Archive for July, 2010

PART 4 – GENESIS 19:1-38 – JUST CAUSE! GAME OVER!

Just Cause! No Chances Left!

Genesis 19 reads like a VIDEO GAME. It opens with a powerful weapon in the arsenal – Abraham’s prayer (Genesis 18:23-32) which provides firecover throughout the story. The two angels that come into town are the heroes on a RESCUE MISSION from HIGH COMMAND called “JUST CAUSE”.

Here’s how it plays out for SODOM AND GOMORRAH. The two angels are not hired by THE AGENCY but they are on a MISSION FROM GOD. And they are here to RESCUE Lot and his family and DESTROY the city. Along the way they will BLIND a marauding mob, and then they will DESTROY Sodom with firepower that can only be described as volcanic. In the EXPLOSIVE BEDLAM that takes place, the question is “WILL LOT AND HIS FAMILY ESCAPE?”

The angels are doing their thing and the whole town is IGNITING like an errupting fuel dump, DETONATING everything around them as the city is TORCHED and panic is the order of the day. 

If this was a video game of “JUST CAUSE” these angels would be racking up the POINTS as an enormous amount of devastation obliterates everything in sight. The official orders are “civilian casualties are regrettable but sanctioned. In fact neuk the whole town!” (my translation) as hot lead (fire and brimstone) rains down on Sodom. This is not DIGITAL CHAOS but the real deal. And the judgment of God is NO VIDEO GAME!

9/11 for Sodom and Gomorrah! A Terrorist attack? No! A terrifying example of the judgment of God. Jude 1:7 (NLT) says “Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.” 

EARTHQUAKE, VOLCANIC ERUPTION, SULPHURIC GASES, ASHES, UPHEAVAL, DESTRUCTION, CATASTROPHE!

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 

Why would a loving God rain down fire and burning sulphur from the sky on SODOM? Perhaps a better question is “Why does He NOT rain down fire and burning sulphur on SYDNEY?” Or any city for that matter? I would. Turn a few politicians and anyone else who I feel deserves it into PILLARS OF SALT! If God was FAIR according to our standards we wouldn’t be here. Lot’s wife pits herself against God’s ABSOLUTE JUSTICE and loses. PILLAR OF SALT! GAME OVER!

Why did the angels go to all the trouble of bringing them out of Sodom if Lot’s wife was going to become a pillar of salt? Lot’s wife runs out of chances! ONLY ONE LIFE in this game. Hebrews 9:27 (NLT) says “…each person is destined to DIE ONCE and after that comes JUDGMENT” 

Jesus said in Luke 17:32-33 (NLT) “Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” It seems Lot’s wife was trying to cling onto her old way of life in Sodom, lagging behind. IT ONLY TOOK A SPLIT SECOND! MINERALISED! GAME OVER! NO MORE CHANCES!

When Jesus speaks of His return He says in Luke 17:28-30 (NLT) that “the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business-eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building-until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”  

God bless you Church as you trust in Christ who like angels of old also came on a mission from God to rescue us from Judgment.

John 3:16-18 (NLT) “For God loved the world so much that He gave His One and only Son, so that everyone who BELIEVES IN HIM will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to SAVE THE WORLD through Him. “There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s One and only Son.” 

Pastor Ross

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Part 3 – Genesis 19:1-38 – TWO WRONGS AND A RIGHTEOUS MAN

One Way3.jpg

“One Way” © Picture created Ross Cochrane

Sodom and Sydney have much in common. When a mob of men from their “gay mardi gras” demand to sexually abuse Lots guests (two angels in human form) in Genesis 19:7-8, Lot goes out to them and says “Please, my brothers, don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can DO WITH THEM AS YOU WISH. BUT PLEASE, LEAVE THESE MEN ALONE, FOR THEY ARE MY GUESTS AND ARE UNDER MY PROTECTION.”

I am disgusted and revolted by these men but equally by what Lot says as he offers up his daughters. What! Does he think that his daughters will be safe in the hands of this mob because they’re homosexuals? My mother used to say “TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A RIGHT!”

HOMOSEXUALITY, RAPE, DRUNKENNESS, INCEST, DISOBEDIENCE! We find it all in this passage. Who deserves judgment? THEY ALL DO! Lot included!

