Invasion of Light

Discovering God's Glory One Day at a Time

Category: Chapter 2

The Astronomically Courageous God – Day 22

Let’s sum up the heart of our reflection on Genesis 1:1: God’s sacrifice of himself was the foundation of creation. Before God ever launched out into this massive project of making the heavens and the earth he counted the cost. He knew that his creation would cost him his Son. And even with this knowledge he still created. This is also a lesson for us: we cannot begin anything that is apostolic (sent from God and rooted in him) unless we count the cost. We need to realise what is at stake and then step out with courage. If we don’t, we won’t last, no matter how enthusiatic we begin.

Our God paved the way by creating. Now, we are called to follow him and be creative. He may be calling you to be a father or mother, to start a business, write music or plant a church. If we fear sacrifice, dreading the rejection that will come, we will never begin. Our confidence and security must be totally in God who is secure in himself and knows he will be victorious.

God began creating because of love. If love wasn’t his motivation he would have never started. Fear would have caused him to shrink back, to be content to dwell alone and not take a covenant partner. But it was faith and love that moved him to descend his “holy mountain” and walk on the tumultuous water. He longed to be with and rescue his people. And we see the ultimate fulfilment of his desire through the coming of Jesus Christ. May we also walk on the water with him and invite him into the “boat” of our lives. When Jesus is in our boat, we will make it to the other side no matter what the storm.

Prayer: Father, you are a courageous God––more bold than a lion for you are its creator. You roar and the enemy flees. And yet you are also as humble as a lamb––a lamb who silently went to slaughter for the salvation of your creation. The lion and the lamb. The lion is courageous, but so is the lamb. The lamb has a different type of boldness, a covert strength. Our Lamb was motivated by love and his sacrifice is the very foundation of creation. Endue me with your courage to count the cost and boldly go where others are afraid. There is something great you are calling me too, something that no one else can do. But you can do it in and through me. Come into my boat and take me to the other side. I praise you, the astronomically courageous God!

Are You Planted by the Father? – Day 21

Amazingly the first verse of the Bible gives us all the keys we need to interpret the Bible. As we observed in this book’s first chapter, Genesis 1:1 imparts to us the fear of the Lord and this is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). Further, it teaches us that all things begin with God. If we want to understand “all things” we too must begin by knowing him. The first verse of Scripture reveals to us that only through his Word can we know God and what he has done. How could we know God created all things unless he spoke to us these initial words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”?

What more is there to discover in the Bible’s first verse? God is the God of paradox—the God of heaven and earth. When we ponder this more we discover that Genesis 1:1 covertly prophesies to us the coming of Jesus who is both heavenly and earthly. Creation prophesies the marriage of heaven and earth in Jesus Christ. God knew what he was doing through his creation and it was all pointing to his Son. Creation can never fulfil its purpose unless heaven and earth, God and man are one.

Jesus warned the Pharisees that everything that did not have its origins in God—the God who is one with humankind through Jesus Christ—would not last. As Jesus said, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots” (Matt. 15:13). When the Pharisees denied God in the Son, they denied the God who was both the creator of heaven and earth, the God who both ruled heaven and was actively involved in earth. They ruled out the immanence of God because they had no room for him. And because they could not see his hiddenness, his humility.

If God is only transcendent then I can do whatever I desire on earth. I can construct idols for my own benefit. But if God actually becomes one with the dust of the earth then I am in trouble. He is able now to cleanse the house that I have made into a marketplace. He is no longer the God who is far away; he is the God who is near and active. The fact that God can forgive us, and thus become like us, means he is to be feared: “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psa. 130:4).

We love to plant; we delight to build. But let us be warned: much of what we establish does not have its beginnings in the Father. Yes, what we do may take root. It may grow tall and mighty. But every church, business, or relationship that has not been planted by the heavenly Father will come crashing down. Let’s return to God with all of our heart and find our life flow only in him. Remember what the Psalmist sung: “all my fountains are in you” (Psalm 87:1).

Prayer: O God, you’re not just far away (the God of the heavens) but you are near (the God of the earth). Help me see when you are near and embrace your hiddenness. Father, may all my fountains be in you. May you plant me and may all the works of my hands only be your plantings. What you begin endures forever. May you be my beginning, my planter, my origins.

Confronting Our Categories – Day 20

Now let’s specifically explore what God created in the first week: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We understand what the earth is because we are familiar with it. The earth is what is most visible to us, our home. It is made up of dirt, trees, flowers, rivers and oceans. But what are “the heavens”? This is more elusive. Is the author speaking about the sky, the universe or the invisible spiritual realm? What exactly are “the heavens”?

