Explore: A fresh start

• The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 4 focuses on Genesis 8:15-22; 9:1, 11-16.

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• The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 4 focuses on Genesis 8:15-22; 9:1, 11-16.

It was a really great hospital visit, until my pastor—who also was my boss—and I stepped into the parking garage elevator.  I remember thinking a 12-story parking garage is quite large for a hospital, even for Houston. As we stepped on for a normal ride, one other person, a woman probably in her 50s, joined us. Then it happened—the elevator started to screech so loudly it hurt our ears. It decided to add a “boom” and a “bam.” I’m quite certain my heart also made a “boom” and a “bam.”

The woman onboard with us went into instant hysteria, and honestly, I wasn’t very far behind. I not so calmly picked up the emergency phone, but nothing happened. We proceeded to press the open button numerous times, but nothing. This all happened within about 10 seconds. Questions instantly flooded my brain. “Does oxygen flow freely in this death box?” “How many days until I starve to death?” Then I saw a magic little button marked “emergency.” I’m certain it was supposed to make a noise, call an emergency technician, or perhaps even it was a direct link prayer line to my Heavenly Father. I was wrong. Nothing happened.

All of a sudden, the woman went into wild hysteria, jumping, crying and screaming, “We are all going to die!” A bit much, but then again, my mind also was racing that direction. We were cooped up in a death box, and no one even realized we were missing.

A year of waiting

Forty days of rain and floods. Months of waiting for waters to recede. Ravens and doves sent out. One would imagine, a stench beyond belief from a boat full of animals. Then it finally happened. God spoke and said, “Come out of the ark,” (Genesis 8:16). Beautiful words, I would imagine. If you read the text carefully, you discover Noah and his family were cooped up in the ark 378 days. No sunlight. No lido deck, swimming pools or buffets. Only animals and waiting. Animals and waiting. Animals and waiting—and 378 glorious days with your mother-in-law.

But a most glorious thing—a fresh start. Surely, Noah and his family experienced something both terrible and glorious at the same time. Do you suppose they heard people screaming and begging to enter the ark? They certainly were aware of the death of, well, everything. Yet, they had experienced God’s saving graces. They alone remained as the only human beings. And after all the waiting, God was going to use this family to start all over again.

One can’t begin to imagine the joy of leaving the ark. They were set free from the darkness. They were set free from the waiting. They were set free from the stench. But most importantly, they were set free from evil and wickedness that permeated their society. This faithful family was released to begin again, to replenish God’s earth fresh and new. They were set free with a wonderful promise, sealed with a rainbow—“never again,” God said. 

One can’t help but think of how God still is setting people free. He still is providing his saving grace to a corrupted world. Jesus Christ is doing something so powerful whole nations and even generations are being given a fresh start. Just as in the days of Noah, God is blessing those of faith with new life.

Claustrophobia ensues

Back to the elevator. After what seemed like 30 minutes, but really was more like 30 seconds, the door sounded with a glorious “ding,” flung open, and we rushed out. Death was swallowed up in victory. We hadn’t even left the ground floor.

I asked my pastor, “Where is my tie?” He laughed and answered: “You ripped that thing off. Don’t you remember? You said something about ‘I feel like I can’t breathe.’” My “brush with death” seems so funny now. But my oh my, it was so wonderful to be set free, even though I’ve been claustrophobic ever since.

It would be amazing to travel back in time and watch Noah and his family crawl out of that ark. I’m certain they were thrilled that though it, God had saved their lives. But I’m also certain they enjoyed the sun, breathed in some fresh air, and thanked God for a new beginning.

Application ideas for your Bible study group:

1. Ask your group:
What are you waiting for God to do that only he can do?
How does waiting on God build our faith?
2. Ask your group:
Forgiving other people can be extremely difficult. To whom do you need to offer forgiveness and a fresh start? What strained relationship deserves a grace-filled new beginning?

3.  There is most likely a family in your church that is really struggling. How could you offer them a fresh start by meeting practical needs? 

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