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Posts tagged ‘Noah’

How You Can Stop God’s Call on Your Husband’s Life.


 

wife looking at husband on the phone
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

Recently my husband, John Hagee, surveyed the women of our church and asked the question, “What do women want in a man?” Character traits such as faithfulness, honesty, respect and good communication all figured prominently in their responses. So did romance, a good sense of humor and an ability to be a good provider.

But of the top 10 qualities expressed by the women in our congregation, godliness ranked highest as the primary character trait women desired in a man. Actually, godliness is the sum total of all the top 10 desires women want most in a man.

Perhaps you would agree with what we found. If you do, my first question for you is, “Do you know how to recognize a godly man?”

When I considered the traits that women desired most, immediately I began to think of some of the heroes of the Bible, men in Scripture whom we identify as truly godly. But have you ever wondered what it might be like to be married to one of them?

Husbands of the Bible Noah, the Scriptures say, was a “just and righteous man, blameless in his [evil] generation; Noah walked [in habitual fellowship] with God” (Gen. 6:9, The Amplified Bible). Now, for a moment, imagine what it would be like to be married to him.

He comes home one afternoon with architectural plans in his hands and tells you he has had a visitation from the Lord Himself. The great I AM has commanded him to do something he has never done before–with no budget and no true understanding of its purpose.

Furthermore, he says God is going to destroy all living creatures on the earth with water from the skies–a phenomenon not yet witnessed by any human being. So, he quits his job and begins his assignment.

Then Noah tells you that after his building project is completed, you and he and the children will take a long cruise. However, he doesn’t know exactly where or for how long. And there is one more catch–you must help him gather and care for those who will travel with your family, something about “two by two.”

You will have a thankless job, but he feels very strongly that he should obey the wishes of the Lord, for Jehovah God has promised to provide. Would you willingly work by his side?

Abraham was commanded by God to leave a very comfortable home and depart from his family and his country. God loves Abraham so much that He makes a special covenant with him (see Gen. 17:1-8).

He comes to you and recounts his visit with God. He persuades you to leave the dream house you just built and all that is important to you. He assures you that Yahweh has promised to bless him with descendents that will be too many to count.

Oh, and it gets better! While on your trip to “God only knows where,” Abraham convinces you to act as his sister for his protection. Even though this request from Abraham will put you in imminent danger, you finally agree.

Time passes, and the journey, which has been tough, finds you older now. You have given this man some of the best years of your life. You have a weak moment and determine that at your present age, you probably won’t produce an heir for your husband.

Therefore, you suggest–only once, I might add–that he go into your handmaiden and produce a child with her. Without hesitation he agrees–a little too quickly, if you ask me.

To add insult to injury, your favorite handmaiden, now heavy with your husband’s child, is flaunting her favored status. Would you leave your home and go with this man?

Moses was a man so loved of God that God chose him to lead His people out of bondage. Moses is the man to whom God entrusted His law. What would it be like married to Moses?

Moses is gone days at a time on spiritual mountain retreats without you. When he is home, he is overwhelmed with his task of leading millions of people somewhere, to arrive sometime.

It seems to you that you are hopelessly stuck in the desert. Moses spends most of his time in counseling sessions, trying to solve the chosen people’s problems.

He brings their problems home with him every night. Would you support this man and his ministry?.

David was a man after God’s own heart, a leader among men, a great warrior–but also an adulterer and a murderer and a failure as a father. What would it have been like to be married to him?

All these men have something in common: They were flawed individuals chosen by God to do His will. In order to accomplish their purposes, these men had to have very supportive and godly women by their sides.

Like these men, we are all flawed creatures. But there is a remarkable difference: The blood of a faultless Lamb covers us.

These men lived under the Law; we live under the grace and mercy of our Savior Jesus Christ. It is His mercy that keeps us from getting what we deserve and His grace that gives us what we do not deserve.

Titus 2:11-12 says: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (NIV).

With this understanding of God’s generous outpouring of grace and mercy toward us, I want you to be excited about what the Lord can do in your husband and in your marriage.

What women want in a man may not be as easily attained as we might think. In fact, what women want may not be what God wants them to have.

But He can equip you with what you need in order to be the woman, wife and mother He intended you to be. He can turn your marriage into something that resembles heaven on Earth and your husband into a godly reflection of Himself.

Men After God’s Heart A godly man must have the mind and heart of God. He must be God’s hands and see as He sees. When a godly man sees the hurting and those bound by the ravages of sin, he thinks as God thinks, in terms of love and compassion for the loveless.

On one of our many trips to Israel, John and I were privileged to witness such compassion expressed through godly men. While on our flight to the Holy Land, two of the ministry partners with whom we were traveling shared their testimony with us.

They had accepted Christ while watching my husband on television. They told us of the homosexual lifestyle they had turned away from and the new joy they’d found. Thrilled with their new life, they were now on the trip of a lifetime.

Sadly, because of their past lifestyle, one of them was suffering from AIDS. They were concerned what others on the trip might think, but my husband assured them that all would be fine.

After much prayer, the young man gave my husband permission to tell the others in our group that he was ill and needed their prayers and assistance. I remember my husband asked the Lord to prepare the group for the news regarding our young friend. He prayed, “Father, give them Your ears as they hear this news, and keep them from fear as they respond to this child of God with Your loving heart.”

