Archive for March, 2011

ATTRACTING GOD’S FAVOR(Pt. 4)

“Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD”(Genesis 6:8).

“As it were in the days of Noah…so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man”(Luke 17:26).

The days of Noah were not unlike the days in which we live. And yet, Noah attracted God’s favor in the midst of incredible spiritual darkness.  The days of Noah were marked by five remarkable things:

1. Man’s wickedness was great in the earth.  Mankind had so turned from the Lord God his Creator that godlessness and idolatrous practices were normal.  When we don’t honor the image of God in our lives we do things contrary to our very God-given nature. The consequences of our choices do follow (C.f. Ro 1:18-26).

2. The imagination of Man to do wickedness was also great. It was not enough that people did wicked things, but they schemed how to do more wickedness and enticed others into joining them in their wicked devices (C.f. Ps. 14:1-4; Prov. 1:10-19).

3. The earth was full of violence. We are living in the times when peace has been taken from the earth. Since WW II, there has never been one day of peace upon the earth. Somewhere in the earth, as Jesus warned, “Wars and rumors of wars” are the order of the day. “Nations are rising against nations”(C.f. Matt. 24:4-8).

Today we have wars (which have been, no doubt, hatched in hell) where whole people groups are being targeted by another people group for elimination.  Homicides, Genocides, and Infanticides are the “accepted” norm of our dark age.  Has there ever been a generation where the value of a human life was so cheap?

4. The earth had become corrupt because of Man’s violence. Sin not only has personal consequences…It effects the created and natural order. God created the earth to be stewarded by Man, making it like “a garden of God”.  But in our day, even our national and international Reporters tell us that our ecological system is threatened everyday by the negligence and greed of Man. Scientist as well as Geologist warn us of world-stress conditions. As someone rightly said, “The Bible is News ahead of the News”.  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The earth dries up and withers, the world lanquishes and withers…The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.  Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt”(Isa. 24:4-6a NIV).

5. The suffocating indifference. There was no alarm to the hour of their impending destruction. Jesus describes Noah’s day as “Just another day”. They were not aware of their peril or danger. “They will be marrying and giving in marriage, etc…”(Lk. 17:27) What was He saying?  Life on the planet seemed like, “Business as usual”…”Until the Flood took them all away”(Gen 7:21-23). This statement should be extremely meaningful in our day, presently. We have seen the degradation, devestation and destruction of Tsunamis in different parts of the world. God is trying to get our attention. The only difference in Noah’s day and the last days is this…Noah’s day experienced destruction by the Flood. But Peter says, the final destruction will be by fire (2 Pet. 3:5-10).

As a result of the aforementioned conditions in “the days of Noah” we read, “And it grieved the LORD that He had made man”(Gen 6:6). He took council among Himself. “My Spirit will not always strive with man…His days shall be 120 years”(Gen 6:3). God announced His decision to destroy a wicked generation from off the face of the earth. But wait a moment…There is something more, right in the midst of the quagmire of a wicked and lost generation, God found someone who loved and served Him whole-heartedly.  “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD”(Gen. 6:8). His life teaches us upon whom the end of an age have come, that it is possible not to be a part of the darkness around us. Both Peter and Paul tell us that we can “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust”(2 Pet. 1:4, Rom. 8:21).

God let Noah in on what He was about to do and gave Noah a Blueprint for the deliverance of he and his household. He gave instructions for the building an Ark of safety.  Although we cannot go into its entire details here, a cursory view of the description of the Ark are important.  Notice, It was to be built three stories high. God bears witness to Himself as the God who is revealed as “The One in Three and the Three in One” God. He has revealed Himself as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”(Matthew 28:20; 2 Co 13:4). These three stories further bear witness to the nature of man made in God’s image as “three in one and one in three”.  Man is a three-part being; Spirit, soul & body (2 Thess. 5:23).

The Ark had a first floor as its foundation. So, too, God the Father is the foundation, the ground and Source of all living things. Again, the Ark had a second floor, which was to have a door. This reminds us of the fact that God’s unique Son, Jesus Christ has made known that all that would come to salvation must “Come to the Father through Me”(C.f. John 10:7; John 14:16). He alone is the Door to the Father.  Further, we see that there was a third floor. This floor was to have a window. It would both let the light in, but later let the dove out and in. Of course, it speaks of the nature of the Holy Spirit. When He comes He illuminates our darkness (Our spiritual understanding of Christ). The Holy Spirit, symbolized by the dove, will flutter over the deep looking for a place to light upon. He will not light upon a place of death. He seeks a place of life, as He did when He came from heaven and rested in Jesus Christ, the true Ark of Salvation (John 1:32).  The dove brought to Noah “an Olive branch” which has ever been associated with peace. It also was a token that the LORD God was restoring life upon the earth. His End-goal is never the destruction of the sinner, but His salvation (Jn. 3:16-17; 2 Pet 3:9).

Noah built the Ark with Gopher wood, which was light enough to float above the waters of destruction. If you are “In Christ” you too can rise above the darkness and destruction around you.  And finally, Noah was to put “pitch” upon the Ark, within and without (Gen 6:14). The Hebrew word for pitch is “Kaphar” which means “atonement”. It reminds us of the fact that it is the atoning work of the Cross, both for us and in us that attracts the favor of God, making a way of escape. Yes. God will cause the righteous to rise above that which brings destruction upon the earth. “The Lord knows how to deliver the righteous”(2Pet 2:9).

By faith Noah was a preacher of righteousness for 120 years.  Inspite of the fact that his generation mocked and ignored his warnings, he saved his household. And by faith we can too. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”….”This promise is for you and your children, as many as are far off “(Acts 2:21,38-39). If we build according to the Blueprint of God’s Word we can rise above the flood tide of evil of our day, attracting God’s favor. The prophet assures us that,”He will save and deliver. He will rejoice over us with singing”(Zeph 3:17).

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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ATTRACTING GOD’S FAVOR(Pt. 3)

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as one who pleased God”(Hebrews 11:4)

Not long after the story of God’s creation and the account of the fall of Man do we read of the record of the further descent of Man. We discover before we can attract the favor of God in our lives what disfavor is capable of. There are many “firsts” in the story of first named children of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. Not only are they the first mentioned sons, there are a lot of “first mentioned” truths that will appear later in the Scriptures. Those which are mentioned are keys, as it were, to unlock further insight into the nature of Man and the ways of God. We only mention them in this context for your consideration and further study in the Word.

Notice the First Mentions: We have the first mention of sacrifice. Sacrifice is a way to approach God as an act of worship. We have the first mention of anger. Anger is an emotional energy that if not harnessed can lead to abusive choices. We have the first mention of family violence. When there is not love and respect for one another in a home, it can lead to destructive behavior, the consequences which far too often lead to the breakup of a family. We also have the first mention of blood. Blood is a key theme throughout the Scriptures. God said, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life”(Lev 17:11).

In Genesis four, we compare and contrast the two brothers, Cain and Abel. Both were hard workers. Cain worked the fields. His brother Abel tended the flock (Gen 4:2). Both were religious; at an appropriate time they presented to the LORD God a sacrifice. One brought of the fruit of the earth. The other brought the best from his flock (Gen 4:3). But something was different in God’s reaction…We are told that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. Why was Abel’s offering accepted and Cain’s rejected?

Abel came in faith, not trusting in his own righteousness, but in God’s mercy and promise, the shedding of innocent blood, prefiguring the Cross of Calvary (C.f. Ro 3:23-26).

Cain came in a self-righteous manner, trusting his own works to satisfy God’s requirement for sin. He, like Abel, had surely heard how their parents, Adam and Eve, had lost Paradise through their willful disobedience, and how God was both a good and righteous Judge, atoning for their sin.

The LORD acted as the first High Priest in the Scriptures, slaying an innocent animal and providing them a covering for their nakedness. He then gave a promise (before putting them outside the Garden of Eden), lest they should eat of the Tree of life and be forever condemned. “The seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent”(Gen 3:15).

Abel attracted God’s favor by faith. He brought the best of the flock. After all, why was he raising a flock? They did not eat meat at this time. Mankind was not given that permission until after the flood in Noah’s day (See Gen. 9:3). No. Abel raised the flock with a view to making a pleasing sacrifice to the LORD. He trusted not in his own righteous work, but brought the shed blood of another in order to be made acceptable to God. Cain, on the other hand, in an act of self-righteousness brought what he deemed would be acceptable to God, his own labor, without regard for the blood which made for atonement. This resulted in God’s rejecting of his sacrifice and the acceptance of that of Abel’s.

Cain was warned by God that “sin was waiting at his door like a lion to devour him”; he must overcome it. Instead of dealing with his envy and jealousy of his brother Abel (and anger with God), he let it boil over, taking his revenge out on his brother. Under the pretense of wanting to talk with him in the field…he murdered him. His self-righteousness, rooted in pride, got the best of him. But his sin did not go unnoticed. His was the first shedding of innocent blood in the Scriptures. And although he buried his brother’s dead body, he did not know it could not be hidden from God. Abel’s blood cried out for justice (Gen. 4:10).

This should cause us to pause and reflect. We have come to accept the fact that we live in a violent society, and the shedding of the blood of the innocent seems normal news. But if one man’s blood was heard in the ears of the LORD God…What does the cry of millions through abortion and murder sound like in His ears today? If God comes down to avenge one man’s blood, what will God do for the killing of the millions who have no voice?

Cain took matters in his own hand. He thought he could silence Abel’s faith and righteousness. He could not, and suffered the consequences of his act of violence. We will either accept God’s remedy for our sinful behavior or seek to quiet the voice of our conscience by wounding or destroying others. Someone has rightly observed that sin is like a wound unhealed. “Wounded people wound people”. But, thank God that Jesus Christ bore our wounds on the tree, shedding his innocent blood. “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”(Hebrews 12:24 NIV) Whereas Abel’s blood cried out for justice and vengeance, Jesus’ blood cries out continually for mercy and forgiveness. His shed blood alone is an acceptable offering to God. The apostle Paul wrote, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy”(Titus 3:3-5a NIV). We join John the Baptist in declaring, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” 1:29). Only by the blood of Jesus can we attract God’s favor.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

ATTRACTING GOD’S FAVOR(Pt. 2)

ATTRACTING GOD’S FAVOR (Pt.2)

“Daniel resolved not to defile himself”…. “God caused the official to show favor to Daniel”(Dan 1:8,9).

Among the great “Hall of Faith” mentioned in Hebrews 11, none shines brighter than Daniel. His name is not mentioned, but his deeds of faith certainly are made known. The writer to the Hebrew Christians wrote, “I do not have time to tell about…. the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions…”(Heb 11:32a,33 NIV).

Daniel’s star “shall shine like the brightness of the firmament”(Dan 12:3). By faith he attracted God’s favor in the midst of very unfavorable circumstances. Although he was born of the royal seed of Israel, he along with most of his family (and generation) were taken into Babylonian captivity due to his ancestor’s sinfulness (C.f. Jer 25). Although they did not keep the word and council of Jehovah…He kept His Word and delivered them into captivity. We must never forget that God is true to His character and nature. The God who is long-suffering, wishing that none should perish, will ultimately judge the sinner for his sinfulness if there is not repentance. So it was with Israel in Daniel’s day. Let us not forget both the Goodness and the Justness of God. “The nation that refuses to serve the LORD will perish”(Isa 60:12).

In the place of captivity, Daniel found God’s favor (Even though the odds were stacked against him). He is taken from his homeland and made a slave under a foreign government (Babylon). His name is changed. His language is changed. His clothing is changed. His education is changed. But the one thing they could not change was the faith in his God.

He resolved within himself that he would not defile himself. He had dedicated his life to the LORD God of Israel; come what may…he would trust Him. And God rewarded his faith.

Daniel dared to risk his life. He believed the impossible and saw the invisible,that God could keep him in the midst of a crooked and perverted worldly system. He was not conditioned by the culture of Babylon. Neither was he impressed (or depressed) by its fashion. He did not bow to popular opinion. He was willing to stand alone for His God. But he did not ultimately stand alone. For God stood with Daniel. The LORD caused him to excel in every educational endeavor. He promoted him in rank far above his contemporaries. How was he able to do it? “The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him. He will make known His covenant”(Ps 25:14). Again, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, knowledge of the holy One is understanding”(Prov 9:10 NIV).

Daniel attracted God’s favor by his devotion to Him. It was known that Daniel kept a stellar prayer life. Three times a day he turned away from his duties of State and spent time in God’s presence. No doubt his responsibilities as a Statesman were great. But he learned how to both lean into and turn over these weighty matters to the LORD, seeking His assistance. Prayer was more than a habit of his life…It was his life! He joined the ranks of David who said “Seven times a day do I praise You because of Your righteous judgments”(Ps 119:164). He led the way for the likes of the great apostle Paul, who exhorts “Pray without ceasing”(1 Thess 5:17). He shows us the way of our Master, the Lord Jesus our great high priest, “Whoever lives to make intercession on our behalf”(Heb 7:25). No one with a consistent prayer life is ultimately defeated.

Daniel’s faithfulness to the LORD was demonstrated when he was wrongly accused and cast into the lion’s den by his enemies. For the lions, he should have been their meat. But “Out of the eater came meat. And out of the eater came something sweet”(Judges 14:14). God turned Daniel’s prison into a palace. Daniel had wrestled in prayer prior to his prison. And he was delivered from the mouth of the lions. But his enemies became the lion’s lunch!

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land”(Ps 37:7-9 NIV). If you would attract God’s favor…Dare to be a Daniel.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

ATTRACTING GOD’S FAVOR

Some of the great lessons that can inspire and instruct us can be found in the biographies of Bible characters. Perhaps the best known chapter that demonstrates this is the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven. There we have what has come to be known as “The hall of faith”. We read of men and women who gained notoriety because of their acts of faith. Although faith will not always make you famous, it will make you acceptable to God. “For without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him”(Heb 11:6).
Faith is the only currency of heaven. If you want to attract God and His favor in your life it requires a faith in both His existence and in His character. The scriptures reveal that God is good and rewards His children with good things when they trust in His promises and rely on His faithfulness. Many things that are desired from God require diligent seeking and perseverance to see them come to fruition. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen”(Hebrews 11:1). Sometimes we give up in the middle of “the fight of faith”, quitting, assuming that God doesn’t want to give us those things we have asked of Him. But when we ask according to His will for us we must have confidence that He will answer us. “Jesus told them a parable that they should always pray and not give up”(Luke 18:1 NIV).
Faith will be tested. When the disciples of Jesus were instructed by Jesus to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake, they were not anticipating that a storm would arise that they were sure would drown them! But as they struggled and toiled in their own strength, Jesus came to them walking on the very thing that threatened them. He did not intend that they drown, but that they trust His word of command, “Go to the other side”. What was the purpose of the test? They were given an upgrade of faith in Him. He is the king that is master of the waves and the sea. When they realized that it was Jesus walking on the boisterous waves they took Him into the boat, and immediately they were at their destination.
Sometimes faith requires that we invite Jesus into our circumstances, though our reason is bypassed, to understand why we have been allowed some great trial or difficulty. But it is in the place of non-reason that we cling to His promise. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you”(Isaiah 43:1b-2a NIV). No. We cannot choose the day or nature of the challenge of faith, but we can choose to rely on the One who has allowed our faith to be tested in order that it be perfected. The mystery of our trial is that God draws nearer to us in time of the enemy’s temptation to doubt the goodness of God. Although God may allow this “sifting of faith”, He will rescue us from the brink of failing. He knows our frame and our weaknesses. ” No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it”(1 Co 10:13 NIV).
Faith has its own unique reward for the individual who trusts. When Peter got out of the boat at the command of Jesus to “Come”, he did what no one but Jesus had done up until that moment. He walked on water, defying the natural laws of nature. Albeit, he did begin to sink when he took his eyes off of Jesus. But one cry to the Master put him back on top of the water and then back into the boat! I don’t think Peter ever forgot the experience. Nor did the other disciples who no doubt kept asking Peter, “What it was like to walk on water like Jesus?” Yes. Faith has its reward and lessons learned. Peter learned that faith must have a right focus. Don’t look at the waves. Fix your eyes on Jesus! A.W. Tozer said, “Faith is the gaze of the soul upon a saving God”.
Faith is not a struggle, but rather a leap into the arms of the One who loves us and longs to reward our trust in Him. This is the secret Corrie Ten Boon shared, who survived the horrors of a German concentration camp for rescuing Jews during the WW II. She wrote as testimony to her faith, “You look around…and you’re distressed. You look within…and you’re depressed. You look to Him…and you’re at rest.”
Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com