important, but temporary

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.[a]

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:8-13

Science points out to us that the earth itself won’t last forever, nor the sun, for that matter, not even the universe as seen now. So much mystery lies in this for sure, but there’s no question that the sun (our star) and our home, earth last only so long. Yes, still many many years left, but again, not forever.

One of the ways we live in deception is the idea that we have plenty of time, or like we’re going to live forever, and that we are indestructible. Neither is the case in this world and time.

Whether we like it or not, this world has an expiration date. But the God who created everything in the first place can make a brand new creation which includes us, those who are redeemed in Christ.

Does that mean this world doesn’t matter, that we can do with it as we please? Of course not. The first book in the Bible, Genesis makes it clear that humankind is to take care of what God has given, to be good stewards of it. Creation itself brings glory to God, even in its present state of groaning.

But our primary task now as Christians, those called in Christ is to bear witness in how we live as well as what we say, to the new world coming. Then we in Christ will somehow be made new along with the old world God created. How that will happen is well beyond us, but we hold on to that promise, as we pray for others, that they would join us. And we live with that end in view. In and through Jesus.

 

what does it mean to be a disciple of Christ?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

I heard an interesting rather short presentation or lecture by a prominent evangelical theologian whose thought and writings I respect. But I came away not at all convinced by what he said, specifically in regard to the follower of Christ and creation care. He pointed to Deuteronomy which would provide context for the time Christ was here. It is certainly a call for humanity in general (Genesis). Not sure it’s actually taken up in God’s call to Abraham.

It seems to me to be a follower/disciple of Christ is cross-shaped through and through. And what it involves is spelled out in both the gospels, Acts, and the letters, along with Revelation, the entire New (Second) Testament. It’s to be a witness to the gospel/good news of God in Jesus. And it’s first to be impacting our own lives, but we also consider it in reference to all of life. In and through Jesus.

earth day

Today is Earth Day. From the Lausanne Movement, this statement from the Capetown Commitment (2011) entitled “We love God’s world” is a clear, succinct and I think compelling confession concerning the call Christians have to care for the earth:

We share God’s passion for his world, loving all that God has made, rejoicing in God’s providence and justice throughout his creation, proclaiming the good news to all creation and all nations, and longing for the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.[22]

A) We love the world of God’s creation. This love is not mere sentimental affection for nature (which the Bible nowhere commands), still less is it pantheistic worship of nature (which the Bible expressly forbids). Rather it is the logical outworking of our love for God by caring for what belongs to him. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.[23]

The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ.[24] We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance. We care for the earth and responsibly use its abundant resources, not according to the rationale of the secular world, but for the Lord’s sake. If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ’s Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is a thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.

Such love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfilment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship. The Bible declares God’s redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out, the biblical truth that the gospel is God’s good news, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God’s people.

[22] Psalm 145:9, 13, 17; Psalm 104:27-30; Psalm 50:6; Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; Matthew 28:17-20; Habakkuk 2:14

[23] Psalm 24:1; Deuteronomy 10:14

[24] Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:2-3

The earth as God’s creation is included in his redemption, and we humans have been given responsibility to care for this gift that is our home. Because of the disorder of human sin, and because of the goal of new creation in the new heaven and new earth, this earth/all creation awaits the redemption to come in the resurrection when God’s children are revealed and all creation is included in the freedom and glory which is to accompany that. I especially appreciate this statement because it speaks of this in terms of Christian mission. It is taking into consideration the entire story and our place in it now. We care for the earth because it is the Lord’s, as well as a gift to us from him.

What a wonderful world it is, and yet how awful, the devastation and destruction humankind can bring on it both suddenly and over time, because of sin. We want to do better, and learn to do our part as those who are followers of Jesus. Together in him for the world.

 

more than conquerors

We are told in Romans 8 that no matter what comes our way, we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loved us. Of course the conquest here is not a worldly one by any stretch. It is akin to what is said in Romans 5, that through Christ’s saving work, we will reign in life through him. This reign and victory is in living this new life in Jesus in this old world. And doing so together as Christ’s one Body in the world.

