Today was Day 2 of First Central‘s Awana Camp at Pine Brook Camp in Shutesbury. We learned about the nature of sin in our Bible lessons–Dave Krok and Chris Ames taught about our sin nature and how Christ dealt with our sin on the cross. We went canoeing, practiced archery, went swimming at Lake Wyola, played games, did tie-dye crafts, and had a great time.
Monthly Archives: June 2016
Today was the annual picnic for First Central Bible Church. In the past, we held the worship service at church and the afternoon picnic at Look Park in Northampton. In an effort to change things up and add some variety, we decided to hold everything at Buttery Brook Park in South Hadley. We had an outdoor worship service at 10AM followed by the lunch provided by our hospitality team. In the afternoon, we held a variety of games including driving a nail contest, pickle spitting, and balloon toss. Some families made use of the spray water park, playground, volleyball courts, and horseshoe pit. It was a wonderful time of worship and fellowship. We’re already talking about reserving the park for next year’s event.
Where do you find security?
When we were children, we turned to various sources of security when we were scared—a night light, a blanket, an older brother, or our dad. Maybe we turned to comic book superheroes and debated whether or not the Marvel heroes were stronger than the DC family. Whatever source we turned to, it was because we wanted someone or something that is bigger and stronger and can make us feel secure.
As adults, we might turn to money, status, success, or pleasure to find that feeling of security. We might research other religions to provide hope for the future. We need to be careful, however, because the things we put our trust in can easily become the things we worship. Matthew 6:21 illustrates this fact, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our challenge is similar to what Abram went through in the early stages of his faith journey.
In Genesis 14:1-16, Abram goes into battle to rescue his nephew, Lot. He is outnumbered and outgunned. And yet, he is victorious because God delivers him. On the way home, he meets an individual who introduces him to El Elyon, the Most High God. Abram discovers that the Most High God is the only one who is worthy to be worshipped.
Based on Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God, we learn the principle that in a world that worships comfort, pleasure, money, status, success, power, and a host of other lesser gods, El Elyon, The Most High God, deserves our wholehearted worship and allegiance.
In Genesis 12, God calls Abram to leave Ur and journey to the Promised Land. Abram brings his wife, Sarai, his nephew, Lot, and his father, Terah. Terah dies in Haran. In chapter 13, Abram’s and Lot’s herds grow to the point where they need to separate and seek different grazing areas. Lot chooses the valley near Sodom and Gomorrah because it is well watered and looks better.
Genesis 14 opens with the explanation that the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah are aligned with three other kings in the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley had been conquered and was subject for 12 years (4). During the thirteenth year, they rebelled (4). In year fourteen, there was payback (5).
Four kings, Chedorlaomer and his allies, attack and capture the five kings and their armies. Lot is captured and carried off as a prisoner (1-12). One fugitive escapes and comes to Abram (13). Abram organizes his forces of 318 men and chases the marauders 240 miles and defeats them. Abram returns home with the captives and the spoils of war (14-16).
After the victorious battle, Abraham begins the return trip with Lot and his possessions and family and other captives. On the way home, Abram is met by two kings, Bera, king of Sodom, and Melchizedek, king of Salem (17-24).
|Bera, King of Sodom||
Melchizedek, King of Salem
Meaning of name
|Bera – gift
Sodom – burning
Melchizedek – king of righteousness
Salem – peace
|Serves self||Serves Most High God
(Demonstrates that the Most High God is known outside of Israel—see Daniel)
|Believes that prosperity comes from man||
Proclaims victory and blessing come from God
Relationship to Abram
Acted superior to Abram even though defeated in battle and rescued
Abram recognized him as a spiritual superior
|Makes demands of Abram||
|Offers to bargain||
Offers a blessing
Implications of choice
|If you accept the gift from the world, you will get scorched||
If you accept the gift of righteousness, you will receive peace
|Abram rejects the offer and receives nothing from Bera||
Abram receives the blessing and gives a tithe as an offering of worship
Abram declares his allegiance to the Most High God
From this meeting (Genesis 14:17-24), we learn several key facts about El Elyon, the Most High God.
