Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Tower of Babel

ba·bel

babəl,ˈbā-/
noun
a confused noise, typically that made by a number of voices; a scene of noisy confusion

quotationMarks

 

As a self-proclaimed grammar geek, I tend to fixate on punctuation when I read. In the story of the Tower of Babel, it’s the quotation marks. Within these quotation marks, there are two separate conversations.  If you go with me on this, even if you’re not a grammar geek, I think you’ll appreciate taking a closer look at both conversations.

Continue reading “Tower of Babel”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Noah (Part 2)

When God told Noah to move his family, (I’m just filling in the pieces here) I bet Mrs. Noah had some questions about their temporary housing situation.

moving_truck

 

Today as I write this lesson about Noah, my family is in the middle of a move. In just a few weeks we will be packing up and moving from Arizona to Southern California. Our temporary housing has been secured, but we have only seen it online. Today my husband is walking through our rental house in California for the first time, and I have lots of questions about the details of where we will be living. Is that extra space really a bedroom or just a glorified closet? What is the square footage? Will our furniture fit? Is there space for all of our stuff, or do I need to have a garage sale? How close is it to the school? How close are the neighbors? Is there air conditioning?

My questions are not about why we are moving or whether or not God is leading our family. I trust God completely with my life and my future, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions about some of the details.

If God told your husband to build a gigantic boat because a catastrophic flood was coming, you might have a few questions about the details, too.

Each detail of the plan was likely met with a question:

Genesis 6:13-22

Genesis 6:13 (NIV)
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”

I bet Mrs. Noah was quick to ask what would happen to their family. “Is God relocating our whole family? The kids, too? And their wives?”

Genesis 6:18 (NIV)
“But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.”

Noah had three sons (vs. 10): Shem, Ham and Japheth, so that makes eight people on the move.

Genesis 6:14 (NIV)
So make yourself an ark…

I bet Mrs. Noah asked something like, “What’s the square footage?”

Noah had never built an ark before, so God gave lots of details.
He would build an ark of cypress wood with rooms in it, 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.

All that square footage meant they wouldn’t be traveling alone. “What about pets?”

Genesis 6:19 (NIV)
You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.

So that’s a yes to pets. Two of every kind, male and female. Genesis 7 explains that Noah should also take 7 of every kind of clean animal. These would be used in a sacrificial offering to God on the other side of the big move.

Well now, that probably brought up a whole new set of questions: “Where will we put all of them? How many bedrooms? Bathrooms?”

It is estimated the ark could hold 100,000 sheep-sized animals, but they weren’t just hauling sheep-sized animals, so there were likely about 35,000 animals on the ark.

When God gave Noah instructions for the ark, he said to make “rooms” inside (vs. 14). Think of something like “nests” for each animal – perfect for hibernation, and I’m guessing the sons were put in charge of mucking the stalls.

My first question about a new house is, “What is the kitchen like?” So I’m betting Mrs. Noah had similar concerns.

Genesis 6:21 (NIV)
You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.

This must have been an overwhelming task. I’m guessing Mrs. Noah probably asked, “What moving company are we using?”

Genesis 6:20 (NIV)
Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.

Will come to you? I guess migration is a possibility in this scenario. Animals weren’t afraid of man just yet since God didn’t clear them for food until after the flood. And God did set man up to rule over the animals, but even so, I have a hard time imagining Noah and his sons wrangling 35,000 wild animals into an oversized cage through one door.

God can do things that are impossible for man to do, and I believe He can communicate with animals, so maybe He just whispered in their ears to make a beeline for the ark, and they did. The animals came to Noah.

Check out what happened in Genesis 7:8-16

“When is our move-in date?”

Genesis 7:4 (NIV)
Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights…

“What’s our lease agreement?”

Genesis 7:24 (NIV)
The waters flooded the earth for one hundred and fifty days

So it rained for 40 days, but then the water continued to build for 4-5 months and then took 7 months to recede.  Noah & family were in the ark for over a year!

God takes care of the details

We often worry about details over which we have no control.  Noah and his sons couldn’t have possibly forced all those animals to get to the boat AND go in the boat AND stay there!

