Tag Archives: Creation

The Pulley (George Herbert)

George Herbert

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
   Contract into a span.”
____
   So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
   Rest in the bottom lay.
____
   “For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
   So both should losers be.
____
   “Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
   May toss him to my breast.”
____
George Herbert (1593-1633), “The Pulley”

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The Danger of Serpentine Words

serpent

Yesterday, as I was working through the Good Book Guide “Biblical Manhood” with a friend, we discussed what happened in Genesis 3 in the Fall.  In particular, we began to think about how the serpent (Satan) deceived Eve.  The guide led us to consider how Eve was tempted to think about God’s Word and how we are tempted to heed the same tempting words of the serpent.  After some discussion on our part, we turned to the guide, which summed up Satan’s temptations toward Eve as portraying God’s Word as unclear, untrue, and unfair.

First, the crafty serpent comes to Eve and tempts her to believe that God’s Word is unclear.  He asks “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  If you have read chapter 2, you know that God did not actually say that, but “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Yet, Eve responds not with the clear word of God but with “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”  Whoa! Hang on a minute Eve, God didn’t say anything about touching it!  Sure it would be wise not to touch it or even go near it but that’s not what God said.  The serpent’s questioning of the clarity of God’s Word brought doubt to the mind of Eve, leading her to add to it and question her own understanding of it.

Next, we see Satan questioning the truthfulness of God’s Word.  After Eve’s first response, the serpent rebuts, “You will not surely die.”  Now we know we are in dangerous waters.  This is clearly not what God has said but Satan has already brought doubt concerning the clarity of God’s Word, so he has an open door to twist it to his own conclusions.  If it appears unclear to her what God has said, why couldn’t the serpent’s interpretation be valid or at least plausible?  But this is not what God has said.  He said if they eat of that one tree they WILL die.  No question. No ambiguous language.  Completely clear and, as they and all of mankind know, completely true, for death is the great leveler of all mankind.

Lastly, the serpent continues on, tempting Eve to believe that God’s Word and, therefore, God Himself is unfair.  After questioning the truthfulness Satan says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  He is saying, “God doesn’t want you to eat because He is keeping something from you, something good, something you deserve.”  He questions God’s goodness and His truthfulness.  Yet the great deception here is not from God but from Satan, for Adam and Eve were already like God, made in His image.  His withholding was His protection over them, not an unfair keeping from them.  As their Creator, He knew what what they were created for and the best working out of that purpose, so their was even grace in the command not to eat.  Yet, Eve, turning from God and His Word, with the desire of the flesh (good for food), desire of the eyes (delight to the eyes), and the pride in possessions (desired to make one wise), took, ate, gave, and saw, plunging all of mankind into sin, death, and condemnation and bringing forth a curse upon all creation.

But the story does not end here.  The same temptations that the crafty one brought to Eve are temptations that each of us face.  We are constantly tempted to think of God’s Word as unclear, untrue, or unfair.  When it comes to the temptation to think God’s Word is unclear, we are often like Eve.  We either add to it, thinking we are clarifying  what was said or we doubt whether we can really understand it confidently, both of which are dangerous.  There is no doubt that there are things in God’s Word that are hard to understand, for Scripture declares such about itself but it never says that we won’t be able to understand or be confident in the clarity of it.  When such difficult things arise in the Word, or even at times things that are not so hard, we are tempted to add to it, thinking that we are really explaining more or better, while in reality we are explaining it away, making the divine human, robbing it of its power.  When we don’t agree with others on certain issues, rather than turning to the Word for understanding and correction, we merely claim that its a matter of interpretation or opinion, leading us to conclude that the Word is unclear and our comprehension can never be trusted.  This is a slippery slope that leads to all kinds of doubt and skepticism concerning God’s Word.  If God’s Word is unclear, how can we be sure we understand anything, particularly the essentials (God, man, gospel, salvation, Bible, etc.)?

