Why The Story of the Ark Matters

flood-1.pngIn a somewhat surprising turn of events, sectors of the Christian world are teaching that the great Flood of Genesis is a poetic story. Because the story does not coincide with Darwinian evolution, theologians have found the historicity of the story to be problematic. Now modern thinkers are calling on all Christians to embrace their viewpoint. Because, “The exact nature or date of this historical flood is not important to the meaning of the Genesis account” the creators of the website Biologos believe Christians should move on and claim the academic high-ground of science.

By writing off Noah as a fantasy, theologians believe they are strengthening the Christian faith.  The co-producer and director of the Russel’ Crowe’s Noah, Darren Aronofsky said, “If you look at it as poetry and myth and legend, then you can actually use it to understand your world and who you are.”  Doctor Joel S. Baden agreed writing that, “The power of the Flood story…is in what it tells us about humanity’s relationship with God.”

The beauty of Noah is not found in the historical story but in modern man’s interpretation of the story. By leaving the history of the story behind, theologians, producers, and academics are not strengthening the Bible, they undermining its very foundation. The theologian that can freely deny the flood can and will freely deny the power of the cross. The salvation depicted in Genesis parallels the salvation depicted in Matthew. If one has to be jettisoned for moderns to find the Bible useful, then the other will quickly follow.

When the history of the Bible sinks beneath the surface, people can draw any and ever conclusion from the Noah narrative. They are free to paint happy pictures of salvation complete with cute giraffes poking their heads out of the Ark. They are also free to create storylines from the narrative that demonize humanity complete with images of Noah doing drugs.

Instead of casting off the historicity of the Bible, Christians should embrace the Genesis account as historical fact. Ken Ham has recently demonstrated with the creation of the Ark Encounter that Noah cold have built and survived a worldwide flood on an ark built according to the dimensions of Genesis. Moreover, Christ pointed to Genesis as historical fact in Matthew 24:37-39. Christians must follow their savior. They must embrace the Ark narrative as true because it proclaims the gospel.

The Bad News

Creation-Museum-Joel-KramerWe must affirm the story of the Ark because the story proclaims that all men and women are evil sinners worthy of judgement. The story of Noah begins with a great sense of foreboding.

After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden,  humanity devolved into chaos. Men and women went from lying to murdering and then to boasting of their murders. The great grandson of Cain boasts , “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me” (Gen 4:23). Not surprisingly God looks down and declares,

“I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and bird of the heavens for I am sorry that I have made them.” And a little later on God tells Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.” (Gen 6:5-13).

Humanity divorced from God is not evolving. Society is devolving into a violent chaos and deserves death. The story clearly proclaims that the wages of sin is death. Men and women are not autonomous. They are not self-sufficient. The people in Noah’s day perished for their sins.

But modern men and women should not suppose that they have evolved past the evils of Noah. Jesus tells his audience in Mathew 24:37-39

 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,  and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

The hard hearts that were present in Noah’s day are present now and will be present when Christ returns. According to 2 Peter 2:5, Noah preached the gospel just as Jesus did and as thousands of faithful men and women continue to do. People reject God not because they lacked access to truth. They rejected God because they did not want to follow him.

Modern people find the doctrine of sin and judgement troubling. Commenting on the story of Noah and on the Ark Encounter, blogger Alexis Misra wrote,

I do not believe that the story of Noah’s ark happened as depicted in the Bible, but even so, the story makes me almost nauseous. The staggering death toll that occurred according to the Bible was enough to make me, a certified skeptic, ill.

She finds the Ark troubling because she cannot imagine why God would subject the world to this holocaust like event. Consequently, she must deny the Ark because she wishes to affirm the goodness of humanity. To admit that God was a righteous judge would be to admit that humanity is sinful and in need of saving. She denies the flood as fact because she denies the gospel.

As redeemed sinners, Christians must affirm the truthfulness of the Flood account because the Gospel is true. Jesus has come, died, and risen. Noah built an Ark, the flood came, and Noah walked out on dry land. If we deny the Flood, we justify sinfulness.

The Good News

c0a361a96c4cbbd694dd6b8ebd76ef193b5370c25b58574185d4c0fe.jpg.404x268_q85Thankfully, Christians do not have to do this. They do not have to be ashamed of the story of Noah’s Flood. The narrative does not begin with sin and end with death. The story is not defined by images of “desperation and horror.” The great news of the Noah account is that God made a way of escape for his people. God created a covenant with Noah. God told Noah to build an Ark (Gen 6:14-18). He provided Noah with the dimensions and with the animals necessary to preserve life on earth. God saved humanity.

The specifics of the plan reveal that God did not view the Ark to be metaphorical. God judged real men and women and saved real men and women and animals on a real boat. God saved Noah faults and all because his son would one day perish for Noah.

