Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why did Jesus have to Die?

So we're coming up hard on Easter here.  There are advertisements for egg hunts and pictures with the Easter Bunny.  Sometimes it seems as if the real meaning of the day was buried in the tomb almost 2000 years ago and somehow failed to emerge.  All that came out was a stuffed, fake facsimile of new life. 

But that isn't true.  We know it's not.  We are told every year that Jesus rose again.  That His death was for us, that somehow he died for our sins. 

I have gone to church almost my whole life.  I have heard the message every year since I can remember.  I have sung the same songs over and over.  I have chosen to believe in Jesus, that he can save me from my sins.  But it is so...hard...to...under...stand...how.

It seems like every time I try to understand the end I have to go back to the beginning.  To get to Jesus' coming return, you have to get to why he left to begin with.  To get to that, you have to understand why he came, and to get to that you have to read the Old Testament.  Maybe not all of it, although I think that would help, but at least the beginning - how things began.

We have to go back to the garden and the snake and the woman who was deceived and the man who chose his wife over his creator.  And why he had to choose at all. 

It seems a little mean of God to plant a tree as a test.  Why not just leave the tree out?  There would have been nothing to tempt anyone, would there?

Well, I think there would have.  I think it wasn't so much the tree that was the problem, but the ego.  It wasn't that Adam and Eve were hungry for food.  They had all the food they could ever want.  Fresh, organic, non-GMO food in fact.  For free.  But they forgot something.  The garden wasn't put there for them.  They were put there for the garden.
 
 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
  And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
 Genesis 2:5-9, 15

So there was a reason for man to be on earth.  To take care of it.  To make sure there was enough food for all of the creatures God had made.  

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
Genesis 1:28-30

 By taking the fruit from the forbidden tree, man was saying that he was in charge, rather than God.  He took his life upon himself.  He decided that he could take better care of himself than God could, and he broke the contract of his job.  So he was fired.  He wanted to be independent, so God let him be.  He was banished from the garden, and had to figure out how to feed himself without God's help.  He had to figure out how to take care of the animals.  But there was no way back.

God still talked to people.  He didn't abandon them.  All through the Bible there are people who were able to talk to God one on one.  There were those who listened to him.  But there were very few who would listen to them.  Generation by generation people continued to try to get to that perfect place on their own.  Striving and working to subdue the world which they should have had dominion over from the beginning, but lost because they wanted dominion over themselves.

So now we  come to Jesus.  How can the death of one man save the world?  His death was terrible, but he was not the only person ever crucified.  It was actually a pretty common punishment for the day.  What was the difference?

First of all, Jesus was not just a man.  He was Emmanuel, God With Us.  

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Matthew 1:20-23

 Can you imagine this?  Because man would not bow down to the rule of God over his life, God came down and submitted Himself to the rule of man.  He died a man's death on a man's torture device.  He did something which no one would ever have had to do if man had submitted to God in the beginning.

Can you imagine?  A life without sin?  Without all those "bad people" who make us lock our doors and worry about the security of our credit cards?  There would have been no reason for the Romans to invent a way to torture and kill criminals.  There would have been no wars, because wars are always fought out of greed.  There would have been enough of everything for everyone.  This would have happened without all of the different forms of government that people have tried to come up with to replace the rule of God, their creator.  

So Jesus died.  He turned the world upside down.  He rose again, victorious over the sin that is self-will and self-preservation and every other word that starts with self.  Because he gave himself up.  

So how does this save you and me?

It shows us that it is possible to give up our strive for self-_________ and to depend on God.  It shows us that we can get off the merry-go-round that is our striving, get-all-we-can-get existence.  There is a way back.

When we say "yes" to Jesus, we are accepting His rule over our lives.  We are giving up our allegiance to this world.  That is why he said to take His yoke.  To lay our burdens down.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

So as we go toward Easter, remember where you came from.  You are a citizen of God's world.  Not the world that we have made, but the one He created in the beginning.  You are not meant to have to try so hard.  You can have Eden.  But you have to give it up.  Take off the self, and put on Christ.  

Jesus died to save you.  And me.  Anyone who will come to Him.  God came and did what no man would do.  And because He did, we can be what we were meant to be in the beginning.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why I Can't Believe in Evolution

 I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV.  I can't pretend to know the ins and outs of any scientific theories.  I was also not around when the earth began, so I don't pretend to know exactly how or when that happened.

I am a Christian, so I believe in God who, according to His own account (the Bible), created the Heaven and the Earth.  I also believe that He created all of the living things on the face of the earth.
  
I am aware that there are Christians who believe in the evolutionary theory.  I am also aware that there are Christians who believe that the earth and everything in it were created in exactly six twenty-four hour days.  There are those who believe in a gap between the creation of the earth and the recreation that we see today.  And there are those who believe that each "day" mentioned in Genesis was actually a long age.
  
As I said, I wasn't there, and I don't know which of these theories is right.

However, I cannot believe in evolution between species.

I believe that species can adapt to changing conditions, such as Darwin's famous Galapagos Island finches.  But I cannot believe that reptiles became birds or that monkeys became humans.

Here's my basic problem.  If evolution is supposed to be a way for animals to become more advanced, why are the less advanced species still around?  If monkeys evolved to be human, why in the world are there still monkeys?  Did some decide it was better to stay monkeys and others decide to do something else?  This kind of belief, I'm sorry to say, takes more faith than I can muster.
The Bible says that God created man (and woman) in His own image.  Man was created separate from the other animals, and was given dominion over them.  It says that Adam named the animals himself.  

What does it mean, to be made in the image of God?  Well, I don't think it has to do with our bodies.  I admit that our basic body structure is not all that different from many of the other creatures which share our world.  But we are different.  And I think that difference was given to us in the beginning, not developed slowly over millions or billions of years.  

Our recorded history is short.  Some believe it is around 6000 years long.  But if you look at that history, I don't see that people have gotten better and better, as if we have been evolving.  I see that people through the ages have been inventive and creative and relational, and I think these are some of the ways that we were made like our creator.  I think about people like Galileo or Leonardo Da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin.  None of them invented the computer or figured out how to fly to the moon.  But they could have.  And the people who did do those things used the knowledge handed down from them in order to do it.  You can't say that Steve Jobs was more intelligent than Benjamin Franklin because he came 200 years later.  It isn't true.  You can't say that modern art was done by a more evolved person than a cave painting.  Think of the knowledge that has passed down through the generations so that artists today can create the things they do, and imagine a cave person having the same resources as a modern photographer, for example.  Who is to say they wouldn't have been able to do the same things?  

Animals continue to live in the same way they always have. In the wild, they still make the same types of homes.  If you move an animal from its regular habitat, you have to take care of it.  If you move it to a part of the world that it is not adapted to, it will die.  If you move a person, however, they will adjust.  People can invent ways to keep themselves warm or cool, and to get appropriate food.  And then they go on to create art and music and poetry and literature and ways to communicate and to leave information for those who come after them.

The Bible says that God formed Adam from the dust of the earth, and then breathed the breath of life into him.  It doesn't say this about any of the other creatures.  Another word for "breath" is "spirit."  God gave Adam His own spirit.  And Adam and Eve were told to multiply.  They should have passed that spirit down to their descendants.  But they chose to give it up.  When they ate of the forbidden fruit, and realized they were naked, they were missing that spirit.  It had left them.  God has stayed with men ever since then, any who would accept Him and listen to Him, but His spirit was only external for thousands of years.   Then Jesus came.  God as man.  And when He died on the cross, the spirit of God was again made available to all of us.  We can again contain the breath of God.  This is a gift not given to the animals.  And sadly, it is not given to all people.  You have to ask for it.

You are not a more intelligent ape.  You are a unique creation, meant to be a son or daughter of the creator.   He wants you to be with him, just like you want your children to be with you.  You just have to ask.  And you have to believe.  Yes, this too takes faith.  You can choose to believe in a random sequence of events which has somehow led from a "sludge" to the Mona Lisa and Google, or you can believe that you were created as a unique person by an intelligent creator who planned this world and gave you the ability to think and to create in turn.  You can believe that you are a cosmic accident, or a beloved child of a God who wants you to be with Him forever.  I'm going to quote Joshua, and say "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Little Wild




A Little Wild

In the heart of every child,
God has left a little wild.
 A place that no one else can claim.
A place that He alone can tame.


A child's soul contains a land
Untouched by any human hand
Where never any man has trod 
Except the child, himself, and God.

A child needs to have some space
Far removed from life's hard race.
Peace and quiet, open air,
Time away from strife and care.

Space and time, a place to be
Alone, with just his God and he,
Where he can find the time to muse, 
To think and dream, not win or lose.

A little space that's just as wild
As the place inside the child.
A space not engineered at all,
Where he can listen for God's call.

The call of God upon the child
Into that place that was left wild
Becomes a vine, which as it grows
Entwines with what the child knows.

The lessons learned, the wisdom won,
The memories of things he's done,
The books he's read, the games he's played,
And even he who once has strayed

Will, when his wandering days abate
Find once again the secret gate.
And as he opens up the door
Will find himself alone once more.

But not alone, for God is there
Waiting patiently with care.
For even if we choose to roam,
We always have a way back home.
 
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