Right from the Beginning #3

(Please read Genesis 1:14-23 from your favored version of the Bible.  I have used the New International Version to prepare these remarks.)

We can approach the subject of the creation from our head or our heart. The head approach attempts to reconcile the creation account with science, delves into the particulars of text in a way to reconcile it with what we know as true and factual about our world.  One example of this approach is the ongoing discussion/debate between creationist, evolutionists, and Intelligent Design theorists.  This is one approach to accessing meaning in the creation account.  Let me share an example with you.

Biochemist Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box) argues that many biological systems are “irreducibly complex” at the molecular level. Behe gives the following definition of irreducible complexity:

Behe starts with the example of a mousetrap; he claims that a standard mousetrap is “irreducibly complex”. Such a mousetrap consists of:

1) a flat wooden platform to act as a base

2) a metal hammer, which does the actual job of crushing the little mouse

3) a spring with extended ends to press against the platform and the hammer when the trap is charged

4) a sensitive catch that releases the hammer when slight pressure is applied

5) a metal bar that connects to the catch and charged hammer (there are also assorted staples to hold the system together)

Behe then continues with his logic as to why this system is “irreducibly complex”:

Which part could be missing and still allow you to catch a mouse? If the wooden base were gone, there would be no platform for attaching the other components. If the hammer were gone, the mouse could dance all night on the platform without becoming pinned to the wooden base. If there were no spring, the hammer and platform would jangle loosely, and again the rodent would be unimpeded. If there were no catch or metal holding bar, then the spring would snap the hammer shut as soon as you let go of it…

A mousetrap cannot “evolve” slowly, bit by bit. All of the parts must be in place at the same time. The same with such things as DNA.

<Retrieved from http://www.jameswatkins.com/articles-2/heavy/evolution/ on 10/13/16.>

“Behe is known, besides authoring [this] book, as a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and as a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture.

<Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_Black_Box on 10/13/16.>

That argument has been examined by persons on all sides of the issue.  Studying and discussing Genesis in this way can be very edifying and even fun.

However, that is only half an approach.  We’ve also got to see the creation account with our hearts, relying on the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth accessed by our feelings and intuition.  Allow me to share an example of truth that is accessed by means of the heart.

Lyrics to” GoD and DoG” by Wendy J. Francisco

I look up and I see God, I look down and see my dog. Simple spelling G O D, same word backwards, D O G. They would stay with me all day. I’m the one who walks away.

But both of them just wait for me, and dance at my return with glee. Both love me no matter what – divine God and canine mutt. I take it hard each time I fail, but God forgives, dog wags his tail. God thought up and made the dog, dog reflects a part of God. I’ve seen love from both sides now, it’s everywhere, amen, bow wow. I look up and I see God, I look down and see my dog. And in my human frailty…I can’t match their love for me.

<Go to http://www.wendyfrancisco.com/ to see the video.>

Even before I started this series, I have thought about ways to explain why this subject and these Scriptures are so important.  Then I came across the video and it was like God said to me, “You can’t make this important to anyone.  That’s what my Holy Spirit does.”  Here’s the connecting thought:  If you hear the “GoD and DoG” song and you have loved a dog, you get it.  If you hear the words of Genesis and you love the Lord, you get it.  It’s a heart thing as much as it is a head thing.  Yes, we’re approaching it as logically as possible, but my heart’s desire is that you feel the need to believe in creation as much as your head tells you its right.

REVIEW

  1. Before creation: Only God existed (1:1-2)
  2. Creation, Day One: Separating day and night (1:3-5)
  3. Creation, Day Two: Separating sky and sea (1:6-8).
  4. Creation, Day Three: Separating the sea and the land, growing plants on the land (1:9-13).

NEW

  1. Creation, Day Four: Creating heavenly lights (1:14-19).

God said, “LET THERE BE LIGHTS IN THE VAULT OF THE SKY (14).”  Remember from previous messages in this series the ancients’ view of the world where the VAULT is an inverted bowl placed on the surface.  The space between the surface of the earth and the underside of the inverted bowl (VAULT) was called the SKY on day two.

