God Speaks- Psalm 19:1-6, John 1:1, Job 38:1-7,34-36, Romans 5:15-17

majesty of God

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.

 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, 

which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6 (ESV)

In the Gospel of John, the writer mirrors the Genesis creation narrative in which God spoke the world into existence.

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

In some religious traditions (those that espouse pantheism or panentheism) God is viewed as being the universe (creation is God, in a sense) or that God includes and encompasses the universe and beyond, i.e. God is the universe and more.  Yet in the Christian understanding, God is outside of creation.  Creation came to be by the Word of God; by His speaking the universe into existence.  We dare not confuse the Creator with the creation.  The heavens declare the glory of God, but they are a reflection, a creation that shows us just part of His vastness and majesty and glory.  The heavens are not God.

The Word is not silent. The voice of God still commands the ebb and flow of the tides, the revolution of the planets around the sun, and the appointed movements of the constellations in the sky. As God reveals to Job, His speech and His sovereignty over creation are beyond our ability to comprehend:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

 Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,

 when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go
and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts            
    or given understanding to the mind?” Job 38:1-7,34-36 (ESV)

Adam earned all his children the curse of death through the Fall, and fallen humanity could not break the curse. God could have just abandoned us all to death forever, but that was not His plan.  Jesus, the one and only God-Man, entered into this broken and fallen world to redeem us.  The apostle Paul explains:

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15-17 (ESV)

God still speaks to us today. He speaks to us in the majesty of creation, but He speaks to us most directly in the Scriptures. Through the written Word of God- the Bible- God speaks to us.  Through the hearing of the Word, we come to saving faith. (Romans 10:17.)

February 19, 2019- How Majestic is God’s Name! – Psalm 8, John 1:1-5

Creation

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.   Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,  the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

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

It is comforting to know that God is omnipotent. Someone beyond us has created the universe and all that is in nature, yet He cared for fragile humanity so much that Jesus became one of us.  Jesus lived on the earth. He entered into the wonder of human life as well as all its pain and brokenness. He laughed, He wept, He comforted, He taught. He rebuked.  He got angry. He shared joy. Jesus was fully God, and also fully human.

As we confess in the Apostle’s Creed, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered. He died and was buried, and descended into the place of the dead. He rose on the third day. As the prophet Isaiah teaches us, He was pierced for our transgressions, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5 (ESV)

God Himself- Jesus- who has always been, beyond the constraints of time, has given us stewardship of the world. Out of His great love for us, He provides for us. The sun, the moon, the stars, the oceans, the fields and mountains, and all the animals that live in them are all His handiwork.

Thank God that we are always on His mind and that He always cares for us even though we are little more than dust.

The Psalms remind us to pray, to praise, and to bring everything to the omnipotent and endless God who created us and sustains us. It’s always a good time to look up and remember that God provides everything we need, including life with Him forever!

September 18, 2018- Where Were You? Job 38:1-18, 1 Peter 4:12-13

 

job whirlwind

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

 Dress for action (literally: “gird your loins”) like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.

 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

 “Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
when I made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,

that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
 It is changed like clay under the seal,
and its features stand out like a garment.

 From the wicked their light is withheld,
and their uplifted arm is broken.

 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?

 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this. Job 38:1-18 (ESV)

 

The story of Job is one that most of us can identify with. Job is basically a person who most people would consider to be a “good guy.”  He tries to do all the right things- bringing up his kids right, trying to do the things God wants, and so forth.  Obeying the law is a good thing insofar as we are capable of doing it, but nobody can keep the law perfectly, and breaking one little point of it means you’ve messed up the whole thing. Job tried, but he was still an imperfect person who sinned, under the curse of the Fall, just like the rest of us.

The devil asks God if he can have his way with Job, insisting that Job only loves God because of the blessings God gives him. The devil is given permission to torment Job in all sorts of ways, but not to outright kill him.  Job ends up losing everything during this trial.  Job questions God as to why he deserved to be tormented, and Job demanded answers of God.  Job was possibly the first to ask the pervasive question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Job’s friends tried to console him- and place the blame on him for his afflictions. Their logic was that if only Job had been a “better guy,” or if he could only have figured out what he did to cheese God off and stopped doing it, then maybe he wouldn’t be suffering. We do that to ourselves. We think that if we can only be good and follow all the rules that nothing bad will happen to us. Then we are shocked when we are brought to a place of suffering, illness or loss, even though these are the conditions of our fallen condition and our fallen world.

