Noah: Finding Favor in the Eyes of God

candle in dark

I started reading the first few chapters of Genesis last night and ended at Gen. 6:8. The world had become completely corrupt – “the wickedness of man was great in the earth and … every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…”

How sad and disappointing! God poured His heart into His creation, gave His breath – a part of Himself – to create mankind, and they evolve into this evil generation. God is actually sorry that He’d created mankind and planned to wipe it out – mankind and animals alike. Until…

Amidst God’s broken heart, He sees and finds a glimmer of hope in Noah. Noah found favor in His eyes. Somehow, Noah managed to rise above the depravity of his generation and find favor with God. Noah was not completely corrupt and wicked. Every thought of his heart was not continually evil!

This is sort of a bitter sweet picture. First, after reading the end of Noah’s story, we know that God DOES wipe out all mankind, with the exception of Noah and his kin. God’s judgment is real! That’s a different topic for a different day, but I do think it’s important that we don’t skip over that.

The thing that hits me here, is that Noah was different. He was set apart, just as God asks His people to be (see Rom. 12 & Ex. 19 for example). We’re charged with becoming lights and salt to the earth, to point the world to Jesus. We aren’t suppose to look like the world around us.

That concept is easy to grasp but not easily lived. If I’m honest, I have to fight tooth and nail to live a holy life, especially if the people around me aren’t living holy lives.

My question is this: Should it be so difficult to live a holy life? I don’t have a great answer to that, but I do know that it is easier when I abide in the Father. Why? Because when I strike out on my own, I make the decision to rely on my own strength. When I abide in God, I give my all but God’s grace makes up the difference.

Going back to Noah… the beautiful part of this story is that God saw Noah’s heart and life. He saw hope in His creation; hope worth fighting for and standing behind. Instead of wiping out ALL of creation, God saved this little life raft of people and animals. And from that little group of people comes the rest of the story – a story of God’s redeeming love and plan to make all things right someday. He knows the end of the story; how this epic battle plays out. How encouraging.

The story has a happy ending for God’s people. Right? Yes. As one of my favorite Bible teachers says, “The end of the story is good. God wins.” The rub here is this: Will I choose to live my life like Noah? When God looks at me, is He overjoyed? Does he see hope and beauty in me amidst the depravity of the world?

I hope, at the end of all days, I can look back on my life and rejoice that I stood tall and firm. I hope that when I step into eternity, people will love God more and run harder after Him in holiness simply by thinking of me. I’m not there yet but I choose today to fight for holiness.

If you’ve made it this far, what do you want your legacy to be? How do you want people to remember you when you’re gone? Will you be someone who points people toward God or away from Him? Are you that person? What are three things you can change in your life today to move toward becoming that person? Those are the questions I’ve been pondering since yesterday and I hope they bring encouragement to you, as well.

(Photo courtesy of Wim Vandenbussche.)

Coming back…

I have a new goal for 2014. I would say it’s a New Year’s Resolution but that wouldn’t be true. It’s taken me the entire month of January to define these new resolutions.

The thing is, I’m further away from who I want to be than I’ve ever been. Somewhere in my transition out of YWAM, I lost focus and the core of who I am and want to be. I mean, I have direction in the physical sense but the heartbeat behind who I am has been silent. In that area, God is working and I am moving forward.

Part of my game plan to “getting back” to where God wants me, involves more writing. I tend to shy away from writing because I want it to be flawless and irreproachable, even though it’s impossible. In addition to this, I realize that what I typically have to say is not deeply profound and therefore struggle with “publishing” it on a blog. Who cares, right?

Well, I’m challenging myself with writing on this blog at least three times per week. Hopefully I’ll have more discipline and luck than my previous 30 years of journaling!

On Ethics

foundation pic

Good morning! I am taking an ethics course this semester for my master’s degree. One of our assignments is to consider three ethical decisions we’ve encountered over the course of the semester and follow a decision-making model to resolve the issues. My professor is amazing and provides all sorts of resources for us to read through. One such article makes a point to discuss what ethics is not. The article explains that ethics is not religion, feelings, adhering to laws, cultural norms or science. Many of these spheres have ethics built in or help us to understand what happens to be ethical but are not, in and of themselves, ethics.

From here, the article asks two main questions.

1. What, then, do we base our standards of ethics?

2. How can we apply these ethical standards to the various situations we encounter?

The answer given stems from five different approaches to discovering ethical standards — the Utilitarian Approach, Rights Approach, Fairness or Justice Approach, Common Good Approach, and Virtue Approach.  Most of these approaches’ foundation lies at the “common good”. However, even after these processes are defined, we find ourselves disagreeing about what exactly is good for all? What is the common good?  To which rights are we all entitled as humans?  The authors understands and asks these questions as well but gives the solution that each approach offers information about how to arrive at an ethical conclusion for each different situation faced.

My question is that no matter which approach we take, how do we find a foundation on which to stand, if not religion, adherence to the law, or cultural norms? Without some foundation it’s all relative. These approaches cannot stand alone. Take, for example, the Virtue Approach:

The Virtue Approach A very ancient approach to ethics is that ethical actions ought to be consistent with certain ideal virtues that provide for the full development of our humanity. These virtues are dispositions and habits that enable us to act according to the highest potential of our character and on behalf of values like truth and beauty. Honesty, courage, compassion, generosity, tolerance, love, fidelity, integrity, fairness, self-control, and prudence are all examples of virtues. Virtue ethics asks of any action, “What kind of person will I become if I do this?” or “Is this action consistent with my acting at my best?”

How can a person even arrive at an understanding of virtue without some foundation? What is love? What is truth? Or how do we even know to value generosity, fidelity or fairness? Ethics change from person to person based on our foundation of authority. For instance, I value the Holy Bible as an authority on ethical standards. It affects my ethical decision-making process and causes my standards or right and wrong to vary from those who do not consider God as an authority for ethical standards. I would even go so far as to say that the Bible outlines its own process for ethical decision-making. That, however, is another post!

Merriam Webster defines “ethics” as “rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad” and “an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong”.

We cannot determine what is morally good or bad without some foundation. A process or approach to determine a solution to an ethical dilemma, devoid of foundation or authority, falls short and is lifeless.  I agree with the authors that religion is not ethics but without religion (or whatever various authority for right and wrong you may have), ethics, in and of itself, cannot exist. A house cannot exist without a foundation.

If you’ve made it this far in my post, thanks for sticking with me!  I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments. I’m definitely just in the beginning stages of processing through this.

References:

Velasquez, Manuel; Moberg, Dennis; Meyer, Michael J.; Shanks, Thomas; McLean, Margaret R.; DeCosse, David; Andre, Claire; Hanson, Kirk O. (2009). A Framework for Thinking Ethically. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/framework.html

Photo courtesy of Nancy Waldmen.

Spring! ..for now.

I had completely forgotten I had this site until just today! I am sitting in my office, drinking a warm cup of coffee and longing to share my excitement about how warm it is outside. I know it will probably blizzard again before summer, but here is a picture of how it feels TODAY. 🙂

I hope your day is just as warm and sunny!
(Photo courtesy of http://vi.sualize.us)

Moving On…

Hello all!

I have some very recent news to pass along before you find out via facebook or the grapevine.  I will be leaving YWAM Montana next Saturday, Sept. 11. Last spring, I was asked to take a new role within the SBS (School of Biblical Studies) – it was to focus on the discipleship, pastoral care and development of staff and students. Throughout the spring, summer and last week, the details of this position changed little by little until it looked completely different than it had begun looking.  It is extremely sad to leave such an amazing family and ministry here in Montana but at this time, I know this is where God is calling me… onto Nebraska for the moment. As I gain more clarity, I will keep you all informed.

Over the past week, I’ve been incredibly blessed to have encouragement from all over the globe… what a joy to have invested here and been invested in. I do not leave this place the same way I arrived four years ago.  I am thankful.

Thank YOU for your constant support and prayers these past years. I hope to meet with most of you in the course of the next few months and catch up.  If you have any questions please let me know.  For those of you who support me financially, I will be in touch with you individually as quickly as possible.  Thank you!

Love from Montana… and soon to be Nebraska,

Victoria

School of Biblical Studies (SBS) Video!

We at YWAM Montana are blessed to have incredibly talented videographers among us – Josh and Emily Brooks have made several short films and if you click on the picture above or link below, you will find a short video about the School of Biblical Studies.  This particular film was majorly created by two students from last year, with the help of Josh and Emily.

The film has several of my students from this past year and gives a glimpse into the heart of SBS.  I hope this works and that you will better understand what you are investing in!  There are also several other videos on this page from Montana and different outreach locations (like Indonesia)…feel free to watch any and/or all of them!  There is a very cool video of the lightening we’ve had around here lately – he made the video in slow motion so you can see the lightening bolts. Very cool!

Blessings and love from Montana🙂  Victoria

http://vimeo.com/13282888

Aroma.

Good afternoon🙂

I hope you’re all having a good day!  Thus far, my day has been refreshing and productive.  I am doing a little spring cleaning and organizing.  Such a good feeling!  A friend and mentor sent me a few sprigs of lavender from her garden today and my room smells absolutely divine!

As the scent filled the air I couldn’t help but meditate on 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many;abut in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

“The fragrance that comes from knowing him…we are the aroma of Christ…”  That is so beautiful!  Oh that I would be a fragrance of life to those around me…that through me, Christ would draw others to Himself.  He really is a breath of fresh, sweet air in our lives – bringing hope, beauty, and love into the good times and hard times because of His goodness and sovereignty. Our God is good!

I pray your day is going well and that those around you know the beauty, love and hope of God merely by standing near you!  What a joy to be witnesses to who God is!

Blessings, love and prayers from Montana🙂  – Victoria

Summer!

Hello!

I am writing to you from my first day off this summer and I am SO THANKFUL. This summer has been very busy. The SBS (School of Biblical Studies) was finished on June, 25. There were airport runs that weekend followed by my summer class starting on June 28. My summer class (EQUIP) finished this past Friday. Our staff training for SBS 10-11 begins this Thursday.