We worry about these details that God is already taking care of, but we neglect to take care of our attitudes, our relationships, and our responsibilities that ARE under our control.

When you trust God to lead you, you will obey His commands and trust Him to take care of the details.

Trust builds relationship

Genesis 8

Genesis 8:4 (NIV)
…the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat

I have to wonder if the animals started to get restless without the rocking motion of the waves. If some of the animals had been hibernating on board, perhaps the sudden stop startled them out of their slumber.

Noah sent out a raven, then a dove. He sent the dove out three times. The first time, it just flew back to him, indicating that the water was still covering the land. The second time, the dove brought back hope in the form of an olive leaf. And the third time, the dove never returned to the boat.

Then God told Noah he could come out of the ark.

Genesis 8:15-17 (NIV)
Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”

Noah’s family must have been so relieved to finally be released from the ark. Their temporary housing situation was likely feeling smaller and smelling stronger as the days parked on the mountain dragged on.

But stepping out into the bright sunlight probably prompted another question, “Now what?”

God destroyed the earth by flood because He wanted to slow down the progression of sin. Now He would set up Noah as the authority to rule over the people.

Then He sent Noah and his family out to start over with new adventures and strong relationships.

Genesis 9:1 (NIV)
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.”

Blessing always follows obedience

Living out the adventures God takes you on can take you through a wide range of emotional highs and lows. It must have been overwhelming for Mr. & Mrs. Noah to think of starting over. It must have felt lonely, like being stranded on a desert island.

Noah and his family needed a reminder of why they had committed to all of this change.

In Genesis 6:8, God mentioned a covenant He was making with Noah and his family.

A covenant is a promise, a contract, or a mutual agreement.

Chapter 9 has a lot more to say about that covenant.

Genesis 9:13 (NIV)
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

God gave a reassuring promise with a colorful reminder: never again will a flood do such destruction. As long as the earth remains, the seasons will always come as expected, and a rainbow will be visible when it rains as a sign to all that God will keep His promises.

Noah obeyed everything the Lord commanded.
It doesn’t say he understood everything the Lord commanded.

Proverbs 3:5,6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

You can trust the God who keeps His promises to lead you and your family through every detail of life.

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Noah (Part 1)

When I get stressed, I eat chocolate. Some people drink coffee or soak in a bubble bath or take a walk. I should probably choose a walk over chocolate, but who has time for that? Semi-sweet chocolate chips are my go-to for a quick fix.

What if I made God my go-to in times of stress?  Turning to God and His Word leads to peace and doesn’t stick me with that empty feeling I always find at the bottom of the bag of chocolate chips.

FullSizeRender-2

Noah’s situation was stressful. The details were overwhelming. God told Noah to lead his family to build a huge boat to avoid a flood in a community that had never seen rain. Then he would need to herd hundreds of wild animals into a boat-shaped cage. Can you even imagine the stress that weighed on Noah each night as he struggled to sleep?

I wonder if Mrs. Noah stashed some chocolate in a secret compartment on the ark.

The Bible says that Noah wasn’t overwhelmed with all the details because he walked with God. He’s also described as righteous and blameless. Who was this guy and how did he get to this point? I’m glad you asked.

Continue reading “Noah (Part 1)”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

The First Sin

My first grade teacher was the principal’s wife, so we often enjoyed the privilege of her husband stopping by our class parties. Mr. Madison embodied the same magical presence as Santa Claus, so when he stopped at my table and looked at the tree I was drawing, my heartbeat sped up. He showed me how to make a few of the branches look more natural by drawing a little circle at the end. I tried it on a few branches, and wow! This little touch changed everything! Before long, my tree was looking so artistic! I was so proud and wanted to show it off to Mr. Madison. He took one look at my circle laden branches and gave a big Santa belly laugh, and my cheeks felt hot. He wasn’t trying to embarrass me, but I felt so ashamed. His reaction opened my eyes, and I realized that I had misunderstood his instructions. Rather than enhancing my tree by drawing circles at the end of a few branches, I added circles to every branch, making it appear naked.

images

Adam & Eve felt no shame

…until their eyes were opened, and they were led to believe there was something wrong with being naked. But who fed them that lie?

