Thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring,

Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk in it.

Isaiah 42: 5

For me, there is one overarching truth that runs through all of our life experiences, and it has existed from the moment of creation to this very instant; that is, all of this world, the earth, the heavens, the animals, the plants, and certainly all of the people were brought into existence and were carefully designed by the singular creative being who is the Lord, God Almighty. Therefore, the Lord cares greatly about everyone and about everything; He desires that we all experience a quality of life that satisfies the soul and that brings us closer to Him, for God’s greatest wish is that all people would come to know Him truly and that we would all desire to become agents for restoration of His Creation.

From God’s vantage point it is good to “Be Green”; it is worthy to care about the environment and to seek after its improvement, for as we do that, we are doing a work of righteous restoration. Yet, it is even more righteous, holy, and just to seek the same kind of healing for the hearts and the minds of other people. For you see, God cares about plants, rocks, and fresh water, but He is passionate about people. To the Lord, it is both appropriate and natural to care about the environment and people. All of the natural universe was given by God as a gift to his children; thus, everything was designed for our benefit, and we have been given responsibility to care for all of it in the same loving manner that God cares for us.

For me the caution in all of this is to keep a clear perspective on priorities, for God is the Creator of all, and He needs to be the One who defines my attitudes and my efforts regarding the environment and the people in my life. Then, I should keep in mind the fact that the Lord set people at the center of His Creative effort. He enjoys the beauty of the earth, and I believe that He finds pleasure in such things as the silly antics of puppies and otters, but the Lord’s true delight is found in our responses to His love and in our longing to be close to Him. It is in this relationship with God that people find their true spirit, vitality, and life; thus, the greenest place on our planet is found in close relationship with the Lord.

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By God all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth.

Colossians 1: 16

 

This is a very simple statement that says a great deal; for, when you consider it, Paul is saying that God’s hand is in literally everything that has ever existed or that ever will come into being in each and every environment and dimension of existence. That is a truly sweeping and all-inclusive thought. All of it, in absolutely all corners of this world and beyond, and the entirety of the physical and the spiritual realms are the result of God’s creative touch.

 

What this means to me is that there is nothing that I might encounter in life that God does not want me to take an interest in and that He will not go into with me for the sake of His glory. The Lord is disturbed, saddened, and anguished at the sin-ravaged and fallen state of His creation. He set up a plan for its management and for its restoration, and we are at the center of both of those aspects of God’s plan. Christ is the focal point, the center piece, and the agent who effects the plan for restoration; so, when we come into a relationship with Jesus, we add the role of restoration agent to our previously given one of manager. Prior to the intrusion of sin into our relationship with God, He had given us the responsibility for managing all of the earth (Gen 1:26); now, through Christ, we have the ability to bring the cleansing light of God’s loving grace into every corner of the world.

 

God has a plan for the final restoration and for the total glorification of this world and all that is in it, and only He knows the timing and the exact details for the execution of that plan. Until then, the Lord has handed over to His followers the responsibility for seeking to bring the truth of His redemption to all of the people on this earth and into every aspect of life in it; that is, He directs each of us to live every day in a manner that seeks for the opportunity to make a difference in the hearts and the minds of people. God wants us to engage with our families, communities, and our world in ways that reclaims them from the darkness of sin. Everyone and everything on this earth belongs to God, and He wants all of it to know the healing touch of His love. We are His agents, and our mission is to do the touching.

 

Are not five sparrows sold two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Luke 12: 6

 

The details matter. Just ask an airplane pilot or a surgeon, and they will confirm this fact. The details of life matter to God, too. Some of these details are formed out of attitudes and from intentions; while others are defined by the way that people live out their days in pursuit of God or in attempted escape from Him. Still, without regard to what we do, where we go, or even what masters we serve, God knows it all and Christ seeks to enter into every aspect of each day of our existence with us. You see, the point that Jesus was making when He brought up sparrows was that they were truly the poor person’s sacrifice. They were so cheap as to be completely disposable; yet, to God, their Creator, each of those throw away birds was known and considered as a valuable part of this world’s beauty and balance of nature. They all had a purpose in God’s plan for this world.