El Elyon created, owns, and rules the universe (19). Elohim is the strong one who created the world. El Elyon is the Most High God who owns it all.
Everything—heaven and earth—belongs to him.
El Elyon protects and delivers (20). Abram went into battle with 318 trained men against the armies of four kings (1-16). He chased them for 140 miles and defeated them in a surprise attack. He then chased them for another 100 miles. And he was victorious and routed the enemy at every turn. Why? Melchizedek explained that God delivered the enemy into Abram’s hand.
El Elyon deserves our worship (20). Abram recognizes God’s position—Most High, Creator, Owner. He recognizes God’s protection and deliverance—gave enemy into his hand. Abram responds in worship. Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils as an act of worship.
El Elyon has earned our allegiance (22). Abram did not pursue comfort (13:10), the spoils of war (21), or political patronage (23). Instead, he swore an oath to serve the Most High God (22).
Are you following the gods of this world, or have you pledged your allegiance to the Most High God? The Most High God is the only one worthy to the worshipped. The Most High God deserves our allegiance and devotion.
This is the synopsis of a message delivered at the Annual Picnic of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 26, 2016. It is part of a series on the Names of God. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
Another article from The Moscow Times for the OIR file (Only In Russia) – “Russian Health Ministry Bans Patients from Dying to ‘Not Ruin Stats'”
Who knew that too many deaths spoiled the health statistics?
Thanks go to Norm Eddy and John Musgrave for posting the original article. It certainly gave me a reason to chuckle and roll my eyes.
In Genesis 14:17-24, Abram returns home victorious from a battle. He meets two kings with vastly different philosophies. They force Abram to make a choice as to whom he will form an alliance with.
By way of background, the Jordan River Valley was conquered and subject to Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, for 12 years (1-4). A coalition of five kings rebelled in year 13 (4). Chedorlaomer and his allies put down the rebellion in year 14 and carried off the captives and plunder, including Abram’s nephew, Lot (5-12).
One fugitive escapes and comes to Abram (13). Abram organizes his forces of 318 men and chases the marauders 240 miles and defeats them. Abram returns home with the captures and spoils of war (14-16).
On the way home, Abram is met by two kings, Bera, king of Sodom, and Melchizedek, king of Salem (17-24). Their names give Abram a hint of what is coming and how to respond. “Bera” means “gift,” while “Sodom” means “burning.” Bera is a wicked king in a worldly city. “Melchizedek” means “king of righteousness” while “Salem” means “peace.” Melchizedek is a priest of El Elyon, the Most High God. Abram rejects Bera and worships with Melchizedek.
Choose your alliances wisely. If you accept the gift from the world, you will get scorched. If you accept the gift of righteousness, you will receive peace. It’s a pretty clear choice when you spell it out.
In a series on The Names of God, last week I preached on Elohim, the strong one, who created the world. I used an illustration of our recent boat excursion on the Pacific Ocean to describe his creativity. We saw blue whales the size of two school buses and a pod of bottlenose dolphins jumping and playing in the wake of our boat. Not only did God speak them into existence, but he demonstrated creativity in the process.
In his book, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Professor D. A. Carson describes God’s creative powers in this way.
What would you have chosen to describe God’s power? When you think of God’s sovereignty, to what does your mind turn? I confess I am inclined to think of God’s power in creation. He speaks, and worlds leap into being. He designs the water molecule, with its remarkable atomic structure that ensures greater density is achieved at four degrees centigrade than at the freezing point, so that lakes and rivers freeze not from the bottom up but from the top down, providing a blanket of ice with water underneath so that fish can survive. I think of God calculating the mathematics of quarks with half-lives in billionths of a second. I think of God designing each star and upholding the universe by his powerful word. I think of the pleasure he takes in the woodpecker, with its specially designed tail feathers that enable it to peck with such force. I marvel at a God who creates emus and cheetahs and the duck-billed platypus. He power extends beyond the limits of our imagination.
