Saturday, January 31, 2015

Reading the Psalms as a Prayerbook for God's Missional People (Part 1)

The book of Psalms is the prayerbook for God’s missional people. A missional reading of the Psalms focuses on the meaning of the prayers and hymns of the psalter for shaping the identity and ethos of God’s people. 

    The book of Psalms takes its reader on a journey. Psalms 1–2 serve as a hermeneutical introduction to the rest of the book.[1] Psalm 1 beings with the world “Happy” and Psalm 2 ends with “Happy.” Psalm 1 focuses on the individual; Psalm 2 focus on the nations. These two Psalms ground God’s missional people into two core truths. 

First, Psalm 1 calls for each person to allow the words of Scripture to permeate his or her being as the path to success. Success for the psalmist is the achievement of God’s will. Scripture shapes each individual in the ways of God and prepares him or her for the inevitable challenges that arise as one journeys through the world. Poignantly, Ps 1 views life in stark terms. Depending on one’s grounding foundation, an individual becomes either a fruitful tree (v. 3) or dried up chaff (v. 4). The person whose intake is a steady diet of Scripture connects himself or herself with the living waters flowing from the Temple itself (Ps 1:3). This persons knows God, but most importantly God knows and guides the life of this righteous person (v. 6).     

Second, these psalms ground security in God who has secured the future of God’s kingdom through God’s Messiah. This is the message of Psalm 2. Psalm 2 expands the individual focused view in Psalm 1 to include an all encompassing view of the world including the nations who do not yet know or worship the LORD. Psalm 2 recognizes the challenges of living as God’s people in the world. Specifically, Psalm 2 acknowledges that the powers of this world may resist and oppose the movement of God’s kingdom. The good news of God’s missional people is that the power of God is greater than all the gathered strength of the nations. In response to the antagonism of the nations, the LORD laughs and announces that he has appointed his Messiah King to serve as his human agent for administering God’s kingdom. By the time of the Psalter’s compilation, there was no longer an Israelite monarchy.[2] Thus Psalm 2 becomes a bold and audacious prayer and reminder of God’s promises to David and a confident statement of trust in God’s good future. Psalm 2 also reminds God’s people of God’s missional plans for the nations. Psalm 2:10–12 concludes with an invitation for the nations to find happiness and blessing in the service of God’s Messiah and mission.

Now let’s jump ahead to the climax of the Psalter in Psalms 146–150. These five psalms demonstrate that the psalter moves from security to an all creational praise of the LORD (150:6) for who God is and what God has done in achieving God’s missional aims. Now let’s jump ahead to the climax of the Psalter in Psalms 146–150. These five psalms demonstrate that the psalter moves from security to an all creational praise of the LORD for who God is and what God has done in achieving God’s missional aims. Psalm 146:5 includes the same “happy” language with which the Psalter began (1:1, 2:12). This is a crucial word for God’s people. God’s blessing is indeed on God’s people. This is the essence of happiness. It is not giddiness or some ephemeral joy. It is the state of blessedness that is the gift of a faithful God to his people through all of life. Remarkably Ps 146:5–9 details the character of God and how this influences human life. As the Psalms witness, God is powerfully present to save God’s people in all circumstances. The Creator God is more than a God of the status quo who props up the powerful and prosperous. The LORD is God who extends justice, mercy, love, and blessing to the oppressed and lowly. In fact, one of the key takeaways from the Psalter is that suffering is not a sign of shame and God-forsakenness. God’s missional people will suffer from time to time, but God is present to save and advance God’s missional purposes.

It is vital to understand the beginning and end of the Psalter in order to grasp the missional message of the rest of the psalms. Pss 1–2 and 146–150 frame the remaining 143 with a confidence in God. The future of God’s people and mission is secure so God’s people can serve faithfully on God’s mission in the present. When life’s challenges come (and they inevitably will), God’s people have a rich resource of trusting prayers to sustain them in advance of God’s future abundance. Notice that life according to the Psalter begins with a faithful moment by moment walk with God that is fueled by Scripture (Ps 1) and anchored in the hope of a future secured by the true King of the Nations (Ps 2).

Go to Part Two.

© 2015 Brian D Russell

For more information on reading Scripture missionally including the Psalms, see Brian's new book (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World.

