Believing the Unbelievable. Why Genesis 1 matters.

imagesIf you ask people what are some of the most unbelievable stories in the Bible, there are a handful of usual suspects that inevitably rise to the top of the list.  Those stories would include Jonah and the giant fish, a cataclysmic flood wiping out everything except for a few humans and animals crammed into a massive boat, God parting the Red Sea, or the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  Even people who claim to be Christians get nervous about certain stories and tend to try to explain away or “downsize” the story by giving a non-supernatural explanation for such things.  imagesSo instead of just embracing the notion that God could command a fish to swallow a runaway prophet, supernaturally sustain that prophet’s life for three days in the animal’s stomach, command it to go to shore and vomit the man up, we instead scour for stories in history of other examples of poor fellows who were swallowed and survived to tell about it to prove its scientifically possible.

imagesInstead of being awestruck by a God who pushes millions of gallons of water to either side to let hundreds of thousands of Israelites pass through on dry land, some look to natural phenomena.  Perhaps there was simply a strong wind combined with shallow water and low tide.  Those lucky Hebrews!  It’s amazing how stuff just happens to work out for them.

This problem of unbelief is nothing new.  Our ancestors struggled too.  When God promised Sarah she would have a child well past her fertile years she laughed.  God’s comeback is classic.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)  You’ll never guess what happened next year.

We should cut Sarah some slack, though.  We’re more guilty than her.  Sarah didn’t have a Bible full of records of all the “impossible” things God did.  We do.

Such doubts over these ancient stories puzzle me in light of what may well be the most important verse in the whole Bible, and that’s the very first verse.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  And now that I think of it, perhaps Sarah was as guilty as we are.  She didn’t have the Bible, but she knew Genesis 1:1.  Apparently she forgot the implications of that verse as we are prone to do today.

Why is this verse so important?  Because if you believe Genesis 1:1 you should have absolutely no trouble believing in the rest of the Bible.  Genesis 1 tells us that God spoke, and the whole universe leapt into existence.   Be in awe of that for just a moment.  Many of us are so familiar with Genesis 1 it does not affect us as it should.

imagesHave you ever gone out on a clear dark night away from the city, away from the lights, and just looked up at the sky?  What did you see?  You saw the moon.  Behind the moon you saw endless stars.  Have you ever contemplated the bigness of the universe on such a glorious night?  Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of millions of stars in our own galaxy?  And did you know that there are millions upon millions of galaxies full of their own stars?  Truth be told, we don’t even know how many stars there are.  The further we peer out into the universe, the more we find.  But Scripture tells us that God made them all, knows their number, and has named each one. (Psalm 147:4)  Does this make you shudder?  It should.

If God made it imagesall simply by speaking a word, then God telling a big fish to swallow Jonah alive and keep him preserved in its belly three days and nights is child’s play.  When you consider that God, in His infinite power effortlessly flung the galaxies out into space, then why in the world would you doubt that God could part the Red Sea for Moses?  When you’re looking at the night sky and you’re just taking it all in, the notion of an ex-corpse walking out of a tomb after being dead for three days suddenly sounds not so impossible after all.

God asked Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”  Sarah said nothing, but the prophet Jeremiah answered the question much later. “‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)  What’s the root of Jeremiah’s faith that nothing is too hard for God?  The root is Genesis 1:1.  God’s mighty display of power in creation.

But what does this all mean for you?  Everything.  If God can do the unbelievable, then having a relationship with this God opens up a whole new world for you.  It means that not only can God heal your sickness but He can sustain you and give you deep joy, satisfaction, and peace if He chooses not to heal you.  It means that Romans 8:28 is not just a warm and fuzzy slogan but that this great God really can “work all things together for good” for His people, even the most difficult and painful things.  And it means that if God can do what we deem impossible, He can take cold, dead, sinful, rebellious hearts like mine and yours and breathe new life into them.  He can awaken us to Himself and His truth, and transform our lives into something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.  He really can forgive us.  He really can give us a new start.  He really can save us.

imagesThis same God who fashioned the constellations together without breaking a sweat actually cares for people.  This blew King David’s mind. “When I look at 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, …that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)

When you struggle with doubt regarding God’s promises, God’s care, and God’s provision, whether it’s regarding ancient Old Testament stories or your own life in the here and now, open up your Bible to the very first words.  Meditate on them. Let the massive implications of that verse sink in, and revel in the simple fact that “nothing is too hard for the Lord.”

