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?

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?

A Semester in the Gospel of Mark

Seminary classes appear to either be (a) content-based in which one must master a body of knowledge (theology, church history, etc.), or (b) skills-based in which one must master a skill to an academically acceptable level (preaching, interpreting text, Greek, Hebrew, etc.)  This spring I spent a semester learning Inductive Bible Study (IBS) skills and practicing on the English text of the Gospel of Mark. It was a lot of work, but rewarding!

If you think about it, no one recorded every waking moment Jesus spent on earth.  Even today we do not record every moment of every day, even if reality t.v. shows and Snapchat stories promise you otherwise… everything is edited! So we have four different gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, each by a different author, each telling the parts of Jesus’ life and ministry that they wanted to communicate to their audience. The content of each narrative is absolutely true, simply edited by a different author.

IBS asks the question, “Why did Mark chose to tell this story, to this audience, at this point in his narrative?” IBS presumes that Mark, with the help of the Holy Spirit, arranged the stories of Jesus in a particular fashion to communicate particular truths to his audience.  IBS is a bit like bringing AP English Literature skills to the gospel narrative and asking questions about structure, recurring themes, framing, foreshadowing, climax, repeated cycles, and more.  Once we understand the structure of a passage, and its context, then we become better interpreters of the text.  Single verses, yanked out of context and

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applied to a situation, become taboo… After all, no one opens a letter from an old friend, reads only the 5th paragraph, and then puts the letter away for another time!

This is the companion commentary we used which I recommend for anyone teaching on Mark by Mark Strauss:

And just to give you an idea, here are some examples of the introductory paragraph of IBS papers I wrote every week all spring:

Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

So many great quotes – I should have opened a twitter account so I could share them with Uninvitedyou all!  Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely is the most recent of Lysa TerKeurst’s books.  (Others we have loved are The Best Yes and Unglued.)  Lysa is very funny, self-deprecating, honest, and relatable.  She’s like the girlfriend who leans in and tells you her heart struggles, but makes you spit out your coffee from laughing so hard.

Uninvited invites you to consider the power of rejection and its roots, to evaluate where rejection is damaging your relationships today, and to grasp what it means to live fully loved by God.  The book is excellent reading.  In addition, the study guide and dvd series (6 sessions of 15 min) offer you the opportunity to really evaluate yourself, to study relevant scripture passages, and to be held accountable by your small group over a period of time.

Members of our group walked away from the study with many different learning points.  For some it was digesting what the unlimited love and forgiveness of Jesus really means.  For others it was making the shift from walking into a social setting in need of affirmation (a dangerous and unfulfilling game), to being the one who walks into a social setting full of love and able to overflow into the lives of those more needy.  For some it was embracing the pain of the past, but realizing that it does not define their future.  And many of us grasped the lessons of the olive tree – that the hard, crushing times are a key part of God producing valuable fruit in our lives.

Buy two copies, one for you and one to give to a friend who will read it with you!

Uninvited

Prodigal God by Tim Keller

My husband kept telling me I would love Prodigal God (2008) and I finally picked it up as a study for my small group.  It’s a short book, and extremely powerful.

You are probably familiar with the story in Luke 15 often known as “the parable of the prodigal son”.  Keller argues that we’ve missed 80 percent of the meaning behind this story because we focus on the Younger Brother.  It is rather a story of two sons – both lost, both seeking fulfillment and happiness in ways that are empty and sinful.  Keller says the parable redefines sin and lostness, and helps us understand how the Older Brother is just as lost as the Younger Brother.  Keller explores Jesus Christ as the true Elder Brother, how we long for home and find it so difficult to return, and how our Heavenly Father welcomes us into a feast that is salvation.

Keller writes, “I have seen more people encouraged, enlightened, and helped by this passage, when I explained the true meaning of it, than by any other Biblical text.”  Read it.  Prodigal God book

And don’t miss the 30 minute teaching video Keller did to accompany the book: