Wednesday, October 31, 2007

For Such A Time As This- Jim Beck


I have a new hero. Jim Beck, A Church of Christ preacher and missionary from Lubbock, really lit my fire during the World Missions Workshop at OKlahoma Christian University. I found a place where several of his sermons are archived. Just listen to the one linked and ask yourself, "Whose house are you building?"


"For Such A Time As This"

Speaker is Jim Beck

Audio Only

Loving America By The Book

rodney.jpg (21656 bytes)

Dr. Rodney Plunket


"Loving America By The Book"

Since this past Friday was our nation’s Independence Day, our national birthday, it seems to me particularly appropriate for us to come together and ask, “How should we, as Christians love our country; how should a people of The Book love America according to the teachings of that Book?” I have chosen three examples from the Bible which I think are relevant in teaching us how to love America. Let’s go to The Book.

Please open your Bible to Isaiah (Isa) 1.

Is. 1:1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

2 Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;

for the Lord has spoken:

I reared children and brought them up,

but they have rebelled against me.

3 The ox knows its owner,

and the donkey its master’s crib;

but Israel does not know,

my people do not understand.

Is. 1:4 Ah, sinful nation,

people laden with iniquity,

offspring who do evil,

children who deal corruptly,

who have forsaken the Lord,

who have despised the Holy One of Israel,

who are utterly estranged!

Is. 1:5 Why do you seek further beatings?

Why do you continue to rebel?

The whole head is sick,

and the whole heart faint.

6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,

there is no soundness in it,

but bruises and sores

and bleeding wounds;

they have not been drained, or bound up,

or softened with oil.

Is. 1:7 Your country lies desolate,

your cities are burned with fire;

in your very presence

aliens devour your land;

it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.

8 And daughter Zion is left

like a booth in a vineyard,

like a shelter in a cucumber field,

like a besieged city.

9 If the Lord of hosts

had not left us a few survivors,

we would have been like Sodom,

and become like Gomorrah.

Is. 1:10 Hear the word of the Lord,

you rulers of Sodom!

Listen to the teaching of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!

11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the Lord;

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.

Is. 1:12 When you come to appear before me,

who asked this from your hand?

Trample my courts no more;

13 bringing offerings is futile;

incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—

I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals

my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me,

I am weary of bearing them.

15 When you stretch out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen;

your hands are full of blood.

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your doings

from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

17 learn to do good;

seek justice,

I want to stop right here for just a moment. The prophet is speaking for God, and he is speaking words that clearly convey God’s white-hot anger due to the evil of the people and the leaders of the nation of Judah. But what exactly are they doing? Up to now we have had no explicit examples of what behaviors they are to change to become pleasing to God. In the next few lines God we hear of the changes that need to come. In the next few lines God expresses what the people are to start doing that they have not been doing. Hear what they are to change. Please look with me at the reminder of verse (v) 17 and then listen to the word of God in verses 18-20.

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.

Is. 1:18 Come now, let us argue it out,

says the Lord:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be like snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;

20 but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be devoured by the sword;

for the mouth of the Lord has spoken (NRSV).

God is, through the prophet Isaiah, calling the nation, which God loves, to repent and change. The people are evil. Their “hands are full of blood” (v 15). Who is it that they are abusing? Whose blood have they shed? Verse 17 lets us know the answer to that question. The people against whom the nation of Judah has sinned are the people who have fallen from or been kicked off of “the power ladder.” It is the “oppressed,” “the orphan,” and “the widow.” Those were the groups that had no political power and no financial influence. They were, therefore, “easy pickings” for those who did have political power and/or wealth. They were the ones who were abused. They were the ones who suffered one injustice after another. They were the ones who lost their lives at the hands of their own fellow Jews. And God was so angry that God was ready to destroy the nation of Judah. God was ready to do that because God could stand this sin no longer.

Now please look with me at Isa 3:13-15.

Is. 3:13 The Lord rises to argue his case;

he stands to judge the peoples.

14 The Lord enters into judgment

with the elders and princes of his people:

It is you who have devoured the vineyard;

the spoil of the poor is in your houses.

15 What do you mean by crushing my people,

by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord God of hosts (NRSV).

Here God is declaring anger toward the leaders of the nation of Judah. The phrase “elders and princes of his people” in v 14 makes that clear. What have these lead­ers done? They “have devoured the vineyard.” The phrase “the vineyard” is used in the Book of Isaiah to refer to the nation of God’s people, i.e., Judah (see Isa 5:1-7). How have the leaders of God’s people “devoured the vineyard”? The lines that follow that phrase answer that question. They have taken “spoil” from “the poor” and have made that spoil their own. In other words, they have treated the poor of their own nation as enemies. They have, as it were, gone to war against them and have taken what they have as the victors in ancient warfare took home the wealth of those whom they defeated. Again, the prophet cries out, on behalf of God, against the way the people without power are treated. In Isa 1 the terms that are used are “the oppressed,” “the orphans,” and “the widows.” Here the term that is used describes the category that these same types of people fell into. They were poor. They did not have the influence or the power to protect themselves. The leaders of God’s people were to guarantee that justice was granted to these people, but instead they were the very ones who oppressed them.

