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Table Talk: Bible Stories You Should Know Volume 1
By Carl Frazier
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Bringing Forth Beauty
When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God's wind swept over the waters—God said, "Let there be light." And so light appeared. (Genesis 1:1-3)
The Genesis 1 Creation story states this historical fact: God shaped and formed the world, and brought it into being. But the story is first poetry, declaring universal truths about God's why behind the text. As Robert Frost wrote, "The utmost of ambition is to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of." In Genesis 1, we have just such a poem.
Verses 1-3, quoted above, tell us that God brought order from chaos. God spoke, and it was so. The word of God is a powerful thing. Just as we anticipate what God brings forth when we read the Genesis 1 narrative, we wait for that moment when the Word speaks to us, and takes the mess and muck of our struggles to bring forth beauty and wholeness and peace.
The power of God's creative word, expressed at the beginning of Genesis and repeated throughout this poetic description of the Creation, inspires awe. Who knew that such a God exists, a God who creatively crafts our world according to divine purposes, loving and caring and expressing concern for all we encounter? The story declares there is a God who has created in order to be in relationship to the world that was shaped and formed from darkness, chaos, and nothingness. With a word, God has brought forth all that is, including you.
Creator God, provide me the grace I need to recognize when you are at work. Take the raw material of my life, send forth your Spirit, and put me together. Help me to look to you as the one who brings order and wholeness, completeness and peace. As you brought forth light with a word, cutting through darkness at the beginning of your creative work, place and call forth your light within me, that I might shine before others, bringing glory to you. Amen.CHAPTER 2
God Takes Notice
When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made—the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place—what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them? You've made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur. (Psalm 8:3-5)
When I was a boy, my father took me hunting in the hill country of Texas, far from home and the normal rhythms of life. We slept on old bunks in a tin shack with other men from our family. Our meals were prepared on an old gas stove, lanterns and flashlights lit our way at night, wood-burning stoves kept us warm, and the plumbing did not work well, if at all.
Each evening, we stepped outside the shack and used water drawn from a well to brush our teeth, standing beneath the stars. Oh, so many stars! Ten-year-old me felt small. Underneath such an expanse, who am I? And does God take notice of my little life?
The psalmist's words precede my experience by thousands of years, but the concern is the same. As you recall, Genesis 1 describes God's creative action: God spoke, and it was so. Light and darkness, ocean and sky, land and vegetation, heavenly lights, animal life, and finally human beings were brought into being by the power of the divine Word.
The psalmist draws our gaze upward to the vastness of our world, while calling us to glance within, reflecting through comparison on our small magnificence. God created all this! And you and me. Small though we may be, God takes notice and gives us a place of honor in the created order. We are called to know the God who brought us into being and to live responsibly and faithfully as God's creatures.
God of all that is made, I am small in comparison to this great big world. But you know me, you have made me, and you have called me. You have placed your Spirit upon me, by the grace of your Son, Jesus Christ. You have purposed me for great things in your service. You love me. May I be humbled by this reality, and may my love for you grow. Amen.CHAPTER 3
A Gift and a Responsibility
Then God said, "Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth." God created humanity in God's own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
When I was a teenager, a friend and I operated a lawn service. Each summer we worked hard under the hot sun, believing the heat toughened us up for the fall football season.
During that experience, I learned something about the importance of how we represent others, and how our identity extends beyond ourselves. One of our customers, who happened to know my father, was disappointed with the service we provided. Suddenly, it was not only my name that hung in the balance, but my father's as well. He shared with me the importance of the Simpson name, for it represented something not only about me, but about our family as well.
In Genesis 1, God created humanity "in God's own image." Both male and female bear the image of God. In a divine, magnificent way, God has placed a stamp on each of our lives, marking us as distinct from the rest of creation, giving human beings a responsibility to steward and care for all that has been made.
When we live as God intends, we represent something, or someone, beyond ourselves. Living as disciples of Jesus Christ leads us more fully to reflect God's person and reality before other human beings, calling them to realize that they too are known and loved by the God who brought this world into being.
