Standing Out From the Crowd

Genesis 6:7-10standing out in a crowd

An old song I remember from childhood went:  “Noah found grace in the eye of the Lord and He left him high and dry!”

Never being much a fan of water… the lyrics “high and dry” drew me into His grace.  I knew I didn’t want to get wet!

“Pick me, Lord.  Pick me!” was my heart’s cry.  I wanted to stand out from the crowd like Noah and be rescued from the world flood.

As I grew up I discovered that standing out from the crowd came at a price.  I didn’t like standing out from the crowd that much anymore.  My prayers became more like:  “Lord, could you just make me like everybody else?”  “Could you do something about this puny bicep, Lord?”  “Could you shrink my nose a bit?”  Of course that didn’t happen.

The good news is that there came a day when I wanted to stand out again.   A day when I longed to stand out from the crowd… standing in the fields of His grace!  But at 16 the questions became:  “What will make me stand out as worthy of God’s grace or attention?  What will make the Lord “pick” me?”

Genesis 6:8 says:  “…Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (6:8)  How did he do it?  The next few verses give us some ideas.  As does several verses in Hebrews chapter 11.

One thing is clear… it wasn’t something Noah earned by being good.  The word for “favor” here is also translated:  “acceptance” or “grace.”  Note that Noah didn’t “earn” favor in the eyes of the Lord.  Noah was just as sinful as his contemporaries.  Yet God graced this one who “stood out.”

1.  Noah Sought the Lord.

Hebrews 11:6 says:  “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Noah had no goodness to bring… but he could throw himself upon the mercy of God.  In a world as ungodly as his was… being a mercy seeker… caused him to stand out.  And Noah believed that God was a rewarder of those who seek after Him.

2.  Noah Sought to Live Righteously

Genesis 6:9 records that he was a “righteous man, blameless in his time.”  These choices also made him stand out from his peers.  He wasn’t perfect.  No man or woman can be.  But his heart was right.  And he most likely was broken over his sin.  His faith and not his works would save him.  Grace would eventually bloom in Jesus Christ.  (The ark would become a picture of saving grace.  But more on that in the next blog.)

3Noah walked with God.

“Noah walked with God.”  Like Enoch in the chapter before, Noah too had intimacy with the Almighty.   This was displayed by his his actions.

Noah:

Waited…. 120 years of listening to lame giraffe jokes.

Preached… 2 Peter calls him “a preacher of righteousness.”  Noah probably had his share of rotten tomatoes hurled at him.

Entered… (Genesis 7:7) Don’t think that this didn’t require faith. A boat built by one that wasn’t a boat builder that has been stuffed with animals from across the planet. I wouldn’t be at ease being enclosed in such a vessel.

And Waited Some More… (v.8) – One week passed before a single drop of rain fell.

Whether  Noah was called to physical activity (ark building) or to passive activity (waiting on the Lord)… Noah remained faithful.

4.  Noah was a good father.

“Noah became the father of three sons:  Shem, Ham and Japheth.” (6:10)  Why do I even mention this?  Because Noah’s fatherhood is mentioned again and again in the book of Genesis. (5:32; 6:10; 6:13; 9:18-19)  Genesis 10 even records the genealogy of each his children.  In the Hebrews 11 the author notes that Noah: “in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” (11:7)

Dad’s obedience was crucial for the survival of this family.  Mom or Dad, your obedience to God is just as crucial for the survival of your children.

———————-

So….in a nation of rebels… How did Noah stand out?  By seeking the Lord’s favor, by living righteously (even if everyone else was not), by possessing an active faith, and by being a good parent to his children.

The question is:  Do you stand out in THIS generation?  God’s desire is for all to come to faith in Him (1 Timothy 2:4).  He wants to choose everybody.  He chooses those who exercise faith in Him.  And like Noah… He leaves them “High and Dry!”

A Closer Walk

Mendocino_Coast_Botanical_Gardens4Genesis 5:24

About 23 years ago, I visited a beautiful locale just north of Mendocino, CA:  The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.  Let me give you a brief tour.  You begin in a rose garden… a maze of petals and thorns.  From there you take a path further in toward a shaded area with a variety of ferns.  From there you see a beautiful field (no doubt where many weddings have taken place).  If it is spring, you will find a spread of wild flowers soaking up the California sunshine.  Continuing down the path, you will spot an opening ahead arched by trees.  And if you have been listening carefully you won’t be surprised at what you see once you pass through it.  Suddenly and dramatically before you, your senses are assaulted with rugged beauty and glory of the Pacific Ocean.  As you walk along a dirt path you marvel at the large jagged rocks jutting up out of the ocean.    You can then sit in wonder as you witness chilly Arctic waters unleash their fury upon the ragged coastline.

