Articles

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
(Genesis 6:8-9)

The world was a pretty nasty place in the days of Noah, wasn’t it. The verses in Genesis 6 before and after verses 8-9 tell us of violence, corruption, and continually wicked thoughts in the hearts of all mankind. Noah was surrounded on every side with perversion and wickedness.

Here is the encouragement for me from this text and I hope you will be encouraged as well. Noah was able to live in a way that was pleasing to God even when everyone around him was doing the wrong things.

He was righteous when everyone else was unrighteous. Noah lived as a “blameless” man when all around him was corruption. Noah walked with God when all his friends and neighbors where walking the other direction.

So, can you do the same at work? At school? In your community? Absolutely. We are called by God to live the same way Noah did in his “generation.”

First we must be “saved from this crooked generation”:

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:40-41)

We then walk daily with God’s power working in us to transform our minds from worldly thinking to Christ-like thinking.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2)

As transformed people, we are called to live as blameless and shining lights in this “perverse generation” just like Noah did.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:12-16)

We can live like Noah. With God’s power and help, we can live a righteous life in this wicked world.

Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
(Proverbs 9:6)

Joseph, Being a Just Man

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
(Matthew 1:18-25)

Here are a few quick observations about Joseph:

  1. They were betrothed, but they had not “come together.” Joseph showed honor for Mary and for God by keeping their relationship pure (Hebrews 13:4).
  2. Being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame. When he found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he did not cast off his love and respect for her. He thought of what was best for her. He didn’t want to make a public spectacle of her. Joseph refused to put her to shame.
  3. But as he considered these things. He was not hasty in judgment. This young man took his time to really think about what to do. I’m sure all kinds of thoughts swirled around in his mind, but with God’s help and with patience, he deeply contemplated the next step.
  4. He listened to God and did as He was commanded by the angel. God was asking him to do some hard stuff, and Joseph was really walking by faith here. He had to trust God and Mary’s word, and he did it.
  5. Joseph “knew her not until she had given birth to a son.” Even now that Joseph is officially married to Mary, and has every “right” to participate in the sexual relationship with Mary in marriage, he did not do so. He waited for months and months until after she had given birth. Joseph truly was a man of honor and conviction.

 

Is anything too hard for Me?

In Jeremiah, 32 we find Jeremiah sitting in prison. He has been preaching and warning Judah and her kings for decades. Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar, is once again surrounding Jerusalem. This is the third wave of attack brought about by God through the hands of Babylon. During this siege, the whole city and Solomon’s temple will be destroyed and burned to the ground.

While Jeremiah sits in prison for preaching the words of God, he is told by God to buy his relative’s field in Anathoth, bury the purchase agreement and deed in an earthen vessel that it may stay there a long time. Why? Because God was foretelling through a sign that the people of God will one day come back from captivity and buy and sell land in Israel.

This must have sounded like the most impossible thing, especially considering the circumstances in which Jeremiah and the people found themselves. Jeremiah follows with a prayer of praise as he recounts the character and merciful works of God in contrast to Judah’s faithlessness.

But we can see the challenge of faith that Jeremiah is having in this prayer. He admits readily that “nothing is too hard for God” (a statement which God turns around and repeats to him). However, at the end of his prayer, his is really struggling with the concept that God’s people will actually come back to this land.

Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”–though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.'”
(Jeremiah 32:25)

Jeremiah is like, I know you said this Lord, but that sounds like hope and light, and this is the most hopeless and darkest situations we could be in. It is at this point that God takes over the conversation, and replies with:

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

God told Jeremiah that yes, Judah will be destroyed and rightly so because of their sins and rejection of God. But God will “restore their fortunes” (vs. 44). “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them” (vs. 42).

Trust me, Jeremiah, God is saying. Just as I will bring certain punishment, I will also bring certain hope, restoration and life! Nothing is too hard for God. And this is the the same God we serve today. God is a just God and will punish sinfulness, but He also a God of mercy who seeks to reconcile us to Himself and pour out upon us His blessings (Romans 5). When we are at our most hopeless and darkest places in life we need to remember that.

Nothing is too hard for God.

