Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lenten Verses for Wednesday Night's Prayer Meeting

Our February verses have run out for our daily devotionals and our Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting discussions. We decided tonight to continue through Lent using the verses provided in Holy Redeemer's Lenten devotional booklet. Below are the verses with the dates. Please use them in your morning devotionals and be prepared to discuss them at the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. There is no verse for Sundays. We should be studying the lectionary readings on that day. We hope to see you next Wednesday, and please email me if you need directions to Brenda's house. All are invited, can come anytime, and are not obligated to make every meeting. Blessings!

1 Mark 1:12-13
2 Mark 1:14
3 Mark 1:15
5 Mark 9:2-3
6 Mark 9:4-6
7 Mark 9:7
8 Mark 9:8
9 Mark 9:9
10 Mark 9:10
12 John 2:13-14
13 John 2:15-16
14 John 2:17-18
15 John 2:19
16 John 2:20-21
17 John 2:22-25
19 John 3:14-15
20 John 3:16!
21 John 3:17
22 John 3:18
23 John 3:19
24 John 3:20-21
26 John 12:20-23
27 John 12:24
28 John 12:25
29 John 12:26
30 John 12:27-29
31 John 12:30-33
2 Mark 14:12-16
3 Mark 14:22-25
4 Mark 14:53, 65
5 Mark 14:66-68
6 Mark 15:37-39

Your Anglican Moment

"Covetousness seems the least deadly of all the Ten Commandments. Of them all, it seems the most soft-centered, the one that we can most easily live with. That is why it is so perilous. They tell us that if you drop a frog into a saucepan of hot water it will leap out. But if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and increase the temperature slowly, the frog stays there until it is boiled alive. It seems that the frog cannot see a threat in the slow, but ultimately deadly, rise in temperature. Often I wonder if that's what our society is doing to us in this whole area of desires. All around us the temperature is going up, yet we simply sit there, stunned and unprotesting, oblivious to our impending fate. Let's take this commandment to heart and not get boiled alive." - J. John

The Evangelical Local Church

John Jewel, in his second book of Homilies, claimed that evangelism has always been part of Anglicanism. To evangelize, a local church must fulfill four conditions:

1. It must understand itself. What is the church's theology? The church is God's mission, and we must be both "the church"--the holy and distinct people of God--and "in the world"--deeply involved in its suffering. Essentially, we must be holy and worldly at the same time.

2. It must be organized. We need to have structures. Our mission is to get involved in the community, to be incarnational, to make friends, and to provide a "third space" for the community

3. It must express itself. What is the church's message? The message is the gospel, but it must be placed in the current context. We must join the ancient and present worlds.

4. It must be itself. Does the local church have life? We must be morally and spiritually visible to the world. We must manifest the invisible God.


We tend to think of the first eleven chapters of Genesis as being Biblical Myth Stories, which includes Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, and the Tower of Babel: all epic stories that aren't really real. The real stuff doesn't get started until Abraham, right? That's when redemption history really begins, with the covenant between God and Abraham.

The covenant consists of four things. A relationship between God and his people, a promised land, descendants numbering the stars, and a way for God to bring all of the nations of the earth back to himself. Now THIS is quite a covenant, this is where the Bible really begins!

Well, I want to talk about another covenant, and this one is just as important as the Abrahamic covenant. This is the covenant with Noah, and as we read in Genesis 9, this covenant is not limited to people—this covenant extends to all of the creatures that were rescued in the ark. We think of the Noah story as a cute little children's story. Think of how many toys have been made!

Also, because the covenant is represented by a pretty rainbow, we don't take it seriously. On this side, we've got cute animals made by playskool, and a rainbow in the sky, and on this side, we've got the bare minimum of what the rainbow represents: God is promising never to be a big meany again and flood the earth and kill everything. What a bully. Why would he kill all those playskool animals? Because we play this down and make it into a cute toy, it clouds the seriousness of the offense that caused God to flood the earth in the first place, and it waters down the meaning of this very important covenant. This is probably the first place where we learn, as kids, that God is a big bully who slaughters babies and puppies and kittens. What a meany! And it is all couched in a “children's tale” and a toy.