O God, in whose image I am made, may I see that you have placed upon me your mark. I represent not only myself but also you, for in some way my life reflects your being. May I represent you well, and may you, by your grace, go about the work needed to remake and repair me where I do not follow you faithfully. Amen.CHAPTER 4
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground." Then God said, "I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food." And that's what happened. God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good. (Genesis 1:28-31a)
Several years ago, my wife and I became homeowners. Our house was built in the 1960s and had begun to show its age. Windows needed replacing, and new paint, electrical work, and yard maintenance were necessary. Our corner of the created order required constant care, and we became responsible.
Following the creation of people in Genesis 1, God handed out responsibilities. God told human beings to "be fertile and multiply." God said to "take charge" over the animals, the birds, and the insects—over all living things. God declared the vegetation would provide food. And God looked upon all that was made and saw "it was supremely good."
These words from Genesis are a call God issues to us—to steward and care for creation. We are called to manage our food resources wisely, to advocate for creation, to preserve wildlife, to ensure the continued fruitfulness of the land, and to protect the ecosystem from ruin. "Environmentalism" is not a cause, but a mandate from the Creator.
In addition, we are called to beautify our communities and nurture life. My own family sees the care of our home, and the parcel of land surrounding it, as a trust given by God to be maintained and nurtured for our use, and also for the benefit of the community—our neighbors and our successors.
Look at all God has made; it is "supremely good." Care for it, as God commands.
Ruler of Creation, thank you for calling me to be a steward of all you have made. May I be responsible and engaged with this world, playing the part you have given me in the health and flourishing of all that is. Amen.CHAPTER 5
The Creator, the Created, And Christ
Jesus came near and spoke to them, "I've received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I've commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
The Genesis stories tell us that God is the Lord of all the earth. Then, in Matthew 28, Jesus completed and extended the picture by stating that he had received "all authority in heaven and on earth." On the basis of that declaration, Jesus issued a commission. He gave his disciples responsibilities. They were to go to every nation under heaven, and to teach human beings to obey everything Jesus had commanded.
Notice that Jesus' words in Matthew are directed not just to the eleven who initially heard the words, but also to all who come after them, until the end of the age. As you walk through the winding wood near your home, as you gaze up at the stars, as you marvel at the creatures of the wilderness and the birds of the air, Jesus is near—present and attentive.
Accepting the statement that God created the world is a step in the right direction. But understanding, further, that Jesus Christ now rules and reigns over that same world and calls us to live as his disciples—that knowledge is as important for our lives as true north is for the sailor. Under Jesus' guidance, as his students, we may learn not only how to care for the created order, but how to care for our fellow human beings, who are made in the divine image and fashioned for God's purposes.
Jesus, you are Lord over all creation. Teach me and help me to care for this earth, to enjoy its beauty. But also help me care for my fellow human beings, loving them as neighbors who are called to learn from you. Amen.CHAPTER 6
Rest: Just a God Thing?
The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation. This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. (Genesis 2:1-4a)
The bulk of my ministry has been dedicated to children, teenagers, and their families. I have noticed this: all of them are busy. Yet in the Book of Genesis, the first Creation account concludes with a seventh day when God blessed, sanctified, and rested.
Dan Allender rightly observes, "Few people are willing to enter the Sabbath and sanctify it, to make it holy, because a full day of delight and joy is more than most people can bear in a lifetime, let alone a week." Few of us are willing to practice Sabbath intentionally, to rest from our jobs, sporting activities, extracurriculars, clubs, and calendar commitments. The creator of the heavens and the earth may rest, but we do not.
The consequences of our busyness are plain to see. We are worn out, tired, cranky, and drained. We lack joy and life. But God says, "Here, let me show you how to live: work, yes, but make time for rest. Join me in Sabbath. Be with me, be a part of the sanctification of time. See life as a gift; receive life from me."
As you have thought carefully about the Creation story in Genesis 1:1–2:4a, have you come to appreciate more deeply the world God made? Has this story awakened a desire to know God more fully, to serve God more faithfully, and to share God with others? Has the conclusion of this story challenged your rhythms of life, causing you to think more carefully about rest?
May it be so. In a world addicted to activity, slow down. Practice Sabbath. Seek the Lord. Revel in creation. And praise God.
God, you are my Sabbath. May I find rest in you. As you refrained from work and activity on the Sabbath day, blessed that day, and made it holy, may I make space in my life to do the same. Amen.CHAPTER 7
Living the Story
The stories of Scripture were told not just for information, but for transformation. It is possible to know the Bible cover to cover, but if it has not changed your life—forming, shaping, and reshaping your heart and habits in the image of Jesus Christ—then you may be missing the point.
If you are reading these devotions as a family, use the ideas and activities in the Small Talk children's handout for this week. If you are reading the devotions alone, as a couple, or in a small group, you are invited to take up two practices with Genesis 1:1–2:4a in mind: creation awareness and Sabbath. These practices will challenge you and enable you to grow as a follower of Christ. They will create space where God can transform you, speak to you, guide you, and teach you, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Genesis 1, God called reality into existence. God said, and it was so. Light and darkness, the sky and bodies of water, the earth, vegetation, sun, moon, and stars, fish of the sea, birds of the air, wildlife, and finally human beings—all were created with words: "Let there be."
Often, we become busy and preoccupied with life, so much so that we do not take time to slow down and notice the world around us. This week, intentionally practice creation awareness. Notice all that God has made. Arrive at scheduled meetings five minutes early and notice your surroundings. Go on a walk with a friend or family member and take note of what you see. All the while, ask God to speak to you through what you observe. In the margin of this book, or in a journal, make some notes about what you hear, what you sense, and what you perceive.
In Genesis 2:1-4a, we read that God rested on the seventh day. How often do you rest? How often do you silence your cell phone or turn it off? How often do you shut down your computer, refrain from using Facebook and Twitter, or look beyond time-consuming news sites? Do you practice Sabbath?
This week, plan to practice Sabbath. Avoid making lists and appointments. Play a game or take a walk outside. Break from your normal routines. Sleep in. Resist the impulse to do. Just be. And watch for signs of God's love for you, apart from what you accomplish. In the margin of this book, or in a journal, make notes about what you hear, what you sense, what you perceive.CHAPTER 8
Did God's Hands Get Muddy?
[T]he LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life's breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. The LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. (Genesis 2:7-8)
"Did God's hands get muddy?"
The youngest among us might ask such a question. Don't dismiss it too quickly. The writer of Genesis describes a creative act in which God's hands were plunged into the soil and a human being was crafted, as a child might craft a sand castle. The breath of life was given, mouth to nose, and the human being "came to life." Then God lovingly took the human being to a garden that had been planted in Eden in the east, and gave the human being a place to live.
In this story, God is intimate, close, loving. God is involved. So, did God's hands get muddy? And do they?
The writer of Genesis reminds us that life is fleeting and we are fragile, little more than dirt. Yet, it is God who formed us and gave us life, who brought us into being, who placed us in time and space at this particular moment (Psalm 139; Acts 17). Hold these two truths together: life is short, yet immensely valuable. The God described in Genesis 2, who imparted life to a human being formed from dust, continues to get muddy. That short, transient life of yours is the very place where the eternal God breathes life.
Do you sense the loving care of your creator? Think carefully concerning your life: Where do you see God at work, forming, shaping, and crafting your character, renovating your heart and injecting life? Give thanks.
Where do you see God caring for you, providing you with friends, a community, family, a place to live? Give thanks.
God is at work, with muddy hands and life-giving breath. Trust God's handiwork, and give thanks.
Heavenly God, I trust that you are at work in my life, forming and shaping and giving life. Just as we see you forming the human being from dirt, you are molding the raw material of my being, making me into something that brings you great pleasure. Help me to trust you and give thanks. Amen.
Excerpted from Table Talk: Bible Stories You Should Know Volume 1 by Carl Frazier. Copyright © 2013 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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