An Interview With Noah’s Neighbor

Photo 19156858 / Noah Ark © Hayk Harutyunyan | Dreamstime.com

Crrreak. SLAM!

Did you see that? The door closed. All by itself. 

It’s strangely quiet today. Quite a change from the racket of last week. Last week? Who am I kidding? The noise from Noah’s property has been going on for a hundred years now. 

Well, we could use some peace and quiet around here. The jerk. The hammering, the building, that eyesore all started when Noah received a message from God. Seriously? I know. I laughed too.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Simeon. Next-door neighbor to Noah. You’ve heard of Noah: ark builder, recent zookeeper, and now apparently, ship’s captain. Also freakish, God-loving, obnoxious, intolerant, and just plain weird.

God told Noah He was grieved that He had made man. Aww. Poor God. Why would God concern Himself with me? He should mind His own business. Noah said man’s violence made God sick, and He planned to put an end to it. Eeek! I’m scared. God told Noah, or so Noah says, to build this ark so Noah and his family could survive the flood. 

Whatever that is.

Seriously? I supposed to be afraid? Good luck with that. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Big dogs survive, know what I mean? And this big dog plans on going out on top. 

But Noah says a lot of water’s coming. Okaayy. I tell ya, the guy’s got a screw loose. 

Talking crazy is one thing, but then, he went and built this monstrosity, right in the middle of the neighborhood. He calls it an ark. Three levels, almost five stories high and long enough to take up some very valuable real estate.

He gave me the grand tour last week. Rooms everywhere. Up, down, all over the place. And enough food for an army. 

I asked him, “Noah, who’s all this stuff for? Did you talk the entire town into going with you?” God knows, he’s tried. Enough already. 

He frowned and shook his head. He said he wished he had. He’d prepared the stalls for the animals, but there was plenty of room if we wanted to join him. In fact, he begged me. Pleaded. Ugh! Turned my stomach.

I said, “Animals? Like your flocks? They wouldn’t fill a tenth of the space you’ve got here.” 

He said God told him to take two of each kind of animal, birds, and creatures that move along the ground into the ark, one male, one female, to keep them alive during the flood. 

Yeah, that flood again. I can’t tell you how sick to death I am of hearing about the flood. 

Then, about seven days ago, creatures I’ve never seen before just started showing up. Bugs and bats. Horses and hyenas. Lions and lizards. Birds. Flapping and squawking. Feathers everywhere. What a mess. 

Took Noah a full week to get them in there. Shoot, we set up lawn chairs and watched. The event drew quite the crowd. I provided a running commentary, of course. Sarcasm is my gift. Placed bets too. I really didn’t think that tiger was going in. Lost money on that one. 

Then Noah started preaching. Again. That broke up the crowd. My friends and I headed back into town for some fun of our own making. We’ve heard enough of his doom and gloom. 

Got me to thinking, though, I wonder if Noah would be willing to sell the ark once he’s finished with it.  It would make a great pleasure palace. I could really trick it up. It’ll make me a fortune. I could even keep some of the animals for a side show. 

I should have talked to Noah about it yesterday. Of course, the door was open then. 

But today, it closed. And they’re all inside. 

What? Did I think about going with them? No, not really. I mean, what a weirdo. Cooped up with the freak and his freak show for who knows how long? I’ll take my chances. 

And this crazy talk about rain? Why, no one’s ever heard of it before. You’d think if God was going to destroy the whole world, He’d give us a sign or something, you know?

I know. This post is a little different. But I want you to consider a few things.

God is often viewed as a God of judgment in the Old Testament. While God’s holiness requires justice, even the Old Testament reveals His heart desires redemption. Ezekiel 33:11 NIV says, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” 

In the account of Noah in Genesis 6:5-6 NKJV reads, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”

Truth is, I’m quicker to judge than He is. God’s heart grieves over sin. Does mine? Sometimes. 

As hostility toward Christianity increases, I think stories like Noah’s bear some study. What was it like for him and for other godly people like Lot who lived smack dab in the middle of people who not only didn’t know God, but were over their head in sin? 

No church friends for support. Just outright, in-your-face condemnation—or worse. Was Noah ever beaten? Roughed up a little because of his faith? Paul was. 

Are we prepared today to handle some serious pushback—with grace? 

