Saturday, October 24, 2015

You want me to do what?! 

Genesis 6:9-21
Noah and the Flood
9 This is the account of Noah and his family.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Genesis 7:5
 And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.

Welcome to the first of a series of writings I feel the Lord has put on my heart to research, write down, and share. These tremendous servants of God I intend to write about had such a relationship with the creator that even when he asked seemingly impossible things of them they obeyed. They were not great people but God was able, through they’re incredible faith, to use them as instruments of his will and glory. The only greatness in them was they’re ability to obey and allow Yahweh to be great through them.  

We think of the world as a wicked place today, but how terrible must it have been in this time of Noah for God to make the tough decision of bringing mankind to an end? The Bible says Noah and his family were the only God fearing and righteous people left on earth. Violence and wickedness were so rampant that the creator mourned terribly over the very existence of mankind and the choices they were making.
Only Noah and his family still warmed the Lord’s heart, so he gave mankind a reprieve of sorts through Noah, and chose to use him as the new father of humanity.
What must it have been like for Noah to be all alone in his faith, to be the only man among anyone he knew that still worshiped the Lord? Stop for a moment and think about this because I feel it is something we miss in this story a lot of times. Imagine that not only is everyone you know an unbeliever but completely wicked. Think about how important our networks of people in our lives are and how much we need to rely on them at times. Think about how much of our security is found in other people we have supporting us and imagine not having anyone, not one other person outside of your wife and kids that you can call on or confide in. How long could we hold to our faith today if it alienated us from everyone else? The Bible says again and again how the unbeliever views faith in God as foolishness. We here in modern times get uncomfortable when sharing our faith with strangers for fear of judgment. This man Noah preached about God to a completely wicked population that almost certainly regarded him as a complete idiot, or even a madman and he had no congregation to run to for support, he had no friends of the faith to reaffirm him in his beliefs, he only had Yahweh.
Noah chose to stand alone and have God rather than go along and have friends. He stood firm in a society of wicked murderous people and said I will not do as you do. It can be hard for us today to stay strong and faithful when surrounded by even a few nonbelievers. How many times have you caught yourself adopting the speech of the world after being around a nonbeliever for a period of time? What a rock solid relationship with God Noah must have had to alienate himself and his family so much from the society they lived in. The immense pressures to give in and go along to get along had to have been an incredible burden yet he regarded his relationship with Yahweh to be of a much higher priority than the acceptance of the world around him. This is undoubtedly one of the traits that so warmed the heart of God. 

Next the task, what if I told you I had decided to build a four story building with just the help of my family? You’d probably think I didn’t have both oars in the water! But this is the equivalent of what God asked of Noah. After converting the cubit measurement used at that time to modern day feet you get a structure that is 450ft long by 75ft wide by 45ft high! Like I said a four story building! Then he had to build rooms, and cover the inside with pitch, a tar like substance to make the craft watertight. Then we get to the logistical nightmare of the animals and the food that would need to be stored to feed them.
I don’t know about you but when I start a large project the first thing my warped mind wants to do is think of all the things that could go wrong, all the ways it could turn bad, and all the reasons why it’s just not possible. If I’m not careful I will “what if” myself out of doing it at all. I have had felt compelled by God to do certain things at times but I have procrastinated or just not done what I felt I was being told to do at that moment and it’s been almost entirely due to fear in one form or another.
The Bible doesn’t tell us if Noah wrestled with God’s orders or not. It simply says he began. The Lord said and he did. But I have to speculate, because I have a family, that they did not immediately jump on board with what Noah said the Lord had told him to do. The society surrounding them surely thought that he had completely lost his mind when he began construction. 
When I have obeyed the Lord in that moment I have found that circumstances begin to fall into place that normally would have seemed unlikely, impossible even. Sometimes when we head in the direction the Lord is leading us, no matter how impossible it seems, we look back after we have trudged his path for some time and wonder how in the world we were able to do some of things we had done, how we had gotten through some of the snares and troubles we had to come through to accomplish his will. I think Noah had a relationship and a faith that allowed him to just get started without “what if-ing” himself into a paralyzed state of inaction. The Lord said and he did.
Isn’t this type of abiding the same that the Lord was telling people they needed when he came to the planet in human form? People came to Jesus again and again and he told them what they must do but they were too filled with reservations to begin, one man wanted to wait until his Dad died and another could not see giving up his fortune. They were not ready to abide in the Lord and trust that he knew what they needed better than they did. 

What are we “what if-ing” today? What is it that’s been placed on our hearts that we think is too impossible for Yahweh to see us through? What are we doing to go along with the unbelievers of this world? What do we need to stand up and say no to? Saying no and being vocal can empower and influence those around us; some of the most influential people in my life have been just those kinds of people. Let’s have a relationship with the Lord that supersedes human opinion or acceptance. We don’t need to accomplish such a great feat as Noah did with the arch to change the world, we can just live the Gospel and that will have a great affect on others around us. Obviously though as Jesus said this is impossible with man, we can’t do this alone and unaided by the Holy Spirit so we need to be seeking him in all ways. Noah accomplished great things that changed the makeup of humanity itself but he could not have done that without the one that commanded him to do it. Noah was not a great man, but because of his great faith the Lord was able to be great in him, let’s let him be great in us. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Child of God

Matthew 18:2-4
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said:“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Just before this chapter we have Jesus foretelling his death and resurrection to the twelve disciples. Then after paying a tax with a coin from a fish’s mouth the disciples are arguing about which one of them is the greatest.
The Gospel’s are so honest, embarrassingly so really, and I am so grateful they are. These ordinary men were so inspired and guided by the spirit when they later wrote these testimonies down they could do no less than be brutally honest about they’re own short comings. If we had these twelve perfect apostles that tightly resembled they’re teacher we would have a tough time relating, but they were human, they were fallen like you and I. What a great example for us ordinary people with our sins and shortcomings to see these imperfect disciples in the midst of their messiah’s miracles and foretelling of his execution fighting with each other over power and position. How much that say’s about how saturated with sin we are is frightening to me and it should be to you also. More sure of who this man was than ever before they still manage to make it about themselves. They have God incarnate sitting literally before them, they can touch him, they can ask him questions, they can worship him right there in the flesh he is clothed in and yet they are steeped in selfish squabbles. What an infinite amount of patience the Lord has with us, and here with the twelve. Finally he uses a physical example to hopefully get it through their heads.

Many commentaries and sermons have been written and points of view shared about what all Jesus meant by saying to the twelve and to us the need to become like small children. It is certain to me like many have said that Jesus was greatly emphasizing humility by using the child as an example but there are also other attributes we should strive toward also.

I can remember being six or seven years old and how completely dependent on my mother I was. Even going to school and being away from her was a frightening prospect. I was a sickly kid and going through chicken pox, tonsillitis, or chronic bouts of strep throat would increase my dependence greatly. Honestly if I could have, I would have likely had my mom next to me at all times till the second or even third grade. I was quite a mamma's boy. My point is at the time I of course didn’t realize how dependent I was, I was just doing what a child does. Now that I am a father I can see this same dependence in my children and I am grateful for it and do not want to think of a day when they will no longer need dad. My wife and I have a rule about parking lots, if we are in one the kids are to hold our hands. With the mad rush some of us can be in these days a parking lot can be an extremely dangerous place for someone that can barely see over a car hood. Up until about a year ago they wanted our hands, my son Owen was frightened to not have someone’s hand especially if the parking lot was a busy one with cars going back and forth close by. But recently that has begun to change and they have become less and less in need of that security.

What would our relationship be like if we clung to the Lord like a small child? How close and intimate a relationship would it be if we held his hand tightly everywhere we went? What if we were so dependent on him that all our decisions were made under his council, and seeking his will and direction for our lives? What if we did this so much and so often we came to feel frightened and insecure without the feeling of his constant and reassuring fatherly presence? I can tell you there are periods in my walk today that I feel like a child in the arms of an unseen parent. Completely secure in where I am and what’s to come. Unfortunately those times can be fleeting because my dependence falters. I can let go of his hand and fool myself into believing in my own independence, or I can allow anxiety, anger, resentment, or another sin creep into my mind and soul and place a fog between him and I. We should be striving for spiritual growth and maturity relying on him in everything we do, in every decision we make. Through our dependence on him we become truly independent. Without him we look to the world and the people around us for guidance and that can fail us miserably. Failure is not in him, he is wisdom.

Trust is another child attribute we should be striving for. Can you remember as a child being tricked by an older kid or an adult into doing something? For me there are many, but one that comes to mind immediately is being told to put my finger on the spark plug of a lawn mower while it was started, what a laugh they had at my expense. My trust was complete, as children we trusted without any expectation of deception. A child being raised in a healthy home easily trusts they’re parents and others whole heatedly. I have talked to my sons about stranger danger and attempting to get them to understand that some adults may not be as nice as the people they know is very difficult, frighteningly so. When I first asked them what they would do if an adult wanted to give them some candy they had back in their car my boys immediately answered “we would go get the candy!” This is the answer they gave even after I know they’ve been lectured at kindergarten about strangers. They totally trust that everyone has their best interests at heart. They easily place all their trust in someone with no reservations. As we grow and experience deception and hurt we grow more and more cynical, we are more and more reserved when placing our trust in anyone, and sadly some of us have been so abused that we stop trusting entirely. We can trust in him.

What if our trust in the Lord was this complete? What if after spending some time discerning his will we turned and headed down the path we know he has chosen for us with no reservations, with no looking back and second guessing, with no quitting and going back to our plan as soon as things got a little tough. I think if you and I could start to accomplish this tomorrow our lives might look a lot different. I don’t know how God speaks to you but for me it’s an understanding that descends upon me, sometimes in prayer, sometimes driving in the car, sometimes in the middle of working. It’s kind of a compulsion, and I discern the difference from something he is telling me or something I may be telling myself through prayer. But it’s especially obvious when it’s something I would never choose for myself, or something that is going to require some sacrifice on my part. I am actually writing this Blog as a response to one of these events, of course he didn’t say “start a Blog” he said “be a vessel.” This is one of the ways I can fulfill what he has asked. Now he has asked me to do other things as well, am I doing those? No. At least not yet, I feel the pressure of it daily, after all this is my creator that I will stand before one day and give an account to. I tell myself later I can do this but now would be too hard. But he knows what the best time is; he is not restricted by time like we are. If we could only put our reservations aside and climb out of the boat, if we could only believe that when our feet hit the water we could stand and walk across it as Peter did for a few steps, how much more fulfilling our lives would be. I am striving for that maturity in Christ. So let’s pray, listen, discern, and then cast off our reservations and follow! Let’s strive and seek to be children of God, ever trusting and totally dependent on the only one that deserves such devotion and worship. Let’s hold his hand, seek his council, and stay joyfully wrapped in his fatherly arms for we are his child.