Genesis 1:1-19 – It Is So, and It is Good

Day When God Created the Flowers by Unknown artist

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So, God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. (NRSV)

There is so much which could be said about the opening of Holy Scripture, the first verses of the Old Testament book of Genesis. And much already has been said. I merely want to make one observation of the text and discuss its significant import for us….

God already had within himself everything needed to create.

“Duh,” you might say, “It’s God.” Yes, and we need to unpack what that means. I will phrase it a different way….

God called forth that which is already there.

The opening statement of Genesis is there to communicate a wonderful reality – that the Lord brought order from chaos. God took what was potential and actualized it. And the Lord gave us understanding through creation to discern what is happening….

Seeds are amazing. They have the potential to totally transform from tiny objects to large plants. Perhaps we take seeds for granted because we see the evidence of them everywhere. Yet, like God at creation, a seed already has within itself everything it needs to germinate, take root, break the ground, grow, and produce fruit. The end process of the seed’s maturation looks nothing like when it started as a tiny little kernel.

The seed simply needs to be called forth with the conditions of good soil and proper amounts of sunshine and water. The seed lacks nothing inherent to its very being. It already has everything it needs within itself.

We are creatures, called forth from the earth by God. Each one of us, no matter who we are, where we have come from, whether male or female, rich or poor, black or white, introvert or extrovert, happy or depressed, privileged or underprivileged, already have everything we need within ourselves to grow, thrive, mature, and flourish in this world. In other words, we lack nothing. We are not flawed. We are enough.

We are already spiritual. Our spirituality is as much a part of our DNA as our biological self. We just need the proper conditions to grow.

Sometimes when I meet a person for the first time and it is discovered I’m a pastor and a chaplain, they immediately believe that what I do is put religion into folks – as if people lack something that I must give them.

However, just the opposite is true of what I really do. I simply call forth the spiritual nature which is already present in a person. Many individuals are not aware of who they are, unaware of the magnanimous spirit which resides within them, a resilient and loving spirit which is there to support them just as much as their literal physical spine.

“If you treat people as they appear to be, you make them worse than they are. But if you treat another as if he already were what he potentially could be, you make him what he should be.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Let there be people who see beyond the five senses and embrace the sixth sense of knowing the inherent worth and majesty of humanity.

Let there be those who discern the potential of chaotic minds and hearts to become calm and rightly ordered around the love of God.

Let there be believers who embody light in all their relational dealings and are unafraid to face the darkness within.

Let there be compassionate ones who awash others with living water.

Let there be leaders who patiently and tediously tend to the garden of people’s souls, providing the proper conditions for spiritual growth and maturation.

Let us all call forth the good in one another, for God created and called us, “good.”

And that is our name: “Good.”

Acts 2:14-24 – From Flaky to Faithful

Preaching of the Apostles (crayon on paper) by Peter Gorban, 1990

Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

“Fellow Israelites listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (NIV)

In the New Testament Gospels of the Holy Bible, the Apostle Peter was a flake. He sometimes got it, and sometimes didn’t. Peter could discern Jesus was Messiah, but then would turn around and refuse that Christ had to die on a cross. He would get bold and walk on water, then, end up falling short and needing help from drowning. Peter stood tall for Jesus, and then denied him three times.

However, following the Gospels in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is a completely changed man. He now gets it. He is brave. He confesses Christ with confidence and boldness. And, while the reader might be waiting for the other shoe to drop yet again, all the while Peter does not falter, flinch, or back down. Alright, Peter, way to go!

So, what is the difference between the Gospels and Acts with Peter? Why is there such a turnaround from flaky to faithful? The Scriptures make it plain: The Holy Spirit comes upon Peter. And he is never the same again. Everything falls into place for Peter. He proclaimed the life and death of Jesus in such a way that thousands changed their way of thinking, as well as their way of life, and placed their faith and hope in Christ as Savior and Lord. Not a bad day’s work for a former fisherman.

Peter’s message was pointed and straightforward: God raised Jesus up, forever changing the nature of death. Peter was dogmatic about stating that it wasn’t even possible for death to get a grip on Jesus. Oh, death thought it had him, the Grim Reaper believed he had Christ nailed to death for certain. Not so. The grave could not contain the immense and incredible power of divine love for humanity.

Inherit the Mirth

If it was impossible for death to keep its grip on Jesus, then there is absolutely nothing that can deter Jesus or hold him back from accomplishing what he wants to accomplish. Flaky believers are not going to frustrate Jesus or upset his plans; he’ll just send the Holy Spirit. 

We too often imprison ourselves in self-made spiritual jail cells, flaking-out in the Christian life, sometimes getting it right and once-in-a-while hitting upon some right combination we can’t explain, like a golfer who hits an amazing shot but can’t reproduce it no matter how hard he tries. The truth is: Jesus has conquered sin, death, and hell. By faith, we have forgiveness of sins in Christ and have the way opened to a new life in the Spirit. It isn’t a secret; it is a new reality.

