Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Picture Outtakes

Take #1: "I'm trying to frame the picture! Daniel, get out of there!"Take #6: "Colin, that's not helpful. Cut it out!"
Take #15: "That's better!"
Take #23: "Keep smiling... please!"
Take #29: "I said SMILE!"
Take #31: "Hey, this is our CHRISTMAS PICTURE. Where's the JOY?"
Take #34: He said: Perfect! She said: I look like Captain Hook. They said: Where's Ruthy? Take #36: "Colin, we are looking for Ruthy."
Take #42: She said: Why don't we give the ears back to Daniel...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Letter from Whoville


In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10, NASB)


Dear Jesus,

The Grinch is at it again--a backslider to be sure. He started out so well all those years ago--everyone in Whoville thought he had reformed, what with his heart having grown "three sizes that day." Alas, his Grinch nature resurfaced, leaving him greener and meaner than ever.

He's trying to steal our Christmas again. He just doesn't learn that Christmas is more than buckles, and bows and steaming roast beast. Christmas is You. You are the gift that cannot be stolen. You are the song that cannot be stifled.

I remember the story--how the very first Christmas you came to a world full of folk with very small hearts. How there was no room for a Baby like you, or your Mom, or the one you called Dad for awhile (I only have one Grinch to deal with. But you had a whole world full.) So, it seemed the very first Christmas would be sad after all with only the cows to welcome you, and a trough full of sneezy hay for a bed.

But you turned that first Christmas inside out. The darkness burned with light, the silence turned to song, and all the Grinches bought sunglasses and earplugs! But you loved them--blind and deaf to your light and your song, you loved them still.

So, I'm asking, dear Jesus, for something special this Christmas--but nothing to unwrap. Please give me a heart that loves Grinches--green, mean, and in between. For eyes that see what a Grinch could be, and for ears that hear a Christmas embedded in a grinchy taunt. Help me listen between the lines.

Help me be a Christmas gift. Like you.

Love,

Cindy-Lou Who

Graciously given permission by the author, Dr. Reg Grant, to re-print from Dallas Theological Seminary's 2007 Christmas Devotionals.

for restrictions.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sonrise Update

FUN party! A huge thanks to J&AG for hosting. A perfect evening with wonderful friends. (Shame on whoever took LL's CD away, leaving them with my "Blessings to Helen..." book. Feeling really bad about that one :).

Just when you thought we were done for the year! Round up the spouses/kids/friends and join us at 121 CC for Candelight Service at 5:30 on December 23. We'll try to save a bunch of seats... KP said they're planning a really cool drama with lots of music. Want to go to Hacienda Ranch afterwards for dinner? Let me know ASAP and I'll try to reserve one of the rooms in the back. Details to come on a morning coffee between Christmas and New Year's. Don't forget our RM House meal delivery on December 30... will get a final list together of who is bring what and e-mail everyone. Also, let me know if you'd like me to order your Bible Study book for January. I'll bring Traina's book to our coffee and we'll see if we want to tackle that one, too.

Think that's it for now, friends. Busy week, eh?

Love, Sarah

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Genesis Blessings

Latest term paper...

The Blessings of Genesis

“Have a blessed day,” said the receptionist as I exited the medical building.

“You are so blessed!” exclaimed my mother as she kissed her grandsons.

“What a blessing it is!” my friend rejoiced over her husband’s promotion.

“Please bless this family!” read the letter calling for donations to a needy family.

“God bless you!” chimed a lady in response to a sneeze.

Our modern usage of the word “bless” in its various forms extends from the mundane to the sublime. Much like I “love” my family, classic rock and a tall latte, the word “blessing” is also difficult to lock down. Interestingly, it doesn’t appear that the word has entirely fallen victim to the mutations of culture and time. While there is clearly marginalization of the word today (e.g., the sneeze response), there was also diverse deployment of the word in ancient times, depending upon its subject, object and context.

Introduction: To “Bless”: A Rich and Varied Proposition

Barak (Heb.):[1]

1. To bless, kneel[2]
2. Praise, salute, curse[3]

Initially, I thought this assignment would focus one-dimensionally on the blessings we find in Genesis that extend from God to man. But as I examined the word, itself, I found considerable nuance. After visiting the Hebrew Key Word Study Bible[4] and learning about the transliterated verb “barak,” I consulted an English language dictionary:[5]

Bless, blessed or blest:

1. To make holy by religious rite; sanctify.
2. To make the sign of the cross over so as to sanctify.
3. To invoke divine favor upon.
4. To honor as holy; glorify.
5. To confer well being or prosperity upon.
6. To endow, as with talent.

With the exception of the second definition which applies to Catholic ritual, I found within Genesis good illustrations of the five different modes and purposes of blessings illustrated above. My findings fall into two general areas: Explicit and Implicit.

I. Explicit Blessings

A. Variety of Venues

The verb “bless” or a derivative of this word (e.g., blessing, blessed) occurs 76 times in Genesis.[6] There are at least four modes of exchange with respect to subject and object.

The word “bless” is most commonly used within Genesis to describe God’s blessings upon man. When God blesses His human creatures, He extends rich, varied, and sometimes situation-specific endowments. To certain individuals—Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and their descendents—the blessings have far-reaching implications both for God’s chosen people and the human race as a whole.

God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."”[7] GN 1:28

But blessings are not limited to the divine-human arena. God also blesses non-human entities:

God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” GN 1:22
[8]

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. GN 2:3[9]

So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, "See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed; GN 27:27
[10]

Blessings in Genesis extend from man to God. The context of this type of blessing reflects our fourth English dictionary definition: to honor as holy; glorify. This is the way in which a subordinate and imperfect creature blesses the Creator. Our gift to God is the way in which our hearts and behaviors and acts of worship honor and glorify Him.

And he said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master…” GN 4:27[11]

There are blessings that extend from man to man. For example, there are cases in which a person of earthly authority confers blessings upon one lesser. A father, for example, can bless his children.

So he said, "Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son's game, that I may bless you." And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. GN 27:25[12]

Some of the blessings extended by humans show man as “agent” for the execution of God’s plan. When Jacob lay on his deathbed detailing the inheritance of his 12 sons, we must assume that it is the Spirit of God working in Him which moved humanity ever closer to the fulfillment of divine promise. As such, the most solemn blessings from man to man are made on behalf of God by specially chosen earthly conduits.

