In the Beginning…A Good Place to Start

Much to do today, but at least I can post the manuscript from today’s sermon (without links…I’ll have to add them later).

Check back Monday evening for an updated post. Until that time, you can read this week’s sermon after the jump.

With the news of the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, the hurricane that threatened the U.S coast this last week, and the ongoing debate about health care reform, I don’t remember hearing these headlines getting very much press. Have you heard these headlines?

Report: Scientists behind genome project will be able to create life in a few months (New York Daily News)[1]

The Monkeys that Prove Babies can be Born to THREE Parents…and May be the Key to Halting Genetic Illness (United Kingdom Daily Mail)[2]

These are landmark developments. Scientists have actually been able to unlock the key building blocks to human life. And there are some who think they can manipulate these building blocks to be able to minimize genetic disorders and some even think they can use these building blocks to create artificial life – very, very soon.

This reminds me of a story I heard about a group of scientists who had come to realize that we have come very far in our scientific discoveries and our understanding of how things work. One man spoke up and said, “Look, we’ve unlocked the human genome – the very building blocks of life itself. We’ve had men land on the moon. We still have people living on a space station living in orbit around the Earth. We’ve been able to clone animals and can do the same with people. We can harvest the power of the atom, coal, and the sun to have electricity. Through the power of computers and Internet technology, we have the capability of instantly communicating with each other anywhere around the world. The human race has become self-sufficient. We can do everything God can do. We don’t need God anymore.”

The group of scientists quickly agreed and decided that it was incumbent upon them to declare humanity’s independence from God. So they go through the Pearly Gates, walk past the Crystal Sea, and approach the throne of God.

“God,” they announced, “We’ve unlocked the keys to the human genome, landed on the moon, harvested the power of the atom and the sun, and can instantly communicate with each other anywhere around the world. We have even figured out ways to create life. We can do many miraculous things. We are here to declare our independence from You. We don’t need You anymore.”

God sat there patiently. After the scientists were finished issuing their declaration of independence, He stood up and said, “OK. How about this? Let’s say we have a man-making contest.”

The scientists consulted with each other for a moment and all agreed they would accept this challenge.

Just like He did in the days of creation, God took dirt and began to shape. Slowly and with great care, God fashioned a human body. And when He completed His sculpture, He placed His mouth over his creation’s nostrils and breathed life into him. And the man stood up and walked away.

“Now,” God said to the scientists, “It’s your turn.”

The scientists gathered together and came up with a game-plan. When they decided who was going to do what and in what order, they got to work. One scientist bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God interrupted. “Hey! Wait a minute!” God explained. “Use your own dirt.”

This morning, we are beginning a new journey in the Scriptures through the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. If you have your Bibles with you, please turn with me to Genesis 1. If you don’t have your Bible with you, you’re welcome to use the one in the pew in front of you. Genesis 1 is found on…well…page 1 of the Red Bibles (how convenient). We’ve just finished going through Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church that primarily dealt with how we should be living in the light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. It seems fitting, doesn’t it, to discuss the beginning of the world after discussing the end of the world? It’s kind of like we’re looking at the bookends of this amazing story that continues to unfold. And what we have is a story written by an amazing Author. Like many theological writings and books about God and doctrine, the Bible could have been written in sections labeled things like, God, Creation, Humanity, Sin, Salvation, and so forth. But it isn’t. Instead, we have a story – a narrative that begins in eternity past and ends in eternity future. It’s a story about God and His dealings with all kinds of people and how they respond to His invitation. As we encounter these stories, we learn a great deal about God, ourselves, and the world. And we discover that our own personal story is found somewhere in the pages of Scripture. If you read long enough and honestly enough, you’ll meet yourself in the Bible.[3]

By the way, as a side note, this is a good opportunity for me to remind you about the Bible study we’re starting this week. If you want to know more about how the Bible is structured and how God is telling His story within the Old Testament, we’re starting our Crash Course on the Old Testament this Wednesday evening at 6:30. It’s a survey of the different parts of the Old Testament and will hopefully help all of us navigate the Scriptures better so we can more readily see our own lives reflected in its message.

When discovering the story of how God has been and continues to be at work, it is helpful to take a cue from the song from The Sound of Music. Starting at the very beginning is “a very good place to start.” And do you remember the rest of the song? “When you read, you begin with…” (A, B, C). “When you sing you begin with…” (do, re, mi). And, when it comes to the story of God’s people that continues to unfold today, you begin with Genesis chapter 1.

Read Genesis 1:1

Now, we have to stop here this morning because we cannot lose sight of this very basic fact that is stated a mere four words into the account of the creation of the universe. It all begins with God.

