Monday, March 3, 2014

Sermon Ideas for Genesis 8

- He Sent a Wind - In Genesis 8:2, we read that God sent a wind over the earth that caused the waters of the Flood to recede. God remembered Noah and brought an end to the Flood. Do you believe that God will remember you in the midst of your troubles too?

When the flood waters of life seem to be tossing you around and threatening you every moment, God will remember you and send a fresh breeze to calm your troubles, just as He did with the Flood. But you may have to wait a while for that happen. Noah couldn't step right out of the ark. He had to send out the raven and then the dove, and then the dove again. God will send that wind of change in our lives, but we have to be patient.

We also have to pay attention to the signs He's giving us. Stay in tune with God so that you can feel the breeze of change blowing, and try to see what He's doing in your life. Can you see the dove returning with the olive leaf in it's mouth in your life? If you can't see it yet - if you can't see your life changing yet - keep looking and have hope that God will remember you in your troubles.

  • God will remember you
  • God will bring change to your life
  • Wait for it in patience
  • Stay in tune with God
  • Watch for the signs

- Receded Steadily - How long was Noah on the ark?

Scripture tells us that it was about ten and a half months (Genesis 7:11; 8:13).

Ten and a half months! Can you imagine being on a boat, with all those animals, and the same seven people for ten and a half months?

I mean, it only rained for forty days and he has to stay on the boat for ten and a half months?!

I'm sure Noah found plenty of opportunities to work on his patience during that time of waiting to get off the ark.

What are you waiting for in your life? In what area of your life are you praying for God to act?

Though Noah might have wanted to step off the ark as soon as it stopped raining, he had to learn that even God's wind of change usually doesn't work in an instant, but steadily over time (Genesis 8:3). Take heart and know that God is working - sometimes so quietly, so subtly, so steadily - that we don't even notice it. Sometimes we can see God working - we can see our life changing slowly but surely - and God simply calls us to exercise patience until He's finished.

No matter how long it takes, will you trust Him to move in your life?


- On the Mountains of Ararat - How convenient is that?

The ark rests in the mountains. In the mountains! I can just hear Noah and his family: "We've been scared silly in this rain storm! (We've never even seen a rain storm before this, by the way.) We've been sea-sick, have seen every other person and animal drown, the landscape of the earth has changed before our eyes, and where does this God-ordained, death-defying voyage end? On the top of a mountain! How are we supposed to get down? God certainly could have made this a little easier!"

Have you ever thought something like that? "God, why couldn't you have made this a littler easier?"

I know I have. So did Jesus. "Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me" (Matthew 26:42). In other words, "Could we could do this a little easier?"

But it doesn't seem to be God's way to make things easy for us. Noah's salvation through the Flood wasn't easy. Jesus accomplishing our salvation wasn't easy. Living up to our salvation isn't easy. Experiencing the tragedies and disappointments and everyday tasks of life isn't easy. Marriages and raising children and family relationships aren't easy.

Sometimes, we pray to God and it seems like He answers by dropping us stranded on top of a mountain.

Why?

Because, for now, God is not concerned with easy. He's concerned about growth. He's concerned about making an impression. He's concerned about letting us experience the full weight of what is happening in this fallen world so that we will learn the consequences of sin, mourn over it, and yearn for a world that is...

Easy. A world that is as it should be.

God will bless us in this life (God blessed Noah by delivering him from the Flood), but the blessing will come through difficulty, and the difficulty itself will point us to the new world we are hoping for. As Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).

When you feel like you're stranded on top of a mountain, use that vantage point to look forward to the world God has in store for us.


- Take a Leap of Wait - "Take a leap of faith". We've heard that phrase, right?

But is that Biblical? Is that anywhere in Scripture? Do we ever see someone in the Bible leaping? Lepers, yes, but leaping by faith? I can't find it.

The phrase "leap of faith" seems to have been coined by philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in reference to the idea of believing in God Himself. Today, in a somewhat related sense, people use it to mean being obedient to what they think God is asking them to do even if doesn't look like it's going to work, like jumping off of something and not knowing how you're going to land but trusting God to catch you and put you down safely.

And again, I have to ask, is that idea Biblical?

Having faith is, certainly, but as Christians, we are called to have a grounded faith, a thinking faith, a cautious faith if you will, like Noah did.

