Friday, October 31, 2008

Samson - Pre-Conceived Notions

Judges 13:6-8 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, "A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name. But he said to me, 'You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.' " Then Manoah prayed to the LORD : "O LORD, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born."

My husband would be the first to tell you that I have problems with "submitting". I was independent for some time before I married my husband, so I was used to getting things done all on my own. Very slowly, I've tried to give way to his authority - and it does turn out for the best (most of the time). God has marriage set up a certain way - and when we don't follow that set-up, things tend to go awry. Does that mean Susie Q can't get a job - no, It just means that we are to fall under our husbands' authority and they are to fall under God's authority. That's a big responsibility for a husband to have - and that's the way God intended it.

This interaction between Samsons' mom and dad I found to be quite funny. As soon as the Lord leaves her, Samson's soon to be mom runs to her husband and tells him what had happened. What does Manoah do? He asks God to send Him again - he wants to make sure his wife got the story right! Maybe, just maybe, his wife was
okay with this because she was so flabbergasted the first time around that she really didn't pay close attention - or maybe she was livid because he didn't believe or trust her to tell him everything that happened.

Either way, it was a good idea to get some questions answered in preparation for their son - maybe questions that didn't come to mind at the first hearing of the news. How do we treat our husbands? Do we get angry because we think they've offended us - or do we see the wisdom behind their choices and put our feelings on the back burners.

I struggle with this on a daily basis. But, humility is the mark of a servant. Being a servant to Jesus is a far better calling than any here on this earth - I think I can use the practice, so I'll try a little harder with my husband.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Samson - Taking Down Al-Qaeda?

Judges 13: 2-5 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines."

"Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause physical and mental birth defects. Each year, up to 40,000 babies are born with some degree of alcohol-related damage. Although many women are aware that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, many do not realize that moderate—or even light—drinking also may harm the fetus. In fact, no level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe."- Taken from the March of Dimes.

Is it surprising to realize that God already knew this information before we figured it out in the 21st century? Before Samson was even born, The Lord said to Samsons mom, "Don't drink". For some of us, that task may be fairly simple. Drink water for nine months, okay. Then she is told that he is to be a Nazirite - this is not the same as a Nazarene. Jesus was a Nazarene - which simply means he was from in or around Nazareth. A "Nazarite" is someone who is going to wholly work for God from birth. Now that's a whopper.

Can you imagine being told that your child needs to become a lawyer, you need to guide him and direct him so that he will become a lawyer and when your family gets in trouble and ends up in jail - he will be able to get them out. But your son doesn't even like to read? Samson is to be raised in preparation for delivering the Israelites from the Phillistines - that's a lot of pressure for a pregnant woman to take on.

These verses - just like alcohol and pregnancy - still speak volumes on a mothers role in her childrens' lives. Once the Lord told her the responsibility that lay ahead of her, it wasn't just for nine months. She would have to make sure he never cuts his hair, follow God's calling, don't touch dead stuff. Parenthood doesn't end when the child goes to school. It doesn't end when the child starts to drive. It doesn't end when the child graduates from high school. Parenthood is a lifelong commitment of a gift that God has entrusted to you. Sure, our responsibilities change as the child grows, but our level of commitment should not. We are raising Samsons in our own time. They may not save Americans from Al-Qaeda, but they can win people to Christ and make a difference for the King - which is what really matters, with a little support from mom and dad.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Samson begins - We Need a Hero!

Judges 13:1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

Throughout Bible history, we see God accomplishing victory after victory for those that choose to follow Him. David against Goliath; Joshua at Jericho; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego facing King Nebuchadnezzar; situations that were - at best - entirely impossible to come out victorious: yet, with God's intervention, each situation resulted in glorifying Him.

We can look at the founding of America the same way. The men who fought for our country in those early days were Christians. The American Revolution was won, even when all signs pointed towards Britain claiming America as their own. This was not a coincidence - it was God's hand providing for the men who had asked for It. The Battle of Trenton was a true example of a Christian man (Washington) leading his troops into a battle that could only be victorious with God at the hel

It's not surprising that America has suffered terrorist attacks. The bombing of U.S. Embassy's, the threats from the Libyans, American hostages and hijackings: we, as a country, are forgetting about God. This same country that relied on God for saving grace in 1776, now doesn't even want God with our children in the school systems. We no longer consider His promise of the rainbow anything more than an emblem for living a lifestyle that
God said was against His will. We kill innocent babies because they may be an inconvenience and recognize the flowers and earth as an 'accident' from a cosmic explosion. We've slapped God in the face and wonder why our government is in the shape it's in.

This is what is going on right before the time when Samson was to be born. A people who had once been faithful and focused on serving God had turned from His ways. Now God decided to remove His hand of protection from them and in turn, the Philistines would have their time. How scary for the Israelites who did not know what was to come
next - where would their saving grace come from?

America has a Savior - we've just forgotten who He is. We are scared and worried about the outcome of the leaders in our country - but know this: God is in control. Not McCain and not Obama (thank God). One day every knee will bow and everyone will say, "Jesus is the Son of God" and then all this talk of abortion and homosexuality will be finalized and God will have the last say. Until then, let's pray for our country and its members that we will remember God so that He will remember us.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rachel - Ends

Genesis 30:22-24 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, "God has taken away my disgrace." She named him Joseph, and said, "May the LORD add to me another son."

Have you ever heard the ice cream truck coming down the street and in comes your child with excitement on their face begging for a treat. Knowing that dinner is only a short time away, you decide it's best not to let them get the ice cream. But the child continues to ask diligently - so you decide to go ahead and give them the money for the fudgesicle. It's wonderful to see how happy they are and thankful, but all that seems to fall by the wayside when they finish the ice cream and turn around and say, "Can I have some more?"

Rachel had finally been blessed with a son after diligent prayer and follows it up with a, "Can I have some more?" Sometimes we seem to forget what God has done for us, that as soon as we get it, we're on to the next thing. When does true appreciation actually appear? When do we get an answer to prayer and stop and truly thank God for hearing our cry and responding positively? Or have we already moved on to our next item on the wish list? Do you think that may be why God sometimes waits to give you what you pray for, to make sure you understand how truly blessed you are to have a God that supplies your every need.

I want God to know that without Him, my life would be in chaos, I would have no hope and that true joy and peace would be far out of reach. Rachel has helped me see and learn to be thankful for what we have and that beauty can come from the outside - but it's more important to see it come from the inside.

I hope you've enjoyed following Rachel through this time in her life. Post a response if there is someone you'd like me to do next, otherwise - we'll see what happens to pop in this crazy head of mine!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rachel - Political Candidate?

Genesis 30:4-21 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, "God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son." Because of this she named him Dan. Rachel's servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, "I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won." So she named him Naphtali. When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, "What good fortune!" So she named him Gad. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, "How happy I am! The women will call me happy." So she named him Asher. During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, "Please give me some of your son's mandrakes." But she said to her, "Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son's mandrakes too?" "Very well," Rachel said, "he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes." So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. "You must sleep with me," she said. "I have hired you with my son's mandrakes." So he slept with her that night. God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, "God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband." So she named him Issachar. Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, "God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons." So she named him Zebulun. Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.

After reading these verses, I feel like I've just watched a political debate. Back and forth, back and forth. It's exhausting and dizzying.

The statistics of sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise. While education of these diseases certainly do decrease those that get infected, people continue to live a lifestyle that could lead to an STD. In 1999, the number of people infected in the world were 3,040,000,000. This does not include AIDS or the HIV virus.

Jacob was sleeping with four different women. During this time, we don't hear mention of any physical sexual diseases, but we see the way it has taken hold of two sisters and torn them apart. We don't get any insight into what the handmaidens are going through, but you can imagine what's going on in their minds. They have no choice, they are slaves and are being given for the sole purpose of child bearing - but at this time in history, there's only one way to get that child to bear. The heartache that has torn this family apart, the feud that has put two innocent women into motherhood without their consent. For what? The love of Jacob?

These women claim that God is somehow favoring one over the other through child bearing. Only once does the Bible claim this, when He allows Leah to become pregnant because "she was unloved". But I think Leah got it all wrong, God didn't give her that first son so Jacob would love her - He gave her a son so that she could share her love with someone else.

Many times we are like Rachel and Leah, we are doing everything we possibly can to gain someone's love. Even things that make no sense. God tells us that if we stop worrying about "us" and start caring for others, then all that falls in line. If you feel weak, be strong for someone else. If you feel sad, show someone else happiness. If you need help, go help someone else. Jesus didn't ask anyone else to save Him from being put up on that cross, He came to earth and was a Savior to all of us. We can follow that example.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rachel - Ready and Willing

Genesis 30:2-3 Jacob became angry with her and said, "Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?" Then she said, "Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family."

The conversation that Rachel and Jacob have here sounds like one that many spouses have with one another. The wife blames Jacob for not getting her pregnant and Jacob gets angry at her and tells her it's not his fault. Like any good husband, he should have just admitted it was ALL his fault and that he would try harder next time . . .
Seriously though, he tries to share common sense with Rachel by explaining that it is God's choice if they don't have kids - but she is on a rampage and she has a plan. It probably wouldn't have mattered too much what Jacob said - because Rachel was already so jealous she couldn't see straight - because the next thing she does is tell Jacob to sleep with her maidservant. How this ever became an option is beyond me. She wants something so bad, she's willing to do something completely illogical to get it.

How quick are we to try and rush God? We want what we want and we want it . . . now! Rachel wanted a child so badly, she was willing to rush ahead of God and do something foolish to satisfy herself. God's timing is perfect - and when we try and interfere with that - we mess everything up. The man you didn't wait on God to bring you - Can I get a witness? The job that you could've waited a little longer before you accepted it. So many times we think we know what's best that we don't let God handle it.

It's not, "God do it now or I'll have to do it myself". It's, "God, help me to be patient and know when You have chosen the right time for me." It's so much more rewarding that way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rachel - Another Drama Queen

Genesis 30:1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!"

Rachel must have taken acting classes - because this line comes straight out of
"Drama Queen University". Why is it when we don't get what we want, we use every tactic available to turn things to our favor. In this case, she lays the guilt trip on Jacob: Saying, "she'll DIE" if he doesn't give her a child. So much for being content in your station.

Here's where common sense gets lost on Rachel. It's obviously not Jacob's fault if Rachel is not getting pregnant - seeing as how her sister has already had several children by Jacob. Did she honestly think that Jacob could give her the things she desired and felt she needed most.

Often times we think people can give us things to make us happy. A better job, a better house, a better car. . . The truth is, we need to be happy REGARDLESS of all the THINGS we have. We recently started a bible study this past Sunday on 'complaining' and how it's very offensive to God. When we act unappreciative of anything - knowing that ALL things are from God - are we not showing God that we do not appreciate HIM? It's like a child who complains when they get dinner - either there's too much, or too little, or they don't like it - when you've taken the time to cook it and/or prepare it so their bodies get nourished. It's very hurtful to us when they complain. It's also very hurtful to God when we complain.

No one here on earth can satisfy us. We need to know that only God can satisfy all our needs. Until we know and understand this, we will never be truly satisfied.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rachel - Happy National Infertility Awareness Week

Genesis 29: 31-35 When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now." She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." So she named him Simeon. Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." So he was named Levi. She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "This time I will praise the LORD." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Did you know that the week of October 19-25th is National Infertility Awareness Week? I didn't know it either until I started doing research for this post. Apparently this is quite a quandary in America. Over 7 million couples suffer from infertility. In 2006, over $7.1 billion dollars were spent on fertility drugs in the United States alone. This was not just a problem a couple thousand years ago, it still holds true today.

