Visitation is an important part of the ministry of the church and its leadership. This first lesson will deal with introductory issues.
- an official or formal visit, in particular.
a gathering with the family of a deceased person before the funeral.
Who’s in Charge Here?
What does it really mean to take responsibility for the gifts God has
given me, to be a committed steward for my Creator and Lord?
In order to answer this question, you first have to determine WHO is responsible for deciding how you will use your gifts. When faced with this question, most Christians reply in one of three ways:
- “I’ll decide, alone, how to use my gifts.”
This is the Christian who takes sole responsibility for his life, and leaves God out of the decision-making process. Why? Because the person is like the deist who believes that, at one point in time, God wound up the universe like a great clock, and has left it running ever since. The deist feels that God really doesn’t have the time to get involved in mundane human affairs. So without any personal attention or direction from a detached, impersonal Creator, this self-sufficient Christian is left to answer the stewardship question alone.
Unfortunately, on his own, this person runs the risk of failing to see, understand, and obey God expectations. And, God is not detached, impersonal or too busy to be involved in your life. Jesus said, “Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
- “I’ll just leave it to the Lord.”
In contrast to the first Christian who shoulders the entire weight of decision-making, alone, the second Christian gives that same entire responsibility over to God. This person believes that God, and God alone, is solely responsible for telling him how to use his talents, abilities, and skills in leadership.
While this response sounds more spiritual, it can actually be a way of avoiding responsibility. It leaves the individual passively awaiting the results of the law of natural consequences: “Let’s wait and see what happens, and if it fails, it can’t be my fault because I didn’t choose!” But isn’t it true that to NOT chose is in itself, a choice?
There is a third way that you, as a Christian, can answer the question, “Who’s responsible for deciding how I should use my gifts to serve God?”
- “God and me-together.”
Jesus deliberately stripped Himself of everything – His divine rights and privileges – and crossed the unthinkable chasm between God and man.
Try to imagine the span of that chasm…. The unlimited God became limited man…. Jesus Christ is God.
…From the world’s viewpoint, Jesus had descended almost as low as a man could – to say nothing of God – could go lower.
But there was one more downward step, in heaven’s eyes the deepest descent of all: from sinless to sin stained…. Truly, He could go no lower.
…He knowingly and actively embraced a life of giving, serving, losing, and dying.
What was, and is, really hard for Jesus’ followers to swallow is that we are called to do the same. To make ourselves nothing…. We must believe that as painful as it sometimes feels, descending is the only way to greatness…. Jesus obeyed for the sake of love.
And we, His followers and the recipients of His love, are called to do the same. When asked about the two greatest commands, Jesus replied: to love God and to love others. That is what motivated Jesus, and that is what is to motivate us.
(From Descending into Greatness by Bill Hybels)
God views service and humility as strengths, not weaknesses. What steps in your relationships can you take to show greater humility? How can you expand your relationship to others (including God)?
This response combines a balanced and proper measure of God’s sovereignty and your responsibility. This balance is described beautifully in Philippians 2:12-13, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” God expects to be in a relationship with Him, you can make responsible decisions about how you can best use your gifts throughout your life.
This expectation reveals how insufficient the other two responses are in recognizing God’s deepest desire for you. Since He created you and sent His only son to live and die for you, is it any wonder that He wants to be intimately involved in every aspect of your life? God has already invested too much of Himself in you to expect you to make those all-important life decisions, alone.
Genesis Book Overview
|2166 b.c.||Abram born
|2091 (1925)||Abram enters Canaan
|2066 (1900)||Isaac born
|2006 (1840)||Jacob & Esau born
|1929 (1764)||Jacob flees to Haran
|1915 (1750)||Joseph born
|1898 (1733)||Joseph sold into slavery
|1885 (1720)||Joseph rules Egypt
|1805 (1640)||Joseph dies|
|Purpose:||To record God’s creation of the world and his desire to have a people set apart to worship him|
|To Whom Written:||The people of Israel|
|Date Written:||1450-1410 b.c.|
|Setting:||The region presently known as the Middle East|
|Key Verses:||“So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them” (1:27). “‘I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you’” (12:2, 3).|
|Key People:||Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph|
Begin … start … commence … open.… There’s something refreshing and optimistic about these words, whether they refer to the dawn of a new day, the birth of a child, the prelude of a symphony, or the first miles of a family vacation. Free of problems and full of promise, beginnings stir hope and imaginative visions of the future. Genesis means “beginnings” or “origin,” and it unfolds the record of the beginning of the world, of human history, of family, of civilization, of salvation. It is the story of God’s purpose and plan for his creation. As the book of beginnings, Genesis sets the stage for the entire Bible. It reveals the person and nature of God (Creator, Sustainer, Judge, Redeemer); the value and dignity of human beings (made in God’s image, saved by grace, used by God in the world); the tragedy and consequences of sin (the Fall, separation from God, judgment); and the promise and assurance of salvation (covenant, forgiveness, promised Messiah).