Or will we be like James and John calling for God to get them (Luke 9:51-56)?

Do we grieve?

Activities:

1. What sin has become normal or even accepted? Which sins grieve you? Which don’t?

2. What signs has God given us to know what’s coming? Have any come to pass? 

3. Authors Jerry Jenkins and John Perrodin wrote the Young Adult Renegade Spirit series about a Godless society. Here’s a quote from the first novel, The Tattooed Rats, “Christianity, and indeed all religion, has been declared intolerant, hate filled, and the root of all war . . . every Christian must deny his or her allegiance to Christ or face penalties that may include imprisonment and death . . . Huge rewards are offered to those who will turn in Christians for ‘reeducation.’”

This book gave me chills. 

Are we prepared? 

The Set Up

Photo 12127829 / Eve © Bstefanov | Dreamstime.com

“Ahhh!” The fruit hit the ground with a juicy thud as Eve scrambled to cover up. 

Adam stared at her and then at himself. “We’re naked!”

“Hurry! Get the biggest leaves you can find.” Eve huddled behind the nearest myrrh bush as Adam darted through the trees of Eden. She winced as she backed into a sharp thorn. “Ouch!”

The luscious fruit lay on the ground, bruised by the fall from her hand. Its sweet aroma, so appealing before, turned her stomach. She spat the flesh, now bitter, toward the serpent. 

The serpent nudged the fallen fruit toward her. “What’s wrong, Eve? Aren’t you hungry?” He laughed as he slithered around her bare ankles. 

 “You tricked me!” Eve glared at the serpent. 

“Did I? Aren’t you wiser? Don’t you have knowledge you didn’t have before?” His words taunted her. “Aren’t you more like God?” 

God! Oh no! She’d forgotten about Him. Eve shuddered.

“I know about evil all right—and you’re it!” She sank to the ground. Tears soaked the fallen fruit, watering the little myrrh bush, but they didn’t help. The myrrh’s pungent fragrance encircled her. What have I done?

Soon Adam reappeared carrying fig leaves. Eve sighed. Perfect. The big leaves covered them well—until. 

Until they began to burn.

A blood red sunset streaked the sky above the garden. The day’s heat lifted. A cool breeze danced among the trees, swishing through the leafy branches. Adam gave Eve a quick squeeze. He smiled, “It’s going to be okay,” but his head turned abruptly at the sound of footsteps and his expression changed to one of horror.             

“It’s God. Hide!”

Here’s the first part of the biblical passage for the fictionalized story above:

Genesis 3:1-8 (NIV):

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5 (NIV)

The serpent set God up as Someone who withheld. 

Who kept something back. 

Who didn’t give Adam and Eve everything He could. 

But what does the Word say about God?

1 John 3:1a says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 

Lavish doesn’t skimp and it certainly doesn’t withhold. Lavish looks like an banana split with five kinds of ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel, strawberries, pineapple, whipped cream, nuts and cherries. 

James 1:16-17 says, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James writes “every.” “Every good and perfect gift” means all of them

The serpent set Eve up as well:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden [emphasis mine].

1 John 2:16-17 says, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever [emphasis mine].”

Do you see the match up between Eve’s temptation and what comes from the world?

Temptations always look good. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be tempted. But truly good things only come from God. The list John gives? It comes from the world and its system. And guess who designed that? The enemy. And the enemy dangled Eve’s choice before her. Who knows how many days he tempted her before she bit?

Eve was forced to choose. And you will too. To believe God or to believe the serpent. To trust God’s word or go with feelings. Eve could have asked Adam for help. She could have asked God. Instead, she trusted her instincts—with terrible consequences that affect us today. 

Will we see the set up the enemy has for us?

Not without God’s help.

We need discernment and a desire to obey, both of which God promises to provide (James 1:5, Philippians 2:12-13). And if we still find ourselves in a trap, God says this, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

Watch for the set up.

Activities:

1. God’s goodness surrounded Eve in Eden. How did she miss it and get hung up on the one thing she couldn’t have? Take inventory of God’s goodness that surrounds you. Make a list. What temptation is calling your name? How does it look in light of God’s goodness?

2. When you gift shop for someone special, what do you think about? How do you make your choice? Write down some good and perfect gifts you’ve received from God. What do you think God thought about in choosing a gift for you?

