“Don’t tell God how big your storm is; tell the storm how big your God is”.
I’m sure many of you have heard that statement as a motivational tool, whether in a sermon at your church or on your friend’s Facebook page as you were scrolling through. You could replace the word “storm” with “giant” or “fear” or anything else that seems to be standing in the way of you walking the journey that God has set before you. It may be a medical diagnosis that you or someone close to you has recently received. It may be the loss of a job that you and your family were counting on for financial stability. It may be the fact that you know God is calling you to do something that seems extremely difficult bordering on impossible.
I believe that one of the biggest “giants” that stand in the way for many of us is THE PAST. I’ve had the opportunity through my places of employment over the last few years to get to know several men who were living as slaves to their pasts. They are men who had moments of surrender to the Lord and began to make more God-honoring choices in their everyday lives, only to eventually hit a wall that seemed unbreakable in their eyes. These men had built for themselves a skyscraper of consequences from their past sins and those committed against them, and the odds of them overcoming the past seemed insurmountable. I’m talking about men who owe many years and many thousands of dollars in backed up child support. I’m talking about men who are haunted by what others have done to them and what they’ve done to others. And I’m talking about addicts who have had moments of clarity where they knew they no longer “needed” that substance, only to get back to a point where they saw it as the only way to deal with the pain and regret of the past.
While I can’t say I’ve ever been to the point of the men I described above, I can admit that I have been tempted to believe lies about myself based on my sinful past. If I didn’t have men in my life who constantly prayed for me and reassured me that God views me according to what Christ has done for me and not my mistakes, I may have continued in those mistakes and surrendered to them and decided that there was no other way for me to live. Fortunately, I did not lose sight of how big my God is and, with the help of others, I was able to view my past and the other “storms” and “giants” in my life as mere “grasshoppers” compared to the His greatness.
You are probably wondering at this point why I am talking about grasshoppers. Did you know that the grasshopper is referenced in the Bible? It’s actually referenced many times in the Old Testament, one of my favorites of which is in the Book of Numbers. Let me set it up for you. The Israelites were pretty much at the end of their journey to the Promised Land. The Lord had miraculously fed them, battled for them, and led them on the entire journey. In Numbers 13:1, he tells Moses to “send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites”. God already knew what they would find once they explored, so it was an obvious test of their faith and trust in Him.
Moses then sent twelve leaders, one from each Israelite tribe, to explore the land for forty days and then bring back a report to the whole Israelite camp. The report they brought back was partially positive in that they confirmed that it “flows with milk and honey” and bears good fruit, but the report’s pessimism outweighed anything positive that it had to say. They said that “the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large”, and also that they “saw descendants of Anak there” (13:28). After Caleb, one of the men who had explored the land, tried to motivate the people to press on anyway and take possession of the land, the other reporters continued to warn the people of what was awaiting them. “We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (13:33).
Let me ask you an obvious question. How in the world could the reporters have known what they looked like in the eyes of the Nephilim? For all they knew, God could have put the fear of the Israelites into the minds of the Nephilim. My point in bringing that up is that the real problem here is not that the Nephilim looked down at the Israelite leaders, but that the Israelite leaders looked up at the Nephilim. They VIEWED THEMSELVES as tiny grasshoppers compared to these giants. Thus, they were defeated before they ever even began the battle. Instead of considering the facts that God was leading them, that He is more than able to accomplish His will, and that His greatness reduces all who come against Him to nothing more than “grasshoppers”, they allowed their fears that were based on sight to suppress their faith.
I’d love to tell you that somebody gave a great motivational speech that caused the people to come to their senses and push forward into the Promised Land. But that isn’t what happened. Caleb and Joshua, whose name by the way comes from the same root as that of Jesus, did stand up and give the motivational speech. They focused on the fact that the Lord was with them, and that there was nothing to fear. “Do not be afraid of the people of the land because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (14:9). However, the people continued to complain and even talked about stoning Caleb and Joshua. Moses then successfully pleads to the Lord for forgiveness of the people, but the Lord still declares that their consequence will be that they will not enter the Promised Land (14:29-30). God then struck down with a plague those who spread the fear with their report (14:37). Later, even after Moses told the rest of the Israelites who believed the original report that God would not allow them to enter the Promised Land because of their lack of faith, they assumed God would protect them anyway and entered the land, where they were destroyed (14:45).