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

The Greatest Story Ever Lived

I have always been fascinated by story.  Some of my happiest childhood moments include opening the pages of an epic adventure and immersing myself in worlds full of noble knights, terrifying dragons, damsels in distress, and evil warlords seeking to envelope the world in darkness with only a small band of heroes between him and global destruction.  Most captivating to me was J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, where the evil Sauron seeks to enslave Middle-Earth and it takes an unlikely band of heroes to save the world. For thousands of years humans have been irresistibly drawn to stories like this.  Now, granted, not everyone likes fantasy tales full of swords and warriors and battling armies, but many do.  And even those who favor other genres still tend to like an inspiring tale of good vs. evil whether the genre is historical fiction, westerns, romance, or even comedy.

imagesWhile many types of stories exist, among the ones that have endured and connected best with people throughout the ages are those where there is a conflict between good and evil, light and dark, right and wrong.  And the reason why these epic tales, myths, and legends resonate so deeply with us is because they remind us of something we intuitively know is true.

These stories are the overflow of ancient memories of a real and distant past.  They are reflections of a real and present conflict.  And they are the result of real hopes linked to promises of redemption given to ancestors long departed.

Deep inside we know there is a dark and malevolent power seeking to enslave mankind to his will, more twisted and evil than Tolkien’s Sauron. And more real.  He’s as rimageseal as you are, and he wants to destroy you.  In our heart of hearts we know the world isn’t as it should be and that we were made for something better.  And the reason we love stories of good and benevolent kings returning to right wrongs, bring justice, and vanquish the villain, is because we long for that in our own reality and sense that a true day of reckoning is indeed coming and this broken world will be fixed at long last, ushering in a new age of peace.  Is it a coincidence we love tales of justice being done? Of slaves being freed? Of serpentine dragons being vanquished? Of maidens being rescued?  Is it random chance that our hearts soar when the hero wins when things appear darkest?  I don’t think so.

While many of the stories we love contain elements that contain echos of concepts we know are true, and while we may be stirred by reading stories like The Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia, we can’t be saved by them.  Salvation requires us hearing another story.  An older story. A better story.  A true story.  The story of the Bible. The story of the Gospel.

imagesIn the true story of the Bible we see the roots of the epic non-true stories that come later.  In the Bible you have a perfect world.  Man is in harmony with God, man is in harmony with woman, man is in harmony with nature.  But an invader slithers into this world, this perfect Garden, and incites man to join him in his insurrection against God.  Man takes the bait, and the world, even the very Cosmos is thrown into a state of corruption and decay.  What’s more, the harmony between man and God, man and woman, and man and nature is thrown completely out of whack.  Man falls under a curse and becomes a slave to Sin, Satan, and Death.  And though man deserves eternal wrath and justice from God for his rebellion, God promised that a deliverer, a King, would arise.  He would crush the Serpent and free His people from the Serpent’s tyranny.

imagesNevertheless, there would be a long and epic struggle between good and evil, between the Serpent and his people against God and His people.  This intense conflict would climax when God would send His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for the sins of the world, taking His people’s punishment upon Himself, and striking a crushing blow to the Serpent through not only His sacrifice but through His glorious resurrection from the dead.  In this great act the mighty warrior-king invades the strongholds of the enemy and rescues His damsel in distress, His Bride, (known also as The Church) and breaks the curse.  And now, He offers free pardon to all insurrectionists and outlaws who have rebelled against His rule.  All who believe and follow Him are forgiven and restored.  Their debt to God is erased because Jesus paid it all for them.  But the King’s gracious offer includes more than forgiveness.  It includes new life and transformation so that all people who receive Christ begin to be changed.  They become less and less sinful, and more and more like Him until after death, in the Next Age, His people are made totally perfect as they were in the Garden.

imagesAnd though the decisive blow has been struck, the Serpent is lashing out in death throes even to this day.  He is still dangerous, cunning, and deadly.  Perhaps more so because he knows his time is short.  He knows the return of the King will happen soon.  And this time Jesus will not come to earth to die, but to conquer and rule.  He will put a final end to him and all evil.  He will right wrongs and restore justice and return peace and harmony to the created order.  The paradise that was lost in the Garden of Eden will be restored in the New Heavens and the New Earth, and Man once again will dwell in peace, safety, and security with no more tears, pain, sickness, or death.  The Serpent will be forever banished and God’s people will enjoy the pleasures of a re-created and re-ordered earth for eternity.

Jesus Christ is the main character of this epic story.  But you are in the story too!  Sure, you play a pretty minor role, but you’re in the story.  You have a part in this epic tale.  You have a role to fulfill.  You have a destiny to embrace.

The point of this blog is to help you and me cropped-images2.jpgunderstand the Story, love the Story, and live the Story.  We will explore the Scriptures and see how they point us to King Jesus and the Gospel.  We will look at the Story and see what it means for you and how you fit into it. And if you do not yet believe and serve the King I hope you too will join me in this journey because the Story is relevant to you as well. The King offers free pardon, forgiveness, eternal life, never-ending joy, and ultimate satisfaction to all insurrectionists that come to Him!  The return of the King is near.  I pray you’ll be on His side when He comes.

Wherever you are in your spiritual quest, this Story is for you.  I hope you’ll join me in the journey.  It will be the adventure of a lifetime….even of an eternity.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer