BSF Genesis: Week 2, Lecture

We established at our beginning of the study of Genesis that the bible is God’s Word put in place as the means that God reveals Himself to us so that we can have a right relationship with Him, one of love, respect, worship and praise, comfort, peace and joy, eternally.

One of the things I thought about this week, that our teaching leader mentioned in his lecture, was the point that the development of my relationship with God is different than developing any other relationship on this earth.  Normally, when we are entering into a new relationship, whether work, friend, neighbor, romantic, or casual, there is an gradual revealing that occurs as each party learns about the other and each party opens up to tell about themselves.  But with God, He already knows everything there is to know about us and He has put everything about Him down in writing.  The depth of my relationship with God is directly tied to my dedication in increasing my knowledge of Him and moving closer to His unmoving rock of salvation.

In Genesis 1, we see this.  Last week we looked at this chapter and focused on better understanding “who” God is.  This week our focus shifts to “what” God did: He created everything.

So, again, let’s start at the beginning where God is in the beginning.  God’s first action into his new creation is to speak.  He said let there be light and there was light.  We could camp out right here and discuss the awesome power of God’s word.  We could talk about this intrinsic and everlasting light that goes on like a ray coming from the Trinity to shine for ever more.  And, with the richness of Genesis, if you are ever struggling for something to ponder and pray, pick any one verse in Genesis 1 and use it to see God’s glory and power.

God first divides the waters below and above and then He gathers the sea.  I love this visual image of how God’s voice could stretch out like arms across a table and draw in the waters of the sea to make dry ground.  And then God brings life to the planet.

He brings vegetation, plants, trees, to grow and bear fruit, each according to their kind.  And it was good.

He then speaks the sun, moon and stars into existence.  These are the vessels that hold the light that He created on day 1.

When I think of all of this, it reminds me of how parents-to-be prepare the nursery and their home for an expectant baby to arrive.  They paint the room, they prepare the furniture and bedding, they even put in a night light.  How much more so our heavenly Father, and the moon is a pretty amazing nightlight!

In your language about the nursery God prepared for us, do your comments express gratefulness or do they convey an attitude of a whiny child complaining about the heat or cold?  Do you reach out to your heavenly Father for comfort and joy or are you busy throwing a temper tantrum?

But let’s go a little deeper in looking at some of the days of creation in this chapter.  God didn’t just create these things but He actually gave them purpose.  Look at vs 11 and 12.  God didn’t just make plants, but he made plants to bear seeds and fruit.  In 14 and 15 He didn’t just make the lights in the sky, but He made them to be signs to mark sacred times and days and years.  In 20-23 He made creatures of the sea and sky and specifically blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth, each according to its kind.  Same for the land animals, each according to its kind.

God created not only objects, but He endowed them with both purpose and order.  That word “according” is an interesting one.  It reminds me of “a chord”, a musical harmony.  When man thinks of nature, particularly its origins, our minds see chaos and battle, survival of the fittest, struggle for life.  But in God’s design there is harmony, order and purpose.

In your day, are you striving to find God’s harmony, order and purpose or are you viewing it as a fight, dog-eat-dog battle?  How does your approach influence your outcome?  If all creation is a harmonious melody that sings praise to Him, are you putting in practice time for the musical every day?  As a challenge, look at the ways that God uses animals throughout the scriptures to reveal Himself to mankind (colt for palm sunday, dove, the fish for the multitudes, Jonah’s whale, Balaam’s donkey, just to name a few.)  They are more prevalent than we realize when we look for them.

Then, the 6th day.  God, the trinity, made man in His image, in His likeness.  God made us male and female.  He provided for us with food to eat and He gave us purpose and direction, one to preserve and maintain order.  He delegated rule to us as only a ruler could do.  He gave plants and fruit to us as only the owner of the fields of harvest could do.

Interesting that God gives us two specific tasks.  The first shows our kinship with all other living creatures of the earth, to be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth.  The second shows our kinship with the Almighty, to subdue the earth and rule over every living creature.  And, as we will study in the weeks to come, how we have done pretty good at the first directive, but almost immediately failed in the second when we let the ways of the earth and the temptations present rule over us instead of the other way around.

But, we will also learn that the game isn’t over.  Like a reset button in a video game, those of us who have accepted the saving work of Jesus Christ have the ability to start over.  When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and He will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  Just like a reset button, we get a “do over” button through confession to God that lets us start executing our order, harmony and purpose all over again.  And each time we stumble and fall, His spirit helps move in us and with us, transforming us back into His image and likeness until the day we stand before Him for all eternity in the harmony and unity of heaven.

BSF Genesis: Week 1, Lecture

Genesis StoriesIn the beginning God created.  Let’s spend some time and really look at those 5 words.  There is so much that is answered just in this statement.  It addresses the when, in the beginning.  It addresses the rarity, the beginning not a beginning.  What? Created.  How? Created, as in out of nothingness from the creator.  It answers what existed before the beginning, God.

Actually, this is the key word, God.  Everything else in these first few words of the bible, fittingly, centers around and flows from this word.    In our lesson today we are going to focus on the first few verses of the bible and see what they tell us about, “Who is God?” As we understand from our discussion last week, the entire bible is God’s design to reveal Himself to man, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there is so much of that message packed into this first chapter.

As an aside, this language of God packaging the revelation of Himself into these words and pages for us to unpack it is such a great metaphor and parallel to the gift that it is.

First, let’s look at the fact of God as creator.   For God to have created, He had to be before the beginning.  He was not created or formed.  For those of us who grew up in the church, this is familiar, but to any other religion it is an unfathomable concept.  The greeks believed the earth and heavens and their gods were formed “out of chaos”.  The Egyptians believed the gods and earth were formed from the waters and the sun.  Baal worshippers believed there was a battle between the god Baal and the god Yam and the land of the earth is made up of the dismembered parts of Yam, gross, right?  Many people of our generation believe everything was some accident flowing out of the power of “the Universe”.  Not so different than the people of the apostle Paul’s day who built a temple to worship “the unnamed god.”  And, as in Paul’s day, we Christians actually know the name of the one and only God.

We know from the very first words that God is singular.   There weren’t multiple gods, just the one.  We know that creation occurred by God’s plan and by His action.  We know that creation was both instantaneous and completed over time.  There was nothing, then there was the heavens and the earth.  But it wasn’t a finished work.  The earth was without form.  God continued His work for 6 days.

People often talk about leaving a legacy.  Parents talk about the legacy of their children.  Sports teams and athletes talk about the legacy of championships and records.  But a legacy is something we make, something that remains that is bigger that tells something about the best that we are.  In that same way, all creation is God’s legacy.  Not that He has left it behind, but that it is a completed work by His will and effort that He made and which tells something about who He is.  All of His created work is good.

When you look at a new day, do you see the good that God created or do you have a hard time seeing past the “stuff” of the day, your tasks and chores?  Do you ask God each day to show you the good He has planned for you today?  Are you under estimating God’s power and what He can accomplish in a single day?

Was God alone in creation?  Yes and no.  We can draw a lot of analogies to try to understand the concept of the trinity, but there is nothing in the physical world that is the exact same as this heavenly host.  We know from John 1 that Jesus (the word) was in the beginning, that He was in God and that He was God and He was with God.  So both the Father and the Son, together and unique were not only at the creation but created.  Colossians 1 tells us that all things were created by Jesus and created for Jesus.  This tells us that before anything existed God already knew that His creation would choose sin over Him and that He, Jesus, would need to become lower than even the angels and become a human in the creation to save and redeem it, buying it back for Himself.  And from Hebrews 1 we learn that creation was not just set into motion and abandoned but that it is continuously being sustained by the word of Jesus.  All things were made through Jesus, all things were created by Jesus, all things are sustained by Jesus.  The emphasis in these different sections is not only on God and Jesus’ presence in the trinity, but on the word “All”.  If all was created by and for Christ, that is a very broad stroke of the brush.  That means no mistakes, no throw aways, no do overs, no trash.  What a challenge to our thinking.  Does my compassion extend to all?  Do I see the potential for salvation of all or are there some that I have written off before they have taken their last breath?  According to the word and revelation of who God is, my acceptance that some are meant to be saved and some not is faulty.  All are meant to be saved, but some will choose not to – I pray that someone’s choice to not accept the gift not be influenced by anything I do or fail to do with the power of the spirit in me.

Which brings us to the third part of the trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The spirit of God is often described as the breath of God and/or the wind in that you see the influence and impact of the Spirit even though you do not see the invisible nature of the spirit.  This is a good reminder to the skeptical doubters of this world who deny the presence of God because “they want to see God with their own eyes… they want proof.”  Can they see the wind?  No, but you can see the outcome of the wind and the power that it holds.  Few question that the wind exists based on these results.

In God’s work of creation, the Holy Spirit is at the forefront in the creation of life.  It is this pouring out that is the critical leap, the spark that cannot be fathomed without the divine, going from inanimate to alive.

But we know the Holy Spirit to be much larger and deeper than this.  The Holy Spirit of God is the creator of physical life and the source, the giver, of spiritual life.  When we humans turned from God in disobedience and sin (something I am guilty of daily, so I can’t get too mad at Adam and Eve), we stepped out of the design of being “in” God’s image that was His original design and creation.  But Jesus paid the price to buy us back, to redeem us, through His sacrifice of death and through His power to defeat death in the resurrection.  When we accept this gift of salvation, the separation from God is removed and the holy spirit indwells in us transforming us back into the image of God.

When you wake each morning, do you push the presence of the Holy Spirit to the back of your being so that you can “focus on stuff”? Do you seek and use the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your life?  If you have accepted the gift of salvation, then, in you right this very second, is the full power of the Holy Spirit of God, the exact same power that defeated death.  With that power, what can’t you do?