Yet 2 Peter 2:8 says “Lot was a RIGHTEOUS MAN who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day”.

He still has a CONSCIENCE and it is working overtime. He is TORMENTED by what he sees and hears, but I still flinch at the word “RIGHTEOUS” being used of Lot, because it sounds as if he should ACT ON HIS BELIEFS and put the “TWO WRONGS DON’T MAKE A RIGHT” principle into action.

What does it mean when it says that Lot is RIGHTEOUS? One thing is obvious. It doesn’t mean he is PERFECT. It seems both Lot and Abraham have some skewed ideas about women.

LOT IS A RIGHTEOUS MAN but he fails in the FATHERHOOD department, big time. There are times when he GETS THINGS WRONG, really wrong. ME TOO! When I am faced with wickedness, what do I do? Sometimes the decisions aren’t all that easy, and whatever I choose to do seems to be the wrong thing. Romans 3:10 is right when it says that by ourselves “NO ONE IS RIGHTEOUS-not even one…”

Righteousness is not based on some RELIGIOUS, SELF RIGHTEOUS, SANCTIMONIOUS, HOLIER THAN THOU, COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIAN LIFE.  

So how can I be MADE TO BE RIGHTEOUS? Romans 3:22-25 tells me clearly. Listen to this! This gives me a whole lot of HOPE...

“We are made RIGHT WITH GOD (righteous) by PLACING OUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. And this is true for EVERYONE who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we ALL FALL SHORT of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, DECLARES THAT WE ARE RIGHTEOUS. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are MADE RIGHT WITH GOD when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. …God did this to demonstrate HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, for He Himself is fair and just, and He DECLARES SINNERS TO BE RIGHT in His sight when they BELIEVE IN JESUS.”

The invitation is to ask that all important question that Lot should have asked himself long before opening the door. WILL MY CIRCUMSTANCES DRIVE MY DECISION-MAKING OR MY BELIEFS?

Pastor Ross

Part 2 – Genesis 19:1-38 – SAVED BUT STUPID!

Close Call!

How amazing was the news story of the 15-month-old boy who survived the train accident in May this year.

It all took place in a split second but for the grandmother who looked away for just a moment from the pram she was pushing, it must have seemed like eternity. When she turned back, the pram was rolling off the platform at Tooronga station (Sydney, Australia). The pram fell onto the tracks into the path of an oncoming train.

I have grandsons and I can’t imagine how that grandmother was feeling – the SICK FEELING OF DREAD as this transpired before her and there was nothing she could do. When they pulled the baby from under the train, everyone thought that it was a MIRACLE he was alive. A few scratches and that was it. Talk about a CLOSE CALL. Some say the grandmother should have been more careful. Easy for us to say.

Have you read Genesis 19 lately? Talk about a CLOSE CALL! By the absolute merciful grace of God Lot and his immediate family is saved when Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed. It is a MIRACLE they survive at all.

Lot is told to gather his family and bring them out of the city before the angels destroy it. Here’s an opportunity to OBEY GOD AND BE SAVED. He speaks to his sons-in-law and they think he’s joking. As you would. You try telling your family that you’ve been told by two angels that they are about to destroy Sydney and they need to leave everything, and take the Pacific highway out of town. Lord, if such a time comes, would You mind telling them personally? They’ll think I’m mad.

Nevertheless I find it strange that few people today take the message of judgment seriously. Sometimes in the seconds remaining between life and death, they are laughing that hell exists rather than acting on what God has said about salvation. STUPID!

It took all night for Lot to try to convince his family and when morning dawns, the angels are on Lot’s case to leave or be “SWEPT AWAY in the punishment of the city” (Genesis 19:15).

Even then there was EQUIVOCATION. They gave Lot opportunity to take the initiative and leave. Lot HESITATES and the angels have to seize the hands of his family in order to DRAG them outside the city. SAVED BUT STUPID!

Even when they are outside the city one angel saysESCAPE FOR YOUR LIFE! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.”

CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS! But Lot says to them, “Oh no, my lords! What is going on here? He asks to flee to Zoar instead. This isn’t time to come up with a new plan? Sometimes I am just plain stupid. I want to come up with an ALTERNATIVE SUGGESTION to what God says in His Word, when I just need to be QUICK TO OBEY. By the grace of God the angels don’t strike Lot down as an example to the others. 

