Written by Dave Urbanski

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You don’t have to be a Christian to be familiar with the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis chapter 11 — when God put a stop to people speaking the same language, caused confusion among them, and dispersed them throughout the earth.

But as with most elements of Scripture, there’s way more going on — and much that is applicable to our lives — if we have ears to hear.

On Sunday Pastor Scott talked about pride — and identified it loudly and clearly in verse 4: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Let us make a name for ourselves.

How interesting that this very attitude, which is all-encompassing amid our present-day culture, also was alive and well way back in the time of Genesis.

Pride is a problem for us, just as it was for the people building the tower. They were puffed-up, discovering they could build a city and a tower and put all the focus on themselves — and essentially become famous. They could make a name for themselves. Superstars! But where did God fit in with all of that? The answer, as usual, was nowhere. It’s a familiar human pattern: Pride grows within us, we want to be our own gods, and we push the real God to the margins. We build our towers and our walls, try to make a name for ourselves, and keep the Lord out of our lives.

Pride often is the central factor in what becomes our worldview as well — and such pride, which places each of us in the center, can lead to and justify all sorts of bad behavior. That’s what took place in the hearts of those who were building the Tower of Babel.

But what’s amazing is how God responded to them. It’s common to confuse the Lord’s discipline for punishment — and along the way God’s gotten a bad rap. Sometimes in our weak moments we fear the Lord will do “X” to us if we do “Y” when in reality God employs discipline as part of his loving relationship with us. He’s constantly steering us in the right direction. For the people building the tower, God saw their way of looking at the world — their prideful attitudes — and knew they needed an adjustment. So, the Lord took something away from them — their ability to communicate with each other — in order to stop their selfishness in its tracks.

Something else Pastor Scott shared rings so true for us today: It’s way easier to listen to God’s whispers and obey them — especially if we don’t share his passion for the places where he wants to take us. Indeed, it’s a lot more difficult when the Lord has to take drastic action to get our attention!

If you’re a Christian, and you’re wrestling with pride and the temptation to make a name for yourself and push God to the sidelines, you’re not alone. Christ’s saving grace in our lives doesn’t mean Jesus is all finished molding us into the people he wants us to be — that’s an ongoing, lifetime process. As Pastor Scott said, the Christian life means daily self-examination. It means waking up each day and asking God, “Am I on the right track? Is there any pride hindering me from doing what you want me to do?”

How about we all put away our bricks and mortar and cease building our towers and walls? Even more, let us tear down those human-made fortresses that keep God out — and instead be open and vulnerable before the One who will never betray us, who will never crush us as we take such a step of faith.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” — Psalm 139:23-24

Written by Dave Urbanski

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If you think about it, God is always speaking to us — always in communication with us, always reaching out to us. And He does so whether we listen to him or not.

As we saw this Sunday in Genesis 8 and 9, Noah most definitely was a listener to God. He walked with God. One of the interesting things about their relationship was that God did a whole lot of speaking to Noah when he was building the ark — but not a whole lot after he and his family and all the animals were riding out the storm.

But even though God wasn’t saying much after the rains ended and the waters receded, Noah didn’t sit around assuming the Lord would miraculously move his limbs in the correct direction, like a marionette does with a puppet. No, instead Noah acted — but it was action influenced and shaped by everything already at work in him spiritually. All the wisdom he obtained from the Lord over the 120 years he spent heeding God’s instructions while building the ark, all the encouragement from the Lord as others wrote him off as crazy — all of that was operating when Noah made the decision to let birds fly free so they might give him clues about the condition of the ground. In other words, Noah put himself in the best position possible to hear from God when the Lord finally did instruct him to leave the ark.

We have to do the same thing. And it’s deeper than merely listening to what God is saying and then doing what he tells us to do. Noah did both of those things, of course, but Scripture tells us Noah also was righteous and blameless in God’s sight. And that goes a long way toward putting oneself in a great position to hear from God. So, ask yourself: Is God pointing out sin in your life? If so, he wants you to get rid of it so there’s nothing hindering you from hearing what God has to say. If you want to see God work in your life, you need to deal with the issues God is pointing out to you — and once you do, you become more clearly in tune with what God wants and how to navigate all sorts of situations you’ll encounter. God wants to empower all of us with his guidance — but that becomes impossible when sin blocks and hinders what otherwise could be a clear pathway to hear from the Lord.

Psalm 66:16-19 reads, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.”

We also learned a second principle on Sunday: That when we start over in our lives, we must build an altar. What does that mean, exactly? Well, Noah did that very thing after he and his family and the animals exited from the ark and stood on dry land again. And the Lord was pleased with the altar Noah built and the aromas emanating from it — and God responded with promises to Noah. Of course, the principle isn’t about building literal altars in our back yards — but it is about recognizing and acknowledging God and declaring that he comes first in our lives.

And what about those promises God made? We know about the sign of the rainbow — a reminder that the Lord has promised he’ll never again cover the earth with a flood. But the reality is that God has made many more promises to us. Pastor Scott noted that a researcher who studied the matter found that God made 7,487 promises to us in the Bible! That’s a tremendous number — and should offer us comfort that the Lord loves us and cares for us. Indeed, a big part of having a vibrant relationship with God is remembering and relying on the promises he’s made to us.

Putting ourselves in the best position to hear from the Lord by eliminating sin and doing what he’s telling us to do; declaring with our whole hearts every day that God comes first in our lives; remembering and leaning on the Lord’s promises. Let’s get busy doing these things so we can all strengthen our relationships with God!

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Who are your heroes?

Perhaps they’re fictional characters on a movie screen or comic book. Perhaps they’re real people you’ve looked up to — or better yet those who’ve helped or mentored you in your life. We all have heroes in one way or another.

This past Sunday we looked at Genesis 6 and were introduced to perhaps the very first hero in the Bible — Noah. The guy who constructed the ark. And quite simply, Noah was a hero because he walked with and obeyed God. And he did so in the face of every visible fact in front of him that easily could have influenced him to do otherwise.

Put yourself in Noah’s place for a moment: You’re living in a world that’s become quite wicked and that has turned away from the Lord. But you don’t join the crowd: You keep walking with God. You keep talking to him, believing in him. You maintain your integrity and keep doing the right things. It’s hard sometimes, though, to see people you know going one way — and you proceeding down another path alone. But staying close to God is more important to you, so you keep at it. And you find favor with the Lord.

Then one day God tells you to build a massive ark. You don’t know why. You don’t even know what an ark is, much less a flood. But as you’ve been doing, you continue to believe and obey the Lord, so you start cutting the wood. But this is no weekend project: Scripture says it took Noah 120 years to build the ark. Now that’s persistence — and still in the face of every snicker and sarcastic remark from those who passed by. After a while Noah likely was viewed as little more than that “crazy guy” in the neighborhood.

And then rain came — and the importance of every step Noah took to do what was right and to obey God came to fruition.

What about you? Does God also have an ark for you to build? Has the Lord been whispering to you about an important task, a crucial mission he wants you to carry out? It might be something really big and countercultural — and even something you don’t completely understand, just as Noah didn’t completely understand why God had him build an ark. Or maybe you’ve been sensing God’s nudging in regard to things you need to change in your life — things you’ve been holding on to you need to let go of.

You can do all those things! Despite whatever cultural or personal obstacles that stand before you, God wants you to have a spiritual breakthrough. But remember that it won’t come because of your own strength, or smarts, or will. Just as you’re being led by God to do what seems to be an impossible task, you need to get on the path with the Lord and let him “take the wheel” and give you the strength to steer your ship in the right direction. All you have to do is ask.

Noah walked with God. Noah did all that the Lord commanded. He maintained his integrity and endured what must have been intense pressure to finally, once and for all, throw away his hammer for good and join the crowd. But he didn’t. And we must not, either.

You know what else is compelling about Noah’s ordeal? When he and his family and all the animals were safely on the ark, his task of trusting the Lord wasn’t over — not by a long shot. Sure, they were sheltered from the storm, but it took 371 days for the water to recede — and that’s a long time to wonder if you’re ever going to step on dry ground again!

As Pastor Scott observed, we’re going through something like that ark experience right now. We don’t know how much longer the pandemic will restrict us — or even if life will return to normal. The longer it takes, the easier it is to lose hope. And a crazy election just happened, and none of us is sure what will take place in the streets of our nation in the next hour much less after next January’s inauguration. So much uncertainty. It’s tiring and frustrating — and there is more suffering going around than we can possibly know.

But amid it all, there is one thing we can count on: God is still on his throne, he hasn’t moved, and he knows exactly how things will go — and he’s not the least bit worried. The key for us — like Noah — is to walk with God. To do what he’s commanding us to do, even if we don’t understand it completely, even when others look at us funny or talk about us behind our backs.

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