Day 8 Sarah – Genesis 17:15-21, 18:1-15

08 sarahAbraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

From these passages it looks like Sarah was not the only one laughing – Abraham did too. And like many have said “Come on, who wouldn’t have?” The whole idea of them having a baby at their age was just beyond their understanding. And if I’m honest, why does God choose to do it this way? It’s so confusing.

So maybe the real point is for God to show that there is nothing too hard for Him.

As for believing God for a promise from His Word, that has happened a few particular times in my life – usually in a time of real struggle. Some I remember so clearly.

“Save the son of thy handmaiden.” (Ps. 86:16) I clung to these words when my son was in trouble as a young teen. When the meeting was over, I experienced the relief of God’s intervention. He did exactly as He had prompted me to believe.

Almost all of Jeremiah is literally highlighted in one of my Bibles-in pink marker! Those were God’s assurance about a wayward daughter’s return. “They shall be carried to Babylon, and they shall be there until the day I visit them,” declares the LORD. “Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.(Jer. 28:22) It was long coming but God rescued her and us.

Jan. 30, 2010 brought verses for my grandson: Jer. 29:4-7, 10-14

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare…10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

And Luke 15:20, 22-24, 32

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

We are still waiting for a celebration.

Now days, I’m not really trusting God for something particular, though maybe I should be. Instead my mind goes to the verse I memorized a couple of summers back. It was my intentional prayer every morning then for weeks and now, as the Lord brings it to mind.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly. (Ps. 5:3)

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Day 7 Sarah – Genesis 16:1-16

07 sarah

Oh for faith more like the ocean’s depth than its rolling waves.*

My thoughts this morning are more about God’s patience and willingness to rescue than about Sarai’s lack of faith. I wondered what I wrote about this passage back when we studied Genesis. Now that I’ve re-read it I’m a bit surprised that again my heart leans toward the miracle of God’s grace.

“This human frailty [not trusting God] requires God having to continually rescue us from ourselves.”*

Fortunately God is not shocked that the consequence of sin – that all started by us doubting Him – is, in fact, doubting Him. This is apparently the ongoing struggle we will face – until heaven. The miracle is He is a willing and compassionate Rescuer. Like a lifeguard from his beach tower, He looks out – watching for the struggling swimmer. It does not really matter if I have been overtaken by the current or my own foolishness because He comes regardless, every single time, to save me.

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*Genesis 16:1-16 from October 15, 2014 IF: Equip journal

The impatience of Sarai and eventually Abram causes Sarai to recommend her servant, Hagar, as a potential child bearing candidate. All through the time of A & S’s journey to see God’s promise fulfilled, they had lapses in their ability to trust God to do what He had promised. (It’s nothing different today – at least for me – my faith that God will come through ebbs and flows like the tides…and with less provocation!)

This human frailty requires God having to continually rescue us from ourselves. But even in the rescue we have generated consequence from our actions that God must now consider. Of course he is not surprised by what seem to be twists and turns in the road for us and He is perfectly capable of dealing. But from my perspective, I/we just keep making things worse.

So now we find Hagar having a son and God stepping in to rescue them both. And now Ishmael will become a father of his own nation – one that will forever be at odds with the line of his future half-brother, Isaac. Ishmael through Hagar – gets a promise similar to Abrams’ – your descendants cannot be numbered. Of course, this happens because of the original promise to Abram but Ishmael will not result in the Rescuer but rather in a religion that follows the same God – Allah and through a human prophet, Mohammad – rather than the true Savior.

Still, you have to love how God works in these things. Saving the innocent and those without power and blessing them.

About God?
Always loving, always caring, always acting, always moving toward the ultimate rescue plan.

About Me?
Oh for faith more like the ocean’s depth than its rolling waves.

About the World?
God sees you and loves you…whoever you are.

Day 6 Sarah – Genesis 16-21

06 sarahHere’s what I think about Sarah – “S.T.R.E.S.S.E.D”.

She and her husband hit the road, traveling to who knows where.

She’s dealing with being barren. I know I cannot relate to this pain, struggle or doubt. It was especially difficult in her time and culture. Sometimes barrenness was viewed as a curse straight from God – that would make one wonder if God loved them.

Not to mention Abraham’s lineage. I mean just regular lineage, never mind God’s gigantic promise of sand and stars! Pleeeze. It was deplorable to leave your stuff to your servants and who was going to take care of you in your old age?

She’s beautiful and desirable and instead of her husband celebrating that, he keeps telling her to say she is his sister in order to protect his butt. And she does it – twice! Plus the time she spends at Pharaoh’s place and then in Abimelech’s harem. Had to be scary. Women were just property to be collected, had no rights. Sarah’s protection came from God alone but maybe she didn’t know what He had done for her. You can’t actually SEE wombs of someone’s household being closed. And how cheery to think those plagues on men, women and children are because of you.

She tries to deal by “giving Hagar” to her husband. Maybe this was how she was supposed to solve the baby conundrum God had stuck them with. That was her duty as the wife – to have the babies, wasn’t it? Total disaster. Handmaid hated her and the feelings were mutual. Sarah lost it and did unkind things.

Now she’s 90 – time’s up. In fact, it’s past time, let’s just let it go. Then some dude says, “next year.” You’d have to laugh to keep from crying… but embarrassing to get caught.

Then comes Isaac – son of laughter – the miracle child. Now she wonders why she hadn’t trusted God’s words. Why she had lived in doubt and thinking she had to fix everything. Why didn’t she just rest in God’s provision for all she needed? Why me? Why this great and awesome blessing?

So my lessons from the life of Sarah:

  1. God’s words are true and will be fulfilled. Don’t stress. Even in the tough spots, keep going back to that. Living the “no stress” life means trusting Him every day in everyday things. “Fight for Faith!”
  2. It is not your job to make God’s promises come to pass. That is God’s job. Seek Him for your part and then stand out of the way.
  3. God will and is protecting you, even when you can’t see it and even when you are not believing Him and acting all whack!
  4. Do not live in regret of your past. God is about laughing at all He provides even if you are late to the party.

Day 5 Eve – Genesis 3:8-15

05 eve

Yeah, it’s such a grand story for her [Eve] beyond the broken, right? And so we could stop at that for each of us, we could stop at the mistake, at the thing that we got wrong – and yet He says, “Actually this is going to be the catalyst for this grand story that I’ve already set in motion.” – Rebekah Lyons

Isn’t it funny how we think of Bible people as flat, illustrations sometimes? Their stories really don’t come to life until we stop to engage with them as real, flesh and blood human beings. One can hardly blow off the Bible as just “stories” once you have allowed the people “in”.

So, here is Eve. She is made as a glorious fulfillment of God’s most unique “kind” of creation. Made in His image – the image of God (I mean let that sink in.) She meets her husband, her partner, her best friend. He is glowing. She is in wonder. They are perfectly provided for by God Himself who comes to chat every evening and enjoy all of creation with them.

Life is perfect…but there is vulnerability. Choice – they were always offered the power to choose.

The enemy is walking around like a lion, looking for someone to devour. The serpent was a snake in every sense of the word. He seemed to just be asking for directions…”is it really true?” “I’m just wondering, since you are God’s favorite and all, could you just clarify?” At first she felt confident, but his questions were not casual. They were meant to confuse and have you trip over your own shoe-strings (if you had shoe-strings – which she didn’t.)  And she tried hard to seem wise – to even be wise. It looked safe…in fact it looked nice…and maybe being wiser was a good thing.

Then it was obvious. Shame and guilt burned from the pit of her stomach. She had never felt pain like this. Was this death? Terror and horror made her dizzy and the snake…he was laughing. Was he laughing? What have I done?

I guess before, Eve didn’t know what being vulnerable really was. But now? Now she knew her nakedness and it was crushing. Now seeing God would be a disaster not a joy. At this point, I am a crumpled mess. I thought death would be the END of pain but it isn’t. It is living in excruciating pain – afraid of God – separated from His love – forever. Broken. Done.

Enter God. He asks but I think He probably already knows. It’s just healing to get it out. Painful but healing. He knows that. “It’s going to need stitches – yeah, it’s that bad. It’s going to hurt a while longer. But don’t worry. I am not leaving you – ever.

Out of this brokenness I already have made a way back. Take it and escape. Take it and come home. I have plans for you – .plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.”

Eve still gets to choose: exposure and shame or restoration. Eve chooses God’s promise of Jesus. Eve was scarred but whole. Humble and brave.

So, get this close and Eve is not a Bible story any more. She is a mother offering wise counsel. Her choices are my everyday choices.

Will I listen?
Will I trust my own wisdom?
Will I recognize my vulnerability?
Will I yield to mercy?
Will I step out of the ashes and be brave?

I want to say “yes.”

