Monday, February 27, 2017

Women in Scripture: Manoah's Wife



Manoah's Wife 
Judges 13
   She had neither children nor name.   Married to Manoah, a man from one of the lesser-known tribes of Dan, she lived among a people who had forgotten their God, who had turned their backs on Him and all His goodness.   They had been handed over to their enemies in His great mercy that they might cry out to Him for deliverance.   Manoah’s wife was crying out to Him, for she had nowhere else to turn to, no one else to trust in.   Her faith in Him marked her out as different among her people, her barrenness was a sorrow she carried daily, and her longing that she and her husband would walk in step together in their faith was a hope that she could not let go of.      Lament was the song of her heart.
   But her God saw her. El Roi.    The Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth, and in Manoah’s wife,   He found such a worshipper.    
    An angel appeared with a message that she who was barren would bear a son who would bring deliverance to his people.   The echo of words delivered  1,000 years later to another woman hangs in the air:   “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you!”   She is told her son will be a Nazirite, set apart to God from the womb, and she is to observe the Nazirite vow with regards to what she eats and drinks until he is born. 
   Her husband had not been present when the angel came.   So she became a prophet to her husband, and shared the word from God that she had received with him.   And Manoah, being a man of faith, responded with faith.   He believed the words his wife shared, and he trusted her, for he knew her to be a trustworthy woman.   And he himself was led to beseech the Lord that the man of God might return to them.
   And look how God responded!   He heard Manoah!   He graciously responded to this desire, this hunger and thirst in Manoah, to know Him better.   This is our God!   He hears our requests, and responds – the word of God came a second time.  
   Yet when the angel returned, it was again to Manoah’s wife, when she was in the field.  “But her husband Manoah was not with her.” Oh!  What pain and sorrow lie behind these words - to be in a covenant marriage, given by God, serving and loving Him, and yet to not share in the experience of their God together.   There is further work yet to be done.   Manoah’s wife again responds in great faith, rushing to tell her husband that the man who looks like an angel of God has returned, trusting that he will respond. And he does!  What great humility – “Manoah got up and followed his wife”. This may denote a disorder in the marriage – but God wastes nothing.   He is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. 
    Manoah’s next words, together with their answer, are revealing.   “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?”   Isn’t this the nature of religion, to want rules to follow, so that we can judge our performance?   But see how graciously the Lord responds. There is no rebuke, but instead a reminder that all that is required of them has already been said. “Your wife must do all I told her.”   Manoah has asked  “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  The works required of Manoah, once the child is born, are this – to believe in the One He has sent.   Faith!  To trust in Him!  To walk in the Spirit!
    
   Manoah seeks to honour their visitor by preparing a meal.   Echoes of Abraham’s plea to his 3 visitors here – “Do not pass your servant by”.  There is no greater delight for the children of God than to fellowship with Him.   And when we ask of Him to stay with us, again, see how He delights to meet our request, and how He provides further instruction – prepare a burnt offering to the LORD.   For as we fellowship with our God, He constantly transforms us, as He seeks to form in us the image of Christ.
   And through the course of their fellowshipping with the LORD together, the Spirit is working to bring greater unity, until we read these most profound words, which I believe are the highest blessing that can be given to a marriage:

“And the LORD did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched”. 
   It is as Manoah and his wife were watching, together, watching Him, together, that He did an amazing thing.    Will we watch Him, together, in our marriages?    Will we cry out to Him that we might share a greater depth of fellowship in our marriages?   The Lord will respond as we do so, and the dew of Hermon will fall on Mount Zion.
   What was this amazing thing that the LORD did while Manoah and his wife watched?   As the flame blazed up from the rock, the altar, where Manoah sacrificed a young goat to the LORD, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame.    Manoah and his wife, united in their understanding of the greatness of God, of His holiness, and of their own humility, do what all those who worship Him in spirit and truth do in His presence – they fell with their faces to the ground.
   
   When they saw their visitor no more, Manoah finally saw the spiritual truth that his wife had already seen (and which demonstrates her spiritual faith) – this was no man they were speaking to, but an angel of the LORD.   Manoah had received revelation as he fellowshipped with God, and so was able to understand spiritual truth.   His spiritual eyes were opened.  
   Yet even as his spiritual eyes were opened, he utters words of unbelief, of fear – “We are doomed to die!  We have seen God!” 
   It is here that his wife comes forth with words of truth to strengthen, encourage and comfort her   husband, words uttered in a prophetic spirit:   “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, or shown us all these things or now told us this.”   How her husband needed to hear these words, to be encouraged to hear his Father’s voice. 
   Manoah’s wife.   A worshipper of God in spirit and in truth.   The Father sought her out, blessed her, blessed her husband, blessed her womb, and through her son, Samson, pointed to the One who was coming to bring deliverance to His people, upon whom the Spirit of the LORD would rest in all His fullness.    And having overcome through her faith, this nameless woman now has the promise that she will receive a white stone from His own hands, with a new name written on it (Rev 2:17).  May God be glorified!

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 About the Author:  Diana Lovegrove lives in England with her husband and their 8-year-old son.   A part-time bookkeeper, tea is her drink of choice (PG Tips, hot), and she loves nothing better than when her guitar is in her hands so she can praise her God. She loves writing, and deep one-on-one chats with close friends.  Diana blogs at  Waiting For Our Blessed Hope
This post originally appeared on September 23, 2013

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Falsifiabilty: The Atheist Dilemma

Casting the proverbial gauntlet against God and the problem of meaning, philosophical atheists posit that language, meaning, and truth claims that are falsifiable take preeminence over those which are non-falsifiable. By emphasizing analytical over against analogical argumentation, atheistic theorists seek to limit the validity of truth claims that depend on phenomena outside the physical world. (Osborne, 2006, p. 500).

The famous atheist, A. J. Ayer, wrote Language, Truth, and Logic, establishing principles of both falsifiability and verifiability. In his works, Ayer stated that theistic belief is untenable, because the only possible method of falsification depends upon the end of one's physical existence (Osborne, 2006, p. 500). The analytical approach limits us to the physical world, but an analogical approach provides additional epistemological help, which Ayer rejected all of his life. 

In the scriptures, Luke 16:31 provides a verifiable example of the type of truth claim that Ayer could have accepted analogically. Jesus states, "He (Abraham) said to him (the rich man), 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” The context of the passage is the death of the rich man and the disabled, poor man, Lazarus. Both men witness first hand a taste of the afterlife. The rich man, seeing his lot and the impassable chasm that separates him from Lazarus, begs Abraham to let him go back and tell his father and his brothers, so they will believe and repent (Luke 16:25-30, NASB).

Jesus’s response, in the form of parable, is both contextually relevant to his immediate hearers and consequentially persuasive for our time. He describes the dire punishment that awaits unbelievers, as represented by the rich man, and the relationship between physical evidence and unbelief. When Jesus refers to someone rising from the dead, his immediate context is the rich man's request in the parable. Yet the messianic meaning points to the future event of the resurrection of Christ himself. Thus, even when empirical facts with materialistic proof exist -- and even when that evidence can also subjected to falsification (John 20:27) -- those who hold an antithetical worldview won’t believe. Falsification and verification will not convince a hardened heart. By the time the atheist's life-long demand for verification materializes, it will be too late, as the experience of the rich man attests. 

Interestingly, later in life, A.J. Ayer recounted a near death experience of his own, which eerily juxtaposed Jesus’s statements in Luke 16. Ayer wrote:
 “My recent experiences (while medically declared dead) have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be. They have not weakened my conviction that there is no god. I trust that my remaining an atheist will allay the anxieties of my fellow supporters of the British Humanist Association, the Rationalist Press Association and the South Place Ethical Society.” 
Ayer remained more consistent to his atheistic worldview than he did to his own theory of falsification, even though he admitted he had no more reason to hold to his disbelief. We know that unbelief and the quest for falsification will be thwarted in the end:
" at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11)

A second atheistic theorist who held to the falsifiability principle, Anthony Flew, stated “no truth statement can claim veracity unless it can be falsified, that is, unless one can prove that the reverse cannot be true. (Osborne, 2006).

Here again we find rich irony, as Flew was also known for writing The Parable of the Invisible Gardener. In his parable, Flew's characters acknowledged the evidence of “the garden” (a metaphor for the world), its order, and its rationality as indisputable, empirical facts. However, what Flew's science was not empirically able to either prove or falsify in this system was the existence of the Gardener. From a rationalistic, analytical perspective, science could neither prove or disprove the existence of a gardener. Yet, in Flew’s case (unlike Ayer) the garden itself became a sufficient witness to the existence of deity - the Gardener. Eventually, Flew came to believe through the analogical argumentation of Aristotle and other classicists in the necessity of existence of an intelligent and rational Gardener behind the garden (Flew, 2007).


