Genesis 6:11-12

What is a world without God like? What do we individually look like–our most secret inner thoughts and feelings, our words and behaviors–without the redeeming influence of Jesus in our life? Are we just innocents corrupted by external factors, such as poverty and the lack of a good education? If we were to restructure our society so that there is no want–and certainly we should actively work to help the least in our society live decent lives–but would we then become good, kind-hearted, selfless and generous? Is there no evil when there is no scarcity? Or are the external stressors and difficulties we face only the exacerbating factors that bring out the sin latently present inside of each and every one of us?

“Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence…everyone on earth was corrupt.” (Genesis 6:11-12)

As I grow older, I am increasingly appalled by how low the human condition can stoop when it hasn’t heard about God, or has rejected Him. The Gospel–the message of forgiveness through Christ Jesus; the words of the Bible–really is a preservative of society. What do I mean?

Without the redeeming message of God’s Word, not just some, but every people group is capable of the most abominable wickedness and depravity. But our culture in the West–Europe and North America–has long been influenced by Biblical precepts, while Christianity is just beginning to take root in other areas of the world, such as China. And although these benefits may go away over time as we continue to reject Christ’s teachings, at present we still have established generational blessings some cultures lack. Like what?

Well, mercy, for example. Discipline is good–it fosters order and the adherence to law in a society–but extreme harshness is miserable and ungodly. Deviousness, hatred, vengeance for legitimate wrongs against oneself or family, refusing to forgive, murderous thoughts and actions–all of these qualities that are foreign to a Christian culture because God abhors them are not only common in cultures without Christ, some are socially expected and even valued.

We in the West tend to take our Christian heritage for granted; increasingly it is even resented and efforts are made to eliminate any vestiges that bear witness to it at all–as if it is something to be ashamed of. Yet it is that heritage that gives us the blessings we still enjoy. We know little of the concept of vengeance because God commands, “…Vengeance is Mine; I will repay…” (Romans 12:19) We forgive when others mess up and are ourselves forgiven when we do, because God said, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) We don’t understand the discord and unrest generated in the heart by festering hatred because God says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” (I John 3:15) We live in relative safety because God say, “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13) We can trust our family, friends and neighbors because God say, “…the devious are an abomination to the Lord; but He is intimate with the upright.” (Proverbs 3:32)

God protects individuals and cultures that embrace Him; that accept His teachings and cling to them–but He removes His protection from us, individually and as a people, when we reject them. Maybe not right away, but if we are reprobate; if we continue to push Him away personally and corporately–eventually we will wake up and find that our lives are a mess and our culture is no longer good; that it is full of violence and every other evil thing our depraved sin-natures gravitate toward in the absence of a reverence for the holiness of God and the forgiveness and love Christ’s Spirit generates in our hearts and lives.

Genesis 6:11-12 describes the condition of the pre-Flood world; it was filled with violence, and it was corrupt. To be corrupted means to be ruined; to have deviated from it’s original condition. Sin had infected humankind, and everyone was doing whatever their evil human heart wanted–not unlike how many are living today. Without Jesus, we have no moral compass; although we are convinced we can, we cannot even correctly appraise what is right and what is wrong, and do whatever seems right to me–and it ends up being very wrong. God describes us as being dead in trespasses and sins. But when we accept Jesus; when we believe God–“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away…all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God forgives and accepts us, and gives us a new spirit that longs for Him and for what is good, and makes us capable of doing good!

Dear Lord God,

Save me personally, and my culture too, from the corruption of rejecting what is right and good; from pushing away from You! Amen.


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Isaiah 41:8-10

Does God care about us, and about what’s going on in our lives? When life is hard, when we hurt, when no one else seems to care or understand, when bad things are happening, when we are alone? Are we really alone, or is He always there, if only we reach out to Him?

“…I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you. Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” (Isaiah‬ ‭41:8-10‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Let’s face it–just living can be frightening. Sure, there are good moments, but way too often bad things happen, the people we rely on disappoint us, things fail to work out the way we wanted, and our stress level builds to the point that we don’t even know what to do anymore and just want to go crawl under a rock and hide.

So, where is God when it’s like this? Where is He when your life isn’t what you thought it would be, or it’s overwhelming or even genuinely disappointing? He’s there, right there next to you–or, more specifically in you if you’ve accepted Jesus–if you just stop to notice Him!

God is always there. It’s just that most of the time we’re not seeing Him, because that’s how He’s set it up. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth,” (John‬ ‭4:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Jesus said. God’s here, but He’s not part of the physical creation–He’s extraneous to it–so we don’t see Him with our eyes; we have to recognize and identify Him through His Word. That’s what Jesus meant when He told us to stay in Him, and it’s why God revealing Himself to us through Jesus and the rest of the Bible is so important–these days, it’s the only way we will ever see Him in this life!

It’s also the way we will feel His presence, and experience His love for us–by reading a Bible verse that affirms this to us. Sure, we can feel

God’s love through the love others show us, but that, at best, is an imperfect representation of the infallible, complete and perfect love God actually has for us. It is an inevitable fact of life that we will never fully experience God, His love for us, and every good thing He has planned in, through, and for us if we keep cutting ourselves off from the things He had recorded for our benefit!

Yet, I realize that because we can’t see Him–because we have to read what others wrote down or listen to it on the radio or at church –that it may sometimes seem like we’re trying to conjure Him up, that we’re trying to make ourselves believe there’s a God who cares by talking ourselves into it. But that’s not true, because of everything that actually happened–because of the fact the Bible isn’t fictional literature; because it’s a compilation of God’s revelation throughout history to us–of Him telling us He loves us and urging us to pay attention to Him.

So, do you feel God doesn’t cares about you and what’s going on in your life? Is life hard right now? Are you hurting? Are bad things happening? Are you alone?

Life may be hard; bad things may be happening; you may be hurting because no one else cares or even knows; but if you open your spiritual “eyes” and reach out to

Him, you’ll see that not only is God really right there with you in the middle of it–He cares, and understands, and will love us through it all, if only we let Him!

Dear Lord God,

Thank You that You do love me; help me feel that love! Amen.

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James 1:14-15

What is sin? How does it happen that even Christians who know (or should know) better can end up sinning? Is the temptation to do wrong a completely random and unpredictable attack, or is there a process–a sequence of events–we can be on the lookout against so we can keep from giving in when the storm hits?

“Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.” (James‬ ‭1:14-15‬ ‭CEB‬‬)

There are times when temptations really do seem to come out of no where and catch us off guard, and we end up wondering, “Where did that come from?!” But much more typically, our sin is a situation that’s been brewing in our heart for a while, that Satan manipulates. You see, there really is a process–even if we aren’t aware of it unfolding; there are certain elements that need to be present for sin to happen.

1) First of all, there needs to be something we either want or feel we are lacking in our life or have been deprived of; or we need to feel we’ve been wronged. There’s a triggering condition, in other words. For example–my husband or wife hasn’t been living up to my idea of how they should behave; I don’t have all the material wealth I think I should; someone else is getting a promotion I feel I should be getting. There are countless situations that can trigger us, that can be sources of a temptation to do wrong when mishandled.

2) The next step in the sequence is that I need to be–even if for the moment–separated from the Source of truth. Remember Eve? She didn’t have the Bible to refer to, but she could have waited to ask God about it, or even conferred with Adam, who had personally received the command. But she didn’t, and made her decision while being disconnected from the Source of truth.

Jesus said, Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John‬ ‭15:4-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“Remain in Me…apart from Me you can do nothing.” We typically use this verse to explain that we can’t do anything good of lasting value for eternity without being grounded in Jesus–without living a life of actively reading and studying the Bible, praying, going to church. That’s true, but it is also correct to understand this verse to mean that we cannot do the good of identifying and rejecting temptation, without remaining grounded in Him, either.

Why? Because it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us as He reminds us what God says, that gives us the ability and power to identify and resist the temptation to act against God’s will–to act in an unholy, rebellious way. In other words, we need to clearly know what is right–we need to be connected to the Source of truth; grounded in Jesus, the Word of God–in order to avoid what is wrong.

So, in order to sin, there needs to be 1) a triggering need, desire, situation (which all of us experience regularly in life); and 2) we need to be disconnected from the Source of truth–from active, close fellowship with Christ through reading the Bible, praying, going to church, etc. Or, to phrase it in the reverse, even if I am tempted, if I have done what Jesus tells me to do–if I’ve actively stayed grounded in Him–I will not sin. It’s that simple, and that complicated!

