Cultivate Goodness and Beauty Where You Are – In the Name of Jesus

This is what the LORD says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.  Isaiah 49:8-10.

We as Christians believe that God is speaking of Jesus in Isaiah 49. It is Jesus that will accomplish all these things. And yet I am quick to believe that part of the way he will accomplish this is through his people. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, God wants to bring his shalom to you and wants you to be an agent of shalom. He redeems you and uses you to help make things as they should be. Once he redeems you, he uses you as an instrument of redemption. He wants you to see him for who he is and to pour out his grace on  you. He wants to show you that he is a good and beautiful God who means to do good unto you. Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all of the days of your life (Psalm 23).

Yet many of us who profess to be followers of Jesus have God-awful views of God. We’re not always aware of it. But it comes out in how we live.  Do we really believe that he means us well, in the painful and suffering world? That’s where the rubber meets the road isn’t it? Can we say with Job, “though he slay me I will trust him?” Now there’s this matter. Is God doing the “slaying?” That has to do with the problem of evil. I don’t think God is evil. But there is evil in the world.

But even in the midst of evil, God wants us to cultivate the land he has given us. We all have a circle of influence–even if you misbelieve yourself to be alone in this world. God calls us to cultivate the land. To be stewards of the garden he has given each one of us. We are to weed it. We are to water it. We are to take care of it all in the strength and grace of the Lord. Our garden includes ourselves, family and/or friends, workplaces, places of worship, gifts, abilities, our local communities, and even the earth. Our garden includes “Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the earth” in one way or another.

But mostly it is where we find ourselves. How can we cultivate the seeds of God’s love and beauty and goodness (I am distilling attritubes of beauty and goodness from his love, I know). Am I doing it on this blog? More importantly, am I doing that where I find myself–among family, friends, and neighbors?

Often the problem of evil in the world overwhelms us. But doesn’t God through Paul in Romans chapter 12 tell us to overcome evil with good? Are we overcoming evil with good? Are we doing our part to cultivate the land he has given us? Are we doing  our part to, “restore the land and reassign its desolate places” as Isaiah 49 says?

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