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT) says, “Indeed, the “RIGHT TIME” IS NOW. TODAY is the day of salvation.” DON’T PUT IT OFF!

It gives me a whole NEW APPRECIATION of what it means to be SAVED BY GRACE (Ephesians 2:8-9). NONE OF US deserve it.

God bless you as you seek to see things through the eyes of the Cross and gain a true picture of what it means to be saved by grace. “Lord, help me to be QUICK TO OBEY AND SLOW IN BEING STUPID”.

Pastor Ross

 

Part 1 – Genesis 19:1-8 – SOLD OUT!

Sold Out!

Her father gently tries to persuade her with promises of a better life. She cries and shudders but does not move. As tears stream down her face He becomes angry and manhandles her out the door. She becomes hysterical. A sharp slap across her faces shocks her into silence and she shakes uncontrollably as the only security she has known is being BARGAINED AWAY in American dollars.

She is coerced into submission to face her visitor. There is an anxious twinge of emotional pain in the pit of her stomach as her resolve is battered by her father’s CALLOUS TRANSACTION.

After she is SOLD for a pitiful $45 dollars, she is never seen again by her family, and ushered into the world of PROSTITUTION. In high demand, she is sexually exploited by Western Tourists in Cambodia. She is only 12 years old.

WHAT FATHER WOULD ALLOW THEIR DAUGHTERS TO BE USED LIKE THIS?

We meet another man such as this in Genesis 19. I find him SITTING AT THE GATE of the city. Lot was a rich man with many servants when he came to Sodom. WITH WEALTH COMES POWER, especially in a corrupt city such as this. Is it his wealth that enabled him to sit at the gate as a city judge? Big businessman, judge and city leader. A GREAT MAN IN A CITY DESTINED FOR DESTRUCTION. When he came to Sodom, he certainly received a better reception than the TWO MEN who became his guests that evening!

Two angels in human form receive from Lot the same GRACIOUS HOSPITALITY that Abraham afforded them. He is QUICK TO BE GENEROUS and AVAILABLE TO SERVE. Same HUMBLE AND GENUINE welcome. Sacrifice and servanthood characterise both Abraham and Lot. But it seems his respect for his guests OUTWEIGHS his respect for his own daughters. The city judge is about to be tested in his decision making abilities.

A large group of men know Lot has two guests. They are most likely drunk and surround the house demanding that Lot bring them out. They make it clear that they intend to SEXUALLY ABUSE them (Genesis 19:4-5).

Lot goes out to them. He calls them his brothers. He is trying to stop them from ACTING WICKEDLY (Genesis 19:7). That’s commendable, but what he says next makes MY BLOOD RUN COLD.

In Genesis 19:7-8 Lot says to this group of homosexual men “Please, my brothers,” he begs, “don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can DO WITH THEM AS YOU WISH. BUT PLEASE, LEAVE THESE MEN ALONE, FOR THEY ARE MY GUESTS AND ARE UNDER MY PROTECTION.”

What kind of suggestion is this? What father would offer his VIRGIN DAUGHTERS to men such as this? What city judge arbitrates like this? Who even thinks that this is ACCEPTABLE? Was this a kind of a JOKE? Is he being SARCASTIC? Was this trying to STALL FOR TIME? Did he really mean this? Was he trying to HIGHLIGHT THEIR WICKEDNESS by making an equally shocking and wicked suggestion? What amount of DESPERATION could allow a father to take such action even in a crisis? Sold out, big time.!

It shows me that in a CRISIS SITUATION my selfish fears and faulty reasoning can threaten others, including my family! In the crisis I am prone to reveal the SKEWED THINKING AND ATTITUDES of my heart, even in the presence of angels. It shows me how much I NEED THE HOLY SPIRIT AND GOD’S WORD TO GIVE ME A NEW HEART AND MIND. Jesus told His disciples in John 16:12-14 “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT) says “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

God bless you Church as you have your thinking transformed. I know my prayer is “Lord, give me the perspective to make decisions that will help me change my world and not add to it’s corrupting influence!”

