Hail Caesar!

Cäsar

Looking at Romans 13, which is really a continuation of Romans chapter 12 with a very unfortunate chapter break thrown in. Very unfortunate because it leaves Romans 13 on an island by itself, with no context, when clearly the context for chapter 13 is chapter 12, which we looked at the other day, Paul distilling for us Jesus’ teaching from the sermon on the mount.

MLK-Love-enemies
Paul goes directly from giving us Jesus teachings in his great sermon, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”, into what we know as chapter 13, but is really a continuation of Paul’s take on the sermon on the mount.

love of enemy

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

caesars sword
Paul here in Romans 13 is writing about Caesar, and this passage is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied passages in all of scripture, very often with tragic consequences. Beginning a little after the Emperor Constantine, all the way through the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, and even, unfortunately, to this very day, Christians have been using (misusing) this passage, which in the writing of Paul is an extension of the Sermon in the Mount.  Many have used this not as an extension of the sermon but instead as a rebuttal to the Sermon on the Mount. Whenever we want to disagree and rebut someone using the teachings Sermon on the Mount to argue for peace and love of enemies, we turn to this writing of Paul for our rebuttal, claiming our New Testament sanction for the war and violence we so firmly believe in. But the question is, who are we rebutting when we do this? Are we rebutting the one using Jesus’ teaching, or are we rebutting Jesus?

st paul.jpg
Why do we interpret Jesus in light of what Paul has written? If we are Christians, who believe in Christ, should we not then be interpreting the writings of Paul through the lens of Jesus? After all, isn’t Jesus the one who was resurrected and vindicated by God on the third day? I am reminded here of what God himself had to say at the transfiguration of Christ. “And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬. To which God the Father had something to say. “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬. And when the disciples could open their eyes, the only one before them was Jesus. Moses and Elijah were gone. Jesus, not Paul, is the beloved son with whom the Father is well pleased. Listen to Him. Paul does not get a tent.

PP-JesusTransfiguration_JS_0037
So when we think we see Paul overruling something we know Jesus taught us, we need to try to figure out where it is we are getting it wrong with Paul. In other words, we need to default to Jesus until we understand how and why are we misinterpreting Paul.
First of all, notice the pronoun change from chapter 12 into 13. Chapter 12 is all about “you”, chapter 13 Paul is writing about “he”. Put simply, chapter 12 is written for “you”, it’s an admonition for you. Chapter 13 is an observation upon “he”, Caesar. It is not an admonition to you as a follower of Christ. Followers of Jesus are called renounce vengeance and love their enemies ALWAYS, as taught by Jesus in his great sermon and explained by Paul in Romans 12.
Paul is, I believe, doing two things here in Romans 13. Number 1, he is endorsing the police function of the pagan empire of Rome to maintain a civil society. Make no mistake, Rome was a pagan empire, but even a pagan empire in rebellion to Christ can arrest bank robbers and keep the streets safe.

violent revolution
Number 2, more importantly, Paul is calling these Christians in Rome away from violent revolution. Violence is off the table. Violent revolution against the empire had long been a temptation of the Jewish people, don’t forget that this the time between the ascension of Christ and the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Paul here is giving the new Christians in Rome basically the same warning Jesus gave to his disciples in his Olivet discourse. The very warning against violent insurrection most of the Jews in Jerusalem did not take heed of, which resulted in the destruction of the temple and deaths of 600,000+.

nazi-germany
As Paul said, But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Caesar does not carry that sword in vain. If we embrace violence because we feel our cause is right and “just”, Caesar just may use that sword and you will suffer. Then you will be talking about the wrath of God which comes upon us, inevitably, for not following the Jesus way and instead seeking vengeance on those who have harmed us. The wrath of God which is the divine consent to our own choice to follow or not follow the path laid out for us, and the consequences thereof. Sin always carries its own punishment.

moses-and-rameses-were-raised-as-brothers-but-took-different-paths-to-become-great-leaders
Why do we hold up Romans 13 as the only place in the Bible that talks about the government? The Bible talks about the principalities and powers all the time, and it’s almost always in a dark light. Pharaoh during the Exodus. Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah. The parade of beastly empires in Daniel. Most clearly, Babylon, aka the Roman Empire, in the book of Revelation. These governments and empires are most often depicted as agents of the satan, not agents of God.

beheading-of-paul
And we need a little context here for what Paul is writing to these Roman Christians. Never, ever forget that Paul, the man who wrote Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God to the Romans, was himself executed by the government, in Rome, for not submitting to Roman authorities out of fidelity to Jesus Christ.

