Sketching HIStory #4

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Gen 1 – Creation of the Universe

I welcome you first to open and read your Bibles: Genesis chapter 1. For those who want to read online below are links to Bible Gateway in 3 English translations.

New International Version NIV
Good News Translation GNT  (for Catholics)     King James Version KJV

Here is an observation. Have you noticed that the account of the creation of the universe is covered only in one chapter of Genesis? In my old college library, I recalled seeing 5-6 tall book shelves dedicated to the sciences of our universe. In this age of computers, I’m sure you can find several terrabytes of the same research available in the world wide net. My point is, how is it that the most spectacular cosmological event was limited to less than a thousand words in the Bible? Keeping in mind that God inspired Moses to write it this way, I believe God intended Genesis 1 to be read so that the focus is not so much on the created but more on the CREATOR. This is after all HIS story.

As a storyteller, I always believe that Genesis was meant to be read out loud with a slight theatrical flair. Imagine those times when the Israelites wanted to hear more about Him from their leader, Moses. Besides preaching to the entire congregation from on top of a mountain, I think he would from time to time, join them in smaller groups at their open fires and regale them under the stars, strengthening their faith in God. So, let’s get on with… HIStory.

“Once upon a time…”

Hold on! I know that this is how most bedtime stories usually start. However, God’s story does not start this way.

In the beginning, God… [vs 1a]

As a matter of truth, God’s story didn’t start in Time, but way… way before it, in… Eternity!

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was formless and empty,
and darkness covered the deep waters.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. [vs 1-2]

You know, I would have loved to present to you this part of the creation story from inside my old college planetarium. If I can get my hands on the planetarium’s animation generator, you… while resting in a reclined position, will be looking up into the dome ceiling and will see God’s spiritual hands laying out the heavens, in this case, the blackness of space.

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And in that vast expanse, He also made from nothing the earth. No, I do not mean our planet Earth with a capital ‘E’, but earth or ‘erets’ which means dirt in Hebrew (language of the Old Testament). This dirt is not the same you find on the ground. What is described in verse 2 as being formless and empty implies that this material, being so primordial, is in actuality an integral building block for all existing matter. Take note, so far, we have SPACE and MATTER. There is an acknowledged scientific process that when you take these two then add ENERGY, you get an ATOM. (Who said that the Bible and science can’t go hand in hand?)

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. [vs 2b]

What is God doing over the surface of the waters (by the way, this is not referring to a literal body of water)? He was ‘hovering’!? In other Bible translations, the word ‘moving’ was also used. Can anybody say… Kinetic ENERGY?!

It is right about here that something BIG is going to happen!

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. [vs 3]

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What is bigger than WOW!?

W O W ! ! !

Now, when God turns the light on, we’re not talking about Him flicking a switch and a light bulb comes on. No sir! This light probably and spectacularly lit up the entire universe. By the way, this almost sounds like what scientists call the Big Bang Theory (and I am not talking about the popular TV sitcom).

The Big Bang theory represents cosmologists’ best attempts to reconstruct the 14 billion year story of the universe based on the sliver of existence visible today. Most generally, it illustrates the arc of the observable universe as it thinned out and cooled down from an initially dense, hot state. The Big Bang theory found widespread acceptance for its unparalleled ability to explain what we see. [content from www.livescience.com]

And God saw that the light was good. [vs 4a]

In the Genesis creation story, God saw that what was created was good. In the surface, God was pleased that what He created and set into motion – will do what it was meant to do.

When He created the light (that I’m convinced was the BIG BANG), that event explosively pushed all that cosmological materials out into space forming gas clouds, dark matter, black holes, nebulas and galaxies.

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Imagine again, you sitting in the planetorium blinking rapidly after the effect of that bright flash of light from the Big Bang. Then you watch in wonder, blurred lights slowly float away from where the explosion subsided down to a distant glow. Those lights, as they come closer to you become swirling galaxies. Imagine 14 billion years of moving and expanding universe compressed into about a 10 minute planetarium presentation. I always loved those effects.

Anyway, one galaxy… a familiar one, at that… seem to be getting bigger than the rest. It is our own Milky Way Galaxy. And if it is like every planetarium show I’ve ever watched, we majesticall fly in toward one of our galaxy’s swirling arms to where God is preparing our world. However, before we fly in, let us finish our understanding the rest of Genesis 1:4-5.

Then He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. [vs 4b-5]

The passage of where God separated the light from the darkness, besides the obvious, actually have spiritual implications which I will cover more in-depth in later studies. For now, let me explain that the usage of ‘day and night’ which is repeated 6 other times, by the way, in the creation narrative were not meant to represent a 24 hour Earth time period. In other words, God did not create everything in just 6 days. However, I am not saying that God Almighty can not do it in 6 days. Frankly, He could probably flick His fingers and create everything instantly. But His words reflect differently. Remember, Genesis 1-3 was meant to be read as an Exalted Prose – that is, it is neither pure narrative nor pure poetry, but tells a story using a number of poetic features and a clear literary framework like the usage of the transition from night to day. Consider again Moses, as he told each of the creation event at the end of which, he theatrically swung his arm, east to west, with his fingers spread wide open uttering “And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day”.