I will also remind you that an emphasis of the creation account in Genesis is on the effectiveness of the word of God: GOD SAID (14)… AND IT WAS SO (15).  This is affirmed in Hebrews 11:3; THE UNIVERSE WAS FORMED AT GOD’S COMMAND.

What purposes do these LIGHTS serve?  The text is not concerned with explaining HOW the heavenly lights create light; that is a concern of science.  This passage is concerned about WHY God created these LIGHTS, and so it explains the functions assigned to them.  There are many; eight in fact.

#1 = TO SEPARATE THE DAY FROM THE NIGHT (14).  This was already done on day one – is this a repeat?  No, because now – on day four – God is continuing His work of organizing what was created earlier: He is organizing the LIGHT into its various natural sources; our sun and other stars.  Another difference between days one & four: The source of the light on day one was not identified.  We guessed that the glory of God shone (this interpretation is supported by Psalm 8:1-3 and other passages that identify the stars as evidence of the glory of God).  These LIGHTS are set in THE VAULT OF THE SKY.

What’s amazing is that God has promised to restore this aspect of creation in the new heavens and earth.  In Revelation 22:5 it is written, THEY WILL NOT NEED THE LIGHT OF A LAMP OR THE LIGHT OF THE SUN, FOR THE LORD GOD WILL GIVE THEM LIGHT.  (See also Revelation 21:23.)

#2 = TO SERVE AS SIGNS (14).  In the Bible, SIGNS are miracles, supernatural acts by which God warns of judgment, motivates the faithful, and authenticates those who truly speak for Him.  The fact that these features of creation serve as SIGNS shows that God is in control; nature can be made to serve supernatural purposes.

#3 = TO MARK SACRED TIMES (14).  These are not seasons in the usual calendar sense, but “seasons” of the religious calendar; the feast and fast days that God would command His people to observe.

#4 = TO MARK DAYS AND YEARS (14).  Throughout human history the sun, moon, and stars have been used to create calendars; to literally mark time.  In the Jewish calendar, the setting of the sun marked the beginning of a new day and a month was marked by a full cycle of the moon.  The stars were used to synchronize solar and lunar calendars.  Remember, creation is all about bringing order to chaos, so creating the calendar is part of that action.

#5 = TO GIVE LIGHT ON THE EARTH (15+17).  We’ve already observed how it is both biblically and scientifically true that light is necessary for life.  This is obviously where sunlight is concerned; in the natural action of photosynthesis, for example.  On a more emotive/intuitive level, LIGHT also brings comfort, allows us to see, and symbolizes the holy presence of God.

#6 = THE GREATER LIGHT TO GOVERN THE DAY (16+18).  Why does the author not name “the sun” here?  That word in ancient languages was misused as a name for an idol.  The author avoids the word to avoid giving them any excuse to worship the sun as a god.

#7 = THE LESSER LIGHT TO GOVERN THE NIGHT (16+18).

Why does the author not name “the moon” here? That word in ancient languages was misused as a name for an idol.  The author avoids the word to avoid giving them any excuse to worship the moon as a god.

#8 = TO SEPARATE LIGHT FROM DARKNESS (18).  The LIGHT and DARKNESS had already been separated on day one.  How is this different?  It is different because now – on day four – the way LIGHT and DARKNESS is perceived and recorded is by means of these newly-made sources of light, not the original source.  The separation remains, but the reason for it has changed.  It’s as if, by closing the VAULT, God cut off the supernatural light from His glory and replaced it with a natural light source.

Remember, the heavenly lights were created to be SIGNS that signified various things.  So, even though time was created on the first day, it is on day four that God gave the heavenly lights to show all the creatures of the earth when each day passed.  They are the natural means by which we measure time and its passing.

