep within us and sometimes we feel powerless in their grip. This morning I would like to begin a brief series of messages in Genesis. Today’s message will be in two parts. I will finish it next week. You see, to live life to the full, we must begin with God.

I. GOD IS. Gen.1:1

The bible is a collection of books. The first 5 books of the Bible are known as the Pentateuch, which comes from a Greek word meaning, “five scrolls.” These books are believed to have been written by Moses. We don’t know exactly when these books were written. Some Evangelical scholars say the Exodus occurred sometime around 1446 BC, while others say the Exodus occurred sometime around 1260 BC. Either way, Moses begins his writings with the story of creation. But what is most important for us to note is that Genesis begins with God. “In the beginning God…”

There is no more important statement than this. While there are places in the Bible where evidence for the existence of God is presented, nowhere in the Bible is there any sort of formal discussion that seeks to prove God’s existence. The approximately 40 authors who wrote the various books of the Bible assume that the existence of God is a given. But some evidence is offered. In Ps.19:1 we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” In Rm.1:19-20, Paul writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Paul points us to the existence of the universe and basically says that the only adequate explanation for the existence of the universe is God.

And then, again in Rm.2:14-15, Paul writes, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” This is sometimes referred to as the moral argument for the existence of God. How did mankind intuitively know that murder, etc. is wrong? Well, there must have been a Lawgiver.

The clearest evidence for the existence of God in the Bible is the person of Jesus. Jesus did and said things that no other human could ever do or say. People who encountered Jesus came to believe that he is God in the flesh. So the God we are talking about today is the personal God revealed in nature, in the Scriptures, and in Jesus.

And what kind of God is revealed in Scripture? Wow! The God revealed in Scripture is far more wonderful than one could ever imagine. For one thing we come to see that this God is so wonderful of a being that he exists in a complex unity. He is one God who exists in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three are one in essence and in their attributes. They are co-eternal and co-equal. They are of the same mind and purpose. Christians do not believe in 3 gods, but in one God who exists in 3 distinct persons. What is more, this God is self-existent. He is uncreated. He is all powerful and all knowing. He dwells everywhere in all his fullness. As one scholar puts it, “God inhabits his universe in the same way that we inhabit our bodies.

In Is.46:9-10 we read, “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Or listen to Is.42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” In other words, God is holy. There is no one, no other god like Him.

In Dt.32:4 God is described as, “A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” In Ps.116:5 it says, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.” In 1Jn.4:8 we read, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And in 1Chron.16:34 we read, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Ps.149:9 says, “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” This is what God is like. This is what we see when we look at the person of Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh. Now truth be told, when bad things happen to us it is very easy for us to think bad things about God. But the only reason we are quick to believe bad things about God is because we take for granted all of the good things God continually does for us.

I would imagine that perhaps everyone here believes in the existence of God, the God revealed in nature, the Bible, and Jesus. If this God does indeed exist what should our response be to him? If this God is as good as the Bible says he is, how should we respond?

Well, our response ought to be one of humble worship. From Genesis through Revelation we are exhorted to worship the Lord. In 1Chron.16:29-30 we read, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” The world of mankind is summoned to acknowledge and worship God.

And we are not just talking about attending worship services. Sunday morning worship is very important, but just being at a service does not mean that we are worshipping the Lord. Jesus tells us in Jn.4 that God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. To worship God in spirit and truth surely means that we worship from hearts that are surrendered to God and his Son, Jesus. We worship with minds that are grounded in the truth of who God is. Worship is not just singing some hymns and worship choruses. It involves our full surrender, bringing our kingdoms under the rule of God, in his kingdom, praising and exalting God as the only wise God. We don’t initiate worship; we are called to worship. We enter into worship. Our worship is a response to the greatness of God revealed to us and in us by his Holy Spirit. God Is.


Before I say anything about this, I want to point out that there have been many developments in the Evangelical world on how to interpret the first two chapters of Genesis. Oxford university professor, John Lennox, holds a PhD in Mathematics and Philosophy. He is a committed Evangelical. In his book “Seven Days that Divide the World,” Dr. Lennox, “suggests that Christians can heed modern scientific knowledge while staying faithful to the biblical narrative. He moves beyond a simple response to the controversy, insisting that Genesis teaches us far more about the God of Jesus Christ and about God’s intention for creation than it does about the age of the earth.”