This certainly pertains to our struggle against sin. At times we feel overcome, or condemned by the accuser of the brothers and sisters. Or guilty, because we have given into sin at some point, or points. Being more than conquerors in this life does not mean that we are sinless. It does mean that we don’t have to sin, and that when we do, we repent by confessing our sin to God and to another when appropriate.  Appropriate far more times than we evangelicals imagine, because of the priesthood of believers. At the same time, in one way or another, there are more than just the seven deadly sins (though they are adequate in themselves for this) we will struggle in. Struggling with sin is not something we like. We’d like to think that in Jesus we’ve arrived. But we haven’t. We must go on, pressing toward the goal of God’s calling for us in Christ.

And this pertains to the mission of God in Jesus. We are more than conquerors in the way of Jesus through Jesus who is the way. This means we are living in the work of God. Jesus himself calls us out of our heaviness into his light yoke of actually being coworkers together with him. We are called to live in the way opened up to us in Jesus. This is not simply for our salvation, but for the salvation of the world. We live in the way of Jesus, living out the gospel we profess and proclaim.

This also pertains to fulfilling God’s call to us as humans to work toward what is to be fulfilled through his kingdom when heaven and earth become one in Jesus. That involves creation care, and any number of things that are gifts in our lives in which God can be glorified. I believe my wife can do it with her gift of painting, as well as landscaping, the fruit of which I enjoy every day.

In Jesus to think we are less than conquerors is a lie of the devil. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Nothing can ever separate us from God’s almighty love for us, in Jesus. We are loved to the end, and we go on in that love, together, in the mission of God in Jesus for the world.

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, and Sunday is Creation Care Sunday.  What place does the earth and nature/creation have in our thinking? How do we look at the earth and why? These are good questions to ask and ponder. Christians see the earth as part of God’s good creation. But we don’t necessarily agree across the board on just what that means for our activities now.

Some stress that the earth is resilient, forgiving, that we can take what we need from it now, that indeed God supplies that for us. That this earth will be burned in judgment and what we do now does not matter in the end. Though most would not go that far, but instead hold to a viable view that we need to manage the resources we have in our use of them.

When one deviates from this norm, often they are looked at as “tree huggers”. That is environmentalists as in environmental extremists. This can be allied to a pantheistic view in which nature is considered sacred in itself. And one dare not deface what is sacred or one will be out of sync with the oneness of everything.

But over against both of these views is the position that God has called humanity to creation care seen in the early chapters of Genesis. And that though the earth is now under God’s curse so that work is fraught with difficulty, yet we still have that same call from God to be stewards of the earth. Renewed in Christ in humankind once again being placed over all things under heaven. But in a place of taking care of God’s good gifts, and using them in a way that is not about “the bottom line”, but about caring for all of God’s creation.

There are fewer things better than going on vacation to visit some magnificent part of creation, such as a park. There is nothing I like more than visiting a place in which nature is preserved in its original or normal habitat. And we are blessed to live in a world in which life teems everywhere and often in spite of ourselves, I think now of all the trees and plants in the city in which I live.

We may think we can do little to help against pollution and overuse of earth’s resources. But we need to think again. Because just changing one habit at a time can contribute toward others doing the same, and can cascade into a lifestyle for us, in which we more and more think along these lines, and do little by little more what we can do.

I don’t expect many Christians I know will give any more than at the most a passing glance to Earth Day, and Creation Care Sunday. This does not fit well into our theological understanding, or how we work out that understanding. We who see differently need to hold to our view and promote it as those who hold to a biblical view. These days can be good, apt reminders of the calling from God we have to be stewards of his good gift of the Earth and creation.

What does “Earth Day”, or “Creation Care Sunday” mean to you? Does our theology exclude such considerations and why? What can we do to change that?

A great blog to help us from a friend who also works at RBC Ministries: The Wonder of Creation, by Dean Ohlman. You can find some good links on his blog as well, for helping us in this.

creation care

Anticipating the wonderful weather of the next two days here, even though I have to be inside working most of the daylight hours, I am again hit with the wonder of the newness of life springing up from the earth. This is an inherent part of God’s good creation of earth. Life teems here in seemingly endless forms. And we humans have been given a charge by God to be stewards and care takers of this good earth. Dean Ohlman who works where I work at RBC Ministries has profound thoughts on this on  his blog, and I hope for the day when he writes a book with photos included concerning his passion for creation care.