But the Word of God is clear.  Again, I acknowledge that there are things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16), but that in no ways means it is unclear.  God says His Word makes wise the simple and is pure enlightening the eyes (Ps 19:7-8), gives light and imparts understanding to the simple (Ps 119:130), able to make one wise for salvation and is God-breathed and therefore able to teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15-17), brings freedom from darkness and sin (John 8:31), renews the mind (Rom. 12:1-2), brings forth faith and new birth by the work of the Spirit, (Rom. 10:17, 1 Peter 1:23), in it we find all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and on and on.  If God’s Word is unclear and we cannot stand confidently on it how could the Word accomplish any of those things?  More than that, Scripture is God’s Word – it is His communication to us that we might know Him, love Him, and be reconciled to Him.  Clarity is a must.  Though there will be those who come to differences when seeking to understand the Word, the problem is not with the Bible but shows the presence of the effects of sin on our minds, our own ignorance, assumptions, and attempts to make the infinite finite.  God has been gracious in that, even with these hindrances, He has given us His Spirit in Christ to give us understanding as well as teachers within the church to guide us in the truth and clarity of the Word.

We also face the crafty words of the devil like Eve, tempting us to believe that God’s Word is untrue.  This is extremely deadly.  We are tempted to deny parts that make us uncomfortable whether it concerns who God is and what He has done or whether is concerns who we are, what’s wrong with us, and what we need.  Any denial of its truthfulness leads to death, as seen with Adam and Eve.  It doesn’t matter if you understand it when determining its truthfulness.  It is only by faith that we can understand it (Heb. 11:3).  We are finite, fallen creatures holding before us the pure and authoritative words of God.  Who are we to question, criticize, or deny His Truth?  He spoke and it was!  His Word is unfading, imperishable, unchanging, truth for He is Truth.  The truthfulness of God’s Word flows from His character, for He is a “God, who never lies” (Titus 1:2), and “cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).  “Every word of God proves true” (Prov 30:5; Ps 12;6, 119:42; John 17:17).  Leading from the question of the Word’s clarity, to deny it is to deny its truthfulness, for as shown, it declares itself to be clear and true.

Finally, we are tempted to question the fairness of God’s Word.  Whether it be a concern for the justice of a situation (e.g. destruction of whole cities or God’s choosing of Israel) or commands exhorting right action or prohibiting desirable actions/things (e.g. roles of men and women or lust), we can be easily tempted to think God is unfair and therefore not good for withholding what we think we should have or not doing what we think He should do.  Rereading that sentence may reveal the problem.  Who is the determining factor on what is right, just, or fair?  We are not the determining factor, nor are our conceptions of what is right, just, or fair, but God is – His person and His character determine what is right, just, and fair, which He shows forth in His actions.  Don’t think something God did is just?  Time to adjust your concept of justice to His.  Don’t think something He says or did is right or fair?  Time to adjust your understanding of what’s right and wrong to Him.

Fairness is not a biblical concept but justice and righteousness characterize God and are to characterize His people.  If we want to demand the justice and righteousness of God under the guise of fairness, we need to understand that we are calling down wrath on all of us.  As sinners before a holy and righteous God, all anyone deserves is wrath nothing more.  Want to talk of entitlement?  Before God, in your sin, you are only entitled to wrath.  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us shown in Christ, has reconciled us to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  It is by Him and through Him that we are made new, given eyes to see, ears to hears, and minds renewed that we may stand confidently by the Spirit on the clarity, truthfulness, and justice of God’s Word.

Do not heed the deadly words of the serpent but cling to the living Word of God.

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Fascination with Fireworks and the Wonder of God

Summer heat holds the air.  The bronzing sun falls beneath the horizon.  As the blanket of darkness is pulled across the sky people young and old flee their homes seeking wonder.  Masses gather gazing towards the heavens anticipating the genesis of their amazement.  The hush of the crowd is broken by a cannon-like burst followed by a breach in the night.  The blackness of the evening’s ceiling is in a moment undone by the flash of multicolor pearls of light.  One after the other, the sky is illuminated, leaving children and the aged awestruck alike.  With mouths gaping and eyes fixed, everyone’s mind is filled with wonder and their hearts are carried away for a brief time.  As the sky darkens once again the multitude hastens back to their dwellings, singing the praises of the glorious display of power and artistry they have just witnessed.

