Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Flood and the Noahic Covenant (Gen.6-9).

God had created the world as a beautiful environment for mankind to dwell with God. God created Adam and Eve, in His own image, to do ‘God’s will’ on the earth. As His royal representative they were to ‘fill the earth with God’s images’ and extend God’s reign throughout the earth. But, they rejected God’s purpose and because they aligned themselves with Satan they were ejected from the ‘Garden of Eden’. God promised that he would put ‘enmity’ towards Satan in the hearts of the ‘seed of the woman’ and that a man would come who would ultimately ‘crush the serpent’ (Gen.3:15). The clash between the ‘seed of the woman’ and the ‘seed of the serpent’ which characterizes all of scripture is illustrated when Cain killed his brother Abel (Gen. 4). After this the history of mankind during the ‘primeval history (Gen.1-11)’ is one of widespread sinfulness leading to God’s judgment by a worldwide flood. All mankind was found to be ‘depraved (6:5)’ and the earth was ‘full of violence (6:13)’but Noah found ‘favor in the eyes of the Lord (6:8)’ and his family was preserved. Now listen to or watch the story of Noah being told and then read the comments below.
Adam and Eve were given Seth to replace righteous Abel whom Cain killed.Seth’s line sought to do God’s will while those related to Cain sought to build cities and cultures independent of God.  We are told that the thoughts of man were only evil all the time and that the world was full of violence. This so grieved and pained God that He determined to wipe all life from the earth but that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen.6:5-7, 8, 11).

The world continued in hardened unbelief but God chose to bestow His grace on Noah. Noah found favor with God not because Noah was righteous. The phrase ‘these are the generations of’ introduces each new section of Genesis and prevents us from thinking that Noah earned God’s favor by being righteous (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). Noah was righteous because Noah found ‘unmerited’ favor’ (6:8-9). Grace is grace and it is not earned or deserved. Notice how desperately Noah fell short of God’s glory even after God had delivered and made a covenant with Noah (9:20-21, Rom.3:23).

God gave grace to Noah and that grace extended to his whole family. Again and again God indicates to Noah His commitment to bring Noah and his entire house into the ark of salvation (6:18; 7:1, 7, 13, 23; 8:16, 18; 9:9, 12). God found Noah righteous in that generation (Gen. 7:1 ‘you’ singular refers to Noah) and as a result Noah’s whole family was spared from the flood. Noah, as the head of his household, and his whole family were allowed to go into the ark and were included in God’s covenant (Heb.11:7, Eph.2:8-9, Gen.9:9).

After the flood Noah offered a sacrifice to God. God was pleased and promised to put no further curse on the earth even though man’s corruption remained unaltered (8:20-21). Then the responsibilities given to Adam to multiply God’s images on the earth were given directly to Noah (1:26, 9:1, 7). God established His covenant with Noah promising not to destroy all life on the earth by a flood. God also promised to maintain a stable environment for man to do ‘God’s will’ on the earth (8:22, 9:11). Moreover, God promised to preserve the human race through Noah in order to ‘redeem the world’. God did this so that God’s redeemed images could spread God’s Kingdom reign over all the earth as God intended originally with Adam.

The sign of the rainbow emphasizes the gracious character of God’s covenant with Noah. The storm clouds depicted God’s just judgment (Isa 19:1; Rev. 1:7) while the colorful rainbow is a sign of God’s gracious presence. In the Book of Revelation the throne of God is depicted as having a rainbow around it (Rev.4:3). The flood waters meant destruction for depraved humanity (‘seed of Satan’) but God’s covenant with Noah meant life for Noah and his family who were graciously spared. The flood left man essentially unchanged for only a God-initiated ‘enmity’ toward evil in the heart can transform man. Yet, God promised in his covenant with Noah to preserve mankind and the world for the purpose redemption (3:15, 8:21, 9:1, 11).

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

'The Story of Cain and Abel (Gen.4)'.

God had created a beautiful garden for mankind, God’s representative, to live with God. Man was to do 'God's will' by filling the earth with God’s images, and creating a ‘God-glorifying’ world. Yet, man sought independence from God and aligned himself with Satan.  Consequently Adam and Eve where expelled from the garden. They would still be expected to fulfill God’s kingdom purpose. Now God would provide man with food but it would be by 'toilsome labor' and the ‘sweat of his brow’. They were to multiply ‘images of God’ but now with increased ‘pain in child-bearing’ and relational conflict. Now comes the story of Cain and Abel, the first story of life outside the garden. Listen or watch the story and read the comments below.

The Cain and Abel Story (Gen.4):
God graciously enabled Adam to have children. When Eve gave birth to Cain she was thrilled that God had helped her to have a son. Later Eve gave birth to another son, Abel, who is described as Cain’s brother. God graciously provided crops for Cain and flocks for Abel. So we see them fulfilling their responsibilities to work the ground and rule over the livestock. Cain brought some of his crops to the Lord as an offering, but the Lord was not pleased. Abel brought to the Lord the fat portions from the firstborn of his flock. Abel offered God the first and the best of what he had and the Lord was pleased. However, Cain's offering to God was not pleasing to the Lord.  