Amidst the largely misguided (in my view) rejection, or at least suspicion of mainstream science, and for other utilitarian reasons it seems, many of us evangelical Christians have little passion or concern for the care of earth. Our theology does not include this important aspect of God’s cultural mandate to humanity found in Genesis (see 1:26-30; 2:15; 2:19). Nor how the task of fulfilling that is made a part of God’s salvation in Christ in Christ’s exaltation as ruler over all, which though someday is to be shared with us, yet I think has ramifications for how we should look at our earth today, and what we should do with reference to it (Hebrews 2:5-9; 1 Corinthians 15:58 in context as to the resurrection mattering for what we do here and now).

This needs to change, and we need to develop a passion for responsibly seeing God’s good creation for what it is, a gift from God for humankind, but still belonging to God through creation and redemption. So that in our thinking and acting this becomes a chief consideration.

Again, I would heartily recommend Dean Ohlman’s blog. Dean is an intellectual and a naturalist who has helped me more than anyone to begin to understand God’s calling to us in creation, a calling which somehow has ramifications for us in what we do in the new creation here and now in Jesus.

This is just a dabbling in a subject which I’m still in infancy in my understanding. Though I’m glad for the baby steps that are coming, as well as learning some of the language.

How does creation care, or stewardship of the earth play into your understanding and life? How can we make it a priority in giving it its place in our lives? (Hint: again go to Dean’s blog to see one who does that!)

Jesus sends

I heard* recently that in most all of the risen Lord’s appearances to his disciples before his ascension, he sends them out, or words to the effect of their being commissioned and sent out into the world. Indeed the key events of Jesus are his birth, life which involves his ministry of word and deed, his death and resurrection, ascension and Pentecost. At Pentecost the promised Holy Spirit came as the gift of the Father through Jesus and filled the disciples; the church as Christ’s Body in the world, and as his witnesses was born.

Like our Lord we proclaim in both word and deed the coming of God’s kingdom in Jesus. That in Jesus through the kingdom of God the new creation has come so that humankind can be restored to the purpose for creation as God’s image bearers on earth, exercising through Christ stewardship over the earth. And now doing works which will carry over into the culmination of the new creation, when in Jesus heaven and earth become one.

Our message now is that Jesus is Lord. No earthly entity is, though we are to live in submission to rulers and authorities which themselves are under the authority of Jesus. And our message is that God in Jesus has reconciled the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them since Christ who never sinned was made sin, or a sin offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. And from that we’re to invite, and indeed implore that people be reconciled to God, to the One who is reconciled already to them through the death of Jesus.

Of course our message includes both the forgiveness of sins and new life in Jesus. Sin separates humanity from God, from each other, in a sense from one’s self and from God’s good will as stewards of the earth. Concerning the latter we now easily rape and pillage the earth, acting as overlords or more like we are lord rather than under-lords or stewards for God of his good creation. So this message is about reconciliation and restoration.

It also includes justification. Justification by faith marks us out as God’s people. We are set right by God through faith, marked out as his people. This is through Christ and by faith in the present apart from works. Yet someday in the future final judgment our works through the Spirit will be the basis of our justification before God, even though in the present it is not our works that justify us at all, but only the work of Christ for us in his death and resurrection. Nor are we presently justified by good works done through the power of the Spirit. That awaits a future judgment when God graciously through his Son sees our good works done through the Spirit, and graciously on that basis pronounces us justified, and his people. This is my present understanding, and how I would try to teach it. (See N.T. Wright, whom I follow at least in part on this, and whose exegesis of Scripture I find helpful here.)

In Jesus’ sending of us, the dynamic of the Spirit is central. We need the power of the Spirit to speak and do the works of Christ for the world. And in this we live even as our Savior lived. So we work hard, studying as best we can, pray continually, and then go out in dependence on the Spirit to give us the power and ability we need to do the good works God gives us to “walk in”.

From the big to the little, from the seemingly most significant to the seemingly mundane, God wants us as his people in Jesus to do all through the Spirit. Of course the Spirit’s work in us as God’s people in the world most certainly includes the fruit of the Spirit which we are given, but which we also must learn to work out and live in more and more in our fellowship with others in Jesus as well as our interactivity in the world.

We must remember that in Jesus we are a sent people. Some go far away, others remain in their native area. But all are sent by Jesus through the Spirit to be his witnesses and to let the light God gives us shine that others might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

Do we see ourselves as a sent people? What difference should that make in how we see life? In our priorities and activities in life? Is there one size that fits all, or does God use us in a multiplicity of ways? Does he use us only here and there mostly in spite of ourselves? Or are we open and eager to follow God’s leading and fulfill the work he gives us?

*Or maybe I read this.