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The purpose of Sketching HIStory is so that you can get to know Him more personally. We have just read the biblical account of how the universe was made but besides the claim that it was He that created it (which should be enough reason to praise Him), how else can we know Him more? How can we go beyond the intellectual knowledge to the faith building way of knowing Him? I mean that we may experience Him… feel Him deep inside. The answer was already provided to us by God when He created the universe.

The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, said that what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. [Roman 1:19-20]

Do you want to experience Him closely? Then open your eyes and look closely at what He created. Go out where you can escape the light pollution of the city and find a field where you can cast your eyes at the spectacular view of the Milky Way. Or go to the nearest planetarium. Then, I encourage you to believe the words of the Psalmist below.

Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

In the next post, we will see how God formed our world. See you then.

Sketching HIStory #3

Sketching-HIStory-2-wIntroduction – The Bible is God-breathed

home-altar-w.jpgWhen I was growing up, we lived in the Philippines which was mostly Roman Catholic. In our home, like in many Filipino houses, we had an alcove that was traditionally reserved for family religious icons. On the wall panel, we had a statue image of Jesus as he was ascending into heaven. Underneath was an altar, a narrow table laid out with a beautiful white table cover intricately knitted by my grandmother (on my mother’s side). On the two ends of the table were a pair of candles on silver sticks. At the center, sitting on a slight tilted easel, was our large family Bible. I still remember it well. From a child’s perspective, it was massive and looked quite heavy. I remember my grandmother would scare my siblings and especially me that if we were bad, we’d have to kneel before the altar holding that heavy book up. As the naughtiest, she would dramatically point at it whenever she was annoyed by me. Funny thing though, she never did carry it out.

Anyway, I can still see it in my mind’s eye. It’s thick fabric cover was faded white (almost beige) with the words THE HOLY BIBLE and the cross embossed in whitish-gold on it. Just under the cover, on the second page, are the names of my family and our respective birth dates. I considered it quite sacred, though at that time I didn’t really understand what it meant. As a kid, I was always attracted to that book. Little did I know that written in it were words that would eventually change my life. It was almost three decades later that I got myself a smaller Bible that guided me through my greatest challenges in life and even beyond. Can you believe it?

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However, before I get to that part of my own history, allow me to put out this unmistakable statistic. The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time.

Did you know that when the printing press was invented, the Gutenberg Bible was the first printed book to hit the market? The Bible has been a massive influence on literature and history, especially in the Western World. According to the March 2007 edition of Time, the Bible “has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating.” [content from Wikipedia]

Of course, it was not statistics nor its influences that impressed me. You see, during my ‘wild and rebellious’ years, the sacredness of the Bible had less an effect on me. Mainly, I got into my head that it was outdated and probably was not relevant to my life. Keep in mind, though, that the only Scriptures I knew were those that were more or less taught in Catholic catechism. The catechism was promulgated by the Catholic Church to reinforce principles and beliefs of the Catholic faithful. I was a kid then and I must admit, I was a lousy student.

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fr-peyton-w.jpgBesides that, what else I knew about the Bible and God was from stories told by family and… believe it or not… from Cecil B. de Mille movies like The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah and The King of Kings.

Oh, I almost forgot about the 1960s TV series, Father Patrick Peyton’s Family Theatre which showed dramatized episodes of the Gospel.

That was the extent of my knowledge of God which, looking back, was superficial at best.

I say superficial because I had my own ideas of God. It was either incomplete or most of the time, downright wrong and not based on knowledge (Romans 10:2). How did I know? In hindsight, my little knowledge of Him had not stirred my life to fruition. Even with my college education, I felt empty, unfulfilled and a man with no direction. Like a ship with no rudder, I was subject to the winds and tides (trials & problems of life) that would eventually push me to the rocks and destruction. But then the Bible miraculously opened up to me. What do I mean? Before, others tried to get me to read the Bible but every time I tried… nothing! The words didn’t move me. Today, I know why. During those times, I had no real desire to get to know God. It was only when I came to the realization that I really needed to find out more about Him was when His Word breathed life into me (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

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I became inspired. As 2nd Timothy 3 says above, the Bible, even after 25 years since I thoughtfully opened the book, is still teaching me. I can never exhaust learning from His word. His word is truly living especially when it rebukes, corrects and trains me in righteousness.