The next morning during our time of devotion, we told the group of our young friend’s need for healing from this dreaded disease. With tears in their eyes, members of the group came up to him one by one and knelt around him as, together, we agreed in prayer for his healing.

But the most profound moment for me took place at the Garden Tomb. We had a time of worship and then released the people to enter the empty tomb.

One by one they went in. My husband and I were watching these precious pilgrims experience a very solemn moment when something beautiful happened. The young man with AIDS was sitting several yards from the tomb because the large stones of the Garden made it difficult to maneuver his wheelchair.

Two of the men from our group went to him and placed their arms under his body. He anchored his frail arms around their shoulders as they carried him toward the tomb.

The people who were gathered around the doorway made a path for the three men to enter the dark mausoleum. All was quiet as they bowed their heads and prayed. The three men walked out of the tomb with tears flowing down their faces.

My husband and I felt privileged to see a demonstration of the heart of the living God arising out of that empty tomb.

The godly man sees the scarred hands of his Savior when he reaches out with his own hands to his wife, his children, or a stranger in good deeds and kindness.

Finally, a godly man must learn to say no to the world. The world does not recognize the righteousness of the God whom we serve.

DIANA HAGEE

Why Hollywood Films Need Christian Heroes.


Superman, 'Man of Steel'
Superman, ‘Man of Steel.’

Christian filmmakers could learn a lesson from The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and Man of Steel, and it’s this: Audiences want heroes.

The reason The Blind Side was an astounding success is because Sandra Bullock’s character was heroic. Yes, the movie had conflict. There were times when her friends didn’t understand her and the government questioned her motives. But it was entertaining to watch a white Southern Christian woman stand on her principles and show love. It was worth a $12 ticket and the purchase of a DVD.

The Sound of Music featured Julie Andrews in the signature role of her career as Maria, a Catholic-postulate-turned-governess. She was seeking God’s will for her life. She sought to show love. She saved 20th Century Fox from being ruined by Elizabeth Taylor’s conniving Cleopatra.

Too often Christian filmmakers want to tell the prodigal story. Audiences get dragged through the mud of some sinner’s life and are supposed to go home satisfied with their ticket purchase because the sinner repented in the end. It’s a bit like taking medicine. The thought is, “It’s good for you to see this, and some sinner may see it and get saved.”

There’s a place for such movies. They can, and do, minister to some people. However, they don’t do well at the box office. People go to the pharmacy for medicine, not the movies. If God calls you to make a movie on sex-slave trafficking or drug addition, go ahead and do it. Just don’t be disappointed if it only reaches a small audience, and don’t expect to sell it as the next Blind Side.

Christians who want to transform Hollywood and see the major studios make more uplifting movies should strive to produce movies that do well at the box office—while being uplifting. This is what makes Hollywood want to change. The huge success of The Bible miniseries on the History Channel and Duck Dynasty on A&E is a major topic of Hollywood conversation.

A surprise hit of the 1980s was Chariots of Fire (not made by Christians). Scottish Olympic athlete Eric Liddell played a self-sacrificing, principled Christian hero in contrast to a pride-seeking runner, Harold Abrams.

Just think of the great “Christian” movies of the golden age of Hollywood. Here are some that topped the box office charts for their respective years:

  • Sergeant York (1941), with Gary Cooper
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942), with Greer Garson
  • Going My Way (1944), with Bing Crosby
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman
  • Quo Vadis (1951), with Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr
  • The Robe (1953)with Richard Burton
  • The Ten Commandments (1956), with Charlton Heston
  • Ben Hur (1959), also with Charlton Heston

Every one of them had a profound hero played by a major Hollywood star.

The most successful modern Christian movies have heroes:

  • Facing the Giants
  • Fireproof
  • Amazing Grace
  • Courageous
  • Soul Surfer
  • The Passion of the Christ
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • The Blind Side

At times, the heroes grow into the role, as with Fireproof, but by the end of the movie you have a principled character you want to tell friends to go see.

Television is the same way. Some of the most successful programs featuring Christian faith had heroes—ChristyLittle House on the PrairieTouched by an AngelSeventh Heaven and Walker, Texas Ranger. Sure, episodes sometimes dealt with dark issues, but it was a hero facing the challenge.

Hollywood seems to be waking up.

Russell Crowe stars in Noah, which releases March 28. The preview shows him being threatened by a king with an army behind him. The king says, “I have men at my back. You stand alone, and you defy me?” Noah responds, “I am not alone.” I want to see how that plays out. The preview gives you goosebumps. Unless Noah has some flagrant abuses of the biblical story, you can expect it to do huge business.

Bring on the heroes!

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

DAVID OUTTEN

David Outten is production editor for Movieguide. This article originally appeared on movieguide.org.

What We’ve Gotten Wrong About Women in Ministry.


Woman with mouth taped
God made women to fit, so why do so many see them as a misfit for ministry? (istockphoto.com/airportrait )

Recently I sat watching as my young son’s frustration grew. When I went over to see what the problem was, Noah was trying to put a puzzle together and battling a particular piece he could not get to fit. It seemed to belong, but he couldn’t find its place. He was about to disregard the piece as a misfit, so I gently told him, “Try again, Noah, only this time turn it around.”

Within seconds, it clicked into place. What had seemed useless became useful. The piece had always had a place; it just needed turning around.

As a woman in ministry, I have often felt the role of women can present the same dilemmas this puzzle piece presented my son. The church around the world has had a jarring response to this issue. Some have viewed the “women piece” as a misfit, while others keep turning this topic around in discussion and thought, trying to find where it fits.

God didn’t create Eve as a random piece. He made her to fit Adam both naturally and spiritually; they were a perfect fit. They were called to rule and tend the garden together. Eve was called to be Adam’s helpmate, his partner:

“Male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:27-28).

God knew it required them both to make this picture complete. He wanted Adam’s strengths to fit with Eve’s and for them to be used across the whole garden. He didn’t ask Adam to divide the garden into sections, so as to contain Eve’s influence as a woman. He didn’t separate all the female animals for Eve to feed and nurture so her authority would be gender-specific. God created a power team and entrusted them both to outwork that empowerment together.

So why is it still so awkward in some places to allow both men and women to function together in this way? Why do we divide what God united so beautifully?

For years I have led in my local church alongside incredibly gifted men. I have not seen them as my competition nor my enemy. I have seen them as I believe God wants me to see them: as gifted leaders I am called to lead alongside. My husband and I have found our fit in our home, and we don’t feel we have to change that in God’s home, where we also pastor, teach, train, preach and lead the house together. The house we are building has the voice of a mom and a dad. I don’t just speak on Mother’s Day or at women’s events. I speak to our house, to the men and the women, to the young and the old.

Though it has not always been this way.

My personal journey as a woman in ministry has been to experience the diverse and sometimes dysfunctional ways this “piece” has been handled. I grew up with a huge passion for God’s house and from the age of 14 was dedicated to playing my part to the full. The only problem was that at that time, the church I was a part of saw women in ministry as a misfitting piece. I remember being told I could speak to women about women’s issues but not to the church. I was required to wear a head covering if I was going to speak to the wider body, and while I submitted to my leadership at the time, I was left feeling like a burden when all I wanted to be was a blessing.

My desire as a woman was to help, not hinder, and therefore I had to persevere to keep trying to play my part even when I was told my part was not that necessary. Over time, the church I belonged to changed, and as it adapted, my “piece” became more accepted.

Today I have the privilege to speak and teach across the globe, and as a woman I can see the church embracing more this piece of the picture—yet we still have work to do. We have to ask, Why are we trying to make fit what God has already perfectly made to fit? My prayer is that the church across the globe will harness the power of women and let it add color, depth, insight and beauty to every aspect of God’s house.

I pray that where the issue of women in leadership has become overcomplicated, we will be willing to “turn the piece around” like my son did, see it differently, and discover the wonderful fit God created each of us to be. God did not make any misfits; there is place for us all. My simple prayer is that every piece will take its place so we can get this picture finished, complete in all its beauty, just as our Creator intended.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

CHARLOTTE GAMBILL

Charlotte Gambill is an international speaker and author best known for her practical and passionate application of God’s Word. She is the author of Turnaround God and will be touring with Natalie Grant on the Dare to Be Tour in 2014. Charlotte and her husband, Steve, lead Life Church in England

The land of hope…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“But 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.”
-Genesis 8:1

I remember the time when my dad took my youth pastor and me deep sea fishing. For some reason, at four in the morning I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger and fries. So, now I had this brick in my gut as we’re heading out to sea for several days on this big, smelly fishing boat.

During the entire trip, I was seasick and curled up in a ball on my bunk as we experienced nothing but torrential waters. It was one of the only times in life I really wanted to die. If someone had approached me in this little room filled with sick people where I was sleeping and said, “Here’s a big-gulp-sized glass of hemlock; enjoy your freedom,” I might have seriously been tempted to poison myself.

I wouldn’t have, obviously. Why? Because I knew about land. I knew land was coming! I knew someday, somewhere this boat would pull into a harbor, the waves would stop, I would get off the boat, and I would feel fine again. However, if there had been no land to look forward to, and that rocking, reeling boat was going to be my new reality, I don’t know how I could have carried on.

It’s the hope that something better is coming that keeps us, in the midst of our suffering, from falling into utter despair, or quitting on life, or just giving up, or just checking out and saying, “I’m done with this; I quit.” It’s knowing that “solid land” is coming to relieve us from out “stormy seas.” That’s what hope is!

Prayer: Dear Lord, in the midst of my suffering, you are my solid rock. Whenever life is too much to bear, I know that my future is filled with hope because of you. Amen.

Reflection: When you have experienced a season of suffering, what got you through?

Worshipping When Life Hurts.


woman worshipping
(http://www.istockphoto.com)

Worshipping our Savior, Jesus Christ, is fundamental to living a faith-filled, Spirit-led Christian life. There are multiple worship methods, plans and styles that vary among cultures and geographic boundaries.

The Lord enjoys the diversity of sincere worship when expressed through His Spirit and in truth. Worship should be a way of life, with many facets of expression.

