Sketching HIStory #7

Gen 2 – The Close RelationshipSketching-HIStory-2-w

Let us open our Bibles and read Genesis 2:4-22 or click on Bible Gateway links below.

 

NIV   GNT   KJV

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. [Gen 2:4-6]

In Genesis 2, we press the rewind button and go back in time to just before the plant life appeared. Take note that this passage mentions ‘the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth’. Do you recall that God had placed a water layer in the earth’s stratosphere in Genesis 1? Well, that protective layer was quite effective against the sun’s radiation and actually caused a greenhouse effect which gave our planet a moisture rich environment. Rain was non-existent. God provided a better system to keep the soil saturated. It was because of this environment that the animals were larger and life expectancy was longer. But we’re getting ahead of our story. Again, put this tidbit of Bible trivia at the back of your mind for later use when we get to Genesis 6.

By the way, Genesis 2 like the chapter before was also written in prose and you’ll probably notice that the creative aspects do not jive as well. No… the Bible is not contradicting itself. Genesis 2’s theme is not so much focused on creation but more on the Creator’s personality.

We first see this, in how chapter 2 addresses God as Lord God. Again, we have to look at the original language of Hebrew. God (in chapter 1) is ELOHIM, while Lord God, in chapter 2 & 3, is YAHWEH ELOHIM. Again, I am not a scholar and Sketching HIStory is not meant to provide in-depth scholarly work. All I can say is that the Israelite found it more comfortable in writing and even speaking out ‘Elohim’ more in than ‘Yahweh’. In fact, in most scriptural manuscripts His proper name is always spelled out as YHWH. My understanding is that to name Him so is to relate to Him in so casual of a way that it could be construed as disrespect of One so mighty. So, how why is Chapter 2 using ‘Lord God’? I can only offer a guess that Moses who had a very close relationship with God (to be revealed in Exodus) used His proper name to reveal God’s desire to be intimate with us.

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Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. [vs 7]

In my sketch above, I could not help but be inspired by Michelangelo’s depiction of the creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. As a Renaissance artist, when he read the passages of Genesis 2, probably in High Latin, he saw the passion in God’s final act of creation and reflected it in his renderings on a ceiling about thirty feet above the Vatican’s famed Sistine Chapel where the papal conclave* is held.

[* The papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Bishop of Rome, also known as the pope.]

Seeing the Lord God’s hand reaching out to bring Adam to life like that… well, it never fails to remind me of what my place should always be in His eyes. I just wish that I could have depicted an inspiring drawing rendition of ‘breathing into his nostrils the breath of life’… other than the Lord giving Adam mouth to mouth, of course.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. [vs 8-14]

Now, I will not get into the perpetual debate of where the garden of Eden is located. Allow me, instead, to highlight that as soon as Adam was brought to life, our Lord God did not immediately placed him in the wilds of our world. Rather, He placed him in a garden… a very safe place.

I heard it said many times that the rich and lush jungles of the Amazon can be compared to Eden. However, if you watch the Discovery Channel, their cast of expert survivalists would argue the absolute opposite. I myself, though I’ve never been there, know with absolute certainty that I could not get out of there alive. I would probably end up in the belly of an anaconda. By definition, a garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, or enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. Now, what was described is how a human would plant a garden, but the garden that our Lord God had planted is The Garden of all gardens. It is literally ‘Paradise’. And if I, a sci-fi buff, can offer a conjecture, this garden is outside the purview of both physical space and time. And it was prepared specifically for us.

Now, Eden was not only a place of safety. It was a place of learning and training. Training for what? Remember this?

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may RULE over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [Gen 1:26]

God intended to train us in this garden, so training requires instruction.

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And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” [Gen 2:15-17]

Many have argued that it was because of this specific commandment is the reason why we are in our present predicament. In my Bible class, I am always asked whether God was right to give us such a command.

Lesson 1 – God never make mistakes.
Lesson 2 – Based on His sovereignty, God can do anything and give any commands He so desires… and the truth of the matter is… we can not do anything about it.

I could never prove to you about the lessons above. I accept it as true mainly because of His Word, the Bible. I have read, believed and applied His precepts to my life as best as I could. And the Lord had showed me… well… MUCH… that convinced me.

Anyway, let us look at the command itself. It had been suggested that the commandment was difficult and designed to tempt mankind to fail.

Let’s tackle the ‘TEMPTING’ part.

Lesson 3 – God does not tempt us to sin. It is not in His character.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone… [James 1:13]

As to the DIFFICULT aspect of the commandment, consider the wording of the instruction and break it down.

1st part – You are free to EAT from ANY tree in the garden,

2nd part – but you must NOT EAT from ONE specific tree.

Lesson 4 – When the Lord God gives you a task, He always intended that you can accomplish it.

Now, let us talk a little bit about the tree that was forbidden, ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.

I will cover the WHAT aspect of the tree in my next post when we tackle Genesis 3. Instead, allow me to reply to a common question asked in my Bible classes. Why would a loving God place such a dangerous tree in the garden? (The common assumption, of course, is that if you can die from it then it is dangerous.)

Let me say first, when it comes to WHY questions, I tend to counter it with a WHY NOT.

Why NOT would God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden? It’s HIS garden, after all. Remember Lesson #2.

If you again recall Lesson #1 – since God never errs, then it is more than likely that the error is in our assumption that the tree is dangerous. In fact, the only part in the assumption that is true is that God is a LOVING GOD. And if our loving God placed that specific tree in the garden with us, then there must be a good reason. We will pause this argument here for now and bring it up again Genesis 3.

Speaking of a Loving God…

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The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. [vs 18-20a]

It is no stretch of the imagination to think about how beneficial animals are to us. You just have to turn on your TV animal show and categorize how each one were helpful to us. Instead, focus on the image of God bringing the animals to Adam.  Did He do it just to see what names Adam would give them? Imagine, if you will, a father bringing his infant son to the zoo for the very first time. The father would lead him to each critter and explain what they did. The child, fascinated, would ask him question after question and the father would answer him back no matter how ludicrous they were. I believe this is exactly what God did here. This was a bonding moment. Let me also add that there are thousands of animal species identified today. In the beginning, it was probably three times that amount. Now, imagine how much time it would take for Adam to learn about each animal and then give them each a name. That would be a lot of bonding time.

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But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. [vs 20b-25]

Normally, this subject of the creation of Eve would have been dedicated in one or two chapters or even an entire book. There is just so much to cover. Allow me instead to address directly to all the women reading this blog; at the same time, I ask the men to pay close attention.

Men & women were equally created in God’s image but when you look at how God created you… well, in my book, this makes you very very (and a lot more ‘verys’ after it) SPECIAL.

Here is what a Bible commentator said… From Adam’s rib, God built up into a woman. Her formation is described as requiring both time and care on the heavenly artificer’s part. Thus woman is no casual or hasty production of nature, but is the finished result of labour and skill. Finally, she is brought with special honour to the man as the Creator’s last and most perfect work**.

It is no wonder that when Adam awoke from his deep sleep, his eyes fell upon a created being much like himself (yet different in so many ways), demurely walking up to him, that he probably first gulped and then said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

Okay, ladies, this does not sound exactly like the stuff of romantic novels, but consider…

Adam had long studied the natural world, and while, with their confidence as yet unmarred by human cruelty, they came to his call, grew tame, and joined his company, he found none that answered to his wants, and replied to him with articulate speech. At last, on waking from his trance, he found one standing by him in whom he recognized a second self, and he welcomed her joyfully, and exclaimed, “This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:” that is, she is man’s counterpart, not merely in feeling and sense – his flesh – but in his solid qualities**.

[** Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers]

So, we come to final part of God’s creative act. Based on this chapter, there is one final piece of truth that I must impart.

In the beginning, we had it MADE, because of our very close relationship with God.

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The stage has been set and in my next post we will cover where it all went wrong.

Sketching HIStory #5

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Gen 1 – God Formed Our World

Again, go ahead, open your Bibles and read Genesis 1:6-19 or click on Bible Gateway links below.

NIV     GNT    KJV

[GNT for Catholics]

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Like the Prophet Jeremiah, Albert Einstein (being Jewish himself) had no problem recognizing God’s hand in the creation of the universe. I recall reading somewhere that Einstein commented that when mankind probes the very recesses of space, they will find God staring back at them (something like that). Anyway, as spectacular as the creation of the cosmos was from Genesis 1:1-5, the verses after gave us no indication of how our own planet was developed. At that matter, verses 6-10 started up with our planet already formed and ready for seeding. Also, if we are to take verse 6 just a little bit literal, our entire planet may have been completely covered with water.

