LISTEN TO THE MUSIC SERMON SERIES
OCTOBER 12, 1997
Ever since I can remember I have always enjoyed playing the drums. However, I stopped playing about age 11 due to my involvement in athletics. When I was playing, though, my favorite song was by the Sufaris entitled Wipeout. Now Wipeout is a drum driven song that depicts a surfer wiping out on a big wave. It is a pretty cool song.
Today I am in a series called Listen To The Music. Over the last several weeks I have been paralleling some of the top Biblical characters with some of the top songs that we have grown up with. So in keeping with today’s theme and due to the encouragement of Stan Durham, our Music and Media Pastor, and because I am a big ham, I am going to join the band in playing Wipeout. This is the theme of today’s message.
Our band is so good it can make anybody sound OK. Today we are talking about wipeout. I was thinking this past week that whether you surf or ski or rollerblade or skateboard, it is inevitable that you are going to wipeout. Sometimes the wipeouts are pretty cool like when you fall off the board and you kind of roll around and you are OK. It kind of makes people laugh and gives you an adrenaline rush. Wipeouts recreationally can be fun. They can also be bad. We all know people who get seriously injured. Some actually lose their lives in a wipeout situation.
Not only do we wipeout recreationally, we also wipeout vocationally. Now sometimes those wipeouts are good like when we wipe out a nonproductive business strategy. However, marketplace wipeouts can be negative. For example, you are trying to work a big deal with money invested in it and at the last minute it goes south and you end up in the red, financially speaking, that is not a good and fun vocational wipeout.
We also wipeout relationally. Sometimes we wipeout for good like when a destructive dating relationship is tabled. At other times the wipeouts can be bad like when you receive a Dear John letter or find that your special someone is with another special someone. Those wipeouts hurt. You can feel those drum sticks kind of playing Wipeout on your head. Wipeouts. Some are good and some are bad.
Listen very carefully. Our God is a God who plays Wipeout. Sometimes His wipeouts make us laugh and sing like when He wipes out our sins and our stumblings and our foul-ups and forgives us. Those are great wipeouts from God. Other times, though, God’s wipeouts don’t make us laugh or sing or dance. Some are more or less hard to swallow like when He wipes out people and even nations because of their rebellion. Now the question begs to be answered. How can a caring God play Wipeout? How can a God who loves human beings take certain human beings out? Well today we are going to look at a man from the pages of the Bible named Lot. Lot experienced God’s upbeat and downbeat of Wipeout. You can’t talk about the love and grace and the mercy of God without talking about the condemnation and the judgment and the anger of God. God is perfectly balanced. And today we are going to see that balance because every time, every single time, God plays Wipeout, He always provides a way out. And I love God for that. I really, really do.
Lot had a very impressive resume. Genesis 13 gives us the account of his life. Lot had a tragic beginning, his father passed away. However, Abraham, his uncle, stepped in and brought up the boy. Abraham is a wealthy entrepreneur mentioned throughout scripture. Abraham was the father of the Hebrew nation and Lot learned everything from him. Lot learned how to do business from him. He learned how to relate to people from him. He learned how to handle stress from him. He learned how to talk to God from Abraham. Lot had it going on. He was on a roll. He was wealthy because he was on Abraham’s gravy train.
One day when Abraham was 75 years old, God tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Abraham, I want you to go and move to a new land.” Abraham left with all of his companies and flocks and herds and livestock and Lot was right there with him. When you have got a couple of Fortune 500 companies on the move, it is inevitable that you are going to have some personality problems and some conflicts. Lot’s employees and Abraham’s employees began to argue. Now before the attorneys were brought in, Abraham does something that is really good. This is a quick application for what many of us are going to deal with over the next couple of weeks.
Let me explain. The holidays are on the horizon. Family conflicts may be on the horizon. When we rub shoulders with that brother, that sister, that father, that stepparent, we sometimes get ready to rumble. We are going to have some problems. Abraham saw the family conflict brewing and here is what he does. He shows us how to handle problems in the family. First of all, notice that Abraham takes the initiative. He goes to Lot and says, “Let’s stop the quarrelling. Let’s quit this. We are too young. Our lives are before us. Let’s just calm down.” Take the initiative when family conflict arises.
Secondly, Abraham gave Lot first choice. And we are to give others in our family first choice. Abraham put family peace above his personal gain. Abraham should have had first choice. After all, Abraham was the older of the two; he was the source of the wealth. He was the leader. He was God’s man. Yet the Bible says that he stepped back and gave first choice to Lot. You see it was time for them to part ways. Their companies were too big. Their interests were too vast. Abraham said, “If you go this way, I’ll go that way. If you go that way, I will go this way.”
Lot looked. One way was an ugly way, a way that kind of looked like west Texas. I have never been to west Texas but I hear it is not that pretty. Then Lot looked in the other direction. The area looked like the Garden of Eden, like the Virgin Islands or something. The elk were bulging, the trout were leaping, the sun was shining. But in the distance were the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Now take a wild guess regarding what Lot did. Where do you think that he chose to live? You guessed it. The bulging elk, the leaping trout, the shining sun. The Bible says that he moved toward the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And Abraham took west Texas, which is now Canaan. Lot didn’t realize it but Lot faced something that we all face in life. Lot faced a DMD. A DMD is a defining moment decision. I am talking about a turning point. I am talking about a fork in the road. And all of us can look back on our lives and see those DMDs that we faced. Some are facing them right now. Some of us have made poor DMDs and we are trying to recover from our problems.
The Bible says in Genesis 13:11, “So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.” Amazingly, Lot didn’t give any high fives to Abraham or say, “Thanks, uncle.” He didn’t pray any prayers. He didn’t have any forethought whatsoever. He just decided where he wanted to go because it looked good to him and would be good for his company.
What do you do when you face a DMD? What do you do when you face a Lot-type decision? You have got to remember two things. Number one. You have got to remember to downplay the upside while playing up the downside. We have got to do that. Usually the negative consequences are more negative once we get there and the positive consequences are not as positive as we believed. Lot should have run down the road a little and thought about the implications of his decision. He should have thought about how he was going to wreck and ruin his family, how it would cause him to live in the midst of sin, how it would cause him to compromise, how it would really mess him up. Yet Lot was thinking so much of lining his pockets with money, so much about the beautiful land, about his herds multiplying and being a really major playing along the lines of Abraham that he left and moved toward Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible says in Genesis 13:13, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” Lot knew this, but he moved toward Sodom.
What are you moving toward right now? Are you moving toward that flirtatious relationship at work? Are you moving toward a deceptive deal in business that would make you some more money? What are you moving toward? It is just a matter of time until you end up doing and living what you are moving toward. Then you will begin to hear and feel those drumbeats of Wipeout.
Well, the question that remains to be answered is this. How do we downplay the upside while playing up the downside? How do we do that? We do it through building altars and building Bboards. If you study the life of Abraham in the Bible, every time he faced a DMD he built an altar. Every time. He got God’s take on the situation. He talked to God before he acted. And we see in this text that when Lot made a DMD, he never talked to God. He never got God’s take on it. He just went out and acted. Are you building altars? Before you take that job, build an altar. Before you walk down the wedding runner, build an altar. Before you do business with a certain group, build an altar. The Bible says, build altars, build altars, build altars. God wants our decision-making batting average to go sky high. And it can, if we build altars.
But it can’t stop there. We also have to build Boards. Think about any successful company. They usually have a Board of people who help the point person, whether it be a man or a woman, in his or her decision-making ability. And, quite frankly, I thank the Board of this church for helping me make decisions. If I were doing the autonomous thing, I would have gotten off track from what God wanted for this church a long time ago. But because I have a Board around me, they can help me with my blind spots. They help me to see angles and avenues that I wouldn’t even see. Companies do it. Churches do it. How about you? If you had to, could you go home this afternoon and pick up the phone and call a personal Board of Trustees meeting for your life? Could you?
For the last eight years, I have had a personal Board of Trustees. I am not talking about the church now, but about a personal deal. They have helped me so much. I run every major decision by them, every major purchase, every major fork in the road. It helps. Find some people who love you for who you are. Find some people that you have a natural affinity with. Find some people who will speak the truth to you in love and seek their counsel. Lot had Abraham. What a mentor! What an influencer! What a difference maker! He could have asked Abraham for his advice. And I am sure Abraham had some great lieutenants around him. Lot could have gotten involved with them, but he didn’t. And he messed up. And he ended up experiencing the upbeat and the downbeat of Wipeout.
There is something else we should do when we face a DMD. We need to remember this. Selfish decisions usually lead to destruction whereas unselfish decisions usually lead to life. How then do we make unselfish decisions because those are the kind of decisions that God wants us to make?
One of my favorite things to do during football season is to listen to sport talk show. Do you ever do that? Talk about entertaining. At times I have laughed so hard that I have almost wrecked my truck. Great entertainment. What is so amazing is that in Dallas, Texas you have people who think that they know more about football than the professional coaches and the players, the college coaches and the players and the high school coaches and the players. They will call up and talk. They love to talk about defense. Defense! “Well, I think the Cowboys need to delay a linebacker for this. And Deion is just not doing it. I can tell. He wore his sweatband on his right arm instead of his left arm which is not working.” “The University of Texas is just terrible this year. Listen, if I was the coach I would change the whole defensive strategy. The tackles are just not doing it.” It goes on and on and on. I love it. It is hilarious. It is great entertainment. Wonderful.
I want to share with you a defensive strategy that will assist you in making unselfish decisions. This is a defensive strategy that you have never heard of before. It is called the 234 strategy. Maybe a coach is saying, 234. I never heard of that one. Well before you get out your pen and begin to draw plays, I am talking about Philippians 2:3-4. Because those verses give us the defense that will help us make these unselfish decisions. Here is what it says. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition….” In other words, make no decisions, no choice, no fork-in-the-road move out of selfish ambition. “…or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” Lot didn’t think about his family. Lot didn’t think about the temptation. Lot just thought about himself. A selfish decision. I have made a bunch of selfish decisions in my life. Usually when I make them, I experience more pain than pleasure. Some of you are nodding your heads. You know what I am talking about.
Here is what happened. Lot made a horrible mistake, a selfish decision. He reasoned to himself that he could protect his family from Sodom and Gomorrah, that he could build a wall around his company. He thought that he could take care of things that he was the strong guy. Well, let me tell you something. There are certain people, there are certain places and there are certain groups that you cannot hang around because the temptations are too great. They are too great. The Bible says that God, who was going to play Wipeout on Sodom and Gomorrah provided a way out. Anytime God plays Wipeout; He always provides a way out. When God was going to wipe the world out with the Noachian flood, He provided a way out with Noah and his family. When God was going to play Wipeout on the wicked city of Nineveh, He provided a way out. Jonah’s preaching against sin and rebellion caused the people of Nineveh to repent and He spared them. When God was going to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, he provided a way out for those who followed Him. When God plays Wipeout one day on the world, He has already provided a way out. 2,000 years ago He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins. Every time God plays wipeout, He always provides a way out.
Let’s look at God’s way out. God sent some angels to talk to Abraham. His angels began to converse with Abraham and tell him that God will play Wipeout on Sodom and Gomorrah, that He had the sticks in His hands and that He is already behind the drum kit. But Abraham asks God to wait because there are some righteous people there. He began to plead with God. He asked God to spare the cities if there were ten good people, ten followers of Him found there. You know what God says? “I will hold off, if there are ten to be found.” The closer that I get to Christ, the more I am awed by His mercy and awed by His judgment. Sadly there were not even ten righteous people in these two cities.
The angels, though, now leave and go to Lot. God always provides a way out. The angels walk into the city of Sodom. Remember earlier we learned from Genesis 13 that Lot had moved toward Sodom. Now in Genesis 18 and 19, Lot is in Sodom. Lot was living in Sodom. But also, Sodom was living in Lot. He was at the city gates, meaning that he was an official, probably the mayor, of this wicked city. When the angels walked up to him, Lot does not recognize them as angels. The Bible says that there are angels here among us. The Bible says that we have entertained angels without even knowing it. No, they don’t have wings or halos. They come in the form of different people. I have done a whole series on angels called What In The Heavens Is Going On? It has a lot about angels. Are they real? Where are they? What are their functions? Etc. When the angels walked up to Lot, he was Mr. Hospitality and invited them over to his house to stay with him. You know why Lot did that? The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked that Lot knew that these men would be raped if they stayed somewhere else. This is a tough message to deliver. These are some hard words that we are going to have to deal with. So the angels went to Lot’s house.
Let me stop here and give you something else to remember. When you hear the distant drumbeats of Wipeout, remember that bad company corrupts good character more than good character influences bad company. (I Corinthians15:33) Did you hear that? Bad company corrupts good character more than good character influences bad company. The Bible says, do not be misled. And every time you read that phrase, it means simply, do not be misled. It means a lot of people are misled. Whether you are seven or forty-seven, do not be misled. The Bible here is referring to close personal continual associations with people. Obviously we know a lot of people with bad character but our best and closest contacts have to be those who are Christ followers. If they are not, we will end up like Lot, inside Sodom. Who are your friends? Who are the people you are intimate with, that you share your heart with? Do they have good character or bad character. Some are saying that their bad character friends are not going to influence them. Oh, really? Oh, really?
Well, the angels were hanging out in Lot’s house and it was time for bed. The Bible said that the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house and began to say vile and vulgar things about the men. They asked Lot to send the angels out so that they could have sex with the angels. And to show you how far Lot had gone; you know what he told the men of the city? “Hey, brothers.” Brothers. Brothers. Lot called these people brothers. “Hey, brothers, I have got two daughters who are virgins. Go ahead and take them.” Lot, what has happened to you? You bit the bait. You made a poor DMD.
Now fathers, I want you to imagine giving your daughters to a group of sex-crazed men for them to rape. Are you ready for that? The Bible says categorically, unequivocally, irrevocably that homosexuality is committing cosmic treason before God. The Bible says that committing adultery is committing cosmic treason before God. The Bible says that committing fornication, sex outside of marriage, is committing cosmic treason before God. Our position toward those I just mentioned is exactly what the Bible says. We want to build bridges to them, to the homosexual, to the adulterer, to the fornicator but also we are going to draw a line in the sand. They are welcome here and we love them but we don’t like the sin in their lives. We are not very far away from Sodom and Gomorrah right now in 1997 in the USA. Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Graham, said this. “If God does not judge America, then He is going to have to apologize to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.” I believe that. I really, really do.
But miraculously, the angels being stronger than men, kept the men away. The Bible says that they were smitten with blindness. Then the angels told Lot that God was playing Wipeout and that he had better take his family and leave. You know what Lot said? “Just a second, let me warn my future sons-in-law.” But sadly these men just looked at Lot and laughed. “You, a follower of God, with your lifestyle. Give me a break.” Then the Bible says that Lot waited until dawn to leave. The Bible says that he hesitated because he had a vested interest in Sodom. Sodom had made him a lot of money and he was big man on campus there. He hesitated. Then the angels said run up to the mountains and he responded that he was in poor cardiovascular shape. Then the angels said not to look back and Lot’s wife turned and looked back and she became a pillar of salt.
Archeologists tell us that there is an advanced civilization buried under the southern region of the Dead Sea. Most feel it is the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I actually swam in the Dead Sea. If you ever go to Israel, the Dead Sea is a wild place. You can swim out 500 yards and you can’t sink. There is so much salt in the water. You just float around. We saw some unusual objects on the shore and the tour guide told us that they were pillars of salt. Pretty unbelievable, isn’t it.
Remember something else, though, when we hear the distant drum beats of Wipeout. This is something that I really want you to consider and pray about. We have got to understand that it is easier to make a fast break than a slow motion move. Genesis 19:16. Lot hesitated. Genesis 19:26. Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. Some of you are thinking that you have a relationship that is not honoring God. You are hesitating doing anything about it right now. You believe that you can slowly get out of it instead of making a fast break. Some of you are thinking that you have a situation at work that is not honoring God and that you will just slowly back away from. Who are you trying to kid? You have got to make and take a fast break.
A friend of mine left a six figure salary and made a fast break because the temptations were too great where he was employed. God isn’t telling everybody to do that. But this is what we are saying today. The great thing about God is, every time He plays Wipeout, He always provides a way out. What do you need to break off? What do you need to leave? What do you need to turn your back on without hesitating, without looking back and longing for it?
I think that all of us due to this strong message know what we should do. Whether you are a Christian or a seeker. We all know what we should do. Now, let’s do it. Let’s take Jesus to heart when He said, “Remember the story of Lot. Remember Lot’s wife. Remember. Remember. Remember.”