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Join us every First Wednesday of the month as we journey through the book "Invitation" by Brian D. Russel

First Wednesday consists of a time of dinner starting at 5pm till 6:30pm. Following Dinner from 6:45pm-7:15pm we will have a time of family worship and prayer. We then will breakout into groups, CF Kids, Impact Students, and CF Adults for guided study sessions based off of the Invitation book. We then invite you during the weeks in-between each First Wednesday to take part in the At-Home sessions that you will find right here on this page, and do them during your devotional time, family time, or set up a coffee time with your friends and do it together. The purpose of this study is not only to invite into a deeper understanding of God's word and story, but to also encourage you to invite others into a conversation about faith and growth. So come with us on this journey, you are Invited!

Before you begin here is an overview of the Bible (From the Book "Invitation" By: Brian D. Russel)

Life is a story. Each of our lives tells a story and intersects with the stories of others. All of our stories weave together into the complex tapestries that form the human story. God desires to shape and transform all of these tapestries into a beautiful grand tapestry that points the world to God’s goodness and love. To serve this purpose, God speaks to us through Scripture. Followers of Jesus call their Scriptures “the Bible,” which means “The Book.” The Bible is God’s gift to us. The Bible narrates a story. It is the story of God’s plans and actions for humanity and all creation. It includes God’s perspective on the world as God intended at creation, how it is today, and how it will be in the future. Some people think of the Bible as an answer book. But this can be misleading if we expect the Bible to answer every conceivable question we may want to ask. I think of it more as a book of questions that God wants us to ask of ourselves. If we read and ponder the Bible carefully, it will ask us questions and shape us with its answers. Since the beginnings of the Christ-following movement, God’s people have read the Old and New Testaments as sacred Scripture. The biblical story proclaims a counter-story to every other human story. It engages every human culture and works to realign those cultures with the will and purposes of God. It does this by intersecting with our stories at key points but then offering a crossroads to lead us into the new story that God desires to write through us. The question for us is this: What story primarily shapes our life? This is a question that we must continually reflect upon as we read the Bible. But first let’s look briefly at the broad contours of God’s story in the Bible. The rest of this introduction will provide a snapshot of the Bible’s content and a broad outline of how this study will proceed. The Bible contains the story of God’s purposes for humanity and the world. It can be summarized in six movements: creation, the fall, Israel, Jesus the Messiah, the church, and the new creation. 


The biblical story begins with God’s creation of a very good world (Gen. 1–2). This is an important beginning. The world that we find ourselves in today is not the world as God originally intended. God’s original creation is a place of wonder and goodness. It is not fractured by violence or any form of evil. Instead, God fashions a place of abundance, beauty, and justice. As God creates, he evaluates his handiwork as “very good” (Gen. 1:31). God fills this earth with plants and living creatures. God creates humanity as a community of women and men to serve as his hands, feet, and mouthpieces—his ambassadors to and stewards of creation. Remember this: God created us for his mission. The Bible emphasizes the importance of men and women in God’s plans by declaring that God has crafted all humanity in the very image of God. The invisible Creator desires to manifest his character and plans through the lives of the human community. In the beginning, humanity lives in a garden of abundance and experiences harmonious relationships between humanity and God, between humanity and creation, and between women and men. This is Eden and life as God intended it. 


The Fall 
But the biblical epic takes a pivotal turn in Genesis 3–11. In these chapters, humans choose their own way over God’s. The Bible calls this sin. Sin exists because God allowed for its possibility. Authentic relationships require choices. God did not create robots when he made us. God desires humanity to live eternally in communion with him. This is the highest and best purpose for all people, but God did not compel the first humans to obey (nor does he compel us). In the stories of these chapters, humanity chooses to live outside the boundaries of God’s purposes. This choice has profound implications. It fractures the created order and causes a breach in the harmony of creation. Humanity falls short as stewards of creation and in its role of embodying the invisible God to creation. These stories teach that humanity has lost its way. But God does not give up on his creation. Rather, God responds by reaching out to bring healing and reconciliation to creation. The bulk of the biblical story is the narrative of God’s mission to redeem and restore a lost humanity and broken creation. God’s goal is to make it “very good” again. 


