Ride Along

Ride Along: Sarah (Pt 2)

Up to this point, in 10 years’ time, Sarai was moved from her home and her family, her husband has a covenant with God to be the father of nations and all the while she is barren, her husband disowns her in the presence of kings to save his own neck and receives a monetary gain while she is being passed around for her beauty.  Then, God reestablishes his covenant with Abram to be the father of nations.

In Genesis 16 Sarai is so convinced that God is done with her.  She takes herself out of her own story and gives Hagar, her servant, to her husband Abram as a wife. Sarai benches herself in Genesis 16: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar.  And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant: it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’”

Abram listens to his wife Sarai, takes Hagar as his wife, she becomes pregnant and they have a son name Ishmael. Hagar begins to look down at Sarai.  I don’t think Sarai could get further into the margins in her own story.  Her slave becomes pregnant with her husband’s baby in hopes of furthering the family line.

In Genesis 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and God establishes a covenant with Abraham to make him a father of nations. God tells Abraham that this will be a covenant of circumcision.  This is the third time that God is establishing a covenant with Abraham, but the first time that Sarai is mentioned.  The first thing God does is he changes her name from Sarai to Sarah and says, “I will bless her and moreover, I will give you a son by her.”  In verse 21 of chapter 17 God says, “But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

Then, in Genesis 18, the Lord visited Abraham and Abraham asked if he could prepare the Lord’s messengers a meal.  The Lord agrees, Abraham runs off to arrange the meal preparations. The Lord asked where Sarah was. Abraham says, “She is in the tent.” Then, the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”  Sarah is finally in the story.  She is slowly moving out of the margins and unto the main page as she listens behind the tent door.

Genesis 18:11 -12 says, “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?"

Sarah laughs at the promise because she can’t see herself being used by God. She is sitting on the bench and not running the race at all.    

In Genesis 20, Abraham and Sarah find themselves in another situation where Abraham is asking Sarah to lie about being his wife so Abraham will be spared.  This takes place after the LORD told BOTH of them that she was going to become pregnant with the promise of their first and only son, Isaac. 

Genesis 21 brings us back to our main text. Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90 and then their son Isaac is born.  Sarah moved from bareness to fertility. She moved from the margins to a position of significance and prominence.

Sarah would say, “Just when you’re done.  Just when you have called it quits and you think that the promise God spoke won’t happen this side of eternity.  Just when you thought your identity was grounded in your inabilities – God gives you a new name and establishes is covenant through you. It doesn’t matter your faults or inabilities.  It doesn’t matter if you have been hurt, wounded, or rejected.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t add up to the world’s standards: all that doesn’t matter because God isn’t done with you; even when you think you are done and you have done all you can do.  Even when you have waited and waited and waited for God to move on your behalf and he still doesn’t move when you think he should – God is not done with you, even if you’re done with Him.   

Ride Along: Sarah (Pt 1)

I grew up playing sports.  Being the youngest of four with two older brothers, you can bet that we had some fierce competitions.  I love to win, but more importantly, I love playing the game.  It’s never fun to lose, but its like pouring salt in the wound when your team loses and you didn’t even get to play in the game OR you were benched during the game.  I took myself out of the game by my actions or attitude, but most of the time, it was both.

This whole series revolves around the scripture in Hebrews 12:1 – 3, where the writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to run the race of life with endurance and every week we have been taking lessons from the lives of those who have gone before us, so that we can be encouraged to continue running the race of life.  In our ride along with Sarah, she would tell us – God’s not done with you.  

We first meet Sarah, who is called Sarai in the book of Genesis chapter 11, verses 29 and 30. Sarai has little to no value by the world’s standard.  The biggest thing a wife brought to the table was the ability to bear children, especially males to carry on the father’s line. More so, one of God’s first commandments to Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:28 is “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”

Simply put, Abram wanted to have kids; the world expected Sarai to have kids, and God said to have kids and lots of them, but Sarai was unable.  For the majority of Abraham and Sarah’s story, we find Sarah barren, in the margins, and mostly forgotten. 

In Genesis 12 - Abram is called by the Lord to move from the place of his birth to the land of Canaan. God tells Abram “To your offspring I will give this land…”

In the second half of Genesis 12, there is a famine in the land and Abram and Sarai travel to Egypt.  Before they arrive in Egypt, Abram tells Sarai, “You are really beautiful and the Egyptians will want to kill me so they can have you, so when we get there tell them you are my sister.” Sarai does what is asked of her and so, Pharaoh takes Sarai as his wife.  Abram is blessed with sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys and camels, God sends a plague (A little foreshadowing), Pharaoh gives Sarai back to Abram and sends them on their way.

Genesis 13 and 14 Lot, Abram and Sarai’s nephew, separates from them because their riches and flocks are too great for the land to support them.  After some time, Lot was taken captive in the middle of the war, so Abram takes 318 of his trained men to go rescue Lot. We read this and cheer on Abram for his warrior mentality and for rescuing Lot, but we fail to realize that Abram left Sarai, his wife, all alone. The estranged male nephew has more family value than the barren wife. In Genesis 15, God enters into a covenant with Abram; promising him as many children as the stars in the sky. 

Ride Along: Abraham (Pt 2)

Second, Abraham abandoned all reliance on his own efforts and put in his full confidence in God. This wasn’t the case all the time. Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham, so they might have a child through her.  Hagar became pregnant through Abraham and bore him a son and the boy’s name was Ishmael.  The descendants of Ishmael are the modern day Arabs and this is what God said of Ishmael in Genesis 16:12

“He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
  his hand against everyone
  and everyone’s hand against him,
   and he shall dwell over against all his

Unhealthy things come out of our partial faith in God.    Abraham wasn’t trusting God to fulfill the promise of a son in God’s time, so he took matters into his own hands. Abraham didn’t abandon all reliance on his own ways and he didn’t put his full confidence in God. Abraham stepped off the foundation of God and started walking in his own strength. 

Even though Abraham had a weak moment in his faith and himself as a foundation instead of God – God never left him.  God was right beside him, walking with him.  God couldn’t shield him from all the consequences of his sin, but God wanted relationship with Abraham more than ever in his moment of selfishness.  Right after Abraham goes his own way, God pulls him back into deeper relationship and calls him a friend. 

Even when we fall because we put our faith in ourselves instead of God, He is right there beside us, picking us back up, and going deeper in relationship with us. 

If we are eliminating ourselves as the foundation of our lives, then who is our foundation?  Who is the theme of our lives? Looking at the end of our definition of faith, we have the answer. We exchange ourselves for God as the theme and foundation of our life through faith.  HIM who is God, His Word who is Jesus and His promise who is the Holy Spirit.

Our faith allows God to become our foundation, our life’s theme and rock. God is love and, in His perfect love, free will must exist.  If God wasn’t love, then He would force Himself to be our foundation, but since He is love, our faith in Him releases to become our foundation.  We have an active faith and God is our foundation by our faith in Him.

So how is your faith right now? Who is the foundation of your life? What is the theme of your life?  Maybe you are struggling with consistently trusting God with everything. Maybe you’re struggling with abandoning all reliance on your own efforts.  Maybe you’re struggling with putting your full confidence in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  God is your foundation by your faith.

Ride Along: Abraham (Pt 1)

Today we took a Ride Along with Abraham. Abraham, in all of his wisdom, could tell us to obey God. He might say that, if you are God’s friend, you can change His heart.

He might tell us that doing business with your nephew might bring a war your way that you are ill-prepared for, but God will give you victory.  Abraham could tell us that God will provide in your moment of need OR all you have belongs to God.  Abraham could tell us that patience grows when waiting for a promise.  Abraham could teach us a lot in our Ride Along with him, but above all, Abraham would tell us: God is your foundation by your faith.

Hebrews 11:10: “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

The word foundation being used here could be referred to as a theme. God is our theme with every step we take when our faith leads us.

The foundation of your home is extremely important. We want a foundation to be sturdy, dependable, and strong.  We don’t want a foundation with any cracks of leaks in it.  When talking about the ground your house is standing, you want it to be all of those things and more. 

A wise man built his house on a rock and when the storms, winds and rain came the house stood.  A foolish man built his house on the sand and when the storms, winds, and rains came great was the fall of his house. God is our foundation by our faith.  Faith established God as the foundation of our life. He is the rock we build our lives on, if our faith is in Him. 