Pastor Ross

Part 8 – Genesis 18:16-33 – THE GAVEL, THE CROSS AND THE TALIBAN!

The Cross and the Gavel

I am all too ready to say that the TALIBAN deserve God’s judgment without really thinking twice. I tend to think of them in the same way that I think about SODOM AND GOMORRAH. But did Sodom and Gomorrah really deserve to be judged? Does the Taliban? If I knew that a large city governed by the Taliban was about to be bombed to the ground, am I really willing to INTERCEDE on behalf of those who may be genuinely seeking God in the hope that perhaps some could come to know Christ and be saved?

When I look at this passage I notice that the people of Sodom have already seen God at work. For instance they have been DELIVERED MIRACULOUSLY from Chedorlaomer by Abraham back in Genesis 14.

The king of Sodom is there when “Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High … blessed Abram with this blessing: ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has defeated your enemies for you.'” He hears about who God is, even if he didn’t know before. But that’s not enough.

Romans 1:18-20 lays it on the line. It says that “God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because He has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature. So they have NO EXCUSE FOR NOT KNOWING GOD.”

In Genesis 18:23 Abraham says to God, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked?” He presumes that God will sweep away the wicked, but will He also sweep away those who believe? Abraham recognises that God is just. WHEN YOU KNOW GOD, YOU KNOW HIS WAYS.

I am impressed with Abraham. He could have just asked for God to spare Lot, his nephew, but he bargains with God for anyone who may have an ounce of belief in Sodom to be spared. WHEN YOU KNOW GOD, YOU LOVE PEOPLE!

I notice something else about Abraham. He doesn’t say, “How could a LOVING God send people to hell?” He says the opposite. In effect he says “How could a JUST God send people to hell?” He appeals, not to God’s love, but to HIS JUSTICE. WHEN YOU KNOW GOD, YOU KNOW THAT HE IS ABSOLUTELY FAIR concerning His decisions and His judgments are always just. It’s me who has the SKEWED VIEW of love and justice, not God.

Instead of asking how a LOVING GOD could send people to hell, perhaps I need to be asking how a JUST GOD could decide to SAVE anyone! I have sinned too and fall short of the mark (Romans 3:23).

Or an even better question would be how can I be so arrogant and sinful as to think that I am good enough to go to heaven?

Abraham persists in interceding for Sodom and it’s cities. This in fact is the FIRST INTERCESSORY PRAYER in the Bible. His prayer is HUMBLE and not PRESUMPTUOUS. He doesn’t demand in Jesus Name that Lot and his family be spared. He comes to God on the basis of HIS CHARACTER not on the basis of his own selfish desires and brings his prayer down in numbers until he says “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten (righteous people) are found there?”

Abraham gets down to 10 people before he stops interceding for them. And the Lord replies, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”

DID SODOM DESERVE JUDGMENT? Does the Taliban? Yes! But I am glad that it is God’s decision concerning when ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Justice and Love collide at the Cross. His love was expressed to me by making it possible to receive His forgiveness. His justice was there as He paid the penalty for sin on my behalf.

As I write this, I’m praying that you will believe in Christ and His work on the Cross for you and be saved.

God bless you Church as you intercede for those who do not know Christ as their Lord and Saviour today.

Pastor Ross

 

Part 7 – Genesis 18:16-33 – HOW COULD A LOVING GOD SEND PEOPLE TO HELL?

Chinese War Sword

In the early years of her life she witnessed horrific events as members of her family were beheaded in conflicts in China. Although she was only a little girl, MI LEE (not her real name) was forced to watch and still hallucinates about these terrible and barbaric events.

At 93, she can’t speak much now and her eyes are not the best, but her lovely face lights up when her daughter tells her that the Pastor is saying hello to her. This little old Chinese woman who attends my devotions faithfully served as an officer in the Salvation Army for most of her life, helping the poor and destitute and preaching the gospel.

WILLIAM BOOTH, the founder of the Salvation Army would have been proud of Mi Lee. Her faith in God and in her Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, is strong despite the evils perpetrated against her.