God, we know, is love, and so, when we think deeply about how a loving God can flood the world, we get what Peter Kreeft calls, “Radical Surgery.” Things on earth at the time of Noah were worse than they had ever been, even worse than today. At this point, God “purified” the human race. He saved all future generations by saving Noah and his family and destroying all of the other humans. God does not do things needlessly, so this must have been necessary. Looking at the surgery metaphor: we usually look at mankind as being a functioning machine, but it really is a body, and each individual is a cell of that body. A surgeon cuts out the permanently infected cells before they corrupt the healthy cells. In this case, only eight cells are healthy, but in the end God promises that this kind of radical surgery will never again be necessary. That is the covenant.

We have modern complaints, usually from non-Christians, along the lines of, “if God is so powerful, why doesn't he just fix the problems of the world?” Well, the answer to that is the flood: this is what God fixing everything at once looks like. Do you want that to happen again? Don't ask God to make the world right overnight, you may not be here in the morning. But the flood is the only time in history where God actually “uncreated” the earth. That is what it looks like to actually undo creation. It started with the waters, and it ended with the waters. God created, he uncreated, and then he re-created.

That's what makes this covenant so special. It's not just God promising to us that he will never uncreate the earth again. It is that he will re-create the earth to its full glory. And he does, through the cross. Jesus is the instrument of re-creation. Let's look at out Epistle reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22. This is how important the covenant with Noah was. This isn't just playskool ark stuff. This is Jesus, when put to death on the cross, made alive in the spirit, descended into hell, as it says in the Apostles' Creed, and preached to the spirits in prison down there. These are all of the souls that were lost in the flood.

Peter writes, God waited patiently during the building of the Ark. The ark did take many years to build, about 100 years. During that time, God waited patiently for people to turn to him, all the while, this very prominent ark was being built, a huge vessel that could hold two each of all the earth's land-based creatures. This was a prominent symbol for all to see, and yet they did not turn to God. The waters came and everyone was washed away, except the eight members of Noah's family.

Now we have to come to over 2000 years since the cross, not just 100. We have had 2000 years to turn to God. There are many who have, but there are many who have not. Who laugh at the cross up on the hill, and they say, “that thing will never float.” We Christians are instructed to preach to those in prisons. They aren't in the land of the dead, but they are dead, even though they are alive. They are lost in the depths of the quagmire that is the culture. The re-creation has been happening for 2000 years, and it may come to completion at any time.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 24: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

This is not another uncreation. God promised that would not happen. This is the completion of the re-creation, where the earth will be renewed. Heaven and earth will be joined together. The cross is the second Ark, and it will hold everyone on earth—it's that big. We have only a limited time to get on this second Ark before the re-creation happens. The other creatures of the earth have already been redeemed. As we move closer to God this Lenten season, let us remember the flood, the covenant, and the cross as our second Ark, to which we cling, thanks to Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, so that we could be a part of the re-creaton of everything.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Remember You Are Dust...

In a few minutes, I will put ashes on your foreheads, and I will say the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” What does that mean? Well, our first thoughts are of the body. This life on this earth is temporal and will pass away. Without the teachings of Christ in our hearts, this is a very bleak philosophy, almost Buddhist: this life ends and then afterwards is nothingness.

I knew a woman who would just sit at her desk and rub off lottery scratch tickets. I questioned why she wasted so much money. She told me that life was short. When she discovered she had cancer, she locked herself in her house and never came out again until she died. She had given up. This life was all there was.

The Christian believes in everlasting life. The Christian believes in a body AND a soul. Our flesh may become dust, ashes, but our souls live on. At judgment day, we will be given new bodies that do not decay and do not go to dust.

Another, deeper meaning of these words is that the world is headed for ashes. The world is passing away, and heaven is the only thing imperishable, so investing in this world is a mistake. We will find that we have invested in nothing. Saving up our treasures in heaven allows us to invest in the thing that will not become ashes.

At judgment day the earth is restored and heaven and earth combine. In other words, shoot for the earth and you lose both heaven and earth. Shoot for heaven and you get both. Feed the flesh and you lose both flesh and soul. Feed the soul, and you get both flesh and soul in the end.

Remember, you are but dust. Also remember: you are immortal.

The Veiled Element of the Gospel

What is a veiled gospel? We immediately think of non-Christians—atheists. Poor atheists, the gospel is veiled to them, and that is true, but it runs much deeper than that. A survey was just conducted in Britain, where Anglicanism originated, and where the whole nation claims to be Anglican, so this is very relevant to our church. In the survey, most people who identify themselves as Christian turn out, when questioned on what they actually think, to be ‘overwhelmingly secular.' The conclusion seems to be that self-identified Christians are ‘not really Christian at all’.”

Well, that seems to be harsh, doesn't it? Well, we need to investigate this, because one thing that we can be sure about is that self-identification is not an accurate measure. Otherwise, there would be no hypocrites. What about a nominal Christian? And didn’t Jesus tell us that we should judge a tree by its fruit?

According to the survey, people are much more likely to consider themselves to be Christian because they were christened or baptized into the religion (72%) or because their parents were members of the religion (38%) than because of personal belief. Did you hear that? Over 70% of them do not believe in the teachings of Christianity, and yet call themselves Christian.

Here are some more stats: 60% have not read any part of the Bible for at least a year. 37% have never or almost never prayed outside a church service. 21% say they either do not really believe in the power of prayer or do not believe in it at all. Finally, 32% believe Jesus was physically resurrected. 18% do not believe in the resurrection even in a spiritual sense. Half do not think of Jesus as the Son of God.

The veiling of the gospel definitely extends into the Christian community, too. We are part of the world, too. We have to be IN the world, but it is so tempting to be part OF the world, too. Why not: there is a god of this world, isn't there? Who is that? Satan, the devil, and Paul says he is the one who has blinded the minds of the unbelievers—and unbelievers can consist of people who identify themselves as Christian—to keep them from seeing the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In that sentence Paul also reveals to us what is being veiled. There are many elements to the gospel and some of them can be believed easily by anyone, but the essential element to the gospel, the one that holds the whole house up, the cornerstone, is that Jesus is God. Without that piece of the puzzle, everything falls apart. That is why we can have people who claim to be Christians and do not believe in the resurrection. As I said above, half do not believe in Jesus as the son of God.

If you want to start a religion that looks like and sounds like Christianity but is not Christianity, just take that one thing out—that Jesus and God are one and the same. Every Christian cult on the earth has a similar omission.

Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, and in verse 10 he says to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is saying to you, 'give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” If we knew. If the world knew who Jesus was, we would be lined up asking him for the living water. The devil knows this, so this is the one element of the gospel that he veils from us, and we live in an age where nearly 50% of Christians have bought it.

Before we get too sad, here is another thing that we can learn from John 4:10. Jesus may be telling the woman at the well that her mind has been veiled, but he sure isn't going to keep it that way. Yes, the good news is that Jesus himself removes that veil. If there is one message that we need to get out to the world, it is this: Jesus is Lord. Jesus shows us how to do this: tell everyone! Jesus is Lord! It is the missing element from the gospel. Get that element back in place!

That is why the next verses in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians fit tightly with the verses before it. We have verses about how the devil is veiling the gospel from everyone, and then we have verses about not preaching ourselves but Jesus as Lord. 2 Corinthians 4:5 is probably the most important verse for a preacher, because when we preach ourselves we aid the devil in veiling the minds of the world. When we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, we are being Christ at the well, tearing down the veil from over the Samaritan woman's mind. We are revealing Christ as Lord, and we help the light shine in people's hearts. This is not just MY job, it is all of our jobs. We are like damage control, coming in after after a tragedy and cleaning up the mess. We're like the reverse of the Men in Black. Instead of holding up a little silver pen and flashing light into people's eyes and making them forget everything, we are reminding everyone that Jesus is Lord—a crucial nugget of information—just like a flash of brilliant thought. A flash of light that shines in people's hearts.

The cross is the best reminder that Jesus is Lord. It is the coming together of all the gospel—the atonement, the resurrection, everything that spells out that Jesus was Lord. Upon his death on the cross, the earth shook, and the centurion who as keeping watch over him said, “surely this was the Son of God.” The cross is our best reminder, and when crosses were everywhere on the landscape in our daily journeys, we could look at them and be reminded that Jesus was Lord. Today, the world is taking down all the crosses, so that we will forget the one thing that is so important—Jesus is Lord. The enemy is veiling the gospel from as many people as possible. The cross is the tool that we can use to rip down the veil, to become Jesus at the well, and reveal the big secret of Christ. Look at the cross, show people the cross, and proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

God Does The Healing

Have you heard the expression, can't see the forest because of the trees? Have you ever had a family trip to a beautiful place, of which there are many in America, and WOW look at that sunset! Girls, check out the sun... Stop watching the DVD player and look out the window! Close the DS game and look to your right! Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves or just the details or what we expect God to do in our lives that we miss the big picture and what God is actually doing in our lives! This is especially true when it comes to healing.

Christians and non-Christians alike have problems discerning from where healing power comes. The girl tells Namaan the prophet, but when Namaan goes to his king, the king assumes the one with power will be the king of Israel, and so Namaan is sent to the leader of the country. Historically the king has always had the connection to God, and we see that in the kings and queens of England. These are the ones who are supposed to have the direct connection with God. If we read the scriptures, though, the king rarely if ever had direct connection with God. Even David received messages from prophets like Samuel and Nathan. No, the prophet is the one who has the direct connection to God, not the king.

Not only is the connection to God misplaced but the healing power itself is misplaced. The king of Aram thinks the king of Israel has the power to heal. This miscommunication reveals how humans see each other as gods, putting ourselves before the living God. As a result we get into quarrels. How many fights have you had, where one of you says to the other, well, you're just PERFECT. I'm the one who is the complete failure. Look who is GOD ALMIGHTY. We call each other gods, and then we quarrel, because our pride shapes our beliefs about ourselves—we think we are gods.

How did Elisha hear about the incident? He wasn't standing there in the king's court. He sent word to the king to send Namaan to him. How did he hear? Perhaps God told him, but wouldn't it make sense that this quarrel was so great that it somehow became national news? Was a war between Israel and Aram about to start? This may have been a serious situation that needed defusing. And Elisha, a lowly prophet, is able to send a message to the king and calm the waters. Elisha has that much power. The king obeys him.

We are not finished with this whole theme of pride and misplaced focus on who is the true healer. Why does Elisha send a messenger to Namaan? Because even though we have moved from King to Prophet, we have not moved yet from Prophet to God. One thing that we always have to keep in mind is that God is the one who does the healing. Every time we have a healing service or we hear about someone being miraculously healed, we have to know that it was God that did it.

There is a spiritual gift of healing, but like all gifts, this is a God-given gift. He is still the one who does the healing, so that we do not get prideful and boast that we are the ones doing the healing. We laid hands on someone a few months ago, and her chronic headaches were healed. It was our human nature that pressured us to ask around for who was touching the head of the person when we laid hands on her, but all the succeeded in doing was bring the attention from God and to the person or people who were touching her. We took our focus off God. We do each have a spiritual gift or gifts, and Paul talks about them extensively, but he always puts them in context with the entire body of Christ. Let's not lose sight of the forest because we are too busy looking at the trees. The body of Christ healed those headaches. I have the gift of preaching and teaching, but I am not going to ignore someone's insight into scripture because that person has the gift of hospitality. We are all part of the body of Christ, and we look to the gifts as a whole body of gifts, not as individuals. Let's put the focus back on God.

So, Elisha sends a messenger to Namaan so that Namaan can learn that Elisha, too, is a messenger. God is the one with the power. We go to God for healing, not man: not a king, not a prophet, not any human being, only God. Namaan confirms what he was thinking: he was expecting Elisha to say some magic words and wave his hand over the spot. Washing in rivers seems insane. Aram's rivers are just as good as Israel's rivers.

The formula for healing the leprosy is simple, because it is simply a returning to God, connecting with his creation. I've said before that when we properly examine creation, study it, we find God as the author, behind the scenes, writing and rewriting life itself. When we do not properly understand creation we worship creation itself as an end. Namaan is in a particular frame of mind. He has a desire to be healed, and here is Elisha's instruction: bathe in the river Jordan the perfect number of seven times. Namaan could have bathed in the river to no result anytime, but now he is in the right frame of mind to accept God's healing power. He has been on a quest that has taken him from Kings to Prophets to a servant's message that tells him to go away from humans, to go and immerse himself in God's creation with the intent of being healed through God's creation by God himself, the creator of the universe, the author of all things, who made everything perfect, but through corruption was spoiled, and now through Jesus Christ is being re-created.

In the older days, when someone got severely ill, and the doctors were flummoxed as to what to do, they would prescribe a sea voyage so that the patient could take in the sea air and perhaps be healed that way. We've got reasons: the salt, the clear air away from pollution, the motion of the vessel on the water, being away from other people. What is wrong with another reason being the simple one: healing the person through God's creation by the very God who created the seas themselves?

God made things good—all of creation. It stands to reason that the re-creation of that same goodness would be his solution to the problem of sin. Namaan is a part of that original creation, and sin in the world had made him a leper. God's solution was to bring him back to perfection through the same creation. We, each of us, are part of God's original creation, part of his plan. Sin in the world has spoiled us in many ways: physical, emotional, spiritual. Living where we do, we have a choice of enjoying creation as an end in itself, or connecting with creation in a way that allows God to heal us.

The vehicle God used to restore creation—and therefore us—was his son, Jesus Christ. Through him all things were created, and though his death and resurrection all things are being re-created. We are a part of that re-creation if we choose to stop looking to kings and prophets for help and turn our attention to the living God.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Open Invitation to the Wesley Experiment

The Servant Council has decided to meet only once a month for church business, but we are also going to meet once a week for spiritual disciplines. Every Wednesday night at 7pm, we will meet at Brenda Pitonyak's house to continue the Wesley Experiment. Everyone is invited to join us. There is no beginning or end to the Wesley Experiment; it will be an ongoing event, so please join us when you can. Members of the servant council will not be able to make all of them, either. This is a lifestyle that we undertook in the fall of 2010, and we all grew closer because of it. We want to try to regain that closeness.

The big question that everyone has at this point is what exactly is the WesleyExperiment? What does it entail? Here it is in a nutshell, compiled from all the literature we have. Note that this may seem overwhelming, and you can follow as little or as much of these disciplines as God leads you or you can handle, but the more we accomplish, the closer to God and our neighbor we become.

By God’s help, I will not deviate from these 5 disciplines:

i. Meet once each week to pray together (this is the Wednesday meeting at Brenda's house).

ii. Give two hours time each week to God (self-surrender) which may include working on a project specifically assigned (teaching, visitation, preparation for worship—altar guild, music, bulletins, giving witness, an area assigned at “boot camp”, etc.); and/or leading someone into a relationship with Christ by sharing the Word and prayer, and inviting and bringing them to share Christian fellowship.

iii. Give God one tenth of my earnings (self-denial). Putting God first requires that, like the discipline of starting each day with God, I first give my best and surrender to God a tithe as the Word directs me… Hebrews 7; 13:8; Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42; Matt 5:19

iv. Spend 5:30-6:00 or ½ hour before my morning usually begins each morning in prayer and meditation (self-control) (The half hour is divided up below).

