28 February 2014

Book Review: "Do Life Different" Devotional by Jill Hart

This is a little different for me, but I do book reviews on Radiant Lit and on Fiction Addict and was invited to be part of a book review blog tour. 

Do Life Different by Jill Hart
Reviewed by Kaci Hill
Radiant Lit Blog Tours
Genre: Devotional
Publisher: Choose Now Publishing
Pub Date: February 2, 2014

Synopsis from Amazon.com:  Work-at-home moms bear a unique set of burdens as they attempt to blend job and family commitments under one roof. Maintaining professionalism while wiping noses and convincing outsiders that flexibility isn’t all it’s cracked up to be can put even the most organized to the test. Amid all the other duties of life, the work-at-home mom often discovers that feeding her soul is the biggest challenge of them all. Work-at-home mom: take a deep breath and Do Life Different as you allow these devotions for work-at-home moms to fill the vacuum of your needy heart in the chaos of your busy world.

I don't quite fit the paradigm for this book, being neither a mom nor a wife, nor someone who has, in the past, reviewed non-fiction. I'm also terrible about finishing short daily devotionals, much less answering questions at the end. However,  I do work at home, so I thought to offer my own perspective for those of us who might be in similar but not identical circumstances.

My strategy was to read about five entries a day before work and during lulls.  Before reading, I worried a little that this devotional would be too specifically-directed at moms and wives, but this proved a groundless concern.  Rather, Ms. Hart offered a Scripture passage, theme, anecdote, word of encouragement, and insightful questions for fifty-two days. Only a few days in, I was already thinking I'd like to read this devotional again, only much slower. I found this devotional encouraging and insightful and look forward to a re-read.

Do Life Different is available to purchase from Amazon.com.

Note: I received this book as part of the Do Life Different blog tour from Radiant Lit. I received no compensation for this review and only received a copy of the book for review purposes.  Review copy provided by the publisher.

06 October 2013

Church Kid's Log: Bible Study & Encouragement

Sorry it's been forever. Life caught up, or I didn't feel I had anything to post, or something. I'm writing now because I've had several people ask me about Bible study techniques, and I figured I'd share a few. 

I do not have a "set" means of studying Scripture, or of interacting with the Spirit in general.  It's neither perfect nor exhaustive, but it is what it is. So, if anyone's just in want of some ideas:

Bible Study
I used to try to read straight through in canon order. Sometimes, I just randomly flip and read a book. Sometimes, I pick a short one and read it in one setting (do not try this with something like Isaiah unless you have all day).  But, after awhile, you can start feeling like you're running in circles. So, here's a few options:
  • Read by author.
  • Read in Hebrew Scripture order.
  • Read chronologically. Several Bibles I suggest are: Thomas Nelson's Chronological Study Bible (the notes are also available separate now), The Daily Chronological Bible, and the One Year Bible.  
  • Read by genre. (For those new to this, the books are arranged mostly by subject: Law (Gen-Deut), History (Judges-Esther, Acts), Wisdom (Job-Song of Solomon), the Major Prophets (the long prophetic books), the Minor Prophets (the short ones), The Gospels, the Epistles, and Revelation. )
  • Pick one book you're unfamiliar with and read it, repeatedly, until you're familiar with it.
  • Pick a theme or topic of Scripture and study every passage related to it. I suggest a little caution because you cannot simply look at the one verse. Context is important.
  • Cross-reference translations. Bible Gateway and YouVersion are great sources for this. 
  • I know a pastor who reads the same four chapters for a month at a time and goes straight through that way (for the NT; his OT method may differ). I have not tried it because I'm still going by author. But it's another option. 
  • Pick one of the many reading plans out there and stick to it. 
As you're reading, make notes and jot down any cross-references that come to mind. It's kind of amazing what turns up when you least expect it.  My personal goal is three chapters a day. If they're short, I might get four in. If they're long, I might only get one. If time constrains me, I might not make my three. I'm not bound to it, but I like to have it handy. For me, if I'm to really focus on something, it has to be long enough to force me to think about it, otherwise I'm done and moved on without really taking it in.  Also, if there are a lot of cross-references and I rabbit-trail, I might only get three or four verses.  That happens a lot in places where the epistle-writers are quoting prophets like madmen. 

