Genesis 19

Greetings!  This is one of the stories you may have heard many references to but haven’t examined closely.  Some people think Sodom is fictional, but Jesus referred to it as being real (Matthew 10:15 and Matthew 11:23-24, among others) and there are over 20 verses outside of Genesis that mention it as well as if it were real. 

Some people try to say that the “sin of Sodom” was not homosexuality but was actually inhospitality.  Yes, hospitality was a major social concern in that culture, but it was hardly the sort of thing that prompts God to annihilate two cities and all the inhabitants except one family.  The sin of Sodom was clearly homosexual behavior.  I highly recommend “Responding to pro-gay theology” as it gives more thorough and clear responses to this than I will here.  The Stand to Reason ministry also has an excellent audio lesson called Setting the record straight: The Bible and Homosexuality that addresses this and other passages.

These are the two angels who visited Abraham and Sarah in chapter 18.  

Genesis 19 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

Why did Lot offer his daughters?  Did he know the men would refuse?  Either way, it was an awful suggestion to make.

“Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door. The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.

Note that God planned to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah before He sent the angels.  It wasn’t just this one act that resulted in the destruction of the cities.

The next passage is where the references to Lot’s wife and the pillar of salt come from.  Looking back favorably on our previous sins is a bad idea. 

As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.) By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

What follows is one of those Bible stories they didn’t teach you in Sunday School.  Lot’s daughters are worried about not having children, so they get their father drunk and seduce them on consecutive nights.  The Bible is a thoroughly honest book, portraying the real actions of sinful people.   The descendants of these boys were the Moabites and Ammonites who were perpetual enemies of the Israelites (though the book of Ruth is about a Moabitess whose descendants included King David and Jesus).

So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived. Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father.” That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I lay with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

Please note any comments or questions you have.

Off to prison (ministry)

Matthew 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

See the follow up to this post here.

I’ll be volunteering at a Kairos Ministry weekend at a Texas prison next month.   It is sort of like a Walk to Emmaus or Cursillo event for prisoners. 

Well-organized and well-trained volunteer teams of men and women from the communities surrounding an institution present an introductory 3-day weekend, described as a short course in Christianity.  This inter-denominational team of volunteers — both clergy and laypersons — works in cooperation with the Chaplain who carefully selects up to 42 inmate leaders to attend.  A well-organized follow up program is part of this ministry. 

There is a huge benefit to society from this program.  The recidivism rate is inverted for those who go through the program.  Instead of 80+% of the inmates returning to jail within three years of their release, less than 30% of those attending just the weekend program do so and less than 10% do for those who attend the program and follow up sessions. 

My first thought upon hearing those statistics is that perhaps they were cherry-picking inmates who were more likely to go straight anyway.  But that isn’t the case.  They “rotten cherry pick,” so to speak, and try to bring in negative leaders as well as positive from the prison population, including those that appear to be unlovable.  They know that if the leaders are changed it can have a huge impact on the rest of the population. 

The training is very thorough and well done so you can be equipped to make a difference and not cause problems.  The rules are taken quite seriously.  For example, accidentally taking a mobile phone in the jail is a federal offense.  There are strict guidelines on what can be brought in.  Apparently these fellows are quite creative and can make alcohol or drugs from just about anything. 

Several friends from church are passionate about this ministry, so I have been eager to give it a try.  I talked to several ex-convicts when doing volunteer counseling at CareNet Pregnancy centers and enjoyed getting to know them and encouraging them with the Gospel message. 

Some people may initially balk at this ministry because of a traditional “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” attitude.  But Kairos isn’t soft on criminal justice.  It doesn’t advocate for the prisoners, it just advocates for Christ. 

The church reaches out to these inmates with Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness.  Many of the people we encounter on the outside of these jails just have one difference with the inmates: They didn’t get caught.  Yet. 

I’ll be an assistant table leader, helping facilitate discussions after various talks.  I’ll be giving a talk on how to develop your relationship with God.  I’ll also be playing guitar with the music team.

There are all kinds of special things done for the inmates to help them know that people still care, and there are many powerful exercises they go through during the weekend.  There are monthly follow up visits as well. 

This is an ecumenical (non-denominational) organization – in the good way (unashamedly united on the essentials of the faith and that Jesus is the way), not the bad way (watered down theology). 

