Tag Archives: Genesis 1

“Our heart is restless until it rests in You” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“In Yourself You arouse us, giving us delight in glorifying You, because You made us with Yourself as our goal, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. Sarah Ruden (New York: Modern Library, 2017), 3.

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“I asked the whole huge universe about my God, and it answered me” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“What is it that I love?

I asked the earth, and it said, ‘It’s not me,’ and everything in it admitted the same thing.

I asked the sea and the great chasms of the deep, and the creeping things that have the breath of life in them, and they answered, ‘We aren’t your God: search above us.’

I asked the gusty winds, and all the atmosphere there is, along with its inhabitants, said, ‘I’m not God.’

I asked the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, and they said, “We’re not the God you’re looking for, either.”

I told all those beings who stand around outside my body’s gates, its senses, ‘Tell me about my God. You aren’t Him, but tell me something about Him.’ And they declared with a shout, ‘He made us!’

My question was the act of focusing on them, and their response was their beauty.

But then I turned myself toward myself and asked myself, ‘Who are you?’ and I answered, ‘A human being.’ Here at my service were my body and my soul, the one of which is outward, the other inward.

Which was the one I should use to seek my God– whom I’d already sought through material objects from the earth clear up to the sky, as far as I could send the message-bearing rays of my eyesight?

The soul within is certainly better for informing me, as all the messengers that are material objects relay to it their news, and it presides and judges the depositions of the sky and the earth and everything in them that says ‘We are not God,’ and ‘God made us.’

The inside person has found this out through the help of the outside person; my inside self found this out– I did, it was me, my mind working through my physical perception.

I asked the whole huge universe about my God, and it answered me, ‘I am not God, but God made me.'”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. Sarah Ruden (New York: Modern Library, 2017), 284-284.

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“You struck my heart to the core with Your Word, and I fell in love with You” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“It isn’t with a wavering but with a sure awareness that I love You, Master. You struck my heart to the core with Your Word, and I fell in love with You.

But the sky, too, and the earth, and everything that’s in them–look, from all directions everything is telling me to love You, and never stops telling all people, so that they have no excuse.

But deeper is the mercy You will grant to whomever You grant Your mercy, and the tenderheartedness You will show anyone to whom You’re tenderhearted. Otherwise, the sky and the earth could speak Your praises, but we would be deaf.

But what do I love, in loving You? It’s not the beauty of material things, or any attractiveness of this time-bound world, not the pale gleam of the light, this light here which is so friendly to these physical eyes of mine.

And it’s not the sweet melodies of every sort, and not the agreeable aromas of flowers and perfumes and spices, and not manna or honey on the tongue, and not a body welcome in a physical embrace.

I don’t love these things in loving my God.

But I do love a certain light, and a certain voice, and a certain fragrance, and a certain food, and a certain embrace in loving my God: this is the light, the voice, the fragrance, the food, the embrace of the person I am within, where something that space does not contain radiates, and something sounds that time doesn’t snatch away, and something sheds a fragrance that the wind doesn’t scatter, and something has a flavor that gluttony doesn’t diminish, and something clings that the full indulgence of desire doesn’t sunder.

This is what I love in loving my God.”

–Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. Sarah Ruden (New York: Modern Library, 2017), 281-282.

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“A freshness of vision” by John Piper

“One of the tragedies of growing up is that we get used to things. It has its good side of course, since irritations may cease to be irritations.

But there is immense loss when we get used to the redness of the rising sun,

and the roundness of the moon,

and the whiteness of the snow,

the wetness of rain,

the blueness of the sky,

the buzzing of bumble bees,

the stitching of crickets,

the invisibility of wind,

the unconscious constancy of heart and diaphragm,

the weirdness of noses and ears,

the number of the grains of sand on a thousand beaches,

the never-ceasing crash crash crash of countless waves,

and ten million kingly-clad flowers flourishing and withering in woods and mountain valleys where no one sees but God.

I invite you, with Clyde Kilby, to seek a ‘freshness of vision,’ to look, as though it were the first time, not at the empty product of accumulated millennia of aimless evolutionary accidents (which no child ever dreamed of), but at the personal handiwork of an infinitely strong, creative, and exuberant Artist who made the earth and the sea and everything in them.

I invite you to believe (like the children believe) ‘that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course you shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the Architect who calls Himself Alpha and Omega’ (note 11, resolution 10).”

–John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Portland, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1991), 95-96.

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“The Empty Tomb” by Tom Wright

“Darkness on the face of the deep. The formless beginning, the chaos. The void. The beginning.

The wind and the word. God’s breath, God’s speech, summoning things never known before. Life and light. The first day. Creation.

In the beginning was the Word… and the Word became flesh.

The flesh has spoken, breathed, brought life and light. New creation has spilled out around Him wherever He has gone. ‘Here’s the man!’ The sixth day. Creation is complete. God saw all he had made, and it was very good.

Flesh dies. Chaos comes again. Darkness descends on the little weeping group at the cross. Two men in the fading light do what has to be done. Then the long sabbath, the rest in the cold tomb.

And now, still in the darkness, the first day of the week. The new week. The new creation. The eighth day. Eyes red from weeping and sleepless sabbath nights.

Women at the tomb; perhaps to bring more spices, perhaps just to weep, perhaps just to be there, because there was nowhere else to be, nothing else to do, nothing else that mattered, that would ever matter.

Mary Magdalene doesn’t feature in John’s gospel until her appearance, with the other Marys, at the foot of the cross. John has told us nothing of her history; the little we know, we know from the other gospels.

