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Celebrating Earth Dei

 

Celebrating Earth Dei

In February 1990, while passing through the outer limits of our solar system, the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back from where it had come and took a famous snapshot that became known as the “Pale Blue Dot”. Earth appeared in the darkness of space as a single pixel situated in a beam of sunlight reflecting off the camera’s lens. This photo, in which our planet appears so small and distant, could alter our perception, causing us to mistakenly doubt the significance of something so miniscule. 

Commenting on the Pale Blue Dot, the atheistic astronomer Carl Sagan hopelessly said, “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” Sagan’s quote illustrates the reality of Romans 1:25 that people have exchanged the truth of God’s Word for a lie. Earthly wisdom disregards God and entices us to believe that our only chance of salvation is through our own efforts. The lie takes root and leads us down a path of disbelief as we defiantly rebel against our Creator. We worship creation instead of the God who created us. We try, in vain, to save the world believing that we alone can help ourselves. 

In comparison, we can imagine the psalmist viewing this photo and asking, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). We find the answer in the following verses of Psalm 8, as the psalmist praises God that He is indeed mindful of humankind and has given us dominion over His creation. Furthermore, Scripture tells us we were made in the imago Dei and are able to know our Creator and be known by Him. Instead of despairing over our position in the universe, we can be encouraged that God deeply cares for His creation and interacts with us personally. 

From the perspective of Voyager 1, Earth appeared as a small, seemingly inconsequential speck in the universe, but it is far from insignificant. God took care to create an abundance of lifeforms on this planet. The spectacular array of plant, fish, and animal species is mesmerizing. Scripture tells us that on the final day of creation, God made mankind and gave a special command that humans would be the dominant inhabitants. People were to multiply and spread out over the whole earth. 

It is a blessing that humans are able to interact with God’s amazing creation. We wondrously gaze at the rising and setting sun, we diligently work the soil to plant and harvest crops, and we instinctively take cover from the violent thunderstorm. The common grace that we experience through living on this planet everyday is evidence of our heavenly Father’s generosity.  

While there is much beauty on the earth there is also much sin. The effects of sin and unavoidable death mean that humans need more than just common grace. We need God’s saving grace. Without God’s help, our time on earth would be hopeless and life after death would be a life of torment, separated from Him. 

Mercifully, God intervened in our predicament. He became incarnate on Earth and dwelled with His creation. It is on this planet that He walked the dusty roads, and felt the water of the Jordan River. It is here that the soil beneath the cross was stained with His blood. And it is in this place that the heavy stone was rolled away and victory over death was confirmed. Through Jesus, God offers forgiveness and reconciliation to rebellious people. We praise our God because He now receives glory, not because of our destruction as objects of wrath, but because we are beloved sons and daughters in His family.

Interestingly, April 22nd is approaching and that is the day the world celebrates Earth Day. To mark this day in the past, you may have planted a tree or recycled a few more aluminum cans, but I believe we have much more to celebrate. We have a heavenly Father who has created a beautiful world. He created humans in His image and desires a relationship with us. In fact, he took the step of dwelling with us on our planet. He was rejected, He suffered, and was killed to provide a way for salvation and reconciliation. 

This year when we observe Earth Day, let’s not celebrate created things but rather the Creator. Believers can follow the lead of Psalm 118:24, rejoicing gladly and thanking God for another day that we’re alive on planet Earth. We can openly acknowledge God’s handiwork in creation, pushing back against the world’s faulty narrative that the earth was somehow formed without Him. Going further, we eagerly live as ambassadors of our king, representing His agenda on earth. We take to heart the instructions in Micah 6:8, fighting for justice for the oppressed and vulnerable, generously extending mercy to our enemies, and conducting our lives with humility by understanding the drastic steps our heavenly father took to secure our freedom from sin. 

In all these ways and more we can celebrate “Earth Dei” and proclaim the excellence of our Creator. By His grace, He has not left us on our own to figure out how to save our world or ourselves. We can wholeheartedly sing in agreement with Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

Stephen and his wife, Christy, along with their four boys, moved to North Carolina in 2014 and became members of Imago Dei. Team Britton is originally from Louisiana which means they love to cook Cajun food and cheer for the LSU Tigers. Stephen serves IDC as a deacon and growth group leader.

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/536/voyager-1s-pale-blue-dot/

 

Blog AdminCelebrating Earth Dei
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The Messy Beauty of Gospel Community

The Messy Beauty of Gospel Community

Over the past decade, the term “gospel community” has grown popular. But what does “gospel community” actually mean? It’s become one of those phrases that we may hear a lot or even say a lot, but do we know what it means? As we live life alongside one another in the local church, we need to grasp what the Bible tells us about how we live well with one another.

Gospel Community Defined

 

First, when we talk about being a gospel community, we mean that we are a community that is formed and sustained by the gospel. In Titus 2, Paul writes that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14 ESV). The Apostle Paul points to the gospel—the good news that Jesus gave himself to redeem and purify a people for himself. Those who respond in faith to that good news are made part of God’s people. We are literally brought into the family of Jesus Christ.

By “gospel community,” we also mean that we are a community that is centered on the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ is our focus. We look to Christ, follow Christ, and are excited about Christ. Everything we do comes back to Jesus and points to his life-changing message.

 

Why Gospel Community Matters

 

Once we understand what it is, we can understand why it matters. Why does it matter that God has brought you, Christian, into his people? Why is the church so important?

We see the answer clearly in 1 Timothy 3.

“…if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Paul describes the church as the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” God uses his church to uphold and proclaim the gospel to the world. He sets them on a mission in the world. The manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. God’s people declare to the world the glory of the Lord Jesus. Through this gospel community, God’s love is made manifest, God’s mission is accomplished, and God’s people are transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

 

 

So it matters that we are saved into this thing we call “gospel community”—the church of God—because God reveals his glory to his people and through his people.

 

How We Live as Gospel Community

 

How does God reveal his glory in and through his people? Through the ways we live with and relate to one another in this community of faith.

Perhaps one of the best pictures of this is the early church found in Acts 2.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-27)

This devotion to one another is counter-cultural. It’s a devotion to one another fueled by the gospel and a love for Jesus. Therefore, the first way we should live as a gospel community with one another is to cultivate our own love for God. Adoration leads to transformation; the way we live with one another is transformed by growing awe for the Lord.

The second way we should live as a gospel community is to love one another in both word and deed. We should actively live out the “one another’s” of Scripture. The New Testament contains around 60 “one another” commands given to Christians. For example:

  • In John 13, Jesus tells his disciples to love one another, explaining that their love will testify to the world that they are his disciples.
  • Romans 12:10 urges us to be devoted to one another in love.
  • In Galatians 5:13, Paul instructs the Galatians to serve one another in love.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 repeatedly call us to encourage or build up one another.

These “one another” commands are more than just nice ways to relate to each other. Going back to Jesus’ words in John 13, these “one another’s” are about neighbor love. They are about displaying a Kingdom ethic to one another and the world. As Christians, we have a different way of life and a different way of relating to one another in how we unite around the gospel. When we forgive one another, it points us to God’s ultimate forgiveness through Christ. When we serve one another, we are reminded of Christ who came to serve. 

The “one another’s” are also a means of neighbor-love to those who are not followers of Jesus. In John 13, Jesus explains that the way we love one another is a testimony to the world about our Savior and Lord. It is a radically different love displayed through radically ordinary means. This love on display invites the watching world to come inside, follow Jesus, and become part of his family.

For an extended list of the “one another” passages, see this page.

 

The Glory of Gospel Community

 

This is why gospel community matters. God has saved us into a family, so let us be family. May we seek to be “one another Christians” who display the love of Christ in the way that we love and serve one another as a gospel community. Not every family is perfect, and the church on this side of eternity is no different. But we have a perfect Savior who is actively working in us to transform us—together—from one degree of glory to another.

 

Trevor is originally from Oklahoma and serves on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Mid-America Christian University as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a fan of good coffee, bookstores, and superheroes. Trevor and his wife, Ashley, raise their daughters in Wake Forest.

Blog AdminThe Messy Beauty of Gospel Community
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An Unhurried Life

AN UNHURRIED LIFE

By Denise O’Donoghue

 

Jesus’ life was characterized by an unhurried style of living. Yet he accomplished much. In fact, he accomplished every task he was given by the Father, but he didn’t rush to get it all done. He lived a simple, purposeful, unhurried life. Does that describe your life or my life?

 

Do any of these words describe your day-to-day life: Busy. . . Over-committed. . . Fast-paced. . . Stressful

 

Sound familiar? And doesn’t all this perpetuate a life of worry and anxiety?

 

THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS

 

Let’s just take one quick look at a day in the life of Jesus. Matthew 9 tells the story of an important man, Jairus, asking Jesus to come to his house because his daughter was dying. As Jesus was heading to Jairus’ home, a woman from the crowd who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years touched his robe. Jesus, without rushing, immediately stops to engage the woman and heal her. “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matt. 9:22). Only then does he continue on to Jairus’ home where we learn his daughter has now died. “Don’t worry,” Jesus tells them, “She is not dead, only sleeping.” Then Jesus takes her hand and tells her to arise. 

 

How would you have responded to Jairus? “Sure, Jairus, I’ll go with you because I don’t have anything else to do.” How would you have responded to the woman? She was clearly another interruption. And even if I handled the situation well, I would be consumed with worry over what I should be doing (you know, my to-do list). I know my answer, and it’s not something to brag about.

 

What was Jesus’ secret? How did he live an unhurried life that seemed to welcome interruption (a stark contrast for most of us)?

 

The simple and powerful secret to Jesus’ unhurried life was his closeness to our heavenly Father.  

 

A VIBRANT RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR FATHER IS KEY

 

As with any relationship, there are some key ingredients that go into making it a valuable one. You must spend one-on-one time with the person in order to know them, and there must be mutual love between you and them. It was because of Jesus’ love for his Father and vice versa that he was able to accept the Father’s will for his life as his own will. Surrendered completely!

 

If you’ve ever doubted God’s love for you, let the truth of God’s Word speak to your heart: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” 1 John 4:10. And John 3:16 reiterates this.

 

So how do we fall deeply in love with God? We do this by spending one-on-one time with him just like in any relationship.

 

In reading his Word, we come to learn not only who God is, but his character and his will for our lives. His Word is where he reveals himself to us. But we must be willing to invest in the relationship. How much time do you spend each day getting to know the Father and his will for your life?

 

Jesus clearly knew the Father. In fact, Jesus tells us he came from the Father (John 8:42). Jesus’ knowledge of the Father didn’t keep him from continuing to spend intentional time with him. We consistently see Jesus prayerfully seeking the Father. From Matthew we see some key times when Jesus drew away to be alone in secret with the Father:

 

  • In grief, after the death of his cousin, John the Baptist (14:13)
  • In exhaustion, after a full day of ministry (14:23)
  • In anguish, when he cried out in to the Father in prayer before his pending arrest, death (26:39, 42, 44)

 

We know that Jesus prayed and we see in Matthew 6 that he gives instructions for where and how we are to pray—in secret (6:6) and according to the model prayer he gives in 6:9–13.

 

The secret to an unhurried (unworried) life, therefore, is a relationship with the One who has given us life, loved us unconditionally, and promises to never let us go. I certainly don’t do this perfectly, but I can tell you that my best days are the days that start with one-on-one time with my Father in my secret place.

 

 

OUR CHALLENGE

 

I want to challenge us to examine our lives. Where can we grow our relationship with the Father? Will you identify one change that you are going to make and then ask him to help you? He is faithful and will do this because he desires to spend time in secret with his beloved. 

 

Denise has served as the Director of Women’s Life and Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught graduate courses in ministry to women. Prior to serving at Southeastern, Denise was a student there and earned both her MA in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Education. Currently, she serves as Director of Counseling Development. Denise and her husband Rod have been married 46 years and have two married daughters and six grandchildren.

Blog AdminAn Unhurried Life