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Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 2 – Noah’s Ark

Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark ( Genesis 6:5-9:17) sometimes conjure thoughts of an angry God fatally sweeping away humanity and life in a torrent of water. Sound familiar? Although the logistics of the story of Noah’s Ark are hard to imagine, it seems the impossible task of gathering pairs of animals and rainbowcramming them into a large boat is not the number one issue that bothers people. Instead, the most difficult piece of the story seems to be the not-so-obvious answers to perplexing questions about our Divine Creator: “Why does God seem to oscillate between two extremes — the angry, jealous God of judgment of the Old Testament and the loving, merciful Father of the New Testament?”, “Did God change His mind about humanity and decide we weren’t worth the grief we caused Him?”, “Does God hate humanity?”, and “What signs and symbols of mercy, if any, exist in stories like the one about Noah?”

God’s Character

Hollywood movies and the mainstream media sometimes typecast God inaccurately as a tyrannical master who can’t wait for humanity to slip up so He can wipe them off the face of the earth; but I encourage you to consider how Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark reveal God’s grace and mercy and can be paralleled with Christ’s death and resurrection (like many other Old Testament stories believe it or not!).

God does not enjoy the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). As the ultimate loving Father, He always provides hope and a way out of judgment. If you read closely enough, you will realize the Biblical account of Noah is a wonderful story filled with signs and symbols of a gracious and merciful God. As the Divine Creator, God could have chosen to wipe mankind from the earth, especially since the Bible says our wickedness was so great it caused an outcry from the heavens. The Scriptures say it deeply grieved God that His creation had become so morally bankrupt that no one except Noah was found to be righteous. How great is our God that He allowed man’s legacy to continue through Noah’s family line (Genesis 6:5-8)? Why would He do this? Although man’s wickedness grieved God, He loves us and promised to repair our broken relationship with Him (Isaiah 53:5-12).

Symbols of Grace – The Ark

floodAlthough God promised the flood would come, He also promised Noah a way to escape destruction onboard the Ark. The Ark provided complete protection from the flood in the same way the blood of Jesus covers us and provides grace over judgment. God invited Noah and His family into the Ark and sealed them inside to secure their protection (Genesis 6:9-7:24).

Symbols of Grace – The Raven

After several days of floating around on the flood waters, Noah released a raven. The Bible says the raven flew back and forth in the sky continuously until the Ark found its resting place in the mountains of Ararat. When I first read this statement, I was somewhat perplexed. In modern times, the raven is often used to symbolize death. I suppose it could be said the raven could not perch on anything because the earth was covered in water which symbolized death while the waters existed. Also, ravens were considered to be unclean birds because they feed on the dead (“Genesis 8 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway).

Is it also possible there is a dual meaning to why the raven was sent out? In my research about Noah’s raven, I found several websites that indicated the bird is often used as a symbol of provision (see “1 Kings 17 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway, “Vincent of Saragossa”, Wikipedia, and Luke 12:24). I have to wonder if the raven is meant to symbolize God’s provision for Noah, his family, and all the living creatures on the Ark while there was only death everywhere else upon the earth.

Symbols of Grace – The Dove and the Olive Branch

The dove shows up in many different passages of the Bible to symbolize the Holy Spirit, purity, peace, and new life. In the story of Noah’s Ark, the dove was sent out three separate times to find dry land. The first time the dove and olive branchdove was sent out, it flew back to Noah because there was nowhere to land (death upon the land). The second time the Noah released the dove, it returned with an olive branch, symbolizing peace. When the dove was released a third time, it did not return, symbolizing freedom and deliverance after the world’s submersion). Just as Noah’s Ark is often compared to the finished work of Christ, the dove can be compared to a believer’s baptism after salvation, signifying the Holy Spirit being with a follower of Jesus (“Why is the dove often used as a Symbol for the Holy Spirit?”, Got Questions.Org).

I love this interpretation from the Biblical Research Institute:

One could also argue that the dove is, in this particular case, a symbol of deliverance. The dove as a symbol of the love of God appeared, telling us that, as with the Flood, the storm of sin is not powerful enough to keep us permanently separated from the Father. Our planet is now connected with heaven through Christ. In accepting His Son, God signifies to us that we are also accepted in the Beloved through faith in the provision He made on our behalf.

Symbols of Grace – The Rainbow

The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never destroy the earth again by flood. The rainbow is a sign to God’s people of His enduring faithfulness (“Christian Rainbow: Christian Symbols Illustrated Glossary” by Mary Fairchild, Christianity.About.Com).

If you are interested in the meanings and symbolism of the colors of the rainbow, I would highly recommend the article found on Bible Study.Org titled “What does a rainbow mean in the Bible?”. There are multiple layers of meanings and so many interesting things to study on this topic that it would be easy to make a whole other blog post about it (and I just might!).

Parallels to Christ’s Work on the Cross

The parallels to Christ’s work are incredibly rich and detailed, and I would encourage you to explore the web and study it on your own. You won’t be disappointed. Here are a couple of interesting sites I found while I was doing some research:

“Noah’s Ark: Bible Story, Lessons, and Questions” by Jack Wellman, Christian Crier

“Seeing Jesus in Noah’s Ark” by David Armstrong, Looking into God’s Word

My Strong and Mighty Tower

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know my husband and I have seen our fair share of struggles over the past eight years; however, we’re probably not that different from you or someone you know. Let’s face it — sometimes life is hard. When we face difficult times, we have two choices. We can choose to give up and walk away from God, or choose to rely on Him for strength and believe the struggles do not define us, claim us, nor are they the end of the story.Lighthouse

As our family is facing another scary life situation, I am humbly reminded that I am not in control. Although anxiety no longer plagues me, I am still awake to visceral pain and anger I feel. I must acknowledge these feelings if I am honest with myself and others around me. It would be a lie to say I don’t battle myself and my humanity when facing problems; however, these emotions cannot be allowed to control me. The One who has control gives hope, and I’m called to remain hopeful and place all my cares upon Him.

Some people have suggested we should “give up and curse God” like Job’s wife once suggested to her husband because of all the struggles we’ve seen in our marriage, but why would I do that? God has always been faithful to deliver my husband and me from prior situations and has even positioned us mentally, physically, and circumstantially better than before the trouble started. Why would He change His promise now? The Bible promises His faithfulness is unwavering even though our lives shift like the sands with the tide, and my life can testify to this truth. He is my rock, my firm foundation, and my strong and mighty tower, shielding me from the storm. I am not promised a life without struggle, only that He will be there along the way to protect my heart, mind, and soul.

I have been asked before, “How can you believe in a God who is supposedly good who allows suffering, pain, and evil in this world?” My response is simple: He gives us free will, and the struggles we face are not the end of the story. As promised in Scripture, great suffering is equivalent to great blessings. Also, encouragement, love, and mercy are stronger than ever in the face of adversity. How many terrible events have you witnessed personally or seen in the news only to have stories of heroism, compassion, and love overshadow the negative outcome? Good will always prevail, and God is always for His people. Our personal testimonies of enduring and overcoming situations break the shackles that bind other people who are going through the same struggles. Our testimonies are hope and freedom.

Although the evil forces likely delight in causing or participating in the chaos that surrounds my husband and me, they cannot possibly fathom the depth of immeasurable goodness that has resulted with each trial. Our marriage is stronger than ever because God is at the center and binds us tightly together. Our personal fortitude endures because He sustains our strength. Our foundations cannot be shaken even as our lives shatter around us because He is steadfast and stable. If at the end of the day, all we have is the almighty God, we have all we could ever need.

If you find yourself in a rough situation in life, remember: rejoice in the testimony God will give you to bring hope to others around you! Your struggle is not the end of the story, and God will never let you see the battle withut first giving you the victory.

My Relationship with God

I have had a difficult time over the last two years articulating to other people why my encounter with the God of Love has radically changed me forever. The physical experience reinforced my faith that God is real, awesomely powerful, and able to divinely intervene on our behalf no matterJoy and freedom the circumstance or our beliefs about Him. However, it wasn’t the physical experience that change my life (read the blog post My Encounter with the God of Love to read about my encounter with God). Emotional and physical experiences are great, but memories fade. The emotions become less passionate, and the intensity of the physical experience dulls, but the revelation of who God is and how I interpret my relationship with Him remains.

I went to my first Passover dinner this year. It was a unifying experience to see brothers and sisters from different churches worshipping God together and celebrating the Passover story, the Passover feast, and how the elements of the meal contrast to Christ’s work on the cross. It also allowed me to make new friends with two older ladies who sat at our dinner table.

One of the ladies, whom I’ll call “Joy” for the purpose of this blog post to protect her privacy, explained to us that the work of Christ on the cross isn’t the only reason to love God. As an effort to help us understand what she meant, Joy bittersweetly interwove her testimony about the painful loss two years ago of her husband who had been terminally ill. On his final night, as his last moments drew near and his body was failing, she called for Hospice to take him with the hope his last hours would be as peaceful; but he never made it to the ambulance. Joy choked on her words, as did we, as she recalled crawling back into her bed and pulling the covers over her after her husband’s body was taken away. She stayed in the bed for several minutes, lying in the fetal position, sobbing, and asking God to take her.