Israel: The People of God 
Israel’s Ancestors The remainder of the biblical story narrates God’s solution to the problem of a lost humanity and fractured creation. In the rest of the Old Testament, God calls forth a new humanity (Israel) to serve as his special people and as agents of God’s blessings to the nations. The story of Israel begins with Abram (later Abraham) in Genesis 12. God chooses to use a family to initiate his plan of salvation. God’s mission will advance through Abram’s descendants. He calls Abram and his wife, Sarai (later Sarah), out of the context and turmoil of Genesis 3–11 to be the first family of a new humanity through whom God will bless all nations (Gen. 12:3). He blesses them so that they can be a blessing to the world. This will be a pattern throughout the Bible’s story. An encounter with God’s graciousness is always a commission to God’s mission. It will be through Abram and his descendants that God’s mission of salvation will reach its climax. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus will serve as the fullest expression of God’s mission that begins with Abram (see Matt. 1:1). But we are getting ahead of the story. God calls Abram and Sarai to migrate to a new promised land: Canaan. God gives Abram a new name: Abraham. God then gives Abraham and Sarai a promised son, Isaac, in their old age. God’s blessings flow to Isaac, who has two sons, Esau and Jacob. The mission of God moves forward through Jacob’s side of the family. Jacob’s twelve sons give the names to the twelve tribes who will soon become the nation of Israel. Late in life Jacob and his entire family migrate to Egypt during a time of famine. 
-Deliverance from Egypt Israel lives in Egypt initially as guests, but soon Egypt’s pharaohs enslave God’s people and thwart God’s mission to bless the nations through Israel. This oppression sets the stage for God’s fundamental actions of salvation in the Old Testament: God’s dramatic deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt, the establishment of covenant with his people at Sinai, and the return of his people to the promised land. God delivers his people from Egypt, the dominant superpower of the time, through a decisive demonstration of his power and ability to save. He does this as a means of revealing his name and glory to all the earth (Ex. 9:16). God shows himself to be incomparable to all other gods (Ex. 15:11) and the true King of all creation (Ex. 15:18). 
-Covenant at Sinai At Sinai (Exodus 19–Numbers 10:10),3 God reminds and recalls Israel to the mission given to Abraham: God’s people are to serve as a missional community that reflects his character in/to/for the nations and the world (Ex. 19:4–6). At Sinai, God invites his people into a special relationship that the ancient world called a covenant. In this covenant, God’s people agree to live out God’s ethic to the world. This ethic may be summarized as “Love God and love others.” God pledges himself to his people as their unique deity. God’s people will serve as his hands, feet, and mouthpieces in the world in the service of God’s mission to bless the nations. The bulk of Exodus–Deuteronomy describes how God’s people are to live to embody his character in the worship of God and in their relationships with one another before the eyes of the nations. These books also warn God’s people about the dangers of idolatry, injustice, and unfaithfulness to their fulfilling God’s mission in the world. 
-Promised Land, Kingship, Temple, and Exile The remainder of the Old Testament’s historical books (Joshua–Nehemiah) narrate the potential and pitfalls of living as God’s missional people in the world. God settles Israel in the land originally promised to Abraham. These books recount times of blessing in which God’s people are faithful to their covenantal commitments. High points include Joshua’s generation in settling the land, the rise of David and his kingdom, Solomon’s building of the temple in Jerusalem, the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah, and the renewal of God’s people in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. But much of these books tell of the unfaithfulness of God’s people through their practices of idolatry and injustice. These practices ultimately cause the destruction of God’s temple in Jerusalem and the exile of God’s people to Babylon. This part of Israel’s story serves as a warning to future generations of God’s people. Faithfulness matters in God’s mission to bless the nations. Idolatry and injustice remain potent forces that compete with God’s desire for faithfulness. 


God’s Prophets

What is the meaning of the unfaithfulness of God’s people, and how does God react to it? God’s people are unable and often unwilling to live faithfully within his covenant. They turn away from their exclusive relationship with God by pursuing other gods and goddesses. They also practice injustice within the community and by mistreating outsiders. In response, God sends his prophets. The books of Judges through 2 Chronicles contain some stories and words of the prophets, but the prophetic books (Isaiah–Malachi) record the vast majority of the messages of the prophets. 
The prophets serve primarily to call God’s people to realign with their God-given mission of reflecting God’s character in, to, and for the world. The prophets address God’s people and demand them to return immediately to God’s ways. The prophets call God’s people back to the ethos and mission described for God’s people in Genesis–Deuteronomy. But the prophets also point forward to a future work of God in which God will usher in a new age of salvation. The prophets foresee a time in which God will act decisively to advance his mission to bless the nations, redeem humanity, and heal all creation. This new age will be known as the kingdom of God. Much of the expectation centers on visions of a messiah or descendant of David who will rise up and once again serve as king of God’s people. It is fitting that the Old Testament ends with the writings of the prophets, as they function as a natural bridge to the arrival of Jesus and his gospel of the kingdom. 


