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Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Genesis 1:1-5

God speaks. Two words in Hebrew. "Let there be light" in English. The immediate result is "and there was light." God's word is powerful and has immediate results.

Anticipating the turn of the millennium ten years ago, Life magazine made a list of the hundred most influential people in the last thousand years. When you think back over the last thousand years of history, lots of names come to the fore -- scientists, explorers, statesmen, even a theologian or two. Who would you choose for number one on a list like that? They chose Thomas Edison -- because his invention of the light bulb has totally revolutionized how we live. If you want to do an amazing experiment, try doing without artificial light for 24 hours. No inside lights, no flashlights, no headlights, no LED lights, no illuminated clocks or watches or computer screens. I spend lots of time in wilderness situations -- backcountry canoeing, hunting, and camping -- and I don't think I have EVER gone without artificial light for 24 hours. It's an intriguing idea.

Think of the difference light makes in your life. Think how dependent most of us are on our eyes. Some of the people I've learned the most from are those who live without physical sight. They learn to rely on other ways of gaining information, other ways of navigating, other ways of "seeing". They have a lot to teach!

When God starts creating, he begins with light. Whether you imagine this first moment of creation as a brilliant Big Bang 14 billion years ago, or as a sudden appearance of light emanating from God's being six thousand years ago, doesn't matter a great deal. God begins the creation by creating light.

1 John 1 helps us understand part of why this might be. John tells us, "God is light and in him is no darkness whatsoever." What might this mean on a literal level? What might it mean metaphorically? Think of all the associations we have in our language with light. Look at this list and think through what it might mean to use each of these words or expressions, especially if we use them to refer to people:

In the dark

Can you think of others that belong on the list? In our language and in our thinking, light is almost always a positive thing. We treasure brightness and color, both attributes of light.

Think what light makes possible. From a biological point of view, there would be no life without light. Photosynthesis in plants becomes one of the key building blocks for all life. Your skin absorbs sunlight and miraculously manufactures vitamin D. Sensors in your brain release chemicals in response to light that make you feel happy and well balanced. The lack of these chemicals sends some people into seasonal depression. (A few years ago I turned down a job offer on beautiful Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska. I had lived seven years in Seattle with 50 inches of rain each year, and I wasn't bothered by that -- but I couldn't imagine living in a place that gets three times that!) The very act of reading could not happen without light. The deeper you dig, the greater you realize is your dependence on light. Most of us have never thought about this. It is staggering.

So if God is light and in him there is no darkness, such that your reading lamp, my laptop screen, the hundred watt bulbs in my garage, and even the sun are just dim reflections of his glory, what does that say about your utter, largely unrealized, dependence on him?