What a great description of God’s power and his creative genius and abilities! His power and glory is on display all around us. All we have to do is open our eyes and look.
An Alabama county official refused to lower flags to half-staff this week in honor of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, saying that doing so would signal a lack of resolve in the face of terrorism. While his “soul ached for the victims” and his family prayed “for them and for the world,” he did not feel it was a “valid circumstance” for lowering the flag to half-staff.
A student is given the assignment of writing a term paper defending evolution. As a Christ follower, they feel it will violate their convictions.
An employee is told to fly a rainbow flag at half-staff in front of their office building to signify mourning for the victims of the massacre in Orlando, FL. While they mourn the tragedy, they wonder if the action means they approve of a lifestyle that goes against their biblical convictions.
In the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire, Olympic athlete Eric Liddell is scheduled to compete in the 100 meters during the 1924 Paris Olympics. However, he discovers that the preliminary heat is scheduled for a Sunday. Being a Sabbatarian, he refuses because it goes against his Christian convictions. The dialogue below reveals how the British athletic leaders try to convince him otherwise.
Lord Birkenhead: Liddell, he is your future king, are you refusing to shake his hand? Does your arrogance extend that far?
Eric Liddell: My arrogance, sir, extends just as far as my conscience demands.
Lord Birkenhead: Fine, then let’s hope that is wise enough to give you room to maneuver.
Lord Cadogan: Don’t be impertinent, Liddell!
Eric Liddell: The impertinence lies, sir, with those who seek to influence a man to deny his beliefs!
HRH Edward, Prince of Wales: There are times when we are asked to make sacrifices in the name of that loyalty. And without them our allegiance is worthless. As I see it, for you, this is such a time.
Eric Liddell: Sir, God knows I love my country. But I can’t make that sacrifice.
As a Christ follower, how do we practice our beliefs in an increasingly antagonistic culture? When do we stand firm and when do we compromise? How far can our convictions stretch before they break altogether and mean nothing?
Fortunately for us, the book of Daniel in the Old Testament provides some insights as to how we can live out our convictions in a culture that either ignores or rejects God.
- Daniel was a teenager when he was taken as a prisoner to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-4, 6)
- The Babylonian leaders wanted to change Daniel’s education, diet, and name (1:4-7).
- Rather than eat the king’s food (which had probably been first offered to idols, or went against Jewish dietary laws), Daniel proposed a compromise (1:8-16). For ten days, he and his friends would submit to the education and name change, but follow Jewish dietary laws. The steward could then evaluate the results and Daniel and his friends would abide by the decision.
- King Nebuchadnezzar builds a statue of himself and enacts a law that everyone has to bow down to the image. Daniel’s three friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refuse and face the fiery furnace as a result (3:1-30).
- Government officials who oppose Daniel enact a law outlawing prayer to anyone but the king (6:1-9). Rather than change his habits, Daniel continues to pray at the same time and same place as he had previously (6:10). Daniel is cast into the lion’s den as a consequence of disobeying the law (6:11-24).
Based on the example of Daniel and his friends, there is a time to suggest a compromise (ch. 1) and there is a time to stand firm in our convictions (chs. 3 & 6). If necessary, we must face the consequences for our choices. And God may, or may not, rescue us from the punishment. Regardless of the outcome, however, we need to be obedient and follow God (3:16-18).
I counseled the student writing the paper on evolution to present what the teacher asked for. The student could quote the teacher’s sources and give what was required. At the end of the paper, the student could then present what Scripture says on the subject. It was a compromise designed to meet the requirements while at the same time declaring their personal convictions.
The worker attached the hardware for the rainbow flag to be raised, but did not participate in any further ceremonies. They performed their duty without endorsing the decision.
As time goes on, Christ followers will face more and more situations where we will have to decide how far our conscience can stretch. May we have the wisdom of Daniel to know when to compromise and when to stand firm.