The Promise of Peace


The Promise of Peace

Genesis 1-2:4a

Six Days of Creation and the Sabbath1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Final Greetings and Benediction

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

The Promise of Peace creates a sense of paradox for us. We yearn for peace that goes beyond mere tranquility into true harmony. Yet our experience shows a certain futility in finding it in this life. When we Cannot find it, we try to make by imposing justice and order around us. This experience, at best, typically ends the same as the story of the woman caught in adultery. Everyone drops their rocks and goes home. The older, more experienced folks go first. We just cannot stand to be held accountable to the same standards we want everyone else to follow. Even those Type 1 personality types who obsess over rules have a shadow side whose motivation is to understand and control the rules in order to escape being ruled over themselves.

God created our world to work in peace and harmony. It’s original state was not the one of separation and self-destruction we know today. Even those three short lines describing all of humanity, male and female, united together in God’s image seems like an impossible dream. Is paradise forever lost to us? We yearn for peace and harmony, yet cannot find and cannot make it. It would be a cruel joke of life to be left here. So where is our hope? Our hope is found in God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The truth is, peace does occur. Harmony happens… and every time it does, it is a miracle. Whether we are the musicians playing our part, the conductor communicating between the players, or the composers silently and invisibly plotting the details, it is the Spirit of God, responding to our invitation and mutual submission that weaves it all together. The path to peace is by recognizing our own part in it and playing it with integrity, in connection with those around us. It goes beyond base appeasement and compromise toward the edification (or building up) of the community and the individuals within it2. In short, the motivation of true peace is to join with the Holy Spirit and each other, to lift everyone closer to God, to the best of our ability.

Where do you see peace today?

How is the Holy Spirit prompting you to contribute to peace?

  1. (Gen 2:4b—9; Job 38:4–11; Jn 1:1–5)
  2. as opposed to only the community, as in utilitarianism

The Promise of Help


The Promise of Help

Job 38:22-38

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,

or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

which I have reserved for the time of trouble,

for the day of battle and war?

What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,

or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain,

and a way for the thunderbolt,

to bring rain on a land where no one lives,

on the desert, which is empty of human life,

to satisfy the waste and desolate land,

and to make the ground put forth grass?

Has the rain a father,

or who has begotten the drops of dew?

From whose womb did the ice come forth,

and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?

The waters become hard like stone,

and the face of the deep is frozen.

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,

or loose the cords of Orion?

Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,

or can you guide the Bear with its children?

Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?

Can you establish their rule on the earth?

Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,

so that a flood of waters may cover you?

Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go

and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,

or given understanding to the mind?

Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?

Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

when the dust runs into a mass

and the clods cling together?

John 14:15-17

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

The Gospels tell two stories of spiritual warfare between the disciples and evil spirits that I believe should be considered together to show us the power of God in us. The first story is in Luke 10 where Jesus sends out 72 disciples to preach, pray, heal, and cast out evil spirits in His name. They return exhilarated by the experience, ready to take on the world. Jesus gently reminds them that He saw Satan himself cast out of heaven, but that was not a thing to be excited about. What was more important was that they got to enter Heaven themselves.

The second story is from Luke 9 (conveniently). In this story, just before the 72 disciples are sent out, the main 12 disciples fail to dispel an evil spirit that causes seizures in a young boy. Obviously, the disciples thought they had the power to do this, but they were wrong. Some might argue that this was because the event happened before Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. However, Luke, the author did not think so since they are casting out demons and performing miracles just one chapter later. Where then do we get answer for what changed in between Chapter 9 and Chapter 10? In the middle.

Luke 9:46-50

True Greatness1

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”

Another Exorcist2

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Two more stories depicting greatness and power. One word to describe them both: Help. Children are great in the kingdom because they ask for help. They do not fall under the delusion of power and invincibility until those teenage hormones begin to kick in. In God’s kingdom, His people ask for help, and they receive it. The disciples questioned help from an outside source (Imagine what they would think of 60 more exorcists to join the work in Chapter 10!). Jesus did not question it. He, like the little children accepted and rejoiced in it. Even He was not too good to ask for help as He prayed that God would raise up more disciples. Here God answered that prayer.

God blasted Job with rhetorical questions about His power and Job’s weakness, not to humiliate him, but to remind him that help was there for the asking. One thing I notice in Job’s story is a (perhaps) feigned sense of modesty i- accepting his losses without complaint. While refusing to complain may be taking a more noble road, it is still more prideful than being truly humble and asking for help. Prior to the disaster, Job was trying to maintain success and prosperity by his own work. He would ask for forgiveness, but not help. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel that the Holy Spirit’s job is to be our Advocate – on- Helper. He is our power. Not just the source of our power… the Holy Spirit is our power. Whatever comes our way, we have someone we can ask for help.

What do you need help with today?

How are you allowing God’s Spirit to help you?

  1. (Mt 18:1–5; Mk 9:33–37)
  2. (Mk 9:38–41)

The Promise of Suffering


The Promise of Suffering

Job 38:12-21

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,

and caused the dawn to know its place,

so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,

and the wicked be shaken out of it?

It is changed like clay under the seal,

and it is dyed like a garment.

Light is withheld from the wicked,

and their uplifted arm is broken.

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea,

or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been revealed to you,

or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?

Declare, if you know all this.

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light,

and where is the place of darkness,

that you may take it to its territory

and that you may discern the paths to its home?

Surely you know, for you were born then,

and the number of your days is great!

1 Timothy 1:11-14

For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Job knew the pain and anguish of a world going to war against him unjustly. He was not punished for wrongdoing. He was assaulted for his faithfulness. His life is a case study about the folly of trusting in our own power and goodness, and the perspective that “only the good die young”.

As it appears in scripture, I believe Job, like much of the wisdom Literature of the Bible, has less to offer in terms of establishing specific beliefs and more to offer as counterpoint and corrective. Job takes the foundational theology of Genesis 1 and shows us very graphically and personally why it matters that God commands the universe. In Job, the God Who created the universe turns to man and asks, “so what can you do?”. If Genesis is awe inspiring, Job is humbling.

Job also has a subtle theme about the persecution that rises up around goodness. The perspective Billy Joel writes about is an old, old thought talked about in private by old men and women who have stood face-to-face with death and discovered there are worse things in this world. It is a perspective of grief. Of course, we do not discuss it as a “perspective”. We call it a fact. We treat it as a law of the universe when we are grieving… but the true law of the universe is this: Everyone suffers. The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful, and the Terrible. Everyone. Generally our attempts to avoid suffering only land us in hotter water later.

Paul understood suffering intimately as well. Large parts of several of his letters 1 were devoted to encouraging suffering friends and detailing the peace he was able to find in the midst of suffering. In fact, suffering was a very specific part of Paul’s calling.

Acts 9:10-16

“Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”” (emphasis mine)

One more promise that God has already kept and continues to keep for us is that we will suffer. We will hurt. We will experience loss. It is not a promise we ask for, but it is a promise that changes us profoundly. Yet this is a promise that has a partner. While God does not promise to take away our suffering in this life, He does not make us go through it alone. He goes through it with us and He sends our brothers and sisters alongside us. Indeed one of the reflections of God’s most important commandments is to provide this reminder of presence and to create a means to redeem suffering.

How are you suffering?

Who suffers with you?

  1. For example, see Philippians

The Promise of Sovereignty


The Promise of Sovereignty

Psalm 8

Divine Majesty and Human Dignity

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouths of babes and infants

you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under their feet,

all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

1 Timothy 1: 8-12

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

Sovereignty is a scary word. It’s packed with too much implication an innuendo of submission and domination. In our lives today, with honor absent, we just do not have a good picture of what sovereignty can look like. For most of us, the closest picture we have is this:

Not a pretty picture. Little wonder why entire denominations of the church strategically avoid using the word “sovereign”.

I have no intention of bringing the popularity of the word back in our cultures. I am slightly interested in the scare tactic of imagining life on our own though. Strangely enough, the long string of movies that focused on surviving natural disasters back in the ‘90’s was rerouted into a focus on man-made disasters after September 11th, 2001. Ironically, the only one (as my best guess) of these movies that portrays God as being in control is the movie Noah, portraying the world’s first “natural” disaster. Apparently, we have been struggling with the idea of God being in control ever since then. What happens if God is not in control? Disaster – or at least every disaster movie attests so, save the one, and here the exception explicitly proves the rule.

Why is it always disaster? Because the one thing we are certain of from the day we are born until the day we die is: we are not in control. Furthermore, our attempts to take control seem to always bring harm. We don’t know enough, we aren’t strong enough, and we just aren’t good enough even to clean up our own messes most of the time.