Please pray for the whole team and the 42 inmates we’ll be serving.  I’ll follow up with more information as I go through the process.

Also see Kairos of Texas and Prison Fellowship

To find ministries in your area, check out the links below (or just call your local prison – they may have other ministries going as well)

Kairos locations in Texas

Kairos national ministry map

Prison Fellowship Field Offices

Genesis 18

Greetings! abraham-visitors.jpg

Abraham is visited by the Lord and two angels.  It is not clear to me when he realized whom he was talking to. 

Genesis 18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

Remember that Abraham’s wife is barren.  She is far past the age of childbearing.  God promised a child, though, so they tried a shortcut with Sarah’s servant, Hagar.  But that wasn’t God’s plan.  He meant for Sarah to have a child. 

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

I love that verse: “Is anything too hard the Lord?”  That is one of the best rhetorical questions ever. 

When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Note the conversation with God that follows.  Abraham was respectful, but bold.  It is almost comical how he keeps trying to “influence” God.  Abraham had a heart for justice, but God’s passion for justice is much greater. 

Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.” Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Do you ever negotiate with God?  Please note any comments or questions you have.

Picture obtained here.

Off to prison (ministry)

Matthew 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

I’ll be volunteering at a Kairos Ministry weekend at a Texas prison next month.   It is sort of like a Walk to Emmaus or Cursillo event for prisoners. 

Well-organized and well-trained volunteer teams of men and women from the communities surrounding an institution present an introductory 3-day weekend, described as a short course in Christianity.  This inter-denominational team of volunteers — both clergy and laypersons — works in cooperation with the Chaplain who carefully selects up to 42 inmate leaders to attend.  A well-organized follow up program is part of this ministry. 

There is a huge benefit to society for this program.  The recidivism rate is inverted for those who go through the program.  Instead of 80+% of the inmates returning to jail within three years of their release, less than 30% of those attending just the weekend program do so and less than 10% do for those who attend the program and follow up sessions. 

My first though upon hearing those statistics is that perhaps they were cherry-picking inmates who were more likely to go straight anyway.  But that isn’t the case.  They “rotten cherry pick,” so to speak, and try to bring in negative leaders as well as positive from the prison population, including those that appear to be unlovable.  They know that if the leaders are changed it can have a huge impact on the rest of the population. 

The training is very thorough and well done so you can be equipped to make a difference and not cause problems.  The rules are taken quite seriously.  For example, accidentally taking a mobile phone in the jail is a federal offense.  There are strict guidelines on what can be brought in.  Apparently these fellows are quite creative and can make alcohol or drugs from just about anything. 

Several friends from church are passionate about this ministry, so I have been eager to give it a try.  I talked to several ex-convicts when doing volunteer counseling at CareNet Pregnancy centers and enjoyed getting to know them and encouraging them with the Gospel message. 

Some people may initially balk at this ministry because of a traditional “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” attitude.  But Kairos isn’t soft on criminal justice.  It doesn’t advocate for the prisoners, it just advocates for Christ. 

The church reaches out to these inmates with Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness.  Many of the people we encounter on the outside of these jails just have one difference with the inmates: They didn’t get caught.  Yet. 

I’ll be an assistant table leader, helping facilitate discussions after various talks.  I’ll be giving a talk on how to develop your relationship with God.  I’ll also be playing guitar with the music team.

There are all kinds of special things done for the inmates to help them know that people still care, and there are many powerful exercises they go through during the weekend.  There are monthly follow up visits as well. 

This is an ecumenical (non-denominational) organization – in the good way (unashamedly united on the essentials of the faith and that Jesus is the way), not the bad way (watered down theology). 

Please pray for the whole team and the 42 inmates we’ll be serving.  I’ll follow up with more information as I go through the process.

Also see Kairos of Texas.

Weekly roundup

Here’s a cool evangelism site called StreetFishing.   They even have audio recordings of actual discussions that can give you ideas on conversation starters,  common questions, how to respond to objections, etc.

Carter and Clinton’s New Baptist Covenant scam – why anyone would look to them for theological leadership is beyond me.   This is the same Carter who thinks his teachings are above Paul’s and the same Clinton who is . . . Clinton.

Three things you don’t know about AIDS in Africa

Short but funny parody of John Lennon’s Imagine

Blinded by the light – An article from CFO.com about how the “halo effect” distorts our view of the performance of businesses.  It does a good job of analyzing how business books often use sloppy research methods to make their points. 