God. That’s where Genesis begins. All at once we see him creating the world in a majestic display of power and purpose, culminating with a man and woman made like himself (1:26, 27). But before long, sin entered the world, and Satan was unmasked. Bathed in innocence, creation was shattered by the Fall (the willful disobedience of Adam and Eve). Fellowship with God was broken, and evil began weaving its destructive web. In rapid succession, we read how Adam and Eve were expelled from the beautiful garden, their first son turned murderer, and evil bred evil until God finally destroyed everyone on earth except a small family led by Noah, the only godly person left.
As we come to Abraham on the plains of Canaan, we discover the beginning of God’s covenant people and the broad strokes of his salvation plan: Salvation comes by faith, Abraham’s descendants will be God’s people, and the Savior of the world will come through this chosen nation. The stories of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph that follow are more than interesting biographies. They emphasize the promises of God and the proof that he is faithful. The people we meet in Genesis are simple, ordinary people, yet through them, God did great things. These are vivid pictures of how God can and does use all kinds of people to accomplish his good purposes—even people like you and me.
Read Genesis and be encouraged. There is hope! No matter how dark the world situation seems, God has a plan. No matter how insignificant or useless you feel, God loves you and wants to use you in his plan. No matter how sinful and separated from God you are, his salvation is available. Read Genesis … and hope!
The Bible does not discuss the subject of evolution. Rather, its worldview assumes God created the world. The biblical view of creation is not in conflict with science; rather, it is in conflict with any worldview that starts without a creator.
Equally committed and sincere Christians have struggled with the subject of beginnings and come to different conclusions. This, of course, is to be expected because the evidence is very old and, due to the ravages of the ages, quite fragmented. Students of the Bible and of science should avoid polarizations and black/white thinking. Students of the Bible must be careful not to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say, and students of science must not make science say what it doesn’t say.
The most important aspect of the continuing discussion is not the process of creation, but the origin of creation. The world is not a product of blind chance and probability; God created it.
The Bible not only tells us that the world was created by God; more important, it tells us who this God is. It reveals God’s personality, his character, and his plan for his creation. It also reveals God’s deepest desire: to relate to and fellowship with the people he created. God took the ultimate step toward fellowship with us through his historic visit to this planet in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. We can know in a very personal way this God who created the universe.
The heavens and the earth are here. We are here. God created all that we see and experience. The book of Genesis begins, “God created the heavens and the earth.”
Here we begin the most exciting and fulfilling journey imaginable.
|A. The Story of Creation (1:1–2:4)||God created the sky, seas, and land. He created the plants, animals, fish, and birds. But he created human beings in his own image. At times, others may treat us disrespectfully. But we can be certain of our dignity and worth because we have been created in the image of God.|
|B. The Story of Adam (2:4–5:32)
1. Adam and Eve
2. Cain and Abel
3. Adam’s descendants
|When Adam and Eve were created by God, they were without sin. But they became sinful when they disobeyed God and ate some fruit from the tree. Through Adam and Eve we learn about the destructive power of sin and its bitter consequences.|
|C. The Story of Noah (6:1–11:32)
1. The Flood
2. Repopulating the earth
3. The tower of Babel
|Noah was spared from the destruction of the Flood because he obeyed God and built the boat. Just as God protected Noah and his family, he still protects those who are faithful to him today.|
|D. The Story of Abraham (12:1–25:18)
1. God promises a nation to Abram
2. Abram and Lot
3. God promises a son to Abram
4. Sodom and Gomorrah
5. Birth and near sacrifice of Isaac
6. Isaac and Rebekah
7. Abraham dies
|Abraham was asked to leave his country, wander in Canaan, wait years for a son, and then sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Through these periods of sharp testing, Abraham remained faithful to God. His example teaches us what it means to live a life of faith.|
|E. The Story of Isaac (25:19–28:9)
1. Jacob and Esau
2. Isaac and Abimelech
3. Jacob gets Isaac’s blessing
|Isaac did not demand his own way. He did not resist when he was about to be sacrificed, and he gladly accepted a wife chosen for him by others. Like Isaac, we must learn to put God’s will ahead of our own.|
|F. The Story of Jacob (28:10–36:43)
1. Jacob starts a family
2. Jacob returns home
|Jacob did not give up easily. He faithfully served Laban for over 14 years. Later, he wrestled with God. Although Jacob made many mistakes, his hard work teaches us about living a life of service for our Lord.|
|G. The Story of Joseph (37:1–50:26)
1. Joseph is sold into slavery
2. Judah and Tamar
3. Joseph is thrown into prison
