When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was a shapeless, chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors.
Then God said, “Let there be light.” And light appeared. And God was pleased with it and divided the light from the darkness. He called the light “daytime,” and the darkness “nighttime.” Together they formed the first day.
Joy Comes with the Morning
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
I praise You, Eternal One. You lifted me out of that deep, dark pit
and denied my opponents the pleasure of rubbing in their success.
Eternal One, my True God, I cried out to You for help;
You mended the shattered pieces of my life.
You lifted me from the grave with a mighty hand,
gave me another chance,
and saved me from joining those in that dreadful pit.
Sing, all you who remain faithful!
Pour out your hearts to the Eternal with praise and melodies;
let grateful music fill the air and bless His name.
His wrath, you see, is fleeting,
but His grace lasts a lifetime.
The deepest pains may linger through the night,
but joy greets the soul with the smile of morning.
When things were quiet and life was easy, I said in arrogance,
“Nothing can shake me.”
By Your grace, Eternal,
I thought I was as strong as a mountain;
But when You left my side and hid away,
I crumbled in fear.
O Eternal One, I called out to You;
I pleaded for Your compassion and forgiveness:
“I’m no good to You dead! What benefits come from my rotting corpse?
My body in the grave will not praise You.
No songs will rise up from the dust of my bones.
From dust comes no proclamation of Your faithfulness.
Hear me, Eternal Lord—please help me,
Eternal One—be merciful!”
You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing;
You stripped off my dark clothing
and covered me with joyful light.
You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs!
It’s impossible to keep quiet!
Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.
Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God.
He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make.
Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind.
His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it.
God sent John the Baptist as a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the true Light.
John himself was not the Light; he was only a witness to identify it.
Later on, the one who is the true Light arrived to shine on everyone coming into the world.
But although he made the world, the world didn’t recognize him when he came.
Even in his own land and among his own people, the Jews, he was not accepted.
Only a few would welcome and receive him.
But to all who received him, he gave the right to become children of God.
All they needed to do was to trust him to save them.
All those who believe this are reborn!
—not a physical rebirth resulting from human passion or plan—but from the will of God.
And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory—the glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father!
“The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept in July, August, October, and January are ended.
They will be changed to joyous festivals if you love truth and peace!
A David Psalm (Psalm 23)
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.
Then he said, “This is God’s Message to Zerubbabel:
‘You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit,’ says God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
‘So, big mountain, who do you think you are?
Next to Zerubbabel you’re nothing but a molehill.
He’ll proceed to set the Cornerstone in place, accompanied by cheers: Yes! Yes! Do it!’”
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—
it is the same Good News I preached to you before.
You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message;
and it is this Good News that saves you if you still firmly believe it,
unless of course you never really believed it in the first place.
I passed on to you right from the first what had been told to me,
that Christ died for our sins just as the Scriptures said he would,
and that he was buried, and that three days afterwards he arose from the grave just as the prophets foretold.
He was seen by Peter and later by the rest of “the Twelve.”
After that he was seen by more than five hundred Christian brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now. Then James saw him, and later all the apostles.
Last of all I saw him too, long after the others, as though I had been born almost too late for this.
For I am the least worthy of all the apostles,
and I shouldn’t even be called an apostle at all after the way I treated the church of God.
But whatever I am now it is all because God poured out such kindness and grace upon me—
and not without results: for I have worked harder than all the other apostles,
yet actually I wasn’t doing it, but God working in me, to bless me.
It makes no difference who worked the hardest, I or they;
the important thing is that we preached the Gospel to you and you believed it.
But tell me this! Since you believe what we preach, that Christ rose from the dead,
why are some of you saying that dead people will never come back to life again?
For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ must still be dead.
And if he is still dead, then all our preaching is useless and your trust in God is empty, worthless, hopeless;
and we apostles are all liars because we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, and of course that isn’t true if the dead do not come back to life again. If they don’t, then Christ is still dead,
and you are very foolish to keep on trusting God to save you, and you are still under condemnation for your sins; in that case, all Christians who have died are lost!
And if being a Christian is of value to us only now in this life, we are the most miserable of creatures.
But the fact is that Christ did actually rise from the dead and has become the first of millions
who will come back to life again someday.
Death came into the world because of what one man (Adam) did,
and it is because of what this other man (Christ) has done that now there is the resurrection from the dead. Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, being members of his sinful race,
and wherever there is sin, death results. But all who are related to Christ will rise again.
Each, however, in his own turn:
Christ rose first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will become alive again.
After that the end will come when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father,
having put down all enemies of every kind. For Christ will be King until he has defeated all his enemies,
including the last enemy—death. This too must be defeated and ended.
For the rule and authority over all things has been given to Christ by his Father;
except, of course, Christ does not rule over the Father himself, who gave him this power to rule.
When Christ has finally won the battle against all his enemies,
then he, the Son of God, will put himself also under his Father’s orders,
so that God who has given him the victory over everything else will be utterly supreme.
If the dead will not come back to life again,
then what point is there in people being baptized for those who are gone?
Why do it unless you believe that the dead will someday rise again?
And why should we ourselves be continually risking our lives, facing death hour by hour?
For it is a fact that I face death daily; that is as true as my pride in your growth in the Lord.
And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—
those men of Ephesus—if it was only for what I gain in this life down here? If we will never live again after we die, then we might as well go and have ourselves a good time: let us eat, drink, and be merry. What’s the difference?
For tomorrow we die, and that ends everything!
Don’t be fooled by those who say such things. If you listen to them you will start acting like them.
Get some sense and quit your sinning.
For to your shame I say it; some of you are not even Christians at all and have never really known God.
But someone may ask, “How will the dead be brought back to life again? What kind of bodies will they have?”
What a foolish question!
You will find the answer in your own garden!
When you put a seed into the ground it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it “dies” first.
And when the green shoot comes up out of the seed, it is very different from the seed you first planted.
For all you put into the ground is a dry little seed of wheat or whatever it is you are planting,
then God gives it a beautiful new body—just the kind he wants it to have;
a different kind of plant grows from each kind of seed.
And just as there are different kinds of seeds and plants, so also there are different kinds of flesh.
Humans, animals, fish, and birds are all different.
The angels in heaven have bodies far different from ours,
and the beauty and the glory of their bodies is different from the beauty and the glory of ours.
The sun has one kind of glory while the moon and stars have another kind.
And the stars differ from each other in their beauty and brightness.
In the same way, our earthly bodies which die and decay are different from the bodies we shall have when we come back to life again, for they will never die. The bodies we have now embarrass us, for they become sick and die; but they will be full of glory when we come back to life again.
Yes, they are weak, dying bodies now, but when we live again they will be full of strength.
They are just human bodies at death, but when they come back to life they will be superhuman bodies.
For just as there are natural, human bodies, there are also supernatural, spiritual bodies.
The Scriptures tell us that the first man, Adam, was given a natural, human body
but Christ is more than that, for he was life-giving Spirit.
First, then, we have these human bodies, and later on God gives us spiritual, heavenly bodies.
Adam was made from the dust of the earth, but Christ came from heaven above.
Every human being has a body just like Adam’s, made of dust,
but all who become Christ’s will have the same kind of body as his—a body from heaven.
Just as each of us now has a body like Adam’s, so we shall some day have a body like Christ’s.
I tell you this, my brothers: an earthly body made of flesh and blood cannot get into God’s Kingdom.
These perishable bodies of ours are not the right kind to live forever.
But I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies!
It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown.
For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky,
and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die;
and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too.
For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die,
must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.
When this happens, then at last this Scripture will come true—“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? For sin—the sting that causes death—will all be gone;
and the law, which reveals our sins, will no longer be our judge.
How we thank God for all of this! It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work,
for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.