 

So, if that was true about humble birds, how much more so does this same Creator God care about and fully comprehend each of the people that He has set out in this same world? We matter to God; so, we matter to Jesus Christ. God’s intent and desire for us is to be in close relationship with us; thus, Christ comes into our lives in order to redeem us from the separation of sin and to restore us to the glory of God that is our greatest and truest potential. We can fight against God’s intent and His desire. In fact, to various degrees most people do struggle with and against God for parts of our lives and throughout all of our days to some extent. However, these times of departure, rebellion, and disaffection with our Lord are futile. Those sparrows have more power to set their own direction and destiny than we do, for in the end, we all face the reality of our lives as our days on this earth end, and we go before Christ as the purveyor of truth and final justice.

 

There is no escaping this day of reckoning, and we should not be living in fear of it, either. God’s desire is that He would be greatly pleased to welcome each person on this earth home into His eternal presence. Jesus literally poured out His blood in order to buy each of us that outcome to the life that we have been given by God. This is a good day and this hour is the perfect time to consider my life in light of God’s view of those precious sparrows. Although the world may have viewed them as throw aways with no real usefulness or value, God sees the unique design and infinite depth of quality in every feather on their bodies. So, it is with each of us. God sees us as vitally important to Him, and He grants to each of us the talents, skills, and gifts that we will need in order to follow His will and to live out our days in service to our Godly calling. Our lives are filled with those details that matter so greatly to our Lord, and He will not overlook or forget anything that truly matters as we live out lives of service to Him.

Take my yoke upon you. And learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11: 29

 

This world seems like a complicated place to dwell. There are many rules to be followed and also many paths or directions that one can seemingly travel along in order to find truth and validity in life. With so many differing views on what it means to live in a right manner, it is difficult to sort through it all and to come to conclusions regarding which voices to listen to and what guidance to seek out for the journey. Yet, Jesus seems to be saying that it is all much simpler than that. What He is really stating here is that there are actually only two paths to take for the entirety of travel through life in this world. We either accept the path that Jesus is offering or we take its alternative.

 

Although there may seem to be numerous trailheads set out for us to consider as there are an almost uncountable number of approaches to spirituality and to faith out there in our day, these trails do ultimately converge into just the two of them. One starts with diversity and its trail map is devised and set out by people in order to establish a route that is pleasing to its creators and that frequently benefits them in various personal ways. The other begins with Jesus the Christ and leads directly into the redemptive grace, love, and righteous truth of God the Creator. This is a path that was set out by God at great cost with Christ’s humble sacrifice as its point of entry so that those who journey along it would gain everything that actually matters both in this life and into eternity.

 

Thus, the necessary burden of the travel through life is carried by Christ and the strength that we require to withstand the trials of the road is also provided by Him. Christ does ask us to accept Him and to allow His gospel of truth to be our guidance in all aspects of life. However, Christ also promises that His way is simple, direct, and gracious. It will not be easy in that it runs in opposition to the powerful current of the world’s stream of thought. Yet, as in all things, Christ is with us in the hardship and the trials, and God’s Word provides encouragement and direction for each and every aspect of our journey. Christ calls to each of us to put down our striving after the burdensome and diversionary ways of this world, to set aside the many other yoks that we tend to hitch ourselves up to, and accept His yolk of love, truth, and redemption as we set out on the journey that God is calling us to take today.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one.

1 Corinthians 8: 4

 

As we start out today, I am making an assumption, and that is that very few of us are concerned about the consumption of foodstuffs that were previously used as sacrifices to various types and forms of gods or in other religious practices. This was a real issue in Paul’s world, and it is simply not as obviously pervasive in ours as it was in his. Yet, the fact that idols exist is something that I think is important for us to consider in our culture and in our lives, and almost in contrast to the approach that Paul took toward the sacrificial foods, I think that the way that we feed our idols and the idolatrous foods that we consume are important to consider.

 

We live in an age of consumption. It often seems that the primary fuel that feeds our world is made up of the goods and the services that we can purchase and utilize for the sake of personal enjoyment, pleasure, and self-worth appeasement. These things that take on great importance to us are not very different from the idols that were so prevalent in Paul’s times, for they too demand our attention, bring us to a place of worship for their sake, and engage our passion as disciples to their cause and of their personage. We can each look introspectively at our lives and into our hearts in order to determine where this sort of over zealous commitment to things of this world might be found. They can be relatively minor in their impact upon living for Christ, and they can be powerfully consuming and devastating to the same purpose and calling.

