Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Monotonous Wind

Redemption is the act of redeeming something that has been lost. The redeemer reclaims the object for its original purpose. There is no more significant example of redemption than that of Noah and his family being saved from destruction through the means of the ark. The flood in Genesis was an act of God, and it destroyed everything that was not in the ark. The waters were a raging chaos, and yet the ark survived the 40-day-storm. Though the ark was hurled to and fro by the gigantic waves, it miraculously preserved the lives of everyone inside. The story of Noah and the flood is an incredible story of redemption. Noah was saved by faith in a redeemer God. We need redemption! We need the same kind of redemption that Noah experienced, redemption from judgment. Then we need redemption of our faculties and bodies that belong to God. God created us to serve him.

The narrative says, “God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded” (Gen 8:1). When God remembered Noah, the earth had already been flooded for 150 days or five months. Five months in that ark with Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives and all the animals had finally ended. The seasickness, the darkness that hid the sun, the constant care of the animals including the cleaning of the stables was at last over. That could not have been a pleasant journey, and Noah and his family were at last ready to get out of the ark. However, there was still more waiting ahead for them.

Noah waited for God in anticipation for the moment to leave the ark. After forty days of waiting where the ark had come to rest, Noah sent out a raven that did not return. Then he sent out a dove two different times and received it back twice. He waited a week between each release of the dove. Finally, after the third week of waiting, the dove was released again but this time did not return. Noah and his family had been waiting over two months after the ark had come to rest. They listened each day and night to the howling wind that seemed incessant, and still, they remained.

Most of faith is merely plodding forward every day with our responsibilities. Often it can be monotonous, but still, we refuse to give up. Marriage can be tough; parenting difficult, work demanding, and even going to church can be challenging. Faith means we keep doing what we know is right even when it seems like nothing is happening. That is what Noah did during the long and grueling ride in the ark. Five months with his family and the animals in the ark tried his patience. Two of those months after the ark had come to rest, were spent listening to the wind and waiting. Faith says, even though I can’t see anything happening, I know you are working things out according to your will and I want to be part of that will. Even in the wind, God was preparing a new world for Noah. Never give up! Never stop believing that God is at work!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Righteous Noah

When God warned Noah that he would send a flood to destroy the earth in the judgment of its wickedness, Noah believed God. Four times in this account it says, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Gen 6:22).

He built the ark according to God’s specifications. It was a monster of a ship—1 ½ football fields in length. How many trees had to be felled, cut in lumber, and fitted into place? All this without tractors, modern saws, and cranes. What a feat of construction! What an effort of faith! During more than a century of monumental building, Noah was also preaching to the people in his world. Peter makes this comment about Noah, “… if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;” (2 Pet 2:5). Noah, though surrounded by corruption, stood alone and stood faithful to God.

What sustained Noah during these 100 years of labor and ministry? God promised to save him and his family. Noah totally grasped God’s promise and believed it with all his heart. This is what it means to walk with God day after day.

The righteous always live by faith, whether it is in Noah’s day or in our day. Faith is living out your faith in your home, work, or neighborhood by standing on God’s promises. It is still possible to be righteous today because this righteousness comes from God and is not self-made.

The writer of Hebrews sums up Noah’s life with these words: “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb 11:7).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Pathology of the Family

Human depravity is the downward spiral of human thought and behavior. From the evidence, it doesn’t appear that we are getting better. Moses wrote, “The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time (Gen 6:5). His words are emphatic that the collective human heart had reached a place of total depravity.

Is there not similarity to our world today? There is an obsession with sexuality because inappropriate sexual acts are seen on major networks at all times of day or night. Talk shows introduce the most appalling and vulgar subjects with no reservations. Dignity and decorum have vanished in our culture. Profanity is used everywhere, including by parents in front of their children.

When we have mass shootings by troubled teens, we quickly learn the context. Their human connections had broken down; they witnessed failed marriages, lived in broken homes, and idolized violence. Violence is revered everywhere, in movies, videos, games, and it is only a matter of time until some troubled individual tries to copy what he has seen.  Our world is more like Noah’s world than we imagine. The world in Noah’s day was influenced and controlled by spiritual forces, and so is our world. Paul stated it this way, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).

When you have heard the pathology of today’s family, and it is filled with sorrow, pain, anguish, and bitterness, you feel sadness. When a little boy is bounced back and forth from mom to dad and given medicine so he can calm down, your heart aches for him. When a small child cries and believes it is her fault that her mom and dad have gone their separate ways, you want to cry. When a father who is supposed to love his daughter, sexually abuses her, you feel disgusted. When a mother who is supposed to nurture her infant abandons him, you feel repulsed. When you see an anxious child living in a home fraught with conflict, your heart breaks. When a teenager who is so woefully unprepared for life falls into the clutches of addiction, you cringe. We wonder what’s wrong with our world, but if we looked at what’s wrong with our homes, we would find the answer.

This kind of assessment of our world is discouraging if we did not realize that wherever there is great sin, there is greater grace. In that godless and distorted world, we read these words about Noah, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8). Noah was a sinner like all the rest of us, but he realized it, and he asked God for forgiveness and received grace. The grace way is the only safe way to live in our world. It is possible to walk with God today the way Noah did because God gives us his grace. We need his help in our marriages, our families, and our work. Our only hope is in God's grace.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Run the Race

In the book of Hebrews, the author gives us a Hall of Faith chapter (Heb 11:1-40)). What a list of inspiring people is presented in this chapter. Each lived a faithful life and finished well. In the following chapter, he uses the analogy of a race to help us prepare for the most critical race we will ever run. Those who have already run this race are cheering for us from the stands. Then, in the first three verses, he tells us how to run this race.

First, strip away any sin in our lives that entangles us. That is an apt description of all sin because it trips us up. We are encouraged to tear those sins away in preparation for running the race the way a runner would strip away his outer clothing. Not all sin is as ensnaring to each of us because we are more vulnerable to certain sins. It is precisely those sins we must be aware of and strip them away so we can run the race.

Secondly, strip away the hindrances. These hindrances may not be a sin, but if they hold us back from running, they are deadly.  It could be a relationship, a habit, or even an enjoyment. If it slows us down or causes us to drop out of the race of life—then it is a bad thing.

Thirdly, run the race with perseverance. This race is not a sprint—it is a grueling marathon! It’s the runners who know how to pace themselves and keep plodding who finish the race. The race we run is never a straight line with shade trees and places of oasis along every mile. Some of us encounter barren stretches. Some climb mountains while others prod plains, but to each is our race. Our job is to run the race that is marked out for each of us.

Fourthly, focus on Jesus. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus grew tired and got hungry but never stopped running his race. We are commanded to run the race looking at him and run the way he did. We need a model to show us how to do it, and Jesus is that example. The writer says to consider Jesus’ attitude and how he responded to mean and sinful men when they did terrible things to him. Jesus looked at the joy set before him because this helped him to set aside the humiliation of enduring the shame of the cross.

I remember how the task of teaching my daughter, Carin, to ride a bike was not the easiest task in the world. She would do all right as long as she knew my hand was on the back of the bike. If she ever looked back and saw that I had taken my hand off or that I had stopped running behind her, she would tumble over. We had so many crashes because of that. After many tries, I decided to get her started and run ahead of her so that she would follow me, and it worked. The results were immediate. I became her goal on which she could focus, and in so doing, she was able to keep her balance. This is how we are to run the race—looking at Jesus every step of the way.