By: Sarah Norman
God placed the Garden of Eden in the east (Gen 3:24). Then when he sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden, He sent them east and placed a guard at the entrance where they could no longer enter (Gen 4:24). The people who built the tower of Babel were from the east (Gen11:2). There's a whole narrative through the Bible where people are going east, away from God. They are just a little too far east to be fully connected with God. Throughout all the Bible, God is trying to bring us back to Him.
In Matthew 2 we see the wise men coming from the east to Jesus. We're told in Matthew 24:27 “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” The way humans get back to God is through Jesus. We know the way back, but so many of us just choose not to take it. God's design for our lives is to live fully in his image, imago dei, like we talked about last week. That design is in stark contrast to how this world tells us we need to live. The way back to God being through Jesus is God's design for us and it is what brings us salvation and what brings us life.
We talked last week about the fact that our goal should be to delight in God's design for us. God created us all with a specific purpose to glorify Himself. We are created in his image because that is what brings Him glory. Being made in His image means we exhibit character traits of God. Last week I talked mostly to women, this week it will be mostly to men, but just like last week, this can apply to all of us.
God created us with a purpose, and part of that purpose is to take what we've been given, prepare something from it and present it to God. That is our act of worship to God. Worship is not just sitting in a church pew singing songs off key and listening to someone preach. Adam and Eve did not have buildings, church pews, musical instruments or another person to teach them. Their worship, and in Genesis 2, Adam's worship since he came first, was through his work, through his taking care of the earth. In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel's worship of God was in what they presented to God from the work they had done. God accepted Abel's sacrifice because he gave the best portion of what he had worked on. When you go to work, is that what you do? Do you see your office, your field, your farm, your factory or your home as a place where you can worship God through the work you are doing?
God told Adam to till the earth and to keep it. So not only does your worship of God have to do with how you view work, but he tells us to preserve, to take care of what He has given us. How different would our world be if everyone had this mindset about our work and our purpose. When we work, when we worship, when we go about our day, we are suppose to keep and preserve that which God has put into our care. Did Adam do that? No. Adam was to take care of the land and he was to love and take care of his wife, yet when the serpent shows up, he decides to say nothing to Eve, decides to not interject that maybe it isn't a good idea to eat fruit that God has forbidden, but instead, Adam sees an opportunity to usurp power from God and do his own thing, then instead of taking care of his wife, he throws her under the bus and puts the entire blame on her. Adam did not live up to his good design from God.
When men choose to live in the image of Adam, power is usurped from God and taken for themselves. We see evidence of that all over the world, in constant wars, in degradation of the environment, in the subjugation of woman as second class citizens throughout most of history and still in current day throughout a lot of the world. God did not call men to live in the image of Adam, but in the image of Himself.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-3 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This is what we have been called to as image bearers. To live with humility, gentleness, patience, love, and to seek unity in the spirit. To live in the image of Adam, taking power and authority wherever one can find it is not the calling God has put on men who are suppose to bear his image. Jesus said blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the poor in spirit. These are not characteristics we ever really want to think about, for both men and women, because they are portrayed in our culture as weak. A look back through history of the American church will show you these characteristics are left out when talking about men. They are used mainly to describe women, but these characteristics are not gendered and we see that clearly when we look at Genesis 2 and the work God told Adam to do in tilling the earth and keeping it, preparing the earth as worship and preserving what God has given.
So much of what we believe about manhood and womanhood has to do with results from the fall. We fail to see that, after the fall, God is constantly trying to bring us back east, back to Eden, back to before the fall. Before the fall, there wasn't a power struggle. Like I wrote last week, God told both Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, to subdue it and to have dominion over it. Those commands were not gendered either. The answer to our struggle to get back to Eden, is to look to Jesus. Just like the wise men from the east knew they needed to go west, seeking the one who brought the star, Jesus is constantly trying to bring us back towards God, back towards the original design He had for us before the fall. In our limited and fallible minds, we have such a hard time imaging the good design that God had in his original creation.
So this is not to berate men or any person who chooses to read this, this is to encourage you, as you go out into the world or remain in your home, God has given you a purpose and that purpose is to be used to worship him. He has given you a skill, a talent, that you are to take and prepare something that you can give back to God. And he has given you the job of preserving what he has put you in leadership over, whether that is land, family, your job or all of the above. That role is a big deal, and not to be taken lightly. We have seen the devastation that takes place when the role of preserving is corrupted. Women suffer, children suffer and the world is generally worse off. This world needs men who will take the role seriously, who will not see his place in this world as a place of power, but as a place God has put him to serve Him. This is where we find true life, when we can see God's design for our lives and take delight in how He has made us.
By: Sarah Norman
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” (Gen 1:27 emphasis mine). God created male and female in his image. This verse is where we get the concept of imago dei, image of God. But what does it mean to be created in His image and why is it important? What impact does it have on my life or yours to understand who's image we were created in?
When God created this earth, he had a good and perfect design for it. There was peace and harmony among the animals, between animals and humans. There weren't natural disasters. Poverty and suffering did not exist. Life was so incredibly different that we really have no concept of what life would be like with no consequences of sin. God created man and woman who lived together in harmony. No one desired power, no one held onto to petty grudges, both valued each other and delighted in each other. Both delighted in the design God had on their lives, not confused about what they were to do or with who they were. God gave them both the commands to be fruitful and multiply, to rule and subdue the earth. They worked at this together. Then sin entered the picture. We stopped seeing each other as made in the image of God. We stopped seeing ourselves as made in the image of God. People began to turn inward, looking only at ourselves, caring only for ourselves rather than looking outward and up and seeing how God designed us to delight in him.
Psalm 139 is a familiar Psalm to most of us. David speaks of God's purpose on our lives before we were even thought of by our parents. He says that God knows every single part of us. We cannot hide anything from God. He knows our good, our bad, our sin and our shame. And He loves us. We cannot go anywhere to get away from Him, to hide from Him. He made us with purpose. He made us in His image, imago dei. It's so easy to let Satan speak lies into our hearts about who we are. We just celebrated Mother's Day so I will talk specifically to woman today. If you are an adult woman, it's so easy to look at your life and be disappointed about where you are. Maybe you are single and want to be married, or you don't want to be married but you feel pressure from everyone around you that you should be married. Maybe you had a dream to have a certain career and that dream just hasn't panned out. Maybe you're married and want children, but God hasn't given that to you, or maybe you're married and don't want children but feel pressure from everyone around you that you should. Maybe you are a weary mom, just trying to get through the days of diapers, dinners that no one eats, noise, dirt and disobedience. Maybe your a single mom just trying to make ends meet. Maybe you're divorced wondering what in the world God has planned for you and why things happened the way the did. Maybe your kids are grown and you're wondering what God wants you to do now. Maybe you wonder why God even made you a woman to begin with. Psalm 139 and Gen 1:27 speak specifically to you. No matter what your situation is, or what your season is, God made you for a specific, good purpose. He didn't make you as a woman as a last resort, as just someone to do Adam's bidding, as someone to constantly be stepped on, overlooked or thrown away. He made you with a good purpose. He made you to delight in Him and his good design for you.
We see this in the story of one of God's daughter's when we read about Rizpah in 2 Samuel 21. Here, David is trying to appease the Gibeonites, trying to right a wrong from when Saul was King. He gives seven sons of Saul for the Gibeonites to kill, 2 of those sons being Rizpah's. We're told in verse 10 “Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it on the rock for herself, from the beginning of the harvest until rain fell on them from the heavens; she did not allow the birds of the air to come on the bodies by day or the wild animals by night.” So often we think of women as weak, as docile creatures who need to be taken care of, who can't do for themselves. We hear this from all parts of society but especially from the church, that women have their place and they need to stay there. But this picture of Rizpah, this is not a picture of a weak woman. It says she fought off the birds and wild animals, protecting her sons dead bodies. This is not the typical picture we see of a woman; this is a warrior. Her love for her sons drove her to protect them, no matter the costs. God created Rizpah for a purpose. She was part of his plan to usher in the end of the 3 year famine Israel was under. David saw Rizpah's persistence, buried her sons, along with the bones of Saul and Jonathan in a royal burial then God sent rain on the land.
So often we get frustrated with the purpose God has for us. There is purpose in the woman's life who is single, she is not just in a holding pattern until she can get married and fulfill her “bigger” purpose. There is purpose in the married woman's life who does not have children, but a career. God can work through her to bring co-workers and people in her community to Christ. There is purpose in the married woman's life who does not yet have children but desire's them. This is also not a holding pattern for you, God does not see you as lesser because children are not yet in your story. You should not see yourself as lesser. There is purpose in the life of the mom who chooses to stay at home and take care of her kids. Your days may seem endless, but God is using you to speak life and love into your kids lives, even through the difficult times. There is purpose in the life of the mom who chooses to go to work. God is showing you that He can use you to do great things both at home with your children and in the workplace. There is purpose in the life of the woman who's children are grown and out of the home. You're work is not done now that you've raised your children, your work has only just begun for the kingdom of God. God does not limit women in what we can do for Him. I am sure some people saw what Rizpah was doing and believed she was insane, that her grief had caused her to go hysterical. But God had a greater purpose for what she was doing.
If you are having a hard time seeing your purpose today, look towards God. See that God made you in His image. See that God gave you good work to do, no matter what season of life you may be in, no matter whether or not it looks the way you had planned it to look. God has not forgotten you. God has not forsaken you. He is inviting you to delight in the way He made you. He is inviting you to see yourself the way He sees you. Stop listening to the lies Satan is constantly trying to tell you, and believe what God says about you. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made”. God had a great purpose for you long before any human had any thought of you. God sent his son to die for you. He loves you.
By: Sarah Norman
The last several weeks, we have been discussing prayer, specifically that Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. We have learned about surrendering to God's will, trusting in God's provision and following the path God wants us to go. This prayer is ended with “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” One thing we see over and over again when we look at who Jesus is and who He wants us to be, is that the picture He gives us looks nothing like what our culture tells us to be and even more surprising, nothing like what evangelical culture often tells us to be.
He is telling us to pray, “for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory”. That “yours” means God's, not ours. In our culture, so often, we see people grabbing for power, for glory, building little kingdoms unto themselves. If you look at evangelical culture throughout the 20th century, the religious right, the moral majority, so much of it tells us to take power back, that we are in the right so God will give us everything we want. It's prosperity theology at best, blasphemy at worst. We, as Christians, are not suppose to be in power. We are not suppose to be building kingdoms. We are suppose to surrender our power to God.
People so often read themselves into the battle scenes where God's people took back the promised land or choose to only see Jesus in Revelation taking back this world for Himself without seeing everything in between, without seeing Jesus' posture of humility and gentleness and meekness. Jesus set an example for us of how we are to conduct ourselves on this Earth. He set the example of a servant, leaving His throne and coming down to a broken world to die for us. Philippians 2 tells us that He did not see equality with God as something to be exploited, but yet He assumed the form of a servant and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. This is our example. Jesus is telling us that the kingdom and power and glory is God's, not ours.
We see in the story of Solomon what happens when we lose sight of who's kingdom it is, who has the power and who deserves the glory. We see in 2 Chronicles, King Solomon begins his reign so well, learning from His father David that Israel is God's people, not his, and his kingdom belongs to God. God asks him what he would like and Solomon tells God, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of yours?” He could have asked for money, power, fame, but instead he asked for wisdom to know how to rule God's people. He understood that he needed help, that he did not have all the answers and needed to rely on God for how to rule God's people. The first thing he did as king was to build a temple for God. When that temple was built and it was time to dedicate it to the Lord, Solomon “spread out his hands” (6:12) and “knelt on his knees in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven,” (13). He was showing the people of Israel what a posture of humility looked like. He was showing his people that he was only their ruler because God put him there, and God was the true ruler of Israel.
This is the example of a leader that we need in today's culture. But that is not the leader that we ever actually choose. So often our leaders look like the subsequent kings of Israel, leading their country (or church) in idolatry, disguising it as worship of God, thinking they are to be praised above all else, that glory and honor and power are due to them rather than to God. This is who we choose because we live in a society that values the powerful, the rich, the prideful as opposed to the values that Jesus demonstrated such as humility, meekness and gentleness.
The rest of Solomon's life shows us what happens when we turn away from the things of God and follow after the world. Through Solomon's wisdom, given to him by God, he gained fame and notoriety. Everyone around knew who Solomon was and traveled far and wide to see his kingdom and all the great things he had done. Solomon began to marry many women to gain more fame and wealth, to make treaties with other kings and with these women came their gods. Solomon began compromising by allowing his people and his wives to worship all the many gods they brought into his kingdom. His people turned away from God and his heart was turned away from God. The more power and fame and wealth he had, the further he was from God. In his book he wrote at the end of his life, Ecclesiastes, he used the word vanity and the phrase “chasing after the wind” often. As he looked back on his life, he saw that all the things he had gained, all the power, all the fame, all the wives and wealth, all the things of this world were worth nothing more than chasing after the wind; they were all vanity and no substance. He saw that what his life had become was not the life God wanted for him and if you read his words, it is clear he regretted it. At the end of his life, he saw what he had seen when his rule began, that God was greater than he and that God was deserving of power and glory, not him.
As we end this series on what prayer looks like, may we examine the posture of our hearts as we go to God in prayer. When we go to God thinking we know better, wanting God to give us what we want, what our desires are, what will make us happy, we are making God into our own image, treating him like nothing more than a genie in a bottle, hoping he will fulfill our dreams. But when we come to God with a heart postured in humility, knowing that He is greater, he deserves all power and praise, that completely changes the tone of our prayers. When we pray as Jesus taught us, keeping God in the position that He deserves, we begin to see how much we need Him in every aspect of our lives. We deserve no power. We deserve no glory. We deserve no kingdom. All of it belongs to God and God alone.
It is my prayer that the church as a whole in America can begin to see where we, individually and collectively, have prioritized power and glory for ourselves rather than giving it all over to God. It is my prayer that we will see how prioritizing that power has hurt so many people. It is my prayer that we will repent and begin the work of reconciliation with those we have hurt. And it is my prayer that one day the church will truly be able to say “For to Him belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory. Amen.”