Some worship leaders declare that a certain defining style of worship is the only correct way to worship the Lord, but that is a narrow view of His inexhaustible riches. Music and song are ways we can praise God’s name, but the Word says we can worship God with feasting (Ps. 22:29) and with sacrifices and offerings (Is. 19:21), among other means.

Regardless of the method, the act of worship must be in spirit and truth—from our rational consciousness and consistent with the rest of our lives (John 4:24). We don’t have to be great singers or musicians to worship God. But we do need to be in a personal relationship with Him and live with the truth of His greatness reflecting through all we are becoming and all we do.

I have lived under the weight of many unhealthy labels in my life. But I have a longing in me for the King of heaven to label me, along with Mary of Bethany, as an “extravagant worshipper” (John 12:3).

Extravagant worship is not achieved by taking shortcuts. I have tried shortcuts to worship, and I have tried to do things my way, but I ended up frustrated and farther away from my goal.

Worship involves the giving of ourselves totally to the Lord. It is neither a ritualistic activity nor a musical emotion. It reflects the selfless generosity of Christ.

Worship is a movement of our hearts, our thoughts, and our wills toward God’s heart, thoughts, and will. To practice extravagant worship, you’ll need to get good at saying, “I lay down my life.”

Sacrificial Worship Pleases God

In the Old Testament, Noah was an extravagant worshiper. Genesis 8:20-21 tells about his building an altar to the Lord after the flood and sacrificing offerings on it.

Noah had just witnessed the drowning of all mankind save him and his family. Yet he was still obedient to God’s instruction to offer a sacrifice of praise when they were on dry land again.

When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma of Noah’s sacrifice, He gave us a covenant promise that He would not ever destroy all living creatures again because of one man who offered extravagant, over generous worship in obedience to God’s command. Noah lived through extreme circumstances, but he still praised God in the midst of them.

Likewise, when God tested Abraham, He said, “‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about'” (Gen. 22:2).

Abraham built the altar and then bound his son and laid him on it. But when he took up his knife to slay his precious boy, “The angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’

“‘Here I am,’ he replied.

“‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son'” (vv. 11-12).

Abraham was excessive in his act of worship. He was prepared to give to the Lord the thing he loved the most.

David wanted to offer a sacrifice to the Lord to stop a plague on the Lord’s people. So he asked Araunah to sell him a place on his threshing floor to build an altar (1 Chr. 21:18-22).

Araunah wanted to give the area and livestock needed for David’s sacrifice at no charge. But David said, “‘No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing'” (vv. 23-24).

When Paul and Silas were in jail, even though they had been flogged for preaching the gospel and now had their feet in stocks, they prayed and sang to God. Suddenly, while they were worshiping, a violent earthquake opened all the doors of the prison.

Thinking his prisoners had escaped, the jailer was so distraught that he was about to kill himself, but Paul and Silas stopped him and led him to salvation before they were released. God supernaturally delivered them from that prison (Acts 16:23-39).

Throughout the Bible, whenever someone demonstrated extravagant worship, God reacted with extravagant blessing. What makes worship extravagant? It must cost us something.

Worship is an act of obedient faith, even when circumstances offer opportunities to fear. It is also a life of extravagant love for God. Worship, love and obedience are tied together.

As you seek first the kingdom of God and obey the Spirit of God, He calls you on to a deeper knowledge of Himself. The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (John 14:21-24; Matt. 22:37).

David prayed, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Ps. 86:11). Make this your prayer as you serve God passionately with your life. This will cause the blessings of heaven to pour out upon your world.

Love Expresses Worship 

To be a worshipper is to fall in love with God, the Author of love, and accept the love He has for you. God gave you His Word as a living love letter that contains everything you will ever need to get through this life and beyond.

His love is at work within us, filling us to the measure with the fullness of God. If we could understand even an inkling of this love Christ has for us, our hearts would be full of extravagant worship for the One who loves us so much.

The many songs I’ve written to express my love for God don’t come close to what I’m trying to say. But I can demonstrate my love for God by living out my part of the Great Commission and bringing the Author of love to our love-starved planet. I can determine to love others as He loves.

When I was saved I cried and cried in the presence of God. Tears of gratitude flowed easily as He restored my heart and filled me with His unconditional love. Now all I want to do is sing of His awesome, healing love forever.

One of the biggest challenges in life for the mind and soul is simply to accept God’s love for you as a gift. It is the greatest absolute in your life.

John 3:16 states, “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (AMP). Because His love is in our hearts, we have the power to love others (1 John 4:7-13).

Loving others is an act of worship toward the Author of love. But until you know through personal experience who God is, you will never know the depth of His love for you. And until you know that you are loved, you can never love others as you love yourself (Matt. 22:39).

Know Your Worth to God 

Many people, including myself, have battled with insecurity, inadequacy and intimidation. It is difficult to carry the weight of inferiority into our time of worship.

Worship is a time to focus on who God is. It is a time to enjoy the awesome authority and anointing that He puts on His people who come into His presence with praise. Sometimes the enemy works very hard to keep us from worshiping freely, but sometimes we simply lack discipline in our thought life.

If we read the Word and keep God’s truth in our hearts, we will focus our attention on His greatness and on the value that He places on us. God sees all our inadequacies through the blood of Christ. Because of Jesus, our heavenly Father sees us just as He sees His Son–beautiful and perfect.

God looks at us just as a loving parent looks at his children. My three daughters could be naughty, but I look at them, and I think they are perfect.

Unapologetically, I think they are magnificent. That is the heart of a parent. How much more does God look at us and say, “Oh, they are My precious, beloved children.”

When you understand who you are in Christ, a rest enters your soul that cannot coexist with striving and struggling. Just as darkness cannot coexist with light, striving for approval does not coexist with confidence in His grace. And who you are in Christ matters more than what you do.

I was the girl “least likely to succeed.” But my future has never relied on anyone else’s opinion of my ability.

I’m a testimony of God’s grace. The very least we can do is give God our lives and let Him show us the great things He can do through our yielded hearts and hands.

We have been created with the divine purpose of having Jesus as the center of our existence. We were created to worship Him in all we do (Heb. 10:19-23).

Through worship we put Christ as the chief cornerstone of our lives, and the power we have access to in His presence is real. He longs for us to draw closer to Him.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

DARLENE ZSCHECH

We Don’t Find Grace, Grace Finds Us.


Tullian Tchividjian

I love the introduction to Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible.  A piece of it goes like this:

“Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but…most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves.”

She’s right. I think that most people, when they read the Bible (and especially when they read the Old Testament), read it as a catalog of heroes (on the one hand) and cautionary tales (on the other). For instance, don’t be like Cain — he killed his brother in a fit of jealousy – but do be like Noah: God asked him to do something crazy, and he had the faith to follow through.

Running counter to this idea of Bible-as-hero-catalog, I find that some of the best news in the Bible is that God incessantly comes to the down-trodden, broken, and non-heroic characters. It’s good news because it means he comes to people like me — and like you. It’s very interesting to note thateven the characters we think have spotless records (like Noah) need the direct intervention of the true “lamb without blemish.”

Noah is often presented to us as the first character in the Bible really worthy of emulation. Adam? Sinner. Eve? Sinner. Cain? Big sinner! But Noah? Finally, someone we can set our sights on, someone we can shape our lives after, right? This is why so many Sunday School lessons handle the story of Noah like this: “Remember, you can believe what God says! Just like Noah! You too can stand up to unrighteousness and wickedness in our world like Noah did. Don’t be like the bad people who mocked Noah. Be like Noah.”

I understand why many would read this account in this way. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that Noah “was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9)? Pretty incontrovertible, right?

Not so fast.

Let’s take a closer look. You can’t understand verse 9 properly unless you understand its context.  Here’s the whole section, verses 5-7:

“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’”

Now that’s a little different, isn’t it? Look at all the superlatives:every inclination, only evil, all the time! That kind of language doesn’t leave a lot of room for exceptions…and “exception” is just the way Noah has always been described to me. “Well,” I hear, “Everyone was sinful except Noah. He was able to be a righteous man in a sinful world…it’s what we’re all called to be.” But that’s not at all what God says! He says, simply and bluntly, that he “will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created.” No exceptions. No exclusions.

So what happens? How do we get from verse 7 (“I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created…for I regret that I have made them.”) to verse 9 (“Noah was a righteous man.”)?  We get from here to there – from sin to righteousness — by the glory of verse 8, which highlights the glory of God’s initiating grace.

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).

Some read this and make it sound like God is scouring the earth to find someone—anyone—who is righteous. And then one day, while searching high and low, God sees Noah and breathes a Divine sigh of relief. “Phew…there’s at least one.” But that’s not what it says.

“Favor” here is the same word that is translated elsewhere as “grace.” In other words, as is the case with all of us who know God, it was God who found us—we didn’t find God. We are where we are today, not because we found grace, but because grace found us. In his book Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis recounts his own conversion with these memorable words:

“You must picture me alone in my room, night after night, feeling the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had come upon me. In the fall term of 1929 I gave in and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most reluctant convert in all England. Modern people cheerfully talk about the search for God. To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.”

It took the grace of God to move Noah from the ranks of the all-encompassing unrighteous onto the rolls of the redeemed. Pay special attention to the order of things: 1) Noah is a sinner, 2) God’s grace comes to Noah, and 3) Noah is righteous. Noah’s righteousness is not a precondition for his receiving favor (though we are wired to read it this way)…his righteousness is a result of his having already received favor!

The Gospel is not a story of God meeting sinners half-way, of God desperately hoping to find that one righteous man on whom he can bestow his favor. The news is so much better than that. The Gospel is that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Sinners like Noah, like you, and like me are recipients of a descending, one-way love that changes everything, breathes new life into dead people, and has the power to carry us from unrighteousness to righteousness without an ounce of help.

So, even in the story of Noah, we see that the Bible is a not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people. Far from being a book full of moral heroes whom we are commanded to emulate, what we discover is that the so-called heroes in the Bible are not really heroes at all. They fall and fail; they make huge mistakes; they get afraid; they’re selfish, deceptive, egotistical, and unreliable. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His grace, our badness with His goodness.

Yes, God is the hero of every story—even the story of Noah.

Living by Faith in an Uncertain World.


[Content provided by Keep Believing Ministries.]

I received an email from someone who is struggling with some decisions that have not worked out the way they expected. The details don’t matter except to say that the person took what seemed to be a step of faith and the result has been a great big mess.

