I have a Beautiful Inheritance

6992b64e1e9ac092f0c0f76589aa8f80

What follows is a very long blog, my apologies. This is my sermon transcript from a few weeks ago that I used while preaching at my home church, Remix Church in Salem, MA. I’ve never done this before but if I get some positive feedback I might post other sermons as well. I totally understand if you don’t take the time to read this, but if you do I trust you will also be captivated by God’s amazing love.

__________________________

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

                      Psalm 16:6

What would it take, this morning, for your heart to be stirred? What would it take for your soul to be awakened? What would it take for you to leave this place in anguish; not an anguish of pain but an anguish of longing? What would it take for your spirit to be so moved that the very course of your life changed? What thing could be so beautiful that your definition of beauty is challenged? What thing could be so delightful that all other delights become slightly faded? What thing could be so precious that possession of it becomes an obsession? What flame could burn so bright that many waters could not quench it? What thing could possibly be so captivating that the very thought of not having it would make you feel uneasy?

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, not angels or rulers, not things present nor things to come, nor powers, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Yes, this beauty that I speak of this morning, this thing that is so captivating, this delight so intense, this longing stronger than death, this banner over me, is the beauty of the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This love is so beautiful because of the nature of it. God’s love is self-sacrificial, unconditional, other-orientated, non-violent, cross bearing and 100% free. It is so beautiful because of the price paid for it. It cost us nothing, but cost God everything. It is beautiful because of the source – the heart of God himself, the very Creator and Sustainer of our lives. It is beautiful because it has as its object every single person who has ever lived. It is beautiful because it is something we can experience; and more than experience, we can share it and live it.

But this beauty is not found where you might think it is found. You might look in the heavens and see the stars and planets in all their splendid wonder, but you wouldn’t find it there. You might think to look at the tenderness of a newborn baby in her mother’s arms, but you would have to keep looking. You might look in awe at a great work of art, a masterpiece, but you wouldn’t find it there. You might think to look upon the majestic mountains or the crashing waves or the deep still forest, but, you wouldn’t find it there. You might even think to look it up Google, but you won’t find it there. No, the beauty of Christ is found somewhere else; the least likely spot. Truly the love of Christ has a form, it can be observed. We can behold the beautiful love of Jesus Christ. Do you want to know what love looks like? I will tell you.

You can catch a glimpse of it in the manger where a baby in swaddling clothes is laid. You can see it as if through a telescope while looking at a King washing his subjects’ feet. Closer now you can see it in the Garden of Gethsemane, bleeding. Now I can tell you what love looks like. Love looks like the cross.

 

“By this we know what love is, that he laid down his life for usIn this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins”

1 John 3:16; 4:10

Because this beautiful love, this self-sacrificial, non-violent, other-orientated, cross-bearing love came clothed in humility, it was not initially heralded as love.

“he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken by God, and afflicted.”

Isaiah 53:2-4

But we should not suppose that this meek love was weak love. People thought he had failed. Satan thought he had won, can you imagine? People thought they had killed a madman, but what really happened what that the God-man laid down his life for mankind. For on the cross, Christ was loving the world and saving the world.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. he bore the sins of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

Isaiah 53:5, 12

That love is amazing to me today because I am a transgressor.

  • I am the prodigal son who wasted my inheritance and was welcomed home with open arms
  • I am the prostitute whom Jesus protected from violence and forgave freely
  • I am the extortioner who was restored to society when Jesus came over my house for dinner
  • I am the leper, cleansed and healed, given hope again
  • I am the demoniac set in my right mind by just one word from the Christ
  • I am the self-righteous religious person who needed to hear that even church people need a Savior
  • I am the one who denied Jesus and yet he still believed in me
  • I am the one who betrayed Jesus as if the Lord of glory was worth 30 pieces of silver
  • I am the one, I am the one, who nailed his wrists to the cross and yet he did not hate me
  • I am the thief on the cross next him being promised paradise simply because I trust him

On the cross, there dying in agony and isolation, he cried out words of such beauty that I can’t take my eyes off him.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

If he has no beauty that I should desire him, then why do I desire him so deeply this morning? Why do I find myself whispering not words of a lawyer full of argument, defense, doctrine with the purpose of being right; but with words of a lover full of intimacy, desire, vulnerability with the purpose of being captivated?

Though clearly Song of Solomon was written about the passion of a man and woman (for God always desired for there to be passion between a man and woman, the very nature of things bears this out), everything in the Old Testament points us to Christ. It foreshadows Christ. The Old Testament is shadow, Christ the substance. Therefore, these words spoken in passion between lovers can provide us with language that we can use with God as well, and He with us.

Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful”

“He brought me to his banqueting house, and his banner over me is love”

“My beloved is mine, and I am his”

“I will seek him whom my soul loves”

“I am sick with love”

“I am my beloved and my beloved is mine”

“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me”

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy as fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flames of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”

From the Song of Solomon

Does it seem strange and foreign to you to think of these words as praise to Christ? Understandable as that is, for they are words totally devoid of the religious-lawyer language that we typically use for God, I would like to tell you why these words are appropriate. I would like to tell you why the beauty of Christ is so captivating. I would like to explain why I have a beautiful inheritance.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

                      Psalm 16:6

Portion. Cup. Lot. Lines. Inheritance. Let me rephrase those unfamiliar terms as best I can.

Jesus is who I want and who I need when I consider my life. It is no mistake that my life is like the Garden of Eden because of what Jesus has in store for me. 

The inspired Word of God of course says it much better:

“The life I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Philippians 1:21

“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.”

Colossians 3:3-4

I speak of a beautiful love, I speak of a beautiful inheritance, because I see the price paid for this extravagant, reckless, overly generous, unconditional, undeserved love. I have been given everything because God has given everything. Everything we need – our portion, our cup, our inheritance, our source of life itself – is found in the Cross of Christ. I say it again, love looks like the cross. The Father sends the Son. The Son lays down His life. The Holy Spirit raises that life from dead. This is my portion. This is my inheritance. This is my destiny. This is my hope and my future. This is why the Bible tells us:

“Fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”

Hebrews 12:2

 

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.”

1 John 3:1

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

I could continue talking about our beautiful inheritance. I could tell you how it will never fade away or get rusty. It will never diminish or lose its value. Our portion, which is Christ, will never be taken from us. There is ZERO chance of a market crash in heaven. I could try to explain to you the depths of this beautiful love, but why try when the Bible already spoke these astonishing words,

“I have loved you with an everlasting love”

Jeremiah 31:3

“for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”

Romans 5:8

And to the one who feels far away this morning, God says,

“I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely.”

Hosea 14:4

Read the story of Hosea sometime. He fell in love with a prostitute and was faithful to her even though she was not faithful in return. Some might call that unbelievable stupid. And while I would not recommend anyone putting themselves through such tragedy, some might also call that a love that is beautiful.

There is nowhere beyond the reach of the love of God in Christ.

“For your steadfast love reaches to the heavens”

Psalm 108:4

“If take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

Psalm 139:9-10

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, not angels or rulers, not things present nor things to come, nor powers, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

I could go on and on talking about the love of Christ, when beauty was nailed to a Tree. But why should I when the Psalmist already wrote:

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 63:3, 8

My portion, my cup, my property lines, my inheritance, is beautiful because what God has given me is none other than Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Do you understand this morning that God the Father has given you His Son and His Holy Spirit to indwell you today? Do you understand that your inheritance is beautiful today because your inheritance is God Himself? You should take some time this week and let that sink in. YOU are of unsurpassable, inestimable, indescribable, incomparable, extraordinary value to God.

But now let us speak of love reciprocated. The Gospel is this:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Romans 5:6, 11

The Gospel demands a response. Not a demand like a spoiled little child, but a demand like a man on bended knee with a ring in his hand.

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

1 John 5:11-12

What is offered to you today is a beautiful inheritance. What God offers to you is eternal life. What is offered to you today is Jesus, the beautiful Savior.

(Altar Call)

This is not a petty religious offer. This is not a shallow cliché. This offer is not merely “going to heaven when you die.” This offer is much greater than that. This beautiful inheritance is about bringing heaven to earth as you live. We spread the kingdom the same way he started it: with love.

“We love because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

We actually can receive our beautiful inheritance right now! Well, we can receive the guarantee of that inheritance.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire it.

Ephesians 1:14

We do this be receiving His love and reciprocating His love. The greatest commandment Jesus gave was to love God and love others.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27

We must love not just the lovable, but also the unlovable. Not just our friends but our enemies also. Remember, if it has flesh and blood, it is not our enemy. If it has flesh and blood, we are to love it, not fight against it. To love someone means that we agree with God that this person is of inestimable and unsurpassable value to God.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

1 John 4:20

So now you know why I call our inheritance beautiful. And now you know why it is beautiful. Come to the cross today and behold what manner of love is reaching out to you at this very moment. Come to the cross today and fall in love with the Savior who rescued you. Come to the cross today for you are welcomed, invited, desired, expected, and eagerly anticipated. But next time you come to cross, bring someone with you. They also have a beautiful inheritance.

a beautiful inheritance _ blog header

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creed: living out what matters

apostles-creed_620

Depending on the mood I’m in and how creative I am feeling at the moment, I might word this differently from day-to-day. I’m quite sure that a month from now, having put more thought into it, I will add and/or subtract some things.  Still, this is the essence of my personal creed. I figured that since I want people in my Tribe to start understanding what they actually believe, I had better practice what I preach and start fleshing out my creed. Here’s what I have so far.

_______________________________

Forever, there has been God: the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. There is One True God, not many gods. God is love and God is holy. There is nowhere that God can’t be God.

The Bible tells us everything we need to know about God in order to have a relationship with Him. It is not a textbook, and is was written by imperfect human beings; yet it will always be able to do what it is meant to do: reveal the truth to us about God and ourselves.

God created everything, including me. Life is not an accident, random or born from chaos. All humans are of unsurpassable value and inestimable worth to God.

Satan rebelled against God by desiring to be like God (which is idolatry, rebellion, pride). Satan, who is a real entity,  was cast out of heaven but now is ruler of this world through the power of sin. One day, evil will be completely removed from God’s creation once and for all.

All humans were born with a broken relationship with God and humanity. God wanted to fix these broken relationships by dealing with the root of the problem: our innate desire to seek life apart from him.

God did fix that problem by becoming flesh in the person of His Son, Jesus the Christ (Messiah). Jesus established God’s kingdom on earth through His life, death, resurrection and ascension. Through an act of pure, unconditional love, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and thus freed us from the curse of sin, which is eternal separation from God.

Since God is love, there is free will. Love must be chosen.  There is nothing in us that deserves God’s love, yet He loves us freely and generously. God invites everyone to repent of their sins, be forgiven and believe in Jesus as the only source of true life.

Since God is holy, there is a certain way His followers should live. Christ-followers should orientate their lives around their love for God and their love for other people. It is a challenging, painful journey at times, but there is joy in the journey all the time.

Though we are like dust, here one day and gone the next, how we live our lives matters. Christ-followers live their lives with the purpose of making the Name of Jesus famous all over the world so that all people can know His love. We do this by living other-orientated, cross-centered, non-violent, self-sacrificial lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we do this, we overcome evil with good.

There is an eternal future for everyone. It is God’s desire for all His creation to be redeemed. One day, Jesus will come again to the Earth to bring justice, peace and eternal life to those who believe in Him.

___________________________________

None of us are going to be able to get our theology 100% right because we are all broken in some respect. Our creed is always evolving as we grow in knowledge of God and ourselves. The important that is that we know what we believe and the consequences of those beliefs.

One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.

Joan of Arc

Something to ink about…

Heaven without God, is just sky

heaven_sky

Last year I bought a telescope so that I could look into the heavens. It’s a nice piece of equipment with an 8″ lens so I can the rings of Saturn through it, and beyond. I can also get some amazing pictures of the moon when I attach my DSLR camera to it. Secretly, I was hoping that maybe God would photobomb one of my pics. Because we all know God lives in heaven, up in the sky, right?

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.                Psalm 103:19

It’s normal to think of heaven (where God lives) as “up” as in “up in the sky.” Psalm 103:19 seems says as much. However, we should be clear that “heaven” has a double meaning in the Bible. It does refer to sky above us which is part of the material world. The heavens could be where the airplanes fly, or where our solar system is. The sky. But “heaven” also refers to the spiritual realm of God’s presence which is hidden from our eyes. God does not physically live “up in the clouds” though. Heaven, where God lives, is not a physical locality somewhere “up.” Similarly, hell is not “down” in the center of the earth.

It has really hurt the modern church, in America anyway, to locate heaven up in the sky. For one thing, it has misled people to believe that the future of  God’s children is “somewhere over the rainbow.” When people talk about going to heaven when they die, they usually mean that they are going “up and far away to another place.” This has the unfortunate consequence that many Christians falsely believe that our eternal future is not going to involve God’s created universe, including earth. If God is taking us “away” to heaven one day, then this world, namely the environment, must not be worth that much to God.

Nothing could be further from the truth (see Romans 8:23-25). The Gospel is Good News not because God intends to leave this world and start a different one; but it is Good News because God intends to bring heaven right here to earth. He intends, believe it not, to live right here among us (Revelation 20:1-4).

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man…. God himself will be with them as their God.

When Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), He wasn’t referring to a far away place, He didn’t mean that UP was coming DOWN. “Heaven” (“the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God”) is not a physical location, but a spiritual reality. The kingdom of heaven is the spiritual dimension where God dwells and where His sovereignty rules (King of Kings, heavenly Father, King of heaven). We cannot see this spiritual dimension, but when Jesus rose from the dead He showed us what it’s like. He gave us a glimpse, a foretaste. In heaven, God’s will is always done (now go read Matthew 6:10). For those who love God and long for his return (not from “up” but from this other spiritual dimension called heaven), it is heaven that is our home (now go read Philippians 3:20 and Colossians 3:1-4). It is in heaven where we fight our battles (now go read Ephesians 6:10-12).

When we think of heaven less as a place, and more as God’s rule and reign, many of the teachings of the Bible start to make more sense (now go read Luke 11:13 and Ephesians 1:3). However, our enlightened, sophisticated, advanced Western minds don’t have need of God any more. Western culture has abandoned its belief in God and fills that space  with its own ideas. We’ve taken God out of heaven, and now it’s just sky.

To every Christ-follower reading this, your mission is to put God BACK in heaven. Show the world that there’s more than just sky.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore…and behold I am with you to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18)

Something to ink about…

 

Idolatry, antichrist and True Life

god's power

There’s a reason we do not speak of such a thing as “anti-satan.” Because there is no such thing. What there is, is Jesus. Jesus is Christus Victor. He has conquered hell, death and the grave. In one of my favorite verses we read,

“He disarmed the (demonic) rulers and authorities and put them in open shame, by triumphing over them in the cross.”

Colossians 2:15

We, God’s children, have no need of an “anti-satan.” The enemy has been defeated and we are promised to one day be rid of his evil influence (Revelation 20:7-10). Jesus does not have to copy, mimic or deceive people into thinking his is more powerful than Satan. Every knee shall bow to Jesus; in heaven, on earth and under the earth (hell, though it is not really “under the earth”) says Philippians 2:10.

There is such a thing, such a person as “antichrist” though. The spirit of antichrist is a deceiving spirit that does not confess Jesus Christ as Lord (1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The spirit is none other than the spirit of Satan. “Anti” of course means opposite, or against. Satan is the “opposite of Christ,” he is “against Jesus.” But Christ is not the opposite of Satan, and He is not against Satan either, because, it is finished (John 19:30; Revelation 12:10). Strictly speaking, the “against” part has already been done.

All Satan can do is lie, steal, deceive, destroy and accuse (Revelation 12:9-10;  John 10:10; John 8:44). Satan cannot create, but he can destroy what God has created. He cannot give life, so he steals life. We see this in the opening drama of human history. When he tempted Adam & Eve, he stole their life by deceiving them to look for life in something other than God (Genesis 3).

Let us be done with Hollywood horror images of Satan. We will never meet that thing on this earth. What we will meet, everyday, is the spirit of antichrist; the spirit of lawlessness that is already on this earth (1 John 4:3). Satan, who rules this world (1 John 5:19) will seek to be an angel of light to you (2 Corinthians 11:14) so that he can lead you astray with subtle lies, good-looking deceptions, a lazy dulling of your senses, and a slow but sure hard heart.

What Satan, the antichrist, wants to do to you is the very same thing he did to Adam & Eve – he wants you to look for life from something other than God. That “something” doesn’t even have to be him (of course, Satan cannot give life anyway), as long as it’s not God. Whatever that other “thing” is that you look to for life, that is your idol. And from day one, idolatry is the sin of mankind, and it is the sin of Satan, the antichrist.

Jesus defeated Satan by living a human life that was completely dependant upon God. Jesus NEVER looked to anyone or anything else for life except God the Father (see Luke 4:1-14; John 17:1-5). We defeat the power of Satan by continually finding our life in Christ.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with God in Christ.

