Sunday, May 20, 2012

Something Smells Sawfishy

 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but are sincere, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 

Posted By: Katie Robinson
Fellow Sawfish, working overnight gives me lots of time to ponder over lots of things, but tonight it's Sawfish on the brain. You people really are some of the most incredible, stand-up people I've ever met in my life. I was reading that passage in 2 Corinthians recently and thinking about how it applies to our Bible Study.

I love how I've been able to see the truth of this play out in your lives this year. I love your authenticity and the fact that you're not peddlers of the Word, trying to sell anything for brownie points, you're just communicating the truth of God's word according to how you've seen it work in your own lives. And so here we are, just spreading this contagiously Sawfishy fragrance everywhere.

A year ago this time, many of you were in very different places. Some of you weren't even Christians yet, some of you were loving Jesus in your own little corners of your lives elsewhere. This time last year, I kind of felt like I was in limbo. I'd lost some friends, some momentum, some direction. There was just a handful of us trying to figure out what in the world we were doing, trying our best to love people and love Jesus the best we could.

But then came Mission to the City, and things started happening. We acquired some really solid people from other parts of the church and other ministries, we saw some people come to faith and others recommit. I'll never forget my first cemetery walk with Linzi or that 2am conversation with Sara in the parking lot of McDonald's the first day we met. There was this sudden breath of fresh air in my life, some movement - a reminder that God was moving and the work we were doing wasn't in vain.

The summer followed with a LOT of volleyball, boating, swimming in the dark in the algae-infested Big Creek Lake (what could be more natural for a Sawfish?), volleyball, road trips, and lots of grilling (did I mention volleyball?).

Summer came to a close and we officially kicked off fall Bible Study, now officially as Sawfish. We went to the Apple Orchard, went out to eat a lot, dressed up for the Halloween Party, and voted in the caucuses (well, some of us).

When you've been in ministry for a while, you kind of start to learn the rhythm of it. The first Bible Study of the fall is going to have a ton of people, and then that number is slowly going to dwindle until you really get down to the core of the regulars. December is going to be pretty small because people are out of town for family holiday functions, and numbers will generally drop off considerably in January.

This year, though, that didn't happen. We just kept on growing. I watched as so, so, many of you made decisions to really lay down your flesh and walk in the Spirit, to work your job schedules around your fellowship life, instead of trying to fit fellowship into the leftovers of the rest of your lives. We had more than twice as many people come to the Faithwalkers conference in Omaha as we had last year, and it was a great time for growth in unity and the challenging of where our true commitment lies, in light of the fact that we are blessed with salvation and fellowship and every gift we need to really thrive. We hit the ground running in January and to our surprise, we really didn't lose people. In fact, you all kept loving your friends and coworkers and meeting new people at church and loving on those already in our Bible Study, and we exploded.

So, we find ourselves here, a year later, gearing up for a summer that is sure to stretch us like crazy. We'll be out sharing the Gospel with strangers, which, for an introvert like me, is galaxies outside of my comfort zone. We'll be playing more volleyball and meeting lots of new people. I guess, going into this, I just have a few thoughts, based mostly on firsthand experience.

First of all, don't check out. You'd be surprised how easy it is to do, despite the myriads of activities you might be participating in. It happened to me a bit last summer, and believe me, it's not good. Second, remember that the activities you're participating in don't just exist for the sake of activity. It's all about Jesus, all the time, every day. This is really hard for me because the people I love... I just really, really love them. New people just haven't quite grabbed my heart strings yet so I tend to forget about them. But volleyball is never just volleyball. It's an opportunity to show Jesus to new people who might not know him, and to build up and encourage everyone else. Third, don't forget to keep getting time with Jesus one-on-one every day. I think summer can be particularly difficult for this because our routines can suddenly get out of whack and a lot of times time with the Lord can be the first to go.

