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.

faith and money

Looking at life and the Bible might make one wrinkle up their nose and shake their head. It seems like some things are irreconcilable, or don’t make sense. But then one needs to step back and look at the whole, and try to process it all as much as possible. And then simply trust God. I am thinking right now about faith and money.

Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount about treasures in heaven and not worrying about one’s life (Matthew 6:19-34) are classic in trying to understand and sort through this. And then we have passages that encourage us to not get into debt and save, although in the Biblical world, when one could save, that is taken for granted that they should. But that they shouldn’t hoard, meaning store more than they needed, and that they should be generous to the poor and needy.

Jesus in the passage referred to above suggests that we can end up serving God or money, but not both. The idea is that money can become an idol, money itself not being an evil, but the love of money a root of all kinds of evil, as we read in 1 Timothy (6:10).

I have to wonder at the Christian leaders who actually are worth millions and millions of dollars. I don’t try to judge them for a second and I’m not critical, except when their life styles are exorbitant. Or when their teaching ties one’s material wealth to one’s spirituality. This has been a problem with the health and wealth preachers who seem to suggest that material wealth is indicative of the faith one has. They have great faith, therefore they have the material wealth. And people are to follow their example, especially, too often, by giving to their ministry. I take it for granted that we should give regularly to our church both for the continuation of the ministry in the gospel and in teaching, and in outreach for those who are in need.

Jesus himself said that he had no place to lay his head. And he taught us to pray that the Father would give us our daily bread. Translated for us today in America, that doesn’t mean we have to live from paycheck to paycheck. But that we should be devoted to God in how we handle money, and be generous in giving, and not trust in our material wealth. And a big trap for us here in the United States is debt, whether through student loans, or even through credit cards which we mean to pay off right away, but all too easily accumulate with interests which even if on the lower end then make them hard to pay off.

Faith looks to and depends on God, and what God gives us we are stewards of, in other words we’re responsible to handle that money in a way that honors God. Helping the poor and needy is central to honoring God (Proverbs 14:31). We want to do well with the money we have, but we don’t want to be devoted to money and making more of it, but only to God. All of this requires faith and wisdom, prayer and dependence on God.

Our Father is the one we count on to meet our needs, and that together, as we continue to grow and mature in and through Jesus.

God’s promise of strength for the day

and your strength will equal your days.

Deuteronomy 33:25

In Moses’s final blessing for Israel before he died, these words are noteworthy in his specific blessing for the tribe Asher. And we are told that all of the promises of God are yes and amen for us in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). In other words we can somehow lay claim to them, either directly or indirectly. The original promise was given to a people, but surely individuals are included in that blessing.

In my case, I’m facing a new work schedule which for me so far has been challenging due to its longevity, and the short window of time I have in between work days during that time frame of the week. Necessary sleep at any age, but perhaps especially at my age is important. We have to take care of ourselves. We are physical beings, as well as spiritual. It is one thing to have a sleep deprived night for a good reason, such as an emergency, but even then some recovery is called for. But when we do this night after night, young or old, we’re setting ourselves up for either poor health, or an accident, perhaps both.

I haven’t slept enough in my life, and I’ve probably drank more than my share of coffee. But I’m realizing, especially after I talked with one of my sisters who struggles with her sleep as well, that I really have to make getting adequate sleep a priority the rest of my life. Which for me at this time means trying to get 6 or more hours of sleep, and when I can, more.

So God’s promise here is not an excuse for us to fail to take care of ourselves. The promise here is not only physical, but spiritual, and perhaps primarily so. Physical and spiritual were essentially one in the Hebrew way of thinking, the former derived from the latter, as we see clearly in the strange story of Samson.

For us in Jesus, we find the Lord’s strength in our weakness, to be sure. And that might include not getting enough sleep now and then. But we do our best to be good stewards of the life God has given us, which includes taking care of our bodies. And we have God’s promise that our strength will equal the days God gives us, a part of his blessing to us that we might be a blessing, in and through Jesus.

the true riches

Money is called Mammon, an idol representing wealth, and indeed has a pull and attraction that according to scripture and verified in life easily becomes idolatrous. Some people give everything in the pursuit of wealth with what in the end? (See Ecclesiastes). Others live with an uneasy devotion to it, hoping to get enough so that they can finally devote themselves in service to God. The only problem with that is that Money is a hard taskmaster. They don’t get free of its service so easily as they might imagine, just because they become “financially independent.”

Materialism is the culprit, not the material world, or matter. That is when we live for things, whatever they may be. The dream house, luxurious cars, extravagant vacations, toys and more toys to fill the empty void of our lives. Not that it’s wrong to enjoy something which might incur some significant expense at the time. Not that money itself is evil. It is simply when we live from day to day intent on living it up and have a devoted love to money that we become people who more and more might be characterized by greed which scripture calls idolatry.

It is not that the wealthy can’t be good and do good. One does not necessarily have to get rid of their excessive wealth to be faithful to God. There are some who are gifted when it comes to accruing wealth, and this is a gift that can be well used for good. They are managers and stewards of riches. Such a place requires grace, but ideally they should live as humbly as possible, needs met, but giving as much as they can to God’s work, especially for the service of the gospel.