Kingdom-Not-World-AD
Jesus himself was subject to the governing authority of Pontius Pilate, but that does not mean Pilate acted justly. On Good Friday the Roman government was not acting as a servant of God but a servant of Satan. Jesus even explains to Pilate – “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”” John‬ ‭18:36‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus was subject to the governing authorities in that he did not violently resist them, which is exactly what Peter and the other disciples wanted him to do. BUT – in being subject to the governing authorities Jesus shamed these principalities and powers in his crucifixion and was vindicated by God in his resurrection. This is the posture towards evil that followers of Christ are called to imitate.

easterwallpaper1
To pit Paul against Jesus, and Romans 13 against the sermon on the mount, is bad interpretation and worse Christianity. We are followers of the slaughtered and victorious lamb called (by Jesus AND Paul) to overcome evil with good.

 

John Lewis

 

Advertisements

Reading Out Loud

Reading Out Loud

3_Read-out-loud

I’m doing something a little different today.  I’m going to try to make a point about reading words on a page versus having a spoken conversation.   I’ve begun reading a book by Eugene Peterson (he of “The Message” Bible translation) called “Reversed Thunder – The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination“, and many of the points I am making here mirror points he makes in this book.

god speaks

A major point of the second chapter of this book revolves around the spoken word as opposed to words written on a page.  As Christians, we believe that God speaks, do we not?   God speaks, and all things are brought into being.  God speaks, and a creation comes into existence that is still expanding at the speed if light 13 billion years later.  God speaks, and a covenant is made.  God speaks, and eventually we have the holy scriptures to record the Word of God.

jesus speaks

So here is the point – the word of God was, is and will be spoken long before it was ever written down.  John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ was the word made flesh.  If you read that gospel, it is unmistakable that the coming of Christ was not just ink on paper or some philosophical thought, but an historical occurrence, a moment in time.  In John’s letters, we see the physical, historical nature of what had happened.  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—” 1 John 1:1 ESV.  Jesus was not reduced to words on paper.  They walked with him, talked with him, ate with him, prayed with him, touched him, probable slept with him (in the purely sleeping sense of that word!).  The word of God was always spoken before it was written.  Jesus was seen, touched, heard, before he was ever written about.

conversation with god

Spoken words are personal in a way written words can never be.  I try my hardest to write every day as though I am speaking to you. I attempt to write as though we are actually having a conversation.  Sometimes I might break the “rules” of written grammar, that is because very often I am writing, deliberately, as though I were speaking.  I want you to be able to hear my voice as you read.  Because there is a huge difference between hearing and reading.

writing in dust

Jesus Himself never wrote anything down, except that which he wrote in the dust to blow in the breeze a few minutes later.  We still wonder aloud what it might have been he was writing 2000 years later.  But Jesus did not communicate with his disciples by writing, he spoke his message to his disciples.

bible-revelation-1

Which, I believe, is the point of this verse from the opening stanza of the final book of the Bible, the book of Revelation.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.   The Revelation of John demands that it be read aloud, and heard.   Why?  What is the significance?

tissot-jesus-teaches-the-people-by-the-sea-756x541x72

I believe it is for the same reason I attempt to write as though I’m having a conversation.  The writer of revelation wants to be heard, not read.  Because to be read is impersonal, to be heard affirms and confirms a personal relationship between two parties, an interactive conversation between two people.

hearing

Peterson says that the scriptures, as God’s word, “are a great, but mixed, blessing.”  They are a blessing because it is preserved from generation to generation that God speaks, what he speaks, how he speaks, and what happens when he speaks.  “The scriptures are a mixed blessing because the moment the words are written they are in danger of losing the living resonance of the spoken word and reduced to something that is looked at, studied, interpreted, but not heard personally.”   Words, “word”, is personal.  But the moment they are written, they begin to be cold and impersonal.  They are separated from the voice which spoke them and depersonalized.  If all we do is read the word of God, the words on that paper no longer do what they were designed to do – “create and maintain personal relationships of intelligence and love.”

Revelation_2nd-ComingMessiah_704

When a word is spoken and heard, it brings the speaker and hearer into a relationship with one another.  Written and read – it has to rely on the imagination of the reader to do its work.  The senses of seeing and hearing are no longer involved.  Without these senses actuated, the written word becomes abstract.  Words on paper, separated from their speaker, can be beautiful, interesting, they can be studied.  But if we are not listening and responding, those words are not functioning according to the intent of the speaker.   In the case of Revelation, the intent of the speaker, St. John, is not to inform us about God, but to involve us in God.

the way

Peterson makes the point that very often, words after being written are analyzed, admired, parsed, discussed, but not not listened to, nor heard, not put into action.  Jesus’ sharpest disagreements were with the scribes and the Pharisees, people of his own day who knew their scriptures very well, knew the stories, could recite them backwards and forwards.   But they did not hear the voice of God.   They knew their Torah.  They loved the Torah.  They memorized it.  They used their Bible to regulate every part of their life.  Yet Jesus was at odds with them at almost every turn, every chapter of his gospels, because for them, the Torah was studied and known, but not heard.  The scriptures had become a book to use, not a way of hearing from God.   They separated the book and the knowledge from the divine act of God’s speaking.  They separated the book, and themselves, from the human act of hearing which would become believing, following and loving.