Aside on the Old Testament: Exodus 20-Deuteronomy has a lot of legalese with some harrowing narrative in between. A few suggestions:
  • Write down anything that smites of foreshadowing. It probably is.
  • Flip ahead a little and decide how to break up the sections in ways that won't bog you down too much. Remember, there's narrative interspersed and if you break it down right you won't be in too many challenging chapters for too long. It's a little easier to break this up if you're using a chronological Bible.  The Daily Chronological condenses the Law chapters together so that there's no repetition, if you're really overwhelmed. I find that helpful.
  • Do a little research on the Jewish feasts. There's plenty of internet material by Jews and Christians alike; it won't take long. 
  • Remember that Jesus and the scribes agreed that "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" (Deuteronomy 6) and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18) sum up the entire law. Take your time and note down how the moral and legal sections expand on "the royal law." 
  • Cross-reference places in the New Testament where either/or Jesus and the apostles expanded on what fasts, vows, Sabbath, and the Law in general were for. Yes, this takes some time. 
  • Consider and take notes on *why* God commanded things. 
  • Regarding the lists of names and numbers: Consider the significance of what's going on, with regards to numbers (which tribe was the biggest; look at the extravagance of their gifts to the tabernacle; look at the amount of detail God went into); and consider the importance of the people in the lists (mark any names you recognize and where they're from; an example would be Lot's children).  I don't do that every time, but it does provide some interesting results. 

Extra-Biblical Resources
I lovingly refer to any Bible study book, guide, or workbook that isn't the actual text of Scripture as spiritual junk food. It's very easy to rely on these instead of studying Scripture themselves, but they can often expand on something or point out something you missed. They are supplemental. 

A few ideas: 
  • Use a dictionary. Even if it's just a Merriam-Webster, you'll suddenly see a more full meaning behind a word like "hallowed" or "glorify." 
  • Look up the era people lived in, the culture they lived in, and the significance of  certain people groups. These people lived in a specific time and place. Look up Assyria and Babylon, for instance. Read up on Xerxes and realize who Esther was married to.

I had a friend teach that you should do your Bible reading and any study or workbook you're going through separately. That isn't always possible, I don't think, but I value the wisdom in its practice.    If I'm splitting it up, it's usually because I'm doing my own thing plus a group study. As I said, I have no strict way of doing things. Different strategies I've incorporated are:
  • Doing a  workbook study that follows one book of the Bible 
  • Doing a topical
  • Reading a Christian book (say, Francis Chan or something) chapter, listening to worship music, or catching up on a teaching podcast before beginning my Bible reading
  • journaling
  • going on a walk or sitting/standing/lying down, possibly listening to an audio Bible or music, for prayer or meditation
  • praying in the dark
  • reading Scripture aloud in a reader's theater fashion
  • dancing (badly) to music
  • singing
  • sitting in silence
  • drawing (badly)
  • reading Psalms or several passages (keep a go-to list) that reflect where I feel at the moment until my mind focuses enough to pray
  • Paraphrase a section of Scripture
  • Write a passage as if you were praying it (if you're not sure, start with something easy like a place where Paul writes his prayer or Jesus prays for the disciples); an example might be rewriting the section of the Sermon on the Mount about anxiety if you're feeling anxious

The Encouragement Factor
I'm adding this because my friend and I did a Bible study together last year and one question was "Name three ways you can give a hurting person to stay connected to God."   I made a list of things I'd either myself done or suggested to someone who was discouraged to do. They were:
  • Pray uninhibited. Seriously. God created the cosmos with a single thought and sustains the world with his own power. He can handle the tantrums and irreverent thoughts. And the plus side of being friends with the All-sovereign, All-knowing is that he both already knows and can actually do something about it.
  • Keep a list of encouraging passages. Have that list of five to ten sections of Scripture that never fail to stir your soul and keep them handy.  
  • Make a playlist of songs that reflect your emotional state. Either sing with it or sit quietly and take them to heart, and let those become your prayer.
  • Use your form of art or personal outlet to convey what's going on inside your heart. Get it out. Get it all out and throw it at the throne of grace.
  • Read and listen to Scripture aloud. The internet has left no excuse. 
  • Run away and pray. Get alone and turn your hiding place into the throne room.
  • Talk to someone you trust and who will remind you of the truth. 
Anyway, like I said, it's neither exhaustive nor formulaic.  Not trying to dictate, just figured there might be someone else out there in need of advice.  My parting rule of thumb: 
  1. Don't be afraid of any part of Scripture. Most people get stuck in Leviticus; I get stuck in the Wisdom literature because it's poetry.  If there's a place you struggle with, then don't be afraid to grab a study guide or have a friend go through it with you. But don't skip it because you're afraid of it, and don't let anyone scare you.
  2. Don't feel bound to any one means of doing something, nor feel like you "must" do your workbook even though you really feel pressed to read John 17, or worry because your workbook took you to Isaiah 64 and you wound up, somehow, in II Samuel.  Believe me, the enemy is not telling you to read your Bible. Sometimes the Spirit alters the curriculum. 
  3. Strategize. Figure out how much time you have when, and work with what you've got. During my teenage years I read my Bible at night before bed. Period.  In college, that changed to "whenever I have a nice block of time to do it." After college, it's mostly mornings. For awhile, I had broken down three times a day for different focuses and usually got to two of them (mostly, workbook in the morning, some short devotional reading midday, and Bible reading either after school or at night before bed. Lately I'm a morning girl. Set a timer if you have time constrictions.
  4. Remember to ask the Spirit to unveil Scripture for you. This tends to be the obvious and I'm not always the best at remembering to do this one first myself, but it's the most important. He is our teacher. 

