Christ

Creation Stories


Genesis 1:1-5 (NLT)


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.

Genesis 2:4-9 (NLT)

This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.

When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


“In the beginning.” These are, of course, the opening words of the Great Story we celebrate in our lives, the story in which we participate whenever we gather for worship.

It is the Great Story, the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, that explains who God is, why God matters, and how God relates to his creation, particularly people. We discover that people are central to the Great Story, too—in fact, we matter so much, we are loved so much, that God does some very strange things to maintain the relationship.

Ultimately in the Great Story, there is God in flesh, and a cross, and resurrection. But today, we’re going to re-introduce ourselves to the creation stories, those first two chapters of the Holy Bible that set the tone for everything to come.

Being Biblical

I am going to be as biblical as I can be today; by that, I mean I am going to let the story as it is told shape what I say as much as possible. (God help me, and God forgive me where I fail in this area.) Traditionally, one of the great things about being Methodist is that we let the Bible guide us, trusting that it is God’s inspired word, communicating truths that transcend cultural biases.

That does not mean you will hear what some call a fundamentalist or literalist presentation of the creation stories’ highlights from me. As I understand those explanations of the creation stories, they at times can contradict the purposes of Genesis 1 and 2. Fundamentalists and literalists have been known to take lyrical tellings of who God is and how God relates to humans and reduce them to strange science, missing their larger points.

Ultimately, I want to get to the deeper truths being communicated at the opening of this sacred, wonderful Great Story. For there are great truths, the kind of truths around which we should build our lives. When I say I believe Scripture is true, I’m talking about a mystical kind of truth that underpins and holds together the very cosmos.

The Stories

There are two creation stories before us in Genesis. Most scholars agree the first one runs from Genesis 1:1 through the first statement in Genesis 2:4, where we hear the concluding statement, “This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.” The second story then begins, “When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens …”.

There are, of course, similarities between the two stories. In both cases, we detect the presence of the Holy Spirit, one of three biblical manifestations or persons of God. In the first creation story, God’s Spirit hovers over a dark, watery, formless earth. In the second story, the Spirit is present as God’s breath, entering the human formed from the ground to create life.

There also are significant textual differences between the two stories, including the name used for the Creator. In the first account, God is, in Hebrew, simply ʼElohim, while in the second account we see “Lord God,” YHWH ʼElohim, the addition being the “I Am Who I Am” secret name of God revealed to Moses in the story found in Exodus 3.

The basic purpose of the first creation story seems pretty clear. We see God standing outside all things. God is complete. God is not dependent in any way on creation. Why does God create? It would appear that creativity simply is a key part of God’s character. As God sees things are “good,” he experiences the satisfaction a human writer, painter or sculptor might feel.

We also see how creation is made to be responsive to God. Pay careful attention to the shift in language at Genesis 1:11-12. With God’s power, the land begins to participate in the process of creation, sprouting and producing seed-bearing plants which then beget more life.

The pattern is repeated as animals are created. God gets everything rolling and creation joyfully imitates. Ultimately, humans are made in God’s image, ruling in miniature on behalf of the one who made all things.

I carry this truth away: I am just one of billions of humans who have existed, but I am important. You are important. As responsive bearers of God-given life, made in his image, we have so much potential! Treasure the life you’ve been given.

Yes, the story goes on in chapter 3, and sin introduces horrible encumbrances to weigh us down. But remember that potential, and remember the powerful truth that Christ came to redeem us from sin. Through Christ, we are re-created, restored to that potential.

Deep Love

The second creation story accomplishes another important task. It is, in a way, God’s valentine to us, as he says, “See how much I love you?”

Here, the Lord God is much more personal and relatable, shaping the first human from sod and blowing life into his nostrils. He then carves out a special place in creation, a holy garden where the man can learn pleasurable, fulfilling work alongside his creator. He also is called to learn joyous obedience by following one simple rule: Don’t eat from that tree.