st-john-the-evangelist-icon-745

So, if you ever do actually open the book if Revelation, do as it’s author commands and read it aloud.  In fact, read aloud all the books of the Bible, especially those red letters in the Gospels.  Hear what the book is telling you, don’t just read.   Hear Jesus telling you, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV.    Listen as He says “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”” Luke 22:19 ESV.   Can you hear Him?  Then do as He is saying.  “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44-45 ESV

Read out loud the words of your bible.  Pray out loud.  Speak the words, don’t just think them.  Hear Him speak, don’t just read ink on a paper.  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

Revelation 1:1-3 ESV

http://bible.com/59/rev.1.1-3.esv

John Lewis

The End of the World

The End of the World

new day

As always, a new day has begun!!  Let’s see if I can wrap up my points on the Olivet discourse today…

signs in the sun moon stars

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.     Jesus has been teaching on the end of the temple and the temple age.   Remember how impressed his disciples were with the grandeur and beauty of the temple?   “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”” Mark 13:1 ESV. Well, Jesus was not as impressed.  “And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”” Mark 13:2 ESV.  Then he begins to talk of wars and tumults, tells them they will be hated because of his name.  He tells how they will be arrested, tried, dragged before councils and governors, and some would lose their lives.  He tells them not to worry, though about what to to these councils and governors, for the Holy Spirit would lead them through.  In other words, he told them what would happen throughout the book of Acts.

surrounded by armies

“”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” Luke 21:20 ESV.  This is the sign.  The sign that the end is coming.   The sign of the End Jesus is teaching about, the end of the temple and temple establishment, along with its hierarchy and control.  At this sign those listening should go, go, go!!   Get out of town!!   It is the sign of the days of Roman vengeance, Rome has had enough!!  The time of the Gentiles (Romans) is about to be fulfilled.

Coming-in-the-Clouds

And fulfilled it was.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.   What does Jesus mean here??  This is a clear reference back to Daniel chapter 7, Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, the beasts of empire.  First a lion, then a bear, then a leopard, then one that’s just monstrous.  But then a son of man comes, a son of man because he will not act beastly“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 ESV.  A son of man to bring the Kingdom of God, given honor and glory and dominion and a kingdom.  A kingdom which will not be destroyed.  Jesus is connecting the end of the temple with the full inauguration of the Kingdom of God on the earth.  It’s the end, but it’s also a beginning.  It’s not the end of the earth, not the end of the world, it’s the end of the temple and the systems of hierarchy and domination that came along with it.  The end of the exclusion of people from the temple.  No longer will people be threatened with their own death for going too far into the temple.  The friend of sinners invites all who would come straight to the new Holy of Holies, his communion table, where to this day we participate in his broken body and shed blood on the cross.

fig tree

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”   When you see these things happen, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, when finally one stone is not left upon another, when you’ve seen the wars and tumults, been turned over by mother, father, brother, sister to the authorities, when you’ve gone through the trials, been brought before the Sanhedrins and councils and rulers and testified to who I am, when some of you have lost your lives (but not a hair on your head will perish!)  you know that the kingdom of God is near.

heaven and earth

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.    I know you see that.  THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTILL ALL HAS TAKEN PLACE!!  Some of you, maybe most, are trying right now to rationalize this to fit your picture of what the End is supposed to look like, trying to remember why Jesus wasn’t actually saying that the end will come before the generation of people he is talking to will pass away.  Why this generation did not mean this generation.  We have to figure this out, because clearly, the End has not come, because clearly we are still here, right.  But very clearly, Jesus is saying, very directly, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.  This generation, listening to me right now, some will still be alive when what I am talking about will happen.   In other words, he’s not talking about something that is going to happen 2000 years later.  He’s not talking about 21st century politics, he’s not talking about terrorism, hurricanes, nuclear weapons, climate change or anything else we try to fit this into.   I know we have created billion dollar industries based on “end time signs“, someone you know is buying bunkers, guns, ammunition, water, and freeze dried food.  But whatever use they may get out of these things, the end times signs they are based on have come and gone.

jesus

Very simply, Jesus is not a false prophet.  Because every single thing he predicted here, happened.  Not today, not tomorrow, but nearly 2000 years ago.  The End Jesus predicts, happened.  In AD 70 the temple, with its temple establishment, with its systems of power, domination and control, came to an end.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.   The world came to an end for those who were hearing Jesus talk.  Heaven and earth passed away.  The world as they knew it, faded away.

