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Weekly Word

Entries in Creation (4)

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Racism

Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 9:11-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 28, 2016.

Today we begin a new series entitled “Society under Siege.”  In this series we will look at different social issues and try to answer the question, “What does God’s Word say about this?”  As Christians, we ask this question because we want to be like Jesus.  We want our thinking to change and become like His thinking.  We want our actions to change and become like His, and we want our inner man to change and become like Him.  Thus Christians who are looking to Jesus for direction will have a different world view than the society around them, to one degree or another. 

Our society has embraced a world view that sees this world and mankind as cosmic accidents that have no absolute meaning or purpose, except that which we make for ourselves.  Morality is defined by what we think is best for us at this point in time, and the only destiny that awaits mankind is that of extinction within a universal/”multiversal” heat-death.  This is in direct contradiction to the world view of God and His Scriptures.  The Bible tells us that God created the universe and particularly mankind for a purpose, and that purpose is for us to become His children, bearing His image, and ruling over the earth while taking care of it in His stead.  Of course this purpose has run into many problems along the way, the main one is our sin and rebellion against it.  We are going to look at a particular sin today, racism.

This is a deep-rooted sin that has persisted throughout mankind’s history since we spread out and differentiated in appearance and customs.  Last year, on a Wednesday night in June, a 17 year old, white teenager stepped into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.  After sitting in on a Bible study and as the church began to pray, the young man pulled out a gun and pointed it at 87 year old Susie Jackson.  Her nephew Tywanza Sanders, stepped in between them and tried to talk the young man down.  However, this was to no avail. Nine people were killed that night.  What was the murderer’s desire?  He wanted to ignite a race war and get rid of all black people.

It isn’t just certain white people who have given in to the sin of racism.  This summer in Dallas, Texas, during a Black Lives Matter protest, a 25 year old, black man parked on the street and ambushed a group of police officers.  He continued moving and targeting police officers and rapid transit officers until he holed up in a college building nearby.  He murdered 5 officers and injured 9.  What was his desire?  He simply wanted to kill white police officers.  Both of these devastating sins were committed on people who had done nothing but be a certain color.  It is obvious that these things are wrong and yet many are sucked into the twisted logic that one race is better than others, or that any race is morally superior to another.  Let’s see what the Scriptures say.

Racism Rejects our Common Creation

In Acts 17:26-28, Paul is in Athens, Greece, at an area where philosophers gathered and shared ideas.  This place was called the Areopagus, which literally means “Mar’s Hill.”  Paul is reasoning with these philosophers about God’s plan for mankind.  Why should these Greeks listen to Paul, a man from another race?  Paul points them back to the reality that all the nations and races have been made by God from “one blood.”  Thus we all trace our existence back to a common ancestor.  Whether you point to Noah, or to be technically correct, Adam, the Bible teaches that we have a common ancestor that is not an ape.  Though DNA has differentiated over the years, we are still related to one another.  Racial lines tend to focus on ancestry because this is how the different lines of DNA are passed on.  People scattered into groups that were isolated (whether geographically or purposefully).  Evolution emphasizes the differences and fractures our commonality.  It’s natural progression of logic leads to eugenics and the extinguishing of (in the terminology of Charles Darwin) “unfavored races.”  Thus early evolutionists created things like Planned Parenthood, not to help the poor and “inferior races.”  But rather, they wanted to stop the proliferation of inferior genes and eventually extinguish them.  The Bible, on the other hand, emphasizes that genetically we come from the same source, and that we are different from animals.  Animals do have the breath of life, but they were not created with the ability to bear the image of God.  Humans, as well as the angels, have the ability to act in particular ways that are like God.  All humans bear the image of God (no matter how much we tarnish it) and therefore are sacred to God, whether they are born or unborn.  Thus we should hold people of all races as having the same level of sacredness.