The story of Caleb and Joshua and the rest of the leaders who explored the land and brought a report back to the people is definitely one of my favorites in the Bible. I encourage you to read Numbers 13 and 14 in their entirety. If you don’t believe that God is real, then you have every reason to fear each and every “giant” that stands in your way. But, for those of you who claim to be followers of Christ and believers in the Almighty God, this is where it is most crucial in your lives. Friends, if we don’t believe that every single “giant” or “storm” in our lives is a mere grasshopper compared to the God we serve, what’s the point in worshipping Him? Belief that He is Almighty as He says is the ENTIRE reason why we should be moved by fear of disobeying Him and moved by faith to do the great things to which He has called us. What great thing has He promised you or called you to that is currently blocked by “giants”? Is it overcoming an addiction? Is it climbing out of the hole that your past has created for you? Is it forgiving someone who has hurt you? Maybe it’s leaving what is comfortable to serve Him in a new way or a new place. I can assure you that, if God has promised you something in the Scriptures and approves of your goal, whatever stands in your way is nothing more than a grasshopper. Don’t tell God how big your “Nephilim” are; tell your “Nephilim” how big your God is!
This week’s word, nephilim, is probably one that you’ve never heard before. There is no easy answer as to what the nephilim are / were, since there’s only little biblical support, but hopefully after reading this blog entry, your curiosity will at least be piqued.
One of the main Bible passages that refers to the nephilim is Genesis 6:4, which says: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
Nephilim comes from the Hebrew verb naphal, which means to fall. The word nephilim itself is a plural noun from that verb, so it could be translated literally as “the fallen ones” or “the ones who fell.” But fell from what?
As that verse from Genesis 6 says, the “sons of God” had children with daughters of men. But what does that mean? Without much Biblical support for an answer, I turned to Answers In Genesis, an organization that has researched this. According to a blog post on their website, there are four main views on the nephilim:
Satan or fallen angels had children with human women, and these children were the nephilim.
Satan or fallen angels possessed men and made them breed with women.
The nephilim were fallen children from the Godly line of descendants from Adam to Noah, and they sought false gods.
Godly men took ungodly wives, and the nephilim were their children who rejected God and were wicked.
So if we don’t know what the nephilim are, why are they important to your daily life today? The passage quoted above from Genesis 6 occurs in a section where the Bible talks about how wicket the world was at the time - right before the big flood. I believe that whatever the nephilim were, the fact that they existed showed the extent of wickedness that was in the world. Because of that wickedness, God destroyed the earth with a great flood. If the nephilim of old had turned back toward God, perhaps the world could have been spared from the flood.
What does your life look like? Are you living for God, or have you fallen away from Him? God has promised to never again destroy the world with a great flood like back in the book of Genesis, but judgment is still coming for all of us. I encourage you today to take a good, hard look at your life and determine if you’re following God or if you have fallen away from him. Remember that you can never go too far away from God that He won’t take you back; His arms are always welcoming us back to Him!
While I don’t consider myself that much of a traveler because I’ve never been overseas and the only lands I’ve been to away from the continental United States and Canada are Haiti and The Bahamas, I have had the privilege of spending time in five of the current six largest cities in the United States, according to population, in New York, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, and Phoenix (the one I have not been to is Los Angeles). I also spent a week in Toronto, the largest city in Canada. While I prefer majestic mountains and breathtaking scenery to urban areas, I’ve always enjoyed visiting cities for the first time or even repeat visits to ones that I don’t get to see often. I love the uniqueness of cities, depending on their locations and cultures. I loved Toronto because it was remarkably clean and safe for as large as it is. New York is cool simply because of its diversity, history, and landmarks. Chicago and Houston both look massive as you approach them, but have very different cultures and climates. I happen to love the smaller city of Pittsburgh because it is surrounded by mountains, which prevents you from seeing any of it until you are pretty much in it!
What I’ve found interesting about cities, however, is that we generally view them the same way we view everything else in our lives – we complain about what we deal with every day and always think that something else or somewhere else would make us happy! The people who live in the cities I mentioned above generally have lost sight of what makes their city great. I’ll be honest and tell you that the closest big city (over 300,000 people) to where I live right now is Toledo, and I can’t stand it! I have to go there for training every so often and my co-workers and I all complain about it. But I don’t doubt that there are probably things to appreciate about Toledo and that I would appreciate them if I didn’t spend so much time there. This concept really hit home for me on the first of my two trips to Denver, Colorado. I had never been that far west and was excited beyond measure just to see the Rocky Mountains in person. As our plane was landing, I was moving all over the place trying to get a glimpse of them out my window. Meanwhile, the guy next to me was returning to his HOME from a business trip and was complaining about the light dusting of snow they had. He also told me, “The mountains aren’t that big of a deal once you get used to them”. Seriously? Who gets “used to” the Rocky Mountains!
Complaining and failure to appreciate what we have is a poison that affects nearly all of us. It causes us to spend our energy chasing after things, often even “good” things, which do not and cannot fully satisfy. Instead of fixing our eyes on what is eternal, we are caught up in what we see right in front of us and our dreams of what we want and don’t currently have. If you don’t have faith in Christ, you are still searching for that one thing that can satisfy all your needs. But even if you do follow him, many Christians still live chasing after something else. We forget that Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that whoever would drink the water he would give would “never thirst again” (John 4:14a). The idea isn’t that Jesus would give us something that would cause us to cease ever being physically thirsty again, but that a relationship with the God who created all things is only possible through him and the only way to have absolute fulfillment is to KNOW the One who created all things and can provide all things.
For all the traits listed in Revelation 21 that describe the New Jerusalem, by far the most important to know and look forward to is the one that fully satisfies. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (v. 3). When you have the Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Provider physically living WITH you, there is no such thing as “need” or “want”. All of the things that we need and want in this life are temporary. It’s difficult to be single and long for marriage, yet those who do must come to grips with the reality that even a spouse and children are not eternal. It’s difficult to watch our bank accounts dwindle down and not have that financial security we all want, but the old adage “he who dies with the most toys still dies” rings true. It’s difficult to leave a place of comfort and venture into the unknown, but a proper eternal perspective reveals that both what we are leaving and where we are going are temporary.
At my church, we’ve been going through a series on the “witnesses” of our Christian faith that are described in Hebrews 11. The one person who is talked about more than any other in that chapter is Abraham. And perhaps the most important characteristic that was attributed to Abraham by the author of Hebrews is found in v. 10: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”. The promised nation of his descendants, and their capital city of Jerusalem, would be built with human beings and materials, while only the New Jerusalem in eternity would be built by God.
Friends, it had to be excruciating for Abraham to leave his homeland and comfort, wait for God to tell him where to go, and then settle as an alien in a foreign land. But he was able to do it by faith, not just in God’s character and promises to him while he was still on this earth, but also in his heavenly reward. Abraham believed in his promised earthly inheritance, but it was his ability to see everything in front of him as temporary that allowed him to persevere even when it seemed like God’s earthly promise was in doubt. We know from history that God’s promise to “make (Abraham) into a great nation” (Genesis 12:2) was fulfilled through Israel. But Abraham died way before it came to fruition. You see, his eyes were on the true prize – “the city whose architect and builder is God”. His faithful perspective is what fueled his perseverance and developed his character.
There is another well-known reference in Scripture, that exemplifies our trust in the eternity and permanency of our God, that I would like to end with. I remember President Obama reading it on September 11, 2011 as a comfort for those at the memorial service on the tenth anniversary of the greatest terrorist attack our nation had ever suffered on our homeland. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day” (Psalm 46:4-5). The sons of Korah, who were the writers of this particular psalm, later urge us to “be still and know that (He is) God” (v. 10).
That’s the challenge for you and me. No matter what it is that we are chasing after in this lifetime, or what it is that is causing us pain and troubles, we must remember by faith that it is all only temporary. On the best of your best days AND the worst of your worst days, remember that something eternal is awaiting you. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, don’t get too high on your earthly joys or too low on your earthly troubles, because you know that everything is short-term on the way to your permanent residence in the place where God himself dwells – the New Jerusalem!