My best friend was gone; but that’s when everything changed,” Joy explained. Jesus’s presence engulfed her. Her pain became His peace. Her emptiness became His fullness. She said she physically felt Jesus hold her tightly, heard Him reassure her everything would be okay, and the promise the void left by her husband’s passing would not leave her empty because He would be everything she needed.

“At that moment, I understood what it meant to truly love Jesus beyond being my salvation.” Joy informed us softly. “If He died on the cross and rose again for us and nothing more, that would be enough; but how great is our Savior that He is not satisfied with salvation being the only part of our story with Him? He is our friend, our brother, and the lover of our souls. I miss my husband, but I don’t feel empty or lonely because He fills me. Now, I truly understand what people mean when they say they have a relationship with God. I’m so in love with Him, and He is so much more loving than we can ever imagine. He desperately wants a relationship with us.”

As I sat listening to Joy’s story, I was instantly taken back to the day when God radically changed my life and understood why that day was so important. It was a day of revelation. My soul was awakened to my desperate need to know God at a deeper level than simply the one who saved my soul. He confirmed how much he deeply loves me as my Father, my Protector, the One Who Cries with Me, the One Who Lifts Me Up, and the Prince of Peace. I was overwhelmed by the crushing weight of His love. All of the anger, bitterness, and anxiety could not withstand His tremendous force.

Although several months have passed since that day, I am reminded of His love. I had a vision several weeks ago of a painful morning I spent crying in my SUV, unable to join my husband for Sunday worship because I was so angry with God. I saw myself from a third person view, huddled with my knees to my face, and bitterly crying out to God to save me from my circumstances. Just as I was remembering the tremendous pain and wondering why I was reliving the moment, I saw Jesus holding me, crying with me. The image of His presence wrecks me even now. I don’t honestly know whether I was imagining the moment, or if it was truly God giving me a glimpse into a time when I felt alone but wasn’t. I suppose it doesn’t really matter because it reminds me of the loving characteristics of God.

My challenge to you — if you don’t feel the need to ask God who He truly is, you will likely never realize you are missing anything. After all, you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never had it, right? But if you want to know His heart and love for you, I would encourage you to ask God to reveal Himself to you. He never disappoints when we honestly seek His heart. Although He doesn’t need a relationship with man, He still wants one with you. In the same way we cherish our families, our children, and our friends at the deepest levels of love we can possibly imagine, He cherishes you; and He desperately wants you to know how much He loves you.

Confessions of a (Mostly) Reformed Control Freak

Okay, I admit it. I’m hopelessly addicted to trying to control my own situations and the outcomes — or at least I was. Now, I’m jumping into the abyss with both feet, and I’m learning how to not be afraid to fall.

Take a dive

People who don’t know me well may perceive my new found disregard for over-planning and over-strategizing to be reckless or naïve, but I assure you this assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. After years of trying to do things my own way, I’m finally learning to let go of my controlling death grip one finger at a time and just trust God. He is constantly faithful even when I fail to trust His plans and timing (Psalms 136:1-7).

My over-planning antics aren’t working so well. I have spent the majority of my life meticulously planning, strategizing, and implementing all sorts of scenarios, attempting to anticipate the outcomes. I feared the “what ifs?” of life, and anxiety was usually the root cause of the need to feel in control. Although I no longer battle the same level of unhealthy anxiety I once did (see blog post “My Encounter with the God of Love“), I’m hardheaded enough to still demand to do things my own way; and, as a result, I cause needless turmoil for myself along the way. I want to live a life without surprises and without heartache; but God continues to lovingly remind me that I’m never really in control no matter how hard I try (James 4:14-15).

Sometimes, painful experiences amplify spiritual immaturity or weaknesses. The biggest revelation regarding my control freak issues occurred within the past couple of years. I was confronted in my spirit that my struggle for control over the little things in life have caused me to be less willing to relinquish control over big things. In essence, I was indirectly demanding for God to take a backseat while I handled whatever the issue of the day was on my own. In my blog post “He is Worthy to be Trusted, Part 1: My story of hope during financial crisis”, I described the terrifying situation when my husband’s job and the family business was simultaneously lost shortly after he and I married. This was one of many circumstances God used to show me just how out of control I am and how sovereign and trust worthy He is. Glory be to the God who hears our cries and lifts us from the miry clay of our circumstances. As difficult as some situations can be, I don’t regret the out of control moments. The most spiritually growing times of my life have occurred in the midst of trial or pain.

God is a loving father. Do I believe God caused the job loss or the turmoil surrounding the situation? No, I have never believed He would do harm to His children, but I do know that He will use a bad situation to strengthen us, to teach us how to trust, and to grow closer to Him. Also, I believe the submissive act of relinquishing control allows God to use us. If you are willing to trust, He’ll never fail you, and you’ll never be too afraid to jump (Romans 8:28).

In Summary. I’m not trying to suggest with this blog post that planning and strategizing are bad efforts. They are good practices for aiding us with achieving the optimal goal. After all, you will rarely go anywhere without first planning to eventually end up somewhere. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes we don’t have all the answers and we need help. Sometimes, life is difficult and a situations get out of control. The good news is that God knows every situation and its outcome; He is always in control. The only way to know for sure if what God says about being worthy of trust is true is to hold you nose and take the plunge.

When He calls you to walk upon the water with Him, will you trust Him to guide you atop the violent waves of this life? The most liberating decision I ever made was just to trust God at His word and let the rest go.

 

 

 

Stop Lying to Yourself: find freedom from mental bondage

We all struggle with things we’ve told ourselves we can’t escape. In some ways, what we’ve told ourselves is true because we give a self-fulfilling prophecy: “I have an issue (doubt, anger, hopelessness, a sense of worthlessness, etc.). It’s just the way it is, and I can’t escape it.” And guess what? You won’t escape because you’ve fulfilled what you’ve declared to be a truth in your life, but the whole truth is you do have power over your struggle.Staring out the window
 
Identify the lies and choose not to believe them. The Devil, our enemy, will lie and twist truths to convince you that you’re a slave. You may feel you’re not worthy, it’s something you can’t change, or you’re a victim. Those thoughts are lies.  Don’t listen to them.  In addition, we are good at lying to ourselves by making self-defeating statements like, “That’s just the way it is”, “But I’ve always struggled with that”, “That’s just something I can’t change”, or “I’m working on getting over that issue, but I guess it’s just going to take a while.” The enemy knows if you allow yourself to be enslaved, you will be distracted, paralyzed by your circumstances, and useless to the call the Father has put on your life. You have a choice to let enemy control you. You also have a choice to evict the thoughts, feelings, or negative emotions before they take root and darken your mind.
 
Confess the sin to the Father. Ask the Father to forgive you for the mental thing to which you’ve allowed yourself to be bound. For example, if you’ve struggled with bitterness over a situation that happened to you and you’ve used that as an excuse to become a hopeless or angry, confess those things to the Father and ask Him to forgive you. If you’re not sure where to look for inspiration about how to confess and talk with the Father for the issue you’re battling, here’s a great blog post from a fellow Christian blogger that may help: http://revivedlife.com/blog/prayer-to-release-anger/. There’s no magic formula or prayer template, but if you are sincere in confession and forgiveness, the Father is always faithful to forgive.
 
Make declarations over the situation. Know that you have power over the enemy because Jesus has given you that authority. Just as Jesus spoke directly to demons and disease to cast them out and bring healing, you can do the same thing. You can make declarations by stating something like the following: “In Jesus name, anger (or whatever it is you’re battling), be gone! You have no power over me. I chose to set my eyes on things that are good and righteous because they please the Lord. I cast out feelings and emotions that are not of God. I have been purchased by the blood of the Savior, and He is worthy to purchase my freedom.”
 
Troubles may come and go. Life happens, but you choose whether or not to allow your circumstances to open doorways to negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions. As soon as a new negative thought tries to enter your mind, immediately offer it up to God and choose not to allow it to take root. As a trusted friend once told me (and he was right) when I was swimming in self-pity and doubt, “You are a strong soldier of God. Now start acting like one!”
 
Believe and trust that God has freed you and move on. The keys to your chains have already been purchased. Live free. 🙂

My Encounter with the God of Love

I suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life. In addition to this disorder, I felt shame and unworthy of God’s love and grace even though I had been a Christian for almost 20 years. But now, I can’t deny I’m loved.

In September 2012, I found myself sitting in a prayer service thanks to the strong urging

Joy and freedom

of a good friend. I remember listening to the live praise music and other Christians around me worshiping God with a love and adoration I didn’t yet understand. I felt nothing. After months of crying and begging God to pull me out of a desperate situation that had only deepened my anxiety and depression, I was completely drained.

