07/29/2018 = Genesis 6-9 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Noah & the Flood – Why?”

(Click HERE to listen to this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 6-10

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Noah & the Flood – Why?

07/29/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

In our current Sermon Series, we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsif you have a favorite Bible lesson, or a story that you’ve always wondered about or had questions about, bring them to me and we’ll eventually get at it, today we read about Noah’s Ark & the Flood.

 

A quip recap to remind us what’s happened so far tells us that God created everything and everyone – because God really wants our company!

But it took virtually no time at all for sin, disobedience, lack of respect, self-centered attention-seeking and self-driven motivational egos to get in the way – and Adam and Eve sin and are removed from God’s presence; and then their elder son, Cain, kills the younger son, Abel, and is removed even further from God’s presence. So far we have also seen that the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are involved in the creation work, and then in the saving work of these early humans – God promises a Savior who would defeat Satan, and God marks His people to protect them from dangers.

And then we read that another son is born, and that these sons find wives, and that Adam and Eve have more children, and that the face of the earth fills with people.

 

Your bulletins say that we are reading Genesis 6-9 today – that’s four chapters! And that’s right … – but most of that from this Children’s Bible – you’ll see, it’ll be alright.

But before we get started with that, let me read the first 6 verses of Genesis 6 from the ESV (page 4 in your NIV pew Bibles). Hear the Word of God …. —-

 1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. [So, I’m confessing straight up front that there’s a lot of confusion over what the heck this means, and I’m not spending time on it this morning….]   Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” [120 years is still a pretty good lifespan, right? But apparently, maybe because of sin, humans are not living forever.]   The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. [Again, we’re not spending time on it this morning, except to say how it somehow leads into the next sentence…. Pay attention:]

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  [Evil and sin is getting worse and worse, so that every intention, all the thoughts, each idea and action, was only evil, with no good in it, all the time! And listen to how God’s heart is described:] And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

[The NKJV says, God was grieved in His heart. Our sin breaks God’s heart – it is an offense to God’s love for us. Imagine, for a second, that you or someone important in your life, had invested every ounce of energy, every nickel, every moment, in creating something beautiful – and it is amazingly so beautiful – but one morning it is found shattered into a gazillion broken pieces – what emotion fills your heart? Sadness doesn’t even begin to describe it – “heart-broken” might begin to get at it, but it’s too small. That’s how God is described here.]

 

The scene is set. Listen to the Word of God from The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, Genesis 6-10 …. —-

 

In one-sentence, what is this story about?

God saves Noah – and His people, and His creation!

Yes, we can all see that there is lots of loss, way more losses than rescues, in these chapters – but the key-note of the story remains that God saves His people and creation.

 

It is at moments like this that I really wish we could still say we liked Bill Cosby – his Noah and God routine was hilarious! But Mr. Cosby, it seems, like all the people in the world in Genesis 5 and 6, had fallen to sin. The Bible calls it wicked, evil, so far gone it is irredeemable!

But God makes a way for redemption!

 

How does God redeem humanity? An Ark!

I love the image of the Ark – a container, built to safeguard against all the storms of life, against every tempest and every temper, against every violent windstorm and every violent attack, against every unexpected wave of terror and every unexpected wave of terror….

 

What are you facing today? What storms and tempests and waves are coming your way? God still redeems; He still saves; God still rescues His people – climb aboard His ark where He holds you safe in His arms.

 

And, did you notice, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights – that’s a long storm, but God kept His people and His creation inside that Ark for far more than 40 days! My math says it was much more like 12 months!

Does your struggle seem to go on and on? Are you wondering how much longer you will have to hang on? Friends, God loves youstay in His Ark of protection for as long as He needs you there.

 

How does this story end? The rainbow, right? The promise of salvation by way of the rainbow in the sky. The actual Hebrew word used here simple says “bow”. “God put a bow in the sky.” Frankly, I believe the context of the rainstorm and the promise for dry land implies that “rainbow” is what is meant. However, just to put it out there, some scholars believe that there’s another way to read “bow” (and, no, a ribbon with a pretty bow tied on it is not what they have in mind); some read this as a weapon for protection against evil (or the Evil one) – God put a bow (and arrow) in the sky.