There is to be no sadness or sense of isolation in this place called Eden. We see this as the Lord God fashions animals, and then finally a woman, for the man. We are left with a picture of perfection, man and woman together, relating to one another and God in idyllic peace.

Again, sin mars the picture as the Great Story progresses. But thanks to the work of Christ, we can look at one another, and look to God, and say, “We are loved!” And never forget that the Great Story, the whole story of the Bible, returns us to this Paradise, this perfection of relationships.

It is all true. These stories are not science or history as modern people understand these two fields of study, but these stories are true.

Let these creation stories lead you into the eternal story lived with God.

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The Motherly Christ

Luke 13:31-35

I love Scripture that takes our traditional views and turns them upside down. Good guy Pharisees, God as mother, stuff like that.

Jesus was headed for Jerusalem—in Luke, his final destination always seems clear—and some Pharisees stopped him to warn him not to go there. The king wants you dead, they said.

Jesus spent so much time chastising the Pharisees that we forget there were good men among this religious group, some who wanted to follow him, if only in secret. In fact, the Jews have a collection of wisdom writings known as the Talmud, and in these writings there are descriptions of seven types of Pharisees, one positive, six negative.

The negative ones had nicknames. In one way or another, Jesus went after every type in his discourses, much to the delight of his audiences. And frankly, they may call themselves Christians and not Pharisees, but it is not hard to find these same types among our churches today:

  • The Shoulder Pharisees. These men wore their good deeds “on their shoulders” to be seen by others.
  • The Wait-a-little Pharisees. They always found a good excuse to put off a good deed until tomorrow.
  • The Bruised or Bleeding Pharisees. No rabbi (a scholarly Jewish teacher) was supposed to be seen talking to a woman on the street. Some would not even look at a woman, closing their eyes and consequently slamming into walls, doors, trees, or whatever else was in the path. They thought their wounds were evidence of extraordinary piety.
  • The Hump-backed Pharisees. They cringed and pretended to be humble, but were generally faking it. Who knew you could take pride in humility?
  • The Ever-Reckoning Pharisees. They were always adding up their good deeds as if keeping a balance sheet for God.
  • The Timid or Fearing Pharisees. They were terrified of the wrath of God. The poet Robert Burns once wrote of people not helped but haunted by their religion, and these men would fall into that category of believer.

And finally, there were the God-loving Pharisees, who tried to live like their ancestor Abraham, exhibiting faith and charity. Nicodemus in the Gospel of John comes to mind, drawn to Jesus (if only at night) and eventually helping with Jesus’ burial. Some of these good Pharisees must have been the ones who wanted to warn Jesus.

Jesus would not be dissuaded from continuing, though. I would condense his answer to, “Watch me work.” And yet, a tone of despair—motherly despair—crept in. Jerusalem was the child gone bad, the one the Christ so desperately wanted to protect, covering and sheltering the city’s people from what was to come. (We can never forget the destruction to come four decades later, destruction Jesus foresaw.)

Normally, we use masculine language for God, and divinity clearly resided in the male form of Jesus. We use such language with good reason. One of the great metaphors running through Scripture is that of the husband God pursuing the unfaithful, undeserving bride, humanity. It’s a metaphor worth preserving in our use of language.

God is not exclusively male, however. We are reminded that what is best in both men and women—particularly, our ability to love—exists fully and perfectly in God. Yes, God is capable of providing everything our imperfect fathers cannot, but God equally can mother us more perfectly than any woman. There are numerous examples of God as mother in the Old Testament, too.

That motherly instinct seems to have been shining through in Jesus as he looked toward Jerusalem, a place in which he clearly delighted. He was not a city boy, but he loved the city and all it represented. It was, after all, the center of God’s promises to the Jewish people, its temple more of a home to Jesus than anyplace he had lived. And yet, he knew the city and its residents would bring about his death.

Unable to protect the recalcitrant city in the great plan that was unfolding, he instead used that coming death to spread his arms out on the cross and shelter us all, making eternal life possible. If we choose to stay under Christ’s protection, death cannot truly swoop in and take us—eternal life is ours.

