Nuggets from Noah: The Perks of Living in an Ark

This reflection was written July 8, 2016 in one of my journals. Today I was reminded of it. I was encouraged all over again. I pray it encourages you:

Today I felt led to read the story of Noah (Genesis 7:9-17). While reading, I tried to rush through it assuming I knew everything there was about Noah. The Holy Spirit, said “slow down and read all of it.”  As I started to take my time to read, I recognized the time it took for Noah’s world to return to its regularly scheduled programming (i.e. no animals, no living in an ark, and etc.). It took well over a year for things to return to “normal.” It took 40 days to flood the earth and over a year to restore the land.

As I read this story, I started to see my life. I too have been in an ark, a place of protection during the flood of life.  It is as if all that was good, honest, and true were permitted to remain while every lie, deception, past mistake, and negative mindset were left out of my ark. The world as I knew it was being destroyed around me; and I was forced to be by myself as things from my past were being drowned by the torrential rains of God’s love, truth, forgiveness, and grace. It was cold and dark, but I was never alone. Being in similar situations, I assumed it would not take as long to get out the ark. However almost 7 ½ months later, I am still in the ark. Things are slowly returning to normal, and the sun is starting to shine again. It is not quite time to come out, but I have more hope that the doors will be opening soon.

I must retract my statement about Noah’s life returning to normal. Nothing was normal about Noah’s life after leaving the ark. In the beginning of the story, he had just a piece of land to call his own. Now, he had the world as his possession. He already had authority as the patriarch of his family; but he obtained dominion over the earth upon leaving the ark. His family had been entrusted with replenishing the earth for the glory of God. He went into the ark as a servant, and he left it as a Ruler. He went into the ark following commands, but he left it free to do what his heart desired.  Noah was a completely different man a year or so later after being in the ark. He had become wiser; skilled at taming animals; and a great strategist dealing with the issues that arouse on the ark. Noah’s patience was perfected while waiting to be released from the ark. He became a master at caring for creation. He developed a deeper understanding of God while enduring the flood. Building the ark proved God to be a provider. Living in the ark proved God to be a protector and sustainer of His creation.

 Today you may be in what appears to be the greatest storm of your life. Having gone through a few storms, you assumed God would have responded by now. However, you do not know what is being prepared beyond your limited view of the situation. God is developing a place where you can thrive, have dominion, and enjoy His creation. Take a lesson from Noah and wait on God. Allow God to handle what is outside of your power, and you tend to what you can fix. Allow this time to perfect your love and skills. Let the truth of God’s love for you assure you that this time will not last forever.

Noah received new instructions upon leaving the ark, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:2) Initially, he was restricted by what could go into the ark. Once Noah was released, he was given permission to produce as much as he could for as long as he could. Authority is given to those who submit themselves to God’s will during the time of a storm. I pray you will be found submitting yourself to God’s will while in your storm. There is something God is working inside of you and outside of the ark. Yield to the process and watch God keep his promise of protection and provision. You’ll be released from the ark at the perfect time. Thanks for reading!-Charity Israel

 

 

 

 

Getting to Know God Series: El Shaddai

El Shaddai- The All-Sufficient One, God Almighty

Throughout the Bible we find times where God chooses to reveal who He is to mankind. I find this to be a display of God’s love towards us in hopes that we would come to trust Him more. God desires that we know Him, and he takes delights in blessing those who respond to his love properly. It is in Genesis 17:1,2 that this concept is played out as God reveals himself, as El Shaddai, to Abram, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

Before we go any further, it should be noted that scholars go back and forth on whether El Shaddai means “the All-Sufficient One” or “God Almighty.” I appreciate how A.W. Pink, in Gleanings in Genesis concludes the meaning of El Shaddai, “The revelation which God here made of Himself was well suited to the occasion. This was the first time that He revealed Himself as “the Almighty.” None but One who possessed all power could meet Abram’s need at this time. Ninety and nine years of age, his body dead; Sarah barren and long past the age of child-bearing – how could they have hope to have a son? But with God all things are possible. And why? Because He is El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One.” El Shaddai is God Almighty which makes Him the All-Sufficient One.

Recognizing that God is the Almighty was a necessary component to Abram fulfilling the next request of God to him. God tells Abram, “Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.” How was Abram the liar going to pull off the task of living a blameless life before a Holy God? How was he going to faithfully serve God in light of his many shortcomings. The answer is found in completely depending on the All-Sufficient One. Abram’s ability to live out God’s command to him was solely based on his willingness to trust in the One who provides all we need pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I really love the words found in MacLauren’s Exposition on this verse. The author says:

Note the revelation of God’s character, and of our consequent duty, which preceded the repetition of the covenant. ‘I am the Almighty God.’ The aspect of the divine nature, made prominent in each revelation of Himself, stands in close connection with the circumstances or mental state of the recipient. So when God appeared to Abram after the slaughter of the kings, He revealed Himself as ‘thy Shield’ with reference to the danger of renewed attack from the formidable powers which He had bearded and beaten. In the present case the stress is laid on God’s omnipotence, which points to doubts whispering in Abram’s heart, by reason of God’s delay in fulfilling His word, and of his own advancing years and failing strength. Paul brings out the meaning of the revelation when he glorifies the faith which it kindled anew in Abram, ‘being fully assured that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform’ {Romans 4:21}. Whenever our ‘faith has fallen asleep’ and we are ready to let go our hold of God’s ideal and settle down on the low levels of the actual, or to be somewhat ashamed of our aspirations after what seems so slow of realization, or to elevate prudent calculations of probability above the daring enthusiasms of Christian hope, the ancient word, that breathed itself into Abram’s hushed heart, should speak new vigor into ours. ‘I am the Almighty God-take My power into all thy calculations, and reckon certainties with it for the chief factor. The one impossibility is that any word of Mine should fail. The one imprudence is to doubt My word.’

 

As it was with Abram, so it is with us. If we ever plan to fulfill the commands and plans of God for our lives, we must rely solely on El Shaddai. We must trust that He is the source of all we will ever need to live holy, pursue His will, and speak His word. My prayer for us today is that we will come to know God as the All-Sufficient, Almighty God that He is. Everything we need is found in Him, and the moment we start to believe that is the moment we will truly pursue what He has called us to do. When you are convinced you have all you need to succeed, failure is not an option. El Shaddai is on your side! I dare you to go and be great!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/series/el-shaddai-the-all-sufficient-one/

Getting Know God: El Roi

El Roi: The God Who Sees Me

One of my favorite names to use for God when praying is El Roi. Every time I use it I find it to be an instant reminder that He is aware of my circumstances. It tends to ease the ache of the request; and it sets God back in his proper place as God above all that is bothering me. In Genesis 16, we are introduced to the name El Roi, by a woman named Hagar. For those of us who may not be familiar with Hagar, she was the servant of Sarai (Abram’s wife). Sarai had the bright idea to help God in fulfilling His promise to her husband and suggested that Abram sleep with Hagar. As Sarai desired, Hagar became pregnant. Once pregnant Hagar started to treat Sarai with contempt (v.4). Sarai returns the favor and treats Hagar so harshly that she runs away.  It is in this time of running that she is found by the loving-kindness of God:

7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”11 And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”a She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. 15 So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. (New Living Translation)

I find the timing of God very interesting in this story. At any moment, He could have revealed himself. However, he waits until she is expecting and in a dry place before He reveals he has been with her the entire time. He waits until she is out of options, without friends, and without any sense of direction before he says, “I see you!” He allows her to feel every ounce of fear, isolation, and abandonment before revealing the I AM is with you. It was not until she was away from all that she had known that she came to know God for herself.

God did not simply reveal himself to her in the wilderness; but he spoke to her purpose. He provided her with instructions on how to rectify her past mistakes (v.9); and he gave her insight to what her future would entail (vv. 10-12). It never cease to amaze me that how one encounter with God can bring wholeness and clarity to the thing(s) that pains us the most. Hagar heeded to the instructions that were given to her, and she was able to return “home” with a better understanding of who her God was and what was in store for her future.

For those of us who may be in a wilderness situation like Hagar, I would encourage us to:

  1.  Sit still for a moment and allow the voice of God to speak to our situation.
  2. Admit where we were wrong and mishandled the situation, relationship, and etc.
  3. Stop rehearsing the offenses and choose to forgive those who hurt you. 
  4. Obey the instructions that God give us.
  5. Walk free from condemnation knowing that the God who sees has come to your rescue.

El Roi is aware of all that is hurting you, and he is waiting for the moment that you stop trying to figure things out. He longs to commune with you so that He can reveal the truth of who His and who you are to you. My prayer is that you come to know God as El Roi, the God who sees me so that you can see yourself as He does. Hagar’s life was never the same, and I am certain your will not be either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://biblein2015.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/el-roi-the-god-who-sees-me.jpg

The Lord is my Shepherd not my Genie: Reflections on Psalm 23:1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.-Psalm 23:1

shepherdBefore I started becoming a devout student of the Bible, I used to be a devout believer in the Prosperity Gospel/Word of Faith movement. I used to feel entitled to all this world has to offer because I was a “child of the King!” I would take scriptures that were specifically for the children of Israel and use them as assurance that God owed me stuff according to His word. I was doing foolish things in the name of “faith” in order to position myself to “blessed,” and with all the giving I was doing I NEVER reached a place of “having no room to receive” (Mal. 3:10).

It was shortly after graduating ORU that I left the Charismatic/ Word of Faith sect, and I started seeking a more accurate biblical interpretation of how  New Testament Christians should live and approach God. It has taken me years to detox from some of the bad theology that came from that teaching; but I must admit there are moments I find myself interpreting scripture from a place of entitlement and not within its proper context.

For the last two weeks I have been meditating on Psalms 23, and I found myself reverting back to some of  the bad habits of the “Name It and Claim It” tradition. I made a list of some simple things I wanted that I felt would take God no time to supply. The week passed by, and I felt myself being frustrated that God did not give me the wants I requested. How dare him, right?!? Then I had the audacity to say out loud, “You are my shepherd. Why don’t I have what I want?” #bratface Before I could finish the Holy Spirit said, “study to find out what “I shall not want” truly means.” So I went into Theology student mode, and I started to read commentaries on the verse.

Not one of the commentators sided with my self-serving interpretation of scripture. Quickly I discovered, my understanding of “want” was not what the scripture meant. “Want” here is not the random, fleeting, and ever changing desires of my selfish heart. “Want” refers to the needs of those being shepherded. In context, the Shepherd supplies all his sheep needs, leaving no wants for the sheep. The sheep is provided water, food, shade, protection and guidance. What more could a sheep want for? NOTHING! I know this may come as a surprise for some as it did with me, and I would encourage you not to take my word for it. Listed below are a few of the commentaries I used, feel free to come up with your own conclusion from them. They were helpful in adjusting my theology to God my Shepherd not God my genie:

The Treasury of David Commentary states:

The Lord is my shepherd.” What condescension is this that the Infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenseless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything. No man has a right to consider himself the Lord’s sheep unless his nature has been renewed, for the scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats. A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly as David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no “if” nor “but,” nor even “I hope so;” but he says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, “My.” He does not say, “The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock,” but “The Lord is my shepherd;” if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer’s position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.

The next words are a sort of inference from the first statement – they are sententious and positive – “I shall not want.” I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore “I shall not want.” I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, “As thy day so shall thy strength be.” I may not possess all that I wish for, but “I shall not want.” Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but I shall not.” “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” It is not only “I do not want,” but “I shall not want.” Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, “I shall not want.” Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner’s heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.

Benson Commentary states:

I shall not want—Namely, anything that is really necessary for me, either for this life, or for the next. But foolish men may think many things to be necessary for them, which the all-wise God knows to be, not only unnecessary, but hurtful, and therefore mercifully denies what men ignorantly desire to their hurt.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible writes:

I shall not want; not anything, as the Targum and Aben Ezra interpret it; not any temporal good thing, as none of Christ’s sheep do, that he in his wisdom sees proper and convenient for them; nor any spiritual good things, since a fullness of them is in him, out of which all their wants are supplied; they cannot want food, for by him they go in and out and find pasture; in him their bread is given them, where they have enough and to spare, and their waters are sure unto them; nor clothing, for he is the Lord their righteousness, and they are clothed with the robe of his righteousness; nor rest, for he is their resting place, in whom they find rest for their souls, and are by him led to waters of rest, as in Psalm 23:2, the words may be rendered, “I shall not fail”, or “come short” (s); that is, of eternal glory and happiness; for Christ’s sheep are in his hands, out of which none can pluck them, and therefore shall not perish, but have everlasting life, John 10:27.