“What did I do wrong?”

That’s a natural question to ask when life rewards your courage with nothing but trouble. The truth is, it’s entirely possible that this person did nothing wrong. Or maybe they did, but their current troubles are not proof that they were wrong in the first place.

That’s a hard truth to accept, especially when you’re the one in the middle of the mess, after you’ve done what you thought was the will of God. There are a lot of things that might be said at this point, but perhaps this one needs to be mentioned first.

Join the club.

What club is that? The International Fellowship of Faith-Walkers Who Feel Like Failures. The bad new is, we’re all a member of that club at one time or another. The good news is the membership includes every major Bible hero. Peter is a charter member. And so is David. And Gideon. And Noah. And Sarah. And Job. And Jacob.

The list goes on and on. Hebrews 11 offers us a long list of men and women who obeyed God even when things didn’t always work out they way they expected. The names written there are like a biblical hall of fame: Abel . . . Enoch . . . Noah . . . Abraham . . . Sarah . . . Jacob . . . Joseph . . . Moses . . . Joshua . . . David. Different people, different stories, widely separated in time and space. Stories that span thousands of years. Stories that encompass murder, natural catastrophe, family treachery, physical weakness, failed dreams, missed opportunities, sibling rivalry, and military conquest. The men and women whose stories are told in this particular chapter differ in every way but one. What they did, they did by faith.

All of them had moments when they must have wondered, “What did I do wrong?” Yet God considered each of them worthy of mention in this great chapter. Our focus in this message is on the man we often call “Father Abraham.” In the Bible he stands as the preeminent example of a man who lived by faith. Hebrews 11:8-10 tells how he obeyed God’s call at great personal sacrifice. It tells us what he did; more importantly, it tells us why he did it. And it clearly shows us that obeying God doesn’t always work out the way we think it will.

Let’s begin with some brief facts about Abraham. When we meet him in the Bible, he is living 4,000 years ago in a far-off place called Ur of the Chaldees – on the banks of the Euphrates River, not far from the mouth of the Persian Gulf. No doubt he and his wife Sarah worshiped the moon-god Sin. He is a prosperous, middle-aged man, successful by any human standard. Life has been good to Abraham and Sarah. Certainly they have no reason to complain.

It is at precisely this moment that God speaks to him – clearly, definitely, unmistakably. What God says will change his life – and ultimately alter the course of world history.

So what does it mean to live by faith in an uncertain world?

Truth #1: Living by faith means accepting God’s call without knowing where it will lead.

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). There is only one way to describe Ur of the Chaldees. It was a world-class city. Archaeologists tell us that in Abraham’s day perhaps 250,000 people lived there. It was a center of mathematics, astronomy, commerce and philosophy. People from outlying areas moved to Ur because they wanted to be part of that great city.

No doubt many of Abraham’s friends thought he was crazy. Why would anyone want to leave Ur? Obeying God’s call meant giving up his friends, his career, his traditions, his home, his position, his influence, and his country. More than that, it meant risking his health and his future on a vague promise from an unseen God to lead him to “a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

When Abraham left Ur, he burned his bridges behind him. For him there could be no turning back. Once he left the walls of Ur, he was on his own, following God’s call into the unknown.

You say, “He gave all that up?”
“Yes.”
“That’s kind of strange, isn’t it?”
“Is it?”

Please don’t miss the point. When God calls, there are no guarantees about tomorrow. Abraham truly didn’t know where he was going, didn’t know how he would get there, didn’t know how long it would take, and didn’t even know for sure how he would know he was there when he got there. All he knew was that God had called him. Period. Everything else was up in the air.

You want a long life? So do I.
You want to rise in your profession? So do I.
You want lots of friends? So do I.
You want to grow old and die with your family around you? So do I.

There’s nothing wrong with those desires. All of us feel that way. But living by faith means no guarantees and no certainty about the future.

I was once approached by a Christian ministry asking if I would consider a particular position in their organization. I met the people, liked them very much, and was very impressed by what they were doing. As I investigated further, I found that they take very good care of the people who work for them. I liked everything I learned about the people and their ministry. But when the moment came, I decided to say no. This isn’t how I put it to them, but it’s how I said it to myself.

I couldn’t hear the bells ringing.

You either understand that or you don’t. If you don’t, there isn’t much I can say that will be helpful. And if you do, there isn’t any explanation that is needed. But I will add this much. All of us come to moments in life when we say yes or no to certain opportunities simply because it’s the right thing to do at the time. Sometimes we take a job because we need to pay bills and take care of our family. It’s hard to get more basic than that. And young people take jobs in various places as they are building their careers. I just read an article that suggests that the average worker in the US may have as many as 10 jobs by the time he is 40 and will make 3-5 career changes by the time he retires. People make moves and change jobs and relocate and start over again for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes you are forced to make decisions for reasons beyond your control. In these tough economic times, people scramble to take whatever jobs they can find. But there are moments in life when you have a choice, a decision, and you can stay where you are or you can do something different. I don’t know of any failsafe way to know in advance how things will work out.

