Think You Know All About Genesis? (A book review)

Whatever you know about Alan Dershowitz, if you’re like me, it’s not from reading his books. So when I came across this one, I was quite intrigued. About the only thing we have in common is we both have benefitted by living in homes who taught us the value of the Bible.

His upbringing in Judaism and his practicing of law tremendously frame his view of God, man, and the Bible. He most definitely has a biblical worldview. Does that mean all biblical worldviewers would agree with his interpretations of Genesis? Pretty sure you know the answer to that question.

My opinion: that should not keep one from reading another’s integrated and exhaustive presentation of their interpretation, in particular if their frame is one you do not have. That explains why I valued this reading. I grew because of Dershowitz’s work. That’s enough for me.

If these nine quotes make you think even a hint differently about Genesis, here’s your sign to choose growth:

A God who can admit that His mind has been changed by mere humans is a truly great teacher. (referencing God and The Flood)

The God who invites Abraham to argue with him about justice is a God who encourages rational discourse. The God who rebuked Job for trying to understand an obvious injustice is a God who promotes unthinking fundamentalism. One of the beauties of the Bible is that even its God speaks in different voices over time.

The entire book of Genesis is about the early development of justice in human society…The Genesis stories all take place before the advent of formal rules of law… Viewing Genesis as a book about the development of justice before the existence of a formalized legal system helps to explain why the narrative is so much about crime, sin, deception, revenge, punishment, and other bad actions.

For all of his trickery, Jacob never tries to deceive God. He bargains with him, even wrestles with him, but he’s always straight with God. The result is that God blesses Jacob with leadership, but makes him understand that the wages of deception are deception.

Like much of the earlier narratives of Genesis, the Joseph story shows us what it was like to live in a world without a legal system – a world in which those with high status could, with impunity, falsely accuse those of lower status. It shows us the need for a system of justice in which all stand equally before the law and those accused of a crime have a fair opportunity to challenge the evidence against them and demonstrate that it was planted, false, or mistaken. It leads inexorably to the later biblical rules against favoring in judgment either the rich or the poor.

The common law of Judaism is that it is not only permissible, it is obligatory to argue even with God about a proposed injustice. Humans can argue with God, but they cannot refuse to obey a direct order from Him. (referencing God and Abraham)

Had the Torah-the great law book-simply begun with a list of rules, the reader would wonder about the basis for the rules. Some of them appear eminently logical, but the others cannot be understood without reference to the experience of the Jewish people.

If the book of Genesis tells the story of the developing legal system-ad hoc rules, common law, statutes, and so on-then Sinai does not represent so dramatic a break with the past. It is a culmination of a process begun in the garden of Eden and continued with Cain, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Dina, Tamar, Joseph, and the other actors in opening narratives of the Bible.

The Bible uses stories of injustice to teach about the need for justice…The story of Genesis will continue until the end of humankind.

The Curse Will Be Over

Revelation 22:3 was in my @youversion reading plan today. It reads, “and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him.

That first phrase jumped off the page. So I spent much of the day working on lyrics to a song entitled “The Curse Will Be Over.”

Verse 1

Today is the same, same as the rest

Knowing it’s closer than it’s ever been before

My heart knows you’re there preparing the best

To give me the joy of meeting you when I walk through the door

Chorus

The curse will be over

My eyes will behold you

The lamb who was slain, the risen one

O hallelujah

I’ll sing to proclaim your worth

I’ll finally be home

And the curse will be over

Verse 2

The garden was where this curse was begun

The bitten lie pierced my soul, ushered in shame

You said, “I’m not done.” You sent down your son.

I’ve bowed my knees, said please forgive me. I come bearing his name.

Bridge

Over, death and the grave

Over, disease and pain

Over, darkness and shame

Over, temptation and blame

Over, hatred and war

Over, betrayal and hurt

Over, anger and fear

Over, apart from you

Over, it will be over

Sin’s curse will be over

5 Ways to Combat Forced Fear

Yesterday I saw the CBS commercial featuring actors from their shows sending this message: “We’re in this together.” Yes, community is important, always but certainly now.

If you think about that message for a moment, you can be more descriptive by replacing “this” with a specific noun. Like…

  • …We’re in economic uncertainty together
  • …We’re in confusion together
  • …We’re in isolation together
  • …We’re in media overload together
  • …We’re in the drive through together
  • …We’re in the grocery line together
  • …We’re in fear fatigue together

I’ll stop there to chew on that one. This “this” is one of the major things we are in together. 