Have you ever heard about the city of Pompeii? Pompeii is a city in Italy near Naples. In the year A.D. 79, the volcano Vesuvius erupted, leaving the city partially buried in 13-20 ft of volcanic ash. Interestingly, some sources believe that the devastating eruption occurred the day after the people of Pompeii celebrated a festival to the Roman god of fire. While much of Pompeii has been excavated in the last few hundred years, when the volcano erupted all life in the city was destroyed. Today, Pompeii is a tourist destination and archaeological site only; it is essentially a dead city.
Even though it happened many years ago, the tragedy of Pompeii is a warning to us that no earthly city will last forever. Cities rise and cities fall, whether due to natural disasters or to economic causes, such as ghost towns of the “old west” in the United States. Nothing in this life is forever; all things will eventually pass away. Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”
What is the “city that is to come”? It is the New Jerusalem. For all of the details of the New Jerusalem, I encourage you to go read the entire chapter of Revelation 21. After this world passes away, the New Jerusalem will appear. It will be a holy and perfect city that will last forever. God will bring us heaven on earth (literally) with the New Jerusalem, and we who believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ will be able to spend all eternity with God in that place.
The New Jerusalem will be nothing like any city on this earth. It will “shine with the glory of God” (verse 11) and have “no need of the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it” (verse 23). In addition, there will be “nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it” (verse 27).
Here on this earth, we have darkness; we have places where we don’t clearly see the glory of God; and we have many things are unclean and people who are sinful. The New Jerusalem will truly be heaven on earth, and it will never be destroyed!
Does that sound like a place you want to be for all eternity? If so, there is a guest list. The last part of Revelation 21:27 says that “only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life [shall ever come into it].” The way to get your name in the book is to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and to have faith in Him, that He died for you and rose again, so that you can have life forever in the New Jerusalem.
This past Sunday was the most-watched sporting event of the year – the Super Bowl. Each year, something like 100 million viewers tune in to watch the final football game of the NFL season. While it is still a football game like all the rest with a time limit and rules, it has become a national event for many reasons (i.e. halftime show, pregame build-up, betting). Because it has become an event that nearly a third of the country watches, it is also the one time in the entire year where sports fans actually want to sit and watch the commercials rather than flip channels. The day after the Super Bowl, people who analyze the game for a living and know nothing about marketing actually spend time talking about the best and worst of the new commercials!
For this year’s Super Bowl commercials, nearly everyone that I am either friends with or work with had the same reaction that I did – disappointment. This feeling was due to several factors, including inappropriateness, lack of anything memorable, and the types of things advertised. In my opinion, there were just too many companies trying too hard to be too clever. What my friends and I saw were long, drawn-out commercials that viewers ended up spending more time trying to figure out than actually thinking about the product advertised. There were times when I just wanted to stand up and scream at the TV, “Get to the point already!” The goal of these companies is to get you and I to remember whatever it is they’re selling. While I admittedly know very little about marketing, I’d assume the best way to do that is to find a way to be clever in a quick, concise, and to-the-point manner.
My feelings about the commercials got me thinking about the way Christians share the good news of Jesus Christ. Whether you are already a follower of Jesus or you are still not sure you want to put your trust in him, you can probably agree that there are times when you wish the preacher or Christian friend of yours would just get to the point and tell you what you need to know. We are often guilty of making it more complex than it really needs to be. Now, don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoy discussing theological topics with anyone and I know there are those out there who want to “know” more before they can believe. But the entire gospel of Christ essentially boils down to the human need for a Savior and Jesus of Nazareth being our needed answer for all that ails us. In paying our penalty on the cross and defeating death by rising on the third day, Jesus Christ is ALL that we need. The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he “resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. Paul went on to learn much more and become an excellent theologian, but he never lost sight of what matters for salvation and how to explain it in a clear and concise manner.
If you read the title of this post, you’re probably wondering at this point how Noah’s Ark could possibly have anything to do with everything else I’ve been saying. Think about it. As Noah was building this huge structure and telling people that there was going to be a flood, was it some huge mystery how they could be saved from said flood? I mean, you were either going to get on the ark and be saved, or you were going to take your chances that Noah was crazy and go on with your life. There was no middle ground. Once the judgment came in the form of the floodwaters, those who chose not to believe perished. It was that simple. Now, line that up with Jesus’ words in the oft-quoted John 14:6 (emphasis mine). “I am THE way and THE truth and THE life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through me”. Jesus isn’t one of many options, friends. He’s the only way. For those people that lived in Noah’s day, the rising of the waters left them searching for something to save them, while the only thing that could had already come and gone.
God found Noah to be a righteous man, and He told him ahead of time that he was going to destroy all people and the earth by a flood and gave Noah instructions on how to be saved from it (Genesis 6:9-13). What I find interesting is that God told Noah what He was going to do before giving him instructions on what to do next. This shows us that God was going to destroy the earth whether Noah chose to obey Him or not. Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah “in holy fear built an ark to save his family”. You see, what motivated Noah was not his emotional feeling that God loved him but his belief, despite all the wickedness around him, that God was Almighty, that judgment was coming, and that God could take him out if He wanted. Everyone else around him got comfortable in their knowledge and feeling of control, but Noah believed by faith that God was sovereign.
One of the things that God showed me recently about Noah and his ark is that, while Noah built the mechanism that would essentially separate those who were saved from those who would perish, God still did not leave judgment up to Noah. Genesis 7:16 says that, after Noah did as he was commanded and got his family and all the animals on the ark, “the Lord shut him in”. Could you imagine how different it would be for Noah and how different our understanding of God would be if He had allowed Noah to decide when the door gets shut? It would be the equivalent of somebody on this earth today having the power to decide when Christ returns. Do you realize what a burden that would be for a mere human knowing that your choice is the one that determines the ETERNAL fate for all? We must understand that God is God and we are not for many reasons. Only He has the power to condemn for all eternity because only He is holy in nature. This should be an eye-opener for both Christians who attempt to judge and condemn by their words and non-Christians who are still searching for another answer.
There is much more to the story of Noah. It spans five chapters in the Book of Genesis. There is also much more to the story of Jesus Christ. It spans 66 individual books within the Bible. There are parts of each story that are mysterious, but they still come back to a very basic truth that is available for all who are willing to understand. At the time of the first worldwide judgment, you weren’t getting by unless you were on that ark and you weren’t on that ark unless you believed by faith that God was who He said He was and would do what He promised He would do. As we approach the second worldwide judgment that is described in Revelation, you aren’t getting by unless you believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. That option has not exhausted itself yet. The key word there is “yet”. There will come a time when it’s no longer an option, and only those who believed by faith without seeing complete proof will be saved. If you haven’t made that choice yet, please consider what’s at stake and let any of the writers at Worldview Warriors know in the “comments” section of these blogs how we might be able to get in touch with you to discuss it further.
Many people, both Christians and non-Christians, know the general story of Noah’s Ark; in fact, it was popularized a bit in the modern day movie “Evan Almighty.” A guy is told by God to build a huge boat. He does it and everyone laughs at him. He takes his family and two of every kind of animal on the ark. It rains and rains and rains and the world floods, but eventually it all dries up again, there’s a rainbow, and life goes on.
But, there’s a lot more to the story than that. For the full story, I encourage you to read all of Genesis 6-9.
To start out with, why did this story even need to happen? Did God simply want Noah to practice his construction skills? Nope. Look at Genesis 6:5-8:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Every thought that every person on earth at that time was evil. Just think about that for a minute. We see a lot of evil in today’s world; if you don’t believe me, just read the news! Between terrorists and school shootings and public figures being caught in scandals, evil feels like it’s everywhere. But is *every* thought only evil all the time? I don’t think so. There is still a lot of good in this world too, because of God’s presence in it. The only good in the world at that time was Noah, and his family.
Noah was obedient to God despite the circumstances. Some scholars believe that it had never rained in the world until the great flood. Noah looked like a total dork building this ginormous (and I do mean *ginormous*!) boat on land, but as it says in Genesis 6:22, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”
Think about that verse applied to your own life. Have you done everything, exactly like God has commanded you to? I know I haven’t. I often want to live life my own way, not God’s. But just as God made a promise to Noah to never do that again (Genesis 9:11), God has also promised to always give us His grace to anyone who believes in Jesus and is sorry for the times we haven’t done what God has commanded us to.
God redeemed the world through the great flood. Even though we are still sinful human beings, we too can be redeemed through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us.