God’s Presence at Creation

Hello Readers!  If you have been reading along with us everyday in 2019 – you have now read all of the gospel of Matthew.  Well done!   We will cover the other three gospels later in the year (John in April, Mark in August and Luke in December). This week we are going to take a little theme break and investigate the topic of the Presence of God.  Every day there will be a Bible passage to read, but they won’t be consecutive New Testament chapters.  Then, next week (starting Sunday, February 10) we will begin a chapter by chapter daily walk through the book of Acts.  Remember, stick with us all year and we will cover the whole New Testament – as well as lots of other golden nuggets as well.  And so we begin – – – The Presence of God at Creation!

Text: Gen 1:1 – 2:3

Isaiah 66 1 a

This week, I want to lead you in some thoughts, taking a tour through scripture to highlight some big moments in the story of God’s presence among us. Today we are going to start this journey in Genesis 1, with creation.

 

But why creation? I think that is an important question, if not the biggest question Genesis 1 aims to answer. Probably hundreds of times I came there preoccupied with questions about who, what, when, where, and how, but forgot to ask why. And the answer to the “why” question is intimately tied to God’s presence.

 

When we think about “why” questions, we’re starting to think about purpose. Teleological questions. We’re going places scientific inquiry doesn’t (and can’t) go. We’re starting to ask the questions God wants us to think about most.

 

The opening verses of Genesis paint a picture of a wasteland. God is hovering over the deep, or the waters (a recognized symbol of chaos). The earth is said to be without form and void. It has no purpose. God begins his work to shape it all into order.

 

But why? If you are God, do you need the heavens or an earth? Do you need plants, animals, and people? I’d guess that no, God doesn’t require any of those things. He’s God, right? It seems that if God doesn’t need anything, he was motivated by something to create.

 

The earth was set up as a space for us to live, and rule with God, or be stewards, over the rest of creation (this is at the core of what it means to be made in God’s image). The earth is a gift to us. The first six days of creation are the account of God separating, naming, and giving function and purpose to all the moving parts of his cosmos, really for our benefit.

 

God calls what he did “good” after each day, and then after he is finished, he calls the whole thing “very good.” In other words, all the parts come together and work like a well-oiled machine. Thank God the earth functions beautifully for us, but there is something more going on here, particularly when we talk about day seven.

 

Day seven is something we usually mention as an aside to creation. We say things like, “now God kicked back to relax, and he did it to admire his creation and be an example for us so that we remember to take a day off.” And we might be correct in saying something like that. But let’s be real, God doesn’t need rest. There is something more going on here.

 

First, “rest” in this context probably doesn’t mean God is tired and needs to recharge. It means he now has stability and order in his creation. You can see this idea of stability and security come up many times in scripture when it talks about God giving rest (see Exodus 33:14, 1Ch 22:9, 2Sa 7:11).

 

Second, it is understood among the Israelites and other ancient Near Eastern cultures that when deities rest, they rest in temples. And a temple isn’t finished until a deity rests in it. This is a strange idea to us, but it was understood in those cultures (we can see a similar thing happening in the ancient Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, for example). They would know right away from the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 that it has a temple theme, and that God rests in it on day seven.

 

Third, the number seven carries with it a symbolic meaning of completion. We think of numbers strictly as representing quantities. Ancient Israelites aren’t as strict with their use of numbers, and use them in ways that qualitatively symbolize things. This is why you see numbers like 7, 12, and 40 all over the place in the Bible.

 

But where was the temple in the story, though? Did you miss it? So did I. Ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It’s the best Indiana Jones movie, by the way. There is a part in that movie where they are in an old church that was converted to a library, and they’re trying to match Roman numerals from a stained glass window with locations in the building. They are stuck on finding the location of 10, until Indiana walks up a staircase to a balcony overlooking where they were standing. Lo and behold, there is a giant X across the whole floor. They didn’t see it, because they were standing on it the whole time.

 

If you are looking for the temple in Genesis 1, it’s been under your nose the whole time. In Isaiah 66:1, God declares, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.” The whole cosmos is God’s temple. God spends the first six days of creation naming and giving purpose to the different parts of the heavens and the earth, to provide a place where we can thrive, but the dual purpose is that these parts are being inaugurated and paraded in as pieces of his temple.

