Wednesday, June 5, 2013

To Flee or not to Flee

Today's passage:  Genesis 38 and 39
     I am struck by these back to back passages concerning fornication. I don't think it is an accident that God put Judah and Joseph's stories one after another in the Bible.  In fact, it is probably very likely that God wanted us to contrast the very marked behavior between the two.
     First we read about Judah and this very disturbing chapter concerning his daughter-in-law, Tamar.  Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, Tamar bears her own father-in-law's child.  The details are less than pretty and I would rather not delve into all the particulars, but had Judah reigned in some of his impulses, this could have been avoided.  He was not one to avoid a pretty woman, veiled or unveiled.  He ran into sin, not away from it.  He is held responsible for his actions, though he nearly gets away with it excepting some shrewd planning on Tamar's part to be sure nobody else could be accused of being the father of her child.
Joseph manages Potiphar's house
Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book 4
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1927
     Then there is Joseph.  Each and every day Potiphar's wife beckons him.  Each and every day, Joseph says no.  I'm guessing that Mrs. Potiphar was probably a beautiful woman.  I'm guessing that she probably did not dress as modestly as she should.  I'm guessing that this could have been a real internal struggle for Joseph as it is for most men who are confronted with immodestly dressed women.  Yes, ladies, I am going there, because I'm afraid, in our day and age, our society has brainwashed us into believing that if a man looks at a woman wrongly that it is all his fault.  And if he acts on those impulses, it is his fault.  But can't we help men out a little?  When a Godly man turns his head and everywhere he turns he is confronted with women who will not take responsibility for how they are tempting him with their dress, what is a Godly man supposed to do?  He probably suffers in silence many times, and will never reveal just how tortured he is, (because really, how can he tell us those things) but wishing these ladies would dress differently to give him a chance to be able to keep his mind and heart pure.  Please do not misunderstand, a man is responsible for his actions, but can't we give him a fighting chance?  We tend not to understand this, because we don't understand how men think. They think differently, and it does not make them disgusting, because God created them that way.  Armed with that knowledge, we should do whatever it takes not to be a stumbling block to them.  If you really want to gauge if you are appropriately dressed, ask your father, brother or husband, and don't get angry with them if they tell you the truth.  If they are iffy, rethink your wardrobe.
     Poor Joseph is trying to do right, and does do right, but how hard Mrs. Potiphar probably made it for him.  How many nights did Joseph have to pray repeatedly for God to cleanse his heart and mind? The Bible doesn't tell us those things, but Joseph was a real man, with a real man's instincts.  He fought them, but it couldn't have been easy to be confronted with that day after day.  In the end, though Joseph ran away, he is still punished for a sin he did not commit.  It seems a little unfair that Judah, a skirt chaser, nearly gets away with his sin, but Joseph, who leaves his robe behind in a frantic attempt to avoid sin, is wrongly convicted.  Joseph spends several years in prison for this.  That would have my justice-seeking heart outraged.  Probably the thing that I hate most is being accused of something that I did not do.  Yet Joseph, keeps a Godly attitude and earns promotions in prison.  If he had faced a parole board, he would have been given an early release for good behavior, but unfortunately, Egyptian prisons did not work that way.   His character will not go unnoticed later on though.
     I am not the type of person that likes to stir up trouble.  Really, I am not.  Most people would find that I am a peacemaker.  However, truth is truth, regardless whether you agree, and I realize that addressing women's dress is a hot button topic of our time.  All I can say is if you are really offended by this post, you might want to think about why.  I didn't even intend to go that direction but God somehow put it on my heart this morning.  So I will post this knowing the backlash and run and duck for cover and hopefully, for those of you reading this, we can still be friends. Please don't be mad at me, she says, as she pushes the send button.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I Wonder as I Wander

Today's passage:  Genesis 37
     Somehow, I have never paid attention, or never noticed this small detail in the story of Joseph.  I've read the passage many times, I've taught the Sunday School lesson, I've even seen Joseph:  King of Dreams.  But there are a few verses here to which I have never paid particular attention.  That gets my attention, because though it may seem like a small detail, if God put it there, it must have some significance.
     Jacob's other sons are in the field in Shechem, tending sheep.  He sends Joseph to go to them, to see how they are doing.  Or does he have another motive?  I ask this question, because I'm wondering if Jacob is a little suspicious of their behavior.  He tells Joseph to come back to him and let him know what they are doing.  I'm intrigued by this because of what I learn a few verses later.
     Joseph goes to Shechem which is a good jaunt from their home in Hebron, about 55 miles.  The fields there must be good for grazing.  But Joseph's brothers aren't in Shechem.  In fact, Joseph is wandering around Shechem, probably checking every field for some sign of them, when some gentleman (these are the verses I'd never really given much attention to) comes to him and asks what he needs.  If it weren't for this gentleman, Joseph would never have learned that his brothers were actually in Dothan, another 20 miles north of Shechem.  Who knows how long Joseph would have wandered about searching for his brothers?  Now what is significant about this?  Well, I read a little about Dothan.  I mean, if the brothers went there without sending word to Dad, that seems a little suspicious.  What I learned was that Dothan was not agricultural, it was a commercial town.  So what are the brothers doing up in Dothan with sheep if there is little, if any, pastureland?  That I don't have an answer for, but it wouldn't surprise me if Jacob's sons were involved in some wheeling and dealing, acquiring fortunes in the northland.  I can't be certain of this, but it does seem a bit peculiar.  So when Joseph arrives on the scene, they know they are in big trouble.  Perhaps they have had business in Dothan for a while now, maybe they have set up some sweet deals with the merchants that come through, and the last thing they need is for kid brother to tattle to Dad about their business ventures, when they should have been taking care of the sheep.  This would only fuel their desire to be rid of Joseph, so they could conduct business as usual.
Joseph, search for his brothers, is told they had gone to Dothan
Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Two
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
     And has Jacob been suspicious of where the brothers have been?  Did they get home later than usual?  Were the flocks looking skinnier than before?  Did it seem the boys had a little extra income, or did a few sheep mysteriously go missing every time they returned from Shechem, maybe part of a deal?  I don't know, but I do know that though Jacob may be old, he knows a little about scheming, and although he may not be completely wise to their plans, something tells me he knows everything is not on the up and up.  Loyal Joseph would of course report back to Dad, but this time, his brothers will prevent him.  And by securing Joseph's silence, they can continue their Dothan excursions.  Since Dothan was along a prominent trade route, it also was convenient for them to be able to sell Joseph, even if not the original plan.  Though jealousy and hate were the primary factors that led to Joseph's enslavement, the inducement of money may have been a motivation as well, because the Bible tells us that "the love of money is the root of all evil." (I Timothy 6:10)  Twenty silver pieces may have seemed like a small price to pay to rid themselves of a brother who would blow their cover.
     It's all pure speculation, I know, but I don't know why God would have included the verses about Joseph's aimless wandering in Shechem, and a man there, who happened to overhear the brothers' plans redirecting him, if there had not been something amiss.  Every verse in the Bible has a purpose, and maybe I miss it the first, second, or third time (sometimes the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth time as well), but when I keep reading and searching, I'm bound to find something new.  Thank you, Lord, for such a marvelous Book.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Family Matters

Today's passage:  Genesis 32
     Jacob is headed back to the land of his fathers.  God has instructed him in this.  There is only one small problem, actually it is bigger than small.  Esau, his twin brother, the reason he fled in the first place is living nearby.  In Chapter 31, it is evident that Jacob's scheming ways have not completely left him, and in this case that's a good thing.  He divides everything with him into two groups, that way if Esau chooses to exercise revenge, some of his descendants and belongings will survive and carry on the family name.  My immediate reaction upon reading this was, "I wonder how the groups were divided?"  Did he put Rachel, Leah and their sons into one group, and then Bilhah and Zilpah and their sons in another?  Maybe he put Rachel, his beloved, and her handmaid in the group with him and then Leah and her handmaid in the second group.  See what a mess this might create?
     Then, here in Chapter 32, he divides them further as Esau approaches and this is what struck me.
1And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men.  And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.
2And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.