If you are a believer, what you just read should be exciting news. It should also build your confidence in the love, care, and concern the Great Shepherd has for you as his sheep. As a good shepherd, he sees to it that all our needs are provided for and that we “lack no good thing” (Ps 34:10). Tonight I hope you can find blessed assurance in the fact that Jehovah is your shepherd. All your needs will be met, and you will want for nothing. Have a lovely night beautiful people.-Charity Israel

P.S. As a Bible student and teacher, I know I was doing some lazy studying and meditation on Psalm 23:1. One look at a different translation of the Bible could have given me a better understanding of the scripture. However, I believe the route I took was necessary because God wanted me to get rid of my bad theology; be mindful of how I am interpreting scripture; and come into a better understanding of how amazing He truly is. God is greater than a genie because it has a limit to what it can give. He is my Shepherd, and I shall not want. That’s good news!!!

 

 

Photo Credit: https://wordmadefleshblog.wordpress.com/tag/sheep/

 

The Love Factor

love factor“For you have heard the law that says, “Love your neighbor,’ and hate your enemy. 44But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven…”-Matthew 5:43-45

I’m not sure if anyone has taken notice, but in the last few years of preaching there has been a shift towards focusing on our “Haters.” Particularly in the Black Church setting, there seems to be this crazy fixation on “tell your hater this, show your hater that, and blah blah blah.” I personally feel that this Hater Obsession is doing more harm to the Body of Christ than good. I believe it has assisted the enemy in his plot to keep us separated. It has produced competition, suspicion, and mistrust among believers, and it is has moved us further away from what we have been commanded to do (Matthew 22:36-40, 28:18-20)

I also believe it has distracted us from who our real enemies are and none of these enemies are humans. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world; and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” If we aren’t careful, we will have Christians hating one another instead of confronting that spirit working through an individual. Okay we’ll save “Spiritual Warfare” for another date. However, we are doing a grave injustice to the Body of Christ when we spend a whole sermon on How to Handle a Hater, but we fail to help people identify who our enemies truly are.

Oh and let me get this off my chest, most of us do not have enemies like we liked to believe. Many of us do not have enough going on in our lives to give someone a reason to sabotage our success. I include myself in this number, and this is why I do not spend my time worrying about a “hater” or enemy as the Bible calls them. Many of us have not acquired enough to have people plotting to take it. If you want to know how real enemies behave read the book of Judges, I Kings, II Kings, and Psalms to name a few. Real enemies seek your position, your authority, your power, and your life. If you have not had someone to literally try to kill you or sabotage your job, ministry, marriage, and etc. have several seats in the Petty Christian section. Someone stealing your facebook post, hairstyle, or outfit does not count as an attack against you.

Jesus gives us the anecdote to dealing with people who choose to be enemies against us. He tells us to LOVE YOUR ENEMIES! Say it with me, “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES!” By doing this people are able to determine who our God truly is. We are most like our Father when we choose to love those who refuse to love us. Remember Romans 5:10, “since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while WE WERE STILL HIS ENEMIES..” Surely if God loved us, we can love them. I pray we consider this the next time we are faced with the decision of How to Handle a Hater. Truth be told, we were all once enemies of God and had he not decided to extend His love to us, we would not know the blessing of being his friends (John 15:15).

Here is my point, the actions of others never remove our responsibility to love them as God commanded. Whether the person has decided to be a friend or an enemy against us, we are called to LOVE them both the same. Our feelings and our flesh will never suggest we love someone who continues to mistreat us. However, if we want the world to know that we truly belong to God, we must act like him. He gives us the ability to do it, and he gives us the wisdom to know when this Love should be expressed from a safe distance. Please know that I am continually praying that we as the Body will be found doing what John 15: 17 commands of us and that is to “Love each other!”

 

Have a Magnificent Monday, thanks for reading, and remember LOVE LIVES FREE!!!-Charity Israel