Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In the beginning

Today is a very important day in Burundi.  Today is election day in Burundi.  Today is a day that has caused much fear and anxiety, as well as much strife and violence for the people of Burundi.  Although no one doubts that the current president will win this election, what people fear is what this will trigger over the next few days and weeks.  The blog below is one I wrote five years ago, to begin my series called the "History of Redemption".  As I re-read this, I can't help but consider how drastically different life would be in Burundi today if people understood and believed these words, that "In the beginning, God created ...".  If we really understood the implications of these words, we would all be led to a posture of humility and gratefulness, with hearts of surrender to God.  There would be no war, no fighting.  There would be peace.  Today, as we who love Burundi are praying for peace, we would ask those of you who pray, to pray with us, for peace.

Blog post for Genesis 1:1-2

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

How often do I meditate on God as creator of heaven and earth?  How often do I ponder the enormous implications of these first words of scripture?  How often do I tremble beneath the weight of this truth, that every heartbeat, every breath, every step is only because God created the heavens and the earth?  How often do I thank God for creating man in His own image?  How often do I worship God and give glory to Him because He is the creator of ALL things?

We live in a society that tells us that maybe God exists, but He certainly did not create the heavens and the earth.  Yet here we have these words, in this book, which has proven trustworthy and true time and time again telling us that this is a lie.  I am reminded of Paul’s words to us in Romans, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” - Romans 1: 21-23.  How often do I mourn for lost and broken sinners whose hearts are darkened?  How often do I mourn for our society that does not recognize God as creator of the heavens and the earth?  How often am I jealous for God to receive the honor He deserves?

How often am I anxious because I have forgotten that God who created all things is sovereign over all He created?  He is sovereign over Seattle and He is sovereign over Sudan, and He is sovereign over everything in between because He created the heavens and the earth.  How often do I forget that God sits enthroned as king forever?

These first words in Genesis spoken to us BY GOD (see 2 Timothy 3:16) tell us volumes about the attributes of God.  He is sovereign, He is omnipresent, He is eternal, He is mighty, He is light, He is spirit, He is creative!  How often do I meditate on the attributes of God?  How often do I think about the creativity I see expressed in art and music and literature and recognize those gifts as a dim reflection of that awesome creativity of God who created ALL things? 

In the beginning ... God.  Not, in the beginning .... me.  What a wonderful reminder that this is His story, not mine.  God is the author, God is the producer, God is the hero.  Yes, we are invited into this story, but let us never forget that it is His story.  Let my reading of scripture always be through that lens.  This is God’s story.

And how quickly I forget that this same Spirit of God which in the beginning was hovering over the face of the waters, now lives and moves inside me?  This living Spirit was poured out into each of us who has believed in Jesus Christ.  This mysterious Spirit of God is the very essence of the Christian life, quickening our affections for Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and guiding and instructing us day by day.  And this same Spirit was there, at the very beginning of all creation!

Today, I sit at this computer and write these words because “In the beginning God created”.  You woke up this morning and got out of bed because “In the beginning God created”.  We go to our jobs, and care for our children, and dream and plan and laugh and cry because “In the beginning God created”.  The breath you just took which sustains you even now, you took because “In the beginning God created”.  

These are weighty words, because without them, nothing would follow. Nothing.  Ponder these words daily, “In the beginning”, meditate on them, worship God the creator who speaks them and who fulfills them, the God who acts and who saves, the God who sits enthroned over every square inch of His creation, and as He looks upon it He declares “MINE”.  

God created the heavens and the earth.  He filled the void and gave form to the earth.  He brought light out of darkness.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  He did all this to bring glory to Himself, because He is the only one who is worthy to be glorified.  And we were created to worship Him.  Let us today humbly bow before our Creator, with much fear and trembling and awe.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

His Name Was Ronnie

We are very grateful for all those who have been reading and following our blog, and we don't want to stop blogging just because we have returned from our 9 months in Burundi.  We do plan to continue to post updates on our lives and our future plans in the coming months, but in the meantime, it feels like we should be posting something, anything.  So, what does one write about after returning to life the US after 9 months in Africa?  Perhaps one resurrects blog posts from years past!

Those of you who are not a part of our local church in Bellingham may be unaware that I used to blog quite frequently for our church.  A few years ago I did a weekly series of blog posts called The History of Redemption.   I decided that I would try to pull up a few of these and re-post them here.  But to start with, I thought I would re-post a blog I wrote which gives a bit of background and explanation as to how this blog series came to be.

His Name Was Ronnie

Although I never met Ronnie, although he was not famous, although we lived thousands of miles apart, he had a significant impact on my life and my faith, and I felt compelled to write a few words about him.  Back in 2010 I saw a video of a sermon preached by a young man from an Acts 29 church in Texas.  It was not your typical sermon, but was rather a series of 47 portions of scripture put together, memorized and recited before the church by a man named Ronnie Smith.  Something about watching this 28 minute video moved me deeply.  I saw in what Ronnie had done, something genuinely beautiful.  And when you experience something you believe to be genuinely beautiful, you cannot help but to share it with others.

And so, I committed myself to memorizing this work, which Ronnie called “The History of Redemption”.  I must have watched this video 50 or 60 times.  And I must have talked about it so much, that pastor Rob eventually asked me to write a weekly blog post on each of these 47 sections of scripture for our church.  And so, over the course of 2011, that is what I did.  I invested countless hours in reading, listening to, memorizing and writing, all catalyzed by what Ronnie had done.  He was a young man, about my age, and I knew nothing else about him, except that he was a faithful servant of Christ who was a part of a church in Texas.  

Last week, Ronnie was murdered in Benghazi, Libya.  He was living there with his wife and young son, and was working as a chemistry teacher at the international school, and he was shot dead while jogging.  I believe that God called Ronnie and his wife to move to Benghazi, one of the most violent and broken cities on this planet, because He (God) loves those people.  And Ronnie and his wife went because they had been filled with a hope that extends into eternity and they desired to share this hope with those who have no hope.  Although I never met Ronnie, and I still know very little about him, I am quite sure that he understood the very real possibility of facing death in a place such as this.  And still he went, to love and to serve the people of Libya and to love and serve his God and Savior.  Ronnie paid the ultimate price for his obedience to Christ, and I am confident that in the moments following his death, he heard the voice of God Himself gently whispering in his ear, “well done, good and faithful servant”.

Although today we are saddened and grieve the loss of Ronnie, his life was not wasted.  And today, be sure of this, that Ronnie is not sad.  

I praise God for Ronnie’s life.  His was a life lived with absolute direction and purpose for the glory of God.   And as we have brothers and sisters in our church preparing to move to the Middle East, motivated by the same love that motivated Ronnie, this is a painful reminder to me, to not only encourage them and support them and pray for their fruitfulness, but also to pray for their safety, to pray daily, to pray without ceasing.  It is also a reminder to me that ultimately our hope is not in the length of our days or what we accomplish, but in a God who can and will use our lives to bring glory to Himself.  For He can use all things for good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose.  Ronnie’s life was a testimony to his love for God, and now our prayer is that God would use his death as a catalyst for the forwarding of the Gospel and the hope to which we cling.  This is a worthy cause.  There is no greater cause.  

Below is a link to the video of Ronnie preaching “The History of Redemption”:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” - Psalm 116:15