God’s Favor: Noah’s Story

But Noah found favor with God. Gen 6:8

 

I love that this verse begins with “but”. Noah is the exception – his life is one that stands out to God as different than all the wicked and corrupted individuals God sees on the earth. What brought the favor?

Solo pineVerse 9 says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”

So Noah’s character was righteous – right from the inside out, his actions were blameless – free from fault or guile, and his habit was to walk with God – not according to his own design. Noah sounds like the kind of man God would choose.

I wonder, did Noah “find” God’s favor because these things were true of him, or was Noah able to live this way because of God’s favor upon him? Was it merited favor – based on his life and actions toward God – or was it unmerited favor –based on God’s choosing, then resulting in a life that stands apart?

I think the word “found” is interesting, too. Was Noah looking for God’s favor or did he stumble upon it? Was it the direction and attitude of his heart to live in a way that God would see as favorable?

Did he seek out ways to please God, even when he was alone in that seeking? Noah didn’t have a Sunday school class or accountability group to help him stay focused. Truly, Noah was the ultimate “lone-ranger.”

But, it’s the timing that’s really interesting. Noah couldn’t have known about God’s plan to destroy the earth with a flood. He couldn’t have known of the coming catastrophe. It wasn’t like he saw impending doom and “got right with God” so he would be saved. His character, action and habits were already in place, grounded in the way he lived his life everyday. Then when an impossible assignment came from the LORD, he was ready to work. And when the floodwaters rose, he was already safe, already saved. Whether the favor was merited or unmerited, Noah and his family experienced God’s deliverance in a very tangible way: God’s protection and provision, fruits of God’s favor.

Rocking K

I want that kind of steady walk with God… that whenever floodwaters rise, I’m where I need to be – beside my God. Or when the dove returns with a freshly picked olive leaf (Gen. 8:11), I rejoice in his provision. And in all the messy life that happens in between, God’s favor sustains me.

Somehow, when I envision God’s favor, I imagine God’s eyes … scanning, skimming the expanse of humanity, and then pausing over me… peering deep into my character and actions and habits… and smiling. Not because I have no faults, but because He sees Jesus over me; He sees Jesus dying in my place and is pleased.

…but Julie found favor in the eyes of the LORD… let it be, because of Jesus (Col. 1:10-14)

Not the end

Stories to Live ByLazarus was sick. Maybe it was staying out late fishing in the rain that turned his cold to the worst. Maybe the infected cut on his hand from mending the nets had turned to gangrene, or a pounding ache in his head that won’t go away.  But now, his sisters Mary and Martha had exhausted their salves and home remedies.  They sent for Jesus.  They needed the Healer.

But Jesus didn’t show up.  It wasn’t for lack of love for Lazarus, but because he loved him.  He wanted Lazarus to experience God’s glory.

When Jesus finally made his way to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Mary and Martha’s grief overwhelmed them.  They both came to him with questions…

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Luke 11:21 and 32).

Lovingly, Jesus met them in their pain. He mourned death. He wept. But Jesus knew something they didn’t know.  Jesus knew about belief so strong that it conquers death. Jesus knew about resurrection and life — real life.

At the tomb, Jesus showed them.

He told them to roll away the stone.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Luke 11:39-40)

…   …   …

Oh, how many times I have faced a brother’s tomb and come to Jesus with questions?

When a brother betrays his wife with years of a secret addiction; when a brother takes a joy-ride in his father’s sports car and kills his best friend in the accident; when a brother smiles, but in the end sees no option but to end his own life…

I ask, “Where were you, Jesus?  Couldn’t you have seen what was happening and stopped it?  Couldn’t you have stepped in?  You’ve healed others, why not my brother!”

Patiently he tells me roll away the stone of my doubts. Gently, he asks me to believe.  Quietly he whispers.

“I know it hurts. Remember Gethsemane? But I know how the story ends.  It’s for God’s glory. Trust me. The grave is not the end.”

empty_tomb_wide

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Luke 11:25-26).

 

This, friends, is the beauty of Easter.

What a wonderful Savior.

…   …   …

boy walking photo credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

empty tomb photo credit: icr.org

Check out Institue for Creation Research for an article on the impact of the empty tomb.  It’s a great read!

