January 05, 2009

"Origins" Bible in a Year #1, Intro

This year, 2009, our church fellowship is embarking on one of the most exciting journeys one may embark on – a journey through the entire Bible – in one year. We will be using the “Daily Bible – in the “New King James” version by Nelson Publishers. You can use the same plan using your own Bible with the reading schedule at this link which has the exact same reading selections. If you'd like to hear the recorded lesson from January 4th, it's at my Xanga audio page in English with Russian translation. Ukrainians or Russians studying English may find it helpful to listen to the audio while reading this outline.

As we start out the New Year – time seems to be going by faster than ever. The actor John Lithgow summed it up well saying “Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.” Many have made New Year resolutions. One of the best resolutions and priorities is to spend time in God’s word each day. Jesus likened the scriptures to spiritual food we need each day (Mat 4.4).

This is an ambitious plan – to read through the Bible together in a year. We don’t want to have a legalistic attitude but to do this by grace. On Sundays we will focus on some of the highlights but the main idea is that we will be studying on our own each day. I John 2.27 says “But the anointing which you have received of him stays in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him.”- It is the Holy Spirit who is in us that teaches us all things. The main question is “Have you received the Holy Spirit? Have you been born again, as Jesus described in John 3?” The Bible really won’t make much sense to you until you have received God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. If you would like to learn more about this let me know and I’ll be glad to explain it to you.

Maybe this is already a habit for you – to use a “daily Bible” nevertheless, each time we study through the scriptures; it is a new beginning –The Prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, spoke of the Book of Books, the Bible: "Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; The Book widens and deepens with our years.”

Some people highly regarded in history - highly regarded the Bible:

Isaac Newton, English mathematician and scientist, 1642-1727: (whom many consider the greatest scientist in history) “We account the scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.”

Blaise Pascal, French philosopher and mathematician, developed the modern theory of probability, 1623-1662: “I prefer to believe those writers who get their throats cut for what they write.”

Immanuel Kant, German philosopher, 1724-1804: “I believe that the existence of the Bible is the greatest benefit to the human race. Any attempt to belittle it, I believe, is a crime against humanity.”

Napoleon Bonaparte, French Emperor, 1769-1821: “The gospel is not a book; it is a living being, with an action, a power, which invades every thing that opposes its extension, behold! It is upon this table: This book, surpassing all others. I never omit to read it, and every day with some pleasure.”

Daniel Webster, American politician and noted orator, 1782-1852: “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if were now posterity to neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury our glory in profound obscurity.”

Noah Webster, educator, publisher of first large American dictionary and called “the Father of American Education,” 1758 –1843: "Education is useless without the Bible." He also said, "The Bible was America's basic textbook in all fields." (From the colonial times, pioneer settlements that had 50 or more children hired a teacher mainly so the children would be able to read the Bible. I Sam 2.30 states “…those who honor Me; I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" – Many attribute America's success to its Biblical roots.)

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, 1809-1865: (Voted the greatest US president by both liberals and conservatives in the 1982 Murray-Blessing survey) “I am busily engaged in the study of the Bible. I believe it is God’s word because it finds me where I am.”

What about the reliability of the Bible?

Sir Frederic Kenyon, Director and principal librarian of the British museum, 1863-1952: “… both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the N.T. may be regarded as firmly established.” (Based on the close proximity of surviving ancient manuscripts, of which he was the foremost expert.)

Josh McDowell has done extensive research and determined there are a total of over 48,600 manuscripts which back up the Bible (Christianity: a Ready Defense). The Iliad by Homer is second with only 643 manuscripts that still survive. The first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the 13th century. So, by all criteria, the text of the New Testament is more reliable than any other ancient writing!

Why study through whole Bible in one year?

Firstly – “It’s all good!” II Timothy 3.16 states “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Jim McCotter said “All Scripture is God-breathed and He doesn’t waste His breath.” And secondly, by having an overview in the Bible we can be “skilful in the word of righteousness” as shown in Hebrews 5.13.

Jesus Himself showed that an overview of the Bible is important - Jesus gave a Bible study while walking with two disciples to Emmaus. Luke 24:27 reads: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” This shows just how important Bible study is to Jesus. One of the first things He does after His resurrection is to give an elaborate Bible study! Also, He showed the importance of realizing that the main theme of the entire Bible is Jesus Christ Himself. More than anything else, the scriptures are a means of deepening our relationship with God. In this sense, the Bible is a kind of divine love letter from God to us.

What is the correct attitude to have while studying the Bible?

Look at what is written about Ezra (7.10) “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Prayer is an important first step in preparing our hearts to read God’s word. An attitude of expectation is also good. Am I expecting God to speak to me through His inspired word? If so, having paper and a pen ready is a good sign that that is true. In addition to studying the word is the importance of doing it and sharing it. We don’t really know something until we do it in practice. The medical students can study about surgery but until there is practice, then it is just head knowledge, it’s just theory. In order to know something really well start teaching it to someone else. It can be as simple as just sharing some insights you have learned with a friend or a relative. “Today I studied about the origin of the universe. Isn’t it amazing how the intelligence and wisdom of God are displayed in His creation? Or maybe you believe in the theory of evolution? If you do, I’d like to compare both views with you…”

The Bible consists of 66 books by 40 authors over period of 1500 years, and yet it is cohesive theologically! It is food for your spirit, guidance for your life, faith for your journey, encouragement for your trials and understanding for our times, in terms of present day relevant prophecy. Of all the spiritual books in history, only the Bible has dared to predict the future with hundreds of prophesies. And because half of the prophecies have already come true, you can be confident the rest of them will also.

On January first we started four books at the same time: Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs and Matthew.

Genesis means – beginnings – It is the ‘book of beginnings” first of five books written by Moses Psalms was written mostly by King David and focus on the theme of worship It is a handbook on worship.
Proverbs was written by David’s son Solomon – it is a handbook on wisdom.
Matthew, the gospel account, was written by a Jewish tax collector - who had a sudden dramatic conversion.

Genesis can be divided into two parts: Part 1 is the beginning of the world and humanity, in chapters 1 to the 11. And part 2, the beginning of the People of God through Abraham, chapters 12 to 50.

Beginning of the universe: Chap.1.
Beginning of man and woman: 1:26, 2:7,22.
Beginning of marriage: 2:24.
Beginning of sin (Adam and Eve): 3.
Beginning of redemption: 3:15, which is called the “Proto-Gospel"
Beginning of crime, as a result of sin, the following chapter 4 (Cain).
Beginning of civilization, 4:17-23.
Beginning of the nations, 10-11.
Beginning of the languages, in Babel, 11.

The book of Genesis gets right into the action: “In the beginning God created…” - In the beginning of what? Time – There is an eternal spiritual world and a temporal physical world. There are basically two ways of looking at the world, which form the basis of other world views – In the first view – an intelligent divine being exists and created the universe – In the second – no intelligent divine being exists – all is a result of accidental chance.

According to the first, there is a rational explanation of the origin of matter, the universe, life and intelligence. According to atheism there really is no rational explanation of the original of matter – the “original cause” as it is called. The laws of physics in our physical world state – “matter cannot be created or destroyed.” The atheists are stuck – They want us to believe there was basically nothing… and then “it” exploded! And so it is really not a scientific or rational explanation.

The same goes for their theory of the origin of life. They propose that life came from non-life, intelligence came from non-intelligence, etc, none of which can ever be demonstrated in a laboratory because they are scientific impossibilities. Dr. Sidney Fox was promoted by the media in the 1950’s and 60’s for creating life in a test tube. He said: “Newspapers will print anything – It is absolutely impossible to create life.”

In reality, it takes more faith to believe the theory of evolution than to believe in a divine creator. The philosophical beliefs in atheism and relativistic positivism are also unsupportable. By saying “I don’t believe in absolute truth” you are assuming there is a standard of truth by which you make that judgment! You’re stuck. You can’t even take the first logical step – And so, in reality, it is foolishness. When there is an offering for a public debate at universities – the atheist professors often don’t want to show up because they have been embarrassed too many times by creationists. This confirms I Cor 1.20 which states “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?"

Contrary to what is taught in public schools, the “emperor of evolution” has no clothes. It’s not a question of “missing links” it’s a question of finding “any links at all” between species. None have ever been found in the fossil record. If you would like to see an excellent DVD documentary comparing the theory of evolution and the theory of intelligent design, we have a film, “A Question of Origins” with 8 language options, which you may borrow from our Simferopol library or you can watch for free on the internet at this link.

The beginning of man and woman: 1:26, 2:7,22. – Man was created distinct from the animals, in the "image of God." Mankind has the ability to contemplate the meaning of life and to comprehend and relate to our Creator on a personal level. This is the foundation of human dignity. The irony is that humanists have placed man at the center of life and mankind has been losing its sense of dignity ever since, because it has lost its true sense of purpose, meaning and value. In the materialist view, humans are defined mainly by their usefulness as "producers" or “consumers,” quite depressing. However, when God is at the center, man has purpose, meaning and value that is highly significant in every aspect of life. We can reflect the significance and glory that God has emanated through His natural creation and through His intervention in humanity in the form of Jesus Christ.

Some people laughed at the idea of Eve being reproduced from Adam’s flesh – until cloning was discovered. Eve was created from out Adam's body – Woman came out of man. That is what the word “woman” means (Gen 2.23) - though some think it is because he said “wo – man!” when he saw her because she was so attractive! In the Hebrew, it says man was "formed" (yitzer, Gen 2:7) while woman was "built" (yiben, Gen 2:22).

2.24 - The beginning of marriage – leaving and cleaving- one flesh – What does it mean to be one flesh? It implies that our lives are interwoven in every way, on every level. Sometimes there is a focus on physical attraction when seeking a mate. But the spirit is the most important element, not the body - CS Lewis once said "You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." The body is temporary but the spirit is eternal. I Thessalonians 5.23 clarifies – we’re not just body and soul…It shows we each consist of three unique elements – body, soul and spirit. And so we need to consider this when seeking a partner. Compatible physically – physical attraction, - compatible emotionally – emotional characteristics – and tastes in music, clothing, movies, books, etc, and then spiritually – do you feel a calling to be a missionary and friend wants to be a career person?

Chapter 3 deals with the original sin of Adam and Eve. Some may wonder why God allowed the temptation in the first place. This is because God is love and love cannot be known truly without free choice. Otherwise we would all just be robots. We each have a choice to seek relationship with our Creator or to reject Him. Love is based on trust. It is based on believing the best of the other person. Their sin was based on distrust and began with Satan’s lie. “God doesn’t really love you – God is holding something good from you.” This is the same problem we face today. We are tempted to sin when we begin to doubt God’s love for us. The more we are in a love relationship with God the less temptation there is to sin.

The beginning of redemption (3.15) – Redemption is first mentioned here and is the main theme of the Bible. The reason we need redemption is because man and nature are fallen and corrupted by death, disease and sin. Verse 15 shows the first promise of the messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus has won the victory over Satan on the cross of Calvary. He has undone all of the spiritual problems which began through Adam and Eve.

Jesus is compared to Adam in the Bible: "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." I Corinthians 15:45. Jesus was born with the power to “quicken” to give life to others –I John 5.11,12 “He who has the son has life” We have fleshly bodies, thanks to Adam, but we can be born again spiritually thanks to Jesus Christ. Adam lived in paradise, yet fell into temptation. Jesus lived under the curse – yet did not give into temptation. Adam’s sin and selfishness brought death to humanity. Jesus’ righteousness and selflessness brought life to humanity.

Psalms – The book of Psalms was written by King David. It is basically a handbook on worship. What is worship? According to Jesus, the main essence of worship is a response to spiritual salvation: In John 4.22 Jesus said: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” On the basis of this salvation all different subjects and forms of worship come into play.

Psalms express the full spectrum of human emotions and there are many different forms. There are hymns, laments, pilgrimage psalms and songs of thanksgiving, etc. The many prophecies within the Psalms testify that they are inspired by God. Psalm 22 stands out regarding the crucifixion.

Psalm 1.1 “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

One of the main sources of our happiness and sense of praise is the word of God – As we meditate on the word it bears fruit in our lives. Col. 3.16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” May this word be true and real in all of our lives!