13 May 2012

Writecraft: Frankenstein's Creature

A little poem about the frustrated writer cycle:

The sun sped high, in the sky
and rained golden down on me--
I basked within her depths
and knew the thrill of glee.

Dawn brought epiphany
and showed me new ways--
My fingers are too slow,
no matter how quickly do I go.

The Day flew past me,
quickening my heart--
and I, desperate for more,
dabbled in the rain
refeshing soul and mind.

Hunger. Life. Beauty.  Splendor.
All these I did impart--
I bled my soul on the page
and shaped me a monster lovely.

Warmly orange came the rays
and deep purple shone so bold
on my little Creature,
so lovely, so gold.

Went to dinner, I did,
on a full belly I gathered bits
and knit together blood and bone,
sinew and tissue,
Hair and nail.

I loved it, then, and for dessert feasted I
on the thrill that I've laid hands
on life-giving and soul-making.

Reveled, did I, as sundown approached,
and my Creature came to life,
better than I could have known.
I watched him,let him wander, out into the fields,
till down the road he disappeared
and my heart then grew hollow.

The night took hold.

The bell tolls, and moonrise comes--
Look at this creature I've made!
He rises fully fashioned,
crying in the night;
he's unwoven and misshapen
due to my mis-craft.

Oh Lord my God, I am cold.
The knife is in his rotten hand.

He spots me, and drives me toward,
and I wonder, at this little thing I've  made--
Will this monster I've created
chase me to my doom?

By midnight I loathe him;
by one I've dug a grave;
two, three, and four, the great bell tolls
and all the while he's chasing me;
I'm running, no escape--

My Lord and God what is this thing
that my two hands have made?

The monster roars,
crushing earth beneath his feet
as we run along--
Keep me one step ahead,
and never let me behind
for this monster will slay me
with the two hands for him I made.

His great paw snatched my throat
and he drags me to the ground--
what happened next I can't say
but I turned on my creature
and my creature I laid hold.

He did not move,
but neither could I.
We lay fallen in the tomb
fashioned for my creation.

A thick pink dawn arrives--
neither do we move.

By birdsong I wonder
who will find this thing I've buried.
The six am sounds;
'nevermore!" I cry;
Morning light streams again
and breath re-entered my lungs.
Surely I live, somehow, some way--
We rise, staggering, coughing, from the floor.

We rise, my creature and I--
my creature that I've made, this beautiful work
of my two hands offers me his own.
Grasping hands, we do crawl up,
Hand in hand we rise again,
out of the grave I meant for him,
the maw that took us both.

The sun glows high, in the sky
and rains golden down on me--
I bask within her depths
and know the thrill of glee.

22 April 2012

Poetry: Himalayan Theme Song

A little inspiration born from my trip through an atlas on the Himalayas.

I glory in your magnitude
and bask in your otherness;
let all the world be silent
while I listen to your voice. 

Calm, my soul, and yield to him
who built the mount called Everest
and carved the deepest gorge.

Arise, golden sun,
and bow low, silver moon,
for though the stars come out in droves
they kneel only before the One.

I raced toward the holy mountain;
I fled for days unending,
to the mountain whereupon the One
set his feet to the Eastern Gate.

There I fall, too weak to stand,
only able to bring forehead to ground;
and only then did I feel your hand--
there you gave me food and rest.

The magnificent one raised me up,
and told me not to fear;
he who set his face as stone to Jerusalem's gate
now does speak to me--and dwell within my soul.