Do bunnies lay eggs?

I’ve always been a little disturbed by the commercialization of Easter.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Easter Bunny w:eggsDying chicken eggs, hiding them, only to hunt for them later in the day?  A big rabbit hopping into my bedroom at night leaving a basket full of candy and toys?

Really?

What is it really about, anyway?

It’s about the brokenness at the cross.  It’s about new life.  It’s about the way God lavished his grace on each of us through Jesus.

If that’s news to you, I’d like to show you a video.  It’s God’s invitation to a relationship with him… extended to you.

So what’d you think?  No bunnies.  No eggs or candy.  Just life the way it’s intended to be. Want some?

 

photo credit: © Frenc | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

video credit:  ©2013 Cru #FallingPlates Used by Permission

Whose responsibility?

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders.  I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

            “What is that to us? they replied.  “That is your responsibility.” Matt. 27:3-4

            “When Pilate saw that he was getting no where, but instead that an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in the front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’” Matt. 27:24

What an interesting parallel between Judas and Pilate… responsibility

Judas had followed Jesus closely for three years.  Judas had sat under his teaching, watched him heal blind, and broke bread with him.  Judas got it all wrong… the betrayer.

Pilate had only one brief interview with Jesus.  One cryptic conversation probably left him with more questions than answers.  Pilate ducked out and missed it… the dodger.

 

When the innocence of Christ’s blood rises up before him, Judas only sees his responsibility.  Actually, he sees his culpability, his blame.  It grips him around the throat and pulls him under.  He sees no option other than to take his own life.  He doesn’t see Jesus’ offer for a new one.  Responsibility blinds him to it.

When Christ’s innocence stares Pilate in the face, he lets his desire for peaceful public relations get the better of him.  He abdicates his responsibility and kowtows to the crowd. In washing his hands of the innocent man’s blood, he only implicates himself further.  The irony jumps out and grabs him – for only in washing himself in Jesus’s blood would Pilate find the truth he is seeking.  But Pilate misses Jesus’ offer of new life.  Responsibility disguises it.

 

Two men.  Two encounters with responsibility.  One overcome with the weight of it.  One skirting the glory of it.  Both blinded.  Both guilty.  Both forever tied to the story of Christ’s death that brings life.

Some might argue that it’s unfair to hold either Judas or Pilate responsible for Jesus’ death.  After all, it was God’s plan.  Jesus said so.  This is why he came – to die.  Judas and Pilate were simply pawns in God’s chess match with the evil one.  How can they be responsible?

True. God’s intention was to have Jesus Christ die on man’s behalf.  But even truer than that is the fact that my sin put Jesus on that cross just as much as Judas’ betrayal or Pilate’s poor judgment.  My sin… and your sin… drove Jesus to the cross.  We are all responsible for the innocent man’s blood.

But our confrontation with our guilt doesn’t have to end in despair or disillusion like it did for Judas and Pilate.  Not if we know who to bring it to.

See, Judas sought the religious leaders for absolution.  All he got was his blood money thrown back in his face.  Pilate sought the crowd for answers. All he got was “Crucify him!” slammed in his face.

But you and me?

With all our botched responsibilities, we can come to Jesus and get nail-pierced hands cupping our face, and love-laden eyes washing over our face, and grace-filled words warming our face saying, “My child, your sins are my responsibility.  You are forgiven.  Now, come, follow me.”

 

What a wonderful Savior.

 

butterfly photo credit: © Jilllang | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Do you know…

…you’re beautiful?  Do you know that you were put together with precision and care?  Do you know that the Creator of the Universe takes absolute delight in just thinking of you?

You wonder how I know.

I know because God saves the best for last.

At the beginning of time, when God started speaking this amazing world into existence, he pulled water molecules together and made “ocean” — teeming with manatees and clown fish and sea coral — he said, “It is good.”

 

 

And when he stretched out majestic Rocky Mountains, made towering Sequoias touch the sky, and painted the nuances of orange day lilies, he said, “It is good.”

 

 

 

And even when he launched Mars, Venus, Neptune, and Saturn into space and speckled the sky with stars and galaxies far beyond our comprehension, even then, he said, “It is good.”