Simple, because there are only two steps. One of them is mostly beyond our control; it’s a given. Temptation–the triggers to sin–happen in everyone’s life, and although we can and should actively remove ourselves when we are able from situations that increase our desire to sin, we’re all going to be triggered by various temptations at times, and there’s nothing we can do to completely do away with them.

It’s the second step we need to make sure we do–and also why it’s complicated. We have to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew‬ ‭22:37‬ ‭NIV‬‬) I have to love and choose Him above every other want, desire, and need; He has to be first and foremost, most precious to me.

There’s no faking this. I can say I love Jesus; I can pretend to be a Christian in front of others; but when push comes to shove, and I’m dealing with my most raw and genuine perceived needs and desires, I’m going to choose that which I believe will most fulfill me, which I think will be best for me, which I love most–whether Jesus, or anything else.

So, how do we end up sinning? Most typically, it’s when we haven’t stayed close enough to Jesus; when He isn’t most precious to me!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me remain in You, because apart from You I can do nothing; help me love You most! Amen.

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John 8:24, 28, 58

Who is Jesus Christ? What has He done for us? What does He continue to do for us? And why is this so incredibly important?

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins…When you lift up [crucify] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me…Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (JOHN‬ ‭8:24, 28, 58‬ ‭NASB)

‬‬“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh [a human being], and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (JOHN‬ ‭1:1, 14‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

We live in an interesting time. Visual entertainment technology is so advanced that we regularly see superheroes, extraterrestrials, and other characters with powers humans do not possess, doing things humans cannot do. We see them appearing and reappearing; disintegrating into mist or dust; reanimating back to life; levitating; zapping and being zapped with various powers and other magical fictional effects. So it is understandable that when we read the Biblical accounts of the genuinely supernatural miracles Jesus Christ did to evidence His identity as God, our sensibility towards that which just doesn’t happen in the existence we inhabit has been desensitized, and we conclude it’s just one more piece of fiction.

What we need to do is pull ourselves out of our video games, movies and shows long enough to contemplate what does happen in real life–and what doesn’t–and recognize that apart from the fictionalized depictions we observe on screen, I have never seen a dead person stop being dead. I have yet to attend a funeral at which the body in the casket gets up and goes back to living. I have yet to see the person standing next to me tell a crippled man, “Get up!” and see his shriveled legs fill with the muscle strength required for him to stand up and walk like you and I do. I have yet to be in a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan in a storm, have someone tell the elements, “Stop!” and immediately find myself on the shore and the storm over. It does not happen. Not a little; not ever!

What does happen is much more basic and simple, and it is what has been true for millennia–crippled people don’t start walking because they’re told to, the blind don’t see because they get clay rubbed on their eyes, the dead stay dead.

So who is Jesus? What has He done? What does He continue to do? Why is it important?

Jesus Christ is God. The Bible calls Him the Son of God, but that’s tricky these days because we’re so used to referring to ourselves as children of God. Jesus isn’t a child of God; He is the second person of the Trinity who was born a human being to die in our place. That’s why we recognize He insisted, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” Abraham lived thousands of years earlier; I AM is how God identified Himself in the Old Testament–it is His name. Jesus was telling who He is. In case we missed it, John spells it out: “…the Word was with God…the Word was God…the Word became flesh…” Jesus isn’t a great teacher or the leader of a religious movement; He is God.

What has He done for us? He opened up heaven for us–access to God; forgiveness, acceptance; eternal life. He did this by doing away with the power of sin and paying its penalty on our behalf through His death. It wasn’t a random occurrence that He found Himself a human being; it wasn’t unfortunate that He died. It was intentional: He entered our world with a goal–the mission of dying on our behalf.

What does He continue to do for us? A lot. He forgives and accepts us when we admit we’ve sinned and turn away from our wrongdoing. He gives us a new birth in our spirit, causing us to care about the things God cares about and want to do good. He imbues us with His Spirit and empowers us to do the things He wants us to. There’s a joke going around that whatever the question, the answer is “Jesus.” It’s meant to be facetious, but Jesus really is the answer to every question and the solution to every problem, because He is the only answer that satisfies and the only solution that is effective for the only thing that matters–our response to God.

And even if our response is a non-response, He is the same–He doesn’t change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews‬ ‭13:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Paul affirms a statement of faith of the early church:

“It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him [if we reject our sin nature and trust Him], we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 TIMOTHY‬ ‭2:11-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

Lastly, why is this important? How does it affect me? Why should I bother with this? Why pull myself away from school and work and fun to make a decision?

Why? Because life is short, and accountability for our response to Him certain. He has done His part, and more–He did what needed doing and made sure we know about it. The rest–how we respond, what we do with it–is up to us, and it makes a massive difference now, and for eternity.

Dear Jesus,

Thank You that You’re the answer. Help me see that You are, and respond to You! Amen.

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Psalm 144:3-4

What is life? What is it’s purpose–why do we even exist? On the surface, examining this may seem as esoteric as the equally abstract, “What is truth?” Yet it is critical that each of us wrestle with and determine the answer to this essential question for ourselves–before we find that our life, too, has passed away like a mist.

“…what are human beings that You [God] should notice them, mere mortals that You should think about them? For they are like a breath of air; their days are like a passing shadow.” (Psalms‬ ‭144:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

We visited my ninety-three-year-old aunt yesterday. She’s actually my uncle’s widow, but as the last of the older generation on my mother’s side of the family, so many of my childhood memories are linked to her. I was happy our son was able to come with and take pictures–memories, for a time in the not-too-distant future, when she will probably no longer be with us.

Yet I am struck by the how brief and genuinely tenuous human life really is. Granted, to most of us ninety-three years does not sound brief; it sounds like a long, full life–almost a century! But when you’re the one experiencing those years–whether ninety-three, fifty-seven, or even twenty-seven–they do not seem long!

Of course, childhood seems interminable–each day like the next, either preparing for or merely looking toward the future, a seemingly endless supply of life and potential wrapped up in the ubiquitous “when I grow up.”

Yet once we hit the busier years; once we’re in high school or college–and certainly in the non-stop world of adult work–the years tend to fast-forward quickly. We’re perhaps twenty-two when we graduate, then twenty-five, then almost thirty before we even realize it. Add the typical milestones of life like marriage and children, and the financial concerns and obligations that come with them, and we find ourselves in our forties or even fifties before the kids are out of the home and we catch our breath and realize we’re a lot older now.

Of course, by that time our parents may begin to fail, and we can find ourselves part of the sandwich generation–trying to finish up raising our children while also needing to care for aging parents. Then, once that portion of our lives ends, there may be a new generation–grandchildren!–to capture our love and energies.

Life does not seem to end–there is always a new phase to claim our attention and energy; to occupy and preoccupy us with. Yet end it will. In our sixties, seventies, and certainly in our eighties, our bodies typically become more frail. Illness may attack; our minds may become more feeble, to the point that forming coherent phrases becomes an effort. And if we are not careful; if we do not consciously carve out a time and a space now, while we are still capable of considering the vital issues of life–the things that are truly important, as opposed to the ones that may be urgent, but carry no genuine significance–we may find that we have failed to tackle the most important issue of our relationship with our Creator, Savior and Sustainer God, and our duty and obligation to Him.

Jesus said, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.” (John‬ ‭9:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬) God has prepared for each and every one of us individually that which He wants us to accomplish during our time here in these bodies and this life. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Our life is not our own–regardless of how it may seem, of what we may think, we are not free to spend our lives as we want. “You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves, because you were bought by God for a price. So honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Jesus Christ bought us back to Himself from the emptiness and alienation from God our sins mired us in, with a price–and that price was His own life:

“[We]…were rescued from the useless way of life [we]…learned from [our]…ancestors. But [we]…know [we]…were not rescued by such things as silver or gold that don’t last forever. [We]…were rescued by the precious blood of Christ, that spotless and innocent lamb. Christ was chosen even before the world was created, but because of [us]…He did not come until these last days. And when He did come, it was to lead [us]…to have faith in God, who raised Him from death and honored Him in a glorious way. This is why [we]…have put [our]…faith and hope in God. [We]…obeyed the truth, and [our]…souls were made pure. Now [we]…sincerely love each other. But [we]…must keep on loving with all [our]…heart. [We] do this because God has given [us]…new birth by His message that lives on forever.” (1 Peter‬ ‭1:18-23‬ ‭CEV‬‬)

That’s the significance of Good Friday; that’s what we remember today. But much more importantly, it’s the reason why we exist, the purpose of our life! Knowing that we are not a random, insignificant, meaningless speck in the cosmos, but rather, precious; “…chosen of God, holy and beloved…” (Colossians 3:12 NASB)–someone Jesus cared enough to be born and live as a human being, and die for–is what causes all of the senselessness and emptiness to fall away, what gives purpose to my life.

So that now, I think about Him; I think about Jesus and how He wants me to respond in each situation, every time I am confronted with a decision. I think about responding in love and kindness; I think about doing good to others because He has done good to me; I forgive because He forgave me. I do the things–the good works–He sets before me to do. Ultimately, I look forward to being carried away by Him to His glory and presence when He says I have completed everything He wanted me to accomplish in this life. That is what life is–its purpose; why we exist!

Dear Jesus,

Thank You that You rescued me from an empty futile life–from the hopelessness I was mired in–by Your death on the cross. Lead me to faith in You; help me put my faith and hope in You, and obey…help me sincerely love, because You have given me a new birth by this message that lives on forever! Amen.

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Psalm 34:9-10

Do you have everything you need? Can you honestly say you fear God–that you take His authority over your life to heart more than anyone else’s; that you seek Him–look to Him not just for things, but also to know Him better? If you do, you probably have already come to see that He’s never failed to provide everything you really need.

“Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm‬ ‭34:9-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Human nature is peculiar–we always seem to be dissatisfied with what we have; with the present. I’m no different. In my moderately older age I see that I’ve looked to the future far too often, typically with a mind toward what I will have or will have done. And while it isn’t wrong to plan or even dream about the future, God also tells us that, “…true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (1 Timothy‬ ‭6:6-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

And I now realize that God has never failed me; He really has given me everything I need. There is a principle here. First of all, God is real; because He’s not a figment of my imagination, He really does impact my life–He acts on it from outside of me, and affects the outcome for good.

Second, He provides for us–for those who fear Him; who seek Him. How do I know? Because never in my life can I say I was abandoned by Him–never. Always, He has provided! Even if I could have done differently and not gotten myself into whatever mess I was in at the moment, He has always been merciful and didn’t leave me hanging.

Yet there is more to His provision that that which is material, although we seem to get most hung up worrying about that. Because of Him, we lack no good thing, as the psalmist says. If we seek Him; if we truly want to fellowship with Him, He satisfies us–He gives us of Himself, so we can experience Him better, know Him more, and draw closer to Him.

You see, things change–life changes. Twenty years from now your life won’t be what it is today. Circumstances shift; people we know and love go away–some even die. Twenty years ago our oldest child was six years old; our first daughter was one year old; we were homeschooling; my mother and father were both still alive; our youngest daughter wasn’t even born yet! Today, that six-year-old is on his own, navigating his professional and personal life; the one-year-old is about to finish her degree in Japan; I am working outside the home; my mother and father have been gone for years; and I couldn’t imagine my life without that little girl who didn’t even exist back then! Life has changed.

And while some changes are exciting, like getting a new car or going off to college, other changes we really would rather not see. I really do wish my mother and father were still alive today–as healthy and vibrant as they were twenty years ago! For that matter, I wish all my loved ones long gone were still alive and here for me to speak with and ask advice of as I get older and face issues I hadn’t yet faced when they were alive.

It will be the same for you, too. You will probably live somewhere else; you may be married or working in a profession you haven’t even studied yet! And it is also entirely possible some of the people in your life today may not be with you anymore.

Yet the one thing that will never change is God, and His love and care for you. The Bible assures us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (He Rees 13:8) If you cling to Him; if you don’t abandon Him–He will never abandon you!

But remember that the very next verse after this one warns us, “So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace…” (Hebrews‬ ‭13:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Those who cling to God survive; those who abandon Him in favor of whatever else is out there–even if everyone else is doing it too– frequently destroy themselves. Don’t let that be you!

Dear Lord God,

Don’t let us be attracted by strange new ideas; help us seek You our entire lives so that we lack nothing good! Thank You that You are faithful! Amen.

