The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

This book is required reading for students at Asbury Seminary in a class titled “Biblical Narrative”. It is excellent and challenges the way we approach scripture. After explaining his Bible-as-a-story approach (not a systematic theology prooftext), McKnight applies his approach to issues of slavery, justice, and atonement theory. The latter third of the book is a balanced and thoughtful discussion of the Biblical text regarding women in ministry. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, it is a welcome addition to the discussion on how we determine which parts of scripture apply everywhere and in all times versus those parts that are limited in application to a particular time and place. Very much worth reading. (As is another McKnight book I loved The King Jesus Gospel.)

Genesis Week 3 – The Downward Spiral of Sin

Thanks for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 4:1-11:26
o  4 – Cain and Abel
o  5:1-6:7 – Generations
o  6:8-8:19 – Noah
o  8:20-10:32 – Noah and Covenant
o  11:1-26 – Babel

Main Topic – The Downward Spiral of Sin
Sometimes sin has immediate consequences, as we saw in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve. In the next major section of Genesis, we see the longer-term consequences of sin. The fall of Adam and Eve initiates a downward spiral of sin, beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel, the days of Noah, and finally the Tower of Babel. Genesis chapters 4-11 is an overview of how sin spreads among the peoples of earth. As we look at the stories in this section, our questions focus on how sin spreads, the ensuing punishment, and signs of God’s grace.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Cain and Abel (Gen 4) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sin of Cain? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

2. Noah (Gen 6) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sins described? Why is Noah unique? How does he respond to God? How do you see God’s grace in this passage (also chapter 8)?

3. Noah and his sons (Gen 9) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sins described? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

4. The Tower of Babel (Gen 11) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sin of building Babel? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

5. Personal Application – How have you seen the progress of sin in and around your own life? How also have you seen God’s grace at work in your life?

Woman as an Ezer – What does this mean?

One of the questions asked in studying Genesis 2 is what does it mean that woman was created to be the “helper” for man? In the Hebrew text the word is “ezer” which is traditionally translated in English as “helper”. But what does ezer mean and how was this word used elsewhere in the Old Testament?

Many opinions of women have been shaped by the word in Genesis 2:18, “helper.” Was the woman to be merely a helpful assistant to the man? In our day we use the word “helper” in the sense of an assistant, helping the boss do his job. Yet the meaning of the Hebrew word is rather different.

The word ezer occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament: Twice in Genesis for the woman (Genesis 2:1820), three times for nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid (Isaiah 30:5Ezekiel 12:14Daniel 11:34), and here’s the interesting part — sixteen times for God as Israel’s helper (Exodus 18:4Deuteronomy 33:72629Psalms 20:233:2070:589:19 [translated “strength” in the NIV]; 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1 – 2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9). God is the one who comes alongside us in our helplessness. That’s the meaning of ezer – it does not suggest ‘helper’ as in ‘servant’ – but help, savior, rescuer, protector as in ‘God is our help.’ It is a term often used in a military context.

Descriptions of the woman as dependent, needy, vulnerable, deferential, helpless, leaderless, or weak are — to put it simply — wrong. The ezer is a warrior.

John Walton writes about the word “helper” (ezer) in the Old Testament in his commentary on Genesis (NIV Application, Zondervan, 2001):

The word “helper” is common enough as a description of someone who comes to the aid of or provides a service for someone. It carries no implications regarding the relationship or relative status of the individuals involved. In fact, the noun form of the word found in this verse as used elsewhere refers almost exclusively to God as the One who helps his people. If we expand our investigation to verbal forms, we find a continuing predominance of God as the subject, though there are a handful of occurrences where people help people. In this latter category we find people helping their neighbors or relatives (Isa. 41:6), people helping in a political alliance or coalition (Ezra 10:15), and military reinforcements (Josh. 10:42 Sam. 8:5). Nothing suggests a subservient status of the one helping; in fact, the opposite is more likely. Certainly “helper” cannot be understood as the opposite of “leader.”

It is also interesting that Ezer as a male name appears elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Exodus 18:4 it says that Moses named one of his sons Eliezer, which in Hebrew means “My God is my helper” (Eli = “my God”; ezer = “helper”). This verse goes on to explain why Moses named his son Eliezer, because God had powerfully delivered Moses from Pharaoh’s sword.

Even in recent history, evidence is strong that the name Ezer still carries a lot of weight. Ezer Weizman (1924-2005) was an Israeli military hero. He built an international reputation as a fighter pilot, commander of the Israeli Air Force, the Minister of Defense, a world leader involved in Middle East peace negotiations, and Israel’s seventh president.

The woman was not created to serve the man, but to serve with the man as his partner. Without the woman, the man was only half the story. She was not an afterthought or a last-minute addition to help out an independent, self-sufficient man. God said in Genesis 2:18 that without her, the man’s condition was “not good.” God’s intention in creating the woman for the man was for the two to be partners in the many tasks involved in stewarding God’s creation.

Women, know that God values you and intended you to be a strong helper and defender. Men, be grateful the Lord has given you a strong ally and warrior. Every time we chose to partner and work together, we demonstrate that by God’s grace we can overcome the division between us that was a consequence of the fall in Genesis 3.

Genesis Week 2 – Humanity's Purpose and Failure

Thanks for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 2:4 – 3:24
□ 2:4-17□ 2:18-25□ 3:1-13□ 3:14-19□ 3:20-24

Main Topic – Humanity’s Purpose and Failure
Last week we considered Genesis chapter 1, which is the creation account and serves as an introduction to God and to the whole of the Bible. In chapter 2 the creation account is reiterated and expanded as the emphasis moves from God’s overall creative activity, to God’s specific creation of man and woman. In chapter 2 humankind becomes central to the storyline and there is much to learn about the creation and purpose of humanity, its relationship with the creator, and the relationship between man and woman. As we move into Genesis 3 we find humanity failing in its calling, sin is introduced to the storyline, and the consequences are significant and enduring.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1.    Recall that God outlined the purpose for humanity in Genesis 1:26-28. What was their purpose?

2.    In Genesis 2:18-25 how does God provide help for Adam to fulfill his calling? What do you know about this word “helper” (Hebrew ‘ezer’)? What do we know about the relationship between man and woman and God prior to entry of sin into the world?

3.    The temptation – Compare carefully God’s original instructions in Genesis 2:16-17 with their recollection in Genesis 3:1-5. What changes do you see? How does this interaction with the serpent present a distorted picture of God? What doubts has the serpent introduced?

4.    The consequences of sin – Look carefully at the consequences of sin in Genesis 3:7-13. How does sin break down the vertical relationship between God and humankind? How does it break down the horizontal relationship between Adam and Eve? Describe the punishment for each character – the serpent, Adam, and Eve. For the humans, relate this back to their original purpose and explain the significance.

5.    The consequences for sin were immediate and enduring, yet there are signs of God’s grace even in punishment. What signs of God’s grace do you see in chapter 3?

Genesis – Week 1, Creation

Thanks for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 1:1-2:3
□ 1:1-5□ 1:6-13□ 1:14-23□ 1:24-31□ 2:1-3

Main Topic – Creation
As you reflect on the creation narrative in chapter 1, think about this: How would you respond if your young child asked, “Where did I come from?” You might answer “New Jersey,” or maybe you would say “Your dad and I got married and had you as a baby.” Perhaps you would give a biologically detailed explanation of how conception works (though we tend to dodge this topic!) Or maybe you could give an account of labor and delivery complete with city and date and time marker. If you are more relational, you might draw a family tree with all the important characters mentioned.

I ask this question because it is important for us to consider what the author of Genesis was trying to communicate when he wrote chapter 1. Chapter 1 is not a biology textbook or a detailed timeline, and it certainly does not answer every question we might have about creation. Dr. Sandy Richter writes in The Epic of Eden, “Genesis 1 was written to answer the questions: Who is God and what is His relationship to us? What was God’s original intent?”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Repeated words and phrases indicate importance. What do you see repeated in this section, and why might it be important?

2.     The seven days mentioned organize the details of creation. God creates ecosystems and then fills them. Fill in the chart below regarding what happened each day of creation:
What was created? (God forms)
Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:
What was created? (God fills)
Day 4:
Day 5:
Day 6:
And on Day 7:

3.     What do we learn about God in this section? How is the repeated phrase “And God said…” significant? And the phrase “It was good…”? What other details did you note about God in this section?

4.     Chapter 1 ends with the creation of humanity. What do we learn about humankind in this section? How is this final creative act of God different from previous creative acts? What is the purpose of humanity in God’s creation? (hint: look at the verbs). What does it mean to be the image bearer of God?

5. This section ends with Day 7 and God is resting. Why is He resting? Surely not because He is tired… What is your understanding of sabbath rest and its purpose?

Genesis, a 12 week study

Every year we do a Bible reading plan at my church. We’ve done the Bible in a year, the NT in a year (5x5x5 plan), and The Grand Narrative. (See the Reading Plan tab to find these.) This year our reading plans will be quarterly, and we are starting with 12 weeks in Genesis! Join us if you need a plan, download it at the site below and sign up for discussion group emails or the Facebook group:

Grow in Christ

Mindy’s Good Reads 2019

My annual list of books I’ve read this year… some good ones in here! What would you recommend I read in 2020?

Novel:

Ready Player One, Earnest Cline.

Autobiography/Memoir:

The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony

Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance

Ministry/Spiritual (including seminary class texts):

The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten Small Group Experience, Kevin Watson

When God Doesn’t Fix It, Laura Story

Feeding Your Soul: A Quiet Time Handbook, Jean Flemming

It’s Only A Demon: A Model of Christian Deliverance, David Appleby

The Believer’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, Tom White

3 Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare, Clinton Arnold

Understanding Spiritual Power, Marguerite Kraft

Spirit of the Rainforest, Mark Richie

Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice, Moschella

Churches that Make a Difference, Ron Sider

Whose Religion is Christianity, Lamin Sanneh

Soul, Self, and Society: Mission in a Post-Colonial World, Michael Rynekiewich

The Mission of God’s People, Chris Wright

Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church, Reggie McNeal

Scattered: How ADD Originates and What You Can Do About it, Gabor Mate

The Wisdom of The Enneagram, Riso and Hudson