Let each of my prayers petition God for:
a. A sense of divine direction for my life
b. An understanding of the need of total surrender to His will
c. Strength of mind for the development of self-discipline

v. Witness for God my experience to others and…
a. Be aware of my witness and of my need of God as I pray the Lord’s Prayer daily every morning
b. Recommit to the 10 Commandments and call the attention of others to them
c. Offer a thanksgiving before every meal.
d. At my bedside (kneeling if possible) ask forgiveness, be thankful for God’s mercy and grace, remember family, friends and strangers; offer prayers before getting in bed and getting my rest

The half hour in part iv above can be divided as follows:
First 10 Minutes: after reading carefully, pray and meditate on the assigned scripture for the day (see below). Write out in less than 50 words how this passage applies to your life.

Second 10 Minutes: Write out one totally unselfish and unexpected act of kindness or generosity that you will do today. Name the person—then act during the day, vigorously and with love and compassion. Keep a written record of the reaction of the person and the effect of this act upon you personally.

Third 10 Minutes—Write out carefully how you would like to build and develop your life. Go into detail; take your time. Be thoughtful and prayerful. One well prayed out thought or sentence per day would be excellent progress.

And now, the current scripture schedule:

As our chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, the theme this month has to do with our calling and gifts along the Way.

February 1 - Romans 12:1
February 2 - I Corinthians 1: 26-29
February 3 - Ephesians 4: 7-8
February 4 - Psalm 90: 17
February 5 - Romans 11: 29
February 6 - Proverbs 18: 16
February 7 - Proverbs 29: 28
February 8 - Romans 12: 3-5
February 9 - Philemon 6
February 10 - I Corinthians 2: 11-12
February 11 - John 4: 10
February 12 - II Timothy 1: 7
February 13 - II Timothy 1: 14
February 14 - I Corinthians 13
February 15 - I Corinthians 12: 4-11
February 16 - James 1: 17
February 17 - James 1: 22-25
February 18 - Hebrews 13: 20-21
February 19 - I Corinthians 7: 21-24
February 20 - 2 Corinthians 4: 7
February 21 - 2 Corinthians 9: 8
February 22 - Psalm 89: 1-2
February 23 - Deuteronomy 14: 2
February 24 - Psalm 138: 1-3
February 25 - Isaiah 60: 1
February 26 - Ezekiel 34: 11-16
February 27 - Matthew 7: 21
February 28 - Ecclesiastes 3: 9-14
February 29 - Revelation 22: 12-13

Call me at 207-4050 if you need directions to Brenda's house. The open invitation to the Wesley Experiment starts immediately.

Ash Wednesday Service

Our Ash Wednesday service will not be at Grace Lutheran this year. We will be be having the service at Brenda Pitonyak's House at 7pm, in place of the Wesley Experiment. Please call 207-4050 for directions, and I hope to see you all there for the launching of the 40 days of Lent.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper

The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday--February 22, 2012--is Shrove Tuesday, when we have our Shrove Tuesday pancake supper. Last year, we had it at the Barrett House, but this year we will have it at Grace By-The-Sea. The members of Grace Lutheran have been invited to join us. Cathi will be providing the pancakes, and she will be contacting other members of Good Shepherd to bring syrup, sausage, and other breakfasty things. We begin serving at 6pm, but there should be an ongoing supply--pancakes are like that--if you are tardy. Hope to see everyone there!

Healing Service This Sunday

The Lectionary Readings this week are all about healing, and so I have decided that we will move our Healing Service up from the third Sunday of the month to THIS Sunday. It will be a Full Kenyan healing service, and we will have the laying on of hands. Please come to this spirit-filled service. I pray that everyone can make it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jesus + Genesis

There's a scene in the gospels where Jesus asks his disciples who people think he is. They respond that most people think that Jesus is a mere prophet, like John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah. Jesus then asks the disciples, “who do YOU think I am?” Peter responds, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Ok, we know this, we tell ourselves, but listen to what Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” We can't reach the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God on our own. The Father reveals this to us, and when we look around today and see who the current inhabitants of our planet think Jesus is, we realize that things have not changed.

In order to understand who Jesus really is, we have to read the gospels through Genesis 1. Jesus is eternally connected with the creator God, the only living God. And what the world does is it separates the two, and we end up with a false representation of both the Father and the Son.