Although Noah was a righteous man who faithfully followed God even when the whole world was quite literally against him, Noah was not the perfect savior that humanity needed.

Shortly after God sets the rainbow in the sky, Noah gets drunk (Gen 9:13-23). Noah fell into sin. He is not alone; his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so one continue to make a mess of things. Sin once again begins to dominate the world. Although humanity is perilously undependable, God is faithful. He never reneges on his promise to flood the world again. Rather, he does an even greater thing. He sends his son.

Jesus comes as the perfect savior to rescue us from our sins. Though we deserve to die in the floodwaters of eternal judgement, Jesus dies in our place. He goes to the cross; he jumps out of the Ark and takes our place in the waters of death so that we might have life in the kingdom of God. This is the great news of the gospel and of Noah: God saves. The salvation that was available to Noah is available to all of us because God has paid for our sin.

Final Thoughts

If Christians write off the Ark as a fanciful tale for children, they will essentially write of the gospel. They will deny the reality of humankind’s sinfulness and of God’s free offer of salvation based on Jesus’s work on the cross. A humankind that did not perish in the flood is a humankind that is still self-sufficient, that is still able to work their way to heaven, and that is still free from submission to their creator. But this is not the message of the gospel. To maintain the integrity of the Bible, we must believe that Genesis is a true historical book. There is no other way forward.

Are you ready to stand by the Ark revealed in scripture?

Is the Cross Plan A?

plan-1Is the cross plan A? It is a simple question and yet a deeply profound question. Did God always plan to die on the cross or was it simply a response to our failings? Is God’s divine plan playing out in the theatre of the cosmos or is he frantically attempting respond to our bumbling use of independence?

The theologians Gregory Boyd and John Sanders advocate for the later. John Sanders writes, “The path of the cross comes about only through God’s interactions with humans in history. Until this moment in history other routes were, perhaps open.”

Commenting on Judas’ betrayal Boyd adds,

If Judas had gone down a different path, he wouldn’t have fulfilled the prophecy of the Lord’s betrayal…perhaps no one would have betrayed Jesus, and the passages that are now read as predicting his betrayal wouldn’t be read as such.

In short, God does not control the universe and the destiny of men and women. There is no ‘blue print’ as Boyd likes to say. Rather, God is responding to our failures out of love, working as best he can through the broken vessels of humanity to accomplish good.

This view easily connects with our hearts. We very much like the thought that God loved us enough to radically change his plan for the universe. We love thinking that God changed to redeem us. But is such a thought biblical? Jesus says no.

In Mark 9:9, we read “And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Christ did not think his death, burial and resurrection were in doubt. He was not responding to the plans of men and women.

No, he had planned to die from the beginning of time. He knew Judas would betray him. He knew he would hang on a tree and die. He knew it because he had decreed it. Three times in the gospel of Mark, Jesus foretells and prophecies his death (8:31-33;9:30-32;10:32-34).

And, we should not be surprised that God can know the future. In Isaiah 48:9-10, we read

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,

We are not constantly taking away from and adding to God’s plans. Rather, we are moving within God’s ordained will.

In Revelation 13:8, we read of the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Before Adam and Eve took a breathe, God knew they would sin. And even better, God had planned to rescue them and us. He had planned to send his son to pay for the sins of the world, so that Jesus might be the first of many brothers (Rom. 8:29).

And here is the great news for you and for me and for our children. God can be trusted. God is not simply bungling through life like some Greek god who has to manipulate men to get what he wants. We do not pray and call out to him hoping that God might somehow be able to overcome the odds and help us.

No, we call out to the God of the universe who rules all. What makes God so amazing is not that he makes much of us. What makes God amazing is that he redeems us to make much of him. God saves us so that we can experience the glory of the divine.

And this has always been his plan. He is not responding to us. He is doing what he always planned. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the other.” (Dan 4:35).

Such knowledge should excite all Christians. Because God rules, we can cry out to God with confidence.  As the Pastor Paul David Tripp wrote,

Your world is not a world of constant chaos controlled by impersonal forces. Your destiny is not in your hands or the hands of other people. You are held in the hands of your Father, who rules everything…Because he rules heaven and earth according to his wise plan, I need not live in anxiety and fear.

We can trust God’s promise to grow our faith. We can trust God’s promise to care for us when we get cancer and when family members hate us. We can trust his promise that sting of death has been removed. We can trust God because he rules.

There is no plan B,C,D. Yes, God reacts to us within the narrative of human history. Yet, ultimately that narrative is of his creation. He planned it, he guarantees it, and he accomplishes it. Because plan A was at work in Genesis 1, we can be sure it is at work in Revelation 1. We can trust God with all our worries and concerns. Do you believe in the cross is plan A?