B. The Nature of Blessings

1. God’s blessings are utterly reliable.

When God extends blessing, it amounts to a promise. When God blessed the first humans, he gave them the ability to procreate—to build family and community (GN 1:28). He also gave them a superior custodial role over other living entities. These blessings, though threatened in Noah’s time, were and continue to stand despite the failings of a rebellious and backslidden human race. As a creation, we have been permitted to go on. God reaffirmed this first blessing in formal covenants with both Noah and Abraham. To Noah, he avowed to never again flood the habitat of humanity (GN 8:21-22). To Abraham, he extended blessings from the realm of protection and viability to include great purpose and stature:

And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; GN 12:2[13]

2. God’s blessings are both near and distant.

To Abraham, an imperfect man of great faith,[14] God has extended a great and far-reaching blessing. Some aspects of the harvest will be distant; Abraham’s great nation will come about through his descendents. Yet, within Abraham’s life, we are privy to elements of blessing brought to fruition. His barren wife conceives (GN 18:10). Seemingly insurmountable obstacles, including heavily stacked enemy opposition, are overcome (GN 14:15). So, God’s blessings to Abraham will be fulfilled, both within his lifetime and, most significantly, beyond.

3. God blesses the faithful.

Blessings were conferred upon Adam and Eve before the fall when the first man and woman enjoyed an unstained relationship with God. Their sin wrought certain curses (GN 3). Yet the primary blessing of God—that they would fill the earth and subdue it—was retained. There would be trouble, hardship and heartache, but the blessing of life and legacy and certain dominion was withstanding because, we may theorize, Adam and Eve maintained their faith in the one, true God.[15]

In the case of Noah, we are told of his blamelessness (GN 6:9). But it could be argued that, though he was exceedingly righteous, he was blessed because of his faithfulness. Contemporary movies, like Evan Almighty, have tried to imagine the community response to Noah’s peculiar mission. The movies show that he was met with ridicule and contempt. I don’t see this in the text. But it’s likely, I would assume, that Noah was, indeed, good fodder for the scoffers. Yet he followed to the letter God’s exacting specifications for the ark, building a mammoth seaworthy vessel on days, no doubt, that presented without so much as a cloud in the sky! On the other end of Noah’s obedience, he was afforded the blessing also extended to Adam & Eve:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Every living creature of the earth and every bird of the sky will be terrified of you.” (GN 9:1-2) [16]

What about Abraham? Within our course, we gained insights into to some of Abraham’s missteps. Yet he could be counted on to go where God told him to go. He could be counted on to do what God told him to do. He was a flawed but faithful man (GN 15:6). As we saw in Genesis 12:2, he, too, received the blessing of offspring.

4. God’s blessings are irrevocable.

The no-turning-back momentum of God’s blessings is vividly illustrated for us, as we’ve seen, in the account of Abraham. The promise will be fulfilled despite all obstacles, impediments and mortal threats. A fallible human agent will be supernaturally empowered to get the job done. God’s plan is unstoppable.

The iron-clad nature of ancient blessings is also illustrated for us in the account of Isaac’s “misappropriated” blessing to the son, Jacob, who held a lesser home in his heart. Under the clever manipulation of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob successfully duped his elderly father into endowing him with the all-important birthright blessing that belonged to Esau, who was technically first born. With the blessings now pronounced and the scheme brought to light, we are privy to an emotional exchange between Isaac and his most beloved son:

Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, {even} me also, O my father." So Esau lifted his voice and wept. GN 27: 38[17]

Isaac’s response in vv. 39-40 reveals there is no possibility of revision or reversal. Esau’s plight, to the utter heartbreak of father and one son, is to serve his younger brother without the benefit of God’s special favor.

So, God’s blessings are unchallengeable. It’s important to note, however, that within covenant, God has expectations for His people. Though the promise is guaranteed, it’s not a strictly one-way street. Blessings warrant certain response on the part of the recipient. When God tells Noah that he may now liberally eat from the earth, he is strongly advised to avoid meat containing blood (GN 9:4). Within the Abrahamic Covenant, it is God’s expectation that all males will be circumcised (GN 17:10). (We will see more exacting conditional requirements to God's covenant with Moses in Deuteronomy 28.) So, within the covenant relationships of Genesis, God's blessings are promissory... but man has a responsive role to play.

5. Blessings are creative and merciful.

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him. GN 49:28[18]

From the ranks of God’s chosen people, there are those who are distinctly set apart for greater responsibility and reward. Amongst the 12 tribes of Israel, we see diverse endowments. We even see rebuke (e.g., GN 49: 3-7).[19] Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, for example, is shamed for having sexual relations with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah (GN 35:22). Simeon and Levi are called out for flying off the handle and slaughtering the people of Shechem to avenge the rape of their sister (GN 34).

As we consider the apportionments of the 12 tribes, it’s worth noting that even those who egregiously fail are graciously and mercifully afforded life. As part of the blessed family, they, too, go on. They have, for a time, a place, albeit lesser and dispersed, among the ranks of the living (GN 49: 7b).

Despite the tragically consequential act of rebellion in the Garden, Adam and Eve are blessed with fertility (GN 4:1). In the account of the Flood, we see mercy in the blessings extended to one righteous man and his family, and, by extension, a future made possible for other creatures and forms of nature (GN 9). The blessing of Ishmael in Genesis 17:20 reflects tender mercies as God looks after the welfare of one who will ultimately be been cast off by his earthly father.

6. Man’s blessings: A mixed bag?

When man blesses man, there are times in which the act has great significance. Isaac’s blessings upon Jacob set in motion critical movement toward God’s plan to redeem mankind. When Jacob blessed the 12 tribes (GN 49), there was continued progress toward fulfillment of God’s promise. We must assume that it was the Spirit of God at work and conveyed by men.

Other times, however, when man blesses man, there is a common aspect. In GN 29, we encounter Laban, who will become Jacob’s future father-in-law. We learn in subsequent text that the two men have a complex and fractious relationship. So long as Jacob is near, Laban enjoys blessings by association (GN 30:27). But the dynamics over time become untenable. As the relationship degenerates toward a bitter severance, we are told that Laban kissed and “blessed” his grandchildren and daughters (GN 31:55). Was this a customary gesture? A ritual associated with saying good-bye? What kind of “blessings” could one who presents as an earthly needle-in-the-side of a future patriarch realistically convey? Much like we say “God bless you!” when someone sneezes, there were certain superficial circumstances in which people blessed one another in ancient times.

D. The Content of Blessings

o Fertility

As we’ve seen throughout Genesis, God blesses individuals with progeny. Interestingly, the very first time the word “blessed” occurs (GN 1:22), the beneficiaries are sea creatures and birds and the blessing is the directive to reproduce.[20]

The next time we see this word, it is applied to the first people:

God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."”[21] GN 1:28

There are other fertility blessings directed, for example, to Noah and Abraham:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. GN 9:1[22]

I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her." GN 17:16
[23]

"I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; GN 26:4
[24]

Then from the seed of Isaac, then Jacob, we see the purposeful 12-way apportioning of inheritance that will bring to fruition God’s promise for Israel.

o Power

And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; GN 12:2[25]

When the name “Abraham” is invoked today, thousands of years removed from the living theater of his life, it continues to evoke awe and respect. Thanks to the gift of Scripture which recounts for us precious glimmers into the history of our faith, we can see that God, indeed, made the name of Abraham great! His greatness is reflected in the crucial role he played in God’s plan and his torpedo-like dive into a life of committed service to the LORD. His name stands today as a “word association” with “man of faith.”

o Protection/Life

And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." GN 12: 3 [26]

Egypt’s Pharoah (GN 12) and King Abimilech (GN 20) had the experience of being on the “cursed” end of the Abrahamic Covenant! Drawn to Sarah’s beauty and unwittingly licensed by Abraham’s half-truth to act upon their lusts, the penalty for Pharoah and Abimilech was disease (GN 12:17) and infertility (GN 12:18), respectively. God extends blessings to His people, in some cases, by defeating or punishing enemies that would otherwise threaten them.

o Material Endowment

The LORD has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys. GN 24:35[27]

God blessed people with “things” in ancient times that would provide comfort, pleasure and security.

o Wisdom

And I bowed low and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had guided me in the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son. GN 24:48[28]

In this verse, the word “blessed” is used within the primary clause to illustrate how Abraham’s chief servant offered praise to God. Within the subordinate clause, we are told the reason for this occasion of praise. The servant has been dispatched to Abraham’s homeland, Aram Naharaim, to find a suitable wife for his son, Isaac. The servant asked God to give him very clear signals with respect to this critical mission (GN 24: 12-14). God obliges, giving the servant important clues, as well as a dose of wise restraint and patience (GN 24: 21).


II. Implicit Blessings

Let’s consider the concept of “built-in” blessings from God: the gifts conferred upon man that are, perhaps, so available to us they are easily overlooked, but essential to both mortal and eternal existence. There are certain key “givens” that represent, perhaps, the greatest blessings of all. We don’t see the word “barak” used in Genesis with respect to these blessings. Yet they are of immense importance. So obvious, perhaps, that we have failed, from the first “murmurings”[29] of ancient brothers and sisters to our less-than-grateful hearts today, to properly acknowledge.

1. The goodness of God.

I haven’t found an example in Genesis of a time in which the text says that God’s holiness is a “blessing.” Yet His abhorrence of evil, and His grace and mercies begin to paint the picture for us of a God who is indescribably precious, merciful and loving. As I contemplate the alternative—a god, perhaps, who more closely resembles Baal—I am moved to rejoice in the implicit blessing of God’s goodness.

2. The beauty and life-sustaining bounty of nature.

God’s creation, beautifully described for us in Genesis 1, is both aesthetically wondrous and practical in its ability to sustain life. Yet, how often do we look at a beautiful sunset and thank God for the blessing of a diverse and beautiful habitat? How often to we take a deep breath and thank God for the provision of air? How often do we fill our stomachs with food and really, authentically thank God for keeping our bodies nourished and alive? These were blessings to an ancient people, and they continue to bless us today!

3. The privilege of being in “real-time” community with God.

I couldn’t find the word “blessing” specifically used to describe the accessibility of God, though the words “…for I am with you.” preceded the blessing described in Genesis 26:24.[30] But God revealed himself quite personally to certain people. We have an account of God’s words revealed to Adam and Eve, Noah and his sons, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob . God appeared to Joseph in vivid, instructive dreams. The mighty, transcendent God was also immanent, graciously making His presence known to ancient loved ones. And today, it is the Spirit of God living within that graciously affords us unfettered access to the Almighty.

4. The ultimate blessing of eternal life.

We meet Enoch in Genesis 5 and we’re told that he “walked with God.” (GN 5: 24a). Then he was “…no more, because God took him away.” (GN 5: 24b). In Dr. Ronald B. Allen’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, he writes: “What Enoch experienced in a remarkable, dramatic fashion is what each person who ‘walks with God’ will experience—everlasting life with the Savior.” In the end, this is without a doubt, our most blessed gift from God.

Conclusion

From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. GN 49:25[31]

This is a crucial verse in Genesis that serves, perhaps, as a summation of the scope, as we understand it, of God’s blessings to man. I consulted Matthew Henry’s classic commentary for help and inside of this verse, he interpreted the “blessings of heaven above” to mean “rain in its season, and fair weather in its season, and the benign influences of the heavenly bodies.” Here the focus is not only on God’s help with the elements, but on the all-important spiritual aspect of God’s blessed oversight of man.

Contrast this with the “blessings of the deep…” Henry writes, this deep is “… but a great deep, with subterraneous mines and springs.” From the blessings of heaven above, we also are granted temporal blessings of the earth.

Taken together… from “above” to the “deep”… we see that God’s provision for mankind extends from body to soul… from that which is palpable and knowable to that which nourishes our eternal hope.

What of the “… blessings of the breasts and of the womb.”? Henry explains these blessings are conferred “when children are safely born and comfortably nursed.” This relates, once again, to the life-perpetuating blessing of fertility; arguably, one of God’s greatest gifts to mortal man, extending the human race and building legacy.


[1]The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, Study Light Organization, http://www.studylight.org/lex/heb/frequency.cgi?number=1288&book=ge&translation=nsn.
[2] Ibid., Genesis uses the word “barak” only once (GN 24:11) to confer the meaning “kneel”
[3] Ibid. Use of the word “barak” as a curse is a Hebrew euphemism appearing not in Genesis but in a limited venue elsewhere in Scripture.
[4] Zodhiates, Spiros (Editor), Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, New American Standard Bible, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN, 1984.
[5] The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1982.
[6] Mounce, William D., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2006.
[7] NASB Bible, Crosswalk.com, http://bible1.crosswalk.com/OnlineStudyBible/bible.cgi?word=Genesis+1%3A28&section=1&version=nas&new=1&oq=GN+1%3A28
[8] The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, Study Light Organization, http://www.studylight.org/lex/heb/frequency.cgi?number=1288&book=ge&translation=nsn.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Allman, James, BE 102 OL, OT History I, Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) Academic Materials, Fall 2007. We learned from Dr. Allman that faith, not righteousness, is what distinguishes the fathers of our Christian faith. OT heroes were flawed human beings, yet they maintained a single-minded focus on God and pursuit of His will. In Abraham, we see duplicity (GN 20:2… “she is my sister…”) and what would appear to be a callous lack of concern for others (e.g., twice he exposed his wife to the threat of sexual exploitation.). Despite this “humanness,” however, we see in Abraham, the “sojourner,” one who will simply not be moved off mission for God.
[15] Ibid. Genesis 4:1 gives us indication that Eve retained her faith in the LORD.
[16] The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, Study Light Organization, http://www.studylight.org/lex/heb/frequency.cgi?number=1288&book=ge&translation=nsn.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Douglas, J.D., Tenney, Merrill, C., NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1989.
[20] Allen, Ronald B., House, Wayne H., Radmacher, Earl, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, 1999.
[21] NASB Bible, Crosswalk.com, http://bible1.crosswalk.com/OnlineStudyBible/bible.cgi?word=Genesis+1%3A28&section=1&version=nas&new=1&oq=GN+1%3A28
[22] The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, Study Light Organization, http://www.studylight.org/lex/heb/frequency.cgi?number=1288&book=ge&translation=nsn.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Hamilton, Victor P., Handbook on the Pentateuch, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982. Nicely defined by Hamilton on page 178: “Murmuring is a frame of mind in which one believes that in difficulties God is insufficient.”
[30] Mounce, William D., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2006.
[31] The Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, Study Light Organization, http://www.studylight.org/lex/heb/frequency.cgi?number=1288&book=ge&translation=nsn

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sonrise Update

Howdy, Friends!

Great discussion on Leviticus. I love how you take topics and build on them in such insightful and practical ways. Thanks so much for sharing!

Couple points I wanted to recap...

  • In a book that features detailed, seemingly audience-specific instruction, try to get out of the marsh and discern the larger point. What's going on here? What's the theme? What's the take-away for people today? Amidst all the prescriptions and proscriptions for ancient people within Leviticus, there's serious relevance for those of us living today. God is holy (Heb: "qudosh" means "set apart")... and He calls His children to a life of holiness. From the diminished human perspective, there's some irony in the fact that God required distance--walls and veils and varying degrees of separation-- from His defiled ancient people in order to maintain a relationship with them. Though we are released today from the burden of ancient laws (Roman 6:14), does our sin continue to distance us from God? If so, who is erecting the barrier? God? Or us?
  • Remember, "qudosh" is not a primarily moral concept. Rather, it describes a status apart from that which is common. Questions for us today... Do our attitudes and behaviors as Christ followers in the world today truly set us apart? Do people see the love of Jesus Christ in you?

We meet next week on Friday from 8:00-9:00 at 121 Community Church in Grapevine. Kathy will be sharing her story with us. You will not want to miss this. Be prepared to be blown away...

We will be delivering dinner for 75 to the Ronald McDonald House in Forth Worth on December 30. We'd love to have you join us! Contact Angela at: angelag722@sbcglobal.net.

Friends, our Christmas party is next Sunday! Think we are all covered on food items. It will be a blast! Looking forward to it!

More later!

Love,

Sarah

On my iPod... Do You Hear What I Hear? performed by Third Day

What I'm Grateful for Today: Dallas Theological Seminary online Chapels! Oh, my...so good! Check them out at http://www.dts.edu/. Find the "Chapel" link under "Watch & Learn"... then cruise through the archive for some truly oustanding sermons. There are daily devotionals, as well... and some really cool podcasts... I fired up my laptop and listened to Dr. Grant while I was folding clothes the other day. Awesome!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

January Focus: How To Study the Bible


In one of my first seminary courses, we were required to read a challenging book called Methodical Bible Study by Bible scholar Robert A. Traina. It was an invaluable exercise, but the book was excruciatingly detailed. One of Traina's former students, Oletta Wald, has adapted some of Traina's teachings into a slim but marvelously instructive book called The New Joy of Discovery in Bible Study. It's a great primer for getting into the Bible.

Let's plan to study Wald's book in our Sonrise group this January. You can order it at amazon.com or your favorite bookseller. We'll plan to devote three of four weeks to it. Sound good?

A big thanks to Kathy for walking us through her trip to Russia and India yesterday. There was so much to reflect on. I was left with a feeling of such hope amidst the challenges that our Christian brothers and sisters face in their ministries abroad. Please pray for God's continued protection of Monica and her family.

Back to the post-vacation laundry avalanche...

Love, Sarah
On my iPod... So Soft, Your Goodbye by Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Scenes from Thanksgiving in NY



Todd and my father-in-law!




View from atop the Empire State Building




The Jonas Brothers at the Macy's Parade


Corbin Bleu at the Macy's Parade



Todd and the boys in Times Square!



Todd and me heading toward the Holland Tunnel!



Woohoo! Go Sooners!



A beautiful bride (my new sister-in-law).



A cute couple...



... until Daniel cuts in!

A lovely day to stroll around NYC.


Bride's maids? (No.) Wait staff? (No.) Two people from opposite ends of the country who happened to show up at a formal wedding wearing the same outfit? (Unfortunately, yes!)

A view from below the Empire State Building



Thanksgiving crowds outside of Macy's.


Todd and some treats!




Daniel looking tres handsome!


Whew! My job is done. Now I can get down and dirty!



Jordin Sparks at the Macy's Parde.




The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry




Daniel found his name on Santa's good list at Macy's!



The boys in Central Park.




Wynona Judd at Macy's Parade

On my iPod... So Far Away by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris from Real Live Roadrunning

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Faith Boys: 11.16.07


Sonrise Update: Next Meeting 11/27

Hey there!

Thanks to Alex for a convicting walk across Ken Sande's Biblical model for conflict resolution. As Kathy noted, Jesus speaks in Matthew 5:9 of blessings for the "peacemaker" (as opposed to "peacekeeper"). This implies the need to be an active agent of change, having the courage to slog through conflict if necessary to bring about the desired repair. Lots to think about!

Angela is coordinating a lunch delivery for the Ronald McDonald House next month. Let's talk the week after next about who can participate and who will bring what. This is a great opportunity to comfort some families undergoing heartbreaking challenge and duress.

Let's hear from Kathy next time with highlights from her India trip! I'm researching the concept of "blessing" first introduced to us in Genesis. Seems God was explicit with certain promises of blessing (e.g., the Abrahamic Covenant). Yet within creation itself, there are implicit blessings we simply take for granted (e.g., the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, the beauty and marvel of nature, the companionship of loved ones, etc.). As we prepare to hear from Kathy about the tremendous need in India, and we approach this time of collective Thanksgiving, I would encourage you to reflect upon and thank God for all that we ordinarily take for granted. Consider the essential holiness of God, for example. Have you thanked God for His goodness lately?

I pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Safe travels for those of you leaving home! I am thankful to God for so very many things. Most of all, I am thankful for the promise of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ... and for the blessing here on earth of precious loved ones who amaze me with their grace, generosity, caring, wisdom and love. The world is a brighter place because of you.

Love,

Sarah

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sonrise Update: 11/6

Great meeting this morning! Lots to contemplate with respect to rest (Heb: sabat, Shabbath) which is a Biblical concept that has significant bearing on our physical and spiritual health and wellbeing. As Kathy pointed out, there are physical and mental challenges to our ability to rest. I would encourage you this week to pray about how God can help you discern the priority areas in your life and consider unburdening yourself of non-essentials and time robbers that may be keeping you from the rest you require. Rest is not selfish... it is ultimately life sustaining and an enabler of good works!

Thanks for all those b-day treats, friends. How very clever of you all! I will have to find some rest in order to use them! I'm on it!

(And how about that bird that flew away???)

I threatened, er, I mean, promised to teach on Leviticus next week. But Alex stepped up to the plate and offered to teach on conflict resolution instead. So that's what we're doing next week! However, I must tell you that Dr. Allman has upended my view of Leviticus. Can't wait to share with you what I've learned. It's stunning... really, it is! So Leviticus "unplugged" at a later date!

Angela and Evelyn have some fun thoughts on a Christmas party. Angela also has an wonderful outreach idea. Don't let me forget to carve out some time to talk about all this next time.

What am I forgetting? Seems there's a Tuesday field trip and some other school stuff coming up. We should all check our schedules for November/December and make sure the date/time continues to work as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Think that's it for now... back to the books!

Love, Sarah

Looking for a Ladies' Bible Study Group? Please join us at 121 Community Church in Grapevine from 8:15-9:15 on Tuesday mornings!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sonrise Update

Don't forget we're meeting tomorrow at 121 CC from 8:15-9:15 to talk about the Biblical concept of rest. OT perspectives tomorrow (refer to e-mail)... NT perspectives the following week!

Reader friends... I've been a little quiet on the blog front because I'm writing a new book. I can only stuff so many words into the hours between school drop-off and pick-up... so I've had to shift gears a bit. Check back sometime later in the week for an interview with Stacey Rao on the upside of disappointment!

I hope everyone's doing well... and I pray that you find rest in God today.

Love,

Sarah

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sonrise Update

Wonderful session this morning, friends. Appreciated everyone's insights on some really vital areas, including the importance of memorizing key Scripture that can be called upon in our moments of struggle and need. This week, try to identify and memorize one verse that speaks to the area in which you are most challenged or tempted. Also, loved EA's idea about keeping a journal of God's "rescues" so that we can easily be reminded of God's past intervention in our lives.

Next week, Stacey Rao teaches on disappointment. Very excited about that! The following week, let's talk about rest. OT & NT perspectives and the role of sabbath in our lives today. More background on this to come.

Looks like we are in agreement that Starbuck's off Northwest Highway could work for us and 8:15 is a better start time. Will check with KP and the others to confirm this. Next Tuesday, though, let's plan to meet at 121CC Church (down from Cowamunga's) at 8:15 for Stacey's talk.

More later!

Love, Sarah

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Template Change?

Hmmm.... do we like this? Or are we too blue?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Toni Trueblood on Life After Pain, Pt III

Christian counselor and radio personality Toni Trueblood recently shared her thoughts on surviving the loss of our pets. We left off with a question for Toni about the best advice she would offer someone mourning this type of loss...

Toni:

Talk about it. Grieve, grieve, grieve…and memorialize the pet somehow. If you can’t manage it anymore, call me. I care very much.

Sarah:

I know you care. When my dog dies, I will be your What About Bob? patient (Do you remember that movie? Funny!) But Ruthy's pretty much always with me. She follows me around the house. Actually, she left my side briefly the other day. My parents sent us a piano last week. It's been, I don't know, 30 years since I've practiced? I was attempting Moon River by ear and Ruthy left the room. But, short of this kind of torture, she is a most loyal friend. Do you think we could all take a lesson on loyalty from our furry friends?

Toni:

Yes... and many more lessons, may I say! Unconditional love being the biggest! (Say, can you teach me to play the accordion?)

Sarah:

No, sorry. I'm struggling with Chop Sticks on the piano. (The accordion? Toni, I'm not sure your dogs will like that.) You know, my current professor is a dog lover? I sense he has hope if not optimism that we will see our beloved pets in heaven. Thoughts on this?

Toni:

Oh yes! Theologians argue a lot on this, but here is what I think: Scripture is silent as to whether pets are without a doubt in Heaven. The pets die, but the love does not. Because the love goes on…our connection to our beloved creatures is not broken. I think somehow we will be together…but perhaps not in Heaven itself…because I believe that heaven is not our final stop. It is reigning with Christ in the new Creation. And animals will be there. Christ calls us to him for eternity, not just heaven.

Now, will the animals in the new Creation be our animals? Don’t know! Hope so!

Sarah:

Interesting thoughts, Toni. I hope so, too.

OK... How about some word associations!

Toni:

Ahh…a student of Carl Jung! Sure... go ahead! I love this!

Sarah:

(Don't give me too much credit there... I'm thinking it came from some place else... like People Magazine!) OK!

Dogs and cats...

Toni:

Dogs... love, love, love, love. Cats…unusual!

Sarah:

Laughter...

Toni:

Never enough & healing.

Sarah:

Music...

Toni:

Bocelli. (as in Andrea) & Dr. Glenn Kreider at DTS.

Sarah:

I'm a Dr. Kreider fan, too! I remember a DTS Chapel where he talked about the theology of U2's music. I thought, wow... I get this!

OK, Toni! That's a wrap! Thanks for joining us!

Toni:

Oh, Sarah, thanks for the opportunity to fellowship online!



Toni Trueblood is the sunny voice from 94.9 KLTY radio. A Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, she also now counsels people who suffer. Her speciality areas are women's issues and pet grief. To learn more about Toni's ministry, you can visit her website here: www.tonitrueblood.com

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I Have a Headache

I feel sorry for Earthlink technicians today. Specifically, the ones who've had to experience my psychological degeneration in the wake of yesterday's seemingly simple query: Hey, my e-mail's a little slow, can you help?

Eight technicians, two hours or so on hold, two disconnects (them), one hang up (me.... not as bad as it sounds... technician number 7 told me to hang up on technician number 6), and a bucket of tears later (me, again), my e-mail is now restored (I think). But what a process. Not even the mood altering reflection: "Hey, at least you have your health!" could give me perspective today.

They had me deleting things and restoring things... and deleting things and restoring things. And when none of that worked, they had me go ahead and try deleting things and restoring things. We'd fix something in my mailbox, then break it in Todd's. Then we would delete some things and restore some things. At one point, it appeared that we had blown up something quite fundamental to the operation of the computer. "Oh, my dear," said the gentle voice on the other end of a crackling phone line, "I must now get you to the supervisor!"

Some of you have sent e-mails that are precious to me, including notes from my nearly 83-year-old father (shame on me for not backing these up). When it seemed that all of that was gone... some three hours into today's session(s)... I lost it (in a quiet, sniffly kind of way). It took four more Earthlink technicians and the better part of five hours today to find those e-mails. Mercifully, they were not lost. But somewhere along the way, I think I lost my mind.

And the point of this story is?

I wish I had a pool:




(Very, very mature, I know...)

Coming Tomorrow: Toni Trueblood and a better attitude!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Toni Trueblood On Life After Pain, Pt. II

Welcome back for more of my interview with Christian counselor and radio personality, Toni Trueblood. Today, Toni talks to us about how to survive the loss of a beloved pet.

Sarah:

Hi, again! Picking up right where we left off yesterday, Toni, why don't you tell us more about pet grief.

Toni:

Thanks, Sarah. It’s really about kids and adults managing the loss of the loved one. It’s not about what you lost... it’s about your ability to manage that loss. We don't have to get over it... but we do have to manage it... or get through it, if you want to think of it that way.

It is not just an animal! It is a devastating loss that often turns into anxiety disorders or depression. And the fingers of those afflictions reach into our work, church, and personal lives, and can choke the joy right out of us. Some folks mean well, but they just don't understand how what might be a minor loss to them is actually complicated grief for someone else. The good news is Jesus is our healer!

Sarah:

Toni, is this personal for you?

Toni:

Yes. Several years ago (right before the cancelled wedding event) I lost the dog I loved more deeply than I can even tell you. Her name was Guido (yes, that’s right!). I took her out of a shelter in Terre Haute, Indiana when I was a TV anchor. She was with me 13 years. Not having family and being single, she was my all! When I lost her the bottom fell out of my life and I experienced depression and worse... the inability to get help. There was minimal support and that was about it! I was suffering so much. I ended up with a grief counselor who worked with women who lost spouses. She helped me a lot, but it was a Christian counselor who saved my life. I knew that God was calling me to help others with this issue, and any other life issue, using His Word.

Sarah:

Don't you offer group therapy on pet loss?

Toni:

Yes, on a needs basis. It's called "Guido’s Group.”

Sarah:

There's something really powerful and restorative inside of healthy groups. I see this in our life group. We're not a "therapy" group... but we're there for each other in all kinds of ways and it can be tremendously supportive.

But, back to the pets.... Toni, can you compare the grief process for animals to how we feel when we lose a human intimate? Do we go through the same kind of mourning process? Is it more or less? Different in any way?

Toni:

It is very similar because loss is loss, and love is love. Love comes from God, its author. When we lose the object of our love it hurts! It’s OK to hurt.... we’re supposed to. But what is not healthy is when we can’t get past it to “do life” again. The loss leaves a big crater in our hearts that really only God can fill.

Grief unfolds in stages, and no one goes through them the same way or in the same progression. It takes a skilled counselor to walk alongside the person, to comfort as well as professionally assist. I once knew someone who didn’t cry at a funeral for a family member. Turns out he was an Army veteran who feels very, very deeply, but became a master at concealing those feelings. His grief ... his healing process... would be very different, from say, mine. I cry very loudly! Wail, actually…

Sarah:

Best advice you can give someone who has recently lost a pet...

Next Up: Toni's final thoughts on surviving pet loss and more. For information about Toni's ministry, click here: http://www.tonitrueblood.com.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Next Sonrise Meeting: 10/16

Hey, friends! Our next Sonrise meeting is October 16th! We have to find a new meeting place because Cowamunga's is closing on 10/14. I am so sorry to report that. We do have other options in the Grapevine area, including 121 CC which Ross offered up. Anyway, I'll e-mail everyone this week and we can "chat" further.

Next Meeting's Topic: Eat, Pray, Love...

The book Eat, Pray, Love is number one on amazon.com this week and the author is looking like Oprah's newest bff. If you haven't heard, EPL chronicles a year in the life of a woman who dumped her husband and set off for twelve months to find pleasure (food in Italy), spiritualism (a mystical kind of yoga "stew" in India) and love (a lot of sex with a guy named Fillipe in I forget where). I spent about 45 minutes with this book at Borders this afternoon and found myself worrying about things like societal impact (no kidding!). It's a chatty book with TMI galore. It's reminiscent of Thelma and Louise, only without Louise and the violence. But, honestly, if you are a wife or mother battling discontent or depression... what do you do with a message like this? Do you stay or do you go? Do you chase after God or do you find "salvation" in the god that you can wake up from within? I can't imagine the author intended for anyone to model her. She's just telling her story. But, all the buzz is bound to plant some seeds that are just, well, icky.