4. Joseph is placed in charge of Egypt
5. Joseph and his brothers meet in Egypt
6. Jacob’s family moves to Egypt
7. Jacob and Joseph die in Egypt
|Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and unjustly thrown into prison by his master. Through the life of Joseph, we learn that suffering, no matter how unfair, can develop strong character in us.|
|Beginnings||Genesis explains the beginning of many important realities: the universe, the earth, people, sin, and God’s plan of salvation.||Genesis teaches us that the earth is well made and good. People are special to God and unique. God creates and sustains all life.|
|Disobedience||People are always facing great choices. Disobedience occurs when people choose not to follow God’s plan of living.||Genesis explains why people are evil: They choose to do wrong. Even great Bible heroes failed God and disobeyed.|
|Sin||Sin ruins people’s lives. It happens when we disobey God.||Living God’s way makes life productive and fulfilling.|
|Promises||God makes promises to help and protect people. This kind of promise is called a “covenant.”||God kept his promises then, and he keeps them now. He promises to love us, accept us, forgive us.|
|Obedience||The opposite of sin is obedience. Obeying God restores our relationship to him.||The only way to enjoy the benefits of God’s promises is to obey him.|
|Prosperity||Prosperity is deeper than mere material wealth. True prosperity and fulfillment come as a result of obeying God.||When people obey God, they find peace with him, with others, and with themselves.|
|Israel||God started the nation of Israel in order to have a dedicated people who would (1) keep his ways alive in the world, (2) proclaim to the world what he is really like, and (3) prepare the world for the birth of Christ.||God is looking for people today to follow him. We are to proclaim God’s truth and love to all nations, not just our own. We must be faithful to carry out the mission God has given us.|
|Days of Creation|
|First Day||Light (so there was light and darkness)|
|Second Day||Sky and water (waters separated)|
|Third Day||Land and seas (waters gathered); vegetation|
|Fourth Day||Sun, moon, and stars (to govern the day and the night and to mark seasons, days, and years)|
|Fifth Day||Fish and birds (to fill the waters and the sky)|
|Sixth Day||Animals (to fill the earth)
Man and woman (to care for the earth and to commune with God)
|Seventh Day||God rested and declared all he had made to be very good|
- From what we have covered, what are some of the things to look for in this book? What are your first impressions? Who are the principal characters? What are the key events?
- If you where a librarian, where would you file this book? Under history?, Poetry? Fiction?
- How would you describe Genesis?
- If you could choose any of the main characters in this book for members of our church?
- Why would you be interested in studding this particular book of the Bible?
- What do you think you could get out of it to apply to your life?
Proverbs begins with a clear statement of its purpose—to impart wisdom for godly living. The first few chapters are Solomon’s fatherly advice to young people. Although most of the material in this section is directed toward young people, all who seek wisdom will greatly benefit from these wise words. This is where one can discover the source of wisdom, the value of wisdom, and the benefits of wisdom.
1 These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
What the book of Psalms is to prayer and devotional life, the book of Proverbs is to everyday life. Proverbs gives practical suggestions for effective living. This book is not just a collection of homey sayings; it contains deep spiritual insights drawn from experience. A proverb is a short, wise, easy-to-remember saying that calls a person to action. It doesn’t argue about basic spiritual and moral beliefs; it assumes we already hold them. The book of Proverbs focuses on God—his character, works, and blessings—and it tells how we can live in close relationship to him.
Solomon, the third king of Israel, son of the great king David, reigned during Israel’s golden age. When God said he would give him whatever he wanted, he asked for an understanding mind (1 Kings 3:5-14). God was pleased with this request. He not only made Solomon wise but also gave him great riches and power and an era of peace. Solomon built the glorious Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6) and wrote most of the book of Proverbs.
2The purpose of these proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline, and to help them understand wise sayings. 3 Through these proverbs, people will receive instruction in discipline, good conduct, and doing what is right, just, and fair. 4 These proverbs will make the simpleminded clever. They will give knowledge and purpose to young people.
5 Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance 6 by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles.
7 Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline.
One of the most annoying types of people is a know-it-all, a person who has a dogmatic opinion about everything, is closed to anything new, resents discipline, and refuses to learn. Solomon calls this kind of person a fool. Don’t be a know-it-all. Instead, be open to the advice of others, especially those who know you well and can give valuable insight and counsel. Learn how to learn from others. Remember, only God knows it all.
