Week 1 January 1-6, 2018

Building a Foundation on Just Four Words

The first four words of the Bible say more than all the other billions of pages written in the history of human literature: In the beginning, God.

This passage in Genesis 1:1 starts with a simple but staggering statement that God was present before anything else ever was. Stop right there and chew on that for a while. You and I both know that we have a beginning. We have photo albums filled with pictures of pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and delivery days to chronicle our entrance into this strange universe. But, in these four simple words, we discover something that transcends human understanding. Even though we have a beginning, and our world has a beginning, both we and the world were created by a God who does not.

Psalm 90:2 says, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." That phrase "everlasting to everlasting" is echoed throughout the book of Psalms, and it simply means from eternity past to eternity future God has been, is today, and will always be in existence. We often struggle to digest that concept because we are created beings placed inside the confines of earthly time and space. God, on the other hand, is free of all the boundaries and limitations of the earth's time and space because He is the sovereign creator of it.

Possibly the best news, however, from this revelation of God's eternal existence is that even though He has no time or space restrictions, He has chosen to be intimately involved in the moment-by-moment activity of all of His creation. In other words, there is no moment in human history that God is not aware of; no thought of the human mind that God has not considered; no cry of the human heart that God has not heard; and no obstacle of the human condition that God has not overcome.

The true glory of the incarnation of Jesus Christ that we celebrated last month at Christmas is that this sovereign God entered into time and space and became one of us to redeem us and restore us because of His great love. So, as you begin your journey in 2018, how can you build on the same foundation on those four precious words: In the beginning, God. There is nothing you are going to experience this year that God doesn't already know about at this very moment. He will walk with you; He will strengthen you; He will draw you closer into His sweet presence. He simply asks for your trust and your obedience. Are you willing this year to hand over control of the fleeting days of your short life to a God who has always held all of eternity in His hand?

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First Glimpses of a Triune God

Genesis 1:26 uses an interesting term to give us our first glimpse into God’s triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The passage says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The word “us” does not mean that there are multiple Gods, but that there is one God made up of multiple persons. Several passages throughout Scripture also support this idea that all three persons of the trinity actively participated in the world’s creation (Psalm 33:6; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Psalm 104:30).

Playing the Blame Game

The account of the Fall of mankind in Genesis 3 demonstrates how sin causes us to play the blame game. In Genesis 3:12-13, when God confronted Adam and Eve about eating fruit from a forbidden tree, Adam blamed Eve for tempting him and Eve blamed the serpent for her deception. The truth is we are always responsible for our own sin, and our selfish desire to blame someone else is enough proof that we need a savior to redeem us from our spiritual blindness.

Promises Made, Promises Kept

There is one passage in the entire Bible that serves as a hinge that everything else swings back and forth on. In Genesis 3:15, as God is addressing Satan the serpent for His role in the Fall of man, He says, "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." This one statement is a promise of hope and human redemption over sin and Satan himself. The promise reveals that a human offspring of Eve will come, and although he will have his heel bruised by the serpent, he will also permanently bruise the serpent's head. This is a foreshadowing of the crucifixion where Christ's heel was bruised in His earthly death, and the resurrection where Satan's head was eternally crushed because Christ conquered the power of sin and death by leaving the tomb empty on Easter morning.

To Show Us and to Save Us

Did you notice a striking similarity in two significant events that were revealed in this past week's readings? In Genesis 2:3 we see that God rested on the seventh day of creation and instituted a day of sabbath rest. In Mark 1:9, we also see that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. In both of these accounts, we see God performing an act for our benefit and not His. In the Genesis account, God did not need to rest because He was tired, but because He was modeling what sabbath rest should look like for us. In the Mark account, Jesus gave us a demonstration of what baptism should look like for His followers. He didn't need to be baptized for the remission of sins because He was sinless. Christ was baptized for the same reason He was crucified: For our sins and not His.

Two Ways He Tells Us He's Here

Psalm 19 is a beautiful portrait that describes the two primary ways God has revealed Himself to all of creation. This majestic Psalm should be read in three main sections for us to better understand this divine revelation: Section one is God's "general revelation" in nature (verses 1-6); Section two is God's "special revelation" in Scripture (verses 7-11); Section three is our reverent response to this divine revelation (verses 12-14).

Tips to Keep You on Track

          If there is one tip that I would scream from the hilltops to keep us all on track for reading through the Bible this year it is this: Find a time and place to read God's Word and be consistent. As human beings we are creatures of habit, and the best way to cultivate "holy habits" is to be intentional about when and where we do things. Discover what time of the day or evening that you have at least twenty minutes of undistracted focus. Also, find a designated place where you can read and think without your mind being tugged in several different directions. I am praying for this consistency in my own life as well as all of you who seek to walk with God through His Word in 2018!

Week 2 Readings: January 7-13

-Day One:  Genesis 16-18; Mark 6

-Day Two:  Genesis 19-20, Psalm 1; Mark 7

-Day Three:  Genesis 21-23, Psalm 107; Mark 8

-Day Four:  Genesis 24-25, Psalm 4; Mark 9

-Day Five:  Genesis 26-27, Mark 10