The heavens are simply that which is beyond and superior to the earth. The Bible defines the heavens in numerous ways, but the underpinning idea is that “the heavens” are beyond the earth and largely unknowable by human power. It is that which is elusive, superior and beyond our ken.

Notice how the heavens (the realm “above”) are mentioned first. In Genesis 1:1 the Holy Spirit places the heavens before the earth. Without the heavens the earth could not exist. How could the earth live without the heat and light of the sun? How can the earth function without the moon and stars? Surely the heavens can function without the earth, but the earth is totally dependent on this greater external and exterior reality. The earth only lives because of this realm that is beyond its comprehension.

In the same way, heaven, the place where God dwells, must be first if the earth is truly going to thrive. Jesus taught, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). When the order is reversed—when the earth places itself above the heavens—then “all these things” will be taken from us. All is lost when we change God’s order. The result is nothing but destruction.

God created “the heavens and the earth” to be married together, to be one. He made them to be in harmony. In Jesus Christ we see the ultimate fulfilment of this. Jesus is completely of heaven, and simultaneously one hundred percent of earth. There is nothing sinful about the earth—it is God’s creation. Jesus’ very presence in physical flesh restored the dignity of God’s original creation. It is only as the earth exalted itself above the heavens that it lost its glory. But Jesus himself is the true witness that this original glory can be restored. Moreover, he taught us to pray for its destiny to be restored when he said, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

Just as our creative works reflect what is in our heart, so God’s creation expresses who he is. He is creator of “the heavens and the earth.” He is the maker of these two paradoxical realities. We will never understand him unless we understand his paradoxical nature.

I remember when I first began my walk with the Lord. In the beginning I struggled to understand the Bible, it seemed to contradict itself. How can God be both loving and wrathful? I wrestled with this and many other questions. Then the Holy Spirit spoke a word into my spirit that gave me the key to understanding God’s Word: paradox. A paradox is a seeming contradiction, but it is actually no contradiction at all. It only seems that the two truths war against each other because of our natural minds. When we are in the Spirit all things become clear to us.

Westerners especially have difficultly understanding the Bible because we are fond of putting things into categories. For example, we say, “It is either this or that: either God is a God of love or he is a God of anger. He cannot be loving and be angry with us at the same time.” Or we may say, “God is either one or three, but he cannot be both one and three at the same time.” But who are we to put limits and categories on God? Who are we to systematise his glory? To be true theologians (students of God) we must be at home with the paradox of God.

Our God is heavenly, and at the same time, concerned about the earth. The Father is both transcendent and immanent. At one and the same time, he is far away and closer than our skin. And the person who is in Christ will be like him—heavenly as well as down to earth. The one who is heavenly minded is concerned for the earth and the person who is concerned for the earth knows they must live for heaven. The statement, “You are so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good,” is totally wrong. How amazing is our God: the Lion and the Lamb, the First and the Last; he dwells in unapproachable light, yet cloaks himself in darkness. Nothing reveals God like his creation and yet nothing conceals him like that same creation.

The greatest demonstration of God’s glory—the cross—was the greatest denial of the glory he deserves. Again, at the heart of God is paradox.

Prayer: God, you confront our categories. In our human nature we gravitate to one category or another. We try to be heavenly while neglecting the earth or we get worldly and forget the primacy of heaven. Father, we are sinful by nature and we project our thoughts onto you. Bust our categories. Show us that you are greater than our boxes––that you are the God of the heavens and the earth.

God’s Self-Denial – Day 19

Another perplexing question arises when we consider the way God created. We know that creation came about through God’s Word and Spirit, but in what way did that which was “formless and empty,” come into being?

There has always been divine mystery surrounding Genesis 1:2: “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.” Here we read about the Spirit coming down upon creation, but we do not read about the Word of the Lord until Genesis 1:3.

The mystery surrounding Genesis 1:2 has caused the development of various theories. One of the foremost is the Gap Theory. This states that God created a perfect heaven and earth in Genesis 1:1, but a pre-adamic race corrupted his perfection and brought down his wrath upon it. Thus the image of Genesis 1:2 emerges: a creation that is “formless and empty” because of God’s judgment. Though this theory is highly imaginative, it is not supported by the grammatical structure of Genesis 1:1-2. Neither is it confirmed by the historical revelation of God throughout Scripture. So we should discard it as merely conjecture and speculation.

​How can we better grasp what is happening in these first two verses? If we ponder the question of how creation could exist at all, we will begin to understand more fully the way God initially created in Genesis 1:1-2. If God is an all-consuming fire, if the mountains melt like wax at his presence, then how can there be a reality besides God? How can there be room for creation when God’s substance is so dense and intense?

We must realize that before all things came into existence there was only God. God was all and all, and there was nothing besides him. There was not even nothingness. Before creation there was no such thing as space, time or matter. God did not dwell in eternity (as the King James Version mistranslates) because God is eternity. God did not “dwell” in anything because he was everything. There was nothing but God and there was no room for anything else.

​In order for God to create a reality beside himself he had to limit himself. God had to make a choice to humble and deny himself, otherwise the glory of his presence would destroy anything that was other than him. We see this theme of God’s immensity, intensity and density all throughout Scripture. The Hebrews understood that no one who saw God would live. During God’s divine manifestation on Mount Sinai, God himself taught them to make boundaries around the Mount because if they or even an animal came close, they would die. Similarly, in Revelation 20:11 we read, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” How awesome is God’s presence!

​The Jewish rabbis called the self-limitation of God the zimsum. Isaac Luria was the first to properly develop this doctrine that had its origins from the rabbinic understanding of the Shekinah (the manifested glory of God on earth). The Shekinah caused the rabbis to wonder how the infinite God could localise his presence on earth. This would only be possible if God contracted himself to dwell in the tabernacle/temple. Isaac Luria applied this doctrine to creation saying, “Where God withdraws himself from himself to himself, he can call something forth which is not divine essence or divine being.”

​Jurgen Moltmann, a modern Christian theologian, builds on this doctrine saying: “In order to create a world ‘outside’ himself, the infinite God must have made room beforehand for a finitude in himself. It is only a withdrawal by God into himself that can free the space into which God can act creatively” Before Moltmann, Emil Brunner in the same vein wrote, “This…means that God does not wish to occupy the whole of Space Himself, but that He wills to make room for other forms of existence. In doing so He limits Himself.” In other words, it is God’s veiling of himself that allows creation to be a reality.

God has to hide his light in order for there to be something other than himself. It is God’s denial of himself that is the mystery behind the connection between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. As God veils himself he creates a reality beside himself. We may say that it is this restriction of himself which makes “nothingness”—it creates that which is without form and empty, that which is deep and dark. In hiding himself God creates a “womb” within himself, a womb he will then fill with his Spirit and Word.

​The New Testament, as well as theology, calls God’s self-denial, the kenosis. Paul referred to it when he wrote:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself [kenosis], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8, NASB95).

If God did not humble and empty himself through becoming flesh then whatever came in contact with Jesus would have perished. Thus God’s humility and love is the foundation of the incarnation (Jesus becoming flesh) and the grounds for him to show mercy to humankind. The paradox is that God cannot give himself unless he hides himself. This paradox finds its ultimate fulfilment in the cross. On the cross God revealed his greatest glory by hiding his glory. It was this glory of humility which was also the foundation of creation. The good news is God only withdraws his presence to create and interpenetrate his creation.

Prayer: I worship you, God, because you are a humble Lord. You could have been content with your eternal communion with yourself, but you denied yourself for us. You made room for us in your creation, you came down to us in your incarnation and you denied yourself in your crucifixion. How great are you Lord! May your Spirit of humility dwell in me today.

Creation and Re-Creation – Day 18

The Bible is all about creation and re-creation. And the gospel in a nutshell reflects this reality: God is creator. This is the good news! It is the first thing we read about God in the Bible and it is the last thing we need to cling to in our present flood of chaos. The fact that God is creator lets us know that it is God’s nature to create; His ability to create is our salvation. Salvation (properly understood) is God creating anew. If God created in the beginning, he can create now. And if God can create in our present, then he can surely create everything anew in the future. Just as the Bible begins it concludes—with God as creator. Remember the last section of Revelation: “Behold I will make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5).

Let’s ponder Genesis 1:1 some more: “In the beginning God created…” Again, the good news is that “God is.” And because he is, he creates. God is a God who creates and his creative works did not end with the creation of the heavens and the earth. Many people view God in a deistic way—they think that once the seventh day was finished God stopped working; he ceased all creating on earth. Their idea is that he made the “watch” and now it functions without the watchmaker. The truth is the creation of the heavens and the earth is only a small illustration of his greatest creative work—our salvation in Jesus Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). As we continue to read the story of creation, we learn that Adam and Eve turned from their Father—they let something else in that did not have its origin in God. Because of this fall, the foundations of the heavens and earth were cracked and destruction seeped into God’s perfect creation.

