The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 1 Review

"before the foundation of the world..."

“before the foundation of the world…”

We are in the final week of this 10-week reading plan so it is now or never for review. I’d thought we would look back and try to remember each week a bit before we reflect on our final readings.

The idea was to have a plan that in a relatively short time introduced a great, overarching theme of Scripture. I wanted us to see that the Bible is cohesive. God has a plan and has had a plan since the very beginning. And we read this in week one. Before the world was made, God had chosen us in Jesus Christ.

We read this back in Ephesians 1:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Our other readings emphasized that we can actually believe the Bible. We aren’t left in the dark about who God is and what he is up to. God’s word is trustworthy and points us to this great plan God has in Jesus Christ. In reading the Bible we trust that God will continue to speak to us, at times with comfort and at times with very challenging, piercing words. But the whole of it is his inspired word.

Several Introductions to the Bible

This week’s reading is titled “Introductions.” We had our introductions to what the Bible is with brief readings from Hebrews and 2 Timothy.

When you read the passage in Luke you get an introduction to a way in which we can read the Bible. Jesus himself shows us that throughout all of Scripture we see him. He instructs disciples soon after the resurrection using the Old Testament and reveals all that those books say about him. Jesus didn’t come into the picture of God’s great plan late in the game. Jesus Christ was always the plan–before this world was even made we were chosen in him, as it says in Ephesians 1.

Then we turn to Genesis and are introduced to creation. Genesis has two accounts of the creation with the second one coming in chapters two and three. There we are introduced to the greatest of God’s creations, human beings, but then quickly we see how far we fall.

God made us and gave Adam clear instructions for how to live in the garden alongside God. But temptation comes when the serpent questions God’s word. “Did God really say that?… Oh, you won’t really die if you do that.” Adam and Eve do not believe the truth of God and believe the tempter. They exchange truth for a lie. The serpent wasn’t even holding something out that was an obvious treachery. The promise was for something akin to wisdom; it was to be like God. But in their pursuit of something good in the wrong way, they sin. And with sin there is consequence. There is shame, there is alienation, and there is curse.

Although God is the one who is wronged, he still seeks to provide even in the midst of passing out judgment. God is the one who clothes his children and he then in chapter three of Genesis promises one who will come for the serpent. Many see Christ as the offspring who will bruise the serpent from Genesis 3:15.

East of Eden

At the end of this introduction Adam and Eve are cast east of Eden, out of the garden and its gates are shut to them, with angels guarding the tree of life. What is next for them? Has God rejected the pinnacle of his creation, leaving humans on their own on earth? The good news that we know is that God does anything but leave us. God would one day come and be among us and there would be another tree of life. And on that tree Jesus Christ would die for us, giving us his very own life–a life abundant and eternal.

Confirmation Bias and Why We Need the Bible to Challenge Us

With two of this week’s passages we are reminded that the Bible is God’s word, and that idea carries great significance.[1] What God has to say to us, in its entirety, isn’t always something we want to hear. But it is what we need.

If we’re familiar with Scripture we may turn to passages that we already know and like in order to find some word of encouragement. We may want to hear how God blesses his people and then turn to see what great blessing Solomon received or see how Jesus heals the sick. But how often do we want to read how those who were so close to Jesus, his disciples, didn’t always receive the sort of blessings we want and instead had lives of pain and suffering?[2]

It seems we have a tendency to seek out what we already believe. We aren’t always in search of truth, but we are in search of confirmation–confirmation of what we already think we know.

You can turn on the TV or visit websites that you know will spin the news and report events in the way you like. It can be as innocuous as preferring to listen to your own local commentators while watching a sports game. I know I’d prefer to hear people who get at least a little bit more excited when my team scores. But it can also cause us to stick our heads in the sand. When all we hear and read is a carefully selected to never push us or confront our views, then we get very comfortable and also prideful. We make ourselves the judge of what is right.

When we are so selective in the way we take in information it leads to confirmation bias. With confirmation bias all we do, in the Bible and elsewhere, is look to reaffirm our ideas–which is to say, we try to reaffirm ourselves. But as Christians we must know we are sinners. We make mistakes and get things wrong. We can’t assume we know everything and have it all figured out.