After Noah's ark grounded itself on a mountain, taking a leap of faith might have seen him jumping out of the ark and swimming for...where? Well, it wouldn't matter. God would help him get somewhere!

But instead of leaping out of the nearest window, Noah waited 40 more days and then simply opened a window and let a bird fly out to test the landscape. The results weren't what he wanted, so he waited a while longer and then sent out another bird. Then waited, and sent it out again. This time, Noah started to receive some positive signs. The bird brought back an olive leaf. He could tell that things were starting to grow on the earth again. So then he leaped out the window!

No, he waited a little longer and then sent the bird out again (Genesis 8:6-12).

Noah was patient. He made tests. He sent out feelers to see how things would go. He didn't let excitement or impatience or even what God was calling him to do (eventually leave the ark and repopulate the earth) hurry him into leaping before the time was right to act.

Have you ever rushed into something with good intentions, but then realized that you probably should have waited? What in your life is making you impatient now?

If we are to follow Noah's example of waiting, cautious faith, "look before you leap" seems to be more Christian than taking a "leap of faith". Ask God to give you patience as you test and probe and plan out what He wants you to do. Take a leap of wait and trust God to make it all clear in time.



- Pleasing Aroma - When Noah finally gets off the ark, what is the first he does? He sacrifices some of the animals he just saved! (Genesis 8:18-21)

Are we missing something here? Doesn't he need those animals? Isn't God going to be a little upset with him for killing the creatures that He specifically told him to preserve?

Or maybe God told Noah to bring seven pairs of each kind of animal planning for some of them to survive and replenish the earth, and some of them to be sacrificed (Genesis 7:2-3). Maybe God provided the sacrificial animals ahead of time to give Noah enough to be able to sacrifice and to have what he needs for growing the population again.

In fact, Noah didn't gather any of the animals himself. God brought them to Him (Genesis 7:8-9). God provided the animals for Noah to keep and the animals to give back to Him, just like God provides our opportunities for making an income, the time that we have to live each day, and the talent for the activities that we are able to do.

So God provides, but the idea of the sacrifice is still bothersome. Why would God give Noah those animals just to sacrifice them? Would would He give me an income if He's just going to ask for some of the money back? Why give me 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, and 8,736 hours in a year if He's just going to ask me to spend some of that time with Him and for Him? Why give me a talent if He's just going to ask me to use it to His glory?

If God wanted my money, He could have kept it and never given it to me. If He wanted my time, He could have taken my life and transported me to Heaven early. If He wanted my talent, He could have done the deeds Himself. He can do everything better than I can anyway.

If He wanted the animals dead, He could have left them to drown in the waters of the Flood rather than saving them on the ark and having Noah sacrifice them as soon as they got off.

But it's all about the pleasing aroma of the sacrifice. Scripture isn't talking here about God salivating over the scent of barbecue or slow-roasting meat. What makes the aroma of the sacrifice pleasing is that it was a freely given act of worship and thanksgiving.

God didn't need the animals from Noah, and He doesn't need our money or our time or our talents, but He is pleased when we freely and thankfully give them to Him.

How can you please God this week by giving more freely to Him in the finances, the time, or the talents that He's provided for you?


- Even Though... - We have a tendency to rationalize our negative behavior, to minimize our mistakes, to ignore our imperfections as much as possible. Mostly as a defense mechanism. If we looked at ourselves as we truly are, in the vileness of our sin, in the lameness of our efforts, in the weakness of our human bodies, we'd just be depressed all the time.

We can face our faults briefly, once in a while, or when something really big happens that we can't gloss over, but for the most part, we make a habit of shielding our eyes from seeing ourselves as we truly are.

In contrast, God sees us exactly as we are, all the time. He knows every rude or ignorant thought we have, every sarcastic or cutting thing we say, every profane or hurtful thing we do.

And yet He chooses to give us grace.

As God said in Genesis 8:21-22, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

God says, "I know that every single human leans toward evil every chance they get, every single day day of their lives, from the time they're born to the time they die. Even though that's the reality of who people are..."

God chooses to withhold punishment. God even chooses to go beyond that, and blesses us with planting and crops and seasons that we need to live. God chooses to be good to us in our daily lives despite everything we've done that day!

"Even though" is God's way of saying "grace". "Even though" is God's way of saying "I am good to you when you are not good to Me, yourself, or those around you." "Even though" is God's invitation to us to worship and thank Him for giving us everything that we don't deserve.

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