Day 4 Eve – Genesis 4

04 eve

“God has appointed for me another offspring…”

The first day of this study I was drawn to the consequences of Eve’s sin – multiplied pain in childbearing. Anyone who is a mother knows the potential for that pain continues long after the baby is born. The self-doubt that comes with rearing children is never far from us. Our hearts soar over a son’s helpful politeness and 60 seconds later nose-dive when we find the marijuana he left in his dirty jeans. Right or wrong, I think every mother’s first thought is “what have I done wrong?”

I cannot imagine Eve’s devastation at losing her son Abel. He was good and innocent. That would have been wounding enough but complicate that by the perpetrator – her other son! “How did this happen? How could I have failed my children so badly?” It is hard to get up off the floor and declare “God has not deserted me, nor my children” when everything screams the opposite.

Here is where Eve – the mother of all living – is brave beyond measure. She does not withdraw. She sleeps with her husband knowing pregnancy is certainly a possibility. Their charge was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and so she did not doubt God’s words this time. She chooses to believe.

Lord,
From time to time the self-doubt and pain of having not done mothering well still stings. The accusations of my failures rise up from the pit and I feel overwhelmed. You know every mistake – and I confess them again today.
Today, like Eve, I refuse to be disqualified by my doubts. I choose to stay the course you have appointed for me. Revive my faith and use me, however imperfect, for Your glory.
Amen.
 

Day 3 Eve – Genesis 3

03 eve1 John 2:16
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

“Did God say that?” Oldest trick in the book – literally!

Today my test was to trust that God would be for me exactly who He says He is. That He would intervene because it would be the right thing to do. But I knew in my gut, I would have to trust Him even if He seemed to have been lost in traffic. Corrie ten Boon says God is never late. Today He did in fact show up, in a way I would not have imagined, and He gently did what I was hoping for.

He got the glory. He will get the glory every time the story is told.

If He had not intervened I would have kept looking for Him because what other choice is there?   “Where else would we go, Lord? You have the Words of life.”

DAY 2 EVE – GENESIS 2:18-25

02 eve18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Since my interest in gender issues over the last year, my studies and learning have led me to new understanding of the Scriptures. Actually, I have long been uncomfortable with many of the accepted views but have not known how to reconcile that discomfort and my personal experiences with the Scriptures. The Word of God is authoritative to me. I base the way I live out my faith on it – indispensable as far as I’m concerned.

That being said, I have come to believe we may have drawn some assumptions about this passage regarding why woman was said to be “a helper suitable for” man that the context does not suggest. While it would be good for me to try to put it in my own words – and I will at some point – today I will just refer you to a lecture from Biola University on Genesis 1-2 & 5. (https://youtu.be/S4EvUAcRrbM)

The creation of a distinct variety of humankind called woman is, in the context, the answer to man being alone – not having found any other living creature being like him. God in his wisdom chose to create woman from man but this in no way negates they were both made in the image of God and given dominion over the earth and all living things. That was always a partnership of equals.

In general, woman being a “helper: strong, rescuer” (ezar) who “fit: stands across from” (kenegdo) man, speaks to her having rescued him from being the only one of his kind. So the idea of drawing an application about the ways we can be helpers in our lives or our marriages is really not what I believe this passage is about.

I do love the symbolism of woman’s creation as it pertains to God. Man and woman, we are told in Gen. 1, have been made in God’s image. I can only imagine that God crafted them this way because of His special love for humankind. God is the first community and this seems to be an essence of His being. He created humankind to live in community. What better display than making one human and taking the other from him. One flesh becoming two unique displays of God’s image. And then instructing them to become one flesh again!

It’s a concept echoed by Paul in his exhortation in Philippians – Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so …I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel”.

I guess if I’m to look at being a helper in some way, it then is how I help the cause – striving, side by side, with those men and women in the body of Christ, for the faith of the gospel.

Day 1 – Eve: Genesis 1-4

01 eveWow! There is so much to be found in these four chapters. I tried to focus on Eve but things kept popping up.

Here’s the short version of my take away.

We are God’s image bearers – male and female – and we are obviously precious to Him. God has an enemy and since we are God’s soft spot that makes us a target.  This is further explained down in chapter 4:7 “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” That is what God told Cain – before he blew it. It was the very same situation his parents faced.

Oldest line in the book of temptation: “Did God REALLY say that?” Books have been written and libraries have been filled to give clear instruction about the pitfall of believing the lies. “The truth will set you free”, is what Jesus said. Being right here, today, in His word is giving me the unequivocal source to answer that question! And oh, by the way Serpent, men and women were given DOMINION over all living beasts – get the heck outta my garden!

“Naked and unashamed” was totally flipped as a consequence of sin. Now we know all too keenly our vulnerability, embarrassment and weakness – before God and people. Part of that weakness is trying to work our own cover up. Leaves? Well, they were handy. This will always be a temptation, I’m afraid but you know what God REALLY says? “Jesus has worked this out – go to Him for a new Righteous Robe or for dry cleaning when needed. He’s got you COVERED.

In conclusion – because I could be here a lot longer – I’m going out on a limb about the curse thing to Eve. Consider this food for thought:

  1. Multiplied pain in child birth. Childbirth was always painful, even before the curse, if now it’s multiplied. In my day, there were drugs and you hardly knew what happened. However, a mother does not escape child induced pain. How do you think Eve felt when her first born killed his brother? Or when God sent Cain away? Sin has an ongoing impact “until Christ is formed in us.”
  2. Your desire shall be for your husband. This has always been a mystery to me. And, I don’t have time to do a Hebrew word study. But in light of the circumstances it occurs to me that maybe after the crushing blow of having blown it with God, maybe this unique consequence will be a tendency of women to want to step back from our role as a co-heir. It is an easy out sometimes to want someone else to call the shots. That way, we never “fail”, right? God might be saying, pay attention because this self-preserving tactic “to let Mikey do it” falls short of displaying My full image.
  3. …And he shall rule over you. In light of point 2, this becomes descriptive of how that plays out. Surely it is never endorsed in the Scripture that one child of God should rule over another. That is an earthly paradigm. The same one the disciples tried to apply in asking “which of us will be the greatest?” I refer you to Jen Hatmaker’s comments on that ( God, Make Us Small – http://www.austinnewchurch.com/media.php?pageID=5 ).

Thanks for your story Eve. Somehow I think you are okay with sharing even when you didn’t look so good. I think that is because you knew the glory of openness before the blow of sin. You are our first womanly role model of restoration.

DAY 21 NEHEMIAH – SUMMARY

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I’m writing today from my hotel room during our break at IF:LEAD2015. It has been an incredible time and there is more to come. Tonight: IF:Pray 2015. 500+ women here – 6 countries represented live streamed. Then to be joined by local groups in homes or churches all over – maybe the world. It is a powerful thought.

Prayer – that is where Nehemiah started. He heard news that distressed him and he prayed. I would not be wrong to say that every work of God begins at this place. We (I) need reminding.

Nehemiah was concerned with the disgrace of the ruined walls of Jerusalem. What are my concerns?

  1. Refugees. Kay Warren spoke today about “compassion” – being the arms of Jesus. This is the church’s mission and we are the best equipped organization in the world. We need to stop thinking Jesus is speaking to someone else. Praying for every local church to step up.
  2. Hunger for spiritual maturity. So many of God’s people are stuck on the road to maturity, pulled over in the ditch somewhere thinking that’s all there is. Praying the Spirit of God will woo them on.
  3. Praying to better understand what it looks like to love people well. Praying to listen better. Looking to find out exactly how Jesus did it…then follow after Him.
  4. Praying for the church (local and universal) for unity and love. This is how the world knows about Jesus. #BeTheChurch

DAY 20 NEHEMIAH 13:15-31

20

Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood [personhood], to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… Eph. 4:11-13

For all of Nehemiah’s vision and wisdom and administrative skills – his diplomacy and his anger – he never lost sight of his task. His job was to equip the people of God to do the work of ministry. No matter how gifted he was, no matter how successful things might be with him standing over them, that was not the goal. The goal was for the people of God, each one, to grow up – to become mature.

Sure, he poked and prodded. He rallied, he encouraged, he called sin “sin” and he wasn’t concerned about offending when offending was needed.

It’s hard to not feel discouraged when your mentor is so very capable. But Nehemiah used his gifts to foster their growth as a body – he did not flaunt them for personal benefit. He expected the people of God to become exactly who God intended them to be.

I think Nehemiah and Paul (and whoever wrote Hebrews) would have hit it off. Well, since they are all in heaven today, it would not surprise me if they have had some great times comparing notes. Paul understood the need for milk until the church was ready for solid food but he never stopped calling for maturity in Christ.

Here’s the takeaway:

Avoiding the pitfalls of personal notoriety, people pleasing and the preaching of pabulum, the work of a leader is to mentor the people of God on to maturity.*

…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:10)

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*No, I did not try to get 7 ‘P” words.  It just came out that way. 🙂