fbpx
In the Beginning, God…

In the Beginning, God…

The book of Genesis is perhaps one of the most controversial and contentious books of the Bible. Not only between theists and atheists, but also among people of faith who believe in the divine inspiration of the first book of the Pentateuch. For some, Genesis is a book filled with great implausibility at every turn. The opening verses themselves are filled with ideas and assertions that for many modern thinkers are either outrageous claims at best or poisonous ideologies at worst.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Right away we find a defeater belief and barrier of entry for many people in our culture. The Bible opens up with the claim that there is indeed a God who exists outside of time. So, within the first four words we find people already putting the book down. Even if they continue reading, they find another word that just doesn’t seem to be reconcilable with modern scientific findings. To claim that the world was “created” flies in the face of many modern minds which operate from the starting point that nothing exists outside of the material world. This would include God and these heavens that the Bible is referring to.

We can dismiss the book of Genesis as antiquated mythological literature. To do so would not only be a failure to understand the purpose of Genesis, but it would also be a failure to see the profound impact this book has had on human culture throughout the centuries. Even if one doesn’t believe that the book of Genesis is true, much less divinely inspired revelation, one cannot deny the significance and importance of this book in human history. For that matter alone, this book should be taken seriously and read thoughtfully.

Even if one decides to reject the claims of Genesis and the notion of a divine being, one still has to provide some tenable claim and explanation to the major questions of life. And perhaps none is more vital and necessary to answer than the question, “How did we get here?”

This is more than just a question of origins. This is an inquiry into the meaning of life, the purpose of humanity, the problems of the world, and the direction of history. While humanity has put forth many attempts to answer these questions, it is clear that a pervasive confusion still remains in our search for who we are and why we exist. Perhaps our confusion is a result of starting from the wrong place. We are tempted to find the answer within ourselves.

But what if the answer was never meant to start with us?

What if, instead, the better answer starts somewhere else or with Someone else? This is precisely why we want to look back at the timeless book of Genesis in order to live forward in our cultural moment. And as we do, may we discover who we’re meant to be by encountering the One who has always been.

We are excited to walk back to the beginning as we explore this ancient book in our sermon series, Genesis: In the beginning, God.

If you’d like to dig deeper, here are a few suggested resources that you may find useful as a supplement to our time in the book that shows us where it all began.

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES:

Genesis for Everyone

Tyndale Commentary on Genesis

Genesis Unbound

The Lost World of Genesis One

The Bible Project (Genesis 1-11)

Confession Hurts and Heals

Confession Hurts and Heals

There is a story that is attributed to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle where he anonymously sent a telegram to a handful of wealthy and influential men in London. The telegram simply read, “Flee at once! All has been discovered!” According to the story, each of the men left town and were never heard from again. The point of the story, regardless of its veracity, is that you can count on the fact that everyone has some kind of secret that they are painstakingly attempting to keep under lock and key.

We all suffer from this peculiar problem, which Dallas Willard refers to as sin management. Instead of confessing and repenting of our sin, we seek to either cover it up at best or ignore it at worst.

In a world of Photoshop and Instagram filters, the pressure to maintain an image of perfection is overwhelming. We do all that we can to convince others that our lives are great, our relationships are void of pain, and we always wake up looking like we are heading to a magazine cover photo shoot.

As a result, we find the idea of confessing sin to be antithetical to the good life that we are trying to find, because we believe that it jeopardizes our reputation and self image. When this is the way we think about vulnerability, transparency, and confession, it so easily leads to us developing a pattern of hiding and managing sin that we carry throughout our lives.

We find that the effort and energy we expend to cover up, manage, and hide our sin and shame can often be more exhausting. Not to mention it can bring about more shame. We feel trapped.

But it gets worse. The choice to remain silent about our sin creates an inner turmoil that impacts us not just on spiritual levels, but physical as well. A clear example of this is found in the words of Psalm 32:3:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

God has created us as wonderfully integrated beings; the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our lives are impacted by one another. Thus, it is no surprise that when we keep silent about our sin and attempt to bury our shame, we find that it has physiological ramifications as well.

But even though we know that hiding our sin is not good and that it will only create more problems for us, we still choose to hide and manage our sin. Because somewhere along the line, we convinced ourselves that the cost of others knowing our sin is greater than keeping it to ourselves.

The great irony is that freedom and deliverance are found in the bittersweetness of vulnerability, transparency, and confession. Which is what the psalmist declares in Psalm 32:5:

I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not cover my iniquity;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”

and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

When we talk about confession, we are referring to the practice of being open and honest about our sin with God and with others (James 5:16). It is about admitting our brokenness with sincerity to God as well as inviting others to see our brokenness so that we might find healing and hope. While we can trust that God will love us and forgive us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9) we don’t have the same assurance when we open up to others. This is why we must be wise and discerning with whom we choose to share “the fine chinet of our life with,” as David Powlison puts it.

Now, it is not difficult to see how the practice of confession is simultaneously appalling and appealing. As Frederick Buechner once said, “What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.”

In our desire to live whole and integrated lives, these practices of confession and repentance are not simply “things that Christians should do,” but are vital habits that bring healing and freedom to our lives that we could not experience by managing on our own.

May God grant us the humility and strength to confess our sins with one another in such a way that we find healing and wholeness. And may it also create a sense of plausibility for those we encounter in our everyday life to see that while confession hurts, it does so in order to heal.

Doubting Our Doubts

Doubting Our Doubts

For most of my life, I did not believe in God. I simply had no use for someone I could not see, could not hear, and could not touch. In the same way we shed foolish beliefs in Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, I thought mature adults can (and should) outgrow their need for a mythical father figure who lives in the sky. And even in the moments when I was tempted to believe, I could always fall back on my doubts. I always had an explanation, or a question, or a cynical thought, that could help me explain away my need for God to be real. The fever would break, and I could go back to my rational life.

Until one day, my doubts failed me.

I was 16, in a hospital room with my unconscious father. He had gone in for surgery, only for his surgeon to discover cancer. He was quickly diagnosed with lymphoma, and it was serious. I realized my dad was probably going to die.

Death as a concept was not new to me. And in the moments that snuck up on me, when the reality of death caused me to fear, or to wonder, about the true nature of this life, my doubts were there to comfort me: Well, no one really knows what happens when you die. Death is nothing to fear. It’s a natural part of the process. When death was an acquaintance, these were enough to keep him out of the living room.

But when death became a presence in my life and threatened to take away someone I loved, I turned to the only place I had ever found answers: my doubts. They talked a lot, but explained very little: Don’t be sad. Your dad, like you, and everyone you love, is a collection of cells and electrical current. When the switch turns off, it isn’t tragic. It’s inevitable. Live it up now! Your turn is next.

I knew in that moment that all of these thoughts, as disturbing as they were, were a logical conclusion based on my premise: there is no God. But deep within my soul, everything in me knew that was wrong. My dad was more than chemicals. And my love for him was more than a biological illusion. When I raised the point with my doubts, they shrugged.

A new thought occurred to me: should I doubt my doubts? Were the basic assumptions I had made about life and truth and God actually as trustworthy as I had been led to believe? It was a dangerous question, and for years I wrestled with the unsettled feeling it caused. But even in the moment, I realized it was the most important question I had yet asked in my young life.

Doubting my doubts did not make me a Christian (that’s another story). But it did make room in my mind and heart for the idea that I might be wrong. My father’s diagnosis (and he’s fine today, by the way) had led me to a conclusion I knew was false. Doubting my doubts allowed me to re-examine the premise. Maybe God was a better explanation for my experience of reality.

Doubt is not an enemy of faith. In fact, even in my own story, it was a catalyst in my journey for truth. But we should never take our doubts at face value. They are not nearly as trustworthy as they tend to present themselves. If you are reading this and you find yourself full of doubts, I understand. But take a minute and turn all your questions against them. You may be surprised by what they say.