If we love America according to the teachings of the Bible, if we love America by The Book, we will love our nation like God loved the nation of Judah as revealed by the words of God’s prophets. We will love America by being the voice of those without power or influence. We will love America by crying out for those who often have no one of influence who will listen to them.

Isaiah is just one of the prophets whose message is dominated by cries for God’s people to have soft hearts toward the poor and disenfranchised. And we should note that many of the prophets were men of influence. Some scholars think that Isaiah was a priest, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel certainly were. These men were not without influence; they were from the upper classes; but God took hold of them and made them spokesmen for the lower classes.

It is, I think, not difficult to see a parallel between God’s use of the prophets and the way God can use the members of the Broadway church of Christ. May we be prophetic voices. May we cry out for the people whom often are completely factored out of all the political equations. And may whatever political influence we have be used to focus attention upon the needs of America’s poor and disenfranchised. That is one way to love America by The Book.

The next two lessons that I hear from the Bible on how to love America are found in the New Testament. Please look with me at 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (1Tim) and follow along as I read.

1Tim 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

Now please turn to 1 Peter (1Pet) 2:13-17.

1Pet 2:13 For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14 or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

As many of you will know, the kings and emperors of the ancient world were often unbelievably heinous persons. Their evil often expressed itself in sick and perverted ways. But the New Testament is very clear. The Christians of that day were to pray for them and to honor them.

I confess that I struggle with this teaching. I find political leaders very easy to criticize, and I get so caught up in criticizing them that I do not honor them in anyway at all. I believe that I am supposed to pray for my leaders from an attitude which honors them. And I am trying to learn how to be a prophetic voice of critique while, at the same time, being a person who honors and prays blessing upon our nation’s leaders.

I have been around this church long enough to know that we have many members who have an easier time praying positive prayers of blessing for and honoring leaders who are Republicans than they do upon Democrats. We have a smaller number of members who have the exact opposite problem. My problem may be more severe. You see, I have just as much trouble with Republicans as I do Democrats. So I ask you, please commit with me today to love America by The Book by honoring leaders with whom we agree and with whom we do not agree and by praying for all of our leaders with an attitude of honor in our hearts as we pray. Please join me in prayer now. [I led a prayer for President George W. Bush, his cabinet, and other leaders at this point in the sermon].

For the third lesson concerning loving America by The Book, I want to note briefly a passage in the Book of Acts and a passage in the Book of Revelation. In Acts 17, we read of Paul’s sermon in the city of Athens. In that sermon Paul makes use of an idol that he saw as walked through the city. Listen to what he says:

Acts 17:23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

Remember that Paul was a Jew. Jews were commanded not to make any idols. Yet Paul the Jew connects an idol in Athens to the living God of the Bible. That is radical.

In Revelation 13 we have the story of the Red Dragon. That story makes clear use of a pagan myth known all over the world of Paul’s day. I doubt that any of the original readers of the Book of Revelation had not already heard the pagan version of this myth. Yet the inspired apostle John takes this myth and uses it to convey a message of Jesus, a message concerning the incredible power of the living God.

If we are going to love America by The Book, we must do what Paul and John did. We must embrace America’s secular culture enough to be able to find ways to proclaim Jesus, ways that are built into that culture. If we use means to connect with our culture that simply do not connect, then we will be irrelevant and fruitless. God will find others to spread the Good News. God will not use us.

Surely we all want to be instruments of righteousness in the hands of God. Let’s learn from Paul and John. Let’s make sure that we find ways to spread Christian faith to our culture.

Let’s love America by The Book. Let’s love America like the prophets did by being God’s voices for those without power and influence. Let’s love America as Paul and Peter teach us to do by honoring our leaders and praying for them from a stance of honor. Let’s love America like Paul loved Athens and John loved the people of Asia Minor by embracing our secular culture enough to find the best way to connect the Bible’s Good News to that culture.

We are going to sing “God Bless America” now. Please pray this song. Please pray that God will bless in God’s way our nation.

If you have a spiritual need that we can address, please come now as we stand and sing.