Flew transcended the weakness of analytical materialism and stumbled onto what analogical theorists taught, especially with regard to reclaiming the force of the linguistic device known as referent (or in this case, the Referent). Again, the scriptures speak to the very nature of the topic that Flew encountered, as Paul wrote to the early church in Rome: 
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20, NASB).
Another well-known atheist philosopher, Karl Popper, famously stated that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a “metaphysical research programme” (Popper, 1976). Alhough Popper modified his statement later by adding that  some aspects of Darwinism, such as natural selection, may be falsifiable, his premise that we have no means of proving or falsifying origins theories remains (Popper, 1978). 

Even so, the Christian worldview and our truth claims do not rest on empirical evidence or the falsifiability of facts. Rather, our foundation is based on the power of the God, proclaimed in the Gospel of Christ. We are not mere theists, but rather we have the full wisdom of God in special revelation, in which we believe because of the Spirit's work in us. Paul wrote:
 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:21-24).
While our faith does not depend on evidence, we also know that Jesus accommodated the disciples by appearing to them after His death, by teaching them through miracles and healing in their presence. Therefore, God cares about the Christian's desire for experiential validation of key tenants of the faith as an ancillary feature of knowledge. By the Holy Spirit 's witness to the Word, He serves as a deposit for our faith and continues to draw us back to the source of all truth, knowledge, and wisdom.  

When the Lord returns, we know our questions will cease once and for all, because our faith will be made sight:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
Maranatha!






References
Ayer, A.J. (1998). What I saw when I was dead. The Sunday Telegraph. http://www.philosopher.eu/others-writings/a-j-ayer-what-i-saw-when-i-was-dead/

Flew, Anthony. (1950-51) "Theology and Falsification," from Joel Feinberg, ed., Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy. Belmont, CA: Dickenson Publishing Company, Inc., pp. 48-49.
 
Flew, Anthony & Verghese, R. A. (2007). There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. HarperOne. Reprint edition. P. 92.

Osborne, G. R. (2006) The hermeneutical spiral: a comprehensive introduction to biblical interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. pp. 500-505.

Popper, K. R. (1976). Unended quest. Glasgow: Fontana, Collins. p.151. 

Popper, K. R. (1978). Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind, Dialectica, v.32, 3-4, pp. 339-355

Monday, February 20, 2017

Women in Scripture: Sarah




The Inward Beauty of Sarah

Of all the women of the Bible, Sarah stands out as not only a faithful woman who trusted in God, but also a woman whose inward beauty serves as an example for all of us today. She is referenced several times in the New Testament because of her steadfast love for her husband and for her heart for God. Peter tells us that she was an excellent wife, obeying her husband, Abraham and referring to him as lord (I Peter 3:1-6). In fact, we are encouraged to emulate her gentle and quiet spirit that gave her an inward beauty that needed no outward adorning.

Sarai, as she was first known, is written about from Genesis 11 through 25 of the Old Testament demonstrating her important role as the wife of Abram her half brother. In the days of the Patriarchs, this type of family relationship resulting in marriage was not frowned upon.

However, it is made clear that Sarai was barren (Genesis 11:30) and in the culture of her day, this was considered a curse. No woman wanted to be without a child to give her husband an heir.

During the time Abram and Sarai lived in the city of Haran, Abram received a call from God to leave this place and go to a place that God would show him. He made a covenant with Abram to bless him and make him a great nation even though at the time Sarai had no children. Abram was 75 years old at this time and Sarai was 65. The prospect of having children was dim indeed. Can we imagine how empty this woman must have felt with no children and yet, she and Abram obeyed God and traveled to Canaan.

Twice during their sojourns to other places, Abraham lied about his relationship to Sarah (God had changed their names to reflect His covenant with these two) who was still a very beautiful woman. In fact, Abraham was afraid Pharaoh (Genesis 12;12) would kill him in order to take Sarah for himself. Later, he repeated this lie to King Abimelech. However, God’s protection kept these kings from laying a hand on this woman.

Throughout all this time of moving from place to place, Sarah had still not conceived even though the Lord had promised Abraham an heir. She took matters into her own hands by giving her handmaid to Abraham to have a child with her as was the custom of the day. Of course, we know the disastrous results of this union.

A son was born to Abraham but he was not the one whom God had promised that would be his heir. t was later that Sarah conceived Isaac the child of promise through whom the Lord would bring the fulfillment of His covenant with Abraham. The miracle was that she was well past childbearing and yet, God had heard her cry and given to her the joy of a child

Reflect with me on some of the things that happened during Sarah’s life that should give us encouragement as women. First, she left her homeland to go off with her husband to unknown places. Most of us know how difficult living on the move can be especially when our final destination is not in sight. Secondly, she wanted a child so much and yet, she had to face the fact that she was barren. Even though Hagar bore a son for her as an heir, this brought no joy to the family. When we try to fix things in our own strength, we often can make a mess as Sarah had done. Third, her husband tried to pass her off as his sister (she was a half sister but also his wife) so he would not be killed. This would have to put a strain on their relationship but Sarah obeyed her husband and God delivered her each time. Finally, when she did conceive and bear a child, Abraham was instructed to offer him as a sacrifice. Whether Sarah knew about this mission of offering her son as a sacrifice before it was to occur, we are not told. However, I am certain that after the fact, she was told what had happened. This would be something that would take your breath away but Abraham and Sarah remained faithful.

Sarah’s physical beauty is mentioned but her inward beauty of the quiet and gentle spirit mentioned by Peter is what made her an outstanding picture of a godly woman. In the book of Hebrews (11:11), she is mentioned as a woman of faith having trusted God for the child she had waited so long to give birth to. Was she perfect? No, but her life shines in the pages of scripture because she believed God along with her husband. Her prayers were answered and her life was filled with blessing. May we as daughters of the new Covenant in Jesus Christ model our lives after Sarah as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:4: “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Selah!
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About the Author:  Barbara has  been married 42 years and has four children and seven grandchildren.   She  works as office manager for her  husband's optometric practice and he serves as an elder in their  Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.   She  has been writing for over 20 years to encourage believers to grow in their faith and you can find her at A View From Serenity Acres .  
This post originally appeared on September 18, 2013 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Women in Scripture: Lois and Eunice


Lois and Eunice
Lois and Eunice are mentioned by name only once in scripture. In the beginning of his second letter to the young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul writes,
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5, ESV)
Since he names these two women, Paul must have known them personally. Perhaps he met Timothy, his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois, on his first missionary journey when he visited Lystra where they lived (Acts 13:13-14:21). It may be that Paul, along with his fellow-missionary Barnabas, led them all to Christ during this visit.

What we know for sure is that when Paul returned later to Lystra, Timothy was already a respected disciple:
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
(Acts 16:1-3, ESV).
We can gather a little more about Eunice’s life from these verses, too. She was a Jewish woman who was (or had been—some think she was a widow) married to Greek man. Hers was a mixed marriage: a faithful Jewish wife and an unbelieving Gentile husband. That her husband was Greek was the reason Timothy had not been circumcised.

Lois, who was probably Eunice’s mother, was a believer, too. She may have lived with Eunice, helping her bring up young Timothy. At the very least, she was involved enough in Timothy’s life to be part of his heritage of faith. Paul tells us that as a young child, Timothy learned the truths of the Old Testament:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV)
The “whom” in verse 14 is plural, which makes me think that both Eunice and Lois were involved in Timothy’s religious education. Because of their faithful teaching, Timothy was familiar enough with the Old Testament to be “wise for salvation.” When he heard the gospel—the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus—he recognized it as the fulfillment of the everything God had promised in the scripture his mother and grandmother taught him.

Lois and Eunice were ordinary women in ordinary circumstances who were faithful in a rather ordinary way. Their situation was not ideal: They were raising a child who either had no father or an unbelieving one. Still, they taught young Timothy God’s word, and God’s word, as always, accomplished what he purposed for it. In this case, their teaching was an instrument God used to work genuine faith in their son’s and grandson’s heart, paving the way for him to become Paul’s right-hand man and a New Testament pastor. What’s more, two thousand years later, we know the names of these two ordinary women, and they continue to teach us through their admirable example recorded for us in our scripture.

The obvious lesson from a study of Lois and Eunice is that God intends for mothers and grandmothers to be teachers, teaching their children and grandchildren God’s word, and that he may use their faithful witness to bring the children to faith.

But there’s another lesson, too. Like Lois and Eunice, what we teach from the Old Testament should cause our children to recognize salvation in Christ as its fulfillment. Yes, there are morality tales there, and lists of dos and don’ts, but even those point beyond themselves to the truth that everyone needs a Saviour. And throughout, there are all the promises of God that find their Yes in Christ. May we teach the children in our lives—and anyone else we have opportunity to teach—from all the scripture, Old Testament included, in a way that makes them “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Monday, February 13, 2017

Women in Scripture: Hulda


Hulda


   The first time I heard Huldah mentioned, my response was, “Who?” I mean, I’d read the verses that mentioned her, but she didn’t make much of an impression. It was John Piper, in one of the panel discussions at Together for the Gospel 2008 that first brought her to my attention. Piper said:
   My goal for the women of our church is that they become sages. It’s an unusual word; we all tend to know what it means. It’s a Huldah-like…they streamed to Huldah. She was a prophet, but she evidently didn’t do public prophetic ministry, they came to her in quiet. I don’t know the details. 
   So who is this sage-like woman, anyhow? The Bible just gives us a few verses to go on. We actually know more about her husband than we do her. We know she lived in Jerusalem and that she was a prophetess. Her story starts during the reign of King Josiah. While workers were restoring the temple, they found the Book of the Law. When it was read to the king, he was distressed at what he heard.
   “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. (2 Kings 22:13-14) 
   Huldah’s subsequent message was the same as the rest of the Old Testament prophets: God’s people had ignored his ways, and there would be consequences. But due to Josiah’s desire to seek God, the nation’s destruction would not occur in his lifetime. The office of Old Testament Prophetess is closed to us today. But we can still learn from Huldah and her example.  
   Her reputation preceded her. She was known to them before that day, and she was known to be a woman of God. She was knowledgeable about his Word, and she sought the Lord. I want to be careful not to infer too much, but it appears she was well-known for loving the Lord and walking in his ways.  
   She was asked. Women are not to be busybodies. They are to mind their own affairs. They are to avoid going from house to house spreading rumors (1 Timothy 5:13). I may feel I have all sorts of suggestions for the people around me, but if I’m not in charge, and I’m not asked, in most instances I need to keep my mouth shut. If you’ve ever received advice from someone who didn’t know the whole story, you know how unwelcome and unhelpful it is. Don’t be that woman. I’m not suggesting Huldah’s wisdom was more valuable because it was sought by men. Huldah’s wisdom was valuable because she sought the Lord. As I get older, I have gained a little insight (mostly in the category of what not to do). I also know many women who are far wiser than I am. This is valuable to the church, and there is a purpose for it, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from time spent following God and learning his ways.
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About the Author: Staci Eastin is the author of The Organized Heart (Cruciform Press, 2011). She also blogs at Writing and Living and the group blog Out of the Ordinary. She and her husband Todd have been married since 1994 and are the parents of three children. Staci lives in Southeast Missouri. 

This post originally appeared on September 13, 2013 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

When Mother Reads Aloud

(Disclaimer: This encouragement goes for dads, too)

I thought I would write about something a bit different today. We all need some lighter blog content, don't we? I happened to be scanning my old blog archives from about ten years ago, and came across this poem, whose author I do not know. If you know it, please tell me:
When Mother reads aloud, the past
Seems real as every day;
I hear the tramp of armies vast,
I see the spears and lances cast,
I join the thrilling fray;
Brave knights and ladies fair and proud
I meet when Mother reads aloud. 
When Mother reads aloud, far lands
Seem very near and true;
I cross the desert's gleaming sands,
Or hunt the jungle's prowling bands
Or sail the ocean blue.
Far heights, whose peaks the cold mists shroud,
I scale, when Mother reads aloud. 
When Mother reads aloud, I long
For noble deeds to do -
To help the right, redress the wrong;
It seems so easy to be strong,
So simple and so true.
Oh, thick and fast the visions crowd
My eyes, when Mother reads aloud.
When my oldest child, my daughter, was about eight months old, she could not crawl, but she did sit well, and she loved paper. She loved to play with the flyers from the newspaper. Seeing her interest in pictures, we began letting her handle books designed for little hands. She loved them. We began sitting together and I would show her how to turn the pages. Of course, there were only ever a few words on the page; sometimes, only one word. But I would read the word and then turn the page. Sometimes, she would be eager to take charge and turn the page before we'd read everything, and I would say, "Wait, mommy will turn the page." Eventually, she learned to wait patiently for me to turn the page.