Taken from Treasures of the Bible (Genesis)
By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D.
International Publishing Company, 1894
       If it had not been clear before, it was certainly obvious now.  Jacob put the people he valued the most at the very back of the line, to preserve them.  And who are the last ones?  Rachel and Joseph.  Perhaps Jacob had shown favoritism to Joseph in subtle ways before this, but I don't think there can be any disputing among the brothers as to who Daddy loved the most.  Dan, Asher, Zebulon, and Issachar must have felt especially undervalued as they are at the front of the line with their mothers.  For a moment, I thought I could argue that Jacob was only putting the oldest sons first, knowing they could defend themselves, but that can't be the case.  The oldest boys were Leah's, and they were put behind Zilpah and Bilhah's boys.  It also doesn't give him an excuse for putting some of the ladies at the head of the pack.  I only know that such blatant favoritism must have stemmed from his own Mother and Father's familial preferences.  He practiced what he had learned.  And his sons will make him pay the price for it.  It must be hard to be the example of what a Father should not do, but Jacob will learn in a few chapters, in a very difficult way, that his behavior towards Joseph   caused a lot of jealousy and even hatred among his sons.  And it probably started way before this chapter, but this is the first instance I see that a line has been drawn.  I'm not sure you can make a point more than choosing for some of your sons to die first, ahead of others. I wonder how Jacob explained this?  Or did he even bother?  Maybe he was so oblivious to how wrong this was, it didn't occur to him to explain it away.  Any explanation would have been lame anyhow, and the boys would have seen through it.  Jacob's future behavior would further cement the assumptions they make at this juncture.  Dad doesn't love me as much as he loves Joseph.  In Dan, Asher, Zebulon, and Issachar's case, "Dad doesn't love me as much as he loves Rachel's and Leah's kids."  What a terrible thing for a child to have to realize!
     Probably in every family, every child has moments when he believes his parent loves one sibling more than another.  But, in many cases this is just a suspicion that can never be proven.  I wish Jacob's sons could say the same.  Though God uses all that Joseph endures for good, and he becomes one of the foremost examples of living for God in difficult circumstances, might God have still accomplished that example had Jacob been a better parent?  Might God have been able to spare Jacob years of believing his son had died and the grief that accompanies it?  I can't answer that, but I know that God uses our weaknesses to work His purpose.  But I don't think that means He wants us to stay deliberately weak.  When we see areas in our life that we should improve, we ought to improve it.  I believe God calls us to that.  In Jacob's case, it may be a matter of seeing the weakness at all.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Too Close to Home

Today's passage:  Genesis 31
     So I've skipped blogging about a series of chapters just because of lack of quiet time. Not surprisingly, the spring forward time change brings the sun out a little earlier in the morning, signaling Youngest's wake up time.  Though I've read through the passages, albeit only a few verses at a time many mornings, the chance to  sit and write about what I've learned has been rare.  Maybe someday, I'll have the opportunity to go back and share what God taught me in those chapters, but for now, I'll start with today's chapter.
     I'm always fascinated with the relationship dynamics in the Bible.  If you think about it, they aren't too different than relationships today, and when I think about that, it isn't hard to imagine the struggles, difficulties and complications that might take place.

Religion in the Home, Part 1
By Charlotte M. Yonge
Illustrated by Julius Schnorr Von Karolsfeld
Published by George W. Bertron, 1913

     This chapter is loaded with family drama. Laban, that sneaky scoundrel, has been cheating Jacob for years. I don't doubt that some of this is the principle of sowing and reaping in Jacob's life for the way he deceived his own brother and father. Still, I think that at this point, Jacob has paid his dues. Jacob complains that Laban has changed his wages ten times. I chuckle to myself a little, because I wonder if dear Daddy-in-law Laban doesn't use Jacob's behavior towards Leah and Rachel as an excuse to swindle Jacob. I can just see it now. Jacob talked a little too sternly to Leah; Laban docked his wages that week. Jacob seemed a little insensitive with Rachel's yearning to have a child; Laban cut Jacob's pay in half. I don't even want to know how severely Laban might have dealt with Jacob when he had children with his daughter's handmaidens, twice. Not that Laban would have told Jacob this was what he was doing, but I can imagine a protective father conveniently using it to his advantage. No wonder Jacob is in a hurry to get back to Abraham's land. Perhaps part of his motivation is to get out of the constant watchful eye of his wives' father. When God tells Jacob that it is time to go back to his family's land, Jacob must have breathed a huge sigh of relief. Finally, I'm outta here. Now to tell the girls. It might not be as easy to convince his wives that it was time to leave Daddy behind. I'm sure they are hesitant at first, but they eventually submit. Part of me wonders if this isn't a match between Rachel and Leah. They have been struggling to be the main affection for years (Rachel usually always winning out) and perhaps this was a chance for both ladies to try to win extra points with her husband. The wife who complained about leaving Daddy would most definitely earn Jacob's anger, while the one who complied would maybe rise a little in his eyes. So maybe neither of them were terribly happy about the plan to leave Laban, but neither of them may have admitted it to avoid being the lesser wife. Then again, maybe good old Dad had become a little too overbearing and they were anxious for a change of scenery as well.
     In any case, Jacob leaves quietly, not giving Laban a clue to where he has gone.  Laban eventually catches up to him (or to be truthful, chases after him) probably intending to bring his daughters and grandchildren back, and maybe digging a sandy grave for Jacob in the desert.  Fortunately, God intervenes and Laban and Jacob make a covenant to not harm each other in the future.  Given both of their deceitful pasts, I don't give a lot of credence to this "covenant", but I'm sure the future chapters will show how it holds up.
      I wish I could expand a little more, but children wake up early even on holidays, and getting this much done amid the distractions has been more than challenging.  With summer approaching, I'm hopeful that sleep patterns (for the boys at least) will be a little later, giving me time to share from time to time.  As the daughter of a career military man, I am ever thankful for the commitment to those who have served in our armed forces, and particularly those who have sacrificed their lives for our great nation.  God bless the families who have loved ones that have paid the price.  Have a blessed Memorial Day.
     Forgive the formatting.  I spent the last half hour trying to reformat the last few paragraphs.  I somehow managed to make it the caption for the picture and without erasing and rewriting the whole thing (which I definitely do not have time to do, I just had to leave as is.  GRRRR!

Monday, April 8, 2013

When a Molehill Becomes a Mountain

Today's passage:  Genesis 19: 17-38
     I wish I could just skip the end of this chapter  I wish there had been a way to avoid this sordid mess between Lot and his daughters.  And when I back up several verses, apparently there was.
     The most obvious way for Lot to have avoided some of this was if he had not been a drinker.  I think Lot must have had a history with alcohol because the oldest daughter knows that if she sets wine before Dad, he's going to overindulge.  How would Lot's eldest know this unless he had a history with drink?  He is so incoherent that the verses say "and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose."  Did she spike it with something?  It doesn't appear that is the case.  He may have been drowning his sorrows because of losing his wife.  Aha!  Now there is where the real solution would have been, had Lot's wife still been alive, this would never have been able to come to pass.
Lot and his family fleeing from Sodom
Taken from Religion in the Home (Part 1)
By Charlotte M. Yonge
Engravings by Julius Shnorr Von Karolsfeld
Published by George W. Bertron, 1913
     This automatically starts the age-old argument that if Lot's wife had not been so attached to the things of this world and looked back at the inferno behind her, she would not have become a salt statue.  Let's not forget that she had left two married daughters behind and possibly grandchildren.  We don't read about any grandchildren, but that does not mean that her daughters had not borne any (especially as they would not have figured into Lot's future genealogy).  She was more than likely a grieving mother who is anguished that part of her family would not survive.  And I'm not saying that is the only reason she looked back, she may very well have been clinging to her old life.  Remember, security is a woman's number one need.  But could this have even been prevented?  Back up a few verses.  When the angel ushers them out of the city, where does he tell this family to go?  The mountain.  Why don't they do as the angel instructs?  Lot thought he had a better way.  He couldn't stand the thought of being that far away from society.  He suggests, no he begs, to enter into that small town of Zoar, not too great a distance from Sodom and Gomorrah.  I checked out a few Bible maps, and although there is no great consensus as to where these cities existed, somewhere along the coast of the Dead Sea, Zoar would have been situated at a diagonal across the Dead Sea, giving an inhabitant there a pretty good view of the smoke and destruction happening in Sodom.  I always thought that Mrs. Lot had looked back just as they had stepped outside Sodom's city gates.  But these verses make it sound as if they had already entered Zoar.  Eventually, Lot leaves Zoar, and goes where?  To the mountain, exactly where the angel told him to go at the start of all this.  Would Mrs. Lot have been able to have a good view of Sodom's destruction from the cave?  It is quite possible that might have happened, but if the angel suggested it, I'm thinking the chance of that was less likely.  The angel was probably trying to help Lot shelter his wife's anguished heart, knowing the temptation to look back at the city might be too great for a mother's love.  Lot was the one who argued, diverted, sidetracked.  And ended up in the mountain anyway, but without his wife, which prompts the whole incestuous mess that also gives rise to Israel's greatest enemies.
     As for Lot's daughters, why they would even devise such a scheme shows how little they had been taught about the ways of God.  Daddy had just offered them up to the men of the city a few short days ago, so how would this be any worse?  Mrs. Lot had perished so there was no possibility of a brother ever being born (as it appears Lot only had daughters) and now they were cut off from civilization by taking refuge in a cave.  When would they ever meet a husband?  Warped thinking I know, but they had been raised in a city of warped thinking.  Certainly the Sodom culture had rubbed off a little on Lot's daughters.  I can only say that at least they had the sense to know to get Dad drunk first.  I'm glad that Lot would never consent to this willingly while sober.
     So what is the lesson here?  Do things God's way.  When God suggests a course, don't negotiate.  He knows what is best and is trying to spare us a lifetime of pain.  Lot and the whole nation of Israel would have to live with his mistake for the rest of their lives.  His daughters would have to explain to Moab and Benammi that Granddad was also Dad. Is it any wonder that these two father nations that end up despising Israel?  Talk about dysfunctional.
     I would think that if God sent an angel to tell me something, if He thought it so important to dispatch one of His personal messengers to deliver me to safety, I might want to take his advice.  Lot ended up in the mountain anyway, but not without some loss. What I want may seem like a little thing, but it is the littlest things in my life that become the biggest problems.  If God tells me to go to the isolated mountain, the loneliness might overtake me, but I would rather succumb to that then the guilt and shame as a result of  living in the molehill.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fire Escape

Today's passage:  Genesis 18-19:1-15
     I don't have one central thought for this post, but many random thoughts strung together.  My usual approach to reading a book in the Bible is to read a chapter at a time (I rarely get to read more than that and many mornings only a few verses in a chapter).  With Genesis, many events continue into the next chapter, so I find myself reading on.  I can't believe just how much I had forgotten or had not noticed since reading this book last.  It is amazing to me how God brings things to my attention that I didn't see before. Life experiences can further color what I see in His Word.
Abraham feeds three guests
Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Four
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
Standard Publishing Company, 1927
     So my first random thought is Abraham's prayer in the last verses of Chapter Eighteen.  I always pictured Abraham looking up into the heavens as he begged God for the righteous souls of Sodom, but forgot that the Lord Jesus is standing right there beside Abraham.  The Lord has just informed Abraham that He will be destroying the city, as He sends the two angels who accompanied Him ahead into said city.  Abraham begs and pleads with the Lord to spare the city if there be ten righteous men there.  The Lord agrees to this.  We see Abraham bargaining all the way down from fifty to ten, with the Lord agreeing to each plea.  I've heard it preached on many occasions, that Abraham stopped too soon.  Had he asked God for merely five righteous, might God had spared the city for even that?  But he didn't.  I think there is a reason that Abraham didn't.  He thought that there would have been at least ten righteous there.  Obviously, he and Lot had lost touch.  At some point, Lot's tent was no longer pitched toward Sodom, but pitched inside the city itself.  Abraham could not have known the effect this had on Lot and his family.  He probably did not realize that they were not the Godly influence they should have been.  In fact, when the angels go into the city to retrieve Lot, his wife, and two daughters, that is only four "righteous" souls that could be found.  Lot's other daughters had married ungodly men (I say this because they scoffed at Lot when he told them what would happen) and did not leave with them.  So even if Abraham had pleaded down to five, God still would not have been able to show mercy because there were not even that many righteous to be found.
     Here is my second random thought.  I'm not sure why the angels have to go into Sodom.  Was it only because they were going there to deliver Lot and the remnant of the  family that would leave with him?  In Chapter Eighteen the Lord says in verses 20 and 21, "...Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me, and if not, I will know."  So was it just a recon mission or a rescue mission?  If it is simply to deliver the warning to Lot and his family, I would be very embarrassed to be Lot.  Lot has to defend the virtue of his angelic visitors from the Sodomites (by offering the virtue of his daughters), a position he would never have been in had he not chosen to live and to stay in such a wicked place.  It can be argued that someone needs to be the light in the darkness, but in this case, Lot was not being the light.  I can tell this because his sons-in-law mock when he suddenly declares that God will judge them.  Why is he acting like a righteous man so suddenly? Had he been the light he was supposed to have been, not only might they have believed his message, but perhaps would have joined him in proclaiming it.  Of course, I can't know this for sure, since Noah also was a great proclaimer and nobody outside his family joined him.  But that is the key difference, Noah's family at least believed him.  With Noah, his wife and sons (who either married godly wives or influenced them to become godly wives) and daughters-in-law believed his message and went with him.  Lot's story of his family is tragically different.
     And finally, my third random thought is found in verses 16 and 17 which  read:  "And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.  And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him:  and they brought him forth, and set him without the city."   After all that has happened, Lot still has doubts about leaving.  He lingered.  God could have left him there, let the angels depart, and destroyed him.  I don't know if God spared Lot for Lot, or spared Lot for Abraham but the Lord is merciful once again.  Maybe Lot lingered because of the children he would leave behind.  Maybe he lingered because he couldn't bear to see his material wealth consumed.  I would love to assign a more spiritual motive to his lingering, such as his heart being bereaved for the souls of the city, but I think it unlikely.  But God is so merciful that the angels take Lot by the hand and drag he and his family outside the city gates before the fire starts to fall.  How merciful is my God!  He warns Lot of the impending doom, He even gives him a night to prepare himself, and even though Lot is still hesitant, God still delivers him.
     The fire is falling all around us.  God stays His hand each and every day because there may be a Lot in some city who is still hesitant to come to Him.  He doesn't drag us by the hand, as He did in Lot's case, but He gently beckons us to receive Him.  Some may be lingering.  He is waiting for you.  I don't know when He will return.  I don't know when Death will visit any one of us, but it could be today.  Are you standing in Sodom, still deciding whether to follow the Lord, waiting on the angel to grab your hand and make it more clear to you?  I'm not sure God will work like that today, but He gives clarity in His Word.  He may not grip your hand but He can grip your heart with His truth.  Come to Him before it is too late.  He wants to be merciful.  He wants each one to receive Him.  He wants to deliver us from the fire, because He does not want us to be consumed.  He is a God of great mercy, let Him show it in your life today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trust Worthy

Today's passage:  Genesis 12
    Abram and Sarai have not yet been blessed with children.  Abram is already 75 years old when God calls him to leave Ur and wander about the wilderness where He directs.  In that time, I'm sure that Abram had developed close relationships with nieces and nephews, particularly his nephew Lot.  Lot and Abram probably spent a lot of time together since it seems they both spent ample time shepherding.  Also, Lot's father, Haran, had died.  I don't know how young Lot was when this happened but the Bible tells us that Grandfather Terah was still living at the time.  I imagine that meant a few men in the family took on the role of father figure to Lot.  One of these men must have been Abram.  I'm sure that Abram and Sarai were more than happy to play Mother and Father to this young boy/man since they had no children of their own yet.  When it came time for God to call Abram away, I wonder if it was only natural that Lot went with them, or if after many emotional struggles at the thought of being separated did they decide this was the best course.  I had never stopped to ponder why Lot went with them.  It doesn't appear that he has a wife and kids at this time although verse 5 does say "...and the souls that they had gotten in Haran;..".  I don't really understand what that means, even after looking it up in commentaries and consulting my study Bibles.  The explanation is notably absent except to say that "souls" refers to people.  I kinda gathered that but what people they had "gotten" is still a bit of a mystery to me.  We don't read about Lot's wife until the whole Sodom and Gomorrah debacle so I think he must be unmarried at this point.  God does not mention that Lot's wife traveled with him.  So Abram, Sarai and nephew/son Lot along with some livestock and other mysterious "souls" travel to an unknown land.
God Tells Abram to Leave His Home
Taken from Standard Bible Story Reader, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     Have you ever noticed that God asks Abram to do a lot of trusting in his life? I mean, I've always thought of the incidents separately but I have never really considered how much trusting Abram/Abraham was asked to do throughout his life.  God asks Abram to trust Him to lead him to a new land, sight unseen.  He asks him to trust Him to deliver the promise of an inheritance of lands and sons.  The Lord asks Abraham to trust Him to sacrifice that very son He had promised.  And it is no wonder that God keeps asking Abraham to trust Him so much, because this man does.  Maybe not always as perfectly as he should, but probably more perfectly than I would.  Yes, there are times in his life, where he lacks some faith and tries to do things his own way, and they don't turn out so well.  But he has a pretty good track record of trust, a trust so commendable that he is hallmarked in the Faith Chapter of Hebrews 11.
     I was thinking about trusting God so completely as Abraham did.  Women's greatest need is security.  We have a need to know where our home will be, where we will build our nest.  Can you imagine what a fit Sarai was having right about now?  "We are going to do what and go where?" And of course Abram just shrugs because he doesn't know either. Hebrews 11 doesn't really mention her faith at venturing out with her husband.  Her faith isn't mentioned until she had the strength to give birth to Isaac in her old age.  Abram was going to have to have enough faith for the both of them, because I picture them as nagging Golde and exasperated Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof packing up to leave Anatevka.  Lot is probably stuck in the middle of this argument, excited for a grand adventure, but wanting to soothe and comfort Aunt Sarai.  And they aren't exactly spring chickens anymore either.  This trip would also be exhausting (or exhilarating in Lot's case).
      To trust God so completely when you don't know where He will take you or what He will do with you is the ultimate display of faith in His leadership.  Abraham was able to trust God in the later issues of his life because God had proven Himself trust-worthy.  But what about this first time?  Abraham's trust here seems to be at its greatest because he didn't know what God would do.  Maybe God had proven Himself in small ways in Abram's life up to this point, but this is not a small thing.
      Soldiers trust their regiment commander.    Patients trust their doctors (or at least they used to). Defendants trust their lawyers. We are surrounded by situations where we have to trust others.  Why then, do we always seem to have so much trouble trusting God?  I mean, the trust I have in others could collapse.   An army general could wrongly assess a situation and lead his men into danger.  A surgeon could nick a wrong artery and lose his patient.  A lawyer could argue a case in a wrong manner and lose freedom for his client.   Many times I have no choice but to trust the people in my life.  So why do I make it a choice with God, when He has proven Himself throughout history to be the only One worthy of absolute trust?  Every time I fly in a plane, I am putting complete trust in the pilot and crew to get me to my destination.  Do I worry a little at take-off and landing?  Sure.  But it doesn't keep me from getting on the plane.  Yet, I don't always demonstrate that same trust in the Pilot who has a 100% success rate.
     Abraham trusting God is not just another sweet little Bible story.  When I think of how resistant I would be should God call me to a place He hadn't mapped out for me yet, how I would struggle to take even the first step, how my stomach would churn at the prospect of not knowing what to expect, it gives me an even greater awe for this man of God, and the wife who went with him (albeit possibly begrudgingly).  It forces me to reexamine how well I trust in the God who saved me.  I trust Him with my afterlife, maybe I should try a little harder to trust him with the before one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What's in a Name?

