God Is

Day 13

Ex Nihilo

Read your Bible: Genesis 1:1–5

Spotlight Verse:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Genesis 1:1

Here’s a mind-blower: God created everything that ever existed out of absolutely nothing. He didn’t start with a blank canvas, or lump of clay, or a sheet of paper. There was zero for Him to work with.

Theologians have a Latin name for this: ex nihilo, which literally means “out of nothing.” He creates something where there was nothing before, and He looks at it and says, “It is good.”

This is a kind of creative power I have a hard time fathoming, because there isn’t anything we humans make on our planet like that. You and I always start with previously existing materials in order to make something else.

Be sure to check out today’s verses from Genesis 1.

The Hebrew word used there for create is bara. It’s only used in the Old Testament when God creates.

When human beings create, there’s another, lesser Hebrew word used. It’s intended to express that, while our creativity reflects our creative God, we can’t really produce something out of nothing the way God can.

Like Carl Sagan said, “If you wish to truly make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”27

Only God creates from scratch. But this is not just limited to the way God makes stars and planets. If you’ll allow me to use ex nihilo poetically but truthfully, this is also related to how God changes you.

God is not held back by pre-existing conditions. He can do anything from scratch, bring anyone back to life again, when there are no resources, no hope, nothing.


I think of the stories of some friends of mine…

About ten years ago, Kurtis was smoking pot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He didn’t want to feel any pain; he didn’t want to feel anything at all. His once well-muscled construction workers’ body had been laid waste by multiple sclerosis. His marriage? Over. His career skills? Useless. He literally had nothing left. He was being warehoused in a nursing home for low-income patients, feeling no good to anyone. A big zero.


One day Kurtis slipped out of the facility, steered his motorized wheelchair to the edge of a busy street, and tried to pick out a car that looked like the owner has good insurance — so he could roll into its path and end his suffering. But his nerve failed him and he rolled back to his room, feeling defeated even in his attempt at suicide — a new low, he thought.

Then a friend invited him to church. And from the first day Kurtis felt something stirring — something alive, happy, playful, all around him. He tells me he now believes it was the Holy Spirit breathing new life into his dead soul. The Spirit moved across what was formless and void.

To see Kurtis now, worshipping with tears flowing, leading the residents’ advocacy group at the nursing center, or greeting people at church with the biggest grin in the building, you wouldn’t recognize him. His wheelchair is plastered with signs he prints out from his computer (“He Is Risen Indeed!” says one). He is in many ways brand-new.

Then there’s my friend Robert. He went into the family business several years ago: Importing and exporting… drugs. With no trace of conscience, he happily funneled millions of dollars of drugs, mostly cocaine, into the U.S. It was a booming market. Until he got busted and sent to prison. And his marriage crumbled. And his daughter was murdered. And he lost everything. He was left with nothing.


But then, spiritual truths Robert had first heard as a child began to finally take effect as he attended prison Bible studies. A faith muscle started to grow where there had been nothing before.

Fast-forward to the present-day. The man I know smiles more than almost anyone else at church, unless he is weeping with brokenness when thinking of the addicts he helped create.

His occupation? He’s a counselor. His specialty? Addictions. Helping others get off the path he once trod. God looked at his total darkness and said, “Let there be light.” And Robert shines.

“Omnipotence”: It’s not just a fancy theological term. It means God sees possibilities where no one else sees them.

It means there is always hope.

It means God delights in His creative skill every time He produces a masterpiece out of a life seemingly devoid of hope or promise.

And it means He steps back and looks at His work in you and says, “It is good.”

You’ve been keeping your eyes wide open for signs of His finesse in nature — now watch for signs of His power in changed lives all around you.

And the next time you see someone and think, “there is no hope there — nothing,” remember how God likes to work:

Ex nihilo.

God is… not limited by anything.

Questions For Reflection

What does it mean that God creates ex nihilo?

How could this truth inspire and motivate you in your daily life, and as you look at the challenges and the needy people around you?