On top of this, Paul brings out that God has determined the nationalities, their times, and their borders.  Thus it is God, whom we are supposed to be like, who created all these differences.  So why did God do this?  Paul says that God did this so that we would seek for Him and find Him.  The differences and separations are intended to cause us to search for God and to recognize that no one people had the corner market on what God was like.  Of course mankind fell for deceptions that were given to it by fallen angels.  Thus God used Israel to bring the truth back to them.  Yet, even Israel did not have all the answers.  Christianity is not about having all the answers, but rather, knowing that God has acted within space and time in order to save mankind.  It is about trusting Him even though we don’t have all the answers.  Mankind has historically trusted itself rather than God, despite what it may look like to the modern observer.  The Devil uses our differences to cause us to destroy one another, but God uses our differences to break us out of our self-centered and sinful thinking.  In other words, He did so to challenge us.  Thus the white man needs to quit ignoring the cries of black people, and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Yet, the black man needs to quit blaming everything on white people and try to find out what God desires in all of this.  Each of us needs to learn to deal with our own hearts before God rather than letting the enemy stamp his image upon our hearts through racial ignorance.

Racism Rejects the Great Commission of Jesus

In Matthew 28:18-20, we see another reason that racism is a great sin.  When we embrace racism we fight against the commands of Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority over heaven and earth.  Whether we like it or not, we are under the authority of Jesus.  Of course Christians believe this and embrace it.  However, Jesus is Lord over everyone, Christian or not.  Now Christians have sworn allegiance to Jesus and resist joining in the rebellion against His authority.  If you look at Jesus in the Scriptures, you will not find a single issue in his life that can be properly interpreted as racist.  Yes, ignorance and sinfulness have caused many who claim to follow Jesus to operate in rebellion to their Lord.  But this can never change who Jesus is and what His commands are.

In the Great Commission, Jesus gives us the duty to make disciples of all nations.  The term translated as nations is the Greek word “ethnos,” where we get the world ethnicity.  It is a reference, not to DNA, but rather to those who live in close association to the point that they have their own customs and manners.  Thus it is more than a political word, and more than a biological word.  Jesus has given his followers the command to go to all ethnic groups in order to invite them into His kingdom.  Thus God is drawing people from every ethnic group into a new people or nations who carry out His customs and manners.  People of every race, do not have a savior from their race, or a different gospel.  We are all called to the same Lord, saved the same way, and called to the same work.  Thus a black person or a white person who comes to Jesus is stepping out of their own people and entering into a new kingdom of Christ.  It is not “the white man’s religion.”  It is the way of Jesus that we are called to follow.  The way of Jesus will offend all cultures and all nations.  Some have looked at this plan and have called it ethnocide.  But that is a silly charge.  Christians are not trying to get rid of the nations of the world.  We are offering them the truth of a better way.  In fact, the ethnicities of this world are doomed to destroy themselves.  But those who embrace the way of Christ will not only survive, but thrive.  They will enter into the only Eutopia that can truly exist.

So what does God think of Christians who persist in the divisions and rivalries of this world?  In Acts 10:34 we see that God had revealed to Peter that it was not biology that made one clean before God.  It was those whom God called clean, regardless of their race or ethnic background.  Yet, Peter had some trouble living out what he knew to be true.  In Galatians 2, a situation is revealed to us where Peter had allowed his fear of what other Jews might think to affect how he treated some gentiles.  Peter could have claimed ignorance before this, but now he was simply being a coward and yielding to the stubbornness of other men.  Peter ends up being rebuked by the apostle Paul.  However, he is really being rebuked by the Holy Spirit.  Unless we repent of our own stubbornness in these matters of racial relations, the Lord will bring discipline, rebuke, and eventually judgment upon us.

Racism rejects the Character of God

In Matthew 9:11-13 we are reminded of the true character of God, rather than that which is demonstrated by those who are supposed to represent Him.  Mankind was created to bear the image of God.  Of course, it is understood that there are ways in which we cannot be like God: omniscience and omnipotence are a few examples.  But we can take on His character.  In fact, if we are following Jesus with full faith in him, then we need to be courageous enough to take on the character of God.  Though many ignorant and reckless people accuse the God of the Bible of being an angry, hateful God, this is far from the truth.

Jesus points this out to the Pharisees.  They could not understand why Jesus would interact with sinners and tax collectors.  He didn’t do it to become like them or because he liked how they were.  Rather, he was displaying the compassion of God for those who are sick, hurt, and trapped in sin.  The compassion of God can only amaze those who have become convinced of the sinfulness of mankind and our ability to fix ourselves.  The Pharisees had the truth right in front of them, but their eyes were blinded by their own sin.  Thus they had segregated themselves from the “others” around them.  “Those tax collectors have betrayed their nation and their God.”  “Those sinners aren’t trying to be holy like we are.”  They were willing to let others die and miss out on fellowship with God as long as they had it.  It is true that God will judge every single person.  However, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to faith in Jesus Christ.  His compassion causes Him to go to such great lengths that He would even lay down the life of His own son in order to make it possible for “others” to become the children of God.  Racism displays the opposite of such compassion.  Do I demonstrate such compassion for “others” in my life?  Or am I stuck in the distinctions of this sinful world?  It was the Pharisees own sin that deceived them into a lack of compassion.

God is also love.  He doesn’t just exercise compassion as some high and mighty person helping the poor.  Rather, he truly loves them and wants to raise them up to his side.  John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world so much that He would give up His One and Only (unique) Son to die in our place so that we wouldn’t have to perish, but have everlasting life.  Which of us loves that fiercely?  Which of us looks at the others around us and refuses to let them perish?  Which of us lives a life of sacrifice to help them?  This is the character of God.

God is also forgiving.  We cannot talk about the love and compassion of God without forgiveness.  All ideas of love and harmony are dashed on the rocks of sin, offense, and the hurtful acts that people do.  God teaches us to let go of the wrongs done against us, by first calling it to the attention of the person doing it.  Then, we leave the rest to God.  I can’t control people, and I don’t have to let what they do rule my life.  When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like he was at the mercy of their actions.  But the truth is, they were at the mercy of His actions.  When you forgive people and move on, you are not absolving their sins.  Rather, you are letting God deal with it and refusing to let the enemy poison your heart with bitterness, anger, and rage.  At the same time you are doing what you can (sometimes there is nothing left to do) in order to save them from the judgment that they are headed towards.  This is the character of God.

May we strive everyday to reject the sinful thinking and distinctions of this world.  Instead, may God help us to display His character to a world that desperately needs it.

Racism audio

Tuesday
Apr072015

This is His Story

Today is the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When you think about how much history there is in the world, both that we know about and that which was never recorded, we can forget that all of those things are connected.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Thus historians throughout the ages have sought to explain not just the facts of history but also the relationships between them.  Why did the Roman Empire rise to such great power but then fall apart?  Why did Germany fall under the spell of Adolph Hitler?  Of course was WWII a failure or a success?  It all depends upon your view point.  Thus the facts of historical events can all be the same but many different interpretations of the relationships that existed will be promoted today. 

The Bible is a book from history, but it is also a book about history.  In fact it has been stated that the history is really His story (God’s).  You can approach the Bible as the history of mankind from God’s perspective when you think about it in that way.  There are multitudes of viewpoints among mankind, but only one view point of God’s.  Which will you live by?

Thus God gives us a narrative of what is really going on throughout history.  Of course, today, politicians and various groups have learned that you can control people by controlling the narrative that they accept.  So instead of responding to accusations with facts and events, we respond with a “narrative” that the people would rather believe.  We have ceased to be a people who look for truth, but rather a people who believe the story that we like best.  Well, into this pool of narratives, God gives his take.  Many may accuse religions of trying to manipulate the people, but the truth is we manipulate ourselves all the time.  Let’s look at history from God’s perspective

Creation Exists For God’s Purpose

In Genesis 1 we are told, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Then in verse 26 God says, “let us make man in our own image.”  Here we see that God purposefully created all that we can see including ourselves.  Modern man has embraced the idea that there is no purpose to what we see and probably no real beginning.  We are simply an accident of nature.  But that begs the question, “What was nature an accident of?”    Societies cannot function on a foundation of purposelessness and amorality and so we create a hybrid philosophy that keeps the concept of morality that God gives us and makes society itself as the arbiter of what is good and bad.  Yet, this means our definitions of good and bad will shift from generation to generation.  This shifting sand cannot hold up society very long before it will go through cataclysmic social change, over and over again.  Without God the foundation for defining good and evil will become a quagmire that will never sustain anything we build on it.

God not only tells us that He created us, but that he created mankind to be able to relate with Him.  Thus God places Adam and Eve in a Garden and gives them a purpose.  He also converses with them daily.  This picture of a relationship is central to all that follows in human history.

Now in John 1:1-5 we see that God is the giver of light to mankind.  But that is not just natural light.  Just as he gave natural light, so God has given intellectual and spiritual light to mankind.  It is easy to exist merely on a natural level.  And, yes, God did create all the natural beauty we see around us and wants us to enjoy it.  Yet, there is more to life than just nature.  Some people will say, “I don’t believe in the Bible.  I believe in science.”  But doesn’t science mean knowledge?  The Bible is definitely knowledge.  What is really meant by the above statements is that the person only accepts a certain method of obtaining knowledge.  They categorically reject any knowledge that doesn’t come by the scientific method.  Yet, we cannot put the ultimate questions of life into a test tube.  We can only find circumstantial evidence in regards to the origins of the universe, but nothing by which to determine without a doubt what it really was.  Even our attempts to analyze human psychology and social dynamics has found that such thing evade yielding ultimate answers about ourselves.  Without God, man is doomed to a future of making purpose out of the sand of the beach, only to have it either destroyed by the next generation stomping on it, or by the waves of time crashing on the beach.

But Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that God has been there all along.  He has been talking to mankind and helping us to understand what is going on.  He even sent Jesus who was the perfect light and knowledge concerning God’s purpose for this world.  Francis Schaeffer, after talking with many college age students, came to the conclusion that many felt that God was not there because they didn’t hear him or see him.  Yet, he stated that, “God is there and He has not been silent.”  Of all the books and teachers of history only Jesus and the Bible have verified themselves with prophecy and resurrection from the dead.  All of history has been God speaking to mankind about its problems and its destiny.  Will you not give it an honest reading?

Man Has Desecrated It And Himself

In Romans 8:19-22 we have a passage that points to creation groaning.  Today many fear and point out that man has the ability to drastically affect the earth.  They arrive at this without the Bible.  Interestingly enough, this is the Bible’s position.  The actions of the first human couple have affected mankind and the world in a negative way.  Though God and man enjoyed a perfect relationship in a perfect world, man rebelled against God after it was manipulated by Satan.  They were seduced by the idea that God was holding out on them.  If they disobeyed God they could become like Him themselves.  Yet, when you read the whole Bible, you see that it was God’s intention to make us like Him all along.  We are on a path to try and make ourselves God’s and yet we do so having rejected a path in which God has promised to make us like Him.  This choice leads in two very different directions.  The Bible pictures mankind as willfully persisting in accomplishing on its own what God has promised for those who love Him and wait upon Him.  Because God is the creator of nature, we find our rebellion against him bleeding into nature.  We do not like the “nature” he has created and thus try to manipulate it into our desire and will.  Sometimes this is innocent enough.  But think about those who are born a certain gender and yet feel like they want to be another gender.  We can reject the way we are naturally and replace it with the way we are mentally.  But this only causes grief and trouble.  When you fight against nature you always find yourself fighting a losing battle.

This rebellion of mankind has affected not just man, but also the rest of creation.  The creation has been subjected to futility because of man’s sin.  This curse that God placed upon Adam caused something to change in the earth.  It would not grow things like it used to.  Later after the flood we see something else changing to where people did not live as long.  The effects were drastic for us and for the creation.  However, the curse could just as easily be called “The Effects of our Choice.”  We live in a nature in which each choice brings about certain effects.  We don’t always like those effects and try to avoid or counteract them.  But this too has effects.  God does not wish to destroy mankind.  Rather He has promised to fix the problem.  That is why Paul states in Romans 8 that the Creation groans awaiting the revealing of the Sons of God.  God is bringing this broken world to a place where things are going to be fixed.  Yet, mankind persists in trying to fix the problem without Him.  Yet, the problem today is not the perfecting of our forms of governance.  Our founding fathers did their best to create a new and better form of republican governance.  And yet, they testified that it would only work for a godly people.  No matter how much we perfect governance, it will be ran by faulty humans.  Even if we put in their place computers, they will be programmed by faulty humans.  Like the movie “Minority Report” we can build a system to remove all murder and yet someone will learn to game the system. We have a rebellion problem.  Neither can we fix how our society functions because it will always be the interactions of fallen people. 

Our problem is much deeper than DNA, politics, and religion.  As Romans 5:12, 18 says, sin has come into the world and by it death has spread to all men.  We are all sinners and under the judgment of a righteous God, completely condemned.  Our problem is an internal, moral problem.  Some may ridicule looking to an ancient book for wisdom and knowledge in this modern technological age.  However, the moral problem of man has not gotten better with our technology.  We are the same people we were 2,000 years ago.  A people filled with bitterness, hate and anger.  A people still manipulating others in order to get what our flesh wants.   We are still the same actors acting out the same plot lines, only on a different stage with better special effects.  If we could travel 6,000 years into the future and mankind hasn’t destroyed itself by then, we would find people struggling with the same moral issues, in spite of the great technology we will have by then.  Notice that Star Trek and Star Wars still assume people will be morally the same no matter how much we learn about physics.  But God offers a different answer.

God Promises A Re-Creation Of All things

Romans 5 goes on to say in verses 18 and 19 that God has an answer for man’s continual wandering in the wilderness of right and wrong.  God has implemented a plan to fix mankind and the creation and it centers upon Jesus.  All of the Old Testament was God’s attempt to ensure that the world would be able to understand what was going on when Jesus came.  God’s plan starts with a spiritual fix or internal one, and then has a second phase of a physical fix.

Our spiritual problem cannot be fixed through changing our DNA, and any physical problems we are able to fix will only make the spiritual worse.  Thus God promises to transform our spirits and then re-create our bodies.  Notice how the book of Revelation ends with the reality that God will complete His purpose of fixing not only mankind, but all of creation.  We will dwell with God in perfect relationship in a New Heavens and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-5).  God states unequivocally that this story will have a particular ending.  We will be back in close fellowship with God.  The heavens and the earth will be remade.  This is no reason to abuse the earth, but rather recognition of what God’s desire is.  Will you embrace God’s story today?  There is a place for you within this story.  However, if we reject the Creator of all creation, we not only will find ourselves fighting against nature, but also nature’s God.  The other narrative puts man in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that is careening out of control.

His Story Audio

Tuesday
May272014

Creation Obeys the Word of God

The underpinning of what we call science today is the simple idea that all of creation follows laws that were made by God.  God is not an author of confusion.  He does things in an ordered, well thought out, and logical way.  Thus it is He who sets the boundaries for the interactions of all things.

Though scientific discoveries have been made throughout history, the Christian ideas concerning God is what enabled a methodical search to understand the laws of nature to really take off.  Yet, not all of creation is the same.  Dirt, rocks, wind, storms, and solar flares are not sentient and have no choice of obeying God’s laws.  They simply follow the physical Laws God has created.  Animals have some form of thinking.  However, observation clearly shows that there is a clear difference between their thinking and man’s.  Animals operate on an instinctual level and on a base physical desire.  If they are hungry they eat what is available.  Man is the one creature that can make choices that are contrary to its nature.  We can analyze the past and project into the future and thereby act contrary to what our emotion and flesh tells us.  We can calculate the “oughtness” of an action and choose a path different from what we desire.

Today we are going to look at Luke 8:22-25.  Although this section may seem to be separate from what is going on before it, I think there is something deeper going on here.  Up to this point Jesus has been focusing on a theme which says, those who do God’s Word belong to Him and will be blessed.  So in this section the common tie is to see that in this arena most of creation does a better job than mankind.

