Category Archives: Devotional

Episode 215 | Living Faith, part 3: Do Good

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-kkd5r-10e2874

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the John Wesley’s General Rule: “Do Good”.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ worship livestreams on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 8: Ishmael

Read Genesis 21:8-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness.” (Genesis‬ ‭21:20a‬ ‭NLT)‬‬‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 8, Ishamel. There is nothing worse than seeing a child needlessly suffer. At the time of this writing, news is breaking about a terrorist suicide bombing following an Ariana Grande concert outside of the arena in Manchester, UK. At this point, at least 22 people are dead and dozens maimed and I just find myself heartbroken for those people. Ariana Grande, of course, is a pop star who is very popular with tweens and teens. Many of those children were at the concert alone, with their parents coming back to pick them up, which is a common practice in today’s time.

What kind of monster would do that to a child? Why would someone attack those who have barely even begun to live their lives? Why would one want to charm innocent children? These questions and more run through desparate minds as they try to make sense of what is ultimately senseless evil running amok in our world.

Yet, when we read the story of Ishmael, we barely even bat an eye. After all, he survived, right? Sure, he had his birthright stripped from him and he got thrown out to the wilderness by his father, but no harm no fould, right? It is amazing to me how we can glaze over and ignore the horrors in the Bible simply because it was done in the name of God and the presumption of God’s will.

Yet, if we pay close attention to the details of the story, Ishmael was not yet weaned from breastfeeding when he and his mother were banished from his home due to Sarah’s jealousy which was ultimately due to Abraham’s infdelity. This means that Ishmael was a mere 2-3 years old at best when he and his mother were sent out into the scorching, arid wilderness to fend for themselves. 2-3 years old! This was nothing short of a death sentence. This was nothing short of EVIL!

Yet, despite the way the author wrote it in the Bible, the reality is that God would not let that evil win. Despite the cold, heartless, cruel actions of Abraham and Sarah, God was with Ishmael and his mother. God would not let the injustice of his people go unanswered and uncountered. Instead, God provided for them. God gave them a well to drink from and, eventually, delivered them to safety. The Scriptures state that “God was with Ishmael as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer and settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from Egypt” (Genesis 21:20-21).

The first thing that needs to be stressed is this: God’s people don’t always get it right. In fact, God’s people sometimes get it very wrong! What’s more, even God’s people are not immune from committing attrocious acts of evil. Just because we think we are a part of the “in crowd” deos not mean that we are truly “in line” with God. God’s people often make the mistake of believing that God belongs to us. My friends, the TRUTH is that we belong to God, not the other way around; however, we only belong to God when we are aligned with God’s will, not just because we presume to know God’s will.

Secondly, it is important to make note of consistent pattern. God blesses people. People become complacent in their blessedness. Complacency leads to the belief that God belongs to us, and that belief leads people to do unjust things because they have effectively replaced God with themselves. These unjust, and often evil, things lead people to suffer in oppression. God hears the cries of the injust and aligns with them, and begins to counter the evil through prophets and others who work voice God’s outrage and judgment upon the oppressors, as well as work to alleviate the suffering of the oppressed. God blesses the oppressed and liberates them, showing the world that THEY ARE GOD’s PEOPLE.

This pattern hopefully leads to shame and repentance among God’s wayward people, but sadly that is not always the case. Ishmael’s tale is the tale of the oppressed, and it is a cautionary tale for all of us. We’ve all played the part of the oppressed, and we’ve all played the part of the oppressor. We’ve all been given God’s blessing, and we’ve all turned God’s blessing into a curse for others. God is calling all of us to recognize this fact, to break the chains of this pattern, and return to being God’s righteous people once again.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

We should aspire to God’s righteousness not self-righteousness.

PRAYER

Lord, love me, bless me, correct me, forgive me, and use me as a blessing for others.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 7: Hagar

Read Genesis 12:10-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.” (Galatians‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NLT)‬‬‬‬‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 7, Hagar. What can be said about poor Hagar, a woman who most people haven’t really heard of or, if they have, they don’t know much more about her than the fact that she was Ishmael’s mom. All of the attention in the Abrahamic narrative is spent on Sarah, Isaac and, of course, Abraham. Yet, aside from all of the blessings we see bestowed upon Abraham and his family, there is a dark and tragic drama that exists in Hagar’s story.

The story of Hagar, at least where we come to know her, starts out with no drama whatsoever; rather, it is one that is filled with heartache and burden. She was a slave girl who was charged with serving Sarah. According to the Jewish midrash Genesis Rabbah, it was when Sarah was in Pharoah’s harem (thanks to her cowardly husband), that the Pharaoh gave her his daughter as a slave, saying, “It is better for my a slave in the house of such a woman than mistress in another house.” The Pharoah probably did this after falling under God’s wrath made him realize that Sarah was not single, but married to the guy who claimed to be her brother (aka Abraham).

So, Hagar might have started off with a life of leizure, but her fate was to become the slave girl of a woman who would, eventually, use her and abuse her. How you ask? Sarah had been promised a child by God, but she was barren and she was old. How could she possibly have a child at her age, and especially since she was barren? So she “convinced” her husband (I put convinced in quotation marks because, though I am staying true to the narrative, who knows how this really went down), to have sex with Hagar in order to have her child through the slave girl as the surrogate mother. So, that is what Abraham did.

Hagar, at this moment, felt blessed, because she had gone from slave girl to mother of the heir of her wealthy owner’s husband. The only problem, though she was biologically the mother, that child belonged to Sarah as Hagar was technically only the surrogate mother (meaning she agreed to give up her rights over the child). What’s more, God did finally fulfill the promise made to Abraham and Sarah by making Sarah pregnant with Isaac.

This seemed great to Hagar, because now Ishmael was no longer the attention of Sarah’s eye, as Sarah had her very own child. On top of that, Ishmael was the first born and, according to patriarchal society, the oldest was entitled to the birthright and was heir to the father. Hagar grew a bit too confident in Ishmael’s place in Abraham’s family and, as a result, drew the bitter and heated jealousy of Sarah. From that moment on Sarah treated Hagar harshly, which we can only imagine means that she insulted her, threatened her and probably beat her as well. Sarah also successfully convinced her husband to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael. He agreed and kicked the two of them out of his camp, sending them out to the wildnerness to fend for themselves.

Yet, despite the multiple sins of Abraham and Sarah that were acted out against Hagar and her son, God did not leave them abandoned to the fate their owners consigned them to. Instead, God protected them and gave them food and shelter from the scorching sun. What’s more, God blessed Ishmael and, though he would not become the heir to Abraham’s camp, he did become the father of many nations. In fact, Muslims traces their roots back to Abraham via Ishmael.

Here’s what we can pull from this tragic story. No matter the tragedies in our lives. No matter what sins we commit and no matter what sins are committed against us, God never abandons God’s people. We are God’s people and God will always lead us from where we are to where God is calling us to be. There are no human designs that can overwrite God’s design for us. Have faith and trust that, no matter the circumstances, God’s grace abounds.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“When we look at Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael, we see that God’s grace can survive our three-ring-circuses of compromise, rationalization and weak faith.” – Carl Prude, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, no matter my circumstance, my sins, or my struggles, your grace abounds. Amen.

Episode 214 | Living Faith, part 2: Do No Harm

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-hv8ad-10d88d6

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance for Christians to not only live in to their faith, but to make sure that they are doing so genuinely.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ worship livestreams on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

Divided We Stand

Read Matthew 22:36-40

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8 NLT).

New York City 2021

Tomorrow, Setpember 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93. Twenty years ago tomorrow, the first attack on civilians from a foreign invader on American soil in over two centuries. What’s more, it was the day that changed the entire trajectory of a country.

From there we entered into two simultaneous wars, one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq. The one has just come to a tumultuous end and the other ended years ago, but the effects of that war are still in play. From there we elected our first black president, and saw the rise of a new birth of racism and nationalism. We saw people vehemently oppose him and even question the president’s birth for fear he was a foreign national. Ugly stuff.

Still, that was not the end, was it? Nope. Instead, we elected another president, this time a leader who would play into our hugest fears and pit us against each other for his own gain. It worked. After twenty years, the United States of America, and dare I say the world, are in a far darker place than we were on that fatefully clear and beautiful Tuesday September morning.

Recently, I was listening to the song Undivided by Bon Jovi. The lyrics, in part, read: “One for love. One for truth. One for me, one for you. Where we once were divided now we stand united. We stand as one, undivided. Undivided. Undivided.” It’s a great song that was picking up on a sentiment that directly followed 9/11. Anyone who lived during that time knows that there was a sense of unity, a sense of being united, that was circulating in the air. In today’s terms, we were #AmericaStrong.

That is a common response to trauma, is it not? When times get tough for people across the board, people tend to come together and unite in order to survive the ordeal. That is an awesome part of humanity, that we tend to gravitate toward community in times of struggle. With that said, let’s be honest, that song has NOT aged well. It was literally a response to the moment; however, that unity didn’t even last a year.

Twenty years down the road, and what do we have to show for it? We are more divided now then we were before those attacks. Divided we stand. In fact, the truth be told, 9/11 simply exposed the underbelly of America. It caused us to look at our foreign policy over the years as a country, how that has caused issues around the world that can’t be made right by a simple apology. It has also exposed how selfish, entitled, and fearful we are as a people as well.

Sure, the attack on 9/11 itself did not do that. But the attacks did spark fear within us, and that fear has grown to epic proportions…so much so that it is now at the point where we demonize each other instead of uniting with one another. More tragically, this has seeped into our lives at all levels. It’s in our religious beliefs, our politics, our families…it runs deep! Friends, divided we stand because we have fallen so far away from the ONE who truly unites us.

I cannot speak for people of other religions, but I can speak for Christianity and it is clear to me that we have fallen away from our Lord, who calls us to be peacemakers and compassionate caretakers of others. We are literally called to love God and love neighbor as ourselves; yet, sadly, we are not doing that job very well. Truthfully, people never have. We are sinners after all, and that is WHY WE NEED A SAVIOR.

Friends, Christ is calling us away from divisiveness. If you want to honor those who died senselessly on 9/11, let us give way to our sin and allow Jesus to once again revive love, hope and light with in us. Let us move away from standing divided and let us unite under Christ to serve others the way Christ has served us. That is what we are called to, servant leadership. Let us respond to Christ in the way that Isaiah did, “Here I am Lord, send me.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be a unifier and a compassionate presence in your church and in the world. Amen.

In God We Trust

Read Acts 5:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT).

Leading a church as a pastor is no easy affair. Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to grumble about my vocation or the the work it entails. Quite the contrary! I love the work! It fills me to serve our Lord Jesus Christ and I wouldn’t change a single aspect of it…well, most aspects anyway. Still, the proposition is still true: leading a church as a pastor is no easy affair.

Of course, by leading “a church”, I mean leading a congregation. The church is the congregation, as a matter of fact, it is NOT the building; therefore, leading a group of people (aka a congregation) is no easy task. First, people are all over the place in their spiritual journeys, as it should be; however, that means that not everyone is ready or able to be fully committed to ministry. Second, people have all sorts of perspectives and points of views (aka opinions) and that can really slow any sort of forward moving progress halt to a crawl at best.

I could go on, listing differing financial situations leading to a shortfall in giving, difficulty finding anymore than a few of the same volunteers. This isn’t just a church challenge, actually. It’s a non-profit/volunteer problem; it always has existed and it always will. So there is no point beating that proverbial “dead horse” (what an horrific phrase, actually!). The reality is that leading a church is a real challenge, albeit extrremely rewarding.

So, it should go without saying that leading a church during a global pandemic crisis makes being a pastor under normal circumstances seem like a Sunday stroll through Deer Park[1]. There were so many ins and outs to consider, it was a logistical nightmare. In order to make worship and ministry work throughout a pandemic that literally had us locked away in our houses, we had to upgrade our equipment and purchase new eqipment as well. We had never streamed live before and we were going to need that ability. We also learned that, while in isolation, streaming live wasn’t even possible. So we had to pre-record services and schedule them to premiere on YouTube every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. That process took the entire week, and that DIDN’T include the other work I have to get done week-to-week.

What made matters worse was the fact that, no matter how hard you worked and no matter how many hours you put in, there were people who thought the pastor was on a perma-vacation. What’s more, there were the people and their partisan political positions regarding church closures, wearing masks, contact tracing and any prayer or Scripture that seemed to go against their political leanings. Of course, we weren’t interjecting politics into our services, but in such a hyper-partisan environment, some people were interpreting it that way regardless.

One of the most interesting observations I made over the last four or so years is the fact that partisanship almost always leads to hypocrisy at best. For instance, so many “Christians” are up in arms about the loss of their so-called freedom to not wear a mask. One of the biggest arguments thrown out in anger at politicians, community leaders, educators and pastors (no doubt) alike, was the following: “I am not wearing a mask because I have faith in God! If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go! I am ready.”

Of course, that’s easier said when you are healthy and feeling invincible and, truth be told, we can tell that such an argument is nothing more than hot air based off of another similar…but different…argument. In fighting for their “second amendment rights”, these conservative-leaning, evangelical Christians will argue that the consitution gave every man, woman, child a right to defend themselves against wicked people.

Now, let’s pause here a second. Is the argument that God has the power to wipe out a wicked, nasty virus…but God is powerless against sinful, wicked muggers, gangbangers and house burglars. First, let’s be honest…this is nothing short of racially biased, being that the majority of people arguing this are not imagining white “gangbangers”, are they? Second, is this not a huge GIGANTIC case of hypocrisy? God is cool with taking measures against violent people, but God is not cool with putting on a mask and getting vaccinated to take measures against a deadly virus. Silly, right?