In Genesis chapter 3 the enemy is at work as soon as Adam and Eve are joined together in marriage and called to live out the mission that God has for them:

– to rule and subdue the earth (authority)
– to increase and multiply (adventure)
– to walk with God and get to know Him deeply (relationship)

Continue reading “The First Sin”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament, Uncategorized

One Helpful Word about Eve

If you could describe yourself with just one word, what would it be?

just one Word-jamielanedesigns

God uses just one word to describe the first woman in Genesis 2, but what He has to say about Adam before Eve was created gives insight into the one word He chooses.

Only once in the Creation story does God declare that “it is NOT GOOD.” After 6 consecutive days of creating and declaring, “it was good,” God forms the first man with His own hands and then declares, “it is not good for the man to be alone.”

Before God created the first woman, He was pleased with how His creation turned out. He formed the earth and sky, and then He filled them up. Everything was made to fulfill a purpose, and that was good.

So it is a stark contrast for God to declare that something is “NOT GOOD.”

Genesis 2:18 (NIV)
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Adam needed a “helper.” Some Bible translations say, “helpmeet,” but what does that word even mean?

You’re already learning to ask two important questions in Bible study:
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Another valuable question in Bible study is:
What does this word mean? What did it mean in the original text?

The Old Testament text was written in Hebrew, so it can be helpful to use a resource like www.blueletterbible.org where you can search the meaning of a specific word.

Helper = EZER

The Hebrew word for “helper” here is ezer (ay’-zer), and it’s worth looking into how it’s used in the Bible:

Ezer describes Eve’s role as helper in Genesis 2.

Ezer also describes God’s role as Israel’s strong helper in times of trouble. It’s used 16 times in the Old Testament; here’s one example: Deuteronomy 33:29.

Ezer is also used as a powerful Hebrew military word meaning warrior.

It makes sense that God would use military language to describe Eve’s role and to mobilize her into action. God created Eve with a mission.

Continue reading “One Helpful Word about Eve”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Adam & Eve

History is full of men & women who have reshaped our world in one way or another. But no two people have turned history so significantly or as permanently as the first man & woman: Adam & Eve.

81b3b266a9a26265f00b90508809f19a

As you look at the life of Adam & Eve in the second chapter of Genesis, you can ask yourself two key questions:

What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Continue reading “Adam & Eve”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Creation (Part 2)

God didn’t create anything to leave it empty.

FullSizeRender

 

My daughter and I went to one of those pottery painting places, feeling creative and optimistic about our Pinterest-inspired intricate design plans.  We both chose to paint oversized coffee mugs, and after they had been fired in the kiln, we were pretty smitten with our creations.  The first thing we did was to fill them with ice cream and enjoy what we had made!  We hadn’t spent all that time carefully painting useless display mugs that would just sit empty; we were excited to enjoy what we had created.

God didn’t create anything to leave it empty. He created the heavens and the earth, and then He filled them up with plants and trees, the sun and moon and stars, fish and birds and all kinds of animals. After He had spoken all of nature into being, He looked at all of His creation and saw that it was good.

Continue reading “Creation (Part 2)”

Bible Lessons, Old Testament

Creation (Part 1)

The beginning is a good place to start.   
 "The Beginning" Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.
If you’ve ever decided to read through the Bible, then you’ve probably read the story of Creation because it’s right there at the beginning of the book. It’s a good place to start because it will give you a knowledge-base to build on as you learn more about the Bible.

 

The Creation story answers some of life’s biggest questions like, “Where did we come from, and why are we here?” But in order to find the answers to these big questions, you will want to do more than just read the words on the page.

It’s the difference between reading and studying scripture.

When you study scripture, you interact with it by asking questions and taking notes. You engage scripture by drawing a picture in your mind or on paper of what the scene may have looked like. You look at it from different points of view so that you can be sure to discover the meaning of the scripture you’re studying.