So, how did I discover the true God when my eyes first open to His Word?

road-to-emmaus-4-wLet’s go back to the road to Emmaus. Jesus, who those two disciples were still prevented to recognize, took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. [Luke 24:27 NLT] The master teacher of all time brought them back to the beginning of the only Bible they had at that time, the Old Testament. Luke 24 verse 27 mentions first the writings of Moses. Moses wrote five crucial books the first of which is the Book of Genesis. This is the beginning of the Bible. This was where the Lord started me on more than 25 years ago.

Sketching HIStory (SH) will follow the same chronological path through the Bible and I will take on the role of a storyteller. In those stories, I will include my own thoughts and questions I had at that time. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will also provide related illustrations sketched out either by me or from other sources. My goal is that you will get to know HIM intimately like the way I did. But this blog will only highlight the Scriptural mile stones. It is not an adequate substitution for you to read His words on your own. In fact, I would encourage you to not take my word on face value but seek out what Scripture actually says. Then, you would be prepared and equipped to do every good work, like I have witnessed time after time from those that read and believed.

crimson-thread-wOne other thing that I want to emphasize as we walk together along the chronological trail of God’s story. I believe I will not be committing ‘spoiler alert’ violations when I stipulate what is widely taught that the Old Testament ultimately pointed to Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus was talking about on the road to Emmaus. As a storyteller and follower, I can do no less than try to emulate the Teacher. So, as I post my SH blog entry, I will layout a… CRIMSON THREAD. When you see this symbol, I hope you can see the connection. The rest is up to you.

Well, this is the end of the Introduction. In my next post, let us meet God in the beginning.

Sketching HIStory #2

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Introduction – The Road to Emmaus

There is a road that goes from Jerusalem to the coastal town of Jaffa. No, I’m not talking about the modern day highway where folks from Jerusalm make their way to the hip city of Tel Aviv. Nope, I’m referring to some 2000 years ago, an ancient caravan road about 8 feet wide, enough for five Roman legionnaires marching abreast. It was probably stone-paved and metaled built by their own engineers.

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Now, it was mid-day Sunday, the beginning of the week right after the most eventful Passover in history. Two men, Jews, by the way they’re dressed, were just exiting the north-west gate of the city. They were heading back to their home in the village of Emmaus, about seven miles away. After two weeks celebrating in the city, you would think that these two men would look happy to head home, but instead they were quite somber. Even more so, when they walked by a hill just outside the walls. The hill had a gruesome reputation. The occupants of the city knew it as the hill of the skull. It was frequently used by the Romans for crucifixion. The two men paused to look up to find three empty crosses, the center of which still had the dark stain of blood. They quicken their pace.

As they crested a hill, they began discussing the past events. They were so at it that they didn’t notice a third person behind them, listening. That person was Jesus himself. But they did not know it was him, because they were prevented to recognize him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”road-to-emmaus-2-w.jpg

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

“What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” he said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.”

“Then some women from our group of his followers,” said the other disciple, “were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.” [Luke 24:13-24]

Let me pause the story here.

Sketching HIStory is suppose to be about telling God’s story from the beginning to… well… when it came to Him, there is no end. So, why am I starting HIStory at the time of Jesus Christ’s resurrection?

Because of the questions that were in their hearts.

A good story for me always needs a good reason for the telling. Questions have to asked. Now, on that road to Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion had a lot of questions to contend with.

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Just a week before, they were ecstatic to see Jesus, the Messiah, coming into the city like triumphant king as foretold. His miracles and teachings made him the man to see and to put a lot of hope on. They were expecting great things, but then their own leaders had him killed on the cross. Then, confusion was added to their distress, when the city was stirred with the rumors of his impossible resurrection.

What is going on? How can this happen? Why did he have to die? Then, it becomes more personal. What’s going to happen to me? In the long run, all those questions target God. Questions like…

Why war? …crime? …cruelty? …devastation?

Why is God allowing this to happen?

Does He not care?

Deep inside, we want answers to these questions.

Now, I am going to put my neck out on the chopping block and un-apologetically testify that the source of all those questions can be answered by reading and understanding God’s story. But don’t take my word for it.

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Let’s get back on the road and our story. After Jesus heard the concerns of the two followers, I can almost see the empathy showing on his face and a gleam in his eyes like he knew something that they didn’t. With a knowing smile, he fondly placed his hands on their shoulders and said, “You foolish people!”

No, he is not calling them ‘stupid’! The Greek word of foolish is anoétos (pronounced as an-o’-ay-tos) which means ‘properly, non-thinking, i.e. not reasoning through a matter (with proper logic). In other words, they who were taught the Scriptures since childhood should have known better.

“You find it so hard to believe,” Jesus continued, “… all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures (Old Testament). Was it not clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?”

Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. [Luke 24:25-27 NLT]

Imagine, them walking seven miles being treated to the best Bible Study they’d ever heard by the best teacher that ever existed. Of course, that’s my personal opinion but an accurate one. I wish I was there with them. Wow!

