Light beyond Christmas!

“The incandescent Christmas lights will soon go out… Jesus, the Light of the world, will never be extinguished.”

Cecy Yépez

There is almost no place in the world, in which during this time the cities are lit and illuminated. And in the largest metropolises, this is tremendously evident. Intense and colorful lights adorn parks, shopping malls, large buildings, and certainly residential neighborhoods. Throughout the month of December, this is the most common experience around the world.

And yes, this custom probably brings joy, enthusiasm and lifts the spirits of many; forgetting for a moment the tremendous challenges, difficulties and obstacles faced throughout the year. But how long will your enthusiasm last? The lights will eventually go out probably at the start of the new year.

However, there is a light that will never go out – Christ Jesus, the real reason for Christmas who did not come to illuminate a certain time of the year. More than 2000 years ago, Jesus, God Himself, came to this world with a special purpose, to give His life as a ransom for many, for you and for me; so, that recognizing that we are sinners, that we are not righteous in ourselves, we would realize the great need for a Savior. Let us then recognize the great need to be brought out of the darkness into His marvelous light.

Don’t we live in a world awash in darkness? A world full of evil – violence and abuse in all forms, corruption on a grand scale, deception on all levels, depression, and self-destruction; and this just to name a few elements of this vast world of evil.

TE-Christmas-2021The incandescent Christmas lights will soon go out and just hold out for a few more weeks. Jesus, the Light of the world, will never be extinguished. He desires with all His heart to come and dwell in your life and illuminate it from today and forever. He longs to bring you from death to life, from darkness to His marvelous light.

Please, decide today to leave behind the world of darkness that has surrounded you until now; and open your heart to Jesus Christ, who tells you: “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)

If you do so, you can genuinely celebrate your first and true Christmas!

The Creator Prepares Home for His Masterpiece – The Human Being

“God created all things in order to prepare a house and an inn … then after everything that belongs to the essence of a house is ready, man is brought …”

[The Works of Luther]

Creation certainly reveals its Creator. His power, majesty, wisdom, wit, and care.

The Creator puts together a beautiful and incomparable composition with an extraordinary and endless range of elements: Visible light in the splendor of the day and dense darkness in the calm of the night. The sky with its stars, the immensity of the waters and the deep seas, the land of beautiful landscapes. Birds that incredibly fly high in the sky against the wind; sea ​​monsters and an infinity of creatures that dwell at the bottom of the sea; beasts and animals galloping in the field. Dense and exuberant vegetation, infinity of fruit trees.

A world full of color and delicacy. Harmonically designed, whose sounds surpass the most brilliant symphony: from the delicate chirping of the birds to the imposing roar of the lion. From the soft and imperceptible sea breeze to the crash and roar of its majestic waves. From refreshing rain to intimidating thunder.

And this wonderful symphony reaches its climax with even more spectacular, sublime, and peaceful sound; the sweet and loving words of the Creator God towards the highest of His creation, Adam and Eve; who certainly enjoyed splendid intimacy with their Creator, in the delight of the Garden of Eden.

“And God saw that it was good,” “and behold, it was very good.” God saw that His creation was very good! Through His creation, we touch the immensity of God’s love for the masterpiece of His creation – humanity. So great is the love of God, that step by step, detail by detail, precision after precision, He was designing and creating home for humanity.

a-laughing-baby-sitting-in-a-crib-and-playing-with-2021-11-15-17-02-01-utcThis leads us to compare in some way with millions of episodes in the world, when married couples prepare to receive their little baby. How much joy, how much delight, how much expectation! Nine months of so much love, great enthusiasm and of course, a lot of work to properly prepare the baby’s room, its trousseau, colorful and warm clothes, his / her first toys, even specialized preparation to know how to breastfeed him / her, how to prepare baby food as he grows, how to clean and bathe him, how to protect him from diseases, how to interact day by day with the little one so that the environment in which he develops is safe, pleasant, healthy and full of life.

In the same way, the Creator of the universe, took the necessary time to design with splendid precision each part of the magnificent home that He gave to the human being to grow healthy, safe and full of life. God saw that the created home was indeed good and very good!