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Genesis 1:26-28

What is the human “animal?” That’s actually how we’re referred to scientifically; we’re categorized as mammals because we give birth to live young who nurse outside the womb. Specifically we are of the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Hominidae, genus Homo, and species Homo Sapiens. But who are human beings? What defines us? And how do we differ from the rest of all other living creatures–or, do we?

“God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature, so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”” (Genesis‬ ‭1:26-28‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

There are places the Bible refers to every living being in the animal kingdom as “all flesh.” That’s an older translation, of course; these days we would simply say “all animals.” Yet it is accurate, because as human beings we are certainly part of what can be described as “all flesh.” Yet even though we share similarities with animals–more so with some than others–we are, nonetheless, different from every other animal, even those we are most genetically related to. But are we really, or is this just our desire to feel superior so we can disregard their needs, or even abuse them? And if we are different, how are we? What is it that specifically distinguishes humans from the rest of the animal kingdom?

It is not arrogance, nor an excuse to disregard their needs, to state that human beings differ categorically from all other animals–it is simply the way it is. God created everything, but to humans He gave specific duties and privileges. Of every animal, only we were created in God’s image, like Him, reflecting His nature. What does that mean?

God is creative; He creates. Animals can and do make their homes and nests, but every species tends to make them the same way. Every robin’s nest will look more or less like every other robin’s nest. Every beaver dam will be a beaver dam. There will be variation, of course, but none of the other animals will exhibit what can genuinely be called creativity or ingenuity or invention–yet to us God has given the unique ability not only to create something genuinely different, but also to learn and comprehend and advance our collective knowledge from generation to generation.

Human beings alone have the gift of written language. Animals communicate, certainly, but they cannot record knowledge acquired by one to share with another, or with future generations. We, on the other hand, learn from and further build upon the discoveries and inventions of those who came before; each generation does not need to figuratively or literally reinvent the wheel. Because of this, humans today are not what humans were two thousand years ago–not in terms of intellect, but in acquired collective knowledge and technology: our world today is different from what it was then as a result, while the animal world remains as it was from the beginning, (except as we have impacted it). It is as God told Daniel, that our, “…knowledge will increase.”” Daniel‬ ‭12:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

God gave us not only creativity, and written language, and the ability to build upon the knowledge of previous generations, but also the capacity for abstract reasoning. We can think and plan and imagine. We can create hypothetical scenarios in our mind; we can conceive “what if?”

We also have self-awareness and can contemplate our own existence. We can comprehend the concept and possibility of that which exists beyond what we physically experience–apart from what we see, hear, taste, smell or feel in the present moment. God gave us this ability so we can know Him, not just be a physical animal existing in the here and now.

Yet while we retain many aspects of how we were originally created, we lost the capacity to be genuinely good because of sin, and not only did it hurt us and our relationship with God, it also tainted how we relate to the rest of the animal and plant kingdom. Now, instead of governing the created world for good as we were intended to, we act harshly, or are greedy for financial profit, or are thoughtless. Instead of rightly governing them; instead of reflecting the character–the goodness and love–of God to those we’ve been created to oversee; instead of acting with gentleness and concern towards them; we cause them to suffer, and it is not good. In fact, we’re told that:

“Everything God made is waiting with excitement for God to show his children’s glory completely. Everything God made was changed to become useless, not by its own wish but because God wanted it and because all along there was this hope: that everything God made would be set free from ruin to have the freedom and glory that belong to God’s children. We know that everything God made has been waiting until now in pain, like a woman ready to give birth.” (Romans‬ ‭8:19-22‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Our lack of holiness–our failure to reflect God’s character and goodness to those around us–is what was lost because of sin, and what caused others to suffer. Yet it is also what Jesus Christ gives back to us when we believe in Him; when are born again into God’s family through genuine faith.

Now, we can again see with God’s eyes and reflect His character; we can sense the suffering of others around us and care and adjust our behavior; we can be agents of good and kindness and love, instead of selfishness and self-serving and greed. Most importantly, we can know our Creator Father God and Jesus Christ our Savior, as we were meant to!

Dear Lord God,

Give me faith in You they I may be born again into Your family; so I can see the needs of those around me–people, and even the other living beings You made us to look out for and be good to; so I can reflect Your goodness–who You are–to them. Amen.

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