In my next post, I’ll end this Introduction with a short walk-through about those writings that Jesus talked about. See you the next time.

Sketching HIStory #1

Introduction -The Life Preserver Lesson

Once upon a time, I was once a drowning man. I was floundering in a sea that I had no hope of keeping a float indefinitely. I was in real danger. Then, someone threw me a life preserver. Now, that was enough to keep me afloat and ultimately save my life… for eternity.

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Of course, I was speaking metaphorically just like the parables told by Jesus Christ. His parables were always relatable to his audience and had in-depth life changing lessons. His words after were always, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” [Mark 4:9 NLT] In essence, the parables, when so desired, can be pondered by those (even) with no scholarly achievements.

So, in my parable, I just wanted to emphasize that in the past, my life was a real mess. Oh sure, on the outside, I presented myself as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ handicap. But it was mostly an act. Don’t get me wrong. I was enjoying life and at the same time I was like ‘going nowhere’. Well, originally, I was heading in one direction but I didn’t realize, at that time, was heading to eternal damnation. Then someone threw me a life preserver.

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It was around 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait which triggered a coalation of several nations who banded together to kick him out. Of course, my wife and I were anxiously watching all this with the only source of TV news we can get in english. (We were living in Manila.) In those days, there were no CNN, cable TV and no internet yet. Anyway, it was when the news started to report that Saddam will use nuclear weapons triggering WW3, I started to think of my own mortality . I remembered asking, if I died that day and I stood before God, will He let me in? It was then I realized that I deserved not to be let in. Like the drowning man, I was very afraid. You see, as a Roman Catholic, it was drummed into us that if Heaven was denied, HELL had to be the only other place I could go and in my heart, I knew I deserved it. I cried out in prayer. It was then a life preserver was cast into the sea to keep me afloat. Now, do you know who threw me that life preserver? … and why?

Well, the answer to that is the reason why I’m writing this blog…

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Sketching HIStory is my effort to tell the story of God. It is a story that saved my life. It is a story I told many times. It is a story that needs telling and is meant to save us all. Why? Jesus said it best, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” [John 17:3]

Once upon a time, someone threw me a life preserver. That task was passed on to us who believed (Matthew 28:18-20). For myself, that was back in the early 90s. Since I have been incapacitated by my current medical condition, I confess that I have been remiss of the privilege that was given me. But lately people I knew (and also a lot of people I didn’t know) have passed away and I have been convicted with the same question of whether they even knew the Lord the way He wants. The emotion, for me, would be like watching someone drowning and yet I did not throw him a line. I express the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Now, I may not be able to preach and teach like in the ol’ days. But I can still tell stories in both my writings and drawings. I pray and hope you would join me as I impart His story and sketch my way through the Bible.

In my next post, I will continue the Introduction with the story of about how God can be really known on The Road to Emmaus told by Jesus himself some 2000 years ago. See you then.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch10 – part 1

THE SIGN – Wilderness East of the Lake of GalileeCG-book-cover-w

“Where is Jesus now?” Cornelius asked as he walked into his house after some hard riding.

Jacob goes to the table and pulls out the map of Galilee. “A great number of people seem to be heading to this part here.” Jacob circles an area south-east of Bethsaida. “I remember that area as a boy. From the lake shore up, it is quite hilly. Hardly any trees, mostly dried brown grass especially at this time of the year.”

Cornelius studied the map. “Too far to walk and if we are to be incognito we cannot bring horses. Did you say that Jesus has been going back and forth across the lake lately?”

“Yes,” said Jacob. Then he knowingly looked up at Cornelius. “We need a boat!”
Cornelius called for Cestus. A minute later, Cestus marched in and snapped to attention. “Sir!”

Cornelius hands a bag of coins, “Go to town and acquire us a boat. Bring two of our men who know how to handle it. We leave in two hours!” Cestus left.

“Well, I better pack some things.” Jacob gets up but then he pauses and peered toward a curtained off alcove.

Cornelius followed his gaze and noticed a slight movement on the curtain. He looked down and could just make out little dirty toes just sticking out.

Cornelius humorously ask, “What are we to do with young Trax? Hmmm?”

“Oh, I think we should leave him behind,” Jacob joins the jest. “He will be a troublesome handful in the boat!” They heard an obvious groan behind the curtain.

Jacob quickly pulls the curtain aside to reveal a startled Trax. “Behold,” Jacob exaggerates. “A spy among us!” They both laughed at Trax’s concerned face.

“How can we leave behind such a resourceful spy?” Cornelius laughingly declares.

Trax’s face quickly brightens. “I can come!”

“Come,” Jacob leads the lad toward the other room. “We have much to pack.”
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The story continues on in my next post.

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Thank you

Johann Q