Little Soul Vittles: The Debt You Can Never Repay

“Stop borrowing trouble!” said he to his worrying wife.

We Americans are known for living beyond our means. If we can’t afford it, we borrow. Can’t agree on a budget? Add it to the National Debt. Can’t afford tuition? Student loans! Can’t afford a nice car? Lease it! 

Our motto is no longer “In God we trust,” but “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

As a result of this and more, what we borrow more than anything else is trouble. 

This is not just about money and possessions. Last week I got a call from my boss asking me to give her another copy of my cpr card because they lost it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t carry such things in my wallet other than my driver’s license, credit card, and my trusty Family Christian reward card so I looked for hours to no avail. I went to bed that night and tossed and turned wondering if I would ever find it or where it might be or if I would have to take another class or if I might lose my job or if I would ever sleep again. I was borrowing trouble. 

Have you ever come up with a solution when you are in such a frantic state? Me neither. And yet I continue to make myself frantic anyways about things I cannot do anything about until tomorrow.

After Jesus tells us not to worry about our needs such as food and clothing, He says something simple yet very profound.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

I know this and yet I still do it. So why do I borrow more worries from tomorrow when I have enough worries for today? Because I crave the very thing I cannot have: control. Why if I could just think of everything that could possibly go wrong tomorrow, I might be able to anticipate a solution. Everything would then be under control. But life has a funny way of rewriting our script, doesn’t it? No matter how much we try to stay ahead, anticipate, and create our own adventure, inevitably something unforeseen happens. 

So what should be done? Pray. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus tells us how to pray. And notice what He prays:

Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts,   as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:11‭-‬12

Why does He say “daily bread”? Because we are supposed to pray daily for our needs that day only, trusting He will “give us today” what we need today. We are not told to pray today for tomorrow or ask for extra today to prepare for tomorrow. 

And then, not surprisingly, He talks about debt. Not that we should accumulate debt because we are living only for today, but so we have no debt to worry about when tomorrow’s debts become today’s.

If you are a chronic worrier like me, you have already started worrying about not worrying. But don’t worry! You will have plenty to worry about tomorrow. Just pray that tomorrow’s troubles don’t trouble you today too. That would be a debt you will be able to repay.

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A Fruit of the Spirit is Generosity: You Reap How Much You Sow

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Has anyone ever called you generous? I have been called a lot of things in my day: smart, funny, funny-looking, snorky (look it up! It’s a word), rad, phat, fat, pretty fly for a white guy, ghetto, you get the idea. I have rarely been called generous. Being generous is not popular in the American culture. Oh, sure we want others to be generous with us, but when I am asked to be generous, I often give as long as it doesn’t hurt.

One woeful example of this happened as I was writing this blog. I was at Costco getting generous portions of frozen fruit and whatnot. As I stood in line, a young woman with two kids was anxiously awaiting the total. The cashier announced an amount that was not what she was hoping to hear. She picked up a large package of hotdogs and gave it to the cashier and said, “what is it now?” She did this two more times until she got it down to the total she could afford.
I froze.
Looking back on things, I would like to say I pulled out a wad of cash I had saved for just such an occasion and gave her what she needed, but the truth is I talked myself out of being generous. I had many excuses: those hotdogs aren’t healthy, those snotty-nosed kids are misbehaving and don’t deserve help and will probably give me a cold, I need this money to pay down debt, this wallet is counterbalancing my oddly-shaped head and if I take too much money out I might fall over. You know, the usual excuses.The truth is I missed out on blessing someone else because I had not prepared my heart or my head for such an opportunity of grace.

Generosity is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Given how rare it is, perhaps we could even call it an exotic fruit. Some translations call it “goodness,” because the root word means “good,” but, given the context, a better interpretation of this fruit is “generous,” which is so worded in a few Bible versions including the New Revised Standard.
Interestingly, Paul lists this fruit along with the two previous fruits in the same order in 1 Corinthians 13:4. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy.” Generosity is thus the opposite of envy, one of the deeds of the flesh. Envy “regards one with ill-will because of what he has or is.” (Fung, NICNT, p.259) It is “the grudging spirit that cannot bear to contemplate someone else’s prosperity.The envious,” said Socrates, “are pained by their friends’ successes”(Xen. Mem. 3.9.8).” (F.F. Bruce, NIGTC, p.249)

Generosity is an expression of love by giving what one has to one who does not have enough. This can be anything including money, kindness, love, possessions, food, a kidney, a kidney bean, even time when it feels like they might be interrupting your day. The key to generosity is that it doesn’t just meet a need – it goes over and above it. It “is an attitude of generous kindliness to others, which is happy to do far more than is required by mere justice.” p. 134

Paul expounds on generosity in Second Corinthians 9.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Paul is not saying we reap what we sow; that is obvious. If I throw seed on the ground, I will get whatever kind of seed back which I have sown. If an apple tree appears in my yard, someone has sown apple seeds in my yard. If a corn stalk appears, I must have dropped some of my corn on the cob.  And if candy corn begins to grow anywhere, water it with chocolate milk so it will get juicier.

Paul goes one step further. He says you reap how much you sow not just what you sow. If you want an apple, you will get back according to the amount you sow. If you plant one seed, hopefully one tree will grow as you take care of it. If you want an orchard, you have to sow everywhere. Sowing is not neatly planting a seed at a time. Just as Jesus describes in the Parable of the Sower, we should throw handfuls of seed everywhere – on good ground and bad – so God can cause it to grow. It is easier to give to loved ones and withhold from strangers, but just as God gives graciously to all though no one deserves it, we should do so as well.

I have seen this happen to others. A man’s wife became sick and he could no longer take care of his yard because he was taking care of her. Without even asking his neighbor starting mowing his lawn for free. Sure enough, that man had done the same for his neighbors when he was younger. If you think that is not a big deal, go ask your neighbor to mow your lawn for free this summer. You truly reap how much you sow.

So why is it so that we reap as much as we sow?
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8) “The sense of the verse seems to be that if men are willing to give, God will always make it possible for them to give.” (p.237, CK Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 1997.) This is not to say God will make you rich if you give to others, but God gives to you so you can give to others. So if you are worried about running out of money if you give too much, remember you cannot out-give God.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-11) God gives us seed to give to others to harvest. As with any harvest it contains seed, but we may choose to consume it and waste it or use the seed to give to others. There are no strings attached. Even if you know someone will eat your peach and throw away the pit, be generous anyway.
Seed is worthless unless it is sown. In this context, it is to be sown to others again and again. He will supply the seed if we will continue to give it freely.
“The overflowing grace of God to them overflows from them to others. It is one thing for God’s power to provide amply what is needed to his servants, but perhaps a greater outpouring of divine power is needed to impel those servants to overflow in generosity to others, as witnessed by the resistance of the Corinthians to be open-handed to others. There are few evidences of God’s power so impelling as the transformation from tightfisted meanness to open-handed generosity.” (Barnett, NICNT, p.439)

Generosity can often be exploited and Paul makes it clear we are not to merely be on the receiving end of generosity. We should give as much as we take.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

It is easy to see why there is still poverty in the world. Rather than compel the rich with laws or guilt and shame, Paul reminds us, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (9:7) Generosity is rarely spontaneous; it must be intentional. Give what you have decided in your heart to give. You don’t have to give until it hurts either. Start small and you will find your heart wanting to give more as you start to see others’ needs in a new light. You can budget for it or keep a little “seed money” in your wallet so you are ready to help. Or volunteer a few hours a week for whoever may need a hand that week. Even if you plan for it, your opportunity could still come unexpectedly. As Steven Furtick tweeted once, “sometimes the interruption is the assignment.”

FYI: As I was finishing my blog, I parked at a coffee shop to do some paperwork. A young woman walked up to my window. I rolled it down. She asked for a dollar, telling me she was homeless and needed something to eat. I gave her two. #HeAin’tThruWithMeYet

 

 

Other Fruit of the Spirit Blogs

Love is a fruit of the Spirit – not a vegetable (Galatians 5)

You Can’t Spell “Joy” Without Bacon: A Fruit of the Spirit is Joy (Galatians 5)

A Fruit of the Spirit is Peace

A Fruit of the Spirit is…Patience

A Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness

Little Soul Vittles: My, My, My

From In Pastures Green by FW Boreham:

The most vital word in the twenty-third Psalm is the fourth. The Lord is MY Shepherd. I know a young mother. She was teaching a tiny toddler the twenty-third Psalm.

“Now say this after me,” she said. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” “The Lord is your Shepherd, ” the baby lips replied. “No, no! Not your Shepherd, but my Shepherd!” “That’s what I said, Mum; the Lord is your Shepherd.” And the poor young mother had to give it up for that night, feeling crestfallen and disappointed.

I knew a padre – the Rev. J. A. Gault, O.B.E. – who did a wonderful work in France during the First World War. It was his custom, when men were going into the firing-line, to get them to repeat with him the opening clause of the Shepherd Psalm, ticking it off on the fingers of their left hands. The little finger represented the word The, the next finger Lord, the middle finger Is, the index finger My, and the thumb Shepherd. He called it his Five-finger Exercise. Every man was asked to mark the palm of his hand with indelible pencil to remind him of the text, and special stress was laid on the index finger –  my Shepherdthe finger that spoke of the personal appropriation of the shepherdly care. After the battle of Bullecourt, one of Mr. Gault’s young fellows was found, quite dead, grasping firmly with his right hand the index finger of his left.

“Don’t say your, say my! pleaded the puzzled mother. But the tiny tot did not understand.

But Mr. Gault’s young soldier understood. And, with an innumerable host of saints and heros and martyrs, he rejoiced that he had a place peculiarly his own in the heart of the Good Shepherd, and clung to that sweet faith in perfect serenity to the last. And so may you.

Little Soul Vittles: Counting Sheep

“for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm 127:2

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:24

I have had many a sleepless night so I found this to be encouraging. To my friends struggling to find rest or even just one good night of sleep, I offer this little soul vittle.

Those who suffer from insomnia should keep the 23rd Psalm on the tip of their tongue. They have learned the futility of counting sheep. It is a maddening business. To begin with, you have no idea how many sheep there are to be counted. Then, as you proceed, your mind wanders and you lose count. There is nothing for it but to start afresh. And, in your vexation, you dispel any disposition to slumber that you ever had. But visualize these Green Pastures. On a graceful knoll or hillock sits the Shepherd – the Good Shepherd – the Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. And you – you are the Sheep lying prostrate at His feet.You need say nothing; sheep don’t talk. You just nibble the blades of soft, fresh grass, rest your eyes on the spreading expanse of green, listen half-consciously to the distant drone of the stream; luxuriate in the security of the Shepherd’s strong and constant care; and – fall asleep.

FW Boreham from In Pastures Green

When God Stops Speaking: The Brilliance of the Dark Night of the Soul

“Jesus has a very special love for you, as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me that I let Him have free hand.”                 -Mother Teresa

Ever feel like you are stuck in a rut? What if you were stuck for years no matter what you did? That is what has been called the Dark Night of the Soul. It affects your emotions, your mind, and your soul. All great men and women of faith have gone through it. Jesus needed 40 days; Moses needed 40 years. Rather than try to avoid it or fight it, perhaps we should embrace the Dark Night of the Soul for what it is: God’s perfecting process to deepen our faith in Him.

The Dark Night of the Soul is difficult to define because it is a unique experience for every individual. Some describe it like a storm; some say it is like wandering and wondering in a wilderness; others say it is a deep depression. However you would describe it, the Dark Night of the Soul is a dramatic change in your spiritual condition and your relationship with God. It comes unexpectedly and usually uninvited. Sometimes it begins with a death or traumatic event; sometimes you suddenly realize you haven’t heard the voice of God in a long time and nothing you do can get God to speak again.

If it is any consolation, many great men and women of God went through similar spiritually dry experiences. Before Moses led the Israelites, he lived in the desert watching sheep for his father-in-law Jethro. “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.” (Acts 7:30) Joseph spent a lucky 13 years in a pit, a prison, and dungeon before he ascended to his position second only to the Pharaoh. (Genesis 37:2; Genesis 41:46) Before Jesus began His ministry, He also went to the desert. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” (Luke 4:1-2)

So before doing great things and beginning world-changing ministries, the Dark Night of the Soul came to prepare them for service. If you are going through it, perhaps you are being prepared to do great things for God. Jesus needed 40 days. Moses needed 40 years. How long you will need only God knows.

Before you start to think this only happens to people in the Bible, consider the words of Martin Luther and Mother Teresa. Luther began his ministry in a monastery where he struggled to find and love God.

“I tortured myself with prayer, fasting, vigils and freezing; the frost alone might have killed me… . What else did I seek by doing this but God, who was supposed to note my strict observance of the monastic order and my austere life? I constantly walked in a dream and lived in real idolatry, for I did not believe in Christ: I regarded Him only as a severe and terrible Judge portrayed as seated on a rainbow” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 24, eds. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann [St. Louis: Concordia, 2002], 62).

Martin Luther experienced this for 15 years: “When I was a monk, I wearied myself greatly for almost fifteen years with the daily sacrifice, tortured myself with fastings, vigils, prayers, and other very rigorous works. I earnestly thought to acquire righteousness by my works” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 12, 273). At times He even felt as if he “hated” God.

“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!’ Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 34, 337)

Mother Teresa experienced the Dark Night of the Soul as she began her ministry and it continued uninterrupted for the rest of her life. She wrote letters to her closest confidants, which were published in a Time magazine article and a book. Here is a portion of that article. http://time.com/4126238/mother-teresas-crisis-of-faith/

“So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them–because of the blasphemy. If there be God, please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. I am told God loves me and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?”

Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God–tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.’”

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love and now become as the most hated one–the one–You have thrown away as unwanted–unloved. I call, I cling, I want–and there is no One to answer–no One on Whom I can cling–no, No One. Alone … Where is my Faith? Even deep down right in there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. My God, how painful is this unknown pain. I have no Faith. I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart & make me suffer untold agony.

Does this all mean that if we go through a lengthy dark period, then we will become as great as Moses or Mother Teresa? That is tough to gauge, but your faith will grow as it never otherwise could.
The dark night of the soul is much like being in the womb. We do not know the gestation period. It is dark and mysterious. Our needs are met, but we don’t have any clue what we want or how to get there. So we wait. And we kick. And we scream, but only to hear our own voice. All other voices (God, our spiritual leaders, wise friends) are muffled at best and sound void of meaning or form. Darkness is our friend and our hated nemesis. We don’t know what is going on, up from down, what is beneficial or harmful, or who to trust or if anything will ever change.

But there’s the rub. If we look back, it is we who have changed. From day to day, we might not notice it just as you don’t notice a puppy’s growth each day until he seemingly suddenly is able to jump up and lick you in the nose when he could barely bite your ankles a month ago. Your faith grows just as subtly. A month ago or a year ago I might have worried more about losing my job or paying my bills or losing my health after feeling a mysterious bump on my neck and assuming it was cancer, but now I just don’t. Is it faith? Am I trusting God more? Or am I too stupid or naive to know if there is anything worth the pain of this senseless waiting.

Mother Teresa didn’t let doubt stop her. She served the untouchables and loved the unlovables in India anyway. Maybe feeling unloved by God helped her better relate to those who no one seemed to love. Maybe God’s silence helped her hear the silent prayers and cries for help of the orphans and widows in Calcutta. Martin Luther was not paralyzed by his own struggles through the Dark Night of the Soul either. Moses went on to lead the Israelites out of slavery to the promised land, Joseph saved thousands from famine, and Jesus saved the world from sin. All of the above became stronger and better equipped to do their calling because of the Dark Night of the Soul. You are called to do something no one can do too. Figuring out why it is happening to you is not as important as learning to depend on God during the tough times.

I wish I could give a simple answer. Having experienced it myself off and on for the past 15 years, I have had many more questions than answers. Well-meaning people often tell me it is a learning opportunity though what I am learning has never been made clear to me. Maybe it is not about learning anything. We may never know why. We might have to become okay with the process anyway.

“May God, then, be pleased to give me His Divine light, because this is very needful in a night that is so dark and a matter that is so difficult to describe and to expound.” – The Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross

For more on the Dark Night of the Soul

When God Stops Talking: How To Know When You Are Going Through the Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross

All Animals (And Even Some Humans!) Go to Heaven

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art credit: http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/animaljam/images/2/2e/Doggy_heaven.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20141017125605

Some content written by Melissa Balun. Much appreciation.

Growing up, my family always had pets. Dogs, cats, birds, fish, hamsters, ponies, spider monkeys – Ok, maybe not all of those. I mean, wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have a pet hamster?!
When one of them died, we lost a family member. We lost our best friend. We lost unconditional love that could never be fully replaced. That’s what animals do best: love us like we are the most important person in the world. It’s got to be one of the ways God expresses his love to us, don’t you think? No human could love us that unconditionally no matter what our faults are. They don’t care. We are perfect to them. Maybe God gives us these relationships with animals to love us a little Himself through them or let us experience that kind of truest love. I think that’s why it hurts so much when we lose them.

When I was a kid whenever a pet died someone would always ask, “Will we see her again in heaven?” It was then that I learned of “doggy heaven,” a place where dogs could run free without leashes and there would be no more fleas, no more fences, and no more mailmen who are obviously trying to get into the house through the mail slot. Ah, if only I was a dog! Doggy heaven sounds like a doggone good place to be.

Just like the stories of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the moon landing, I was skeptical. Was this just a place made up to comfort ignorant kids or will we get to see our beloved pets in heaven when we die?

Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t say much about this subject.
Many people who don’t believe in animals in heaven point to Ecclesiastes 3:19-21. “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” Many would say that this proves that people go to heaven (“rises upward”) and animals just cease to exist and go “down to the earth.” This passage doesn’t prove anything. Read the whole book! The writer is speculating, trying to find the meaning of life. He is looking for answers. He has tried everything he knows and still wonders if “all is vanity.” He asks “who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” because he doesn’t know. In other words, he is asking the same question we are; he is not answering any questions.

A more definitive answer comes in the form of a question God rhetorically asks Jonah. After God mercifully spares Nineveh from destruction, Jonah protests because they are his enemies and they deserved it. When the tree he is using to shade him from the brutally hot sun dies, Jonah complains again. God answers with a question.

“You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11
God ends the book of Jonah talking about animals. Certainly God would be concerned about 120,000 people, but God goes one more step, asking if He should also care about people’s pets and livestock! God cares for us so much that He even cares about our pets. He even cares about our enemies’ pets!

God doesn’t just care about people’s pets; he cares about the smallest animals too. Those we might consider worthless like squirrels or an Etruscan shrew or Pygmy Rabbits or sparrows God still looks out for. He cares for them their entire lives just as He cares for us. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Isaiah describes heaven in vivid detail. Given how much God cares for animals, it should come as no surprise that animals are there. “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 65: 25) Some might say that this is all a metaphor, but the context seems more practical than metaphorical. Earlier in the chapter Isaiah says there will be no more infant deaths or war or weeping in the new heaven. If the animals are metaphors, then of what is a lack of war, death, and weeping a metaphor? Isaiah goes on, talking about building houses and planting vineyards and reaping fruit rather than having someone else invade and take your houses and drink your wine. Are the houses a metaphor? What does drinking wine symbolize? Or could that too be more simply interpreted literally? When Isaiah speaks about wolves and lambs eating together rather than the wolves eating the lambs as they do now on earth, the context makes better sense literally rather than figuratively.

Where do these animals come from? If the humans are those who lived on Earth, wouldn’t it make sense that the animals would be those who lived among us as well? Romans 8:19-23. “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected 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. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Paul is talking about all of creation: animals, plants, water, everything that God created. God knows how much they mean to us and, as we have seen, God Himself cares about animals and understands our love for them. They were part of his original creation. He delighted in them and called them “good.” They were our original companions even before Adam had Eve. God brought them all to Adam so he would name each of them not to keep him busy, but because names always imply a loving relationship with the one being named just as Adam named Eve, God renamed Jacob and Abram, Jesus renamed Simon Peter, and when Jesus merely said Mary’s name and she immediately recognized Him.

When Adam sinned, His relationships with God, the woman, and even the animals were damaged. Creation was subjected to the consequences of “the curse,” which didn’t just increase the workload for men and pain in childbirth for women, but also affected snakes and the ground (“Cursed is the ground because of you” Genesis 3:17). So when Jesus comes back and the curse is lifted, the frustration and groanings that all humans and creation alike have experienced will end.

I’ve heard humans groan – like pretty much every time a politician speaks – but I have never heard creation groan. Or so I thought. But think about it. If you didn’t have a voice box, then you couldn’t groan and make the sound that we would expect to hear. But the absence of a voice box doesn’t mean that you can’t groan. Creation is groaning all the time because it longs for how things should be, but we cannot perceive it because it doesn’t have a voice.

So what does creation’s groan sound like? Every earthquake is a groan. Every hurricane is a groan. Every wildfire, mudslide, flood, tsunami, tornado, and blizzard is a manifestation of the groaning of creation over the oppression that it feels from the curse of sin and death placed upon it after Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Douglas Moo defines the groans as “frustration at the remaining moral and physical infirmities that are inevitably a part of this” life. (The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT, p.519)

Just as creation groans, so do we. We “groan inwardly” every time we get sick or a loved one dies or innocent children are molested or a miscarriage of justice occurs. We eagerly await the day when none of these things plague us anymore. And so does all of creation.

For those who are still not convinced, ask yourself this: where do all the animals, precious stones, gold, and fruit mentioned in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21 -22 come from? Will God create all new ones or will He redeem them when He officially adopts us as children of God on Judgment Day?

Both creation and humans have been groaning for the day when the curse is lifted and all are finally free; it stands to reason that all of creation will be in heaven with us. And since creation was subjected to the curse through no fault of its own, it will also benefit from the lifting of the curse when the new heaven is created.

Notice it is the WHOLE creation. Animals will not be judged as humans will be because they have no choice in the matter and do not know right from wrong. Hitler’s dog is no more evil than any other animal. As Paul said in Romans 8:20, creation has suffered the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin “not by its own choice;” in other words, animals do not have free will.

This brings up an even more important question: if all animals will be in heaven, will we be there with them? Trying to be a good person isn’t good enough according to the same Bible that we have been looking at for answers about animals in heaven. There is one who love us better than our pets. Jesus loves us unconditionally and even died for us, paving the way for our reunion with our beloved. If we trust Him and obey Him as our pets do us, we will be with Him and all of our animals forever.

Dedicated to Petey, Pierre, Frisker, Mindy, Baby, Buffy, Heidi, Ollie, Mister Kitts, and Catrina. See you in Heaven.

How To Be Human

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Just before Jesus is tempted in the wilderness,  Mark writes, “At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” Mark 1:12-13 NIV

What?!?!?!
If I was in the wilderness for 40 days Mark would probably mistake my high-pitched little girl screams of terror for howling with the wild animals. Jesus was literally “among” the wild animals, yet was unharmed and unafraid. How was He not the wolves’ newest chew toy?

“There was nothing really miraculous in Christ’s immunity from harm. The wolves did not tear Him; He told them not to do so. He was a man, just such a man as God meant all men to be. And therefore He ‘had dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ He was unscathed in the midst of the wolves, not because He was superhuman, but because He was truly human. We are something less than human, the wrecks and shadows of men. Having forfeited the authority of our humanity, the fish no longer obey us, and we have perforce to dangle for them with hooks and strings.” (FW Boreham, Mushrooms on the Moor)
Oftentimes we view Jesus as an untouchable superhuman, but the wolves were not afraid of Him – they were with Him! Instinctively they knew He was safe and would keep them safe as humans originally were supposed to do. That was Adam’s only job way back in the beginning at the Garden of Eden – to take care of the Earth and all the animals. What Jesus did in the wilderness with the wildness of the wild beasts and the chaotic darkness showed Him to be truly and fully human. He reclaimed dominion without domineering and violence. He was with the wild animals.
So does that mean we should wander out into the wilderness and expect the wolves to obey us? If you do, will you film that for me? You might want to bring some wolf repellent along with you.
We can’t hope to be God, but we can hope to reach our potential every day – one day at a time. Instead of trying to be superhuman, we can become more truly human by becoming more dependent on God for everything from our wealth, our health, and even our breath. Jesus went into that wilderness empty-handed, but filled with faith that God would provide food, protection, and all that He would need along the way.
Why do you think Jesus was constantly praying? Because He learned to be dependent on God for what He needed.
What is keeping you from being truly human? In other words, what are you dependent on instead of God? I know I have struggled and continue to struggle with just getting through the day without resorting to a Frappuccino for a pick-me-up or a tv show to numb the pain and my brain. It is all too easy for me to justify reaching for some sugary goodness or a caffinated buzz or the almighty remote to forget my troubles. Why don’t I ever reach out for God first? Because I am not fully human just yet.
Jesus laughed and cried and was moved with compassion. Those are human emotions. But rather than live in the moment and experience being human and reaching out to those who stir my emotions, I often reach for the remote to numb myself or reach for coffee to get more done. That makes me more like a machine than a human.
If we are dependent on things to just get us through the ordinary day, we will never have the strength, wisdom, and passion to do the extraordinary.
He does not give us Monthly Bread. He gives us only enough for one day so we trust Him to help us become more human thoughout the next day.