Maybe, but I’m still happy with the rainbow. But, what shape is a rainbow – at least that part which we usually see from the ground – what does it look like? An Arc? And Arc in the sky? Indeed.

God rescues Noah and his family and creation with an Ark, and He promises salvation, and reminds us of that promise, with an Arc in the sky.

 

And, as with every good story, there is a story-arc that leads unswervingly to, that points directly to Jesus, the ultimate means of salvation, of rescue, of safetynot just from the troubles of this life, but beyond that, to the presence of God’s grace and mercy.

 

In just a few minutes we will gather around the Lord’s Table here, we will be reminded of a means of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – we will be lifted into the Ark of God’s grace as we partake of the simple elements of Communion that contain that grace.

 

Have YOU stepped inside God’s salvation-Ark today? Jesus died to conquer evil – the evil of our sin and the evil that sins of others have brought on us! And He offers forgiveness by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross!

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for the invitation into Your Ark of salvation, even while, as Paul says, we are still sinning. In Your perfect grace, today, we step inside and accept Your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Resources:

Batchelor, Mary; The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories; Lion Pub.; Oxford; 1985; Pp. 17-21.

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07/22/2018 = Genesis 4 = everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Cain and Abel: What makes It ‘Right’?”

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 4:1-26

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Cain & Abel – What Makes It ‘Right’?

07/22/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

What was the first thing that Adam and Eve did after they were banished from the Garden of Eden?

          They really raised Cain.

How long did Cain hate his brother?

          As long as he was Abel.

And … the question we’re are honestly going to look at today: Why couldn’t Cain please God with his offering?

          He just wasn’t Abel.

 

In our current Sermon Series, we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsif you have a favorite Bible lesson, or a story that you’ve always wondered about or had questions about, bring them to me and we’ll eventually get at it, today we meet Adam & Eve’s children.

 

Let’s listen together to the Word of God: Genesis 4:1-26 (pages 3-4 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

4 1  Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.  She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. [There, we’ve met the characters of this story. Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, and, following the Lord God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, they started having babies.]

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. [Abel is a rancher, and Cain is a farmer – both are good, important, jobs.]

 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flockThe Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. [THAT’s the question! Why was Abel’s offering approved and Cain’s offering NOT approved? What Makes Abel’s offering Right?]

So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” [We’ll get back to this in a minute – those first 7 verses set the whole scene, so now let’s just sit back and listen see what happens next….]

 

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. [That’s pre-meditated murder.]

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  11 Now you are under a curse  and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” [Remember Adam & Eve’s consequence of their sin? Banishment from the Garden, from God’s perfect presence. Cain is banished even further!]

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. [Remember this part of the story – it is super important!]

17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. [This is not the same Enoch that read about in the next chapter, who never died but who “walked with God” – that was another Enoch.] Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son  Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.

19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of  bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,       Adah and Zillah, listen to me;    wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,    a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,    then Lamech seventy-seven times.” [This simply reminds us that humanity is growing further and further away from God’s ways.]

25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”  26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time people began to call on  the name of the Lord.

 

Now, there’s a lot to be said about what we just read – but I want us to hearken back to the verses of Cain’s unacceptable offering to the Lord God, and to what happened to Cain after he killed Abel.

Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flockThe Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.

Why, do you think, Cain’s offering was not looked on with favor, and Abel’s was?

  • Some people think it is because Abel offered a blood sacrificedeath as an atonement for sin. And while there is something to be said about that as a reasonable theory, where it falls flat is in the available resources that Abel had versus the resources Cain
    • Abel was a rancher, he took care of livestockanimals are what he had in his wallet to offer!
    • Cain was a farmer, he tended the fields of wheat and corn and alfalfafruits are what he had in his wallet!
    • It’s not in what they brought, it is, rather, in where what they brought came from.
    • Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil”.
    • Abel brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock”.
    • Did you catch the difference? It’s like me saying, “Here God, I’ve got a few things in my pocket, I guess you can have ‘em.” And my brother saying, “Here Lord, the best part of my paycheck, the first 10%, off the top, Yours!
      • The fact that it’s a livestock offering ends up playing into the blood sacrifice necessity to cover our sin-betrayal of God to begin with – but in this story that is not the main feature, it is simply a foreshadow of Christ’s death for our sin all those generations of sinfulness later. (Christ was also the “firstborn” of God’s.)

