When God Created …

When God created human beings, He created imperfect life in a perfect setting and existence.   He created flawed human beings that started experiencing trouble from the very get-go.   Let me explain.

First, God created Adam from the dust of the earth.   A miraculous feat!   He created Adam during the time He was creating the earth and sky.   However, there were not any trees or grasses in the land until after Adam had been created if I read the Garden account correctly.   I wonder if Adam had any input into the kind of garden that God was going to plant?   Colors, design or texture.   Regardless, God planted a garden that grew and was beautiful and He placed Adam in the midst of it for a purpose.   Adam had certain responsibilities and a reason for his life.   He was to “work the ground and keep it in order,” as we read in the Message version of Genesis 2.  

So, God has Adam continue His work in the garden while plants were growing, being created and being designed.   God also established something for the first time in Adams life: things you cannot do.   Do this and that, but don’t do that one thing!

Genesis 2:16-17 God commanded the Man, “You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.”

I wonder if Adam knew what God was talking about?   What experiences had he had that would give him an understanding regarding the concept of being “dead?”   Had Adam ever seen anything dead before?   How did Adam react to this, it certainly must have been a bit out of character in their relationship?   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying God didn’t do everything perfectly, I’m just wondering what kind of learning process Adam must have gone through prior.   Whatever the process it appears that Adam was not completely content in his heart.   Something was missing.   He had purpose and relationship with God, but something was still missing, or was he looking in the wrong places?

Immediately after placing Adam in the Garden of Eden to care for it, God recognized the need in Adams heart for a companion, a helper, a mate, another human being with different characteristics.   Adam needed another person for relationship.   So, Adam was put to sleep and God formed a woman as his helper.   What a beautiful picture this represents.   Evidently God was quite familiar with Adams need for companionship and purpose, therefore the reason for working in the Garden and the introduction of a helpmate.   God knew, that all of humankind, beginning with Adam, was in dire need of purpose and meaning through relationships, and that those relationships needed to be sought out carefully.

Where do I find them?   First and supremely, we need a relationship with our creator to know and understand our purpose and worth.   Nowhere else do we find that other than through our relationship with God.   Yes, we might look in a lot of other places or even in other people, but nothing can complete the human existence as an intimate relationship with the Creator, the One from whom we receive our value and worth.   Secondly, we need relationships with others around us.   It’s the way we are wired.   The key here is to choose wisely.   Chose God, and chose godly people for close intimate personal relationships.

The emptiness that Adam was experiencing in the Garden of Eden left him with that choice.   He could search to fill the emptiness through his relationship with God or he could look elsewhere.   But as we see, his choices were a bit limited.   He had God, Eve and lots of animals!   Why in the world were they drawn to listening to a serpent, a snake?   In a moment of weakness and deception Adam and Eve made a series of bad choices.  They listened to the serpent.   Not a godly choice but a flawed one!

As relational human beings it appears, we are all still on the same journey towards contentment and purpose.   We are searching.   Searching everywhere and inside the strangest places.   There is an emptiness found in the human heart that causes us to look outside of ourselves at times for purpose and value.   The problem we run into is that the solution is not found in the world or other people, its only found in a loving relationship with our Creator.   He is that answer!   It is God that has established our worth, our value, which He has placed on a scale where we are found valuable enough to die for.   Just sayin …

Salvation has left the building …

I can’t help sometimes but wonder if we as a church are on the right path.   Or more importantly, if we as Christians are pursuing our faith in the right way.   I think the Christian journey of faith has become somewhat convoluted and dysfunctional and has been corrupted like a battery found in a flashlight after many years.   It feels like something is broken.   It feels empty of some viable ingredient.   It doesn’t taste right!

The other day I was in a conversation with a friend about his church.   It was a church that I’m totally unfamiliar with, yet I was interested in what they were all about.   For the next thirty minutes I heard about all of the regular events the church puts on, the bible studies and book reviews, and the beautiful choir they have, with new robes!   I was invited to come and listen one Sunday!

This got me thinking, in fact I spent the entire next day praying, reading and considering what the Christian church overall has become.    More importantly, what have I become as a follower of Jesus?   That day, I searched web site after church web site looking for identity markers that would explain just who they were as a church and how they were getting there.   One after another I read about the many traditional events they participated in, as well as the regular studies and small groups they have.   In a way, it seems like our journey of faith has become extremely “mechanical” in our approach to Jesus.

