relaxing in dependence on God

The Sabbath is an institution in Scripture rooted in creation and in covenant. It finds its fulfillment in Christ; we find our Sabbath rest in him. But that doesn’t nullify our need to rest well physically from our labors. In fact I think that’s a part of learning to rest in God. As I think Martin Luther once said, he had learned to sleep well in the confidence that God is running the world, not himself.

For me this is important given the pressures and responsibilities I face, not to mention the ongoing concerns. True of us all. We need to learn to relax in all of life, dependent on God. Certainly easier said than done.

Do we believe that God is at work in our lives all the time for our good and the good of others? If it all depends on us, we will fall short for sure, or never be able to reach the goal. But if while we seek to be faithful, God is in the process toward completing his perfect work, then we can rest assured in him, that he will take care of it all.

God is present to help us in all our weakness. What we need to do is simply trust him, continue in faith so that we’re faithful. And not think for a second that the outcome depends on us. We do need to be present in faith to share in the blessing, but it’s God’s work. In and through Jesus.

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Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Mark 3:13-19

all is good in its own way

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Genesis 1:31a

I just saw a cardinal (I think it was, some red bird) outside the window on a tree. Yesterday a couple of blue jays. I think of the two cats we have. Noticing the trees, the flowers, all of nature. We Christians see nature as creation from the hand of God. And all is good in its own way.

In the first creation account in Genesis, at the end of each day God saw all he had made, that it was good. At the end of the sixth day, after the creation of humankind, creation completed, God saw that the whole together was “very good.”

Each part of creation is complete and perfect in itself. And a part of the whole. Of course in the biblical narrative this was part of the pristine world before “the fall.” After Adam and Eve’s sin, God’s blessing on creation was accompanied with his curse. So that now, though all is good in its place, in some ways there’s a discord as humanity continues to exercise dominion over the work of God’s hands. Some of that discord is in humanity itself in our failure to value and protect creation. But some of it is in the rest of creation since there are ongoing problems humans have to deal with. At any rate, while all is good in its place, there seems to be an innate sense that not all is right. And that even when all seems to be good, in an instant that good can be gone.

Such is this life. Which is why in the biblical narrative while the beginning is about creation, the end is about new creation. How God brings about an idyllic world. The beginning of which we see now, the longing for such in the human heart, and the end promised by God in and through Christ and by the Spirit. The God who made everything good in the first place will bring to fulfillment all that good in the new creation. We live with that longing and “hope” so that we want to take care of what is destined to be completed, and let go of the rest. Not to say the good of human culture won’t be included in the new creation in the end, because the end of Revelation indicates it will.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy God’s creation, and as appointed stewards (Genesis 1; Psalm 8), watch over it for its good. As we await the renewal of all things, the old being made new when Jesus returns and heaven and earth are made one in him.

someday this will all be over

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] 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, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell 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’[b] 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!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:1-5

There is no end to what seems senseless in this world. Everything mentioned above: death, mourning, crying, pain will be gone. This is part of a dream that overtakes the nightmare of this life to someday be a reality forever and ever in Jesus.

We have inklings of it now in the new life in Jesus, individually, communally and in mission. These are reminders, indeed signs of what is to come and overtake everything.

There’s no doubt that while I don’t want to see life hasten on and end, I look forward to the day when it will all be said and done. And I’m not referring to the end of my life, but the beginning of the full life in Jesus in the resurrection to come.

Then all the good begun now will take hold and completely flourish. Going on unabated in the life of God to the world in and through Jesus. By faith we can all look forward to that Day. In and through Jesus.

dealing with difficult people

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-24

If you live, you’ll have to deal with difficult people, who at times can make life more difficult. As Christians, we turn to the pages of Scripture for help. And I find Paul’s words here in Romans (click link for fuller context) helpful.

In a nutshell, Christians are simply to do their part. I think we can confront or challenge others, but we’re never to repay evil for evil. I think that includes using violent means, though if someone were attacking someone else, then I think you should do what you can to stop them. The Christians’ dependence on the state as a God-given institution against evil is in play here (again, click link above to see that).

To go into much detail beyond what is written here for me becomes murky. As Christians we should simply try to stick to the basic words of Scripture. But inevitably differences will arise as to whether “if it is possible, insofar as it depends on [us]” means that Christians could ever resort to any kind of violent resistance. I personally have changed my view in leaning toward the position that the Christian can participate in the state, and thus bearing the (small) sword as a police function. And in that, violence should be used sparingly, only as a last resort. There’s no question in the text, that the state in its God-ordained role, does end up resisting evil for the good of Christians and of all society.

The big watchword for me here is simply the directive to live at peace with everyone insofar as that depends on us. That means we might have to put up with things that are not helpful. We’re to leave any vengeance in God’s hands, instead of seeking to exact it ourselves. The state actually ends up being part of God’s exacting of justice, so it seems, when they function correctly. Although sadly to say in too many places in the world Christians and even society in general is left with corrupt governing officials.

The directive is clear whether we like it or not. We’re to do good to our enemies, or to those who make life difficult for us. But I’m not for a minute referring to cases like a woman being beaten by her husband. She needs to separate from him, seek protection from authorities, and I believe she can divorce and remarry on the grounds of desertion, because in effect that’s what he’s done.

This is not a nice comfy part of life. We’d rather avoid all such things together. But it does happen. We do well to go back to the words of Scripture, God’s word, and seek to live by that. To even bless those who persecute us, as the text tells us just before what is quoted above. At the same time, living in peace with others doesn’t mean letting them run roughshod over us. We need wisdom from God to know what that will mean in any given situation, as we seek to remain wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves. In and through Jesus.

a thankful life

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:20

To really grasp well the impact of Paul’s words, and really God’s word here, we need to look at the backdrop, or the context (click link to see). Paul is writing especially to Gentiles in a typically pagan, godless setting. Encouraging them out of the love God has for them as his dear children, to live lives of love and holiness. In the course of that, Paul also mentions how thanksgiving is proper rather than the kind of talk they were accustomed to. I think part of the point is that God is now in their thoughts, that they are finding the good of life and thanking God as the giver. In Romans 1 Paul notes that when humankind abandons God, they also become unthankful, not thanking God (Romans 1:21). So ingratitude is something that should be seen as a sin. At the very least, we should never excuse it.

The call to thanksgiving above is in the context of a Spirit-filled life. Instead of living inebriated with alcohol or full of the spirits of this world, we’re to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And the result noted is communal, within the church spilling out into society. We live lives overflowing, devoted to God and for the good of others. To give thanks always to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ refers to everything we should be thankful for. That surely takes some effort on our part, especially for some of us. But essential to that here is the imperative to be filled with God’s Spirit. So that we see God’s light in not only the darkness, exposing the works of darkness, but also everything in light of it. So that we can find good to thank God when we consider so many things. While at the same time telling God our concerns and even troubles. This call to enlightened thanksgiving does not at all mean one is to ignore what’s bad. But we’re not to miss all the good. And seeing the good, and giving thanks to God for that ought to be a mark of our lives.

How do we get there, especially if we might struggle with depression, or simply feeling down? We have to be patient. This is something we do, but only through the Spirit. It will take commitment to obedience out of faith to God’s call here. And instead of trying to seek some experience of being filled with the Spirit, we should note that we’ve already been baptized by and drink from the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). We have the Spirit, so we’re told to be filled with that Spirit, not with ourselves. This requires prayer. Only God can help us here. Some say we’re already filled with the Spirit, having as much of the Spirit as we could have. But this is an imperative, so that while we have the Spirit, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re filled with the Spirit, or living Spirit-filled lives. And part of the Spirit-filled life in the midst of everything is to find the good to thank God for, and thank him for it.  Something I need to work on myself. In and through Jesus.

one thing we can do and not quit doing

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

Given the world’s scene, and the mess right here in the United States, and just considering our own worlds, what we’re up against, there’s one thing we can do, something we should not let up on. You could say the parable hints, until our Lord returns. That is prayer, prayer, and more prayer. Simply praying.

As we can surmise from Jesus’s words, need should prompt us to pray. And don’t we experience that, and see it everywhere? Prayer should be something we’re getting used to, a part of who we are. But since we’re so used to the old way of the flesh which includes taking care of things ourselves, or just plain giving up, not factoring God into the picture, the new way takes practice and time. Not to mention the spiritual warfare we’re up against. The spiritual enemy will do what they can to keep us from praying, since that exacts a toll on the evil they’re doing or intend to do. We’re told to stand strong in the strength God provides, even in God’s strength, and put on the armor of Christ and the gospel, standing firm against the spiritual enemy. And continue in prayers (Ephesians 6:10-20).

We might scratch our heads at our Lord’s saying that God will bring about justice quickly. But the point is that our prayers matter and make a difference now. In the tough slog of life with all our questions and difficulties we’re to persist in prayer. With praise and thanksgiving, confession of sin, and requests. Simply crying out for God’s goodness and righteousness (justice) to prevail. In and through Jesus.