Small World…Big God

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Genesis 11
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Astronomers conservatively estimate there are between 100 and 200 BILLION galaxies in our observable universe. Our galaxy, the Milky Way is about 100,000 light year (LY) across (a light year is roughly 5.9 trillion miles). The largest known galaxy, labeled IC 1101, is so vast (5.5 million LY in diameter) it would take approximately 50 Milky Ways to span across it. These basic statistics give you some sense of how magnificent and gargantuan our universe is.

For most of us, however, these numbers have no point of reference so one day (after hearing statistics regarding our national debt) I did a little math problem to help me understand one trillion in dollars. Here’s what I discovered. If you had a trillion one dollar bills and you could count out 200 dollars every minute and you took no breaks for food, bathroom, sleep, etc., counting non-stop 24 hours a day it would take you 9,512.5 years to count them all. So if you converted that 200 dollars per minute into 200 miles per minute you’d be travelling at 12,000 mph and it would take you 56,123.75 years to travel one light year and 100,000 times 56,123.75 (more than 5.5 billion years) to get you across our tiny little Milky Way galaxy. At 100,000 mph it would still take about 673.5 million years.

The point of all this boring and, admittedly, incomprehensible math is not to point out what we don’t know, but to help us understand what we do know.

What we do know is that nestled in the midst of all the vastness of space is the planet upon which you and I reside. Earth is but a speck, very possibly atom-sized, in the scale of the known universe. Yet, our planet is perfectly positioned in our solar system to support life; closer to our sun and we burn up; further from our sun and we freeze up. And Earth is furnished with all the elements that animal and plant life require for sustained existence.

What we do know is that, “Here we are. We exist.” We may argue about many other things, but we can’t argue that. We are immensely complex organisms, each requiring highly specialized and synchronized functions to occur in order for us to physically survive. Knowing as little as he did, scientifically, about human biology, King David, the author of the poetic book of Psalms in the Bible, concluded, “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:14). Knowing what we know about human biology today, virtually every medical doctor would agree with David’s assessment.

What we do know is that we are also more than our biology. We are not machinery; though when healthy our bodies function with great precision. We are also, however, remarkably unique and individual. Much about us as a species is physiologically the same, yet, each of us is different. There is something about each one of us which transcends our physiology. The Bible refers to this transcendent component of our identity as spirit or soul.

The proof that we are more than just our physiology is easily revealed. All someone needs to do in a conversation or argument is utter the words, “I know what you’re thinking…”

A doctor may be able to run some tests and come close to understanding what we’re physically feeling, but our thoughts relate more to the essence of who we are and there is simply no way for another person to identify or discern that spiritual component; it transcends our physiology.

David believed he was created by God and that God knew him in ways that no one else could. Of God, David wrote,

Psalm 139:2
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

Now, you may not believe there is a God. Or you may not believe that God is so personal that He can know your deepest thoughts. But here, again, is what we do know.

We know that our thoughts are so personal and unique that no one else can discern them. The most open and transparent among us have thoughts and secrets which are known to no one but us.

We also know that we are not perfect; that there is something about us at the deepest level that is broken. And the fact that we know we are not perfect suggests that there is such a thing as perfect. The question arises, then, “Where did perfect come from?” After all, long before we could understand what perfect meant we realized that there were thoughts and behaviors which are either right or wrong.

The similarities between diverse and separate cultures with regard to basic values suggests there is more to our definition of right and wrong than what simply bubbles to the surface as a result of some physiologic function. Our sense of right and wrong and, ultimately, our understanding of perfect, seems deeply connected to that transcendent component the Bible calls the soul and spirit. Jesus addressed our spiritual nature in John, chapter 4. He said,

John 4:24
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

Those who believe in the God spoken of in the Bible believe He created each of us with a spiritual component which directly connects us to God on a spiritual level. We are not required to know God in a spiritual sense, but we have a spiritual connection with God, nonetheless. It is this spiritual connection which informs our awareness of perfection and which highlights our own imperfection.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome emphasized this fact, declaring that, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). God’s glory (light, brilliance, flawlessness) is indicative of His perfection. Then later in that same letter Paul describes a struggle which is common to us all: “…what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) He goes on to say, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have a desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19)

Can I get an amen?

Every one of us can relate to Paul’s conflict because we’ve all experienced it. We have all had good intentions we have failed to follow through on; we have all faced a choice between right and wrong and chosen the wrong over the right. This is most common, I’m sure you know, when it comes to controlling what we say. After all, delivering that zinger feels sooo good….at the moment. Only later do we consider how unwise or hurtful it was. And, once again, we are reminded that something inside of us is broken; something that we can’t fix on our own.

Long ago, when I was about 12 years old, long before I’d had many opportunities to get into any real trouble or screw up my life too thoroughly, I sat in a church service at a summer camp. The preacher had preached a gospel message, the specifics of which I cannot recall, and many young people had gone forward at his invitation to pray, confess their sins and receive the gift of God’s forgiveness.

I, on the other hand, was shy and backward so I sat there holding on to the bench but feeling powerfully convicted for my sin. I knew what to do; I was just having trouble taking that first step. But a kind and compassionate campground caretaker, not affiliated with the denomination sponsoring the camp, came and sat down beside me. He understood what I was feeling and asked me if I would like to pray and accept Jesus as my Savior. I said or nodded, yes, as tears began streaming down my face. I wasn’t an evil person, but even at that young age I knew something inside me was broken and that I couldn’t fix it. And so I prayed and confessed to God that I was a sinner, that I needed to be forgiven and that I wanted to be made new – inside.

I had heard all my life that Jesus was God’s Son and that He had died on the cross to pay for my sins and I realized that the only way I could ever experience true peace within was by turning my life over to Him. That’s what I did that night. It was in that moment that a sweet and indescribable peace and assurance flooded into my heart and I knew that God’s forgiveness was mine.

It would be amazing to stand before you today and tell you how that experience made me perfect, …but it did not. It did, however, introduce me to the reality that there was not a single thing I could say or do which could ever separate me from the love of God. Since then I have failed and sinned more times than I can name, but every time I have known that all I needed to do was to take responsibility for my sin and confess it to God. Time and again I have found that His forgiveness is always and ever available to me.

Along the way I have learned a few things, most of which have verified what I could not see or understand as a young man; namely, that living by God’s standards is the best way to live, period! I have been spared more pain and grief than I will ever know because I have chosen to follow Jesus, even in my broken and sinful condition. And I have learned that what the Bible teaches about God is true. He is loving, merciful, compassionate, powerful, and infinite.

I am convinced that there is too much beauty, too much order, and too much precision in our world and the universe for it to be accidental. The magnitude of creation underscores my certainty that God is real. With every advancement in technology which allows us to see ever farther into the deep reaches of the universe we have yet to find its limit. I am convinced that were we able to perch our most powerful astronomic equipment at the extremity of what we are now able to observe we would discover that it continues uninterrupted beyond our ability to see.

The true marvel for me, however, is not the magnitude of what God has created but that God cares for me; a tiny speck, living on a tiny speck (Earth), which is part of a tiny speck (the Milky Way galaxy), which is a teensy part of our universe, which will, no doubt, one day be revealed as a tiny speck. And so, we come full circle to David, who in his collection of Psalms reminded us that even as God’s creation is massive, so is His love for us.

Psalm 8:3-4
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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