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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CONCEPTION TO ETERNAL LIFE

When we die life as we know it is over.   Now think about this.  When we are born life as we know it is over.  In the womb we live in a dark fluid filled container.  This is the only environment we know.  It is our existence, and we have no idea of change.  Then one day the plug is pulled, so-to-speak, and our fluid world ceases to exist.  Our head is jammed into a tunnel at the end of which is a shocking never before experienced thing, light.

From the trauma of this transition we enter into a new world of existence.  This world now becomes our place to grow and explore.  There is good and evil in this world, and we experience varying amounts of both, but it becomes our home.  This is what we know.

Would you like to change from this world to a new one?  The other way to ask this question is would you like to die?  The new world is vast and peaceful where the struggle between good and evil no longer exists.  Most of us want to stay in this life.  We want what we know to continue even though a better existence is ahead.

When we are conceived, birth is inevitable.  Once we are born death becomes inevitable.  Our time in the womb, as well as our time here on earth, is important for our growth, but we were never meant to stay in the womb, and we aren’t meant to stay in this life.  I think that this life is like another gestation period leading to the eternal life that God intends for us.  What does God intend for us?

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

TWO THINGS YOU WILL FIND IN HEAVEN

For those of us who trust in Jesus, heaven is our final destination.  I often think of heaven and what it might be like; however, some time ago I came to the conclusion that I really can’t comprehend a place without sin.  A place with no greed, selfishness, rude and obnoxious behavior is unthinkable.  My only experience is in a world darkened by sin, so I’m unable to comprehend a place without it.  I have no reference point.  So what will be in heaven?

As I was contemplating this question the other day, I came to two things that I am sure will be in heaven.  I could come up with others, but these two helped me put a foundation to my projection of what will be in heaven.  The Bible gives enough information to assure us that heaven will be the most wonderful place, but these two generalities fascinate my imagination and delight my soul.

The first is beauty.  Here on the earth, even after sins devastation, I find extraordinary beauty.  God has put so much beauty in his creation.  I’m sure heaven will be filled with unimaginable beauty.  The throne room in heaven, as described in Revelations chapter 4, is awe inspiring.  The four beasts sound terrifying, yet I question whether they are not beautiful.  From what I understand of God through his creation, beauty is always present, even in the most frightening things like a volcano.  Therefore, I’m sure as I walk the streets of heaven, I will find beauty beyond what I can imagine.

The second thing that I know I will find in heaven is love.  God is love (1 John 4:16).  So his heaven will surely be filled with love.  This is counter to the sin filled world I live in.    Love as described in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 states all the qualities that I desire in myself and others.  In my sinful nature I fall short of these qualities, but in heaven I will live in an atmosphere of love that will permeate my existence.  I can’t really comprehend this, yet I am convinced that love is the eternal attribute that will reign in heaven.

THE RESURRECTION

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. “

Jesus is alive!  He was raised from the dead on the third day.  We celebrate Easter because everything that Jesus came for is completed with his resurrection.   From his birth, to his death on the cross, and then his resurrection, the miraculous plan of God for our redemption was accomplished.  For us we can be confident that life does not end in death because Jesus overcame death.  God raised him from the dead, and he has promised to raise us.  Eternal life is his gift to us.

I like Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 where he compares resurrection to the planting of a seed.  You put a seed in the ground and bury it.  If conditions are right, a living plant rises from the ground.  What comes up is totally different in appearance than the seed you planted, but it has new life.  When we die and are buried, our bodies as we know them are finished, but when we are resurrected, we’ll have a new body.  Unlike the old body, our new body has eternal life which is God’s gift to us.

Jesus is alive!  All that we hope for is centered on this truth.  If Jesus is not alive than what do we have?  Yet, he is alive, and our future is secured.  Praises be to God!  We are like little children standing in awe and wonder at what God has done for us.  The greatest gift has been purchased, and it is now freely given to you and me.  Oh what amazing things you have done, our holy and wonderful God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

THE HOPE IS STILL ALIVE

A while back I wrote in my diary, “Today I’m 60, but I’m going to live forever so I’m just a kid.”  I haven’t felt much like a kid since I wrote this, but the hope is still alive.  One of my old flippant sayings when confronted by a health conscious (health food nut) person was, “I don’t get my new body till I wear this one out.”  I want you to know I’m doing well with the wearing this one out part.  However it’s not as fun as it once was.  The wearing out is now quite painful, but the new body hope is still alive.

Sunday morning I found myself doing what I used to think was a strange activity that old people did.  I was reading the obituaries in the newspaper.  Not only was I reading them, but I was emotionally involved in reading them.  The short assessment of a person’s life was somehow hauntingly relevant.  As I sense the nearing of life’s end, I think, “What might be written about me?” What in my years was good and what was bad?  Fortunately, most obituaries focus on the good.  The family usually keeps the bad to themselves.  Woo, I say as I contemplate this.

I could get lost in these thoughts, but what I wrote on my 60th birthday is the real truth.  I have the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  I’m going to live forever.  The assessment of this short beginning time is recorded by the eternal God.  He makes the final evaluation.  Praise be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The bad is forgiven and forgotten because the most significant act of my years was receiving the great gift Jesus purchased for me on the cross.  The worth of my other acts is in his hands.

Life has seemed long, but when I look back the part that has passed went by rather quickly.  There is still more to come.  I relish what remains.  And, the hope is still alive!

VALUABLE INSIGHTS

Situations come upon us from time to time in which prior information would be quite valuable.  Say you come upon a situation where two people are engaged in a quarrel.  What should you do?  If you don’t have much income, but you’re living comfortably, should you still give to the poor? Are you a person who has to have something to say about every subject?  A wealthy but stingy man invites you to dinner, should you go?  At work there’s a group of party animals that go out 3 or 4 times a week.  They spend the next day talking about the great time they had. When they invite you to join them, should you go?

These are just a few of the situation addressed in the Book of Proverbs.  Our God has provided us with a rich source of information for our daily lives.  Proverbs is not outdated wisdom, but it is full of wisdom for all times.  Provers contains 31 chapters.  By reading a chapter a day you can read the whole book in most months.  Try filling your day with rich practical information for your daily decisions.

You can find valuable insights into the situations I mentioned above by looking at these verses:

Proverbs:         26:17,  21:13,  21:23,  23:6-8,   23:20-21        {these are listed in order}

Mortality

It is a fact that we are all going to die.  The mortality rate among humans is 100%.  People around me are dying.  Recently, a friend of mine who was 15 years younger died from brain cancer.  We’ve lost two women in our church in the last year.  I know others who are currently fighting cancer trying to stay alive.  The death of others always brings us closer to the reality of our own mortality.  The loss of a loved one is deeply painful, almost unbearable.  So, for a Christian what is a good perspective?

Our pastor, Eric Nelson*, Spoke on resurrection last Sunday.  He brought up two points that I believe help us to deal with our mortality.  First, he reminded us that the Apostle Paul referred to death as falling asleep (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15), and who is afraid to fall asleep?  The second point was that the life we are going to is far better that the life we leave.  For one thing, it is eternal.  Once we pass from this life, death will never again be an issue.

In our eternal life we will be living in heaven.  In heaven we will live a sinless existence.  Try to imagine what living without sin would be like.  I find it really hard to contemplate.  What would it be like living with no sin? The earth and all of creation is tainted by sin.  Imagine what the new earth will be like when sin is gone.

For me, when facing mortality, my greatest fear is what if my wife should go before me.  How would I be able to survive such a loss?  We are true soul mates, partners for the last 34 years.  But, notice that the concern is for me.  She will have gained.  She will be with Jesus.  Her time in a sinful world will be over.  She’ll have arrived in eternity.  She will be home, her work will be done.

So, in looking at mortality, I find there is much to rejoice about.  The future is only going to get better for those who belong to him.  Christians live by faith not by sight.  All we know now is this world, but through faith, we believe that God has prepared us an eternal place.  The greatest truth in our mortality is that we will be with him forever.

(If you don’t know him, he’s just a prayer away.)

*Eric Nelson is pastor of Delta Life Four Square Church in Madera, California.  Hear his sermons at deltalifechurch.com