As Mark DeVine says in his book, “Shalom Yesterday, Today and Forever: Embracing All Three Dimensions of Creation and Redemption”:

“To God be the glory for the things He has done. And what has He done. He has made heaven and earth as the proper home for human creatures made in His image. ” (DeVine 2019)

Likewise, Luther recognizes in his book “Luther’s Works” that the Creator is truly the provider, sustainer and caretaker of humanity:

TE-Luther-eng“God created all things to prepare a house and an inn, as it were, for the future man … then after everything that belongs to the essence of a house is ready, man is brought, as it were, into his possession that we may learn that the divine providence for us is greater than all our anxiety and care. ” (DeVine 2019)

Thus, and according to the biblical account in Genesis, on the sixth day, God concluded His creative activity, and concluded it essentially with the creation of His masterpiece – the human being; and on the seventh day He rested and sanctified this day.

“And so the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their heavenly lights. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2: 1-3 – NASB)

It is clear then that the pronouncement of God after the creation of humanity speaks eloquently of the unique meaning of humanity compared to the rest of creation; Devine points out. And he adds that only with the creation of humanity and its inclusion within the created order, can the creation as a whole extract the superlative “very good” from the Creator. In truth, this speaks of humanity’s uniqueness within the created order, a uniqueness that includes a position of superiority and distinctive worth within the universe. And DeVine emphasizes that no other imago dei creature is created. No other creature exercises dominion over the lower forms of creation.[1]

[1] Mark DeVine, Shalom Yesterday, Today and Forever: Embracing All Three Dimensions of Creation and Redemption (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2019), 709.

Creation – Six-Day Journey…

 

“Then God said …;” “And it was so …;” simply denote the authority of our Creator God…“And God saw that it was good;” “and behold, it was very good;” speak absolutely of the excellence of God.”

Cecy Yépez

Following the commitment of “Towards Excellence” we now share a second excerpt from the study “The God of creation as author and example of excellence”, this time focused on the extraordinary six-day journey in which the wonderful creation took place.

It is important to mention that the English version of this article has been translated from the Spanish version of Towards Excellence (https://hacialaexcelencia.org/2021/11/01/creacion-una-jornada-de-seis-dias); not from the original texts and works of authors here cited. The Bible verses used are from NASB.

So, sit back and let’s briefly travel through time!

Herbert Wolf states that Genesis was written as the prologue to the rest of the Bible. In general terms, Genesis expounds on the origin of the universe, the physical world, human life, cultures and certainly the nation of Israel. All this without considering the detailed explanation of how sin entered this world and how it ruined God’s original creation.[1]

It is interesting that throughout the creation account the frequency of at least 4 phrases to which much attention should be paid is observed: “Then God said …;” “And it was so …;” “And God saw that it was good; ““And behold, it was very good”.

The first two sentences: “Then God said …;” “And it was so …;” simply denote the authority of our Creator God. His Word is truthful and trustworthy. What God says that is fulfilled. As it is stated in Psalm 33: 8-9 (NASB):

“Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood firm.”TE.Palm33

The second two sentences: “And God saw that it was good;” “and behold, it was very good;” speak absolutely of the excellence of God. But these last two sentences are definitely connected with the first two. God declares His Word with authority and truthfulness, consequently His decrees are executed, and they are executed with undoubted excellence.

Don Fleming, author of the “Concise Bible Commentary,” in his section “Plan of the Genesis account,” states that the Earth constitutes only a small part of God’s creation. And he adds:

“The Genesis account is concerned with showing that God made everything from nothing, that He worked from what is without form to what has form, from the simple to the complex. He describes how He led the universe through various stages until His creative activity reached its climax in Adam and Eve.” (Fleming 1994)

Thus, it is time then to travel through part of the great creative work of God. Let us start our imagination for this journey…a journey that originally lasted six days, exposed in Genesis 1: 1 – 2: 3. And for this purpose, we will quote again Fleming, who in a simple but dynamic and creative way, superbly synthesizes this work:

At first the earth was shapeless and in darkness, due to the surrounding mass of water, but as the thick clouds of steam began to lose their density, a hazy light came from the invisible Sun (1: 1-5 – Day 1).

