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Thursday, November 19, 2009

God's Good Gift...of Work?

Believe it or not, it's true. God gave work to us as a GIFT. Now, perhaps your current job doesn't feel that way, but I'm talking about the larger principle of humans being created to do something. Consider the following from Genesis 2. When God creates Adam and the Garden of Eden, we read this, "The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it." (vs. 15, NLT) This is before the Fall. This is before sin of any kind had marred Adam's perfect relationship with God. God creates Adam, and the very next thing he does is give Adam a job to do. Just a few verses later, we see Adam hard at work, naming all of the animals that God has created. Again, prior to sin, Adam is spending his time working. What does this mean? A couple of implications:

1) While work was admittedly made more difficult after the Fall (see Genesis 3:17-19), part of God's good plan for us was to work. We were made to be productive and creative, and in our productivity and creativity, we discover some of our purpose. This can be pursued to a wrong end, where people become workaholics and define themselves by what they accomplish. But this can also be pursued in a very healthy way by realizing that God's plan for us will include doing something. Something with our hands. Something with our brains. Paradise is not sitting around all day eating mangos and watching sunsets (though there is nothing wrong with that!). In Genesis, paradise was a perfect relationship with God and work that really mattered because it was assigned by God.

2) In some sense, taking care of creation is a part of "work" for all of us. It's not an exaggeration to say that God's first command to humanity was to take care of the earth, his creation. This idea runs counter to much of modern evanglicalism's current ideology. We have bought into a mind-set of escapism. We have so over-emphasized a coming rapture (which may or may not be an entirely accurate picture) that it leads many to believe that God is unconcerned with the earth. Yet quite the opposite is true. The New Testament tells us that part of God's redemptive plan includes the created world. Colossians 1 says "He (God) made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross." (vs. 20, NLT) Everything means, well, everything. Women, men, children, animals, plants: everything on earth. Going green isn't just a nice idea- it's Biblical. Christ-followers should lead the way in taking care of the planet and encouraging wise use of our natural resources.

Maybe today you'll begin to see your work, and your world, in a new way.

What are you learning from Genesis?

Journey on-


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Did God Need Rest?

One problem with the Bible is the artificial verse and chapter divisions that we run across. I say "artificial" because no Biblical author actually included these divisions in their writing. We added them MUCH later. But we have come to trust these markers for the end and beginning of thoughts.

Nowhere is this LESS helpful than in Genesis 1 & 2. The creation account appears to end at the conclusion of chapter 1, except for the fact that one day gets left out! The whole creation account is neatly wrapped up in 2:4- "This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth." We may like the idea that creation ends with us (humanity), but the story actually concludes with day seven. Day seven is described this way- creation was complete (vs. 1), and since he was finished, God rested (vs.2). And then God blesses that day and calls it holy.

Hmm. Interesting. This is one of those passages where if we take it at face value, we run into some problems. At face value, this passage suggests that God perhaps NEEDED rest. He had worked hard for 6 days and so he had to take a break a do a whole lot of nothing to recuperate. Some of you grew up in environments heavily influenced by this idea. We work hard for 6 days, and so we need a day of rest. And by "rest", many traditions have meant, "do absolutely nothing fun, creative, athletic, or enjoyable." Some grew up learning to dread Sunday because it meant a day of utter boredom, other than perhaps the few enjoyable moments we had in the back of church drawing pictures with a friend. God needed to rest, and so do we, at least that's what we're told.

But what if God's rest is much more than that? Here are some thoughts from Genesis 2 and God's rest: (this is a MUCH larger topic in Scripture, but I'm going to try and and limit my discussion to Genesis)

1) Nothing about God's nature, as revealed in Scripture, suggests that He gets tired. In fact, we find quite the opposite. So if God didn't rest because He was tired, then we have to look deeper.

2) Genesis 1 & 2 are written with a very clear pattern: God creates something, it comes to be, God calls it good, and the day ends. For 6 straight days, this goes on. Until day 7, when God creates nothing and the day DOESN'T END. This is a powerful suggestion that what occurs on Day 7 continues.

3) God creates a special day that is more than good- it is holy, blessed. That means it's set apart as something different than the other 6. On the last day of the week, God rested- not because He was tired but because He was marking a day that would look and feel different.

4) God invites us into that unique day. I hesitate to call it "rest" because I think that gives us the wrong image. What I find significant is that God stopped all WORK. Anything that had been part of his work for 6 days did not happen on the 7th. And I think that's God's invitation to us- a day that is set apart and unique because it is unlike anything in our week. The day is a break from everything that keeps us on the treadmill of life and causes us to lose sight of anything that is holy, sacred, and divine. Do we have to lay on the couch all day? No! We can and should party! We should exercise. (unless we think of that as work) We should get together with friends. We should worship. We should watch sunsets and throw water balloons with our kids. We should celebrate that for 6 days we pour our lives into doing significant work things, but on one day, we don't have to contribute a darn thing to the world. We just get to enjoy it!

Now doesn't that sound like fun? I think of the 7th day- Sabbath- as a day to rediscover who I really am.

And here's a thought that always stops me- if God, who needed no rest, deliberatly took time for it, what does that say about me, who rarely takes time to rest, even though I really do need it? This is one way that we could begin to trust God's plan- we might not get why one day should be different, but we can look at God and say, "If that's what you did and if that's what you want me to do, I'll do it."

May you discover the joy of Sabbath this week in a new and wonderful way,


Sunday, November 15, 2009

You Can Love God and Science, Too!

Hello folks-

I promised this weekend that I would post to my blog some thoughts on a few of the challenging topics that come up in Genesis 1-2. We didn't "dig deep" into many of these topics at our service- we intentionally chose to focus on the bigger picture of what we learn about God. But that doesn't mean that other issues which arise are insignificant. This week, I am going to try and post on 3 or 4 of those "hot-buttons".

One of the most significant questions has to be the scientific accuracy of the creation account, and particularly the creation of man and woman. In Genesis 2, we find the following words: "And the Lord God formed a man's body from the dust of the ground." Also, "He (God) took one of Adam's ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. The the Lord God made a woman from the rib..."

These are interesting ideas, to say the least. What do we make of these? Did God use real, literal dust to make man? Did he truly reach into the blood and guts of Adam's side and pluck out a rib for the building blocks of Eve? Some (what I would call Biblical literalists) believe this is exactly how it happened. They don't care how because they are convinced that if the Bible says it, then that's exactly how it happened. What is sad, in my opinion, is that this can force some well-meaning Christians into really awkward stances, especially when it comes to science. If God really created man from dust, just like that, then a Biblical literalist has to reject out of hand almost any scientific discovery concerning the roots of humanity over the last hundered years. Without even considering the data or the validity of it, they have to assume it's false because they already "know" how we came to be.

To put it simply, this looks foolish. It sounds and feels ignorant. Many Christians grow up afraid of science, because they are concerned that somehow science will discredit God. But what if all of our science and research is actually revealing God's creative design and his loving nature? Here are some of my thoughts about creation and science:

1) Genesis 1 and 2 are not written as science or history. While these chapters may have statements that sound scientific or historical, that is not the aim of these words. So it is unfair for us to try and twist and turn them into scientific proof texts that are air-tight reports of how God created earth and humanity. Genesis is the story of God and his people. We learn far more about God from these passages than we do about the how, what and why of creation.

2) Genesis 1 and 2 leave tons of room for good, healthy scienctific pursuits. As I read these chapters, I am impressed at their beauty and their openness. I believe that someone could embrace the findings of evolution AND embrace a loving Creator God that stands behind it all. A Biblical literalist just rolled their eyes and closed this blog, but it's true! Read the chapters yourself, keeping in mind they are not science or history, per se, and see if you don't find room to believe in many different kinds or methods of creation. What I DO believe is significant is the God who orchestartes it all. I am FAR more concerned about what you do with Him than what you do with this account. (Even the brevity of these chapters should convince us that God is not trying to tell us HOW he created- I mean, basically 50 verses total. That's it. The introduction to most science essays is longer!)

3) We can take a rational, eductaed approach to science. When researchers come out and say they've discoverd a 7 billion year-old man, what's your immediate reaction? I think many Christians say "no way" and ignore the article without giving it serious thought. Now, I am not saying that every scientific discovery is accurate or un-biased. I'm not saying that every scientist represents the data with 100% accuracy. But I am saying that it's okay to read, study, and learn from them. Because here's the truth- science can never explain away God. The more we learn, the more fantasitc, wonderful, and amazing we find creation to be. And if that's true, it would stand to reason that God himself, who designed it all, would be even more fantastic, wonderful, and amazing.

So, did we come from real dust? I don't know. What I do know is that God made me, and then He breathed life itself into my lungs. No matter what else I believe, this fact alone tells me that I matter to God. And so do you.

May you know the loving Creator on your journey today,


PS- I would love to hear your comments and feedback! You don't have to agree with everything I say. Let's process these ideas together. All I ask is that your comments be appopriate and civil. This blog is not intended to be a zone for heated debates and name-calling. Other blogs do that very well! But if you've got real questions and real doubts, then this is the place for you! Be totally honest here. What questions or struggles do you have with creation and science?