 

Regardless of the depth of commitment to the idol or of the amount of personal resource it demands from us, everything that ascends to this level of ownership over us is something that drives its wedge of distraction and distance between Christ and us. Anything that takes us away from our ability to focus on the Lord’s calling and commission for our lives or that places itself above Christ in priority for us, even if this is only momentary in duration, is an idol, and it will demand that we feed it out of the precious resource that is our love, devotion, and submission to righteousness. Fortunately Paul also gives us an answer to this universal challenge. He points us toward the one singular truth that changes everything in the fact that there is only one real God. All of these other things are false and are made by our hands out of the raw materials that God, Himself, created for us. So, everything in life that takes us away from serving Christ with the fullest possible expression of our heart and the complete engagement of our passions can and should be placed behind Christ so that all of our being is dedicated without distraction or diversion to service to our God.

 

Your hands have made and fashioned me;

give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

Psalm 119: 73

 

I have heard it said that the Bible is God’s guidebook to life. I have said that, too. Well, that just isn’t true. I wish that it were that simple, but there is no singular source to access to gain clarity and direction for all that comes our way in this world; at least there is none that is found outside of the more challenging realm of relationship. We need to know the One who made us in order to gain that sort of life-giving wisdom. Every person who has ever lived or who is to come in the future is different. We are the unique and wondrous handwork of the Creator God; so, no singular set of directions is perfectly matched to each of us.

 

God intentionally designed it to be this way. He does not want us to be able to go to a source that is outside of Himself in order to live in a righteous and a loving manner. God did not design life this way in order to control or to dominate us. It is my belief that the Lord established the nature and the order of this world in this manner because He desires to be in close and intimate relationships with each and every person on the earth. He already knows us to a degree and at a level that is beyond what we could ever apprehend about ourselves. Yet, God does not rest easily with just knowledge, for He delights in interaction and engagement with us.

 

So, where does this understanding that the Psalmist desires come from? Psalm 119 is written in celebration of the gift of God’s written word; so, in fact, the Bible is an important source of this understanding. Yet, it is not the singular one. If it provided all of the answers for life on its own, it would be too easy to just become a scholar of the text and not be a disciple of the author of that text. We know God through Jesus Christ as we accept His sacrifice and yield ourselves to His Lordship over our lives. Then the Holy Spirit enters us and speaks love and truth to our hearts and minds in the framework of intimate relationship. This same Spirit of Christ takes those written words of the Bible and transforms them into the living text that takes us deeply into a life-giving relationship with our Creator. So, in relationship with the three persons of God, we do gain this desired eternal understanding.

He stretches out the north over the void

and hangs the earth on nothing.

Job 26: 7

 

Sometimes people seem to get the idea that God is dependant upon others. We believe that our actions will cause or motivate a specific response from God or that He is waiting for us to show our hand before He takes His next step of engagement with our world. This type of thinking makes people very important, and it diminishes God’s true position as regards us and the rest of creation. There is nothing that happens in any corner of the universe that God does not know about long before it was set in motion. We can not even form a thought about which the Lord has not already contemplated its generational impact.

 

Job has come to the place where he sees his own powerlessness before God. There is nothing that he can control and no aspect of God’s character or will that Job can manipulate. Yet, he is good with this. Job’s soul is a peace with his understanding of God’s sovereignty, might, and control. From his heart out to his mind Job knows that he can trust God’s goodness and righteousness with everything in his life and in the world around him. This is the God who created our entire universe out of absolutely nothing. This is the Lord of all creation whose very breath brings life and whose own blood brings eternal relationship.

 

As we stand before the same sky as Job observed and view the growing light of dawn or the expanding darkness of twilight, we are surrounded by the work of God’s hand. The platform for our feet was placed here and is held in that place by God’s touch. The light of our day and the stars in the night sky are the design and the provision of the Creator. As God attends to the minutest detail in the universe, so much more does He enter into caring for the people who are the pinnacle of that creation. The Lord covers our days of living in the chaos and turmoil of this world with the presence of Heaven. Christ provides the strength and the wisdom to us so that we can walk upright and righteously through all of our days.