Tag Archives: Creation

4 Lessons Natural Disasters Teach

It’s Tuesday/Newsday again, where I take a news item or items and give my thoughts about them.  This weeks I take on natural disasters.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard and watched scenes from people facing hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons.  Hundreds of videos and photos have been taken around the world.  The latest technology has inundated us with the most horrific sights imaginable. It is easy to wonder why? What is the point to all this destruction? I quickly want to give four lessons natural disasters teach, but these are not new and fresh lessons; they are more of review lessons that we each need to remember. And these lessons are not only from natural disasters but from life in general.

  1. We live in a fallen and broken world. When you read the book of Revelation, you will see that around God’s throne is a sea of glass, like crystal.  The point of this description is not that it is valuable to us (like streets of gold), but that it was calm. It is not that it was simply crystal clear, but that it wasn’t choppy or wavy or stirred up in a frenzy. It was calm and pure.  We may get glimpses of these moments, but typically winds and tides and earthquakes create waves both great and small.  Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, creation has been getting worse.

    For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now, (Romans 8:19-22, ESV).

  2. God has a purpose behind the destruction and the destructive forces.  During these moments, self-proclaimed prophets often come out and decide that God has told them that these natural disasters are his judgments. That could be true, but it could be false. One needs to be careful about what one says dogmatically.  We know that biblically speaking, natural disasters have been used by God for judgment, but they have also been used as a trial in a person/peoples’ lives.  One need only think of Job and the winds that collapsed the roof of his children’s home on them.  It also could be that God is not judging, but sending a wake-up call.  One needs only to think of Jonah who boarded a ship to Tarshish when a huge storm came upon the sea and lasted until Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. The storm was not judgment as much as it was a “Wake-up (Jonah was asleep in the ship) Jonah, you cannot run from me.” Jesus spoke of the building that fell killing 18.  The lesson was one of a wake-up call, “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” (Luke 13:3-4, ESV).
  3. It rains upon the just and the unjust. This saying was used by Jesus to indicate God’s general grace upon all; which, as believers, we should then imitate:  “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” (Matthew 5:45, ESV).  But it also indicates that in this world what happens to the good will also happen to the bad.  What happens to the bad will inevitably happen to the good.  Very rarely and for specific reasons do we see a people not effected by destructive forces in the Bible.  I can only think of one off the top of my head: the Hebrews while in Egypt, and even then it wasn’t every plague, but only a few (Read Exodus, chapters 4-14, for full context).  Combining the first lesson with the last (see below), this fallen world is fallen for all and upon all.  Though Jesus was able to walk on water through the storm, he still walked through the storm.
  4. Technology cannot save us from natural disasters. Technology can help us to detect some natural disasters, but at this moment, all the tech in the world is defenseless against the destruction.  There is a reason that the Coast Guard and Navy and other specialists wait until the destruction is over to enter. They may go in with all their gear and get as many people out as they can, but when it gets too dangerous, they run for safety until its over. Our technology is no match against the fallen world. We cannot stop hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, or typhoons.  We cannot stop tornadoes or cyclones or monsoons. We have a hard enough time stopping wildfires, taking months to put them out.  Technology is not our savior. Our ultimate salvation is in Christ.  That isn’t to say that Christians will never go through natural disasters; clearly they do (see lesson 3).  It is to say that Christians (true believers in Jesus Christ) will one day enter, because of him, that place with the sea of glass, like crystal.

What other lessons are to be learned from natural disasters? I’d love to hear from you. Please give a comment below.

Let There Be Light

I have preached and taught Genesis a number of times, but never like we are going to be doing over the next four months. The word Genesis means beginning. So we see the beginning of the universe, the beginning of sin, and the beginning of the Jewish religion. But we also see the beginning of the gospel being played out before our eyes. That’s what we are going to be studying in Genesis as we go through looking at the Genesis of the Gospel.

From the very first chapter, even the very first verse of Genesis, we see the gospel. Though it isn’t obvious simply by reading these verses, it is absolutely clear as you read its related texts, which are stretched throughout the New Testament.

So as we begin, I want us to see the work of God, the Word of God, and the wedge of God.

The Work of God

What can be seen in the creation account most clearly is that all that is, was made by God. It was a work of God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1.1, ESV).

This is God’s work and God’s work alone. No one came to assist God in this work. He did it out of nothing. It’s what the theologians call ex nihilo, out of nothing. Nothing existed and then stuff existed. God didn’t mix any potions together like some big sorcerer. He didn’t mix chemicals together like some mad scientist. His initial creation of the universe was ex nihilo: out of nothing.

And we see this same concept in the beginning of salvation for every person. We often hear the phrase: justification by faith alone. You may notice that no one says: salvation by faith alone. The reason is because salvation as a whole is multi-faceted. The three most basic facets are justification, sanctification, and glorification. If we were to liken these to creation, we would see that God begins creation ex nihilo out of nothing. It is completely a work of God using no pre-existing materials. Justification is all God’s work. He planned for Jesus to come and die from before the foundations of the world. He demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. He is the One who raised Jesus from the dead. It is His Spirit who regenerates and indwells us. It is He who grants repentance and gives the gift of grace and faith. It is a complete work of the Triune God.