“I know you’re real and powerful God, but where are you?” I remember thinking.

The prayer service message that night was all about oppression, mental and physical bondage and how our spirits are affected by these things. As the prayer director spoke, I realized I was the person who needed to hear the message.

“What an odd coincidence,” I remember thinking. But now I know it was a divine appointment.

When the message concluded, there was an opportunity for prayer and worship before we were dismissed. That’s when I felt a tug on my heart as if God was saying, “Go ask for prayer” – so I went to the alter. As the prayer director began to pray over me, she motioned for an intercessor to join us. The girl who assisted didn’t know my story, but immediately said words I’ll never forget, “God wants you to know He hears your cries. You think He’s not listening; but He hears you, and He loves you. He calls you His precious daughter.”

After the young intercessor spoke, the prayer director placed her hand on my forehead and prayed for God to break the hold of spiritual oppression and restore my joy. Suddenly, I was overcome with an immediate feeling of immense love and joy. It struck me so hard and so fast that I felt like I might stagger backwards during the prayer, and that’s when the surprise giggles started — and I could stop, but I didn’t want it to end. During prayer, joy and happiness overpowered me, and the silly giggles increased into laughter. I felt the love of the Father completely engulf me, sweeping away the pain and the darkness I suffered for so many years.

When the prayer ended, I realized I was a different person. My anxiety disorder was gone and peace had replaced it. I undeniably know God loves me. I will never question His love for me again. For the first time in my life, I have learned to trust with my whole heart.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope it has encouraged you.

He is Miraculously Wonderful

A Friend’s Curious Question

A friend once asked me, “How can you live in this day and age and possibly believe Jesus was anything more than a good man? How can you believe ‘miraculous’ events of the Bible like Jesus being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, performing miracles, or resurrecting from the dead can be real?” Years ago, I had trouble explaining why I believe these things beyond retorting something like, “I believe it because the Bible says it happened.” These days, I know it must be true from the deepest corners of my soul.

When I was walking through some of the darkest moments of my life a couple of years ago, I was struggling with life events that left me feeling like my problems were bigger than God could possibly be. My heart ached for a God who was in control of all things, but my mind and my physical person were beaten down and unwilling to believe. I didn’t even realize at the time I had already replaced His sovereign ways for a lesser version. Although I had seen Him come to my rescue several other times before, the memory and passion of those events dulled over the years because I stopped looking to Him to provide for my daily needs. Suddenly, I found myself aimlessly drifting through this life, attempting to provide my own self-sufficience when faced with problems, and I was regularly overwhelmed by my circumstances.

A Hard Look

Through my battle with darkness, I was forced to take a hard look at what I believed and who I was as a person. In those moments of soul searching, I found a frail person, clinging to faith and truth by a wisp of understanding. Thank goodness for His mercies in providing eternal life for those of us with so little faith! I realized at that moment I didn’t understand even a hint of who He truly is or what He is capable of doing.

Day of Truth

At the climax of my struggles, I realized I couldn’t move forward another step without divine intervention. I had reached my limits; and, in my complete brokenness, I cried out for Him to release me from the burdens shackling me.

As I’ve learned time and again over the years, the moments that cause us to release control is when we see His powerful glory manifest. He is a loving father. He is a powerful healer. He answers prayer and fulfills the needs of His children. He was powerful in ancient times, and He’s just as powerful now!

At the risk of sounding a little crazy, here is a list of what I’ve seen Him do in my life and in the lives of others:

– He redirected the path of my life in an instant of hearing my cries for help with too many coincidental factors for it to possibly only be coincidence.

– He completely healed a young man of an inoperable, supposedly fatal case of lymphoma.

– He healed a close family friend of spinal cancer.

– He healed a pair of legs (mine!) from severe shin splints without a trace of pain, discoloration, or swelling left behind — within an instant!

– He touched a dear friend of mine who was coming down with the flu, immediately curing her and removing fever from her skin during prayer.

– He has powerfully transformed the lives of people close to me who simply found the courage to trust Him as their Savior.

I’ve also felt His nudges, heard His voice, and literally felt Him peel away the oppression tormenting my troubled spirit through those dark days. I’ve never looked back because I’ll never be the same person. As promised in His Word, I am a new creation (Ephesians4:23-24). It’s undeniable to know He is real when He shakes us to the core!

Final Thought

As each day passes, I find it easier to believe what’s been written about Him in the Bible. After all that’s happened, how could I not believe He is real? What do you believe?