Our reading time began with a few minutes in the chair. By the time she was a year old, she would sit quietly for five or six books every day before nap time. I went through the same process with my boys when they came along, culminating in our homeschooling days when we read together in the morning after our math and spelling were done. We would have hot chocolate with marshmallows in the winter and juice in the warmer months. And Goldfish crackers. They all liked to have a container of those. We read the Bible, novels, poetry, history, and science.

I can't understate the value of reading aloud. It is possible today to have robotic teddy bears read to our kids, or to have them listen to audio books read by someone else, or to use a device that reads to them. You don't even need mom or dad! Isn't that handy? Maybe, but I think that is shortchanging everyone. By reading aloud, we gain a lot more.

First, we show them that we as parents value reading. That sends a message to them. As they grow up, they see that their parents value books, and they will have a family heritage which values reading. Perhaps you will have a child who doesn't grow up to be an avid reader despite your example; it won't be your fault.

Second, it provides quiet time with your kids. I see a lot of kids who are 12 years old and still can't sit still in church. They need to be entertained. I never had a problem with my kids sitting in church, and I wonder if it is because they were taught to sit still early. It wasn't immediate, but it developed over time. And it required patience.

Third, it teaches them the love of a story. When I read aloud to the kids, I tried to read with as much expression as I could muster. That meant reading the voice of Eyeore in the slow, draggy voice one would expect. It meant trying to do the Cockney accent that the moles used in Redwall. When Charlotte dies at the end of Charlotte's Web (sorry if I spoiled this for you), I cried without embarrassment, because I was caught up in the story. Maybe the kids thought I was a wimp, or maybe they just saw that I loved the story.

Fourth, it helps with language development. When we read aloud to young children, we can talk about words, and we can read words that are difficult for them and explain them. Yes, yes, they can use the internet and look them up, but wouldn't you rather just interact with your kids instead of farming them out to Nanny Google?

Part of learning to be good readers of the Bible means learning to be good readers in general. God's revealed will has been passed on to us through the medium of words. As Christians, we should be people of words, and what better way to instil that than by reading aloud? By all means read the Bible out loud. We did. But we read other things as well. It was a staple of bed time when they were young and when we were homeschooling, it was a core part of our curriculum. My daughter, who has taught undergraduate university students in English, has mentioned numerous times the fact that young people don't know how to read well. That should be remedied.

My children are grown and are avid readers. I look forward to having grandchildren. I know that my husband will be the one they run to for rough and tumble games and Lego building. I will be happy to read to them as much as they want. And it will be a wonderful thing.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Women in Scripture: Hagar


Hagar
 God Sees Me

     I pay attention to men and women in the Bible who are the misfits because there is always a lesson to learn from their stories. One of my favorites is that of Hagar, the slave of Sarah and Abraham. The story is in Genesis 16 and to summarize, Sarah (then called Sarai) had been unable to conceive so she encouraged Abraham (then called Abram) to have a child through their Egyptian servant, Hagar. Hagar taunted Sarah after becoming pregnant and in turn, Sarah treated Hagar harshly to the point that she fled into the desert. 

    If anyone felt invisible and unwanted, it was Hagar.  She was living every woman's nightmare…pregnant, alone, utterly abandoned. Or so she thought. God knew her circumstance and sent an angel to minister to her. After this encounter with the Lord, Hagar said to him (verse 13), "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." In Hebrew, that name is El-Roi, the God who sees.

    I'm reminded of a line from the movie Shall We Dance?, a story about a man (played by Richard Gere) who takes up ballroom dancing while going through a midlife crisis. In one scene his wife (played by Susan Sarandon) is explaining to someone why people get married: "Because we need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage...you're saying 'your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will witness it.'"

    Isn't that what we all want to some degree? To be seen? Witnessed? Acknowledged?  El-Roi does this for us. He says to each of us, "your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will witness it. I see you."

    When we forget that our heavenly Father sees us, we will feel invisible and unimportant and will seek acknowledgement from others that will always leave us wanting.  That’s why the story of Hagar is an important reminder of God’s character. It reminds us that even if no one else notices, God witnesses a life he lovingly created for his glory and purpose.  He never abandons his watch over us. He sees us through the filter of Jesus and the cross, redeemed and worthy. That's hardly insignificant!

   God has much to say about how important we are to him.  Psalm 139 is a beautiful testament of the God who sees as he supervised the formation of each one of us before we were born and has remained constantly aware of every moment of our lives thereafter. In fact, there is nowhere we can go that he does not see.  Psalm 121 tells us that the Lord never takes a break from watching over us.  Isaiah 61:3 says we are a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isaiah 40:10 reminds us that even if the mountains fall, His unfailing love for us will not be shaken nor his covenant removed. 

    No matter how invisible we feel on this planet at times, we are never out of God’s sight. Even if no one else ever knows who we are, even if we never get credit for anything good we've ever done, even when we feel alone, he remains El-Roi, the God who sees us and is always there.

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About the Author:  Cindy is mom to three adult daughters and one teenage son who just graduated high school, and has been married 35 years to her college sweetheart.   She enjoys real letter writing, real books, dark chocolate, and still likes to color with a new box of crayons.   You can find Cindy at Letters From Midlife.
This post originally appeared at Theology for Girls on September 6, 2013 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Women in Scripture: Lydia


Lydia
“So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the[d] district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.” Acts 16:11-15 
   Who was Lydia? The text tells us that she was originally from the city of Thyatira, the modern-day Turkish city of Akhira, located in the province for which she was named. Lydia was a gentile, business woman who sold purple cloth and dye. Her hometown was well known for this trade especially the dye reserved for royalty. Therefore, she was likely a woman of means and able to maintain a household. Luke describes her as a “worshipper of God” meaning a seeker of YHWH, but not a Jewish proselyte yet. But when the Apostle Paul crossed Lydia's path on his second missionary journey, her life was changed forever. [1]  
   Paul desired to go to Asia Minor and preach the gospel but “the Spirit of Jesus” forbade him. (Acts 16:7). He then received a vision of a Macedonian man asking him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:8). So in the providence of God, He shut the door to Asia Minor but brought a woman from Asia Minor to Paul. 
   We aren't given many details about Lydia's conversion but one thing is very clear - God opened her heart. The word open is translated from the Greek word dianoigo. This is defined by Greek scholar A.T. Robertson as “to open up wide or completely like both sides of a folding door.” Another definition is “to open by dividing or drawing asunder, to open thoroughly” from Greek lexicologist Joseph Henry Thayer. [2] Thus the Holy Spirit had been at work behind the scenes, changing Lydia's stony heart to a heart of flesh, and preparing it to receive the good news. As C.H. Spurgeon said, “Although the Lord opened the heart, Paul’s words were the instrument of her conversion. The heart may be opened and willing to receive, but then if the Truth of God enters not, what would be the use of an open door? But God always takes care to open the heart at a time when the messenger of mercy shall be going by, that the heart may give him admittance. “ [3] 
   Lydia exhibited her newfound faith in word and deed. She and her household were baptized, and she opened her home to Paul and his companions. This was not a small thing. During their time in Philippi, Paul and Silas's preaching resulted in the deliverance and conversion of a demon-possessed girl, which  was rewarded with beating and imprisonment. Also, the Jews had not given up pursuing Paul as a traitor to their faith. Yet, Lydia was willing to count the cost for the sake of her brothers in Christ and receive them gladly into her home. 
    In a way, Lydia's story is our story, too. The Holy Spirit was working in advance unbeknownst to us, creating a hunger for God and convicting us of sin. We were at exactly the right place and the right time to hear the gospel. A messenger delivered the Word, and God opened up our hearts to receive it. Likewise, the Holy Spirit enables us to live out our faith day by day. 
   Lydia's story also gives us hope for those whom we earnestly desire to come to Christ. Thankfully, the burden of saving a soul rests on more capable shoulders than ours or the ones who need the gospel. Yes, we should pray and speak. But in the end, we trust a merciful and gracious God. If He can open our hearts, He can open the hearts of those who still need Him. 

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Sources:
[1] Twelve Extraordinary Women, John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2005, pp. 187-197.
[2] The Gospel Call & True Conversion, Paul Washer, Reformation Heritage Books, 2013, pp. 59-60.
[3]  Lessons From Lydia's Conversion,  Sermon 544, C.H. Spurgeon, December 13, 1863.

This post was originally published at Theology for Girls in the fall of 2013.