Publication: Pastoral Letter, April 2010
Dear Friend in Christ:
Life presents us with storms, especially when seasons change, and the season is hanging. No,I do not refer to the arrival of spring. I am referring to a much greater and significant change in human history. The changes will be accompanied by instability and uncertainty. This letter is not about another scenario; it is about triumph through change. It is not necessary that we see the future; it is necessary that we obey in the present.
The instability that faces us has already begun, It has begun in families, business, relationships, governments and churches. In late 2008, America voted for “hope and change”. But many changes were already coming, regardless of who was elected. Hope is something else; it can only come from the One who elects us.
The “declines” are upon us: decline in dollar value, decline in confidence, decline in moral strength, decline in church attendance, decline in traditional values, decline in civility, and decline in real prophetic leadership.
But there are also increases: in fear, debt, immorality, homosexuality; and continued high rates of crime, divorce, and abortion. One concerning issue is how much our nation has borrowed against our children’s future and how much we owe China, an uncertain ally. I am reminded of God’s rebuke of Israel for their dependence on Egypt and their neighboring states.
I am not an “alarmist”; I am an “awakenist”, hopefully in the Biblical manner. I remember the 1970s when some advocated buying gold, storing grain, and buying guns. Then there was the Y2K scare as the millennial change occurred. I should also mention the Left Behind series in the latter part of last century, which sold millions of copies. Whenever there is instability, the prophets come out; some good and some not so good.
Some who bought gold early did quite well. Those who bought late lost a lot in its sudden decline of value. Some who bought wheat still have it and those who bought guns do also. While it’s okay to own guns, I’m glad folks didn’t have to shoot their neighbors to keep them from stealing the grain.
In the 1960s, we had instability and also a measure of revival that continued into the 1970s. But in the 1980s and 1990s, we had a renewed prosperity and went back to sleep. We didn’t get a Y2K meltdown, but on 9/11, we had a another kind of meltdown. Change did come, but not as expected; it seldom does. The issue before us is not outguessing the future; it is obeying God in the present.
In the aforementioned changes, I did not buy gold, grain, guns, or stockpile necessities. In the crisis in the early 1970s,I bought a car and a house. I am rather cynical about fear and rather high about faith. But I do believe in preparation! The question is, how do we repair? Some think that the answer is to fight change, but it keeps coming.
NOAH FOUND GRACE
The Bible offers us many great models for triumphs in change. Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, Isaiah, Daniel, and the apostles all come to mind, and they make for good guidance in these times. In this letter, I want to take a fresh look at Noah.
In Noah’s day, God got weary of sin and the corruption in society; He still does get weary of it, regardless of what the “smoothe-sayers” tell us. He decided to destroy the entire world except for Noah and his family(Jesus confirmed these events in Matthew 24:36-38). But people were oblivious to reality and continued on as usual. In 2 Peter 2:5,Noah is described as a “preacher of righteousness”. He kept preaching for more than 100 years. No one but his own family listened. The number of listeners is not always a measure of a preacher’s accuracy.
Noah not only preached righteousness; he was righteous. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (see Genesis 6:8). What a beautiful verse! The grace of God is the key to triumph through change .Noah had truth in his “inward parts” (see Psalm 51:6 and Jeremiah 31:33; contrast with Matthew 7:15). Noah did not succumb to crowd approval or applause. He told it straight, and God liked it. Noah found grace.
We need to seek God for His grace and mercy. “God have mercy on me, a sinner” is the publican’s prayer, and God justified him(see Luke 18:13). In order to receive grace, we do not have to be without sin-no one is. We do have to humble ourselves before God and call upon Him to be gracious to us and to obey what he tells us to do. It is about being prepared for the future. Noah was, his family was, but others were not.
The Bible tells us several things about Noah: he was a righteous man; he preached it to others; he had integrity; he walked with God, and he led his family (see Genesis 6:8-12). Noah did not earn grace; he found grace. He was what he was; God loved it, and gave him grace. We cannot earn grace. It is impossible. Grace by definition is a gift. Noah could have died with everyone else ,but God gave him grace to survive and triumph over the flood. Grace gave him a plan of action. Grace is where victory begins. Believe it!
What scares me, as a preacher, is that preaching has become an art form instead of a prophetic platform. People “try out” preachers to see which one they like. And many preachers become prostitutes to applause. Meanwhile, the people think that “church” is some kind of “American Idol” where preachers get to the “next level”. Worship leaders are subject to the same dangers, indeed we all are. Noah was not a “winner” with the populace, but he was with God. He not only walked with God, he obeyed what he heard, and what he heard was unimaginable! “It’s going to flood, cover the whole earth; build a ship.”