Today's passage:  Genesis 10-11
     One would think with as many weeks it has been since I have posted something that I would be a lot farther in Genesis than just five more chapters in a month, but it has been a little slow going.  Numerous reasons for this, the first one being Youngest started getting up almost immediately after older brothers were off to school.  The first couple weeks of our new schedule he was sleeping until 7:30 or so which gave me significant time to get my devotions done.  But his sleep schedule adjusted so that he was waking up an hour or more earlier.  As hard as I would try, I could only get a few verses read.  I have also been subbing at my sons' school quite a bit the last few weeks, and most of those times, I didn't know I would be subbing, so some days my devotions were cut short by trying to get Youngest and I ready to rush out the door.  The last reason for my delayed progress is that I have run into the chapters that have a lot of names and places listed.  For some this might be tedious but I find them fascinating.  I've said before that I put great stock in names.  So even though it takes a lot of time, I look every name up to see what it means.  And though, I have not learned a lot by way of application from these chapters, I certainly have learned a few things.
     What I find very interesting is that people in the Old Testament generally gave their children a name that had meaning.  It wasn't a random process like it usually is today.  They were purposeful.  Knowing that, I look at some of those names and think, well of course he turned out like that, look at what you named him.  Nimrod is a good example.  Take a guess at what his name means.  Rebellion.  He is the one who led the building of the Tower of Babel.  Seems like he was named appropriately.  Another name meaning something similar and also very appropriate is Gomorrah.  It means rebellious people.  Well, we can see a little self-fulfilling prophecy right there.
Courtesy of

     Other names I found interesting was Hazarmaveth.  It means dwelling of death.  I wonder what was happening in that family's life at the time.  And the most depressing name meaning I came across was Jobab.   I encourage anyone reading this not to consider this name for any future children.  It means "sorrowful; hated". Equally as bad is Obal.  It means "inconvenience of old age".   When you research the names it really gives you a window into many of these people in the Bible of whom we know little.  For many of them, not much is said, very little meaning or significance attached, just a passing list that we read so we can claim that we have read our Bible through in a year.  Poor Obal was obviously an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy,  his parents too tired to deal with a whimpering infant.  It makes me wonder what kind of adult he became.  It should also be noted that Hazarmaveth, Obal and Jobab were all from the same family, sons of Joktan whose own name means "small dispute; contention; disgust".   Sounds like a functional family and also seems as if Joktan himself was not necessarily the happiest person on the planet.
      Does that mean that every person in the Bible lived according to his/her name?  Probably not.  But when I think that these names were chosen on purpose, it certainly could lend to a successful or defeatist outlook in life.  Don't you think?  Wouldn't it be harder to overcome a name like Obal, than say a name like Isaac which means "laughter" or Samuel meaning "asked of God"?  Wouldn't it be obvious to the latter two tykes that they were wanted and loved?  Poor Jobab couldn't have had a very high self esteem, and though I believe in our times that self esteem is too over-emphasized, I think that these parents probably started their kids on a wrong track at birth.  God doesn't really tell us about how they turned out, but maybe that is because there was really nothing to tell.  They lived.  They merely existed.  We have their genealogy but little else.  Perhaps that is because they did not do anything note-worthy.  The next major character we read about is Abram (high father), who thankfully has a much more positive name, even before God changes it to Abraham.
      In our day and age, most people name their children without giving a lot of thought to the meaning but that is because names today have been derived from so many different languages, that in most cases, saying a person's name is not saying that word.  But in Bible times, that was not so.  The name was that word or idea.  So every time someone said Isaac, they were using the word the name means.  " There will be lots of Isaac/Laughter at the festival today."   Conversely, anything that brought disgust was "Joktan" to them.  That animal carcass lying at the side of the road?  Joktan.  Obviously I am not a Hebrew scholar and have no idea if I am using those words correctly as nouns, verbs, etc.  but you get the basic idea.  These were words used in everyday conversation so it would not be unusual to hear your name uttered numerous times a day.   When you are constantly reminded of the positives or negatives of your name, I would think it would undoubtedly affect how you live.  But maybe I am totally wrong, and these children lived healthy, well-adjusted lives.  Judging from what Joktan named some of his children, I think the evidence is against it.
     So as I plow through Genesis, I may get bogged down in the details of a person's name, but maybe it will give me a little insight into that person's life.  Maybe even a person's name is a lesson in itself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Longest Life

Today's passage:  Genesis 5
     This is why I love reading my Bible--I get something new every single day. Lately, I have started to read the same passage for several days in a row because Youngest has decided he likes getting up earlier with his brothers.  This has kind of put a strain on my devotion time.  Some mornings I can read a few verses but do not get to study them out before the barrage of demands from my three year old start.  This doesn't mean I don't make him wait a little bit, but if you have had little ones, you can understand that they are still learning that "no" and "not right now" are not merely suggestions.
     I am not much of a mathematician.  It was always my weakest subject in school.  I usually still maintained A's and B's (except for Algebra 2 when I could never get above a C--thanks to logarithms).  Still, I think I was pretty fortunate to be able to even achieve those grades.  If I were to take those higher math classes now, I actually think I would do a lot better, because I think I've said before, the reasoning and logic skills finally kicked in for me around 30.
     Chapter Five is filled with numbers (oh joy!).  It is astounding to think of the lifespans of this time.  Can you imagine how much history these folks witnessed?  Can you believe how many civilizations they saw rise and fall?  If I were born nearly 800 years ago, I might have feared Genghis Khan as he invaded China, respected King John signing the Magna Carta, heard about Marco Polo visiting China.  In the 1300's I might have survived the bubonic plague or read John Wycliffe's English translation of the Bible. The 1400's ushered in the age of a New World, the civilization of the Incas, and the martyrdom of Joan of Arc. Should I have been alive during the 1500's, I would have perhaps seen Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa being painted, been a participant in the German Reformation led by Martin Luther, or opposed Henry VIII and his many marriages.  The 1600's would have me reading Shakespeare, befriending Pocahontas, sailing on the Mayflower in search of religious freedom.  Merely another century later I would be in Boston's Harbor for the Tea Party, heard Paul Revere's cry, attended our first President's inauguration.  The 1800's would bring an early threat to our newly established republic in the War of 1812, the lie of evolution, and a Civil War.
The early 1900's established an Industrial Age and two World Wars.  Later in this same century I would shake my head at protesters, at New Age thinking, at being able to have a home computer that used to occupy whole rooms.  In a new millennium I would prepare for the Y2K scare, text and twitter, weep for those lost in terrorist attacks and mass shootings.  So much history in that amount of time and much more that I have not even mentioned.

     Here's the interesting thing.  Methuselah lived to be 969 years old.  His son Lamech was born when Methuselah was a young 187 year old whippersnapper .  He was 369 when his grandson Noah was born.  I imagine he was able to teach Noah a lot during those next 600 years.  Methuselah survived his son Lamech by five years.  Methuselah was alive the year of the Flood.  Did he die sometime before the Flood came?  I don't know.  The Bible doesn't even tell us how he died, but if you do the math, it is clear that he was living the year the Flood came.  Of course, the most natural thing to wonder is if he died in the Flood, because we know he was not on the Ark.  Or maybe God took him beforehand.  Maybe Methuselah counseled with Noah about the Ark, or maybe he was one of those who derided Noah for building such a foolish contraption.  It would be a very sad thing if Noah's own grandfather had opposed him in this venture.  I hope that is not how it happened.  I hope that maybe Methuselah died before having to see all that destruction.  I hope that he hadn't stubbornly turned his back on the Lord, refused to be saved in the Ark and suffered in the greatest calamity that God had ever allowed on the earth.  Methuselah lived longer than any other person in the Bible, but it begs the question that depending on how he died, whether his life might have been even longer, or if it was cut short because he had fallen away from the Creator God.  Methuselah had seen a lot in his long lifetime. I wonder if he saw rain fall for the first time or if he was delivered before the rains came.  His own father, Enoch, had followed God so closely, that God chose to take him to Heaven without seeing death.  Might this have affected a relatively young Methuselah (he would have been 300 years old-already a father, but not yet a grandfather)?  Might he have had a stronger faith knowing God had taken his father to Heaven, or a weaker one, blaming God for not allowing him to spend more time with his dad?  Did everyone understand what had happened to Enoch, or did they just think he had disappeared?   Somewhere along the way, Noah understood what God expected.  Perhaps he learned it by his great-grandfather Enoch's example, his grandfather Methuselah's influence, or his father Lamech's teachings, but Noah learned enough to please God, and apparently Noah's sons, now young adults, took up a Godly heritage as well since they took refuge on the Ark.
     I don't think it is an accident that God included all the ages of these men and women in the Bible.  He could have said straight out, "Methuselah died the year of the Great Flood", or "Methuselah died in the Great Flood".  Maybe it is just one of God's ways to get us thinking, wondering, anticipating our time with Him when we can ask those questions.  I'm glad I have some to ask.  If I'm not studying His Word, and there are many days when I'm not, I might not have any questions at all.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Great Expectations

Today's passage:  Genesis 4
     I wonder what kind of man Cain was before he killed his brother?  It is obvious he was a very hard worker. This was after the fall, after the Garden of Eden, so the fruits and vegetables no longer grew without labor.  Cain put in the work.  He dug up the hard ground, he seeded, he watered, he harvested.  This was backbreaking work, as any farmer could attest.  This was day in and day out toiling in the field.  I don't know if Cain was assigned to this task by his parents, if his God-given skills naturally suited this kind of work, or if he just enjoyed agriculture and took it upon himself to learn how to coax the soil to do his bidding, but he achieved results.  Some might argue that Abel had the significantly easier job.  As the younger brother, maybe this was just the obvious task he could accomplish in their younger days, and incidentally kept that job while Cain kept the fields.  I'm not sure how it all transpired, but I think perhaps if I had been Cain, and I slaved away every day as he had, my nose might be put out of joint too when God did not accept my offering.
     The whole reason God would not have accepted my offering though, would have been because it was my work, not His.  My work will never be enough to satisfy Him.  My works will never purchase peace and pardon with Him, no matter how well it was done.  Abel couldn't really brag about how well he had kept the sheep, because honestly, there wasn't much to it, was there?  You feed them, you herd them, you make sure they have good shelter and you keep them safe.  I'm not saying shepherding was nothing work, but compared to farming?  I'm thinking Cain might not have minded exchanging jobs on occasion.  So when Abel offered up one of the livestock that he tended, it wasn't really a picture of how hard he had worked.  It was the offering that God required.  It may be true that Cain's produce would have been accepted if he had only offered God his best, but he wanted to give God the leftovers.  I'm still not certain God would have accepted anything but a living sacrifice.  I don't know that fruits and veggies would suffice.  I know later, God asks for different types of offerings, and loaves and other things other than animals were brought before Him, but in this instance, I think only the flock would satisfy. 

     So what should Cain have done?  Should he go to Abel and ask him to supply a sacrifice for him as well?  Would Abel have been willing to do this?  I don't know if their relationship was close or contentious. I know that Cain was a proud man.  The Bible says, "And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."  How could God accept Abel's sacrifice and not his?  Didn't God know how hard he had worked?  Didn't God understand all the hours he put in?  And this brother of his?  What had he done? Not much, by Cain's estimation.  It seemed unjust.  It seemed disproportionate.  Surely God made a mistake and didn't realize just what was involved in managing the land.  Maybe God had forgotten, that he, Cain, was the older more responsible brother who had selflessly helped provide for his family.  I can see the thoughts swirling in Cain's head.  It just wasn't fair.  And how many times had his mother proclaimed him the savior of their family?  When he was born, she had said, "I have gotten a man from the LORD" implying that he was the accepted one that God had promised while they still were in Edenland.  How could God not accept him?  It was ridiculous.  How hard he had worked all this time, all these years, and God was going to tell him he wasn't good enough?  And worse, that Abel was?  What was going on here?
     Cain measures the rejection of his sacrifice with God rejecting him. But it is clearly not the case.  If it had been, why does God seek Cain out and encourage him to do better?  God says to Cain, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?"  Cain would have to lay down his pride to do well.  But he wasn't willing to do that.  He wasn't willing to accept God's way, even though God's way is the only way.  He wasn't willing to recognize Abel's no-work-involved sacrifice.  Maybe Cain hadn't given God the best of what he had harvested, but it was still more than anything Abel could offer.  Sheep.  Humph!  What nonsense!  Cain was the Promised One (or so he probably thought).  Cain was the Firstborn.  Cain was the son who held all the family's hopes and dreams of deliverance.  Then to be flat out rejected.  It hurt.  It confused him.  It didn't make any sense.  And Cain never gets over it.  Instead of listening to God's warnings, instead of taking God's advice, he takes matters into his own hands.  He kills his brother.  He rids himself of the reminder that he was less.  He thinks that somehow eliminating Abel will somehow make his offering more acceptable to God.  Now who is ridiculous?  It does not have the desired effect.  God does not all of a sudden see how hard Cain has worked and say, "Oh yes, I understand now.  I do accept your sacrifice, Cain."  How Cain thinks it will work that way can only be irrational blinding pride.
     God never rejected Cain's offering on the basis that he hadn't worked hard enough.  He rejected it on the basis that no amount of work could help him.  He rejected it because it is by grace alone that He accepts us.  I shouldn't be surprised that Cain didn't understand this, because unfortunately, there are too many people today who still don't understand.  They can't see why all the good things they do will never, ever be enough to appease God.  They can't believe that all the work they have put in can never be acceptable.  They figure there must be some way to earn our way to God.  That is because they can't comprehend God's immeasurable love for us.  They can't understand a God who would sacrifice for us, instead of the other way around.  Why?  Because that is not how they would have done it.  It isn't how I would have saved this world either.  It is not how any idol or god requires salvation.  Every other religious system requires something from the believer.  Not God.  He just requires that we believe and accept His methods.  That we humble ourselves and accept His ways.  His way is to provide salvation for us.  Abel seemed to understand this.  Cain never would.  Maybe it is because he believed himself to be the way of salvation.  Maybe his parents voiced their belief that he would be their Deliverer once too often and Cain couldn't fathom that this was only his parents plan, not God's.  And there is no indication that Cain ever asks God for forgiveness or redemption.  In fact, verse 16 says, "And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD..."  Cain never gets it.  He could have, but his pride would not be overcome.  And humility is the most necessary ingredient to salvation.
     Cain was a hard worker. But it wasn't enough, not when it came to eternity.  It wasn't enough for him, and it will not be enough for any of us.  Cain never accepted or recognized that whatever holiness we pretend at, it can never measure up to God's.  The real question is, how many others will allow pride to hold them back as Cain did?  No matter what we have been led to believe in the past, our works are never enough.  Only God's work, by sending His Son to die on the cross will suffice.  It is the Abel sacrifice.  And it is acceptable.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Today's passage:  Genesis 3
     I do not have teenagers yet, and still have a few years before I get to fret and worry over those challenging years.  I think about the hearts of parents whose teens have rebelled and strayed.  I think of the sleepless nights of the parents of young people who have chosen a different path from the one they were guided in.  The young adults who have strayed from the fold, choosing one that will no doubt lead them to destruction or even if rescued in time, still a lifetime of pain and regret.  It seems that every family has at least one child who rejects what he or she has been taught.  Some rebellion is seemingly slight, maybe skipping church from time to time, or going to the occasional drinking party.  The parents are unhappy with these decisions but are grateful that their children are still within their influence to possibly lead them in a better way.  There are young people who fall into an even greater rebellion, letting vices of alcohol and drugs lead them far away from spiritual influence.  Perhaps they fall into a wrong crowd--a gang, a cult, a drug den.  They seem beyond reach.  They seem beyond hope.  They seem beyond rescue.
     Looking back, remembering the early years when this prodigal took his first step, when she took her first bite of baby food, when he first said "I love you" and gave his Mama a kiss of his own accord, I doubt mother and father flash forwarded to the future to see him buying a dime bag, to visualize her with the gaunt cheek bones of a meth addict, to picture him facing the judge after driving while intoxicated.  I don't want to fathom the heartache and despair that these parents experience.  And even if they knew this is what their children would choose, would they ever have wished they had not been born?  Would there ever be anything my children could do that would have made me reconsider their existence?  Would there be any sin or act that they would commit, that I would think to myself, "I wish I had never given birth to this child"?.  I can't imagine thinking or feeling that.  I can't imagine any parent wishing or thinking that.  Would I wish they had made different choices?  Of course.  Would I pray that they would see the Truth, the Way and the Life?  Yes.  Would I do everything in my power to help and guide and lead them on the right path?  Undoubtedly. And sometimes the only power I would have is to pray.
     I'm reading about Adam and Eve.  God knew exactly what was going to happen.  He didn't blame Himself for the choice they were about to make, a choice that would change their relationship forever.  A choice that would have lasting consequences.  A choice that would change their whole way of life.  God was the perfect parent, and still they chose to do what was wrong.  God knew what they would choose.  And knowing it, He still created us. He knew that they would not be the only ones to make wrong choices.  He knew there would be many, many more who would make choices.  Choices that excluded Him.  Like any parent, He has done all He can to bridge the gap, to make a way, to provide rescue.  And like rebellious children, we still wander on our own.  How full is God's heart?

      After Adam and Eve sinned, and were judged, God provides the skins to cover them.  It is a picture of present and future redemption, the sin covering, but what a picture of love as well.  I don't see God just dropping these skins and harshly saying "Put these on".  I picture God gently and lovingly wrapping His children in His provision, not withdrawing His love from them, from us.  He didn't rue this day, wondering why He had created such rebellious creatures.  He could have scrapped them and started over.  It wouldn't have been very difficult for Him to do.  He knew there would be even more children who would choose the same way.  But He never says, "I wish you had never been born."  I would say that I can't understand that, but when I think of my own children, I can't imagine thinking that of them either, no matter how much pain and grief they may cause me in the future.  So maybe I can understand, because there is always hope that the prodigal son or daughter will return.  There is always the possibility that he or she will choose right instead of wrong.  There is always the prayer that our love will triumph over the evil that has ensnared them.  My love for my children isn't nearly as powerful as God's.  His love has reached into the deepest, darkest places.  His love has rescued the most unlikely.
     I shake my head at the impossibility of such love.  Then I remember that He also has seen me take my first step, not only towards my parents but toward Him.  He saw me dribble my first mouthful, not only of baby cereal, but of His Word into my heart.  He heard me say "I love you" to my parents and to Him for the first time unprompted.  He has seen me from the very start, and like any loving Father, He does whatever He can to help me.  Would we have ever been able to see how much God loves us if Adam and Eve had obeyed, even if that is what they should have done?  We would see how He loved perfect creatures.  We could never see that unconditional love is loving that which is imperfect.  We would never know just how far our God would go to return us to Him.  And any parent with a wayward child would be willing to take their pain and consequences if it meant that they would be restored.
     No, I would never wish for my children to have never existed.  I would wish for them to follow God.  I would wish for them to grasp His love.  I would pray for them to abandon their foolish choices or ways.  I would make the path of return plain and visible.  God must feel the same way about us.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snack shop Theology

Today's passage:  Genesis 3: 1-3
     How do I begin this post?  I am not a Bible theologian.  I am not even a Bible scholar.  I love reading and studying God's Word.  I did go to Bible college, but I can't say I was most alert in my Bible classes.  Except for basic freshman Bible History and Life of Christ classes, most of them were over my head.  I took notes, but I didn't really absorb much.  This is probably because the rest of my Bible classes were usually geared towards preacher boys or soon-to-be missionary men.  I'm not complaining, that's as it should be.  I never participated in the theological arguments proposed because I guess I just was not interested in debates, or I figured that if God wanted us to know such and such, He would have told us.  Doctrine class was always a catalyst for discussion.  I mostly zoned out and doodled until class notes resumed.  The campus snack shop was usually abuzz about one of the discussions in one of our Bible classes, thus earning those who engaged in such debate the moniker--"snack shop theologians".  Sometimes a professor would drop by and weigh in on these discussions while sipping his coffee or eating his bagel.
     What I wonder sometimes is if I have become one of those?  Because lately, I have had a lot more questions about things I read in the Bible.  Not questioning its validity, inerrancy, or infallibility. Not even questioning a majority of the things I have always been taught and have believed.  Sometimes I just have a nagging question that sits in the back of my mind, because I have always heard something a certain way, and I wonder if I'm the one with the wrong question, or if the ones from whom I've heard something taught had the wrong question.  Chapter 2 tells us about God creating Adam.  Something I think I had forgotten is that when God gave the instructions about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve had not been created yet.  He gave those instructions to Adam.  I think right there God established Adam as the head of the household and the spiritual leader of his family (though he did not yet have one).
16  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it:  for in the day that  thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
      When Eve is confronted by the serpent in Chapter 3, she says:
3  But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
     I've heard it preached on many occasions that Eve added to God's instructions.  When God gives the instructions to Adam, He never tells Adam not to touch the tree, only not to eat it.  If Eve really did add to God's instructions, wouldn't that have been sin?  But sin hadn't entered into the world yet.  So am I wrong?  Or are the people who have taught it this way wrong?  Did God have another conversation with the couple after Eve had been created, and at that time added the instructions about not touching the tree?  Or did God leave that spiritual leadership to Adam and allow him to tell her what He had instructed?  Could Adam have possibly just given a stronger admonition to Eve because he loved her and wanted to protect her, not really adding to what God said, just taking the reigns of spiritual leadership that had been handed over to him and knowing that touching the fruit would mean the possibility of partaking of it which would lead to death?  Did Adam tell Eve that God said not to touch it, or did he warn her not to, and she took that to be that God had said it?  Or maybe it is true that she really added to God's words but it was not yet sin.  I don't know.   I have more questions than answers this morning, but I don't think that is a bad thing.  As long as I never question that God's Word (all of it) is true, I don't think God minds that I have questions now and then.  I won't let them consume me, because some day I will have the answers that I seek.  I won't go about insisting that those who have taught it this way are wrong, because I have no way of knowing, and it is obviously not something God chose to let us in on.  Whether or not Eve added to God's Word is not going to any way affect my salvation.  It is not going to affect my Christian growth.  It might make me scratch my head.  It might add to my when-I-see-God-I-want-to-ask-Him-this list, but it won't affect my everyday living.

