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


26 Theses

This month, much of the Gospel-believing world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s putting up 95 theses, or statements, against the Roman Catholic application of “indulgences.”  The 95 theses of October 31, 1517 were one in a fairly long line of objections to unbiblical teachings and emphases by Roman popes, cardinals, bishops, theologians, and priests. They were short sentences Luther believed to be true and was willing to stand for and debate.  

I am no Martin Luther.  I never will be.  I’m an ordinary Christian dude who serves in the church and is trying to love his wife and raise his kids and see some people saved and kill his own sins, day by day.  No one will remember me a hundred years after I’m dead (if Jesus doesn’t return first), and no one will commemorate this little blog post 500 years from now (if Jesus doesn’t come back first).  But in memory of my Christian brother, here are some statements (I only had 26) on contemporary Christianity and the Christian life that I stand for, and would be willing to debate.  

  1. Only God can make you love God. 
  2. Jesus Christ loves to save sinners.
  3. It is good that Jesus Christ loves to save sinners, because every human being walking the earth right now was born a spiritually dead sinner.  
  4. Men who are still in their sins chafe under and rebel against the kingship of God.  
  5. God’s Kingdom is one that fights to save those who want to kill it.  
  6. Men and women are not the same.
  7. It is a part of God’s good design that men and women are not the same.  
  8. A culture that denies that men and women are different will not do well at teaching men how to be good men or women how to be good women. 
  9. Marriage is God’s creation, and He designed it as the union of a man to his wife for life.  
  10. Young, married Christians should be delighted at the prospect of having large families at the expense of their creature comforts, knowing how much their God values children.  
  11. There is no way to simultaneously affirm sin and be obedient to God.  
  12. Homosexual activity is sin.  
  13. There will be many men and women in resurrected bodies enjoying Jesus for eternity who once lived in homosexual sin, but who were then washed through the grace of God.  
  14. There will be many men and women enjoying Jesus for eternity who were washed from all sorts of sins.  
  15. The primary thing standing between a man and the Kingdom of God is not bad information but a bad heart.  
  16. God gives new hearts to those He saves. 
  17. If a man wants to be around a bunch of nice people who are just like him, he does not want the Christian life.  
  18. If a man is impatient, he will not be a good evangelist, and all Christians are called to be evangelists.  
  19. Those who do not care about the lost throughout the world do not know Jesus very well, if at all. 
  20. If your gospel never prompts you to take risks, it isn’t Jesus’ Gospel.  
  21. If you are more passionate about a present political kingdom than the global growth of faith in Jesus Christ, your primary allegiance is to the wrong kingdom.  
  22. God saves by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.  
  23. If I say one thing and the Bible says another, I am wrong.  
  24. The Bible is good and is wholly true.  
  25. It is sin that brought death into the world, and one day Jesus will cast death into a lake of fire.  
  26. Jesus is coming back, and when He does He will make all things right and raise those who love Him and have believed in Him to eternal life.  

Happy early Reformation Day, all.  

Stay faithful in the Lord, and keep reforming.  

Sentences 4

I’ve written a few installments of this (1, 2, and 3) and I enjoy it.  These are some one-sentence theological or philosophical propositions that I contend are true, delivered along with a head nod to Mr. Peter Abelard, and his Medieval book, Sentences.

Everyone who wants to be God will end up hating God (see:  Pharaoh in Exodus, Herod the Great, Satan). 
Self-esteem can never fix what what self-worship caused.  

A good skill to teach your kids that it seems to me is going to be increasingly at a premium is the willingness to look someone in the eye and tell them exactly what they feel and why.  

The art of speaking clearly is only important if you want to teach, persuade, be understood, raise children, be a good employee, or have healthy human relationships.  
Some unbelieving men most need to know Christianity is satisfying, others most need to know it is true, still others that it can change them, but there aren’t many moments when a man is thirsting for each reality equally; Evangelist, know your man.   

If you have never been admonished or rebuked, you don’t have a true friend. 

One of the most important distinctions in ethics that our generation seems unwilling to make is the distinction between what I like and what is right, or, if you prefer, what I want to be morally positive and what is indeed morally positive.

Character:  What a man is and what he loves.  

Lasting, world-changing Christianity, in an individual or a family or a church or a nation, requires obedience to the Scriptures.   

Grace and peace!

Some Little Kid Definitions Of Big Concepts

I think, generally, if you actually understand something you’ll be able to to explain it to a young child.  And the flip side of that coin is that trying to explain something to a little kid can help you understand it better.  

Some Christian parents, myself included, struggle at times to answer their 5-year-old’s question about what a theologically and philosophically big word means.  

“Daddy, what’s love?”

“But Mommy, what is faith?”

So, after watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my kids and explaining what “bravery” was to my 3-year-old son, I had the idea to write this post. 

These are some little kid definitions that, while not the most precise exposition you could give of each idea, I think certainly get across what each thing really is.  These have been (or will be) my definitions for my little guys.  

Bravery:  When you love something good and fight for it.  

Evil:  Not like God. 

Faith: Believing someone can do what he says he can do.  

Family:  People connected by a love promise.  

Good:  Like God.   

Heaven:  Where God lives. 

Hell:  A place where God punishes, forever, people who won’t say sorry.  

Home:  Where you’ve been made to belong.  

Hope:  When you really want something to happen.  

Love:  When something is so special to you you’ll do hard things for it.  