Jesus the Messiah 
The New Testament opens with Jesus announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God. This is the beginning of the new age of salvation envisioned by the prophets. The New Testament continually references and alludes to the Old Testament to make it clear that God’s new work in Jesus is an extension and fulfillment of the Old Testament. Jesus proclaims, teaches, and embodies the kingdom through his words and deeds. Jesus’ preaching and actions emphasize the kingdom’s openness to the marginalized among God’s people and even to foreigners. Jesus dies a sacrificial death by crucifixion for the sins, injustices, and suffering of the world. He dies as Israel’s messiah who lays down his life willingly for the sake of others. The cross is God’s answer to the brokenness, shame, and lostness of humanity and all creation. God vindicates Jesus’ life and death by raising him from the dead on the third day. Jesus’ resurrection announces God’s victory and ushers in the age of the church in anticipation of new creation. 


The Church 
Following his resurrection, Jesus sends his followers into the world to live as God’s missional community that reflects God’s character in, to, for the nations. The church goes out in the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s people serve as witnesses and clues to the reality of the kingdom of God. They proclaim the good news of God’s salvation and healing. The New Testament teaches the earliest Christians how to live as God’s people with the goal of extending God’s salvation to the world through the testimony of their words and lives. Each book offers reflection and instruction for living as God’s holy and missional people. The dominant ethic of the early church was a commitment to reaching others. Each church in the fledgling Christ-following movement was a kingdom outpost surrounded on all sides by competing religions and ideologies. The apostle Paul’s writings dominate the second half of the New Testament following the four Gospels and Acts. Paul is a central actor in the book of Acts. He epitomizes the “go to” ethos of the New Testament. Through the faithfulness of Paul and his companions, God propels the gospel across much of the Roman Empire. Paul and his associates start new churches and move on to the next place where the true God is not yet known. The writings of the New Testament take seriously the challenges of living as God’s people in a world that does not share or encourage the values of the gospel. Reading these books helps us today to understand and embody the good news of Jesus for the watching world. 


The New Creation 
The New Testament ends with a vision of a secure future in God’s new creation. All creation returns to relational wholeness and goodness. The New Testament does not lay out a precise road map or time line to this future. The New Testament’s visions of the future are not couched in some code that we can decipher, nor are they intended to give us a play-by-play description. They exist to encourage believers to remain faithful witnesses in the present in the full confidence that God’s desired future is secure and will be wonderful. Most of the New Testament books address the future in some way, but God’s good future dominates the overall vision of Revelation, the final book of the Bible. Just as the first two chapters of Genesis begin the Bible with a description of a very good creation, the final two chapters of Revelation bring the biblical story to a conclusion by describing the new creation as a new heaven and new earth. The abundance, goodness, peace, and justice of the original creation returns, and God is enthroned and recognized as Lord of creation while dwelling forever with God’s people. Creation is as God intended it, and humanity serves forever as God’s missional community that reflects God’s glory. This is the story that we will explore in greater detail. This is the story that God desires for us to use as an authoritative guide to live the life of God’s dreams. This is the story that will invite us to live as the people whom God has created us to be. We will now tell this story in more detail beginning with Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom.


Over the next few weeks take part in these studies at your own pace with your families, during your quiet time, or join in with friends or fellow church family at a local coffee shop and do it together. By the time we come around to the next “First Wednesday” we will do a brief reflection on these first weeks before jumping into Session Two. So, we invite you to go deeper and to Invite others to come along with you!


Open every Study with this Prayer: God, I am here, ready to listen and receive all that you have for me. Astonish me with your Word. In Jesus’ name, amen!


Study One: The Shape of Creation

Read Genesis 1:3–2:3

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.—Genesis 1:3–5, 14–19; 2:1–3

Core Truth: God carefully crafted a very good world with humanity as its highest expression and Sabbath rest as its climax.