At times God will confront us. He will challenge what we believe. And that’s good. God is God, and we are not. His ways and his thoughts are not like ours. There should be times when we are pushed and have to change our views and actions in order to align with what we read. 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn’t say “all Scripture is profitable to comfort us in down times.” God’s word may do that. But it is profitable for the hard things, too, like reproof, correction, and training.

We just need to be bold enough to first open the Bible and humble enough to listen for the Spirit to continue to speak to us through it and work upon our lives–even when that means we are convicted and challenged.


  1. Those readings from this week: Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:10–17  ↩

  2. We see this even in this week’s reading and not only in a book like Acts. Paul writes in 2 Tim 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” How often do we hear 2 Tim 3:16 and never hear a verse just a few lines up?  ↩

Does being ignorant lead us to learn or despair?

In case you were ever wondering, I write these devotionals and posts to help. Simple enough, right? My hope is that people pick up their Bibles and don’t just learn from them, but learn how to learn. I want to help people develop their own tools to study Scripture. But this can be hard because it is easy for someone like me who grew up in the church, always enjoyed Bible study from a very young age, and went to seminary to take for granted how the Bible can be a difficult read. It is impossible for me to approach Scripture the way someone who has never read it would.

Since I have read it before I can at least pass along some of what I’ve gain and with Year in the Bible I try to bring others along into a deeper appreciation for what God has blessed us with. But it is difficult because I don’t always know the questions people may have or the experiences they bring with them. I’m not always sure how something may be received, such as the use of commentaries.

I like to read a commentary as I go through and often will share insights gained from such reading. I intend for these short quotes or references to shed light on the text. There is an immense amount of study and research that goes into their writing and I think it helps illuminate Paul’s letter which was written almost two thousand years ago. But even as I write that last sentence, I fear that commentaries may intimidate and make people feel inadequate. If to “really” understand the Bible you need several degrees and endless hours to study all the scholarly writings, then how can I read the Bible? Perhaps revealing the great depth of the Bible reminds us that we’re not swimming in the kiddie pool, and then we immediately feel out of our element.

But again, I’m doing this to help and I pray that God works upon you to dispel that spirit of fear. Yes, there is great depth, but God speaks to us in his Word, he blesses us with his Spirit to aid in our comprehension. We could think about all that we don’t know and toss our hands up and walk away. Or we could see the great wisdom that God wants to show us and see its vastness as an adventure. Knowing God is not simplistic thing, but isn’t that more exciting?

If it is an adventure, let us see it as Everest and with great excitement journey together. To take that analogy further, we can recognize that there are Sherpas who guide us along, like those we’ve relied upon for 1 Corinthians like Ken Bailey or NT Wright. But we all go together. In these last few weeks we’ve read of spiritual gifts and have heard that if we do not have the same gifts as they do, that is all right. Some can be guides–teachers with knowledge and understanding. But it is a gift to be shared with the body, to equip others to seek God in his Word, as well.

So, as I write hoping to help, I pray these devotionals equip you to read, not discourages you with the notion that God’s Word is beyond your abilities. May whatever you gain inspire a sense of wonder that leads you to desire still more nourishment from God in Scripture. We’ve one month to go in reading 1 Corinthians and may the Spirit already be stirring in you a hunger to seek out what is next, and perhaps then you can be one to inspire someone else to meet God in his Word.

Is Ignorance Bliss? What would Paul say?

As a lover of history and learning in general, I’ve never really resonated with the phrase, “ignorance is bliss.” I love to learn and think ignorance is pretty far from a blissful condition. If we don’t know our history, as the saying goes, we are destined to repeat it. Certainly there is so much to learn from those who have gone before us. We can learn from their triumphs and learn from their mistakes, as well. This applies to us personally, seeing other individuals and learning from them. But it also applies to groups and churches and even nations. For example, what can we learn from Egypt and its upheaval? What could Egypt have learned from its own history and history at large that may have been able to guide them in these last couple years? Whatever that answer may be, ignorance would have been no help.