Thankfully, God is all of those things, and while it may not be as self-evident as our lack of control, Scripture attests with the witness of history that God is indeed in control. Too many times we could have destroyed ourselves and did not. The poor and weak continue to survive and often thrive i-spite of our desires to keep them out of sight and out of mind. Places of persecution continue to be places of growth, and in spite of a deficit of material evidence or visible, recorded evidence of God Himself, there are believers on every continent in the world some 2,000 years after Jesus left for Heaven. When we, as believers, see what God does with the control He has, it only makes us love Him more. God is, has always been, and always will be sovereign, and because He is we have hope.

What do you need to quit pretending you have control over today?

What do you need to let God have control over today?

The Promise of Teamwork


The Promise of Teamwork

Numbers 11:24-30

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

John 7:37-39

Rivers of Living Water

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. “

Sometimes teamwork feels like a burden and a hassle. There are so many tasks that just seem simpler doing them myself. Less communication. Potentially less criticism of the work. Beneath that there is a desire for control, which comes across in at least two different ways. First, it gives us direct input into the projects we are invested in as a form of active conntrol. This is the kind of control we typically attribute to those with ‘’control issues” (i.e. they always have to be the ones giving orders). There is another, more passive form of control though. Passive-aggressive controllers seek to condense the amount of work to the things in their immediate influence. It is the other side of the coin. Whereas active controllers jump up to do any taste that comes their way, passive controllers will neglect, discourage, or sabotage any task or ideas for tasks that they will not do themselves. The passive approach is not necessarily lazier than active control, it requires more subtlety and social stamina.

While small aspects of both forms of control are probably helpful in leadership at times, neither form is ideal. The ideal way to get work done is through teamwork (and there are more reasons for that than I can fit here). Let me give you two good reasons:

  1. Both the Old Testament and New Testament promote teamwork as a superior form of work and leadership. In fact, I would go even further and suggest that all the commands God gives us find a fundation in teamwork.
  2. To accomplish a vision bigger than ourselves we need to work with others.

Everyone has off days. Everyone gets sick. All of us deal with the reality that our lives here on earth are temporary. You see the struggle to work as a team (especially among leaders) parallel the success and adaptability of businesses all over the world. Most businesses are fortunate if they can last 40 years without closing or selling out. The number of businesses that outlive their founders is substantially less. (Perhaps we should bear that in mind when we make comments about running our churches or our governments like a business!) If something is going to grow and outlast us, we have to teach it how to do so today, not just wishfully imagine it will magically figure it all out they day we retire.

Teamwork is a gift. God could have left us on our own, fighting with each other and our own selfish natures. Instead, He gave us His Spirit which always gives us more blessing than we can hold, more work than we can do, more hope than we can use, and norejoy than we can share. The Holy Spirit makes teamwork happen whenever it pours into us… and coincidentally I believe, it only pours out in us When we are gathered into tears over the work that God has for us. It does not empower controlling people. It only comes to those who are asking for help.

How has teamwork blessed your service to God?

How has the Holy Spirit empowered your teams?

the Promise of Presence


The Promise of Presence

Ezekiel 39:21-29

Israel Restored to the Land

I will display my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt treacherously with me. So I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have displayed my holiness in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God.

Romans 8:26-27

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Closely related to their adoption as God’s people was the promise of God’s presence among them. their world had no United Nations, no NATO, they didn’t even really have local police. You either protected yourself from the world or you paid someone to do it. The outcomes of these conflicts were considered the consequence of your favor with God. He either looked upon you and smiled, or He hit His face from you because He was ashamed of you.

God hiding His face (and His presence) was a punishment. In times of crisis it was a death sentence. In our culture that embraces the belief of an omnipresent God, we don’t luke the threat of losing God’s presence seriously. We bounce between the belief that it is impossible to escape God’s presence, so why bother worrying about it, to the thought that God ‘’flees from our sinfulness”. Neither one of these is an accurate picture of God’s presence in the Old Testament.

The first example we have of losing God’s presence is the simplest and clearest:

Genesis 3:22-24

“Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”

The curse of sin is not that God flees from us, it is that we get expelled from the blessings God has given us. Israel experienced this on multiple occasions where their homes were given to foreignors and they were carted off in slavery. Losing God’s presence means getting kicked out of our home. Some theologians believe that people do not get sent to Hell so much as they get kicked out of Heaven, thus losing God’s presence in the afterlife. Others disagree and think God is very present in eternal punishment. Either way, God does not move, we do.

That is what makes God’s promise in Ezekiel so powerful. When God gives us His Spirit He is fulfilling His promise to never leave or forsake us. We need not fear getting kicked out of the Kingdom because God’s Spirit leads and guides us to come together in His presence, and where the Spirit draws us together God looks upon us and smiles and the Church is born – the Body of Christ sent to welcome new believers and usher in God’s Kingdom.

Where do you feel God’s presence?

The Promise of Adoption


The Promise of Adoption

Joel 2:18-29

God’s Response and Promise 1

Then the Lord became jealous for his land,

and had pity on his people.

In response to his people the Lord said:

I am sending you

grain, wine, and oil,

and you will be satisfied;

and I will no more make you

a mockery among the nations.

I will remove the northern army far from you,

and drive it into a parched and desolate land,

its front into the eastern sea,

and its rear into the western sea;

its stench and foul smell will rise up.

Surely he has done great things!

Do not fear, O soil;

be glad and rejoice,

for the Lord has done great things!

Do not fear, you animals of the field,

for the pastures of the wilderness are green;

the tree bears its fruit,

the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

O children of Zion, be glad

and rejoice in the Lord your God;

for he has given the early rain for your vindication,

he has poured down for you abundant rain,

the early and the later rain, as before.

The threshing floors shall be full of grain,

the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will repay you for the years

that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,

my great army, which I sent against you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,

and praise the name of the Lord your God,

who has dealt wondrously with you.

And my people shall never again be put to shame.

You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,

and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.

And my people shall never again

be put to shame.

God’s Spirit Poured Out

Then afterward

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

and your young men shall see visions.

Even on the male and female slaves,

in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Romans 8:18-24

Future Glory

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?

We have a fascination with honor and shame in the United States today. The Eastern Hemisphere continues to hold on to traditional values of honor and shame, although the younger generations, in part due to increased globalization, struggle against it. There are probably numerous events in our history, here in the West that brought about the fall of honor, but lately, pop culture has rekindled our interest in it. Even ten years ago, a minimum amount of honorwas expected, but the freedom from being restrained by it was celebrated. Over the years I saw reality and sit-coms blur until I could not tell which was real and which was entertainment. Today we have a desire for that honor again, but it has been gone for so long that we don’t know quite what it looks like.

I think in many ways we confuse honor with extravagance and extravaganza. If we spend lots of money making things look elaborate, is that the same as honor? No, I don’t think so. We experienced this at church last year around this time. For years, perhaps decades, our church celebrated Mother’s Day by giving out special flowers to the oldest mother, the youngest mother, and the one with the most children present (or some variation of this). Last year, no one would admit to being the oldest mother and one woman won in two different categories and really didn’t want the attention at all. A month later, we were scheduled to do the same routine for Father’s Day, with gift cards instead of flowers. We had substituted elaborate for honor. We went back to the drawing board and fused on what we could do that would truly honor our parents, as the scripture commands, and we cane up with the idea of doing as slideshow of pictures of our parents along with a meaningful song. Everyone submitted pictures. We even had some visitors from China, who were not Christians, who loved the idea ot honoring their parents, submit pictures and attend worship with us. (That is another incredible story in itself!) Everyone loved it because it was simple, but most importantly we actually showed honor to our parents, both living and deceased.

We may struggle with honor, but we know shame all too well. We try to cover shame with extravagance, which often becomes addictions, leading to more shame, and then even deeper addictions. Or, perhaps we turn our shame outward and attack others around us. Either road ends in despair and death… all because we cannot find honor.

The Old Testament Jews were less concerned with afterlife, and even less concerned with politics than we are today. They were more concerned with honor. They did not need to be the most powerful nation on earth. They just wanted to be a respected nation, treated with honor instead of a people used, abused, and scorned. their cry for salvation was a cry asking God to remove their shame and restore their honor. That is a prayer that God has answered.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross forgives our sin and removes our shame. Joel lakes this a step further though. He spoke of the day when God would pour out His Holy Spirit on all His people, thus restoring our honor by adopting us into His kingdom. We are like brides who left our groom a the altar and ran off with false lovers, but our groom has invited us into a marriage with Him again. Indeed, like the Prodigal Father, our groom never left the altar, but has been patiently waiting for us.

Paul reminds us that this honor is something that grows as our relationship grows. All of creation yearns for the restoration of honor, of being a world created by a good and holy God. It is a world where children honor their parents and caregivers. It is a world where parents honor their children, not with extravagance, but with real, honest love. It is a world where we speak the truth in love. It is a world that loves God and where we love our neighbors as ourselves, where even our enemies become better people for having been with us. The price for that world has already been paid and it is coming into existence today, one person at a time.

Where do you have shame in your life?

How is God giving you honor today?

How do you give honor to God and others in your life?

  1. (Acts 2:17)