3. How can peer pressure help you in the face of temptation? How can you as a family help each other?

(This post is an excerpt from a girls’ preteen Bible study I’m writing that shows the battles Old Testament women fought. It complements the preteen boys’ study on OT battles.)

P. S. Please check out Everyday Wonder on my social media sites. It has fun info like this: Did you know the leaves and the sap from fig trees cause a terrible rash when in contact with skin and exposed to light?

A Tale of Two Choices

Photo 113976600 © Alexey Maximenko | Dreamstime.com

The leather thongs bit into his wrist. Lot stole a quick look from his one good eye, the other swollen shut from a soldier’s fist. His girls huddled near their mother, tears streaking their dust-covered faces. Warriors strutted by, stroking his daughters’ hair. They smirked at him, laughing as his lips bled from the anger he bit back.

Five royal tents poked their heads above those of the common soldier. Servants scurried and the smell of roasted meat brought a rush of saliva to his parched mouth. The guard handed him a gourd of warm water. It sloshed against his bound hands as a piece of old bread landed in the sand at his feet. He offered the gourd to his wife first and she sucked greedily, water dribbling down her embroidered robe. His fury burned at the sight of her blistered feet and the blood on her sandals. 

The move to Sodom had been one of convenience. Closer to the market and that silly circle of friends his wife kept. Lot clenched his fists. Hadn’t seen this coming. Caught in the crossfire of opposing armies, they had been swept away. Plunder. Spoils to the victor. 

He thought of Uncle Abram and, not for the first time, wished he’d stayed far away from Sodom.

In the fictional story above, I imagined what it was like for Lot to be captured as part of Sodom’s plunder when he’s caught between two warring armies (Genesis 14:1-16). 

It need never happened. 

Let me give you some background. When God desired a people for Himself, God tapped a man named Abram (later renamed Abraham) from Haran in Paddan-Aram: 

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. (Genesis 12:1-4 NIV)

Abram was Lot’s uncle. Together, they headed south, crossed the Euphrates River, and ended up in Canaan. However, someone had gotten there first: the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, and lots of other –ites (Genesis 10:6, 15-20). Each tribe needed land for crops, pasture for grazing, and water. Guess who got the leftovers?

Tensions rose as Lot and Abram’s herdsmen fought over wells and grazing:

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.  Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. (Genesis 13:8-13)

Wow! Sounds good, doesn’t it? Lots of water. Lush vegetation. Perfect!

Except for Sodom.

Might want to rethink that one, Lot. 

All of that grass and water came at a price—compromise. 

Compromise.  It means giving up one thing to gain something different. Sometimes it’s to come into agreement with someone else. Like you can have your favorite meal for dinner tonight, but I get to pick tomorrow. Compromise can be good, but if we give up our values, it can end badly. 

And it’s easy to do. Like watching the latest movie, which is really great except for the language, violence, and sexual content. We rationalize a little bad if we get something good too. 

We make choices every day. What to eat. What to wear. To do our work or to skip it and play instead. To be kind to others or to ignore them. 

Every choice has consequences. As Lot discovered, a wrong choice can be deadly. But how do we choose? 

We need a standard. Something that helps us make the right call. Culture today often relies on feelings to guide choices. But feelings are like an untrained dog on a leash. They’ll pull you all over the place.

God has a better way. Truth. And that truth is found in His word, both His spoken word and His written word, because God’s spoken word will always line up with His written word. 

James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Rock solid. Time tested. God’s wisdom was available to Lot. 

Too bad he never stopped to ask. 

Activities:

With what kind of choices do you struggle?

Find a journal. Customize it with art if you like. Write down your questions for God. Date them. Record His answers. Note when He answered and how. 

P. S. Read the rest of Lot’s story in Genesis 14 to learn about Abram’s daring rescue. God also introduces us to a very important figure named Melchizedek. Melchizedek shows up again in Psalm 110 and in Hebrews 5, 6, and 7. Check out the map to track the invasion, the battle, and the rescue.

Map

(Note to parents: This blog is an excerpt from a preteen Bible study I’m writing called In the Thick of It: An Exploration of OT Battles. This section comes from the chapter on Lot and the War of the Kings: Genesis 14:1-16.)