Those struggling with poverty are likewise prone to temptation along these lines. Their minds can be occupied with the desire for wealth and they need grace to accept their situation while seeking to do well with what gifts God gives them, be it in terms of a job, an education or whatever. Oftentimes their lot in life, perhaps especially so in the beginning is challenging. There tends to be an upward mobility for those who come to faith in Christ, but some for this or that reason may experience dire poverty much of their lives. Jesus did say that it is hard and impossible in human terms for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. He did not say the same for the poor, in fact the poor seem to have more of a readiness for faith since there condition is inherently dependent. With that come unique temptations, one of them often called entitlement. The world is an unequal place, no friend of the poor quite in contrast to scripture where God’s priority for the poor rings out again and again.

In the end Jesus calls his followers to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness with the promise that all of their material needs, the need for food, clothing and shelter will be met. We are called not to store up wealth for ourselves, but to be rich toward God. That may mean for some that they handle large amounts of wealth. All relative, since most of us Americans do so compared to the rest of the world, and indeed it is expensive to live in any established normal way in America. But those wealthy by first world standards can still be rich toward God, not imagining that the money is their own.

The rest of us want to do well with the material wealth we have, avoid excessive debt and get out of debt. Give regularly as an act of devotion and faith to God’s work. And live as those whose lives are caught up in “the true riches” in and through Christ.

abundance

Abundance is a big subject. It starts in God himself, in his person as three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. There is a richness in abundance in God that is boundless. From that abundance, we see God’s creativity of life on earth (probably elsewhere in some forms or whatever, but certainly true and abundant here).

Abundance is found on earth, but like all else in the old creation, has its limits. Which figures into human stewardship of the earth. Sadly we see some natural resources being threatened or pushed to the brink of extinction, upending or changing the balance of nature due to human greed and over consumption. While at the same time too many on earth face a day to day ordeal to survive, to get enough just to live. As the globe shrinks in size due to human ability to travel and communicate, we are all the more accountable for this problem. Though there are indeed a complexity of issues in the mix. But sometimes we make it all too complicated. We’re committed to a course in which there can be little or no turning back, or only with much difficulty. A course which does not have loving one’s neighbor as one’s self as the goal, but self-interest. At best a self-interest that preserves one’s own ability to do good.

Jesus said our lives do not consist in an abundance of possessions. But we want more and more. Not really believing the wisdom that says enough is never enough, that all is indeed vanity and meaningless in itself, apart from the Creator of all good things. While it is not wrong to be rich in this world, it is wrong to set our heart on riches. With what abundance we have, we’re called to be generous and willing to share, thus laying up treasure for the life that is truly life. We are not to hoard up wealth for ourselves, but we’re to learn how to be rich toward God, in other words good stewards of the abundance we have.

Scripture again and again speaks of God’s abundance to us, not only in material ways, but much more so in the spiritual sphere. By the Spirit from God through Christ we’re richly blessed with every spiritual, or Spirit-bestowed blessing in the heavenly realms. Yes, here and now. And we’re to come to know by God’s power just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, to actually know this love which has no bounds, that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

I look at my own life all too often, and see nothing but deficit. I am empty, and just struggling at times to carry on. Where is this abundance scripture speaks about, over and over again? This reminds me of what someone said to me years and years ago in a kind of departing word, and it seemed to me with some emotion: “May the Lord deepen you, Ted.” Yes, I need the Lord’s deepening work in my life. A work that opens me up to his abundance to and through me to others, in and through Christ.

Abundance. May the Lord open us up to that life to the full, overflowing in and through Jesus, that we might be the blessing to the world we are meant to be in the heartbeat of God.

the sense of calling

Sometime back someone asked me why I blog. But I’ll add to that, why I go to work day after day, why I attend church gathering on Sunday, why I go to the nursing home on Sunday afternoons, why I try to be a faithful husband, father, and grandfather, why I seek to follow Jesus in all of life with others in Jesus.

I hope it is because of the sense of a calling from God. Our Pastor Jack was mentioning the importance of calling at the beginning of his message yesterday. The sense of being called and having a calling from God should drive our entire existence. Of course part of that calling is to rest, and even do some things out of sheer fun and enjoyment. But much of what we do we have to do, there is a sense of responsibility, indeed a sense of being called by God to do so.

To provide for my family, to be present for them and for friends, to be a witness to the world of the good news of King Jesus, this should all be a part of fulfilling our calling from God.

A calling is in the older understanding a vocation, or what one does to make a living, or provide for one’s family. Extended to that understanding is the idea of using one’s gifts from God in a responsible manner as a steward, out of love for God and for one’s neighbor.

Calling in scripture also extends to one’s salvation in and through Jesus. It is a call into blessing both to one’s self, and in scripture usually to one’s entire family, and to the blessing of others. We are blessed to be a blessing as part of the called in Jesus.

This is what keeps me going and doing what I do. Whether it’s blogging, or whatever else. I can think of blogging right now, because that is precisely what I’m doing. I’ll be doing a good number of things today all either a part of, or related to my calling.

Without that sense of coherence in a calling which brings all of life in the world under the lordship of King Jesus, meaning can be up for grabs. There will be a sense that all is meaningless under the sun, since it all comes and goes without any underlying purpose. Although the sense of calling seems built in us humans as part of our being made in the image of God. Indeed part and parcel of that calling in the beginning was to be rulers and priests of God to and for the world of creation. In Jesus that call awaits fulfillment when the children of God are revealed in a resurrection in which all of creation will share in the new creation through Jesus. But what we do now can anticipate and somehow be taken up into that change which is to come. Even as we seek to point human beings back to God’s story and how this story will at long at last be fulfilled in and through Jesus.

And so I go on, seeking to fulfill my calling from God for today. And wanting to grow in my understanding of that calling, together with others in Jesus for the world.