Abraham heard the bells ringing (not literally – that’s a symbol for a sense of God’s calling), and so he left Ur of the Chaldees. If you truly want to do God’s will, sometimes you will find yourself exactly where Abraham was – setting out on a new journey that doesn’t seem to make sense from the world’s point of view. How would he ever explain his decision to leave the comfort of Ur for the uncertainty of a long trek across the desert? The only certainty he had was that God had called him and he must obey. The rest was shrouded in mystery. That fact makes his obedience all the more impressive. The NIV version of Hebrews 11:8 says he “obeyed and went.” There was no greater miracle in his life than that. Everything else that happened flowed from this basic decision. God called; he obeyed. That truth was the secret of his life. He stepped out in faith even though there were no guarantees about his own personal future.

Let me put it another way. Living by faith means stepping out for God and leaving the results to him. It’s no guarantee of long life and good success. You may have those blessings. But you may not.

The life of faith means, “I am going to be the man or woman God wants me to be, no matter where it leads. I don’t know the future, but I’m trusting him to work out the details. In the meantime, I step out by faith and follow where he leads me.”

That brings us to the second great truth about living by faith.

Truth #2: Living by faith means waiting on God to keep his promises.

“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.” (Hebrews 11:9). There is within all of us a natural desire to settle down. The older I get, the less I like to move. I value coming home to the same place and the same faces every day. Several years ago we moved from Oak Park, Illinois to Tupelo, Mississippi. As we were packing, our home was filled with boxes waiting to be loaded on the moving truck. It was unsettling to look at bare walls that only a few days before were covered with familiar pictures. Suddenly that home looked less like a home and more like a building where we used to live in some distant past. Now run the clock forward 18 months. When we came back to Oak Park for a visit, we drove past our old home on Wesley Avenue. I had a strange sensation, as if I remembered living there in the distant past. It looked the same but it didn’t feel like home to me at all.

There is a certain rootlessness about our life at this point that is instructive. Now that our boys are in their twenties, they are going in all directions at once. Four years ago our oldest son left to teach English in China. He came back and another son went to China. That son came back and another son left for China. Josh met Leah, they got married and went to China for a year. Mark met Vanessa when they served on the same team in China. After they came back to the States, they got married. When Josh and Leah returned to the States two weeks ago, it was the first time in four years that we haven’t had a son in China. Two years ago our family was together for a total of three days. Last year I think we were all together for about five days. This year we will all be together for three or four days. That’s the way life is – and will be for the foreseeable future. It has hit me that home is a matter of the heart, a moving target, not so much a place as being with the people you love the most. Wherever they are – in the U.S. or in China or anywhere else – is home in the truest sense.

The rootlessness I spoke about can leave you with a vague sense of uneasiness, of trying to figure out where you belong. Multiply that feeling by a factor of 100 and spread it out over fifty years and you approximate Abraham’s situation as he came to the Promised Land. Our text tells us that he lived in tents. I know lots of people who like to camp on vacation, but I don’t know anyone who voluntarily lives in a tent as a permanent residence. Tents speak of impermanence, of the possibility of moving on at any moment, of the fact that you live on land you do not personally own.

That’s Abraham. He didn’t own anything in the Promised Land. God had promised to give him the land; yet he lived like a stranger in a foreign country. If you don’t own the land, you can’t build a permanent dwelling there.

In many ways this is even more remarkable than leaving Ur in the first place. As long as he was traveling across the desert, he could dream about the future. But when he got to Canaan, all illusions disappeared. Think of what he didn’t find:

  • No “Welcome, Abraham” sign.
  • No discount coupons from the merchants.
  • No housewarming party.
  • No visit from the Welcome Wagon.
  • No mayor with the key to the city.
  • No band playing “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
  • No ticker-tape parade.

Nobody expected him. Nobody cared that he had come. Nobody gave him anything.

God had promised him the land . . . but he had to scratch out an existence in tents. Hundreds of years would pass before the promise was completely fulfilled. Abraham never saw it happen. Neither did Isaac or Jacob.

Was Abraham in the will of God? Yes. Was he right to leave Ur? Yes. Was he doing what God wanted him to do? Yes. Why, then, was he living in tents? Because God’s timetable is not the same as ours. He’s not in a big hurry like we are. God works across the generations to accomplish his purposes; we’re worried about which dress or shirt to buy for the big party this weekend. There is a big difference in those two perspectives.

A third principle at work in Abraham’s life is the ultimate key to the life of faith.

Truth #3: Living by faith means never taking your eyes off heaven.

“For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”(Hebrews 11:10). As I have mediated on this verse, it hit me that there is a certain amount of disappointment built into the life of faith. Sometimes we think, “If I follow God’s call, everything will work out and I’ll be happy all the time.” As Dr. Phil likes to say, let me know how that works out for you. By saying that Abraham was “looking forward” to a city, it really means that he never found what he was looking for in this life. This world comes with a huge helping of frustration built into the core of everything. Just recently I read about a certain baseball manager who led his team to a World Series championship. It was a happy moment, the apex of his career, the proof that he had finally arrived, that he was a success and the best in the world at that moment. The next morning as he went outside to pick up the paper, he thought to himself, “Is that all there is?” The answer is yes, that’s all there is. It’s the same way with everything we do and everything we accomplish.