If 9/11 taught us anything, it is the presence of evil in this world. All of a sudden the world believed in evil, but people like William Booth and Mi Lee seek to hold back the tide of evil, to introduce the flavour of eternity into the world, and expose such evil to the light. To be salt and light. (See Matthew 5:13-16)

London had William Booth. Australia has Mi Lee. SODOM HAD A MAN CALLED LOT. They answer the question “HOW CAN A LOVING GOD SEND PEOPLE TO HELL?”

In Genesis 18, Sodom is about to be destroyed by God’s judgment, but God’s grace and love have given the people of Sodom every opportunity to repent. They have had the EXAMPLE AND LEADERSHIP OF LOT in their midst. Did Lot try to represent God to Sodom? I think he did.

I have heard messages about how Lot gave into the temptations of evil as he first LOOKED TOWARDS SODOM (Genesis 13:10), then WENT DOWN into the valley, by CHOOSING THE BEST LAND (Genesis 13:11) “then Lot MOVED HIS TENTS to a place near Sodom and SETTLED AMONG THE CITIES of the plain” even though “the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord” (Genesis 13:12 NLT). Then he began to LIVE IN SODOM itself (Genesis 14:12) and finally we find him “SITTING IN THE GATE” which indicates a place of authority in the city. He’s received a lot (excuse the pun) of criticism.

Lot is always spoken of as WORLDLY AND SELFISH but is he seeking to be an influence for good? Is he simply being salt and light in a tasteless and dark city (see Matthew 5:13-16)? It’s not enough to say he was wrong to mix with evil people. William Booth did and he made a difference. Jesus did and the Pharisees accused Him of doing the wrong thing too. Lord let me always be willing to be a positive influence for you with those around me who don’t know you.

2 Peter 2:6-9 (NLT) says “…God also rescued Lot out of Sodom BECAUSE HE WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. Yes, LOT WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day….” Maybe Lot means well by bringing up his family in this evil city. Not sure I’d want my children brought up in Sodom and Gomorrah. Sydney is bad enough! But perhaps he has good intentions as a leader in the city.

But despite any possible efforts of Lot, now their evil has reached the point of no return and JUDGMENT IS IMMINENT. An outcry for justice, perhaps from those who were oppressed in Sodom, has risen to God and the only appropriate response is about to take place.

DID SODOM DESERVE JUDGMENT? Oh Yes! And as a matter of fact I do too! It’s only by God’s grace that I am saved.

God bless you Church as you are instruments of God’s grace giving lost people with whom you interact everyday the opportunity to repent and give their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mi Lee didn’t turn away from God when life was overwhelmingly assaulted by the forces of evil. She didn’t bring her beliefs down to the level of her circumstances. She reached out to Christ and lifted her circumstances up to the level of her beliefs. As a consequence she has made a difference in the world and showed the love of Christ to those around her with unmet physical, spiritual and emotional needs. She still does. Help me to make a difference such as this, Lord.

Pastor Ross

Part 6 – Genesis 18:16-33 – CRASHED AND BURNED!

Crash and Burn!

CRASHED AND BURNED!

All my computer files from the last 10 years gone! No full back-ups so no way of retrieving it all. It seems I have lived the last 10 years on the ASSUMPTION that computers last forever, just keep adding data to them. Not so! Happened to me once before and I was devastated. This time I was not about to go into emotional meltdown over a computer. I PRAYED and by grace God helped a friend of mine retrieve a sizeable amount of data – 100 GB – whatever that means. SAVED!

CRASHED AND BURNED! Without a back-up plan! And only a REMNANT SAVED due to the PRAYER OF ABRAHAM. No, I’m not talking about computers anymore. I’m talking about SODOM and it’s cities. I’m talking about JUDGMENT and the JUSTICE of God. You know, the kind of judgment that the Bible talks about when we reject God. When we think we can leave God out of our lives on the assumption that we are living a pretty GOOD LIFE and besides “HOW CAN A LOVING GOD SEND PEOPLE TO HELL?” That kind of ASSUMPTION! And not even a back-up plan. DEVASTATING! Predictable but devastating.

In Genesis 18:17 God is about to re-establish His covenant promises with Abraham and also remove Sodom and Gomorrah from the face of the earth. Surprisingly He says “Should I hide my plan from Abraham?” (NLT). Why does God share His plan with Abraham? I think it was because Abraham responded to the Lord appropriately with BELIEF, SACRIFICE AND SERVICE. Those who get to know God will begin to KNOW HIS WILL.

