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Father of Steadfastness

Then the Lord said, “My spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3

Most people today are familiar with the Wright Brothers – credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.  But unless you are an aero-enthusiast you may not know of Karl Wilhelm Otto Lilienthal (died August 1896).  He was known far and wide as the “flying man” for his attempts to make successful glider flights.  Because of his repeated and public attempts, newspapers and magazines influenced the public and scientific communities into believing flying machines were truly possible.

But imagine walking by his artificially made hill he built near Berlin and seeing this man running and leaping forward into nothingness with a wing on his back.  You’d think he was crazy.  You’d probably say he was going to break his neck one of these days – which he did.  But until that fateful day when his glider took a nose dive, he influenced and educated many who would go on to create our modern “flying machines.”  

History is replete with inventors and entrepreneurs who have been mocked, dismissed, and even jailed.  Many failed in their endeavors while others succeeded – sometimes only after their deaths.  But what they all had in common was their steadfastness.  That commitment to the dream which was placed on their mind by some unseen force.  In my series, “30 Days of Thankfulness,” I thanked God for placing that desire to create, to invent, to improve our world, on our hearts and minds.  And when we look back through the history of the world one man can be described as the Father of Steadfastness to an idea, to a goal of a new beginning placed firmly on his mind – Noah.

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. Genesis 6:13-14

What makes this steadfast commitment to following God’s command even more amazing is that scholars believe the world had never seen rain.  And here, a man is building a giant boat because something called “rain” or a “flood” was going to inundate the earth.  Oh, how the mocking must have been endless!  With each day spent placing yet another board on this 350 cubit (510 feet) long ship, Noah was like Mr. Lilienthal on his hill making another attempt at flight while the onlookers snickered.  

But Noah wasn’t the only steadfast player in this scene of the world’s eminent demise.  His not-named wife, sons and their wives must surely have been the subject of constant ridicule.  Each day at the well or in the fields the slurs and evil behavior towards them must have been almost overwhelming.  How many of us could say we would’ve remained true to God’s command?

The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Genesis 7:1

As Christians we so often have been asked what we would do or say when we approach the gates of heaven.  Imagine, however, being told before we leave this earth that God has found us among the few righteous!  Would God say that to you right now?

During the last few years our world has been put to a test.  We, as Christians, have been put to a test.  A flood of sort began to overtake the earth.  Some have fallen away out of the fear of that mocking.  Out of fear of being set apart.  Many have drawn closer, like Noah, in obedience and steadfastness.  And their reward?  A new beginning – a renewal of faith.  A rainbow placed in front of them reminding us that God always delivers on his promises.

Like Noah, each day we commit to be steadfast in our faith we are renewed with His love and His presence.  Noah toiled away for 120 years building that ark, not knowing what the fruit of his labor would produce.  He had no idea what his new beginning would be. He just had a dream of a boat.  And a promise from God of a new beginning.  He put his head down and started building it, as God commanded.  He let the mockers and scoffers slide off his back day after day after day.  His family toiled alongside him, set apart from the world.  And his new beginning was our new beginning.  A chance to make the world a better place.

In our modern world we so often overlook the everyday obedience God asks of us as banal.  Yet the steadfastness of say, Christian parenting, produces so much good fruit and beautiful new beginnings.  When our children become successful, healthy adults we get told it is “luck.”  But Noah didn’t go about his work with a rabbit’s foot in his pocket.  He was diligent, sticking with God’s plan.

Each day it seems the work of Christian steadfastness gets harder and harder.  I’d bet as Noah’s massive ship grew closer to completion and stood out taller than the trees more and more people threw insults at his family.  God’s path to our new beginning is rarely easy.  In fact, during the Christmas season I kept hearing the same Bible passage over and over:

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. Luke 12:51-52

This message from Jesus makes many uncomfortable.  During the last 50 years or so the prevalent message painted of Jesus is as a kindly, gentle god.  One who just wanted everyone to get along.  But that rejects so much of Jesus’ teachings and life here on earth.  It rejects the idea that there will be mockers and scoffers while we seek to be steadfast in obedience to God.  The apostles, whom many were surely educated about the steadfastness of Noah, themselves were faced with the same challenge. And while we are called to be peacemakers where possible, when we “go along to get along” we join the audience watching Noah build his ark.  But the flood will come – not as water but in the ways as described in Revelation.  

Friend, it’s time for your new beginning.  It’s time for you to make a commitment to steadfastness.  The world, in general, may never know how your heart has changed but God will.  Your family will know, your friends will know.  Be ready for the mocking, but also be ready to help others board your boat. 

What is God asking you to do today that might set you apart?  Your steadfast commitment to it may just be your new beginning!

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

A Promise of Triumph

The Lord will march out like 
a champion,like a warrior he 
will stir up his zeal;with a shout 
he will raise the battle cry 
and will triumph over his enemies.
Isaiah 42:13

Like you, I’ve dealt with a lot of difficult people throughout my life.  Whether it was at work, my children’s school, youth sports, or even my church, I encountered people who just wanted to be adversarial.  And I am certain I was someone’s “difficult person” at one time or another.  But I think the most painful experiences surrounding adversaries are when they are part of our family.

