Monthly Archives: May 2014

5.25.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Brace Yourself for Impact

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Matthew 17:1-6

In this story, it’s as though God gave the three disciples to whom Jesus was closest a “peek behind the curtain.” Usually, Jesus looked like just another person—but on this occasion, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.” Luke 9:31 added that Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus “about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem.” God meant this dramatic meeting, not as a random light show, but to prepare Jesus and the disciples for the cross that lay just ahead.

TUESDAY
Matthew 17:7-13

“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said to his disciples. They’d just seen him talking to Moses and Elijah, and heard God’s voice—and unusual events like that can trigger fear. Then Jesus told them that what had happened to John the Baptist (John had been executed—cf. Matthew 14:1-12) would happen to him, too. “Don’t be afraid” was as much a preface to that frightening statement as it was comfort after the supernatural event on the mountain.

WEDNESDAY
2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18

Paul had to “brace for impact” throughout his ministry. He was beaten, stoned, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked and he faced hunger, sickness, and nights without shelter (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:16-33). Yet, in verses 8-10, Paul claimed the kind of resilience we see in cartoon characters—but he was totally serious. He led a very tough life, but testified that it is possible to live beyond fear thanks to God’s awesome power within us.

THURSDAY
Psalm 118:1-8, Hebrews 13:5-8

“God’s faithful love lasts forever,” repeated the psalmist’s refrain. Psalm 118 became one of the hymns the Hebrew people sang every Passover. Jesus almost certainly sang it with his disciples the night before his crucifixion (cf. Mark 14:26). Hebrews quoted it, and added “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” Trusting in God’s unfailing love, the psalmist, Jesus and the early Christians all asked, “What can anyone do to me?”

FRIDAY
Hebrews 2:14-18

From the ancient Roman Empire to terrorists and tyrants today, the “ultimate” human threat is, “I will kill you.” That threat leads people to break promises, expend vast resources, and behave in ways they would never consider without it. Roman historians, however, puzzled over how little effect it seemed to have on the followers of Jesus. They could not grasp that Jesus, who died and rose again, set us free from all fear—even the fear of death.

SATURDAY
Matthew 28:1-10

On Resurrection Sunday, the women who went to Jesus’ tomb twice heard the words we’ve read several times this week. First the angel at the tomb, and then Jesus himself, told them, “Don’t be afraid.” Mind you, the same people who put Jesus to death on Friday were still in power on Sunday. The same Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross were patrolling the streets of Jerusalem that day. And yet everything had changed, and they did not need to be afraid. Jesus was alive—and his followers were safe forever.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord Jesus, over and over you said, “Don’t be afraid.” Help us to hear your words more clearly, and to live them out more fully—and fearlessly. You experienced suffering first hand and braced for the unimaginable impact of death on a cross, yet you did not lose faith. Help us rely on your strength as we brace for impact in our lives. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

When have you been most afraid in your life? Will you ever be able to forget it? Would you like to forget it, or does the memory somehow give you strength to face tomorrow?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Matthew 17:1-6. Why might Jesus have wanted the disciples to see this event? What would the fact that Moses and Elijah were there talking to Jesus have meant to the disciples? If you had been there, what effect might it have had on the rest of your life? Would God’s own voice have had an additional effect upon you and your life? Would the disciples have wished for this event to have lasted longer? Are there times, in worship or perhaps on a visit to a beautiful site, when you wish you could just stay there? What are the forces that lead you back into the “real world”?

 Read Matthew 17:7-13. If you had been there, would you have been afraid as the disciples were? Does God want us to be afraid? How do you know? God’s voice said, “Listen to him.” What is one teaching of Jesus you need to listen to because it challenges our world’s “wisdom”? What aspect of your church best shows God’s glory to others? What role do our own lives play in revealing God’s glory?

 Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18. In verse 7, how would you define the “treasure” and what are the “clay pots”? How would Paul say that God’s power within us compared to the many struggles we have to face in our lives? In what ways has God been with you to help in the midst of adversity? What steps can you take to build the same confidence Paul had in the midst of his hardships? How can we be “renewed every day”? What kind of “things that can be seen” tend to draw us away from our inner, God-fueled strength? Do we seem to grow more from good times or hard times? Why?

 Read Psalm 118:1-8, Hebrews 13:5-8. Re-read Psalm 118:6. What do you make of that verse? What bad things has God’s presence helped you to survive, or even turned to a good purpose? How does that affect your ability to trust God as you move forward? When we try to help and support others who are going through difficulties, will these verses help them, or will they look at us like we are naive? What if we preface the verses by saying something like, “when I struggled, these verses seemed to help me”?

 Read Hebrews 2:14-18. How does the fear of death affect the choices and decisions Americans make today? How can Jesus’ death and resurrection set you free from that fear? Does this mean that, as Christians, we should not have regular doctor checkups, fasten our seat belts and take other common sense safeguards? If you or your family was threatened with violent death, how do you think you would react? Is this reaction consistent with your understanding of Christion teaching?

 Read Matthew 28:1-10. We read the words “don’t be afraid” over and over in the New Testament. What do you make of these words? Do they affect your attitudes and actions on a day-to-day basis? How is this admonition of benefit to you? Could these words be of help to others you know? Is this merely an “easier said than done” issue, or is there real substance in it for the committed Christian?

From last week: This last week, did you consider your role to extend peace and hope in your day-to-day world? Were you able to find one specific thing you could do, no matter how small? Please share with the group what you discovered.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Karen Lampe’s sermon, May 25, 2014:

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 attempts to really begin to perfect something. That kind of intentional discipline is what we need to fully develop our faith, so that we can absolutely count on it when the impact comes. And it will come. We will all find ourselves in moment when there is a dramatic shift, a sudden change and a need to Brace for Impact.

