The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8
It might feel a little harsh that everything except those in the ark were utterly and completely destroyed at the hand of God. Sin is a big deal to God and He doesn’t look on it lightly. It separates us from Him. It keeps us from living our best lives.
But there is another truth about God: He is slow to anger. He is merciful and gracious. He is patient with us. He has given us space and time to come to Him in our own free will. He knows we will mess up and we can’t fix things – fix sin – on our own. God wants us to come to Him and be reconciled. So much so that as God’s story unfolds, we will see He sends His Son to die to make the sin payment for us.
A time is coming when Jesus will return again and all will be judged; all those who have not accepted His payment for sin on their behalf will receive the punishment upon themselves. Sometimes we may wish for Jesus to hurry up His return to earth; to come quickly to defeat sin and suffering and death. But God is patient…for all those He loves who have yet to accept His gracious and merciful gift of salvation.
In our human nature, we are often quick to give up on things and people who continue to let us down. But God is patient.
God’s nature is love. He is abounding in STEADFAST – unwavering, unfaltering, resolute, persistent, committed-- LOVE for me and for you…and for that person you are praying for who is currently far from Him. He hasn’t given up on you or them.
God’s love is not for some perfect future version of who we could be, but who we are right here and now. Don’t waste this time you have been given. He is patient, but it won’t last forever.
Questions: What would things look like if God was quick to anger? How does God’s patience in the present often keep us from having a sense of urgency about others knowing Him?
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.” Genesis 8:20-21
Noah’s faithfulness in trusting God and continuing to build the ark pays off. The rain comes. And comes. It comes for 40 days and 40 nights and then stays on the earth 150 days before it was possible to exit the ark.
Noah, his family, and the animals are out of the ark. Do-over time.
The first thing Noah does is build an altar and sacrifice an offering to the Lord. A sacrifice of thanksgiving and dedication of new life.
God makes a promise that He will never again curse the ground or strike down every living creature. He sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant between God and the earth and the flesh on the earth.
A covenant is different than a contract. A contract is an agreement between two parties that is mutually beneficial and can be broken by one party, nullifying the contract. This unconditional covenant God made with Noah, however, is different. It is a pledge; a perpetual promise upheld regardless of what the other party does. God is faithful even when we are not.
God makes this promise fully aware that we will all mess up again. And again. And again. But God also knows He already has a plan for that.
It’s a hard thing to think about God destroying everything in Noah’s time, but it is important to know that God does not desire destruction. He desires redemption. He wants things to be set right between us and Him. Sin is destructive, but God is ALWAYS good.
Questions: Do you believe that God is always good? If this is something that is hard for you, take time to pray about it. Bring your thoughts to God. He delights in you coming to Him with your questions. He wants you to know the truth about who He is.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
Sometimes studying the Bible can be confusing.
Sometimes LIFE can be confusing… and really really hard. Things happen that we just can’t understand.
Sometimes the pain and suffering can blur our vision.
Sometimes it feels like we are working so hard and doing all the right things, but nothing seems to be happening for us.
Sometimes we are at a fork in the road and we just don’t know which way to go or how to even move forward.
Sometimes we tend to be so critical of ourselves that it is hard to see ourselves as God sees us.
Sometimes we know a lot of things, but still don’t understand.
While God doesn't reveal everything to us, He doesn’t leave us stuck in a pit of confusion either. God promises to give us the wisdom we need if we ask Him for it and believe He will give it to us.
And not only does He give us a little wisdom, He gives it to us generously and without reproach, meaning He isn’t critical or hard on us because we ask Him to help us understand things. Actually, the opposite is true, He loves when we ask Him for things. He has so much He is wanting to show us and give us…but He wants us to be part of the process. He wants us to ask Him.
When you find yourself confused or unsure – which you will – remember that you can always ask God for wisdom!
Question: What is something you are struggling with that you can pray for God to give you wisdom about today?
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:5-8
The people have forgotten God. The world gets so evil and corrupt that God wants a reset. He decides to destroy it all, leaving only a small remnant to start new. And God knows just the person to use to start over.
Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Oh, to find favor in the eyes of the Lord.