As it says in John 1: Jesus was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. Jesus is connected to creation, he was there at the beginning, and everything we read about Jesus needs to be seen through that context.

If we strip Genesis 1 from Jesus, Jesus ends up like a crazy Buddha: someone who has some wise things to say about life, but ultimately is nuts, because he kept saying insane things about himself being God.

Or the world turns Jesus into a magician, a trickster. Someone who is deceiving everyone. When we look at our Gospel reading, and see all the things he did in that one day: healing the sick and driving out demons, if we don't connect Jesus with Genesis, we have an illusionist, or a fortune teller, or an Eastern mythicist, or someone really in touch with nature.

When Jesus retires to a deserted place to pray away from everyone, we may think that he could be off planning his next round of trickery, or he's Ralph Waldo Emerson and he's communing with nature like a hippy. Indeed there are articles as recent as in the last decade that speculate that Jesus walked on water because he knew that the Sea of Galilee was icing up at that time of year. There have been many movies made that Jesus was nothing more than a sensitive hippy who was in love with mother nature.

This is what happens when we strip Genesis away from Jesus. When we keep the two together, the healings and the driving out demons are now in the proper context. Since all things were created through Jesus, his healings are not trickery, his miracles are not magic. This is the living God restoring creation. Anything that has become corrupted, he is restoring. Nature submits to him, not the other way around. He goes off alone not to worship nature, but to reconnect to the Father beneath which all nature bows. Nature worships him.

Isaiah 40 reminds us: this is the living God, the one who created everything. We have images of a massive individual who holds the whole world in his hands. People are like grasshoppers—probably more like ants. The rulers of the earth are nothing. Remember the term “living God.” When we uses the term “true God,” which I have in the past, there is an implication that there are false gods, but they are gods nonetheless. The term “living God” is more powerful, because the implication is that the other Gods are “dead” gods—non-existent. This is the true image of the creator God that we should have in our heads, and Isaiah 40 puts that image there.

But what happens when we go the other way? What happens when we strip Jesus from Genesis, and have the powerful God of Isaiah 40 without the personal nature of Jesus Christ attached? We get an aloof, old man in the sky. Have you heard that before. Unbelievers think we see God as an old man in the sky, looking down on us, just watching, not interfering, maybe taking a tally of our good and bad deeds from afar. You usually see this in comedy, like comic strips or stand-up comedians.

The goofy vision of an old man with a white beard in the sky is what unbelievers see and laugh about. What about believers? With believers, Genesis without Jesus gets you deism, a God that is so powerful that he doesn't have time to care. The Muslim idea of God is like this—Inshah Allah: the will of God. Whatever he arbitrarily decides is so. Even the Jewish version of God is like this, because theirs is a Father without a Son, and a Father without a Son is not a Father at all. Even the Greek and Roman Gods, along with the Hindu Gods, are powerful without the compassion, so they are mischievous and rude but not personal.

A few verses after Peter professed the true nature of Christ—that he was the Son of the living God—the transfiguration happens, when Jesus is transformed and he begins talking across time and space to Moses and Elijah. Peter suggests that they build three tabernacles for the three “gods.” Peter disconnected Jesus from Genesis and the result was becoming temporarily a pagan, wishing to begin a pantheon. It wasn't that he took the power away from Jesus, but he took the personality away from God. When we take away God's personality, we get detached from the living God, and we begin to worship any sort of human vision of what God is, and the world does not get God right.

And like I said before, these aren't Gods. There is only one living God, and that means that these others are dead, non-existent. Only the Jewish God Yahweh as a Father with a Son named Jesus Christ, in a relationship with each other, make a living God possible. Only a powerful God, like we read about in Isaiah 40, and a compassionate and personal God, like we read about in Mark 1, is the only possible living God. All other visions of God are dead.

Only a powerful but merciful God could love the world so much that he gave his only begotten son on our behalf, to die in our places, so that we would not perish but have everlasting life, everlasting life in the presence of that same, living God, who restores creation, healing everything, because that was how he envisioned it and implemented it and rejoiced in it from the beginning.