What day is today?

What day is today? According to the Gregorian calendar today is Friday, the 21st of September, 2012 C.E. But I am asking a theological question, not a slot in your appointment book.

Another question that I like to ask my Sunday school students is, “What did God do on the eighth day of creation?”

Let us look at the seventh day of creation:

Genesis 2:1-2

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Something missing? There is not “and there was evening, and there was morning.” on the seventh day. The seventh day never ended. The Sabbath day is an eternal day. The eighth day of creation never existed.

God’s work is complete. And complete means complete = no more work to be done. God did not wake up on the eighth day and say, “let me do something else…”

On the Cross, Jesus completed the work of salvation. “It is finished” he declared. If we read the book of Hebrews, especially chapters 3 and 4, we understand that those of us who accept by faith this salvation enters the Sabbath rest. There is no more work for us to do.

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”

(Hebrews 3:15/Psalm 95:7)

So what day is “Today” for you personally?

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

Next time you eat out with your friends can you do some science for curiosity’s sake? Watch your friends eat and count the number of time they chew before they swallow their food. A study done by Harbin Medical University in China says that over-weight people chew less than their skinny friends. This was pointed out to me by one of my friends – I practically inhale food without chewing. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/01/us-chewing-weightloss-idUSTRE76S6OU20110801)

Now that I have ruined your eating habit and possibly your social life, let’s get back to studying Genesis. God created the universe, and after he is done he did not say “what am I going to do next?” He stopped and enjoyed his work. He took the first Sabbath.

Contrary to God, we are always in haste because we always want more. We don’t slow down enough to chew our food and savoy the its taste before we take our next bite. When we are done with one project, we start another. We are afraid that if we slow down, we will lose out.

I have a uncle who was a multimillionaire real estate developer. He had enough money to feed himself and his family for many generations. What did he do after he discovered he had cancer? He went back to work. What was he doing on his death bed? Telling his sons which piece of real estate to buy to make more profit.

According to the richest man in the history, King Solomon, what is the gift of God to mankind? “Each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13) As image bearers of God, we work hard and we create for six days, and we should also find satisfaction in our toil, just like God did on the seventh day.

Chew your food. Savoy its taste. Find satisfaction.An insatiable appetite is a sign of a Godless life.

Then there was evening…

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Another formula that any reader of Genesis 1 will not miss is the distinct “And there was evening, and there was morning…” pattern. Many theologians use this to argue that creation happened in six 24 hour periods. I am not going into that debate. Instead I ask this question, “What did this night-day pattern mean to the Israelite of Moses’ time?”

Israelite had been enslaved in Egypt for 400 years. For 400 years they must have cried out many times “God save us NOW!” – with special emphasis on the “now” part. And God had heard their cry (Exodus 3:7). But God not only had his plan, but he also had his timing. His timing was already announced to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16. God waited as an act of mercy to the Amorites.

Even in the creation of the heavens and the earth, arguably God’s biggest project, God was not rushed. There were evenings at every day of creation, when God apparently was not active.God makes everything beautiful in His time.

God is eternal, he has complete control over time. When we read the Bible, how can we discern whether a biblical event is an act of God? We discern by looking at prophecies. Only God can have control over time and history to fulfill His prophecies.

What is idolatry? Idolatry is letting something else take the place of God. Expedience is our Idol. God’s timing flies in the face of our “instant-everything” world. Our motto in business is ASAP. The deadline for your project is always “yesterday”. My second grade daughter is learning fourth grade math.

Sooner or later our children will become mature responsible adults. Sooner or later the harvest will be ready. Sooner or later your project will be done. Beautiful things are worth waiting for. God is worth waiting for. There will be morning – He promised.

Each according to its kind

Those of us who came from China know Asian carp (鯉魚) as a delicacy. They were introduced to the US in the 1970s as mosquito control. But some escaped and became an invasive species. The Asian carp has now invaded the Mississippi river and many of the lakes. A number of native fresh water species are driven toward extinction.

(Here is an animal channel video: http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/weird-true-and-freaky/videos/asian-carp-invasion.htm)

Read through Genesis 1 and the phrase “each according to its kind” appears many times. The most distinct act of God’s creation is the drawing of boundaries. God drew the boundaries between day and night, between the sky and the sea, between the sea and dry land, and among species of plants and animals.

Israel needed to be separated. She needed to separate herself from Egypt, and from the Canaanite tribes. Otherwise this nation will never be free and be able to fulfill God’s plan.

In our workplace, we also need to set and respect boundaries. We have seen how the violation of boundaries has ruined our financial systems in 2008. When different areas of financial services (credit, insurance, banking, investment banking, bond rating) ceased to be “each according to its kind”, the result was a confusing monstrous system which boomed fast and collapsed even faster.

On a personal level, the most violated boundary is the boundary between our work life and our personal/family life. We all began to take our work home. No job is 9 to 5 anymore. We carry our blackberries/iPhone/Androids everywhere, bedroom included.

Respect of boundaries is an integral part of creativity – turn off your smart phone.

Abundance

The key to understanding Genesis 1 is to put it in its context – Genesis 1 is the rally cry for Israelite leaving Egypt to enter the Promised Land.

When we read through Genesis 1, it is easy to pick out that when God created the heavens and the earth, he did it with ABUNDANCE.

  • “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”
  • “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”
  • “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds”
  • “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

God’s creation is ALIVE. Healthy living beings are naturally productive. The land will produce, the sea will produce, plants will produce, animals will produce, human will produce.

There are two ways to make our workplace productive: organically or artificially.

We can make our workplace productive by enslaving people – “work hard or you will lose your job”; or we can enslave people by enticing them with high pay. To be artificially productive, we drive people by money (or lack thereof).