The “in” of God is a critical component of not only who God is but what He desires.  He is “in” as the unity of the Father is in the son and the son is in the Father and the Spirit is united in the Trinity and God seeks for us to be rejoined into that unity, that image, by Him and with Him   We are not designed simply to be by or with God, but to be cradled in His arms.

BSF Genesis: Week 0 – Lecture

What is Mr. C? (btw: Mr. C is my co-leader this year).  He is a man.  He is a BSF leader.  He is a father.  He is a follower of Christ.  All of these are true, but they don’t paint a very clear or complete portrait of Mr C.  To really get to know him, you would want a lot more information.  You would want to go all the way back to his childhood, to the very beginning.  You would want to know stories about his friendships and about the times and people who hurt him or let him down.  You would want to have some genealogy about his family, like what they did, how they lived, what they felt and believed.  You might want to hear songs that he liked, poetry.  You might want to hear his own words.

You see, that is what the bible is.  You can say it is a book or collection of books, because it is.  You could say it contains laws and direction.  But it is so much more.  The bible is the way that God has chosen to reveal himself to mankind.  It is the actual inspired word of God, told through the writing of humans, because that is how we can commune with God.  As God is eternal, so is His word.  It is stories about God, just as we would tell stories to learn about anyone else.  It is a tale of joy and a tale of sadness.  It is a book of poetry, history, prophecy, parable, law and above all, it is a book of grace.  It is a book with amazing joy, sadness and then redemption fulfilled at great cost.

The bible is God’s word.  God didn’t recite it word for word, but don’t mistake that they are His words.  In spirit He guided and inspired the authors to record, without error, these words so that we can become closer to God.  The written word is on the same level or authority as if God had spoken it (in a loud booming God voice) to you or me directly.  It deserves the same reverence, not in a lock it in a glass case and worship the ink and page, but in a way that requires our time and attention and effort to commune with.  The bible contains the knowledge we need to walk the path we are to take in our lives.  You can call it an instruction manual, a light, but most importantly, it is a gift.

God desires to commune and communicate with His people.  Did you realize that christianity is the only world religion that doesn’t have a “divine” language?  You don’t have to speak hebrew to read about God.  You don’t have to read ancient arabic.  The bible has been translated into over 2,530 different languages – almost every written language in the word so that every person can read, study and get to know the word of God and thus, know God.

How are you showing respect for the word of God in your daily life?  How are you showing just how thankful you are that God chose to let us get to know Him, that he cared that much?  Are you hungy and thirsty for the word?  Me, too!

Not only is this God’s word, but it is also how God reveals His divine purpose and plan.  So, since there is a master plan for how everything and everybody and all time is going to be and work and do, wouldn’t you want to know about it?  You see, God isn’t just a creator and builder, who designed and created everything, put it in motion and then just sat back and let it go.  He is a God of action.  That is one of the reasons we pray.  God is alive and listening.  He is active and moving.  He wants us to see Him, understand Him and, in reflection, understand His plan for our lives.

It is said that God’s main purpose is to glorify Himself.  Sometimes this is mis-understood and people think God needs us to tell Him how great He is.  Like we have something that God needs.  But it doesn’t mean that.  Think of it this way, a lightbulb’s main purpose is to show how bright it shines.  Glory is what God is, just as light is what a lightbulb is – OK, on a much bigger scale, but you get the point.

Do you believe that God has a purpose and a plan?  Do you believe that He has a will?  Do you believe that the God who created everything, knows everything, knows every blade of grass, every molecule, a God who is alive and active and listening and participating and communing…  Do you believe He just might have a thought or two in the fashion of a plan for your life?  Do ya’ think, then, that it might be a good idea to read and study the book where He wrote that down?  Just saying!

We start our study this year in the same book that God chose to start, Genesis, a book of beginnings.  Genesis tells us about the beginning of everything: at a universally large scale, as in, the universe, and on a subatomic scale as in the time that he spoke mass and matter into being (the heavens and the earth).  God could have chosen to reveal all kinds of details about timelines, and specifics about the way that He created, but He chooses to tell us the story in the matter that means the most to us, in a very human and personal way.  He spoke.  He saw.  These are human actions and God wants to reveal Himself to us in the language we all can see and speak.  Genesis tells about how we began with God and how we were given choice and made the wrong one (sound familiar to your own life?)  Genesis tells about things like rebellion, judgment, justice and, right from the very start, it begins the promise of redemption and reconciliation.  God tells us about Himself through the stories and interactions of His friends and the people He calls family, His peeps (as in they will be my people and I will be their God).

At some point in your life you will ask the question: How did I get here?  It may be at a time of incredible high, where you want to reflect on all the blessings.  It may be at a terrible low point.  It may be at a time that you just feel last or lonely or one where you are thankful and joyful.  Here is what I can tell you.  I know where the answer to that question is.  It is right here, in these words.  You see, everything we need to know about how we got here, physically, mentally, metaphysically, chronologically, spiritually, legally, purposefully, economically and redemptively – it is all here.  Where should we start?  How about: In the beginning God…