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Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. - Genesis 6:9 (NIV)
Confession: I do not care what I wear. I dress for the functionality of warmth and modesty, not expression of self. I don’t spend any money, time, or brain space on clothes. If I were to shut my eyes right now, I’d struggle to tell you what I’m wearing while typing this. And, truth be known, almost every stitch of clothing that I own is a hand-me-down from my friend, Chris Hahn, or his son, Carter. I call them Hahn-me-downs. When I get a compliment on a shirt, I feel like I shouldn’t take credit. I want to tell them, “Thank you, I’ll pass that along to Carter who picked this shirt out two years ago.”
The relinquishment of control is so freeing. Having an opinion would mean more time staring at the closet in the morning, more money spent at the mall, more thought given to try to match the colors up. So I feel like I’m blessed by fashion-apathy. And I see a similar admirable trait with Noah in the flood narrative. He doesn’t share his opinion. Ever. We don’t get any account of him even speaking throughout this whole ordeal. I’m sure he did speak in those hundred years, of course. But his faithful obedience takes center stage.
This story doesn’t teach us that God doesn’t want to hear your thoughts. He does. But our modern culture ingrains in us the idea that we’re entitled to our opinion. And I would say that’s probably true. But sometimes we prioritize our own opinion over God’s plan. If I scan these few chapters about the flood, I see that Noah is faithful, quiet and obedient… and he saves the entire world.
One of our society’s greatest struggles is to listen more than speak. And that usually rings true in our spiritual life, too. So I challenge you to hold on to your opinion all day. Seriously, ALL day. If it’s not fact, don’t express it. Then end your day talking to God about how you could work that same discipline into your conversations with Him.Share Tweet
'‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:4 (NIV)
One of my favorite SNL sketches of all time is from 1995. It’s a commercial for Old Glory Robot Insurance. Click on the link and enjoy it (after you’ve read this devo, of course!). But the gist of it is a sales pitch to older folks who are convinced that scientists have invented robots that are going to take over the world. An insurance company is capitalizing on the naivete’ of the elderly community to sell them something that they don’t need. Fear begets more fear. Panic drives decisions. Doom becomes the motivation and recipient of our resources. Today, of course, it’s easy to see that Robot Insurance in 1995 was a complete absurdity. But I think the same types of absurdities will be glaring to us on the other side of heaven.
We have a lot that we want to control. But our resources and thoughts become focused on things that we have no control over anyway. We click on news stories that are completely irrelevant to us. We build bomb shelters. We overmedicate. None of these things are inherently wrong at all. But the truth is, there will come a day when we don’t need any of it. He’ll wipe every tear from our eyes and abolish every bit of pain in this world. So I say we quit worrying and prepping for doom and start telling more people about the Good News of what’s to come.
Who in your life has completely lost control of their circumstances right now? Do you know someone who is in a season of fear, grief, or despair? Will you pray this verse over them right now? Consider shouldering their burden and sharing the Good News of Heaven with them this week.Share Tweet
'“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”' - 1 Corinthians 15:55 (NIV)
Back when I was an intern here at Southland, our preacher had requested a coffin for a teaching illustration on the weekend. I was part of the crew that had to go pick it up. And as we wheeled it onto the stage, I thought to myself, “You should get in that thing and see what it’s like. It’s a once in a lifetime chance.” Then I corrected myself, “Twice in a lifetime, I guess. I just won’t be aware the next time.”
By the way, I’m a fairly claustrophobic guy. Elevators, cars, exam rooms and crawl spaces are torture for me. There’s something about the lack of freedom that seems threatening. I want to be able to move, run, flee, jump, stretch, scoot, maneuver, or shift. Being boxed in in a small space always feels threatening to me. But I’m also a seize-the-moment kind of guy, so I got in anyway. And do you know what I learned? Coffins are UNCOMFORTABLE!
There is no back support. There are springs poking you everywhere. That tiny, slippery pillow wouldn’t stay in place and, the very moment you close the lid, it felt like 100 degrees in there (and, no, I didn’t read into that). But never has an image of being “boxed in” been more contradictory than a coffin. To most people, there’s not a metaphor for restriction better than a lifeless body entombed in this tiny box. Most folks think that’s the end of moving, running, and jumping.
But I don’t think that.
That last box they put me in will be the beginning of an all-new kind of freedom.
'Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.' - Psalms 27:14 (NIV)
A couple years ago I had an injury that landed me an appointment to get an MRI. They strap you down, surround you with padding to limit your movement, then stick you in a giant tube that moans, groans, and vibrates… literally forever. (I have a pet peeve when people misuse the word “literally.” But this LITERALLY took forever!) Literally.
There were no clocks or updates. There was only public radio playing through a speaker that was completely drowned out by the GUHJAW GUHHHHJAAAAWWWW of the loud machine. To this day, I’m not sure if that was 20 minutes or three hours. All I know is that I wanted it to be over the very second that it started. Waiting for the technician to come in and tell me it was over was one of the greatest exercises in patience I’ve ever had.
We’ve been talking a lot about the story of Noah and the flood this week. And that’s probably one of the best (and most literal) examples of being boxed in in all of Scripture. There’s some debate about how long Noah and his family were floating in the ark. But most people agree its somewhere around 350 days.
For nearly a year they were consumed with the unknown. “How long will this last? Where’s all this water going to go? How will we start a new life when this place dries up? Would we have been better to have sunk like everyone else?” I’m sure it was a complete mind-job. I read recently that nothing breeds uncertainty like waiting. I’d have to agree. But I have bad news for those of us who are impatient; That’s God’s style. God uses waiting as a tool for maturity. He used it with Noah and He uses it with us today.
'But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.' - Genesis 8:1 (NIV)
One of the most boxed in experiences of my life was in Haiti a few years back. I was in the back seat of a pick-up truck, knees pressed against my chest for about two hours. The driver pushed pedestrians away with his bumper as we bounced our way down the unmaintained roads. Our full-size truck was like a bull in a China shop. But instead of delicate pieces of dishware, we were banging against men heading to work and women carrying babies. My brain swirled with worry as I watched the people slap the hood and jump out of the way as we chugged on down the street like a bulldozer. My stomach hurt from the bouncing and my legs hurt from being crammed in the backseat. I felt boxed in.
Until we arrived at our destination.
The tiny door of the pick-up truck opened, I unwedged my legs out from the back seat and fell out at Haiti’s Fort-Liberté. I was standing at a beautiful ocean-side fort that was built in 1731. The sound of the waves and the peaceful covering of blue tones reached into the sky and across the Caribbean. The visitors there were entranced with a reverence as they toured the site where Haiti proclaimed its independence over 200 years ago. Suddenly my previous two hours of misery disappeared into the past. I knew I was at a place of awe, beauty, and meaning.
I bet Noah had a similar experience when he opened the door of his big floating box after the flood. He was on top of a mountain, overlooking God’s redeemed world, waiting for the next life to begin. All the misery of floating with hundreds of scaly, hairy, disgusting animals for weeks would have receded with all that water. And he would have been more enthralled with all the freedom that awaited him.