Colossians 3:3-4 (emphasis added)

Idolatry, finding our source of life in something other than God, is something we must continually keep on guard against. Ask yourself this question, “If my relationship with Christ was taken from me, how would my life be different?” If the answer is not at all or very little, then you might be finding your source of life in something other than God. We must look to Christ for life. Any other source of life is idolatry.

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 

1 John 5:19-21 (emphasis added)

The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy. I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

Something to ink about…

My Bible is Alive!

bible-alive-625x300_med

Why is the Bible an indispensable component of the christian faith? Why has it endured for millennia as a source of hope, guidance, inspiration and doctrine? What is it that sets the Scriptures apart from other books? Why do so many talk about the Bible “speaking” to them? Why do I make the statement, “my Bible is alive?”

Maybe you have had an “Road to Emmaus” experience (Luke 24:13-35)? After Jesus “opened” the Scriptures to two of his disciples they exclaimed, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us?” Interesting that they used the word “opened,” and not taught or lectured. The Scriptures, the Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments are to be opened in the sense of a discovery, like going somewhere you’ve never been before.

Here is the truly wonderful part of the Road to Emmaus story,

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

Now we come close to the heart of the matter. Why does the Bible, unlike any other book, so powerfully speak to people in all walks of life? Jesus himself said,

You search the Scriptures because  you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life… the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 5:40; 6:63)

The “Word of God” is more than the written words in the Bible. The Word of God… is God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And also,

God… has spoken to us by his Son… through whom he created the world.         (Hebrews 1:1-2)

You see, when God speaks we are not merely given information. When God speaks, He acts. We see this clearly in Genesis 1, “God said, let there be… and there was”. God’s word, and only God’s word, creates as it is spoken. His Word created the universe and mankind, and, this is important, is still creating life within us.

This life now comes to us from the Father and Son through the Holy Spirit. For Romans says,

If the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)

So when we read the Bible, and this applies to no other book, we are reading Christ himself. And when His Word speaks to us, it is speaking the life-giving, resurrecting power of Jesus Christ to us through the creative power of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Word burns in our hearts sometimes. This is why the Bible seems to “jump off the page” sometimes. This is why the Scriptures speak to our hearts like no other book.

The Word of God is no mere textbook or novel, or self-help manual. No, it is Christ Himself. This is why we are encouraged to

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)

Can you see it now so clearly? We are not reading a book, the book is speaking to us! From Spirit to spirit. The book is creating life in us as we read it, study it, pray it, sing it, hear it and obey it. I leave you with one final Scripture:

For the word of God is living and active …(Hebrews 4:12)

The Word is alive because Jesus (the Word) is alive. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus can create new life in you as you read the Word. It doesn’t matter if you understand it all or not. The Word speaks to everyone who will read it and listen. Let it burn.

Something to ink about…

In the beginning…what happened?

editorial-abstract

Creation should be an exquisite joy and a foundational reason why Christ-followers praise God in awe and wonder. Instead, it has become a source of embarrassment and/or confusion.  Part of the reason for this is because of the incorrect way we have been taught to understand Genesis 1 (and, sadly, much of the Bible). In hopes of rekindling wonder and awe for our Creator-Savior God, I share a few thoughts with you.

First of all, it is not blasphemy to admit that the writer of Genesis 1 had a primitive understanding of creation. Imagine what our understanding of creation will like 3,000 years from now. They will look back on 2019 and consider it primitive. Likewise, it is not blasphemy to admit that Genesis 1 is not intended to be a textbook on creation. I can’t emphasize that enough. The first chapter of the Bible does not contain undisputable scientific facts with which we are meant to argue against modern scientific discovery. As such, we do not need to fear science. Genesis 1 is about the order of things, not the origin of things.

Genesis 1 is obviously not scientific in nature, nor it is meant to be taken literally as scientific fact. For instance, on the fourth day God created the sun and the moon (and the stars… not a bad day’s work!). But on day one He had already created light. Think about it. By creating the sun and moon, by which we get our concept of morning and evening (24-hour days), on the fourth day, it is clearly shown that Genesis 1 is not trying to definitively prove a literal six twenty-four hour day creation theory. How could there be “days” before the sunand moon were created? Putting the creation of the sun and moon on the fourth day was most likely to show God’s dominance over the pagan sun and moon gods (mostly in Egypt) which were very popular at the time. God alone is the source of life, not any other so-called god. Genesis 1 unfolds for us in beautiful language the order of the universe – God is Almighty. (The linguistic pattern of Genesis 1 also portrays order).

The Bible’s account of creation is much too sketchy to be the basis for any scientific theory – and that’s ok!! The creation account is not meant to prove a scientific theory. Genesis 1 is about the order of things, not the origin of things. Is the universe 6,000 years old or 14 billion years old? We just don’t know, and to the writer of Genesis, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is that our Creator-Savior God has brought order and purpose to mankind. We are not random accidents, not do we live in chaos.

In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)

So please read Genesis 1, but don’t read it alongside Neil Degrasse Tyson’s books (which are great by the way). The Bible is not a textbook, nor an infallible scientific theory. It is, however, an infallible source of an intimate life with God. If you are looking at Genesis 1 in order to prove a scientific theory, you might be disappointed. If you are looking to Genesis 1 to fill you with hope, purpose and awe, then you will be fully satisfied. Let Genesis 1 teach you the rhythms of God, the power of God, the love of God and the rest we can have in God.

In the beginning, we just don’t know what happened. But we know Who was there, Why He was there, and that when He rested from His creative works, He said “it is very good” (1:31) and then blessed the seventh day. The New Testament picks up on what Genesis 1 was all about (the OT points to Christ and is fulfilled in Him) when it says:

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God… let us therefore strive to enter that rest. (Hebrew 4:9)

So go ahead and lift your eyes to the heavens. Go ahead and enjoy the ocean view and mountain range. As you do, read Psalm 8 and confidently proclaim:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1)

Something to ink about…

 

 

 

The Violent Psalms show us Something Wonderful

lament

Well, I hate to admit it, but, much like my last blog I have to say that reading the Psalms was really hit or miss for me for much of my christian walk. Oh I loved some of them  – Ps 8, 23,  119,  136 to name a few. Then there were the Psalms that seemed like a Rambo movie, or Taken; they were all about revenge, retribution and retaliation. I never knew what to do with them because they seemed so foreign to message of the New Testament. Let me give one example from Psalm 3:7-8:

Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike  all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people.”

I must quickly interject that God does not hate anyone. God will not strike or break the teeth of anyone. This is a prayer that would have made sense in David’s time (many centuries before the coming of Christ), but they make no literal sense now. God is love (1 Jn. 4:16). He is our peace who has reconciled us to God (Eph. 2:14-17). Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and to bless them (Lk 6:35; Rom. 12:14). Clearly we cannot literally pray for God to hurt people, whether they are evil or not.

Part of the answer to this “combative Psalm” dilemma is that while warfare is no longer the way God’s kingdom is advanced, spiritual warfare is very much part of the Christian life (see Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Jn. 5:19). We can let these Psalms remind us of our constant need to pray and live against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. If it has flesh and blood, it is not our enemy. If it has flesh and blood we are to love it, not fight against it. But I want to highlight another, often overlooked benefit to these “vengeance Psalms.”

Jesus said Old Testament bears witness to him (Jn. 5:39), so the key to interpreting the OT is to see how it points to him. Like with the Book of Judges I wrote of in a previous blog, so too we must train ourselves to see how Christ is anticipated, even if it is a shadowy glimpse, in the Psalms.

These “Psalms of retribution” wonderfully point us to the Cross of Christ. Much like David’s enemies in the Psalms, we too were enemies of God. But instead of destroying us, he died for us.

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). 

Through the cross of Christ, God has once and for all answered all these violent prayers. When God sent his Son into the world to save the world (Jn. 3:16), He once and for all won the victory over all his enemies (see Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:14-15; Rom. 12:21 et al.). This was a superior wisdom that the enemy did not see coming (1 Cor. 2:7-8). The “vendetta Psalms” glorify the Crucified Lord because they show us what we are saved from! No longer an eye for an eye (see Mt. 5:38-42), but His life for your life. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). Love looks like the Cross.

The extraordinary grace and mercy of God are seen in Psalms like Psalm 3 because we can appreciate what we have been spared from. He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). He was oppressed, stricken, cut off, crushed, pierced, wounded and crucified (talk about violence!) so they we could have the right to be called children  of God. His great love has removed all hostility between God and us, and now there is nothing but grace and mercy extended to us. By his great mercy we are saved. We are no longer objects of wrath.

So now, when I read the Psalms, I am awed by the love that spared me violence.

Something to ink about…