Shelf Life Book Review: Genesis from Scratch

Stephen M. Vantassel

Genesis from Scratch: The Old Testament for Beginners
Westminster John Knox, 2010

Donald L. Griggs continues his successful Bible from Scratch study series that seeks to make the Bible more accessible to contemporary readers. The book is divided into two sections, with W. Eugene March writing the portion for the study participants and Griggs writing for the study leaders.

The guide is brief, consisting of only seven, one-hour lessons. The authors avoid overwhelming readers with extensive details. Each lesson reviews the passage’s material with special attention to literary and historical issues. Most of the opening prayers consist of readings from Psalms that correspond with the lesson.

The strength of the study guide lies in the thoughtprovoking questions that move beyond Bible trivia and into more reflective learning. Leaders looking for creative ideas to encourage thoughtful discussion on Genesis should consider this book.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 1

You’re Already a Theologian

John D. Barry

In graduate school, they had some things all wrong.

I was told that before doing biblical theology—making big-picture connections between biblical books—you have to earn a PhD and publish several academic books. If you weren’t ready to retire by the time you finished, you could write biblical theology.

That whole premise is wrong. We should always try to make large-scale connections. Everything in the Bible teaches us about God. And we can all connect God with God—on the verse-to-verse level and the idea-to-idea level. Anyone can do biblical theology.

It’s simple: Don’t read biblical texts in isolation; find out how they relate. You can do so by looking up the references in the margins of your Bible and running searches for key words on or in Bible software. Here’s an example and 4 steps to follow:

On his death bed, when offering his parting words to his sons, Jacob cries out: “I wait for your salvation, O Lord.” (Gen 49:18 ESV). 1

1 Context: The Stuff that Precedes and Follows the Verse

The saved. Jacob recognized that his sons were sinners who needed to be saved from themselves (e.g., Gen 49:5–7).

Tribes. Jacob’s instructions for his sons as tribes of Israel suggest that Egypt, where they resided, was not their final resting place, nor his (Gen 49:17, 22–26).

2 Cause: The Reasons Why the Verse Was Said or Written

Abe. To find out why Jacob cried out for salvation, we have to backtrack. Salvation is a blessing. God began His work of blessing the nations with Abraham (Gen 12:1–3). But Abraham never saw the Promised Land because he also went down to Egypt (Gen 12:10–20).

Forefathers. Jacob expected to inherit the land promised to Abe, but he didn’t (Gen 46–47). It wasn’t until the end of his life that Jacob realized that Egypt couldn’t save him.

3 Connections: The People and Events that Developed the Idea

The Technicolor man. Like Jacob, Joseph also realized that Egypt was not God’s plan. He asked that his sons would bring his bones back to the Promised Land when they left Egypt someday (Gen 50:24–26).

The battle royal. Joseph’s bones were returned to the Promised Land when the Israelites invaded it (Josh 24:32). But inheriting the land wasn’t true salvation. It was only temporary peace. Because of their sins, God’s people would eventually lose their land, and be taken into exile.

4 Culmination: Jesus’ Version of the Concept

Prophecy. While God’s people were in exile, He promised to reveal His strength. He would bring His salvation in the form of a servant who would suffer for them and “bear their iniquities” (Isa 52:10; 53:12). Jesus, as the ultimate sufferer, is that servant (Matt 27:26).

Proclamation. During His ministry, Jesus proclaimed: “Salvation has come ... the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9). Jesus is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

The church. Those who followed Jesus came together and began spreading this new message of salvation to the world (Acts 2). Jesus’ followers became the true children of Abraham (Gal 3:23–29; Rom 9:6–8).

Apocalypse and the now. God will continue to deliver the salvation Jacob longed for—our salvation—until the end: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb [being Jesus]!” (Rev 7:10).

That’s a biblical theology of salvation. You can follow these steps for any concept. The more you read the Bible, the easier making connections—doing biblical theology—becomes.

Biblical theology will help you connect God in the Old Testament with Jesus. It will show you that they are one. In doing so, you will see God’s loving nature—everything in the Bible will become applicable. Biblical theology gives us the opportunity to grow closer to God each time we study.