Now those words “Brace for Impact” can be scary. They are frequently associated with an emergency of some kind. For those who fly a lot, those are the words spoken over an intercom when a plane might be in trouble. Words you don’t really want to hear.
Those words signify that something is about ready to be changed or dramatically shifted. A friend recently reminded me that author Anne Graham, daughter of Billy Graham, often spoke of the “And Suddenly” times in our lives: when we think everything in our world is falling apart but, in actuality, it is falling into place. That same friend gave me a plaque that says, “And Suddenly” not long after her son, Aaron, was diagnosed with brain tumors. These moments can be good (like graduating), or challenging such as receiving a difficult diagnosis. Our spiritual life is no different. In the gospels, over and over and again, we hear of “And Suddenly” events, and we also hear the words, “Then Immediately” and see how God speaks into the situation. Jesus’ followers and disciples are repeatedly being coached during such events as God or Jesus speaks as the coach into a situation when everything changes.
Let’s begin with the scripture text we just heard, which is known as “The Transfiguration Story.” Transfiguration means Transformation. Now we often think of it as the transformation that happened to Jesus that day, but there is also a major theme about the transformation the disciples were experiencing. That was a transformation that was equipping them with a greater capacity to serve and experience the life that is life….

The word “transformation” or “transfiguration,” comes from the word “transfigured” the Greek word “Metamorphosis,” which means a “profound change in form.” Jesus was changing, yes, but the commentaries remind us that the bigger transformation was happening as the disciples saw the vision of Jesus being so close to heaven, as if he had one foot in heaven and one foot in this reality. At this moment, the disciples were seeing something from their teacher or coach they had never experienced before.

Peter has a normal human response: he responds by “doing” something. He suggests that he will build three booths, or tabernacles, or tents, as if to commemorate the vision before them by building shrines. Yet the primary function of Peter’s statement is to exhibit that humans cannot comprehend the scene without divine help….In this experience Jesus’ ragamuffin friends were rapidly being formed into disciples.

It’s like when we first start handling a ball or taking piano lessons, we can’t possibly imagine our potential to master the craft. We can’t imagine that deep down inside of us lies the capacity to achieve excellence or greatness. But often, our teachers and coaches recognize gifts we are unable to see.

We read on in the scripture to another out of the ordinary moment when suddenly the great coach, God, speaks. In verse five we read: “While Peter was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!’” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.” For the disciples at this very surreal moment, for them to see Jesus in this heavenly form, must have been a very frightening experience, and one that only had value if they were willing to “Listen to him.” Just as, when our coaches/mentors/ teachers speak, we have to be willing to listen….

When faced with scary, challenging “And Suddenly” moments, humans instinctively react with a fight or flight response (and I would add, for many a “fright or flight” response). Even the disciples in their experience with Jesus on the mountain that day responded with fright first, yet the story does not end there. Let’s read what the scriptures tell us about how the story unfolded. Verse seven says that, as the disciples had their faces downward: “Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid’ and when they looked up they saw no one but Jesus.”

Jesus was speaking to them at this point, saying over and over, Do Not Be Afraid. He is coaching them to rely on their faith instead of responding with fear or fighting….
So the question here is how can we grow in our capacity to deal with even the toughest of life experiences? Two ways:

First: Learn to Listen for God.

Go up to the mountain, embrace the highest level of spiritual experiences that you possibly can. Draw closer to God (think of God as your best coach or teacher) through prayer and scripture that you might begin to discern and distinguish God’s voice. Listen for the voice of God, even on what seems to be an ordinary day. Listen that your path might be directed. Each morning I take 20 minutes to pray. How do we hear God?
o Read the scriptures o Attend worship regularly

Second: Learn to be Courageous with Love.

Jesus has said calmly over and over “Do Not Be Afraid.” He spoke these words that day up on the mountain top. He spoke those words as he was urging Peter tried to walk on water. He said those words in the upper room when he knew that he knew he had been betrayed. He modeled those words when Peter slashed off the ear of the Roman soldier. He kept saying this over and over to all of them. That’s why we practice praying and singing, “Let there be peace on earth”.

How do we develop the capacity to not be instinctually fearful? We need to challenge ourselves with moments that will take increasingly more courage.

The transfiguration

Biblical coverage: The transfiguration of our Lord on a “high mountain apart,” is described by each of the three evangelists (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). The fullest account is given by Luke, who, no doubt, was informed by Peter, who was present on the occasion. What these evangelists record was an absolute historical reality, and not a mere vision. The concurrence between them in all the circumstances of the incident is exact. John seems to allude to it also (John 1:14). Forty years after the event Peter distinctly makes mention of it (2 Peter 1:16-18). In describing the sanctification of believers, Paul also seems to allude to this majestic and glorious appearance of our Lord on the “holy mount” (Romans 12:2; 2 Co 3:18).

Source: http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ebd/view.cgi?n=3713 (Easton Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

The Place: The traditional site is Mount Tabor in lower Galilee, but it is not a high mountain (only 1,850 feet) and was probably fortified and inaccessible in Jesus’ day. Much more likely is Mount Hermon (9,100 feet) to the north of Caesarea Philippi.

Meaning: A mountain in the Bible is often a place of revelation. Moses and Elijah represented the law and the prophets respectively, which testify to but must give way to Jesus. (The latter is the reason why Peter’s suggestion was improper.) Moses and Elijah themselves were heralds of the Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:15; Malachi 4:5-6). The three booths suggest the Feast of the Tabernacles which symbolizes a new situation, a new age. Clouds represent divine presence. The close connection of the transfiguration with the confession and passion prediction is significant. The Messiah must suffer; but glorification and enthronement, not suffering, is His ultimate fate. These involve resurrection, ascension, and return in glory. The disciples needed the reassurance of the transfiguration as they contemplated Jesus’ death and their future sufferings.

Source: http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?w=transfiguration%2C+the (Holman Bible Dictionary)

Final application:

During the week, prayerfully consider Christ’s words that we not be afraid. Find ways to incorporate these much repeated words into our daily life (e.g. put Jesus’ words on your bathroom mirror, dashboard, desk or computer screen, or use them as a breath prayer). Next week, share with the group whatever you discovered.

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5.18.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

After the Flood

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Genesis 8:6-14

Hurricane Katrina cleanup workers in New Orleans might envision conditions after a worldwide flood. If the waters had covered the highest mountains, the mere fact that it had stopped raining wouldn’t mean it was safe to leave the ark. So Noah used birds as “scouts” to determine what was happening on the earth. Eventually, “the earth was dry.” That would have meant all the bad was gone—but nothing had yet taken its place. Now what?