But before he was finished, when God wanted to crown all the good things he had created, to add the piece de resistance, he reached down into soil and created human — the one God image-bearer.  He touched and moulded and pulled and shaped the first human body into existence.   Then, to add the spark, God breathed into human’s nostrils and oxygen filled lungs, blood flowed in veins, consciousness infused brain matter. (Gen. 2:7)

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Gen. 1:27, 31)

 

So from here you may still be wondering, “Ok, Julie, so God was pleased with the first man and woman he made.  But they messed up big time.  They rejected God’s plan and got entangled in sin.  And ever since then, men and women have been making a huge mess of this amazing world God made.  How does that make me beautiful?”

One question.  Of all that God created, which piece did he choose to rescue?  For which bit of creation did God choose to die?  To which segment did God offer eternal life? (Ok, so that was 3 questions.)

You.  He rescued you.  He died for you.  He offers real life to you.

So, that’s how I know you are beautiful.  Because the Creator of the grand canyons and lady bugs looked at you and said, “She’s worth it.  Yes, she’s made mistakes and she is sometimes a little selfish or impatient (ok, maybe more than “a little.”)  But she’s mine.  I don’t want to live without her.  I’m dying to have her near me.”

He didn’t do that for rocks and rivers, no matter how spectacular.

So, the next time the beauty of a sunrise takes your breath away.  Or the next time you are taken in by the intricate pattern of a butterfly’s wing, or enraptured by the nuzzle of puppy… remember.  In your Father’s eyes, nothing else in all of creation holds a candle to you.  Nothing.  He’s crazy about you.

He thinks you’re beautiful.

So you are.

Period.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m learning the power of writing in community.  Check out this amazing post about diving in deep to face our fears from my new blogging friend, Jennifer Dukes Lee at Getting Down with Jesus.

 

Creation Meditation

I’m inspired by Ps. 104 to write my own “meditation on creation.”

Verse 1 starts with “O Lord, my God, you are very great.” Then the psalmist continues for 31 verses looking at the sky, sun, moon, animals, trees, oceans, mountains, life, death… He concludes with this statement of faith:

“I will sing to the Lord all my life.
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my mediation be pleasing to Him as I rejoice in the Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.” Ps. 104:33-35

The last sentence surprises me. I almost don’t want to include in in the quote, but it’s there, not willing to be ignored, daring me to wrestle with it. Scripture is surprising sometimes. I wonder, does God want to teach me in the paradox?

Maybe there is a connection between my praise and the salvation of men. Maybe when I acknowledge the greatness of my God, His kingdom is advanced.

Maybe the psalmist isn’t speaking of the extermination of those who stand against God’s way, but the conversion of those who miss His glory? Maybe believers are most compelling when they are praising, not pointing fingers.

So, here’s my attempt at a “Creation Meditation.” May it be pleasing to my God.

•••

Oh, my soul, wake up and recognize the beauty of your God.
The morning beckons you: sing!
The endless expanse of sky drapes the earth dome and speaks of His eternal ways.
Beyond the blue and in the air you breathe, He is here.

The birds, in their joy, greet the morning He has made.
Let your heart join in their sweet melody,
a refrain celebrating the simple things
… food, shelter, light.

The trees shimmer in the breeze, mindful of its whispers.
When the wind blows fierce, they grow stronger from its force.Their roots stretch deep through the layers of Indiana clay.
Tall Beech, petite Red Buds,
strong Catalpa, and White Oaks ringed with age stand proud, branches outstretched, straining upward.

They model for me arms lifted high in praise.

The breeze also stirs wild grasses, heads bobbing,
ruby-colored clover, and smiling daisies growing at will.
They receive the rain and sunlight freely offered by my God, and in turn
offer up their innocent beauty.

Stryder, my faithful walking companion, jogs the path ahead,
follows scents undetected by me.
Futilely, he chases a cottontail startled by our steps.
He gleefully rolls in the dewy, freshly mowed grass.
He drinks in the day, ever confident that his master will meet his needs
with good things to eat and balls to retrieve.

Oh my soul, trust your Master like that.

As joggers, bicyclers, even drivers of cars rush by me,
I wonder do they see, do they hear
nature beckoning them to turn to their Creator?
The trees and birds and wild flowers respond willingly to his ready favor.

Why don’t we?