Marriage:  A love promise a man and a woman make to each other and to God.

Peace:  When things are working the way God designed them to work.  

Salvation:  How people get to go to Heaven when they believe in Jesus.  

Wisdom:   Knowing what’s good and knowing how to do it.  

Happy Wednesday!

He Doesn’t Control Some Things

That’s right.  He controls all things.  

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? 

Amos 3:6

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 

Lamentations 3:37-39

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

And this is very, very Good News.  

The greatest comfort I can give a child of God, and I can only give it to a child of God (meaning someone who has been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ), is that God is in total, absolute control of your pain.   And the reason why that’s comforting for the Christian is that God promises to work all things together for the good of His elect.  

This is a God whose hand predestined the worst sin in history for His people’s rescue.  

He does no evil, but neither is He perplexed or surprised by any evil.  And He will work all things together for His good purposes.  

From the other side of Christ’s return, there will not be one moment of history, from Eden’s tree to Calvary’s Cross to Hitler’s Holocaust to Hell’s shut doors, where Satan will be able to say, “Well, at least He didn’t get to work that one out for His purposes.”  When all is said and done, God’s glory and beauty and His people’s good will be pulled from every page of history, even the bloody and awful and scary ones.  And the greatest proof of that is Christ’s bloody and awful Cross.  

Some of you who are born again and in chaos or agony need to internalize this.  

What is frustrating to the unbelieving heart is peace to believing one:  There is no sovereign but God.  

I am telling you to pray to the God who will roll up the sky like a blanket, who set the Milky Way spinning as though it were a top, who fashioned all our souls from His own creative heart.  This is not a God who will win at the last second on a Hail Mary.  I am here to tell you there is a King in the Heavens.  A King.  God is not a powerful figure with good intentions who can only do so much.  This is the King of all creation, and He is taking audiences with all who will call upon Him in faith.  

There is nothing that befalls us that is not ordained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Keep all your gods, America.  I have met the only One who can save a man like me.  

This God is in control.

Sentences (Part 3)


*For previous installments, see here and here.

Brevity is a skill I’m trying to hone.  I think it’s good to be able to say something you believe to be true and meaningful plainly and in just a few words.  With that in mind, for the third time, here are a few simple theological or moral propositions I contend are true, none longer than a single sentence:

  • The natural position of a human is to see his good deeds as examples of who he really is and his bad deeds as deviations from who he really is; the God who says we are born sinners is going to take some umbrage with that.  
  • The most freeing thing in the world is not being loved for who you are, but being loved despite who you are, and that is precisely what the Gospel offers you.  
  • Doing what’s right is better than doing what’s successful; if they’re the same thing, great, but they won’t always be.
  • The more God makes a man like Jesus, the more the man will love God’s people; becoming more Christlike will always, by definition, mean loving true Christians more and more, because Jesus loves them more than you can imagine.   
  • There are virtually no new heresies, just old heresies with new publishers.  
  • Faith is thoroughly good only when the faith’s object is real and is itself good; faith in false religions and in false prophets is not a good sort of faith.  
  • God made men and women to be and do some things differently, and God is good and knows very much what is best.
  • It is impossible to depend on your having been a good person or having done good things to get to Heaven and actually get there.  
  • We do not live in a day and place that is too afraid of God; there have been such cultures, but ours is not one of them. 
  •  Under the heading of providing for our children we should include the task of praying for their salvations.  
  • It is as comforting to the believer as it is offensive to the hard-hearted that there is not one set of knees on Earth that won’t be bowing to Jesus at the end of all things.  
  • The New Testament doesn’t prescribe a form of government (unless you count the coming absolute kingship of Jesus Christ), but it does command submission to governing authorities.  
  • The hardest thing in the world is also one the most freeing:  Repentance.  

Grace, all, and happy Monday!

    Sentences (Again)

    A month or so ago I wrote a post simply made up of theological sentences that I held to and believed.  The idea was based (ridiculously loosely) on Peter Abelard’s classic Medieval theological textbook Sentences.  It was I think, the most read post I’ve ever had, so I figured I’d re-gift it.  

    Here are a few more theological/Spiritual/ecclesiastical sentences from the heart (via the IPhone) of yours truly:  

    • There is an almost universal temptation to assume the best possible motive for what you yourself do and to assume the worst motive for what other people do; resist that temptation. 
    • It is generally best not to trust the man who claims to know God but does not know his Bible.  
    • One of the things the Bible’s existence undergirds for me is this:  My belief that it is appropriate for entities, whether they be churches, marriages, or governments, to be built on written documents; if it’s worth having, it’s worth writing out.
    • If you are a Christian, then I can virtually guarantee that you have underestimated God’s love for you; I can do that because the love of God for His sheep in the crucified Jesus surpasses all the knowledge you could ever collect and store in your brain.  
    • Generally speaking, I don’t find it to be good to invest Christian leadership in someone who hasn’t shown (over a pretty good period of time) that he is ready to do the slow, steady work of personal holiness.
    • I know it’s a word whose definition isn’t as clear as I’d like (depending on the circle you’re talking in), but I am still more than ready to wear the label “evangelical.”
    • Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to interpret and exposit well. 
    • Evangelism can be both a dutiful hard work and an overflow of the heart; after all, the best kind of tired is joyful tired, where you’re worn out from doing something hard that you really love doing.  

    Happy weekend, all!