For some, this is a divisive statement. They’ve allowed themselves to believe that God had nothing to do with the creation of the universe; that current scientific evidence points toward an accidental causation of the cosmos and all living things that happened over billions and billions of years. There’s a problem with this understanding. The theories of origin that support a beginning of things outside of the activity of God continue to change. Some things that were once believed as scientific fact with absolute certainty are now seen as nonsense. In 1806, a member of the French Institute named at least eighty geological widely held theories that refuted the creation account found in Scripture. The problem with these theories? None of them is accepted by the contemporary scientific community.[4]

Through observation and study, we have been able to harvest all kinds of information about the basic fundamentals of the universe and how it works. But as the information we have continues to expand, theories that explain the information continue to adapt. To sit back and say, “We know without a shadow of a doubt that this is how the universe came into being” seems to be a little presumptuous, don’t you think? Who’s to say there won’t be an earth-shattering discovery tomorrow morning that shakes that theory at its core?

To sit here in the middle of the story that is unfolding and presume that we can project back and announce that we know the exact process by which life began walks along the edge of foolishness. Do you remember the story of Job? He was a man who had everything and it was taken away from him. In the midst of his pain, suffering, and loneliness, Job’s friends and even his wife came alongside him and tried to explain his current situation. Some even encouraged him to just go ahead and curse God and die. While Job was sitting there, questioning God’s wisdom and asking the age-old question, “Why me?” God responded to his questioning with a set of His own questions, found in Job 38 (p. 460 in Red Bibles)

Read Job 38 (excerpts)

The answer Job received should give us pause. We must remember that we were not there at the beginning. We did not separate the heavens and the earth, fashion the stars or place the planets in their orbits. And because of that, we will not be able to understand all of what happened or the methods of His creativity. We must remember, “In the beginning, God.” Don’t get me wrong. This is not supposed to cause some kind of dichotomy between science and faith. Science is not the enemy. In fact, through science and our ability to observe what God has done, we have been able to do some pretty amazing things. Satan has managed to twist some scientific discoveries, allowing people to come to the wrong conclusions.

God is God. We are not. While we can see part of the story that He continues to tell, it really is just a glimpse of what He has done and what He will do. With all of this in perspective, we must continue to live with the faith that the God who was before the beginning of time itself is the same God Who Is today. And He is also the God Who Will Be of the future.

The story begins with God. It also ends with Him. In Revelation 1:8, Jesus Christ reminds us that He is the “Alpha and Omega,” which is like saying the A to Z in our alphabet. He is “the beginning and the end.” As we discovered in our journey through the letters to the Thessalonian church, the end of this current world and the creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth are under God’s control and will occur on God’s timetable and no one else’s. The same was true with the beginning of the story. It happened under God’s control and in God’s timetable. And that very same God who was at work at the beginning of the story continues to be at work today.

He is the same God who loves you so much that He willingly chose to take up a cross, allow Himself to be nailed to it so He could take on our sins and die for you and for me. He is the same God who, three days later, burst forth from the tomb…victorious over the sting of death. He is the same God who is there for you when you rejoice. And He is the same God who is there for you in your deepest moment of despair. The very same God who brought all of this into being wants to know and be known by you. He cares so much about you that He even knows the number of hairs on your head. God was there in the beginning. And He continues to be here today.

And God wants your story to be part of His story. He wants to use you and your unique set of talents, abilities, passions, and life experiences to continue to tell His story. Have you allowed Him to begin writing with your life? Have you allowed Him to begin writing on your life? Before time even began, God was there. And He wants to continue to be there as part of your life. Although we don’t understand all of the “hows” of creation, we do know that it testifies to this truth: In the beginning…God. Is your life doing the same? Do your actions, words, and thoughts proclaim that God has first place in your life? Or are you like the scientists in the story I shared earlier, telling Him that you don’t really need Him anymore?

Have you begun to allow Him to write His story with your life? The first steps to that are acknowledging that no matter how you’ve tried to live before, that God is God and you are not. That although you’ve tried to write your own story in your own ways, you know now that God is the Author. And He wants to continue to write His story with you. Although you might have tried to do it your own way and in your own time, remember that God is God and we are not.

We will never know all the details and maybe not even the timetable of how God brought all of creation out of nothing. But we can rest assured that the same God who was at work at the dawn of time is at work today in the lives of the people who choose to follow Him. If you haven’t allowed Him to use you to tell His story, why not begin today?


[1] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2009/08/23/2009-08-23_report_scientists_will_be_able_to_create_life_soon.html

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1209209/IVF-procedure-using-DNA-THREE-parents-eradicate-incurable-diseases.html

[3] Warren Wiersbe, Be Basic: Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word, p. 17.

[4] J. Vernon McGee, Genesis: Chapters 1-15, Thru the Bible Commentary Series, p. 53.

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