The Advent Attitude

Isaiah 64:1-9

We all have our wants.

It is, of course, that time of year when all sorts of wants are emphasized. As I was working on this sermon, my e-mail inbox alert flashed repeatedly with ads from various companies that have fulfilled my wants before. It’s the Christmas shopping season, they were asking me. What do you want?

I have had wants all my life, many of them fulfilled during Christmases past. My mind goes to G.I. Joe and his helicopter. It was big enough for Joe to actually sit in the cockpit, the rotor spinning for as long as my thumb could keep pushing the heavy black button on the frame.

There also was the glittery purple bicycle with the banana seat (I was a child of the ’70s), which I eventually outgrew just as the tires were becoming bald. Later, there was the sled and my first rifle, both of which I still possess.

As the retailers furiously fan the flames of our wanting the next few weeks, they also will tell us how we need to be fulfilling the wants of others. Is everyone covered? Is our shopping done? Did we buy enough? Don’t worry, there will be plenty of places open late on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas shopping season is like a big, glittery sleigh wreck. We cannot avert our eyes despite it being so spiritually draining.

I offer you a solution today. Stop thinking of this time as the Christmas shopping season. Call it what the church calls it: Advent.

The season will still be about wants, but the Advent attitude reshapes our wants, perhaps making us a little more holy in the process. Not holier-than-thou, mind you; just a little more aligned with God’s will.

Advent recognizes the two great wants in history. First was the desire for a savior, for Messiah, the one who could reconnect us to God.

Once we get past Genesis 3, the story of sin’s disastrous effects, the Old Testament basically is about people struggling to recover what they had lost, intimacy with God, and God trying to call them back through the darkness. Our Isaiah text today is just one of many Old Testament passages expressing that deep desire to again know God.

Thank God Messiah came! He came as a baby, so strange, and he died for our sins, again, so strange. But there’s the resurrection—resurrection! It is the root of the second great want in history. Jesus Christ is coming back. All things will be set right, and our greatest desire is that his return happen soon.

In this Advent season, keep that great truth before you, followers of Christ. We are a people living in a state of anticipation. That state of mind will make the commercialism of December tolerable and the approach of the coming holy Christmas season a joy.

It’s okay to revel in the joy of the season. It’s okay to give gifts. Just let that anticipation of Christ’s return shape everything you do. Remember, we give gifts as a reminder of the great gift we were given the first Christmas, Christ among us, the gift resulting in eternal life.

A quick example of quality gift-giving: Last year I received the best present I’ve ever gotten. It topped G.I. Joe and his helicopter, the purple bicycle, everything. It was this:

IMG_20141130_171303158

My wife gave it to me. Inside this pretty little box were all sorts of tiny notes in her handwriting—funny quotes, Bible verses, love notes.

It cost her very little in terms of paper and ink. And yet she gave me so much. When I pull out a note, good days become glorious, or dark days are suddenly much brighter.

It was a boxful of love and joy. As you go about your shopping for Christmas, remember Christ is the source of all love and joy. Perhaps you’ll discover a way to give someone a taste of what is to come when Christ stands before us in full.

Overconfident

Philippians 3:4b-11 (NRSV)

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Philippi:

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.


 

The Apostle Paul was not a man clinging to religion for solace or validation after failing to find such comfort elsewhere. By human measures, Paul was a success long before he believed in Jesus Christ as Savior.

He was born to the right people, in the right kind of family. He had both a solid trade, and he also was a scholar. In the Jewish world where religion and politics were one and the same, he was a rising star, a great future ahead of him.

But having been confronted by the power and reality of Christ, Paul threw his resume and the benefits he had accrued away, calling them all “rubbish.” Such is the life-altering experience that can occur when we truly understand who Christ is.

This message should resonate in profound ways―perhaps even disconcerting ways―in a congregation like ours. We are a people who are, on average, better educated than most. We are a people who are, on average, better off financially than most. Many of us have track records of success.

