I am very thankful for our Eastside community for many reasons. One of the reasons that I am thankful for Eastside Church is that we all consider it worthwhile and life-giving to study Scripture; and not only to study Scripture, but to also apply it to our lives. This letter is meant as a brief summary of what we will be studying in the coming Fall and all the way into June 2022. In other words, I am hoping to summarize our Annual Focus for Fall 2021 through Spring 2022.
Why do we study the Bible?
Before summarizing our Annual Focus, I would like to briefly explain why Eastside Church emphasizes biblical study. At Eastside Church we hold that all scripture is God-breathed and useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17). The goal is that our congregation (including the preachers and teachers) will all have a better understanding, with the help of His Holy Spirit, of what our LORD is looking to reveal through His Word as a whole. As we better understand Scripture as a whole, we are much more likely to find it useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that we might become all that He created us to be.
Overview and Goal of our Annual Focus
Every book has a beginning and an ending. Good books connect the beginnings and the endings. The Good Book certainly connects the beginning to the ending. However, it is a big book, and sometimes it is hard to know what the larger context is, even if we have been reading it for many years. As we preach Scripture this year, we will be talking about the storyline of Scripture. What message is being told from beginning to end in the Bible? Therefore, the title for the Annual Focus is His Story. History belongs to the LORD. His Word contains specific historical events, poetry, and various other genres of literature which communicate a beginning and an ending to all of history. The goal of our Annual Focus is that once we have the storyline fixed in our minds, it will help us more easily place a specific bible story, or passage in its literary context thus giving us a better understanding of what we are reading.
Biblical understanding is supposed to move us. We will be digging into some detailed biblical scholarship. However, we do not study for the sake of studying. We are seeking His Kingdom, and trust that His Word, which is living and active, will penetrate and conform our hearts to His will. We will regularly be challenging ourselves, throughout the year, to take faithful steps on the path He is laying out for us.
The 5 Seasons within our Annual Focus
The Eastside Annual Focus is broken into 5 seasons. The 5 seasons are Fall, Advent, Winter, Lent, and Spring. Each season will be discussing a different aspect of the storyline of scripture. As I mentioned above, the title of the entire preaching plan is His Story. The titles for the individual seasons are The Beginning, The Beginning of the Last Chapter, Living in the Last Chapter, Dying in the Last Chapter, and The Ending. The subtitle for each of the 5 seasons, and the text being used each week are shown on the more detailed preaching plan attached.
Fall (Sept 12-Nov 21) The Beginning: The Story of the Old Testament
The title of the Fall season of our Annual Focus is “The Beginning.” As you might guess, we will begin this season at the beginning of the Bible…the very beginning. In fact, we begin our season in Genesis 1. In week two we only get to Genesis 3. These first three chapters communicate much of what we know about the Garden of Eden. The rest of the Old Testament will spend a lot of time explaining how God is looking to regain for us what we lost when Adam and Even were exiled from the Garden of Eden. In week three we will be reading Genesis 12 and discussing the promise that God made to Abraham. The promise of God will be a pillar for the rest of the book of Genesis and the entire Old Testament. The remainder of the Fall season will be spent examining how God progressively reestablishes His Kingdom out of chaos through promise, covenant and redemption. The general application for the faithful will also become evident as we study.
At this point in this summary, I have to acknowledge how much I am leaning on the scholarship of G. K. Beale for this Annual Focus. He is a brilliant Bible professor who has taught at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Wheaton College, IL. I highly recommend his book entitled, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. This book is a heavy book (both figuratively and literally in that it is over 1000 pages in length). I will be referencing it throughout the whole year. The last sentence of the previous paragraph is a paraphrase of what he says frequently in his book.
Advent (Nov 28-Dec 24) The Beginning of the Last Chapter: The Story of Christmas
Advent will be focused on the classic Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy & Love. On Christmas Eve we will light the Christ Candle of the Advent Wreath and celebrate one last time before Christmas. The Advent season might be especially celebratory this Christmas as we should all have a greater understanding of the expectations and hopes into which Jesus Christ was born. The beginning of the final reestablishment of God’s Kingdom! The King of all Kings was born. A second Adam was born, who does not fail in the Garden, but rather restores the hope of a permanent Eden!
Winter (Dec 26-Feb 27) Living in the Last Chapter: Being New and Making New Decisions
The Winter season of the Annual Focus is entitled “Living in the Last Chapter.” We will be talking about the entrance of Jesus Christ into His Story. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise. He is the Word of God who makes everything new through recreation. He is the author and completer of His Story. Jesus launches the new creation through his life, death and resurrection. After examining Jesus’ life, we will examine what new decisions He might have for us to make as we look to advance His Kingdom by His Word and Spirit.
Lent (Mar 6- Apr 17) Dying in the Last Chapter: Being a Peacemaker
We will focus on the trials and suffering of Christ during the season of Lent. This of course ends with his death on the cross for sinners, and his resurrection from the dead. Jesus launches the final New
Creation/Kingdom reign and pours out the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His people. He did all this to bring peace on earth. He then calls us who follow him to be peacemakers. Being a peacemaker requires us to lay down our lives and desires in a manner similar to our Savior Jesus Christ. In addition to the Bible, we will be using some of the material found in the Peacemaker’s Pledge. You can visit rw360.org for more details on the Peacemaker’s Pledge. Additionally, the book by Ken Sande entitled “The Peacemaker” will be an excellent reference. The most helpful words can be found in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7.
Spring (Apr 24-Jun 5) The Ending: The Last Two Chapters of the Last Chapter
I had a little fun with the play on words. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection inaugurates the last chapter or the eschatological Kingdom of God. He begins the last chapter. The last chapter encompasses the whole New Testament. We will spend the Spring looking at the last two chapters of Revelation. We are going to discover that the last two chapters give us the clearest description of what it looks like when Jesus has made everything new. No more death, mourning, crying or pain is the completion of the new creation. Heaven and earth come together like one great temple, or one great Holy of Holies. The last two chapters are full of imagery from the past, including allusions to the Garden of Eden. We will specifically be looking at the last two chapters to discover what Jesus has to tell us about the new Jerusalem, the new covenant, the new (and diverse) people of God, and finally the all-encompassing new creation.
In closing, I ask you to pray for Eastside Church. Please pray that we might become all that our great Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has recreated us to be. (2 Cor 5:17)
Your brother in Christ,
He who testifies to these things says “Yes. I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen