All of Creation.

Our Earth is a beautiful place.

The beauty of creation is something that people have been fascinated with for a very long time. There are people who spend their entire lives making careers out of photographing creation. There are countless documentaries that show us pictures and videos of creation in all of its splendor.

The Bible has a whole lot to say about creation as well. Creation consistently interacts with its creator. The entire Bible is full of situations from Genesis to Revelation, God speaks and creation responds.

Psalm 19:1-4 is just one example of many where creation praises God and declares the glory of its maker.

Ashley and I have been blessed to be able to travel many different places. I remember when Ashley and I were on our honeymoon in Switzerland. One day we decided to go on an 8-hour hike. After we had hiked for a couple of hours we started a rousing conversation about… yodeling. There we were, all alone, on top of a mountain, surrounded by mountains, trying (and failing) to yodel. Thankfully the only ones to hear us were the cows.

It was while we were making fools of ourselves trying to yodel that I was reminded of the old hymn. “This is my Father’s world…all nature sings and round me rings…His hand the wonders wrought.” The hymn had it right, all nature does sing his praises. In fact, I would say that all of creation screams out the praises and glory of God its creator.

No matter where we have been, whether is it the mountains of Switzerland or the not so mountainous Nebraska, we are always reminded that God makes incredible beauty out of nothing.

One creation that we have not talked about yet is God’s most prized creation, humans. We are created in the image of God. Literally, we are designed to be in relationship with Him and to worship Him. We have a place above all of the rest of creation.Mountains, valleys, giant forests, great plains, vast oceans, birds, animals, everything macro, and everything microscopic…none of them can compare to the beauty of man and woman.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that out of all of creation, humans have the hardest time actually doing what we were created to do.

Romans 1:18-23 tells us that creation has an important role, it points all mankind directly to its creator. The problem is that we humans have a terrible default. The natural default is to worship the creation rather than the creator. We need to appreciate creation and allow it to point us directly back to God Himself.

We have an incredibly creative creator.

God is worthy of all the honor, glory, and praise. He created some incredible and priceless things. Don’t believe me? Just look outside. Or Google pictures of Norway’s Fjords. Or of the Amazon Rainforest. Or look up videos of “Old Faithful” in Yellowstone. Or check out the Great Barrier Reef. The Grand Canyon. Victoria Falls. The Northern Lights. The Great Blue Hole in Belize. The Cote d’Albatre in France. The Matterhorn in Switzerland….Or just look in a mirror.

We need to praise God and rejoice. We need to tell the world how incredible and wonderful He is. If we don’t then “even the rocks will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Let’s not let some stones take our place.

Take a bit of extra time today to praise and thank God for being exactly who He is: a wonderful, almighty, awesome, holy, and loving creator.

The Consumed Consumer.

“The Bible calls us to be servants, not consumers”

Black Friday. Cyber Monday.

How crazy is this? Businesses spend countless hours preparing for these two days. Their end goal? To trick customers into buying as much of their product as possible. The funniest/saddest part? We all know exactly what they are doing…and yet we still run to the stores anyway.

Let me be clear, I am not trying to make anyone feel bad, nor am I condemning going Black Friday shopping. (My wife and I actually went with friends and had a great time and even got some great deals on gifts for friends and family.) However, the point that I am getting at is this. We live in a consumeristic culture and its grip on many of us is very strong.

Again, there is nothing wrong with being a consumer at the stores. Looking for the best deals is actually a great way to be a wise steward of your resources.

However, when we allow our consumer mentality to creep into other aspects of our lives it becomes very dangerous very fast.

The problem with being a perpetual consumer is that the focus is always on self. What is best for me? What can I get out of this? How can I put forth the smallest effort in order to get the biggest reward? What about me? While these questions might seem normal to the culture we find ourselves in, they actually all run counter to a biblical mindset.

One of the themes we see repeated over and over again in the Bible is one of selflessness, and let’s be real, consumerism is entirely selfish. Where do we see that selfless theme in the Bible? I’m glad you asked.

-Mark 9:35 “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and a servant of all.”

-John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

-Mark 10:44 “and whoever would be first must be a slave (servant) of all.”

-Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

This is just a small sample size of Jesus’ very own words that highlight the biblical attitude of selflessness. Jesus also stunningly displayed this attitude in John 13 when He washed His disciple’s feet. Just try to imagine for a moment that you were there witnessing the Creator God of the universe doing the humiliating job of the lowest of servants. Jesus was not a consumer. And let’s not forget the most selfless act of all, when Jesus gave His life on the cross to save us from our sins.

The Bible calls us to be servants, not consumers. Jesus’ model for us is of service, not consumerism.

We must continually fight against having a consumer mindset when it comes to our church, family, friends, community, and the list goes on. President John F. Kennedy once famously said, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I love that sentiment. Ask not what your friends can do for you, ask what you can do for your friends. For your neighbors. For your family. For your church.

Unfortunately, consumerism has crept into churches all across the country. Individuals might look for a church based on what they can get, rather than what they can contribute to that local body of believers. That’s not to say that being a part of a local church doesn’t have benefits. The church that Jesus Christ established has wonderful benefits that you can find nowhere else on earth. However, along with benefits come responsibilities.

You and your church remain healthiest when both are actively involved and concerned with serving one another. We must remember that the church is not a building or a business. The church isn’t even really an institution in the traditional sense. The church is people. We cannot be consumers of people. We need to serve people.

This Christmas season let’s look for opportunities to think of others rather than just ourselves. Imagine what our communities, families, and churches would look like if we went out of our way in order to serve one another.

Let’s stop being consumers and instead have a higher mindset.

Galatians 5:13 “…through love serve one another.”

In the Midst of Mourning

“No matter what situation we are going through we must remember that God’s promises still and always ring true.”