One last big thing I've been thinking and praying about is just that we all remember it's about what we bring to the table and not what we get fed. I've noticed the times I'm most frustrated and offended and discontent with the church and other people are the times I'm giving the least. So let's just not give in to that. I don't care if you got saved yesterday, start making disciples today. If you're not actively involved in making disciples, your faith will go stagnant, the Spirit in you will be quenched by your flesh, and you will be discontent. Take it from one who knows. It's real. Something I read recently had some really good thoughts about some practical things that apply to discipleship. It's called 5 Things Mentors Should Model. It's talking about mentors specifically, but I think if we're all supposed to be discipling people, we are all mentors in some aspect - shepherds, no matter how small the flock.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this past year and these coming summer months. Keep doing what you're doing.
You Sawfish are my heart and soul and I love you dearly.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Because He First Loved Us: Love God, Love People

Posted By: Noelle Thompson
Loving God and loving people sounds easy, right? Sure we don’t always get along with or particularly enjoy other people. But we love others because Christ first loved us, so we carry out his love for us to our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and family members. Or so we think.

I would hope that these messages would convict you as much as they weighed heavily on my own heart. I would consider myself shy and quiet, but friendly and generally loving towards others. We are all given spiritual gifts, but what we may not realize is that certain characteristics aren’t trademarks of ourselves – they’re trademarks of the church.

1 John 4:19-20 "We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

The rebellious church kid in me doesn’t always understand this, especially when I let my pride overtake me and stubbornly think, “But I don’t feel like it…” I grew up in church, I went to Sunday school, and I knew the church elders and did everything in my power to please them and God (in that order). But that’s not the kind of church Paul wrote about in Acts.

Acts 2:42-47 "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

When I think of this church Paul describes, I think of how much enjoyment and delight everyone takes in the Lord and each other (in that order). My love for the church is an outpouring of gratitude for Christ’s love for me. I revel in his joy when I see others reveling in his love for them. It’s a cyclic relationship that begins the day we accept Christ into our life. It only ends the day we choose to follow our flesh; our earthly desires that feed us lies. We are not called to follow leaders blindly; we can certainly hold each other accountable. But something to remember – something that took years for me to understand – was that we don’t become members of the church of our own strength. Not that we don’t have to submit any energy whatsoever, but the nature of Christ’s love will be evident in us as we grow in our relationship with him. We don’t bear one another’s burdens without a God-given pile of patience; we don’t honor one another above ourselves a servant’s heart; we don’t build one another up without God’s zeal; and we certainly don’t submit to one another without a heaping dose of humility. If we attempt these things without God, we are only fooling ourselves and we make ourselves out to be liars. God never commanded, “If it’s something you’re good at, then love others,” or “If you feel like it, love other people,” or “If it’s easy and convenient for you, love others.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in the church Paul described, and I would hope and pray that everyone else would as well. The blessed thing is that this is not some unrealistic expectation God has for his people – it happened. It’s happening right now. And, with great prayer and zeal, it continues.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Salvation Costs Nothing. Discipleship Will Cost You Everything.

Posted By: Steph Albright
As a little girl, I told Jesus I wanted a relationship with Him and wanted to give Him my life.

I understood, to the extent a five year old could, that Jesus loved me, I was (am) a sinner in desperate need of someone to save me from myself. That Jesus came to earth, died a terrible death that He did nothing to deserve and rose again to save me from my penalty- Hell, and to give me a purpose and relationship with Him in this life, and Heaven in the next.
But, honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. No idea the weight of that moment. The reality that Holy Spirit had just come to live inside me. Changed everything about who I was. The commitment that He made to me, all His promises suddenly applied to me. Promises He made that He would never break. Promises that He'd never leave me. to complete His good work in my life. Promises of desire for me, desire for my affection and blessings, if I just trust and follow His will. Promises of eternal life, a place He was preparing that I would see when this life passes away. He gave the ultimate sacrifice of dying for me two thousand years ago, and yet Jesus commits Himself to me daily.


The God of this universe condescends to my level. my world. Commits Himself to a sinful, often rebellious, petty, human being and steps into my life. Isn't that crazy!? But just like any relationship- any good, healthy, exciting, fruitful relationship, it must not just be one sided. If its going to work, there must be commitment on the other side as well. We don't get to just take salvation and peace out, doing whatever we want till we die, expecting Jesus to make good on all his promises, while having done nothing to hold up our end of the relationship. So often we treat God like a pinata instead. We expect him to give us anything we want, beat him with prayer and requests for our lives and if we hit him enough, He's required to spill out blessings on us, fulfill requests, follow our every whim, while not doing anything ourselves.

I've been thinking about this subject a lot the last few weeks. I've given my life to Christ but what does that look like. Am i really doing it? Living totally for Jesus? Because, really, I do know what it looks like. I know what the Bible says about what my life should be. seen it lived out in the godly people that are around me. But can I say, in absolute honesty, confidence, that I've walked in a manner worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4)? as a bondservant of Christ? I was so convicted by a sermon I listened to the other day. This is a paragraph from the transcript. It hit me in a way no other analogy has talking about giving your life to the Lord:

"Do not quit. Do not quit. Otherwise, you’re like a woman who is all about a wedding, but not about a marriage. You’re like a woman who really enjoys her wedding day, and then once it’s completed, tells her groom, “We’re getting a divorce today.” The groom’s bewildered. “What do you mean?” “Well, I look good in white, I really enjoy getting my photo taken, I have an affinity for cake, and it was nice to see everyone, but fifty years seems like a long time.” And see, the metaphor of the Bible continually is that we’re like a bride and Jesus is like our groom, and some of us just want to have a wedding, but we don’t want to have a marriage. Getting married is easy. Fifty years is hard. Right? You raised your hand for Jesus at youth camp, you came forward, got baptized, you prayed the sinner’s prayer. Great, you got married. Now it’s fifty years of working it out."

Dang, thats crazy! I dont want to give up. I dont want to quit!
I'm so thankful for the grace of God in my failures.
He's faithful when im faithless (2 Timothy 2:13)

There are a million ways this can be applied specifically to my life. but basically i think it comes down to being committed to discipleship. Being a disciple (follower, bondservant) of Christ and discipling (serving, loving) people.

But this commitment is not to be taken lightly.
I thought Mark Driscoll put it so well. He said,
"Salvation costs you nothing, but discipleship will cost you everything. Salvation occurs in a moment, discipleship takes a lifetime. Salvation is something God does for you, discipleship is something you do with God." [Watch the Message Here]

This discipleship thing, it will cost you your life. Everything. It's hard and frustrating - full of suffering and trials but also so full of joy, excitement and purpose. A life spent with the God that loves you and who has given us a mission to do while we're here. If God is who He says He is, done what He says He's done, loves us the way He says He does, I believe He is worth giving my life completely to and for.

First, we must give our lives to Christ. Become followers of Him. Jesus bought us to make us free. The ultimate servant giving the ultimate sacrifice - we must recognize He served us!

Philippians 2:5-8 says:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

It's for this reason Paul, over and over in the New Testament, calls himself a bondservant of Christ. For years bondservant has been one of my favorite words. It's crazy! It's the perfect picture of what the life of a Christian is supposed to look like. Back in biblical times, slaves were required to be released after 7 years and at the time of release if a servant had been treated well, had formed a relationship with the master, loved his master, he could choose to stay and serve the kind master for the rest of his life. When the decision had been made the master would take the now bondservant over to the door and pierce his ear with an aul. From the moment someone would walk into the master's house they know who was there out of love. out of devotion. The Greek word for bondservant is δούλος (doulos) it means the lowest scale of servitude but highest devotion of one bound by love; one who gives himself wholly to another's will.

Man, I want that said of my life. Bondservant. I've been set free but I chose to stay and serve my loving, perfect master for the rest of my life, with all I have. Not because I have to but because I'm so in love with Jesus for what He's done in my life.

The second part of this life of a disciple is giving your life to people. To take part in the mission of telling people about what Jesus has done and then to build them up in the faith. encouraging, loving, serving those around you.

This world daily tells us what success it, what greatness should look like, but Jesus had the real answer. The true definition of greatness. In Mark 10:35-45 the disciples are arguing over who will be greatest in the kingdom of God. and this blows me away. Jesus doesn't rebuke them! Never says their desire for greatest is wrong. Instead, He redirects it to what godly greatness looks like. It's countercultural not only back then but today!

