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.