That means we also are a people susceptible to the same trap that ensnared Paul until God whacked him with the heavenly equivalent of a Louisville Slugger. If you’re among the people here today who are thinking, “Hey, the preacher’s not talking to me―I’ve never felt like a success,” then consider yourself blessed, perhaps for the first time. As Christ told us, the meek shall inherit the earth.

“What trap?” the rest of you may be asking yourselves. It’s simple: the trap of self-reliance, of overconfidence. We are a people constantly in danger of believing that because we were smart enough to figure a few things out, we have figured everything out, including God.

Not so, Paul tells us. There is something new to learn. We worship a God who has turned the world upside through Jesus Christ, a God who places the last first, who gives hope to the hopeless, who transforms slaves into rulers in the kingdom of heaven.

The only way the strangeness of God can be grasped is if we first let go of the idea that we have everything figured out. No undergraduate or even graduate degree can save us. Faith is the only way to salvation.

I suppose the one comfort for the targets of this text is God clearly needs Christians with backgrounds like Paul, strategic thinkers with successful records. God did go to great lengths to make Paul his own. I wonder why?

Well, first of all, because God loves everyone, including the self-reliant and even the self-absorbed. He draws us all toward a relationship with him.

There’s a close second, I think: In this time in-between the cross and the final, general resurrection, the church still has to navigate a broken world. Jesus said his followers would have to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

For now, there’s a need for strategic thinkers, for planners, for people who can match wits with evil. Paul stood and fought brilliantly, enduring great harm to his body.

There is just an equal need, it seems, for those who do such work to do it with great humility, understanding that God’s wisdom, not our own, must be our guide. This is why we pray for guidance. This is why we submit to what we find revealed in Scripture, even when what we find troubles us.

Worldly success is fleeting. We are fragile creatures; wisdom and cunning can vanish with one blow to the head. We use our gifts, our talents and our blessings while we can in God’s service, but humble faith is what will sustain us for eternity.

Saying It, Living It, Part 2

Matthew 16:21-28

“Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus said to Peter. Ouch.

Last week, we heard how Jesus declared Peter to be the rock, the foundation for the church that will exist for all time. That blessing was rooted in Peter’s declaration that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

How quickly the mighty can fall. To go back to a lesson we first learn in kindergarten, actions speak louder than words.

In defense of Peter, he was navigating uncharted theological waters. He was right to declare Jesus the Messiah, the Christ. His problem was that he had not fully grasped the role Christ plays in the universe. Like most Jews, Peter had reduced the expected Messiah to a warrior king, a recycled David who would form his army, take back Israel for the Jews and establish a physical, righteous kingdom for all the world to emulate.

It was a big, exciting concept, but it wasn’t big enough to capture the role Jesus came to play.

Matthew tells us that Jesus began speaking plainly, telling his disciples how his ministry would actually play out. Ultimately, he told them, he would suffer at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders of the day, be killed, and then be raised from the dead.

Peter responded like a tactful public relations manager. He didn’t confront the boss in front of others; he pulled Jesus aside to provide a little counsel. When he told Jesus, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you,” Peter was focusing on the torture and death part of Jesus’ prediction—none of that seemed to fit the clear path to victory he was envisioning. How could the masses get behind a warrior king who planned to lose?

And in a way, Peter was right, at least from a human perspective. The masses abandoned Jesus once the beatings began. In Matthew, only a handful of women followers are recorded as witnessing the crucifixion.

God’s plan was not dependent on human understanding or support, however. The last part of Jesus’ prediction, that he would rise again on the third day, came true, marking the great turning point in history. The inevitability of death ended on the first Easter Sunday. Christ’s resurrection made clear that death’s power was gone, replaced by eternal life through Jesus Christ. It is the core truth of Christianity sustaining us today.

We should also remember that Jesus didn’t call Peter “Satan” just to rebuke or insult the disciple. The phrase “Get behind me, Satan!” is there to remind us of an earlier story found in Matthew 4. There, the devil tempted Jesus to abandon God’s master plan and define his ministry in terms of worldly success.