TUESDAY
Genesis 8:15-19

The Flood story that used the Hebrew Elohim to refer to God didn’t mention sacrifice. It couldn’t, because just two of each kind of animal were in the ark, so that an immediate sacrifice would have wiped out a whole species. Instead, it showed God immediately urging Noah and his family, as well as all the animals, to get about the business of repopulating the earth—“be fertile, and multiply.”

WEDNESDAY
Genesis 8:20-22

In the other Flood story, with seven of each clean animal saved, Noah built an altar as soon as he left the ark. The story said Noah’s act of devotion moved the Lord’s (Heb. Yahweh) heart. Based on that, the Lord “thought to himself” that he would never flood the earth again despite the fact that “the ideas of the human mind are evil from their youth” (verse 21).

THURSDAY
Genesis 9:1-11

To end the Flood story, Genesis returned to “narrative two.” It was an inspired choice. While repeating God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, this story said it was God’s (Heb. Elohim) idea, unprompted, to make a “covenant” with Noah and all his descendants. This was the first explicit use of the language of covenant, which became a vital theme about how God relates to humans throughout the rest of the Bible.

FRIDAY
Genesis 9:12-17

God promised Noah that there would never again be a flood that would cover the earth. God’s promise took the form of a covenant with “all the living creatures on the earth” that he would remember, and that there would never again be a worldwide flood. As the seal and token of heaven’s pledge, Elohim put the rainbow in the rain clouds. What a beautiful symbol of God’s love and grace!

SATURDAY
Isaiah 54:4-10, Revelation 4:1-3

The Noah story shows up repeatedly in Scripture as an archetype of God’s power to give fresh starts, to bring hope and salvation in what seem to be utterly hopeless situations. Isaiah drew on Noah’s story to say Israel could depend on God’s mercy even on the far side of their painful exile in Babylon. Drawing on the most beautiful image in Noah’s story, Revelation pictured a rainbow circling God’s throne in the very heart of heaven.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Almighty and forgiving God, may your covenants and promises calm our fears, and may we extend the confidence you provide us to others who may be living in despair. Cleanse us by your continuing work of creation. Find us when we are lost and protect us when we are threatened. Extend your mercy and grace to all who call upon your Holy Name. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Have you ever seen a rainbow that you will never forget? What made it so special?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Genesis 8:6-14. When the earth dried out, Noah faced the unknown; a blank slate. What “blank slate” situations have you faced? Noah used birds as “scouts”. What have you used to scout out the unknowns you have faced? After all this flooding, do you think Noah felt like he had to face all the unknowns alone? Do you tend to think of yourself as alone, or do you usually remember to seek God’s guidance?

 Read Genesis 8:15-19. Do you tend to see the Noah flood story as one of destruction, or something else? Has God’s creation process ended? Will God yet bring about another creation? If so, what kinds of things that are re-created do you look forward to? How will these things make life better? God told Noah and his family to repopulate the earth. What does this suggest to you about God’s attitude toward sexuality? In our crowded world, does God’s attitude translate to our time? Could God’s command to multiply be limited to the circumstances of Noah’s time? Should we feel the need to aid animal species which are facing extinction?

 Read Genesis 8:20-22. What is your understanding of God’s thought that “the ideas of the human mind are evil from their youth”? What in our society makes you especially aware of humankind’s need for God’s forgiving grace? Do you completely trust that God’s grace is available to you, or do you tend to suffer from guilt for the mistakes you’ve made? What is the meaning of the statement that God found a “pleasing aroma” in Noah’s sacrifice? What can we do to make our life a “pleasing sacrifice”?

 Read Genesis 9:1-11. God warned Noah against returning to the attitudes before the flood in which human blood was freely shed. How does this affect your attitudes toward warfare, “just wars” and “preemptive strikes”? What was the covenant God made with humankind after the flood? What does this say to you about the nature of God? What might make God “regret” having made this covenant? The earth had been “washed clean”. How can we be cleansed as thoroughly as the earth was?

 Read Genesis 9:12-17. Do you like this part of the Noah flood story? Why? Do you ever think about this story when a rainbow appears? Have you ever seen a double rainbow? What did you think about that? How has God faithfully “remembered” his covenant of love and grace with you? These verses refer to the rainbow as God’s bow. What does the use of the words “God’s bow” suggest to you about the struggles between God and humankind? Does this mean that judgment will never come?

 Read Isaiah 54:4-10, Revelation 4:1-3. What messages and feelings do these verses bring to you, personally? What do they say about our fears? What do they say about the mistakes we’ve made in the past? What does the emerald rainbow suggest to you? How much hope do you feel in these verses? What is God’s covenant of peace?
From last week: Did you consider your role in protecting and nurturing all living creatures? Were you able to find at least one thing you could do to improve the condition of animals and the earth. Please share with the group whatever you discovered.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, May 18, 2014:
We spoke briefly last week of what it must have felt like for Noah and those aboard the ark for these 150 days. Five months apparently lost at sea. You can imagine—day after day, the ark bouncing along the sea, yet no sign of God. They do not hear God. They do not see God acting. God is silent. Surely Noah wondered if God had forgotten them. I wonder if you’ve ever experienced a prolonged period in which you felt God had forgotten you?…
Noah, his families and the animals floated on the waters for five months. Then Genesis 8:1 says: “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark.” This word “remembered” is an important one in scripture. It means not only to remember, as we think of it, but to be concerned about and therefore to act on behalf of another. So when God remembers, he has compassion and he saves. When God remembers, he acts on behalf of the one he remembers. When Rachel could not have a child and was overwhelmed with grief, God remembered her and blessed her with a child. When the Israelites were oppressed as slaves, God remembered them and sent Moses to deliver them.

God does not forget. But there comes a moment when we experience his remembering, when we begin to see that God has not forgotten us. God has not forgotten any of you, but the day will come when you feel his remembering.

Let’s return to our text: “At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated; and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.” Now 150 days of flooding has passed when God was said to remember Noah and the animals. We might expect that at this juncture God would finally deliver Noah from the flood, but Genesis says that from the 150th day, when the Ark landed near the top of the Ararat mountains, it was another seven months before the flood waters receded to a point that it was safe to get off the ark. Seven more months!