Awake, O heavens; and rush forth, O seas;
he who bars the ocean gates
has plunged within the depths
and granted peace to beasts within.

Arise, O earth; take note, all-seeing sky,
turn red with sorrow and indigo with grief;
let the green of bitterness open wide
and pour out into the sea;
mighty ocean, devour all that rages against the king.

You are uncannily sovereign, and gloriously humble;
you are tenderly justice, and your mercy is severe;
your righteousness burns as devouring flames
and steadfast are you in all your ways.

Be still, my soul, though he who sees is here;
stay calm; don't tremble; don't rush out like a child;
Nevermind, like a child I bound, I leap across the heights
and drink deeply of the depths made for me.

09 February 2012

What's a Church Brat?

First Steps
Admittedly, there's part of me that enjoys the mystery of leaving this question unanswered.  I can guess the type of church brat, generally speaking, based on the responses to my ridiculous jokes, be they cynical or amiable. But I'm really tormenting some people, and others clearly have read things into my little pet-name that I never intended. So, in the interest of clarity, I'm diving in, I'm going deep... Oh, sorry.

A church brat is anyone who grew up in church or who's been  a believer long enough to acclimate. I view Christianity - worldwide, true blue Christianity - as one really, really big family that goes back to the Garden. (For the record, the OT saints were every bit as saved by grace through faith as the NT...and, in my mind, possibly more so.)  This means that I think of every one who has ever looked forward to God's salvation or looked back at the Cross as my brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and children. 

That said, I offer two caveats every time I post an Observations of a Church brat note:

First, if you're new to the family: Have no fear. Be patient during the acclimation phase. Far too soon you'll understand things you need to and things you wish you'd left alone. Don't ask me how long that is, I can't tell you. There's not a time requirement. If you understand *any* of the jokes or quirks, you are a church brat. If you don't, never fear. Just hang on tight. Okay, be afraid of some of us. 0=)  But you'll get it, eventually - once you've joined the family dinner table a few times. And, I hate to break it to you, but your kids, now that you're here, will be church brats from birth. You have been adopted by the Most High into the biggest, oldest family on this earth. And you can't take in thousands of years of family history overnight. 

Also, as a rule, my general note to newbies is to steer clear of anything that isn't a core family value for a bit. Stick to things like who God is, who man is, salvation, the Lord's Supper/Communion/Eucharist/insert witty term here, and baptism. Work on acclimating to your new life - complete with a new family and a new God.  Don't let anyone confuse or overwhelm you with peripheral arguments. Doctrine may well be important, but I'd rather you go slow and take time to get comfortable in this new skin. Don't worry about Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion or the rather forceful fights between Luther and Erasmus or why Church A isn't talking to Church B. I'd really rather you dive into the Word and fix your eyes on our great and glorious author and perfecter of our faith. 

Second, I realize growing up in church doesn't immediately make you a Christian. That just means we have family friends who understand the jokes. Or something. Don't overthink it. If you are a church brat who, for whatever reason, isn't part of the family, well, you're still welcome at the table. House rules apply. And even if you're just visiting, you're still welcome and house rules still apply. But here's the thing: trying to get in on the church brat jokes or understand why eight denominations don't get along is not that different from trying to understand inside family jokes or complicated family history and social dynamics. It's very difficult for those who do understand to explain, assuming they can even articulate it. You're more than welcome, but please understand that when it comes to idiosyncrasies in church you're more often than not walking in on a family discussion at best and fight at worst. The best possible thing for a guest to do when confronted with two members of the same family fighting with each other is to let it be. Observations of a Church Brat is written primarily with Christians in mind. That's not to be rude; it's just a family discussion, is all.

The Road Thrice Traveled
I never set out to be the harbinger of church brattiness, but here I am.  I suppose the entire thing started back in my Dekker moderating days, back when I was fighting a bout of frustration of the utterly ridiculous positions Christendom finds itself in. And, no, I'm not talking about theology, or flaws, or supposed runs of hypocrisy - I'm talking about real things that we do and think that are normal to us until someone points out how funny it is. 

Really, it started with Pick out the Sanctuary Carpet & Other Grievances, I think. That began my road of doom, where in a rare moment of satire I used an imaginary fight over carpet color to demonstrate how arbitrary most of our "in-house" arguments can be.  Not too long after that, I chose to begin the Observations of a Church Brat series primarily to understand my own faith. I had a lot of questions. I needed to nail down my own theology.  So I started talking: legalism & liberalism; hypocrisy & sin; prayer; devotion;  orthodoxy, unorthodoxy, and heresy. From there, it just spiraled. I discovered various kinds of church brats - labels which often overlap: renegades, rebels, & Pharisees; artsy types; and so on. Quirks, oddities, and tomfooleries of all kinds. From that point on, it's become almost a game of who can find the best church brat moment or symbol.