Go be the theologian you already are.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation . Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 1

1. All biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

The Grace Scandal

Elizabeth Zabel

I’m learning that grace is not like glory. Grace applies in all moments, all postures. It doesn’t wait for anything. Where there is darkness, there can also be grace. Though glory may require acknowledgment, grace can stand quietly in the shadows.

Present Grace

Sometimes, we sin more deeply than we think we are capable of. What makes it worse is that we plan it. We know what we are doing is wrong, but we deliberately choose it anyway. Maybe we think that if God really wants to stop us, He’d do it physically—a lightning bolt or an invisible straightjacket. Afterward, we expect God to punish us. We often do experience consequences, but God still forgives us—He still offers us grace.

It sounds scandalous because it is. Grace is not something we have invented. We cannot earn it, we cannot manipulate it, and we cannot hold on to it. It holds us.

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 5:20–21 NIV).

We rarely ask the theological question: At what point on Easter weekend did salvation occur? When was grace birthed? Was there no grace until Sunday morning’s light? Was grace unveiled on Friday as the clouds gathered and the earth shook? Was grace released when His side was ripped open to spurt blood and water? Was grace coming closer when all in heaven turned their eyes away from Him because of the utter evil He bore in His body? Or did grace breathe its first clean breath as He took his last ragged breath and closed His eyes?

Future Glory

Every moment of Jesus’ life, both before His death and after, is an act of grace. And every moment the world exists is a sign of God’s graciousness—a chance for Him to show His glory.

Though we struggle, we know our future is secure because of what Christ has done. And it is glorious, because it is His work, not ours. Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.… And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom 8:28, 30 NIV).

His glory can even be displayed in our failings. He continues to show grace to sinners like us. The grace given to us in Christ’s sacrifice brings us reconciliation with the Father and glory to His creation. We only see a glimpse of this now, when God gives us what we don’t deserve, but one day we will see His full glory revealed.

Our present moments of grace aren’t always glorious. Grace usually doesn’t get the glory it deserves. But in these moments of grace, God is showing us His glory.

Get more out of your devotional times with John Piper’s Finally Alive. Go to

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 1

The Power and the Glory

Rebecca Van Noord

In our day-to-day life, we acknowledge God’s power and encourage others to believe in it. Yet sometimes it takes a trial for us to realize the extent and reality of our confession.

The disciples misunderstand Jesus’ reference to death and resurrection (John 11:11–12), so He displays His power through a trial and a miracle—the death and raising of Lazarus. Before Jesus has raised Lazarus, Mary and Martha express, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32). While their statement is a confession, it reveals their limited view of Jesus’ power. The crowd echoes Mary and Martha’s sentiment: “Was not this man who opened the eyes of the blind able to do something so that this man also would not have died?” (John 11:37). Yet, they don’t realize that Jesus has been planning for this moment to provide them with a chance to believe. (Of course, Jesus knows He could have come earlier; He chose not to so He could use this as an example.)

Jesus uses this miracle to challenge and encourage them while showing them that He is the source of life. The question He poses to Martha should be one we all consider: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die forever. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26).

What trials has God used to show you that He is the true life?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.

Shelf Life Review: Fear God

Basic: Fear God
David C. Cook, 2010

Fear God, the first film in BASIC, a new DVD series from the creators of NOOMA, features pastor and speaker Francis Chan. In this 14-minute film, Chan explores the biblical concept of the fear of God, which he feels many Christians domesticate.

For Chan, passages that speak of the fear of God need to be taken literally and seriously. Fearing God is an inevitable response to any encounter with Him and the foundation for understanding Him. Citing Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Chan preaches that fearing God is the first step of a transformation that ultimately results in living a fearless and full life.

This film combines Chan’s monologue with wordless, visual storytelling. Chan has a gift for leading his audiences to a deeper vision of the holiness of God while challenging popular trends in Christian spirituality. This is a great resource to help generate discussions on the role of fear in faith, and would work well in small groups and Bible studies.

For more information on the DVD go to

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 1