Great morning at FV on Sunday. . . lots of personal stories of encounter with God.  Several have mentioned how life-giving it was to hear others describe the details of first hand experiences with God.  Some even mentioned how desperate they were to be reminded of the reality of his active presence among us.  Keep the stories coming!

In Abraham’s encounter with God (Gen. 17) God reveals himself as El Shaddai.  For the most part scholars have translated this name, God All-sufficient or God Almighty.  I wonder if a better rendering might be, God who does the laughable.  Laughter seems to be the dominate theme of this narrative – Abraham laughs, Sarah laughs, and Isaac’s name means ‘laughter’.  Divine promise is initially met with the laughter of cynical disbelief but its fulfillment generated the laughter of giddy surprise.

@nteeps said that the act of laughing at God is rather a bold move.  AGREED!  I suspect most of us wouldn’t outright laugh in the face of God – not if we care to draw another breath.  Yet how many of us dismiss him all the same because his promises seem too laughable to us?

Illustrating from several narratives in the bible @mariah1992 pointed out that God seems to be in the business of renaming people.  The act of renaming in the scriptures relates to God’s work of transformation.  To give someone a new name in biblical times was to give them a new character.   Its worth reflecting on, “What new name have I been given?”  How is God transforming my inner life?  How can I participate with God by living into my new name?

@jasonmatos made a great observation in asking, “Is 90 “bible” years actually 90 years as we know it?!”  Personal opinion aside, we can never be certain whether the long life spans attributed to the patriarchs were literal or symbolic (biblical veracity is maintained in either case).  Lets assume for argument sake that the bible is speaking figuratively about Abraham’s 175 year lifespan.  If we work with 100 years as the upper limit for a contemporary long life, that is the equivalent to Issac being born when Abraham was 57 and Sarah 52.  God’s promise of son a year earlier is still a laughable proposition – especially given Sarah’s inability to have children until that point.  And there is the possibility that Abraham was literally 175 years old.

@Shogo_91 raised the following concern. . . “how do we discern whether what we have ‘heard’ is of the Spirit? What if we’re wrong; or is that not having enough faith?”  Discerning the voice of God is probably more art than science.  At the risk of being overly simplistic, here’s a couple guidelines to start with:  Does the apparent promise line up with what we know about the character of God and his redemptive purposes?  Has the ‘word’ come from multiple sources on several occasions? Does it persist after a sustained period of waiting for divine confirmation through prayer?  Do other followers of Jesus affirm the authenticity of this word when you share it with them?  There is no fool proof way to ‘certify’ the authenticity of a perceived divine promise, but a positive response to these questions as a whole increases the likelihood.

I think its worth wrestling with the observation made by @DionClassic – “It’s crazy to see that even with seeing and hearing God we are always skeptical.”  We complain about God not showing up, not revealing enough of himself, not providing definitive proof of his active presence.  But there are dozens of narratives in scripture that demonstrate the real nature of our struggle – we just do not want to trust God and take his words at face value.  Jesus refused the demand from his contemporaries for more ‘signs’, pointing out that enough signs had been provided already.  It was time to believe and obey.

The conversation doesn’t need to end here.. What are your thoughts? Let’s keep this going in the comments section below..