So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in. (Genesis 7:16)
If you’ve been watching the news, visited any social media sites, or been alive in the last couple of weeks, you’ve seen the media hysteria and controversy regarding Pastor Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church supposedly not opening their doors to the flood victims of hurricane Harvey. The story sparked outrage immediately with conflicting reports coming from all sides. Eventually, the Church officials and Pastor Osteen were compelled to issue public statements and address the issue, explaining that their own property had been in danger of flooding as well. Having communicated with the city officials, they were on standby in case their facility was needed in the event the shelters and other accommodations the city was providing for the displaced proved inadequate. This, of course, did not stop the attacks against Pastor Osteen and Lakewood Church. Actor Tyler Perry and well-known minister, Matthew Barnet, director of the Los Angeles Dream Center and Pastor of Angelus Temple, publicly supported the beleaguered Pastor and church, testifying to Joel’s caring and genuine character.
The image of a wealthy pastor not taking in the desperate and helpless was like the proverbial blood in the water for the misinformed, or half-informed, social media masses who felt they were taking the moral high ground by tearing down this icon of Christian aristocracy. None of this is to vindicate what may have genuinely been a late response from a church that should have possibly been better prepared to help those suffering from the storm, nor is it a condemnation of a fellow brother and Pastor who found himself on the wrong sided of the liberal media, all too happy to escalate the frenzy into a scene that recalls images from the French Revolution! In the end, Lakewood took in flood victims and tended to their needs. When Joel Osteen addressed the congregation the following Sunday to clear the air, the congregation expressed strong support for their Pastor, while critics outside the church no doubt found additional fodder to continue their campaign of criticism against the mega-church and its leader.
I have thought a great deal about this situation and others which have brought negative press to the Church. Such criticisms are not exclusively aimed at mega-churches that are said to be purveyors of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” With the advent of social media, the Church has come under the watchful eye of the world as never before, and everything from the Church’s beliefs in the virgin birth to our stand on sanctity of life and marriage to the expression of personal faith in politics and the public square have come under fire. Most recently Senator Dianne Feinstein made waves for criticizing the Catholic faith of Judicial nominee, Amy Coney. The Church is under fire in America today.
Unfortunately, some in the Church have responded to this attack by capitulating to the cultural fascism known as political correctness, softening their stance on issues like same-sex marriage, courting the favor of the world rather than standing for the truth of God’s Word. Without a doubt, believers are feeling the pressure of living out their faith in a postmodern, morally ambiguous society that bases their ideas of right and wrong on their feelings more than on any standard of objective truth.
When God commanded Noah to build the ark, it was because the righteous would need a safe shelter from the greatest cataclysm that planet earth would ever experience. This flood would not merely affect a large metropolitan area but the known world of that time. Whether the flood was worldwide or regional, as some scholars say, I’ll leave to others wiser than me to answer, but we know that the result of it was the elimination of every human life on the planet, along with all animal life that lived on dry ground, save that which was gathered on the ark. God gave Noah his reasons for this judgment which He would bring upon mankind.
“So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:12-13)
The wickedness of man had become so great that God was actually sorry he had made mankind. I don’t know what you make of that, but knowing as I do that God IS love, the level of wickedness had to be great for God to take such desperate measures to reboot the human project. He found in Noah and his family a remnant or “seed” that He could use to begin again.
I have NO doubt that many would use this story of the flood to declare the God of the Old Testament a mass murderer, guilty of genocide, and a malevolent tyrant, etc., etc., etc., I have heard it all before. However, what critics miss is that the door to the ark stood open for a hundred years while Noah prepared it. In fact, Noah is called “a preacher of righteousness” (see 2 Peter 4:5), meaning that he was warning of the judgment to come and urging people to repent. That ark could have been the salvation to more than Noah and his family, but in the end, only the eight who were with him were saved.
It’s hard to justify the big boat in your backyard when there’s not a cloud in the sky. If social media had existed in Noah’s day, I am sure that what were perceived as Noah’s “cooky predictions” of the end of the world would have gone viral and been mocked by all those in the region. He would have been the butt of every joke and derisive post imaginable. That is, until the rain came. There came a time when God’s mercy gave way to God’s judgment, for God’s justice cannot sleep forever. That is when God shut the door to the ark.
Right now across America, the doors of churches are open, and in them the good news is heard regularly. In fact, one needn’t wait until Sunday. Every moment of every day, the gospel is being streamed by today’s preachers of righteousness, letting everyone know that the way of salvation is available to “whosever will.” Never before has God’s grace been so proclaimed as it is today. Noah was not a perfect messenger. You might have heard that later in his “ministry” he got drunk and even his own family member whispered to others about what he had seen. Likewise, not all of God’s messengers are guiltless, including yours truly. Many have made mistakes and poorly represented Christ at times. Nevertheless, there are literally millions across the globe that are embracing the message of Christ and finding salvation at the foot of that old rugged cross. Even in Muslim nations where one might suspect that the gospel voice is silent, God is visiting hungry hearts through dreams and visions. Even in some of the most difficult nations, such as Pakistan, personal friends of mine are holding crusades, such as the one they recently told me about where over 9,000 came to Christ in a single night, and this is happening with regularity.
Today is still the day of salvation as the scriptures declare, but this day of opportunity will not last forever. The scriptures speak of a day when heaven’s doors will be shut, and there will be no one to mock or deride on that day. There will be no clever posts or memes, no pontifications on the narrowness of the Church, or any voice raised to challenge God’s justice. It will be an awful day. In fact, it will be so awful that God has filled the world with men and women commissioned with the story of salvation, warning those outside to come in before the rain begins to fall.
You may have legitimate questions about the Christian faith that have not been answered. That is certainly understandable. You may have seen hypocritical behavior from those professing to be followers of Christ. That is truly regrettable. You may have been taught that the very idea of God is an archaic concept, replaced by the sure knowledge of science. That is unfortunate. But the truth is, it will not be a hypocrite before whom we will stand when judged. We will not be able to claim ignorance or point a finger at anyone else. We will stand before God to give an account as to whether or not we entered the door of salvation He offered. Jesus is that door. He is knocking on men’s hearts still. The clouds overhead are gathering but have not yet broken loose. There is still time to call upon the name of the Lord and step in through God doors which are open still.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to randylanebunch.org. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.