"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

He tells them the standard and sets the example for them to follow. This is true greatness! Laying our lives down for one another. For people who need to the hear the gospel and our fellow believers. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 that "though i am free from all i have made myself a servant to all, that i might win more of them." Why?? To win people to Christ! He goes on to describe how he became like a Jew, a Greek, he became like the weak, why "that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel..." Convicting much?? I want that said of my life. But the thing is, it's not easy. Making yourself a slave... to all? That requires inconvenience, laying aside preferences, giving up time, money, comfort. It takes humility. Giving up your very life to serve the lost. Sounds really difficult, huh? But when our eyes are on the goal, on reality - that people need to hear about Jesus, that people are dying and according to the Bible, will spend eternity in Hell if they don't place their faith in Him - seems worth it. Seems necessary. Makes us really understand 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 when Paul says that it's Christ's love that compels us. Makes us feel as Peter did in Acts 4 when he tells the council that "we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." That reading about all that the disciples went through to spread the gospel, the mockery, the torture, beatings, and eventual murders of these men and possibly our fate if we truly give ourselves to this mission was/is a small price to pay for the souls of men.

Not only should we serve the lost but also serving and loving those standing with us in the cause of Christ, for the unity of the body. Paul says in Romans 12:9-13, "love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor... contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." I love that. Outdo one another in showing honor. I just picture all of us literally tripping over each other to serve the other. How awesome! Think, if that's how we really sought to serve, love, build up, encourage in our bible studies, in our churches. I feel like things would radically change. and in the cycle that it is how much greater our testimony of God's love to the lost by our crazy love for each other.

This is a commitment. a life given to the Lord. so difficult but so worth it.
When it gets hard, don't turn around and quit.
Do NOT quit!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Sprinting Toddler

Posted By: Graham Gardner
In recent weeks, I've been giving a bit of thought about what it looks like to really be 'in the Spirit'. I spent some time, found some verses, and asked around to get a full idea of how "Walking in the Spirit" is truly carried out. Being that my brain is wired the way that it is, I came up with the title above for this installment. An awkward picture, right? A tiny little baby just movin' their chubby legs as fast as they can to get to the finish line. This would strike most as odd, being that toddlers most likely wouldn't have a ton of experience getting places upright. Not exactly an awesomely descriptive and meaningful picture, but hey, I'm no Daniel. No metal and clay mixtures in this example.


In thinking about walking in the spirit, a few things came to mind. In Proverbs 19:2, it says "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." In a lot of ways, when I decided to follow Christ, that initial decision was difficult, but not nearly as difficult as it's been to follow moment by moment, day by day. In looking upon what has taken place in my walk with the Lord so far, I see a lot of times where I have been hasty, and subsequently...missed the way. The battle here is that when I miss the way, I historically have struggled to accept grace, praise God for who He is, and keep on walking. In Galatians 5:26, Paul says "Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow(walk in, keep in step) with the Spirit." It's interesting that Paul says walk. Not run, not crawl, not sprint, not roll (ok, that'd just look funny)...but walk. I've had a number of conversations lately where in the midst of difficulty, the only advice I've been able to give is "Keep going. One front of the other..repeat."

I read this recently from Francis Chan: "That's why I find the concept of walking by the Spirit so helpful. There's nothing about the term walking that suggests speed, style, fluency, or consistency. You just have to put one foot in front of the other. If you stop walking, all you have to do is take another step to get going again. If you fall down, you can keep walking. You just have to get up and take another step. Like a young child learning to walk, walking by the Spirit is something that becomes more natural over time."

I find the times it's hardest for me to walk in the Spirit is when I've been leaving an area of my life out of submission to God, or when I draw away from community. It's almost as if I go "Hey, crawling requires a lot less about just a day or two of crawling?" If you've ever done this, you know it's way harder to get used to walking again if you've been taking the snail's pace approach. The good thing is, God doesn't forget His promises. Invariably, as we step out in faith to do things we've never done before..there will be opportunity for..well..refinement. I struggle to see the work God is doing when I'm really having to push through something. Paul says this in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Fear and trembling are a part of this. God is at work. He will fulfill His good purpose.

What I'm driving at is there is a time where we are just beginning to learn how to walk. If we were to try and jog, run, or sprint as an infant..we'd probably fall. If we're not super experienced in walking, it might be best to start hanging with someone who is. When we want to know how to run, it's a good idea to take notes from those who run well..and eventually join the race with them.

In Galatians 5:16, Paul writes: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." He goes on to talk about how the Spirit and flesh are opposed to one another so that we don't do what we want. This strikes me as pretty wild. Our natural behavior is not to walk in the Spirit, which implies we have to make a decision. If you read on in Galatians, Paul goes on to specifically name the fruit that will come as a result of (the choice of) walking in the Spirit. So, it seems we have two choices. Give into our flesh..or..walk in the Spirit. As a result, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self control become more and more a part of our lives.

Which of these do you wish you had more of? Which ones have you seen the Lord grow like crazy? What verses really push you through the times where the next step is the hardest yet?

I know I could use more patience and love to freely give in my walk. I think that in conjunction with aiming to see this chunk of Galatians 5 applied more in my life, I've often referenced this from Philippians 3:12-14 as a piece of encouragement.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. "

I pray that we'll see these things change in each others lives, and that we'll be able to build one another up when it comes to taking the next step. Here's to marching on.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Praying on Rocks, Hills and Mountaintops

Posted By: Robin Wadle
I‘ve been thinking a lot about prayer the last few weeks and what a great thing it is.  I just first want to say that God is so good and he is so faithful in answering prayers. How do I know this? Well… I pray. Am I perfect? No. I have learned that if you really want to see the goodness and the faithfulness of God you must pray. Pray specifically, pray often and pray expectantly. Now has God answered all of my prayers exactly as I have prayed them in the exact way that I want Him to. No. Hardly ever does that happen but what I see the most is God answering prayers in better ways. Sometimes this leads to more difficulty in my life but it also leads me to love Him and know Him more. I have my go-to verses for prayer that have drastically shaped the way I pray and what I pray for and who I pray for. 

If you know me you know that I have some struggles with anxiety. Prayer is a way that helps me to deal with anxiety (see Phil 4). But it has also been a struggle to see God the way he is and not be anxious that He is going to answer some prayer in the worst way possible. A good friend of mine shared this verse with me a couple years ago and something just clicked. 

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. (NIV)

This verse helped shape my view that God is NOT out to get me. I know this may sound basic but I have found myself being scared to pray for certain things thinking “oh no what is God going to do to me?” The thing is, God loves me so much and sent his Son to die for ME. He took on the punishment. Now that I have accepted the gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and put my faith in him., that punishment is gone. Now all God wants to do is make me into his son! (see 2 Cor. 3:18)

Another thing God teaches through prayer is how to be faithful with something. My natural personality is not faithful. Naturally I don’t really care about much but God has used prayer as a way to teach me to be faithful. (again… I am not perfect). Because God is faithful he wants us to be faithful. Just like how God is loving, he wants us to be loving. Now I am NO expert on the ins and outs of how exactly prayer works and how it works with God’s will or what not but something I do know is that God uses prayer one way or another. 

At the end of Philemon Paul states “One more thing- please prepare a guest room for me, for I hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me return to you soon.” (v.22) I think it’s so cool that Paul wanted to act in such a way that lined up with their prayers. By preparing a guest room they were acting in faith that Paul might one day come back to them. 

I LOVE the verse Colossians 4:2 - "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." Isn’t that amazing? God wants us to watch to see him working AND to watch for things and people to be praying for! All with a thankful heart towards God no matter what happens."

Also in Ephesians 6:18-19 it says - "Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Pray Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain the mysterious plan that the Good News if for Jews and for Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching the message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should."

So those are some of my thoughts on prayer. I could go on but I have found these verses to be an encouragement in my prayer life and I hope they can encourage you too!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Hero of the Story

Posted by: Katie Robinson
I need some reminding as much as anyone of the fact that if the Bible really is the word of God, then it's way bigger than anyone gives it credit for. 

Here's how the story goes. We all know it.

God creates man, man commits cosmic treason and brings death into the world, causing separation between man and God. Boom, the world as we know it now comes to existence, and we are completely screwed.

Everyone knows there is something wrong with the world, so people throughout history have tried to explain the conflict between that fact and the fact that we also have an innate knowledge of our own value. So humankind has created stories to explain it. The thing about stories is that the authors almost always write themselves into the main character - maybe not even in any obvious way, but in some way or another, they are the hero of the story.

Take Pandora's box: the "gods" (really only idealizations of humanity - human in nature, flawed like the rest of us, but with the power any man would fantasize about) created a box to contain all the evil in the world, but Pandora got curious and opened the box, and evil became a permanent fixture in the universe. But curiosity is forgivable - barely even a minor character flaw. This is a story that people would write to explain why the world is bad without having to explain why people are bad.

God's story is different. He is the hero, not us. Sin wasn't a mistake, it was treason. He creates the universe, we destroy it. True, we are uniquely valuable as human beings, but only because he has put his own image inside us. This is his story, not ours.

It could have ended there - he could have completely written us out of his story. But he didn't. Because God is not an idealized picture of a flawed human created by the human mind - he is something else entirely. We did not create God to explain the human condition - God created us with his own character written into us, and then was gracious enough to enlighten us on not only the history of it, but also the plan to get us out of it.

The great part is, he knew how he was going to fix things from the beginning. The world had just collapsed - God had made a perfect world and humans had destroyed it all in a moment. And right at that moment, God stepped in with his plan. He gave his fearful, naked, and wretched man and woman the bad news first: Death, pain, conflict. But then he gave the good news: All of that death and pain and conflict would one day be defeated by a Savior. God had no good news for the serpent. The particular passage is called the Proto Evangelion, or something like "the first gospel". 

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers - he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Genesis 3:15

And there's the thesis statement of the entire Bible. 

I know it sounds cryptic at first, but what's happening here is that God is setting the stage for the rest of the future of mankind. He is saying to Satan: from here on out, it's going to be me and my people vs. you and your people, but in the end, I am going to win out - my savior will come from the offspring of my beloved you just defeated, and while he will feel death's sting, it will only be as a man crushing the head of a snake after being nipped in the ankle. 

Every single line following is an outworking of this. Looking at the Bible with the big picture in mind makes it read in an entirely different way. From here on out, it's God foretelling the coming of his Savior, and God's people, meanwhile, going head-to-head with their enemies. Cain vs. Abel, Isaac vs. Ishmael, Jacob vs. Esau. Once the descendants of these guys grow into entire nations, familial conflict becomes all-out war. But all of the stories, while they have a particular moral lesson much of the time, are much more than that. 

The book of Ruth is one of my favorites. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that it presents two strong female leads that God uses in really unconventional and unexpected ways. It is also a spectacular story of God's love and provision. But is it the only time God acted to provide for people who loved him at the time Ruth was written? Of course not. So, why zero in on Ruth's story? Here's why:

"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son... So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David." Ruth 4:13,17

Yeah, like THE David - King David. A fact repeated almost verbatim in the Gospels: "Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king" (Matthew 1:5-6). This story is here in large part because it's one more step in God bringing about his grand design of providing a Savior, his Messiah. One of Jesus' most frequent titles for himself was "the Son of David" to reiterate this fact, to remind people that he was the fulfillment of their history. 

I get really excited about genealogies - probably a lot more than the average person. Usually the genealogies in the Bible are something that people feel pretty okay about skipping over when they read, but if you check out the genealogies in Matthew 1 or Luke 3, you notice that most of the names listed in the first chapters of the New Testament are the same people you just got done reading about in the Old Testament. I get pumped about genealogies because the thing is, you can't manufacture history. Maybe you can kind of manipulate what your kid does with his life. Maybe even extend your influence to a grandkid or two. But after a few generations, you can't make this stuff up - you can't just make a decision about what your descendants are going to be doing four thousand years from now, it just doesn't work that way.

But God not only wrote the Bible to record history, he is sovereign over history itself. That is why the Bible is living and active - because he continues today to work out his plan from the beginning. He has fulfilled the Gospel, pt. 1. The climax was Jesus at the cross, holding his foot over Satan's head as the snake nipped at his heel. At the resurrection, his heel came down and Satan's power was destroyed, a process which will finally be completed at the final resurrection of humanity. 

The Bible is by far the single most influential, miraculous compilation ever to be recorded. Most people see the Old and New Testaments as two completely different things. I've known several people who have expressed belief that God created the old sacrificial system as a means to manage the morality of his people, but then when it wasn't working, he actually changed his mind and decided to try something different by going the Jesus route. This couldn't be more untrue.

The Old Testament isn't just a bunch of random stories put together to piece together the history of an obscure people. It is all about Jesus. The New Testament isn't just compiled works of instruction put together to morally and structurally guide a fledgling religion and its people. It is all about Jesus. It's another chapter in his story, his cosmic plan for the redemption of mankind. And Jesus is the hero.

Here is the video Derek tried to show at Bible Study last week:

Bible Did You Know from Robert Murphy on Vimeo.
Here is the video from last week. Hopefully it's not blocked on your computer too. 
I swear it's appropriate. -Derek