In this age of information, knowledge is plentiful, but wisdom is scarce. Wisdom means far more than simply knowing a lot. It is a basic attitude that affects every aspect of life. The foundation of knowledge is to fear the Lord—to honor and respect God, to live in awe of his power, and to obey his Word. Faith in God should be the controlling principle for your understanding of the world, your attitudes, and your actions. Trust in God—he will make you truly wise.
A Father’s Exhortation: Acquire Wisdom
8 Listen, my child,£ to what your father teaches you. Don’t neglect your mother’s teaching.
Our actions speak louder than our words. This is especially true in the home. Children learn values, morals, and priorities by observing how their parents act and react every day. If parents exhibit a deep reverence for and dependence on God, the children will catch these attitudes. Let them see your reverence for God. Teach them right living by giving worship an important place in your family life and by reading the Bible together.
9What you learn from them will crown you with grace and clothe you with honor.
10 My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them!
Sin is enticing because it offers a quick route to prosperity and makes us feel like one of the crowd. But when we go along with others and refuse to listen to the truth, our own appetites become our masters, and we’ll do anything to satisfy them. Sin, even when attractive, is deadly. We must learn to make choices, not on the basis of flashy appeal or short-range pleasure, but in view of the long-range effects. Sometimes this means steering clear of people who want to entice us into activities that we know are wrong. We can’t be friendly with sin and expect our lives to remain unaffected.
11They may say, “Come and join us. Let’s hide and kill someone! Let’s ambush the innocent! 12Let’s swallow them alive as the grave swallows its victims. Though they are in the prime of life, they will go down into the pit of death. 13And the loot we’ll get! We’ll fill our houses with all kinds of things! 14Come on, throw in your lot with us; we’ll split our loot with you.”
15Don’t go along with them, my child! Stay far away from their paths. 16They rush to commit crimes. They hurry to commit murder. 17When a bird sees a trap being set, it stays away. 18But not these people! They set an ambush for themselves; they booby-trap their own lives! 19 Such is the fate of all who are greedy for gain. It ends up robbing them of life.
Being “greedy for gain” is one of Satan’s surest traps. It begins when he plants the suggestion that we can’t live without some possession or more money. Then that desire fans its own fire until it becomes an all-consuming obsession. Ask God for wisdom to recognize any greedy desire before it destroys you. God will help you overcome it.
Wisdom Shouts in the Streets
20 Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square.
The picture of Wisdom calling aloud in the streets is a personification—a literary device to make wisdom come alive for us. Wisdom is not a living being; it is the mind of God revealed. By reading about Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, we can see Wisdom in action. In order to understand how to become wise, we need to heed Wisdom calling and instructing us in the book of Proverbs (see the chart “Wisdom and Foolishness”). For New Testament calls to wisdom, see 2 Timothy 1:7 and James 1:5. Make sure you don’t reject God’s offer of wisdom to you.
21She calls out to the crowds along the main street, and to those in front of city hall. 22 “You simpletons!” she cries. “How long will you go on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools fight the facts?
In the book of Proverbs, a “simpleton” or a fool is not someone with a mental deficiency but someone with a character deficiency (such as rebellion, laziness, or anger). The fool is not stupid, but he or she is unable to tell right from wrong or good from bad.
23 Come here and listen to me! I’ll pour out the spirit of wisdom upon you and make you wise.
God is more than willing to pour out his heart and make known his thoughts to us. To receive his advice, we must be willing to listen, refusing to let pride stand in our way. Pride is thinking more highly of our own wisdom and desires than of God’s. If we think we know better than God or feel we have no need of God’s direction, we have fallen into foolish and disastrous pride.
24“I called you so often, but you didn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. 25You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. 26So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—27when calamity overcomes you like a storm, when you are engulfed by trouble, and when anguish and distress overwhelm you.
28“I will not answer when they cry for help. Even though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me. 29 For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the Lord. 30 They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. 31 That is why they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way. They must experience the full terror of the path they have chosen. 32For they are simpletons who turn away from me—to death. They are fools, and their own complacency will destroy them.
Proverbs 1:31, 32
Many proverbs point out that the “bitter fruit of living their own way” will be the consequence people will experience in this life. Faced with either choosing God’s wisdom or persisting in rebellious independence, many decide to go it alone. The problems such people create for themselves will destroy them. Don’t ignore God’s advice even if it is painful for the present. It will keep you from greater pain in the future.
33 But all who listen to me will live in peace and safety, unafraid of harm.”