Some of us by nature, personality, or any number of reasons tend to live more fearfully. But this is different. This feels like we’re all in fear together whether we want to be or not. Feels forced, on many levels.

We all have natural tendencies in responding to fear. Generally, we are defined as fighters or flighters. I tend to be the former, which explains why I tend to believe much of the fear we are in together is forced.

Regardless of its origination or our response tendency to it, fear does not get an automatic win. It can be overcome when we choose to combat it. You probably are already trying to combat it, subconsciously or thoughtfully. In case you’d like more help, because we’re in this together, here are five ways I’m combating forced fear.

  1. Created a Playlist…just this morning I decided it was time to create a COVID-19 playlist. My list includes songs that address fear directly, bring God into the picture, and focus on the hope of eternity. Pretty sure I’ll be playing it daily.
  2. Exercising Early…many years ago I had to overcome not being a morning person in order to pursue better running training. I’m not in training mode right now. But I’ve put my mind in combat fear mode, meaning setting the alarm on most mornings to get up and exercise first thing. My guess is, if you don’t already do this, when you give it a try you’ll like it.
  3. Increasing Peace Intake…this “this” is to combat that media overload we’re in together. Here’s a challenge to consider: however much time you spend watching, reading, scrolling, engaging in media that produces fear in you, spend at least that same amount of time or more taking in peace. Whatever produces peace in your heart, mind, and spirit needs equal time. Personally I’m barely looking at Twitter, looking at Facebook less, and pretty much looking at headlines only.
  4. Making Others First…this one can be very simple. Something as simple as letting someone go ahead of you in the grocery line, greeting the cashier by name, thanking them for the extra work they are doing, being empathetic with those you’re together with in the grocery aisles (practiced these Wednesday). For something more impactful, ask God to bring to mind someone to bless and how to do it (doing this today).
  5. Reading>Meditating…in particular, biblical characters that endured forced fear. Examples: Joseph, Esther, Ruth, Daniel, Mary and Joseph, and certainly Jesus. Many of them were forced to face the fear of death. Read their stories. Meditate on how they combated fear. I’m taking a look at Genesis all this weekend.

How are you dealing with forced fear? Got something else to share? Please do. We’re in forced fear together.

So…What about “Spiritual Distancing”?

Here’s a clear truth from the last few weeks: we’ve learned some new words and phrases. And one of the most repeated I’ve heard is “social distancing.” We introverts know all about that, but this usage doesn’t quite mean the same.

And so it has people talking-even wondering if it’s quite right. See this post from a Facebook friend.

In talking about this with a staff member today along with the choices churches are facing due to “gathering” restrictions, it hit me that we are dealing with another thing for many people; I’ll call it spiritual distancing. For some, this isn’t a new thing. They already keep their distance from spiritual people and conversations. So what about those who are not only being restricted socially but in some sense spiritually?

Multiple answers abound, thanks to the Internet. If you are hungry and resourceful enough, you can find spiritual food to keep you close and healthy rather than distant and wondering. Here are my top two suggestions:

  1. Podcasts…if you haven’t dipped your toe in this ocean, now would be a great time to get wet. Two suggestions: 1) Most well-known pastors/authors have podcasts. Search for them and subscribe. 2) My preference is to search for episode topics rather than follow the same person. For instance, you could search “prayer,” “faith,” “peace from God,” or “overcoming fear.” Search and find voices God can use to overcome spiritual distancing.
  2. Youversion…the best Bible app. I have to be honest. I haven’t tried any others. But there is so much to like about this one. One element that can tremendously impact spiritual distancing is the reading plans. There are loads of options. And maybe the best kept secret about the app is that you can invite friends to read the plan with you and offer conversation between all those reading the plan. That brings spiritual people closer to one another and hopefully closer to God.

My encouragement to you is this. Whatever some one or some thing may create to force distance between you and God, stand up. Resist. Draw close. Feed that hunger. Connect. Avoid spiritual distancing.

3 Questions to Refresh Your Bible Reading

If you’re reading this post, you most likely fit into two categories:

  1. You read the Bible regularly, or at least try, and know that at times you need a “pickmeup.”
  2. You have yet to really figure out how to make Bible reading a thing you do.

Guess what…God knows it and understands. Yet, I’ll paraphrase Max Lucado, God sees where you are but isn’t content to leave you there. So when it comes to Bible reading, God desires for you to enjoy communing with him through his words to you.

Whether you are flowing along completely satisfied in your approach to Bible reading, or if you try one more devotional plan that leads to “failure” you are done with it, or you’re indifferent about it, indulge me to encourage you to consider asking yourself these three questions the next time you open your Bible.

  • Who am I when I approach the Bible?

I’m not suggesting you have to flash your official birth certificate heavenward to remind your Creator that you are his handiwork. He knows you, trust that. But do you know your spiritual identity? What if that’s how you approached the Bible? 

Rather than the father of four who wants out, you are God’s son who needs advice, courage, wisdom. 

Rather than the wife of Mr. Grumpy Pants, you are God’s daughter who needs empathy, forgiveness, patience. 

Rather than the employer who wrestles with growing your business, you are God’s servant who wants direction, guidance, blessing. 

When you open the Bible, what might happen if you engaged it with your heavenly identity over your earthly title?

A note to those in category #2: If your answer to who you are is something like Skeptic, Doubter, Curious, First-Timer, or anything that sounds unacceptable to those church-goers, it’s worth repeating. God knows you. He wrote the Bible for you, too.

  • What question focuses my reading?

Once you’ve landed on who are you, then it’s time to figure out why you are reading the Bible. If your answer is because I’m supposed to, let’s go ahead and admit this-that ain’t cuttin’ it. Legalism leads to exactly where you are.

You have to have a reason with purpose that says, “I know God sees me where I am, and I’m not content staying there either.” With that in mind, word a question that will give your heart and mind direction. 

For example, “As a child of God, what is God saying to me?” Or, “As a follower of Jesus, how does this apply to me today?” Or, “As a believer seeking transformation, what steps of growth are possible?” Or, “As a skeptic, what hope do I see in these words?” Or, “As a first-timer, what can I learn about God?” Or, “As a doubter, how does God show himself?”

Once you’ve worded that question, post it somewhere in your eyesight every time you open your Bible. Maybe it’s on a post-it. Maybe it’s at the top of a notepad. Maybe it’s on your computer screen. Write this question in your heart as well as in your vision.

  • Which part of the Bible allures me?

Now that you know who you are and what question is guiding your heart and mind, here’s where I believe freedom shows up. Your entry into heaven isn’t based on did you read the entire Bible or any other works orientation. Free yourself from any system that enslaves you. If you feel God guiding you to read from Genesis to Revelation, fantastic. But if you find yourself stuck in the dull drums, give yourself the freedom to sit as long as you want where you are getting the most from it. God isn’t abusive. He may be corrective as a Good Father and Shepherd, but when you know who you are and why you’re reading his word, all his words can fulfill you. Choose to read where God leads you and feast as long as you want.

One last note for those in Category #2: If you don’t know how to answer this question, here’s a suggestion. Go to the New Testament and try one of the first four books. Most people like to start with the Gospel of John.

God promised that when we seek him we will find him. May these questions assist you in finding God.

(This post was prompted by a coaching session. If you have yet to receive the benefits of a coaching relationship in your life, let this be a testament to what’s possible.)

Jesus’ Lifestyle

If you want to experience the life of Jesus, you have to adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.

In prepping for a talk, this John Mark Comer quote from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry made the notes.


If you were to make a list that described Jesus’ lifestyle, what would you include? I made a list of five. Here they are with scripture that illustrate them.

  1. For his Father. “If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:10
  2. Balance. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Luke 2:52
  3. Prayer.  “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After he said goodbye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:45-46
  4. Non-materialistic. “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ Or ‘What will we drink?’ Or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:31-33
  5. People. “When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

What else would you add? Consider completing this for a devotional exercise and reply with your thoughts.

Looking for Gold

I heard this quote today during a webinar:

“Men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt—one goes in looking for the gold.” -Andrew Carnegie

My mind immediately tried to connect this thought to scriptures like Job 23, Psalm 66, and Zechariah 13. But the context isn’t the same. These writers were referring to the outcomes of testing by fire. The imagery of mining for gold brings out a different challenge, even opportunity.

The webinar focused on a style of coaching labeled compassionate. Bottom-line premise: approach coaching as both you and the coachee looking for gold. Expect dirt moving to be necessary, but be more focused on the gold to be found.

Brene Brown would call this generosity. Regardless of whether we call it generous or compassionate, what might happen if we all approached our relationships and conversations, including self-talk, with such focus? It could impact…

  • …how we give employees annual reviews.
  • …how we discipline our children.
  • …how we chat with our neighbors.
  • …how we engage gossip.
  • …how we receive, “I’m sorry.”
  • …how long we coddle anger.
  • …how we analyze guilt.
  • …how we pursue dreams.
  • …how we set goals.
  • …and most impactfully, how we surrender to God’s testing.