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day about our two families.  We both struggle with difficult parent situations.  One day she and her sister had a heart to heart about a disagreement from a few weeks prior.  With my Christian friend’s kind and gentle approach she spurred the revelation that they had become their parents.  Each sister taking on the personality and fighting style of one of their parents.  That revelation started a healing process in both of them.  Truly a small victory.

In my own life I have transitioned through the stages of grief when it comes to my relationship with my parents.  I denied there was a real problem in my family.  When I finally recognized the problems, I became angry and fought constantly with my mother – trying to change her.  I even had my own way of bargaining to try and create a Hallmark-style mother-daughter relationship.  I would do things for her to help her see what a good person I really was.  But my expectations and hopes were always dashed.  I became depressed for awhile when I realized we would never be a family that loved being together. I just wanted to untie myself from my parents and let them go adrift.  All of this was before I finally surrendered.  I raised my white flag.  But not to any human.  To God.

But thanks be to God, who in 
Christ always leads us in 
triumphal procession, and 
through us spreads the fragrance 
of the knowledge of him everywhere.
2 Corinthians 2:14

Paul wrote this to the church of Corinth during a very difficult time for him and his relationship with this church.  They were angry with him for changing his plans about visiting.  Some had started false preaching about him behind his back.  And, as Warren Wiersbe states, “When Christians misunderstand each other the wounds can be very deep.”  Isn’t that true of our families as well?

During the last few years, I have experienced that Christ-given “fragrance of knowledge of Him.”  And as I have done so, I finally had to experience that last stage of grief – acceptance.  For us Christians that acceptance comes, more importantly, with forgiveness.  I stopped trying to change the situation by myself.  And I started to rely on God to handle the situation with my parents.  I hold on to the truth of who loves me for all eternity. And I’m learning how to stay tied to my parents without feelings of hurt and anger. As I spoke of this with my friend she announced very boldly, “And now you have VICTORY!”  

..so you should rather turn 
to forgive and comfort him, 
or he may be overwhelmed by 
excessive sorrow. So I beg 
you to reaffirm your love for him. 
For this is why I wrote, 
that I might test you and know 
whether you are obedient in 
everything. 10 Anyone whom you 
forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, 
what I have forgiven, if I have 
forgiven anything, has been for 
your sake in the presence of Christ, 
11 so that we would not be 
outwitted by Satan; for we are 
not ignorant of his designs.
2 Corinthians 2:7-11

I forgave my parents for not being able to provide me with what I was looking for in a relationship.  I realized they had never been the recipients of overwhelming love.  I stopped being angry and instead became thankful for the life which God has blessed me – a loving family of my own.  Had I given up at any of the other 4 steps of grief surely Satan would have won.  But like Paul, I am no longer ignorant of the devil’s designs.  

Thanks be to God for the triumph He has promised us. We can hold fast knowing that, not only will He have victory over those who would do us harm, but also over our own souls which get injured and hurt by the world.  We can have victory because the Spirit of God rests in us.

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

A Tug-o-War

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 1:18-20

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bit of a tug-o-war with God.  He’s trying to get me over that line and I keep resisting – pulling back to my way of doing things.  Like a two-year old saying, “I can do it myself,” I resist the pull of God because I think I know better.  

Have you ever been in a tug-o-war and the other side decides to completely let go?  Your side is pulling so hard you all tumble to the ground.  Even though the other side knows they’ll lose they think it’s hilarious to see the results.  It’s a dirty trick.  Thankfully God promises to never let go of His end.  His grace and forgiveness keep me upright even when I pull on that opposite end with all my might.

When I am weak and give in to my earthly ways God gives me grace and forgiveness.  I want to resist and rebel.  He works in so many ways to pull me back toward Him.

But he said to me, “My grace is 
sufficient for you, for my power 
is made perfect in weakness.”   
Therefore, I will boast all the 
more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

The context of that verse is Paul writing to the people of Corinth and sharing a constant pain he endured.  He pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn in his side (we don’t know exactly what the thorn was).  And God replied that His grace is sufficient.  How many times have we complained, maybe just today alone, to God to remove something from our lives?  That’s not to say that He won’t.  But He reminds us that sometimes we must be weak to truly rely on Him.

Sometimes God does meet the need by substitution (ie health instead of sickness); but other times He meets the need by transformation.  He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us.

Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Commentary, New Testament 

At times when we pray for God to remove something awful in our lives and He doesn’t perform the way we expect, we then enter into that tug-o-war game.  Pulling into our own ways of “fixing things” ourselves, complaining, or even turning our backs on God by letting go of our end of the rope.  We give in to our idols, our wants and needs.

We should remember the saying that God, through grace, gives us what we do not deserve, and in His mercy, He does not give us what we do deserve.  So, when situations do not turn out as we have directed God, we need to pray to God to help us see what He wants us to see.  To help us understand what He wants us to understand.

God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable. Life Principle # 5

Dr. Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles

When we allow God to pull us back toward Him, He showers us with His mercy and forgiveness.  He cleanses our crimson souls to be white as snow.  And another covenant agreement is balanced at both ends of the rope.