Cain was angry that God accepted Abel’s offering but was not pleased with Cain’s offering and his face was downcast. The Lord confronted Cain telling him that if he did what was right he would be accepted. Yet, if Cain didn’t do what was right then sin was crouching at his door but Cain was to master it. Yet, Cain talked Abel into going out to the field where Cain attacked and killed Abel. Ignoring God’s gracious warning Cain attacks and kills his own brother out of jealousy and envy. Again the Lord confronted Cain but Cain claims that he wasn’t responsible for brother. Cain let sin, which is a power and not just bad decisions, get a hold of him. Cain by attacking and killing his own brother, who was made in God’s image, was attacking God and showing that he belonged to the evil one (1 John 3:12).

God knew of the injustice Cain had committed for Abel’s blood was crying out for God to avenge what Cain had done (Hebrews 12:24). So God ‘curses’ Cain and drove Cain from the land and from God’s presence. Now Cain was outside the garden where work was not only difficult but now the ground would not produce crops for Cain. Cain said that being driven from the land and from God’s presence to be a restless wanderer on the earth was too severe a punishment for him. Yet, even after what Cain had done God graciously agreed to protect Cain’s life and to avenge his death if anyone would kill Cain.

The story shows the power of sin in Cain’s life. Cain ignored God’s correction and then killed his brother out of jealousy and envy. Cain lies to God, denies being responsibility for his brother, and complains that his punishment was unjust. Rather than being broken and contrite we find Cain lamenting over the consequences of his sin. The story depicts the goodness of God for we see God providing offspring for Adam and Eve and providing crops and flocks for them. God graciously warns Cain and justly punishes him but promises to protect Cain’s life. The story God's patence with even those who are unrepentant. 

The story depicts the destructive power of sin in the heart. It also shows us the conflict between the ‘seed of the serpent’ and the ‘seed of the woman’ that characterizes the history of redemption (Gen.3:15). The difference between the 'two seeds' is the ‘God-initiated enmity in the heart’ (Genesis 3:15). The clash between the two lines of humanity is illustrated in the lives of Cain and Abel. By faith Abel offers a pleasing sacrifice and is commended as righteous, while Cain’s actions showed that he belonged to the ‘evil one’.  By attacking and killing his brother Abel, Cain was attacking ‘image of God’ and attacking God (1 John 3:12, Heb.11:4). The story points us to the gospel of Jesus and his work on the cross. The blood of Jesus cries out not for vengeance but for the redemption accomplished by Christ.  

Hebrews 11:4 (NIV84) 4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

1 John 3:12 (NIV84) 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Celebrating God's Faithfulness!

Dear Friends and Family,
·         We’ve been reflecting on our recent trip to Malawi and celebrating God’s faithfulness.
Our 16 day trip to Malawi went so well we extended it to 23 days. After two years away we returned to take care of household business, to minister and to reconnect with friends.  It was great to preach at Kafita CCAP and Kapita CCAP, two large Churches pastored by former students. Pastor Edward Tembo told his church that when in Malawi I shouldn’t ask if I can come to Kafita to preach but I should say, ‘I’m coming to Kafita to preach’. I can only imagine the struggles of a 5000+ church with only one trained minister, but it’s encouraging that that church is led by a man who is trusting Jesus. This goes for Reverends Saka and Kayienda, former students, who are also leading large
Maula Prison Outreach. 
congregations in Lilongwe.  
A highlight of our trip was telling Biblical stories to the inmates at Maula Prison where we used to minister for over ten years. It was also great to hold another football (soccer) match where at halftime we preached the gospel to the whole prison. It was great to see what the Lord has being doing at Maula through Charles Masukwa, a former student. Charles coordinates with various organizations to improve the rehabilitation services at the prison. Since we left Malawi, a sick bay with actual beds has been built and now there is a medical clinic with a pharmacy and clinical officers. The school at the prison has improved and now there is a room with sewing machines where inmates can learn tailoring skills. God has made these prayers a reality.    
·         Reflecting on God’s faithfulness has encouraged us to look forward to God’s future faithfulness.
Story Group for Internationals. 
Being robbed three times when we arrived in South Africa and having our things stored in Malawi made transition to South Africa difficult. While crime is an ongoing challenge in South Africa having moved and sold our things in Malawi has helped our transition.  Having said ‘goodbye’ to our Malawian home we’re back in South Africa working with ‘international students’. It’s a good fit for us because most of these students are from Africa, and English is the language students from Botswana, Ghana or even Korea share. These students share the challenge of transitioning from one culture to another.  Moreover, we’re not giving out titles, degrees, school fees or anything else that can creates a dependency on a western missions. We’re simply telling Biblical stories, facilitating discussions and showing hospitality.
Christ Church Stellenbosch, our local church here, has been very gracious to us. Our girls enjoy the churches children’s programs and appreciate going to the same church weekly. I have had the opportunity to lead their service and preach several times. We want to promote a possible mission trip for our church here to go to Malawi, and could do some Biblical storytelling workshops.
o   We’re thankful for how God has answered your prayers on our behalf.
We travelled to Malawi and back safely, free from malaria any other ailments. We moved and sold most of our things. We were also able to preach some narrative sermons and teach Biblical Theology through stories in Malawi. God has been slowing growing our story group in faith and in numbers of people. Also, we were able to purchase a dependable used Honda Jazz, a civic like 5 door wagon. It’s good for the tight roads and smaller parking spaces here but big enough for our family and we really needed something.
o   We’re looking forward to how God will answer prayer in the future.
We would like to find housing more suited to showing hospitality to students that is affordable and close to the University. We’re still praying that our girls will make good friends as they did in Malawi and in the states. Also we pray that we will continue to settle in and be more focused on the work God has for us in South Africa.  
Zikomo Kwambiri (thanks very much),
Jay, Laura, Clara, Katherine and Lauren Stoms

