Nov 292015

BCaD week 4

It’s now almost the end of the first month of my #BCaD challenge, and I’m still loving it. Here are my reflections on these remarkable chapters of the book of Genesis.

Genesis 22

I remember preaching on this passage a couple of years ago and finding it hard. I find God’s instruction difficult, and I think that is ok. I find Abraham and Isaac’s faith amazing, that Abraham was so sure of God’s promise that he could believe even his son’s death could not stop the promise of offspring. What?! How?! I don’t know, and I don’t think he did either, but he went on in faith. What he knew was more important than what he saw. But more remarkable than that is this: what Abraham takes from this is that God’ provides. He provides the lamb. He was always going to, and He has now done so in full.

Genesis 23

Abraham needs a cave to bury his wife. He has the divine right to this land, but he doesn’t demand it. Living in a world ruled by human forces means we submit instead of claiming some kind of entitlement that others do not have. He buys the land that God has already promised him for free. I see in this a picture of the way God’s people are always called to behave in the world. Christ has given us all things, but we don’t make demands, we lay it down.

Genesis 24

Is this a story that tells us God has picked out the perfect person for each of us and we need to find out who that person is? No, I don’t believe it is. It’s a story that tells us the line of Abraham (the line of Christ) was so important that in these early stages God was willing to intervene and keep it on track. His hand is powerfully and uniquely over this family. Let’s choose not to read ourselves into these stories in ways that aren’t right. We learn from them. But we aren’t them.

Genesis 25

In death these two estranged brothers can come together. But in life they cannot live in unity. And even as the new generation comes, they too cannot live in unity together. God could not be looking on pleased with the behaviour of each generation of this family, but He doesn’t leave them. He is faithful to His promises, even when they are not. He is good, even when they are not. He is patient, even when they are impetuous. And that’s how he treats me too.

Genesis 26

It’s like pages from a few chapters ago are being repeated. The same place, a king with almost the same name, the same crime committed by Isaac as by Abraham and so many of the same results. And God acts with Isaac just as he had with Abraham. His blessing did not stop with Abraham’s death. His promise wasn’t to Abraham alone, but to all Abraham’s offspring, to the line that He had promised. So Isaac has the same capacity to bless and curse as Abraham.

Genesis 27

This story breaks my heart. A family that God has brought together, blessed and nurtured. But a family that is turned in on itself, divided, lying and stealing from one another. Two brothers pitted against each other even as their father lies on his deathbed. A wife picking favourites and dishonouring her dying husband. A father who has created some of this toxic culture by the way he has always favoured one son and left the other resentful. This is real stuff. But even oaths made for completely the wrong reasons are honoured by God. Jacob is now the heir, even though that is wrong.

Genesis 28

The promise has been made so many times, but now it is reinforced. God reaching down to earth and us being able to reach up to Him. The land that Jacob is once again promised is to be a place where God and people meet, where heaven touches earth, where the distance between the human and the divine is bridged. A dwelling place for us and God. In John 1, Jesus uses this dream and applies it to Himself. He is the ladder who will be that bridge, on whom angels will ascend and descend. He brings us close to God and all that comes before – promises of offspring and land and blessing – is there to prepare us for the real deal.

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Nov 222015

BCaD week 3

Welcome to week 3 of the #BCaD project. Still going strong, and there’s now a wonderful bunch who are chatting through their thoughts each day on both Twitter and Facebook. It’s a lot of fun, God is moving, and it’s not too late to join in! If you’re wondering what this is all about, head here! I have not stopped blogging about other things, and you can expect to see other stuff here soon, too.

Genesis 15

This is the way covenants are made. Promises made, commitments required, animals cut in two and then God walks between the pieces. What? Why? This is the statement being made: if Abraham (or his offspring) breaks the covenant, they are giving God permission to tear them in two and do to them what has happened to the animals. That’s the agreement. But the amazing thing is that when they do break the covenant (and when we do, again and again) it is GOD who gets broken as He suffers at the cross, Him taking the punishment required by the covenant. Such a powerful picture!

Genesis 16

(First things first, yes this is my first #BCaD post with a typo (‘I’ should be ‘in’). And thank you to the person who pointed this out to me in the most lovely and unsarcastic way. Now then…)

A prime example of someone stepping outside of God’s will. Yet God has promised to bless Abram’s seed, so He will bless them even when it is not the seed He meant. He doesn’t walk away from us, or from the people that are hurt because of us just because it is a mess. He isn’t afraid of mess. He steps into mess and even redeems mess. I find that deeply encouraging, because I know that I am often a mess!

Genesis 17

Circumcision isn’t a covenant of works. It’s always God’s work. And something someone pointed out this week, which I’ll try to word delicately. The covenant to Abraham (not Abram anymore!) is based on offspring, and now the covenant is marked by a weakness being given to the very part of the body through which offspring would be created. It isn’t EVER Israel’s strength, fertility or vigour that will achieve the covenant. It is always and only God. And that is still the same for us.