  1. Creation, Day Five: Creating animal life in the sea and sky (1:20-23).

LIVING CREATURES is the term also used to describe land animals in the next verse (24) and Adam in 2:7.  Though humans share our origin and some of our nature with animals, this in no way endorses the idea that we are descended from them in the way evolution states.  The key difference is that people are the only creatures who were created in the IMAGE OF GOD (1:27).

Let’s look at the WATER CREATURES first.  While we normally think of typical sea animals like fish and whales and the like, the NIV correctly translates the Heb word tannin as THE GREAT CREATURES OF THE SEA.  There are five OT passages that use this word to describe a creature named “Leviathan” (Job 3:8; 41:1; PSS 74:13-14; 104:26; ISH 27:1).  Think the Loch Ness Monster.

I think the phrase ACCORDING TO THEIR KINDS shows that when Moses wrote CREATURES in the WATER, he intended to include all the usual kinds of aquatic life.  At the same time, he emphasizes this beast that sounds like something out of a dinosaur book or a book of mythology.  Why would He do that?  In all the OT mentions of the Leviathan, the point is that man has no power over the beast, but God has complete power.  As God created it, God commanded it.  Remember, the point of the creation account is not to establish HOW God did it, in the usual scientific sense, but THAT God did it, and WHY He did it.

The SKY CREATURES are specifically identified as BIRDS (20-22), though we know scientifically there other animals that fly or at least glide through the air, and some BIRDS are flightless.  In fact, I read one skeptic who thought the fact that the Bible assigned bats with BIRDS proved the Bible was unscientific and therefore false.  We’ve shown repeatedly that those two things are not the same thing.

Both sea and sky creatures are BLESSED, being told to BE FRUITFUL AND INCREASE IN NUMBER.  This blessing will be repeated for all the land creatures as well.  This blessing implies God’s intention was that His creation should prosper; He did not create it to fail, but as we read in every day but day two, God declared His creation to be GOOD.

This is important as it informs our view of creation.  As God’s children, we should understand that God our Father created all that is and blessed it with prosperity and life and called it good.  We should act in ways that do the same.

On October 12, 2016 Toyota announced that next year they will be selling their Japanese customers a little robot called “Kirobo Mini.”  It is a cute little fellow they describe as “a friend that can sit in your car’s cup holder.” Leo Lutero wrote about it for a website called PSFK.

“The Kirobo Mini is 10-centimeters tall and will bridge the gap between humans and their machines while it sits snugly inside your car’s cup holder.

“At release, the robot can carry out conversations exclusively in Japanese. Hand gestures, facial expression, and even the tone of speaking changes according to the mood of the conversation. Aside from listening, a built-in camera also lets the Kirobo Mini look at who it is talking to and identify people’s facial expressions so it can respond accordingly.

I will spare you all the details of how such a tiny device does all this.  The robot costs $387 and requires the use of an online service that costs $3 a month.  It will be available only in Japan and only at select car dealerships.

“Aside from just providing small talk, the Kirobo Mini can comment about your driving and help you navigate. Just as you pull up the driveway, the robot can remind you that a hot bath is running for you and whatever smart home appliances are activated upon your arrival.

“By providing a humanoid figure, Toyota aims to open up drivers and allow them to reveal their needs more deeply. By allowing drivers to just talk naturally, Toyota might be able to unlock what people demand from modern vehicles.”

This strikes me as pathetic for at least three reasons:

1 – In a culture already too much in love with its toys, here’s a toy that will love you back.

2 – Wearing the mask of a cute little robot, Toyota has found a way to get into the heads of their consumers.  This is a horribly cute way to accomplish a horrible invasion of privacy

3 – Robot companions will never replace human companions; how lonely must you be to have a $400 robot friend?

I feel led to consistently explain and re-explain why we are taking the time to look closely at these creation narratives.  The news of the Kirobo Mini is an illustration of a vital reason for us to understand and apply Genesis.