SOURCE: http://broadway-church.org/home/sermons/2003/0706.html

Broadway Church of Christ, Lubbock, Texas


Martin Luther King from WAR MADE EASY

video

Down The Line- José Gonzaléz

video

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Domesticated Jesus- Brian McLaren

video

Matthew 6:9-13
"`Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. '"

The Mighty Lemon Drops- Out of hand

video

This band was among my faves in the late 80's and early 90's. Heck, they still are. I remember feeling just the way this song portrays practically all the time. I sure wish I could re-live those years. They didn't have to be so hard. Its taken me a lifetime to figure out what life is all about. I wish I had just found a spiritually mature person and asked. I reckon I was usually too wasted to look somebody in the eye and ask the right questions. I had to do it all on my own I thought. I am happy with where I am now spiritually... I just wish I wasn't middle aged and just now "got it".

Lyrics:

When I close my eyes I see forever
In between the good and bad I’ll be there

Somewhere
Over my head
Something
I have not said

Think I’ve lost my grip
It’s out of my hands
Slipped between my fingers
Out of my hands

Took so long to get it and I know it
Everything I wanted I’d have been it

So far
Out of my hand
So close
That I can’t find it

Think I’ve lost my grip
It’s out of my hands
Slipped between my fingers
Out of my hands

I’ve seen things I’ve shouldn’t have seen
Now they live inside me
I’ve seen things through open doors
Now I know what lives are for

Somewhere
Over my head
Something
I have not said

Think I’ve lost my grip
It’s out of my hands
Slipped between my fingers
Out of my hands

Think I’ve lost my grip
It’s out of my hands
Slipped between my fingers
Out of my hands

The Bases Are Loaded- Chalmers Johnson on Imperialism and Militarism

Friday, October 26, 2007

I am a soldier in the army of my God!


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
The Lord Jesus Christ is my Commanding Officer.
The Holy Bible is my code of conduct.
Faith, Prayer, Love and the Word are the only weapons of warfare I need!
I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience,
tried by adversity, and tested by fire.


I am a soldier
in the army of my God!
I am a volunteer in this army and I am enlisted for eternity.
I will either retire in this army or die in this army;
But, I will not get out, sell out, be talked out, or pushed out.


I am a soldier
in the army of my God!
I am faithful, reliable, capable, and dependable.
If my God needs me, I am there!
I am a soldier!
I am not a baby.
I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up,
pumped up, picked up, or pepped up.


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
No one has to call me, remind me,
write me, visit me, entice me, or lure me.
I am a soldier!
I am not a wimp.
I am in place, saluting my King,


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
I am ever obeying His orders, praising His name, and building His Kingdom!
No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy, or give me handouts.
I do not need to be cuddled, coddled, cradled, cared for or catered to.
I am committed!


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around!
I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside!
I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit!


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing.
If I end up with nothing, I'll still come out ahead.
I will win without violence!
My God will supply all my needs.
I am more than a conqueror!
I will always triumph!
I can do all things through Christ.


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
Evil cannot beat me!
People cannot disillusion me!
Weather cannot weary me!
Sickness cannot stop me!
Battles cannot defeat me!
Money cannot buy me!
Governments cannot silence me,
and hell cannot handle me!


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
Even death cannot destroy me!
For when my Commander calls me from this battlefield,
He will promote me even higher.


I am a soldier in the army of my God!
In the army I am ever advancing and claiming victory.
I will not give up!
I will not turn around!


I am a soldier in the army of God, and I’m marching,
claiming victory in every stride.
I will not give up!
I will not turn around!
I am a soldier, marching Heaven bound!


~Author Unknown

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who Shall Abide in God's Sanctuary?

Psalm 15

Who Shall Abide in God's Sanctuary?

A Psalm of David.


O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart;
who do not slander with their tongue,
and do no evil to their friends,
nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
but who honor those who fear the LORD;
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest,
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sun Tzu; The Art of War, Chapter 4 "Tactical Advantages; Defense & Offense"

Thermopylae is a good example for Sun Tzu's chapter on tactical advantages, both offensive and defensive.

One's defeat is his own to give.

But, one's victory is his opponent's to give.

The Creator has granted each individual the power of self defeat (our free will), but not the power of self elevation (glorification). These are essentially the same terms for us as they were for Jesus.


This is a brief quote about Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae from another blogger. It appears to be accurate from the sources that I checked. Also, I watched the History Channel special, which was a run-up to the theatrical release of a Hollywood movie named "300", from early 2007. The quote is hyperlinked if you want to read the full post.
The Persians continued via a land march to the Pass of
Thermopylae, where they were faced by 300 Spartans and 8700 Greek soldiers from
allied cities. These were an advance force representing the Greek cities,
because troops from the other cities were occupied and could not assemble in
time. Xerxes demanded the surrender of the Greek force, proclaiming that
the Persian arrows would fill the sky. The king of the Spartans replied
"Good, then we'll fight in the shade."


The Sun Tzu chapter on tactical disposition, which is under consideration in my latest styled presentation, really addresses how 300 Spartans could effectively hold 1.7 million Persians for three days.

Leonidas' force, of about 1300 strong, killed 20,000 of Xerxes' Persian warriors.

Leonidas was prepared in mind and deed, for the epic battle. Leonidas was defeated only by Leonidas' own forces, whom he had sent to guard a little known pass called the "path of Anopaea".

Consider this inscription from the banner for the Greek 15th Infantry Brigade, with the words of Leonidas inscribed upon it. "This number is good enough" These are the words of Leonidas, when he was asked how he could hope to defeat the vast Persian forces.

Yet, Leonidas had one caveat "...the entire Greece does not have so many soldiers [as Xerxes Persian force], but depending on how we fight this number is enough."

The caveat defeated him.

I wonder about the power that God has granted humans. I believe that Sun Tzu has accurately given the boundaries for our failure or success.

Mr. Tzu makes a good case for an objective standard of who will be victorious and who will go down to defeat.

Nevertheless, Leonidas eventually won the war over Xerxes, even if he fell at Thermopylae, because Greece would not allow themselves to be conquered and the King from the east, left the islands with much less Persian blood and much less Persian treasure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Misuse of "Radah" (dominion)


source

'Radah'

In Gen 1:26-28, God uses the word 'radah', a Hebrew word that is often translated as 'have dominion over'? But we Western Christians (and Jews?) have misunderstood its meaning. It is a word that is used only a dozen times in the Old Testament, and thus is rather special in its meaning.

We have taken it to mean 'dominate over' just as a mediaeval ruler or potentate would dominate over his subjects, using them for his own ends, his own pleasure, his own prestige, his own wars, etc. But an examination of 'radah' shows that this is NOT the type of 'dominion' that we are called upon to have over the creation. For example, 'radah' is used in Ezek 34:4, which shows the wrong type of 'radah'. The use of 'radah' there shows that God condemns such an attitude:

"Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled [radah] them harshly and brutally." (2-5).

Whilst we might argue precisely how this applies, I am here referring to it at a higher level, namely that it shows the heart of God, whose image we are made in. And that image is tied up with our 'radah' of the creation.

Our 'radah', of the creation, is not to be with harshness and cruelty and selfishness. Our 'radah' is to be, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the one ruled, that is, for the sake of the creation. We should heal those parts of creation that are sick, bind up those parts that are injured, bring back those parts that are straying, search for those parts that have become lost, as it were.

So we 'radah' creation to represent God to it, to develop and refine and beautify it for its own sake, rather than for ours. (cf. the notion of Love: giving for the other. God is Love.)

Note: This Creation Mandate has never been rescinded. It is still in force for us, even in this gospel period.


The Creation Matters to God


In Genesis 1:26-28, God gives humankind 'dominion' over his Creation. Many have seemed to assume this justifies our 'domination' of Creation. The 'domination' we have exercised has had the following characteristics:

  • We have treated the Creation as though it were ours for the taking and use.
  • In particular, we have treated is as mere raw materials to satisfy our desires, and our economic-technical systems.
  • This has often - in all cultures - led to cruelty in our dealing with animals.
  • Even when we have not been brutal, we have usually treated the natural Creation as a mere backdrop to the human drama, of salvation (if Christians) or of progress (if materialists).
  • Thus we have not usually allowed that Creation has any meaning in its own right.
  • The above points have been exacerbated in some Christians who have assumed that the physical Creation is under a curse and will be done away with, so it does not much matter, in eternal terms.

Here is an exposition of passages of Scripture that show that the Creation is important to God, and should also be important to us. Ecological damage is an evil in God's eyes. And the creation will be redeemed just as humanity will be. A similar message, though in a different style, can be found in a wider discussion of why Christians in particular should be 'green'.

Gen 1:26-28, Gen 2:15: The purpose, role of humanity

The purpose, role of humanity: to cultivate, guard, steward, manage - for the sake of God and of the creation itself. See next.

(NB. Westminster confession: Chief end of Man: to glorify God and enjoy him forever: no: to steward the Creation.) (Link also with: we are God's representatives, ambassadors, sons, trusted servants: to show him forth, be like him, have his attitudes. Also God is Love)

Gen 1:26-28, 'Radah'

What is 'radah', the Hebrew word used in Gen 1:26,28 that is often translated as 'have dominion over'? It is a word that is used only a dozen times in the Old Testament, and thus is rather special in its meaning.

We have taken it to mean 'dominate over' just as a mediaeval ruler or potentate would dominate over his subjects, using them for his own ends, his own pleasure, his own prestige, his own wars, etc. But an examination of 'radah' shows that this is NOT the type of 'dominion' that we are called upon to have over the creation. For example, 'radah' is used in Ezek 34:4, which shows the wrong type of 'radah'. The use of 'radah' there shows that God condemns such an attitude:

"Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled [radah] them harshly and brutally." (2-5).