Jimmy Carter and Al Gore talk a good game, but aren’t confident enough to debate their ideas

Poison in our libraries – if our kids were just starting school, we’d be home schooling

Genesis 16-17

Greetings!

God had promised a child for Abram and Sarai, but they were impatient and tried to take matters into his own hands.  Sarai’s recommendation for Abram to sleep with her maidservant (and you know Abram just hated that, right?) ended up causing tremendous pain for all involved.

Genesis 16-17 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.

It didn’t take long for Hagar and Sarai to be resentful and jealous of each other.  Abram avoids taking any responsibility for the matter. 

May the Lord judge between you and me.” “Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

The passage above helps understand world conflicts. 

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

So God kept his promise, as He always does.  He gave them new names.  Abram meant “exalted father” while Abraham meant “father of a multitude of nations.”  Sarah means “princess.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Abraham thought it was humorous that Sarah would actually bear a child, but He believed what God said.  He wisely obeyed God and circumcised everyone.  I can only imagine the reactions of his servants and his son. 

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Think about how things ultimately go so much better when we trust in God’s ways and how poorly they go when we rationalize ourselves into doing things our way.  Please note any comments or questions you have.

Random thoughts on gay sheep, counseling for “homophobia” and barbeque

I am not as well read as I thought, because I didn’t learn about the gay sheep controversy until last week.  That’s a pretty good trick to seriously offend the gay lobby and PETA at the same time. 

Isn’t it a logical thing for a breeder to want to maximize the amount of rams who want to help make more sheep?  He doesn’t need a bunch of Panda-like slackers who won’t sacrifice their wills for the good of the team.  If the orientation is unchangeable, then the critics should just laugh at the time and the money the researchers are wasting trying to prove the impossible. 

The “x% of animals are gay” is a common pro-gay argument but also one of the worst I’ve heard.  For one thing, those tests typically show that environmental factors influence the % (e.g., mice in overcrowded conditions).  Also, male dogs, for example, may try to have sex with female dogs, male dogs, human legs, coffee tables, etc., but that doesn’t make all of those activities natural.   And even if they did, natural does not equal moral.  

As pointed out previously, the critics are missing the bigger issue: If gay genetic factors are real and ultimately identified in utero then they won’t be able to stop the stampede of abortions that will take place (I am on record for saying those abortions would be immoral, by the way). 

Side note: I have a suspicion that the PETA folks, by and large, are pro-choice.  Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.  Consider the irony that animals about to be slaughtered have laws to minimize their pain while the unborn do not.  Where is their outrage over that? 

So homosexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable and does not require counseling, but Isaiah Washington’s “homophobia” is changeable and does require counseling?  Shouldn’t he be a protected class as well?  No, I’m not condoning what he said.  That was stupid on at least two levels.  I’m just pointing out the foolishness of  the hysteria over a very poor word choice and the dogmatic labeling of some traits as inherent and others as changeable.

News flash: When someone is in a bitter argument and they want to say something hateful towards their opponent, they sometimes search their vocabulary for a mean-spirited term such as the “N-word” or “F-word” (No, not that one, the one used as a pejorative towards gay people) or the “FC-word” (Fundamentalist_Christian.   Eek!).  That doesn’t necessarily mean they have deep seated racial issues,”homophobia” or “Christophobia.”  It does mean they have a limited vocabulary and poor self control. 

Of course I am against attacking gay people with words or with deeds.  I would always defend a gay person who is being harassed.  If anything, I am guilty of reverse discrimination for treating them more nicely than heterosexuals.

And how about all the Christian-bashing that goes on in public and the media?  Do these critics need counseling?  OK, they probably do, but I’m not going to be shrill and demand it as a condition of their employment or freedom. 

Final note on PETA: Weber Grills had a fabulous commercial written up in Forbes years ago.  Ironically, they took it off the air because PETA-types complained.  I’m not sure why they cared what the animal rights activists thought, as those folks aren’t exactly your target market for barbeque grills. 

The commercial had several serene scenes of sheep, pigs and cows with a peaceful voice-over noting pleasant things about each animal.  The last scene just showed a Weber grill.  The tag-line?  Farm animals: Let’s eat ‘em!