God tells Noah to build an ark with very specific instructions as to how it is to be built. He tells Noah to gather two of every animal to take on the boat with his family.
Scholars estimate that it took Noah about 70 years to build the ark. And also that they may not have ever seen rain in their lifetimes (they lived in the desert!). Imagine what people were thinking. And we know that they are evil people so Noah was surely the laughing stock of the town. Would you be able to do the same under these circumstances? Sadly, I tend to cave under much less. But Noah was faithful. He believed God and he kept working.
God wants us to have the faith to do hard things, even when everyone around us thinks we are crazy. We often can’t see God’s plan when we are in the working phase…we just have to be obedient to what He is telling us.
God, help us to be obedient to the things you have called us to do. We want to find favor in Your eyes. Give us faith and courage and conviction to do the hard assignments you put on our hearts…even when we can’t yet see how it will all come together.
Questions: Have you ever stuck with doing the right thing even when others might think you are crazy or foolish? What helped you stick with it? Is there a hard assignment God has given you in this season?
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. Genesis 4:8-10
Cain kills his brother. Only one generation from the first man, sin is taking its toll, stirring up jealousy, pride, anger, and even murder.
God gives Cain the opportunity to confess, but instead, Cain replies, “Am I my broker’s keeper?” Instead of being his brother’s keeper, he became his brother’s murderer.
God confronts Cain saying, “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Blood represents life. And blood also represents death. Blood is a sacrifice. On this day, Abel’s blood was crying out sin and judgment. Soon the blood of Jesus would cry out redemption and reconciliation. But not yet. Many sacrifices will be established and carried out leading up to Jesus’s arrival as the final and perfect sacrifice.
Am I my brother’s keeper? How we see the answer to this question changes everything. God wants His church to be a unified body. He commands us to love Him and love each other. He has given us all we need to collectively be our brothers’ keeper, but instead, we leave it government, or others, or any institution willing to step in, regardless of motives. Our brothers and sisters are hurting, barely surviving, suffering, and lonely.
What if Jesus asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and refused the cross?
God, help us always be open to your truth and your voice when faced with the opportunity to be our brother’s keeper.
Questions: How would you respond to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” How does this look in your life?
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
Cain doesn’t react so well to God’s lack of regard for his offering. It again reveals what is brewing in his heart and what God saw when Cain presented the offering. He has a heart full of anger and a focus on himself. God knows this is a recipe for disaster in our lives.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us how these temptations from the devil grow in us. It starts with a desire that isn’t of God; a desire to focus on ourselves and/or to do wrong. If it is not addressed, it gives birth to sin. And sin grows and grows and gets easily out of control. (James 1:14-15) This is why God warns us to see it and nip it in the bud.
A quote I often repeat when I am angry like Cain is, “the level of your irritation often reveals the depth of your idolatry.” Think about the things that tend to irritate you the most. They are likely tied to things you are clinging to over God. Your reputation, your social status, your security, things you think you deserve and don’t have, work you are doing or want to do. Not necessarily bad things, but they become problematic when we elevate them to a higher position than they should be and care about protecting them at all costs; when we love them more than we love God.
God warns Cain (and us!) that sin is crouching at the door. We must rule over it. Here is some good news…While temptation is never from God (James 1:13), God promises that with any temptation, He provides a way of escape so we can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have the power in God to rule over the sin crouching at the door.
Challenge: When you feel irritated this week, stop and examine the root of it. Is sin crouching at the door? Is an idol being revealed you need to address? Immediately pray about it and ask God to show you the path to overcome it.
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. Genesis 4:3-5
The first humans, Adam and Eve, have two sons: Cain and Able. One is a hunter and one works in the fields. They each bring an offering to God, but it doesn’t go so well for Cain.
At first glance, this may seem a little harsh. From an outside observer, it looks the same…two people bringing an offering to God. Why does God favor the offering of Abel? It is because God knows what is in our hearts and He wants our first and best.
The passage tells us that Cain brings AN offering, while Able brings the firstborn. Able brings what is best and Cain brings what is leftover. It is an indication of what is in Cain’s heart.
God wants our full devotion. Our first and best. And not because He needs it, but because He knows what is best for us; what will give us a full, instead of empty, life.
Challenge: Think about how you spend your time…. maybe even pick a day and write down in detail what you do all day in increments of 15 minutes. How does God fit into your day? How do you prioritize Him compared to other things in your life? What if you decided to give Him your first few minutes of each day? Before you check email, texts, social media, or even get out of bed, what if you took five minutes to pray to God, to thank Him for your blessings, and to read the Bible?
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:21
Back to Adam and Eve. Remember when they disobeyed God and took a bite of the fruit; when their eyes were open to sin and their nakedness so they made fig leaves to cover themselves?
God knew this wouldn’t cover them for long. Our own efforts can never save us. Their sin was out in the open, but He wasn’t going to leave them in it. He was going to provide coverings for them.
We see the first sacrifice, as God provides garments of animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve. Sin is such a big deal to God that it requires a sacrifice. A just God can’t look the other way when there is sin. And while sometimes when we sin, we might think we want God to look the other way, the truth is, we don’t want God to ever look away from sin and injustice. We need a God who loves us deeply, but who will also punish sin and make all wrongs right. It is comforting to know that when we are wronged there will be justice. A good and just God could not let sin go unaddressed.
Here’s another spoiler alert: Yes, God is just and requires punishment for sin; but He is also merciful and He provides someone to take the punishment we deserve and satisfy the debt we owe.
The animal sacrifice to provide a covering for Adam and Eve is a temporary fix for the moment. But as God’s story unfolds, Jesus will become the permanent sacrifice that will cover all of our sins – past, present, and future – and make a way for us to be holy and right with Him again.
Questions: Do you ever wish God would turn the other way when it comes to sin in your life? What about sin done to you?
He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 8:44, 10:10
There is this ongoing battle between good and evil; between God’s goodness and the evil schemes of the devil (the “thief” as he is referred to in this verse). God has allowed the devil to have this time to prowl around, wreaking havoc, but Satan also knows God keeps His promises and his destructive impact will come to an end. The devil isn’t about to waste this limited time he has.
God desires us to have a relationship with Him – to choose the good. But He doesn’t force it on us. He is always pursuing us, even when we are fighting it. God has good things in store for us, where the devil is only out for our destruction. Satan wants to pull us into the pit with him.
Jesus is the one talking in this verse, saying He, unlike the devil, came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Conversely, the devil is a deceiver, making things that are opposite of God’s desire for us look super appealing. He seeks only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus calls him the father of lies.
There are only two paths we can be on. One leads to eternal life and one to utter destruction. It is a daily decision to choose which side we want to follow. The devil works hard to pull us on his team, or at least get us off track. But God’s way is the only way to abundant life.
Question: What can you do each day to serve as a reminder to choose God’s side and not fall for the lies of the devil to try to get us off track?
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15
Back to the Old Testament and the backlash of that dreadful bite of fruit. God tells Adam, Eve and Satan what the consequences of their actions will be. For women, there will be multiplied sorrows and pain in childbirth. For man, work will now be hard. For all of us, there will be no more eternal life on this side of heaven. We will experience pain and death.
Sin is a big deal to God.
To Satan (the devil), God says that although he will bruise the heel of God’s people (inflicting a wounding and negative effect, but not destruction), someone greater, from the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan’s head. A mortal wound with complete destruction and death.
This is the first hint of Jesus’ work on earth to come. He is the one who will be victorious over Satan. As we progress through the Bible, we will read many stories of God’s people, but know that Jesus coming to die on the cross to save us and defeat sin and death was God’s plan of restoration from the beginning.
Sin is now in the world. Satan is doing his “bruising” in all of our lives. We continue to fall for his lies and manipulation. We experience pain and hardship and suffering. The heel-bruising is brutal, no doubt.
But have confidence knowing that sin and Satan and death will be defeated. God has a plan. He always had a plan. A plan that leads reconciliation and for us to be wholly restored and with Him forever. Our job is to believe and put our faith in His perfect plan.
Questions: Have you ever given much thought to the destructive consequences of sin? Why do you think sin is such a big deal to God?
“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:2-3
A brief fast forward to the New Testament. Here Jesus is talking to His followers. He is reminding them that we may think things are hidden and done in secret, but God always sees and knows.
If we are honest, we all have secrets. There are some things we only do in the “dark” (in private, or with those we know won’t challenge us and hold us accountable). Whispers, untruths, unkind thoughts, hidden desires, impure motives, rebellious attitudes toward someone or something. Some things we do in the dark because we want to and some things we don’t even want to do…they have a hold on us. Even Paul, one of the great early Christian leaders, wrote in Romans, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:19-20)
And you know what else? That thing that was done to you that no one knows about…God knows. It isn’t hidden. That person that seems to have gotten away with it…God knows. It isn’t in the dark.
We don’t have to feel condemned or hopeless as we step out of the dark places into the light. God is patiently waiting for us. He knows all we have ever done or will do, and He loves us very much.
As hard as it may be, we need to let God know that we know what He already knows. God desires our freedom. Shame, fear, and dread live in the darkness, but peace, restoration, and joy are found in the light.
Challenge: Take some time to reflect on things you may be doing in the “dark” – in secret, or maybe even in your thought life. Bring them to God. Ask for His power to help you get back on track. Make a commitment to live like everything is visible and out in the open; to not do anything in secret that you wouldn’t do in the presence of others – even God, who sees everything.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:6-7
We have freedom to decide whether or not we want to do what God says.
But because God is perfect and holy and just, our choices have consequences.
The first humans listened to the lies of Satan over the truth of God. They chose to do the ONE thing that was forbidden. They had everything they could ever want or need…but they wanted more. With that choice…that bite… sin entered the world.
Their eyes were open. What was once only good all around them was now corrupt. They recognized their nakedness, and filled with a new emotion – shame – they tried to hide and fix things on their own with fig leaves.
Instead of owning up to their disobedience, they tried to cover it up. We fall into that trap too, don’t we? We think we can hide from our sin and conceal it with what amounts to flimsy fig leaves.
But God sees and knows everything. We will soon see that those figs leaves don’t really cover up their sin, just like our efforts on our own will never cover our sins. They – and we -- need a bigger and more powerful savior.
Questions: What is your first reaction when you realize you messed up and got caught? Do you quickly confess or try to cover it up?
He [Satan] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1b-5
So, things are pretty good for the first several pages of the Bible. There is no sin, no pain, no heartbreak, no toil in work, no jealousy…not even death. But it doesn’t last long. The devil is lurking around in the form of a serpent. We are told he is more crafty than any other beast of the field that God made. He seeks to plant doubt in our minds and destructive desires in our hearts. Satan’s initial words to Eve (the first woman God created to live with Adam) were,” Did God actually say…”
Oh, the pain that is caused by a strategically planted seed of doubt about who God is and what He says! The devil only has a few tricks he uses, but they are very effective: questioning the goodness of God and dangling things before us that are pleasing to the eye and ego. All rooted in pride, pleasure, and power. He does it by shifting our focus on things that look, seem, feel good…but we know are only destructive. Encouraging us to look out for ourselves instead of others. Convincing us we need something we can’t or shouldn’t have. Cheering us on to chase an upper hand or elevated position. Demanding we deserve revenge. Whispering doubt about God’s love for us.
The devil became the devil in rebellion against God, seeking a name and empire for himself. He is on a mission to drag us into his hell of the ongoing quest to find satisfaction and fulfillment in these things. Only our Creator can provide what truly satisfies us. Our job is to believe, trust, and obey Him.
Questions: What things generally tempt you the most? Do you see the root of the devil’s tactics in what draws you to these things?
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Did you catch what one of the first assignments God gave man was? It was to work in the garden. We were created to work and it is a good and pleasurable thing.
God also told Adam all of creation was his to enjoy. There is only one requirement…one tree is off limits for eating. Only ONE thing was prohibited. He mustn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In order for us to have free will, we must have choices. Without something being forbidden there is no choice. And God wants our love for Him to be a decision we make. He could have created us without the choice and forced us to obey Him, but that wouldn’t be genuine love. God wants our obedience and love to be something we willingly do, not something forced on us.
The forbidden tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Can you imagine a world where not only is there no evil, but you don’t even know of its existence? It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?! God doesn’t just tell Adam not to eat of the tree, He also tells him the consequences…death.
Absent of sin, there is no death.
As long as Adam obeys this ONE command – avoiding the fruit of the ONE tree among ALL of the abundance around him – he remains in the eternal and perfect presence of God.
Questions: Have you ever been in a situation where there were a million things you could do and one thing you couldn’t? Where does your mind usually go…to all of the things you have or the one thing you don’t?
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8
There is ongoing debate about whether creation occurred in six days as we know 24-hour days versus days as representative of an extended period of time. Regardless of where you stand on this debate, one thing we do know from the apostle Peter’s 2nd letter is that God’s time frames often differ from ours. It is part of His all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present character. He is not constrained by time and space as we are.
Imagine you only knew flat two dimensions and someone drew a big line on a piece of paper with a dot on either side of the line. They told you to create a path from one dot to the other without crossing the line. You would naturally assume the only way to do so was to go from the first dot all the way around the line to the second dot.
But… what if someone that knew three-dimensional space told you there was another way. You would think it was impossible due to your limited view of things stuck in only two-dimensions. They would tell you how you could go through the air over the line making a path from one dot to another. Suddenly your eyes are open to this new reality that you never fully understood but was there all along.
God’s vision is bigger than ours. God sees things that we can’t see. He has a wider and deeper view of all things... bigger than even three dimensions to the person who formerly only knew two. In our earthly bodies, we have a limited view of the world, but God is always patient, knowing how all the pieces will come together. His promises can feel slow to come to fruition in our eyes, but He sees it all and everything He promises will come to pass in the perfect time. Never lose hope.
There are realities around us that our eyes are closed to until we are in heaven. Until that time, we trust God, His good Word, and His promises.
Questions: Are you in the waiting for a promise from God that isn’t happening in your timeframe? Have you ever thought about what limited understanding we have? How does this open your mind to the possibilities of what God can see and do?
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:2-3
Back to the creation story… God creates everything in six days and on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Have you ever thought much about this? Do you think God NEEDS to rest?
The Hebrew word translated as rest means “to cease or stop; to abstain.” God rested because His work was finished; His creation was good. And while God doesn’t need rest, He modeled for us the importance of taking time to rest…to stop; to soak life in; to worship Him at a slower and more intentional pace.
The statistics are overwhelming about the number of kids, teens, and adults who are just plain stressed out. We are anxious and full of worry. We are killing ourselves by going non-stop and putting excessive pressure on ourselves.
Even at the beginning of everything being created, God knew this. He knew we needed to pause. He knew we were prone to burn out without rest. He knew we wouldn’t take the time to stop and look around and see the good among all of the stress and worry and work. He knows we need to rest. He knows we need to be filled with His truth, and grace, and love, and wisdom.
God would soon command Sabbath rest, but on this day, He models it for us.
Challenge: Take intentional time today or at some point this week to rest. Slow down with no agenda or to-do list and simply sit quietly with God.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
The one who created us has also prepared good works for us. Who better to create us than the one who knows what we need to be equipped to do; what we were created to do?
So often we spend much of our time comparing ourselves to other people. We want what they have or what they can do. And if you’ve ever fallen in this trap, you know it is only exhausting, depressing, and unfulfilling.
We don’t know everyone else’s story. We don’t know what everyone else has gone through or what God’s purpose and plans are for them. Believe me, no one has it easy. Everyone has trials and burdens and obstacles they have to overcome.
When we waste our precious time and energy comparing or trying to copy someone else’s looks, talents, personalities, achievements, social media life, etc., we miss out on who God created us to be. Because other peoples’ callings don’t quite fit us right.
God has good works – good things -- that He has set out for us to do. These things require a unique skill set that only we have. When we ignore the development of these things by trying to be someone else, we miss out on really wonderful, God-ordained things prepared for us.
The good works have already been prepared by God...for us to do. Our job? To not miss them. To WALK IN THEM. Let’s do this!