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And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault
from the water above it.
And it was so.
God called the vault “sky.”
[vs 6-8a]

What is the vault? And what does it mean ‘separate water from water’? Well, a vault is defined as a sloped ceiling like what you find in high domed cathedrals. The vault that God made is, of course, our own ‘sky’. Scientifically speaking, the sky is our planet’s atmosphere and it is made up of several layers. The most outer layer is the Ozone Layer which protects us from the sun’s radiation today. Ozone is a gas, but once upon a time, it was quite different.

God separated the water under the vault… that is the sea… from the water above it… that is the Earth’s stratosphere. God had placed a protective shell of water around our planet. Can you imagine the ‘greenhouse’ long term effect this will have on our planet? For later posts, I ask that you keep this primordial atmospheric condition in mind. For it will explain away a lot of the spectacular phenomenon we will observe until we get to Genesis 6.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day. [vs 8b]

Again, this is not an indication that the making of the sky took 24 hours. This part of the narrative is a poetic transition from one creation event to another.

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And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place,
and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
God called the dry ground “land,” and
the gathered waters he called “seas.”
And God saw that it was good. [vs 9-10]

I think the verses above is quite obvious, God caused the land to be raised above the sea. But if you look at the words closely, in the beginning, our world only had one massive land mass not like the seven continents and thousands of islands we know today. This contiguous land mass is known by scientists as the super-continent, Pangaea or Pangea. Pangea, in early geologic time, incorporated almost all the landmasses on Earth.

Now, let me say, that this concept of Pangea was proposed by a German scientist* in the early 20th century. It is interesting to note that this concept was FIRST introduced in a book written thousands of years ago.

[* Alfred Wegener, the originator of the scientific theory of continental drift, in his 1912 publication, ‘The Origin of Continents’]

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Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation:
seed-bearing plants and trees on the land
that bear fruit with seed in it,
according to their various kinds.” And it was so.
The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed
according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit
with seed in it according to their kinds.
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day.
[vs 11-13]

According to a Bible commentator, these verses refer to the second creative act. I think I’ll let you read the rest of the commentary.

The first creative act was the calling of matter into existence, which, by the operation of mechanical and chemical laws, imposed upon it by the Creator, was arranged and digested into a cosmos, that is, an orderly and harmonious whole. These laws are now and ever in perpetual activity, but no secondary or derived agency can either add one atom to the world-mass or diminish aught from it. The second creative act was the introduction of life, first vegetable, and then animal; and for this nothing less than an Almighty power would suffice.

Vegetation, therefore, did not reach its perfection until the sixth day, when animals were created which needed these seeds and fruits for their food. But so far from there being anything in the creative record to require us to believe that the development of vegetation was not gradual, it is absolutely described as being so; and with that first streak of green God gave also the law of vegetation, and under His fostering hand all in due time came to pass which that first bestowal of vegetable life contained.

It is the constant rule of Holy Scripture to include in a narrative the ultimate as well as the immediate results of an act; and moreover, in the record of these creative days we are told what on each day was new, while the continuance of all that preceded is understood.

[Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers]

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And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky
to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs
to mark sacred times, and days and years
and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”
And it was so. [vs 14]

God made two great lights…
the greater light to govern the day
and the lesser light to govern the night.
He also made the stars.
God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate light from darkness.
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day. [vs 15-19]

I feel that I have to reiterate to you that in these passages, God had not literally created the sun, moon and most especially the stars at that particular time period. We already read in verses 1-5, that the stars including our very own sun, our planet and moon were in the process of development. But doubt in the Bible have a tendency of naggingly creep into our minds. I should know, I had those same doubts, at first. But then, I was prompted to look at the literature a little bit closely.

As a rule, when it came to Scriptures, I have been trained to apply the inductive method of reading the Bible as a discipline. Part of that training was to look at the passage to see what it really ‘said’ before I can figure out what it ‘meant’. Keeping in mind that this part of Genesis was meant to be read as part poetry and part prose, I focused on the language style. Let us look at the first part of verse 14, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky”. Whenever, I read this verse out loud, my theater skills kick in. Always, at the words of ‘lights in the vault of the sky’, I instinctly look up. In other words, in a none-poetic way, this could almost be read this way, ‘let the sun, moon and stars be seen upon the sky from where you stand’. Perspective is the key! So, if I was to show God’s intention, I would paraphrase verses 14-19, this way.

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Behold! Look up in the sky! In the beginning, I have set there two great lights to separate the day from the night. The sun is the greater light and will light up your day. The moon which is a lesser light so that you would not stumble in the dark. To help the moon, you will also see in the night sky a blanket of stars laid out from horizon to horizon. Now, from these lights, you will mark your days, years and seasons some of which will become sacred for those who believe. You will read in them signs that will influence your agriculture, navigation, and yes, even your history.

Now, I probably did not do it justice with my paraphrase, but I hope you would look at the Bible in the same inductive method that I used and apply it to the rest of Genesis and the whole Bible.

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Having read how God formed our world, I think it best we have the right attitude toward our Creator, so far. The Prophet Isaiah said it best in his book.

Isaiah 40:26
Lift up your eyes on high: Who created all these? He leads forth the starry host by number; He calls each one by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

In my next post, we complete the Genesis 1 narrative with God bringing life into our world.

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Note: The Crimson Thread points to a connection between Old Testament passages to Jesus Christ.

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.

Sketching Ireland #22

Back to Dublin – Circle Complete

google-map-dublin.jpgWe are coming to end of my vicarious vacation to Ireland. The final road trip (using Street view) from Belfast to Dublin was quite scenic. I wish I could have stopped and explore more, but I must confess that I wanted to finish Sketching Ireland so that I could start my next blog project. Don’t worry, I managed to save a number of photos for later sketching subjects. Meanwhile, I went straight to Dublin.

Golfing in Dublin

During my extensive road trip through Ireland, practically every place I have seen had at least 1 or 2 golf courses. Golf being a big thing here, I was not too surprised to find 17 golf courses in Dublin.

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This is great news for those of you who want to come to Dublin for a golfing vacation. I’m not golfer like my dad, but the golf course at Howth looks challenging enough for a satisfying game.

Mending Fishnets

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Howth, by the way, is a beautiful peninsula on the northeast side of the city. Originally a small rural fishing village, Howth has grown to become a busy and comparatively affluent suburb of Dublin, with a mix of suburban residential development, wild hillside and heathland, golf courses, cliff and coastal paths, a small quarry and a busy commercial fishing port. It was on the wharf that I found some fishermen checking and mending their nets.

The Peace Tree

dublin-tree-sculpture-w.jpgFor my final sketch, I was exploring a long beach area not too far from Howth when I came upon a very unusual tree. Now, you know how much I love sketching trees and this is one tree that I had to draw. For more info about this tree, below is an article from The Journal dot Ie.

At the north-east corner of St Anne’s Park, Raheny, where Clontarf Road and Watermill Road meet, is a 10-metre tall tree.

Unmissable to anyone who passes by, what was once a dying Macrocarpa (more commonly known as Monterey cypress) has been transformed into a canvas for dozens of sculptures of wildlife.

Known as the Peace Tree and Tree of Life, the landmark came about when it was decided by Dublin City Council that the iconic tree had to be taken down for safety reasons, Dublin Inquirer reported at the time.

However, rather than getting rid of it entirely, the council hired award-winning UK sculptor Tommy Craggs to transform the tree, believed to be 200-years-old, into an eye-catching feature. Inspired by the wildlife of the park itself and nearby Bull Island, there’s something new to discover from every angle.

From an octopus spread across the base to a proud swan perched at the top, every inch of the tree has been transformed into a type of fauna. Despite appearing as though they were created with a chisel, the detailed animals were crafted with a chainsaw.

Work on the tree began in 2015, but the final three metres were not completed until June this year. Upon completion, the tree was finished with oil.

While the masterpiece can be viewed from the car while driving along Clontarf Road, it’s more than worth pulling in order to fully appreciate its true beauty.

Dublin is a city of many landmarks and attractions. Unfortunately, I am not able to sketch them all, but as I said before I’ll present more sketches down the line.

So end my Sketching Ireland vacation 2019. I hope my blog inspire you to really visit Ireland and then contact me to share your experience. Fare thee well, Emerald Isle.

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