One side effect of rejecting God as Creator is loneliness.  If we are – as our secularized culture pushes us to accept – just accidents, random bits of genetic code that cause random bits of experience when we accidently bump into one another, then we are truly alone.

If we don’t have a Creator, we also do not have a family of believers and our blood relatives are only related as an act of chance too, so who cares?

People are killing themselves and others because they are so alone they don’t think their actions matter.  They have no higher authority than themselves, so they say and do what they please.

If God is not our Creator, then we are truly lost.  If all that exists did not come into existence by Him, then human lives and the world we share are truly trivial.  We have to get a handle on Genesis and not be distracted or deterred from this first affirmation of faith: IN THE BEGINNING, GOD CREATED.

(If you would like to view this message being preached, look us up on YouTube at “EBCSF.”)

Advertisements

NEW and IMPROVED!

(Please read 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2.  Quotations below are from the New International Version.)

        Tribal wisdom of the Lakota people, passed from generations immemorial, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Our modern bureaucrats, however, have a set of more advanced strategies such as:

  • Buy a stronger whip.
  • Find lighter riders.
  • Harness several dead horses together to improve performance.
  • Arrange an overseas visit to study dead horses.
  • Reclassify the horse as “living impaired.”
  • Rewrite the performance requirements for dead horses.
  • Provide additional funding to improve the performance of dead horses.
  • Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.

        Any similarity between the above and what happens in government is intentional. It is intended to serve as a great example of why there’s no use trying to fix up the Old Creation. Let it stay dead. Trying to keep the old creation is the source of a lot of frustration and disappointment in our Christian life.

THESIS = A new life in Christ includes a new attitude toward God, others, and self.

CONTEXT = 2 Corinthians is the Apostle Paul’s defense of his ministry.  One set of his critics blasted him for not being Jewish enough.  Part of his response to them was to show that the Good News he preached offered a new and improved means of relationship with God.

You are new and improved (16+17).

        Verse 17is key to what we are discussing and central to our identity:  we are new creations! Our new standing with God is possible because of Jesus Christ; that’s why Paul wrote, IN CHRIST. 

        It is a way of describing our new relationship with God.  According to Romans 5, our old relationship with God needed improving.  Verse eight reads;

BUT GOD DEMONSTRATES HIS OWN LOVE FOR US IN THIS: WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US.  Verse ten makes it worse;

FOR IF, WHEN WE WERE GOD’S ENEMIES, WE WERE RECONCILED TO HIM THROUGH THE DEATH OF HIS SON, HOW MUCH MORE, HAVING BEEN RECONCILED, SHALL WE BE SAVED THROUGH HIS LIFE. Paul elaborates; THE OLD IS GONE, THE NEW HAS COME!

        Thank God!  Being a NEW CREATION means we cease being sinners and enemies of God.  Another thing to note about this term is that the scope of our new life includes all aspects of our personhood. Jesus similarly taught Nicodemus: “NO ONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNLESS HE IS BORN AGAIN” (JHN 3:3). This is a “total makeover!” Accordingly, we must think and act in NEW CREATION modes.

        Now we backtrack to verse sixteen to find the application of verse seventeen (and verses eleven through fifteen): our new attitude toward one another (i.e., toward Christ).

        One aspect of being new creations is that we reject a WORLDLY POINT OF VIEW. FROM NOW ON we look at people from God’s point of view.  When we do we see…

  • Victims of the Enemy, not the enemy.
  • People in need.
  • Brothers & sisters; in fact or in potential.

Where worldly eyes see barriers, godly eyes see bridges God has built.

        Paul offers Jesus as an example.  He and others once viewed Jesus from a worldly point of view and saw only a Galilean troublemaker.  Later, with acute vision bestowed by faith, Paul saw Him truthfully, as the Great Reconciler.

 

God did this for you (18-21).

        The old creation did not come about by human will, nor has the NEW CREATION.  Instead, as verse eighteen asserts, ALL THIS IS FROM GOD.

That fact rules out our intellect, willpower, & imagination: we don’t make it up.

        God did it by reconciling US TO HIMSELF THROUGH CHRIST (18).  “Reconciling” means restoring our relationship with God which had been

broken by our sin.

        THROUGH CHRIST means that Jesus is the universal solution to the universal problem of sin.  But God doesn’t force His solution on anyone; only those who receive it willingly will be restored.

         Verses 19-21 reveal that God reconciled us in three steps.

    • 19 = GOD WAS RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF IN CHRIST. God joined us & identified with us in the human life of Jesus Christ.  His blood paid our penalty.
    • 21 = GOD MADE HIM WHO HAD NO SIN TO BE SIN FOR US… Jesus suffered our guilt and shame. Because He was innocent He was the perfect sacrifice for sin.
  • Imputation is found in v. 19 NOT COUNTING MEN’S SINS AGAINST THEM. The solution is to impute (assign) righteous status to all who accept Him
  • Delegation .
    • 19 = AND HE HAS COMMITTED TO US THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION. God has delegated to us the responsibility of making Him known to people we encounter.
    • 20 = WE ARE THEREFORE CHRIST’S AMBASSADORS… We represent our homeland & act w/t authority of our Leader.

 

Get busy and receive His grace today (1-2).

        Paul was concerned that the church live according to this message of reconciliation. He demonstrated his concern by using emphatic language: AS GOD’S FELLOW WORKERS WE URGE YOU.  His expression, FELLOW WORKERS, shows Paul’s identification with the church in Corinth and reminds us today that we are responsible with and for one another. Use of the first person pronoun (WE) connects God & Paul.  (See 1 Corinthians 3:9 where Paul describes himself as “God’s fellow-worker.”) So in a sense, Paul is also pulling rank, telling them to get in line!

        Chapter six, verse one presents some difficulty to the interpreter.  The call to RECEIVE GOD’S GRACE is not the hard part.  In fact, RECONCILIATION is the subject of the passage.

        The challenging bit is when he urges them not to receive GOD’S GRACE IN VAIN.  How is that possible? Apart from the egotistical use of the word, VAIN means fruitless, ineffective, unsuccessful, or frustrated. How could that happen?

Paul urged them to avoid a superficial commitment to Christ.  A sign of inauthentic discipleship: a lack of godly fruit. He quoted Scripture (Isaiah 49:8) to reinforce his point, emphasizing it is God’s will to act, decide, choose Him.

Borrowing TIME and DAY OF SALVATION from the Isaiah quote, Paul urged a timely, even immediate response = NOW IS THE TIME OF GOD’S FAVOR, NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION.

        If that alone doesn’t motivate you, consider a couple other things. One, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is imminent.  Until He comes again, we’re in a season of grace, where reconciliation can happen.  After He appears, there’ll be no more opportunity.

        Second, our own death is also immanent.  As today could be our last, we must bear fruit. Thus, in addition to the command of God, we have two additional excellent reasons to act NOW, not wait.  Whether we’re talking about accepting Christ as Savior or obeying Him as Lord, now is the moment; the door of opportunity has been swung open.

 

        God made us new creations so that we will choose to be agents of change.  We are entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation, helping the world to turn back to God. 

        I came across a negative example of reconciliation in Today in the Word, July 5, 1993.

        “One New Year’s Eve at London’s Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Seymour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past and never restored their friendship. ‘You must,’ Hicks said to Lonsdale. ‘It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year.’

        “So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. ‘I wish you a happy New Year,’ he said, ‘but only one’.”

        That’s not going to get it done, will it?

        God gives us an entirely new life to live in Christ.  We are made new creations to serve as ambassadors from the Kingdom of God to this poor, sin-sick world.  We have a lot of work to be done in an uncertain but ever-shrinking amount of time.  Let’s get started!