Praise be to the Lord who is committed to his creation! He is still creator and he has not fallen asleep. Instead he has been working to this very day. Jesus made this clear when he said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). Jesus said this when he was challenged about working on the Sabbath. The truth is the Sabbath cannot come to creation unless God is at work. His work did not end with the present visible creation of the heavens and earth. Right now he is working on a “new heavens and a new earth,” and its already being manifested on earth (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1). This new creation is the rule of his kingdom that is being created in the same way the old heavens and earth were created—through his Word and the activity of his Spirit.

 Prayer: Father, you are always at work and you will always be creative. You haven’t given up on creation because of our sin. Instead, you are constantly creating people anew in Christ Jesus and making them ready for the new heavens and new earth. I thank you for your work in me and I ask you to continue it––continue it through your powerful Word spoken into my soul and your Spirit breathing ever in me.

Reverencing the Word – Day 17

The problems in the world today, and especially among God’s people, all come down to how we reverence God’s Word. If we reverence God’s Word––both the written and authentically preached Word––we will experience God’s power. But if we do not stand in “fear and trembling” before the Word, God will not be made known to us. Consequently, we will remain “formless and empty” with darkness covering us.

In the ministry of the Word, God is revealed and manifested—the Lord himself is working and creating. In our ignorance we may think we are just hearing another sermon, somebody’s thoughts about God and life. Unfortunately, some preachers (who don’t realize the awesome responsibility of preaching) can further solidify this wrong assumption. Nevertheless, we need to grasp that there is no greater power than God’s spoken Word. There is also nothing more dangerous than to preach the letter without the Spirit—to preach a word not sent from the breath of the Father.

If the church is to recover from its apathy and emptiness (from its lack of life) it must begin to honour the Word as it would honour the physical presence of Jesus Christ himself. “These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Isa. 66:2). This trembling is needed for both the Scripture reader and listener. It is essential for the preacher to receive a word from heaven and for his congregation to be changed by the Word.

It is the wind that causes the leaves to tremble and it is God’s Spirit that causes us to tremble at his Word. Every believer that is missing this inward trembling has a “form of godliness” but is denying God’s true power (2 Tim. 3:5). The life they seem to have is only a smoke screen. When the wind of adversity blows the true condition of the person will be exposed. But when you reverence God’s Word nothing will move you. You will be rock-solid.

Prayer: Teach me to reverence your Word. May I not just hear it as any word, but your Word, O God. Your Word created the heavens and the earth and it has power to change my life. May I hear your Word by the power of your Holy Spirit. And Father, raise up preachers all over the land who will preach your Word with wisdom and without compromise.

The Word and The Breath – Day 16

Psalm 33:6 gives us more insight into the mystery of God’s nature by stating: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” Notice how two distinct “elements” are mentioned by the Psalmist: 1) the word of the Lord, and 2) the breath of his mouth. As the revelation of Scripture unfolds these two “entities” become more and more personal, taking on a very life of their own.

Let’s explore the first: What is this “word of the Lord,” the word that God used to create the heavens? What is this word—so powerful that it brings something out of nothing and life out of death? More appropriately we should ask, “Who is this Word?” For God’s Word is nothing less than himself. God’s Word is himself and yet it is distinct from himself—it has a life of its own.

“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, Italics mine). Without the Word of God it would be impossible to know God. The only way we know that God exists and that he created all things is by hearing him through his Word. He has revealed himself as creator by saying, “In the beginning God created…” Without these words how could we know him? Without the Scripture we would be left in the dark. God remains hidden unless we hear and experience his Word. His Word is the revelation of himself graciously given to us. It is his Word that communicates who he is and creates that which reflects his power and nature. This Word has been manifested to us—he is Jesus Christ, our Messiah. It also has been given to us in written testimony through the form of the Bible.

Only the one who dwells with the Word, dwells with God. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” (John 1:1, italics mine). The one who becomes unified with the Word becomes one with God. We cannot divorce God from his Word. Many have tried, but once the severance has taken place, the body is without its head. Afterwards what is proclaimed to be “God” is not really God at all; instead it is an idol created by our own human imagination.

Prayer: Father, I don’t want to make an idol. I don’t want to worship a god of my own imagination or the popular god of my culture. I want to worship the one true God; I want to worship You who is revealed through your Word. May I dwell with the Word because the Word dwells with God. Teach me to treasure your Word more than any other word, person or possession.

%d bloggers like this: