Are we only learning about the Bible, or really reading it? Let’s take a look at Genesis and creation.

I was not always the best student when I was in school. There are plenty of times where I was assigned a reading, such as in English classes, and instead I just “learned about” the book. I read a bit, but more so found summaries and essays that were helpful and were ultimately shortcuts to the reading.

I could get through school easily enough like this with minor consequences, such as I was 36 when I finally read the Great Gatsby, rather than a teenager. But that sort of reading creates a bad pattern. A pattern that I think many of us can follow when it comes to the Bible. We may learn about it, while not really reading it. And we miss things.

Take for example this week’s reading from Genesis. We are doing the first five chapters, and even if you tried to read the Bible before and only got a few chapters in, you’d already have read the creation account.

But are we really reading? You’ve likely learned about it and it is even a point of controversy in and outside the church. There are arguments about creation theories and many wonder if the Bible conflicts with science. So we are familiar with the Biblical account of creation, but are we reading it? For instance, have you noticed the way that there are two creation accounts? That chapter 1 (and a bit of 2) speaks of creation one way, then chapter 2 goes over it some of it again, with a different style? Why is that? What is the purpose of these two chapters? Those are great questions to dig in as you read! What does God want us to learn from these opening chapters? Are we seeing God’s omnipotence? The goodness and beauty of creation? His purpose? Our purpose?

I don’t point this out to scold anyone for not noticing something in Scripture! Rather it is an exciting invitation to read. God’s Word is full and it is rich. It can be unexpected and comforting and challenging. Even in the familiar opening chapters of Genesis there can be a new word that God will bring to us by his Spirit.

Not to end with a contradiction to what I began with, but here are some resources to help us learn. A video introduction to Genesis and an article that tries to tease out the differences in those chapters of Genesis, just to get you thinking. I offer them not as a replacement to read, nor as something that is on par with the Bible, but as a help and invitation to read the Bible more deeply.

What is the Relationship Between the Creation Accounts in Genesis 1 and 2?

The Bible Project – Genesis 1-11

Here we go!

We’ve now begun our new reading plan that will take us through July. We’ll cover both Old and New Testaments, with plenty of variety along the way. But one thing will be constant–the Psalms. Each week we’ll have Psalms to read and reflect on.

But does that sounds difficult? Or maybe you already love the Psalms and want to go even deeper? Either way, this short video from the wonderful Bible Project will help you get going.

Just one of many great videos from The Bible Project.

Starting Something New

After quite a long hiatus, we’re starting something new. Not quite the whole Bible in a year that we started with. Not quite a deep dive into one book like with 1 Corinthians. And a little more than The Bible in 10 Weeks. It’s a whole season (or two) of reading broadly through Scripture, starting this month and taking us through July. What better time to recommit and reconnect by reading God’s Word?

Watch for more info or check out the Reading Plan section.

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 10 Review

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away..."
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…”

Having reviewed nine weeks of our reading plan let’s turn to the final readings we finished for week ten, New Creation.

In those readings we see the final stages of God’s plan–a plan that has been in the works since before the world was created. It is a plan for restoration and newness. Christ has reversed the curse that Adam had brought and now we can look forward to life everlasting. We, along with the entire creation, will be remade and raised to a life that is lived fully in the presence of God.

In Revelation there is a moment of concern for the author John because the scroll, the plan of God for this world, is sealed and there is no one that can open it. He despairs that the good work of God is being halted. As he weeps someone comes to him telling him to weep no more, for in fact there is one who can open the scroll. It is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the conqueror, who can open the scroll.

This Lion is the one who can carry out the plans of God.[1] Jesus has been on the move in a powerful way throughout Scripture and he takes center stage in Revelation. But there is a fantastic twist that follows. As John turns he doesn’t see a Lion, but a Lamb. It is the Lamb of God that takes the scroll and is able to open it.

This is a great, quick illustration of the way in which God came in a way that was not what people expected. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, but the way in which he conquers is not like others. Our Lion is the Lamb, the one who would be the sacrifice for our sins. He conquers by means of his own death.

It is the death of God who would comes to earth to save sinners that is able to break the curse of our sin and reverse the damning effects of our sin not just in ourselves, but in all creation. We trust our life over to the Lamb that was slain, but who now lives and reigns forevermore. And if our life is now in him, in Jesus Christ, we follow his lead and live for him now as we eagerly await his return.

  1. With this imagery in mind I had this 10 Week plan use a picture of a lion for its logo.  ↩

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 9 Review

"And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Although the reading plan only took us 10 weeks, it seems I’m stretching it out a little further with review. We’re almost finished as we now look back to week nine, The Body of Christ.

God had chosen for himself a people a long time ago and there were always particular traits for that community. There were themes and practices and boundaries. But in the history of God’s people certain events would shake the foundation of the community and alter its makeup.