     Perhaps that is why I never saw the point of all the snack shop theology.  When it boiled down to it, I never saw that any of their arguments ever accomplished anything.  Usually everyone left still holding onto their opinion and none of it changed our salvation or how we should serve the Lord.  I was more interested in my bagel and cup of coffee.  Speaking of which, maybe I would be better off to be more interested in my bagel and cup of coffee this morning as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just a Moment

Today's passage:  Job 2:9-10
 "9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity?  curse God, and die.
10  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh.  What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?  In all this did not Job sin with his lips."
     As hard as I tried to concentrate on Genesis this morning (and I did read it), a verse jumped out at me last night and it just won't let me go until I get my thoughts about it out.  Maybe after I've written about it for a bit, I can focus more on the passage I am supposed to be studying.
     In Bible study last night, we flipped briefly to these verses and something about them leaped off the page for me.  It was one of those lightbulb-I-never-saw-that-before moments.  Probably anyone reading this saw it a long time ago, but for me, it was brand new.  And when I see something like that, I just have to share (ask my husband--he's probably very glad I share with my blog now, cause I get over-the-top excited sometimes).
     Anyhoo, I have always given Mrs. Job a bad rap.  I think a lot of people have.  Here Job is, he has lost his fortune, he has lost his children (and his heirs, which would also mean the family name would disappear), and now his health.  He is mourning, he is itching, he is discouraged beyond anything I can imagine.  And is his wife any encouragement at all?  No.  She says something hateful.  She says something irrational.  I tend to forget that she lost a little too.  The Bible doesn't say anything at all about her health failing so she couldn't be suffering as much as Job, but take children away from a mother, and well, there is little else I can think of that would plunge her into despair.  She was grieving too.  Does that make her tirade acceptable?  No, it does not.  It might make her a little more sympathetic, but it doesn't make her the heroine.  Job was able to hold his tongue, why couldn't she?
     When I think of Mrs. Job, I think of this bitter woman with a pessimistic life outlook. Indeed, wouldn't Job have been better off without this negative woman?
Courtesy of

     Then I read his response.  What hit me is that he doesn't call her a foolish woman.  He says she is speaking like "foolish women" do.  That indicates to me that this was not characteristic of her.  She would not normally say such things.  Grief had overtaken her and in this moment, she said exactly what she thought. Now I realize that what is in our heart is what comes out of our mouth, but have we not all had moments where our hearts felt too empty?  Or too full?  I have said things in a moment that I wish I could take back.  In that one moment, she said something that maybe she wished she could take back too.  Maybe she didn't.  I have no way of knowing.  I just wonder how many times I have said something in a moment of weakness that might become my legacy.  Just one moment.  God chose to put these words in the Bible about Mrs. Job to help us understand some things.  Obviously there is the contrast between Job's reaction and his wife's.  But maybe too, it is to show us that even one moment in our lives may be the historical record by which we are judged.  Perhaps she was as bitter and pessimistic as I have always thought, or maybe, just maybe, she was overcome with her pain in one moment that the worst thing she could think or say came out.
     She lashed out at the only One who could ease her pain.  But before, I am too harsh, I might look at times in my own life, or times to come, that I might have been less than generous with my words, that I might let the sorrow rise and the unwise words hit their mark.  If God chose to record some of my less-than-stellar comments, it might have been only one moment in my life, but anyone who does not know me will judge my character by them.  Just as I have often judged Mrs. Job for hers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Helping Hands

Today's passage:  I Corinthians 3:9
     "For we are labourers together with God..."
     Yesterday, as I was sweeping my kitchen, Youngest (now three) decided he wanted to help.  He grabbed his kid-sized broom and eagerly whisked the crumb piles I had already accumulated.  Needless to say (but I will say it anyway) he mostly succeeded to make a bigger mess than was already there.  Then he grabbed the dustpan and hand-held broom to sweep up the now scattered crumbs.  This was an amusing sight as he circled over and over, backing up the dustpan while sweeping, always missing some particles which made it necessary to back up the dustpan again.  Let's just say his hand-eye coordination could have been a little better.  He sure got one area of the kitchen floor clean, but not much else.
     I could have done this chore faster without his help.  I could have gotten the floor cleaner without it also.  But he would have missed out on some training, and I would have missed out on watching him learn something.  I guided him and praised him throughout, but I knew without a doubt that it might have been easier had I done it all
[Picture: Page 3. The Sunday Wood]
The Sunday Wood
From "Out to Old Aunt Mary's" by James Whitcomb Riley
USA, 1904
Courtesy of
     If God ever feels that way about me, I would never know it.  He praises me for a job well done, even though He could do it better, faster, grander.  He chooses to let me help.  Why?  Because it gives me much needed training, and it gives Him the pleasure of watching His child accomplish something for His glory.  He gives me guidance and praise, but He could have easily done the job without me.  As I gain more experience, I gain a little more confidence, and I get a little better at the job He's given me to do.  As my littlest practices these chores, with age and knowledge, he will get a little better at them. He may not even need my guidance anymore.  I can't say that about the work God gives me.  I will always need His guidance and reassurance that I am doing what He wants me to do.  He will always let me depend on Him for the things He wants me to accomplish for His glory, and He will never say to me, "Just give me that, I'll get it done faster."  I will never hear him say, "Can't you do anything right?"  Because He knows I can't.  And if I do get it right, it can only be with His help.
     Thank you, Lord for allowing me to participate in work that you can accomplish without me.  Thank you for giving me the chance to learn through my mistakes (all mine) and successes (all Yours).  I can be sure that  You are glorified because You never had to let me help in the first place.  May I always look to You for guidance and help.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Creature Feature

Today's passage:  Genesis 1:20-26
     I think that some of the people who work for Disney Pixar are among the most clever people on the planet.  As a writer, I am always fascinated at the way they build a climax, how they create and then resolve a conflict.  Just when we think the character is about to achieve his goal, something causes it to be put just out of reach for him to grasp it, creating that tension that makes for a great story. They also create interesting and memorable characters, even in the ones that are just on the sidelines.
     One of my favorite moments in one of their films (let's see who can guess which one) is when several gulls are sitting in a very famous harbor watching as fish spring upwards from the ocean while echoing "Mine, mine" in a gullish squawk.  Their beady eyes are shining, elbowing each other out to catch their own dinner.
     It is the fifth day of Creation, and had I been a spectator, feet planted on the newly made earth, I would have seen the ocean brimming with life.  Schools swimming, whales leaping, sea horses dancing.  What a sight that would have been!  I would have seen flamingos posing, eagles swooping, swans gliding across ponds, rippling the surface without disturbing the minnows one bit.  The perch and herring wouldn't be bothered at all by the blue heron flying parallel to their pond home, because he would only be admiring his reflection.  He certainly would not be looking for a bite to eat.  The oceans teeming with angelfish and puffers would not know they couldn't wander from their reef homes.  They would not see the danger in the pelican hovering so close, even with his trunk bill open wide.  He would only be yawning, not ready to swallow them up.  Extinct passenger pigeons would have flocked to the trees (since building ledges would not have existed yet), pods of endangered snail-moving right whales would spout peacefully, never aware of a threatened future.
God created the animals
Taken from Standard Bible Story Reader, Book Three
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
     On day six, the grizzly bear would lumber near the stream, only to get a drink, never noticing the streaky pink salmon attempting a herkie, in perfect position for a day's catch.  The barn owl whose dominating shadow would normally send field mice scurrying would only be interested in the wind ruffling his downy feathers.  Gazelles would burst into speed races with cheetahs, not to run for their lives, just for the exercise.
     What a different life it would have been for all of God's creatures.  Whistles, hoots, roars; flashes of color, thunderous hooves surrounding me.  Shy deer eating out of my hand, not really that shy at all.  A crocodile brushing against me (yikes!) wondering if I might drop a morsel for him.  Rainbow macaws perching on my shoulder as if I were Blackbeard. To reference another Disney film, (want to guess again?) it was a "world-class menagerie".  Lincoln Park Zoo (or any zoo, wildlife preserve, animal exhibit) could never replicate those first few days on earth.  Sure, they can gather numerous species of animals together but they could never allow them to wander freely, uncaged, without complications or boundaries.  It is an awesome thing to think how all those instincts cooperated rather than clashed.  And even more exciting is the thought that the earth will one day be like that again.  So maybe I missed it the first time, and can only let my imagination wander for a while, but one day soon, I will see it as it must have been.
Isaiah 11:6-8
6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together:  and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
9  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:  for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 
Indeed, what a day that will be.  My imagination will have to suffice for now, but I know I can't paint a word picture big enough to capture the majesty of that sight.  "Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20b)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Perfect Sense

Today's passage:  Genesis 1:3-17
     Do you know that I still struggle after all these years to get the order of the days of Creation straight?  I am always having to review and remind myself what was created on which day.  And after teaching preschoolers and kindergartners for Sunday School for so many years, you would think that I could keep that fresh in my memory.  After all, the Creation account is one of the Sunday School basics.  But I think the reason it is so hard for me to keep it straight, is because it is not at all the order I would have created the world.
     Wouldn't it have made more sense to make the sun, moon and stars on Day Two with Darkness and Light or on Day Three, the day after? If I had been the Creator of the universe, wouldn't it have made more sense to put the sun the day before the plants, trees, and flowers?  After all, as we have all learned in science class, flora depends on the sun to survive.  So why didn't God do it that way?  And here's something to think about, how did Darkness and Light come about on Day Two when there were no lights in the sky to determine this?  See, my pea-sized brain would really like answers to all these questions.
     "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
     And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.
     And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness:  and God saw that it was good.
     And the evening and the morning were the fourth day."
     My problem is, I keep thinking about this world the way it operates since Adam's fall.  The world God made prior to that was very different from the world in which I am living now.  I think about weather cycles and water cycles, but none of that was needed when God first created this earth.  In the verses above, it says nothing about the sun and moon being made for our oxygen supply or for vegetation to flourish and thrive.  That wasn't their original purpose.  God created them to rule over the day and night, to divide the light and the darkness.  Air exchanges and climate control were systems God put into place after the Garden  and this whole earth were no longer the perfect places God had originally designed.  So, though it doesn't make sense to me, it made perfect sense to God.  And I believe it probably was another reminder to me that God had everything under control before the fall.  This world didn't need a weather cycle for the lushness of the tropics to abound.  He didn't use photosynthesis to achieve a natural rain forest.  He was able to do that all by Himself, without any help from His own Creation.  So I'm guessing that the Darkness and Light were also not a problem for Him without a sun and moon for two more days.

     God is a perfect Creator.  When I first started this blog, one of my posts compared God to an artist  (This piece created by:  God).  I see now, that I was way off base with that comparison.  I mean, it was fine by way of application, in some respects.  But an artist is always stepping back from his work, seeing what more he could do to improve it.  Not so with God.  He did it perfectly the very first time.  And when Adam sinned, it didn't send everything horribly out of whack, because God knew it was going to happen and put a series of systems in place for the earth to operate in a different way.  It wasn't the way I would have done it, because I would have needed the sun, moon, and stars to separate the darkness and light.  I would certainly have made sure they were there before I created the land and seas, the trees and plants.  You know, the whole moon affecting the tides thing and the water cycle for the plants to live.  But that is because I'm an imperfect person trying to create an imperfect world.  God created perfection and He knew there would be no improving on that.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Today's passage:  Romans 16:18-27
     "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
     I recognized the first part of the verse from Genesis 3.  God tells the serpent that he "will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."  Of course, God was referring to the Son He would send into the world someday.  Paul is writing this after Jesus has already been crucified and risen, so Genesis 3 has actually been fulfilled, but the Roman church will have the opportunity to bruise Satan in a different way.  I'm sure this is partly referring (and maybe wholly referring) to the verses I mentioned yesterday (See:  Marked).  A church who marks and avoids heretics will be successful, they will be victorious against Satan.  But part of me wondered about something else.
     I decided to do a little checking.  It is widely agreed that the book of Romans was written about 55-56 AD probably from Corinth.  He makes it clear in this epistle that he plans to visit the Roman church at some point in the future.  He does eventually make this trip, and as far as anyone can tell, he was martyred there around 60-61 AD.  A year or two after the book of Romans is written, one of the most antagonistic emperors of the Roman empire assumes the throne.  It is Emperor Nero.  Paul, and many of the apostles (including Peter) were believed to be killed under his rule.  I would imagine the Roman Coliseum would serve as Nero's arena but I also learned this was about 15 years too early.  Though that arena was not the location of Nero's persecution, his gardens were often lit with Christian believers as torches.
     With this information, I wonder if God directed Paul to write these words with an even wider scope in mind.  Would Satan's head be bruised by the suffering of the saints?  Would the persecution of God's church further crush Satan?  We know that because of the death of believers, the Gospel was spread even farther. And really, what could bruise Satan more than another soul lost to him?   Paul often mentions the peace and grace of God in the beginnings and ending of his epistles, but it seems particularly important in this passage, because when they were being persecuted they would need both grace and peace.  I'm not saying that is why God directed these words, but God could see the future and Paul could not.  Perhaps He meant more in the statement than even Paul could know.
     When Paul writes "shortly", it could mean anytime in the near future.  I just wonder if that near future might be in the following years when many would be put to death in His Name.  Given that possibility, we should not be filled with dread at the prospect of dying for our Lord.  If this is indeed a way that God allows believers to bruise Satan's head underfoot, then I should be like the brave soldiers who defend us and volunteer for that position.  I can't say I've gained that kind of courage yet, but if there ever is a day, I might think about the privilege I get to grind Satan's head into the pavement.  That seems like a job any Christian would be happy to take.


Today's passage:  Genesis 1-2
     When I was in elementary school, our desks often had number lines laminated on the desks.  It helped us to add or subtract.  Up until about sixth grade (for me, anyway), they started with 0 and ended before 100.  As the grades increased, the font sizes decreased and more numbers could be printed on the strip.  So that number line that only ended with ten in first grade, ended with a much higher number by sixth.  There was a definite beginning and end.  But then I entered junior high, and I learned about integers.  I learned there were negative numbers before zero.  So here was a brand new number line, and the definite expanded because zero wasn't really the beginning, there were numbers below it.  I think that is why they reserve this information for the upper grades, my kindergarten head would explode and take advantage of that kind of information. My kindergartner son was already dazzled with google plus, claiming it as his favorite number because it is supposedly was the biggest number out there.  Then, not too long ago, our pastor mentioned google plex plus, and his eyes widened because there was now even a greater number.  Someone recently tried to tell him about infinity but he was skeptical that it could beat google plex plus.  Wait till he finds out there are numbers less than zero.
     "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
     I decided with the new year, that maybe it was time to go back to the beginning.  I haven't read all of Genesis in a while, so I figured I would take a refresher course.  I can hardly believe that God would remind me of something in just this very first verse.  And it is nothing new, but it is so powerful and just really gave me something to think about.  I love that God knows we live by time.  He doesn't live by it, but He knows that is how He created us and how we operate.  God really didn't have to say "in the beginning".  There was no beginning for Him.  He has always been there.  I know that.  He put "in the beginning" in there for us.  He put it in there to say, "this is how you began, this is how I created you and this world you are living in."  It was the beginning for me and my story, but His story had always been going on.  He is like integers.  Where is the end to the number line below zero?  There isn't one, it just keeps going.  And what about infinity?  There is no ending there either.  Maybe that is why God gave us numbers, to help us have a smidgen of understanding about no beginning and no end.
  "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
     When I think about the earth being without form, I imagine a lump of clay.  God takes it and fashions it.  It has a shape now.  I'm terrible at fashioning circles.  When I draw them, they are never as round as they should be, unless I use a pattern or stencil.  When I use play-doh with my kids, I might roll it around in my hand to make a ball, but do you know, I can never get it as round or perfectly formed as it needs to be?  That is not a problem for God.  He always gets it right.  He tells us this earth was "void".  Empty.  It is hard to imagine this earth the way it must have looked to God.  And when I think about empty, I think of sadness.  Like the emptiness in people's hearts who don't know Him.  I don't know if God was sad when He looked at the perfect circle He made and saw how empty it was.  But He decided to fill it.  The following verses tell us what He decided to put here.

     He tells us that "darkness was upon the face of the deep."  Since I have only imagined the earth from an outer space perspective and how it looks from there,  it is hard for me to grasp this darkness, and this deep. What is the deep?  The next sentence seems to indicate that "the deep" is waters.  And they were shrouded in darkness.  But then the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit, I assume) moved upon them.  What exactly is the "face" of the waters, and what does the Holy Spirit do here?  And here's a good question, if the earth was void, how did the waters get there?  Some people believe in a gap theory Creation, or an age/day Creation.  I don't.  I believe that there were seven literal days of Creation.  Twenty-four hour days, because God doesn't operate on time, so if He said day, I think he is explaining to us the time-frame by which we operate. I can't explain any of it, and I can't quite comprehend it.  I don't even have a good guess on this one, so those are questions I will have to reserve for the Creator Himself.   Our pastor sometimes says he hopes there is instant replay in Heaven, because he really wants to see God parting the Red Sea for the Israelites.  I wouldn't mind seeing how God created this whole world.  That must have been some sight.  Whatever or however it happened, it was pretty special.  The Spirit of God moving, just as He moves in our hearts.  Just as He moves in a church service.  So maybe I couldn't see Him moving in our beginning, but I certainly can see Him moving today.  That stirring in our hearts, must have been a little bit like how He skimmed the surface of the waters, stirring them up, giving them movement.  Maybe that's what God means.  They were still before that, and now there are ebbs and tides, whirlpools and waves, all because of the Spirit moving. What a thought!  It wasn't weather that moved them, it was God.
      When I stop to really meditate on God's Creation, I can't help but be filled with awe.  If He can do such amazing things, like take a ball of nothing and give it movement and life, what can't He do?  If He can create time and numbers, both of which are unnecessary to Him, but help me to understand Him better, what else can He better help me understand?  I won't understand everything, obviously, but that is what makes Him so much greater.  If I believed in a God I could completely understand, I might be doubtful that He was as powerful as He is.  I might limit Him more than I already do.
     Thank you, Lord for being beyond my understanding.  Thank you for not answering all of my questions so that I keep studying and reading and scratching my head.  Thank you for being timeless, but giving me a time frame by which to have an inkling of understanding. You deserve all praise and glory, amen.
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