Monday, November 27, 2017

By Faith, Noah


[Drawing of Noah and the ark]

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet
seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”
—Hebrews 11:7

Noah lived in a time of wickedness and violence. God determined things were so bad that He needed to start over by destroying everything except a germ of life that He had made. He saw Noah, a man who He favored because of Noah’s righteous way of living. The Bible says Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). God decided that He would spare Noah and his family with yet another test of his faith.

The earth had never known “rain” up to this point. God watered the ground by a mist. So, when God directed Noah to build a huge ark to prepare for a flood of rain, Noah had to believe that something new was about to happen. So, he obeyed and built on dry land, this enormous boat to preserve his family and the animals that God brought to him. Day after day he built, trusting God’s promise.

After the flood came and Noah and his family safely floated above the water for 40 days and 40 nights, the rain stopped. I would imagine they counted the days, and hoped that soon they could discover some dry land. However, in Genesis 7:24, the Bible says that the waters covered the earth for 150 days. After he waited longer, Noah, hoping to have good news, released a raven from the ark. However, finding no place to land, the raven came back to the ark.

Noah waited and sent out a dove with the same result. The dove found no place to light. Once more, this time after seven days, Noah sent the dove out again. This time when the dove returned, he must have felt encouraged with the fresh olive leaf in the dove’s beak. Again, he waited a week and sent the dove out. This time it did not return.

After a full year God invited Noah and his family to leave the ark. Upon stepping onto dry land, Noah built an altar. They worshipped and praised the God who had kept and rescued them. Noah’s faith at last had been rewarded.

We can learn so much from this old story. By obeying God and building the ark, Noah worked by faith. By staying in the ark, seemingly longer than he expected, Noah waited by faith. And once he and his family exited the ark safely, Noah worshipped by faith.

It may be that you have trusted God for something and done what you feel God has shown you to do. Perhaps you have waited and waited, far beyond the amount of time you expected, day by day trusting and praying. Then, you can expect that God will finally come to you. When He comes, how natural to present to Him an offering of thanksgiving for answered prayer, for sustenance, and for the end of the trial.

At some time, most of us will experience a faith-growing experience like Noah’s. May we find the same kind of favor from our loving and faithful God!



Monday, November 20, 2017

Leg Bone, Please!


[Photo of a platter of carved turkey]

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
—Luke 14:11

Did you ever know anyone who, when seated for a Thanksgiving feast, always asked for the leg bone so that the better portions could be given to someone else? Now, I realize that even a turkey leg bone can be very tasty, but it’s probably not the choice piece of the meat. Or maybe you know someone who regularly would peer over the cook’s shoulder as the turkey was sliced, pointing out the brownest, tenderest looking piece and asking her to save it for him.

Jesus told a parable to some guests at a banquet whom he noticed picked out the places of honor for themselves at the table. (Luke 14:1-14) To these people, He spoke and told them not to take these places of honor, because it might happen that the host would want someone else to sit there and ask those seated to move to another, less important seat. How humiliating! Much better, He said, that you should sit in the lowest place so that, if the host desires, he can invite you to a higher place of honor.

Jesus always likes to turn our human ways upside down. He will often exalt people who may not even be noticed in the typical day-by-day happenings of life. And, in exchange, allow those who seem full of their own importance to become humiliated. God wants humble followers. He never seems to honor or lift up people whom He hasn’t first seen either humbled of their own accord or humiliated by circumstances He allows.

Lord, help us not to live puffed up, better-than-others lives. Instead, help us to live our lives with eyes to please You, even if that means taking a low position until You change the circumstances.



Monday, November 13, 2017

In Step


[Photo of someone walking on gravel]

“Since we live by the Spirit, let
us keep in step with the Spirit.”
—Galatians 5:25


I could hear him coming down the hallway past my classroom one morning, quietly singing the words to this familiar Disney song. I laughed to myself because Aaron, true to his methodical self, sang it at least half as fast as its common tempo, and he slid along the wall as he slowly made his way to his classroom—never in a hurry, and in his own inner imaginative world.

Conversely, Ellie always ran to her classroom, ignoring clearly stated hallway rules and oft repeated warnings. She had things to do, places to go, people to see!

Do we not act like these children with our Heavenly Father? We seem to either drag along when we know He wants us to do something for Him, or we get so far ahead of Him, thinking we know where He wants us to go, that we run forward without His specific direction. Scripture gives us examples of both kinds of people who thought they “walked” with the Lord.

The slow goer, Moses, argued with God that he wasn’t eloquent enough for the assignment He was given. (Exodus 4:10) He revealed his doubts that anyone would listen to him, and tried to wiggle out of the role God had for him to speak to the Israelites in Egypt. (Exodus 4:1). He dragged his feet at God’s call.

Then we read about Sarai, Abraham’s barren wife, who thought God had decided not to act in giving Abraham a son, so she would take up the task herself by giving Abraham her servant girl. (Genesis 16). What trouble she brought on her household, and the world by that act of running ahead of God.

Neither the doubtful hangers-back nor the presumptive racers walk with the Lord properly. He wants us to walk by faith, and that means staying close to Him. Pray the following with serious intention today:

Lord, keep me walking so closely with you today in faith that I neither get ahead of you nor linger behind. May your voice be clear to me as I listen, and may my steps be in line with your will. May we walk together this day. Amen.



Monday, November 6, 2017

Team Spirit


[Photo of a lone male fan standing at a sports event]

“And let us consider how we may spur one another
on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give
up meeting together, as some are in the habit of
doing, but let us encourage one another—
and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
—Hebrews 10:24-25

An illustration that Pastor Max Lucado uses reminds me of a very important Christian principle. He tells the story of being in Boston for a conference and deciding to take in a Celtics basketball game. They were playing his favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs.

Max found himself standing and cheering alone when “his” team did well, and upon doing so, received stares from the Boston fans around him. A few minutes later, as he stood to cheer, he noticed another Spurs fan across the aisle. When Max stood, he stood. When Max cheered, he cheered. They were united by a common love and purpose.

That story reminded me of the day in my public school teaching career, when, feeling very much alone in my faith, I met a Christian teacher’s assistant who had playground duty with me. We bolstered each other in our faith during those days, and formed a prayer relationship as well.

Soon, that twosome grew to three or four others, and then, a few years later, I became involved with a Christian organization that encourages Christian teachers to live as “salt” and “light”—following the admonition of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew 5:13-16. What an encouragement we became to each other.

Jesus meant the Church to not only exist to give us a place to worship and minister to others, but to also as a place of community and fellowship. We need a place to expose our wounds from the week to the balm of caring brothers and sisters. We need a place where we can hear the encouragement of God’s work in the lives of others, in order to encourage our own faith. We must not miss out on this important, regularly attended event each week!

Max Lucado puts it like this:

All week you cheer for the visiting team. You applaud the success of the One the world opposes. You stand when everyone sits and sit when everyone stands.

At some point you need support. You need to be with folks who cheer when you do. You need what the Bible calls fellowship. And you need it every week. After all, you can only go so long before you think about joining the crowd.1


1 Lucado, Max. When God Whispers Your Name. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group. Copyright by Max Lucado, 1994, 1999. pg. 140.