As Peter argued there must be another way, a way fit for a warrior king, he reminded Jesus of his duel with the devil, and the very real temptation that went along with it. Peter was inadvertently tempting Jesus again. Jesus knew with his divine mind he needed to go to the cross for our sakes, but his very human side also clearly did not want to suffer. Midway through Matthew 26, Jesus’ prayer just before he was arrested makes clear his reluctance to suffer and die: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

After upbraiding Peter, Jesus went on to tell his disciples about the cost of following the Messiah, knowing they would face similar difficult choices themselves as leaders of the church. It’s a lesson for all of us. We could have our own bitter cup of death to drink; certainly, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing such choices now. We all have our own crosses to take up. By that, Jesus meant we have to take up his cause and give up whatever causes or desires we may have that conflict.

In choosing Christ, there could be some sort of human glory, I suppose, but glory, riches, fame or other worldly goodies should not be counted on or even sought. There are preachers becoming rich by telling their followers that faith automatically begets worldly success. They are wrong, and they need to listen to Jesus’ teachings more closely.

The only glory we are promised—the reward for drinking from that cup, taking up that cross—is, of course, eternal life. The concept sounds vague and distant to us now, but on our deathbeds and beyond, nothing in this life will compare.

Saying It, Living It, Part 1

When I was in journalism school, the instructors taught that good reporting on a story required answering the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.

I figured the five W’s could help us expand on today’s Bible passage, Matthew 16:13-20. In doing so, I pray we’ll better understand the full importance of what happened on this particular day in Jesus’ ministry.

The story revolves around the “who” questions Jesus asked, but I’m going to begin with the where. The backdrop for the story is enlightening. We’re told Jesus and his disciples went to the district of Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea_philippi_1886In other words, they left the very Jewish world where they had been teaching and ministering to escape for awhile into the Gentile world, where it was far less likely they would be recognized. Caesarea Philippi was named such in part because it was the home of a temple dedicated to the deification of the Roman emperor, the caesar, who expected his subjects to see him as lord over all things. As Jesus had his conversation with his disciples, it’s likely they saw this gleaming white tribute to human hubris.

The district also was the home of multiple pagan shrines, serving these Jews as clear symbols of humanity’s desire to follow something other than the One True God.

It was in that setting that Jesus began to ask his “who” questions. First, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples’ answers were quite flattering, the highest and holiest descriptions Jews would apply to a mere human being. They reported the people placed Jesus among the great prophets, the ones seen in one way or another as declarers of the Messiah, the one who would save Israel from oppression.

In followup, Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” No pause is indicated, but I’ve never been able to read this passage without imagining one. Peter’s response seems too bold to have tumbled out one beat after the question.

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Peter said. That’s a lot of “who” to attribute to anyone. Peter was saying Jesus was fully aligned with God, more important and more powerful than any caesar or anything else that had ever or would ever presume to take on the role of God.

In doing so, Peter also caused a “what” to come into existence for the first time. The foundation of the church was laid. Jesus was being clever when he played on the name of the disciple before him, calling him what is recorded as “Petros” in the Greek text. Almost certainly, they stood there speaking Aramaic, their native language, and Jesus actually said, “Kephas.” Either way, Peter’s name literally meant “rock,” and Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.”

As in most news stories, the “why” in this story is a particularly powerful fact. The Messiah had come not just to save Israel, but to prevail over death and build a church to participate in the process. Some older English versions of the Bible are misleading, translating Matthew 16:18 as saying about the church, “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”

The Greek word translated incorrectly as “Hell” is Hades, and that word shouldn’t be confused with our modern understanding of Hell as a place of torment for nonbelievers. Both the Jews and the Greeks of Jesus’ day thought of the afterlife as having one common abode, a sort of waiting place until the time of the general resurrection and judgment. Jesus was saying he was going to do something so incredible that he would break the power of death.

That incredible something, of course, was his crucifixion. Death took Jesus, briefly, but Death had to release God’s Holy One on the third day, unable to contain what had given the very universe life.

