Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?

And It Was So

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My Musings – Perspective.  It’s easy to lose sight of it amongst all the scientific jargon and mumbo jumbo.  But if you step back to get a better perspective of the big picture it is beyond awesome (a much overused word).  And yet, “these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 25:14).  Outer fringe?  Faint whisper?  Now that’s perspective for you.

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Beginning – That “singular point” that scientists call “The Big Bang”, in which all matter, energy and time “sprang” into being, was God speaking it all into existence. This was the beginning of time (for us), a period of remote and unknown antiquity, hid in the depths of eternal ages, before the world began.  After all, what is 13.8 billion years (more or less), to a God that was preexistent (to exist beforehand, before time) for all of eternity past (infinite)? And if this all preceded, and was in preparation for, what occurred on the seven “days” of creation that followed, there is no controversy in the aging of the “building materials” that God created, whether is was 13.8 billion years ago or 6000 years ago. “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.” (Proverbs 8:22-23, emphasis added).

Created – The Hebrew word is “bara,” which in the Old Testament is used exclusively for divine activity (Yahweh is always the grammatical subject). This implies that people cannot create in the way God creates [true], and no lesser “god” can claim to be creator. The term also conveys the idea of ordering and determining function (e.g., underlying physical and thermodynamic laws and principles) to the cosmos. While it always describes the divine activity of fashioning something new, fresh, and perfect, it does necessarily describe creation out of nothing (for example the creation of man), it often stresses forming a new, reforming, renewing (initially the earth was void and without form). Clearly the initial “big bang” was creation out of nothing, but not from nothing. It was from God. After all, what is creating something out of nothing to a God who is omnipotent (having unlimited power; able to do anything)? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed (had a beginning) at God’s command (caused), so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (began to exist).” (Hebrews 11:3)

Heavens and Earth – This expression is frequently employed to denote the world, or universe, for which there was no single word in the Hebrew language; the universe consisting of a twofold whole. The opening (heavens) and closing parentheses (earth) that encompassed the entire creation (cosmos). From God’s perspective (the heavens) to man’s (the earth). From the one sending the revelation to those receiving it. Keeping in mind that those originally receiving the message had not developed scientifically and could not be expected to understand any of that. God was attempting to communicate what, not necessarily the details of how, because the details at that point in time were not necessary. It is, however, interesting to note how man’s advancing scientific “big bang” theory of the beginning (previously the claim was there was no beginning, the universe always existed), has drawn closer to that rudimentary description God originally provided. Interesting, but not surprising. After all, what is the entire cosmos to a God that is infinite (has no boundaries or limits, not confined to the universe He created in time or space)? “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” (1 Kings 8:27).

Formless and Empty – In the more poetic King James Version, “void and without form.” What else might one expect from the “letting loose” from a single point of origin and in the “blinking of an eye” of all matter and energy to form a universe that stretches to an observable edge of 45.34 billion light-years in radius? After all, what is 45.34 billion light years (times two) to a God that is omnipresent (present everywhere)? The two words (formless and empty) designate a state of material devoid of order, prior to God’s meticulous work on it. There was nothing in it desirable to be seen, for it was “confusion and emptiness,” an alternate translation. It was shapeless, it was useless, it was without inhabitants, without ornaments. Not even the shadow or rough draft of things to come (other than in the mind of the Creator). First, He created the building materials, then He set to building and furnishing it. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalms 8:3-4)

Darkness – Scientists surmise that until around a few hundred million years or so after the Big Bang, the universe was a very dark place, with no stars and no galaxies. God did not create this darkness. Light was not necessary until something was made that might be seen by it. For what is light, to a God’s whose glory and holiness is so bright that no living creature can gaze upon it and live? “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5).

Over the Surface of the Deep – The Hebrew word is tehom, which refers to the primordial or primeval sea—the cosmic waters of chaos. The coincides with the scientific theory that in its beginning, the earth was a giant, red hot, roiling, boiling sea of molten rock – a magma ocean. As the earth began to cool, water vapor began to escape and condense in the earth’s early atmosphere. Clouds formed and storms raged, raining more and more water down on the primitive earth, cooling the surface until it was flooded with water, forming the seas. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41).

Spirit of God Hovered Over the Waters – In the darkness of this chaos (darkness, formless, emptiness) the Spirit of God moved to prepare for the effectual creative Word of God. The Hebrew translated as “hovered” or “moved” means “to brood over; to incubate.” How much of that sense might be attached here is hard to say, but the verb does depict the presence of the Spirit of God moving about mysteriously over the waters, presumably preparing for the acts of creation (Days one through seven) to follow. The earth was formless, so God formed what He wanted. The earth was empty, so God filled up what He had formed. Regrettably, scientists, in general, have no place for the Holy Spirit in what precedes or what follows. Science on the other hand, as we will someday fully appreciate, welcomes its Creator. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6).

My Advice – Simply this, praise God!

References

  1. All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated are from the New International Version, 1984.
  2. https://www.space.com/25126-big-bang-theory.html
  3. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 17). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  4. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  5. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:1). Biblical Studies Press.
  6. Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 1, p. 29). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
  7. https://www.businessinsider.com/size-of-the-universe-2016-8.
  8. Hamilton, V. P. (1995). Genesis. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  9. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 4). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  10. https://jwst.nasa.gov/content/science/firstLight.html
  11. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 4). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  12. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  13. http://www.extremescience.com/earth.htm.
  14. Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 28). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  15. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:2). Biblical Studies Press.
  16. Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Ge 1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Who Wants To Be A Millennium Heir?

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My Musings – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  It was a crazy popular game show for awhile.  There were levels (questions to answer) you had to work (win) your way up, in order to win the million.  Each level more difficult than the one before.  If you got stumped, you had ” lifelines” you could use for help.  But use them wisely, because you want to save all you can for the more difficult questions.  Answer incorrectly, and you could lose some of what you had already won.  Remember?

Just for the fun of it once, I came up with a version of the game called “Who Want’s To Be A Millennium Heir?” that I used for a “final exam” in my adult Sunday School class.  It went like this.

MILLENNIUM “HEIR MILE” REWARDS

7  MILLENNIUM HEIR
6  GOLD
5  SILVER
4  COSTLY STONES
3  WOOD
2  HAY
1  STRAW
0  FOUNDATION

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV 1978)

MILLENNIUM HEIR RULES

1. You must build upon the foundation – Jesus Christ.

2. If you don’t build upon this foundation, it won’t matter how many “heir miles” your works might otherwise earn you. You can never earn your way to becoming a millennium heir.

3. Each time you answer correctly, your “good works” will advance you to the next “heir mile” reward.

4. If you answer incorrectly the quality of all “heir miles” earned will be tested by fire. For some you may suffer loss. Some may survive and you will receive those rewards.

5. However, even if you suffer the loss of all of your “heir miles” you are still a millennium heir if you built on the foundation Jesus Christ.

MILLENNIUM HEIR LIFELINES

Fellowship – With this lifeline you may poll the “audience,” (the Sunday School class) for their input.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews10:25, NIV 1978).

Prayer – With this lifeline you can phone “home” for guidance. In answer to your “prayer”, you gain discernment (as moderator I took away two wrong answers).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

The Word – With this lifeline you can look up your answer in the Scriptures (better bring your Bible to class).

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).

Accountability – With this lifeline you may ask a fellow-believer (select a class member) for their help.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV 1984).

We had fun with it (well, at least I did).  Here is a sample of one “game” of Millennium Heir we played.

Foundation Question

According to Ephesians 2:8&9, salvation is obtained by what?

A. Good Works.
B. Grace.
C. Wealth.
D. Accident.

Straw Question

The tenth commandment, found in Exodus 20:17 is?

A. Thou shalt not talk out loud in a convent.
B. Thou shalt not convict without two or three witnesses.
C. Thou shalt not covet.
D. Irrelevant.

Hay Question

According to 1 Timothy 6:10, what is the root of all evil?

A. Gingivitis.
B. Money.
C. The ACLU.
D. The love of money.

Wood Question

A fundamental point about wealth in the parable of the rich fool is?

A. It should be hoarded, because we never know when we’ll need it.
B. It should be wasted, there is more where that came from, God has deep pockets.
C. It should be spent on pleasure and comfort. Eat, drink and be merry.
D. Material possessions cannot provide real or lasting security.

Costly Stones Question

In the parable of the sower, found in Matthew 13, greed is represented by which seed?

A. Seed sown along the path.
B. Seed sown in rocky places.
C. Seed sown amongst thorns.
D. Seed sown on good soil.

Silver Question

The parable of the rich fool teaches?

A. Nothing, it’s just for entertainment.
B. We must be careful about our attitudes concerning God’s blessings.
C. All rich people are evil.
D. Remodeling old barns is hazardous to your health.

Gold Question

The proper response to material blessings is?

A. I want more.
B. Be thankful and be a good steward.
C. I’ll keep them all to myself.
D. Now I have all that I need to be happy.

Millennium Heir Question

In the parable the rich fool’s responses to material blessings was?

A. Right on target.
B. The real problem.
C. A symptom of an underlying problem.
D. His final answer.

My Advice – Okay, so the game is a bit corny.  But it makes several key points.  The “game” we are playing in this life is really “The Game of Life.”  What happens in this life determines whether we become a millennium heir.  We must accept Christ as Savior.  That’s foundational.  If we don’t get that right, we will go directly to hell, we will not pass the pearly gates, we will not collect eternal life.  There is no get out of hell free card.  Christ it the only way, meaning He has the “Monopoly.”  Take the chance, you won’t be “Sorry.”

 

 

Four Words

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My Musings – When studying the first chapter of Genesis, the focus of many are on the details and why they can or cannot be taken literally.  But even before getting into the details are the first four words.

Four Words: Their Basic Definitions

In – Expressing the time period [beginning] during which an event [creation of heavens and earth] takes place.

The – Denoting one or more people [God] or things [beginning] already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge. Used to point forward to a following qualifying or defining clause or phrase [created the heavens and the earth].

Beginning – The point in time or space at which something starts.

God – the Creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme Being (IAM).

Four Words: Expanding Our Understanding

Common Knowledge – The Creator is clearly seen in His creation. It is understood that an intelligent design means there is an intelligent designer. Order and complexity did not happen by chance or accident. “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 men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NIV 1984).

The Point In Time Something Starts – God is not that something. Because “in the beginning, God” was already there. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8, NIV 1984). God is self-existent (existing independently of other beings or causes), the “uncaused causer.” God is transcendent (existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe – time, space and matter). “I am who I am,” “I will be who I will be,” or even “I cause to be what is.” This is not a “name” that makes God an object of definition or limitation. Rather, it is an affirmation that God is always free to be and act as God wills. (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

The Creator – Of the many names used for God in the Bible, the one used here in Genesis is Elohim, which is a plural noun. (Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, Calvin, J., & King, J.). Only two persons (Father and Holy Spirit) of the Trinity were specifically mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2). The third person of the Trinity (Son) is inferred, but not fully revealed. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26, NIV 1984). The revelation came later. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Let’s focus on the Creator.  That will put us in a much better position to appreciate (not worship) His creation.

I AM – Was, Is and To Come

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My Musings – The first few words of Genesis say the “In the beginning God…”  If I might interject, “in the beginning God was already there to createthe heavens and the earth.”  The unmoved mover, the uncreated transcendent being  – the Alpha.  In the first few verses of Revelation God goes on to state that He is also the Omega.  When these heavens and earth come to an end and are made new He is still there.  He had no beginning and will have no end.  “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come.”  In other words “I AM.

In Exodus, Moses asked who he should say sent him, and God told Him to say “I AM.”  When Jesus came the first time and was put on trial before Pilate, He was asked if He was a King.  Jesus replied, “I AM.”  Finally, in the closing verses of Revelation, Jesus states “I AM coming soon.” He promised He would.

My Advice – Is He coming for you (to take you home with Him) or is He coming to you (to send you away from Him)?  Right now, to can make that decision for yourself.  When He comes (no man knows when) it will be too late.  You may never have the opportunity again.

In My Life, I Loved Him So

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My Musings – The above picture was taken three years ago today.  We had gotten dad into DeKalb County rehab for what we thought would be a short stint to get his strength back.  His heart condition had been worsening, but we had no idea how near the end was.  He looked pretty good that day, but my dad died from heart failure on September 15th, less than three weeks later.  The man who used to carry me on his shoulders, was carried away by the Angels to his reward.

In My Life
The Beatles

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed.
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.

All these places had their moments
With [family] and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.

But of all these friends and [family]
There [are few who] compares with you.
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before.
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you [still].

Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For non-commercial use only.

One of my favorite Beatles’ songs.  The lyrics move me.  “In my life” I can recall many male roles models that have helped shape my life.  But Dad, there is no male role model that “compares with you.”  We often “stop and think about” you.  The void left by your passing can never be filled. Gone, but never forgotten, and we’ll “never lose affection.”

Time has allowed the grief to dull a bit, but not completely.  But we do not “grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.”  For “according to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15–18, NIV 1984).

My Advice – We are encouraged by these words. My wish for you is that you share the same hope.  If so, be encouraged.  If not, you can share in this blessed hope by believing and receiving Jesus Christ as you personal Savior.  My series of musings on “The Born Again Experience” (see archives) can show you how.

For an inspiring version of the above song, google  “In My Life” by Selah.  It will give you chills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the King

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My Musings – “We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it?” (From “The Return of the King,” J. R. R. Tolkien). The shadow we live under grows longer and the darkness and distress spreads. For “immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” (Matthew 24:29, NIV 1984).  But once again, “the people living in darkness [will see] a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light [will] dawn.” (Matthew 4:16, NIV 1984).  “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27, NIV 1984).

Afterwards the “distress of those days” will be no more than “echoes from a land untroubled by it.”  For “now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Just try to imagine it. The “great glory.”   What John saw was so unimaginable, that the best way he could describe it was what was not there.  The things (tears, death, mourning, crying, pain) that we will be “untroubled by.”  For “the old order of things has passed away.”  Yes, in this world we will have trouble that we have to live under.  But take heart, He has overcome the world!