Two thousand years ago this would sound like an appearance of angels, possibly to shepherds on a hillside, but today this is a yearly occasion for Americans – any one of the Fourth of July events centered upon a fireworks display.  The question that arises from such an occasion is why do we find such wonder and amazement in fireworks?  Why do they, year after year, from our youngest days to the day of our death, cause us to stand in awe? I do no think it is not simply because they are loud to the ears or spectacular to the eyes, though they are.  It is not simply because fireworks awaken the inner child within us all, who finds amazement in the simple pleasures of life, though they do.  I believe it is something deeper.  Something deep within us as well as something greatly outside of us.

The reason, I believe, we find such wonder in fireworks is their shadowy reflection of our Creator and mankind’s universal knowledge of Him.  Just think about it for a minute.  We were created by God, bearers of His image, to know Him and to enjoy fellowship with Him.  Mankind was appointed as vice-regents of creation, to be under-creators, being made in His image.  But something terrible happened.  Mankind was not satisfied with his position and sought to become more like God through his own efforts.  Rebelling against his Creator, the human race fell from its exalted position, marring the image of God though not destroying it.  While, before the fall, all human creativity and work was to be a reflection of God Himself, bringing Him glory, now, after the fall, mankind creates and works for his own glory, though a tension or better yet an unfulfilled desire exists.  Since all of creation was meant to point to and be a testimony to God’s glory and might, when we enjoy, find amazement in, or set our affections on something/one created our hearts cry out for something greater.  Something greater than ourselves.  Something greater that the world around us.  Our hearts cry out for God.

So how do fireworks fit into this picture.  Who is praised after the fireworks are over?  The manufacturers, the firework technicians, or the proprietors of the place putting on the show are all the usual recipients, but rarely ever is God praised.  Fireworks are a creation of man for the praise and enjoyment of man.  Still bearing the image of our Creator, we create and continue to do so unknowingly as a reflection of Him.  Fireworks are mere glimmers of creativity and power in comparison to God and His creation.  Just look past the fireworks and you will see the wonder, the beauty, the power of  God in the expanse of the heavens and the heavenly bodies that fill it.  The Psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).  While fireworks come and go in an instant, God’s creation continues on.  Stars continue to shine, planets perpetually revolve, and we, here on this earth, minuscule in comparison to all things, still live.  It is He who in the beginning “created the heavens and the earth”, who spoke and said, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”, and who at the very moment “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Amazing!  This, I believe gets at the root of our awe of fireworks.  In those moments we catch a glimpse of the most spectacular fireworks display ever, God creating.  To ignore this is to deprive ourselves of seeing and enjoying God’s glory in creation reflected through His image bearers.  It is to deny the very reason we were created.

This God is still at work today, not only upholding all things but is at work undoing the effects of our sin in us as well as in the world.  Not only do we need to stand in awe of the Creator of all things, we need that same God to illuminate our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit, for our hearts are a dark void just as the world was before God spoke light into existence.  We all need what Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  Without this light given by the grace of God the only wonder and joy we will ever find in this world and for eternity will be in fleeting flashes, shadows of beauty, and quiet echoes of something more.

Enjoy the show, stand in awe and wonder, but remember that behind all that you see is the hand, the reflection, the presence of God.

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The Song of Creation

NARNIA Magician's Nephew

In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it. The horse seemed to like it too; he gave the sort of whinney a horse would give if, after years of being a cab-horse, it found itself back in the old field where it had played as a foal, and saw someone whom it remembered and loved coming across the field to bring it a lump of sugar.

“Gawd!” said the Cabby. “Ain’t it lovely?”

Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out – single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

“Glory be!” said the Cabby. “I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.”

The Voice on the earth was now louder and more triumphant; but the voices in the sky, after singing loudly with it for a time, began to get fainter. And now something else was happening.