Whilst we might argue precisely how this applies, I am here referring to it at a higher level, namely that it shows the heart of God, whose image we are made in. And that image is tied up with our 'radah' of the creation.

Our 'radah', of the creation, is not to be with harshness and cruelty and selfishness. Our 'radah' is to be, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the one ruled, that is, for the sake of the creation. We should heal those parts of creation that are sick, bind up those parts that are injured, bring back those parts that are straying, search for those parts that have become lost, as it were.

So we 'radah' creation to represent God to it, to develop and refine and beautify it for its own sake, rather than for ours. (cf. the notion of Love: giving for the other. God is Love.)

Note: This Creation Mandate has never been rescinded. It is still in force for us, even in this gospel period.

Psa 97:1, Psa 98:7-8, Psa 96:10-13. Creation delights in God.

Various psalms like those mentioned expect various parts of creation to delight in God and in his justice. The seas are to roar, trees to clap their hands, etc.

While these passages are picturesque, they do express a truth: that creation rejoices in God and God's ways. Each thing 'rejoices' in the way appropriate to it; e.g. a tree would 'rejoice' in the way that a tree can, and so on. Each thing rejoices because God's ways bring health, bounty, true prosperity, shalom.

All creation, including human and non-human together, find that God's ways are good, and to be shouted about.

Romans 8:19. Creation and God's 'Sons'

Romans 8:19 says that all creation waits with eager longing, groans, until God reveals his sons.

The Greek word for 'sons' is not that used for 'children' or 'make offspring', but is 'hios': those who are like the father in attitude, will, decision-making tendencies, etc. The father of those times would, when he reckoned his male child had come to this state of maturity, take his son to the public place and announce "This is my son". Meaning "I trust him to choose, behave, decide like me, and will stand all his promises he makes."

God has sons, those who come to the maturity in Christ in such a way that we have the attitude, will, decision-making tendencies that God himself has. God is Love; his sons will be love, rather than selfishness. This links with the type of 'radah' that we should display.

Now, this makes sense of Romans 8:19. As we saw above, God's creation 'rejoices' in God's ways, when it is treated as God would. So, in this period in which creation suffers the harm caused by selfish humanity who exercise wrong type of 'radah' over it, it is eagerly longing for those human beings who will truly be God's sons (hios) and behave towards it like God would.

So, when God's sons are revealed (or appear on the scene), the creation rejoices. Because they are like God, and will treat it like God does. Or like God would. (This links too with our role and purpose, and the idea of being God's ambassadors and representatives.)

'Tsedeq'

Now, what is this way in which God would treat the creation? The clearest understanding of it is the Hebrew word 'tsedeq', which is translated both justice and righteousness. Paul Marshall has defined 'tsedeq' as 'Maintaining right relationships among all things in the created order.' (For fuller discussion of this, see tsedeq.html.)

Note that it is relational rather than individualistic or state-centred in meaning. Note also that it goes beyond legal frameworks. Note that, though translated 'righteousness', 'tsedeq' is not goodness; though translated 'justice' it is not legal judgement or retribution. Both are tsedeq. The meanings we normally apply to 'justice' and 'righteousness' are distortions, arising from what happens when we start with the presupposition that the Creation is of no value. If it is with all creation, then all creation is important. Let's see if that is so.

Jer 12:4. Ecological results of our sin.

This verse clearly shows that ecological harm comes from sin and evil in human society. It links ecology with righteousness. We tend to think that God is only interested in righteousness, and does not want us to be too concerned about ecology. But in fact they are closely intertwined.

The Lord's care specifically for non-human creation

But does God really love and value his creation? All we have above so far is a deduction that he does; are there any scriptures that show clearly that he does love and value his creation?

  • Jonah 4:11 The Lord can concern specifically for animals
  • Psa 145:9 The Lord has compassion on all he made
  • Psa 36:6 Men and animals are in your care
  • Lev 25:7 God has care for wild as well as domestic animals
  • Lev 26:34 The land itself enjoys rest
  • Lev 26:43 .. even without people
  • Prov 12:10 We are to look after animals

Job 38. God has purposes beyond humanity.

But maybe God only values his creation because it provides food and resources for humanity? And, without humanity, it has no meaning? While it is certainly true that humanity is the pinnacle of God's creation and that without humanity creation was only 'good' and not 'very good', God's words in Job 38 and 39 show that God has purposes in his creation that do not centre on humanity. These two chapters are saying, in effect: "There are wild things, Job, that are important to me, even though they are not useful to humankind and even a threat to humankind."

Rev 11:18. "Destroy those who destroy the earth."

In Rev 11:18 we find an interesting plea by the angels to God in his role as final judge. They say "the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth."