Genesis 1:1 summarizes God’s creative work: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It declares that God made all that is. The Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation tell a unified story of the God who is both the Creator and the Savior. The Bible begins with creation to link the story of God’s people with all creation. Beginning with Genesis 12, the Bible will focus on the beginnings of God’s people: Israel. But first it connects Israel’s story to the broader human story. God’s people cannot be properly understood apart from their connection to the rest of humanity as well as to creation itself. If we want to understand our purpose in the world, we must understand God’s original purposes in creation.

Genesis 1:2–2:3 describes how God guided creation from a state of formlessness to goodness and Sabbath rest. Genesis uses a seven-day pattern to organize its description of creation. Creation is a reflection of God’s purposes. From the very beginning, God demonstrates a mission. God desires to move creation from disorder and formlessness in 1:2 to a place of beauty and order by 1:31. At the conclusion of each day, God evaluates his handiwork as “good.” After God creates humanity and thereby finishes the work of creation, God declares it not merely “good,” but “very good.” This is emphatic language. The world that God created was very good. God always desires the best for creation and for us. This has been true from the moment that God spoke creation into existence. God acts purposefully and alone to move creation to completion. God creates by speaking the world into existence. The God of the Bible simply creates what he wills by commanding the various parts of creation into existence. God works to craft a very good universe.


The seventh day of creation contains a profound statement of God’s inactivity. God’s work is not the climax of creation; the true high point is God’s Sabbath rest. The opening segment of Genesis (1:1–2:3) announces that the God who creates is also the God who rests. Moreover, God embeds Sabbath rest into the very framework of the universe that he crafted and formed. This is very good news indeed. In the following sections of this chapter, we will explore humanity as the high point of God’s work and the climactic announcement of God’s Sabbath rest.


Questions for Reflection

  • What do you learn from Genesis 1:1–2:3 about God and the nature of our world?

  • How would you describe the world that God made?

  • Is our world still “very good” today? Why or why not?


Close with a prayer of thanksgiving and direction. (If you are with family, or a group, ask if there is anything that you all can pray for, for one another, and include those prayer concerns in your closing prayer)





Study Two: The Humanity and the Image of God

Read: Genesis 1:26–31; 2:4–25

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”—Genesis 1:26–28

Core Truth: God creates all men and women in his image to serve as a missional community that reflects his character.

In 1:26–31, God creates humanity to make visible the invisible Creator. It is humanity alone that bears the image of God. Theologians use the Latin phrase imago dei. The word for image in Hebrew is tselem. It indicates a visible image or representation of something. The Old Testament often uses tselem to mean “idol.” Idols served as visible representations of gods or goddesses. In the ancient world, great kings also would erect images of themselves across their realms. This allowed the king to project honor, glory, and power to those subjects who never saw him in person. Genesis 1:1–2:3 presents God as the Great King of creation. God is invisible and exists apart from his creation. On the sixth day, God crafts women and men to make the truth of his existence and character visible and tangible to all. It is humanity alone that serves God by reflecting God’s character. This is why the Bible is so adamant against worshiping anything but God or fashioning an idol to represent God. God created humans as his idols, or images, to make himself known to the rest of creation. At the heart of God forming us in his image is God’s mission to reveal himself to all creation.  

Humans are not mere afterthoughts or slaves of the gods. Instead, all humanity reflects the image of the Creator and thus has value and importance. There are no insignificant people or meaningless lives. Every human being has a role to play in God’s mission. Profoundly, the Bible affirms against the grain of a male-dominated culture that women equally reflect God’s image. Genesis 1:26–31 describes humanity’s mission to serve as stewards of creation. They fulfill this role by filling the earth with other men and women. God desires to have visible representations of his character and purposes spread across the world, reflecting God to all creation.

In Genesis 2, the creation of the first woman takes center stage. God affirms the importance of community, saying, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (2:18). God creates a partner (helper) for man. Helper is not a subservient role for women. In fact, in the majority of occurrences of “helper” (Hebrew ‘ezer) in the Old Testament, God is the helper (see Ps. 121). If God can be called Israel’s helper, then this role is certainly not a demeaning or lesser role in any way. The union of man and his partner brings Genesis 2 to a conclusion (2:23–25). Their relationship is beautiful and models authentic community rooted in equality, harmony, peace, and mutuality.

God creates humanity to serve as a missional community that reflects his character to the rest of creation. As we seek to realign with God, we must take seriously mission, community, and character. In fact, Jesus came to announce the kingdom as the means to call women and men to their true humanity.