But the important part that I cannot stress emphatically enough is that I am not operating in a spirit of cynicism, all jaded, dechurched, and disillusioned. I am not taking potshots, nor am I demeaning Christians as a whole. That would be inaccurate, arrogant, and out of place.  To cut down my own family is to go against every teaching of Jesus and the Apostles (I am so glad that never became a band name).  To see flaws in the American Arm of Christendom and impose them globally and across time is to insult the saints who walked a bloody road ahead of me - those who now join a throng of onlookers watching us -  and those still alive who even now may well be taking their lives in their hands.  Even my church brat jokes have a limited use because they are primarily from the perspective of an American Protestant Church Brat living in the buckle of the Bible Belt. So *any* church brat observation I make is intended in a spirit of love,  camaraderie, and brotherhood. 

And if you suddenly broke out into song or a verse popped in your head just now...you are so unequivocally a church brat. 0=)

31 January 2012

Meditations: Traitor's Confession

The world, it shifts like sinking sand,
but you are the rock by which we stand.
You know our frailties and our sin
yet you still let us in.
Your arms they are open, oh so wide,
You're ever calling us to your side, even when our violations deep
threaten to end in burning heap.

And at your voice, I see what I've done,
you say my name - and there, you've won -
I collapse in bed with sorrow's tears;
We know this should take my years,
and my life should strip away in irons and decay.

But your heart is like a lion
wishing me to Zion -
If only I'd confessed,
my soul would be at rest.
But far worse than prison bars
are the everlasting scars
             there on your heart and hands.
Your eyes sear me with firebrands
because you cannot be bought;
and I know what ills I've wrought
seeking my own destiny, making you betrayed.
If only near you I had stayed
our hearts would've remained
            and the wounded would live again.

You are ever gracious, ever quick to save;
Your kindness I've mistreated for my own rave.
Your forgiveness overwhelms me;
I'm drowning in the sea
         of your tempestuous grace.
I cannot buy you, nor your heart manipulate -
Must I do nothing, while consigned to such a state? -
Your favor I yearn for;
Your heartbreak is more
           than I have words to say.
You said to wait for healing, so while I wait for day,
Under your wing , O lord of fate, I'll retreat
until the edges of broken skin do meet.

13 January 2012

Ancestry: The Wrath of Christmas

God himself foretold his coming. Prophets, kings, priests, and peasants echoed history's refrain. And as Father Time marched on, and angelic hosts mounted civil war over the souls of men, and my family - the family of Adam and Eve - fell into the tragic, perverse cycle of rebellion and desperation, transgression and death, as the layers of dried blood coated the earth until all soil screamed crimson for pardon, our old friend and founder worked, ever present, ever persistent, steadily onward preparing a new thing. 

We had glimmerings, foreshadowings, and whispers of what might happen. Sometimes he seemed more the conquering king, others the suffering servant. He screamed in agony and came in glory; he found himself between criminals and laid to sleep in a rich man's tomb; he was David's son, Jesse's root; he put Moses to shame and kings to cowering; he brought the violent to judgment and let loose the captives. His victory parade came with rescued captives, their captors in shackles, trailing behind. And he was bruised. He was broken. He was stripped and humiliated. He was glorious and matchless; he was the descendant of David and he was God in flesh.

I heard it said, once, that his first coming was an invasion of stealth, but I fear little stealth was involved. The enemy seemed well aware of his coming. The invasion began quietly enough, but when some angels lose their tempers and strike men mute, then go on to speak tenderly, then cannot contain themselves any longer and burst into song that lights up the sky and shakes men to their knees, there's very little silent about this night. 

The truth is, the enemy was moving, too. 

This is a tale of anger. 

This is a tale of rage. 

This is was our friend's D-Day.

But that's our friend for you: He laid out his battle plans for all to see, but we were too stupid to understand. Our eyes and ears were closed, our hearts were made of stone. He came anyway, and we had no comprehension. 

For thousands of years, he had watched us sin. We did not respond to discipline, we did not heed the servants he sent. Our hearts proved fickle, our souls that much worse. The blood  on hour hands could not be washed away by the blood of animals; the righteous live by faith, and we were faithless. 

