Book Review – God of Creation: A Study of Genesis 1-11

God’s been impressing a lot on my heart these last few weeks, as I’ve been studying the book of Proverbs, so I figured I should get this book review on God of Creation, by Jen Wilkin posted while it’s still somewhat fresh in my memory.

I tend to be somewhat wary of studies created by, or directed towards, women. Mostly, because I love expository teaching of the Word, and most women’s studies tend to be a little more expressive; and I really just want to know more about the Word. But after finishing this study, I felt like I really do have a better understanding of Scripture, and I felt like even my husband would enjoy this!

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God of Creation is a 10-week study on Genesis, chapters 1-11. “But I know what happens in these chapters, why would I want to do this study?” Here’s the thing, before I begin any study, I pray that God will reveal something new to me. I mean, I’ve read and learned about Genesis 1-11, since I was a little girl. However, it’s incredibly important as believers, that we never stop learning, and seeking God’s wisdom and insight. And no matter how much we study the Word, God always wants to reveal something new to us. I always say the Bible is like an onion, with endless layers; which the Holy Spirit peels back, one layer at a time.

This study covers creation, the fall, Cain & Abel, the flood, and more. Some of my favorite aspects about it are its lack of fill-in-the-blank notes and its use of open-ended questions. I love the questions because they encourage the reader to think for themselves; and thinking critically about the Bible is an important skill that all believers should strive to acquire.

Some things I learned from this study are the importance of repetition in the Word; to pay attention to how things are ordered in Scripture; and to not just skim over genealogies, because they have a purpose, and not just for scholars.

I’d recommend this study to anybody, really; and I’m looking forward to Jen Wilkin’s continuation of Genesis in God of Covenant: A Study of Genesis 12-50 which is supposed to be released in January 2019.

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Motherhood: The First Season

Recently, I remarked to my hubby that I’m in a place where I truly appreciate everything my mother did for us, as children. She was a military spouse, whose husband went away for months–and once, a whole year–at a time, which meant she was at home with me and my younger sisters, without any help (or family nearby) for extended periods of time. And it’s not that I didn’t love my mother or appreciate her before, but now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), whose husband sometimes goes away for weeks at a time, I truly understand what this entails and appreciate the sacrifices she made.

Honestly, when I was younger, being a SAHM didn’t appeal to me, because I thought I’d be bored (HAHAHA). I didn’t realize the amount of work involved in being with your child. All. The. Time. It’s a never-ending routine of changing, nursing, feeding, bathing, reading, and so forth…and that’s not including all the household chores, grocery trips, or meal-making. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; I love having the financial freedom to be at home with my Cookie Girl. It’s extremely rewarding, but can also be lonely and exhausting.

A week or so ago, our church organized an outreach in our neighborhood. I tried to sit through an informational meeting, beforehand, with a squirming toddler, and failed miserably. I ended up leaving early, frustrated. God and I had a good talk on my drive home, though; and I’ve come to the realization that things will not be the same as they were before we had children, at least not for a very long time. My place, for now, is with my child(ren) and sometimes I will have to stay back, or behind the scenes, in order to be of any service. At first, I was upset about it. It didn’t seem fair that I wouldn’t get to participate in things the way I used to (or how I want to). However, I’ve accepted that for now, W and I have to play tag until baby girl gets a little older; it’s just the season of life that we’re in.

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As I’ve written before, this season will not last forever, nor does it mean that I’ve completely given up on my own dreams or visions. As a matter of fact, God placed something big on my heart, after a visit to Philadelphia, with the passing of my grandfather. But I’m recognizing the need to be patient and wait for the Lord’s timing. The things He’s planted in me will come to pass, even if not right away. I just have to let Him continue to prepare me for these things. Interestingly enough, I heard confirmation of this during Sunday’s sermon: that we’re never too old to walk out the calling God has placed on our lives and that we must stay on the anvil of God and allow Him to shape and mold us.

Therefore, whatever God’s promised you, whatever He’s planted in your heart to complete, sometimes we just have to be patient. We have to continue to seek His face and His will for our lives, and allow Him to mold and shape us through the power of His Holy Spirit. There are tons of biblical examples of men and women of God who probably wanted to give up on their dreams as they ran away from their enemies (Moses, David, Elijah), wandered through the wilderness (Moses, Joshua, Caleb), or as year after year passed, without child(ren) (Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Hannah, Zechariah & Elizabeth). As I’ve been studying Genesis–through Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation study–I realized that Noah was 500 years old before he had his sons, and 600 years old when he boarded the ark (Genesis 5:32, 7:6). It could very well have taken 100 years to build an ark for a flood that God promised a century before (we don’t know the details!). A hundred years…

David was just a teen when he was anointed as Israel’s next king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1-13), but it would be many years before he actually sat on the throne, at age 30 (2 Samuel 5:1-5). The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before Joshua or Caleb got to enter the promised land (Numbers 14; Joshua 1). And Abraham & Sarah (Genesis 17-18), and Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1:1-24) were just two couples way beyond their child-bearing years, who gave birth to influential men of God! Jesus, Himself, didn’t begin His ministry until He was 30 (Luke 3:23).

