< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: December 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Genesis Chapter One

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The Bible opens with the majestic statement that God began time with the creation of the universe, including this earth, our solar system and all the stars. Astronomers estimate that our galaxy contains from 100 billion to 400 billion stars. Outside of our galaxy, which is bounded by the Milky Way, it has been estimated that there are as many as 500 billion other galaxies. Think of a God who created not only something so vast, but also a single snowflake that is different from every other snowflake!

Our earth is like a drop of water in an ocean compared to the expanding universe. Yet God has ordained this earth to have a central place of importance because it was designed to be man’s home.
And He says His children are the most precious to Him. Matthew 10:30 says that the very hairs on our head are numbered!

So after the beginning grand statement about the creation of the universe, the remaining chapter deals with creation only in its direct relationship to earth and in particular the human race.

Some people believe in evolution. But if God didn’t create the heavens and the earth out of nothing, then the whole Bible is faulty and we might as well not read it!

Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Already in only verse 2 we’ve narrowed our focus to just the earth.

One problem many people have with the Biblical account of creation is that God created the earth in 6 days. But how do we interpret the word “day”? As 24 hours? Or as an indefinite time period such as the “day of the Lord”? To quote Augustine, do we take the word “day” to speak of “God-divided days, “not “sun divided days”?

When the Old Testament prophets refer to “the day of the Lord,” this indicates the whole period of end times. The “day of judgment” will last much longer then 24 hours and the “day of salvation” has already lasted over 2000 years!

If the days of creation were the workdays of God shouldn’t they be measured by divine measure? Peter referred to Psalm 90:4 when he said, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.”

However some people believe in a literal 24 hour period. Moses in Exodus 20:11 seems to be one!
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
What we need to remember is God is all powerful and infinite. There is no reason to presume He would need more then a second to create anything!

Genesis 1:3-5  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Some people are puzzled that God caused light to penetrate to the earth during the first day, but it wasn’t until the fourth day that He created the sun, moon and stars in their relationship to earth.
However, according to modern cosmological theories, the gaseous mass from which the systems of suns and stars later developed had a very high temperature of many thousands of degrees. If this is true, all matter in the universe, in those first stages, may have been a glowing mass and a great fiery light. Modern astrophysicists declare that light existed for immensely long periods before the sun; moon and stars came into being.  Even today we see light without the sun in the aurora borealis and the light of phosphorescence. It’s interesting to note that it’s only recently that scientists have affirmed that light exists in the universe apart from the sun. Moses, writing Genesis by the inspiration of God, declared this same fact thousands of years before Christ!

And God called this light good. Beautiful and beneficial. However when darkness and light are mixed there is a gloomy twilight. So God clearly separated the light from the darkness. He appointed the light to be “day” and the darkness to be “night.”

It’s fitting that God’s first day’s work regarding earth should be the giving of light, for light also has a symbolic meaning. The very essence of God’s being is said to be light both in a visible sense and a moral sense. When God revealed Himself to His people in the Old Testament, His presence was manifested in a shining cloud, a brilliant light that was glorious and beautiful. In the New Testament when God revealed His presence at the Transfiguration, it was also in a shining cloud. And when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus He was in a light brighter than the sun. Psalm 104:2 speaks of light being the garment of God.

1 John 1:5 says “God is light: in Him there is no darkness at all.” The light shining from God is the outshining of the glory of His moral being.

Jesus promised that whoever followed Him would no longer walk in darkness, but in light.
The time will come when physical and spiritual darkness will be eliminated. In Revelation 21:23 God speaks of a renewed earth whose city will have no need of the light of the sun and moon. “For the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp.”

You can think about this part of creation as what God does when He draws a new believer to Him. We are in darkness. Without form and void. And the Holy Spirit hovers over us. And God gives us light in His Word who is Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1:6-8  And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Some translations instead of firmament say dome or vault or expanse. Scientists tell us that the amount of water vapor continually suspended in the air above the earth is estimated to be 54, 460, 000,000,000 tons! When you take into account that water is approximately 773 times more dense than air, you begin to understand something of the mighty power of God when He separated the bodies of water.

No other planet in the solar system has an atmosphere like ours capable of supporting human life. Air contains carbon dioxide, water and oxygen, all perfectly balanced for us. It acts like a shield from the various rays of the sun.

Genesis 1:9-10  And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

The third day speaks of two acts of creation. First, the completion of what was begun on the second day. The water covering the earth under the atmosphere is drained off and restricted to lakes, seas and rivers. So He created land and sea.

Genesis 1:11-12 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

This is still the third day. From earth’s soil, at God’s command living vegetation sprang forth and would provide both food and beauty for man when he is created.

Genesis 1:14-19 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

“And let them serve as signs to mark sacred times”. We use them to worship God.

Psalm 8 LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,their words to the ends of the world.

They also signal extraordinary events like the star the wise men followed.
And in end times according to – Revelation 8:12
The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.

They are used in navigation and to forecast the weather. The Hebrews regulated years by the moon as we do by the sun today. This involves the division of time, calculations of history, setting of festivals for the worship of God, all of which make for an ordered life with an aim to be accomplished.

Genesis 1:20-23 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

God planned and formed thousands of different kinds of marine animals and birds suited to their environment. This is the first time that God blessed anything, since it involved living creatures. The word “blessed” means to make happy, to confer divine favor. God blesses all His creatures from the first fish swarming in the sea to the people that He has chosen to be His own inheritance who have been redeemed by Christ.

The blessing in this case was that of fruitfulness. The power of reproduction. They were given the power to pass on the life they received.