What I think most of us want and expect is for God to remember us, and fix things NOW. But that isn’t how things usually work. We pray for God to fix things, but God works in ways in our lives that seems, at moments, tediously slow. That time between is a time of deepening trust, of healing, of learning and growing and being readied for something else….
Coming out of the ark God speaks to Noah saying: “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you…and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” Do you recognize that phrase “be fruitful and multiply”? It was the command God gave to Adam and Eve. This is a new beginning, a new creation. Life starts over again.

This is part of what happens after a flood, after a divorce, a job loss, a terrible tragedy. There is the time of drifting on the water, the in-between-time where healing is happening and you are being prepared. Then there is the time when the dove brings the olive branch, and it’s time to start over. It’s a new beginning. You can’t stay on the ark forever, you have to get out, and start anew.

Once Noah got off the ark, what did he find? He found he was suddenly in a place he’d never been to before, an unfamiliar place. Everything had been wiped out. Trees were starting to blossom, but no houses, no crops, no nothing. This is what happens after the flood, you find yourself in unfamiliar territory. You find that you’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked. Noah and his family will single-handedly build homes, plant crops, clear away the debris from the flood.

Noah could have, with his family, looked around and begun to cry out to God, “Why me? You call this a favor? You saved me for this!?” But that is not what he did. Noah gets out of the ark, seeing all that was around him, and this is what he did: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”

Noah gets off the ark and praises and worships. He doesn’t complain about how hard things will be. He thanks God for what he has left. He feels a sense of mission–he’s rebuilding a world. He builds an altar, takes some of the clean animals and offers them to God. I want to say, “No, Noah, you’ve only got 7 of each clean animal on the ark! Save them! You’ll need to eat them; you’ll need them to be fruitful and multiply!” But though he has very little, he trusts God with what he has. He worships….

That takes us finally to the rainbow. Listen to what happens in the story next: “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him…“I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants…that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood…This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you…I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

The bow is a weapon, but this bow points to the heavens. To say God will not destroy the earth again by flood sounds like God could choose fire, or wind or some other means to destroy the earth, which is not so comforting. But I think it means something different. I think every time it rained after the flood, Noah and his family would be afraid—call it PTSD. Could they trust that the world was safe? Was another terrible flood coming? I think God was saying, “The rainbow is a sign. You’ll be okay. It may storm and rain and floodwaters may come, but they will not ultimately destroy you. Trust me.”…That’s what I think the rainbow means.

I love that God called this a sign of his covenant. Jesus said the same thing of eating food. He took bread, broke it, gave thanks for it. He called the bread and wine the signs of the New Covenant in which he gave us hope of forgiveness, showed us that God is the God of the second chance, and that he promised that, in him, we’ll be okay….

The story of Noah teaches us that God grieves the harm we do to one another and to his planet. It calls us to be like Noah, who was righteous, blameless, walked with God, trusted God and was obedient. And it reminds us that God never forgets us, that he walks with us through the flood, and that the floods in our lives will not ultimately destroy us. Therefore we can always have hope.

The Olive Branch in America

An olive branch held by a dove was used as a peace symbol in 18th century Britain and America. A £2 note of North Carolina (1771) depicted the dove and olive with a motto meaning: “Peace restored”. Georgia’s $40 note of 1778 portrayed the dove and olive and a hand holding a dagger, with a motto meaning “Either war or peace, prepared for both.” The olive branch appeared as a peace symbol in other 18th century prints. In January 1775, the frontispiece of the London Magazine published an engraving: “Peace descends on a cloud from the Temple of Commerce,” in which the Goddess of Peace brings an olive branch to America and Britannia. A petition adopted by the American Continental Congress in July 1775 in the hope of avoiding a full-blown war with Great Britain was called the Olive Branch Petition.

On July 4, 1776, a resolution was passed that allowed the creation of the Great Seal of the United States. On the Great Seal, there is an eagle grasping an olive branch in its right talon. The olive branch traditionally has been recognized as a symbol for peace. It was added to the seal in March of 1780 by the second committee appointed by Congress to design the seal. The olive branch has thirteen olives and thirteen olive leaves to represent the thirteen original colonies. Later on, the bald eagle and bundle of arrows were added. The idea of the olive branch opposing the bundle of arrows was to “denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress.”
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_branch

Final application:

During the week, consider your role to extend peace and hope in your day-to-day world. Find one specific thing you can do, no matter how small. Next week, share with the group what you discovered.

5.11.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Ark, the Animals and the Floodwaters

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Genesis 6:17-22

God (Heb. Elohim) told Noah to save his family, and “two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you” (Genesis 6:19). The story, as an archetype, didn’t cover details like how to feed carnivores (e.g. lions or snakes), or keep the food fresh. Instead, the story focused on God’s compassion for all of creation, including the animals. It presented Noah and his ark as a model pointing to the human role in caring for creation.

TUESDAY
Genesis 7:1-5

The first Flood story differed from the second in one major way related to the animals. It assumed the ritual division of clean from unclean animals (cf. Leviticus 11), which related to their use as sacrifices as well as food. Therefore, this story said the Lord (Heb. Yahweh) told Noah to save seven pairs of clean animals, so that some could be sacrificed as soon as he left the Ark (cf. Genesis 8:20-22), but just two pairs of unclean animals.

WEDNESDAY
Jonah 4:6-11

The picture of God’s concern for animals as well as humans, such a key part of the Flood story, was revisited in other parts of Scripture. In a fascinating short story, the prophet Jonah grudgingly warned Nineveh (capital of Assyria) of impending judgment, and was angry when God spared the repentant city. At the end of the story, God asked the furious prophet if it was not right that God should pity 120,000 people “and also many animals.”

THURSDAY
Genesis 1:28, Revelation 11:15-18

In God’s “original mandate,” God made humans stewards to guard and guide God’s good earth, not “owners” free to plunder, kill and ravage the people and other creatures of the planet. The seer of Revelation said (like Genesis 6) that God would destroy those (specifically, in his focus, the brutal Roman emperors and those who served them) who wickedly destroy the earth.

FRIDAY
Genesis 7:6-9

In Jonah’s story, which we reviewed earlier this week, the key confession was, “Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9) The primary focus of both of the Flood stories in Genesis was similar: in the end, only God is a reliable source of safety and salvation. That Noah’s family was safe when they did “just as God commanded” was far more vital than questions about boat dimensions or how rabbits, foxes and hawks managed to coexist in one boat.

SATURDAY
Genesis 8:1-5, Hebrews 11:7

When the text said that God “remembered” Noah (and all living things with him), that did not suggest that God had ever forgotten Noah. Rather, it was a Hebrew way of saying that, through all of the stormy days, God had had Noah on his mind continually. Just as God had shut the ark’s door initially to protect Noah, so God had continued to act in mercy to watch over and preserve the ark and its living cargo (cf. Genesis 30:22).

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Almighty God, your creation always gives us fresh reasons for wonder. We refresh our own devotion to you and welcome your creative touch in our lives. Thank you for bringing us into the ark of your church. Keep us always faithful and true. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

When you attend a movie based on Bible stories, do you expect it to remain true to the “original”? If not, what do you expect?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Genesis 6:17-22. Do these verses imply any human responsibility to care for living creatures? If so, in today’s world, how would you see that responsibility lived out? How important are animals to God? Why would God consider the continuation of the animal world as important? What would happen if animals were wiped out? What picture of God’s eternal kingdom do these verses suggest to you? What kind of covenant was God establishing with Noah?

 Read Genesis 7:1-5. In this version of the Flood story, why were more of the clean animals than unclean animals saved? What was it about Noah that made God see him as “righteous” or “moral”? In today’s world (and in broad terms rather than specific), what does it take for us to be seen as “moral” in God’s eyes? What did Christ say were the two greatest commandments? Re-read verse 5. What does this say about Noah? What does this say about how we should live?

 Read Jonah 4:6-11. Why were these verses included, when we are studying the story of Noah? What is it about God’s attitude that seems different from the Flood story? The Ninevites were Israel’s enemies, and Jonah didn’t want God to show them mercy. Are there people you’d rather that God didn’t show mercy toward? Does Jonah’s story challenge those feelings, or do you think it simply doesn’t apply to today’s enemies? How does God feel about humans and animals? How the, should humans consider their actions and how they affect both humans and animals?

 Read Genesis 1:28, Revelation 11:15-18. Did God’s mandate to “master” and “take charge” of the earth and everything on it mean we can do anything we want? Or do we have to protect and nurture it? As population expands, does God care whether we “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”? Are there better and worse ways to do this? Do we ever consider God and the earth as we plan projects or activities? What can you personally do to protect and nurture “mother earth”?

 Read Genesis 7:6-9. How could the story of the physical flood represent spiritual drowning throughout the entire world? In the story, only a small remnant maintained faith. Do you see that still recurring today? What was the only salvation for the faithful remnant then, and who saves the remnant today? Can you draw any parallels between the ark and the church of today? How has the church been an “ark of salvation” for you?

 Read Genesis 8:1-5, Hebrews 11:7. What does Genesis 8 mean when it says God “remembered” Noah? When the water receded, new life was formed on the earth. If we compare this to Christ’s death and resurrection, how was new life created? How have you experienced “newness of life” in your own walk with God? How have you seen that kind of renewal, of re-creation, in the lives of others you know well?

From last week: Did you, as a group, keep praying for each other, focusing on the concerns you shared in last week’s final discussion question? Did you watch for moments when you might sense God helping with those concerns? Please share any of those moments with your group.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, May 11, 2014:

Today we’ll consider the ark, God’s concern for the animals, and reflect on what we learn about the storm and floodwaters….

First, think about how God speaks to us. We hear God speaking through sermons, scripture reading, other people, through an impression we feel or hear, and sometimes through dreams. Few people report hearing the audible voice of God. It is usually more in the “still small voice”—the inner whisper—that I hear God. I think it is likely that Noah heard God in the same way.

If this is how God speaks, then it becomes important for us to listen carefully, and to pay attention. That includes prayer, silence, meditation, scripture reading, being in worship and in small groups. I try to listen in my heart, and not to miss what God is doing.

But it’s not only listening, it is actually acting upon what you’ve heard. Noah believed he was to build an ark. We’re right to think about how absurd this must have seemed, building a giant ship on dry land in preparation for a flood that was coming. Acting upon what God called him to do required Noah to spend everything he had, and to devote at least three years of his life, and undoubtedly earning him the ridicule of all who knew him, as he built the ark.

Noah becomes a pattern or type for us of faith and faithfulness. I want you to notice this week what we learn about Noah that is meant to shape our own lives: In Genesis 6:22, after God gave Noah the command to build the ark we read these words: “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” For emphasis this is repeated in Genesis 7:5: “Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.” Again in 7:9 we read that Noah did as God commanded him.

Obedience is the true test of our faith. We can believe in God, and call ourselves Christians. Do we actually do what he asks?…

The ark represents a place and instrument of God’s salvation. Early Christians came to see the ark as prefiguring the church. People entered the ark and were delivered from destruction. In the church, they find salvation from the storm. As church buildings were built the building itself came to be seen as the ark. The portion of the church where the congregation sits is called the NAVE from the Latin term navis which means ship. Architecturally, you are sitting in the nave, the ship, the ark of salvation.

This week I read Frederic Buechner’s essay, “The Church as Noah’s Ark.” Buechner compares you and the church to the ark:

[In the church as in the ark] just about everything imaginable is aboard, clean and unclean both…the predators and the prey, the wild and the tame, the sleek and beautiful ones and the ones that are ugly as sin…There are times when they all cackle and grunt and roar and sing together…Most of them have no clear idea just where they’re supposed to be heading or how they’re supposed to get there or what they’ll find if and when they finally do…There’s jostling at the trough. There’s growling and grousing…and sometimes it smells to high Heaven…Even at its worst, there’s at least one thing that makes it bearable within, and that is the storm without…At its best there is…shelter from the blast, a sense of somehow heading in the right direction in spite of everything, a ship to keep afloat, and, like a beacon in the dark, the hope of finding safe harbor at last.

That leads to a few thoughts about the animals. 13 verses in the story are devoted to speaking of God’s commands concerning the animals. Noah’s family is hardly mentioned, but the animals seem really important to God in this story. What does this tell us about how God sees the animals?

In scripture God takes delight in creating the animals. Repeatedly the scripture demonstrates God’s concern for the animals. I love Job 38 and 39 where God describes his delight in these creatures from mountain goats to whales. I think of Proverbs 12:10 which says: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” John Wesley, the 18th century founder of the Methodist movement, even conjectured that there will be animals in heaven, and that God may give them greater cognitive abilities there!…

Now let’s talk about the storm. Once Noah has everything on the ark, we read: “Then the Lord shut him in.” I love that picture of God closing the ark to keep Noah, his family and the animals safe. We often imagine that there was a nice rain for 40 days and 40 nights, and Noah, his family and the animals took a little cruise. But Genesis talks about terrible storms, gale force winds, rain for 40 days, but flooding for another 110….I was taken this week with the GPS reflection Brandon Gregory wrote. He linked Noah’s story with our own, with the times when we are lost at sea: “Noah spent five months on that ark, drifting aimlessly with no end in sight, wondering some days if he would ever set his feet on solid land again.” Brandon related this to his story, to journeys he did not want to make, and drifting he thought was aimless at the time, yet which God ended up using to bring profound good in his life.

Some of you have faced unemployment, or you’ve lost people you love, or your spouse left after 20 years, or 40, or 4. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with something that leaves you confused, afraid and listless….Some of you are riding in the ark, tossed to and fro. You can’t see where you’ll land, and wherever it is won’t be the same place you boarded the ark. But God won’t let you go. This is where faith comes in. We don’t give up. We trust that we’ll come to rest on a mountain some time. We have faith that God will never abandon us, that good can and will come again, that this horrible thing we’ve been through will have a good ending.
I’d end here: Just as Christians saw in the ark the church, they saw baptism in the floodwaters. We hear this in I Peter 3:20-21: “God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience.” In baptism we accept God’s grace and forgiveness. We are marked as his people. It represents a death to sin and a resurrection, a new birth to God….Today we want to invite you to remember your baptism, to remember that you’ve been called to board the ark, you’ve been washed by baptism and become a part of the family of God.

God and Animals
by Billy Graham—Aug. 16, 2010

Q: My pets mean a lot to me, and I hate to see people neglect animals or treat them cruelly. Does the Bible say anything about how we should treat animals? God made them also, didn’t He?

A: Yes, God made everything that lives on the earth — including the animals. In the beginning, the Bible says, “God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals….’ And it was so” (Genesis 1:24). And yes, the Bible commands us to take care of the animals under our care. One of the signs of a righteous man, the Bible says, is that he takes care of his animals (see Proverbs 12:10). Even the animal of an enemy was to be treated kindly: “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him” (Exodus 23:4). One reason God commanded His people to rest one day out of seven was so their animals would be refreshed (see Exodus 23:12).

In fact, the Bible says we must never treat any part of God’s creation with contempt. When we do, we are indirectly treating our Creator with contempt. God calls us to be stewards or trustees of His creation…We’ve often forgotten this — but it’s still true, and when we ignore it we not only hurt God’s creation but we also hurt ourselves.

From http://billygraham.org/answer/does-the-bible-say-anything-about-how-we-should-treat-animals-god-made-them-also-didnt-he/

A literalist view of the Biblical flood story, summarized
Did you know that stories about a worldwide flood are found in historic records all over the world? According to Dr. Duane Gish in his popular book Dinosaurs by Design, there are more than 270 such stories, most of which share a common theme and similar characters. So many flood stories with such similarities surely come from the Flood of Noah’s day.
The worldwide catastrophic Flood, recorded in the book of Genesis, was a real event that affected real people. In fact, those people carried the knowledge of this event with them when they spread to the ends of the earth.

The Bible declares that the earth-covering cataclysm of Noah’s day is an obvious fact of history. People “willingly are ignorant [that] … the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:5–6, KJV). This Flood left many evidences, from the fact that over 70% of the rocks on continents were laid down by water and contain fossils, to the widespread flood legends. Both of these evidences provide compelling support for this historical event.

If only eight people—Noah’s family—survived the Flood, we would expect there to be historical evidence of a worldwide flood. If you think about it, the evidence would be historical records in the nations of the world, and this is what we have. Stories of the Flood—distorted though they may be—exist in practically all nations, from ancient Babylon onward. This evidence must not be lightly dismissed. If there never was a worldwide Flood, then why are there so many stories about it?

The reason for these flood stories is not difficult to understand. When we turn to the history book of the universe, the Bible, we learn that Noah’s descendants stayed together for approximately 100 years, until God confused their languages at Babel (Genesis 11:1–9). As these people moved away from Babel, their descendants formed nations based primarily on the languages they shared in common. Through those languages, the story of the Flood was shared, until it became embedded in their cultural history.
Source: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n2/flood-legends

Final application:

During the week, consider your role in protecting and nurturing all living creatures. Find at least one thing you can do to improve the condition of animals and the earth. Next week, share with the group what you discovered.

5.4.14 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

Evil, Corruption and the Grief of God

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY
Genesis 5:28-32, 6:5-8

Genesis seems to have blended two Flood stories. The Common English Bible translates the divine name in Narrative one as “the Lord” (Heb. Yahweh); in Narrative two as “God” (Heb. elohim). Different names for God and different story details notwithstanding, the two stories shared much common ground. Both indicated clearly that increasing human violence and cruelty caused God great pain and grief.

TUESDAY
Romans 15:2-5,
1 Peter 3:18-22

Paul and Peter, leaders of the early Christians, looked to the Hebrew Scriptures as one of the main ways God spoke to them. Yet that often meant something different than we hear in modern arguments about the Bible. The apostles focused more on moral values than historical or scientific accuracy. In today’s passages, they showed that they saw the key to the Flood story (and other texts) as “What does it teach us about God and us?”

WEDNESDAY
Genesis 6:9-12

The second Flood story began with a reference to Noah’s genealogy (which concluded in Genesis 9:28, with the entire Flood narrative in between). What God hoped for from humans had grown so rare that the phrase “in his generation” meant “that Noah was unique, the only one of his kind among all his contemporaries or people who lived at the same time he did.” (Translator’s Handbook on Genesis)

THURSDAY
Genesis 6:13-16

Many ancient peoples told stories of a global flood, survived by only one man and his family. Genesis’ “plot” was not unique; its picture of God was. In Babylon’s story, the gods aimed to wipe out humans. Only one dissenting god saved Atrahasis (their “Noah”). In Genesis, God sought out Noah, and made careful provision for human and animal survival so that the earth and its inhabitants could get a fresh start.

FRIDAY
Genesis 7:10-16

“Most people, as children, hear [this] story told as a delightful ancient adventure.” (LaSor, Hubbard and Bush, Old Testament Survey) But in the world of Genesis, this story was not “delightful,” but very grown-up and very serious. “The story of the flood (Gen 6–9) is a story of crime and punishment, cataclysmic destruction of the world and rescue. Later stories reenact this basic repertoire of archetypal plot motifs.” (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery) That is to say, the Genesis story is not so much their story as our story.

SATURDAY
Genesis 7:17-24

Read literally, this story would require a worldwide flood that covered even Mount Everest! In Making Sense of the Bible, Pastor Hamilton notes, “In my opinion, the evidence in favor of an old earth and against complete flooding of our earth in recent history seems overwhelming….Did Noah bring two of each of the millions of species that otherwise would not have survived a global flood onto an ark? No, I don’t believe so. Did water cover the earth to twenty feet above the highest mountains? Again, I don’t think so….the point of Noah’s story was not to teach history, or geology, but to teach us about God and God’s will for our lives.”

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

O God, Help us always to remember that we are safe with you, no matter what else may come. Thank you for building, through Jesus, a spiritual ark that can take us safely through the tumult of this life. Guide us as we seek to live as your light in the darkness of a broken world. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Have you seen the film Noah? If so, what grade would you give it on a scale from 0 (worst movie ever) to 10 (an all-time classic)?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY NOTE:

We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.

 Read Genesis 5:28-32, 6:5-8. If you define “evil” in the broadest way, as anything that robs people of lasting well-being, can you imagine how ancient storytellers could picture a loving God choosing a worldwide Flood to stop evil from “taking over”? A contemporary praise chorus prays, “God, break my heart for what breaks yours.” Do human cruelty and violence break your heart, do you mostly shrug them off as just the way things are, or do you see them as necessary or desirable if practiced by “good guys”? In what ways did Jesus deal with evil differently from what the Flood story envisioned?

 Read Romans 15:2-5, 1 Peter 3:18-22. Paul, in verses 4-5 of Romans 15, wrote, “Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope.” As you read the Flood story (and in last weekend’s sermon, if you heard it) what do you believe the story of Noah teaches about God? The apostle Peter used the Flood story as a symbol or archtype of baptism. What were the strengths and limitations of the way he wrote about the waters of baptism?

 Read Genesis 6:9-12. The text described Noah as “moral,” a word that referred primarily to the way he related to other humans, and “exemplary,” a word that focused on the way a person related to God. The ancient Hebrew storytellers were holding together the personal and social dimensions of the gospel. In what ways are you holding those dimensions together in the ways you live your life? In verse 11 “corrupt” comes from a Hebrew word that meant “to be damaged, spoiled, ruined.” The original word behind “violence” meant “injustice, lawlessness, wrong.” In what ways can you as one of God’s people be a force for honor, justice and right practices?

 Read Genesis 6:13-16. “What most concerns Genesis is the purpose of the ark, which was to keep…alive all species of living creatures” (New Bible Commentary). In what ways, even in a grim story like the Flood, do you see signs of God’s purpose to care for and nurture faithful human life? Noah, the story said, followed God’s directions in detail as he built the ark. Are you ever tempted to follow your own designs in building your life, rather than God’s?

 Read Genesis 7:10-16. The ancient Hebrews feared the sea, even though their land had a Mediterranean coast. (Psalm 46:2-3 shows how they used large bodies of water as a symbol for life’s fearful chaos.) What kind(s) of chaos create the most fear in you? Note the last phrase of verse 16: “the Lord closed the door behind them.” The Translator’s Handbook on Genesis noted, “The Lord’s act of shutting the door behind Noah is to be understood as protecting Noah and not imprisoning him.” In the story’s imagery, it was not up to Noah to protect himself. Has God ever “closed the door” and protected you from some danger? How does that help you to trust God for your future?

 Read Genesis 7:17-24. For the ancient Hebrews rampaging flood waters were one of the most frightening, powerful symbols of life spinning out of control and into chaos (cf. Psalm 46:2-3). So one of the most potent and poetic symbols in the whole story is in verse 18: “The ark floated on the surface of the waters.” Even in the face of the worst kind of catastrophe, they believed, you are safe if you are in the hands of God. Do you share their faith? What are one or two of the biggest concerns you currently face? As a group, in prayer place those concerns into the hands of the God who can protect and preserve you even if this life brings you utter catastrophe.
From last week: Did you prayerfully consider what it means to be “right with God”? What ways did you find to extend this relationship with the people you come in contact with? Share any experiences you had with your group.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, May 4, 2014:

There are two ways to read the Noah story in Genesis. Some Christians read the Noah story believing the writer of Genesis was recording literal history, and if you add up the genealogies in Genesis it happened around 2348 B.C., give or take a year. Water literally covered the earth 20 feet above the highest mountain (which would be, if the mountains were the height they are today, 29,000 feet above sea level – 5 1/2 miles high. At least two, and as many as seven, of every kind of animal was placed upon the ark along with food for all the animals, and they remained on the ark for 150 days.

Geologist David Montgomery outlines the case against a literal reading of the story of the ark in his book, The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood. I read the book last year and it’s a pretty good read. Those who don’t see this story as literal history don’t deny that it is anchored in some kind of localized floods, as are other flood stories around the world. These may date back to about 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age as the ice sheets were melting.