Thirteen years ago I went to this beautiful spot in Mendocino county and the journey I just described to you is burned into my memory.  It is a parable of life for me.  For life has its roses and thorns, ferns and flowers, beautiful waves and a rocky coast.  It is also filled with amazement and surprise.  And like my journey that day, life is made sweeter when you walk with someone you love. In my case, I strolled and climbed and gazed with my bride to be, Janine.  It was a day burned into my memory… because… I did not walk it alone.  I walked with the one that I loved.

mendocino coast botanical gardens3Today’s Scripture is about a man named Enoch.  What do we know about him?  Not much.  Genesis 5 reads:

21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. 22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

The man that fathered the oldest man that ever lived, Methuselah, actually “outlived” his son.  For while all the other names in chapter 5 end with “…and he died,”  Enoch “was not.”    No embalming was necessary when Enoch left this earth… because there was              no body in the casket at his funeral!

The life of this relatively “unknown” Scriptural hero is recorded here in Scripture… not because he could fight like Joshua, or pray like Daniel or preach like Peter.  Enoch is best known for the way he chose to live his life…  In the 56 words Moses uses to describe the man named Enoch… twice it was said of him that he walked with God.  Maybe there is some hope for us “unknowns.”  Our steps might be unknown to men… but they are noticed by God.

Author Eugene Peterson defines discipleship as “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”  If that is a true definition:  Enoch modeled it.  And he well understood the words of the prophet Micah:

       He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, emphasis mine)

A old hymn says:  When we walk with the Lord in the Light of his Word, what a glory He sheds on our way. That sounds lovely.  But how does one go about walking with God? Is there a permission slip? Can I sign up at the Y?  What kind of conditioning do I need for it?

Actually, taking a walk with God begins when we realize that we are on a journey. When we discover that our lives follow not some twisted mess of chance and circumstance, but a path with a beginning (our birth day) and an ending (the second date chiseled into our tombstone), and we see that our days are actually progressing toward something, it is then that we can seek a traveling companion.

One day we will each near the end of our journeys.  Will we on that day have truly completed our journey?”  Will we find our faith to have fully developed?  Will we be able to say, “I walked with God.”

The secret to a memorable life… is sharing the journey with someone memorable.  I’ve never forgotten my date with Janine over two decades ago.  You don’t want to miss a moment of life’s journey either.  Make it memorable.  Walk with God.

And what a glory He will shed on our our way!

Love is the Whole Ball Game

love is the whole ballgameGenesis 4:1-12

John Ortberg in his book, When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box, has an interesting paraphrase of the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter):  “If I make a fortune, get the cover of Time magazine, and become attractive, comfortable, and secure, but have no love, I have rolled snake eyes. No matter how much I win, if I win alone, I lose. Love is the ball game.” (p. 203.)

In Genesis 4 we encounter the first sibling rivalry.  Cain murders his brother Abel in a fit of jealous rage.  When quizzed about his brother’s whereabouts, Cain responds: “How should I know?  Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The source of Cain’s beef with his brother was that God accepted Abel’s animal sacrifice and snubbed his own fruit and vegetable offering.  In other words:  Abel’s work was #1 and Cain’s work was an “also ran.”  So Cain played hard ball and took care of his competition.  Cain’s rival for God’s affection was removed.  So Cain won the struggle with his brother, right?  Of course not!

God says to Cain:  “What have you done?  The voice of you brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”

How we respond to others when they block our goals matters to God.   When we treat with contempt a person that He has created… one precious to Him…  it does NOT escape the hearing of the Almighty! “His blood cried from the ground!” God told Cain.

Abel’s treatment broke the heart of God… for God loved him as His very own.  And God feels the same way about your rivals and your enemies.  And that can be a difficult thing to remember in the heat of competition.   Empathy is an emotion tossed aside when we are denied victory.  So we vent and we back stab and we claw our way to the top…  and in the end we MAY win.  But our win is entered in the loss column.   Life was never about winning or striving for perfection.  It was always about love!

I am called to be my brother’s keeper.  But who is my Abel?  An Abel today could be anyone who has been hurt, abused and discarded by others… anyone oppressed or forgotten.  God still asks of you and I:  “Will we continue to pursue selfish agendas or will we become look out for our brothers and sisters?  The call to love them is rooted here in Genesis… and blossoms in the words of Jesus:  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  In the Kingdom of God there is one one game we participate in:  Love.  And it will be that way for eternity!

Author N. T. Wright wrote:  “Love is the language they speak in God’s world, and we are summoned to learn it against the day when God’s world and ours will be brought together forever. It is the music they make in God’s courts, and we are invited to learn it and practice it in advance. Love is not a “duty,” or even our highest duty. It is our destiny.”  (After You Believe, p. 188.)

Go live your destiny!

 

 

Where’s Eden?

edenGenesis 3:22-24

Take a glance at the first two chapters of Genesis and you marvel at the harmony that seems to radiate from God’s good creation.  Now take a look at the world today and you can’t help but ask yourself: “What happened?”

Animals prey on one another. Tornadoes and Earthquakes can quadruple the death rate on any given day, in just a matter of minutes. There are wars and protests, and hatred and strife.   What happened? Where is Eden? If we left it, can we go home again?