[1] Brian D. Russell, “Psalms 1-2 as An Introduction to Reading the Psalms Missionally.Encounters Mission
[2] This assumes that the final form of the Psalter derives from the post-Exilic period.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Missional Transformations for Local Churches

I often have this conversation with students at Asbury Theological Seminary

"I am not planting a new church. God has called me to serve in an established congregation. How can I lead my church to transition from a maintenance mindset to a missional culture?"

This is a critical question for the existing congregations in the Western world. The West needs to be re-won for Jesus Christ, but the good news is that there are footholds and resources already in place from which to begin. But transforming established congregations is not an easy task--but it is a vital one as we seek to be faithful stewards of all that God has given.

The key is to create a new culture or ethos. We must establish a missional "go to" mentality in keeping with the Scriptural story rather than the traditional/maintenance "build it and they will come/wait and see." 

The following are key transitional points that push this along:
1) Reintroduce the Apostolic story of Acts.
At the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), God began to turn the world upside down by unleashing a small group of persons whom God filled with the Holy Spirit. The Church launched that day in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28ff) as a movement of “dreamers and visionaries” empowered by the promised Holy Spirit from God.

Don’t pass over the phrase “dreamers and visionaries” too quickly. In many struggling churches, the people of God have lost the capacity to dream of what God might do in and through the community. One of the first steps in transitioning to a missional model is to help followers of Jesus Christ to begin to dream again dreams shaped by the Scriptures. We might call this a "'What If?' Future". 

What is God calling us to do today? What would the future look like if we followed God's calling faithfully now?

2) Move from Surviving to Living.
Struggling churches are merely seeking to survive. When followers of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Spirit begin to dream again, they slowly begin to realize that survival isn’t a goal. Survival is a prison that keeps us from living. Survival simply means keeping the lights on. The goal of the Church of Jesus Christ is an abundant life in relationship to God by announcing and embodying God's kingdom in our communities. Living may sometimes means dying. Following Jesus Christ involves living as though you have already died (Matt 16:24). A vital relationship with Jesus moves us beyond fear of failure to following Jesus into the world on mission. This is the source of life. Apostolic dreams lead to apostolic action.

Regardless of our past, what new day is God calling us to live into now?

3) Move God’s people from consuming to becoming collaborative influencers for the Kingdom of God.
Missional churches are not about providing programs/resources to meet the needs of believers as as the purpose of the Church. Missional churches call people to convert to the Gospel. This involves a reorientation from a life focused on self to a life centered on following Jesus Christ. The people of God shift from consuming to becoming Kingdom-rooted entrepreneurs who seek to extend the influence and reign of God to the ends of the earth. Congregations shift from inviting people to have their needs met to unleashing people to change the world.

How is God calling our community to change the world? 

4) Shift from Attractional Methods to Interactive Engagement.
Too many churches wait for people to show up at the door. Missional churches are not opposed to advertising or raising awareness of the community of faith, but they do not sit round waiting for the World to show up. Instead, missional churches collaborate and envision ways to engage new Social networks. This is a key shift. The World no longer serves as a threat from which followers of Christ flee. Instead, the World becomes the venue for life and service in God’s mission. Missional churches exist for the world and in the world rather than as safe havens from the world. As Alex McManus says, "The Gospel comes to us on its way to someone else and someplace else." 

Pray: Who is my/our mission and allow God to put faces and networks in your mind.

5) Three Missional Ideas that Any Community Can Adopt

a. Host Recovery/Healing Groups. Offer support for families/individuals who are grieving. Host 12 Step Groups for persons seeking help for addictive behavior (drugs, alcohol, sex, co-dedependency). Present Divorce recovery workshops.  

b. Offer Debt Reduction/Financial Planning classes. Our world struggles with debt and money management. Missional churches can help by teaching clear principles for enjoying financial abundance. Dave Ramsey's materials are a great place to start.

c. Adopt local schools. Organize tutors and mentors for the schools in close proximity to your community of faith.

What would you add?

© 2015, 2017 Brian D. Russell (updated 7/26/17)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Keys for Preaching that Connects

Last week I posted on “MissionalPreaching“ in which I reflected on how preaching ought to be viewed in light of a missional reading of the Bible

Today I want to explore on a more basic level key elements in preaching that connects/impacts its hearers.