We live, we die, we buy a house, we sell a house, someone moves in where we once lived. We take a job, we leave a job, someone else takes the job we used to have. And if we are fortunate enough to have a corner office with an incredible view, we should remember that someone else had it before us and someone else will have it after us. If this moment is golden for you, enjoy it but don’t grasp it too tightly because it won’t last forever.

That’s one part of the life of faith. We never reach full satisfaction in this life. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” said Robert Browning. And that brings us to the second part of verse 10. Abraham looked for a city with foundations—that is, for a “city,” not a lonely spot in the desert. He wanted to live in a place filled with other people. He also looked for a city with “foundations,” a place with security and permanence that could not be found in a tent. That meant he was looking for a city designed and built by God. Why? Because all earthly cities eventually crumble to dust.

Not long ago I visited the ruins of the ancient city of Jericho. When most people think of Jericho, they think of the city whose walls came tumbling down in the days of Joshua. But that’s only one Jericho. Archaeologists have discovered layers of Jericho, one after another, the city having been built, destroyed, and rebuilt across the centuries. The same is true of Jerusalem. When you visit Old Jerusalem, you aren’t exactly “walking where Jesus walked.” You are actually walking thirty to seventy-five feet above where Jesus walked. According to one source, Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt at least forty-seven times in the last 3,500 years.

That’s the way it is with all earthly cities. Nothing built by man lasts forever. No wonder Abraham was looking for a city built and designed by God. Revelation 21 describes that city as “the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (v. 2). In his vision John saw a city of breathtaking beauty, shining with the glory of God, “its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (v. 11). Christians have always looked to the New Jerusalem as the final abode for the people of God, the place where we will spend eternity together in the presence of the Lord. But note this. Heaven is a city. It’s a real place filled with real people. That’s the city Abraham was looking for when he left Ur of the Chaldees.

Following God’s will doesn’t guarantee worldly success. He had his heart set on heaven, and that explains why he could:

  • Leave the beautiful city of Ur.
  • Walk away from his career.
  • Leave his friends far behind.
  • Live in tents until the end of his life.
  • Start all over again in a new land.
  • Die without seeing all that God had promised.

Abraham knew he was going to heaven, and that changed his whole perspective on life. He knew not just that he was going to die, but that after death he was going to enter a city God had designed and made.

Let me add one final thought from this passage. If you had been a consultant watching Abraham’s life, you would probably say that he committed career suicide when he left Ur of the Chaldees. It didn’t make sense at the time, and frankly, the rest of his life was never a “success” in worldly terms. Hebrews 11:10 says that Abraham was motivated by a vision of something the people around him simply couldn’t grasp. He was looking forward to something they couldn’t see at all.Following God will sometimes lead you to make decisions that those around you simply will not understand. When that happens, all you can do is to explain things as best you can, and then set off to obey God’s call, leaving the results in his hands.

“Died at Twenty-five, Buried at Seventy-five”

Let me ask a personal question: How long do you expect to live? To put it more pointedly, how many more years do you think you have left before someone holds your funeral service? Ten years? Twenty years? Thirty years? Forty years? Fifty years? Sixty years? How much of that time are you sure of? The last question is easy. You’re not sure about any of it. The truth is, you could die tomorrow – or today – from any of a thousand causes. No one knows how long he or she will live or precisely when they will die. There are no guarantees for any of us.

It’s not how long you live that matters, but what you do with the years you are given. Too many people die at age twenty-five but aren’t buried until they are seventy-five. They waste their best years in trivial pursuits, all the while missing out on the excitement of living by faith.

Here is the whole message in one sentence. Following God’s will doesn’t guarantee worldly success. The operative word is worldly. God has one view of success; the world has another. Joshua 1:8 reminds us that those who meditate on God’s Word will be “prosperous and successful.” Psalm 1 contrasts the fool who looks to the wicked for advice with the godly who builds his life on the Word of God. The latter will be like “a tree planted by streams of waters” (v. 3a). God rewards such a man in this way: “In all that he does, he prospers” (v. 3b). But let’s not confuse that with the false notion that doing God’s will leads to a trouble-free life. Abraham lived in tents all his life. He died without receiving all that God had promised to him. In many ways you could say that by leaving Ur, he forfeited any chance at worldly greatness. Never again would he know the stability and settled prosperity that he had in Ur. From the day he left until the day he died, Abraham was a sojourner, a tent-dweller, a man living on land he did not own.

If it’s safety you want and a guarantee of earthly success, then you’ll have to look somewhere else. But if you are willing to follow Jesus, I can promise you that you’ll never be disappointed in him and your life will not be boring.

If you ever decide to make God’s will the great priority of your life, you will discover that it is indeed an incredible journey. Like Abraham of old, your search for God’s will will lead you out of your comfort zone into the exciting arena of living by faith. Along the way, you will discover that you can indeed survive without absolute certainty about what tomorrow will bring. You may even learn to enjoy living on the edge between faith and absolute disaster. In any case, knowing God’s will will cease to be an academic exercise, like doing your homework before going to bed at night. Instead, it will become the most exciting adventure you’ve ever known as you set out into the unknown to follow God wherever he leads you.

[Content provided by Keep Believing Ministries.]

  • By Dr. Ray Pritchard /Keep Believing Ministries

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