 

But to just build a temple out of materials doesn’t make it a temple. A temple isn’t a temple until God rests in it, otherwise it’s just a structure. Day seven is when God rests in and inhabits his temple. It’s when he moves in with us. This is part of why it was important to the Jews to observe the sabbath, to celebrate his stability and presence in their lives.

 

Day seven isn’t the aftermath of creation, it is the completion, the crown, like the shiny star or angel on your Christmas tree. God could have made this beautiful place, put us in it, and moved on, never to have contact with us again, and it would still be amazing! But no, God didn’t just wind up the clock and step away, as some people mistakenly believe he did. He decided to be involved with his creation, especially us, in real and intimate ways. He decided that he would be present in his temple, living among us.

 

The why of creation, the purpose, is that God wanted to make his home with us.

 

Next, we’ll travel to the garden.

 

Just a quick note to give credit where it is due. The idea of creation being a temple isn’t mine. First of all, it is God’s idea. But if you are interested in reading more about it from scholars who can articulate and support it much better than I can, check out The Lost World Of Genesis One by John Walton, or The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale.

— Jay Laurent

Advertisements

Where’s the Truth?

John 17 17

 

Building off of what a very wise woman shared yesterday in this same FUEL Bible Reading blog, I would also like to focus on the truth of the Bible.

This is what I appreciate most about God’s word. We can trust that it is true.

Culture, morals and laws are always changing. Things that were once taboo, largely in part because of God’s word, are now celebrated. How can we know if those things should be accepted morally or not? God’s word.

Many scientists believe that the entire universe exists only because of an accident, billions of years ago, and that each one of us is a result of billions of small built-up accidents over the last several hundred million years. In other words, there is no purpose or thought behind our existence. How sad is that sentiment? How can we know how we were created and if we truly have a purpose? God’s word.

There are many today that say that once you are dead, that is the end of your existence, and thus, we have no hope for a better future. And there are any numbers of world-ending scenarios that exist as well. But how can we know what our future truly holds? God’s word.

Truth, in the secular world, is always changing, always “evolving.” What is “truth” for one person may not be “truth” for another. That should clearly reveal that at least one person’s “truth” is not truth at all. We obviously need to all have a standard of truth when it comes to such things as morality, our origin and purpose, and our future hope. Thanks be to God that He was so wise as to have others write down and keep for all time the truths of His word.

How can we know that scripture is true? Proverbs 119:160 says that all of God’s words are true. Jesus confirms that God’s word is true in John 17:17. And we can know that Jesus does indeed exist and that God’s word is indeed truth because it has stood up under historical scrutiny, it has correctly predicted hundreds of specific prophecies, and as Hebrews 4:12 says, “…sharper than any double-edged sword, [God’s word] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow…”

As yesterday’s devotion pointed out, we need to constantly be in God’s word so that we KNOW the truth that it contains. This is both for our benefit, and for others that we can then share that truth with, as God’s word instructs us. I encourage you to begin and end each day in God’s word, so as to not be swayed by the untruths of this current age.

-Greg Landry

 

Today, we are pleased to have Greg Landry writing on the importance of God’s Word.  Greg and his wife Susan (who wrote yesterday) are active in many ministries.  Greg has a great passion for researching and teaching on the lies of evolution.  His website, https://onegodsixdays.com/, offers readers many opportunities to become better informed on this important topic, which has sadly become a great stumbling block for many young Christians.  Susan has a great blog (https://thesparrowshome.com/) with a good variety of content for faith, family, food, games and homeschool. She has also started a website called http://onelegacy.net/ where she works to provide resources for Biblical Unitarian homeschoolers, families and churches working to actively instill a Godly worldview in their children.  Greg and Susan are a delight as they love and apply God’s Word in their own lives – and help grow that love in others.

We Have a Purpose

Rom 8 28

Life can become difficult. It may seem that you are facing battles everyday that you think you cannot overcome. You may be experiencing pain, loss, or suffering. Each day seems like nothing is getting better. We all have been in a situation similar and thoughts run through our minds making us question our life’s purpose.

