Book Recommendation: Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith

Back cover blurb:

He promised her his heart. She promised him a son. But how long must they wait?

When Abram finally requests the hand of his beautiful half sister Sarai, she asks one thing–that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even Sarai’s father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if she makes a promise in return–to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.

But as the years stretch on and Sarai’s womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain, lest Abram decide that he will not fulfill his. To what lengths will Sarai go in her quest to bear a son? And how long will Abram’s patience last?

Combining in-depth research and vivid storytelling, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the beautiful and inscrutable Sarai in this remarkable story of love, jealousy, and undaunted faith.

Narelle: I found this fictional story fascinating for a number of reasons. In the book of Hebrews Sarai (later known as Sarah) was commended for her faith. If we take a closer look at her life circumstances we realise she struggled in her faith, especially in believing God’s promise that she would provide her husband with an heir.

Sarai was a woman who shared a deep love with her husband. She was known for her beauty and appeared to have it all. Her beauty even attracted the attention of a Pharoah, with disastrous consequences. I recommend this book to those who like Biblical fiction and want to gain a greater insight into the lives of Abraham and Sarah.

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Isaac: Abraham and Sarah’s promised son

by Narelle Atkins

Abraham was seventy-five years old when God first promised him that his descendants would become a great nation. Ishmael, Abraham’s firstborn son from Hagar, was born when Abraham was eighty-six years old.

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, God confirmed His covenant with Abraham. God said all males must being circumcised as a sign of the covenant, including foreigners living in Abraham’s household. Although Sarah was ninety years old, God promised she would bear a son for Abraham within a year and they were to name him Isaac. God said He would establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants.

Abraham held a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned. At Sarah’s urging, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. The Lord had promised Abraham that Ishmael’s descendants would become a nation.

Isaac married Rebekah not long after his mother died. Rebekah was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, Nahor.

After Sarah died, Abraham took another wife who bore him sons. When Abraham died at the age of one hundred and seventy-five, he left everything he owned to Isaac. Before his death Abraham had given gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from Isaac to live in the eastern lands. Isaac and Ishmael buried their father in the cave where Sarah was laid to rest.

Community Day: Meet Missy Tippens from USA

Narelle here. I’d like to welcome Missy Tippens to our blog today. Missy’s group is from Winder, Georgia and has 20-30 group members (varies each session).

Narelle: Please share with us something unique about your group.

Missy: I think one of the most unique things about our group is that we come from various churches in the community. It’s so fun to study with women from other denominations and backgrounds. We also have a wide range of ages—from the late 30’s to around age 80!

Narelle: Where does your group meet?

Missy: We meet at my church in a large Sunday school room. We used to set up the tables in a large “U” around the room but have had to go to more of a theater-seating format with rows of tables to be able to see the videos.

Narelle: What is your group currently studying?

Missy: So far, our group has always done Beth Moore studies. We meet weekly for two hours with time for prayer requests, discussing the lesson and watching Beth speak by video. Right now, we’re studying the book of James in James: Mercy Triumphs.

Narelle: And we have a few questions for the members of Missy’s group. Firstly, what do you like about your group?

Laura Reynolds: I like our group because we are all open and honest.  We bring our thoughts and concerns to the table when questions are asked.  We are comfortable with each other.

Nancy R.: What I love about our group is the wonderful ladies we have and the fellowship we share.  The other thing I love is our leader, Dotty, who brings so much love and humor to the group.

Narelle: Does your group have a favourite food or activity?

Laura Reynolds: We go out to lunch each week after the study.  We try to choose a different place each week.  If you can come…great…if not we hope you can come next week.  We also have a covered dish luncheon after the completion of each study and have a great time.

Narelle: Why do you think it is important to belong to a Bible Study group?

Laura Reynolds: It is an excellent way to make new friends and grow relationships with other ladies that you would not perhaps be able to any other way.  There is something very special about studying God’s word with others and to share and listen how others respond to questions.  It is amazing how when someone responds, another would not have thought about it that way.  Bible study is a very important part of my life and it makes the scriptures come alive and makes them more understandable.  And as for the friendships/relationships, well all I can say is they are “priceless”.  I highly recommend a Bible study to everyone. Try it and I know you will love it.

Nancy R.: It’s important to belong to a Bible study group so that I can stay in the Word on a daily basis, stay close to God, and to be held accountable by the group for my study.

Thank you Missy for visiting with us today and giving us an insight into your group.

Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mother of three, made her first book sale to Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been finalists for the Booksellers Best, ACFW Carol Award (Formerly Book of the Year Award) and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Her most recent from Love Inspired, A House Full of Hope, was released in February. Georgia Sweethearts is coming in spring 2013.

Visit Missy at

Find her on social media:!/MissyTippens

We hope you’ve been encouraged by hearing about Missy’s group. If you’d like your group to be featured in a Community Day post, please contact us at: community [at] 30minutebiblestudies [dot] com

Operation Christmas Child: How you can help and make a difference

Narelle here. Today I’m delighted to welcome Marie Barendrecht to our blog. Marie lives in Canberra, Australia and for many years she has been a passionate supporter and volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.

Narelle: What inspires you to make Operation Christmas Child boxes for Samaritans Purse?

Marie: The boxes are sent to third world and developing countries where the people are so poor they cannot afford to buy gifts for their children. The box is usually the first and only gift the child ever receives. It also helps the local pastors to return to these kids to teach them about God’s love and help with other needs like clean water, health and schooling.

Narelle: What do you put in the boxes? Do you make items or purchase them?

Marie: Items like clothes can be made, and teddy bears can be knitted (see Samaritans Purse website for patterns). All other items are purchased.

1. Stationary – 2 exercise books, lead pencils, color pencils, pens, eraser, pencil sharpener.

2. Hygiene items – soap, face washer, toothbrush, comb, brush.

3. Clothes – dresses for girls (nothing skimpy!), short and t-shirt for boys, maybe some underwear, cap, beanie, thongs (flip flop shoes).

4. Toys – skipping rope, yo-yo, tennis ball, dolls, balloons, recorder, cars, farm animals etc, marbles (Big W has a great selection for $1), Happy Meal toys are good too.

5. A nice soft toy.

6. Any other special items like a wind up torch, nail set, handbag.

Please look on the Samaritans Purse website/brochure for items that cannot be included. No second hand items are allowed.

Narelle: What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing a box this year but isn’t sure where to start?

Marie: Check the website and get as much info as possible, find an A4 shoebox, cover it with nice paper and start shopping. Remember to include $9 for handling.

Narelle: A few years ago you were part of a team who delivered Operation Christmas Child boxes to children in Papua New Guinea. How did the children respond to the boxes?

Marie: The children had no idea why we gave them a shoebox until they opened it. They were so excited and once they realized it was all for them they unpacked it and started playing. Usually the cap or beanie and t-shirt and shoes went on first, the soft toy was tucked under the arm and then they explored all the different toys. The parents were very excited about the school supplies and some of them even cried because they were so happy their children had received the gifts.

Narelle: What’s your most treasured memory from your trip to Papua New Guinea?

Marie: One day we delivered boxes in a settlement called 6 Mile. These people are the poorest and live in the absolute worst conditions. A couple of boys with very dirty feet were sitting on a bench, and only one of them was wearing thongs (flip flop shoes). After we handed the boxes out, that whole row of boys received thongs EXCEPT the one who already had some! How awesome is that, only our God can do that!

We also visited a village on impulse and they allowed us in (they hadn’t done so previously). This village now has a children’s church program, and they are talking about starting a church.

Narelle: Why do you think it’s important to support Christian organisations like Samaritans Purse?

Marie: Samaritans Purse is a nonprofit Christian organisation and 90% of the people who work for them are full time volunteers. In every receiving country they work with local church partners.  The local church partners are the ones who do all the groundwork. It’s locals helping locals. They know the cultures, speak the language and are trusted by the people. The boxes are a tool for them to follow up with Christian education and other projects as mentioned above. It is very successful, and 7 out of 10 kids who receive the boxes become Christians!

Narelle: How can we find out more about Operation Christmas Child?

Marie: You can download brochures and order the DVD and other materials from the Samaritans Purse website.

Australia: State Manager Toll free number 1800 684 300

Ask your state manager about volunteering at the end of the year when the boxes get processed (checked) before being shipped overseas.

New Zealand: Toll free number 0800 684 300


Marie, thanks for visiting with us today. In April 2010 I interviewed Marie on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog after her trip to Papua New Guinea. The link for the interview is below.