Asking yourself two basic questions will help you move from reading to studying the Creation story:

Two Questions
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about myself & my relationship with God?

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

First Question: What do you learn about God in the first verse?

God is eternal – At the beginning of recorded time, He was already in existence.
If you’d like to read more about how God has always existed, check out https://answersingenesis.org/answers/biblical-authority-devotional/where-does-god-live/what-was-god-doing-before-creation/

God is Creator – He creates something from nothing.

Genesis 1:2-5 (NIV)
“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.”

Continue reading “Creation (Part 1)”

Bible Lessons, New Testament

The Lord’s Prayer

If you have questions about prayer, you’re in good company.

praying-hands-on-bible-black-and-white

If you’ve ever worked up the nerve to ask the question, “How do I pray?” then you’ve probably gotten an answer like, “Praying is easy! It’s just talking to God.” Or, “Everyone knows how to pray!” But everyone doesn’t know how to pray.

Even Jesus’ closest friends asked Him how to pray. They spent a lot of time with Him, saw Him perform miracles, talked with Him about life, and heard Him teach, but they still had questions about prayer.

Jesus’ answer to the question, “How do I pray?” is known as the Lord’s Prayer:

Matthew 6:9-12
The King James Version reads like this…

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Maybe you memorized this prayer when you were young, or you’ve heard a grandparent recite it at the dinner table on holidays.

Let’s take a closer look at this model prayer by breaking it down line by line.

Our Father…

The Lord’s Prayer starts by addressing God as “Our Father.” This is super important because when you call someone by name, the name you use creates a relational context. It makes a statement about the nature of the relationship you have with another person.

My name is Rene Clark, but not everyone calls me by that name. My kids call me, “Mom,” my nieces and nephews call me, “Nay Nay,” my students call me, “Mrs. Clark,” and my husband calls me, “Babe.” (Love ballads by Styx deeply influenced our relationship in the ‘80s.)

Continue reading “The Lord’s Prayer”

Uncategorized

Think like a Beginner

Bible Basics started when I met a group of friends who wanted to study the Bible but weren’t sure where to begin.  When it came to looking up a book, chapter and verse, they felt lost.  Weekend sermons left them confused when the pastor would refer to a Bible story “everyone knows,” but they weren’t familiar with it.  They were unsure about a lot of things, but they hadn’t found a safe place to seek help.  When it came to Bible study, they were beginners.

So I offered a 4-day boot camp to do sort of a crash course in Bible basics.  This Bible Basics Boot Camp turned out to be a fun way to develop their muscles when it came to lifting the Sword of God’s Word  (Hebrews 4:12), and it launched a study that now meets once a week.

I have a heart for beginners.

I have a heart for beginners.  I taught middle school Language Arts for a while. It could never compare to teaching true beginners in a kindergarten class, but a student’s first year of middle school is a year that feels like starting over with locker combinations, changing hormones, new friendships and insecurities about whether or not school is cool anymore.  Middle school students are their own brand of beginners who are so much fun to teach when you treat them with respect like they’re in high school but give them grace like they’re still in elementary school.  My job as their teacher was to get them all caught up on grammar and writing skills so that they could be confident as they progressed through school.

So I thought about these ladies as beginners when it came to Bible study, and I determined to help get them all caught up.  There are some basic truths and Bible stories that everyone assumes all Christians already know, like the 10 Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer.  But some of my new friends didn’t grow up in church, and some of them were never taught to study the Bible on their own.  They were beginning to feel behind with no hope of catching up.  So I took the Bible stories I’d learned through Sunday School songs and flannel graphs, the study tools I’d learned in college, and the experience I’d gained as a teacher and came up with a Bible study that would cover the major Old Testament stories while drawing connections to Jesus in the New Testament.

Bible Basics has become a way to get caught up on Bible stories and study tools that were missed somewhere along the way.  My hope is to help everyone feel comfortable and confident navigating their own Bibles so that they can get closer to Jesus.  I think Jesus has a heart for beginners, too.  He spent most of His ministry years teaching 12 friends who weren’t sure where to begin, but who were willing to follow Him and learn from Him.