The Importance of Women…and Men

Genesis 2:19-25

Who is or was your favorite couple? Who, as a couple, influences (or has influenced) your thinking, your decisions, your beliefs? Has there been a couple who you consider to be spiritual mentors?

One of my favorite couples is a couple named Al and Emma Jean. They have been married for many, many years. The love they have for one another and for the Lord is very evident.

Al has been one of my spiritual fathers and when I have the chance to be with him, it is always a pleasure to be with him.

The reason that I asked the question “Who is or was your favorite couple?” is that from now until Father’s day, we are going to study several couples in the Bible for the purpose of understanding that women and men are valued by God. Some of the couples we will study were husband and wife and some were not.

The reason for this study is not only that I believe that the Holy Spirit is leading me to this series but I think that it is important that we understand that women as well as men, matter to God and always have. This is especially true and important today given the current relational climate between men and women in our society.

Women, I remind us this morning, matter to God just as much as men do! Both of them were created in the image of God by God. We need to remember this throughout this series… and in daily life

And we are going to the beginning of the Bible this morning to start this journey through scripture. Our text for this morning is Genesis 2:19-25

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

   and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

   for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Genesis 2 is what one writer says is a zooming in on the events of Day 6 that is written about in Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,

   in the image of God he created them;

   male and female he created them.

The writer of our main text expands on what is said at the end of verse 27 in chapter one: “…male and female he created them.”

I want us to notice four things in our main text this morning:

First, please notice the second sentence of verse 20:

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found…

Why.not?

Let’s go back to verse 18 for a moment:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Prior to this verse God had given “the man,” which is our translation for the word ‘adam which is the ancient Hebrew word for ‘man,’ some work to do! We go further back in chapter 2 to verses 19 and the first half of verse 20

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found…

In this creative work of naming the animals, no suitable helper for ‘the man’ was found. And God does not find this to be a good thing.

Here is my point: The man, the male, human who was created by God, is determined to be lacking a helper, a supporter that God believes is important because God says, “It is not God for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

The second thing to notice is the creative act of God that results from His determination to create a helper for the man. Verses 21 and 22:

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Ponder that for a moment…

Have you ever wondered what that creative act looked like?

God used His own anesthesia to put Adam to sleep! (I wonder how long it took Adam to wake up!)

And then I wonder what it was like the first time the man laid eyes on her?

My point is this: God created woman because He thought that the man needed a helper, a support, a partner… not a slave or a thing. But a fellow human being as part of God’s great creation.

Now, the next thing we need to notice is found in verse 24

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

   and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

   for she was taken out of man.”

The man named this new creation of God ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man. God had given the man the responsibility of naming the animal world and now He gave the man the responsibility of naming his helper, partner.

Again, can you imaging the emotional climate of their first meeting. The tone of voice the man used to name the woman. It wasn’t angry or demeaning or demanding! I dare say it was holy and respectful.

This is before the Fall, the choices they both made as noted in the next chapter, chapter 3. This is absolute perfection!

I do not think that there was sarcasm or objectification or abuse or anything else that is part of today’s vocabulary and relationship between men and women. There had to be nothing but respect and awe.

My point here is this: This was the way God intended it to be. Verse 25 reminds us of this:

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

A vastly different relationship than what currently occurs in our time between many men and women. There was moral perfection. There was no sin driving a wedge between the man and the woman. There was no dysfunction, no hate, no disrespect… either direction.

Finally, we go to verse 24:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Now some of us this morning might be asking, “How did the writer of this chapter make this assumption based on what has been previously said?” At first glance, it seems to be a leap of application with some further explanation lacking to give a bit more detail as to why this statement of leaving and cleaving is made.

Let’s remember something here… the first audience for whom these words were written. They were closer to our beginnings than we are. These words are for us today… the entire Bible is for us today! But they had a nearer understanding of what the writer of these verses meant.

But, I think that given the phrase, “That is why…” (it is translated, Therefore, in the King James Version), that these words, this passage was written back then to give the reason why marriage is between a man and woman as a contrast to marriage practices of that day and age AND, I believe to underscore the value of human life both male AND female, both of which many continue to believe in today, including us.

My point is this…

God created the woman for a purpose of support, affirmation, and help to the man and be human in her own right and way. It was to be a partnership not a competition or corporation. But they made the decision, as is painfully and fully described in Genesis 3, to wreck it and God makes clear at the end of that chapter as to the relational fallout of their choices.