Questions for Reflection

  • What does it mean to be human according to Genesis 1–2?

  • How does our culture’s view of humanity contrast with the biblical view?

  • How does this text call you to live out mission as part of a community that reflects God’s character?

Close with a prayer of thanksgiving and direction. (If you are with family, or a group, ask if there is anything that you all can pray for, for one another, and include those prayer concerns in your closing prayer)



Study Three: The Gift of the Sabbath

Read: Genesis 2:1–3; Exodus 20:8–11

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”—Exodus 20:8–11

Core Truth: The climax of creation is God’s resting on the Sabbath day. God extends this blessing to all creation.

After God forms humanity and pronounces creation “very good,” God rests. How many of us rest? Modern life is filled with complex and multiple demands. Yet the Bible begins by asserting that Sabbath rest is the climax of the creation. Life is not designed to be endless toil. Even the most life-affirming activities must cease for Sabbath. God’s work of creation moved the universe from emptiness (1:2) to very goodness (1:31) to Sabbath rest (2:1–3). Sabbath is God’s final gift to the creation.

Sabbath is a radical concept. We live in a 24/7 world. Sabbath challenges the busyness of life. What if the most profound act you could do is to be fully present and do nothing? Rest is not a means to some end; rest is the end. God moves creation from emptiness to very goodness and then rests. God doesn’t rest so that he can work. God works so that he can rest. Rest is the final word. This signals something profound about life. The meaning of life cannot simply be reduced to what we do. Work is valuable. Mission is important. Community is critical. Holiness is necessary. Yet the climax of creation is a time carved out for rest in communion with God. Think about the witness that such a bold and daring time of inaction would offer to a world trapped in endless cycles of busyness and the chaos of over commitment. Sabbath is a declaration of faith that our present and future do not depend on our actions but on God’s. As we read the Bible together, we will continue to talk about our role in God’s mission. But the challenge of Sabbath is that God rested and so must we. The Jesus who calls us to serve as a missional community also invites us to Sabbath: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Questions for Reflection

  • What does Sabbath teach us about God’s mission?

  • How would you need to change in order to embrace a real Sabbath in your life?

Close with a prayer of thanksgiving and direction. (If you are with family, or a group, ask if there is anything that you all can pray for, for one another, and include those prayer concerns in your closing prayer)



Study Four: Jesus and the New Creation

Read: John 1:1–18; 2 Corinthians 5:16–21

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.—John 1:14–18


Core Truth: Jesus comes to model the truly human life and to make it possible for us to live as the people whom God created us to be.

Genesis 1–2 sets the stage for the rest of the biblical story by describing the very good world that God made. It paints a picture of the world as God intended it to be. The story of Scripture from Genesis 12 through the book of Revelation focuses on God’s work of healing his creation and reconciling humanity to himself. We will discover that the Bible’s vision of creation remains a core theme as God works toward a new creation. We’ll say much more about this when we get to the New Testament, but let’s read the two New Testament passages again and ask what stands out to you, or what questions do you have about these texts after reading? Re-Read: John 1:1–18 and 2 Corinthians 5:16–21

We are getting ahead of our story a bit by jumping ahead to the New Testament. But this gives us a sneak peek of what is to come. As we seek to find ourselves in the biblical story, let us remember two key elements from our brief look at creation. First, this world is the avenue of God’s mission. God creates it and pronounces it “very good.” As we will see, it has become fractured and infested by sin, but it remains the focus of God’s activity. Following Jesus is not an escape from this world but a commissioning to Jesus’ mission to bring hope, healing, and reconciliation. Second, all human beings are created in the image of God and have dignity, worth, and value. Thus, following Jesus means practicing justice through the love and service of all people. The Christ-following movement must not be restricted to any ethnicity, socioeconomic grouping, or region. Just as the book of Genesis opens with all the world in view, following Jesus involves an openness to the world and a desire to see God’s kingdom manifest globally. The kingdom is good news for everyone, or it’s not good news for anyone. We are blessed by God to be a blessing to others.

Questions for Reflection

  • How does Jesus’ mission relate to God’s original creation?

  • What would it look like to live as a new creation in your neighborhood today?

Close with a prayer of thanksgiving and direction. (If you are with family, or a group, ask if there is anything that you all can pray for, for one another, and include those prayer concerns in your closing prayer)

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