Challenge: Pay close attention to your thoughts over the next few days. When you find yourself comparing or jealous, let this be a prompt for you to pray. Ask God to show you what unique gifts and traits He created in YOU that He wants you to further develop or put into practice. Ask for wisdom in walking in the good works He has already prepared for YOU.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
It is important to examine what we believe about the Bible because if we don’t believe it is true and authoritative, we won’t put much stake in what it says. Do you believe it is the word of God? Do you believe it is true and trustworthy?
Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, gives final instructions to a young man he has been mentoring as his own life is coming to an end. He shares a very important truth about the Bible…it is breathed out by God.
Yes, it was penned by actual men, but it was fully inspired by God. It is the one source we have of complete truth by God. When in doubt, always refer to the Bible as the source for knowledge and truth about God and how to live your life.
Though the Bible is full of adventures, heroes, villains, triumphs, and failures, it is not a mythical fiction novel. It is a true story with real people and a real hero who saves the day – Jesus.
Paul continues with how the Bible – these inspired words from God – can be used: for teaching, for reproof (pointing out errors in our thinking or living), correction (showing us the right way to live), and training us in righteousness (moral living).
The purpose, Paul continues, is so that we may be complete. In other words, so we can be who God created us to be and be fully equipped to do every good work He has in store for us. It is exciting to think that the God who created everything has good works planned for us to do. Our life has incredible purpose. By understanding God’s word and truth, we get to be an active part of God’s perfect plans.
Questions: Do you believe the Bible is the word of God? How does this truth impact your view of the Bible? Do you truly believe your life has a good purpose and God has good plans and works already in store for you?
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16
Not only did God create humans in His image and likeness, He uniquely created YOU. The way you look, your personality, your quirks, your talents…all of you. The God who created the universe fashioned you on purpose, for purpose.
Another truth about God is that He is omnipotent (ALL-POWERFUL). He has no limitations. There is nothing in existence that God doesn’t have power over. God is also omnipresent (ALL-PRESENT). He is everywhere all the time…past, present, and future. And God is omniscient (ALL-KNOWING). There isn't a single thing that can be known, past, present, or future, that God isn't aware of.
You have free will to make decisions – good or bad. You choose. God doesn’t force you to do anything. God also already knows what you will do. The choices you will make and the choices others will make that impact you. He sees it all. He is never surprised by anything.
God knew you long before you were born. Nothing is hidden from Him. All of your days are known to Him. Knowing everything, He says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Fearfully… as in with awe, the root of awesome.
YOU are created exactly how a perfect God created you for the life and plans set before you...and God doesn’t make mistakes.
Questions: Does it freak you out a little or give you comfort that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present? Do you believe you are fearfully and wonderfully made just the way you are? When you are tempted to feel down on yourself, whisper to yourself, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and God doesn’t make mistakes.”
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:5-7
Unlike the other pieces of creation that God spoke into existence, we were formed by the mighty hands of God; awakened by the holy breath of God.
God created Adam, the first human, from dust and breathed life into him. Life is formed from mere dust and the hands and breath of God. God makes beautiful things from ashes.
The Hebrew word for breath is ruach (roo-ah), which even sounds like an exhaled breath. It is also used for the word Spirit. The Spirit of God brings us life.
Imagine being Adam and feeling air being breathed into your body, starting in your nostrils, and working its way down to every part of your being.
Adam comes to life for the first time and stands face to face with God. This is the first human with the breath of God flowing through him. Everything is perfect and complete and holy. This is our beginning!
Question: The human body is incredible when you think about it. No two fingerprints are alike. All of our parts and organs and air and blood work together to keep us alive. What is the most incredible thing to you about the human body that God created?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26a,27
When you look in the mirror, do you see the image and likeness of God? You should! This is how God created you.
When you look around at those you interact with each day, do you see the image and likeness of God? You should! This is also how God created them.
Did you catch how the words of God begin this declaration? “Let us…”
Who is the “us”?
Another truth about God is He is one God in three persons…God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
These three were there in One from the beginning. God is community. We were created for community to support and rely on one another. We weren’t created to do this life alone. It is hard and we need each other. Sometimes we will be the one encouraging and sometimes we will be the one being encouraged.
Man was the last thing that was created on the sixth day. When all other created things and beings were made, God declared it, “good.” When man was created and added to the world, God declared it, “very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
You are created in the image of God…and it is very good.
Challenge: The next time you have a disagreement with someone or they rub you the wrong way, take a minute to remind yourself that they are created in the image and likeness of God. Do you think this could help change your mindset about them?
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun… Psalm 19:1-4
First, God creates light. He separates the light from darkness, calling one day and one night. Though God has been around forever, this was the first day as we know it.
The verses that follow tell us He next created the atmosphere and divided it from the oceans (which He also created), He created land and divided it from the water, He created vegetation. The sun, moon, stars were created to fill the sky. He created creatures to fill the sky and water. Finally, He created creatures to fill the land, at which time man was created.
Incredibly God’s creation itself points to the glory of God and the beauty of His handiwork. It is a universal language with no speech or words or voice needed. It is declared throughout the world, whether in a crowded city or a remote village.
Though we speak different languages and have different cultures throughout the world, when we lay on the grass outside on a clear night -- no matter where we are -- we all look at the same moon and the same stars. We are all kept warm by the same sun. We are all formed by the same Creator.
Creation declares how big our God is, His masterful engineering, His exquisite artistry, and His unmatched goodness. Not with spoken language, but with colors, connection, order, and beauty. We get a glimpse of God when we take in His masterful creation.
Question: What about creation speaks the most clearly to you with regard to God’s glory and attributes?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning, God created…
The first two things we learn about God is that He has always been here and He is a Creator.
Before anything, God was here. Before atoms, dust, land, sky, water, stars, animals, humans... before it all, God was here.
The way the things of the world are connected and work together is orderly and extensive. Creation is rich with intricate details, textures, colors, and smells. God is a creative Creator.
How would you decide what color something should be when there were no colors? Or what shape something would be when there was no form? Or what its purpose would be? How did God create everything from nothing?
God said, “Let there be…” (Genesis 1:3). God SPOKE things into existence. He imagined it, and with His WORD it was formed. Nothing is by accident.
What God says happens! His Word is powerful! This is a truth we can count on always.
If God can create beauty, form, and purpose out of nothing, He can create beauty and purpose out of even our messes and mistakes. He is the Master Creator. Nothing is too big or too impossible for the Creator of all things who has always been and will always be.
Questions: Have you ever given thought to how everything was created or how something can be created out of nothing? What are some of the most creative aspects of God you see in the world around you? What do you think about the power of God’s Word?
Why Jesus 365?
Over the years, as I have been a part of groups with teenage students and adults, I have seen that whether they have been in church since they were infants or if this Jesus thing is new to them, they struggle with seeing the Bible as one whole, unified book.
But the truth is, as I reflect back on when I took ownership of my faith as an adult, I struggled with the same. We read snippets and stories, never recognizing it is one beautifully orchestrated account of perfect creation, human rebellion, salvation, redemption and full and final restoration from God to us. It is a story of Jesus from start to finish. And it is still in progress. We are a part of it!
The goal of Jesus 365 is to take a tour through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, looking at the characteristics of God...who He is, who we are in Him, how we relate to Him, His promises to us. For us to see the incredible picture of Jesus woven through the entire Bible from the first book to the last. For us to understand why we so desperately need Him and that He was Plan A all along; the only answer to sin and a redeemed, restored relationship with God. For us to know deep in our soul that He alone is worthy to be called our Lord and Savior. I pray we fully grasp how applicable it is to us today, no matter our background, age or current circumstances.
The devotionals are presented in 365 short, easy to digest readings beginning with an introductory Scripture passage followed by a short devotional and either a question or a challenge. It can be used as a daily devotional to read one passage a day, or as a small group resource to read and discuss a handful each time you meet.
My prayer is that it will be a helpful Biblical tool for teens, college students, and adults of all ages and life stages.
I am praying that God opens our hearts and minds to His beautiful truth and this becomes one of many tools in a life-long journey toward deeply knowing, loving, abiding in and surrendering to Him.
As you read through the Jesus 365 devotionals, you may find this timeline of when each of the books takes place relative to one another helpful. Click on the image below to enlarge.