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Cache la Poudre River, Colorado

I started a new series at the rehab center where I go to teach most Monday afternoons. I want the men there who are struggling with addictions to get the big picture of the Bible. Most have a favorite verse, or have memorized a passage or two that the staff thinks is important. They all know the popular stories like David and Goliath or the Prodigal Son. But not very many of them, if any, know how all the verses, passages and stories fit together in this incredible book known as the Bible.

I am using as my base, the introduction to my English/Spanish NIV Bible. It looks at the sacred scriptures as a drama in six acts. Act one is God’s intention and perfection in creation. Act two is exile; the fall of man. Act three is calling Israel to a mission. Act four – The surprising victory of Jesus. Act five – The renewed people of God. And finally, Act six – God comes home; God makes his home with us in a new heavens and a new earth.

I think this is a good way to look at how the Bible is a unified whole, with each verse, chapter and book relating to all the other verses, chapters and books. When I look at each act, I can clearly see how God loves us and wants us to be happy, from the first act in Genesis to the last act in Revelation.

One of the things that makes me happy when I look at the first couple chapters of Genesis and the last couple chapters of Revelation, are rivers. I love rivers. When I lived in Northern California, I would go to the Russian River almost every weekend to canoe, swim or just relax. When I lived in Colorado and my family would go camping, we always chose a campground next to a river. As a teenager, I loved to spend time exploring the nearby South Platte River. There’s just something soothing, yet exciting about rivers. They are always moving; always going someplace. Almost always getting bigger. And you never know what’s around the next bend.

Genesis two describes the beautiful Garden of Eden that God had made for Adam and Eve. It was full of all kinds of beautiful trees, but perhaps the most beautiful part of Eden was a “river that watered the garden.” (verse 10)

Revelation 21 and 22 describes the wonders of New Jerusalem that descends from heaven to earth. “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel. (21:11)

The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.” (21:18)

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (21:23)

But my favorite thing about New Jerusalem is found in 22:1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.”

So there you have it. At the beginning of the Bible and the end – rivers. In the first act and the last act – rivers. The two most beautiful, incredible places in the Bible, the Garden of Eden and New Jerusalem – rivers. I don’t know about you, but I think God is partial to rivers. I think he is a fan.

Giving storm victims food in Tepanzacoalco, Oaxaca

The recent tropical storm Ramon caused a lot of damage to hundreds of towns in Mexico, and upset thousands of lives. One of the worst hit regions of Oaxaca, Mexico was San Juan Tepanzacoalco of San Pedro Yarani. The children’s home where my wife and I help care for dozens of kids, also has outreach programs and missionaries in different parts of Oaxaca. Tepanzacoalco is one of those areas.

The heavy rains and high winds caused a lot of mudslides in this mountainous region, which destroyed many homes and cause two deaths. People living in the hills had to move into downtown and live for awhile on the municipal basketball court, fearing that their house could be the next one washed down the mountain. These people needed food and blankets and our ministry, FFHM, was there to help. Our administrator, Johnny, and outreach directors, Yadira and Esteban, along with volunteers from the children’s home, drove six hours to deliver warm blankets and lots of food to all the people that were suffering in this community. They did good!

Yadira and a volunteer preparing to distribute blankets, bananas and eggs.

The apostle Peter writes about doing good:

“Repay evil with good, because to this you were called.” (3:9)

“Turn from evil and do good.” (3:11)

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” (3:13)

“It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (3:17)

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (4:19)

It’s obviously important to Peter’s way of thinking to do good. But what does he have in mind when he writes of “doing good”?

We get a good idea by reading the rest of his letter. He mentions doing the will of God in 4:2. He says, “love each other deeply” in 4:8. He tells his readers to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace” in 4:10, and “serve others with the with the strength God provides” in verse 11.

Doing good seems to be about loving and serving others. Helping those in need. Looking for those in need and asking ourselves how we can be the answer, or at least part of the answer to whatever problems they may be facing. Some need a hand out; others need a hand up. Some are close and others might be half a world a way. Some people may be suffering from a one time catastrophe, like 9/11 or hurricane Ida, and others from a life long addiction or malady. There are 101 ways we can do good today and this week. Sometimes it isn’t pleasant to good. We are not always “eager to do good”. Many times we need to go out of our way to help. It can cost us financially, emotionally or drain our time, but as another great apostle said once, “let us not grow weary in doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

Chambers Lake, Colorado

A lot of times, when Christians talk about salvation, they talk about that one point in the past where they had their eyes open to God’s love and decided accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and follow him. This is certainly one aspect of salvation. It is the aspect that Jen Wilkens, in the quote above, refers to as going from “wretch to redeemed in an instant”. But salvation is not only something that happened to us one time in the past, but it is also something that happens to us on a daily basis (sanctification), and something we will experience ultimately when we are in the immediate presence of God our Father (glorification).

The apostle Peter writes about salvation in the first two chapters of his first letter. In chapter one, verses four and five, he says, “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

This is the Believers great hope for the future, and ultimate salvation – the inheritance that is kept in heaven for us.

In chapter two, verse one and two, Peter writes, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Here Peter is describing salvation as sanctification, a process. Not a one time thing, but a daily thing, where we grow like babies. Babies grow big and strong and develop because of their mothers nutritious milk. Baby Christians grow strong in the faith by constant ingestion of the Father’s milk, the Word of God. By taking in the the holy scriptures on a regular basis, we change from being conformed to this dark and wicked world, full of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander, and are transformed into God’s likeness, being able to recognize the good, the beautiful and the true (Rom. 12:1-2).

It’s kinda like the picture of Chambers lake above. At first glance it seems a beautiful scene with sunshine streaming through puffy white clouds onto a great body of water. But if you look closer, you can see that the trees on the big hill are black, not green. That’s because of a huge fire that passed through the area last year and burned hundreds of thousands of acres.

Living in this world can sometimes scorch our souls, leaving us burned over and lifeless. But when we encounter the wonderful, redeeming, healing love of Jesus, we begin to recover. We begin to see what life was intended to be. We start living life to the full and we have an eternity to glorify God and enjoy him.

A region near Chambers Lake, Colorado, that suffered a terrible fire in 2020.
One year later it is on the road to “salvation”.

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