Not a Law Book

Bible, Story of God No Comments »

TitleSlideWe believe that the Scriptures are the holy Word of God. Our God reveals himself to us — his name, his character, his will, his ways — in the Bible. And the Bible is the authority for God’s people. We will always stand on that; we’ll never shy away from the Scriptures as the authority for disciples of Jesus. And we believe just as strongly that how we read and interpret and apply the Scriptures is very important.

The Bible is a Story. It’s not a law book. One of our problems is that for decades — no, centuries! — we have read and studied and cited the Bible like it’s a law book. Law books are boring. This Story was inspired by God and handed down to us to capture us. To enthrall us. If it’s boring, we’re reading it wrong. One of the worst things that ever happened to the Bible was when they divided it up into chapters and verses in the 1500s. It has conditioned us to read it like a reference book instead of a novel. We consult it and study it and quote book, chapter, and verse like it’s an owner’s manual for your car or an employee handbook.

We struggle with this. We’ll read Jonah for three weeks, wondering whether a human can live inside a fish for three days and never once think about God. The Story is about God and what he’s doing, not about the whale and what he can do. Or we’ll argue about Paul’s words concerning divorce and remarriage, looking for loopholes, instead of dwelling on the covenant loyalty of our God who intends our marriages to reflect and witness to his perfect love and faithfulness. Esther is not about “you need to be more courageous.” It may as well be about “you need to be prettier, too.” The main point of Esther is that our God is at work to redeem everything and he uses every opportunity — even our moments in exile when we feel weak and powerless and trapped in circumstances beyond our control — to save us and redeem us. We are not forgotten. That’s the Bible as a Story.

Peace,

Allan

Very Good

2 Corinthians, Creation, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Psalms, Romans, Story of God No Comments »

CreationGodWe’ve spent this week looking at the inspiring beauty of Act One of the Story of God, the Pattern of the Kingdom the Creator establishes: God and mankind living in perfect harmony together, ruling and reigning together over a perfectly wonderful heavens and earth. Act One is good. It is “very good.” It’s an eternal blueprint for everything God is doing.

Now, today we don’t live in Act One. It’s long past. But what Act One tells us has important meaning for all people right now. In the beginning God created. That doesn’t just mean back there and back then. The Story says not only that God was Creator but that God is Creator! God’s creative activity is not limited to the distant past. It’s not like a long time ago God did everything he planned to do and then retreated from the scene to let the world run by itself.

Romans 4 tells us that even now, today, our God gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. 2 Corinthians 5 declares that right now, today, we are a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we confess that God is the Creator, we are saying that God is continuously making new beginnings, opening up new possibilities, initiating new events. God is our Creator. And he is doing new things in our lives.

The psalmist did not say, “God created Adam and Eve a long time ago and we’re all descended from them.” He said, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Read that again. You’ve heard it dozens of times. Read it again.

“You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

We know the facts of life. We know where babies come from. But we also know that the process of procreation and gestation and giving birth don’t tell us the whole truth about where we came from, who we are, and where we’re going. We believe that God the Creator stands at the beginning of every single human life and goes with us on every single step of our own ways.

Your life might be formless and empty. Chaos. Darkness. Void. It can be obvious darkness and chaos like addiction or abuse or violence or disease. Or it could be a chaos underneath the surface, a chaos of the heart that’s hidden from almost everybody.

Jeremiah 31 says, “The Lord will create a new thing!” Our God, the Creator of “very good” things, can speak light and life into that darkness and void. He made you in his image. He made you “very good.” And his desire to live in a righteous relationship with you means he came here in Christ Jesus to make it happen. He’s committed to it. Your story, whatever it looks like to this point, is being written by a powerful and loving Creator who is devoted to your “very good.”

“Be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create!” ~Isaiah 65:18

Peace,

Allan

God Wants to Live with Us

Creation, Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms No Comments »

CreationGod

In the Creation accounts, we see God forming a “very good” environment for the people he’s creating and for himself. He creates the heavens and the earth, he furnishes it, he puts people in it, and then God rests.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” ~Genesis 2:2

God establishes the heavens and the earth, his creation, as his holy dwelling place.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool… Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord.” ~Isaiah 66:1-2

Notice the “resting place,” the place where God “rests.” It’s the same language as in Genesis. The heavens and the earth is where God lives and where he rules. And where he rests.

“He stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.” ~Psalm 104:2-3

God rests, he settles among his creation. When the Old Testament speaks about God’s resting place, it uses the earth and the temple interchangeably.

“He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever.” ~Psalm 78:69

“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.” ~Psalm 132:14

God wants to live on this earth with us. That’s the pattern of his Kingdom.

Come into this world I created, come into the place where I live and reign and rule. Come live with me. Reign with me. Let’s dwell together in mutual free-will relationships of love and life. Let’s oversee this “very good” place together. Let’s live in the face-to-face presence of one another forever.

God is not in conflict with humans. Act One shows us God linking arms and linking futures with men and women. He and the human image-bearers are in perfect harmony. That’s the way it was established in the beginning.

Notice the six days of creation all have an evening and a morning. Those days all have an ending. But not the seventh day. The day God takes up residency in his created world with his created people, that day never ends. It’s still going. God with us. It doesn’t end. He designed all of it so we would live together forever.

That’s the pattern for the Kingdom. And it’s good. It’s “very good.” It’s the eternal blueprint for everything that God is doing. Creation makes everything else in the Story make sense.

Peace,

Allan

God Made All People in His Image

Creation, Genesis, Story of God No Comments »

“God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

~Genesis 1:27

Notice the Story of God does not begin with sin. The Story doesn’t start by telling us how bad we are. The Scriptures begin with a resounding declaration of the unique dignity of all men and women as special bearers of God’s image. This is enormously important. If we were made in the divine image of God, then sin is tragic. If we are dogs and we act like dogs, then it’s no big deal. It’s expected. But if we are not dogs and yet we act like dogs, our actions are tragic.

God made all people in his holy image. And we could debate all day what that means. It means we have free will. It means we have some level of power over the rest of creation. It has something to do with living in community and living forever. It means a lot of things.

Maybe it can be summed up by saying we have a capacity to be like God. The Creator has put it in all of us to reflect his glory, to share his nature and characteristics. “Be holy because I am holy” — I think that’s in here. That impacts how we view ourselves and how we conduct ourselves.

Being made in God’s image confers on all people a certain dignity. And that impacts how we treat people. All people. All men and women, created by God, in God’s image. That gives all people a dignity we must respect. And honor.

And it entrusts us with responsibility. The Creator gives us the responsibility to rule and have dominion over and subdue the earth, not for our own benefit, but for the sake of the world, for the sake of others. It’s a holy responsibility to bless and manage. We bear God’s image, we represent him, we partner with him in furthering his purposes for his Creation.

All of us start out perfectly made by God. Sinless. In righteous relationship with him. You and I were both created “very good.” That’s Act One, that’s how the drama begins. And it should shape the roles we play and the lines we say while we’re on stage.

Peace,

Allan

All of Creation is Good

Creation, Genesis, Psalms, Story of God No Comments »

CreationBeginning2“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” ~Genesis 1:31

We look around today and a lot of us say, “The world now is worse than it’s ever been.” And I want to say, “What’s your frame of reference? What’s your standard? Ever heard of the Middle Ages? Today is not that bad.”

It is true that we rebel against our Creator and we misuse God’s Creation and we make ourselves and others around us miserable because of our rebellion. But there is nothing in the Story and nothing in our theology that says God’s Creation has become a bad Creation. The evil that invades God’s Creation is not stronger than the Creator. It can never change the essential goodness of what God created. Despite everything that spoils and corrupts it, we live in a very good world and it is very good to be alive today in it.

We affirm the goodness of the world, not because we’re optimistic about people or because we’re ignoring all the injustice and suffering. We are well aware that because of human wisdom we endure wave after wave of hopelessness and despair. What humans consider progress has resulted in the brutality of modern wars, the suffering and oppression of minorities, the ever-widening gap between the few rich and comfortable and the many poor and helpless. But we don’t give up on it. We don’t withdraw from it. We’re not trying to leave it. We affirm the world because God created it and he says “Yes” to it.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” ~Psalm 24:1

The Creation belongs to God. It’s his. He made it and he owns it. All of it. It’s his property. That’s why when evil comes in and seems to take over, God doesn’t abandon the world and turn away from it. He comes here in flesh and blood to suffer with it and for it. It’s good, it’s all good; and he’s committed to it. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God reclaims what’s always belonged to him and asserts forever his powerful and loving lordship over the world, for the sake of the world.

To try to escape this world or our worldly responsibilities would be to try to escape from God. Focusing on some kind of future in the sky and not paying attention to our present and future world is not living in step with the Story. God promises not only a new heaven, but a new earth.

All of Creation is good. Right now. Today and forever.

We look around and say, “I don’t know…” and we wring our hands. God looks around and says, “I do know!” And we align our minds and our wills to his.

Peace,

Allan

God is The Creator

Acts, Carley, Carrie-Anne, Creation, Jeremiah, Story of God No Comments »

School2015And then there was one. For the first time in thirteen years, when we took first day of school pictures this morning, there was only one child standing in the frame holding her school supplies. Carley starts her sophomore year today at Canyon High School. Val began classes today at WT and Whitney is at United. So, yeah, this is different. Carley lamented last night that when I sing our traditional first-day-of-school song (that all the girls publicly protest, but secretly admire) she’ll be the only one I’m singing to. That’s right. Of course, I sang it loud enough so that maybe Valerie could have heard it. But how would I know: she’s not returning phone calls or texts.CarleySchool2015

Carrie-Anne is beginning her third year as the Culinary Arts Director at Canyon High. We had to stick C-A in one of the photos because Carley was feeling lonely.

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CreationBeginning“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” ~Genesis 1:1

We mostly blow right past this opening sentence, when this opening sentence ought to blow us away. You can’t create a pencil. I can’t create a ping pong ball. We can’t create anything. And God created the heavens and the earth.

You can theorize about a big bang and discuss primordial matter all afternoon. But what we clearly have in Act One, Scene One is God speaking into nothing and creating everything. In the beginning, there is an explosion of life and God is the sole initiator. This story counters all the other stories that were out there at the time: that creation was a mistake, that it was the result of strife between rival gods, that human beings were an accident. All the creation stories before the one in Genesis were about conflict and hate and violence and war and mistakes. Our story says creation is the intentional action of a loving God.

“The Lord is the true God;
he is the living God, the eternal King.
These gods who did make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.
God made the earth by his power;
he founded the world by his wisdom
and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” ~Jeremiah 10:10-12

Act One tells us there was a beginning and in the beginning there was God. A person. With an identity and character and a consciousness. A God with a personality and traits and emotions. We are a theistic people. But we are not a generally theistic people, we are a specifically theistic people: we believe in the God of the Bible. He is all powerful and he is all responsible.

Sometimes we shake our fists at God. When he’s not doing what he think is loving or just or wise, we yell at God. “Why are you doing that? Why are you not doing this?” The reason we believe he is all responsible is because we believe there is no other God.

In Acts 4, the early church is praying for God to do something great. The Christians are being persecuted and arrested and thrown in prison. And the church prays. “God start healing people. God start doing miracles. God handle the problem of the government. God perform some mighty wonders.” They’re expecting great things. Why?

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” ~Acts 4:24

God is the The Creator. It’s basic. It’s foundational. It’s so important. All of salvation is predicated on Creation. Once we get a handle on it, the whole rest of the Story of God makes perfect sense. The ugliness of sin, the redemption and New Creation of all bodies — it truly adds up when Creation is the first Act.

Peace,

Allan