In his book, “The God Who Is There,” Dr. Don Carson, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School writes. “I hold that the Genesis account is a mixed genre that feels like history and really does give us some historical particulars. At the same time, however, it is full of demonstrable symbolism. Sorting out what is symbolic and what is not is very difficult”

Now I firmly believe that God is the Creator of all things. I believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each played a significant role in creation. Exactly how God created all things is something we don’t know. Over the many years that I have been a Christian I have heard many dogmatic statements about how God created all things and I think it has not always served us well. When I was a student at Moody I was taught an old earth creation. Today my understanding is that the prevailing view taught at Moody is a young earth creation. When I reach heaven, if I learn that God created all things using an evolutionary process under his guiding hand, I will not be disappointed. I will not hold it against God. On the other hand if I learn that God spoke and things just popped into being I will not be hard for me to accept. It is rarely helpful when we as Christians speak beyond what we really know, especially when our main concern is to bring men and women to Christ.

Now having said all that, let me come back to this very important truth that God is the creator of all things. This truth is reiterated over and over again from Genesis to Revelation. In Is.45:12 we read, “I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” In Is.45:18 we read, “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other.” In Rev.4:11 it says, “"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." And listen to this verse from Eccl.11:5, “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”

In Gen.1:26-27 it says, “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

On one level humanity is one with all creation because we are created. But on another level humanity is above the rest of creation because we bear the image of God and have been given dominion over all things. In fact God created the heavens and the earth to provide a place of abundance for mankind to live in.

But what are the implications of the fact that God created everything? More specifically, what are the implications of the fact that God created mankind, you and me? In Ps.100:3 it says, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

The fact that mankind is created by God, in the image of God, implies that we belong to God. God has rightful ownership over our lives. We did not make him. He made us. Regardless of how we may feel about it, we exist under the rule of God.

But here is the amazing thing, God does not force himself on anyone. God actually allows men and women to decide whether or not they will acknowledge his ownership. It often seems to me that those who do not believe in God, do not really want to believe in God. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but I believe it is true for most everyone. Personal pride and the desire for personal autonomy makes belief in the existence of a personal God, uncomfortable. In other words, their lack of belief in the existence of God is not just because of an objective study of the facts. They have a personal investment in the non-existence of God. But there are also people who profess to believe in God but for all practical purposes they are atheists because their belief in God has no bearing on how they live. At best, God is maybe the one they pray to when things are not going well because they don’t know what else to do. These folks certainly do not acknowledge that God has a rightful claim of ownership on their lives.

But what about the person who truly believes in God? What are the practical implications of the fact that God owns us? Each one of us has ownership over various things. This means that we have the right and the power to do with that thing whatever we desire. If it is money, we decide whether we are going to save it or spend it and what to buy with it.

And then there is the kind of ownership that parents have of their children. If we find a lost child we might ask, “Who does this child belong to?” We recognize that parents have ownership of and authority over their children. Early on parents tell their children what to do and they define the consequences for disobedience. But as our children grow older, our authority begins to lessen. Sometimes children take the first opportunity to get out from under their parent’s authority.

We do the same thing with God. God has given us good rules for living a full life. We find those rules in the Ten Commandments and teachings of Jesus. Every last one of us has broken the Ten Commandments. Why is that? It is because we want out from under God’s rightful authority over us. We are rebellious.

The message of the Bible is that living life to the full is only possible when we bring ourselves under the rule of God and his appointed King, Jesus Christ. This involves a recognition and repentance of our sins and belief in and commitment to Christ. If we recognize God’s ownership over our lives we will want to know how he would have us live and then seek to live in that way. Is that the kind of person you are?

In a recent breakpoint commentary by John Stonestreet, reference was made to a video that went viral on Buzzfeed. A half a dozen young actors complete the sentence, I’m a Christian but I’m not…. One said, “I’m a Christian but I’m not homophobic.” Another, “I’m a Christian but I’m not judgmental. Stonestreet pointed out that most of these actors self-identified as gay, queer, feminist, or some other trendy label. Stonestreet says, “Most striking to me in all these videos was how free their version of Christianity seemed to be from any external authority. There was nothing revealed in Scripture or history that seemed to matter in their understanding of Christianity. They made up a version of Christianity in which they were in charge. They felt fully up to determining the beliefs and behaviors they could accommodate to their faith. And they alone were the authority of their lives and loves. In other words, their Christianity isn’t so much a worldview as it is a hobby—something fun and meaningful to practice in the privacy of their lives and churches, to bring meaning and purpose to themselves.”

Men and women, what is Christianity to you? Does the form of Christianity that you practice call you to worship God alone and live in obedience to God’s good rules? After all He is God and he created each of us and therefore we belong to him. Amen.