1) Prayer is essential.
Those who interpret Scripture publicly need to be in constant prayer with God for His leading and empowerment throughout the entire process of preparing a message. Prayer and preparation go together. Neither substitutes for the other.

2) God is working in your life.
The danger today is that preaching/teaching can be disconnected from life. I constantly pray that God would shape me into a more profound person. I need to reflect God’s character in my life. People need to see me living out the message that I proclaim. Robert Murray McCheyne, an 18th century Scottish pastor, wrote: My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness. The effective preacher lives in a moment by moment vital relationship with the Triune God. As you work through Scripture, pray/ask, "What kind of person do I need to become to live out this text faithfully?"

3) Find Your Own Rhythm and Style
There is no “right” way to organize or deliver a message. There are of course stereotypical methods: 3 point outline, alliteration of points, verse by verse style, etc. Sometimes too much focus is placed on mimicking a particular style or even dress. I can remember when I was a seminary student - one of the preaching profs believed that eyeglasses and facial hair were distracting!
The key is to understand your own strengths and weaknesses in speaking. Then you maximize strengths and minimize the weaknesses. I once asked Erwin McManus if there was a particular style of sermon that connected best with others. His answer was illuminating:

Brian, in a lot of ways, I think what it comes down to is one simple thing: Does the person listening view you as the kind of person that they would like to in some way become? If the answer is no, no new approach of preaching is going to help you. If the answer is yes, it’s amazing how much people will adapt to your style.

For myself, I began experimenting a few years ago with preaching while seated on a stool. This was the result of our community of faith being in its infancy stage so that we were all able to gather in the living rooms of residential homes for worship gatherings. I sensed at the time that it would have been overkill to “stand up and deliver the message.” But I also learned something surprising: I was more comfortable as a speaker than ever before. I had already been preaching regularly (almost weekly) for the previous 15 years. Sitting down allowed me to feel more comfortable and suddenly I gained a higher level of connection with my audience and the messages became much more intimate and focused. I now rarely preach from a standing position. But my point is this: you have to find your own rhythm and style.

4) Understand Your role as an Interpreter
Good communicators tend to fall into one of two categories: i) Strength in explaining the Biblical message or ii) Strength in connecting with a contemporary audience in terms of relevance. The best communicators of the Scriptures attain a level of sophistication in both areas. They live, breathe, and work in both the world of the Text and in the world in which They Live.

5) Share Yourself.
Don’t be afraid to use yourself as an illustration. This is a corollary to #2 above. This doesnt mean that you have to be the “hero” of every story. A good contemporary story drawn from your own life experience will beat the retread “preacher story” every time. But more profoundly it is vital that the congregation be able to see the Scriptures lived out in the lives of persons whom they know.

6) Bring Passion to the Delivery
Make sure that you proclaim the message as though you believe it. I am not talking about shouting or adding extra syllables to words. I am saying that the communicator after preparation and prayer ought to deliver the message so that its hearers sense the importance of the message. It should be obvious that you are the first convert to the message and that you are "all in."
What else would you add?

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Missional Preaching

How does a missional approach to Scripture influence preaching/teaching? Here are some of my thoughts:

Birthed in prayer from beginning to end.

Prayer is indispensable. Apart from the God’s work through the person of the Holy Spirit, preaching is in vain. It is never simply an exercise in human rhetoric and persuasive techniques. It the Holy Spirit who helps the missional preacher to shape her or his message. It is the Holy Spirit who unleashes the creative word from the preacher in the delivery of the message. It is the Holy Spirit who opens the ears and heart of those who receive the message. Pray, "Lord, astonish me anew with the richness of your word so that through my words others may likewise be astonished. Amen."

Rooted deeply in the biblical text.

Scripture is the fuel for missional preaching. The story of the Scriptures must be the content of the message. Scripture is the basis and the boundaries for the message. The Church and World deserve a message that permeates with the heartbeat of the biblical text.

Delivered from the borderlands.

The communicator in missional preaching stands between the Church and World. This is the point of missional engagement. The God of mission is always moving toward the world on mission.  It is only in the borderlands that the Word is truly unleashed for both insiders and outsiders. The Word calls from the borderland to the people of God to draw them toward the borderland in order to participate fully in God’s mission. The Word calls to the World to draw them toward the people of God in order to find their true humanity as part of God’s missional community as it seeks to embody and reflect God’s character to and for the World.

