Life lessons from the place where God's Creation and His Word come together.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
From Chaos to Christ! Part IV
The whole point of Jesus' ministry was God’s final and most profound imposition to replace sin’s disorder with His order.
Jesus counters destruction with healing: When Peter cuts off the servant’s ear, Jesus heals it. When Jesus sees the money-changers in the Temple destroying its purpose and value, He drives them out, reestablishing the nature of the place, which is to be a house of prayer.
Jesus counters disease and disfigurement with healing and health.
Jesus counters the destructive occupancy of demons and their evil with the peace of His Father’s presence. He drives them out and away from people.
Jesus counters the decay of death with restoration. Lazarus was not only dead, but he was starting to decay. Jesus put a stop to that.
Jesus counters death's finality and grief with new life. Sin's ultimate legacy was reversed by His power.
Jesus own death would be the ultimate reversal of sin's legacy: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. ‘O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’" (1 Cor. 15:54-55)
Jesus Christ was and still is an invasionary force: taking back the planet, one person at a time. Love and compassion over sin and defeat: this is our call to battle. Love and compassion are equally our weapons of warfare under our Leader.
So, in effect, Jesus is restoring us back to Genesis 1.
He is newly creating in us the original design of His Father. Let's review…
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."
Christ brings God’s form to earth: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). He hovers over our darkness, our formlessness, our emptiness.
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
He is the light over our darkness, separating it from our lives. His light is good.
"And God said, 'Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.'”
"Jesus answered and said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life'" (John 4:13-14).
He is the water that replenishes, satisfies and brings life.
"And God said, 'Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.' And it was so. God called the dry ground 'land,' and the gathered waters he called 'seas.'”
Jesus says, "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:24-27).
We stand on Him. He is our Ground and He stands sovereign over the seas of life that threaten to flood over us.
"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds'”
Jesus says, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
We draw our growth and regeneration from Him. He asserts growth in the seed He is planting: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
"God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."
James 1:17-18 says, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures." 1 John 1:5 says, "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth…"
His light governs our lives. Why? Because He is Light and those in Him cannot help but radiate what He places inside them.
"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.'” "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” (Matt. 26:16-20)
We are to share this abundant life He has produced in us so others may share in His kingdom.
"And God said, 'Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” Jesus says, John 10:9-11: "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…” (John 10:9-11).
Our life is a reflection of His work in us. He produces abundant life in us and consequently works through us to reach a hurting world.
"Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them."
We reflect Him and thus His order. As we move out into His world, reclaiming it in the name of His Son, we see the image of Him in every person we encounter. They may be in bondage, but they are still His sons and daughters.
Jesus reintroduced goodness and order back into this world. Chaos is banished. Jesus brought us form, fullness and light, the exact opposites of what God was originally hovering over back in Genesis 1 and now what is currently ruling the planet.
Jesus’ ministry invaded the chaos, brought on by sin. Remember: Sin will not win!
The Book of Revelation details chaos’ last fight to overtake and fully dominate the planet. But, as we read, Christ will not allow that to happen.
Why? He has too much at stake: us.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
From Chaos to Christ, Part III
Let's review. We are exploring how God imposed order on the cosmos. He hovered over formlessness and darkness. He spoke into existence order and design and saw that it was good. The forces of nature were contained in His hand; they were not out of control or the manifestations of other gods. The universe was subject to law--God's order--and we were to be part of that reign.
Then, out of the trees, came a hissing voice that said, "Did God really say..." God's very words came into doubt. Doubt led to disbelief. Disbelief led to sinful action.
The fall of human beings reintroduce chaos into creation. In fact, Paul says that "the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (Rom. 8:21-2).
Death, disease, decay: These were not part of God's original design.
Man then, in reversal of God creating man in His image, then creates God in his image. Romans 1 outlines the downward spiral of when man ignores the order and design of creation:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom. 1:18-32)
Wow. The spiral into chaos has been played out in every generation, and continues even now. God reveals His divine qualities through His creation; people don't revere Him and become futile in their thinking; they then recreate Him, not as the One but as many; not invisible but as idols. Lust replaces love, and sexual practice violates divine order. This violation leads to an even deeper depravity: man ignores his conscience and does willingly what he knows violates God's order.