As for the when—well, in some ways, the answer is eternal. Jesus always was and always will be. The universal church of believers always will be, even after we reach the time when death and evil are fully destroyed before our eyes and nothing remains but blissful worship and celebration.

The answer to when also is “now,” however. Who do you say Jesus is? Every moment is an opportunity for you to affirm for the first time, or again, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Next week, we’ll focus on what it means to live out that creed moment by moment.

 

Wholly Thine

Usually when we talk about Old Testament sacrifices, we end up exploring how they are precursors to Jesus’ death on the cross. His is the ultimate, all-atoning sacrifice, covering sins for all time.

The kind of sacrifice we see described in Leviticus 1:1-9, what we sometimes call “the whole burnt offering,” takes us there, but in a roundabout way. Like the other sacrifices described in Leviticus, it is an ancient practice, a Bronze Age ritual filled with blood and fire. The only similar experience we might have today involves smell—at some point in the process, that bull on the altar must have given off an aroma like steaks on a grill.

The point of the whole burnt offering still resonates today, though. For the one making the offering, it was an act of deep commitment.

Note again what was required to make this offering: an unblemished bull, what today would be a prize winner at the county fair. (People also could bring a male sheep or goat, or if they were poor, a bird. We’re going to focus on the bull today, however.) Such a well-formed beast usually represented years of careful breeding, hard work and what we might call a little luck.

The bull was valuable, not just for what it represented on the hoof, but more for what it represented in offspring for years to come. Bred with the right cows, it could make its owner and his family comfortable, well-off or even wealthy. With such a bull roaming his fields, a man might feel a little more secure in his future.

Instead of leaving it to do what bulls do, however, the owner chose instead to take this prize bull and have it turned into ashes and smoke. Unlike the other types of offerings, there was not the opportunity for the owner or even the priests to consume any of the meat. The priests were entitled to the skin only.

When the time came, the owner would stand before the bull and lay his hands upon the animal’s head. There must have been a sobering moment when the owner could feel the life in the animal, its pulsing, its twitching, perhaps its nervousness at the strangeness of the surroundings. Then, if the ritual were performed as it was typically done throughout history, the owner would slaughter the animal himself, cutting its windpipe and esophagus quickly and deeply with a very large, sharp knife.

Blood would have flown, of course, with the priests catching it and flinging it against the altar. The bull, so alive in one moment, would have buckled and fallen before the owner who had fed it and tended it with such care. It would then be cut up and burned according to the prescriptive details we find in Leviticus.

Certainly, it was an act of atonement, but the whole burnt offering was different from the sin offerings in one particular way. It was far less about blood and much more about establishing a right relationship with God. Or think of it this way: It was less about what a person had done and more about how a person intended to live.

First, if you haven’t picked up on it by now, the bull was intended as a gift to God. It was turned to smoke as much as possible because that is how Bronze Age Israelites perceived offerings going to God, by way of smoke, up into the heavens. A gift was a formal expression of a desire for solidarity, or even friendship.

Second, it was an act of dependency. The one making the offering was saying, “God, I need you more than I need this bull. God, I trust you more than I trust in my own ability as a breeder,” or whatever other occupation might make a person well-off enough to own such an animal.

And despite the seeming primitiveness of the whole burnt offering, we should be able to connect with what was happening in the heart of the worshiper when such a sacrifice occurred.

In fact, it is easier for us to reach that place where we no longer stand in cringing fear of God because of sin. God has made it easier. We simply claim Christ as our own, and the claim sin has on us vanishes. Through Christ, the path to a loving relationship with God has been made clear and simple.

What remains for us is a response to the gift of eternal life we’ve been given. What kind of gifts do we give to the one who has done so much for us already? How do we acknowledge our dependency?

Perhaps we need to determine what our bull in the field is. What might we have bred and grown for our own security, and how might we release that to God, demonstrating our trust in him?

For each person, the answer will be different. The question is well worth considering, however, particularly when so much ministry in the world is needed.