How Do I Worship From the Sodom and Gomorrah Story?


What do I do with passages in the Bible like this?

The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.  Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.  And He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

Genesis 19:23-25

Or this one?

Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, He who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength?  ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’  Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?  ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.  For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come.  I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.  I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’

Isaiah 63:1-6

Well, let me first give the answer I’d give my children:  Believe them.  God says here in the Isaiah one, for instance, that He has vengeance to be poured out on the nations.  He is God, so I am to believe Him.  

But I can lend a hand when it comes to passages that aren’t as plain Jane God-is-talking-and-telling-me-what-He’s-done-or-going-to-do by expanding on that a little.  So, if the questions are like this:

“What do I generally do with passages and stories in the Bible that talk about God’s wrath?  How do I worship from them?  How do I apply them to my heart?  How do I point my kids to Jesus with the Sodom and Gomorrah story when we come to it in family worship?”

Well, I’d start my answer with a question of my own to get to the heart of the matter:

“What is the Bible?”

The Bible is not a self-help book.  The Bible is not a collection of advice.  The Bible is not the best attempts of human beings to understand God.  The Bible is the Word of the only living God, and that Word is also a story that is all about Jesus.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

Jesus, in John 5:39

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’  But He answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Matthew 4:1-4

So the Bible is God’s Word, His communication to human beings, and it is also a story that is all about Jesus Christ.

Well, if that is what the Bible is, then when we get to parts that are about God’s vengeance and wrath, His good anger towards sin, God must be telling us humans something that is ultimately about Jesus.

Okay, fair enough, Wade.  I’m with you so far.  But what?  What is He telling me about Jesus that I should be applying to my heart or teaching my kids or preaching from my pulpit in the stories and the passages like the ones below?

  • The Flood in Genesis, when He destroys all the land animals and people who have the breath of life, all except those on the Ark, because of sin.
  • The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, when He destroys two wicked cities because there aren’t any righteous people in them except for one little family.
  • The judgment laid on Israel and Judah when they are conquered and stripped bare and many slaughtered for their idolatry an wickedness, though eventually a remnant get to return home in peace.

Well, there are certainly more than one thing, but I will offer what I think might be the most important one:  God is showing us the unimaginably deep cup of ferocious good anger that Jesus took on Himself.  God is showing us what Jesus bore in order to spare those who would believe in Him.  

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’  And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22:41-44

Jesus was in agony in the Garden of Gathsemane because He was about to be slain on a Roman Cross for all who would believe in Him.  He was less than 24 hours away from being forsaken by God so that we wouldn’t have to be.  He was about to have the sins of the world laid on His scarred and innocent back.  I believe Jesus experienced more shame, more pain, more wrath than any human being ever has or ever will, and He was totally undeserving of it.  God chose, before the foundation of the world, to put Himself forward and receive His own vengeance so that those who trust in Jesus could be spared.  Like Noah and those on the Ark, we are rescued from the raging sea of God’s judgment.  Like Lot and his daughters, we are plucked from the fire even though we are undeserving.  Like Ezra and Nehemiah and Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar, we who have believed get to go home to God’s country despite our past sins.  And it is all because Jesus bore the flood of God’s wrath for our evils.  He received the fire that Sodom did.  He was exiled so that we could come home.

So what do I do with the stories and passages about God’s shocking vengeance?

I thank the living and loving God that Jesus bore that vengeance for me on the Cross.  Jesus fulfilled God’s Law so that I can receive His Gospel.  He took my sin’s penalty of death so that I can have His righteousness’ wage of life.

Jesus received the justice so that I can receive the mercy.

The cup my Jesus drank is one I am now spared.  And someday we will both get to share a far different one at a very special banquet table, one that He has been preparing for some time.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’  And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’  And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:11-14

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A Tick On the Clock

If none of the things you want most out of life could be resolved by Jesus coming back, your heart is not calibrated correctly.  

Your heart was designed to commune with God.  It’s in God that you can have the peace and hope and joy that you thirst for.  And when the Son of God returns to make all things right, to judge the still-living and the dead, and to remake all things for His people, those who love Him will get to know Him and be with Him fully, in bodies that will not perish or wear out.  Nothing can be more satisfying than knowing Jesus Christ face to face and forever.  Nothing.  Not retirement.  Not romance.  Not a career.  The greatest prize a human being can have is still to come.  

Much of 21st century American life seems designed to make you forget that there is an eternity, a neverending series of tomorrows that you will either enjoy or endure.  Netflix and soccer practices and Chipotle and heated car seats and Friday nights and Facebook and ESPN all seem to insulate us against the reality that this American life of creature comforts is not the last chapter of anyone’s life.  It is not the way things will always be.  Every human being will either meet Jesus to enjoy Him forever or meet Jesus as judge to face what they deserve for their sins.  The great finish line you should be keeping in your mind is not the date you can withdraw from your 401k but the day you are raised to find Jesus looking back at you.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

Revelation 20:11-21:4

What do you want most out of life?  Creature comforts?  Entertainment?  Peace and quiet?  Financial security?  Sex?  Respect?

Or do you want people to know God?  To see Him glorified?  To enjoy Him?  To see pain and death banished?

We weren’t born into a day and place that make it easy to remember we’ll each die, much less that the world will be destroyed and remade some day.  Ours is a country and culture filled with distractions and amusements.  But despite how satisfying we may find Netflix comedy specials and shopping on Amazon, there is something greater to live for.  The King is coming to fix what is broken and to fill every soul who is His to the brim with joy and peace.  Every moment is a tick on the clock towards the Day when Jesus splits the skies and puts an end to evil and a start to a peace on which the lights will never go out.

Which is why the Bible ends this way.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Revelation 22:20-21

Amen indeed.

My Worst Enemy


I won’t waste your time:  My worst enemy is my own sin.  

I am always tempted to look at what others have done to me, or are currently doing to me, or how I’m being shortchanged in a certain way as my biggest problem.  It makes sense to a shortsighted, self-centered mind.  

“The thing that’s really screwing up my life is that I’m not getting __________.”  

“Man, if I didn’t have to deal with _________ anymore…”

But the reality that my own sin is far more deadly, and robs me of far more joy and peace, than any other single thing.  My own sin kills far more of my peace, my friendships, my ministry than any single other person or circumstance.  
My idolatry is deadly, as I value pleasure and creature comforts more than communion with God.  “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

My anger and unforgiveness are deadly, as I hold a grudge in my heart against someone rather than trusting the Lord to deal with it.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’  To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:18-21)

My pride is deadly, as I think that such and such a thing would never happen to me, because I don’t make bad choices like so and so.  “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:  God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 18:9-14)

These things are far more toxic to me than any gosippy coworker, any politician, any cultural trend, any career threat, any backbiting relative.  The sin in my heart poses a far greater threat to my joy than any external force that might come against me. 

But thankfully my worst enemy is the very thing my Savior and His Spirit offer, day by day, to free me from.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

60 Seconds On the Nature Of Faithlessness


Faithlessness is a moral problem, not merely an intellectual one.  Put another way:  It is a sin not to trust Jesus Christ.  

When you doubt the Word of God, and specifically when you doubt Jesus Christ, you are sitting in judgment over God.  You are telling Him that He is not to be trusted.  You are replaying the sin of the Garden, where Eve gave into Satan’s question, “Did God really say…?”

To doubt Jesus is to play judge over God.  

And this is why Jesus treats faithlessness as sin, not simply being wrong about a fact, as though one had mistakenly thought that Billings was the capital of Montana instead of Helena.  

And someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.  So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’  And he answered them, ‘O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?  How long am I to bear with you?  Bring him to me.’  And they brought the boy to him.  And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.  And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’  And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him.’  But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes.’  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’

Mark 9:17-24

When it comes to believing or not believing in Jesus, there is a moral problem that must be resolved in a man.  He trusts himself more than God, and he does not want to let go of his sin and his (illusion of) control.  When I witness to a man, I am not just trying to get him to choose one religion over another.  I am trying to get him to lay down his arms of doubting rebellion against the only true God. 

And as a Christian, I myself need to understand that the many times my faith in Jesus wavers, it is sin.  I need to confess it, put it to death by the Spirit, and ask others to hold me accountable in not returning to it. 

This is the nature of faithlessness.  It is harmful, poisonous sin.  

Help my unbelief, Lord.  And forgive it.  

Thankfully I believe He is able to do both.  

30 Seconds On Christmas


Christmas is hope for the worst of us.  

It is God’s electing to be born in a forgotten place in the shadow of His own death rather than to let us all perish in our sins.  It is proof He is not as apathetic or vindictive or arbitrary as we are.  It is evidence that His ways are very much not our ways.  

Christmas is the message that we are not alone.  That despite what we have done, God is available.  He is seeking.  He is merciful.  

Christmas is a part of the only hope for thieves and adulterers and murderers and gossipers and traitors and liars, of which we were each born an example.  It is a part of the Gospel that God came to be what we could not be, do what we could not do, and give us what we could not earn.  

Christmas is a time to remember that God is with us.  

He is with us.  

And that is a hopeless man’s hope.  

Merry Christmas.  

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ which means, God with us. 

Matthew 1:18-23

You Won’t Get It With Feminism


Our culture does not encourage men to marry, have lots of children, and then lead those families in sacrificial love.  Because of that, our society is filled with men who are not pressured to control their sinful sexual impulses and instead enjoy romance and sex with one woman in faithful marriage for their entire lives.  Our society is filled with men who are not praised for marriage, faithfulness, hard work, teaching their children, and submitting to Godly authority themselves.  Our culture admires rebellion and sexual deviance and then is shocked to find rebels and sexual deviants in its midst.  

And what is currently called “feminism” is a part of that foolish cultural curriculum.  

To be clear, I am not rebuking the belief that men and women are equal, which is God-given truth.  That I gladly hold as gloriously true as much as I do the personhood of men, of the unborn, of those with Down Syndrome, and of every single son or daughter of Adam and Eve.  No, modern Western feminism teaches much more than simply that.  It teaches that women should be able to murder other women simply because the latter are currently in the former’s womb.  It teaches that motherhood is a lesser achievement than a large salary.  But at the moment I have in mind simply its teaching (I think on the syllabus under “patriarchy”) that men should not want to marry and then sacrificially lead their wives.  

Modern “feminism” helps to create the very thing it detests.  It (appropriately) detests slovenly, uncontrolled, evil men who prey upon those weaker than them.  Unfortunately, it helps to create such men by fighting against society’s demanding of men to be what God calls them to be:  Loving leaders of families they are given by God.  It tells men not to use their strength for what they are supposed to use it for, and then detests what evil things they do use it for.  

Make no mistake:  These men will, if they do not repent and call on Christ to bear God’s wrath for all of their sins, spend eternity in Hell in His just wrath (along with everyone else who will not turn to Christ in this life).  But modern Western feminism is a part of this maelstrom of sexual violence and confusion.  It is not the solution.  It says that nothing is solid, anything goes.  And as it has gained influence, men (and women) are acting like nothing is solid and anything goes.  I’m sure most feminists would react furiously to that contention, but I think it’s fairly obvious, and so I contend it.  

Despite what feminism says, God has made men physically stronger than women and has commanded that they use that strength, as well as the rest of what makes them men, to sacrificially lead a wife and children (as well as to defend those generally weaker than they are).  A society that praises such men and denounces those who do the opposite, as well as teaches men how to be such men, will generally have more of them.  It will have more men who marry one woman, have children with her, work hard to provide for them, stay sexually and romantically faithfully to that wife for life, guard that family from physical and (if they are Christian) spiritual danger, and teach the children how to be good and capable human beings.  

Do you want that kind of society?  I do.  And I believe that God does.  

A society and its culture cannot convert men, but it can restrain them.  God lays out this principal in places like Romans 13, when Paul teaches that God has given humanity the governing authorities to at least restrain those who will not be truly changed into saints by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Let’s wrap it up.  I’m going to take my two oldest outside.  My exhortation to my society is this:  Abandon what we call “feminism” and drop, even faster, your normalization of pornography, adultery, unmarital sex, homosexual behavior, and attempted gender bending.  In place of these, uphold the beauty of femininity and the wonder of masculinity.  

God made both masculinity and femininity, just as He made us male and female.  There is wonder and majesty in this, in the grand story God is telling about Himself through men being brave and strong and loving and gentle and hard as rock for things, in women being beautiful and courageous and soft and childbearing and nurturing and loving and obedient and life-giving.  It is wondrous and, like all things He created, good.  

I want my society to fight against what men are being with the truth of what they should be.  

Modern “feminism” is fighting against an evil with a lie.  

Evil is much more effectively put down with truth.  

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’  Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’  Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. 

Genesis 2:15-25

30 Seconds On Justice and Truth


Without God, morals are just preferences.

If you deny that there is a God, you have no philosophical grounding to be outraged by anything, from murder to racial hatred to poverty.  Without God, it’s all just opinion.  And you have no solid basis for indignance over an opinion.  Without God, racial hatred being evil is an opinion.  It may be a popular opinion, but without a higher appeal court than human judgment, an opinion is all it is.  

This is a lesson I want my country to learn.  A society cannot have long-lasting justice without upholding objective moral truth.  A society cannot have long-lasting justice without acknowledging God.  If you refuse to bring the question “But what does God say is right?” into any public discourse, you will not be able to administer justice for very long.  Because the only definition of “justice” you’ll be able to have will be a human one.  It’ll be subject to mob rule, or politicking, or purchase.  Justice is doing what is right, and if you don’t have an objective, non-debatable standard for what is right, then when you are just it will be by accident, not by design.  

You cannot have long-lasting justice without truth.  

And I want my nation to be just.  

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 

Isaiah 59:14-15