Hello everyone! I have been in Youth With a Mission LA for 3 weeks now doing a nine month Chronological School of Biblical Studies (CSBS) and so far have successfully completed both Genesis and Exodus (homework and all). First I’ll explain a little about how the study process works. The first step is to read the designated book non-stop (except for two short breaks) out loud (usually with a group). We have several days of teaching, but the majority of our time is spent completing the homework assignment for the book. Without going into too much detail, the first part of the assignment is to do extensive research on the author, intended reader, characters in the book, and cultural/historical background of each.
We then complete charts for (nearly) every chapter in the book for which we make at least ten observations using a provided list of observation labels, and from those observations make at least two interpretations about what the passage meant to the original reader, characters, or God’s redemptive plan. From those interpretations we form “Timeless Truths” which can be applied in any situation for any person at any time. The idea is Observe, Interpret, and Apply to our lives.
This method is great because it forces me to look at the Bible first through the eyes of the people who were intended to read it, and then I can better gauge what the intended message is for me in my culture and apply it practically to my life.
There are many things I could talk about as God is revealing Himself in so many ways, but I want to focus on some themes I have come upon strongly in Genesis and Exodus. The first one is identity. I was surprised at how many times God repeated throughout Genesis that He made people in His “Own image” and “likeness.” When He created Adam and Eve, He stated their purpose right off:
“27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Gen 1:27-29 ESV
There are three things God says He created people for: To reflect His likeness, to have authority over the earth, and to have relationship. This relational aspect has three parts as well; humans were created to have relationship with nature, God, and other humans. However, Genesis makes it very clear that the source of all this purpose is God Himself, and trying to find purpose in anything else results in destruction of relationship and peace. The area that God focused on with me was acceptance, which is why reading that I am made in His image with His likeness was so meaningful to me. I have striven for human approval and acceptance for so much of my life and God has shown me that acceptance only comes from Him, but it’s really hard to take a concept and make it a belief sometimes. Every time I read the words “created in His image,” I could hear God speaking acceptance over me, saying “You’re ok, when I made you I said you were ‘good,’ that means that you are whole and perfect in my sight, and I made you just like me.” I was impacted by this, meditating on this truth and remembering that my purpose comes from God, nothing else. I have copied my application that I wrote for my homework below which gives a little more insight into this:
Application based on Genesis 20:2
Building faith is a process; it takes failure and struggle, but God is right there the whole time.
Understanding the necessity of obedience has been something God has told me of in the past, and I get it for the most part. God gave us a will so that we could choose Him, so inevitably He wants us to choose Him. However, the perfectionistic voices in my head warp obedience from being all about God to being all about me; I obey because I need to do it right, not because of who God is. In getting to know Abraham, I was awed by how many times he messed up, I mean really messed up. One time lying about your wife being your sister and, essentially, prostituting her so that you could be safe is bad enough, but he does it twice, without a second thought! God tells him multiple times not to be afraid, and is constantly reminding him of the great promises that He gave and that He would fulfill, yet Abraham is constantly trying to do things his own way and repeatedly acts out of fear. And yet, despite all of these things that Abraham did clearly counter to what God was telling him, God calls him righteous. Why? Because, “He believed God.” Was he believing that God would take care of him in Egypt when he lied the first time about his wife, or in Gerar when he lied the second time? No, but he believed God. Was he acting out of faith when he impregnated Hagar, going along with the cultural answer for barrenness instead of God’s answer? No, but he believed God.
Here’s the thing that I struggle with: It’s ok to make mistakes. But aren’t we supposed to obey God? Yes, and the way we get to obedience is often through failing and falling on our faces every day. For me, I want to open my heart up to God to show me all pride in my heart that says that I must get it perfect every time (which, by the way, makes it all about me) and start focusing more on God’s real plan for my life, and that is to be in perfect, complete, restful, beautiful relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, like He lays out in Genesis. Whenever I feel the shame and fear try to come in about how I didn’t get something right, I want to start turning my eyes off of myself and look at God, because He’s the most encouraging person I know.
This is one thing God has been laying strongly on my heart, especially as we are plunging into Leviticus which reveals God’s holiness: I am created to be like God, and nothing I do or say will change that.
I am so thankful for you, all my wonderful friends and family, and I would ask that you would pray when God lays it on your heart for my mind and emotions to be open to whatever God has for me, and that my heart would be soft towards Him. It can be tempting to get stressed or caught up in the work because there is so much of it, but God is teaching me to focus on Him for every chart and not think about how much time I have left or when I can get everything done, but it definitely takes fighting for that peace. Also I would love prayer for my fellow students as we all go on this journey together, for one of them English is her second language and, although she’s doing beautifully, it is a challenge to finish things on time because she doesn’t always understand it right away. Please pray protection over our whole school that nothing would get in the way of us capturing God’s heart during this time.
Love to you all!