God chooses Abraham and gives him a great number of descendants whose names were synonymous with their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When God frees the people from slavery in Egypt the people reconstitute themselves to a certain degree around the practice of Passover, always remembering that their God is the God of the Exodus. When Moses receives the law it organizes the people differently giving them new practices and understandings of how to relate to God. The twelves tribes look one way in the time of wandering and another when they settle in the promised land. There is another shift when Israel becomes a kingdom, when the temple is built, when they are in exile, and when they return.

If those events determined new ways for the people of God to exist, then there is no doubt that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ would be nothing less than transformative. God came to earth and revealed himself most perfectly in Jesus Christ, his son. If the church believes this then everything is different. The people of God need to look to Jesus to find its foundations for all practices. To build upon anything else would be folly.

As we read the letters of the New Testament you see this concern about the basic question, “How do we live now in light of Jesus?” People question old covenant practices. They wonder about pagan practices. What does this mean for Jews and Gentiles? How does Jesus’ life come to bear upon my relationships?

People like Paul seek to draw their attention in all his answers to Jesus, pushing for the nature and character of the church to correspond to Christ. The church should be a place of humility, seeking others needs above our own. And why does Paul say this in Philippians 2? Because of Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who instead of pride humbled himself even to the point of death on the cross. The church should be a place of love because Christ has loved us, even while we were enemies! The church should join in the work and rule of the kingdom, for Christ is our king and he is reigning now.

It is challenging to know the church should seek to be Christ-like because his life on this earth led to the cross. Likewise the church should be a people willing to suffer and sacrifice, just as Jesus Christ did for us all. Not just as individuals but as worshipping communities we need to be able to heed the call of Jesus Christ, pick up our cross, and follow him.

As it was the question during the time of the New Testament, it should still be the question today. How do we live in light of Jesus Christ? Are our churches living out his mission? Are we doing those things he calls us to do? Are we willing to suffer? Do we seek, like Paul, to point others to Jesus at every opportunity? Or do we answer the questions of how to do church apart from the life and work of Jesus Christ? Thankfully these New Testament books and letters offer us guidance today by the Holy Spirit just as they did thousands of years ago. We needed it then and we still need it today as our default seems to be a subtle drift away from Jesus’ mission and character. We always need to turn to God’s word to be called back to faithful ministry done in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 8 Review

"He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption."
“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

If the world was not surprised that God himself would come to us in Jesus Christ, then what he came to do would certainly have been unexpected. Jesus Christ was not born in a palace, raised with privilege, given an army, nor did he march upon Jerusalem and then Rome to conquer the world. Our coming king came to save us and to rule but he followed the path that led him to the cross. Our God is king and our king wore a crown not of gold, but of thorns.

This was foolishness. How could the Almighty be weak? How could our Victor suffer such apparent defeat? How could our Savior not save himself? But on the cross Jesus Christ showed his power over sin and death and sacrificed himself so that we may be saved. He was the ultimate sacrifice, sufficient in every way to atone for our sins.

At the crucifixion the curtain in the temple that divided God’s presence from a sinful people was torn in two. Behind that curtain was the Holy of Holies where only the select few could enter. But now we are chosen in Christ, we are the select who can be in God’s presence because Christ opens the way. He has reconciled God and humanity. Our sin divided and pushed us away. Our sin alienated us from God and made us his enemy. But God loved us even when we were enemies. And now in Jesus we can boldly go before the throne of grace.

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 7 Review

"...and they shall call his name Immanuel."
“…and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

God created this world and placed us in it. He was there in the garden with us and it was good. But we rejected him and turned to various idols. This pattern repeats again and again with the same tragic results. We turn from God to sin and to death and to those things that will never satisfy. Left alone this would be all we would ever know. Sin, death, and dissatisfaction. No amount of effort or progress could restore us back to the garden.

So God came to us. We celebrate that fact every Christmas. In Jesus Christ the God of the Exodus; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the God of Israel came to be with us. We celebrate ‘Immanuel.’ And God came to seek and save the lost. This is the radical teaching of Christianity. It was beyond the world’s imagination that God would enter this fallen creation the way that he did. As Tim Keller says, “The founders of every other major religion said, ‘I’m a prophet who shows you how to find God,’ but Jesus taught, ‘I’m God, come to find you.'”

That is good news.

The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 5 Review

"That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful..."
“That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful…”

Israel has been on the receiving end in their relationship with God. They have received a promise, they received the good work of God that freed them from captivity, and they received the promised land. It was not earned nor deserved. Rather God had chosen them to be his people and in his grace he has blessed them. But part of the promise to Abraham was for the people to be a blessing to the world, and that is not something the people always excelled at.

Having been transformed from one man receiving a promise to a powerful nation, Israel is now in the position to be a blessing for others, but they keep their blessing to themselves. The leadership hoards and the rich become richer. Even when God makes it explicitly clear that he has a plan for Jonah to go to a rival city, Nineveh, Jonah flees acting as though he’d rather die than give the Assyrians a chance to repent. This is not the way God wants his people to act and it certainly isn’t the way that God has treated them.

God shows his love to us even while we were his enemies. But too often we will only love those who already love us.