I have proof that we all have a purpose!

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” -1 Peter 2:9

“For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” -Colossians 1:16

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Throughout the Bible, God’s Holy Word, we can see and understand that we have a purpose. Time and time again it is shared that God has a purpose and a plan for our lives. We were created through God and for Him. We are a chosen people. He has called us out of darkness and into His wonderful light. God wants good for all who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

When life becomes difficult, pray and God will help you through the tough times. God never says that our lives will be perfect or that we will be happy all of the time. He does say that He will always be there for us. Keep strong faith in God and He will do wonders in your life.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

If you’re going through a rough time, remember that you have a purpose and God will always be with you.

Today I encourage you to embrace your purpose or if you are unsure, seek and pray and God will deliver.

-Brenan Dominguez

ON PURPOSE – Ministry

matt 20_26-27 fixed_

 

I had the privilege of attending the Atlanta Bible College graduation this week.  How exciting to celebrate these men and women who have dedicated years of their life to learning at a special institution specifically designed to create disciples of Jesus – who know and use God’s Word.  And, how exciting to think of these men and women going into ministry, in various forms, armed with their knowledge and experiences.

But, imagine the problems that would develop if we send them out into churches where they were expected to be the only ones ministering – the only ones caring for the church body, the only ones serving others as the hands and feet of Christ, the only ones showing love in a practical way in their community.  This would be a recipe for disaster – and certain burn-out.

How exciting that no degree is needed for ministry….and in fact, it is expected from each one of us.  God has already given gifts, talents and passions to each one of us so that we can minister to others!  But it won’t get done if we aren’t living on purpose – making it a priority to seek out ways to serve.

We are by nature selfish people who like to be served.  We are by nature prideful people who want to be recognized for our greatness.  Jesus knew that when he gave his disciples these instructions: “Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28).

How will you give your life to others today – on purpose?

God Bless,
Marcia Railton

Paul Serves and God Provides

Acts 28

acts 28 31

There has been a lot happen on the way to Rome, but Paul is still a prisoner. What, I wonder, were all the other prisoners doing? Were they mainly sitting around and only doing something when told to? We can see from chapters 27 and 28 that Paul couldn’t just sit by if there was something he could do to help. Paul had a servant’s heart. He served during the storm by encouraging the other 275 on the ship. He served by convincing them to eat and not give up. When they are shipwrecked on Malta, Paul immediately continues serving. He gathers wood for the fire. The natives are doing this, too, but I bet Paul is tired like all the others who had to swim for safety. He doesn’t let exhaustion stop him from serving. Paul serves again by going to see Publius’ father who is sick. He prays, lays hands on him, and heals the man. In a sense he has served everyone he came in contact with. He serves his own crew by serving and healing the natives because they, in turn, supply them for the next part of their trip! Paul was a blessing to everyone around him and he blessed them by having a humble and serving heart that prompted kind acts.

While Paul is serving and blessing, God is providing protection and opportunity. God gets Paul an audience by protecting Paul from the snake bite.  God also gets Paul an even larger audience by giving him the ability to heal “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases.”  Later, we see that God protects Paul in Rome from a miserable prisoner’s existence by providing a sizable rental property and a simple guard to watch over him. It seems sizable because this allows him to testify about the kingdom of God and Jesus to “large numbers.” God has provided Paul with suitable accommodations and the opportunity to witness to Gentiles and Jews while imprisoned in Rome for the next two years! For “two full years” he was “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”

There seems to be a correlation between Pauls’ serving and God’s providing. What could this mean in our own lives? I personally would love to be a blessing to others as Paul was. Wouldn’t you? And what could be better than knowing God is protecting you and providing opportunities for you to make a difference for Him?

On a side note, I would like to point out that while it isn’t mentioned in this chapter, Paul did speak to Caesar. According to Philippians 4:22, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” Obviously, there was some success there for God among some Gentiles, some Jews, and some among the kings at least! This was Paul’s purpose. (Acts 9:15)

-Melissa New

 

Fulfilling Purpose…Or…Refusing Salvation

Acts 26

acts 26 22

There are two reasons why it’s interesting that Paul makes his case to King Agrippa. First, it really wasn’t going to do him any good because he had already appealed to Caesar and knew that meant he would have to go to Rome. Of course, he had been told that Rome was where he needed to go anyway. (Remember Acts 23:11) It seems that Paul’s defense before Agrippa was all for show. Agrippa wanted to hear Paul and Paul wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to share God’s message. We can’t forget Paul’s purpose given to him from Jesus. In Acts 9:15 we see that Paul is to bear the name of Jesus “before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Paul knows what he is about! He is to share the message with not only Gentiles and Jews, but kings! So we can see why Paul is considering himself fortunate to get to speak directly to Agrippa.  He is fulfilling his purpose.

Secondly, it’s also interesting to think about who this King Agrippa really was. Agrippa’s great-grandfather had tried to kill Jesus as a baby, Agrippa’s grandfather had John the Baptist beheaded, and his father martyred James, a disciple of Jesus and one of the sons of Zebedee. Why would Paul care to make his case to a man of this lineage? Could he really expect Agrippa to care about Paul? Paul understands that God still wants Agrippa no matter what he or his family has done. He knows that Jesus died for Agrippa, too. Paul could have thought, “It’s a waste of time to speak to him.” But Paul shows us that NO ONE is a waste of time.

Agrippa is almost persuaded to become a Christian. Paul makes sense and his intense concern for all to hear and accept the truths he shares is compelling. But there are so many watching. And there is Bernice and Festus there too. Festus has already declared Paul to be out of his mind. Agrippa would be putting his standing and esteem in a predicament if he agrees with Paul. He cannot do that. However, he can’t say that Paul has done anything worthy of death or imprisonment either and he seems regretful that he can’t let Paul go. It’s such a shame to see someone have understanding and yet be so comfortable with the way they are living that they refuse to accept salvation.

-Melissa New

Living Simply

Luke 10

luke 10 2

In Luke 10 Jesus is appointing 72 of his followers to go out ahead of him and to spread the message and to see which towns will be open to his message.  Now I think that his instructions to this group of believers is unique to their purpose in aiding Jesus’ earthly ministry, but there are also some useful instructions for us today.  In verses 2 and 3 he tells them to pray that God will send his missionaries into the world, and then tells them that they are the ones that are being sent, but that it will be dangerous.  At that point in Jesus’ ministry I think that some of the disciples had been living in a bit of a bubble and hadn’t yet realized the kind of persecution that they would undergo in their lifetimes, and Jesus was preparing them for what was to come.  I think that similarly Christians in America, and especially those who have grown up in the church have been living in a bubble.  We have been a predominantly Christian nation for several generations, but our nation is quickly moving away from God and I personally believe that within my lifetime we will start to see a lot more persecution of the church.  So those of us that plan to be bold with our beliefs and plan on spreading them to those around us need to be ready and understand that there are dangers associated with being a Christian and being different from the world.

 

In verses 4-8 Jesus describes how they should move about and how they should act while they are staying in these towns they are visiting.  The summary of these instructions is that they need to move with haste and purpose and while they are staying as a guest in these towns they need to live simply and humbly.  They were to take whatever was given to them gladly and not complain about any food or accommodations.  I think that for us today we need to remember to live with a purpose and to not let ourselves be distracted by fancy living or money or other things of this world.  Our lives are relatively short and there is a great deal of work to be done for the Kingdom.  I’m not saying that we should go around without a wallet or purse or shoes like these disciples were instructed, but that we should lead simple lives so that we have more time for God.

 

At the end of Luke 10 in verses 38-42 we have the story of Mary and Martha, sisters who hosted Jesus while he was traveling and teaching.  Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to all that he said while Martha ran about getting food and things ready for all of the visitors.  Finally Martha had enough and told Jesus to tell Mary to help her with the housework.  Jesus replied.

 

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

Again a lesson to live simply and to put spiritual matters ahead of physical issues in our lives.

-Chris Mattison