By Faith: Noah

Have you ever felt God call you to do something that just didn’t seem logical? Your default response might have been to disregard the prompt and push it as far away from the forefront of your mind as possible. Or you may have answered back something like “Good one Lord, we both know that’s not going to work.” Perhaps another option you considered was “I’m not called to that” or “doing something like that doesn’t fit my gifting”. There are these awkward moments in the Christian race where we somehow think it seems plausible to tell our Caller – the Author and Perfecter – of our faith that he should rethink what he said and get back to us.

If we imagine ourselves in the thick of Noah’s story, we would know how foolish our responses can be. Let’s dive into that.

If Noah could have went to college, he would have been an agriculture student not a carpenter. Nobody would have taken his resume to build a mammoth ark. Furthermore, Noah lived in a land of intense drought for a long, long time. This dude probably can’t remember the last time he felt a rain drop. . drop top. . let’s not get off track. Can you fathom getting this call from God, when all you want to do is farm but you live in a desert wasteland? And God says, actually you are going to build a giant boat that can withstand the most rain this world has ever seen. Yeah right. Your mind would immediately go to the flack you’ll receive from neighbors, the lack of textbooks you have on wood working, and the tempting idea that erecting a flood ship is probably pointless. And that even [gasp] God may be wrong. But it was not Noah’s credentials or years of experience that landed him this call to the hall of faith. It was indeed solely on the merit of his faith in a great God. To such an absurd task from on high, the Scripture tells us – “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22).

You may be thinking Man, how many spiritual push ups do I need to do to get half that kind of faith?” Wrong thinking. Noah was just a normal, fouled up human being like you or I. Remember that even after his stunning accomplishment when the lush lands once again breathed in nourishment, Noah planted a vineyard and enjoyed his homebrew a bit too much.

God uses flawed human beings with an ounce of faith to write his narrative.

Our Lord calls his sons and daughters to the illogical daily. However, it is not always going to be as seemingly epic as the story of Noah. Luckily it doesn’t have to be because God said “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth”! (Thank you Noah for taking that job off our hands): It may be that you are called to engage a hurting a person in a parking lot when you feel you don’t have the time. Teach the Bible and read it with a co-worker or fellow student when you don’t feel like you are a quality teacher. Invite your neighbors over for coffee and pray for spiritual conversation when you want to binge Netflix. Save up to go serve in an international mission instead of that trip to the beach this summer. Allow God’s Spirit room to direct your next steps of faith.

The most important takeaway from any of the character stories in the hall of faith is that God puts his Extra on their ordinary (and most of them are even less than admirable). We should long for him to do the same with us. By faith.

By Faith: Abel

‘Mericans are exceptional in the depressing sport of Foodball. Like, we literally take food and shoot it in the hoop that is the kitchen waste basket. If we are honest, we splurge on way too much food for the one or two meals we have in mind for the week. We get in the lab that is our kitchen to innovate an Instagram-worthy dish that will dazzle our family and friends #Delicious. Then we are either ill-equipped to creatively use left-overs or we lazily let the unused groceries hang out until the marked day of their calculated death and they are tossed to the curb.

We are really good at thinking of ourselves first.

In terms of food, this is clearly true in the US. As I said, most of us buy too much, accomplish what we set out to do with the ingredients, and waste the rest. According to Feeding America, there is an estimated 70 billion pounds of food waste in America each year. I don’t even have a word for how stunning that number is. What a waste of resources and an assault on God’s blessing.

A man by the name of Abel knew not to offend God with his first-fruits and only serve himself. Hebrews 11:4 references the early Genesis story – “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.” Genesis 4 tells us that Abel was the keeper of sheep and his brother Cain was responsible for working the ground. So a shepherd and a farmer walk into Garden Bar and. . . nevermind. . . So Cain the farmer’s love for God and his respect for his resources lacked considerably compared to his brother Abel the shepherd. Their story goes something like this:

“In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry and his face fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).

We could unpack this like so: Abel immediately thanked the Lord for what was given to him as blessing by offering the first and best of what he received back to the One who gave it to him in the first place. His heart was oriented towards the hand of the Lord, the Giver of good gifts. Meanwhile Cain, lacking affinity for the Lord and selfish in his heart, checked his “giving back to God” chore list off by offering his left-overs.

The American issue I mentioned before, does it sound more like it comes from a heart and thought process like Cain or Abel? And for you, just you personally – are you offering your very best to God from a depth of love, purity and thankfulness to our Lord or are you bringing him a to-go box with what you could find nearing its expiration date?

We should long for God to be pleased with the offering of our lives (and stop dropping so much money at the grocery store like dang!). . .  Allow God to put his Extra on your ordinary as he did with Abel. By faith.

By Faith: Rahab

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Hebrews 11:31

There is something really gritty about authentic faith that God endorses. We often associate faith with passivity and waiting for God. But Rahab’s story of faith involves lying, deceiving, negotiating and oh yeah. . . the main character is a prostitute. Activating faith got her hands dirty unlike the big, glittered, bubble letters that spell F-A-I-T-H in the last Christian school I walked in.