Here’s to better and deeper gold looking!

Book Suggestion

I’m really enjoying my current read, Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson. If you’re attending First Baptist Bradenton tomorrow, you’ll hear some references.


I just finished chapter five, Story: Shaped by Biblical Narrative. Here are some examples of why you might enjoy this book:

God doesn’t ask that we rise above all of life’s pain; rather, he asks that we bring all of our story to God. God doesn’t ask that we walk around in disguise pretending there are no holes in our hearts; God asks that we bring those painful hearts to the throne of grace.

When someone says thank you for something you have done, it is a gift of gratitude from God. When someone shows you love, that love is a gift of grace from God. When someone tells you the truth, it is a gift of love because God cares to move you from your defenses, hiding, and resistance. Telling our story to one another is perhaps the most sacred thing we do because God shows up in the words, emotions, and crafting of our words.

Maybe I Should Be More Prodigal

Our life group started a study of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God tonight. We highly recommend the book.


Here’s a great example why. 

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment.

Makes you think, right? Under this definition, the story in Luke 15 has much more meaning and application.

As we discussed this tonight, a question came to me: How could we be more prodigal? 

  • Toward neighbors
  • Toward siblings
  • Toward friends
  • Toward coworkers
  • Toward anyone that is physically, spiritually, or emotionally disconnected 

If God, my Heavenly Father, recklessly forgives, loves, endures, welcomes, provides, embraces, longsuffers, probably means I should also. Maybe I should be more prodigal.

God of My 20’s: My Walk with Him

(Post #2 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Art Fahy

I was twenty years old when I was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1967. The country was in turmoil. Demonstrations against the Vietnam Nam War flooded the television nightly news. The political arena was turned upside down. Families were divided concerning the war and politics. The world was experiencing complete mayhem. People turned a deaf ear to each other. The attitude was, “I’m right, and you’re wrong.”

Our language incorporated new phrases like, “Do your own thing,” “Down with the establishment,” “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” It was as if there was a green light dangling in the sky giving everyone permission to do anything they desired. We were all doing our own thing. We thought freedom was doing what we wanted as long as it didn’t hurt anyone. Consequences meant little. In fact, we rarely thought about consequences.

By the ’70’s, I was married with two children. I was journeying down a very dark road and didn’t know it. My wife pleaded with me to attend church. I would tell her, “Church is not for me.” My bible knowledge was limited to the “Thou shall nots.” It was like the seed found in Matthew 13:4: “The seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured it.” The small amount of religious education was lost in the clammer of the outside world.

I finally crashed and burned. I had nowhere to go. I felt lost. I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know who to talk to. I cried out to God, and I wasn’t sure if He heard me. Why would he? January 1981 I found myself in my pastor’s office accepting Jesus as my Savior. I was thirty-three years old.

Unfortunately, I was not a serious student of the Bible or following Jesus. I returned to my old ways for over three years, and in that time I was divorced and lost a good job. In 1987 I cleaned up my act and became a member of a twelve-step program. This program brought me closer to God, and I began to begin a relationship with Him.

It wasn’t until I was fifty-four and at the urging of my second wife did I attend church and join a small group that my relationship with God began to flourish. I was baptized in, of all places, Las Vegas. I look back and wonder why did it take me so long to follow? Today, I know and believe I am on God’s time. He is in control. His plan for me is far better than any I could come up with.

Jesus tells us in John 16 we are going to have trials, but He has overcome the world, and we can find peace in Him. That is where I find my peace today-in Jesus Christ. When I react to people, places, or situations, I must ask myself what is my relationship with God right now? This allows me to alter my attitude and return to the path He wants me to walk on.

At 72 I look back over the years from the time I accepted Jesus as my Savior until I actually began living the way He wants me to live. I feel saddened. What I learned is, that was His plan for me, the way He wanted it.

I’ve had some rough times while walking with the Lord. I know and believe He is with me during the good  times and the tough times. The more I lean on Him the more comfort and love I feel. The more I studied His word life began to open up for me. I always wanted to write, and in 2010 I self-published a book. That same year I began writing a column for a Christian newspaper in Las Vegas called The Answer. I wrote for them for almost five years.

Following Jesus has given me a new outlook on life. Looking at life the way He does broadens my knowledge of who He is and how He sees me. I am blessed I have the opportunity to live the way He wants me to live. I stumble at times but regain my balance by asking for forgiveness and repenting.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Sin is no longer my master. I am free from its grip because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave His life for me. I certainly can turn my life over to Him.