Genesis 19-20

So much scandal and sexual sin packed into two chapters! When referenced these days, Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonyms for despicable sin. If you didn’t read today’s chapters, I’d recommend doing so before diving into this post.

It might seem insane to us that Lot and his wife hesitate on taking up the angels on their escape plan. A group of aggressive perverts are breaking down their door, trying to rape their guests and they need to be physically dragged away from the situation. Isn’t that insane? Yet really relatable? This morning I’m thinking back on toxic situations I’ve been in, where I resisted the escape plans, but God showed me mercy by ushering me away from them. 
Something else that I noticed this morning was the irony of Lot’s daughters. His virgin daughters get him drunk and rape him (two nights in a row, by the way) out of their desperate desire to get what they thought they must have. Earlier in the narrative, Lot had offered up his daughter’s virginity in a horrific scene. Notice that? They sin in the same way they were sinned against. This story, however extreme, is prompting me to think about the ways I’ve been sinned against and how I might be replicating it towards other people.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” 

Paul reminds us in this verse from the New Testament that we become a new creation through Christ. A beautiful result of the gospel. 

Do you count yourself as a new creation? Or do you feel more like a product of your environment, looking over your shoulder at what you’re leaving behind? 
Our thoughts, conversations and dwellings of our past matter. They can propel us forward, remind us of what God has done, highlight his grace and mercy, or they can dissolve us.
-Carly

Genesis 17-18

“You will be the father of a multitude of nations.” (17:4)

God’s promises never fail to move entirely outside our own ability to accomplish them. 

Abraham, in his own strength, could only hope to “make a nation” of Ishmael. Best case scenario, Ishmael flourishes his family for enough generations to become a people group large enough to be deemed a nation. Even this would be difficult without divine intervention in an age where kings warred and wiped out family clans on the regular.

But no, God promised Abraham a son from his own, near dead body and the post-menopause womb of his wife. This miracle son would only be the beginning of a string of impossible, yet kept, promises. Against all odds, and numerous genocide attempts, the nation of Israel has endured for almost 4000 years. 

“Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (18:14)

Still, that’s only one nation and the LORD promised a multitude. Through the finished work of Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him, we have become sons of Abraham. I am a daughter of that promise. If you have faith in Christ, you also are part of this family. This international, 100+ nation family.

What promises are you still trying to accomplish on your own strength?

In 9 days I will be in Greece, partnering with churches working in refugee camps. It’s a terrible burden to bear if I let myself think positive changes in these people’s lives will come through my, and my teams efforts, alone. It was an act of God to move us into this position and it will take many more acts of God to use us in His redemption of this horrible crisis. 

He has named me Bethany Rae, which is so very tied to this promise. The name Bethany, alone, means “house of poverty and affliction”. My dad says my middle name, Rae, is for the light I bring into affliction. 

Jesus had dear friends in the town of Bethany. It’s where Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived. Three poor, sibling orphans, one who once was dead, and another who had turned to prostitution. Jesus brought all three to life, in many ways, and it was the place He decided to spend his finally day before heading for the cross. Mary anointed Him with expensive perfume there. Bethany became a place of resurrection life, extravagant love and sweet friendship with God. 

This summer, before I had decided to go anywhere, God reminded me of this name. He has taken all my low income woes, broken cars, near death encounters and chronic pains, due to uneven legs (which could feel like my own house of poverty and affliction), and brought His resurrection light. HE has made me a place of resurrection life, extravagant love and sweet friendship with God. That is what I can invite people into. 

He, who took two old farts and created an innumerable international family, took me and did the impossible. I cannot underestimate His ability to fulfill even the craziest promise.

God can do ANYTHING through you. What has He named you? What promise are you trying to fulfill on your own strength? Ask Him. Ask Him for a new name, and let’s praise Him for His beauty birthed from our ashes.

-Bethany 

Genesis 15-16

“And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith.” 15:6

This is what God asks of us: to believe what he says. God promised Abram that he would have too many descendants to count. This man is old in age, without any children. He has no Bible to read, no stories to reference of God fulfilling his promises. This is faith. Believing and trusting when the proof isn’t there.

Later in the chapter we see how it plays out when there’s a lack of faith, and Abram’s wife takes matters in to her own hands. Discontentment takes root, bitterness spreads and relationships are severed.

Think of a time in your life you tried to interfere with God’s plan. What happened?

Unfortunately, God doesn’t always take us for an evening stroll and lay out the specifics of our future like he did with Abram. But we do have the Bible. Pages of his promises to trust him, that he has a plan for our life, that he ties all things together for good and that he is with us. 

My sister started a non-profit about thirteen years ago. She wanted to help the children she knew in the slums of Kenya get out of poverty. For the first few years of fundraising, some people tried to talk her out of it. There were plenty of other organizations she could partner up with, and then she could get started right away. But she waited. She felt that God had placed this on her plate and would bring it to completion, in his own timing. Ten years later, because of God’s grace and a beautiful community of supporters, the first orphaned child was brought into the house, built on the land the organization purchased in full. Now ten formally-orphaned kids live there and they are wrapping up construction on a second home on the land. This story isn’t just a testimony of patience, stead-fastness and faith. It’s also a beautiful illustration of how God writes our stories. The kids that live in the home right now weren’t even born when she started all this. Yet God was already orchestrating a plan to rescue them. He knew exactly when the doors of Visible Grace would open and what children would be sleeping in those beds, before they even existed.

No matter what you’re waiting for, whether it’s a job, an answer, a relationship or a cure, be faithful. God’s timing is perfect, beautiful and set before us long ago.

 

-Carly

 

 

 

 

Genesis 13-14

God was with Abram. This war is a lot of names and places to sort through. Allow me to summarize:

5 Kings lived in this lush valley, but always had to pay taxes to a Mesopotamian king, Chedorlaomer, so they rebelled. King Chedorlaomer brought 3 kings with him from his northern region and put the 5 Kings in their place, looting, grabbing people, chasing the warriors into tar pits. The 4 Kings won against the 5. The situation seemed hopeless and maybe no one would have cared, if it weren’t for the fact they had carried off Abram’s nephew, Lot.

Abram hears Lot has been captured and rallies 318 of his own guys to go get him. This fierce coalition of 4 kings that just defeated 5, could not withstand Abram and his 318 guys. He defeats them, takes all their loot and heads home. The Kings of the valley are stoked and want him to keep the loot, but he’s like, “No, God makes me rich, not you. Keep it.” And he tithes to Melchizedek, High Priest of God Most High. 

God had just promised the give the land to Abram for the rest of time (13:15). He operated out of a trusting security. “God makes me rich, not you.”

The sense of security is always proportional to trust. Abram knew very little about this God who had recently come along and promised him things. He had made mistakes concerning his wife, and would again, but when it came to possessions, he felt secure. 

What areas of your life are marked by trust and security? Thank God for those things! What areas are defined by anxiety and insecurity? Bring them before the Lord and ask Him what it would mean to surrender.

-Bethany 

Genesis 11-12

In chapter 11, we see mankind unite together to make a name for themselves. God, knowing our tendency and nature to move towards evil (Gen. 3:22-24), places limits around our potential.

I remember hearing this story for the first time in Sunday school and thinking it was weird and probably made up. Even as a third grader, I knew you couldn’t build a tower tall enough to reach heaven. (Also I’m lazy and wondered why they wanted to do that in the first place.) But as I’ve gotten older, I realize logic doesn’t always prevail over our desires.

Belongings won’t bring me happiness, yet still I spend. Food will never fill me up, yet still I eat. Human approval will never satisfy me, yet still I perform. We always come up with towers to stand on to reach our sinful desire of exalting ourselves.

What are your towers? What are you stacking up in your life? I pile possessions up in my home. Hoping they’ll distract me, maybe define me. I pile up compliments in my head, pin them to my subconscious bulletin board. Hoping they’ll distract me, maybe define me.

What do you unite over with your people? Complaining is a quick way to make friends in line at the post office, small talk with your neighbors, bond with coworkers over your boss and divide church community.

My sister shared this quote with me a while ago and I can’t get it out of my head:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, this is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

There have been protests in my city every night since the election. Some peaceful, some turning into destructive riots. This story about the Tower of Babel is a reminder of what we are capable of when we come together as people. We don’t always come together for good.

Mead’s quote makes me think about groups like foster families, activists, Habitat for Humanity and teachers. People intentionally coming together, uniting over the common good and working hard towards it as a team. I want to spend my time and energy on things that matter; I’m sure you do too.

Take note today of who you unite with and what you are working towards. Is it divisive? Or productive?

 

-Carly

 

 

 

Genesis 9-10

“For in the image of God has God made mankind.” (9:6)

This is the foundational reason we are commanded to treat each other well. What a revolutionary idea. Our value is assigned by God, and He is the one we are accountable to.

After the flood, Noah gets real drunk and passes out. His son, Ham, finds him and exploits his humiliation. Some have speculated that because of the wording, and because Noah woke up knowing something had been “done to him”, that maybe this wasn’t just a peek and a snicker. Either way, Ham attempted to rope his brothers into this exploitation, but they refused, instead choosing to cover their father’s shame.

We have opportunities every day to honor each other by overlooking offenses, not keeping records of wrong, and certainly not dragging other people into the exploitation of another. It’s way too easy to spread someone’s humiliating story to friends, but we shouldn’t!

Right now it feels the whole election has pulled our skirt over our head, as a nation. Now we must decide whether we will forgive each other or make a mockery of each other.

Chapter 10 is an explanation of the expansion of people post-flood. Modern genetic science has discovered every person on earth’s basic DNA can be traced back to 3 sources. 4300+ years later, we’re still a giant dysfunctional family, and still bearers of the image of God. 

Every single existing feud in the world is a result of unforgiveness and the devaluing of a fellow image bearer. Let’s be Shems and Japheths, but let’s reject the curse on Ham and forgive.

Who has God laid on your heart to forgive today?

-Bethany 

Genesis 7-8

“As the water rose higher and higher above the ground, the boat floated safely on the surface.” 7:18 

I noticed yesterday in chapter 6 that in the description God gives of the ark, there isn’t a steering wheel mentioned. Noah loaded his family on a boat with no idea what direction it was going.  

At seven months pregnant with my son, I climbed into a Uhaul with Matt, moving out of state with no jobs lined up in the place we were about to call home. That felt like boarding a ship with no steering wheel. But of course, God was remarkably faithful to us and we floated safely on the surface of the deep waters of uncertainty. 

Sometimes I read Noah’s story and I’m discouraged at my lack of faith. But I love that his age is specifically mentioned. “Noah was 600 years old when the flood covered the earth.”  600 years old! This reassures me that the longer you know and follow God, the easier it is to trust him. “God’s asking me to build a gigantic ship with no helm, in a place it never rains? Okay, I’m in.” If you’re a new believer, take heart. God is a perfect leader, gracious to our fears and generous in extending peace. If you’ve been following God a long time, take heart. Look back on your time together with him and acknowledge his faithfulness. 

People all over the world feel like the waters are rising all around them, and they need an invitation on the boat. (Excuse the nautical theme, but at least I spared you sea shanty lyrics.) 

Take time today and think about a time God was faithful to you in a scary, unknown time. Is there someone who needs to hear that story too? 
-Carly

Genesis 5-6

The point being driven home in chapter 5 is “…and he died.” God said if they ate the fruit, they would surely die and the snake said, “you will not surely die!” This is the moment we let it sink in that the snake is a liar. 

Rebellion against God=Death

Maybe this is why there is one exception to the rule (as you will see throughout the Bible), in Enoch. “He walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (5:24)

It struck me funny, this morning, reading chapter six. I imagine God sighing on His throne, running His hand through His perfect hair the declaring, “They’re living too long.” As He gets up to do something about it. I mean, come on, Methuselah! That’s way too much time wreaking havoc. “Every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually.” (6:5) YIKES.

Then another exception: Noah and the animals. God is truly personal. If you are walking humbly before Him, you’ll never have to fear being swept away with the wicked. He is oh so near. 

Remember how much we need His redemption and His Spirit. On our own we will burn this city down. Recent events have brought the worst out of all of us and pulled America’s skirt over its head. I constantly have to stop myself and find the eyes of Jesus. 

“He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

-Bethany

Genesis 3-4

This is as political as I’ll get today: I am thankful we spent the last few months combing over the books of 1 & 2 Kings and for the truth that God washed over me through his Scripture. Nations rise, nations fall. Good kings come, good kings go. Evil leaders come, evil leaders go. If you didn’t join us for those readings and need to reframe what you think about God’s role in politics, I suggest skimming through our archives of those posts or rereading those books.

What a great outline chapter three gives us about how we respond to sin. We make a decision to defy God’s rules, we justify it, we invite other people into our sin, we are washed over with guilt, we hide, we blame and then we are overwhelmed by our shame.

And what a great outline of the gospel. God comes looking for us. Not as a harsh punisher, but as a loving parent, coaxing us out of our hiding spot. We come out of the bushes, our knees dirty from crouching in fear. Blood is shed to cover our shame. An innocent life sacrificed.

But for us, it’s not an animal. And with the gospel, we don’t have to leave God’s presence. 

I overhear my husband tell our son that he doesn’t have to hide when he’s in trouble. That we love him, even when he disobeys. He’s two. We are born with the instinct to scatter when we sin, because we’ve failed and let people down. When I read these chapters, I’m reminded of my nature. My tendency to point fingers, to find a dark place to wallow in my failure. But now we have Jesus! Here are some bright, truth-drenched verses that I encourage you to read aloud this morning:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”  Rom 3:23-25

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Rom 10:9-10

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. ” 1 Cor. 15:3-4

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Tim 2:5-6

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25

I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit, the cross and for Jesus this morning, and a God who’s had a plan for us since day one.

 

-Carly

 

 

Genesis 1-2

Good morning! Today we are headed back to the beginning. The book of Genesis is the first book in the Hebrew Torah (also includes Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), which is most widely accepted as being written and compiled by Moses. This means we need to take a moment to remember who Moses was and his situation for writing this book.

1446 B.C. Israel had been in Egypt 400 years and had become enslaved. God rescued them through a series of His most grandiose miracles, appointing Moses as their leader and His mouthpiece to communicate with His people. Now Israel was a slave nation with a long history of oppression. They had just seen a God do something truly incredible for them and they were wandering around the desert, wondering what gives. Who is this God? Why did He come for them? Who are they? God, through the plagues in Exodus, had humiliated all the gods of Egypt. Their whole worldview was Egyptian, their creation story was Egyptian and their entire employment history was working for Egyptians. WHAT NOW?

Genesis is the origin story of us all. Chapters 1-38 are the most preserved and detailed accounts of Ancient Mesopotamia we have, and are widely accepted because of their agreement with other discovered Mesopotamian documents. Culture, marriage, deal making, city building, cattle herding, travel… it’s all in there. 

For now we’re forcusing on chapters 1-2: the creation story. The Egyptian creation story starts with water (which God had turned to blood) and the sun (which God had blackened) rising over it the first time, as the diety Ra, creating other gods and things snowballing randomly from there. 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In 1:2 there’s water but also God, existing above it and declaring in 1:3, “let there be light!” He doesn’t create the sun until day 4, and what is its purpose? Counting. Signs for seasons, days and years. God is greater than Ra. He is speaking things into existence, He’s pretty awesome. 

God made things perfectly and beautifully with longevity in mind. He created plants that grow their own seeds! He made seasons to refresh and remember.

Even now, with the widely accepted view of evolution, we can learn that most every creation account puts the orgin of man under the category of “chaotic mistake” or “for the oppressive, indifferent, enjoyment of careless gods”. This is what makes 1:26-27 music to our ears:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

We are made ON PURPOSE and WITH PURPOSE. Every last one of us is an incredibly valuable image-bearer of GOD!

It’s important to notice what all was good and right in the world before it officially fell apart. Adam had a job, cultivating and caring for the earth, naming and caring for the animals, but something was missing, and it was us gals. Women were made to be partners with men. Created to be hand in hand, One Flesh, complementary, better together. How lovely!

Soak it up! Read and reread these chapters because tomorrow it’s all going down! (Ironic timing, huh?) What else do you notice about God’s perfectly, lovingly created world? Praise Him today for His glorious designs! 

You can also get the Genesis 1-11 Bible Project overview here.

-Bethany