We can become incredulous in times of adversity, and we are often tempted into attempting to bargain with God, even though Jesus and the apostles who first proclaimed the Gospel to the world let us know in no uncertain terms that the people of God share in both the burden of the Cross as well as in Jesus’ resurrection into eternal life. (It’s called Theology of the Cross…)

Job’s friends don’t use the best theology to explain his plight to him. God doesn’t work on the quid pro quo system.  We can’t bargain with God in the hope that our good behavior will garner us our “best life now” or comfort and a trouble free life.  We have nothing to offer God except to confess our sins and to pray for Christ to have mercy on us. Even the abilities to confess and pray and believe do not come from us, but are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here God reminds Job- and us- that we are beggars at the throne of grace indeed.

God reminds Job (and us) that He is the one in control. God is the one who set up the universe, the seasons, and the cycles of life. Who are we to question His wisdom- we who were nowhere to be found when He spoke the universe into being?

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)

In Christ alone we have hope. This world and its trials and pain and loss are not the end.  He is the Author of all salvation, redemption, a new heaven and a new earth.  Jesus is walking with us through this shadow of the valley. Death is not the end.  In Christ, death and suffering and loss do not have the final say.  We are forever in the care of the one who spoke creation into being.  Trust Him.

September 20, 2017- Keep the Sabbath Holy- Exodus 20:8:11, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Mark 2:27-28

the-sabbath

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it. Exodus 20:8-11 (NRSV)

Why is the concept of Sabbath- which almost seems foreign to us today in our 24/7/365 world- so essential to God that He commands it? Why is Sabbath still as important for 21st century Jesus followers as it was for ancient Jews?

Part of that answer can come from the natural cycles of the world that God created such as- day and night and the seasons of the year. As the Teacher of Ecclesiastes – who was most likely King Solomon- teaches us:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV)

God built in cycles for activity and rest and he built a rhythm into nature. Spring is for planting, new beginnings and birth.  Summer brings growth and coming to fruition.  Autumn brings the harvest and preparation for the deprivation and dormancy of winter.  Winter brings a sort of mini-death, a rest period in which the world recharges and prepares for the planting and growth of spring.  There is a time to work and a time to rest that is built into even day and night. We are called to work and do the good things God created us for, but we are also called to rest and to just be sometimes.  That is what Sabbath is for.

Sabbath gives us that recharging and rest time we need to disconnect from the world, from work, from the temporal cares of the moment and focus on simply being in the presence of God. The consequence of non-stop engagement and endless work is burnout.  God knows we need to connect with Him to be renewed and to have Him restore our strength.  Observing the Sabbath is not so much about “doing something for God,” but it is part of His provision to take care of us.  Jesus had to remind the Pharisees that God made the Sabbath command not for people to have to observe a laundry list of man-made restrictions, but so that people would see the need to take time out to simply be in the presence of God.

Then He (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27-28 (NRSV)

How do we make a conscious effort to observe the Sabbath, even knowing that some people must work on Sundays?

Take an alternate day- one who must work Sundays can take a day not scheduled for work to observe the Sabbath.   Those who have Sundays off should make weekly worship in a church with other Jesus followers a priority, along with receiving Communion when it is offered.  Even those who must work Sundays can find ways to connect with the Jesus community- through audio or video sermons and through study and discussion groups online, or with groups who worship or meet together on days other than Sunday.

Take Sabbath moments every day. Observe a time of prayer, meditation and conversation with the Lord for a set amount of time every day.  Such a simple practice can easily become a part of our spiritual disciplines and part of the cycles and rhythms of our lives.

Sabbath is God’s gift of rest and recharging for us. It is part of the rhythm of life that He created. We need to work, but we also need to rest and reconnect with Him.

 

 

July 21- The End of Entropy, Romans 8:18-21, Revelation 21:4-6

restorationI consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:18-21 (NRSV)

Entropy is a term most commonly used in physics to describe the process of energy draining out of a system. It can also be defined as: a :  the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity or, b :  a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary online.) Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Nothing in the physical world is permanent.

Entropy is what the apostle Paul is talking about here. No matter how we build up things in the world, they eventually decay and go back to the dust they came from. We need only look in the mirror for awhile to realize that youth is fleeting and that nothing of this earth lasts forever. We need only look around this world to see how all creation cries out for renewal, for restoration, and for peace.

Jesus breaks that chain of decay.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. – Revelation 21:4-6 (NRSV)

Jesus is making all things new, starting with our hearts and minds as we follow Him. We are walking in both worlds for a time, the earthly kingdom which is crying out for redemption and restoration, and through Christ, in the heavenly kingdom that is perfect and complete.

Are we living in the hope of restoration and redemption today? Do we believe Jesus when He says, “I make all things new?”