Let's now focus on the ultimate idol-worshiping people to the Hebrews: the Egyptians. Egyptian society was visually epic, with its pyramids, statues and endless hieroglyphic walls extolling the virtues of the gods and the pharoah. A false “order” was achieved, for these gods did not exist. Thus, this impressive foundation was built upon nothing.
So, through God's mighty power, Moses came to show the superiority of God over the Egyptian concept of order, with its god-king, building projects, and gods for every natural force. The Ten Plagues were a reversal of creation, a reversal of Genesis, proving that Egypt was founded on a false order. The worst fears of ancient people were realized: Chaos returned.
God overturned the Egyptians’ concept of order. Keep Genesis in mind as you read what happened: The river Nile and all the rivers turn to blood. Water is now dark and will not sustain life. The waters, once teeming with life, now have a disgusting abundance of frogs. The skies, once teeming with life, now have a disgusting abundance of gnats and flies.
(Isn't interesting that Goshen, where the children of Israel reside, is not affected? It's a little Garden of Eden...)
God made wild animals and livestock. The livestock, instead of supporting human life, is now plagued. What God gave humans as a gift is removed by disease and death. (Goshen is equally not affected. There, the wild animals and livestock still run free...)
Now, the human body, instead of mirroring the beauty and skill of God's creative hand, registers chaos: boils. An epidemic sweeps across the human population. (The children of Israel have a Edenic immunity, as it were.)
The rain that falls from the skies is now frozen. Instead of the water imparting life, the hail destroys the crops of flax and barley. (Goshen remains safe.) Yet, even amid the chaos, the wheat and the spelt are not destroyed. God's merciful hand is still evident.
The life that crawls on the ground--the locusts--now explodes in horrifying numbers, and “nothing green remained” (Gen. 10:15).
God spoke light into existence and separated the light from the darkness; now, even the light at night is swallowed up in a terrible darkness that could be “felt.” (Israel still resides in the light.)
For the last plague, the fall of man's most terrible legacy will be visited upon all the first born, Hebrews included. This plague reverses the "Be fruitful and multiply" directive of Genesis. Reproduction, continuation and generation will all cease under the wings of the Angel of Death. The firstborn will bear the brunt of God's judgment.
But doesn't that echo what God said in the Garden? He said that order, in effect, will be restored by the crushing of the Serpent’s head by God's Anointed. His Firstborn will bear the brunt of judgement for all humankind.
So, did the gods of Egypt really provide order? No: see how quickly disorder came! God reasserts His order and says, "that I might show My Power and that My Name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Gen. 9:16).
God’s covenants throughout history are reimposing His order onto creation. The Covenant of Noah reestablished control over the destructive force of water. The Covenant of Moses reasserted control over all natural forces and the supposed gods therein. The Covenant of David reasserted God's involvement over human affairs, by establishing a monarchy that will set up a royal lineage, leading someday to the Messiah, the “Son of David.” This Firstborn Son will come for all people, Jew and Gentile alike, and of His kingdom, there will be no end.
Next time: God's Final Assault on Disorder: The Ministry of Jesus Christ
Friday, October 9, 2015
From Chaos to Christ! Part II
Earlier, we examined the wondrous creation of our God. The Earth is now teeming with life.
Now God creates man and woman in His image. He molds dirt into a beautiful form and breathes His very spirit into the nostrils of His man. "Adam" means ground, and we are animated dust. We are royal soil.
Man and woman are not only created with God's tender hands, but He equally creates a place in which to place them. The Garden is our Creator's destination for His children. Where is it? It is where four rivers meet together in harmony: "A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters."
Remember: The Bible is of the desert. Its people, terrain, and customs are all shaped by the expanses of arid wilderness, the occasional oasis, the huge dark skies and the sun that never ceases to shine. To such people, rivers give life as well as death: the waters, when calm, are a source of refreshment. When those waters are out of control, they bring disaster.
Abraham and Moses were of the desert and the children of Israel were of the desert. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. His whole life, just like the patriarch Abraham, is spent in these wide expanses.
Harmony and order existed in the Garden, as it is described as “being well watered.” So, the Garden, with its calm rivers, was an oasis: a place of provision and peace.
I never valued water as much as I do since I moved to Idaho. We live in the high desert. We have rivulets, streams and a river that flows through our town. But by midsummer, the streams and rivulets are gone. The river runs low. It is very dry here. In fact, we had to drill 127 feet to find water on our property. The trees here signal where the ground water is. They congregate where the water flows, and when it ceases, their deep roots catch the underground water. We are a free range state, and that means cows are free to wander everywhere. By the end of summer, they are looking for two things: shade and water. They get desperate if they can't find water. They will trample fences and get into our yard looking for water. Water is life, and our neighborhood cows remind me of that.
The fall of our first parents reintroduced chaos back into creation. God’s creative act was to bring order out of chaos and now disorder, through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, reintroduces it. Destruction, decay and death now plague the planet.
They leave the Garden knowing that birth will bring pain (maybe even death); food is now the result of “toil”; and “thorns and thistles” will imitate plant life, but will be hostile to other plants and not a food source. God sends them out with a promise in addition to His punishments: The Messiah will come from the woman, and crush the head of the serpent. The Messiah, the Anointed One, will reintroduce order into the world by striking and overcoming its very author: Satan.
The consequences of sin’s disorder and its reign on Earth are catastrophic. The first act committed outside of the Garden is murder. In his rage and jealousy, Cain murders his brother Abel. This will set up a never-ending cycle of revenge, which leads to more murder. So, God seeks to prevent this cycle from starting by marking Cain. If you think about it, war is murder and revenge writ large.
The ultimate symptom of chaos is that God’s image in man is marred: Life is taken, decay will ensue, and human beings are devalued. Cain’s descendant, Lamech boasts to his two wives (God's marriage order of one man, one woman is equally marred): “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
Outside the Garden, chaos reigns.
God's wearies of His creation becoming so opposite of His original intentions. What element does He choose? He uses out-of-control water: a flood. The worst fears of desert-dwelling people come true: water that rages and takes everything with it. This water will drown the earth and all its inhabitants except for Noah and his family. But it carries the Promise of the Garden of Eden in it as well: Order will be restored. The floodwaters do recede.
The ark becomes an image of the work of the coming Messiah: It represents God’s mercy and redemption. Why? Inside of that ark, His people are saved from the destruction that sin and disobedience brought upon the Earth. God Himself closes the door of the ark.
Even though sin has brought death, decay and destruction into the earth, God is faithful to His creation. When the flood is over, God promises Noah: “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” God places a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of His faithfulness to what He has said and done.
Man will impose his own order on the earth by building towns and cities with walls and gates: “They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’”
Why did God impose confusion on His children?
Man will place his security in his cities, towers and fortifications. What man loves, he worships, and if he worships anyone/anything that is not the Lord, it is an idol. His cities will become idols—a source of pride and adoration. Ancient kings boasted of their cities. Massive building projects were ego-fests of the ruling elite. Big men, big city.The ultimate idol-worshipping people were the Egyptians. Their order, manifested by their belief in idols, in their god-king and in their huge cities, was false. This “order” is based on a lie, for the idols do not exist. Thus, man’s foundation is built upon nothing. So, to show the superiority of God over the Egyptian concept of order, with its god-king, building projects, and gods for every natural force, the Ten Plagues will be a reversal of creation. It will be a reversal of Genesis. God will show how false an order it truly is.
Moses, with the Lord of all creation working with him, will be a fulfillment of the worst fears of ancient people: chaos will come again.
Next time: The Ten Plagues and God's Mighty Hand
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