One of the most controversial subjects in the church is that of creation. Did God create the world in billions of years, or six, 24-hour days? Did it happen by a Big Bang, or did God breath creation into existence a few thousand years ago? Did animals evolve on their own, under God’s direction, or were they created in less than a week? What kind of day is “yom” referring to? How does a believer reconcile faith and science?
As you made your New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you committed to read through the entire Bible this year. You’ll start in Genesis and finish in Revelation, and you are determined to plow straight through. No skipping the boring parts.
Yes, we start with great intentions. We zoom through Genesis and Exodus, although the detailed descriptions of the tabernacle slow us down a bit. So do all those laws. But it’s when we get to the genealogies that we really get stuck. We stoically plug along until we compromise and skim over all those names, but why not? What could we possibly learn from reading lists of people, most of whom we know nothing about? Lists are boring!
But wait. This is the book that God wrote! How can there be boring parts? As I once again found myself plodding through the begats, I thought—maybe I’m missing something.
Yes indeed I was.
Our missions pastor recently showed this video in our “Outreach” adult Sunday School class. I was astounded.
I have known for years that Biblical names have meanings. For example, Abram means “exalted father” while Abraham means “father of nations”—a fitting sobriquet for a man who literally fathered nations through his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. But did you realize that the meanings of the names listed in the “boring” genealogies actually tell a story? Watch and learn, and be amazed:
By the time you’re as old as Pete and I are, life has thrown some pretty dramatic curve balls. There have been periods of calm, joy, success, and everything going just right. And then there are those times when all hell breaks loose (literally), the enemy attacks, and you wonder what in the world God is doing!
Pete’s recent medical adventures (see my March 15 post: Pete Tries to Go to Heaven… Again) have proved to be both a “what in the world!” experience and a huge opportunity to know God better. One thing that God has impressed on me over the last few months is that He is in charge even when everything is going crazy.
The Bible talks about times and seasons. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 spells it out—“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven… “ (I’m old enough to remember the Byrd’s cover of Pete Seeger’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which was a number one hit in 1965.) Furthermore, God tells us that it’s important to understand the time we live in. The book of Esther calls the men who understood the times “wise” (see Esther 1:13).
How do we understand the times?
Every so often, I find a Dove chocolate waiting for me next to my pillow when I’m heading to bed. I have a thoughtful husband! While I wallow in my indulgence, the smooth, dark chocolate melting in my mouth, I carefully open the foil so I can read the “words of wisdom” inside—kind of like checking your fortune while you munch on the cookie. There must have been a contest I missed, because these pithy little phrases were written by chocolate lovers all over the country. Apparently, the winners get to see their words printed on a Dove wrapper. (I trust that the prizes also included lots of chocolate.)
Christmas reminds me of a sticky ball rolling down a hill, accumulating bits and pieces from everything it passes, until it’s one big adhesive mess and it’s hard to tell what the original ball looked like. We’ve gone from a simple explanation of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth to the huge holiday extravaganza we now experience. This is one holiday that needs to go on a diet.
Some of the traditions we associate with Christmas make sense—at least I can see the connection. Giving gifts is a reflection of the magi’s offering of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Advent calendars and wreaths help us focus on God’s purpose in sending His Son. Decorating with lights reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the world. And of course, there are Christmas carols (which may or may not be relevant or accurate).
The pastor at the church I was visiting was adamant. “God only speaks through the Bible.” He went on to explain that while God spoke through dreams, prophets, angels, and a “still, small voice” in the Old Testament, now that we have the completed Bible, Scripture is the only way God still communicates with us.