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By Larry Rice
Nothing short of a personal revolution takes place when Jesus is the center of one’s life. For no one but Jesus Christ occupies the center of creation and salvation. In this dynamic book of Colossians Paul shows us how Jesus is not only the human embodiment of God but also the visible expression of the “fullness” of God. (Colossians 1:19; 2:9) He points out that Jesus is “all, and is in all” (Col.3:11) plus many more important facts concerning who Christ is. Discovering who Christ is though, is not enough unless we place our trust in Him. When this happens the miraculous peace of God can rule in our hearts. (Col.3:15)
“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored for you in heaven.” (Col.1:4, 5) Please go on and read Colossians 1:9-14 and describe the benefits and responsibilities that come from having Christ as the center of your life.
Frequently we fail in fulfilling God’s two greatest mandates which include being stewards of creation and participating with Him in His work of redemption. Colossians 1:13-16 declares, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.
No matter how hard we try, it is impossible to separate God’s work of creation and His work of redemption. Jesus is the unifying force in the universe. “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”(Col.1:17) Jesus is the one who frees us from “the dominion of darkness” where we are possessed by our possessions and He gives us a love for all of life. Christ’s death and resurrection was not only for the benefit of mankind but for all of creation. “For God was pleased to have all of His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”. (Col.1:19, 20) I Corinthians 4:1, 2 says, we have commissioned as believers to realize we are “servants of Christ” and those “entrusted with (stewardship) of the secret things of God”. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. Jesus is creator and reconciler, yet many who call on His name have no concern about being stewards of His creation. We cannot be stewards of the earth unless we have an emotional bond with creation. With God’s help we must learn to look deeply into each created part of life in order that we may see its hidden spiritual dimension.
George Washington Carver in a brief essay entitled “How to Search of for Truth” printed in W. J. Federer’s book shows us how to do this. He states, “in the 12th chapter of Job and the 7th & 8th verses we are urged this:
“‘But ask now the beasts and they shall teach thee: and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee. Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee’”.
“More and more as we come closer and closer in touch with nature and its teachings are we able to see the Divine and are therefore fitted to interpret correctly the various languages spoken by all forms of nature about us”.
“From the frail little mushroom, which seems to spring up in a night and perish ere the morning sun sinks to rest in the western horizon, to the giant red woods of the Pacific slope that have stood the storms for centuries and vie with the snow-capped peaks of the loftiest mountains, in their magnificence and grandeur”. “First, to me, nature, in its varied forms, is a little window through which God permits me to commune with Him, and to see much of His glory, majesty, and power by simply lifting the curtain and looking in”.
“Second, I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour and every moment of our lives, if we will only tune in and remain so”.
“Third, I am more and more convinced, as I search for truth that no ardent student of nature, can ‘Behold the lilies of the field’; or ‘Look unto the hill’, or study even the microscopic wonders of a stagnant pool of water, and honestly declare himself to be an infidel”.
“To those who have as yet not learned the secret of true happiness, which is the joy of coming into the closest relationship with the Maker and Preserver of all things: begin now to study the little things in your own backyard, going from the known to the nearest related unknown for indeed each new truth brings one nearer to God”.
I might add to what George Washington Carver has said by stating “caring for creation is an essential act of worship”. Psalm 148 shares how all of creation worships the Living God. For this reason every action which has an impact on creation must be carried out with the question, “will this act sustain or damage creation’s ability to glorify God?” After all, creation itself proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the planting of every seed in the ground and the resurrection of each plant that follows as it comes forth from that ground.
Psalm 104, beautifully describes how God orchestrates the functioning of His world with music which no symphony could ever hope to imitate. When sin invaded God’s wonderful world His love extended to the sending of His Son Jesus Christ to redeem and re-create this sin stricken world.(Col.1:20) This redemptive re-creation process involves the reclaiming of human hearts through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, the followers of Christ have a mandate to imitate God, not just spiritually but physically; to care for God’s creation, living established and firm in the hope of the gospel.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm not moved from the hope held out in the gospel”.(Col.1:21-23 NIV)
There is much we can learn about our wonderful Creator by looking closely at His creation. Creation demonstrates for us the mystery of the resurrection while the scriptures share with us how to know personally Jesus Christ who reveals to us the mystery of God.
I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds, confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.” “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”. (Col. 2:6, 7 NIV) “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”(Col.2:9, 10 NIV) “If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’re already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection. God raising you from the dead as He did Christ, when you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants of the universe of their sham authority at the cross and marched them naked through the streets”.(Col.2:12-15 The Message Bible) “They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as He nourishes us.”(Col.2:19 TMB)
The fullness of God lives in Christ. To know and understand Jesus is to know and understand God. (See also John 1:1, 14, 18; 8:19; 14:6-11 and 1 John 2:23) Remember all things were created for Jesus. Creation was not to be only for human resources. (Col.1:16) Jesus holds it all together (Col.1:17) Jesus is the Head of the church (Col.1:18) and everything else (Col.2:10). That being the case we are now given very specific instructions in Colossians 3 and 4 on how we are to live: We are to set our hearts and minds on things above and not on the things on earth. (Col.3:1-4) Put to death what belongs to the earthly nature like sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. (Col.3:5-7). Also get rid of anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying.(Col.3:8-10) As God’s chosen people be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving, filled with love.(Col.3:12-14)
Let the peace of Christ fill you as you let the Word of God live within you. Teaching and correcting one another with wisdom as you praise God with songs of gratitude. (Col.3:15, 16) “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.(Col.3:17 NIV)With Jesus as Lord, Savior and Head of our lives our relationships with others will change for the good. Wives will submit to their husbands who will love them and not be harsh with them. Children are to obey their parents and fathers are not to embitter their children. Employees must obey their employers doing their work for the glory of God. Employers are to be fair to their employees knowing that it is to God they will have to answer to. (Col. 3:18-4:1) Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful”. (Col.4:2 NIV) Let us pray for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and as we pray let us look for such opportunities. We need to faithfully pray for others including the poor and those who are in prison. (Col.4:2-18)
Remember as you pray, work to preserve creation, care, for the poor, share the gospel or anything else; “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”(Col.3:17)We must never forget that our lives are to reflect the love of Jesus, since it is Christ Himself we are representing.(Matt.5:14-16) Living and praying the name of Jesus is to live and pray empowered with the authority to act on His behalf. Peter and John are an example of this. Please read Acts 3:6-10 and describe what happened when they prayed in the name of Jesus.
When Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin and asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7) Peter filled with the Holy Spirit responds, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men (and women) by which we must be saved”.(Acts 4:10-12) Knowing that salvation and all authority of life is found in Jesus Christ we are now called to submit every area of our being to Him. “That, at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(Phil.2:10, 11) As you pray and do all through the authority of Jesus Christ, you will see Him do a mighty work beyond your greatest imagination in you and through you.
George Washington Carver whose words were cited earlier in this study was a man who sought God and who God used to create over 300 uses for the peanut, over one hundred and eighteen for the sweet potato, with over sixty for the pecan and other usage for soy bean, okra etc. William J. Federer, in his book “George Washington Carver – His Life and Faith in His Own Words” quotes these words from a speech Carver gave November 19, 1924.
“God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory. The thing I am to do and the way of doing it are revealed to me. I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless.”
Federer who also includes Carver’s statements in his book that were used earlier in this study goes on to quote a letter Carver wrote the editor of the New York Times Nov. 24, 1924;
“My dear Sir, I have read with much interest your editorial pertaining to myself in the issue of November 20th. I regret exceedingly that such a gross misunderstanding should arise as to what was meant by ‘Divine inspiration.’ Inspiration is never at variance with information; in fact, the more information one has, the greater will be the inspiration. Paul, the great scholar, says second Timothy 2:15, ‘study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth’. Again he says in Gal.1:12, ‘For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ’”.
As we reflect on these words by George Washington Carver, may I ask where is the man or woman today who will take literally the words of scripture and in the authority of Jesus Christ will begin to seek Him as they experiment in search of alternative energies to the polluting fossil fuels our world is addicted to. The one who believes that God is the source of all energy knows that there is no energy crisis. The only crisis that exists is that of faith when it comes to the people of God exercising the authority that is theirs’ in the name of Jesus Christ. Just as the sun itself, which all true believers know that God has created, showers upon us in just a few days energy that is equivalent to all the fossil fuel energy in the world. The time has come for the people of God to arise and exercise the authority of Jesus Christ who has come to set the captives free, including those dependent on the big oil companies and utility companies. Let us believe God to show us how to use clean renewable energy in order to prevent further global warning and in the name of Jesus how to create and use alternative clean energy that will be available to all to the Glory of God.
Remember whether it is the creation and use of clean renewable energy or anything else that is needed to help the hurting and homeless, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
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By Larry Rice
Job declares in Job 12:7, “… but ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you.” This verse reminds me of a prayer walk I took at 5:45 one morning. While I was earnestly praying, God spoke to my heart to be quiet and listen and learn from the birds. As I did, I heard the cry of a Bob White Quail, and the Lord reminded me how He fed the children of Israel and how He would continue to provide for New Life Evangelistic Center. Then he had me hear over and over the call of a dove. As I listened to this dove the Lord reminded me how I needed to let His peace sweep over me in every area of my life and be reconnected to the reality of the power and presence of God. Anxiety had gripped me by the throat and God was telling me I needed to surrender everything to Him and experience His peace. Philippians 4:6-7 came to mind, where we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” As I did this I started to become aware of a chorus of many different species of birds singing and praising God in their many different bird languages. As I joined my fellow birds in praise, it wasn’t very long until I found that the burdens began to lift, and I began to be free again. The reconnection to this singing was in progress. But that wasn’t all that our Risen Lord wanted to teach me that day from the birds. After all, we shouldn’t be surprised by the lessons the birds can teach us, for Jesus Himself declared, “Look at the birds of the air” (Matt. 6:26). As I continued to look and listen I saw and heard a large black bird which brought to my attention how the ravens fed Elijah at the brook in the Kerith Ravine (1 Kings 17:1-6). Our Lord wanted me to be connected to Him in every way and to rest in the fact that He is in control and will take care of every need. Each time I see a bird float so effortlessly in the air, the Holy Spirit impresses upon me the hope I have in Christ. As I experience the strength and freedom He provides, as I learn to trust in Him, this enables me to soar over every difficulty. “The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40:28-31). Such people are the ones who have discovered the joys of reconnection to God and His creation. Martin Luther, in his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, stated,
“You see, He is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the Gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men. We have as many teachers and preachers as there are little birds in the air. Their example is an embarrassment to us.… Whenever you listen to a nightingale, therefore, you are listening to an excellent preacher…. It is as if he were saying, ‘I prefer to be in the Lord’s kitchen. He has made heaven and earth, and He Himself is the cook and the host.’ Every day He feeds and nourishes innumerable little birds out of His hand.”
John Stott, in his book, The Birds Our Teachers, points out that Jesus not only Knows every species of bird but every individual bird when he says not a single sparrow falls without God’s knowledge (Matt. 10:29, Luke 12:6-7). Jesus told us to be bird watchers when he said, “Behold the fowls of the air…” (Matt 6:26). The early church fathers would point out that God reveals Himself in two books which include the book of creation and the Bible. Birds are a very important part of the book of creation, but of course the scope of such a “book” is finally far greater. The second verse of Psalm 111 declares, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” George Washington Carver, in his essay entitled “How to Search for Truth,” gives us insight into what it means to study the works of the Lord and delight in them.
“More and more, as we come closer and closer in touch with nature and its teachings are we able to see the Divine and are therefore fitted to interpret correctly the various languages spoken by all forms of nature about us. From the frail little mushroom, which seems to spring up in a night and perish ‘ere the morning sun sinks to rest in the western horizon, to the giant redwoods of the Pacific slope that have stood the storms for centuries and vie with the snow-capped peaks of the loftiest mountains, in their magnificence and grandeur. First, to me, the varied forms of nature are little windows through which God permits me to commune with Him, and to see much of His glory, majesty, and power by simply lifting the curtain and looking in. Second, I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour and every moment of our lives if we will only tune in and remain so.”
It is because of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ that we are able to tune in and look in on God’s goodness and glory. The curtain of sin has not only separated us from God but has disconnected us from our Giving, Loving God. Jesus, through his death and resurrection has made it possible to get reconnected. “For He hath rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14). Even though I know and believe this I still have a tendency to get disconnected in my thinking and actions as a result of worry. That is why Jesus uses birds and flowers that we see daily to remind us not to let worry disconnect us. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:25-34). The question each one of us must ask ourselves is, “Am I a pagan or a practical atheist at best?” If you answer no, then the question remains, what is the basis for your answer, if you spend so much time running after the things of this world and keep saying you don’t have time to read your Bible or seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness? Dr. J. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room director and chief of medical staff, wrote a book entitled, Serve God, Save the Planet. In this book he said the following,
“One of the textbook features of depression is a lack of interest in – or a fear of – the future. One gifted psychiatrist I had during training put it this way: ‘Ask patients what they see themselves doing a year, five years, or ten years in the future. If they start rattling off answers, they aren’t depressed.’ The more depressed a person becomes, the more shortsighted they are. The Twenty-Third Psalm, recorded three thousand years ago, says the Lord restores our soul by leading us to streams and pastures. In the 147th and 148th Psalms, we are taught that the Lord will heal our broken hearts; He calls each star by its name; He makes the rain fall and hears the cry of a hungry blackbird. He sends the snow, and frost, and cold, and wind. Beasts of the field praise Him, as do the sun, moon, fish, timber, and fruit trees. God has created cattle, insects, and robins to praise His name. ‘He hath also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which shall not pass away’ (Psalm 148:5-6). For three thousand years, believers understood that the world was created and sustained by God. This truth was known to Maltbie D. Babcock when he wrote the beautiful song, ‘This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears / All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.’ We increasingly live in a man-made world, and that world is making us ill. When the Psalmist advises us to heal spiritually, they do not tell us to purchase a television, car, house, self-help book, or exercise equipment. God, they say, is to be found in the natural world that He created, a world filled with the grandeur, beauty, and peace that are so often lacking in our material world…. You are God-made. We have forgotten that we have far more in common with a honeybee than we do with our SUV or DVD….. Perhaps many of our problems, including those of depression and anxiety, are warning signals that we are living a lifestyle that God does not sanction or want us to lead. The response of mental pain and discomfort should be to seek a restoring connection with God.”
Jesus came to set us free from a materialistic world and reconnect us with God from whom sin had disconnected us. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ” (Col. 2:9-10). “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15-17). Jesus holds all things together in our “Father’s world” – including you and me, the birds, animals, flowers, etc., in his great tapestry of love. The Message Bible translation of Colossians 2:2-3 expresses it this way, “I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds, confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.” Being woven into the tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God, is possible only through the redemptive work of Christ. Such a work is absolutely essential because sin has not only separated us from the rest of creation, but from the Creator Himself. “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjects it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:18-22). This liberation from the bondage of decay caused through sin is possible because of “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life and is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). It is Jesus the Redeemer who reconnects us to God the Creator and Holy Spirit, life’s sustainer. “For, since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Creation awakens us to the reality of God while Jesus takes away our sin and reconnects us to God. The reconnection between God and creation, humanity and God, and creation and humanity, is illustrated in the Trinity. Jürgen Moltmann, in his work God in Creation, states it this way: “In the free, overflowing rapture of His love the eternal God goes out of Himself and makes a creation, a reality, which is there as He is there, and yet is different from Himself. Through the Son, God creates, reconciles and redeems His creation. In the power of the Spirit, God is Himself present in His creation – present in His reconciliation and His redemption of that creation. The overflowing love from which everything comes that is from God, is also the implicit ground for God’s readiness to endure the contradictions of the beings He has created. And here too is already the source of His will towards reconciliation and the redemption of the world through the suffering patience of His hope. The Son, the eternal counterpart within God Himself, becomes the Wisdom, the pattern through which creation is made. The Son in whom the world is created becomes flesh, and Himself enters into the world in order to redeem it. He suffers the self-destruction of creation in order through His sufferings to heal it…. God the Spirit is also the Spirit of the universe, its total cohesion, its structure, its information, its energy. The spirit of the universe is the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and shines forth in the Son.” Through the power of the Holy Trinity we are awakened to God through the Spirit’s work in the creation theology of life all around us, and through God the Son, Jesus Christ, through whom, as fully God and fully man, we are given the redemptive theology necessary for us to be reconnected to God Himself. One more time we need to return to the birds and let them teach us what it is to migrate home. From the birds we are reminded of the need to repent which means to turn around and fly back into the presence of the Living God. Jesus Christ, by dying for our sins, makes it possible for us to be reconnected as we turn from the sin that has disconnected us from the source of life and experience the salvation of reconnection provided through Christ, both now and for all eternity. What a great God we serve, and what a wonderful opportunity He has provide for each of us to really live, and be connected to all that is truly good and great which is celebrated in the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touches of each day.
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