So what does this mean for us this week?

On this Mother’s Day I believe that the writer of our main text is telling us that God created both male AND female and His original intent for men and women was a loving, respectful partnership both in and outside of marriage. How do we express that today? What needs to change? What needs to be affirmed?

And speaking of partnerships, next week we are going to take a look at a mother, daughter, and adoptive mother partnership with a look at Exodus 2 regarding the saving of a baby named Moses and the women involved in that action.

But I conclude with an assignment:

Affirm the women…and men in your life today and this week. Keep reminding yourself that they are created in the image of God just as you are.

Amen

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My Review of Steven Strogatz’s Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019

I never successfully “passed” basic geometry and algebra 2 and pre calculus many years ago (as in four and one half decades!) Oh, I passed the classes…barely…but was totally lost…and frustrated.

So when I selected Steven Strogatz’s Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe to read and review, I stepped back into time and those long ago feelings of incompetence and failure. I also stepped out of my comfort zone.

I was glad I did!

While I am still not a student of ‘higher’ math, I grew to appreciate Strogatz’s (a highly respected mathematician) wonderful introduction to the origins, history, and application of calculus.

Written in a highly conversational style with wit, wisdom, and, to this reviewer, a great understanding of his field, Infinite Powers introduces the reader to the world of calculus, a field of mathematics which includes men and women in its history. There are the names, usual names of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, men whom we have been told and taught were giants in the field of mathematics.

But Strogatz also introduces us to some women who made significant contributions to both the theory and practice of calculus across time. Women such as Katherine Johnson, whose contribution to the American space program was such that her mathematical genius was relied on by the late John Glenn when he became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth and successfully return to earth.

A key plus of this book is the numerous illustrations of how calculus has contributed to the development of HIV vaccines, the creation of microwave ovens, and for this reviewer who read parts of this book on several airplane flights, the creation of the overhead bin on a commercial aircraft.

Infinite Powers is a delightful read for those who like math or those who wish to (try to) understand math better. It would make a great book for introductory courses in the history and theory of mathematics.

I gave this book a four star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

My Review of Richard Mouw’s Restless Faith

Baker Books, 2019

Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary and its current
Professor of Faith and Public Life, has offered up his thoughts on what it means to be an evangelical in today’s culture with Restless Faith: Holding Evangelical Beliefs in a World of Contested Labels.

Restless Faith addresses many of the issues surrounding the contemporary evangelical movement in the 21st century with a review of the basic tenets of evangelical Christianity: the need for a personal faith in Christ, the authority of scripture among them. But Mouw also offers up a brief historical survey of how the evangelical movement came into being, and goes through a list of issues that are commonly known to evangelical readers and those familiar with the evangelical lexicon and which define evangelicalism and the challenges it faces both within the larger Christian church as well as contemporary culture.

And Mouw does so for the purpose of asking and answering the question if the label of evangelical has “outlived its usefulness.” Mouw argues, very well I think, that it has not.

I liked this book for its personal tone as in many ways, in answering the question (or perhaps better put, asking the question) of the relevance of the term “evangelical” today, Mouw makes this book an autobiographical journey of his own faith development. As such, it made the book more interesting and relatable to what this reviewer is the primary audience of readers like myself who grew up in the fundamentalist/evangelical community.

A helpful book about the struggles of many who call themselves ‘evangelical,’ Restless Faith is helpful introduction to the issues facing the evangelical community today.

I gave this book a four star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received an electronic advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive view.

A Maundy Thursday Reflection: Who Was That Man?

For our Maundy Thursday service held tonight, I made the decision to let the Bible do the talking. So I read all four gospel accounts of the Last Supper up through the arrest of Jesus. And something caught my attention that only Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention:

In Matthew’s account of those moments, we read

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

Matthew 26:17-19

In Mark’s account we read:

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

Mark 14: 12-15 (NIV)

Luke’s account is similar to Mark’s

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.

Luke 22: 7-12 (NIV)

Who was this man? What was his name? How did he know what to do when approached by Peter and John? Did Peter and John know who Jesus was talking about? Why wasn’t his name mentioned?

What strikes me about these passages, this man, was that he contributed to the Kingdom of God and ultimately, the Christian faith, by a simple act of guiding Peter and John to the place Christians now call the Upper Room.

Applications abound in my head right now but the one that came front and center is this:

This simple act of a man whose name was left out, intentionally or unintentionally serves as example to us of simple service and obedience to the Lord.

So be encouraged that no matter how you serve your church and the Lord this weekend, even if it is in the simple act of preparing the sacraments or elements (depending on your liturgical status) for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday or Easter Sunday, that you may do so without recognition (but hopefully a ‘thank you’) but the Lord knows who you are and He is pleased with your simple service.

God bless you this Easter weekend!

My Review of Ron Chernow’s Grant

“Dismissed as a philistine, a boot, a drunk, and an incompetent, Grant has been subjected to pernicious stereotypes that grossly impede our understand of the man…In fact, Grant was a sensitive, complex, misunderstood man with a shrewd mind, a wry wit, a rich fund of anecdotes, wide knowledge, and penetrating insights.” I

Introduction to Grant

Ron Chernow has given readers, those interested in American history as well American Presidential history, a gift.

The gift is his award winning biography of the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S Grant.

As noted in the quote about from the introduction Chernow, with skill and effective use of numerous first person sources and documentation, pushes back against the common perception of Grant and effectively presents the Civil War general and President in all of his (Grant’s) complexity.

Chernow does not dismiss Grant’s habits and problems. He acknowledges that Grant dealt with a drinking habit throughout his adult life that he attempted to overcome with the help of others. Chernow also acknowledges that Grant did not often see the problems in his subordinates until it was too late and it caused him numerous headaches as President.

To this reviewer, Chernow’s biography of the 18th American President presents a much fuller, and honest, portrait of him. Of note was his increasing passionate support of the rights of African Americans in the post-war era and for the need for Reconstruction.

Chernow also clearly demonstrates Grant’s progressive views on the need for public education in American and that his post-office around the world trip set the tone for sitting Presidents to emulate. (Theodore Roosevelt would be the first sitting President to travel abroad when he went to Panama in 1906.)

Chernow’s portrait of Grant, neither fully sympathetic nor totally hostile, clearly paints a picture of a complex man who oversaw the United States as it moved toward the twentieth century as an industrial nation and out of the nineteenth century as a primarily agrarian nation.

This review believes that Grant is vitally important study of a Civil War hero and American President who serve American during a criticial period.

I gave this book a five star rating of Goodreads.

Note: I received this book as a gift and chose to write a review of it.

My Review of Nina Revoyr’s A Student of History

Akashic Books, 2019

When graduate student Rick Nagano, accepts a part-time research job offer by wealthy socialite Mrs. W- to help him pay rent and live, he enters a world far different from his blue collar, mixed race background. The result is a study in contrasts, but also many similarities, between two Los Angeles residents. A Student of History is an interesting and fascinating look at not just current and past LA history and culture, but really American history and culture.

When Nagano, who is a burned out doctoral history student at USC, takes on the job, he sees it as an escape from the pressure and increasing boredom of academic life AND a way to have a currently steady income, something which is needed because his current lack of academic progress puts his academic funding at risk. But as he digs deeper into his work, he finds a fascinating story of a mysterious woman whose “shun the limelight” prominent family unfolding before his eyes hides a narrative of secrets and tragedy.

One of the things I liked about this novel is that the characters are credible but with backstories that are complex but yet common; hopeful but heart-wrenching. A common humanity is the thread which runs through this novel – hope, love, loss, passion, and the like.

I gave this novel a four star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from Amazon Vine in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Hard Joy of Obedience

1 Peter 4:12-19

I begin this message before communion with the reading of our text for today. I Peter 4:12-19

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And,

“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,

   what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

This is the first Sunday of the month and on the first Sunday of the month we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through communion. We express gratitude to Christ for His loving act of salvation for us by remembering His sacrifice for us.

But it was a painful act. A very painful act.

How do we deal with pain today?

We deny our pain…we stuff it until it comes out in some ways that are simply wrong, hurtful, and sinful.

We numb our pain…drugs, work, money, porn, food…you name it, we use it to numb our pain.

We blame others for our pain. Now, we do things that hurt people, there is no doubt about that. But sometimes in the blaming others for our pain, we fail to take into account our responsibility in dealing with our pain and that means we finally have to decide to own our pain and do something constructive about it.

Then there are those deal with their pain. They admit their pain and they seek to appropriately remedy their pain. They ask for and get help with their pain. They learn what they need to do and not do to deal with their pain. They learn from their pain.

And if they are believers, they surrender their pain to Christ and ask Him for His help in dealing with their pain.

Sin, disobedience causes pain. The actions of sin and the attitudes of sin cause us pain. The prophet Jeremiah made this clear in Jeremiah 30:15 when the Lord says through him to the people of Israel

Why do you cry out over your wound,

   your pain that has no cure?

Because of your great guilt and many sins

   I have done these things to you.

But a few verses further down, verse 17 to be exact, Jeremiah lets it be known that the Lord is not done with His people by leaving them in their pain:

But I will restore you to health

   and heal your wounds,’

declares the Lord,

As we approach communion just two weeks away from Easter, we are coming to the end of this Lenten series titled Resilient Faith. We have been considering what a resilient faith looks like and so far, as we have walked through this series, we have examined the following characteristics of a resilient faith:

It is:

Focused

Active

Enduring

Ready

And today we learn that a resilient faith is a joyful faith…

But, uh pastor, there is nothing about joy in the passage you read earlier. How about a good sermon based on Nehemiah 8:10

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

That’s a good verse! Go home and read it and read it in the context it was written. It is a great illustration about having the joy of the Lord as our strength.

But joy is a critical part of our text today.

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

I remember sitting with one of my bosses many years ago at a breakfast meeting that he called for the express purpose of getting me to change my mind about leaving the company where I had been very successful. (Getting manager of the month for our division, my first month on the job as manager, was no mean feat! It was a lot of hard work!)

He was an interesting man to work for and there had been some behavior by him before I came aboard that caused his credibility to be called into question. He said to me, “I wish I had what you had.”

I think he meant my faith, my peace, my joy in life. (It was a stressful job at times, I tell you!)

And the way he looked at me after he said it, made me unsure how to respond. I did not have a lot of trust in him, so I was not sure if he was truly interested in why I lived the way I did or it was a ploy to get me to stay. So I did not answer him.

He got on my case from time to time, as a good boss often does. And I was working for him at a time in my life where I was getting back on my feet mentally, emotionally, and spiritually after a very difficult period so it was not an easy time for me either.

But, I think that he saw something in me…a joy perhaps?

But I did quit and moved on to something else for a while.

I think that some of you have moments like this as well.

Joy is not one of the ways we describe those moments, is it?

Maybe our definition of joy needs to be looked at.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines joy as: : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

I was successful at what I did and the rewards and accolades brought me joy but that was short lived. Quite frankly, I had greater joy when I left that job!

That kind of joy does not seemed to mentioned here in scripture. But such joy is important to us and we need that kind of joy.

The word translated as rejoicing in our text for this morning means:

to rejoice, be glad

to rejoice exceedingly

to be well, thrive

This is a different measure, even type of joy. It is a joy which comes from a decision, a difficult decision at times, but a decision… to be glad, to thrive, to be well because when we are ridiculed for our faith, when we are excluded because we do not “join in” because of our faith, God seems to show up and love on us in the midst of our pain of rejection and ridicule and an expressible joy comes on us.

This is a joy which comes from obedience, a life well lived with integrity and hope. It is a ‘hard’ a solid joy, not a soft mushy joy. A joy that is rooted in a trust in the Lord.

And this joy is evidence of a resilient faith even in the midst of pain, sorrow, and rejection. A faith that points to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

What does this mean for us this week? The deeper joy of following Christ, is a joy which both attracts and repels people we live with, work with, go to school with, do life with. This kind of joy, experienced in the midst of life with its challenges and opportunities, is a mark of resilient faith.

I had an experience this past week on Twitter when I engaged in a chat called Healthy Faith. I made a new pastor friend during that chat. And while we were engaged in that chat, a troll, which is the term used to describe a person on the internet who deliberately makes provocative comments to stir up trouble, made a comment to both of us that our time would be better spent talking to our fellow pastors about our President who he described in very hateful terms.

We ignored him. But I looked back on that episode and somewhat illustrates what I think Peter is saying today. When we seek to honor God and do good, we are going to be made fun of, mocked, ridiculed, and even worse.

There is joy in that because we are in good company when it happens…we are in the company of Jesus.

I conclude with these helpful words from Hebrews 12

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

There is joy in our faith, even when we are mocked for it. Keep living for the Lord!

Let us prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for communion.

Amen