When God’s messengers turn up in Sodom, the men of Sodom didn’t treat their guests with anything but ABUSE. Their eyes were BLINDED to the truth. Sodom was more concerned with fulfilling their own lustful desires in the moment. Abraham on the other hand was a man who would THINK GENERATIONALLY and raise a family who would stem the tide of evil in the world by “doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18:19).

God has already said to Abraham “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:1-3), and He is about to give Abraham a graphic example of what that meant ultimately for those who reject the ways of the Lord. The WAGES OF SIN really is…. Romans 6:23.

Ezekiel 33:11 (NLT) says, “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. …Why should you die?”

In Genesis 18:22 there is still HOPE for Sodom as Abraham stands in the gap. God’s righteousness as well as His justice walked towards Sodom that day while His grace conversed with Abraham.

If Abraham was to do what is right and just, then he would need to know how to INTERCEDE for the people who were lost spiritually.

Ominously Genesis 18:22 says, “The other men turned and headed toward Sodom, but the Lord remained with Abraham.”

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”

Did Sodom deserve judgment? Yes! And as a matter of fact I do too! It’s only by God’s grace that I am saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says “God saved you by His grace WHEN YOU BELIEVED. And you CAN’T TAKE CREDIT for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

God bless you Church as God lingers with you to speak of grace and as He relentlessly walks towards to fulfilling all His promises.

CRASH AND BURN! No way of retrieving what is lost! It seems I can live my life with false assumptions which have devastating consequences, or like the data on my computer I can be SAVED BY GRACE.

Pastor Ross

Part 5 – Genesis 18:16-33 – THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

One Way

A person recently said to me as they were dying that the Bible was just a series of myths and stories, and if I want to, I can choose to live my life assuming that it is. I can choose to treat heaven like a GAME OF CHANCE and the Bible as something less than a sure thing. I can wager all my GOOD WORKS against the WORK OF CHRIST on the Cross. Even when my chips are down I can throw the DICE OF DEATH on the chance that I will win.

Or perhaps it’s the Roulette Wheel. As the marble dances on the roulette wheel, I am saying in effect

“I have not sinned to any great extent. Why should I repent and accept the work of Jesus Christ as He paid the penalty for my sin by dying on the Cross.”

I can place all I have on the highest number of GOOD WORKS that I can, but as the wheel spins I will inevitably LOSE EVERYTHING – my life and any chance of eternity with God. The only sure thing is that I will lose.

In John 14:5-7 (NLT) Jesus gives me the winning tip that I need if I am to STAKE MY LIFE on winning the incredible dividends of going to heaven. Jesus said this.

“… I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE CAN COME TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”

WANT ANOTHER TIP? Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it this way. It says

“For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favour) that you are saved (delivered from judgment) through (your) faith (in Christ and what He did on the Cross, paying the price for your sins). And this (deliverance from being judged) is not of yourselves (It is not of your own doing, or your own good works), but it is the gift of God; Not because of works (no matter how good you may be), lest any man should boast. (Heaven is not the result of what anyone can possibly DO, so no one can pride themselves on how good they are or take the credit of getting into heaven on the basis of their good works. It is entirely dependent on faith in the work of Christ.)”

The stakes are as high as they can get.

And a similar game is taking place in Genesis 18:20 (NLT) It says

“So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.”

Isn’t God omniscient? (all knowing). Why does He have to check things out first? It seems to me that when God appears to Abraham in the FORM OF A MAN (a Theophany) then He also uses HUMAN WAYS to communicate His plans. He shows to Abraham that He is not about to ACT OUT OF IGNORANCE. He doesn’t act on HEARSAY. This is not a game of chance. He EXAMINES THE FACTS PERSONALLY and ACTS JUSTLY (He is totally and absolutely fair in His decisions).

God’s grace and love have given the people of Sodom every opportunity to repent. They have even had the example and leadership of Lot in their midst. Now their evil has reached the point of no return and judgment is imminent. An outcry for justice, perhaps from those who were oppressed in Sodom, has risen to God and the only appropriate response is about to take place.

But did you catch the contrast. God comes personally to EXAMINE ABRAHAM’S RESPONSE to Him and finds BELIEF, evidenced by his SACRIFICE, HUMILITY, SERVICE AND WORSHIP and He declares Abraham RIGHTEOUS (Genesis 15:6). THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

God then comes personally to EXAMINE THE RESPONSE of the people of SODOM and finds total UNBELIEF evidenced by their wickedness, violence, perversion, the outcry of those oppressed and He DECLARES JUDGMENT upon them. YOU LOSE! GAME OVER!

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 speaks about a time yet to come

“…when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power.”

God bless you Church as you stake your life, not on chance, but on the assurance of the truth of God’s Word (a sure thing) and on your response to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

Acts 4:12 (NLT) says

“There is salvation in NO ONE ELSE! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Acts 16:31 (NLT) says “…Believe in the Lord Jesus and YOU WILL BE SAVED,…”

We often miss out the next verses after John 3:16. Let me read it in it’s context. It actually says,

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His One and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, but TO SAVE THE WORLD through Him. There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s One and only Son.”

Sobering thought! WINNER TAKES IT ALL. AND THE LOSER….? Well, the loser gambles his life on a false assumption that the Bible is only a myth.

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Genesis 18:16-30 – JUST PASSING BY AND SAW YOUR LIGHT ON …

Saw Your Light On...

He slipped away into eternity peacefully the other day as we stood by his bed. The family and I held hands and prayed as an old man who loved the Lord and loved his family was in that moment absent from the body and present with the Lord. Peace and tears filled the room and I noticed one young woman held a baby in her hands. The next generation to be blessed in this Godly family.

How empty it seemed as I stand by the bed of other families who do not know the Lord. Emptiness fills the room and there was no eternal legacy or light shining for another generation to walk in. The contrast is stark and I feel the uneasy tension of those who have rejected God and do not want to talk to a Pastor.

So it is even more sobering as I read about these men in Genesis 18 were on their way to Sodom to visit those who had rejected God! Sodom would be destroyed.

So why did they stop off at Abraham’s place first? Just passing by, saw your light on and thought we would drop in? Lord, let me have that kind of light, but what was the point of eating a meal with Abraham and then going on? Why didn’t they just head towards Sodom straight away?

The only thing I can think of is that God passes my way when I respond positively towards Him and His Word. And as He gets closer, He TESTS MY RESPONSE to Him. He is always concerned with RELATIONSHIP.

When three strangers came to visit him, I don’t think Abraham knew that one of them was the Lord Himself. Abraham greets them with true Eastern hospitality. His response to strangers was to address their leader with respect. Abraham calls Him “LORD”, he bows to the ground in the posture the same as WORSHIP, He SERVES Him humbly and personally. And when he prepares a meal for Him there is a SACRIFICE involved.

Reminds me a little of Matthew 25:34-40 which speaks of when we die and stand before Jesus. It says we will say “…‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ ‘And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!'”

Hospitality and respect certainly wasn’t the kind of greeting these strangers received in Sodom! BIG CONTRAST between Abraham’s greeting and how Sodom responded to the presence of the Lord’s messengers. OUR RESPONSE TO THE LORD DETERMINES OUR DESTINY.

But I see another important principle here. When my response to God is one of WORSHIP, SERVICE, AND SACRIFICE, then and only then am I ready to begin to learn what HIS WILL for my life is. I will look for the opportunities He gives me to be a BLESSING TO OTHERS, to THINK GENERATIONALLY. I will accept God’s GRACE AND HIS JUSTICE, HIS PROMISES AND PRONOUNCEMENTS and they will begin to make sense to me in the enormous scheme of things. I will even understand what it means when God says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 NLT) and I will begin to see the BIG PICTURE OF FORGIVENESS BASED ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE CROSS.

This same principle of understanding God’s will is summed up in Romans 12:1-3. It says…

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. THEN you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

As Abraham worships, serves and is willing to sacrifice the best to God, God says “SHOULD I HIDE MY PLAN FROM ABRAHAM?” the Lord asked. “For Abraham will certainly become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be BLESSED THROUGH HIM. I have singled him out so that he will DIRECT HIS SONS AND THEIR FAMILIES to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised.” (Genesis 18:17-19 NLT)

God bless you Church as you respond positively to God’s Word and the message of the Cross. As you worship, serve and sacrifice the best to God, may you know His good and perfect will for your life today.