Text becomes an access point to the world that God desires for humanity to inhabit.

Missional preachers are not worried about being relevant as much as they are interested in allowing the biblical text to come alive in its portrayal of the world that God is calling all people to inhabit. In other words, it is not enough for preachers to apply the text to contemporary situations. Rather, the text itself must be permitted to describe a New World.  It’s story must become my story, your story, and our story.

Theologian Robert Jensen observes:

Scripture’s story is not part of some larger narrative; it is itself the larger narrative of which all other true narratives are parts.  Biblical exegesis is reading sides and prop lists and so forth for the drama that God and his universe are now living together.  Do not when reading Scripture try to figure out how what you are reading fits into some larger story; for there is no larger story.[1]

Call to conversion

Missional preaching centers around God’s call to insiders to realign themselves to the ways of God and God’s call to outsiders (seekers) to align themselves to the ways of God.  In other words, the outcome of missional preaching is conversion.  The Bible seeks to convert women and men to God’s mission.  This involves the triad of mission, holiness, and community.

I have heard different communicators describe this conversion in different ways.  Bill Hybels argues that every message ought to involve a call to think and/or act in ways consonant with the text.  Erwin Raphael McManus suggests that the biblical text calls us to shift what we care about. I would insist that the call of the text may even be deeper. It is a call to total devotion. God created humanity to serve as a missional community that reflected his character to/for/in Creation. In the post-Gen 3-11 reality in which we live, God calls his people to recapture the essence of their humanity in terms of mission, character (holiness), and community. Missional preaching thus calls people home to a life of total devotion. Here are key questions to help in delineating a text's call to conversion:

1) Mission:
Insider: How does this text envision God’s work in the world? Where do God’s people fit into this mission?  How do God’s people need to change to participate more effectively with God’s work?

Seeker: What sort of world is this text inviting me to spend my life working to create?  What would my life look like if I joined this mission?

2) Character:
Insider: What does this text tell us about the character or ethos of God’s people?  What are God’s people supposed to become?  How do God’s people need to change in order to more profoundly reflect the character of God?

Seeker: What sort of lifestyle/character is this text inviting me to embody?  How would my life be enriched by aligning my character with Jesus’?

3) Community:
Insider:  How does this text envision the corporate life of God’s people? How do God’s people need to change in order to embody the portrait of community assumed by this text?

Seeker:  How is this text inviting me to participate in a community that exists for something greater than my own wants and desires?

What do you think?

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

[1]Robert Jensen, “Scripture’s Authority in the Church” in The Art of Reading Scripture, 34.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Personal Affirmations about Scripture

I teach a course at Asbury Theological Seminary called "Scripture and Spiritual Formation." One of the writing assignments is for each of us to create a list of affirmations that we make about Scripture as we seek to engage it for personal transformation as we seek to live as God's missional community for the world. These are mine:

Scripture is endlessly interesting if we learn to ponder it deeply.

Scripture is endlessly interesting when we remain mindful enough to ponder it deeply and listen attentively.

When reading Scripture don't pray for mastery of the text, pray that the text masters you.

If we are to read the Scriptures for all that they seek to accomplish, we must physically locate ourselves in God’s mission.

Reading Scripture leads us to the true world that God desires for us to inhabit.

Reading Scripture requires that we approach the text as its servant rather than its master.

“Reading the Bible as Christian Scripture is a craft that pleads for the lifelong apprenticeship of its artisans." Joel B. Green, NT Prof

If we are to read the Scriptures faithfully, we must participate actively in God’s mission.

It’s not about fitting the Bible into our lives; it’s about fitting our lives into the biblical story.

Reading Scripture involves a willingness to be astonished anew by the mysteries of God’s kingdom.

Our reading of Scripture seeks to recreate the world of the text so that we can imagine what our lives might be and become if we entered its world.

The book of Psalms seeks to shape a people into a missional community through prayer and praise rooted in sacred memory.

Biblical interpretation involves a devout willingness by the interpreter to realign continuously with the message of Scripture.

Studying and reading Scripture is about conversion (ours and the world's).

Scripture is not primarily interested in answering our questions. Any question may be brought to the text, but ultimately the Bible is interested in confronting its readers with the reality of God’s claims on our lives. It intends to raise questions that we must answer.

Reading the Scriptures involves hearing the voice of God speaking through an ancient text calling and inviting the reader and hearer to align or realign his or her life with the purposes of God in the world.

Reading Scripture is not ultimately about bringing our questions to the text; it is about opening ourselves up to the questions that the text desires to ask of us.

Reading Scripture requires our recognition that our presuppositions and prior commitments must be open for nuance, correction, or change on the basis of the text.

Reading Scripture leads us to the true world that God desires for us to inhabit and work toward in our lives together.

Reading the Scripture is not a means of self-actualization; it is a means of personal conversion to God.

Reading Scripture shapes us for God’s global mission, inspires us to live as persons in community, and transforms us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reading Scripture shapes us for mission, calls us to community, and transforms us through the Spirit.

What affirmations do you make about Scripture?

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

Monday, January 19, 2015

Liberation, Sanctification, Mission: Reflections on the Meaning of the Exodus

In his song “Jokerman” from the album Infidels, Bob Dylan sings in part in the first verse, “Freedom just around the corner for you, but with truth so far off what good will it do?”  This is a poignant reminder that freedom is not something inherently good and desirable.  Dylan suggests that freedom apart from truth may not be the good that some make it out to be.    

In a popular reading of the book of Exodus, it is fashionable to emphasize Exodus as a story of liberation to freedom. Cinematic renditions of the Exodus tend to reinforce this understanding.  The animated file The Prince of Egypt ends with the crossing of the Red Sea.  Cecile B. DeMile’s epic The Ten Commandments does include the reception of the Ten Commandments at Sinai but its dominant focus is on the liberation of Israel as is the recent Exodus: Gods and Kings. Yet, when approaching the book of Exodus, the reader may be surprised that the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt encompasses only the first 15 chapters of its 40.  The dominant feature of Exodus in terms of space is not the story of liberation but God's encounter with God's people at Sinai in which the newly delivered nation of Israel learns what it means to live together as a holy community as the people of God for the sake of God's mission to the nations.

In other words, the book of Exodus is not a story of liberation, if one means by liberation a narrative of deliverance to autonomous freedom. Israel is not free at any point in the book of Exodus. In fact, there is no word for freedom in the Old Testament. The book of Exodus then is actually a book about mission and sanctification. God delivers his covenant people from an illegitimate ruler, Pharaoh, who sought to prevent Israel from fulfilling the purposes for which God had called Israel’s ancestors (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to accomplish – namely serving as a missional community for the rest of creation by being the agents through whom God would bless the world. God does liberate Israel from bondage, but it is a purposeful deliverance in which Israel is not granted autonomous freedom (or even democracy) but is unleashed into the world in order to fulfill God’s creation wide salvific purposes. The narrative of Exodus then is about unleashing God’s people from bondage and shaping them into a holy community, which will embody the redemption that God seeks to work. The climax of the book of Exodus is God’s glory coming to dwell in the midst of his people. Israel becomes a nation that mediates the grace and holiness of God as it embodies its Sinai calling of living as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod 19:6).

The focus of Exodus then is on shaping an ethos in which the liberated do not become the oppressors. Salvation for God's people is thus not merely about the elimination of sin or deliverance from some form of oppression. Rather Exodus is truly about a conversion to a mission – namely a participation in God’s salvific purposes for Creation. God’s people serve as a missional community that reflects God’s character to/for/in the nations.

This model of liberation for mission is the Biblical model of salvation and needs to inform our practice as followers of Jesus today.

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Some Marks of Missional Communities

Missional communities trust fully in the life, death, and resurrection as their foundation for faith.

Missional communities seek to embody the values and ethos of God’s kingdom for the sake of the world.

Missional communities love people and desire God's best for every human person.

Missional communities desire to steward the earth and honor God's original mission of creation care.

Missional communities are communities of transformation. God is in the business of transforming lives and igniting persons to live the lives of God’s dreams.

Missional communities read the Scriptures as a road map for living as God’s missional people who reflect God’s character to/for/in the world.

Missional communities stop worrying about being corrupted by the world and instead dream about ways to influence the world.

