What is the Bible about? Is it a guide book on how to live life? Is it a series of disjointed stories, many of which have nothing to say to us in our present day and age? Is it a fortune teller of sorts where we close our eyes, open to a page, touch a spot on the page, and that verse gives us direction for the day?
Or is the Bible something different altogether?
Those of us in the Reformed church know that the Bible is God’s word. We know it is holy and inspired. We also know that it is not a series of unconnected stories, but one big cohesive story. The question is, do we know how to explain that story?
Courtney Doctor, in her new Bible study, From Garden to Glory, helps us understand that one big story. She takes us through the story, showing us that the Bible “is the story of how our eternal God is on a grand mission to redeem and restore his rebellious and wayward children.” The study ends with the end of the story, which is really only the beginning of another: eternity.
From Garden to Glory is a ten week Bible study with five days of study each week. Courtney provides passages to read, questions to answer, Scripture to memorize, and prayers to pray. She also follows up with takeaway points where she summarizes the key points of the day’s study.
When you finish this study, there is no doubt that you will know what the Bible is about, but also be able to verbalize it for yourself. In reading From Garden to Glory, you will learn more about our amazing and gracious God and in learning about him, you will also learn more about yourself.
“The temptation to which we are all vulnerable is to read the Bible as if it were all about us. Most of us have been taught to read the Bible as if its main reason for existence is to give us a little encouragement for the day. We look for verses that give us a little “pick-me-up.” But is that why the Author has written this book? …the reason the Author has written this book is to both reveal who he is and teach us who we are. One of the first things we learn is that he is sovereign over all things and he, the Author, knows what he is doing. He know where the story is headed and he will accomplish all of his purposes–which is the ultimate encouragement we all need.” p. 17
Courtney’s study is theologically rich while also conversational in tone. It is engaging, while at the same time grounded in Biblical truth. As I reviewed her study, I felt like I was being taught God’s word from a good friend.
This study has an accompanying video and a children’s curriculum as well.
I had the opportunity to ask Courtney a few questions about From Garden to Glory:
Christina: Tell us a little bit about your childhood. Did you write as a child?
Courtney: My one dip into the proverbial writing pool was the summer between 4th and 5th grades. I announced to my family that I was going to be a writer. We had a lovely sunroom on the back of our house and my mother placed a card table in the corner of the room. She gave me our family’s typewriter, a stack of typing paper, and a trash can to put under the table—everything a writer needs! I was set and on my way to becoming a famous writer . . . or so I thought. Sadly, I learned that one needs more than a table and a typewriter; one needs ideas! And I had no ideas for a story. My summer writing project turned into many blank and crumpled papers coupled with despair and discouragement. And that was it. That was the only time I can remember wanting to write. I was a science major in college, was never good at journaling, and am still completely intimidated by a blank page. So, if you are like me and feel compelled to write something but have no history of writing in your background, be encouraged!
Christina: Can you tell us about the process God took you on that enCouraged you to write?
Courtney: As evidenced in my answer above, I do not have a long history of writing—so I really did need to be encouraged in this process. The first thing I did was ask God to encourage me if this was a direction he wanted me to take. And he did. He gave me days when the writing seemed to flow which provided encouragement for the days it didn’t. He gave me people along the way who provided positive feedback. One of my concerns during the whole process was that I would spend an inordinate amount of time producing something that wasn’t helpful to the church. There were numerous times along the way that someone would use that exact word and tell me this study had been so “helpful” to them. That was a double encouragement—I was encouraged both by the person speaking and I also received it as an encouragement from the Lord to keep writing.
Christina: What are some of your fears in writing? How do you overcome them?
Courtney: My greatest fears are that I will either say something erroneous or I will explain a concept in a way that leads people astray. This fear is actually good and right—I should be afraid of those things! This fear drives me to prayer. Additionally, if I was unsure about my understanding of a theological concept, I would either ask one of my professors or I would check out commentaries on the subject and test my thoughts against those who know far more than me. Of course I have far less noble fears as well—I fear what more eloquent writers think of my writing, I fear not having anything helpful to say, and I fear using wrong grammar (truly). These are fears that I have to wrestle out, knowing that they are all based on my desire to have others think well of me. The Lord faithfully reminds me that my purpose is to make his name great, not mine. And his name will survive an omitted comma and a less-than-eloquent sentence!
Christina: Tell us about how you came to write From Garden to Glory?