When It Seems Like God Is Sleeping

Jesus often ministered to the point of exhaustion.  So in this story He tells the disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee and catches some sleep.  It is during this time that the disciples are piloting the boat and Jesus is sleeping that a strong storm comes upon them.  Now I don’t believe this storm is by accident.  Yet, Jesus is sleeping through it.  In this sense Jesus represents the righteous man who has perfect peace about his situation.  Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon You, because he trusts in You.”  As a righteous man, Jesus can sleep and not fear that a storm is going to destroy him before his time.

However, as God, Jesus appears to not care about their problem.  It is common for people to feel that God is not caring about their problem or that somehow he is asleep at the wheel.  Now, this storm is clearly a freak “perfect storm” because 4 of these disciples are seasoned fisherman and can handle a boat.  Yet, this time they are afraid that they are going to die.  They can’t keep up with bailing the water out of the boats and are in danger of sinking.  Is this a coincidence or is something else going on here?  God could have sent a perfect storm in order to allow Jesus to demonstrate that he is more than a man.  Or, the storm could be caused by Satan.  If you haven’t thought about this before then take time to remember the account of Job.  In Job we see Satan attacking his animals and family by causing fire to fall from heaven and burn up his servants and sheep.  He also caused a huge wind to destroy a house inside of which Job’s adult children were feasting.  It killed them all.  This is mentioned again in Revelation 13 when the False Prophet causes fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men in order to convince them to believe him.  Whether we know the source of difficult times or not doesn’t really matter.  In fact sometimes I might simply be encountering the results of my own poor choices.  Either way, we may feel like God is silent to our problem.

In our story things changed when they cried out to Jesus.  Jesus wasn’t a sailor.  They were the ones with the skills in this area.  This was one area where they were the experts and Jesus was the one in need.  Yet, after exhausting their own efforts and being at the end of their strength, they finally turn to Jesus and cry out for help.  They don’t expect him to start bailing.  Rather, they are turning to him as the one who has a connection to God that is miraculous.  Notice that this is the Gospel in a nutshell.  In some ways, God is reminding the disciples that no matter how hard they struggle against sin and the flesh, they are going to need God’s help.  None of us can be good enough in ourselves to overcome the storms of life.  We need to learn to cry out upon God for help, even when it seems like He is sleeping.

Jesus Has Power Over Nature

The next point is perhaps the most obvious.  Jesus has power over nature.  Now, all of creation came into being at the Word of the Lord.  In John 1:3, the disciple describes that this is Jesus.  “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  Thus, creation follows the laws of nature, or physics, that given to it at the beginning.  This is a general obedience that all creation has.  It was God’s design of atmosphere and temperature differences that gives rise to wind, weather, and even perfect storms.  Yet, there is also a specific obedience that happens here.  At the specific command of Christ, in a specific point in time, at a specific location, the storm stops immediately.  “Peace, be still!”  Those famous words actually come from the gospel of Mark, who gives us greater detail on what is said.  Now wind doesn’t have a will of its own in order to go or stop.  It is a force of nature’s own physics.  Thus the miracle is far greater than it appears, as if the storm could stop itself.  The truth is that all of the factors that came together to create such a perfect storm are being perfectly cancelled out by an opposite and perfectly balanced force at Christ’s command.  Thus God didn’t just cause weather in general by the design of the earth.  But has the power, if He so chooses, to specifically control weather if He wants to.  This shouldn’t surprise us since humans have been trying to manipulate weather over the last century, with various levels of success. 

This brings up several questions.  How can this happen, or, how is this possible?  The freak storm came to a freak ending.  They go from being freaked out about dying to being freaked out about what Jesus just did.  That also brings up the next question.  Who is this man?  No mere man can do what Jesus just did. 

His command over nature is often called a miracle.  However, the word “miracle,” to most people, has come to mean that the laws of nature are broken.  Yet, when you study into the “miracles” in the Bible, they seem less to be about broken natural laws and more about the power of the One who is intervening.  God can control His creation because He created it.  When you think about it, if God could create all of the universe and put it in motion, could He not operate within it?  Wouldn’t He be far greater than us in doing something that He wants through His understanding of natural laws?   Now what about mankind, should God control us in such a way?  Would we really want that?  Would that really be good?  Instead of commanding men along with controlling force, God gives man his command with the freedom to obey.  We can choose.

We Need Faith In God

When the storm is calmed Jesus speaks to the situation.  He asks, “Where is your faith?”  I don’t believe Jesus is chiding them for waking him up.  The emphasis is on their trust.  Jesus is the one who said to cross the lake.  He is the one leading them.  Don’t you trust me?  Many times following Jesus does not seem to be working out so well.  We encounter storms, which we struggle against as best we can.  They often bring us to the end of our physical, emotional, and spiritual resources.  Yet, Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Our prayers need not be as desperate as our situation if we are following God.   If Jesus is in our boat we need not fear.  Those who have put their faith in Jesus and are following His words belong to Him.  He is in them and they are in Him.  This is a relationship that cannot be severed by any storm that this earth has to offer.  If Jesus is in the boat we need not wake him with the words, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” [according to Mark]  Yes, he cares.  They don’t know it yet.  But, his caring goes so deep that he will hang on a cross for them to show it.  The beauty is that even when we are desperate and failing in our faith, He will still help those who are following Him.  We need to trust God.  But trusting God involves calling out to Him for help in our time of need.  And, at the same time, we can know that He will work all things to the good for us.  If Jesus would be willing to go through the cross for you, do you think He is going to fail you? 

This brings up the question of what I will call “The Martyr’s Storm.”  Jesus had a perfect relationship with God the Father and yet, on the night he is betrayed he goes through a storm that would claim his life the next day.  However, even here He knew that God would work it all to the good.  In fact, if Jesus had not died we could not be saved from our own sin.  No one understands the why and when behind the call to give the ultimate sacrifice to be a witness for God.  Yet, even this storm, ends when the martyr enters into God’s presence.

Thus Jesus brings up the issue of fear.  Fear undermines our faith and drives us to unbelieving actions.  We feel that we are losing and that God has failed us.  If left unchecked it will cause us to leave Christ at the very moment that we need Him most.  Somewhere Judas let fear of where Jesus was leading divert his course.  Thought they traveled together, somewhere their paths diverged and the two never came together again.  Don’t let this be you today.  No matter what storms have come in the past or you are experiencing today, God has a plan that you can trust.  As the Scriptures say, “Trust in the Lord forever, for in the LORD is everlasting strength!”  Trust God even if it requires you to lay your life down because He has your greatest good in mind.

Tuesday
Jul102012

All Men Are Created Equal

Today I want to look at the phrase, “all men are created equal.”  You should recognize it as being from our Declaration of Independence.  A fuller quote is: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights;…”  I believe it is important for Christians to be biblical in how they view this statement.

Clearly the equality that is being recognized is not that of strength, wealth, or abilities.  When we compare these things there seems to be great inequality.  So the founders had something more fundamental than our physical nature.  That said, it was commonly expressed that even these physical differences were not so great that they couldn’t be overcome by the mental prowess or collaboration of the weak.  In other words the differences were not enough to elevate the strong, rich, and able to a higher status (gods among men),  Despite the differences we are still all humans and must deal with the realities and limitations of what that entails.

In Acts 17 Paul is waiting in Athens, Greece for Silas and Timothy to join him.  He had fled the northern area of Thessalonica and Berea due to violent opposition to his teaching.  While he was there he began to talk with his fellow Jews in the synagogues and with Gentiles in the marketplace.  At some point he is invited to speak further about his teachings at a special forum in Athens where the philosophers of that day would pit there views against each other.  In verses 22-32 we have an address that Paul gives in this forum.  I believe it will be quite instructive in regard to our topic.

