GOOD AND EVIL

I love to revisit the story of creation in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.  Envisioning God’s fresh creation delights my heart.  Genesis 1:31 reads, God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  The creator stepped back, looked over what he had made, and concluded, “It was very good.”

Today as I continue to be awed by what God created, I see elements that were not there at the beginning.  Death and decay are at work in the creation.  What God created that was “very good” has now deteriorated.  Good now has a counterpart, evil.  How did evil get into God’s creation?

When the first man and woman walked the earth only good existed.  They had no special awareness of good because it was the default of their world.  There was no contrast to good.  In the garden, where God put them, was a tree with the knowledge of good and its contrast evil.  God warned them not to indulge in this knowledge for it brought with it death.  They chose not to heed God’s warning.

Why is our world filled with death and decay?  The answer is obvious.  We had to know about good and evil.  Well, now we know.  I think we could have gone without knowing.  So in hindsight, when God says not to do something, we probably shouldn’t.

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THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM Part 2

Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.

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What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent.  The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject.  If he did he would forfeit his right to rule.  When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short.  Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself.  He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom.  As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory. 

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom.  Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away.  In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness.  The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader.  Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.

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In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace.  In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart!  I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us.  We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom.  Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king. 

I’d like to leave you with this thought.  It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live.  Two choices exist.  You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.  I think the choice is that simple.

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD NOW

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:

When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him. 

Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.

As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.

 

Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life.  One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives.  God’s will can be explained by these two commands.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”  God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose. 

What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill.  Bonnie calls this our passion.  For her and me the passion has been for children in need.  Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children.  The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and satisfied as we walked with the Lord.  What is your passion?

The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him.  We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill.  “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY

In his book Eldon Ladd points out that God’s kingdom is not a place, but is simply his right to rule, his divine sovereignty.  God’s kingdom exists right now.  We enter god’s kingdom when we surrender our will and except his will.  His will being foremost that we receive the gift of his son’s redeeming work.  Receiving God’s salvation births us into his kingdom.   We are new creation in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17) with an existence in God’s eternal kingdom.

Though we who have received salvation in Jesus are now part of his eternal kingdom, we also exist here in the temporal world.  How does our new status affect our physical presence here?  Eldon Ladd states the answer very nicely, “The kingdom of God is, then, the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessings” (*Ladd, page 24). 

In my personal experience of realizing God’s will in my life, I have found comfort, protection, maturity, physical and emotional strength, and an overall exciting challenging life.   The accompanying blessings are manifest in my family and friends and a meaningful existence.  God treats each of his children individually, according to who he created us to be, yet we all benefit from his will and the accompanying blessings.

If you have received Jesus as your savior, you have eternal life in God’s kingdom.  You now exist in the realm of God’s divine sovereignty.  We will someday leave our existence in the temporal world, but we will continue to live forever with God our Father.   

Next week let’s look further into our presence in this world as God’s children.

 

*The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, George Eldon Ladd, Martino Publishing 2011

HOW CAN I REPAY THE LORD?

Psalm 116:8-11 reads:  For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 

When I was young I learned about the Lord in Sunday school.  I even went to church.  However, my daily life was on me, and I didn’t think much about the Lord during the week.  Then divorce came into my life.  On my own, I tried to fix the emotional distress of this tragedy.   I floundered in a cavern of unsuccessfulness.  Finally, I came to the end of myself and called on the name of the Lord.  He was right there to help.

Jesus delivered my soul from anguish, my eyes from tears, and he gave me direction for my life.  Jesus gave my life purpose, and I stopped randomly stumbling through life.  Overnight, life completely changed.  I felt alive again as I started my new life walking with him.  In his mercy and grace, Jesus was very good to me.

“How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” asked the Psalmist in verse 12.  He shared his answer in verses 13 and 14.  “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people.”  To me this means I will praise the Lord for the salvation he purchased for me.  And, as I have vowed, I will continue to serve the Lord for the rest of my life.  This I will do in the presence of his people.  Gratitude and faithfulness will be the hallmark of my existence.

If you haven’t found the mercy and grace of Jesus just call on the name of the Lord.  He will answer you.

Repost from August of 2016.

FAITH AND DOUBT

Are you convinced that Christianity is true?  Do you ever doubt your belief?  Does God really exist?  Is my belief in vain?  Do these questions of doubt haunt you at times?  They do me.  During these times of doubt I have two processes that I follow, reason and experience.  Reason alone cannot restore faith, but it can help.    Walking back through my life and remembering my experiences with God seals the breach in my faith, and I am restored.

These nagging questions that challenge my faith cause me to return to the process of reasoning. I start with the basic question of where did I and all I know come from.  There are only two possible answers.  It all came about by some accidental occurrence of events over millions and billions of years, or an intelligent force designed it.  The complexity of the universe and the existence of life itself lead me to believe that an intelligent force designed it.  And if this is so, what do I know about this intelligent force.  I have concluded that the Bible is the most reliable source of information about this intelligent force.  This process, to remind myself of the logic of my belief, gets me started.  But the most interesting truth about this reasoning process is that it all came about after I believed.  My belief in God is therefore founded in something other than reason.

I next reminisce on my experiences with God.  God has spoken to me at key moments in my life, and he drew me to himself.  He answered prayers and provided miracles all to build a relationship of trust.   My faith is rooted in a relationship with God that he has built over many years.  Then I remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  Ah, my faith is based not on my ability to reason, but on my relationship with God.  Experience trumps reason.  The questioning of my faith is entrenched in my reasoning skills.  My reasoning is faulty, but my experience is sound.  There is no argument against what I have experienced.

I feel that faith is even more deeply based on a spiritual foundation.  When I first believed reason played a small part, experience barely existed, yet I was drawn to God.  Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …” (John 6:44).   My reason and my experience came because God drew me.  I simply said yes to him.  I believe because I was predestined to believe.  God is sovereign over all his creation, even me.

Repost from July 2015

NOT MY WILL BUT YOUR WILL

Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

There are two wills at work here in creation, God’s will and man’s will.  God’s will is that there would be harmony in his creation, that we would love one another.  Man’s will has brought about what we experience daily.  We are subject to man’s will because God gave us free will.  We each one get to choose.  The ultimate goal is that we would, of our own free will, choose God’s will. 

In Matthew 23:37 Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” 

I am in tears as I hear the heart of God in these words.  How much the words, “but you were not willing,” sting my heart.