As for me…this first season of parenthood is a tough one, requiring self-sacrifice, patience, trust, and complete dependence on God to get through each day; in fact, I am in no way the same person I was before our little Cookie came on the scene. But I know each season will be different, and each will teach me something new about myself, like what I can and cannot handle on my own, about the importance of flexibility, how to better manage my time, and how to show grace in different situations. And each season will change me for the better, and shape me more into the woman that God desires me to be, for which, I’m incredibly grateful.

Imperfectly Perfect

Back in December I finished reading the Bible from beginning to end. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety before, but one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that every time you study the Word, you learn something new, and so once I finished Revelation, I picked right back up in Genesis, come January. Whether you’ve read it once, twice, or even hundreds of times before, the Word of God will never return void (Isaiah 55:11). I’ve found that the Holy Spirit is continually changing our heart and perspective, so much so, that stories we’ve read and learned about when we were children (whether physically or spiritually) are understood and viewed completely different the next time we read/study them. I always like to compare the Word of God to an onion and how it has layer after layer of knowledge and wisdom that can only be revealed to us after the Holy Spirit has exposed to us the first layer, then the next, and so forth.

In my case, reading Genesis this time around, got me thinking about the character of the men that God chose to fulfill His promises. I was amazed by Abraham’s faith, and was, surprisingly, only slightly disappointed when he tried to accomplish God’s plans on his own, producing Ishmael. I mean, let’s face it, how often have we been prone to attempt to accomplish God’s will on our own, only to make a mess of things? But as I read on, I found myself questioning Jacob’s character. I mean, here’s a man who’s scheming and manipulating (with encouragement from his mother, no less) gets him…exactly where God wanted him? I wrote in my journal after reading about Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing, that Jacob’s character left me “unimpressed,” and I actually questioned God, regarding His use of Jacob to complete His plans. “I just don’t get it, Lord,” I wrote. I thought a little more on it, and just decided that God uses us—imperfect, flawed humans—to accomplish His will and just left it at that.

Then, last night during our ladies’ Bible study, our leader read from a Matt Chandler book The Explicit Gospel, which I have yet to read and therefore can’t recommend, but the point that she made, referencing Psalm 139:13-18, was that God knew our very personality and character before He knit us together in our mothers’ womb.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6, emphasis added)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-18, emphasis added)

God not only knew our personality and character, but also our thoughts and responses to the people and things we’d face in life. God knew each of our days before we ever live(d) it! Suddenly, whereas before I wondered and questioned whether or not that’s how things had to play out for Jacob. For instance, did he really have to go along with his mother’s plan to steal Esau’s blessing? I now realized that God knew exactly how everything was going to play out because he knew the character of Jacob, and his mother, long before they were born! He knew it and He planned on it!

In the past I’d wondered even about my own poor decisions and choices, but now I realize that God wasn’t surprised by anything I did, because He knew it all along and He planned on it. That makes me wonder what else He has planned? How does He see this all playing out in my life and how does He plan to use my life—past, present, and future—to bring glory to His Name?Epistles

Now, I don’t want you thinking that just because God knew beforehand the choices that I would make, excuses me for making them; because we’re still subject to the consequences of our free will, but just like Joseph stated when he came face-to-face with the brother’s who’d betrayed him years before, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today,” I know that my experiences serve a dual purpose that God has preordained and planned far in advance (Genesis 50:20).

Finally, I know that my past decisions have disappointed and caused God sorrow, even though He expected them, which just further enhances my appreciation for the divine mercy and grace He’s shown me despite my shortcomings. I’m nothing special, just like Jacob, David, and Paul were nothing special. We’re all human, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and we’re all going to disappoint God in some way, but His mercy and grace have absolutely nothing to do with us, and everything to do with His character. I now realize that the men and women of the Bible weren’t extraordinary because of their own character, but because of God’s character. God chose to use them, just as He chooses to use us, to fulfill His own purposes, not because of who we are or what we have or haven’t done, but because of Who He Is. His plans are perfect even if they’re carried out by imperfect us.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

And for that…I am thankful beyond expression.

Walking by Faith

I’m going to be completely honest with you right now and say that the last few months have been really trying my faith. Mostly, because I’m a single woman in my late 20s, surrounded by friends who are married, getting married, and beginning families of their own. I’m not jealous of them–I’m actually very happy for them–yet, the sadness that comes over me…is indescribable…like an overwhelming sense of loneliness.