The season of Lent is a time of remembering those things which hinder us in our walk with Jesus and repenting of our sins so that we can live anew. As we quickly approach Holy Week, the golf clubs of vulnerability, confession and prayer will keep us in God’s fairway and allow us to shoot par.

Gracious God, who raised Jesus from the dead, may the same power reside in me so that I can do your will in every situation through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

John 12:20-33 – Life By Death

Welcome, friends! Jesus let us in on how the world can be changed. For that to happen, there are some things we will need to die to. Click the videos below, and let’s find out….

John 12:20-33, Pastor Tim Ehrhardt
From the album by the Oslo Gospel Choir, “We Lift our Hands, Part 2” 2006

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be amongst us and remain with us forever. Amen.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 – The Steadfast Love of God

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south….

Some were sick through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
    and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. (NRSV)

I’ve always found it a bit curious that there are people who continually equate the God of the Old Testament as nothing but a vengeful and wrathful God, continually perturbed and upset, exasperated with us stupid little sinful people. Certainly, there are sections in Scripture dealing with God’s wrath and the divine action spurred from not being okay with injustice running amok on the earth. 

Everything God does comes from a place of love.

The Lord has never been okay with sin because it damages and destroys people who are meant for better things. Which is why, when people are in need and cry out to the Lord, God is there for them. 

Far more prevalent is the reality that the Old Testament is thickly populated with references to God’s “steadfast love.”  This is God’s covenant-keeping love. It is the kind of love that holds on and doesn’t let go. It’s the type of love that is tirelessly gracious, merciful, and kind. It is the love that has compassion on the needy and mercifully does something about their plight.

In today’s psalm, even when there were people sick and in distress because of their own doing, their own sin, and their own fault, God saved them from their mess. That, my friend, is precisely what God does – expertly delivers people with care and precision. 

So then, we truly need to get some robust theology to overwhelm and break those old nasty ideas about a fickle God who shakes his finger at us when we screw up and gives a big disappointed *sigh* over our dumb decisions. Just as the psalms steadily and persistently portray to us a God of abiding love, they also equally tell us of a God who is “slow to anger,” not going off the handle quickly. (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8)

Know deep in your soul that God shows steadfast love. 

God doesn’t tell us “I told you so” or “that’s what you get for sinning,” like some obnoxious and overzealous schoolgirl. Nope. God delivers and does it because of steadfast love. It flat out gives God pleasure to save and redeem wayward folk.

That’s why I believe people all over the world have learned to sing the praises of the God of the Bible. It’s why persons from every walk of life and every culture have found God as the great lover of humanity. Their overflowing response to such a loving God is singing, praising, thanking, and offering their lives to the great Lover of their souls.

If you or someone you know struggles with seeing God as capricious, indifferent, or angry, then I strongly urge a steady and daily diet of the psalms over the course of the next month. Call it an intervention of psalms. Reading just five psalms per day gets you through all one-hundred fifty of them in a month. More than that, pray the psalms. Allow them to give you a new perspective on the world, relationships, and self.

“God’s love is like when you sit in front of a fire in winter — you are just there in front of the fire. You don’t have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you.”

Desmond Tutu

This prolific reading of the psalms is not some new or weird thing. It has been around for an awfully long time. The daily recitation of the entire Book of Psalms was an early monastic custom, especially among the Desert Fathers of the 3rd and 4th centuries. By the time Saint Benedict came along with his Rule for monks (c.515 C.E.) many communities had settled on the weekly praying of the entire Psalter. As good old Benedict said, praying less than a full psalter a week betrays “extreme indolence and lack of devotion.”

That might seem over the top to modern readers, yet the big idea is that once the steadfast love of God from the psalms gets into your spiritual bloodstream, the praying and singing of the psalms becomes a delight. I can testify to that. Seems I cannot ever get enough of the psalms. Which really means I love the steadfast love of God!

The Psalms are, I believe, the fulcrum of the Holy Scriptures. They recite and reflect upon the historical acts of God in the Old Testament. They tell of the Lord’s continuing covenantal care for people. The Psalms express the full gamut of human emotion and spiritual devotion of the people of God. Reciting the Psalms aloud frequently puts us in good company with our spiritual ancestors in the faith.

So, what the heck are you waiting for? Go ahead. Read and recite today’s psalm over again and again. Let them do their gracious work in your spirit.

God of all that is good, your steadfast love has been shown to millions who find in you the desire of their hearts.  May I see your overflowing goodness, your steadfast love, and your infinite mercy operating in this broken world and in my needy heart; through your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever.  Amen.