We might say these are actions that we would not want to instill in our children. And we would be right. But that’s not the point of this story. The point of focus lies in two far more important ideas: her heart and her priorities.

Rahab’s heart was to save the lives of the spies who would have surely been killed if not for her intervention. There was no other way to divert their attention than to tell the rally of enemy troops to go look somewhere else and fabricate a story. Her priority of authority aligned in a way that we should fashion for ourselves and others. She believed and feared God over anyone else based on her tale in the book of Joshua – “for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11).

This is surely not a narrative describing a pale and passive faith. Neither is it rooted in a character who lied and deceived for her own selfish benefit. This is a flawed human being like you and me, acting as a hero of faith when she had no idea she was one – simply because she put God and his work first, allowing her to partner with him. She is not a hero because she lived perfect but because she worked with God in his perfect work.

The most important takeaway from any of the character stories in the hall of faith is that God puts his Extra on their ordinary (and most of them are even less than admirable). We should long for him to do the same with us. By faith.

Benching Jesus

For many of us seasons of soul care are on a pendulum. If we are honest, there are times when we bench Jesus due to the issues of our humanity. Apathy, discontentment, distraction and procrastination can be a part of us just as much as our limbs are. We are silly and fickle trading Jesus to the alternate team when we force our efforts and attentions elsewhere. The reality is Jesus is the source of life to the degree of Abundant. And he can breathe such life into every nook, cranny and category of our lives; And every fiber of our being.

14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:14-15

Did you know that to any priest, prophet or really to any person that understood Israelite heritage at this time, what Jesus engaged in was considered ceremonially unclean? This is how counter-cultural Jesus was. With relentless care for a woman and her dead son, Jesus enters a taboo situation as he lays a finger on the bier that the boy rest on. A bier would have been like a bench, or an open coffin, that they rest the boy’s lifeless body on for carrying. To any witness, they must have been thinking “That isn’t allowed, right?!” This is “dirty” and honestly disrespectful in the culture. But the boy is yanked out of death and back to life. Jesus is never concerned with how we view him, he offers life anyway.

When we bench Jesus, we only seek to ignore the One who can touch the bench of a young man without a pulse and restore cadence to his beating heart. Today, stop the pendulum swinging. Stop everything you are doing for a moment and invite Jesus into every department of your life. For he can revitalize every “dirty” situation.

The New Year Jitters

It’s the time of the year when we embark on a cerebral journey into our previous 365 days. Thoughts ensue like “What did I accomplish last year?” and “Am I happy with what I’m doing in life?” This process has the ability to motivate us toward the reset button annually. We itch for something new and exciting. Set exorbitantly lofty goals. And of course, scroll our Instagram page to see if our life looks successful.

As we approach the new year we need to keep 3 points in our back pocket.

1. Don’t be anxious

As we analyze ourselves and wonder what we’re missing, we scramble to find new classes, adventures, flight tickets, hobbies, gear, etc. that we believe will add interest to our lives. We become anxious in taking urgent steps to validate our lives as what they are “supposed” to look like. But is that true at all?

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25

From the perspective of the Giver of true, abundant life – the ideal life is not found in those additions that we stress over desperately needing. Additions are not harmful or pointless to your life but when we are anxious for them to fulfill our lives then we are trading the truth of the abundant life for a lie in things, wanderlust, trends, fads and stuff. The truth is –

seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

2. Do be content

Along with the hustle and bustle of being anxious for new desires and ideas to fill our flaws, discontentment arrives. With the year’s expiration date rapidly approaching, we assume that we must launch into more important things so that we may be more significant. This may not be true of all people, but for many of us it really is. We become urgent in seeking treasure and purpose in our lives when seeking the kingdom first leads to those very outcomes. The Apostle Paul, a man who experienced the spectrum from living in blistering cold to bountiful comfort pens his perspective on contentment this way: 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

Perhaps this year we must discover what it means to live in a new definition of contentment. For we could be exactly where we need to be for now.

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Acts 17:26-27

3. Initiate

It all funnels into this: if we are seeking the kingdom first while pleased with our current circumstance then there is an opportunity to bloom where we have been planted. We ought to initiate bringing fruit to our situation in every way – benevolence, generosity, hospitality, community, marriage, friendships, ministries, day job, career, education. All of it.

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23

If we are to live this out, there is no time for stressing over what could be or where we could be. There is here and now and there is diligent work to be carried out for the kingdom. Opportunities can and will follow. But why not cause action to begin by initiating in the areas you have available.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

As we turn the page to 2017, do not be crippled by anxiety or paralyzed by discontentment. Manifest the love, care and compassion that pursued you where you are now.

For The Win.

Christ Our Advocate

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1

Thank you Lord that the Tribe’s pitching is rolling right now! . . . But when pitching doesn’t go so right, the man in the middle must exit the mound so the relief pitcher can be brought in to save the game. Seven or eight innings in, when the starter has given everything he’s got (and sometimes all he’s got is junk), the errors have been made, and runs have been handed out like dollar dogs, he must hand the work over to the advocate. The relief. The guy who steps in and saves. Continue reading