David had a heart of worship and showed that the inward condition is more important than outward acts. Psalm 51.17 states “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Though he sinned greatly he repented with sincerity. In Acts 13.22, it describes why God favored David as a king “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.” David’s heart for God may have come in part from his time in the fields as a young boy. As he shepherded his family’s flock, he had time to meditate on the beauty and grandeur of nature which testifies of God’s glory.

Proverbs – The book of Proverbs was written by David’s son Solomon. It is basically a handbook on wisdom. - Prov. 1.7 and 9.10 say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. The word fear means more the idea of reverence and awe than the meaning of fear we understand in our day. Solomon reigned as king in Jerusalem from about 970 to 930 B.C. His name is derived from the Hebrew word shalom “peace,” so, Solomon means “peaceful one.” Where did Solomon’s wisdom come from? In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: (1 Kings 3:3-14) I Kings 3.7. And God basically said “Ask me for anything!” Solomon has the presence of mind to ask for wisdom so that he may govern the Israelites. And because his request was unselfish, God did give to him wisdom but also added riches and honor. And so his wisdom, riches and fame all became legendary throughout history.

Solomon is the author of 3,000 wise sayings (proverbs) and over 1,000 songs (1 Kings 4:32). Some of these are preserved in books Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. But later in life Solomon was not so wise. He was drawn towards the gods of foreign women he married. According to 1 Kings 11: 3 Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. The Bible forbade kings to have many horses, more than one wife, and much wealth. (Deut 17.16-17) But Solomon’s initial disobedience led him more astray.

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), the Greek philosopher and student of Plato, once said “Well begun is half done.” Perhaps he was referring to this one considered even wiser than himself, Solomon. The lesson for us is not to take grace for granted. Solomon forgot that his riches, wisdom and honor were all by grace and he last his sense of reverence for God and His principles. He became full of himself and empty of God. We need to try and live by grace but not forget that God is an awesome God.

Matthew: Matthew, also called Levi, was especially chosen by Jesus as one of the 12 disciples. I love the account of how Matthew was saved by Jesus Christ in Mark 2.14 (also Lu 5.27): “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” Jesus chose not just ordinary men but unlikely men. Tax collectors were considered to be basically “the scum of the earth” corrupt traitors who “sold out” for profits. They had a quota of profits they needed to collect for the Roman government and whatever they collected above that they kept for themselves. The amazing thing is that the 12 unlikely disciples turned the world upside down with the radical new teachings of Jesus Christ.

Each of the four gospels presents a different aspect of Jesus Christ…

Matthew presents Jesus as king – mainly to an audience of Jews with many Old Testament references. Mark presents Jesus as a servant – and writes mainly to Romans emphasizing words of action. Luke presents the “Son of man” – mainly to the Greeks – focusing on philosophy and wisdom. John presents the “Son of God” – mainly to Christians – known as the apostle of love.

Genesis and Matthew both begin with origins – Genesis shows the spiritual origin of the physical universe while Matthew shows the physical lineage of the spiritual savior, Jesus Christ. John 1.1 describes how the universe was created through Jesus Christ. As a tax collector, Matthew was sharp with details and this is evident in his writing style. He presented the lineage of Jesus all the way back to Abraham. By proving Jesus’ lineage to David he was proving His right to claim to be Messiah. Psalm 132:11 states: "The LORD has sworn to David, A truth from which He will not turn back; 'Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne."

David wanted to build a house for God, a temple but God basically said no, I have something better in mind; I will build my house, my eternal throne and kingdom through your family line. This was prophesied through Nathan:

"When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who shall come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My loving-kindness will not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed before you. And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Joseph called his name Jesus as instructed by the angel. Why Jesus? Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which is a shortened form of the original compounded name Jehovah-Savior. The title Messiah means “anointed one.”

Psalm 40.7 – “In the volume of the book it is written of me.” – We see Jesus presented in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The main idea of the Bible is God’s plan of redemption for a lost world. After we have been reconciled to God, we also become reconcilers in His plan of redemption. As we trek through the scriptures the scriptures will work through us. It is exciting to consider how God will work in us and through us for His glory and kingdom!

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