Courtney: When Craig and I moved to St. Louis to go to Covenant Seminary, the first class we took was a two-semester class taught by five of the professors at Covenant— Drs. C.J. (Jack) Collins, Brad Matthews, Greg Perry, Jay Sklar, and Michael Williams. These five men alternated showing us the beauty and coherency of the biblical story—and it captivated me! As I was taught to read the Bible as a narrative account—a story—of how God is redeeming his people, my love for God and his Word grew. And as I sat there, week after week, I knew I wanted to turn what I was learning into a study.
Christina: What do you hope God will do with the book?
Courtney: My hope is that, first and foremost, God will be glorified and his Word more deeply cherished as we look at his amazing love that compels him to pursue his people and his plan throughout the scope of history. Secondly, my hope is that his church will be strengthened and equipped as we study the big picture of the Bible’s storyline. This study is intended to make us more informed readers of the Word—better equipped to study the individual parts of the Bible because we have spent time studying the whole. And third, my hope is that our love, yours and mine, for our triune God will increase as we are captivated by the One who holds the whole thing together from beginning to end—from the Garden to glory.
Christina: How has he done this for you?
Courtney: As I sat in that first class at Covenant Seminary, all of the above happened. I was overwhelmed by a love so great—a love that would pursue me through my sin, my rebellion, and my failures. My understanding and ability to read different parts of Scripture grew as I learned more about the storyline that held the pieces together. And my love for the Father who planned it all, the Son who accomplished it all, and the Spirit who applies it all grew.
Christina: Please share 1-2 of your favorite quotes from the book.
“We cannot stand before the throne of God in the filth of our sin and misery. We would not survive. And yet our Father-King longs for us to be ushered back into his presence. So the rightful heir to the throne removed his crown, took off his royal robes, and stepped down from his throne. He took on our filth and gave us his purity. And those things he took off—his crown and his royal robes—he then puts on us so that he can freely bring us back into the throne room, before the throne, and ultimately, before the One seated on the throne. We can stand in that place only if we are clothed in Christ himself.” (p. 181)
“If the greatest loss of Eden was dwelling with God, how much more will the greatest gain of heaven be dwelling with him for all eternity?” (p. 183)
Here is what people are saying about From Garden to Glory:
“I don’t know of another book quite like this one. In over 35 years of ministry, I’ve read scores of books about understanding the Bible from various perspectives, but Courtney gives us a unique work which provides the essentials for understanding the Bible as one glorious, cohesive story of redemption. It is biblical. It is theological. It is devotional, and it is delightful. A treasure to all who want to know God through His Word, this book is an invaluable tool that will help you make the Bible “your own” and teach others how to do it, too.”
~ Donna Dobbs, Director of Christian Education; First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS
“With wisdom and warmth, Courtney Doctor skillfully guides her readers through a 10-week overview of the Bible. She beautifully weaves together deep theological insights with engaging stories in a way that makes this study beneficial to women who have walked with the Lord for years, as well as those new to the faith. If you want to understand The Story of the Bible, then From Garden to Glory is the Bible study for you.”
~ Melissa Kruger, author of Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood and Envy of Eve. Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church; Blogger for The Gospel Coalition
“Courtney Doctor has given us an engaging study that makes the entire Bible accessible and exciting for students of all levels. The commentary and questions move logically and clearly through the Bible’s big story to show why this is not only relevant but essential in understanding the Bible and deepening our knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. I recommend this theologically sound, doctrinally rich study for groups and individuals alike.”
~ Mary Beth McGreevy, Adjunct Professor, Covenant Theological Seminary Bible Teacher and Author
More about Courtney:
Courtney received an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary in 2013 and currently serves as the Director of Women’s Ministry at the Kirk of the Hills in St. Louis, MO. Her desire is to study, teach, and apply well the word of God. She is a Bible teacher, a conference and retreat speaker, and the author of From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story(2016). Courtney has a love for education and is on the board of directors for Providence Classical Christian Academy in St. Louis as well as the advisory board for Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. Her husband, Craig, is also on staff at the Kirk of the Hills as the Pastor of Men’s Ministry and Administration. After making it through seminary together, it is their joy to now work and serve together! They have four children—Austin, Bradon, Shelby, and Rebecca—and two amazing daughter-in-laws—Ruth and Jordan.
From Garden to Glory is available now and the videos and children’s curriculum will be available by April 27, 2016. Want to learn more? Click here to view a promo video and click here to get your own copy.