Rachel could not have children. She had gained the love of Jacob, but at this point, that was as far as it went. Her sister Leah, the one who was given to Jacob first was bearing child after child - while Rachel continued in her daily life activities. We know the struggles of women today who want to conceive, but just are not able to - adoption was not a big choice in Bible times. It is sad that these women had to feel their worth was in what they could physically (child bearing) give to their husbands.

God had blessed Rachel by giving her the love of Jacob, but now that wasn't enough. She wanted to have kids to satisfy him. Isn't that the way we are? Thank you God for this, but now I want that. In all the confusion of a busy lifestyle - in all our search to find meaning and purpose - in all our efforts to physically find ourselves worthy -
only one thing matters - Jesus. TODAY, let's remember that God's grace is enough. That's all we need, and be content in Him.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rachel - On The Cat Walk

Genesis 29:26-30 Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work." And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

Supermodels, Actresses, Prom Queens, Beauty Pageant Contestants - what do they have in common? Most are extremely, physically attractive - and envied by many. Many a movie plot line contains the characters of the beautiful, yet shallow, girl who has the guy and the not-as-attractive introvert who just wants this same guy to notice her. The movie ends well when the guy realizes what a better person the introvert is and that is who he really wants.

Rachel is beautiful, the Bible says so - but that doesn't mean her heart didn't break when she found out she'd have to share Jacob with her sister. I don't care what the traditions were in that day - whether the older has to be married off first or not, Rachel could not have liked the fact that she would have to share her husband.

How do we react when our heart is broken? When those nearest to us have hurt us deeply? Maybe it's a husband or a child or a parent - and the pain is real. Rachel may have just said, "forget it, he can have Leah and I'll find someone else" - but she didn't. She went through with what was intended and the Bible says, "he loved Rachel more than Leah". Do we push through and do what God intends for us to do - have love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control? Or do we wallow in our self-pity of being hurt?

God has a plan for us, but if we're too hung up on the way the world treats us, He won't be able to use us. God never said it would be easy - but He is always on our side and loves us, even when it seems like no one else does.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rachel - In the Heat of the Night

Genesis 29:23-25 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?"

My husband and I will celebrate our 10th year of marriage on our next anniversary. My husband's brother is the High School Orchestra Director at our church, so many people sometimes get me confused with my sister-in-law. Not that we look alike, we just all have the same last name (which is not a very common name-but memorable) so people who don't know us well, just assume we're married. My husband and his brother, however, do look alike. They also have another brother who looks like them. So put the three of them together and it's obvious they are brothers. However, my husband has a different voice. He has a different smell. He walks differently than his brothers. He laughs differently. And after 10 years of marriage - I know the difference.

How in the world did Jacob not know he was sleeping with Leah??? Even if Leah was veiled - which was common custom at the time - was Jacob so intent on his purpose that he didn't stop to realize, "Hey, Rachel sounds a little different this evening, and is walking funny". What about Rachel. She was in love with Jacob too - Laban probably had her hidden away somewhere so as not to risk the chance of Jacob seeing her. What must have been going on in her head? I'm sure it wasn't far from what I'm thinking right now . . . "Surely he could've figured out it wasn't me." They had known each other for seven years now, and the big day that was supposed to belong to her - was given to her sister.

Is that how we see things? When something happens, either at the deceit of someone else or by accident, that causes heartache for us - do we try and see it from the other person's perspective? Do you think Rachel felt bad for Jacob or do you think she was angry that he slept with her sister? Do we wallow in our own self-pity or do we try to see what the other person may be going through-even though we're hurt by it? Do we let our circumstances determine our demeanor or do we resolve to stand firm in Christ no matter who wrongs us or for what reason? We follow the example that Christ set for us "...forgive them, for they know not what they do..."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rachel - Feast for 1

Genesis 29:21-22 Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her." So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast.