Genesis 18

Abraham seems to be a little rude, like a child bargaining or demanding things of a parent they have no right to demand. This story has never sat well with me. Maybe that means my view of prayer is a little too tame. How dare I bargain with God, right? Or maybe it’s because Abraham is being a little cheeky and I’m right to react that way. But God is very gracious and responds. The sad thing here, of course, is that however low Abraham and God set their expectations, the people still can’t meet them. And maybe that’s the lesson for us…

Genesis 19

The angry God. God the judge. God the just. This is the God we worship and we mustn’t forget it. What a disgusting place where violence, threats and rape are the welcome Lot and his family receive. And Lot offering to give up his daughters to appease it. It is a total, brutal mess of a picture of how bad we can be. Humanity at it’s absolute worst. And that carries consequences. I choose not to let that get my back up. Instead it sobers me to the seriousness of sin.

Genesis 20

The very thing he did at the outset of his journey with God (in chapter 12) he now does again! Abraham is the one in the wrong, Abimelech is the one who broadly is in the right. And yet we see the covenant is not lifted, and it is Abraham’s prayer to God that leaves Abimelech and his people healed. When Abraham accidentally curses Abimelech, Abimelech is cursed. When Abraham blesses, Abimelech is blessed. God is faithful to His promises to Abraham.

Genesis 21

After all of this soap-opera since the promise was given, the promised son is finally born. A couple of reminders here for me. First, God’s timing is not our timing. Sometimes we must wait, and in the waiting we prove whether we are patient and faithful, or whether we try to achieve ourselves what we really should be letting God achieve for us. Second, it is all God’s grace, His faithfulness to His promise. How does the birth story start: “The LORD dealt with Sarah as he has said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.” God’s word stands. Trust His promises. They are all true.

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Nov 152015

BCaD week 2

Welcome to my second weekly round-up in my ‘Bible Chapter a Day’ read-through of the whole Bible. If you want to know what this is all about, or to join in, this is where I introduced the whole thing. It’s been great to see lots of people joining in with their own reading, tweeting, Facebooking and blogging! Now, let’s dive in…

Genesis 8

Time and again in Genesis, before, during and after massive events, we see people making offerings to God in worship. This is before the Law, so it’s not something they are required to do or asked to do. It’s just something they do. Noah has been through a lot, and literally everything he has in his possession is because God let him have it, let him take it on the ark that he wouldn’t have had with God. All we have is God’s, and when we choose to offer it to Him, it pleases him. Sacrifice pleases God.

Genesis 9

So God is starting again, and like the promises made to Adam (and the requirements of Adam) He now makes promises to Noah (and requires things of Noah). People following the story will be wondering if Noah is the one who will lead the way and bring the restoration to the world God has promised. Maybe He can succeed over sin where Adam (and all others) failed. But no, he fails and so does his son. The search continues…

Genesis 10

After the flood, there is rebuilding work that needs to be done. So once again we see people reproduce, grow old (and still die, because the problems of sin and death are still there), and spread all over the world. Every part of the world is occupied. This is good, it’s God’s plan. This is what the world is meant to be like (minus the sin and the death), but is progress being made? Will it be better this time? Will people let God be God, or will they once again descend and spiral? Spoiler: it’s the second one…

Genesis 11

Well, here’s the answer to yesterday’s question: people are no better this time round, and once again seek to be gods themselves. They want to make their way to the heavens themselves, to make a name for themselves. We just can’t stop trying to usurp God from the position that only He can and should ever have. And so the story of the fallen world is told in these first 11 chapters of the Bible. We don’t get better. By ourselves, we just get worse. That’s the point of Genesis 3—11. But a new day is dawning…

Genesis 12

A pivotal moment in God’s story. The whole world is in rebellion, and God means to fix it. But He’ll start with one man, and that one man’s family. So we meet Abram. He will be blessed. Because he’s earned it? No. Because he deserves it? No. Then why? Only because God has graciously chosen Him. He, and his line, will be blessed unconditionally. He just will. But the promise isn’t just for him. Through him, all the world will be blessed. Abram (and Israel) is meant to be a picture of life lived with God, choosing God, and as others see that they will be drawn to God. They are blessed in order to be a blessing. That is God’s plan for the world. Of course at the first hurdle Abram doesn’t trust that God will keep him and instead chooses to look after himself. It’ll be baby steps for Abram from here…

Genesis 13

Is the story of a family dividing? Or is it the story of a land being marked out for God’s people? Or is it both? God’s huge plans and purposes for people aren’t so abstract that normal human interactions (and decisions about making sure everyone’s cattle have a place to eat) are too small. God works through the normal, as well as breaking the normal from time to time. But for now, Abram has separated from Lot, and now knows exactly the land God will give them. It’s not his just yet, but he can enjoy it for a little while…

Genesis 14

After the first time God comes through for His people in battle, and Abraham acts as the one who will protect and rescue his family (even those who have parted ways), we meet this man Melchizedek. Mysterious chap. Comes out of nowhere and disappears back there pretty quick. Given two titles: priest and king (not a very normal combination). And unlike pretty much everyone else in the Genesis narrative, his origins and family line are completely absent. It’s like he just…is. Maybe it’s easier to see because Psalm 110 will promise another like Melchizedek, and because in Hebrews we see him used as a picture of Christ, but as I read these passages with all the focus on Abram, this Melchizedek is a reminder of the one we truly need. Not Abram, but a priest and a king, one who has no beginning or end, but who just is.