So... with that as a bit of background... let's look at some Biblical angles on eating, praying and loving for our next meeting. This week, check out: Proverbs 23: 20-21... Isaiah 45:20 ... and Matthew 22: 37-39. Then we'll talk about all of this next time! Love, Sarah

Coming Tomorrow... Part II of my interview with Toni Trueblood!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Toni Trueblood On Life After Pain

Join me for the next couple of days as we chat with the ever lovable, bright and multi-tasking Christian counselor Toni Trueblood from 94.9 KLTY radio.

Sarah:

Hi, Toni!

Toni:

Sarah! Hi!

Sarah:

You have a world-class laugh. So, is the glass half full or half empty? (I think I know the answer to this one...)

Toni:

It is totally full because things aren’t always they way they look! (What do you think of that? Ha!)

Sarah:

Oh, good answer!

OK, Toni... many of us know you as the cheerful voice on 94.9 KLTY radio here in Dallas. I know you're deep into a new counseling practice as well. Are you switching gears? Or just doing some serious juggling?

Toni:

Some juggling...

Sarah:

Also speaking at women's conferences... and you've written a book?

Toni:

Yes, that too! I'm still on 94.9 KLTY, but in a special appearance capacity.

Sarah:

Tell us about your counseling focus.

Toni:

Why thank you for asking! I'm a Christian counselor affiliated with the Center for Christian Counseling. Right now I’m in the Flower Mound office, but I’d love to find my own office near Irving where I live. My clients mostly come from churches but some come by word-of-mouth.

Sarah:

How would you headline what you do?

Toni:

My basic message is... There is a healthier life past the pain.

Sarah:

That's huge... getting people from pain to a better life. How do you approach this?

Toni:

My counseling is better described as “personal discipleship" and it's totally rooted in God’s Word. I developed a therapy called “Toni’s Toolbox Therapy.”

Sarah:

How does it work?

Toni:

It works like this... You are the overall project with the goal of becoming more like Christ. I target the heart, not the symptoms. And through this therapeutic process, your depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. are effectively dealt with... along with the obstacles and other impediments that inevitably surface along the way.

Every person is a unique creation of God... and needs his or her own "toolbox," from which to draw when a challenge presents. Ultimately, God has the answer... I just work with you to find it. It's personal discipleship!

Sarah:

You've poured your passions into a couple very specific areas...

Toni:

Yes! One area is "Women’s Issues." We are special creations of God! Our challenges as women are very much the same. I've personally been through some pretty big stuff. I wrote a book a few years ago about the event that God used to finally get me back to him totally broken, so He could launch me seriously on the road to being an instrument for His purpose. (By the way, I believe that purpose is to get His Word into peoples’ lives for transformation!)

Sarah:

What's the name of your book?

Toni:

It’s called Hey God! Looking for Love Here!

Sarah:

Hmmm... do you want to give us a little teaser?

Toni:

OK... I was left at the altar twice by the same man. I seriously wanted to die. My story is about how God took me from that point... to dumping a successful media career... to Dallas Theological Seminary to obtain a Masters in Biblical Counseling... to where I am now. Point is: how you can move on past the pain, too!

Sarah:

Two words come to mind: "His loss." I'm sorry, Toni.

Toni:

Wow, thanks for defending me! But actually I see it as a “God-allowed backhanded blessing.” I was struggling to survive the painful and humiliating blows, wondering what in the world was happening to me. It was a deep, dark place. Darker and deeper than anywhere I had ever been before (I was 43 then). That’s where He met me. Right there, and in a cosmic “snap,” my focus turned from myself to God. He surely used it for my good!

Sarah:

Cosmic "snap..." what a great descriptor. I'm so glad that you have this wise, spiritual perspective on your pain. I know you're helping so many people today by your example. Thank you for that, Toni.
So, "women's issues" are obviously close to your heart... what else?

Toni:

My other specialty is "Pet Grief Therapy." I'm the only therapist I know of in the Dallas/Fort Worth area doing it. The therapy is not counseling or support, it goes way past that...

Come back soon for more of my interview with Toni Trueblood! Next up: insights into healthy grieving for those who've lost a beloved pet.

Visit Toni's website here: http://www.tonitrueblood.com/

On my iPod... Dreaming with a Broken Heart by John Mayer

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Gospel According to Brad?

"What's important to me is that I've defined my beliefs and lived according to them and not betrayed them," People Online reports. "One of those is my belief in family. I still have faith in that."

If only I were a celebrity correspondent... I could have maybe asked Brad a couple more questions!

(Pic of Brad Pitt from wikipedia.com)

Coming soon... fresh, fun, tug-at-the-heart insights from KLTY's Toni Trueblood!

Messy Leaders

The mighty Viking, Canute the Great (c. 995 – 1035), once ruled a vast empire that cut across Scandinavia and the British Isles. A friend of Christianity, Canute once got so fed up with his flattering courtiers, he had his throne hauled to the edge of the shore and dramatically commanded the tide to halt. Before long, the king was knee-deep in lapping waves and no doubt licking ocean spray off his chin. Then, rising and turning to the quivering group, he admonished:

"Confess now how vain and frivolous is the might of an earthly king compared with that Great Power who rules the elements and says unto the ocean, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no farther!'"

The King's humility before God was noble. Yet, he wrestled with what we might characterize today as "anger management" issues. Prone to impulsive judgements, and wild swings between lashing, merciless retribution and remorse, he was hardly a model for the faith he worked so hard to advance.

After reading the accounts of missteps and misdeeds on the part of the patriarchs in Genesis, I'm struck with the graciousness of God as He has entrusted all kinds of flawed human beings with active, prominent roles in His redemptive plan. Reflecting upon Jacob prior to his transforming wrestling match with God at Peniel (Heb: "face of God"), he exhibited conniving, selfishness, callousness and a spirit of rebellion. Quoting Gerhard von Rad (Genesis, 1972) in Victor Hamilton's Handbook to the Pentateuch, "God's work descended deeply into the lowest worldliness..."

Seems to me more and more, it's a messy world and sometimes trail blazers are messy people. Which may beg the question with respect to ministry preparedness: What are we waiting for?