 

So, in verse 6 God counsels with Cain and says, ““Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Do what is right and all’s good! Or, succumb to sin, bow down to putrescence, submit to betrayal.Then God says, “It desires to have you.God personifies sinful temptation as a personality with power. “But,” He says, “You must rule over it!

Self-centered natures are what we all have in common – but God gives us the ability, we are “Abel” to rule over our self-centeredness and do what is right!

This is not a lesson about tithing, although I believe one could easily learn that lesson from this story – give the top 10% and God will bless you – and frankly, I have never met anyone who honestly gave a faithful 10% tithe a real try to have ever regretted it! I know that when we started writing our first check after payday as a 10% check to our church God has always met our needs – that’s just a personal anecdotal testimony.

This is a lesson about prioritizing our relationship with God – above all else, seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

 

And then, 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Did you catch the SALVATION message of this paragraph?! Cain confesses his guilt, his justified punishment, and his fear that being out of God’s sight will doom him to death. “Whoever finds me will kill me!” (… Who’s going to find him? Who else is there, right? The Bible doesn’t answer that question, or the questions about whom Cain or Seth married and had babies with – those are questions the Bible doesn’t think are worth the time it takes to discuss them – apparently there are other people on planet Earth….)

But the Lord said to him ‘Not so – if anyone kills Cain they’ll get it seven times worse!’ And then the Lord put a mark on Cain so no one would kill him.”

We are not told what that “mark of Cainis – and speculating will probably only get us in trouble, so don’t. But, essentially, God says to Cainyou still have a chance to do what is right, and be welcomed back in My presencerule over your sin-driven temptations – and even though you have been cast even farther outside of Paradise than your parents were, I’ll be watching you! (Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you. [1983, The Police, Sting])

 

None of us may have ever killed our brother – or neighbor, or enemy – but Jesus says that to even hold a grudge against someone is committing murder in our hearts. What is your body-count?

Do we give to our Lord and Savior off the top? Or do we give what’s left over? Or somewhere in between?

Do YOU know God’s salvation today? Jesus died to conquer sin – your sin and mine has been forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross! God has marked us for our salvation, with the blood His first-born Son! All we need do, is live into that mark!

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for the offer of eternal life, even when what we deserve is absolute banishment. In Your perfect grace, we sing of Your greatness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Resources:

07/15/2018 = Genesis 3:1-24 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Adam & Eve: ‘My Name Is “Mud”‘”

(Please click HEAH for an audio vuhsion of this heah message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 3:1-24

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Adam & Eve – ‘Hello, My name is Mud’

07/15/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

I want to start today by giving a BIG Thank You to Pastor Kathy, Rev. Brad Buff, and a whole team of Deacons and Sunday leaders who simply made things happen so well while Jennifer and I were away for 15 days. We had an amazing, exhausting, wonderful trip to the Florida Keys up to the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. As Jennifer’s Uncle Larry might say, “That was some kind o’ vacation!”  It was hotter than a June Bug in your grits on the fryin’ pan. But really we had more fun than a Tick at a Flea Party.

 

In our Summer sermon series, we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsif you have a favorite Bible lesson, or a story that you’ve always wondered about or had questions about, bring them to me and we’ll get at it sometime this Summer, today we get to visit the Garden of Eden.

 

Let’s listen together to the Word of God: Genesis 3:1-24 (page 3 in the pew Bibles) …. —-

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” [Before we get too far into this story, let me interrupt and ask  couple of real questions: Chapter 2 is the Creation Story that has the man, Adam (which is the same word as the word used to describe the dirt from which he was made), needing some company so the Lord God (YHWH) creates all kinds of animals which Adam names, and then YHWH takes a rib from Adam and creates a female, a woman. The first words in Chapter 3 are about the craftiest of all the wild animals, the serpent, and what does this crafty serpent do? It TALKS!… to the WOMAN!]

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” [Whu? Did you catch that? The woman just caught the serpent in a lie! “No! The Lord God did NOT say we couldn’t eat ANY fruit, only the fruit in the middle of the Garden!” And, if you look at Chapter 2 what we discover is that the Lord God said this to Adambefore the woman was even made! – she wasn’t there! And the instruction to not eat THAT fruit came with a warning – “You will die!”]

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  [Another lie from the serpent – in John 8:44 Jesus says that the devil, and almost every Bible scholar says that this serpent represents the devil here, Jesus says that “the devil is a liar and the father of lies”.]

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husbandwho was with her, and he ate it. [This is the story of the Fall of Man, the original sin that every human inherits – but notice the details – yes it is the woman who first eats the forbidden fruit, and she offers it to the man (her husband), who was WITH HER, and apparently had been with her since the beginning of this chapter, and who had not said a word, had not intervenedhe was the one that the Lord God had spoken to, but he said NOTHING when the serpent tempted the woman – and then he also ate the forbidden fruit! — Oh, and what was the fruit? Was it an APPLE? NO! Enjoy your apples, guilt-free!]

 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  [This is a throw-back to the end of Chapter 2, “they were naked, and were not ashamed”– now, after the sin, they felt shame and tried to hide their guilt with fig leaves.]

 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. [the fig leaves were like camouflage] But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” [Did the Lord God not know where they were? Of course He did! But He wanted them to know that He knew!]

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” [“You sinned – and I know it,” God says …]

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” [Whom does Adam blame here? Not Eve – he blames God! “the woman YOU put here with me …”.]

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” [The woman blames the serpent! – but who’s really to blame? – Isn’t that always the case? Yes, someone else may have tempted me, but isn’t it always my responsibility to choose? ]

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” [Some of you saw the 2004 Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ. Do you remember the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane – that’s a completely different Garden than this Genesis 3 Garden, in that scene of that movie, Christ, while praying that He might not have to face this crucifixion (that was His temptation), faces  the serpent and crushes its head with His heel. (Nowhere in the Gospel stories does this actually happen, but almost every Bible scholar sees this Genesis 3 passage as a Messianic prophecy/picture of Christ’s victory over Satan, symbolically if not literally! – this is the first foreshadow of Christ in the Old Testament!]

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
   and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;    through painful toil you will eat food from it    all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,    and you will eat the plants of the field.  [We ain’t in Paradise anymore! Don’t we know it! … but before we’re done, we’re almost to the part where we see why today’s Sermon has the title it has – you ready?]


19 By the sweat of your brow    you will eat your food                  until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;           for dust you are         and to dust you will return.” [The name Adam comes from the same root word as the word for “dirt” (adamah). And because we all sin, every one of us – men and women, young and old, Black and white, all of us deserve to be banished from Paradisenone of us deserve to be allowed in the presence of the Lord Godevery one of us could wear a name tag that says, “Hello, My name is MUD!Turn to your neighbor, and introduce yourself – “Hello, my name is Mud!”]

 

20 Adam named his wife Eve, [She finally gets a name!] because she would become the mother of all the living. [We honestly, don’t really know, but we think the word “Eve” means something like “living”.]

 

[This last paragraph tells the Good News of this whole story – it’s a story about temptation, falling to temptation, choosing badly, betraying God, denying Him, and the consequences of those actionsdeath – they did not die physically, but they are banished from Paradise, separated from God’s presencedead in that relationship … but listen …]

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

[Did you catch the SALVATION message of this paragraph?!  The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife! How does one make garments of skin? What’s the process? A death has to occur! An animal has to be SACRIFICED! A minute ago we saw the FIRST foreshadow of Christ, this is the SECOND – with this first sacrifice comes forgiveness, no more shame, guilt is forgiven – oh, there are still consequences – If I eat the last morsel of deliciousness, that maybe Jennifer had already promised to Andrew – I will be forgiven my trespass, but that doesn’t mean there might not be new rules relegating me away from the refrigerator! – and the SALVATION is bigger than just that sacrifice – the angel sent to guard the Tree of Life also protects us, saves us, from further doom and destruction.]

 

 

Do YOU know God’s salvation today? Jesus died to conquer sin – your sin and mine has been forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross! He crushed the serpent’s head! Yes, My name is MUD, but Jesus makes us clean as SNOW (ooh, doesn’t a little snow sound good right now!)

 

As we move into a time of prayer together, Pastor Kathy, come on up, remember that God washes the mud completely away.

Thank You, YHWH God, for the offer of eternal life, even when what we deserve is banishment. In Your perfect grace, we Gather at the River where we find Your perfect welcome, through Christ our Lord. Amen.