Today's Bible Verse...

Now is the Time

In the evening the two men (angels sent from God) arrive in Sodom. [See previous day, His Call Keeps Ringing.] Lot is sitting in the gateway (the entrance) of the city. Welcoming the men, Lot invites them to come to his house as his guests.

“Oh no,” they reply. “We’ll just spend the night out here in the city square” (Genesis 19:2.)

But the two men yield to Lot's insistence, and go with him to his house, where Lot prepares for them a feast.

Shortly before they settle down for the night, a noisy clamor rises outside. Stepping outside, Lot notices the men of Sodom surrounding the house.

“Where are the men who came to spend the night with you?” they shout. “Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” (Genesis 19:5.)

“Please, my brothers,” Lot begs, “don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish…” (Genesis 19:7, 8.)

But the men of Sodom won't hear it. Pressing hard against Lot, they attempt to break down the door. Lot's guests pull Lot back inside the house and strike the men of Sodom with blindness. Wearily, they stumble about trying to find the door.

The next morning, having heeded the angels' warning, Lot, his wife, and his two daughters flee Sodom, escaping to the city of Zoar – the angels having granted Lot’s request to spare that little village. (Genesis 19:21.)

(A thought to ponder: For the righteous remnant, the LORD is merciful.)

The Destruction of Sodom and GomorrahJohn Martin, 1852
In Zoar, Lot and his family find refuge from the fire and brimstone the LORD rains on Sodom and Gomorrah. “He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain...”  (Genesis 19:25.)

“But Lot’s wife looked back [to where she had come from], and she turned into a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26; cf. Matthew 6:24.)

Rising early, Abraham “hurried out to the place where he had stood in the Lord’s presence.” Looking toward those cities of the plain he saw the smoke ascending “like smoke from a furnace.” (Genesis 19:27, 28.) Granting Abraham’s request (See Genesis 18:23-32), the LORD “kept Lot safe, removing him from the disaster that engulfed the cities on the plain” (Genesis 19:29.)

We now flash ahead through time to the New Testament era, just in time to hear Jesus answering the Pharisees' question, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”

“The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs,” Jesus answers. “For the Kingdom of God is already among you” (Luke 17:20-21).

(“The kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom with geographical boundaries,” as noted in the Life Application Study Bible – LASB. “Instead, it begins with the work of God's Spirit in people's lives...”)

Later, with His disciples, Jesus speaks again of this, and of His return.

It will happen quickly – when we least expect it. And many will not be aware of it. For as in the days of Noah, many will be buying, selling, planting – going about their earthly business and pleasure as usual. As in the days of Noah, when he entered the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. And when Lot went out from Sodom “…fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:29).

Jesus concludes with a warning, as the LASB notes, “against false security. We are to abandon the values and attachments of this world to be ready, for Christ's return...” seeking first Christ's Kingdom on earth, (See Matthew 6:33.) in peoples’ lives.

“Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!” Jesus declares, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go [for the cause of Christ], you will save it” (Luke 17:32, 33).

We zoom ahead once again in time, to the closing days of the 19th Century. We arrive in China to find Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth fleeing for their lives, escaping the ravages of the Boxer Rebellion– in brief, according to, “a … movement by the 'Righteous Harmony Society' … opposing foreign imperialism and Christianity...”

Jonathan Goforth
Born in western Ontario, Canada, in 1859 Jonathan Goforth had given his life to the cause of Christ after reading the Memoirs ofRobert Murray M’Cheyne. Then, hearing a missionary powerfully appealing for workers in China, Goforth had sensed his call to missions.

“As I listened to these words,” Goforth would later say, “I was overwhelmed with shame…. From that hour I became a missionary.”

Graduating from Knox College, Goforth had worked for a while in city missions in Toronto where he had met Rosalind Smith, who later had become his wife.

Rosalind Goforth
Presbyterian students from Knox College had raised funds, and the Goforths had set sail for China in 1888. Answering the call, the Goforths had labored for Christ’s Kingdom in China’s Honan province, sharing their eternal hope with the Chinese via “open-house” evangelism.

That is to say, the European interior design of the Goforth’s home had aroused the curiosity of the Chinese, who all wanted to see it. Before giving a tour of the house, however, Jonathan would share the Good News of Jesus Christ with his guests.

Until forced to flee.

But the Boxer Rebellion ends, and as peace returns, the Goforths are able to return to China.

Jonathan relates his new plan to propagate the Gospel. “[It] is,” he says to his wife, “To … rent a suitable place in a large center for us to live … [we] stay a month … [and] carry on intensive evangelism…”

Jonathan, with his men, shares in villages or on the street, while Rosalind ministers to the women in the courtyard of their home. At month’s end they move to another place, leaving behind one who is able to teach the new believers.

In later years, new missionaries arrive on the field, steeped in “higher criticism” arousing confrontations and friction. Yet, relentlessly committed to the clear Gospel message, Jonathan continues to “preach … salvation through the cross of Calvary and demonstrate its power.”

God continues His search today for other “Jonathan and Rosalind Goforths,” who will realize that the time is now, as never before, to answer the call, and send the Good News of God’s eternal hope to all peoples.

His Call Keeps Ringing

[Continued from TRUSTING THROUGH THE IMPOSSIBLE. This part reflects on, biblically, Genesis 18:16-33 and Luke 16:19-31, and historically, our American history.]

 Having finished their meal the three men thank Abraham for his hospitality, bid him farewell (for now), and depart his company. They head toward Sodom – a very wicked city. Seeing them off, Abraham walks with them part of the way.

On their way, the LORD wonders, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? [He is the one I have chosen to] become a great and mighty nation, [through whom all nations (peoples) of the earth will be blessed] (Genesis 18:18-19).

The LORD is not so pleased with Sodom and Gomorrah – their sin is “exceedingly grave” (Genesis 18:20). And the LORD shares with Abraham His plans to destroy those wicked cities, wherein no righteousness dwells.

(At another time, during the days of Noah, God saw even then “that the wickedness of man was great on the earth.” [See GOD’S DESIRE FOR ALL PEOPLES]  It was like that since mankind yielded to the deceptive snares of the evil one in the Garden of Eden – Genesis 3; 6:5-6. How it so grieved the LORD that He had made man.)

Abraham pleads with the LORD, on behalf of those cities, knowing that his nephew Lot resides in Sodom (See RECOVERING ETERNAL VALUES), finally concluding, “What if ten righteous are found there?”

“I will not destroy it [if I find] ten righteous [in that city],” the LORD says.

Having finished their conversation, the LORD departs and Abraham returns to his home.

Our time machine now rushes us on to the New Testament era, where we see Jesus, God’s blessing for all nations.

We find Jesus confronting the Pharisees, who see wealth as proof of a person’s righteousness. (See Luke 16:14-15.) Jesus startles them, however, with the account of a poor beggar named Lazarus, and a rich man at whose gate Lazarus lay, covered with sores. (This is not the same Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead in John chapter eleven.)

In time, both die. Lazarus is “carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). The rich man, being in torment in Hades, cries out to Abraham to send Lazarus to quench his thirst. (That rich man would not care for Lazarus in life, now he wants Lazarus to care for him in death!) But to no avail, it’s too late. A great chasm fixed, it’s impossible after physical death to cross over from heaven to hell, or hell to heaven.

That being the case, therefore, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his house and warn his brothers that they make sure they don’t come to this dreadful place.

But, “They have Moses and the prophets,” Abraham says (see Luke 16:2830). “If they will not listen to [the warnings of] Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had shown the same desire for people to turn to God. He was “going through all the cities and villages… [He saw the multitude = “huge number of people”] … distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” He then declared to His disciples (and to us), “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…” (Matthew 9:35-36.)

We are now swept into the 17th Century, to Colonial America; God expands His story to the West.
William Bradford
We meet William Bradford, one of the 100 Pilgrims crowding the tiny Mayflower reaching the New World.

Later, Bradford writes, they came seeking "a better and easier place of living.” Continuing, “[their children] were being drawn away by evil examples into extravagance and dangerous courses [in Holland]“ He also writes of “The great hope, and for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world."

But, since the beginning of time, evil forces are also on the move, humanist teachings and doctrines creeping in, immoral and ungodly ideals replacing the biblical – sins such as that of Sodom and Gomorrah, the fallacy of riches (greed) …condoned. A scant hundred years after William Bradford and the Pilgrims commit to living for God and by His ways, their descendants are in need of a revival.

George Whitfield
And during the 1730s and ‘40s a movement of God’s Holy Spirit, through evangelist George Whitefield, sparks a great awakening, revitalizing Christianity in the American colonies. He challenges the already-church members to re-think their rituals, piety, and self-awareness – as Jesus challenged the Pharisees of His day. And a part of this revival includes Jonathan Edwards preaching repentance to these very Mayflower descendants.
Jonathan Edwards

Nor has the bent to sin changed any since then. In twenty-first-century America (as indeed elsewhere), our Christian heritage is barely visible. The sinners not only sin blatantly, but also try to convince us that sin is the right way and we all should be sinning. And we in the church, though perhaps our sin is not so blatant, are just as much in need of revival as the church members of Jonathan Edwards's day.

Jesus' plea to His people remains yet today to, “Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest [field]” (Matthew 9:38.), to preach His message of warning to all peoples of the earth, and of the hope for restoration, which is Christ Jesus, Himself, the blessing for all pepoles. (See 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.)

As the apostle Peter has written, “The Lord is not slow about His promise … but is patient toward [all, giving ample warning], not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

And God searches--yes, even now in the twenty-first century--for those who will answer the call as Isaiah did, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

The further reading consider The Great Awakening: A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield

Trusting Through the Impossible

[Here we reflect on, biblically, Genesis 17:15-21; 18:1-15 and Luke 1:26-38; and historically, missionary Amy Carmichael.]

God appears to Abraham on behalf of his wife, “…you shall not call her name Sarai,” God tells him, “but Sarah ["Princess"] shall be her name.  I will bless her … and I will give you a son by her.”

At hearing it, Abraham fell on his face and laughed. “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Impossible in Abraham’s eyes, he says to God, “Oh that [my son] Ishmael might live before You!”

But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac ["he laughs"]. And I will establish My covenant with him.”

“…Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised,
He was able also to perform…” (Romans 4:20-21.)

Later, the LORD appears to Abraham, near those great trees of Mamre. Sitting at the entrance to his tent, Abraham looks up and sees three men approaching him. He welcomes them as his guests, and has a meal prepared for them. Dining together, one of the guests asks about Sarah, “Where is your wife?”

“In the tent,” Abraham answered.

Another of the guests speaks up and says, “I will… return to you [again] at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Sarah hears it and laughs within herself, seeing only through human eyes the impossibility of such a happening. “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my [husband] being old also?”

But it's impossible to hide anything from the LORD; He asks, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too difficult for the LORD?”

“… For this is the word of promise: ‘AT THIS TIME NEXT YEAR I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON’…” (Romans 9:9.)

Forwarding through time, to the New Testament era, we see the angel Gabriel talking with a young, teenage girl, never touched sexually by a man. Her name is Mary, of the small village of Nazareth in Galilee.

“Greetings, Mary,” Gabriel said, “Most favored one. The LORD is with you.”

Mary is perplexed at his greeting. Gabriel assures her, Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, …you will bear a Son. And you shall call Him Jesus, for ‘He will save His people from their sins.’” (Luke 1:30-33; Matthew 1:21.)

Still, Mary asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Again, the angel assures her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you … and the holy child [you bring forth] shall be called the Son of God … for nothing will be impossible with God.” (See Luke 1:35-37; cf. Jeremiah 32:17, 27.)

Mary believed the angel and submitted herself to God’s will, trusting despite the impossibility. (See Luke 1:38.)

When Mary’s baby boy is born, shepherds visit Him. Having seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child (Luke 2:17, NIV.), who will grow up to become the good shepherd, only to lay down His life for the sheep.
(John 10:11.)

This all takes place just as the LORD had spoken through the prophet centuries earlier:  “’BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIM IMMANUEL,’ which translated means, ‘GOD WITH US.’  (Matthew 1:23; cf. Isaiah 7:14.)

And now we come to the Year of our Lord 1867. It is December 16, and we witness the birth of a baby girl, Amy Beatrice (a.k.a.Wilson) Carmichael, in the little village of Millisle, Northern Ireland. She is the first of seven children born to David and Catherine Carmichael, and to good fortune, the family being well-to-do via the prosperous Carmichael Flour Mills.

However, when she is 18 years of age, her father dies, leaving the family in severe financial straits. Soon after, she moves to Belfast. Adopted and tutored by Robert Wilson, cofounder of the Keswick Convention, she is introduced to city mission work and the “deeper life theology.”

At the 1887 Keswick Convention (when she's 19), she hears Hudson Taylor speak about missionary life. She yields to the words, “Go ye,” as her missionary call. However, missionary work is "impossible" for her.  Neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that makes her body weak and achy, often puts her in bed for weeks at a time.

Nevertheless, at 25 years of age she is in Japan. After 15 months in Japan, the Japanese language seems another impossibility for her. She sails for Ceylon (later called Sri Lanka), with first a stopover in Shanghai, China. As she writes, “I left Japan [simply] for rest and change.” Continuing, “It is while in Shanghai I believed the Lord told me to follow Him down to Ceylon, and so I came.”

After a short time in Ceylon she returns home to the British Isles, only to find herself back in Asia less than a year later – this time in Southern India. There she remains for more than 55 years, never taking a furlough, laboring in the work God had planned for her from time immemorial and was making possible as she obeyed. (See Ephesians 2:10.)

Read about Amy Carmichael’s years in India at A Worthy Occupation.

And God continues His search today for other “Amy Carmichaels” who will yield to God’s miraculous leading even through what may seem to be impossible circumstances.