Son-Of-God-Movie-HD-Wallpaper-06

Don’t believe me?   Look at what Jesus said to Caiaphas the high priest just a few days after, the day before he is crucified.   “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” Matthew 26:63-64 ESV.   Are you the Messiah??   But look at Jesus response.  You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.   He’s talking to Caiaphas, the Caiaphas recorded by Josephus is history, a specific man in a specific time, and he tells him, you, Caiaphas, you will see the son of man predicted in Daniel (and don’t think Caiaphas did not immediately understand the reference), you will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.   Because the temple was going to end, which Jesus has been giving all along as the beginning of the inauguration of the kingdom of God, which is just about the only thing Jesus ever talked about.   This end is not coming 80 or 100 or 200 generations later (isn’t it funny how no one selling you supplies for the end times thinks we have 80 more generations to go?).  This generation will not pass away, and you, Caiaphas, will see the coming if the Son of Man riding on the clouds of heaven.

DESTRUCTION-OF-JERUSALEM

It is clear from the text here that Jesus is talking about the end if the temple and the temple age, not the end of the world as we are looking for it.  Jesus is not talking about the destruction of the earth, as hard as we seem to be trying to achieve exactly that.

end_of_the_world_by_alexiuss-dajaesc

Of course, in Matthews account of the Olivet discourse, he tells his disciples this – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 ESV.  What about this, this never happened, did it?   Well, let’s go to the book of Acts and the day of Pentecost.  “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”” Acts 2:1-11 ESV.  That’s a long tract, I’m just going to focus on this – Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.   The Holy Spirit comes like tongues of fire, and the gospel is preached to devout men from every nation under heaven.   Hyperbole or not, the gospel was preached to all the nations.  According to the bible, this is fulfilled.

Dream-interpretation-end-of-world-nuclear-war

Look at how the book of Acts ends.  “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”  He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Acts 28:28, 30-31 ESV.  The Kingdom of God is among us.  The Kingdom of God has come.

dead are raised

We are Christians, remember?  That means that we, of all people, should have a hopeful vision of the end.  And we do!!   Christ shall come again!!   But, what is the sign of that??   THE DEAD ARE RAISED!!  As we live our lives under the reign of Christ, we seek to embody and enact this Kingdom of God more fully in this life.  As people who anticipate the age to come, we seek to live under the reign of Christ fully here and now.  As we grow old and die, we will be absent from the body, present with the Lord in a place He calls paradise, that’s not the end we are looking for.

Remember the apostles creed?  Maybe you don’t, but it ends this way – He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.  The sign of the coming of Christ is this – the resurrection of the body.  Again, the dead are raised!!  As evidenced by Jesus’ own physical, not spiritual, resurrection.  He is the firstborn among the brothers of the children of God, His is the resurrection that foreshadows the general resurrection of the dead, which will signal his return.

End_of_the_World_-1024x640

We are heading for the dead being raised and Jesus Christ being fully acclaimed as Lord.  Not doom and gloom, wars and rumors of wars, famine and strife.  The End Jesus was talking about was the end of the temple, the temple establishment, and the temple age.  The Kingdom of God endures and we are part of it.

God-Kingdom

We may (will) ultimately murder each other by the millions with the use of nuclear weapons, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  This is not the End Jesus was predicting.  The End Jesus was predicting happened in AD 70, you can go to Jerusalem to see the ruins, they are still there.

We may cause heaven and earth to pass away (again), the world as we know it will eventually come to an end.  Our world systems, the world we know and the only one we can imagine, will eventually come crashing down.

But the words of Jesus Christ will not pass away.

“”And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Luke 21:25-33 ESV

http://bible.com/59/luk.21.25-33.esv

John Lewis

Flood the World

martin_john_-_the_deluge_-_1834

Continuing on thoughts from my last post.

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Appearance_Behind_Locked_Doors_-_WGA06734

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

huddled in fear

Jesus disciples were huddled, locked in fear in a closed room.  They feared  the Jews, the Judeans.  After all, they had crucified Jesus.  Who knew if some of the chief priests and scribes might come looking again, maybe one of them would be next.

peace be with you 1

But Jesus comes into the room and says to them "Peace be with you."   Doesn't knock, doesn't come through the door, doesn't pass through the walls.  He's just there, standing among them.  By his presence, he makes the impossible possible and brings peace into that frightened room.

refugeees

His disciples were locked in fear of the Judeans, afraid they might be next.  We like to lock ourselves up in fear of plenty, don't we?  Who are we living in fear of?   Are we afraid of Muslims, afraid that in every mosque there is a terror attacking waiting to happen?  Are we afraid of immigrants, afraid that they may be immigrating to our land of immigrants for the wrong reasons   Are we afraid of refugees?   Maybe we're afraid of liberals, because whichever talking head we listen to says it's all their fault.  Are we afraid of conservatives, because the talking heads we listen to say it's all their fault??

 

Are we afraid of sinners??   Or maybe the big, bad world?   Are we just trying to get through every crappy day hoping to make it to next Sunday, when at least we can get together behind the closed doors of our own religious panic room, and at least for an hour or two feel protected from this evil world??

zombies

For some of us, this is what we are inviting people into when we talk about Christianity.  We think the good news means that we have a safe place to hide from all those evil zombies walking about all around us, just waiting for the chance to eat us alive.

glad

But let me make this plain, simple, and easy.   The Good News in NOT inviting people to share our fear and join us in our religious panic room.   Those disciples in their locked room had no Good News to share.  No one wanted to come join them in their fear.  But when Jesus breaks into that room and says "Peace be with you," things change.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.    How many of us are glad to see the Lord?

peace be with you
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."”

The-Commission

All four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, have some form of the Great Commission.   This is John's version of the Great Commission.  "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."    There's that phrase again, "peace be with you."   And Jesus commissions is disciples to go out into the world.   They were not commissioned to stay in that locked room, live in fear, and shut themselves off from the world around them.   No…Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, the same Holy Spirit he received at his baptism, the same power by which he went into the world, without fear, and brought the good news of the kingdom of God.   He bestows his own Holy Spirit onto the disciples, and tells them - If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.

forgiveness

As I said, this is the great commission according to the Gospel, the good news, of John.   Again, let's simplify.  Jesus tells his disciples that as the father sent him, he is sending them, and bestows the spirit of God upon them.  But not only that, he gives them the power to forgive sins - If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.   Do not miss this.   Jesus commissions his disciples, gives them the Holy Spirit, and sends them into the world specifically to forgive sins.

forgiven-jesus20forgives
As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.   Gospel 101.  Jesus came for the forgiveness of sins, did he not?   So he sends out his disciples for the forgiveness of sins.   Never forget who or what the Holy Spirit is.  Jesus gives his Holy Spirit, the spirit of advocacy, the spirit of walking with someone.   The spirit of aiding and helping.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.   The mission, or co-mission, of the followers of Jesus is to walk the world fearlessly flooding the world with peace and forgiveness.   This is the what and why Jesus sends his disciples out of that locked room for.

give

Yet we are afraid.  Maybe this makes you afraid.  Maybe we are afraid that someone who does not deserve it might receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.   (Did you hear that?).   Maybe we are afraid of giving away what we have received so freely.   Don't worry about giving away free stuff you received freely!!!   What did Jesus tell us?   “…Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8 NIV.

2013 Faith Church Final Words father forgive

Jesus speaking peace and sending disciples into world with a commission to forgive should speak powerfully to us. We are sent by Jesus not to rage, not to moralize, not to reprimand, but to forgive sinners in Jesus' name.   Jesus own words dying on the cross were "Father Forgive them."   What, exactly, do you think the Father does when Jesus prays this to him??   He forgives!!

send-me

But what about that next part, if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.   Well, what else is the to say about withheld forgiveness?   It is withheld!!   But why would you withhold forgiveness?   Don't withhold forgiveness!!  Be as generous with forgiveness as Jesus is with you.  Be as generous with forgiveness as you would like Jesus to be with you.

Saint Francis of Assisi
G.K. Chesterton said this about St. Francis if Assisi – "He walked the world as the pardon of God."   This is how we are to walk.  As followers of Christ, if we allow Jesus close enough to us to breathe his Holy Spirit on us, the we have the spirit of advocacy, the spirit of God to go into the world as Jesus did for the forgiveness of sins.

blame game.jpg

There is a game we play.  This game has no end.  It has no winners.  It has only victims.  But we keep playing anyway.  The game is called the blame game.   It is the devil's game.  Who is the devil?  It comes from the Greek word "diablos", just as Satan comes from the Hebrew "ha-satan".  They both mean the same thing – "the accuser".  The adversary.  The blamer.

satan-accuser

Most of the wars, most of the hate, most of the pain in the world can be traced to the blame game.  It's how the devil rules the world to this day.  All the way back, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and the disease infected their their family to the point that Cain blamed Abel so much he had to kill him.  And it's the game running the fallen world ever since.

 

But at the cross, Jesus took all the blame.   He took all the blame and cried out "Father forgive them.

Now it's our job to flood the world with His forgiveness.

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."”
John 20:19-23 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.20.19-23.esv

John Lewis

Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect

cause-and-effect-essays

From the scroll of Isaiah, a vision of the end times. Isaiah gives us a vision not of death and destruction, doom and gloom. He gives us a vision of peace, a vision of joy, a vision of hope.

New-heavens-and-new-earth

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.In the end, we will have a new heaven and a new earth. It says I create– God, Yahweh, is still creating. He is the creator God, creator of heaven and earth. He is still in the business of creation, not destruction. His creation was, and is, good, good and very good. But he is not finished. He is still building. He is still creating. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. Jerusalem, "the peace of God", is created to be a joy. In Revelation 21 we see the new heaven and new earth, the new Jerusalem being formed on the earth, God joining with man, living with his creation. This new Jerusalem is what Jerusalem was always intended to be, "the peace of God", which the apostle Paul tells us surpasses all understanding, a peace which we as yet have no comprehension of. Yet this is the peace which, if we are living as disciples of Christ and living out his great commission – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."”Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This great commission to make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. We forget (or maybe never heard) that in both Exodus and Revelation, we are called to be a "kingdom of priests", and in Revelation it goes on to say we shall "reign on the earth". We are to not just share the Gospel, but to make disciples of all nations.  It's going to take far more than the work of Jonah, going in because we feel compelled, sharing the message of God, then getting angry that the message may or may not have been heard. We are not called to simply share the good news. We are called to make disciples of all nations. Russia. China. South Korea. North Korea. Mexico. India. The United Stated of America.

kingdom of priests
We are his kingdom of priests, called to make disciples of all the nations. Disciples to Jesus Christ. Disciples to the way of peace, love, and above all forgiveness. We are joined with God, Yahweh, through his one true Son in the project of building the new heavens and the new earth. It is upon our completion of this project, with the ever present help of Christ through the Holy Spirit, that we will see Christ coming again. What I'm saying here is that I think we have our cause and effect backward. We are to make disciples of all nationsto Jesus Christ. We tell ourselves that there will never be peace on earth until Christ returns. So we are then to just wait, make sure we make our "fair share" of converts, live our lives as best we can, and hope that if Christ returns tomorrow we will be among those taken and not among those "left behind" (which, by the way, is a MASSIVELY TRAGIC misreading and misunderstanding of Jesus' Olivet discourse).

make disciples
But I'm saying that it's the other way around. We are not waiting for Christ's return in the hope that there will finally be peace on earth. We are called, again, to make disciples of all nations. Not just read the verses, then turn and run. Jesus Christ himself was the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. “"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The Jewish people, and indeed the whole world, already had the Hebrew Scriptures. It's all in there. If that were enough to get the job done, Jesus would have never come in his incarnation. The point is, we have the Bible. It's all in there. But it is not enough. It's not enough to know the Bible, it's not enough to be able to teach what the Bible says, it's not enough to share the Bible with the world. Just sharing the Bible does not make disciples to Jesus Christ. It will not make disciples of all nations. The only way to bring about the new Jerusalem, to participate in the project of creating the new heaven and new earth, the only way to bring about the return of Jesus Christ in glory, is to follow him. We must do as he told us. We must live as he showed us!! It is not enough to 'tell' people about Jesus. We must 'show' them the Christ in our own lives. We must be the Christ in their lives.  

fishers of men
“And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬. " Jes“Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."”‭‭John‬ ‭13:35‬ ‭ESV‬‬. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. I share these verses just as a small sampling of what Jesus taught and showed. But the message we learn from his life is that God is love. We must be the embodied expression of that love in the lives of people here and now. Because this is how we make disciples of all the nations – by showing God's love to the world around us, one person, one believer at a time.

The-Wages-Of-Sin-Is-Death
Because it won't be Jesus second coming that will bring peace on earth. It will be peace on earth that brings the second coming of Christ. We are the instruments of that peace. We've followed the first Adam into sin and death long enough. Yes our world is a broken, sinful world. The apostle Paul told us – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The wages of sin is death, have we not figured this out yet? We know it, we say it, but then we just don't see it. Christ at the cross paid the wages of the sin in the world in his own death. Yet we keep sacrificing all the Abel's of the world at the altar of our own sinful world systems. Blood continues to cry from the ground…we just turn up the radio louder so we don't have to hear it. The endless cycle of recycled revenge is the cycle we choose. We don't get mad, we get even. We do unto others as they've done to us. Sometimes we do unto others before they do unto us. 50,000,000 dead in WWII. Hundreds of millions in various wars in China. The wages of sin is death. Tens of millions killed by the conquest of the Americas after its discovery by Columbus. The endless parade of dead bodies, blood on our hands. Just google wars and death tolls. We fight fight, fight because we are right and they are wrong. The wages of sin is death.

free gift of god
We've followed the first Adam into disobedience, sin, death and destruction long enough. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. So we now lead the world in following the second Adam. It's not enough to tell them, we must show them. If it were enough to tell about it, Jesus never had to come. But God had to show us what the fulfillment of his law and prophets looks like. He had to show us what He looks like. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬. God looks like Jesus. It is in the resurrection of Christ that God the Father affirms – "That's it!! That's how you do it!!" So we follow Jesus, we show Jesus to the world around us. We make disciple one person at a time, until our project is completed to make disciples of all nations.

jesus-second-coming
We participate with him to make way for the second coming of the Lord. Of course, he never actually left us.
“"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain," says the Lord.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭65:17-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.65.17-25.esv

“and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel."”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭19:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/exo.19.6.esv
“and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/rev.5.10.esv

John Lewis

Weeping over US

Weeping over US

weeping over jerusalem

It’s Passion week, our Holy Week, the time when we remember the suffering, persecution, crucifixion, and ultimately the resurrection Jesus Christ our Lord. It’s the time when we remember all the events, decisions, and obedience of that week, and there is a lot to remember. I’m looking today at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus riding into the great city to fulfill prophecy and be crowned King, the Messiah of Israel.

triumphal entry

“And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” Mark‬ ‭11:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

hosanna

When Jesus came into Jerusalem from Galilee for his coronation, he came in riding on a donkey’s colt. Jesus was purposefully fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah from about 350 years before – Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. We know Jesus did this intentionally to fulfill this prophecy. As he approaches the city he specifically tells two of his disciples “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'”” Mark‬ ‭11:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. How did Jesus know the colt would be there? I don’t know, but the colt was there, his disciples did as they were told, and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of the foal of a donkey, probably with his feet dragging the ground because the foal would have been too small for him. The whole scene would probably have seemed ridiculous if CNN was there covering. Picture a crowd of peasants from Galilee, shouting hosanna to their king, who rides in not on a great war horse, but on a donkey. And not even a full grown donkey, but the foal of a donkey. This was quite the piece of prophetic theater orchestrated by Jesus.

pilate on a horse

Pontius Pilate also would have ridden into the city to prepare for the Passover. Not because he was a Jew, but because Passover was (is) the celebration of the liberation of the people of Israel from bondage to the Egyptians, and it was a time that would spark new thoughts of rebellion and liberation from their current bondage under Caesar. It was not in Pilates best interest to stay home in Caesarea during this time. He needed to be present in order to deal promptly with any thoughts of rebellion that might occur during the festival.
When Pilate rode into the city, he came in not on a donkey, but a great horse. A war horse. If you read the Bible in the Old Testament, you will find that Yahweh did not much care for horses. It’s not that God does not like the majestic beauty and power of the horse – of course he loves them. He created them after all. But what he did not like is what mankind had come to use these beautiful animals for. Horses were not used for transportation, agriculture, or any other domesticated purpose, it was the donkey that was the beast of burden. Horses, from the time of the warlords of Sumer about 4500 years ago, were primarily instruments of war. They were the tanks and fighter planes of their day.

Warrior_chariot_war_horses1
This is why it was told specifically to Joshua in his victories over the Canaanites “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.”” Joshua‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Keeping the donkeys was fine, but they were told to hamstring the horses. When we read this, it sounds really strange. Why are they commanded to hamstring their horses?
Maybe we should reread all these passages in the Bible, and everywhere we read the word “horse” re-translate it into what they really were – “war horse“. Better yet, just change it to read “tanks“. Because in the ancient world, that’s what the horse was used as – an instrument of war. So when the Israelites are told to hamstring the horses but keep the donkeys, we can better understand it as being “keep the tractors and destroy the tanks“.

Kuwaiti_M1_Abrams_tanks
Acquiring “many” horses was specifically prohibited for Israel’s kings in the law set down in Deuteronomy- “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’” Deuteronomy‬ ‭17:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Of course, this was a command ignored by the kings of Israel. We know king Solomon kept over 12,000 horses. We also know that every time Israel relied on their horses in battle, they were defeated, it was only when they turned to the Lord that they were delivered.

N1401-SCN-S94-012

What is the point of all of this? It’s not that God does not like horses, he certainly loves horses. But God does not like the fact that we use horses as war horses. Just like he does not like our tanks, our missiles, our military might. We live in 21st century America, home of the free and land of the brave. But where is our trust? Remember Psalm 20? “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalms‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Here is my unofficial 21st century American translation of that verse – “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but WE trust in nuclear submarines, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, stealth bombers and our full nuclear arsenal!!” Let’s see their horses stand up to that!! Of course, they are not relying on horses anymore either, are they?

majestic horse
The prophecy Jesus fulfilled by riding the colt into Jerusalem was from the 3rd – 4th century BC from Zachariah. It was written during the time of Alexander the Great, the greatest of the Greats the world has ever known. All the greats – Alexander the Great, Peter the great, Cyrus the great, many more I’m sure – were pretty much great at the same thing – they were great at war. They were called great because the people who wrote the history after them were on their side. The people who wrote the history were on their side mainly because the people who were not on their side were now mostly dead.

the_aftermath_of_hiroshima_640_19
Rome once spoke of the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. I think it was Tacitus who said of Rome at the time – “Rome creates a desert and calls it peace.” They would come to opposing territory, kill everyone there, destroy the nation, and say to themselves “Isn’t it peaceful now?” We’ve been fighting wars to achieve “peace” for 4500 years now. Except for war never leads to peace, each and every war only leads to the next war, the next battle.