In our lives, we can establish anything as our foundation or theme in life, it could be ourselves, money, possessions, relationships and so many other things. However, our faith establishes God as our foundation and theme in life. 

The definition of faith is –

A constant outlook of trust towards God, where by human beings abandon all reliance on their own efforts and put their full confidence in Him, His word, and His promises.

The constant outlook is the first step.  We have to be looking towards Him in everything. If Abraham wouldn’t have had a constant outlook of trust toward God, he wouldn’t have been able to make the trip to sacrifice his son, who was a fulfilled promise from God to Abraham after over 90 years of waiting.

Abraham takes each step towards the mountain to sacrifice his son because God is his foundation by his faith.  God isn’t like the foundation of your house. He can go anywhere you go.  In fact, God is already everywhere, so our faith releases Him as our foundation and we tap into Him wherever we are because He is everywhere. 

Pastor Gary & Amanda Fox Appreciation


By Ken Johnson

“Now, may the God of peace… equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ…”  Hebrews 13:20 – 21

Gary and Amanda Fox have been equipped by God to come alongside broken churches and help them heal; they are church doctors.  They came to New Life sixteen years ago, ready to minister God’s healing touch to a hurting body.  Last Sunday, New Life said thank you for the years of “good medicine” they poured into the lives of our church and into our community.

The gifts that Gary and Amanda possess that are vital in bringing healing to a hurting church and hurting people are much like the tools found in a doctor’s bag.  Such tools allow a doctor to diagnose an illness, understand its effects and implement a treatment that brings wholeness.  If we were able to look inside the bag of what God has given the Foxes, here are some of the things you would find:

The Gauze of Compassion – When first encountering wounds, it is important to protect them, to cover them and allow them to begin the healing process.  Compassion is like a wrapping of gauze that prevents further trauma to vulnerable places.  Wrapping and rewrapping wounds with gauze is not a glamorous task; it takes gentle patience over a long period of time before healing can be seen.  For their whole lives of ministry, the Foxes have faithfully administered such patience.

The Stethoscope of Understanding – A stethoscope lets a doctor hear the rhythms of the heart.  Gary and Amanda have an especially well-tuned ear for knowing what such rhythms mean.  This is not only true when they listen to what is happening in the lives of people, but they also understand, with great depth, the rhythms of God’s heart FOR people.  They have devoted themselves to conveying the message of God’s heart for humanity, that He is for them and not against them, that He wants relationship with them and that His love never fails.

The Tongue Depressor of Hope – The Bible says that, “The tongue has the power of life and death,” Proverbs 18:21.   For many years, the Foxes have spoken God’s words of life to countless people and through the living Word working inside them, they have turned words of confusion, bitterness and despair into words of hope; and hope is eternal.

The Otoscope of Listening – There is a despair that comes from being hard of hearing.  When it is difficult for people to pick up voices, there is a constant struggle to understand what’s happening around them and how they should be responding to their environment.  An otoscope is that instrument that doctors so often put inside a patient’s ear in order to see what is preventing the sound from coming through clearly.  The Foxes are listeners.  In hearing people’s stories they are able to see past the confusion and striving in their lives and to bring them into a place where they can hear and trust God's voice for themselves.

Being a good doctor is more than simply possessing the right tools, it is a matter of truly caring for people and using those tools with wisdom.  Gary and Amanda Fox are wonderful “doctors”.  Next week, you will discover exciting developments in the scope of their “practice”.




Ride Along: Abel (Pt 2)

At this point in the Ride Along, Abel would remind us not only to give God our best, but he would also encourage us to stay in our lane.

Here we have Cain and Abel, brothers who are in two different lines of work, but they are both using their resources to bring an offering to God. One is a farmer and one is a shepherd. Cain has a lane. Abel has a lane.  God designed you with some certain talents, abilities, and gifts. He has designed us to fit best in a lane as we run the race of life. 

Paul puts it this way, “We are all many members, and all members of one body. The body of Christ consist of many members.” The eye can’t say I don’t need you and walk away from the rest of the body and still function in excellence as an eye.  Likewise, a foot can’t will itself to be a brain. Each member of your body has its function and purpose and WE have our function and purpose as a part of the body of Christ. But, we all need to work together in our best-designed roles.  We need to stay in our lane and not compare our gift to someone else. 

Cain was so focused on Abel and his offering, he couldn’t give God his best. He was so obsessed with Abel and his offering, he thought it better to kill Abel so God’s standard would be lowered.  Cain wanted to get Abel out of the picture so his gift would be regarded, instead of bringing God is best and staying in his lane. Then the ground he works for a living is cursed, and he has to be a fugitive and wander the earth. One of the saddest scriptures is Genesis 4:16, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod (which means wandering) east of Eden.”   

Abel would encourage us to stay in our lane. He would say don’t stop running to look and compare yourself to anyone else.  We are meant to run along side each other in unity. Our lanes are going to look different, but we are better in our diversity.   He would say we don’t have the same gifts and talents, but we all can give God our best when we stay in our lane.   

 Preparing and preaching sermons are a part of my lane. When I first started preparing sermons I began to compare myself to other preachers.  I would write something and say, “That doesn’t sound as good as (Insert Name).” I stayed in this mode of comparison and I would get nowhere.  The Holy Spirit gently turned my head to focus back on Jesus and He reminded me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made and that if God wanted a replica of another pastor, he would have made one himself. 

 “But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” - 2 Corinthians 10:12b

What does your lane look like? Where has God designed you to be your best and to give your best to him? God wants to reveal His purposes for you to you.  He doesn’t wish to hide His will from you. What does your lane look like?  We all have skills. We all have talents. We all have something to contribute as an offering to the Father. We all have a lane to run in, but we have to make the choice right now to give God our best. We have to decide that we are not going to use others to measure our success. We have to decide to run the race of life free from the sin of comparison. Are you ready to give God your best and stay in your lane?


Ride Along: Abel (Pt 1)

Sadly, Abel’s story isn’t very long, but what he can teach us in a Ride Along is extremely valuable.  Abel would encourage us to give God your best and stay in your lane.  Take a look at Abel’s story in Genesis 4:2 – 10.

So why does the story of Abel matter to us? There is a phrase in Hebrews 11:4 that I can’t seem to get out of my spirit, “…though he died, he still speaks.” The story of Abel matters to us because God said that he still speaks and we need to listen.   

It’s pretty obvious that these brothers didn’t get along very well.  They had their differences and similarities like most siblings do. They were from the same parents, they were both bringing an offering to the Lord. We know that Abel was a Shepherd and Cain was a Gardener. Also, we know that Cain was a murderer and Abel was not.

All of us have similarities and differences and God gets the most glory when they all come together for His purpose.  All of us have something to give, some talent, some resource to offer to the Father.  We decide what that “offering” is on a daily basis.  

Abel decided that his offering was going to be the firstborn of his flock and the fat portions.  Abel gave God the first and best of his flock and the fat portions. Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. Most of us would celebrate Cain and his effort and say, “Good for Cain, he brought something.”  But, we look at the text and we see that Cain didn’t bring the first and best of the ground, he just brought an offering of the fruit on the ground.

Abel would tell us that we need to give God our best.  There might be a temptation to give God your seconds or even your scraps or what might be normal, but don’t settle to give God just a good gift-- give God your best.  There will be rough years where it feels like all your resources are running thin, but still give God your best because He deserves your best in whatever you do, whatever you say and in whatever resources you are equipped to steward – God deserves your best.  

Not only does God deserve your best; He requires it.  Don’t hear me wrong, there is a difference between attempting to give God your very best and falling short – God has grace for us in that situation.  However, God does not have grace for us when we knowingly keep the best for ourselves and offer Him our seconds. God had regard for Abel’s offering, but God had NO regard for Cain’s offering. The word regard here means, “To formally accept or look upon.” God formally accepted and looked at Abel’s offering because Abel gave God his best.  God formally rejected and looked away from Cain’s offerings because Cain knew that he didn’t bring his best offering to God.   

We know that Cain knew he didn’t bring his best because of what God says to Cain in Genesis 4:6&7.