There Remains a Sabbath Rest

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:6-11)

A Sabbath rest is coming, an eternal rest. Just like God rested from His works, we will rest from ours. Some will fail to enter it, as the text says, and the encouragement is for us to “strive to enter that rest.” We are saved by grace, no doubt, but the Lord calls us to work until He calls us home to rest.

There is a day coming, when we will touch the face of God and rest in the light of His glory for eternity. Are you and I thinking about that rest? Our we taking the time to think of eternity, heaven and living in the presence of God forever? I know I need that more, how about you? Re-centering our minds on heaven helps us to see things today with a more hopeful and joyful perspective.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

 

They Will All Wear Out Like a Garment

And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
(Hebrews 1:10-12)

There is a beginning and there is an end. In the above passage, we see that the earth and heavens are the work of God, and that “in the beginning” God laid their foundation. We also see here that there is an end as well. The things of this earth will wear out, be rolled up and  changed. Newton’s laws are true, things wear out and go from order to disorder. They have an end in contrast to God who has “no end.”

What gets us so frustrated? What distracts us so easily? The stuff that wears out, changes and ultimately will all have an end. The “here and now” will be the “distant and past” one day. It may be that you have to re-center your mind today to remember the One who always was, is and is to come. I know I need that right now. All this stuff is temporary, and we have to deal with it and live in it, but our mind can’t be drowning in it.

God laid the earth’s foundation and one day it will all be burned up and changed. While we are here, remember that “God is the same and His years have no end.”

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4)

Father, Help Us Raise Our Children

Here is a beautiful song that is in our new hymnals at our congregation. I wanted to share the lyrics with you today for your meditation and prayer.

Father, Help Us Raise Our Children

Little children, from above, Sent to us with joy and love,

Bring a hope so clear and bright; Father help us raise them right.

O how tender is the sight; Little ones in bed at night,

Parents praying at their feet, “Father keep them pure and sweet.”

Little children soon are grown; Can they face the world alone?

As they strive and struggle through, Father, let them turn to You.

When our time to go draws near, We may leave our children here;

To the new land, far away, Father bring them home some day.

Hymn and Tune by C.A. Roberts, Copyright 1995 David and Nelline Watts

She Had Heard the Reports About Jesus

Mark 5:27-28 – She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

A very sick woman, desperate for healing realized that Jesus was the only hope she had in the world. She had spent all that she had on doctors and only grew worse. Then the news came of the great Physician, and her hope revived. This poor woman had to be very weak considering she was dealing with some kind of blood issue for 12 years. But her faith gave her strength to push through to Jesus in order to touch His clothes.

Consider her faith for a moment. Her conclusion in faith was that she didn’t have to call out to Jesus and beg for Him to personally come to her. All she needed to do was touch the hem of His garment. In faith she knew His power was there and if she could just touch the hem (fringe, Matthew 9:20) of His garment as He passed by in the crowd, that would be enough.

Where did she get this faith? By hearing the reports about Jesus. I’m not sure if it is implied, but it seems like she hadn’t seen Jesus or His miracles performed before this point. She had heard the reports. Do you remember Rahab the harlot? How did she come to faith in God? By hearing the reports of what God had done in Egypt 4 decades before (Joshua 2:10).

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word of God.

The news about Jesus and His mighty works and compassion produced faith in this very ill woman. She did not see, but she heard and believed. Jesus told Thomas after His resurrection that those who do not see but believe are blessed (John 20:29).

Mark 5:34 – And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

What made her well? Faith! Where did she get that faith? By listening to the good news about Jesus. Where did the women of faith in your life get that same faith? By listening to the same reports about Jesus and coming to those same conclusions.

Another final thought about this woman. Jesus didn’t have to stop in the crowd, did He? He could have passed by and let this woman have her private miracle of healing. She would have gone on her way rejoicing. But He stopped everyone in the crowd, including His confused disciples to take note of this woman and point out her faith. She was trembling as she told Jesus and all present there what happened. Jesus lifted her faith up on a pedestal for all to see and learn.