Those Christians who don’t take the story as literal history note that the stories in Genesis 1-11 represent the Bible’s foundational stories. They are archetypal—teaching about who God is and who we are, and they are teleological—which means they point to our purpose in life. These stories were passed down from generation to generation for millennia, told and retold around campfires. They delighted and entertained in a time before movies and books and video games. But like the best stories, they formed and shaped hearers and readers and became part of their defining stories. Regardless of whether you read them as literal history or not, the point of the stories is the same….

So this story is an indictment upon humanity. Gilgamesh, in its earliest versions, said the flood came because the gods couldn’t sleep with all the noise humans were making. But the Noah story tells us something we already know but sometimes forget: Humanity can be evil both in our actions and in our hearts; we often abuse, misuse and ruin God’s world, the earth; and violence, cruelty and oppression so easily becomes our way of life.

So far there are no surprises in this story. The surprise comes when we read of the impact human evil and violence have upon God. Listen: “The LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” This is one of the most amazing verses in all the Bible. This is not a capricious God who decides to wipe out all human beings because he’s a bit irritated that he can’t get to sleep! This is a God who feels responsible for these creatures to whom he granted freedom and understanding, who have become evil and who are hurting creation and each other….

Even as God is contemplating the destruction of all life on the planet, he is still looking to find even one human being whose imagination is not evil, whose actions are not wicked, who doesn’t ruin God’s earth and who doesn’t act with violence or cruelty towards his fellow human beings. And God saw Noah, and Noah found favor with God.

God also saw something in Noah that made him stand out from his generation. He was righteous, a word that means to walk on the right path (as defined by God), to treat others justly, and to act ethically. Do you know people like that? Are you someone like that? Noah was blameless among the people of his day. The word in Hebrew means that he had sincerity, he was without defect, he had integrity. None of us are perfect or blameless, but are we striving for sincerity and for living with integrity where our faith and our deeds are one? Noah walked with God. To walk with God is both to share a daily and intimate connection with God and to walk in his path. Imagine God walking with you as you seek to walk with him each day.

In the end what stood out about Noah was that he did just the opposite of what the people of his day were doing. Their imagination and their deeds were turned to evil all the time. Noah abstained from evil and thought of others. They ruined the earth and acted with cruelty and violence towards one another. Noah sought to do good to God’s earth and to others. Others turned away from God. Noah walked with God.

This reminds me of the General Rules of the early Methodists: 1. Refrain from doing evil, 2. Do all the good that you can, and 3. Pursue the practices that help you walk with God. This is what God saw in Noah….

This is how Noah lived his life. He sought to avoid the evil that surrounded him. He sought to do what was right, rightly caring for God’s garden and acting with kindness instead of cruelty. And he walked with the LORD. That’s part of what this story is meant to teach us, and to call us to.

An Interview with Dr. David Montgomery (Sept. 17, 2012) 

What could be more charged than the debate between “young earth” creationists, who believe the world was made by God less than 10,000 years ago, and geologists, who peg the age of the Earth at about 4.54 billion years? But Montgomery has written a thoughtful, readable book that respects both sides.

Q: Talk about your own religious upbringing.
A: I was brought up Presbyterian, went to Sunday school. I read the Bible cover to cover. … I went through a phase of reading the major books of the world’s religions. I’ve been curious about the relationship between science and religion for a long time. All religions look at humanity’s relationship to the world and to God.

Q: What made you want to take on this topic?
A: There’s my longstanding personal interest … given my upbringing and profession. I also have a fondness for old books. As I read many original sources on geology (from) the 17th and 18th centuries, I was surprised to find that they were all oriented around the theory of Noah’s flood. And I was always perplexed about the ideas of “young earth” creationism. Those ideas were refuted by geology a long time ago. The idea of creationism would have surprised some of the earliest theologians. With St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, there was a tradition of respecting what we could learn from nature.

Q: Most people probably think creationism is a pretty old belief system, but in the book you clearly lay out that it’s not. Briefly describe how it developed.
A: George McCready Price was the guy who championed flood geology (the theory that Noah’s flood was real) through the early 20th century. He was not a trained geologist, but he argued that geologists had the whole theory wrong. His arguments evolved into (John) Whitcomb and (Henry) Morris’ book, 1961’s “The Genesis Flood.” The thing that surprised me about that book was that the guys who wrote it had a really insightful critique of ’50s geology. They looked at the key flaws, the shortcomings, the things geology couldn’t address: How do mountains form? How do you get fossils of tropical organisms at the poles? In those days, nobody was buying continental drift. They said, geologists can’t explain certain basic aspects of geology; we have a better idea.

Q: I’m guessing that a lot of people have no idea how old the Earth is.
A: In the last few decades, polls have shown that the percentage of Americans who thought the world was created in the last 10,000 years has moved between 40 and 47 percent. People have never been taught the basics about the way the Earth works. In our experience, the Earth is pretty much static. But the glaciers that sculpted Puget Sound have been gone for 15,000 years.

Q: Talk about Harlan Bretz, who taught briefly at the UW and discovered the evidence for a massive flood in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana 12,000-15,000 years ago. He had a hard time getting his ideas across.
A: We all look through filters, whether it’s religious faith or the doctrines we are trained in as scientists. He’s one of the best examples there is. The field evidence kept pointing to the idea that there was a really big flood. But most geologists thought they had won that battle. Then this young upstart geologist came up with this idea that there was a really big flood. He was field-oriented, evidence-oriented. His colleagues were not similarly oriented. He was literally treated as a pariah for most of his career. Finally, other people found observations that backed up his theories.

Q: You conclude that Noah’s flood may be a story or legend based on actual long-ago events. Describe some of the likely inspirations for the Noah’s flood story — flooding along the Tigris and Euphrates, the filling of the Black Sea with saltwater.
A: Those are the two that make a lot of sense: the right events in the right place at the right time. You can go back to cuneiform literature (a kind of tablet writing found in what was Mesopotamia, now modern Iraq) for accounts of a great flood. It’s one of our oldest stories. (From http://seattletimes.com/html/books/2019178360_litlife17.html)

Final application:

During the week, as a group keep praying for each other, focusing on the concerns you share in the final discussion question. Watch for moments when you may sense God helping with those concerns. Share any of those moments at your next meeting.