Far away, and down near the horizon, the sky began to turn grey. A light wind, very fresh, began to stir. The sky, in that one place, grew slowly and steadily paler. You could see shapes of hills standing up dark against it. All the time the Voice went on singing…

The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose.

Digory had never seen such a sun. The sun above the ruins of Charn had looked older than ours: this looked younger. You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up. And as its beams shot across the land the travellers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley through which a broad, swift river wound its way, flowing eastward towards the sun. Southward there were mountains, northward there were lower hills. But it was a valley of mere earth, rock and water; there was not a tree, not a bush, not a blade of grass to be seen.

The earth was of many colours: they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else.

It was a Lion. Huge, shaggy, and bright, it stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song and it was about three hundred yards away…

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew61-3.

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Fascination with Fireworks and the Wonder of God

Summer heat holds the air.  The bronzing sun falls beneath the horizon.  As the blanket of darkness is pulled across the sky people young and old flee their homes seeking wonder.  Masses gather gazing towards the heavens anticipating the genesis of their amazement.  The hush of the crowd is broken by a cannon-like burst followed by a breach in the night.  The blackness of the evening’s ceiling is in a moment undone by the flash of multicolor pearls of light.  One after the other, the sky is illuminated, leaving children and the aged awestruck alike.  With mouths gaping and eyes fixed, everyone’s mind is filled with wonder and their hearts are carried away for a brief time.  As the sky darkens once again the multitude hastens back to their dwellings, singing the praises of the glorious display of power and artistry they have just witnessed.

Two thousand years ago this would sound like an appearance of angels, possibly to shepherds on a hillside, but today this is a yearly occasion for Americans – any one of the Fourth of July events centered upon a fireworks display.  The question that arises from such an occasion is why do we find such wonder and amazement in fireworks?  Why do they, year after year, from our youngest days to the day of our death, cause us to stand in awe? I do no think it is not simply because they are loud to the ears or spectacular to the eyes, though they are.  It is not simply because fireworks awaken the inner child within us all, who finds amazement in the simple pleasures of life, though they do.  I believe it is something deeper.  Something deep within us as well as something greatly outside of us.

The reason, I believe, we find such wonder in fireworks is their shadowy reflection of our Creator and mankind’s universal knowledge of Him.  Just think about it for a minute.  We were created by God, bearers of His image, to know Him and to enjoy fellowship with Him.  Mankind was appointed as vice-regents of creation, to be under-creators, being made in His image.  But something terrible happened.  Mankind was not satisfied with his position and sought to become more like God through his own efforts.  Rebelling against his Creator, the human race fell from its exalted position, marring the image of God though not destroying it.  While, before the fall, all human creativity and work was to be a reflection of God Himself, bringing Him glory, now, after the fall, mankind creates and works for his own glory, though a tension or better yet an unfulfilled desire exists.  Since all of creation was meant to point to and be a testimony to God’s glory and might, when we enjoy, find amazement in, or set our affections on something/one created our hearts cry out for something greater.  Something greater than ourselves.  Something greater that the world around us.  Our hearts cry out for God.

So how do fireworks fit into this picture.  Who is praised after the fireworks are over?  The manufacturers, the firework technicians, or the proprietors of the place putting on the show are all the usual recipients, but rarely ever is God praised.  Fireworks are a creation of man for the praise and enjoyment of man.  Still bearing the image of our Creator, we create and continue to do so unknowingly as a reflection of Him.  Fireworks are mere glimmers of creativity and power in comparison to God and His creation.  Just look past the fireworks and you will see the wonder, the beauty, the power of  God in the expanse of the heavens and the heavenly bodies that fill it.  The Psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).  While fireworks come and go in an instant, God’s creation continues on.  Stars continue to shine, planets perpetually revolve, and we, here on this earth, minuscule in comparison to all things, still live.  It is He who in the beginning “created the heavens and the earth”, who spoke and said, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”, and who at the very moment “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Amazing!  This, I believe gets at the root of our awe of fireworks.  In those moments we catch a glimpse of the most spectacular fireworks display ever, God creating.  To ignore this is to deprive ourselves of seeing and enjoying God’s glory in creation reflected through His image bearers.  It is to deny the very reason we were created.