Christians are blessed to pass that blessing on too. We are blessed FOR something.

Genesis 1:24-28 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

All that God created in the first five days moves toward His divine purpose of creating a being in His own image capable of communicating with Him and for whom He has an ultimate plan in relation to the universe. Everything is ready for man: atmosphere, vegetation and living creatures. One commentator wrote that his environment was as carefully planned as any nursery for the expected firstborn.

The whole world was made for us!

This opening chapter of the Bible also hints at the trinity, even though it isn’t fully explained until Jesus’ time. But Israel’s greatest statement of faith in Deuteronomy 6:4 says Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. And it’s a combination of singular and plural. The Lord (Yahweh – singular) our God (Elohim – plural) the Lord (Yahweh- singular) is one.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Some background to the book of Genesis

A commentator wrote “Genesis is perhaps the most majestic, mysterious and fascinating book in the whole Bible. Genesis is the foundation upon which all the books of the Old and New Testaments stand. It is like the root of a tree whose trunk extends through the Scriptures until its crown appears in the Apocalypse where we see God’s original purpose in creation and redemption completely fulfilled within the new city where He is all and is in all.”

Genesis is a Greek word that means “beginning.” And Genesis is in essence the book of beginnings. It reaches back to when God, His Son and the Holy Spirit began their creative work. It tells of the fall, judgment and redemption. It is the beginning of a race of people who would safeguard this revelation in writing until it should be completed.

Ultimately all its prophecies would be fulfilled in the incarnation and final coronation of Jesus Christ as Lord.

Church tradition says Moses authored the first 5 books of the Bible. Genesis may have had other authors too. The patriarchs may have put the histories into writings and passed them down and then Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, compiled them together into one book.

The purpose of Genesis is 4 fold:

1. To reveal to man his origin, as created in the image of God and his relationship both to God and to the universe.

2. To reveal man’s original fall through rebellion against God’s command and the resulting process of degeneration and need of redemption.

3. To reveal the promise of redemption and of universal restoration through the offspring of the woman.

4. To record authoritatively God’s choice of individuals and their descendants who became incorporated into God’s purpose for the world through the Jewish line that eventually led to the birth of Christ, the offspring of the woman.

You can see the purpose most clearly if you read the book through in one sitting. The first 11 chapters concern the affairs of the entire human race and cover thousands of years. The latter 39 chapters deal almost exclusively with one family (Abraham’s) and the lives of only 4 men belonging to it. This covers about 300 years.

32 times in the creation story God is repeated. God created, God said, God saw, God called, God made, etc. The world, the universe are not eternal, nor did they spontaneously evolve. A living person, God, created the world, and time began. This is the first great teaching of the Bible: That which God plans and commands will inevitable come to pass.

Proverbs 9:10 tells us that recognition and reverence of God as the Creator of the universe is the beginning of true wisdom. Romans 1:18-21 tells us that every created person must recognize his creator, unless he represses that knowledge.

We also learn that God was delighted with His creation. Over and over it says “God saw that it was good.” The Hebrew word denotes “beautiful” as well as “good.” He experienced an emotion of profound satisfaction and delight that we who are made in His image share when we delight in this world of nature He made for us.

And man was the apex of His creation. He wasn’t created until everything was ready for him. God created this beautiful world to be suitable to man’s physical needs, to delight his emotions, to train his intellect and to develop his latent power of rulership.

God is a living being who establishes a personal relationship with man. That’s why we were created in His image. That’s why our plans, personality, friendships, family, and time must have God at the beginning or life is purposeless. Wasted. All fulfillment is only in Him who created all things.

Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Revelation 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why do bad things happen?

I was teaching from Genesis today and something really struck me. In the Garden of Eden the serpent’s reason for tempting man would seem to be to take from him the dominion over the earth given to man by God. Through the fall of man, the devil became “prince and god of this world”.

1 John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

What really struck me about that is: so often people say after a tragedy, “Where was God?” “Why did He allow that to happen?”

But of course while the devil is the prince and god of this world it IS going to be filled with violence and evil.

But not forever!
Revelation 19:1-10 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”

4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”

5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!”

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

One day we will stand in God’s throne room and see how it all worked and praise Him with all of our hearts and souls and mind!

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus

I just finished reading the book Real by Pastor Jamie Snyder. He starts his book by asking the reader to ask him or herself, “Would people know I’m a Christian if they didn’t see me at church?”

What I especially liked about the book was, he told us that living like a Christian is living the way Jesus did. That He is our example. And Snyder shared some of the things Jesus did on a day by day basis and suggested how we can do those things too.

One I really took to heart was that Jesus shared the Good News. And that Good News wasn’t just the gospel which means “good news”; He was the good news to people! He shared Himself! He fed the hungry, took care of the poor, restored dignity to the marginalized people in the society and cast out evil spirits. Snyder wrote, “Following Jesus is not so much about following Him in the directional sense, like east or west on a path, but more about getting wrapped up in the things He is wrapped up in. So following Jesus is less to do with whether you go here, there, or somewhere else, and more about being good news to people here, there, or somewhere else.”

The book challenged me to “be good news” to people. To infuse hope and joy and peace and patience and kindness and self-control and love into the daily circumstances of this world. To be the kind of person people go to for encouragement, knowing they won’t be judged or scolded. To have people leave my presence a little less anxious.
These are the kinds of things this book gets you to think about!
Disclosure: I was given this book by Bethany House to review on my blog. They did not ask for a positive review; only an honest one.

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