All People Are Equal In Origin

In verse 24 Paul points out that there is a God who created all peoples and all things.  This Creator is being referenced in the phrase, “all men are created equal.” Thus the Creator is the God of every nation, peoples, or individuals, whether they understand that or not.  The Greeks worshipped a multitude of gods, but Paul points out that they do not know their Creator.  This God is in no need of anything from us.  However, He does receive worship from those who will worship Him from the heart and in Spirit.

Now, the foundation of evolution rejects the idea of a creator.  But putting that aside, evolution has always contended that some species are more advanced than others.  Historically this has included what we call “races” today.  Thus it promoted the idea that some races are more superior then others.  The Bible rejects this idea.  All men come from the same Creator and through the same creation.  Let’s take this a bit deeper.

All People Are Equal In Their Humanity

Paul goes on to say at the end of verse 25, that God is the source of everyone’s life, breath, and all things.  Thus humans are all dependent on God for everything.  In verse 26 he points out that we are all from one blood.  The Bible traces all mankind back to a single couple, Adam and Eve.  Though time, environment and procreation have developed variations within the human species, we are still of one blood. In our modern scientific age we have been able to determine that most differences between “races” are cultural and not biological.  Only .2% of the DNA code differs among peoples of the world and only .012% has impact upon those things we label as race.  On top of this a person needing an organ donor may be a better match with a person of another race than another of his own.

We are all part of the same human family.  It is difficult to hold a family together once it goes past 3 generations.  There is a part of us that laments this and tries to work against it.  But the sheer size and geographical spread work against us.  In a sense all of us, no matter how different in looks and customs, come from the same Great, Great, …..Grand father/mother.  The sheer size makes it impossible to be close.  But it doesn’t mean we have to see the others as somehow less human, or inferior to us.

Paul points out that it was God who appointed the nations and set their limits.  Now the term nation here is not associated with skin color.  It is a term that points to those who have common culture and customs.  Even the term “race” in the English language was not associated with skin color until recent years.  It was used to describe the differences between the Brits, Normans, Irish, Scots etc…  These were all different races thought they had the same skin color.  Why?  Because their culture, history, and customs were different.  Biblically speaking it is language that makes the biggest difference among mankind not skin color.  All people regardless of where they come are equally human and have an equal right to exist upon this planet.

All People Are Equal In Their Need

In Acts 17:27-31, Paul points out several needs that all mankind have.  First, we all have the need to find God.  As much as we may disagree with God’s decision to confuse the languages, its intent is that those differences might cause us to search for him.  The term “grope” conjures the image of a blind man feeling for something.

Secondly, God is not far from any of us.  Yes, he is far in light of our limitations.  But he is not far from us in the sense that everything we have comes from him.  He is our source of everything.

Thus in verse 30 he points out that we have all been ignorant of God’s way.  Even Israel, who had been given much light, as a whole was ignorant to God’s way.  Thus God, knowing our blindness and limitations, comes near to us in Jesus Christ.  He makes himself known to not just one race, but to all.  Thus the Gospel through men like Paul goes out to the groping nations.  All nations need to repent of their ignorant ways and customs and turn to God in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

In fact, all nations will be judged by Christ at an appointed future time.  God has assured us of this by raising Jesus from the dead.

Let me close with these thoughts.  Modern technology has not only made the world smaller but it has made culture go global.  Kids from all over the world are beginning to have the same music interests, movie interests, and fashion styles.  How ought we as biblical believers live out this statement that “all men are equal?”

First, we should drop any sense of racial or cultural superiority.  All of our cultures have ungodly things within them.  Let us learn the lesson from Israel that pride and superiority always leads to a fall.  This does not mean that we should blindly accept all aspects of other cultures as worthy of respect.  But neither should we be blind to the aspects of our own culture that are not honorable.

Second, we should recognize the need of all people to know God.  God is not the white man’s god.  Nor is there a black god, red god, etc…  There is one God over all nations, no matter how far their culture may have gone away from him.

Third, refuse to be baited into ethnic rivalries through bigotry or politics.

Lastly, do not focus on non-moral differences between cultures.  They are irrelevant.  Grace and Peace in the name of Jesus Christ.

 

 

All Men Created Equal Audio