Don’t get me wrong, we should put our TRUST in God; however, trusting God does not mean doubting the common sense God gave you. In other words, God gifted us intelligence to figure things like pandemics out, and God gifted scientists with the brilliance to do just that, yet we don’t trust the science those gifts produce. Trusting in God means letting go and letting God work in whatever ways God works, even if that is through science. No amount of printing “In God We Trust” on our money and license plates, will change the fac that we simply do not trust in God. Let us be challenged to avoid the pitfall of hypocrisy by avoiding putting our partisan politics before Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” – Corrie Ten Boom

PRAYER
Lord, help me to TRULY put my TRUST in YOU. Amen.


[1] Kierkegaard, Søren. Concluding Unscientific Postscript on the Philosophical Fragments. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), https://antilogicalism.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/concluding-unsci-post.pdf.

Episode 213 | Living Faith, part 1: Genuine Faith

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-mg99f-10d3d2a

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance for Christians to not only live in to their faith, but to make sure that they are doing so genuinely.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ premieres worship online on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Join us for worship on YouTube.

We Are Farmers” preached by Rev. Todd Lattig at First United MEthodist Church of Newton on 

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 6: Abraham

Read Genesis 12:10-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.” (Galatians‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NLT)‬‬‬‬

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 6, Abraham. Even if one has never been in a church, or sat in a Sunday school class, he or she most likely knows exactly who Abraham is. He is known as the father of three of the worlds major religions, all three of those religions being the largest in the world. He is also the father of the three religions that have had the most impact on the development of the world. So, it is pretty hard to live in this world and NOT know who Abraham is.

If you were to randomly ask who Abraham was, you might get “the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” Or, you might get “the old guy who had a child.” Or, still, you might get “the guy who took his child up on a mountain to sacrifice him because God told him to” (more on this later). Of course, you most likely would get “a person of tremendous faith.”

All of the above are true; however, the fact is that Abraham got things wrong far more often than he got things right. While he may have had faith when it came to following God’s call to leave his homeland behind, he did not have faith enough to not sleep with Hagar in order to have a male heir. His faithfulness to God was limited by his inability to remain faithful to Sarah. I am not even referring to the fact that he had sexual relations with another woman, but that he was so willing to give his wife over to be the sexual property of kings in order to save his own hide.

On top of all that, Abraham had such a faith in God that he was willing to do something that is so horrific, so unimaginable that, it is hard to justify no matter what one’s theology is. When Abraham is told by God, according to the story, to sacrifice his son Isaac on top of a mountain, Abraham does exactly what he is told, without even questioning.. He does not let Sarah know, for obvious reasons, but he takes his son and has him carry the wood to his place of death.

The whole time, Isaac is walking alongside of his dad thinking that they are on their way to sacrifice a lamb. He even asks his dad, “where will we get a lamb, dad?” Abraham responds, “The LORD will provide us one.” Nice, right? He’s leading his own son to the slaugther and Isaac is completely unaware that his dad, the one who is supposed to love and protect him, is about to butcher him with a knife and burn his flesh to appease God.

It truly is one of the most horrific stories in all of the Bible. It’s easy for us to glaze over the fact that he’s about to murder his son, and focus on the faith he was displaying to do so; however, would any of us think the same thing if a modern father attempted to murder his own son because he heard God’s voice telling him to? When Abraham hears that the city that his nephew was living in is going to be destroyed, he argues with God over it and gets God to agree to spare his nephew’s life. If he could do that for his nephew, why didn’t he do that for his own son? He had faith in God, sure, but he clearly was lacking in any sort of understanding of God’s character: LOVE. Otherwise, he would have surely questioned God on the command to sacrifice his son. Thank goodness that God put a stop to it before Abraham could carry the murderous act all the way through to its grizzly conclusion.

I could go on and on regarding the serious flaws that can be found in Abraham, but to mention all his flaws is beside the point. After all, we are all flawed, are we not? Despite his flaws and shortcomings, God saw the heart of Abraham. While he often failed to perfectly live up to God’s standard, his heart never waivered in trying. He strived to follow a God. Even though he could not see God, he knew God was present with him. Because of that, Abraham was open hearing God’s voice, and he followed it to the best of his ability. That is all that God asks of us as well. While we might not always be faithful, God is ALWAYS FAITHFUL. All God asks in return is for us to open ourselves up to the direction of the Holy Spirit and to trust that, no matter what our flaws are, God’s grace is sufficient and is sufficiently working Salvation in us and through us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

While God would never ask us to sacrifice our children to “prove our faith”, God does ask us to sacrifice plenty of other things (tithes, time, talents, presence, etc.), and doing so proves our faith.

PRAYER

Lord, give me ample opportunity to grow in my faith, so that my faith may witness to you.

Episode 40 | What If?

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-2m58e-10cd1a7

In this episode, fellow POJCasters, Sal and Todd are joined by none other than the Viking Vicor himself, Blake Severson, for a discussion on “what if” things turned out differently for us. Are you interested in being on the Party on JohnCast? Email us at partyonjohncast@gmail.com.

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Other ways to Support: If you love this podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify. The more we get rated and reviewed, the higher up on the giganto totem pole we get on those respective platforms.

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EPISODE NOTES:

He Brews Segment:

The Angel of Death (Sal):

The Rockin’ Reverend (Todd):

The Viking Vicor (Blake):

Most Excellent Music Segment:

The Viking Vicor (Blake):

The Angel of Death (Sal):

The Rockin’ Reverend (Todd):

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 5: Sarah

Read Genesis 21:1-7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?” (Genesis 18:12 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SarahAndIsaac

Part 5, Sarah. I don’t think that we in modern Western Civilization have a good or healthy understanding of the character of Sarah. When we think of her story we only think of one thing, her pregnancy with Isaac in old age. That is not entirely our fault because the Bible presents that moment as the crowning moment in Sarah’s life and, no doubt, it was. What’s more, we are so far removed from that ancient world, that the context is almost nearly lost to us.

If we think of anything else, regarding Sarah, we think of how she had an incredibly hard time believing that what God said would happen would come true. We almost hold that against her contemptuously, as if it isn’t completely insane to believe a woman of 70+ years was going to bear a child! “Oh, but God said it would happen,” one might contend, “and she should have believed God because God is all-powerful and can make anything happen.” Well, that’s easy for one to say, but I would reply back, “Whose god? And why don’t you start believing that God can make your grandmother pregnant, if that is so easy to believe?”

We forget Sarah’s story, and we also forget that there’s more to her life, to her worth, than her ability, or lack thereof, to get pregnant. Yet, Sarah came from a world where pregnancy was the crowning achievement for a woman. In fact, it was understood at the time to be the main reason a woman existed, to bear the man’s male child so that the family could have an heir and the patriarchy could continue. It was a man’s world, through and through.

But back to the question of “whose god?”. We forget that Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah) were not Jewish and they did not always worship Yahweh (I AM that I AM). They came from a foreign land (Ur) and worshipped many gods. So, it is all well and good that Abram had this inkling to follow a new-found god, but why would that make Sarah believe that this god could make the impossible happen?

Don’t get me wrong, Sarah was far from a perfect person. She certainly doubted that God would make her, barren and at an advanced age, pregnant. She even laughed when an angel told her husband that she would conceive a child. She “convinced” her husband to sleep with her servant girl, Hagar, in order that Hagar might serve as a surrogate mother to Sarah’s “child.” She harshly abused Hagar and Ishmael out of jealousy when her own son, Isaac, was finally born. She was so jealous that she eventually had Hagar and Ishmael banished out into the wilderness where she had hoped they would die.

Be that as it may, she also was a woman who had a tough life and endured abuse at the hands of her sometimes-cowardly husband. She was barren and no doubt believed by her family to be under the curse of the gods because she could not give her husband what every good wife was supposed to produce: a male heir. She had to leave everything behind, her family and friends and homeland, to chase some crazy dream of a promised land and descendants that match the number of stars. She had a husband who, fearing for his life, sexually trafficked her to the courts of kings. Sarah’s life was not one that any of us would hope to have. It was hard, it was uncertain, and filled with much woe.

Yet, despite her flaws and hardships, God still favored this woman and richly blessed her. God did keep the promise to give her a child and God rose up out of that child innumerous descendants, including many kings of many nations. What’s more, out of Sarah came the descendant who would be the Light of the World. Sarah’s laughter of disbelief became her laughter of joy.  Do you laugh at what God’s called you to do? Do you see God’s call as impossible? Do you even know what God’s purpose for you is? Have no fear, even in disbelief and doubt, in turmoil and struggle, God’s faithfulness is never ending. Have faith and believe.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’? Anything is possible if a person believes.” – Jesus of Nazareth in Mark 9:23

PRAYER
Lord, fulfill in me your purpose for my life and turn my laughter of doubt into laughter of joy. Amen.