So I Noah guy who built an ark…

One thing I like about the Catholic church is the liturgy.  I love that on any given Sunday morning, the scriptures read are the same ones read in Catholic churches around the world.  There’s such a unity in that…and power.

This Sunday we read a bit about Noah.  You can find his story in Genesis starting around Chapter 6.  Most of us are familiar with Noah and his ark.  It was a time in humanity where evil was rampant, people were corrupt beyond correction and the world was full of violence.  (Gosh that sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?)  God saw all this and in His sovereignty, He determined that the earth should be destroyed.  All but this guy named Noah and his family that is.  The Bible tells us that Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.

So God shared his plan with Noah…to flood the earth and destroy mankind…and He gave Noah specific instructions on how to build this big ol’ boat that would keep his family safe during the flood.  Fast forward past the torrential rains and waters coming up from the earth, through 40 days of floating with a bunch of animals….like for real animals, not his family.  Although by the end of all that time on a boat with nowhere to go and nobody to talk to but the same few folks and all the mooing and and pooping and being tossed about, I don’t guess it would be far fetched to think that Noah and family might have been a bunch of animals by then.

Anyhow.

So here’s Noah.  He’s actually been spoken to directly from God Almighty.  He has watched, probably wide-eyed, as animals of all kinds have just showed up on his doorstep in pairs to be loaded onto this huge sea worthy vessel he’s built.  He has watched waters flood the earth, all the while being safe and sound in his pitch-covered ark while the rest of humanity perishes.  And he has the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE make a covenant with him after the waters recede, and in this God gives Noah not just plants to eat, but meat too ya’ll.  Hello steaks and fried chicken to go with your salads.

And this was not just ankle deep mud puddles.  In fact, this was nothing even to compare to our tsunamis or hurricanes.  This was complete and utter destruction…and Noah and his family were spared from it.  This was a big freaking deal.

And following this miraculous event, following this covenant conversation with THE LORD, what does Noah do?   Noah promptly plants a vineyard, makes wine, and gets drunk and passes out naked in his tent.  Nice.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the story before.  But as the father called attention to all this in his message Sunday morning, I was just struck again by the overwhelming grace of God.  The very idea that after everything Noah had seen God do, he still stumbled his way right into sin.

There’s a movement, for a lack of better words, in some more charismatic churches that seems to seek out the signs and the wonders.  And for a while I found myself so intrigued by it all.  Services where gold dust and precious gems supposedly manifest from the air.  Where people have come home from services with gold teeth in their mouth that weren’t there before.  Where the cripple walk and blind eyes suddenly see.  Sounds amazing.  And too good to be true.

And look, I’m not saying those things don’t actually happen.  I’m also not saying that they do.  I’ve never seen any of those things with my own eyes, so I can’t really say one way or the other.

But what I can say is that I began praying more and more to see those things happen.  I was desperate for God to “show off,” as we say in our Christianese lingo.  I thought, Lord if you would just do something big and flashy, maybe some of these people who don’t believe would change their hearts.  I kept thinking that if God would be more public with all this stuff, people would have to admit He was really real and would believe in Him.  And if I’m honest, I think I wanted to see God do those things because I was wanting some assurance and solid evidence myself.  If you’re really there God and you really love me, please help grow my faith by giving me a “sign.”

What I began to realize though was that I couldn’t count on signs and wonders to strengthen my faith.  If I was looking for something to give me hard proof of God’s involvement in my life, I was looking in the wrong place.  My faith can’t depend on what God can do, but rather in what He has already done by the work of Christ on the cross.

So in considering Noah after church on Sunday, it occurred to me that Noah had been given all the signs and wonders a person could ask for.  He’d seen the power of God firsthand, how the heavens and the earth moved at His command.  He’d seen the destruction, he knew people who were there before the water that weren’t there anymore.  Yet it still wasn’t enough to keep him from wandering.  After all that, he still managed to allow himself to get drunk and inappropriate before this holy God who had just saved him from utter destruction.

And even when Jesus arrived on the scene and he was healing leprosy, and he was making the lame walk, and he was restoring sight, and he was bringing dead people back to life for crying out loud –  even then in the midst of the miraculous, Jesus found himself on a cross.

For us.  Because we just can’t get it together to save our lives.

So he came and saved our lives for us.

Jesus became the ark that we drag ourselves into.  Our salvation that protects us from the sin storm that rages around us.  The ark that will carry us over Jordan to the Beautiful Land.

Because even the glory of God in the flesh doing the miraculous right in front of our face wouldn’t be enough to keep us from sin.  He had to go to the cross.  He had to take the blame so that we might be saved.  He had to defeat sin and death so that we could live.