This God is still at work today, not only upholding all things but is at work undoing the effects of our sin in us as well as in the world.  Not only do we need to stand in awe of the Creator of all things, we need that same God to illuminate our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit, for our hearts are a dark void just as the world was before God spoke light into existence.  We all need what Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  Without this light given by the grace of God the only wonder and joy we will ever find in this world and for eternity will be in fleeting flashes, shadows of beauty, and quiet echoes of something more.

Enjoy the show, stand in awe and wonder, but remember that behind all that you see is the hand, the reflection, the presence of God.

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What God Thinks About the Family

Our understanding of family/marriage cannot be separated from our understanding of God and the Gospel.

Seven Foundations of the Theology of Family:

1. God Created Man and Woman in His Image

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  God created each gender with intentional and specific characteristics.  Dr. Randy Stinson says it well:

Roles between men and women originated in the pre-fall garden and subsequently apply to all human beings.  Since roles are a part of the original creation, then they are inherent in the lives of all men and women and thus should find an echo in every human heart.  The idea that men and women are equal yet different, though rejected by modern feminism, is indeed a result of God’s purposeful and beautiful design.

2. God Blessed Man and Woman with the Gifts of Marriage, Sex, and Family

Genesis 1:28 and 2:24 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” and “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  God’s design [in marriage] is to join a man and woman together.  He created the first family.  Family didn’t evolve from societal needs for financial stability and domestic support.  God created family, just as he created man and woman.  Sex was created as a gift from God to bring a husband and wife closer together for enjoyment and to procreate a family.

3. God Gave Parents the Primary Role of Spiritually Discipling Their Children

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 proclaims:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Before there were churches, Sunday Schools, and youth groups, God entrusted parents with the privilege to teach their children.  This command hasn’t changed.  Teaching our children about the Lord is our privilege and responsibility as parents.

God will hold you responsible for the religion of your children.

4. God Calls Husbands to Love Their Wives and Calls Wives to Submit to Their Husbands

Ephesians 5:22, 25-26 declares, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” and  “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”  Just as God created family, He did so with an order to it.  The Bible is clear that God sees husbands as the head of a family, regardless of what is popular in today’s culture.  A husband has the privilege, responsibility, and duty to lovingly lead his family.  Husbands must remember that Christ Himself modeled the kind of leadership they are instructed to provide when He willingly laid down His life to honor His Bride.

5. God’s Design is for Marriage to Be Lifelong

God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).  Christian marriage is sacred, as it represents Christ’s commitment to His Bride.  Our marriage commitment speaks to the world that Christ’s love for His Bride is enduring.  He wants our marriages to be light in the world, and churches must do all it can to rescue marriages caught in the storms of life.

6. God Seeks to Use Christian Families as a Testimony of His Love for His Children

2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “herefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  Our families must be representatives to the world on God’s behalf.  Our families must be distinct from those of the world, serving as a very real picture of Christ’s love for us.

The presence of Christ in our marriage must drastically change it.  Christian marriages should be marked with confessing sin, asking forgiveness, serving selflessly and in humility regarding your partner as “more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).  Christ is making His appeal to the world through our marriage and our family, so the way we understand family is extremely important.

7. God’s Design is for Families to Unite and Partner with the Local Church for the Mutual Purpose of Discipleship

The Bible teaches that the church and family are to be united for the same purpose.  Families are commanded to teach the children.  Churches are commanded to teach all people.  Why the overlap?  The family and the church are to be united in pursuit of the same goal.  Families should no more drop their kids off at the door of the church to be discipled any more than they should avoid the church and try to go in it alone.  Family and church need each other to function like each is designed to function for the glory of God.

Times have changed, and that is why a clearly stated theology of the family is crucial. Quite honestly, we all practice theology every day.  What does your practice/living reveal about what you really believe?

Steve Wright, A Parent Privilege, 52-60.

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