Missional communities focus on the needs of the world rather than on the likes/dislikes of insiders.

Missional communities speak human and incarnationally rather than communicating with shibboleths and other insider jargon.

Missional communities unleash all of God’s people to deploy their gifts, talents, and passions for God mission.

Missional communities stop worrying about the transitions in their neighborhoods and instead give thanks for all of the new people that God is sending their way.

Missional communities are more concerned with reaching the current culture than with the risks involved with interacting directly with contemporary culture.

Missional communities are led by the Spirit to create culture rather than to stagnate in some past (real or imagined) or to capitulate to the world’s culture.

Missional communities are less safe havens from the world and more staging areas for launching world changing initiatives.

Missional communities are not defensive with the wider culture “attacks” or challenges to the faith. Rather they use these opportunities as moments of traction to demonstrate reality and truthfulness of the Gospel.

© 2015 Brian D. Russell

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Introducing my latest publication: Invitation

I recently wrote Invitation. It is a ten-week Bible study published by Seedbed.  Here are answers to some questions that I've received about the book and the wider project/series to which it belongs.

What is Invitation?
Invitation is part of Seedbed’s OneBook vision for Bible study. Invitation serves this wider vision by introducing the broad contours of the Biblical message. I follow this basic outline of understanding the Biblical story: Creation – Fall – Israel – Jesus  – Church – New Creation. Through ten chapters divided into five daily readings, I cover the core content of the Bible with an emphasis on God’s mission and the role of God’s people in it by living as a holy missional community for the sake of the world. The goal of the Invitation is not merely information; the goal is the transformation of each reader as he or she encounters the good news of Scripture and aligns or realigns with its message.

Invitation is a book or ebook (click here for sample), but a DVD is also available that includes ten 30 minute segments of my teaching that expands on the book content. If you are interested in a sample video, you can watch Session 1 here. Invitation is perfect for use in small or large group study sessions and includes a study guide to enhance the readers discussion of the Bible.

What were your goals for writing Invitation?

I wrote Invitation to promote a re-engagement with Scripture and its transforming good news. The inspiration for Invitation comes from two sources. First, I love the Bible. It has shaped my life and its message continues to astonish me anew every day. I’ve spent the last thirty years of my life listening to the Scriptures and aligning my life with it. Second, I’ve witnessed in my teaching and preaching the impact and power of Scripture in the lives of the women and men whom I’ve taught.  I’ve watched the lights come on for countless numbers of people when they realized the richness of Scripture and its power to transform their lives.

For whom is Invitation written?
I wrote Invitation for people interested in the Bible but with little or no background in its study. I have not watered down any part of the Scripture, but I’ve done my best to package it in language that is accessible and understandable to anyone whether they are already Christ followers or simply seeking to learn about the Bible. I try to model using language that connects the Bible with the world.

What about longtime Christians? Will Invitation be helpful for them?
Absolutely! I’ve taught the material in various contexts over the past few years. I’ve offered it in Wesley Foundations to young college students as well as for local congregations and at Bible Camps for seasoned believers. The material has proven meaningful and impactful wherever I’ve offered it. The Bible is like the ocean. You can put your toes in it or go as deep as the Mariana trench in the Pacific. Invitation will take you deeper regardless of your present level. Plus for seasoned Christians, they will learn to translate the message of the Scripture into language that will resonate with 21st century people. I can imagine not-yet believers coming to faith through studying the Bible with Invitation.

Can Invitation be used for individual study or is it only a group resource?
The Invitation study (Book and DVD) was developed for use in groups, but group study is not required. But let me say this: One of the key themes of Scripture is community. So I do suggest reading it with at least one other person, but this is not a necessity.

You can order your copies of Invitation directly from Seedbed. Discounts are available if ordering multiple copies.

Let me know if you have questions.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Privilege, Power, and the Mission of God

Take some time to read Genesis 21:1–21 and Psalm 113. Here’s an excerpt:

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”—Genesis 21:1–7

Core Truth: The advance of God’s mission does not depend on traditional human power structures or practices.

God consistently, relentlessly, and faithfully keeps his promises to his people in Genesis 12–50. These chapters use the themes of childlessness and the reversal of the firstborn’s privilege to teach us key truths about God and God’s mission.

Read the rest on