In the Beginning…

Central Christian Church

Genesis 1.1 – 2.3

As I reflected on this passage, I was struck by the disparity between what the world says about the origins of life and what God says, and the implications for the question of purpose. Whether it’s the Egyptians view of a battle between the gods, or the atheistic evolutionary view that we are a cosmic accident…the result of time and chance, the resulting impact on the way we view ourselves, each other and planet earth is the same…negligible, forgettable, expendable.

I shared a tweet this past week, “Genesis presents a better, higher view of the world we live in…a world that reflects the creative genius of its benevolent Creator.” Several years ago, there was a movie that came out called “Contact”. Jodie Foster is the main character. As a little girl, looking through her first telescope, she was blown away by the enormity of the universe…

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What’s in a name?

My oldest son’s name is Life. Crazy name for a kid, right? But it has always fit him. I remember when he was a baby, he would smile with his whole face…half moon eyes and grin from ear to ear. I’m often asked why we named him that. Was there great tragedy involved with his conception or birth? Nah, just a family name that I really liked. It speaks of hope and joy and love and…well, life.

Names. We all have them. Our parents gave us our first name in anticipation of our birth or shortly thereafter. Some names were earned later. They were given to us by close friends or family. Some were given to us by our detractors. Some by coaches or teammates or fans… Some names describe what we do, or the extent of our education. The Bible says, “A good name is better than great riches, and favor than silver and gold.” Names carry a great deal of weight, especially as a marker of character. We all want a great name, a name that matters.

Chapter 10 of Genesis, we are introduced to Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord. Builder of cities, erect-er of towers, powerful, feared, intimidating. He’s a man who’s made a name for himself. And in chapter 11, we have a group of his descendants seeking to make a name for themselves. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to leave a lasting legacy. We all want a great name, right? But the question is what kind of legacy are we leaving, and how are we going about it. We are told very clearly that these tower-building folks are operating in rebellion against their Creator. Not a good move. God responds in judgment, and so we have the confusion of the languages and disbursement of the nations.

Chapter 12. I love the way chapter 12 begins. Out of the chaos of 11, after the genealogy of Shem, God chooses a man. And the thing that the tower-builders sought for themselves…a great name, God will give to this man. He says to Abram, “And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” What an amazing thing to say to the son of an idol worshiper with no hope of leaving a legacy of his own in terms of children being borne to him through his wife, Sarai. And so the hunt for the Genesis 3:15 Seed of the woman continues. And the line will flow directly through Abram.God is the One who blesses, and the names that He gives to His followers certainly do have weight. Names like “Beloved” and “Blessed” and “Friend” and “Son” or “Daughter” and “Forgiven” and “Life”.

So what about you? Will you seek a name for yourself, or will you allow God to make a name for you? Those who are famous in the world’s eyes rarely make a splash in the kingdom, but those who are famous in God’s eyes send ripples throughout eternity.

Until next time…stay salty.

The one thing

There’s this great scene from the Avenger’s movie. Two police officers are talking about the alien invasion that is devastating Manhattan (you have to see the movie). Suddenly Captain America appears and starts barking out orders: “I need you to station men in the surrounding buildings. There are civilians that could wander into the line of fire…” The old sergeant fires back: “Why should I take orders from you?” About that time two Chitauri warriors (the alien guys) show up and are quickly dispatched by Cap. The sergeant then turns to his young partner: “We need to get men in the surrounding buildings…” It seems that even Captain America has to show his “credentials” before he was listened to. In the same way, Paul after talking about the magnificence of Jesus in both creation and redemption, pauses to give his credentials to the Colossian church in Colossians 1.24-29.

Paul writes the book of Colossians to a group of believers he likely never met. This church was predominantly made up of Gentiles. Paul writes to address a heresy that had cropped up in the church and in the process gives us one of the most Christologically dense expositions Jesus in the Bible. It is an amazing book.

And in Colossians 1.24-29 Paul gives his readers three reasons to listen to him: 1) He’s suffered on their behalf so that they might receive the gospel; 2) He was called to complete the revelation of the mystery of Christ; and 3) His purpose in life was the progress of his hearers to maturity – that they would not only hear the gospel, but also that they would grow up in the faith.

Lots of great stuff in this passage, but two things I want to share. The first is the mystery that Paul mentions. The term mystery shows up twenty-two times in the NT and four times in Colossians (pretty significant in a four chapter book). It shows up six times in Ephesians. The two books are companion letters written by Paul about the same time to churches in close proximity – both predominantly Gentile.

As we think about this mystery, it’s probably best to start with what the mystery is not. The mystery is not that the Gentiles would be saved by Jesus, that they would experience spiritual blessing through Him. Since Genesis 12 and the call of Abraham, the nations where to be beneficiaries of the blessings to Abraham (and by extension Israel). Anytime in the OT that the Gentiles attached themselves to (or blessed) an Israelite, they were also blessed. The mystery wasn’t that Gentiles could be saved. The mystery was that the Gentiles could be co-heirs with the Jews, that they would be on the same spiritual footing with Israel. That seemed to fly in the face of Abraham/Israel as the conduit of blessing to the nations (Genesis 12). But Paul is thinking back to Genesis 3:15. The promise to Adam that a Seed of the Woman would crush the head of the serpent was a promise of restoration for all humankind. Not just Jews. And not primarily through Jews to Gentiles. But all those who would believe could be reconciled to God through Jesus and be made children of God. And for Paul, that was amazing news – it truly was the gospel for the Gentiles.

The second thing, which is really the point that Paul is driving to: Presenting everyone complete in Christ. Paul’s driving passion was the maturity of every believer. It reminds me of what I like to call the Tae Kwon Do method of discipleship. It’s not enough that a few cross the line to spiritual maturity. The goal is for everyone to become a black belt in following Jesus. Paul says that this is the reason he labors striving about to the Spirit’s work within him. It’s the thing that kept him awake at night and got him up early in the morning. It was his driving passion.

The lesson for us: all believers are called to serve the body, some are called to suffer for it; all are called to serve in their area of gifting/calling; and all are called to make maturing disciples.

Until next…stay salty.

Tripped up again

 

My first ministry assignment out of seminary was a medium-sized church in a small town in Nebraska. Coming from the sprawling metropolis of Dallas-Ft Worth composed of millions of people to the somewhat more modest Lexington with a mere ten thousand souls was quite a culture shock. Going from the land of malls and movies, of shopping and spending, of busy schedules and out-of-control lives to the relative quiet of the country was refreshing, but it was clear that we “weren’t from around here”. I remember the comment (or complaint) made about how far the Wal-Mart was from town. It took almost 10 minutes to get there. Really…in Dallas it takes 10 minutes to get out of your neighborhood. But after living in Lexington for a year, we were already immersed in the culture. I found myself complaining about the drive to Wal-Mart. My wife had even learned to “put up corn”. And after 3 years we moved back to Dallas – an even bigger culture shock from Midwest small town life. But once again we’ve adjusted to life in the city. I’ve learned that I’m adaptable. It may take me awhile, but I can and eventually do conform to the culture around me. And being adaptable is a good thing, right?

James 4. The gloves come off. Up to this point, James has admonished; and he’s corrected. Now he’s going for the jugular. What’s the source of conflicts and struggles? It’s your selfishly motivated lusts that drive you. The same ones that drive me. And when those two collide, there’s quite an explosion. Imagine two two-year-olds throwing a tantrum over the toy they both want times a hundred. Far from loving our neighbor, we are in danger of murdering them to get our own way. Instead of seeing others from God’s perspective as those who are uniquely created in His image and purchased with Christ’s blood, we look at them from a worldly perspective as means to further our own selfish ends – to be used or discarded as dictated by our whims.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You cannot serve two masters; you will either hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve God and money.” James simply says, “You can’t be a friend of both God and the world.” You have to choose one. Trying to serve both is adultery. Wow…very strong language.

James writes to the Jewish diaspora…Jewish believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Not just a single church. It’s not a singular problem. It’s a universal problem. You see, we’re all adaptable. And living in this world, it tends to mold us. It shapes our way of thinking and of interacting with those around us. It takes a very strong opposite thrust to resist the centrifical force of this world’s pull.

But God doesn’t want to leave us in this miserable state of being conformed to this world. He is jealous for us. His desire is that we grow to maturity, that, far from being conformed to this world, we become conformed to the image of His Son. James’ solution: back to the basics – submit to God, resist the devil, cleanse your hands, purify your hearts, humble yourself, control your tongue…only possible as we receive the Word implanted, as we become doers of the Word and not hearers only, as we ask God for wisdom to interpret our circumstances from His perspective.

Being adaptable can be a very good thing, especially when it is informed by the truth of God’s Word. Until next time…stay salty.