Life is hard.

There are times when suffering and difficulty seem like the new and only reality. There are times where smiles and laughter and hope seem like far off and unattainable mirages.

There are many situations that can make us feel helpless and hopeless. You might experience a broken relationship. Perhaps you lose your job or experience a setback in schooling. Maybe you are affected by the consequences of sin, your own or someone else’s. Or, like myself, maybe you just lost someone you loved and cared for. Whatever the situation is, it is important that we understand that grief and mourning are natural. These two things are an important part of the process of eventually moving forward. Another, and perhaps the biggest part of the process is resolving to live with joy.

Joy may seem like a strange thing to talk about in the midst of suffering, but it is, in fact, the most vital to our spiritual and emotional health.

You see, joy is not an emotion, contrary to whatever the popular movie Inside Out would say. The emotion that most people often mistake joy for is happiness. Happiness, like all other emotions, is good and can be helpful. However, happiness, just like all other emotions is fleeting. Emotions change based on circumstance. Joy is not an emotion because it does not have to change based on our situation.

So if joy is not an emotion where does it come from? The simplest and most correct answer is from God Himself. Galatians 5:22 lists joy as part of the Fruit of the Spirit-things that are visibly evident in those who “belong to Christ Jesus.”

No matter what situation we are going through we must remember that God’s promises still and always ring true.

“God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46)

       “do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Romans 8:18 is a promise for those who know and trust Jesus. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed.”

Revelation 21 talks about a time where God will “wipe away every tear…and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.”

Joy in the midst of mourning makes sense when we have an eternal perspective.

We must realize that there is much more to life than just simply our present situation.

We must realize that God is a God of hope, and peace, and joy.

Understanding these things isn’t some magical silver bullet that will in the blink of an eye make everything better. However, realizing these things causes us to cling to our savior and “cast all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us.” Because it is in our weakness that His strength is magnified.

This last week has been very tough for me and for a lot of people that I care for. But what we must remember is Philippians 4:4. We must rejoice in the Lord always. Even now. Because this is when we need joy the most.

If anyone is experiencing pain don’t push that pain away and try to hide it. But please remember, there is so much more to life than what you currently feel.

I pray that Romans 15:13 will be true for all of us.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

 

Jesus in the Old Testament

“The Christmas story doesn’t first start in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1.”

Here we are in November and for about a month now my wife, Ashley, and I have been listening to Christmas music and watching cheesy Christmas movies. It has taken all my willpower not to put up Christmas decorations yet. And for the record; yes, I am allowed to sing about my savior’s birth all year round!

As I have been planning for the December sermon series I was reflecting on just how connected to the Old Testament Jesus was and is. We celebrate the Messiah’s birth once a year, but for an Old Testament believer, it was something they looked forward to daily!

The Christmas story doesn’t first start in Matthew 1, but in Genesis 1.

The relationship between Jesus and the Old Testament is a bond that is unbreakable. The Old Testament speaks of Jesus, not only on occasion but in every book it points to the coming Messiah. Let’s take a quick look at a few times that the Old Testament points to Jesus.

First, a few rules to interpreting the Old Testament…It is important to view the text in light of its original contexts to its original audience. The Bible was written to real people in a real place at a specific time. It is also important for the reader to not perform eisegesis and impress onto the text a view that was not originally intended to be there. Only after good exegeses is done can proper interpretation and application take place.

With those qualifications in mind let’s move forward.

            -The first significant point to consider is how Jesus is the New Adam or Second Man. While this is New Testament language the concept finds itself in the very first book of the Pentateuch. In Genesis chapter 3, while God is in the middle of handing out punishments to man, woman and the serpent, he makes an extraordinary promise in verse 15. God promises that one day the woman’s seed (we know this to be Jesus born of the virgin) although his heel will be bruised ultimately He, will crush the head of the serpent, the enemy. We know this to be found in Jesus death, resurrection, and second coming!

            -The next point to explore is how Jesus fulfills God’s promise to Abraham. God promises to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12 that He will use Abraham and his many descendants to ultimately bless the whole world. Again this is fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world. His grace and mercy provided a blessing of eternal life for all who believe. While there are other specifics to the Mosaic Covenant this is clearly one that is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.

            -Another key point in the OT that points, eludes to, and is fulfilled through Jesus, is God’s promise to David. The Davidic Covenant is set up because in 2 Samuel 7 David desires to build a house for God. Because of David’s heart attitude God promises to make his name great. Additionally, He promises that one of David’s offspring will be raised up and they will always be reigning on the throne. When we read Matthew chapter 1 we see that Jesus is clearly in the line of David who will set up His kingdom and thus reign forever. As well, Luke 1:33 states specifically that Jesus is the one who will reign over Jacob’s descendants (Israel) and that His reign will never end.  Praise God!

            -The last key that we will look at today is how Israel and the prophets continually look forward to the day that the Messiah will come. With our knowledge of the New Testament we can clearly see how Jesus fulfills each prophecy about the Messiah. He will be born of a virgin, He will be born in Bethlehem, He will enter into Jerusalem on a colt, He will be a prophet like Moses, He will be of the tribe of Judah, He will suffer, He will be betrayed, and the list goes on and on.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites right before, during, and after the exile we can see their desperate need for a physical savior. However, we can also see their desperate need for a spiritual savior as well since the exile was a result of their suffering spiritual state. The prophets understood this as they looked for the coming Messiah.

Closing Thoughts

It is important that we, 21st-century believers, understand that Jesus coming to earth was all part of God’s plan from the very beginning. That is why God the Son can be seen so brightly in the Old Testament. This is something that we must never forget because it emphasizes God’s sovereignty, mercy, and grace.

Joy to the world the Lord has come…just as God always planned.