But her place here is spectacular. She is the first to bring the news that the tomb was empty. And, in the next section, a greater privilege yet: the first to see, to meet, to speak with the risen master Himself.

For the moment, the empty tomb is simply another twist of the knife. Chaos upon chaos. Someone’s taken Him away. No faith, no hope, no ‘maybe, after all …’. Just a cruel trick.

Some gardener, some labourer, some soldier, someone’s servant. But we must find out. It’s urgent. She runs back into the city, back to Peter in his hiding place, back to the young lad she had stood with by the cross, the one Jesus specially loved.

They run, too. (There is more running in these verses than in the rest of the gospels put together.) The younger man gets there first. Sure enough, the tomb is open and empty.

And here’s a curious thing: there are the linen cloths, lying there. Someone has not only taken the body away; they have first gone to the trouble of unwrapping it. Why on earth would you do that? Where has that happened before?

Peter, out of breath, arrives at the tomb a few moments later. He acts in character: no waiting, no beating about the bush, no shall-we-shan’t-we. In he goes.

And here’s an even more curious thing: the linen cloths are lying there; but the single cloth, the napkin that had been around Jesus’ head, isn’t with the others. It’s in a place by itself.

Someone, having unwrapped the body (a complicated task in itself), has gone to the trouble of laying out the cloths to create an effect. It looks as though the body wasn’t picked up and unwrapped, but had just disappeared, leaving the empty cloths, like a collapsed balloon when the air has gone out of it.

Then comes the moment. The younger man, the beloved disciple, goes into the tomb after Peter. And the idea they had had to that point about what must have happened—someone taking the body away, but unwrapping it first—suddenly looks stupid and irrelevant.

Something quite new surges up in the young disciple, a wild delight at God’s creative power. He remembers the moment ever afterwards. A different sensation. A bit like falling in love; a bit like sunrise; a bit like the sound of rain at the end of a long drought.

A bit like faith. Oh, he’d had faith before. He had believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He had believed that God had sent Him, that He was God’s man for God’s people and God’s world.

But this was different. ‘He saw, and believed.’ Believed that new creation had begun. Believed that the world had turned the corner, out of its long winter and into spring at last.

Believed that God had said ‘Yes’ to Jesus, to all that He had been and done. Believed that Jesus was alive again.

Not ‘believed that Jesus had gone to heaven’. People often still think that that’s what Christians mean when they say He was raised from the dead. John is quite clear, later on in this passage, that that’s not what he’s talking about (verse 17). He is talking about resurrection.

Everybody in the ancient world knew that resurrection didn’t happen. More: they knew it couldn’t happen. They spoke of it, in the classical world of Greece and Rome, as something one might imagine but which never actually occurred, and never could or would.

The Jews, though, began to believe that it would. Not all of them, mind; the Sadducees resolutely stuck out against it. And they weren’t all clear exactly what it would mean, what it would be like. But they believed, as we saw in 11:24, that when resurrection happened it would happen to all God’s people all at once. (Perhaps, even, to all people everywhere, as in 5:28–29.)

Not—this is the point—to one person in the middle of time. That would be an odd, outlandish event, unimagined, unheard-of.

When Jesus raised Lazarus, Lazarus returned to the present life. He came back again. The echoes of the Lazarus story in the present one are there partly to tell us that it was the same kind of event, but mostly to tell us that it wasn’t.

Lazarus needed someone to untie him from his cloths, and the napkin round his head. Jesus left His behind altogether. Lazarus came back into a world where death threats still mattered (12:10).

Jesus had gone on, through death and out into a new world, a new creation, a new life beyond, where death itself had been defeated and life, sheer life, life in all its fullness, could begin at last.

Ask people around the world what they think is the biggest day of the year for Christians. Most will say ‘Christmas’. That’s what our society has achieved: a romantic mid-winter festival (though we don’t actually know what time of the year Jesus was born) from which most of the things that really matter (the danger, the politics) are carefully excluded.

The true answer—and I wish the churches would find ways of making this clear—is Easter.

This is the moment of new creation. If it hadn’t been for Easter, nobody would ever have dreamed of celebrating Christmas.

This is the first day of God’s new week. The darkness has gone, and the sun is shining.”

–Tom Wright, John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 140–143.

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“He made us” by Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

“What is it that I love in loving You? Not physical beauty, nor the splendor of time, nor the radiance of the light, so pleasant to our eyes, nor the sweet melodies of songs of all kinds, nor the flagrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, nor manna and honey, nor limbs pleasant to the embraces of the flesh. I do not love these things when I love my God.

And yet I love a certain kind of light, sound, fragrance, food, and embrace in loving my God; for He is the light, sound, fragrance, food, and embrace of my inner man. There, a light shines upon my soul which no place can contain, and a sound is heard which time cannot snatch away. There breathes a fragrance which no breeze can disperse, a food which no eating can diminish, and an embrace which no fullness of satisfaction can dissolve. This is what I love, when I love my God.

And what is He? I asked the earth; and it answered, ‘I am not He.’ And everything on earth made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied, ‘We are not your God. Seek higher than we.’ I asked the breezy air; and the universal atmosphere with its inhabitants answered, ‘I am not God.’ I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars: ‘Neither,’ they said, ‘are we the God whom you seek.’

And I answered all these things which crowd about the door of my flesh, ‘You have told me concerning my God that you are not He. Tell me something positive about Him!’ And with a loud voice they exclaimed: ‘He made us.’”

–Aurelius Augustine, Confessions, X.vi. Trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (New York: Penguin, 1961), 212.

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