5 Ways To Encourage Your Nursery Team!

nursery-workersOften when we come stumbling into to the church nursery with hands full of kids, books, and bags, we are celebrating survival. We made it to church.Yes we began the day as a two-touchdown underdog. But we are here! Praise the Lord!

And as we bolt for worship service after a hasty “goodbye,” we often give very little thought to the nursery workers who just inherited are sweet, little children bent on destruction.

While we celebrate the power of the gospel a few hundred feet away, those brave nursery workers we left behind begin to face the never-ending onslaught of toys, pee, temper tantrums, bottles, and crackers. Not too surprisingly, most nursery workers cannot wait for the service too end and for us to come back.  “Oh where are the parents?”

While there are things that our churches should do (such as insisting that nursery workers regularly attend church services) to maintain the health of their nursery program, we parents can also do a lot to help keep our church’s volunteers happy and healthy.

Here are 5 ways, we can count nursery workers as more significant than ourselves (Phil. 3-5).

1. Keep Sick Children at Home

I think it is great that you want to be a church. But if Sally is contagious and feeling ill, she does not belong in the nursery. She could infect the nursery workers and the other kids. By bringing your sick child to church, you could cause your friends to miss work, to incur doctor bills, and to spend sleepless nights.

Now I fully understand that we don’t always know when our children are sick. Not too long ago, my kids infected a few other families because my wife and I misread their little bodies. But if we know that our children our sick and infectious, we should not risk our neighbors health. We should count others as more important than ourselves and keep our little deranged steroid users at home.

2. Be Prepared

Again, I know this is hard. However if we can prepare well for nursery, we will save our kids and our nursery volunteers some heartache. If little Bobby is wheat, soy, lactose, corn, and water intolerant please send some snacks with him. Yes, our churches love your kids, but they cannot anticipate the specific dietary, discipline, and behavior needs of every child. If you can send food, toys, or information that will help your child last the 1-2 hours that he is in the nursery please do so. Don’t expect your church to have the resources of high-end private hospital.

And just in case you are wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, I have arrived at church without my son’s cup and diaper bag. I totally get no one is perfect. This not a rule but more a heart attitude. Instead of having a heart that demands your church’s to accommodate your child’s every need, seek to equip your nursery to minister well to your child.

3. Come Quickly.

Friends, I get that adult time is special. But if we are going to put others first, we must not impose upon the nursery team. They often have families and their own kids. The longer we wait to pick up our kids, the longer we keep others from adult conversations and from caring for their own families.

I know some parents assume the following, “Nursery workers love kids. What is wrong with giving them a few extra minutes with my darling little guy or girl?” Think of it this way.

I knew of a valet who was once responsible for a parking a brand new jaguar sports car. It was so beautiful, strong, and sleek that the valet could not help himself.  About 18 miles, 15 minutes, and a broken axle later, he put the car into the restaurant’s parking garage that was a mere two blocks away. When the patron, got his jaguar back, he noticed that the changes to his car. He was furious. And the valet: he was out of a job.

Friends, the men and women in the nursery have agreed to watch your children for a few blocks.  Thirty minute joy rides go are not part of the package. Please respect your nursery workers and make a good faith effort to pick up your children quickly.

I understand we will be late on occasion. I once dropped my son off in the nursery during our 8:45AM service and totally forgot about him. I was actually locking the doors to our kids’ center a little after 12:30PM when some very gracious nursery workers brought to me. Hashtag Fail!

There are also times when we may need to talk for 30 minutes to encourage a friend who just loss their mother to cancer. I get that and support such actions. But in general, we should always seek to quickly get our kids.

4. Say, “Thank You”

We know our kids. We love them. They are amazing. But they are our kids. Full of our faults and bad habits. They are little sinners. When you pick them up, thank the workers who just spent an hour or so with them. Let the volunteers know how much you appreciate them sacrificing for you and your children. The volunteers did not have to come and play with your child. But because they love Jesus, they came. Please, say thank you!

5. Serve

In today’s age of safety, I know not everyone can serve. There are interviews, background checks, and other hurdles to jump over.  You may not be able to serve in your church kids’ ministry. I am not trying to guilt trip you into anything. But, the best way to understand what the typical nursery worker experiences is to spend some time in their shoes. Spend time changing other kid’s diapers, wiping up other kids’ spills, and listening to other kids’ cry. By being in the nursery,  you will gain a better understanding of how much others have sacrificed for you and your family. You also will gain a better understanding of why your child’s diaper wasn’t changed or why your baby’s feeding was a little late, and why people are happy to see you pick up your child.

We should never forget that nursery is an awesome blessing. And we should always want to interact with the nursery workers in an understanding and loving manner. We should always seek to think more of them and less of us. Who’s with me?