Hagar: The mother of Abraham’s firstborn son

by Deborah Horscroft

Hagar the handmaiden of Sarah was a profound theologian. Taken as a slave from her homeland of Egypt, given as an object to Abraham for the purpose of bearing a surrogate child for Sarah, abused and abandoned by a jealous mistress, lost in the wilderness, heavily pregnant and without hope: Hagar encounters the Living God.

God sends the pregnant Hagar back to her mistress, but not without promises. “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.” (Genesis 16:11) God names Hagar’s son Ishmael, which means “God hears”.

Known throughout the Old Testament as “The God of Abraham”, Hagar now dares to give God a new name, “El Roi”, which means “the God who sees me.” To all who feel invisible, or to those who wish to hide their injustice from God, He is El Roi, the God who sees.

When Hagar and Ishmael are sent away by Abraham a final time the LORD speaks again and promises Hagar that Ishmael will also be the father of a great nation, the Arab peoples. He provides them with water in the desert and “God was with the boy as he grew up”. (Genesis 21:20)

It can be tempting to think the God of the Old Testament is so very different to the God of the New. Yet the God who was known to Hagar is also strikingly familiar to us. The God who hears, sees and speaks. The God who cares for us, who is with us and who keeps his promises. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2), God made flesh.

Book Recommendation – Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee

Book Recommendation by Narelle Atkins

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee (B&H Publishing, 2010) is a speculative fiction love story. The early chapters in the book of Genesis outline Adam and Eve’s story. We know the basic plot. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were banished from the Garden of Eden. Later on in the story their eldest son, Cain, murdered his younger brother, Abel.

The beauty of this book is the way the author has interpreted the events outlined in Genesis and brought these characters to life on the page. The story is a fascinating and thought provoking fictionalised account of what may have transpired during Havah’s lifetime. We look at the world through her eyes, and gain an insight into the life of the first woman and mother of all the living.

I was fascinated by the contrast between Adam and Havah’s idyllic and harmonious life in the Garden of Eden and their life in exile as they live with the consequences of their disobedience to ‘The One’. They shared this amazing relationship with ‘The One’ in the Garden that we can only dream about and suffered the pain of silence from ‘The One’ after they sinned and were exiled.

The book highlights the consequences of original sin, for Adam and Havah and their descendents. Things we perceive as a normal part of life eg. disease, ageing, death, difficulties with childbirth, nature being out of harmony, were foreign concepts to Adam and Havah until they were exiled into a broken world. Their harmonious and loving relationship drastically changed after they ate the forbidden fruit.

I was challenged to question the ideas and concepts raised in the story. Havah faced many problems and issues in her relationships with Adam and her growing family. She knew what life was like before sin entered the world and yearned to return to her former life in the Garden of Eden. Havah and Adam lived with incredible guilt as they and their descendents bore the consequences of their sin in the Garden of Eden. Their guilt put additional pressure on their relationship because they knew what they had lost.

This story also contains adult themes that are handled in a tasteful manner, and I give the story a PG rating for children and younger readers. I wouldn’t call this story a romance in the traditional sense because it is the original human love story turned sour. The story explores how Adam and Havah picked up the pieces after their idyllic relationship was shattered. I recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and challenging speculative fiction story.

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God’s Covenant with Abraham

by Narelle Atkins

In Genesis 12, God made a covenant with Abraham. This covenant was an important part of God’s plan of salvation for the world. A covenant can be defined as a formal agreement between two parties.

Genesis 12:1-3 outlined the three key promises in God’s covenant with Abraham.

God commanded Abram (later known as Abraham) to leave his homeland and father’s household for a new land. God promised to give Abraham and his descendents the land of Canaan.

God promised to make Abraham and his descendents into a great nation. Abraham’s name would be great and his descendents would be more numerous than the stars in the sky.

God promised to bless Abraham. God told Abraham He would bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse Abraham. And all the people on earth, every nation, would be blessed through Abraham.

As Abraham’s story unfolds in Genesis 12, we learn why Abraham questions how God will fulfill His covenant promises. Abraham and his wife Sarah (previously called Sarai) are very old and childless, and the land of Canaan is already inhabited by other people.

Ultimately, Jesus’ death and resurrection is the fulfilment of God’s covenant promises to Abraham. In Luke 22:19-20, Jesus shares His Last Supper with his disciples. Jesus tells His disciples that the cup He’s holding is the new covenant in His blood, poured out for them. Jesus establishes a new covenant to replace the old covenant, and He brings salvation and blessing to the world.