Today, the Wednesday morning Bible study that Janet and I attend each fall started for the new school year. Yes, as you know, I teach the Bible, and have for more than 10 years, but every once in a while, I like to sit in a study as a participant and let the word of God wash over me.
When I teach, I am a verse by verse kind of guy. I like to look at the Greek and the Hebrew and try to break down exactly what was happening, especially in the New Testament. Originally, I taught every Thursday at a local restaurant during lunch, inviting the general public to come in and hear God’s word. Then, for more than seven years, I have taught each Thursday evening in our home, usually from May until Thanksgiving. Then, we take off the winter months while a number of our people go to Florida. Our small group has been together quite a while and each year we dig a little deeper into God’s word. Frankly, we have a rather intense Bible study at this point. We talk about historical context, social and ethnic customs, contemporary events and the different factors that go into the understanding of the inspired word of God.
My goal is to challenge people to deepen their relationships with the Lord and the only way to do that is to spend time with God. And depending on where you are in your faith walk, the Bible, while only having one interpretation, has different applications throughout our lives. In other words, the Holy Spirit can convict us in different ways as we mature in our individual walks with God.
And, other than when I attended seminary, I find that most of the other studies I am aware of tend to be more on the devotional side. While there is still an emphasis on the word of God, the intensity is not quite there and quite a bit of time is spent in the devotional aspects of relationships with God – how does God’s word apply and how you feel about your relationship, etc.
So I was a little jazzed when I heard that a pastor friend of mine who leads a local Methodist church was contemplating a change in the regular way that he has led his studies throughout the year. Not that I don’t like devotional studies, but this year, he wants to conduct a chronological walk through the Scriptures. We are using a book called “The Story” by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee. Basically, it is a series of 31 chapters that discuss the events of the Bible in the order that they actually happened, rather than when they appear in the traditional Bible text.
Today, we studied the creation story and how it is the foundation for the entire rest of the Bible. Genesis has long been my favorite book and so it was great to spend some time discussing the earliest recorded events as they relate to biblical history. Concepts such as “ex nihilo” – something from nothing, as in the way that God created the heavens and the earth, God’s concern about our relationships with one another, our dominion over God’s creation, and the entrance of sin into the world are all things that we touched upon today. It was a very good morning… And the minister, Greg, is very quick to invite me to add commentary into the discussion of what he is teaching. I think that I’ll like this non-traditional look into the narrative story of the Bible.
And that’s far different than I have every studied the Bible before, so I think that it will stay fresh. This evening, I downloaded “The Story” from Amazon and started to read through it. While not a translation of the Bible, I’m sure that it will be helpful in solidifying my understanding of God’s timeline throughout the years. After reading for a while, I reaffirmed my belief that the Bible is the greatest story ever told. Now I don’t mean it’s a fable, but a TRUE story of God’s walk with His people. A story of creation, sin, redemption and ultimate eternity with God Himself. A story of the promises of God and the struggles of His people throughout the ages. A story of the beginning of life in a garden and the ultimate eternal reign with God in a perfect New Jerusalem. A story of an original walk with God and a final realization of eternally living in the presence of God. What a story!
The verse for tonight is the verse that begins this incredible story, Gen. 1:1. Even Max Lucado and Randy Frazee use it to introduce us to their interpretation of God’s story – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It’s my favorite verse in the whole Bible. My encouragement this evening is that you may enjoy a chronological walk through the Bible and so you may consider picking up a copy of “The Story.” My prayer is that you won’t just read about God’s story in the Bible, but that you realize that you are a real live character in the story of God and this just isn’t some fictional book that is meant to entertain you. It’s God’s book of invitation for an eternal life with Him. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…