Believe What He Says: Faith in the Midst of Chaos

Photo 59769079 / Explosion © | Dreamstime.com

I know. I’m late. Life blew up at the end of April, and the fallout has buried me. On the plus side, God is teaching me about faith. Here’s what I’m learning.

1. You either believe what God says—or not. 

God either has sovereignty or not. My faith (or lack of it) will be reflected in my behavior.

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11-12

I either have God’s favor—or not. My faith (or lack of it) will be reflected in my behavior.

“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5

 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

God either loves me—or He does not. My faith (or lack of it) will be reflected in my behavior.

 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

God has sovereignty. God favors you. God loves you.

If He has sovereignty, nothing happens by coincidence. God has allowed it. 

If God has allowed it, He will bring good from it. He allows only those things which accomplish His purposes in your life. Why? Because He loves you and gives you favor.

2. Time with God matters.

Time with God is never wasted. Flesh and the enemy will tell you that you don’t have time for this. The truth? You can’t afford NOT to take time for Him. Make the effort and He will meet you there.

And then, He’ll meet you everywhere else your day takes you. 

Bob Sorge’s The Secrets of the Secret Place focuses on this very topic. 

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35

3. Say “Thank You” before your answer comes.

Do your homework by making sure your prayer lines up with God’s word and His will. Once you’ve identified God’s will and come into agreement with His word, you can pray with boldness and thank Him for the coming answer. 

Or are you praying in a gray area? (For me, healing is a gray area. Sometimes He answers yes, sometimes no.) 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Romans 8:6 says, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” God is sovereign. He shows me favor. And He loves me. I can trust Him. If I trust Him, my mind, governed by the Holy Spirit, will reflect His life and peace.

Not worry. Not anxiety. Not fear.

Life and peace. His.

If my mind is not marked by life and peace, I need to adjust. Worship, prayer, Scripture, and time with Him, all help. Here are some worship songs that helped my husband and me through our chaos.

“Praise Before My Breakthrough” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

“Believe for It” by CeCe Winans

“The Blessing” by Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Elevation Worship

Hold fast to your faith. Believe what He says. 

P. S. News! I guest-blogged for my critique partner Sally Maheny this month. Here’s the link. Enjoy!

Prayer: It’s a Group Project

Photo 101999881 © Balazs Toth | Dreamstime.com
Co

When you pray, you don’t pray alone.

I’ve been studying prayer and recently, God took me to Matthew 6, the Lord’s Prayer.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, . . .’” Matthew 6:9 NIV

For this first line, God gave me a picture of Jesus and the Holy Spirit on either side of me as I knelt. Normally when I think of “Our Father” I think of “Our” as the Church, other believers. God is “Our Father.” But that day, God pointed to His Son and His Spirit as part of the “Our.”

Son and Spirit also share the privilege and responsibility of intercession.

These verses point to Jesus as our intercessor:

  • Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, 
        and he will divide the spoils with the strong, 
    because he poured out his life unto death,
        and was numbered with the transgressors.
    For he bore the sin of many,
        and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 [emphasis mine, Suffering Servant passage]
  • Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34
  • Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25

Did you catch the “always” in that last verse? If you think no one ever prays for you, think again. Jesus does. Always.

Paul points to the Holy Spirit’s role in intercession:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

When you don’t have the words, the Holy Spirit does, and those words match what Father God is thinking. Both the Son and the Spirit pray in alignment with God’s will, because They know it perfectly. That’s our challenge. To seek God’s will before we ask to make sure we are in alignment, too.

Remember group projects in school? There was always one person who was content to let everyone else do the work. Prayer is a group project with you, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Here are some tips on how to be a good group member:

1. Pray before you pray. Ask God how to pray for/regarding ___________.

2. God’s Word provides the foundation for prayer. Is there a promise or verse that fits your need?

3. Pray specifically. Jesus often asked what people wanted Him to do for them. Tell Him. 

Enjoy your group project of prayer. You have the best partners ever. You never pray alone.

Activities:

1. Create a family project: Fix dinner, do some yardwork. Give each person a task. What happens when one person opts out? How does this apply to intercession? 

2. Examine your prayers. On what do you base your requests?

3. How can you move your prayers from general to specific?