On my iPod... Harvest Home by Big Country (with a nod to Canute)

(Pic of Canute on coinage from Wikapedia.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sonrise, cont.

Small group, heartfelt discussion. The book on mourning I mentioned is A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis... an incredible read. Please keep AC, KP, AG and family in prayer this week. Next week's topic t/c. Love, Sarah

On my Ipod... Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sonrise Update

Remember... we meet on Tuesday's now! We're going to have a smaller group this week (travel/work conflicts), so what should we talk about... let's see... I just wrapped up an OT survey of Genesis and was particularly struck with how challenge and adversity preceded God's blessings. Want to talk this week about adversity in our own lives... and the good that's come from it? (You may want to scroll down and read "Obstacles and Opportunities".) See you at Cowamunga's at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday! Love, Sarah

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign...

A friend from seminary e-mailed recently and asked me what the Spirit's ministry of illumination has revealed lately. I thought this was a great question. I have sensed, as I contemplate some interesting "coincidences," that the Holy Spirit is teaching me something. As I was reading Scripture this week, I locked onto something in Genesis that made me think about how we process our experiences and encounters with God today.

Genesis 24

Abraham, who is now very old, has dispatched a loyal servant to return to his homeland to fetch a good wife for his son, Isaac. As he approached the city of Nahor, the servant stopped to rest by a well. There he prayed for God's guidance, then proposed a scenario that would serve as a kind of "signal," helping to identify the right woman.

I will say to a young woman, "Please lower your jar so I may drink.' May the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac reply, 'Drink, and I'll give your camels water too.' (Gn 24:14)

Before he had finished praying, Rebekah approaches with a water jug on her shoulder. Abraham's servant ran to meet her and asked for a sip of water.

"Drink, my lord," she replied, and quickly lowering her jug to her hands, gave him a drink. When she had done so, she said "I'll draw water for your camels, too..." (Gn 24:18-19)

So, do you think this is a sign? At this point, I can imagine that Abraham's servant wanted to break into song. To whip out the Williams Sonoma gift registry forms. To hash out the guest seating. To settle on beef, shrimp or chicken entrees. But, what did he do?

Silently, the man watched her with interest to determine if the LORD had made his journey successful or not. (Gn 24:21)

So, Abraham's servant has been given a very strong "sign," yet he moves forward patiently. He wants to be sure.

Something to think about, perhaps, as we process our own experiences with God today.

On my iPod... Another Layer by Jon McLaughlin

Friday, September 28, 2007

Genesis 20:2... What's Up with That?

Another busy week! I'm posting an interaction that's due for my online OT History course next week. We were told to pick an aspect of "belief" or "unbelief" in Genesis, then expound upon it. So, I will post this, probably today, then my classmates will have an opportunity to rip it apart. Well... that's not really fair. Most tend to critique very nicely. But I always hold my breath and count to ten while praying before I hit the "submit" button on class interactions...

Genesis 20:2 "Abraham said about his wife Sarah, "She is my sister."...

Context: Though Abraham exhibits tremendous faith as a "sojourner" for God, there is a curious aspect to his faith presented in Genesis 20:2. History repeats itself here as Abraham's fears drive him to pass off his beautiful wife a second time (ref. Gn 12:13) as his "sister." Abraham is a "temporary resident" of the land of Negev (Southern desert region of Canaan) when he encounters Gerar's King Abimilech, whom he inherently distrusts (20:11). Fearing that Sarah's beauty will spell trouble for himself and his travel companions, he reverts to the tricky tactic he first employed with Pharoah in his trek through Egypt. This would appear to be a rather significant "kink" in his faith, inasmuch as he lived through God's intervention into this scenario once before. God has made a promise that will be fulfilled through Abraham and his wife, and He has previously overseeen their safe departure from Egypt. Yet Abraham defaults again to this human ploy. (Does he fully appreciate that it was God, not a lie, who guided them safely into and out of Egypt?)

Ramifications: Though Abraham exposed Sarah to the sexual exploitation (Gn 12:19) that occurred under Pharoah, she was spared a physical encounter with Abimilech. Yet, the deception caused a curse (infertility) to befall Abimlech's immediate family and household. Though Abmilech leads an ungodly people, he has been "duped" and pursues Sarah without culpability. Still, there's a price to pay for those who get in the way of the promise. Abraham's duplicity stains his state of righteousness, presumably both in the eyes of his wife and God (though we aren't privy to any fall-out from either). On the positive side, God's graciousness and mercy is showcased as he continues to show His favor to Abraham and Sarah. It's also vivid testimony God's commitment to His word (Gn 12:3).

Application for Ancient Audience:

1. The Promise Keeper: Those about to enter the Promised Land have lived in a state of miserable oppression. We know from post-Civil War and Holocaust accounts that there can be overwhelming challenges associated with the transition to freedom. The original audience for this text needs the reassurance of God's promise to Abraham for a land of their own and blessings, but also the comfort in knowing that God will oppose the enemy (Gn 12:2-3). The fulfillment of God's promise with respect to adversaries is dramatically illustrated in Gn 20. Insight into God's dealings with the "bad guys" will come in handy.

2. Human leaders aren't perfect... Abraham's deception illustrates the "humanness" of those to whom He has entrusted much. God's agents on earth are not to be deified... they are "mere mortals."

3. ... But, God has given authority to chosen leaders, despite their shortcomings, and there is divine protection along the path they forge. This will be an important reminder as new leaders rise up (e.g., Moses) and assume the task of bringing unity and common purpose to a newly liberated and struggling group.

4. God is consistent and utterly trustworthy. Repetition of this scenario, with its favorable outcome for God's people (2x for Abraham, 1x for Isaac), is powerful testimony to God's loyalty and loving oversight in the face of considerable risk.

An interesting "aside": Abimilech, who invokes "Adonay," (20:4) (non-literal usage/NASB Key Word Study Guide) has experienced the wrath of God... yet there is no evidence that he converted to faith (his descendant, also named Abimilech, is a future king: ref. Gn 26.) I'm thinking that if I were Abimilech... I'd be moving on down the road with Abraham... or extending a big, old over-sized welcome mat...

Research tools: Bible (NET version), NASB Key Word Study Bible, Moody Atlas, Victor Hamilton's "Handbook to the Pentateuch," Strong's Concordance, DTS OT History course materials (J. Allman).