And who is destroying the earth today? We are, those of us for whom manufacturers used to create refrigerators filled with CFCs, those of us for whom electric power is created that brings global warming, those of us who use our cars without thinking and when we could walk or cycle, and thus produce greenhouse gases, those of us who demand cheap food from all over the world and thus indirectly the destruction of rainforests and local communities, those of us who demand low taxes so that Government does not properly clean our waste, and the seas become polluted, those of us who ... are, by our expectations, habits, demands, are forcing others to destroy the earth.

Heb 1:1-3, John 3:16, Eph 1:10, Col 1:20. Salvation goes beyond humanity.

We tend to think that the end state is concerned with Christ and humanity (e.g. Christ and his Bride, the mass of saved humanity). But Hebrews 1:1-3 says that Christ will inherit 'all things', not just humanity. Note also the integration of these 'all things' with humanity and forgiveness in these verses.

(So, if we mess up the creation, with pollution or by driving species to extinction, as we do, then we are damaging Christ's inheritance. We claim to love him; do we? Or are we carelessly letting his inheritance be less than it would otherwise be?)

Notice also that that famous verse John 3:16, tells us that God so loved the world; that is, the creation, not just humanity. It specifically does not say "God so loved humankind that he gave his Son...".

In Col 1:20 and Eph 1:10 we find similar sentiments: The whole universe is to be reconciled with God, summed up in Christ, not just humanity.

Rom 8: Creation will one day be set free from its bondage to decay.

But is not the creation to be burned up at Christ's second coming? Not if Romans 8 is true. Rather, it will be set free from the tendency to decay. It will share the glorious freedom of the sons of God.

Notice Matt 24:37-41. When Christ comes again, "One will be taken and the other left." Who will be left? We assume that the righeous ones will be taken from this earth, to escape it, and the wicked ones will be left, and destroyed. But look a few verses back; Jesus very explicitly compared the future division of humanity with that in the days of Noah. There it was the wicked who were taken away; the righteous were the ones who were left.

The problem is that for centuries we have assumed that the creation is unimportant to God, and will be destroyed; that idea has more to do with pagan Greek thinking than with what is revealed in Scripture. In fact, the earth will survive (though renewed and resurrected just as we will be).


This post is a continuation of:

The Meaning of Life, All of Creation and Worship

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Then Shall Live


Here is one of the most powerful songs I've heard in a while. Hope it gives you a blessing. It made me shed tears.

Lyrics:

I then shall live
as one whose been forgiven
I'll walk with with joy
to know my debts are paid
I know my name is clear before my Father
I am His child and I am not afraid
so greatly pardoned, I'll forgive my brother
the law of love, I gladly will obey
I then shall live
as one whose learned compassion
I 've been so loved, that I'll risk loving too
I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges
I'll dare to see another's point of view
and when relationships demand commitment
then, I'll be there to care and follow through
Your Kingdom come around and through and in me
Your power and glory let them shine through me
Your hallowed Name, O, may I bear with honor
and may your living Kingdom come, in me
the Bread of Life, O, may I share with others
and may You feed the hungry world through me
Amen!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Meaning of Life, All of Creation and Worship


Many believers and Christians today have an underdeveloped knowledge of proper theology and proper biblical concept. It seems that they are guided more by political ideology rather than by sound biblical teaching. When discussing the purpose for the creation and existence of mankind and/or studying the book of Genesis and the creation story people do not seem to have a clear understanding of the purpose for man or of the rest of creation that ties it all together. I have heard the point made many times that God created man to glorify Himself. This is true. Yet if we do not understand or cannot explain fully what that means- we cannot really worship effectively or witness to other people effectively.

If we say to the unbeliever or potential believer, "God just likes to be worshipped," and do not explain more fully, the listener may well go away guffawing because it could be said that what you have just described is a psychotic egomaniac- a God that has created an entire reality just so he can have someone to give him flattery and adulation. The truth is that there is far more to the concept of worship than this. Also, when teaching doesn't cover this point with sound and thorough explanation it sends believers out ill- equipped to answer tough questions from the world.

So what is the purpose of mankind and all life, of all creation and of worship?

There are many verses throughout the Bible that proclaim the purpose for the creation of the cosmos. Simply put, all creation was made to glorify and reveal God. God created the Earth and mankind to reveal himself throughout the universe, to share himself with and through life and to commune with and through mankind and the rest of his creation. God made man special... with a special place and purpose in creation... to tend and take care of his garden and to be holy. Most people that are familiar with Judeo-Christian tradition know the rest of the story... man rebelled. Yet God's original purpose for man and the rest of the cosmos is still intact, in force and has been reconciled by Jesus Christ.

Romans
1:18-20 says this:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 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 men are without excuse.