Amidst that skeleton picture of my summer – there were several other exciting things that happened. I will attempt to give a short synopsis for each!

My dad visiting: My dad, for the first time ever, let go of the Newspaper Business reins for a week during the month of July. It took him two days driving from Ponca, Nebraska to Lakeside, Montana. We saw the sites within Glacier National Park, the beauty of Flathead Lake, and enjoyed the tastes of local restaurants. I greatly enjoyed his visit and hope to host him again in the future!

EQUIP:  EQUIP is a leadership training course designed to better equip DTS staff and leaders for discipling students.  My favorite week was with a speaker from Turkey. He introduced us to the affects of addictions, how to meet people where they’re at in this, and walk them out of these. The school was very worth the time of my summer vacation!

Three Days Off: And now for my three days off – My plan is to rest, read, and spring clean!  I hope you are all doing well and will talk to you soon! As always, I love to hear from you. Know you’re loved and prayed for in Montana!

Thank you for YOUR prayers and support. May God bless you and give you a daily revelation of His goodness!

Love, victoria

Quick Update!

Hey everybody!
I’ve been putting of writing until I have enough time to really do it justice – however, I’ve been reminded of Pastor Jeff’s advice.
He told me I didn’t need to write anything majorly profound, just keep us updated on daily things…

So here it goes!

We have two weeks left for this school, which means the days are ridiculously busy. The Monday after this school is sent home, I begin a leadership seminar/school. I am foregoing my summer vacation this year to take some leadership training and am very excited! I will post more on this later.

Also, my role within the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) will be changing a little next year! I have a meeting with my director this week to further clarify this changing role. After this meeting, I will add an update on that!

I hope you’re all doing very well and enjoying the summer sun. We had our first day with 80 degrees this weekend. Yay!

Blessings, love and prayers to you from Montana!

It’s all about Jesus. Period.

Hey all!

I hope this finds you doing well and staying warm🙂 Things are going well here – busy as usual. I finished teaching Philippians last Friday and was so challenged, as well as blessed, by Jesus’ example of humility, selflessness, and obedience to the will of the Father even to the point of death on a cross.

As I studied for this teaching, I realized that my understanding and perspective of the cross had become commonplace. I had worn cross necklaces, seen crosses in church, sung “thank you for the cross”… Yet it was just a word to me. “The cross” had become almost cliche rather than a reminder of what Jesus had done on the cross and what our response to that should be.

I didn’t think of the cross as being a criminal slave’s death sentence… Maybe if you said “take up your electric chair or your noose or coffin and follow Jesus” I would better grasp the call.

And it’s not just that Jesus humbled himself to be beaten, stripped naked, and die… but WHY he did that. He did it because the world was dead in its sins…because we were separated from God… He did it to bring us back to Himself because we couldn’t make our own way back to Him. He knew what was before him on the cross – in the garden of Gethsemane he said “not my will but yours Father…” He followed the Father’s plan to save the world despite humiliation, despite excruciating pain, despite what would be easier (no cross, no pain). He followed the Plan to the point of death… He finished it because He wanted his children back. He put our best interest before his own… he considered US as more significant than himself… he died in our place. He lived the greatest love story ever…and we’re a part of that.

So the cross reminds us of how Jesus obeyed the Father’s will and plan, despite all opposition and discomfort, to the end (death) because He loved us that much. Because He is a relentless, jealous, and loving God who fights for His children.
What is our response to that?
What does it mean to have the same mind/attitude of Christ? (Phil 2:5) What does it mean to “take up our cross and follow after Jesus”? What does it look like IN OUR LIVES to consider the interests of others alongside our own? Or to consider others as more significant than ourselves? How do I obey to the point of death?? I think that we need to remember that dying to ourselves is what it’s about… because when we die to our own desires, wants, pleasures, and will… we walk in FREEDOM to live for Christ. So… though it’s good to think and ponder about whether you would give your life for Christ at the end of a sword… consider giving your live for him in the everyday. Dying to self is a daily principle!

There are so many opportunities for us to think and act like Jesus every single day… Maybe you’ve been running all day and would like a break but know that someone needs a bit of encouragement. Take that opportunity to put them first. Or maybe you will choose to give up purchasing that play station 3 so you can help someone in need. Maybe it’s that simple.

All the little things we do each day, as we act like our Father, point the world back to Him. We don’t respond as the world, as those who fight for themselves and think only of their own good. WE are citizens not of the world but of HEAVEN! You are the light of the world!!! Point people to God through the way you live your life!! Amen!

And as you pass a cross or hang it around your neck – remember what Jesus did there, remember what your response is to that, and remember that because the cross is empty, the ending to our lives is triumphant!! Jesus gets the victory. So run, fight, and keep perspective as you go through the good times and the bad… with your sole purpose in life being the will of the Father and being a light to the world! Run hard to the finish line!

Be blessed.

remember. respond.

remember. respond.