And as they lost greater density, the vapor clouds rose from the ground, producing a clear distinction between the surface of the oceans and the roof of the heavy clouds above (1: 6-8 – Day 2).

Meanwhile the Earth (the planet) was drying up and the Earth as such appeared visible. Simpler forms of life began to appear. Various kinds of soils and climatic conditions produced various kinds of plants, which were thus created so that they continue to produce more plants according to their own species (1: 9-13 – Day 3).

The heavy cloud above, which gradually became thinner and thinner, finally broke apart. And so the sun, moon and stars that were previously hidden are now clearly visible. And its effect on the land allowed a variety of climates and an annual pattern of seasons to occur (1: 14-19 – Day 4).

As God’s creative activity progressed, animal life began to appear, with creatures in the sea and creatures in the sky (1: 20-23 – Day 5).

Creation-girl and forest2The Earth also experienced the appearance of animal life, until it was also filled with all kinds of creatures. And finally, the first human couple arrived, representing the pinnacle of God’s creation. Unlike other living beings, the human couple was created in the image of God. (1: 24-31 – Day 6).[2]  And about this we will talk later, in a future article, about how God, their Creator, prepared everything for their arrival and reception.

Throughout this journey of creation, it is important to note that five of the six days of creation itself, the following statement is reiterated: “And God saw that it was good.”

Henry M. Morris III, in his article “Genesis and the Character of God”, points out that it is the same word in Hebrew that is used every time and means exactly what is expected, that is: good, pleasant, charming, excellent, beneficial. In fact, this term is used more than 500 times in the Bible. There is nothing so unusual about the use of God’s Word, Morris says, except that it is repeated often and that it is God who uses this term.[3]

And the sixth time, precisely on the sixth day, a greater emphasis is observed, “And God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

The Hebrew word for good is טוב [TOV] and from the Hebraic perspective it means that “TOV” is practical and functional, not just a state of pleasure. Thus, in Genesis 1:31, it is observed that God saw that His creation worked perfectly.[4]

On the other hand, Nachmanides interprets the word מְאֹ֑ד [ME´OD] as “mainly,” that is, the world is “mainly good,” quoting Onkelos, it would be further specified as “very orderly” and “appropriately arranged.”[5]

Throughout the six-day journey, it is undoubtedly shown that creation displays the Creator’s mark of excellence. In fact, the Creator Himself stated that His creation is flawless in every way. It is impeccable for sure in beauty, in function, in purpose, and in potential. After the creation, God saw all and saw that all created was very good.[6]

More of the God of excellence in our next post. See you soon!

 

[1] Herbert Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament – Pentateuch (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), 79-80.

[2] Don Fleming, Concise Bible Commentary (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1994), 13.

[3] Henry M. Morris III, “Genesis and the Character of God,” Institute of Creation Research, https://www.icr.org/article/genesis-character-god/

[4] CMJ Israel, “Hebrew Word Studies,” CMJ Israel, https://www.cmj-israel.org/yeshiva/hebrew-word-studies

[5] Zachary Braiterman, “Tohu and Bohu are TOV – Genesis,” Jewish Philosophy Place, https://jewishphilosophyplace.com/2014/10/19/tohu-vabohu-is-tov-genesis/

[6] BibleRef, “What does Genesis 1:31 mean?,” BibleRef, https://www.bibleref.com/Genesis/1/Genesis-1-31.html

 

The God of Creation as Author and Example of Excellence – Introduction

“…from the microscopic and complex of DNA to the magnificent and unattainable galactic world of the splendid universe, the Creator´s mark of excellence is infallibly present.”

Cecy Yepez

For some months “Towards Excellence” has been silent, due to some circumstances, perhaps one of the main ones, because I, the author, was working on a long research whose theme fascinates me. So, for some time I have considered to share excerpts from it with each of you, the beloved audience of “Towards Excellence.”

From now on, I will be pleased to provide a broad overview of the excellence of the Triune Creator God and its implications for the work of leaders, and especially, Christian leaders within their various spheres of influence.

Through the study of Genesis 1 and 2, among other Biblical passages, the fascinating world of creation and its different moments are approached, in which the excellence of its Maker undoubtedly unfolds. It is observed, of course, that from the microscopic and complex of DNA to the magnificent and unattainable galactic world of the splendid universe, the Creator’s mark of excellence is infallibly present.

And of course, this study highlights the sublime and supernatural presence of the mark of excellence in the Creator’s masterpiece – the human being, in whose being His image and likeness were impregnated, which unfortunately was upset, stained and broken by the fall; but it is emphasized that it has the opportunity to be restored through the redemptive work of Christ. Of Whom, incidentally, a wonderful approach is made as “the image of the invisible God”, based on Colossians 1:15-17 and Colossians 2:9.

Space view on Planet Earth and Sun Star rotating on its axis in black Universe. Elements of image furnished by NASA, [Envato Elements].

In fact, to understand even more about the image of God, the character of Jesus and His actions are also analyzed, since He is the perfect example of what human nature should have been.

Thus, this study, in its last part, deals with what concerns Christian leadership, understanding that its actors, made in the image and likeness of the Creator, are challenged to be an example of His excellence where they have been called to lead. And not only that, but as bearers of His image, they have been commanded to exercise dominion over all creation, but they must do so in a way that is consistent with the character of the God of excellence.

For this reason, throughout the excerpts that I will share from this research, the great example of Jesus Christ will be denoted, whose leadership style has revolutionized the world. A leader who sacrificially serves lepers, without fear of infection; a leader who breaks down cultural barriers, not fearing other people´s opinion, such as the encounter with the Samaritan woman; a leader who forgives and restores, as when he courageously defended the woman who was about to be stoned; a confronting leader, as in the eviction of the temple. A true servant leader who gives His life for the cause that was entrusted to Him!

And we delved further, understanding that this leader did not allow Himself to be infected by the profane culture of His environment; but rather fearlessly expanded the culture of the Kingdom of God.

I trust that these excerpts will inspire many as they may have the opportunity to meet the God of excellence for the first time, or reaffirm their knowledge and relationship with Jesus Christ, the God of excellence; or even more, mobilize many to be and act as ambassadors of excellence in this world.

In our next issue, we will start together an extraordinary journey through which we will recognize “the excellence of God in creation”; and certainly, we will join the poetic statement of Job:

“[God] who alone stretched out the heavens
    and trampled the waves of the sea;

who made the Bear and Orion,
    the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;

who does great things beyond searching out,
    and marvelous things beyond number.”

(Job 9:8-10 – ESV)

See you soon and in the meantime, I encourage you to live a life marked by excellence!

Christmas in prayer!

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…” 

 

This Christmas, at “Towards Excellence”, we will take time to pray for our faithful readers around the world.

And we pray that the peace of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, the peace that surpasses all understanding, may be poured out in the lives of each of our readers. May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, be manifest in their lives, even in the midst of the turbulence and uncertainties that may be surrounding  them this Christmas season.

For those who already have the privilege of having a personal relationship with Jesus, may that relationship be even more strengthened, may each person set his or her gaze on “things above” and not on earthly things; that in the midst of the confusion that this world lives, their gaze may be placed on the Throne of God, a throne that is immovable. May their trust be in the King of kings, Jesus, and not in the ephemeral governments and systems of this world.

And for those who still do not know Christ and have not established a personal relationship with Him, we pray that all spiritual bandages will be removed from their eyes, and that they may recognize in the depths of their hearts that they are sinners, like everyone else because the Word of God says that “There is no righteous person, not even one”; and that they may come to repentance and to understand the need of salvation for their lives. May Jesus Christ supernaturally reveal Himself in their lives and bring them salvation, peace, joy, and His marvelous light in the midst of the darkness that they are surely facing.

We pray that the miracle of the first Christmas, more than 2000 years ago, will be an extraordinary reality this Christmas, in the heart of each person who decides to dispose his or her heart, as the manger was arranged, to receive the Messiah, the Savior of the world who yearns to be the Savior of their lives.

It is our prayer that we are all willing to listen to the sweet voice of our beloved Jesus, who is knocking today at the door of our hearts; so we clearly and confidently listen: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…” (Luke 2:10).

We pray thus in the Name which is above every name, in Jesus Christ!