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Fall of Man (Gen.3).

From Genesis 2 we learn that God had created a beautiful garden for mankind to take care of and live in God’s presence. Man, as God’s image, was to expand God’s reign throughout the earth by doing ‘God’s will on the earth’. He was to work the garden, fill the earth with God’s images, and create a ‘God-glorifying’ world. This brings us to the 'Story of the fall of man' from Genesis 3. Watch the video or listen to the story and then read the comments below.
The mysterious serpent was the craftiest animal and surprisingly able to speak. The serpent also knew the terms of God’s relationship with His image. The serpent challenged the woman regarding God’s prohibition not to eat from the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Gen.2:17). The serpent questions God’s good intention and made it seem laughable that God would prevent them from eating from any tree in the garden. This got Eve to focus on what God had forbidden rather than on all the privileges and responsibilities God gave them (3:1-3).

The serpent engaged the woman in a conversation about how God was withholding good from them. Eve said that they would die if they ate from the tree, but the serpent said they wouldn’t die. The serpent claimed God was restricting them because God knew that if they ate from the tree they would be like God; knowing good and evil. So the serpent accused God of deliberately withholding good from them.  

Eve entertained the serpent’s accusation against God, and saw the fruit of the tree as desirable source of wisdom apart from God and God’s word. She took the fruit and ate and gave some to her husband who was with her. Adam was right there but he remained silent as Eve discussed the serpent’s accusations about God. Eve ignored God’s prohibition and she ate and Adam took some of the fruit from her and ate himself. Adam failed to protect Eve from the serpent’s deception and so together the tested Eve’s hypothesis that the fruit of the tree was good for acquiring wisdom and they went against God’s word (3:4-6).

Their eyes were opened to their nakedness so they covered themselves and hid in the trees when they heard God. God comes looking for Adam and while God knew what had happened he was giving Adam opportunity to confess what he had done. But Adam only acknowledged that he was afraid so he hid from God. God said, “Have you eaten from the tree I told you not to eat?” Again God’s not asking for information but is giving Adam opportunity to acknowledge his guilt. Yet, Adam blames the woman and God by saying that he ate because of the woman God had given Adam gave him the fruit. Adam justified his role claiming that it was the woman given him by God who was to blame for the incident (3:7, 10-12).

Now God seeks out Eve to give her the opportunity to confess. But Eve also justifies her actions by shifting blame to the serpent that deceived her and by implication God who let it happen. God simply curses the serpent to crawl on his belly and eat dust. The serpent successfully brought down man, but God promises that a man, a seed of the woman, will come who will crush the serpent. As God pronounces judgment he also announces that a ‘saving hero’ will crush the serpents head and God will initiate an enmity towards the serpent in the hearts of some of the woman’s seed. The coming hero will receive a strike at his heels but he will deliver a fatal blow to the serpent’s head (3:13-15).

God tells the woman that her pain in childbearing would increase and that she will desire her husband who would rule over her. Eve would play a vital role in filling God’s world with God’s images but now she would experience relational conflict and increased pain in childbirth. Because Adam stood by and listened to his wife and the serpent question God’s word and then ate the forbidden fruit, God ‘cursed’ the ground.  The ground will produce food for Adam but ‘thorns and thistles’ also. They will eat food but through painful toil and the sweat of man’s brow until he returns to the ground because man is dust and to dust he shall return (3:16-19).

The Lord clothed them with garments of skin and drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. He placed an angel with a flaming sword east of the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life. As punishment they were expelled from the special place where God dwelt with and spoke with His ‘royal representatives’. Then God placed an angel with a flaming sword east of the Garden of Eden to guard them from the fruit from the tree of life (3:21-24). In their fallen state, apart from God, they would have to wait for someone, namely Jesus, to come and crush the serpent and restore access to the tree of life (Gen.3:15, Rev.22:2, 19).