Alexander on Bucephalus
Alexander the Great rode his Great War horse Bucephalus into every battle he ever fought. In case you don’t know, Bucephalus is probably the most famous animal in history. To this day, we know where this horse is buried. A giant war horse, worthy of a great man. A majestic animal, projecting the pride and power his rider would want to project. But we would do well to remember this admonition in the psalms – “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.” Psalms‬ ‭33:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Remember the for horseman of the apocalypse.  The white horse, the great horse of conquest. Followed by the red horse of war, because people don’t like being conquered and will eventually fight back. Then the black horse of famine, because we fight each other with and for our resources producing scarcity. Finally the ultimate fate of mankind as we trust in our war machines for our salvation, the green horse of death.

 

The prophecy of Zachariah – “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Jesus rode into Jerusalem for his coronation not on a conquering war horse but a peace donkey. While those shouting hosanna were looking for a conquering hero, Jesus the Great, to bring salvation to them from the oppressive hand of the Roman occupiers, their Messiah was bringing the only salvation that can last through the millennia, the salvation that comes from forgiveness and reconciliation. While the crowds shouted their hosannas to the one coming in the name of the Lord and not Caesar, the one who came in the name of the Lord cried over Jerusalem “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Luke‬ ‭19:42‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

jesus-on-the-cross1

Jesus cries over us to this day, for even as we shout our hosannas to our savior, we still do not know the things that make for peace. Paraphrasing the words of Ravi Zacharias, until we can accept the sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God on the hard wood of the cross, we will continue to sacrifice our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of the world.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

‭‭Zechariah‬ ‭9:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/zec.9.9-10.esv
“And Joshua did to them just as the Lord said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder.”

‭‭Joshua‬ ‭11:9, 14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:7-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.11.7-11.esv

John Lewis

And it Was Good

And it Was Good

earth-god

 

In Genesis Chapter 1 today, the creation account, the biblical account of God’s great creation of the heavens and the earth.
I’m not here to analyze the creation account, I’m not here to compare and contrast every verse of Genesis with all the major scientific discoveries of the past 4000 years. I am very simply looking at the creation account to think about the creator behind it all.
What do you think of God? Who do you think He is? What kind of being is He?

zeus
First…let’s think about one thing in the creation account. Over and over again…we see that God sees His creation as good. He is happy with what He has created.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. 

let-there-be-light1
And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. Our atmosphere. The air we breathe. God calls the atmosphere and the air we breathe Heaven. There’s something to ponder for the next year or two…and I would say He thought that was good also!
God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 

400px-hopetoun_falls
The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

moon-stars-clouds
And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

oceans-fish-2-sb0o4bdrho-1024x768
So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 

clip_image0022
And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

good-creation
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
How’s this for a thought – what if this image we have burned into our minds of God as a Zeus-like character in Greek mythology, sitting up in some far away place, a galaxy far far away, watching us, angry with us, ready to strike us down at any moment, is just wrong?? If you read the creation account, that is not who God is at all. God is happy. God is not just happy, He’s joyful.
He’s happy with His creation, and why wouldn’t He be. It is good! Take a moment and think about your best memory. Or your best memories, hopefully. Think about the most beautiful views you’ve seen. Think about those experiences in your life which you will remember until you die. Your best days.
These are God’s everyday. The sunset at Laguna. The beaches at Maui. The summit of Everest. The sunrise on the Atlantic. The view from an airliner over the clouds. This is His everyday.
We have fish tank in my house. We’ve had it for a few years now, it’s probably got about 6-7 fish and a couple of shrimp in it. We think it’s cool, we still get joy watching these few fish swim around their 25 gallon environment. God has billions of these, everyday, swimming in every ocean, every river, every stream. Just a part of His everyday.

eagle-nebula
Think you’ve seen beautiful cloud formations?? With our space telescopes out there sending pictures, we’ve found cloud formations estimated at 6 trillion miles high, all backlit by multiple stars bigger and more powerful than our sun. Unimaginable to us. His everyday.
We also have microscopic cameras, capable of taking pictures of even our human DNA strand. The intricate designs even of the tiniest parts of us are stunning, appearing like the most beautiful stained glass. Again…His everyday.

human-dna
Dallas Willard says this about our God – “Undoubtably he is the most joyous being in the world. The abundance of His love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness.”
We don’t serve an angry God whom we have to live in constant fear of. We serve a joyous God who loves and enjoys all that He created (including you!). What God created is good and beautiful.
We forget that we live in a world full of beauty and wonder. A world that was created full of beauty and wonder. We have a lot of things screwed up in the way we live and relate to this beautiful world, Gods good creation. We serve a joyous God. Jesus was know for His joy. The early Christians were known for their joy, even up to the point of their own death. Here in America, we seem to have it all. We have money, comfort, technology, all the food we can eat and then some.
We have everything, it seems, except for the joy for which we were created.

 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God 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 an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:1-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/gen.1.1-31.esv

John Lewis