Women fell under the authority of the men in their life. We've come a long way, Baby. Jacob stakes his claim and fully expects to be paid for his work. Rachel must have been on cloud nine. Not many times in history do you see the story of the woman actually wanting to be with the man who had chosen her. Jacob had asked for her - he'd worked long and hard for seven years and he still wanted her. They had gotten to know each other while he worked in the fields for her father and still he waited for the day when he could collect his "reward".

Laban sets up the scene for a big feast. Lots of people and a time of excitement. But things are not what they seem. Jacob was so caught up in what the evening was going to hold, that he didn't realize there was someone missing from the party.

Are we too caught up in our own agenda? Are we so busy in our lives, whether it's the work we're trying to do for our church or our Bible Study group or the choir, that we don't notice who's not there? Sometimes, we can get so focused on what the end result is supposed to be in our mind, that we forget there are other things happening along the way. Do we get upset that Susie Q didn't bring the apple crumble to the Bible Study when she said she would - or do we check up with Susie Q to make sure she is doing alright since it's out of character for her. . .

God is there throughout the journey - not just when the finale occurs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rachel - Love is Blind - But Not Time Conscience Apparently

Genesis 29:19-20 Laban said, "It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me." So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

I remember when my oldest daughter was in 1st grade, she had gotten an ear infection. I had trotted her (along with my other two) into the doctors office. I carried her around the doctors office and laid her head on my shoulder in hopes to 'love' the pain away. Now, at 15 years old, walking her around the room won't take some of the teenage pains away. As our conversations are about boys and college and marriage - I think of how fast my little girl has grown up.

Even though there was a lack of enthusiasm on Laban's part - more of a "better than someone I don't know" kind of thing - Jacob barely noticed the work, for he was enjoying the journey that would ultimately win him the prize. Just like with our children, even though the work is hard and the journey may seem long in years, time itself seems to fly by before you know it.

When we think about our spiritual life, do we hold God in the same light? Do we consider that our time here on earth will be a time of work and hard labor - yet it will pass by so quickly because our eyes will be on the true prize - God? Will we be able to say at the end of our days - "I worked hard and labored much - but I don't remember any of that - I only remember looking forward to spending the rest of eternity with Jesus after a job well done".

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rachel - Worth Your Weight In Gold.

Genesis 29:14b-18 After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, Laban said to him, "Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be." Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."

Ever have a relative move in with you? What's the proper etiquette there, huh? What about the opposite - have you ever had to move in with family due to a circumstance? Jacob had been staying at Rachel's house for a month now. One might assume that Jacob is doing what he can to help out around the house - we know he was strong enough to move that rock from the well. Laban lays out a little job offer. I'm not sure what may have caused this conversation to take place. What was going on at this house that the main man (Laban) felt led to offer compensation to a man whom he was already giving room and board to? Was Jacob doing SO much work that Laban was afraid he would leave if he didn't offer something?- probably not. Here's my assumption: Maybe, just maybe, Laban was trying to feel Jacob out and see what his plans were - how long he was going to hang around, was he going to offer anything more for his family - and this was his subtle attempt to get those answers.

Well Jacob gives his answers in full throttle: I love Rachel. I will work for seven years for her. SEVEN YEARS! I don't think I've ever purposely waited seven years for anything! This amount of time was well above in dowry he could have offered him for his daughter.

I wonder how Rachel felt? I wonder if her father came in and said, "he's willing to work for me seven years to get you!" Maybe her heart started pumping and she got excited that he would value her so much as to offer such a high amount.

Jesus has already paid the price for us. He saw us and said "I want that person right there" and He was willing to pay the ultimate price. He gave His Life at Calvary so that we could be with Him forever. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel pretty special.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rachel - God's Design for Family

Genesis 29:12-14 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father. As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister's son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. Then Laban said to him, "You are my own flesh and blood."

I was very sad when my brother left for college. I was three years younger than him, so I quickly wanted to be older so that I, too, could head off for college. He went to a school that was about 7 hours away from home, so weekend trips were not an option. However, Thanksgiving and Christmas always brought him home. While I'm sure it was most exciting for him to be able to come home to family, I got tremendous joy from running into mom and dad's room and telling them when Kenny pulled into the driveway. How excited they would be.

Rachel has just had a very fascinating experience herself. She meets a strange, yet intriguing, man while in the middle of her chores, he helps her to do her chores and then she finds out that he is family! Now she gets to take the exciting news to her father. Her father is just as ecstatic and he lets Jacob know how happy he is that Jacob has come. So far, so good.

When we become Christians, we belong to a new family. Not one of flesh and blood, but of spiritual likeness. Do we respond the way Rachel and Laban did when we meet someone new that's part of our family of God? Often times we may see someone new in the church, do we walk up and greet them as though they are long lost family, or do we step to the side and hope that someone else will take care of them. Do we quickly take them to our other church members and introduce them around so that they will feel comfortable - or do we assume they'll meet everyone eventually. God calls us to reach out and take care of family - that means our Christian family as well - it's not an easy job all the time, but certainly well worth the rewards.

P.S. For anyone interested in how college turned out for my brother: He's the chaplain of the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women - the only prison in the state for women. He has baptized 170 women in the past two years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rachel - Kissing AND Telling.

Genesis 29:10-11 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and Laban's sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.

Tuesday night is visitation night at our church. It's where Sunday School leaders and any members of the church who like to volunteer go out and visit with people who have visited the church to welcome them and see if they have any questions and so on. It's also done every year in the children's ministry. All the Sunday School teachers will get their newly promoted roster list and start visiting the students on their roll shortly after school begins. What does this mean for me? Well, I have four children - so that means every new school year, during the months of August, September and October, I have four new Sunday School teachers show up at my house on any given Tuesday evening with no warning. And inevitably, I forget that this is the time of year it happens. Most recently, two weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening no less (should've known better), the breeze had begun to blow, so I thought it would be a great time to mow the lawn. I put on some dirty shorts and an old T-shirt, threw the hair up in a ponytail and got to work. I had already weed-whacked the bushes and mowed the lawn, I was just in the process of edging the sidewalk and blowing it off when my youngest daughter's Sunday School teacher showed up. While she was very sweet and didn't mention the sweat dripping off my eyebrows, I sure was wishing for a shower at that time.

It wasn't Tuesday night for Rachel, otherwise she may have been wiser than I. Here she comes hauling her flock up to the well - Smelly, sweaty, not quite what one would call "marriage material" at this point. And there, standing next to the well, was this man she had never seen before. A man who, upon seeing her, lifts the solid rock that is over the well, and waters he
r sheep for her. Two things from this - 1. What chivalry, to take that huge rock and move it with no help! 2. Now it's less work that Rachel has to do.

Jacob then went up to Rachel and kissed her - dirty, stinky face and all - and began to weep with joy. I bet Rachel's heart had to be just a pitter-pattering. This man whom she had never met, showed her affection for seemingly no reason.

What a picture of Christ! We, as sinners, were dirty and stinky. We had been torn and battered by sin and it had left it's stain on us. We felt untouchable and unapproachable. Yet Jesus gave His life for us - because He saw passed what our sin had caused us to look like. And when we decided to come to Him, He kissed our dirty faces and wept with joy because we'd finally realized we were part of His family.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rachel - She Works Hard For the Money

Genesis 29:1-9 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. There he saw a well in the field, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well's mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well. Jacob asked the shepherds, "My brothers, where are you from?" "We're from Haran," they replied. He said to them, "Do you know Laban, Nahor's grandson?" "Yes, we know him," they answered. Then Jacob asked them, "Is he well?" "Yes, he is," they said, "and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep." "Look," he said, "the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture." "We can't," they replied, "until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep." While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess.

This is our first introduction to Rachel. When someone mentions anything about being a shepherd and they talk about the Bible - my answer is either going to be Jesus (The Great Shepherd) and David. But never Rachel. The job of shepherd(ess) is certainly not one of movie star status. It's smelly, it's dirty, it's hard work and it's dangerous. Sheep, in these times, were a form of income. Someone steals your sheep, it's just like stealing profit out of your pocket. A young girl in charge of a flock - I would think - would be easy prey for a thief.

These verses give us a little insight into what's involved in caring for the sheep. They all have to be gathered and taken to the well. Sometimes I can't get my kids to lay down for bed - they have to get a whole flock to the top of a hill. Once at the well, the stone has to be removed, which means Rachel had to make sure she got there at the same time as those other shepherds so they can move the stone away from the top - because she certainly couldn't do it by herself.

Rachel didn't get paid for this - it was part of her chores - something her dad required of her as she lived at home. And she did it. Such a great look at being obedient. A hard and dangerous job - not done for glory, not done for money, not done for advancement - only for the love of the one in authority over her. We should be the same way. When God gives us a hard job to do - don't do it for the glory or the money or advancement - do it because you love God and appreciate the gift He's already given us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Noah - Pot of Gold

Genesis 8:20-22 & 9:12-17 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." Chapter 9:12-17 And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."

Sometimes we forget all the promises that were given when Noah got off of the ark. God says that as long as the earth endures (still spinning on its axis) "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease". I don't know about you, but there has never been a time that I've heard of that the sun didn't rise in the morning and set in the evening. Never been a Christmas gone by and the weather hasn't been colder in that month than it was in June. And people try to say that this all "just happened". I am confident, without a shadow of a doubt - even if God calls me home today - that the sun will still rise in the morning and set in the evening.

God gives Noah and his sons their next assignment: Have kids. Rule the anima
ls. The first one sounds like fun, the second one: not so much. God is completely aware of the trauma that this family has gone through. It is so indicative of what goes on today. Just because we're Christians does not mean there is no strife. There IS strife and God is well aware of it. Noah was HONORED because of his relationship with God - he also suffered for it. God knew this and gave, not just Noah, but all of us, a wonderful gift. The Rainbow. It is His promise to us that he will not destroy the earth again with water. It should also be a reminder to those of us who remain faithful - to hang in there - there truly is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - His name is Jesus.

Thank you for joining me as I walked through the story of Noah - I'm excited to see who I'll get to study next!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Noah - Perfect Timing

Genesis 8:15-19 Then God said to Noah, "Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it." So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on the earth—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

I have to admit I sometimes struggle with controlling my anger while driving. I make an honest effort to control my tongue and not get upset when someone cuts me off. Because I know that's not how Jesus wants me to act, and because my kids are watching me from the back of the van. I often find it amusing, however, when sitting in heavy traffic and some'body' (see, that's me refraining) is weaving in and out of traffic, cutting me off, trying to get to the front of the line - only to see them right beside me at the next traffic light. If they would've just waited, there would have been a lot less stress on everyone involved and they would be in the exact same spot. Noah had sent out the dove, and it was gone. Okay. Now what? They still sat on the ark. God then tells Noah, okay - time to come out. Noah being the obedient servant of God that he is, came out.

Since I myself struggle with patience, I found this point amusing. Noah spent an entire month sending birds back and forth, back and forth trying to see if it was time to come off the ark. If he would have just waited on God, God told him when it was time. Not that Noah did anything wrong by sending out the birds, it just confirms our human nature.

So many times in life we are in such a hurry to see what lies ahead. We are sending out messengers to see what might be in store for us next. When we don't get the answer we want, we wait a little bit, then send out another messenger to check again. If we would be content to wait on God's ultimate, concise, clear message of "Noah, get off the boat" - what other things could we better spend our time doing? Instead of worrying what the outcome of what lies ahead may be - why not use that time to do the things we know God wants us to do anyway. Spend quality time with our families - be in God's Word more - strengthen our relationship with our spouse. When will we learn that EVERYTHING is in God's time. . .

