When I Consider Your Heavens…

A reflection on Psalm 8 

English: Pleiades Star Cluster

English: Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What, I wonder, would David think if he knew what we know now about the universe? I too grew up considering the heavens, and I could see so much more of them then. It is hard to see the stars and the blackness of the sky behind them in Portland. Our nearest neighbors are far away from our corner of the valley and the stars are overwhelming when I return there after having been gone for some time. They explode. They dazzle. If the moon is full and low on the horizon it couldn’t possibly get any bigger.

I have seen documentaries of course, and sermons even, showing the far-flung wonders of the universe. Nebulas and galaxies and black holes and stars that dwarf the stars that dwarf the stars that dwarf our sun. I still prefer the fresh air and the heavy sky of my home, to seeing those wonders on a screen though. It somehow ties it all together, to have the dirt road underfoot, and the frogs in the pond, and lonely, homey light of the house on the hill. It is a good place.

There is so much that is good about life there, with the dirt and the trees and the rivers and the mountains and the family. Life with good, creative work. Helping plants grow and bear fruit. Good, strong relationships with people. It is about more than saving their “souls.” Indeed, God will save the whole thing. I can’t very well imagine what it will be like to share the rule of that new earth, and to gaze at the new heavens, when all is made right. So I will say Maranatha rather than that I desire to depart and be with Christ.

You have made us. You love us. You even made all these wonders for us to rule over. With you! Adam did not do such a good job of ruling things. The second Adam came to rescue us from the mess.

YHWH, my Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Ruling over Creation

Aside

A reflection on Genesis 1:26

There is a balance here that is difficult to strike. I grew up hearing little to nothing about the “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1, and the Christianity that grew out of that was one that had no understanding of the “goodness” or “value” that something like art, or hard work, or a well-crafted pie could have to God. I valued those things, but I didn’t see them as important to God. It was probably there and I only missed it, but what mattered to God was only whether or not I sinned. There was a big, fat disconnect between most of life and how I lived it because, well…it didn’t really matter to God, unless I had a lustful thought while skateboarding, or could be a witness for Christ while playing baseball.

I think an early part of my desire to be in ministry came from the fact that I thought it was the only thing that had value. I’m not sure how I missed this in a family of Christian farmers, but I did. It took me realizing that pursuing vocational ministry (defined rather narrowly) was only one of many ways to serve and please God, to eventually come to the conclusion that I actually did want to pursue a life devoted to ministry. Not because it was the only way I could really please him, but because he had given me the gifts and the desires to be of use in that way.

He has also given me the ability to make music on my guitar, which can please him even if I’m not singing worship songs. He has given me a love of nature, which I can enjoy with him even if I’m not sharing the hike with an unsaved person to whom I am evangelizing. He has given me a love of cooking and baking bread which can please him just as much in a feast shared with friends as in loaves baked to hand out to the homeless in order to share the gospel with them. Heck, he has even given me a love for the craft of making and enjoying excellent beer of all things!

In short, much that is not overtly religious is of great value to God and pleases him indeed. At the same time (and here is the balance), what in the world would all of these wonderful things mean without Jesus?! Without him there would be no hope or peace within which to live and enjoy the earth he has made. The things we do and enjoy as humans living in creation can only be redemptive and not destructive because he has redeemed the whole thing and will make it new someday.

If we pursue these good things as ends in themselves, we will surely not gain them or find fulfillment in them; they will master us. If we would give up all these pleasures for the sake of Christ, it is then that they can truly be enjoyed and known in proper perspective. We will rule over creation rather than be ruled by it.

If you could only keep five books of the Bible, which would you choose?

While slogging through some of the reading for my Greek Exegesis class, a point was made regarding the fact that parts of our Scripture are more useful or easily applicable to our lives and thought.

My mind quickly followed the rabbit down his trail and I eventually asked myself which five books of the Bible I would keep if I were in some hypothetical scenario in which I were presented with such a choice. As I ran through the options in my mind, I quickly came up with the five that I would not be without. It was interesting to realize how quickly I came up with them, and how I was not able to come up with any arguments that would overthrow my previous choices.

I’d be very interested to hear which five books of the Bible you would choose to keep if you were forced to make the decision, and why.

This thought experiment brings up the idea of a canon within the Canon. This phrase refers to the fact that, whether we are aware of it or not, we all tend to emphasize and attach more worth to certain books of the Bible than others. This is a natural thing based on the diversity within Scripture and the diversity of its readers, but it is also a very dangerous thing. If we do indeed believe that ALL Scripture is God-breathed, and useful, etc. we must fight the temptation to spend all our time in our favorite books and ignore those which are less exciting, less clear, or more convicting. Of course different books have different purposes and different strengths, and I’m not suggesting a wooden application such that each book of the Bible receive equal time in the pulpit or in personal study, but most of us tend to pay undue attention to some books at the expense of others (and our own knowledge and edification!).

By considering this question and how you answer it, I hope you’ll end up with some food for thought regarding the way you think about the Bible and the way you value its different books.

I think I will wait to share my list until a few of you have shared yours, if any of you do.

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount - Pontlevoy

We recently began a new sermon series at Grace Bible Church on the Sermon on the Mount. We are three Sundays in so far, with my pastor, Ken Garrett, introducing the sermon three weeks ago, and finishing the second half of the beatitudes today (listen here).

I’ve been asked, along with some of the other seminary students at church, to take part in preaching this series. I’m preaching from Matthew 5:38-48, which is a passage that has been challenging me recently, so I’m really looking forward to continue digging into it and preparing to share its message with our church. I may preach again later in the summer, depending on how the schedule works out. I’ve been reading the Sermon on the Mount daily and have been thoroughly enjoying the fruits of repetitive meditative reading of it.

Chatting about the Sermon on the Mount. Fighting over who gets to preach which passage.

I’ve preached a number of times before, but only at my home church, to a small group of people whom I have known my whole life and who were quite generous to give me opportunities to share with them. I’ve always been rather uncomfortable “preaching”, preferring more of a conversational teaching style, but these are the kinds of opportunities I want to take advantage of in order to cultivate and develop the gifts God has given me. We love our church family in Portland and have built many close relationships, and I’ve done a lot of teaching at Grace Bible Church already, but it will certainly be a challenge to my nerves to preach to so many. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to use my gifts and training, and am so grateful for being able to participate in practical ministry with my family at Grace Bible Church.

Chrysostom’s Solution for Blasphemers

“But since our discourse has now turned to the subject of blasphemy, I desire to ask one favour of you all in return for this, my address and speaking with you; which is that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city. And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; reproach, rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify thy hand with the blow, and if any should accuse thee and drag thee to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls thee to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels!”

– St. John Chrysostom

(Link)

Fresco of St. John Chrysostom, lower register ...

Fresco of St. John Chrysostom, lower register of sanctuary in Church of the Theotokos Peribleptos in Ohrid, Macedonia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)