Yet, I know I’m not alone…Faith is

Well, today, as I was studying Romans chapter 4–regarding Abraham’s faith– verses 17-21 really spoke to me:

As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”. He was appointed our father in the sight of God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the non-existent things that He has foretold and promised as if they already existed. For Abraham, human reason for hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised, “So numberless shall your descendents be”. He did not weaken in faith when he considered the utter impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s deadened womb. No unbelief or distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God. Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised. (amplified version)

In Genesis 15, God reveals a plan to Abraham; a plan involving Abraham’s children to the fourth generation. Yet, Abraham had not one child…and he still believed. He had faith that whatever God said, would be. Then in Genesis 17 we see that God reminds Abraham of this promise again, and circumcision becomes the evidence of Abraham’s faith and God’s covenant (promise). And in chapter 21, Abraham at 100 years of age and Sarah at 90, become parents to Isaac; although, they were well past their child-bearing years!

So, what did I get out of all this? God keeps His promises.

He has the best intentions for us, even if it’s difficult for us to see. We  need to hold onto our faith and know that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20); and that in everything God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

If you’re anything like me, as you read about Abraham’s faith, you began to think about his failures, as well. I thought about Hagar, Ishmael, and the birth of Islam, as the results of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience. They tried to help God along by “getting pregnant,” but it didn’t work out as they’d expected. This too, reminded me that we need to be patient with God; His timing is perfect. If we try to do anything on our own, because we think God is moving too slowly or that He’s forgotten about us…it’s not going to work and we could have our own Ishmael on our hands.

In conclusion, just stay focused on God and the purpose for which He’s called you. One of the greatest lies out there, is that believers need to stop being God-focused and driven, and that we shouldn’t expect our partners to be godly men and women. The world says it will be easier for you to “find someone” if you lay God [and your values] aside. But the truth is…we don’t want to “find someone.” We want our relationships to be God-ordained, our spouse to be God-focused and led, and our families and marriages to be God-centered. Don’t settle for someone, when God will provide THE one.

Take care, and God bless!

Whoever is Not Against Us is For Us

A number of things occurred today. 1) I was looking for a sermon to listen to and came across a pastor bashing a Christian author. I didn’t listen to it mainly because I was a little upset to have discovered it to begin with. 2) I came home and spent some time in my Bible and came across Mark 9:38-41…

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”

Hmmm…Makes you think, doesn’t it?!

This summer we’ve been studying Genesis in my Sunday school class; and upon reading the first verse–In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth–we were questioned, “How important is it to believe the literal meaning of that verse?” Well, my first thought was, “If we don’t believe that verse, then we question the entire Bible; it becomes nothing but a fairytale.” (These were questions to get us thinking.)

Further along we were asked,  “What must we believe to be saved?” What a question! There are certainly fundamental truths that all Christians hold to: the Scriptures inspired by God (Bible), only one true God (revealed in 3 persons: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit); the deity of Christ; the virgin birth; Jesus’ sinless life, His death, and resurrection on the cross for our sins, etc.

So, MY question is this…Why all the backbiting?! Why do we fight and bicker amongst ourselves over Bible interpretation…why don’t we just live it!? Why don’t we love the way God wants us to love? Treat people as He wants us to treat them? Share the gospel; the story of His love and devotion for them? Why aren’t we using the gifts, that He’s so graciously bestowed upon us, to guide others in His direction?

Trying to live the Law to the letter and forcing it on others, without exhibiting mercy and love towards their fellow-man, is the same mistake the Pharisees and Sadducees made! The whole point of the Law was to point out what’s wrong;  yes, so that we’d be aware and turn away from it. And it’s not wrong to tell others something is immoral, according to God’s word; however, just because someone has chosen to live a certain lifestyle doesn’t mean we love them any less. How many people enter a church feeling worthless, and disgusted with themselves, looking for hope and love and find something less than welcoming?

It takes a radical heart change for someone to change their lifestyle. Beating them over the head with rules and regulations isn’t going to do it. I should know…I was one of those people. I knew all the rules and regulations because I grew up in church; but it took a radical heart change, and recognition of God’s love and grace and mercy, before I changed how I was living.

Sorry, I feel like I’m a little off topic…Back to what I was saying…We, the Christian church, need to stop fighting amongst each other, and take His love to the world, in an overwhelming and passionately driven, type of way.

I read somewhere once that the many denominations of believers all have different “gifts.” Some churches have excelled at providing shelter to the homeless, some have well-endowed orphanages, others have been blessed with miraculous healing ministries, family and marriage counseling centers, children’s ministries, mentoring programs,  or drug rehabilitation programs…the list can go on and on. However, just because the ministries are different, doesn’t mean any one is better than the other.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:4-5)

We’re all part of the same body! Therefore, we need to stop acting like we’re better than one another and recognize we all have the same head; and with that, the same goals and purpose.