We know the story of Genesis 3 well.  The serpent, the fruit and the fallen pair are a familiar story we learned in Sunday school.  But did we piece together that it was that act of obedience that caused creation to be what it is today?  Part of God’s judgment on Adam was “cursed be the ground.”  Paul writes in the New Testament:  “…the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it,…”

Then there is the legacy of unrighteousness we have passed on (Romans 5:12).  We have all, like Adam and Eve, painted a bleak picture of God, looked longingly at the Forbidden, partook of it and then shared the fruit of our disobedience with one another.

A number of years ago, a sad story caught the headlines.  A High School Girl was found dead in Hawaii. Her body was found intoxicated and naked in the room of two tourist that she didn’t even know. What was telling was the reaction of one girl that attended school with her: “She didn’t do anything different from the rest of us. I mean, she didn’t do anything wrong. She didn’t do anything that she isn’t suppose to do as a teenager.” It was as though her friend’s sin was okay because it had become socially acceptable among other teenagers.

As a society have bought the lies of Satan.  And that is what happened to Eden!  Sin drove us from our true home. Trying to create our own set of rules we found ourselves morally bankrupt.

Now how did God react to the fallen state of this pair?  How did He deal with our unrighteousness?  Right from the beginning God works to undo what they have done. He sets in motion a plan of redemption.

In the judgment to the serpent, God says:  “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed;  He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”  (3:15)  Man has been so bitten by the serpent that sin’s venom courses through our veins.  Sin was passed down to all of Adam’s children.  Mankind has been limping from a bruised heel since the day they left Eden.

But the Good News is that Jesus has come.  The true Seed of the Woman, Jesus (Galatians 3:16) has come to crush Satan’s head.   He has come to clothe us and to give us His righteousness.

I began this blog asking you to examine Genesis 1 and 2.  Now take a peek at Revelation 22… the Bible’s final chapter.  You will discover once again a garden and something more: the tree of life.  Eden has been reborn!

And through Jesus:  You can go home again!

 

Leaving and Cleaving

marriageGenesis 2:22-25

Jesus’ favorite passage on marriage was in Genesis chapter 2.  He quotes it in Matthew 19:5:  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  A healthy marriage was one in which a man did some “leaving and cleaving.”

Leaving means forsaking all others for the sake of our spouse.   Mike Mason in The Mystery of Marriage says:  “Your primary responsibility is now with your family unit. Next to the love of God, the ‘one thing’ that is by far the most important in the life of all married people is their marriage, their loving devotion to their partner. Nothing on earth must take precedence over that, not children, jobs, other friendships, nor even ‘Christian work’.”  Leaving is shutting out anything that might separate the two of you.

Then there is cleaving (KJV) or “being united” with your spouse.  The Hebrew word here is dabāq: meaning a strong bonding together of object, used to represent gluing or cementing.  A man and wife become “one flesh” or as C.S. Lewis put it “a single organism.  Like a lock and its key are one mechanism, or a violin and a bow are one musical instrument.”

God invented sex. We display the unity He wants a man and a woman to possess, when sexual intercourse takes place.  The intimacy felt  in the sexual act is more than just a physical reaction to pleasure. It is a bond that cuts to heart of our soul. “One Flesh!”, Jesus said.  That is what marriage was created to be.

Now this One Flesh concepts relates to more than just sex. We are to have an intimacy that transcends the physical.  H. Norman Wright told of an incident told him by a counselee:

“Phil, a man in his thirties, had been under intense pressure and stress for several weeks. His new job was a disaster because delays and unreasonable demands from his supervisor were wearing him down. Added to this, Phil and his wife had moved 2,000 miles away from home to take this job, and both sets of parents continued to express their displeasure over the move.

On one particular day everything was going wrong at work. On top of work problems, Phil’s parents called him at work to dump on him about abandoning them. And as he was walking out at quitting time, his supervisor informed him that he would have to work on Saturday.  When Phil arrived home he was totally dejected. His nonverbal signals screamed discouragement. He told me later, “I felt shattered, discouraged, and unable to please anyone.” He immediately headed for his chair and slumped into it in silence.

When Phil’s wife came into the room she could read his signals and knew it had not been a good day. Phil explained, “Eileen just came over to me and stood behind me, gently stroking my hair and massaging my stooped shoulders. All she said was, “Would you like dinner now or later:” and “Would you like to talk about it or not?” Her sensitivity, her touch, her willingness to give me freedom to talk or not talk encouraged me so much. I didn’t feel all alone anymore. I knew I had someone who would stand by me even in my discouragement. I felt blessed. In fact, I know I am blessed in having such a wife.”

Wow! That’s being one…  feeling what the other is going through and then knowing what to do to encourage them… sharing each others burdens as well as joys.

Married?  Going through a rough patch?  Get back to basics.  Leave and cleave.  That’s the prescription Dr. Jesus recommends and the road to health again.