15 – The Son is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn over all creation.
16 – For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.
17 – He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
18 – And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.
I have always loved looking up. I mean, in my mind, there’s nothing more relaxing than laying in a hammock on a summer day—looking up through the trees watching the clouds float by. Sitting on the deck looking up to watch an approaching thunderstorm—and then retreating inside to see the lighting displays—I think that’s better than any 4th of July show.
But perhaps the greatest time to see the beauty of the sky above is at night when the stars come out—and even the planets become visible. When I was about ten years old I laid on slope of our front lawn for hours watching a complete lunar eclipse. I would have stayed out there all night looking up at the glory of that night sky if my parents would have let me.
The sad truth is these days we don’t take the time to look up. We have more important things to do. We’re too busy looking down at our smart phones—and because of that the sky with all its beauty has become a stranger to most of us. I read this week that when an earthquake hit the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California in 1994, much of the city’s power was lost—radio and television stations were also knocked off the air. That night, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles began to receive odd phone calls from panicked citizens reporting a “strange sky.”
They saw a “silver cloud” above them and speculated that perhaps this “cloud” had somehow caused the earthquake. After some confusion, the director of the observatory realized what was going on. With the city lights made powerless by the earthquake, for the first time maybe ever, the people living in Los Angeles were able to look up and see a star-filled sky. The scary silver cloud they reported was the Milky Way. They’d never seen it before.
I have directed your mental gaze upward because as you no doubt saw when you entered the building, the theme of this year’s RBC CAMP involves doing what I love to do—looking up at the beauty of God’s creation as GALACTIC STARVEYORS!
Tomorrow morning about 200 children will fill this room—and every day of camp we’ll be challenging them to look up at the beauty of God’s creation—as a way of teaching them the life-changing truth of God’s great love.
Thanks to Peggy Peek we even have our own planetarium to use. Here are a couple pics of how I think it looks OUTSIDE—and INSIDE. I know this is prideful—but I bet we’re the only church in our convention with that star-gazing tool at our disposal! Way to go Peggy! And—I want to stop at this point and remind you that RBC CAMP is our church’s LARGEST MISSION TRIP.
I say largest because our mission trip TEAM involves well over 100 Redlanders. It needs to be that big because we’ll be ministering to hundreds of children and their families. If you’ve not already committed to work—contact Jennifer Harder. I’m sure she could use some extra hands.
In fact, let me take it a step further. We have a wonderful reputation in our community for the way we do Vacation Bible School—RBC CAMP. One of the reasons we have this rep—is because we are still able to do the school in the day-time. But—to do this requires lots of workers—so let me encourage you to look ahead every year to when RBC CAMP is scheduled—and set aside that week to be a part of our team! One more thing and I’ll stop meddling and get back to preaching. I encourage ALL OF YOU to plan on showing up at Family Fun Night—this Thursday at 6PM. It will be a great chance for you to mingle and introduce yourself to the unchurched families who are sending their children to this year’s camp. Talk to them—and if God so leads, invite them to worship with us or to come to SS. I mean, this is a great way to work towards our 30/30/30 challenge!
Okay—back to preaching.
The goal for this sermon is to preview our week’s Bible study. I mean, if you know what we’re going to be studying, you can pray more specifically and like any mission trip—the one that begins this afternoon requires prayer if it is to succeed. If you will commit to pray for RBC CAMP—every day this week—will you raise your hands! Thanks! In your bulletins is a special prayer guide prepared by Christy.
With that in mind—here’s an encapsulation of what we want our campers to learn in the coming week.
(1) On our first day, we’ll lead our galactic stargazers to look up so they can see that God CREATED everything.
The text that day—tomorrow—will be the first couple chapters of the book of Genesis—verses that tell us this universe of ours didn’t just accidentally happen. And—speaking of Genesis—way back in 1980—the second year of my seminary studies—I took one semester of Hebrew. Sadly, I’ve forgotten pretty much everything I learned that semester—37 years hence—but I do remember a few things. For example, I can still pronounce the first three words of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 says, “Bersheeth bara Elohim.” And—I bet even without studying Hebrew you can translate those three words. In fact, it’s right there on the screen. Right—as you can see it means, “In the beginning God created.”
Here’s something else I remember from my Hebrew studies. The middle word in that phrase, “bara” ––the one that is translated: “to create” — is a word that is used ONLY in reference to God. You see, this Hebrew word, “bara.” means to bring into existence that which was not in existence before—and only God can do that! Tomorrow during our Bible Study time that’s what we want to help our children see—we want them to look up and see that God created EVERYTHING—from NOTHING.