Thankfully, God have given us a fantastic book full of our own history. It is the history of God’s people and the story of God’s work among us. In this context, is ignorance bliss? Is it better to overlook the testimony of the Bible? Are we better off not knowing Adam or the judges? Should we care about Moses or the kings? The Old Testament is too often set aside, but we are worse off if we choose to be ignorant. And I think it is a choice. Perhaps if you do not know Christ and have never been to church, you haven’t necessarily chosen to be ignorant of the Scriptures. But if you are a Christian and do not know the Bible we’ve been gifted, you have made a choice to be ignorant. It is an avoidable circumstance. Every day is a new day to pick up God’s word and read. Every day we can pray for the Spirit to enlighten our minds to understand God’s truth.

Or every day we can choose ignorance. We can choose to miss out on the lessons we can learn from those who have gone before us. We can choose to turn our backs on what God says about himself in the Bible. We can be ignorant of the fact that the God of the entire cosmos came to us in Jesus Christ and revealed all we need to know. Jesus reveals God to us in the flesh and shows us the way, shows us what life really is, and shows us truth.

The letter we are reading currently, 1 Corinthians, is a letter to a specific church in Corinth as well as to the wider church community of that day. It was written almost two thousand years ago. Life was different then. I think we can underestimate that. But that doesn’t mean this letter, and other letters like it, have no bearing on us today. I would not want you to be ignorant of their struggles and of Paul’s message. The Bible is living and active and by the Spirit it speaks to us today. We ignore it at our own peril.

How much better to heed Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10, and accept an invitation to know God in his word. It is our very own history that we read. We are the seed of Abraham, heirs of the promise, and as we read from Genesis through Revelation, it is our story. At times it is frustrating as we see how far humanity can fall, but it is encouraging that our God remains faithful throughout. And to know of God’s faithfulness through the ages is a much more blissful condition than to remain in the dark about it. So let’s seek to be in the light, God’s light, learning from him and learning from the wisdom he shares with us.

Take the Time to Review What You’ve Read in 1 Corinthians

Having now finished eight chapters of 1 Corinthians we are right in the middle of Paul’s letter and it is a great time to look back at the first half.

I was going to give a bit of a review in this post, but it’ll have to wait for tomorrow. But perhaps that’s serendipitous. It’ll give you time to see what you can remember on your own. See if you can remember something from the beginning, the next couple chapters, and then the most recent ones. Do certain themes stand out? Can you especially remember a certain passage? Did God bless you by your reading and study in some way?

In terms of the memory verses, do you have any of those stored away? As you review the verses from each week, which you could do visually here, does that help you recall more from the chapters that the verses are in?

As you take the time to do this, I’d absolutely love to hear how it goes. What has helped the most, what has stuck with you, what more can we do or what can we do differently? Let me know in the comments or via email or if you’re in the neighborhood, stop on by the office.

I hope that in reviewing, you get excited at what God has been teaching you and you can get a dose of excitement as we look ahead to the last eight chapters. (Maybe, if you’re so excited, you’d want to share this with a friend and invite them to read with you.)

About the Bible Studies

Even though we are already slowing down as compared to our last reading plan, it is no reason to get rid of the Bible studies we had in what were called “focus passages.” When we read 25 chapters I didn’t want us to miss out on the slow, meditative sort of reading that allows us to prayerfully go through Scripture. When we do so we allow God to confront us with challenges and questions, we can better see and gain comfort in his Word, and we can take the time to ask our own questions. Even better we can do so with others.

On Wednesdays we’ll have a Bible study at 6pm at our church. Anyone is welcome. We’ll take time to talk about anything of interest that came up and we’ll also use the Bible study handouts to guide our discussion. Small groups also have used these handouts to study the Bible. Whether at the Wednesday group or a small group, I believe studying with others is the best way. I’d encourage you to at least find a friend (or make a new friend!) to read with you. Ask your spouse, invite your neighbor, get a co-worker to meet with you at lunch. Find a way to let the Spirit speak through others. I know for me, I never leave a time spent gathered around the Bible with another without having benefited.

Anyone can read through 1 Corinthians in five months. Most could find time to do it today. But we don’t want to read it just to do it. We want to read it to understand what God wants us to know and to be shaped by the Spirit as we study his Word. Bible study is key to this.

Here is the first week’s study to take a look at. Again, we’ll study this together this Wednesday at 6pm. But I am just as happy if you find a friend or get a small group together to study Scripture.

Week 1 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-17