But we also see that God started using materials previously created for the rest of creation. He separated the waters to make the sky and sea. He made man and animals from the dust. He made woman from the rib of man. This is like our sanctification. Creation began to have a part in the work of God. So do we. This is why Paul says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in us to will and to work to His good pleasure. God has His work on the inner-man, and we have ours to bring what’s going on inwardly outwardly in our behavior and thoughts and words.

Of course, we see that God made a garden, paradise for man and woman to live in. A perfect place for a perfect people. And Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us so that when he returns, we will be with Him forever in paradise. We will be glorified.

Going Deeper

That’s the overall view, but let’s step back for a moment and see how verse 2 works in this scenario. And understand that I am not allegorizing the creation account. These things happened just the way Moses wrote them in six literal days. All I am doing is showing that our re-creation mimics the original creation.

In verse 2 we see, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep,” (v. 2a, ESV). That phrase, without form and void means that it was not just shapeless and empty, but dreary and without purpose. At the moment that God brought something out of nothing, it was not yet ready to sustain life. It wasn’t yet ready to do what God was in the midst of creating it to do. That doesn’t mean it was deficient, but rather God was still working on it.

There was this darkness over the deep. This doesn’t mean evil, but darkness. Darkness is not created. Darkness is simply an absence of light. God had not spoken into the darkness and created light. But Paul would use this concept as he spoke about our salvation. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,” (2 Corinthians 4.3, ESV). The word veiled means to cover up. Often we hear veil and think of a wedding veil that is sheer and see-through, but in this case this is more like what you would put over a bird-cage for the bird to think it was night and stay quite. The idea is one of darkness. Darkness was over the face of the deep, and the there is a veil over the hearts of unbelievers. Verse four says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” (ESV). He has covered the person who does not believe in darkness. He has made them blind to the light of the gospel. Like a doctor looking at a patient, we can shine the little flashlight in their eyes, but if they are blind there is no response. They are in the dark. And being in the dark they are formless and void. They are shapeless and empty. They are dreary and without purpose. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians those who are not in Christ are, “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world,” (Ephesians 2.12, ESV).

But notice the next part of Genesis 1.2: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters,” (2b, ESV).

The word for hover gives the indication of stirring. It is often used in the Bible of a bird fluttering or brooding over its nest as she warms, protects, and brings life from eggs.

When the Spirit hovers, broods, flutters life will inevitably be formed. The veil that covers the unbeliever from the gospel and the blindness that keeps them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ cannot remain when the Spirit moves. The Spirit is greater than darkness.

This is truly a work of the Triune God.

The Word of God

And it is by the Word of God that creation is made. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light,” (Gen 1.3, ESV). God said it. The very Word of God brought forth light. John surely had this in mind when writing the opening statements of his gospel account. His first five verses follow closely these first five verses as if a commentary on them.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, (John 1.1-5, ESV).

In just five verses we see that God created by the Word and that Word is the second person of the Trinity: Jesus, the Son of God. But notice that the very first words of God in Genesis, is to bring forth light. It isn’t until day 4 that there are any sun, moon, and stars. This light just simply shines. Ultimately, we see in the new heavens and earth that there is no need for sun, moon, or stars either as the light from the glory of God and Christ is enough. The very concept of light is pulled directly from who Christ is. He is the light of men. He is the very light of the world. When Jesus said on day one: Let there be light, darkness had no choice but to disperse. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. It can’t.

Among those who are without hope, without God, purposeless and dreary, empty and dark—we want to give them light! The very light of Christ, that which is glorious and good and bright. But the greatest we can do is turn on a light in the room while the birdcage is still covered by a dark cloth. We cast the light of the gospel in general, but the individual soul is covered. This is why it is a work of God by the word of God. We present the gospel, but until the Spirit moves, and until God’s Word pierces through the darkness, the darkness remains.

Look at 2 Corinthians 4.5-6.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, (ESV).

We are preaching Jesus to the lost. Why? Because the very God who said, “Let there be light,” has also put that light in our hearts to enlighten us of God’s glory in Jesus. God must do the work in the Word and shine in the hearts of the lost, just as He did in our own. We are powerless to save others. It is only when the Spirit moves and prepares the darkness and the Word of God is proclaimed, and God shines that light deep into the heart that the person is converted.

The Wedge of God

But there is more. “And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness,” (Genesis 1.4, ESV). What God has separated, let no man join together. He separated light and dark. The light was declared good, but not the darkness. On one side of the globe there is darkness, and on the other is light. They are separated. They are to remain that way until the new heavens and earth, when darkness is completed dispelled. So there is the wedge between darkness and light. That goes for the physical universe and for the spiritual as well.

Paul wrote that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Colossians 1.13, ESV). There are two kingdoms: darkness and the beloved Son—the light of men, the Light of the world. When we are saved, we are delivered (rescued) from the one, and transferred (removed) to the other. There is a separation. The Son’s kingdom and the kingdom of darkness do not mingle. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness,” (2 Corinthians 6.14, ESV)? There is no fellowship between the two. There is a gap, a chasm, a wedge that God has created.

John wrote something similar, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1.6-7, ESV). By walk, we mean life as a whole, the way one conducts themselves in life.

Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” (1 Peter 2.9, ESV). Out of darkness, into light. There is no gray area. There is no sort of light, sort of darkness.

A person who has been taken from one area, cannot go back and live in the other.

As we see in Genesis: “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day,” (v. 5, ESV), we see in Romans,

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy, (13.12-13, ESV).