What Came Out of the Ark

animals off the arkGenesis 9:22-29; 10

“What are my kids going to end up like?” Don’t you wish you could answer that question?  Or maybe not.  I have met many parents as a pastor that looked at what happened to their children and feel such shame.  If only they had gone to church more… or had gone to church less… or had read the Bible to them more… or went to more parenting seminars.  The guilt is immense.

But I’ve met and talked with enough black sheep to know that it often has not a thing to do with how they were parented.  It had everything to do with their own stubborn will and their poor choices.

Take Ham.   One of Noah’s sons.  You know Noah… the man who walked with God… who alone found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  His son, Ham… made a terrible choice one day.  It began innocently enough.  He caught sight of his father Noah naked in his tent.  No big deal.

It was considerable breach of family ethic back in this day, but remember, the event was not intentional.  It was what he did with what he saw that got him into trouble.  The Scriptures put it gently, that he “told his two brothers outside.”  More than likely his actions were an attempt to show himself triumphant over his father by mocking Noah’s condition.  His two brothers proved more noble by (without looking) covering over their father’s shame.

Noah woke up… and he knew what Ham had done.   He announces what will happen to all three of his boys:  ““Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” and “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.  May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.”

Cursed be Canaan?  What father would wish that on a grandson?  But remember, this isn’t a wish.  It is a prophecy.  Noah could see in the behavior of his son, Ham, something that would be passed down to his son and beyond.  Ham’s son would father the Canaanites.  And they would be wickedly sinful… and they would always end up on the bottom of his three sons.

God sought to preserve man in the ark… to save him from destruction… but the seed of sin was carried on within the human heart even after the judgment fell.  Noah’s drunkenness and Ham’s actions are evidences of that.  And quickly the sin of man begins to spread on the earth again.   “These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.” (10:32)

God would need another way to redeem man.  Another stronger ark of safety.  Jesus.

The late Adrian Rogers once preached:  “Noah’s ark is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in this way: The ark is like a great coffin. It doesn’t have a bow; it doesn’t have a stern; it doesn’t have a helm because it is under the control of Almighty God.   The ark keeps the judgment waters out. God shut Noah, his family, and the animals inside the ark. …  God sealed them in. Nobody could open the door. But, there was a window. Noah could open the window and look up. Do you see the parallel?  Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In whom [Jesus] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.”  We are in Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. It is in Jesus that we know God the Father. Is it not true that when we come in to Him, we are closed in to look up? The way that we look into heaven is through Jesus Christ, the Ark of Safety.” (source)

How did sin continue on the earth after God had wiped away sinful man?  It sprang from out of the ark… from the depths of their fallen hearts.  Man-made arks can save you from drowning but can do nothing about your sin problem.  And just as Noah’s “perfect” family still turned out little sinners in need of redemption… your family will do the same.  Just as a church can only produce a healthy, safe place to worship and perhaps a good churchman or churchwoman… it cannot make redeemed believers.  That is the work of God.  A church can only expose sin and then point to the Savior.

So: pray for your kids.  Invite friends to your church.  Encourage and counsel lost family members.  But if they don’t turn out right.  It is best to put aside your guilt.

Remember and hope.  You too were a fallen sinner once as well.  And you made it onto the right boat.  Pray that they to will do the same.

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Did I Forget to Pay?

guest checkRomans 13:8

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…”

In my minds eye I picture a grand luncheon.  Not a modest meal but one that is three courses long and definitely not fast food.  The meal was impeccable, the waitress polite, my company delightful… I leave the restaurant with a spring in my step.  “Thank you God for good times with great friends,” I utter.  I am still paying homage in my mind to the cherry cheesecake and the french amaretto coffee as I head down the interstate to get back to my job site.  And then it hits me… “Did I forget to pay?”  I try to keep one hand on the wheel as I check my wallet.  I groan as I look inside to see the $50 I left the house with still in my billfold.

I imagine for a moment the restaurant manager reading the glowing compliments I paid him and his establishment on the comment card I had filled out.  He is probably not at all interested in my praise.  I may have offered superb lip service… I just didn’t pay my bill!

I wonder how many times in life that I have left a personal encounter with someone and not paid them my debt.  What debt?  The debt of love I owe them through Jesus Christ   Paul wrote:  “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…”

The context of this verse, strangely enough, is paying taxes.  Paul says in the verse just before it:  “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7) Paul means:  “If somebody is due something, pay up!  But remember, that when it comes to love, we are ALL debtors.

There was a concept popular a few years ago, that you still hear now and again, called:   “paying it forward.”  Someone does an act of goodness to you and instead of “paying them back” you offer the same gift of love to the next person you encounter.

This is a Biblical concept.  Ephesians 5:1-2 says:  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  We are God’s children and enjoy everyday His joy, presence and love.  To go through life at break neck speed, never looking out for our neighbor… never sharing freely the love of God we freely received, is the worst kind of ingratitude.  You are forever indebted to Jesus.  He wants you to pay this debt forward by loving those around you.  Just don’t forget to pay!

Mike Mason once wrote:  “… we are pinched and stingy with our love.  We treat love like money, as if there’s never enough to go around, and so we draw our heartstrings tighter than our purse strings.  How can we grasp that we are dealing with an inexhaustible currency?” (Practicing the Presence of People, p.58.)

Start small.  Smile at the waitress.  Discretely buy a serviceman’s meal.  Strike up a conversation with that frazzled mom or dad in the check out line. And know that life is more than accomplishing goals, accumulating things and enjoying ourselves.  It is also about paying the debt of love we owe to our fellow human beings.  Pay up!  And remember God in Christ has already picked up your tab!

“Sir, Will You Please Run With Me?”

Marine KerrEphesians 6:21-22

“But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you.  I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.” (Emphasis on the word “comfort” is mine.)

Just read the story and saw the picture (see left) of Lance Cpl. Myles Kerr and his memorable run in the Jeff Drenth Memorial 5K footrace in Charlevoix, Michigan last weekend.  He didn’t technically “win.”  He came in dead last in his age group.  But he is a true winner in my book.

When 9-year-old Boden Fuchs  began to struggle in the race and then became separated from his group… he spotted the Marine.  Boden asked Kerr, “Sir, will you please run with me?” Kerr agreed to run with him and stuck with him until he completed the race.  Kerr finished at 35:43 minutes (five seconds behind Boden).  He may have lost the race, but he won over many heart.  The above picture received over 200,000 Facebook likes and was shared close to 10,000 times.

And what was the response of Kerr after all the praise?  He sent out a tweet that read:  “I was just doing what any man would do, but thank you!”— Myles M. Kerr (@Myles_Kerr)

Wow!  His actions remind me of the NT virtue of encouragement.  The Greek word is parakeleo.  It comes from “para” meaning “alongside” and from “keleo” meaning “to call.”  This strong and rich adjective can mean many things: comfort, exhortation, admonishment, instruction, teaching, begging, beseeching and, of course, encouragement.  In the above verse from Ephesians, Paul sent Tychicus to parakeleo… to come alongside… the Ephesians.  What an awesome word picture this is!

In fact, in the upper room, when Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit, he refers to Him as the parakeletos… often translated, the “Helper” or the “Comforter.”  The Holy Spirit, much like the marine mentioned above, runs alongside us… exhorting us… begging us.. instructing us… comforting us… encouraging us… to keep running and to finish our race.

And if I am reading Ephesians correctly… it is a quality that we are to display ourselves.  Like Tychicus, when we hear:  “Sir, (or Ma’am), would you run with me?” we are to break off, adjust our pace to cadence, and help the struggling runner to complete their race.  Not for glory or praise, but because it is what “any man (or woman) would do.”

Know anybody that needs you to run with them today?   A teenager?  A close friend?  A widow?  Come along side them… and let them know they are not alone!  We are all in this race together!

And then realize that you are not alone either… the Comforter runs beside you… encouraging and leading you to the finish line and home!