Pastor Ross

Part 3 – Genesis 18:1-15 – WHO WERE THOSE MASKED MEN, ANYWAY?

Who were those masked men, anyway?

Some of you would have no idea of who I am talking about when I speak of the LONE RANGER. He is way before your time and he doesn’t fit into our culture anymore. Pity. He had a strict moral code and even the actor, Clayton Moore, was a great ROLE MODEL for children.

Actually, the Lone Ranger was rarely alone. He hung around with his Indian sidekick Tonto). He rode a WHITE STALLION (I never liked the white stallion as much as Zorro’s Tornado. I guess I liked the black look. I still wear black, but without the cape and mask. They seem to suit Antonio Banderas better).

Anyway, the Lone Ranger would be introduced each episode with the tune of the WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE (then Robin Hood got in on the act and used the same theme music). Towards the end of each episode, as the Lone Ranger galloped away towards the sunset, he would shout to his stallion “Hi-yo, Silver, away!” No-one ever asked what “HI-YO” meant or why he said it, but this was inevitably followed by someone asking “Who was that masked man, anyway?”

And that’s the question I find myself asking when I get to Genesis 18. Abraham meets with 3 men with SECRET IDENTITIES. He doesn’t even ask them who they are? All we know is that they are more powerful than either Zorro or the Lone Ranger and their theme tune would more appropriately be HANDEL’S MESSIAH.

Genesis 18:1-2 (NLT) mysteriously speaks of 3 men who visit Abraham. WHO ARE THESE MASKED MEN? (OK, so they are not wearing literal masks but their real identities are masked from us. Who are they?) I know that One of them is the Lord Himself in human form from later on in the passage, but WHY THREE? The Lord and two angels? The Lord and two prophets? The Trinity in human form? Did the Lord need witnesses concerning the promises He was about to make with Abraham and then the judgment He inflicted on Sodom?

This is all a bit weird and Abraham starts to act even more weird, bowing down, washing their feet, feeding them and waiting on them like a servant before he even asks them who they are and what they are doing here. Even then he doesn’t ask the questions I am dying to ask. He had to be interested, surely? 

The visitors seem more interested in asking the questions and after Abraham waits on them like a servant and provides a barbeque lunch, they ignore him and ask about his wife, calling her by name (Genesis 18:9). How did they know Abraham’s wife was Sarah? And why are they so interested in his wife anyway?

Then comes the bombshell!

In Genesis 18:10 one of them says, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” Now this is a nice positive word to leave with a couple to encourage them when they have been trying to have a child, but it’s a bit cruel to say to a couple who are BEYOND CHILD BEARING AGE and have always wanted children of their own. They don’t know Abraham’s wife. SHE IS 90 YEARS OLD! Abraham himself is certainly no spring chicken!

“Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. … she laughed silently to herself…” (Genesis 18:12). I mentioned this story to some women in their 90’s the other day (I work in an aged care facility) and THEY LAUGHED TOO!

In 2006 CBS News reported on a 62-year-old woman, Janise Wulf, who “gave birth to a healthy 6-pound, 9-ounce baby boy, becoming one of the oldest women in the world to successfully bear a child.” CBS didn’t mention Sarah.

In Genesis 18:14 the Lord says, “IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?”

The answer to that question is “NO.” It is the most important question in the Bible in a way. It needed to be answered by Sarah as she took a step of faith in believing God. It’s a more important question than “WHO WERE THOSE MASKED MEN, ANYWAY?” or “How did they hear Sarah laugh? Why did they eat a meal if they are angels?” and all the other questions I have about that passage. When it all comes down to it, the really important thing I need to decide about the Lord is whether He is TOTALLY ABLE to direct my life or not. When I get that right then I have acknowledged that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life.

God bless you Church as you acknowledge today that “He is able” as the old song says, “more than able to accomplish what concerns me today. He is able more than able to handle anything that comes my way. He is able more than able to do much more than I could ever dream. He is able more than able to make me what He wants me to be” (© 1989 Maranatha Praise Inc.)

Pastor Ross