He could have let us die. Maybe he should have. But we mistook his silence for carelessness and his patience for for fickleness. 

For wrath, for mercy, for justice and judgment, for reconciliation and peace, for restoration and freedom, for his glory and our lives, for the righting of all things, he came.  His weapons of choice were flesh and blood and bone, a body of clay and the Spirit of God.  His transport was a teenager on her donkey, his escort a man with worn hands and neither power or authority of our own. 

The King of Kings and God of Gods, the Master, Creator, and Sustainer of the Universe remembered his ancient vow to a shame-filled couple. He remembered the serpent's slander and the couple's pride; he remembered our rebellion and perverse ways; he recalled our treason; he recalled the triumph of Death and the slave-master named Sin; he remembered all our pagan ways and our fickle, fickle hearts and our calloused, worthless designs. 

The nations rage; the peoples plot a vain thing;
my family dwells in darkness; we hiss and curse the light. 
The blood of innocents cries out; the oppressed scream for relief;
the servants of our friend watch on
as the cup of wrath passes into our hands.

The prince of the power of the air, that ancient foe, heard the swift sound of wind and triumphant angel-song and raised his head, ever so slightly, to discern the sound.

"He will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

We'd slain the prophets and stoned those sent to use. He'd tried to gather us to pick us up and comfort us, but we wouldn't come. We would not come to him, so he came to us. 

He came with rage against Sheol's maw, rage against the chains of sin, and violence against the killing snake who incited an infanticide once he'd realized who had entered his domain.  We didn't recognize him, but the enemy certainly did.  Perhaps he thought the march to Bethlehem would kill the child while within the womb. Certainly it wasn't by chance that the governor's mind filled with fear and hate; certainly twas no coincidence that that same governor died mysteriously after having failed. 

That was the way of it: Heaven invaded Earth, and Earth retaliated. Our old friend became one of us, and our enemy tried to kill him, even from the womb. While angels sharpened blades of favor, demons sharpened blades of war; while a teenager carried life, Death rode on the back of a jealous ruler, this death he came to slay.  The Cross was his killing stroke, on ground of his own choosing, but the Cradle proved the landing of our dread champion on enemy soil. And the invading army's battle cry was "Glory, glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace toward men, with whom God has found favor!" 

Our old friend and lord, our everlasting king, stepped onto human soil, the air a-chill and musty, dense with animal smell. And his voice sounded over the rest - behind it all the memories of thousands of years of injustice and oppression, rebellion and tyranny - it rang louder throughout the night, at last settling in to drink.

The enemy heard and trembled, for the great lord put his hand upon the ax and turned toward the tree.

20 December 2011

Ancestry: God became a Man

[Note: Yes, this is entirely quotations from Scripture. I have arranged them in a manner I hope is sensible. ]

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
(Hebrews 1:1-4)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by faith the elders received a good report.Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11.1-3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. **

The earth was void and without form, and darkness hovered over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.***

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. ***

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.**

[T]hen the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
     The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die...”     
      So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
(Genesis 2)

[E]ven though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
(Romans 1.21&22)

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
(Genesis 3:8-13 ESV)

     To the woman [the LORD] said,
     “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
          in pain you shall bring forth children.
     Your desire shall be for your husband,
          and he shall rule over you.”

     And to Adam he said,
     “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
          and have eaten of the tree
     of which I commanded you,
          ‘You shall not eat of it,’
     cursed is the ground because of you;
          in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
     thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
          and you shall eat the plants of the field.
     By the sweat of your face
          you shall eat bread,
     till you return to the ground,
          for out of it you were taken;
     for you are dust,
          and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3.16-19)

The LORD God said to the serpent,
     “Because you have done this,
          cursed are you above all livestock
          and above all beasts of the field;
     on your belly you shall go,
          and dust you shall eat
          all the days of your life.
     I will put enmity between you and the woman,
          and between your offspring and her offspring;
     he shall bruise your head,
          and you shall bruise his heel.”

(Genesis 3:14&15)

 Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1.21&22)

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (I Peter 1)

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city....And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of  [judges, kings, heroes,] and the prophets--...of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
     And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11.13-16, 32, 38-40)

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  **

Now while [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth;  for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight--" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.**

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.**

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. **

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1)

"He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."  (Luke 2)

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world didn't know him. He came to his own, and his own people didn't receive him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.**

**John 1
***Genesis 1