Monday, October 6, 2008

Noah - Rollercoaster Phenom

Genesis 8:2-14 Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible. After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find no place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

I realize there are several verses here, but there's a reason for it - I promise. This passage of scripture tells the story of how Noah knew it was time to get off the ark. If we'll remember in the last post, God caused a movement - now the ark has landed and the water is subsiding. He sends out birds and they come and go and come and go and come and go and never come back. This had to be a test of patience.

Have you ever stood in line at an amusement park to wait on a rollercoaster you've been dying to get on? I have. I have waited on a ride for over an hour for a two minute spin - time and time again. Why do we do it? Because we know if we're just patient enough, if we just stick it out long enough - the reward will be great! This is what Noah was doing.

If they would've gotten off the ark too soon - it would've meant a lot of trekking up and down a mountain side because they would've only gotten so far and realized they'd have to turn back because there was no dry ground below. Makes one wonder why God landed the ark on a mountain top. Why did God land the ark on the mountain? Was it to give meaning to the dove? Was it so the mountain lions didn't have to climb uphill? Any takers?

Noah's work was no where near complete. Even after the water had receded and they could walk on dry land, there was nothing left. No homes to move into, couldn't stay in the ark - it was all the way at the top of the hill. Noah would have to build himself a home and plant some crops.

Our work is never finished, but God is good and faithful and promises us that He will always be there and will never give us more than we can handle .

Friday, October 3, 2008

Noah - Wake up and Smell the Coffee. . .

Genesis 8:1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

The beginning of this verse certainly may cause concern for the undiscerned believer. Did God forget poor Noah meandering about in the waters across the world? Was Noah completely left to his own while floating along the Pacatlantindiarc Ocean? What else was God possibly doing during this time that he would forget Noah?

Well the verse doesn't say God "forgot" Noah. It says, "God remembered Noah". It just means that Noah's time of being on the ark was nearing it's end. That the quiet time of just floating around was over. God was going to make His move.

Sometimes we can get torn down. It's hard for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We do our best to do what God wants us to do - but as life wears on, people give you trouble, husbands cause arguments - we get worn out waiting for the benefits to show up. I wonder if Noah would think about when he would be able to get off the ark and start his next mission. Is that how we are? Are we too busy trying to get one thing over with that we miss the blessing of doing what God has told us to do - where he's told us to do it.

God sent a strong wind to start the waters receding. I'm sure Noah felt this. It had been over 150 days with nothing. Now finally, some movement. Are we willing to work hard where we are planted? Despite our oppositions? Are we willing to stick it out until God sends some movement our way. I hope so.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Noah - Weight Watchers 101

Genesis 7:19-24 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

I love my job. I have the opportunity to meet all different types of people from all different walks of life. I speak to people in companies about Weight Watchers. I try to encourage them along their weight-loss journey. I have met some truly sweet people. However, many of them do not believe in Jesus. They don't go to church, they don't read the Bible, they don't think about how important it is to know Jesus. Even though I don't share the commonality of Christianity with some of my members, I enjoy their company and being around them.

What if all the people that you knew, that you see on a daily basis - were suddenly gone? Your mailman? Your favorite server at your lunchtime restaurant? Your boss? Your co-workers? Your friends from high school and college? Your grocery store clerk? Your doctor? People that you interact with on a daily basis, but not people you go to church with or worship together. Would you miss them? Of course you would.

Noah may have been at the top of the ark looking out when the floods came, but I would venture a guess to say that when he started to hear the screams, he headed down to the center of the ark where only the moos of the cows and the roars of the lions could be heard. If Noah was the righteous man that God called him (which we know he was or God wouldn't have said it) he had to be torn with grief over the loss of these people. These were people he talked to every day. His neighbors, his fellow hunters, his school classmates. To walk out to the top of the ark and see that it was completely gone - nothing but water - must have been devastating.

We forget that Noah had to go through the turmoil of losing everyone around him (except his family). Do we ever stop to consider who we may never see again if Jesus decides to come back tomorrow? Are we willing to do everything we can to prevent that?