To illustrate this, I want to tell you of a time back in 1996 when scientists LOOKED UP—literally. Back then astronomers used the powerful Hubble Space Telescope to focus on a small and utterly black patch of space right next to the Big Dipper. They left the shutter open for ten days. That one exposure revealed 3,000 galaxies out beyond our own Milky Way galaxy—too far away to be seen by the naked eye. Each of these 3,000 new galaxies contained hundreds of billions of starts, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids. In 2004 scientists did it again. This time they focused the Hubble on a patch of darkness next to the constellation Orion. They left the lens open eleven days and discovered ten thousand MORE galaxies.
I could go on because it turns out the Hubble has revealed that there are over ONE HUNDRED BILLION galaxies out there in the universe! And they are each spectacularly beautiful! BUT GENESIS 1:1 TELLS US THAT IT WASN’T ALWAYS THIS WAY! It says that in a beginning that had no beginning there was ONLY God! And at some point, in the distant past, God changed that by CREATING it all—the stars—the planets—the earth—the moon, animals land water, insects—people…GOD created everything! In fact, if you would take a pencil and circle the word, “God” each time it is used in the first two chapters of Genesis and then count your circles you would come to a tally of 46. My point is that the point of the beginning of the Bible is to emphasize that in the beginning God created.
Well, people who take the time to LOOK UP—like our children will this week—people who look UP and AROUND close enough—can see this. They can see that all this—all the intricacies of nature could not just have happened.
Years ago, some scientists and computer experts did some MORE LOOKING. They were determined to discover the mystery of creation by using a complex computer program. Research was done. Information was fed into the computer. Then they instructed the computer to tell them about creation—how it happened, etc. Well, it began its computations—and then the magic moment arrived. As the computer printer came to life, it spat out a sheet of paper on which was written one simple sentence: “See Genesis 1.” Even the computer was “wise” enough to “look up” and realize that—as the Bible repeatedly tells us—“In the beginning GOD created!”
You know, people debate as to whether or not Charles Darwin made a deathbed confession of his faith in God. I hope he did. I don’t know. But no one debates that Darwin admitted—and I’m quoting him here: “To suppose that the human eye could have been formed by natural selection seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” Any true scientist—any seeker of truth who takes the time to LOOK—will have to conclude as Darwin did about the human eye—that this amazingly intricate universe did not just happen.
You know, one of the most astonishing discoveries astrophysicists have made in recent decades is that if gravity were just 0.000000000001 (one-trillionth of one) percent stronger—our universe would have reversed course long ago. It would have collapsed catastrophically, ending in a big crunch, the opposite of the big bang. Likewise, if gravity were just 0.000000000001 (one-trillionth of one) percent weaker, our universe would have flown apart so rapidly that planets, stars, galaxies—all the basic constituents of the universe—would never have had a chance to coalesce. As the group KANSAS put it, we’d all be nothing but dust in the wind.
Well, is it an accident that everything turned out so well? That gravity is not too strong, not too weak, but just right? Sir Fred Hoyle, the late University of Cambridge astronomer and avowed atheist, who first coined the phrase, “Big Bang,” didn’t think so, not for a second. After doing innumerable computations, Hoyle discovered that the odds of our being accidents of nature—are comparable to the likelihood of a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling scrap metal into a fully functioning Boeing 747. He said the chances are, “…so small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole universe.
One arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design.”
Hoyle discovered that, as the Bible says, “…what may be known about God is plain—because God has made it plain. 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.” This is a vital—foundational truth for ALL OF US—to grasp. I mean, Monday’s Bible lesson is VERY IMPORTANT. You see—if we believe God created the universe—and all that is in it—from nothing—then it’s much easier for us to believe all the other miracles that are recorded in His written Word.
- I mean, if God can make the universe—of course He can part the Red Sea!
- Of course, He can cause manna to fall from Heaven!
- Of course, He can cause a fish to swallow a man and keep him alive in his stomach for three days!
- Of course, His Son can come to earth!
- Of course, Jesus could Heal the sick and raise the dead and feed the 5000!
- Of course, He could die on the cross and rise from the dead!
- Of course, He could—and still can—FORGIVE OUR SIN!
Do you get my point? Believing God created the universe—is foundational—vital. So pray for us tomorrow as we teach that to all the children that come to our camp! Ask God to give each of our teachers the wisdom, the insight, the right words—to help impart the truth of the first three words of the Bible: “Bersheeth bara Elohim!” — “In the Beginning GOD CREATED!”
You know, we are always hearing about scientists probing the universe for proof of intelligent life. With huge radio telescopes they listen because they want to know, “Are we alone?” Well, tomorrow we’ll help our kids look up and see that we aren’t alone—there is a GOD—He created it all—including people like you and me. Our stargazers will study this truth tomorrow—on day 1 of our camp.
(2) Another thing we’ll show them on day 1 is that God must love PEOPLE.
You see, while the creation of the heavens and the earth and the other one hundred plus billion galaxies out there is impressive—the REALLY amazing fact is if we look up and around we can see that God created this universe with humanity in mind. Randy Frazee writes, “Mount Everest—the Grand Canyon—the stark beauty of the Sahara—the cascading elegance of Victoria falls—combine these and thousands of other jewels of His creative powers and you’re not even close to identifying the CORE passion of God. Those are just the DISPLAY cases to highlight His REAL work of art—mankind.” And Frazee is right. God’s REAL work of art—is MANKIND—people like you and me. He made this universe for US—and, as I inferred, scientific discovery supports this fact.
Geneticist Dr. Michael Denton writes, “All the evidence available in the biological sciences supports the core proposition—that the cosmos is a specially-designed with MANKIND as its fundamental goal and purpose.” You know—these days a lot of people in our culture are always pointing out how BAD humanity is. They elevate nature and cheapen human life. In my mind, a prime example of this is seen in those SPCA commercials where they encourage you to sponsor a needy kitten or puppy. The commercial shows pictures of hungry animals and asks viewers to send in $18 a month to provide for the needs of one of these poor baby animals. They’ll even send you a picture of the animal you are sponsoring to put on your fridge.
Now—don’t get me wrong—I love kittens and puppies as much as the next guy. We should take care of these animals. Not doing that is sinful. After all God gave us the responsibility of caring for this world of ours. The reason I DON’T like the commercials is because they are patterned after the ones Christian organizations like World Vision did to encourage people to sponsor needy children. It’s almost line for the line the same exact commercial. But—instead of seeing a child’s face—you see the face of a kitten or a puppy—instead of getting a child’s picture to put on your fridge—you get a picture of Spot or Garfield. It’s like our culture equates pets with people. It’s one of many ways they proclaim a popular message—that nature is good and man is bad. It’s the same underlying belief that leads people to abort babies because they are an inconvenience. It’s the philosophy that says there is no sanctity of human life—a way of thinking that says man is supposed to serve nature. Well, the Bible says it’s supposed to be the other way around. Nature was meant to serve man. Nature was made for people.
Let’s review the Genesis account for a minute so you can get my drift. The first book of Bible says that God first created the earth and its atmosphere. Then He created all living creatures that live on earth, in the seas, and in the air above. He created the moon and the sun and the stars. In verse 25 of chapter 1 God appraised this part of His creation by saying that, “…it was good.” But God wasn’t finished—was He?! No—on the 6th day He created Man—HUMAN LIFE. And then in verse 31 we can see how God evaluated this part of His creation. He said that HUMAN LIFE was not just good but VERY good. He said this because human life was the climax, the apex of all the rest of creation. God stopped creating something from nothing once He made us because everything else was made with human beings in mind. God made us to fellowship with Him. He made us in His image so we could enjoy a personal relationship with Him. On that sixth day of creation that RELATIONSHIP WAS BEGUN. God made the universe with people in mind.
There’s even a scientific phrase that reflects this truth—THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE. Simply stated, the Anthropic Principle implies that when we look at the world around us, it seems that the universe was somehow designed to support and nourish HUMAN life.
- Raise or lower the universe’s rate of expansion by even one part in a million and it would rule out the possibility of human life.
- If the average distance between stars were any greater, planets like the earth would not have been formed.
- Any smaller, the planetary orbits necessary for human life would not have occurred.
- If the ratio of carbon to oxygen had been slightly different than it is, none of us would have been here to breathe the air.
- Change the tilt of the earth’s axis slightly in one direction, and we would freeze.
- Change it the other direction and we’d burn up.
- Suppose the earth had been a bit closer or further from the sun, or just a little larger or smaller, or if it rotated at a speed any different from the one we’re spinning at right now.
Given any of these changes, the resulting temperature variations would be completely fatal to us.
So, the lesson we can draw from the Anthropic Principle is this: SOMEONE must have gone to a lot of effort to make things just right so that you and I could be here to enjoy life. In short, modern science points to the fact that we must really matter to God. There is indeed a SANCTITY to ALL human life. The human race was the climactic achievement of God’s creative work. It was, WE ARE, VERY GOOD in the sight of God.
An article in a recent copy of Discovery magazine noted a new study that suggests there are around 700 quintillion planets in the universe, but only one like Earth. The article states: “It’s a revelation that’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University in Sweden arrived at this staggering figure—a 7 followed by 20 zeros—with the aid of a computer model. Zackrisson found that Earth appears to have been dealt a fairly lucky hand. In a galaxy like the Milky Way, for example, most of the planets Zackrisson’s model generated looked very different than Earth—they were larger, older and very unlikely to support life. One of the most fundamental requirements for a planet to sustain life is to orbit in the ‘habitable zone’ of a star—the ‘Goldilocks’ region where the temperature is just right—and liquid water can exist. [In conclusion], Earth is more than your garden-variety planet.”
And that brings us back to my prior point because of course if, as the article suggests, we (earth dwellers that is) were “dealt a lucky hand,” WHO dealt us the cards? The article doesn’t mention God, but it can’t avoid language that implies a master card dealer—who must have loved people like you and me.
Okay—let’s move on.
God created the world. He created it for people for relationship—beginning with Adam and Eve—but there’s something else we’ll help our Stargazers to see:
On Tuesday we’ll show them that—
(3) Something is WRONG with this world of ours.
The relationship was broken by sin. And—this won’t be a hard lesson. I mean, we won’t need telescopes or a planetarium to help our kids see this because sadly it’s not hard to see. All you have to do is watch a few minutes of the nightly news or pull up the days headlines on your smart phone. I mean, this world endures earthquakes and drought—floods and tornadoes—disease and disaster all the time. It’s obvious that our created world is messed up. And it’s even more obvious that something is wrong with people—the crown of God’s creation. In the past two weeks alone:
- Muslim terrorists plowed cars into pedestrians.
- And then someone decided turnabout was fair play and plowed into Muslim pedestrians as they exited a mosque.
- A fire in a London high-rise took the lives of nearly a hundred people—and the cause: greed that led to the owner installing cheap insulation.
- A little over a year ago a young man was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for stealing a poster from a wall in North Korea.
- As you all know this week he died from the torture he received while being held for that crime.
- Last week U.S. congressmen were shot—not by Islamic terrorists—but by a man who disagreed with their politics—shot while they were preparing to raise money for needy children.
I could go on and on—it’s obvious that something is wrong. Isn’t it?! And this week we’ll help our campers this week learn about the cause of all this bad. They’ll have a chance to understand what has caused this “bondage of decay” that is all around us. You see, the 3rd chapter of Genesis tells us the sad truth that the first people, Adam and Eve, USED their God-given free will to break their relationship with God by disobeying His one law.
Theologians call this “the FALL” but I agree with Brian Harbour who says that a better phrase would be, “the COLLAPSE of mankind—”—because with the exception of creation, the entrance of SIN is the most far-reaching event in the history of the world. It was a COLLAPSE indeed. When Adam and Eve sinned, it affected more than them and their descendants. It affected all of the created order. Storms, earthquakes, famines, floods, disease and death began because of what they did. Everything COLLAPSED. Let’s review how it happened.
First God made Adam. Then He made Eve as His helpmate—partner in life. Now—we don’t know why God made man FIRST. Female Bible Scholars say that God made man and then thought, “I can do better!” but of course that’s not true! God made Eve to compliment Adam—and vice versa. God gave the first two humans a beautiful garden to live in—the Garden of Eden. It had everything they needed to literally live happily ever after. God would relate to them there. They would walk together down the pathways of that paradise. Can you imagine how wonderful that kind of relationship with God must have been!?
As I said God gave them only ONE RULE in this paradise. They could eat of the fruit of any tree in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now for some time—we don’t know how long—but for some time, Adam and Eve OBEYED this one rule. They lived in perfect harmony with God and could have done this forever. But then that horrible day came when they broke the one rule. The Bible tells us Satan came to kill and destroy and we see that stuff starting in Genesis 3. Let’s review the TACTICS Satan used on that horrible day.
First, he QUESTIONED God’s Word.
In Genesis 3:1 Satan said to Eve, “Did God REALLY say, ‘you must not eat from ANY tree of the garden?’” And of course, Satan was not seeking information with this question. He knew they could eat of all trees but one. So, he wasn’t seeking information—he was making an accusation—the accusation that God was unkind in withholding anything from mankind. He was questioning the fairness of God’s rule.
Next, he DENIED God’s Word.
In verse 4 he said to Eve, “You will not surely die!” “Don’t believe It Eve! You won’t die if you eat that fruit. It’s just a trick God is trying to pull on you. You can do what you want and nothing will happen to you!”
Finally, Satan REVERSED God’s Word.
Look at verse 5. He said, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words, Satan says, “You won’t die if you eat that. In fact, you’ll begin to really LIVE!”
I reviewed all this to warn you that Satan still uses these same tactics! He still tempts us to doubt the truth of the teachings of God’s Word. He still tells us there is no harm in ignoring God’s loving laws.
Well, Eve eats and gives to Adam and he eats—they BOTH disobey God. They both break the relationship. And from that moment on the world has never been the same. Think of it. In that horrible moment GUILT appeared for the first time. Adam and Eve knew they had done something wrong and they felt something they had never felt before—regret and shame! Then another horrible thing happened. They felt FEAR. God came to walk with them and they hid from this all-loving Being. Their relationship was shattered indeed.
Now—when we read this part of the story we all like to say, “If I had been in their shoes, I wouldn’t have eaten of the fruit! What a couple idiots! How could they do something so stupid!”
But privately we all know better. We know our own sin nature. We know all the times we KNEW not to sin—but we did any way—so we stop our accusing thoughts and we realize we would have done the exact same thing. This shows that the decision to disobey God didn’t stay with Adam and Eve. It has passed down from generation to generation—from them—all the way down to us! Frazee writes, “The tree lived up to its name. Evil was deposited alongside truth in the DNA of Adam and Eve—and in the DNA of every human being who came after them. At the core of this evil, which is called sin, is selfishness. Good looks out for others; evil looks out for self. Selfishness is the root of hatred, jealousy, violence, anger, lust, and greed. Adam and Eve are covered in it.”
As the Bible says, “ALL HAVE sinned and fallen short.” That’s why it is so easy to see how messed up this world is. Sin is in all of us—and so its affects are everywhere. And we are powerless to stop all this bad. We can’t make things better on our own—because we are flawed—we are sinners. This week I read about a planned town. It was designed by Disney. It’s called Celebration, Florida. It’s a 16-acre planned-utopia just ten minutes from Walt Disney World. Celebration Florida was developed in order to promote “Disney values.” Disney designed the buildings, as well as its education and health policies. Most homes look identical, even with the same plants in the front garden. During winter evenings, the town even gets a gentle dusting of artificial snow every hour on the hour—which would be very refreshing in the Florida heat! But this carefully planned, picture-perfect world was shattered in 2010 by two violent deaths: a murder and a suicide.
Matteo Giovanditto, aged 58, was the victim of the town’s first murder. Just three days later, Craig Foushee, distraught over his impending divorce and bankruptcy, barricaded himself in his home and started firing shots. After a tense standoff with authorities, Mr. Foushee eventually shot and killed himself. According to a British news article on these tragic deaths,
“The incidents have added to signs that cracks are forming in the sugary veneer of the town, where visitors can take horse-and-carriage rides through the picket-fence-lined streets.”
This story is a sober reminder of our fallen human nature. No matter how hard we try to sanitize our lives and our communities, we still have sinful hearts and we live in a flawed, fallen, collapsed and collapsing world. Perfect towns and white-picket-fences can’t hide the human heart with its bent towards sin. This leads to the most important truth we will lead our Stargazers to see this week.
(4) God sent His only Son, Jesus to restore things—to fix things—to make all things new.
Jesus came to make it possible for us to restore the relationship with God that the first people enjoyed in the days before their sin. Toward the end of our week we’ll look at the prophecies of Jesus’ coming—and the Gospel accounts of His death and resurrection. Our campers will hear that Jesus—God become flesh—Who created the world—came here to RECREATE the world.
Pray for me Thursday because I’ll meet with the older children that morning and I’ll tell them about Jesus and invite them to ask Him to forgive their sin and lead them through life. We’ll meet in the planetarium. Now—I don’t know how the thing works—but if possible—I’d use it to show them how nature itself proclaimed the coming of Jesus. I’d invite those kids to look up—at an illustration—a recreation—of the star that God prepared to announce the birth of His Son—the star that guided the wise men in their long journey to Bethlehem. I’d have a picture of Jesus on the cross shown on the walls—and then I’d rig the planetarium to go dark—like the darkness that covered the entire earth while Jesus hung there. Then I’d turn a switch and we’d feel the planetarium shake—like the world did when that earthquake hit the land the moment Jesus died.
I’d let them experience the fact that creation itself groaned when Jesus died. I’d also have someone in the back tear a piece of material and tell the kids that’s how it sounded when the curtain was torn in the Holy of Holies that day—the curtain that used to separate people from God’s presence—a reminder that Jesus died so that we could get that relationship back. Then I’d read the next few verses of Colossians 1 where it says, “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in JESUS—and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
Then I’d close by asking them if they’d like to respond to all that by using their God-given free will to ask Jesus to forgive them and come into their hearts and lives.
Well—what about you? How will you respond to this truth we will challenge our kids to look up and see in the coming week? Let us pray.