Category: Creation (Page 1 of 3)

He Will Come to Judge

“On the third day he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, from which he will come to judge the living and the dead.” ~from the Apostles’ Creed

RightHandSaintsNobody wants to see a judge. Appearing before a judge is not at the top of anybody’s list of enjoyable things to do. Not even lawyers, as sick as they are, want to go see a judge (sorry, that’s a cheap shot; I should apologize to Utsinger, Flow, the Egglestons, J. Bailey, and maybe even a couple of judges). If you walk into any government building or have a conversation with any government official and she says, “The judge wants to see you” or “You’ll need to appear before the judge” all your organs start to shut down. It’s not fun.

“The Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” ~Matthew 16:7

This is a tough topic. The idea of a judgment is offensive to our culture. In this age of uber-tolerance, in this age of “Don’t judge me!” society bristles at the concept of any kind of judgment on almost anything. This might be Christianity’s most offensive doctrine. Our culture has no problem at all with a God of supreme love who supports us and accepts us no matter how we live. But it strongly objects to a God who punishes people. We have no problem with a forgiving God, but we can’t accept a God who judges.

Well, guess what? It’s both. We know it to be both.

Christians believe that God is both a God of love and of justice. Lots of people struggle with that. They believe a loving God can’t be a judging God. I’ve been asked this before, and maybe somebody’s asked you, “How can a God of love also be a God of anger and wrath? If God is loving and perfect, then he should forgive and accept everybody, right? He shouldn’t ever get angry.”

All loving persons are sometimes filled with anger because of their love. I’m grateful to Tim Keller’s insights here from his eye-opening “The Reason for God.” If you really love a person and someone harms that person, you get angry. If someone hurts your spouse or harms your child, you get ticked off. Even if they are the ones hurting themselves, you get angry. Think about how you feel when someone you love deeply is being damaged by terrible decisions or stupid actions or bad relationships. You don’t just tolerate it with kind of an apathetic “whatever” like you would if she were a stranger. Far from it! You get mad. Angry. Anger is not the opposite of love; hate is the opposite of love. God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion; it’s his determined opposition to the cancer of sin that’s eating out the guts of the human race he loves with his whole being.

The Bible says God’s wrath flows from his love and delight in his creation. He gets angry at evil and injustice because it’s destroying his creation’s peace and integrity.

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made… The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” ~Psalm 145:17-20

Another thing I hear is that believing in a God who judges makes Christians very narrow-minded people. We’re exclusivists and we’re divisive and it might even make us violent people because we believe in God’s judgment. Now, hold on. Everyone believes that actions have consequences. Everyone believes that bad actions have harmful consequences. But because Christians believe that souls never die, Christians also believe that our actions affect us forever. Even non-Christians believe that there are terrible moral actions like lying and murder and exploitation and cruelty and self-centeredness. But since they don’t believe in an afterlife, they don’t think the consequences of those bad actions go on into eternity. Does that make Christians narrow-minded, because we believe wrongdoing has more long-term consequences than non-Christians do? It doesn’t make us narrow just because we believe the consequences of wrong actions are more serious.

We believe that today Christ Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, from which he will come to judge the living and the dead. We’ll unpack some of that here this week.

Peace,

Allan

Act Six – New Creation

FourFingers

Drew Stubbs’ running, leaping catch of Ian Kinsler’s drive to the center field wall with runners on the corners in the 9th inning snapped the Rangers’ three game skid and increased their lead in the A.L. West to two games now over the Angels. The magic number is four now, instead of three, because the Halos have moved past the ‘Stros for second place in the division. The rubber match with the Tigers is tonight, but then L.A. comes into Arlington for a season-ending four game series that will determine the division champion and the playoff seedings. What looked like a sure thing one week ago now comes down to every inning in these last five games.

Is there a way to leave Josh Hamilton out of the lineup? Even as a pinch hitter?

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NewHeaven&Earth“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” ~Revelation 21:1-5

As the great Yogi Berra once said, “This is deja vu all over again!”

A new creation. A new heavens and earth. The sea that separates the heavens from the earth is no more. Heaven and earth become one, just as intimately and beautifully as a new husband and his lovely bride become one. God is living again with the humans. Men and women are living again in the immediate presence of God. No more sorrow, no more heartache, no more death. Everything that’s gone wrong has now been fixed. The old order of things has passed away. I am making everything new!

I am making everything new!

And we’re so worn out with “new.” We don’t even know what “new” means anymore. They say it’s a new cereal, but it’s not. It’s the old cereal, but instead of yellow marshmallow stars they have blue marshmallow hearts and a different stripe on a smaller box that costs more money. They say it’s a new detergent, but it’s not. It’s the old detergent with a few added purple cleaning crystals and the words “maximum power” on a smaller box that costs more money. They say it’s a new iPhone, but it’s not. It’s the old iPhone with two features removed and three features added that costs more money and will be obsolete in three to six months. We’re so worn out with “new.”

But the Creator of Heaven and Earth says, “I am making everything new!” This is not a different label or a brighter color. This is not about a longer lasting battery.

The last act of the Story of God is not about people’s souls escaping from their bodies and rising up above the earth to go to heaven. What we see is heaven descending to the earth. This is not “I’ll Fly Away!” It’s not “This World is Not My Home.” God shows us the final act, the end of the Story, and it’s heaven coming down into the world, uniting with the world to purify it of its brokenness. This is what the prophets talked about:

NewH&E

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create… the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more… The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy… says the Lord.” ~Isaiah 65

This is the new Garden of Eden. Men and women living in perfect relationship with each other together in the holy presence of God. Absolute peace and harmony with nature. No more injury or disease or death. No more hatred or violence or war. No more poor or needy or slaves or criminals. Everything is new. Everything is perfect. Everything is fixed.

Jesus predicted this in Matthew 19 when he spoke of “the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne.” The apostle is given credit for this same vision in 2 Peter 3: “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” Paul foresees the same thing in Romans 8: “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God!”

The whole world will be healed as it is drawn into the fullness of God’s glory. Evil will be finally, ultimately destroyed. And all the potential of creation will explode in glorious fullness and beauty.

Peace,

Allan

Very Good

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┬áit. 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

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

“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

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

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