I started to consider the Gospels where much of the character of Jesus is displayed.   Did He seem to care about the “events” the religious community sponsored?   No, not really.   What were the priorities that He favored, in fact insisted upon?   It seemed like Jesus was always talking about “knowing God” and not just doing stuff!   He focused on the “relational” side of who we are before God.   He held high the relationship that He had with God the Father, and was constantly inviting others to instill that priority in their lives.   What was He saying?

When I think of “relational” stuff, I first think about marriage.   Is marriage more than just going to work, coming home to a family and then going to sleep?   Is marriage a routine that you get into while doing “married” things?    If married couples eat together, live together, save money together and have kids together, is that it?   The Gospels show that Jesus was much more concerned about the intimacy of relationships, not sex, but actually knowing the heart of the other person.   Afterall, I can live with someone and play house with them and still not know them, right?

In the Christian church today, we seem over focused on the things we do for God instead of knowing God Himself.   I know, I know, that’s a broad and controversial statement, but its true.   So many churchgoers today have bought off on the lie that “service” is the way to salvation.   They feel that if they are “serving” or “doing” Christian things it means that they have a saving relationship with their Creator.   If I serve at the food kitchen and go to church, what else is there?   I’m good, right?

Christian service is not the way to a saving relationship with Jesus.   No, its not.   It’s a lie that the culture has produced.   Let’s face it, saving is what we need, yet we long for value in our lives too, meaning and a purpose.  

Everyone needs to be valued, it’s the way we were wired.   In the culture we place value on various things.   The more that something is valued, the more it shows up in our agendas.   If I find my value as a hockey player, I find myself playing it on a league every week and spending endless hours in practice.   I receive value from it so I indulge myself in the activity.

But in a relationship with Jesus the opposite is true.   If I spend all of my energy “doing” stuff for Jesus, and not spending time with Him, the value I place on my relationship with Jesus is false.   Jesus doesn’t need me to do anything.   After-all, He created the heavens and the earth!   What He is looking for is people that will chose to know Him and through that relationship find their value, worth and purpose.  

So how many people in the church today understand that to have a saving relationship with Jesus is much more than doing stuff to earn points or participating in a churchy tradition?   Jesus said something that should stop us in our tracks.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

We always seem to focus on the “doing” part, keeping the commandments.   But Jesus first identified the relational part, “If you love me …”  

Loving Jesus involves spending time with Him, listening to His voice, feeling the Spirit speaking to our hearts.   Too many Christians feel that the busyness of the church equates to a saving relationship.   It does not.   It simply makes us “feel” valued or accomplished.   Jesus also said something else quite challenging.

Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  

In this decision to “come after me,” it involves a deep intimate understanding of who Jesus is and a willingness to be with Him, everything else follows …

Rejoicing …

Jesus said some strange stuff!   In fact, I’m still trying to figure out some of the statements and stories that He told, and how they apply to my daily life.   Why does it have to be so confusing, so mysterious?   What was He thinking?

One of the most difficult parables Jesus told is the one from Matthew 18.   In this parable Jesus contrast an earthly version of personal worth to a heavenly version.   Isn’t a bunch of faithful people more valuable than one rebellious loner?   Don’t we need to protect the safety and unity of the majority over the one that might never “get it?”   How far do we stretch ourselves for a lost individual?

Matthew 18:12   What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?  13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices more over that one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.  14 In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Recently I started a new ministry at my church: “Bibles & Beer.”   Yup, Bibles & Beer!    This group meets on Monday evenings at a local bar for food, refreshments, conversation and God.   So far, this effort has been very successful and we have seen many new faces at our tables.   At this gathering we join each other in Christian conversations while eating and yes, if chosen, drinking a beer.   The idea is simple, in fact it comes from Matthew 18:12-14.   Leave the safe harbor of the church in search for that one person still trying to make heads or tails out of what life is all about.   Maybe, just maybe, we might even get a new person into the fellowship of Christians so that we can build each other up and fulfill the command of Jesus to reach others.   It really is not difficult!

This new ministry has become challenging in several ways.   First, can I really take my Christianity into such a public place as a bar?   I think we’re supposed to if I read Scripture correctly.   Secondly, am I willing to follow Jesus into uncharted territory?   Am I personally willing to put my own ideals and prejudices aside for the simple sake of reaching someone new in Christian conversation?   Am I willing to build a relationship with a sinner?   (That’s a loaded question!)   Jesus did.

According to Jesus, God the Father rejoices more over one sinful person being turned back to God than a whole bunch of other people who are already there.    What’s He saying?   Being motivated to bring one person at a time back to God is the greatest motive you could ever have in life!   No kidding!   If you have to “buy em a beer” in order to do it … buy it!