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Nov 082015

BCaD week 1

Week one of my #BCaD project has now happened, and it’s been so cool to see so many people joining in, reading the Bible and sharing their thoughts and reflections. This is a collection of my posts, and some short reflections I’ve written. I’m loving it! Also, check out these two blogs (here and here) that people I’ve met in just the last couple of months that they’ve set up to share their journey with #BCaD. If you’ve not got involved yet, join us!

Genesis 1

It strikes me that a lot of talk about ‘creation’ is about the questions when and the how. It’s what we, with our 21st Century scientific interest are fascinated by. But the Bible doesn’t kick off with a science lesson. It kicks off with a beautiful, wonderful picture, verging on a poem, extolling the beauty of creation, and of the Creator. Telling us of God’s agency in creation. Telling us it is good, good, good, good and even very good once people are part of it. We are the pinnacle. God makes all of this as a canvas on which He can paint a relationship with us, those He has made in His image to love, cherish and journey with. That excited me far more than questions of how, when, six days or big bangs. That’s worth getting excited about!

Genesis 2

This chapter of the Bible, perhaps more than any other, give us a picture of what the world should be. Not what it is now, but what it should be. And the word for me that sums it up is ‘harmony’. Everything is in its place, as it should be. There is a closeness with God, where people live in submission to Him, happy with the rule He has over them. Not straining. There is an intimacy and mutuality about relationships between people, who are ‘not good’ alone, but who together are fulfilled and complete, totally comfortable together. Not ashamed. And people live at peace with nature, tending to it and nurturing it. Not striving. It’s a beautiful picture, and I want to live in that world.

Genesis 3

All the peace and harmony of Genesis 2 is now undone. When God’s word is first questioned, then twisted, then straight out challenged and denied, people end up breaking relationship with Him, straining against His rule and choosing their own way. That’s sin. Not letting God be God. And it breaks everything. We see God separating Himself from them. We see Him declare their relationships with each other will be marked by dominance and shame, not be love and intimacy. We see that it will now be a battle with nature, not a dance. Every relationship is broken when we choose ourselves over God and others. But, even at the very beginning of brokenness, God promises a solution. One day, a descendant of Eve will come and defeat this snake, this enemy, and put all things right. Sin is born, but so is hope.

Genesis 4

So if a descendant of Eve will restore peace, who will it be? Maybe Cain or Abel. No. One is murdered, and the other a murderer. But even though they aren’t the solution (in fact Cain seems to be a product of the problem), God acts with grace and causes His protection to rest over Him. He is committed to us and to His people even when we aren’t committed to Him. And so the line continues. But then there’s another line through Seth. So many people, so many options, but who will God use. This sprawling story of the world and of the search for God’s promised one has begun, and we start to get the sense that it might be as quick as at first it might have seemed!

Genesis 5

This is the first of many chapters in the Bible that is a long list of names. This person descended from that person, and lived until this age and then died. And on and on it goes. But this is an important reminder of two things. First, all are made in the image of God. These are people who carry the image, the stamp of divinity in them, and that is what humanity will always be before anything else. But second, they die. Every generation a new option for hope, but every generation also a reminder of the problem. We all die. This cycle is never how it should have been, but it is how it is. We get that the wrong way round. We’ve become so used to death, but it isn’t God’s norm. We are made for life, and death has corrupted that. But for now in the story, the cycle continues.

Genesis 6

As the people made in the image of God spread and grow and become more numerous, something else is growing too: their capacity for sin. This consistent habit and pattern of rejecting God’s best in favour of our own desires. And we see that it makes the world a horrible place, marked by violence and destruction. How far it has fallen. And it gives us one of the first pictures of the way God acts in our world to restore. In a world of sin and brokenness, He works through one man who has ‘found favour’ and who is ‘righteous’. And through that one man, He makes a way for the world to go on and for humanity as a whole to live on in closeness with God. It’s a difficult story, this Noah thing, but at it’s heart it’s a picture of God’s saving work.

Genesis 7

The story of the flood is one that I find hard. It seems so drastic and big. It’s terrible and horrible. But the thing I choose to remember is that it’s terrible and horrible not because God is those things, but because sin is those things and the consequences of sin are those things. I can get outraged at this story, but instead I choose to let it push me out of complacency. It stops me settling for sin. And it shows me the tremendous lengths that God will go, and ask His people to go, in order to forge a way for hope to continue. Very specific, but huge, instructions given to Noah, and he steps up. Will I? And will I let this sobering story sink deep into my heart and urge me to strive for God’s best, not mine.

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