I don’t pray for the miraculous like that much anymore.  I mean, yes, God.  Heal the sick, help the ones in need.  Most definitely.  But more than that, allow the gospel to go into every nook and cranny.   We need to demonstrate the love of God to others more than we need be seeking signs and wonders.  And we need the gospel more than we need gold dust.

Advertisements

I’ve got friends in low, flaming, sulfur-smelling, teeth gnashing places…

I recently read an article by David Brickner called “Outside the Camp” in the Jews for Jesus October newsletter.  It was some pretty strong stuff.  He spoke about how many Christians today feel that in order to “earn” the ability to share the gospel with a non-believer, we must first establish a relationship with them thereby gaining their acceptance.  In fact, he says “the idea that people must accept us before they can accept Y’shua (Jesus) can actually become a subtle kind of pride that we fail to recognize in ourselves and fellow believers.”   Hmmm.  I’ve mulled over this article for a couple of weeks now.

The first time I read the article, I got about three paragraphs into it and thought, gosh this all seems a bit harsh, right?  I mean I can’t just go randomly barreling up to someone and start blurting out the gospel.  They’ll think I’m a freak and nothing I say will get in.  But then it hit me…okay so which bothers me more?  The idea that the gospel I share won’t be heard or the idea that someone might think I’m a freak?  Ouch, gut punch.

We’ve been preached to by the mainstream media about how we (we meaning the American people) must be tolerant of each other and to be anything otherwise is politically incorrect.  I’ve also read recently somewhere (wish I could remember where) about how as Christians, we sometimes water down our gospel because we don’t want to seem narrow-minded.  I mean, goodness…if I tell my Muslim friend that the only way she will get to heaven is by believing in Jesus thereby implying that what she believes is false, well that makes me seem intolerant and arrogant, right?  Well, tell that to the Muslim that you tolerated all the way to hell.

See, if we start to steer away from what the Bible says and begin to tolerate other belief systems and other religions, we are in essence deceiving ourselves and others.  Jesus was pretty clear when He said in John 14:6 that He was in fact THE way, THE truth, and THE life…and that no one comes to the Father except by HIM.

Now let me be clear when I say that being intolerant of someone else’s beliefs does not mean that we are supposed to treat them badly.  As Mr. Brickner says, we shouldn’t “treat unbelievers like enemies, nor should we be ‘unrelational,’ unfriendly or rude.”  On the contrary.  We should be full of grace and mercy…but we should also be full of truth.

Think of it like this.  If a random stranger had been bitten by a poisonous snake whose venom would surely kill them and you had the antidote in your hand, would you just stand there and watch them die?  Of course not.  So why then are we so eager to remain silent in the face of someone who is destined for the eternal pit of flames?  (And when I say “we” I am most certainly including myself because I can unfortunately think of more occasions than I care to where I have held my tongue.)

I was coming home this morning from dropping my son off at school and I got behind a car that had one of those “COEXIST” bumper stickers.  You know the ones…they have the Islamic moon and star symbol, the star of David, the cross, and a peace sign – the implication being,  “can’t we all just get along?”  Sounds lovely doesn’t it?  Ah, yes.  That we would all live in peace – Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc. – and just hold hands and sing Kumbaya in perfect harmony.  We would all be friends and quietly respect each others’ religions and then nobody would be at war and nobody would be persecuted.  There’s just one big problem there.  We’d be putting tolerance over salvation…and we’d be standing idly by while all those people continue meandering down the wide road (Matthew 7:13).  Jesus was more concerned with making believers than He was making friends.  

So what stops us from sharing the gospel?  Fear of rejection?  Do we think Jesus doesn’t understand rejection?  Jesus was rejected by people He’d known all his life.  Fear of persecution?  Do we think believers in China don’t understand persecution?  There are people in China in prison right now for what they believe.  Fear of being called a freak?  Do you think people thought Ezekiel was a freak?  He laid around in the dirt and cooked bread over a fire made with poop (Ezekiel 4)…okay so that was a little weird but do you think Ezekiel cared what anybody but God thought of him?  See here’s the bare bones of it…which matters more – our image or someone else’s eternity?  We act like we have all the time in the world to win friends and influence people and AFTER we’ve established a relationship and have built up an element of trust, THEN eventually at some point we will get around to sharing the gospel.  The truth is, time is not on our side in this case.  Oh Lord, that You would impress upon our hearts an urgency to share Your word in these last days.  Father, forgive us for the times we’ve kept quiet about You, when we’ve seeing someone dying and kept Life to ourselves.  Give us boldness to speak Your name no matter what it costs us.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel,

for it is the power of God for salvation to

everyone who believes…

Romans 1:16

 

Is there someone in your life that you know God has called you to share the gospel with but you’ve been putting it off, waiting for just the right moment? 

What is stopping you?