Cliff’s Notes: A Framework for Understanding

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If you’re reading this on the web and would like a copy of our study calendar and schedule, please email Tracie at This week we’re completing Lesson 2, “Once Upon a Time” for our meeting next week. The lessons don’t actually take that long, but if you’re finding it difficult to find that “chunk” of time you’re looking for, I encourage you to start into your study by reading pages 35 and 36. Then, when you get your next few minutes in the day, read through Genesis 1, or Genesis 1 & 2. Once you’ve done that, you’re prepared to answer the questions for Day 1, and can jot those answers two or three at a time as you have a few minutes to do so.

I know “finding time” (isn’t that a curious expression?) to study is challenging when your calling in life includes work responsibilities and/or making yourself available to provide love and care for others through scheduled activities, interruptions and unexpected hiccups in the day’s routine, but I promise that a little bit of strategizing is worth the effort. If you’re like me, and your vision of a perfect “quiet time” includes actual quiet, calm, and enough time to get through the entire lesson, you might rarely have a “perfect quiet time!” But I hope you will join me in endeavoring to let go of perfect and work toward pursuit. Be encouraged: you’ve already started by committing to this study!

Most of us are unlikely to go without eating for days because we simply can’t find time to grab a bite. Whatever is going on in our lives, we’re probably managing to get calories into our bodies somehow, and I’m quite certain we’re not relying on the ones we consumed a few months ago to pull us through and meet our nutritional needs. Yet how often do we view Bible study that way? Jesus calls himself the bread of life; his word is spiritual food for us! If you and I are trying to make do on last month’s time in God’s word, it’s quite likely we’re spiritually malnourished. Jesus won’t love us more because we’re working to prioritize time in his word, but I am confident that we will come to love him more if we do! So I am grateful that we are leaning into pursuit together. I trust we’ll all be better off for it.
Yesterday in our time together we covered Lesson 1, “Cliff’s Notes.” If you’re not familiar with them, Cliff’s Notes are a series of pamphlets that summarize and provide basic analysis of common works of literature. Though some among us might confess to making use of Cliff’s Notes instead of reading the book (don’t do that for your Bible study!), their purpose is not to replace study of the original work, but to enhance it by providing a framework for understanding. Some books are hard to read. But if we have a basic summary, and can identify key themes, we can more readily make sense of the individual chapters.

Lesson 1 helped us to identify a few essentials of scripture:

-Its primary author is God, though his chosen vehicle was “men [who] spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

-Its setting is history – real time, real places, real people, and real events.

-The primary genre of scripture is historical narrative, though it makes use of many other genres in telling the story of God’s work in the world on our behalf.

-God’s purpose in giving us his word is to reveal himself to us in love, that we might respond to him in relationship and receive eternal life in Christ.

In the video we watched together, Courtney Doctor pointed to our need for God’s revelation, and that it is above all, an act of grace.

While scripture tells us that certain attributes of God are evident in creation by God’s general revelation, that which is made available and should be evident to all in the world God made (Romans 1:19-20), general revelation is insufficient to show us our need for a savior, or to tell us all that God desires to reveal to us about who He is and who we are in relationship to him. In scripture, we have God’s special revelation, his specific revelation of his nature, his character, and his work in and purpose for his creation. Within scripture, we see these things most fully and clearly in the work and person of Jesus Christ. While we cannot know all that there is to know about God from scripture (because he is unsearchable, inscrutable, and incomprehensible), we can delight in the reality that God loved us enough to make himself known to us that we might have sufficient knowledge to respond to him in repentance and faith unto eternal life and fellowship with him.

A few things to remember about special revelation from the video:

-The word of God is not just a revelation from God, but a revelation of God. It is not a to-do list, but a love note!

-ALL of our knowledge of God is dependent upon God’s revelation of himself to us.

-God’s special revelation is a “gracious condescension” in which he stoops down to accommodate our “slight capacity” to comprehend him.

How amazing is it that the infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent God of the universe would pursue you and me in love to reveal himself to us?! I am praying for each of us that our wonder will be increased and our affections kindled as we consider and review this amazing story of God’s work in his world.