Swallowing Camels

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
(Matthew 23:23-28)

In Jesus’ condemnation and exposure of the Jewish leadership, He makes plain that there are weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith. He then goes on to give a hilarious (and very sad) word picture to illustrate His point. Can you picture someone working so hard to filter or screen his drink to make sure that no unclean insect enters it? Can you then picture the same person swallowing a thousand pound, 6 feet tall camel?

Jesus didn’t want them to neglect any part of the law, but He emphasized clearly that there were “weightier matters” to the law. This reminds me of Micah 6:6-8, when God asked, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God?” We can give thousands of sacrifices, rivers of oil and even offer our own sons to God, but God first a foremost is looking for justice, mercy, humility, and faith.

When Jesus was arrested and on trial, the Jewish leadership once again displayed how they were straining out a gnats while swallowing camels. Read the following excerpt from John’s gospel.

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
(John 18:28-32)

The Jewish leadership did not want to enter a Gentile leader’s headquarters. Why? Because they would become “unclean” and then they could not partake of the Passover feast. The question I know is obvious, but were they not already unclean? They were unclean because they were aggressively and illegally seeking the death of an innocent man, the Son of God. Malice, hatred, envy, lust and greed filled their hearts. They were defiled indeed. While straining at a gnat (“We can’t enter Pilate’s hall”), they swallowed a camel by murdering Jesus.

Today, let’s focus on the camels first. Are we swallowing camels? Does justice, mercy, humility and faith rule our hearts or are we filled with pride, malice, bitterness, lust and rage? If we get the camels right, then we can start worrying about gnats.

Jesus also worded it this way.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:1-5)

Always Learning?

Paul once wrote to Timothy about those who were always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Jesus said it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). They were searching and studying and learning, but never arrived at truth. Why? Because they were unwilling to come to Jesus.

There are places that the road of truth will take us, and we at times will find ourselves very uncomfortable with the conclusions we have to make. On that pathway, the light of truth will expose us and show us the actions we must take in order to be consistent with the truth. So the choice is there, accept, believe and obey the truth before us, or another option is to keep learning. We can fill our brains with all kinds of Bible facts, and never get one bit closer to Jesus.

Another example comes from the book of Mark. The people in Jesus’ hometown were asking some great questions, which if they had the right heart they would have come to believe in Jesus. Read the following passage.

Mark 6:1-6
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If they would have really thought about these questions in sincerity they would have come to the right conclusion about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, knew that Jesus could not do these mighty works unless He came from God (John 3). Others like the woman with the blood issue (Mark 5) and the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) also came to the right conclusions about Jesus. They all had limited information, but it was enough to produce a strong conviction about the identity and authority of Jesus.

So, what about us? Are we filling ourselves full of Bible facts, but failing to reach the obvious conclusions or take the steps necessary to be pleasing with Him? What are we doing with all of the Bible information and teaching that passes through our eyes and ears?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:22)

 

people really did ask some great questions about Jesus.

With All Purity

Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
(1 Timothy 5:1-2)

How we treat people is based upon how we view people. Look at this passage where Paul gives the evangelist Timothy advice on how to treat others. It is based upon how Timothy sees others and values them.

Treat older men like you would your dad, and older women like you would your own mother. See the younger men as your own brothers, and the younger women as your sisters. Notice this: with all purity.

If we value others as special and precious we will treat them accordingly. However, if we view others as merely objects to satisfy the desires of our flesh, then that’s how we will treat them (2 Peter 2:12-14).

How would Timothy treat a young woman in the faith “with all purity”?

He would avoid being alone with her. For one thing, it would protect against being led to sexual sin. But it would also be part of living blamelessly and above reproach. If you have a Bible study, take someone with you. If you are going on a business lunch, take someone else with you. Protect her purity, your purity and both of your reputations.

He would not ask her nor press her to do things that would violate God’s standards of purity. If he sees her as precious in the sight of God and as an image-bearer of Jesus, then he will value her body and her soul as belonging to God. Think of how Joseph behaved with Potiphar’s wife. He knew that she belonged to another man, and that he belonged to God. How he viewed her and how he viewed his relationship with God affected how he treated her (Genesis 39). Christians were called to greet each other with a “holy kiss,” which implies that there can be an “un-holy kiss.”

With all purity…that is God’s standard.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
(1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)