Colossians
1:15-20 says this:

The Supremacy of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Now let us clarify what worship is. Worship is not meant to be a groveling, flattering experience for man to kiss the feet of a God who needs adulation. Worship has the same purpose that man and all of the rest of creation has- that is to commune with God... to share in God's presence... to participate with God. Worship is as much for man as for God. Worship is a gift from God for man to share in his presence and his glory, to commune and to experience holiness and be joined together in spirit and in truth.

Jesus himself, the King of all Creation (Col. 1:15-20), spoke these words to a Samaritan woman he encountered at a community well:

John 4:23-24


23
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Living a life of spirituality that is grounded in truth is worship. Worship is not supposed to be relegated to the few hours a week that we sit in a Church pew. In a sense, all life, all creation, is supposed to exist as worship.

I am always amazed at the resistance and debate that I get when I assert the Christian, people- perhaps even moreso than others, actually do have a role and responibilty to play in the maintenace of the natural world... AKA "the environment". Too many Christians in my view, have made "the environment" something abstract... something that is "out there" separate from themselves and from God and something thus inconsequential to our walk as Christians and our concerns as men. It is true "the environment" is for mankind to be in stewardship over and for us to use. Yet, how are we to "be fruitful and multiply" if we do not acknowledge, understand and accept the full purpose God has charged us with in the Earth? Caring for the Earth and worshipfully observing our purpose ordained by God also enables us to better love our neighbors and maintain public health, to be witnesses for God's purposes and better commune prayerfully with God.

How is it that Christians have allowed themselves to be distracted and deterred from this vital role we are meant to play by terms like "tree hugger"? Would you like to see the Church grow and like to see all those "environmental wackos" out there converted to people using their passions for enlarging the Kingdom of God? Then I think its time for the Church to rediscover this aspect of God's intent for his people and include it as part of a Godly, balanced worldview. We are not talking about becoming environmental activists or engaging in godless naturalism here.

For more on these vital topics also visit these posts:

The Misuse of "Radah" (dominion)

A Biblical View of the Environment

A Christian View of the Environment


The Meaning of Genesis


Why Are We Here?

Project Earth: Preserving the World God Created

Quantum Freewill, the Breath and Spirit of God...

Doing Lunch With The Almighty


Poverty, Pollution and Environmental Racism

Eleven Inherent rules of Corporate Behavior

Is God Green?

Thank You For This Earth


Indigenous Mind

Sun Tzu The Art of War Chapter 3; War by Stratagem

This requires some analysis. War by stratagem is seen in many biblical battles, e.g. Gideon's 300 fighting men with only torches and shofars.




Also, the David and Goliath story meets the criteria for War By Stratagem. The opposing army's general had a very wise stratagem. If he had succeeded, the battle would've been over without a fight.

However, Israel's general baulked this plan, & trumping the Philistine general with a "wild card", i.e. an adolescent boy with a wrist rocket.

How far is too far in life's spiritual war?
When does cunning become deceit?
Where is the line? And, should we look for such a distinction?

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Biblical View of the Environment



A Biblical View of the Environment

D. Massimiliano Lorenzini
All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Bible unless otherwise indicated.

There are many views and opinions concerning the environment representing a wide range of world views. With this essay I intend to present a biblical view of the environment including its origin, present state, and future destiny.

Origin

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The Bible tells us that God existed before the universe and that He created it. For more details on the creation account read chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis. Scientific Creationism also reveals intelligent design in the creation, thus testifying of an intelligent Creator.1

The purpose of creation is to worship and bring glory to God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork" (Ps. 19:1). See also Ps. 148 and Is. 40:25,26. It also testifies of God's qualities. "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20).

Man is made in God's image. "And God said, Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26). (Note: The plural pronoun testifies of the Trinity.) While every created thing has value in itself, man alone is created in the image of God. This contradicts the Eastern monism philosophy which says all is one.2 William B. Badke, author of Project Earth,3 says that the earliest responsibility of man and the only mandate given him concerning interaction with the earth is found in Gen. 2:15 which says, "The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden as its gardener, to tend and care for it" (The Living Bible). The Hebrew word for tend can also mean "to serve" and the word for care may be translated "to keep safe, preserve, protect." This mandate has never been rescinded.

God gave Adam and Eve dominion in the earth (Gen. 1:28). This means that the human race is to be in charge of the stewardship of the earth and to nurture it, not dominate and exploit it for selfish motives.

"Historian Lynn White was correct in placing some blame for environmental decay on Christianity. But it is a misunderstanding of the Bible, not God's word itself, that is at fault here,"4 says Tom Sider, professor of theology and culture, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of Evangelicals for Social Action. British author Catherine von Ruhland says, "Christianity is often criticised as being the reason for much of the damage that has occurred on the planet. But we should make clear to the critics that it is not our faith, but a combination of scientific theory and industrial progress among unbelievers and our own wrong understanding of God's Word that has brought about destruction."5

Present State

The event that kicked off our present state, both physically and spiritually, is the fall of man. Along with the mandate of stewardship of the Garden, God told Adam and Eve that they had free access to anything in the Garden except the fruit of one tree which would bring physical and spiritual death (Gen. 2:16,17). This was simply a test of man's love and obedience to his Creator. God wanted a relationship based on choice and without the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil man would not have had any choice to please or displease God. Needless to say man ate the forbidden fruit and here we are today.

Sin is the breaking of God's commandment and it is sin that is the major environmental threat. Physical death and the ground being cursed are just two results of the fall (Gen. 3:17-19). By choosing to disobey our Creator and live in sin the Bible says that the land and animals mourn (Hos. 4:1-3). Sin has such a violent effect on the environment that the Bible says the land will vomit out the sinning inhabitants (Lev. 18:25). Sin is what motivates the destruction of the environment for financial gain (1 Tim. 6:10).

But God promises to heal the land if we will turn from our wicked ways (2 Chr. 7:14). (Understand that there will not be complete restoration until God recreates the earth, 1 Pet. 3:13 and Rev. 21:1). By turning to God and being filled with His Spirit we can have the sensitivity to people and the environment that is necessary (Rom. 8). Indeed, sensitivity to others will affect our treatment of the environment. For example, if we know that there are people who live downstream from us and depend on a river we use, we should be careful to not dump pollution into the river so they can have water that they can use. By our sensitivity to the people who live downstream from us, we will change our treatment of the river we use to do what we can to provide safe and clean water for others who depend upon the same river. Matthew 25 shows that insensitivity to people is also insensitivity to God and will bring His judgement.

Tony Campolo also says that since nature worships God, (Ps. 148) ecological destruction interferes with and silences the worship of God.6 He calls this blasphemy.

Ron Sider says, "The first purpose of the nonhuman creation is to glorify God not to serve us."4 The Bible says, "The earth is the Lord's" (Ps. 24:1). We must realize our role in creation is to worship God and to be stewards of the earth. A steward is a caretaker, not an owner.

Unlike monism, which says all is one, a biblical view, while agreeing that in ecology all things are interconnected, says in the spiritual realm there are two orders -- the regenerated and the fallen. The fall that Adam and Eve experienced has carried on over to every human since (Rom. 3:10, 23). But there is hope of regeneration. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22).

God is deeply concerned with His creation and this is shown in many passages of Scripture. In Gen. 9:9,10 God made a covenant with all of creation not to destroy it with a flood ever again and He set the rainbow in the cloud to be a token of that covenant. In Job 39:1,2 God shows that He is with the wild animals when they give birth. Matt. 6:25-30 shows that God feeds the birds and clothes the fields. It is by His power that creation holds together or consists as Col. 1:16, 17 points out. Because God is so intimately concerned with His creation He promises to restore it.

Future Destiny

"Everything that Christianity hopes for is wrapped up with the ultimate fate of the earth," says Glenn Paauw, author of The Garden of God.7 The Bible teaches that salvation is for all of creation, not just humans (Is. 11, Ez. 47). This world will be burned up with fire (2 Pet. 3) and God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1, Is. 65:17). True physical peace will reign (Hos. 2:18) and God will live with His people on the Earth (Rev. 21:3). Until that day Christians continue to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).

Some may say, "If the world will be destroyed by fire and recreated why should we be concerned about the environment?" Well let me sum up some reasons given thus far and introduce some new ones: 1) Destruction of the environment is blasphemy against God; 2) Stewardship is a responsibility; 3) Other people suffer because of the destruction of the environment; 4) Animals suffer; 5) Creation itself suffers (Rom. 8:19-21); 6) The danger is massive and urgent; 7) Common sense tells us to properly manage our resources to maintain a sustainable yield; 8) and I would like to leave you with an idea from Tony Campolo which may be the most practical reason of all. He says the sooner or later we will all get involved in the environmental movement because sooner or later we will all get hurt because of what we're doing to the environment.6

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1. For information on Scientific Creationism see Institute for Creation Research at http://www.icr.org.

2. For more information on monism see James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog, 3d ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

3. Badke, William B. (1991). Project Earth: Preserving the World God Created. Portland, Multnomah Press.

4. Sider, Ron J. (1993, June 21). Redeeming the Environmentalists. Christianity Today.

5. von Ruhland, Catharine (1991). Going Green: A Christian Guide. Great Britain, Marshall Pickering.

6. Campolo, Tony (1992). How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshiping Nature. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, Inc.

7. Paauw, Glenn (1992). The Garden of God. Colorado Springs, International Bible Society.