The ark was 450 feet long by 75 feet wide. Neither a flood nor such a vessel had ever been know before. He acted upon obedience, not upon a clever view of the next era. And he worked for more than 100 years with his family to complete his obedience.
Genesis 6:18 states that God made a covenant with Noah. No, I am not talking about the rainbow that came after flood. God made a covenant before the flood and that is the one that got Noah and His family through the flood. God gave His word to Noah that he and his family would endure the raging winds and waters that were to come.
Have you ever been in a serious storm? The winds howl terribly. It does sound like a train. Ever been in a flood? The waters keep coming higher and higher. Wave after wave comes pouring in until what was once dry land has now become open sea as far as one can see. It is frightening!
But as the waters rose with the wind, Noah and his family were at peace, confident in God’s covenant promise. Covenant is the bond between God’s heart and ours which holds us steady in unstable times. “In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the vale. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” Noah could have written those words from the great hymn, “The Solid Rock”.
So, how did Noah triumph? He survived through grace, righteousness, proclaiming truth, walking with God, obeying God, leading his family, and trusting God’s covenant. Those attributes will serve anyone through any transition!
TRIUMPH THROUGH TRIAL
So here we are in the midst of great transition, being tested, tempted, and tossed by the winds that seem to come from all directions. Will what worked in Noah’s life work in ours? That’s what I love about God and His Word; it is eternal. Heaven and earth shall pass away but His word stands forever. We can endure by His Word.
Had we been alive in Noah’s day, would we have found grace in the eyes of the Lord? I pray so. But this is our day and our storm. I want to call your attention to Ephesians 2 where Paul describes our former condition: we were dead in sin; conformed to the world and subject to the enemy; we lusted in our flesh and our minds; were by nature children of wrath-just like the others in Noah’s generation.
Ephesians 2:12 says that were strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. In other words, we would have drowned with everyone else! We had not found grace, were not righteous, did not testify to reality, and did not lead our families to righteousness-we would have drowned with our families and many are drowning in the current storm. How tragic!
Thank God it doesn’t end there. Verse four says, “but God.” Verse 13 says, “But now in Christ, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” If you have received Christ, you once were outside the ark but now are in the ark. Verse 18 says that through Christ, we have access to the Father and verse 19 says that we are members of His family.
Does this mean that we are just here for the ride? Do we just claim that no storm can touch us, that we just wait for God to work it all out? Are we fatalists? I hope not. The lesson of Noah is not presumption, apathy, or being at “ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1). The lesson is grace that brings obedience and obedience that brings preparation.
Let me reiterate the lesson of Noah’s experience; what might he say could he speak with us? I’m sure it would take hours, and he would speak with great passion. Here are some points that I believe he would make:
- Be aware of what is going on around you. Ask God to show you reality.
- Determine to walk righteously regardless of what others do. Have integrity.
- Don’t be afraid to warn others and call them to reality-even if it’s unpopular.
- Seek the Lord for His grace-pray for mercy for yourself and others.
- Build a strong relationship with your family-you will need them for support.
- Work diligently to do those things God is telling you to do now. God knows the future.
- Face the floods with covenant confidence. Obey, stand on His promise, and be at peace.
- Don’t measure your success by applause; measure it by obedience and endurance.
My aim is not to tell you what to do or predict the future, it is to help us to face transitions and turbulence. There are some valid prophets in our day; I will let you decide who they are. But I would be careful and test the record of anyone who tells you what decisions to make. I would avoid fear and being pressured to buy into some scenario from which the “prophet” is making money. Making money is not a bad thing, but as a motive for prophecy, it is.
What I do advocate is a studying people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and the apostles to see how they dealt with change and pursued the Lord through it. Whatever you do, seek humility and seek God. Change will continue to be with us, but so will our faithful Lord.
Please remember us in your prayers, and prayerfully consider us in your giving. We depend upon God’s faithfulness in order to continue forward in mission. And, we would love to see you April 14-16 at our annual CSM Leadership Conference in Gatlinburg.For more information,please visit our website at www.csmpublishing.org. Have a blessed month, and may you find grace in the eyes of the Lord!
Scripture Reference: Matthew, 2 Peter, Genesis, Psalms, Jeremiah, Luke, Ephesians, Amos,