To be organically productive, we rely on God’s gifts. We let our workers grow. We let our workers share in our vision. We are motivated by believing that our products and services will make the world a better place. To be organically productive is to drive people by love – God’s love for us and our love for our neighbors.

The Promise Land is “flowing with milk and honey”, not an enslaving sweat shop.

The “E” word

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.

Genesis 1

Today, we focus on the schedule of God creation. When we put the days of creation in a table we’ll get this:

Day 1: Light Day 4: Sun, Moon, Stars
Day 2: Sea and Sky Day 5: Fish and Birds
Day 3: Land,Plants Day 6: Animals,Human

Day 7: Sabbath

We can see the relation between the left column (day 1,2,3) and the right column (day 4,5,6). Using political lingo, what was created on day 1,2,3 are the domains, what was created on day 4,5,6 are the rulers of those domains. I am more of a scientist than a politician – so I like to use more environmental words, habitats and inhabitants. In fact, the Hebrew words that NIV translates as “formless” and “empty” carries the meaning as “uninhabitable” and “uninhabited”.

God did not create Life in a vacuum. God created lives within their Environments (The “E” word). For the Israelite (who were the original audiences of this message) God was not sending them into a barren desert. Instead God had prepared for them a “Land of milk and honey”. The habitat was ready and it is waiting for its rightful inhabitants.

God never hangs us out to dry. God doesn’t put us in an environment where we are doomed. God intends for us to flourish in our environments.

In our modern workplace, our environment consists not only of land, sea, sky and plants, (although those are still very important). Our work environment has buildings, it has culture, it has technology. As God’s agents, how do we shape and modify our work environment where we can all flourish? Or do we feel that we have been hung out to dry?

Intinsic Value

Matthew :28-29

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

One of the most sought-after luxury items in the world is the Rolex watch. A Rolex is indeed a work of art and a wonderful piece of engineering – with intricate design and precise movement. Wearing a Rolex has become a symbol of success.

The wealthiest man in Bible is Solomon. In all his splendor, he would have much more than a Rolex can reflect. Yet, in term of glory and aesthetics he would be no match to a simple dandelion.

Modern biologists would agree to Jesus’ evaluation. The most complex known DNA belongs to a rare Japanese lily (scientific name Paris Japonica). This beauty’s DNA is 50 times longer than that of a human. But we don’t have to go to the extremes. We have spend millions upon millions to understand the simplest life form – let alone design and create.

The fundamental difference between God’s creation and human creation is LIFE. God creates living systems, people create mechanical systems. Mechanical systems are simple and predictable. Living systems are complex and sometimes unpredictable. However living systems are intelligent, robust and adaptive.

Our society have realized that “organic” is the future – at least for groceries. The challenge that the creation story poses to us is to extend the organic way to managing our work – to look our co-workers as living breathing human rather than productivity, look at our customers and clients as living being rather than revenue.

Let’s be alive!

For we are kings

Genesis 1:26-28

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

It is not difficult to realize that verse 28 is a close repetition of verse 26. In the bible, this is called command-fulfillment formula. When command-fulfillment formula is found, it usually indicates that the one making the command has power and authority to “make things happen”. Obviously, this formula is mostly applied to God himself.

God, the one who has the ultimate authority, has granted us human the authority to rule over the biosphere. “Ruling” is not only what we do, it is who we are. For we are created in the image of God.

This bring us to verse 27. Verse 27 is a chiasm – which is theologians’ fancy way of saying that its content is arrange in a cross-over way. (The Greek letter ‘chi’ is shape like the English letter ‘X’ – a cross) A simple chiasm is ABB’A’, a more fancy one would be ABCC’B’A’, or even ABCDEFFEDCBA. So let us discover the chiasm in verse 27:

So God created mankind (A) in his own image (B),

in the image of God (B’) he created them (A’);

male and female (B”) he created them (A”).

(A = God created mankind, B = image of God.)

So what does this mean? It means that “male and female” are equally the image of God. In the our plurality is found the image of God who is the Trinity. (cf. verse 26 – Let US create mankind in OUR image.)

While we are called to rule over the creation on this planet, we are NOT called to rule over one another. Male and Female are equally the image of God, and should not be oppressing each other. Masters and slaves are equally the image of God. Bosses and workers are equally the image of God. Presidents, civil servants, criminals and welfare-recipients are equally the image of God.

What a tremendous declaration! A declaration that is revolutionary in ancient time as well as in modern time. So look around you, look at your family, look at your co-workers, look at the cafeteria lady. and re-discover our image of God.

An epic prolog to an epic adventure

Isaiah 40:28-29

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

It was a motivational speech that appeared in a sport apparel ad – “This is our house!When they come here and play, they play by OUR RULES! Nobody beat us in OUR HOUSE!”. When a football team play in their home stadium, there is fan support, extra energy, more pride.

Genesis chapter 1 is the prolog, the motivational speech if you want, to a battle infinitely more significant to any championship game. It is the fight for survival of the nation of Israel – a nation that is destined to be pivotal in the salvation of all human. It is the beginning of a quest that will change human history for eternity.

But who are the players in this battle? The Israelite had been slaves for 400+ years. They never experienced owning anything – let alone owning their own land. They never had a home field advantage. 400 years of slavery definite will put a loser’s mentality into anyone’s head.

So the Genesis story start by a declaration: “This is OUR land”. This is our land, because the Creator of Heaven and Earth had promised this land to us. We are not runaway slave invading a foreign land. We are rightful heirs who come to reclaim what is rightfully ours. To top it all of, our God – the Creator and therefore the Owner of heaven and earth – is walking in front of us in a pillar of fire and cloud. He is on our team.

When we walk into our offices today, are we walking into our “Promised Land”? or are we walking into a “land of slavery”? It all depends on who is on your team.