Tag: astronomy

About That Star.

I have a lot of regrets as a parent. One thing I’ve never regretted though, is making the extra effort to experience things first hand rather than passively watching them on a screen as we are so trained to do today. They even want us to passively watch church on a screen! The advent of TV and internet has brought us a lot of things. But one thing it has taken away is real first-hand experience in God’s created world. Just like church on a screen is no substitute for the real thing, neither is observing the heavens that Psalm 19 describes as declaring the glory of God. Packing the kids up in the middle of the night to drive to the top of Hawaii’s highest mountain, Mauna Kea, just so we could see it cast it’s pyramid shaped shadow over the ocean as the sun rose over the Pacific– totally worth it. Driving out to the Kona airport to wait in line so the NASA folks could let us see the Venus transit of the sun through their fancy telescopes– totally worth it. Pulling everyone out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to wander sleepily out onto the golf course just to watch the ISS pass overhead– totally worth it. And yes, packing up our dinner and driving down the road to watch the last-seen-in-1226-conjunction-of-Jupiter-and-Saturn last night was also totally worth it.

Was this occurrence the reappearing of the “Christmas Star” followed by the Magi in Matthew 2 as some suggest? I don’t know. Does it’s appearing still declare a whole lot about the glory of God? Absolutely. You can’t look at the red striations of Jupiter as it’s flanked by 4 visible moons or Saturn all dressed up in her hoops through a telescope like we did and not see the glory of God. Unless you’re lying. But even without a telescope there’s still a lot to learn about His glory. Consider the following:

What looks like a tiny dot is actually 2 giant gas planets. The first and largest is Jupiter, about 318 times the size of Earth and nearly 500 million miles away from us. Saturn is another 450 million miles beyond Jupiter. Yet last night they looked like they were bumping right into each other!

And then we have that average sized star known as the Sun setting in the bottom right corner of the same picture. It’s a mere 91 million miles away from us but about 1.3 million times larger. And that’s just our little cul-de-sac in the sprawling cosmic metropolis of the Milky Way.

The distance from our sun to it’s nearest celestial neighbor, a binary star known as Alpha Centauri, is 25 trillion miles, or 4.2 light years. There are about 100-400 billion such stars in our galaxy which is 100,000 light-years across. The nearest galaxy to ours is the Andromeda Galaxy at a whopping 2.5 million light-years away. As far as astronomers can guess there are some 2 Trillion such galaxies in the known universe, which according to their calculations is expanding at about 50 miles per second.

Now let’s zoom way down into the visible matter composing a mere 5% of the universe. Most of that is empty space, too. In fact if you take one of the most common elements, the hydrogen atom, you’d find that besides the proton, neutrons, and electrons you’d have about 99.9999999999996% of practically nothing. To put the amount of space in an atom in perspective, if a hydrogen atom were the size of the earth, the proton at its center would be about 600 feet across.

So the question is: what’s stopping the whole thing from flying apart?

Answer: Jesus

I saw a manger scene recently where the baby Jesus was gripping Mary’s index finger the way we all love infants to do. Pretty profound considering He was in fact at that moment holding together every single atom that made up, not just Mary’s finger, but the rest of her as well. Truly the entire universe was in His infant grasp.

Just listen how Colossians 1:15-20 puts Christ’s incarnation and role in all of creation into a doxology,

“HE is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

May those words be in your heart and on your tongue next time you step outside and look up at the night sky or feel the grasp of a newborn babe.

July Fly-by

We started the month celebrating a somber 4th of July. Why did it feel more like a funeral than Independence Day? Could it be that here in California we’re all basically under house arrest? Except for our convicted criminals. They’re being let out of jail by the thousands. Anyway, I thought Titus’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner fit the mood. Here’s the link.

Joel and Nathan got to take a road trip with their Opa up to Idaho to visit cousins. Besides an amazing show of hospitality by Tom’s middle brother and his family, Joel finally got some good catfish-ing under his now 15-year-old belt.

My IG Birthday greeting to this remarkable boy read like this:

“Happy Birthday to my fish catching, game hunting, piano playing, fly tying, snowcave sleeping, omelette flipping, anything high climbing, board shredding, highest peak in the lower 48 summiting, Gospel sharing, bike jumping, poker winning, truth loving, schoolwork dodging, gun toting, arrow sending, Bible thumping, trouble making, thrill seeking, wilderness surviving, double daring, son Joel. And that just describes the first 2 years of your teens. I can’t imagine what God has in store for you in the years to come. He obviously custom made you for adventure.”

Unfortunately, he and Titus have been unemployed since March. Tom, thankfully still has a job, but the camp being shut down for 5 months has obviously been a hardship. Keeping a houseful of 3 teenage boys, and 2 that might as well be, busy and in order with no work, no school, no camps, and limited interaction with friends has been a challenge to say the least. Mainly they’ve just been running wild in the woods all spring and summer. But honing those wilderness survival skills isn’t such a bad idea given our current political climate.

I was able to reign them in briefly to do some night-sky gazing recently. Jupiter and Saturn have been stunning this month. Our telescope was able to give us the first clear view of Saturn’s rings we’ve ever had. And of course, there was the Neowise comet. I think there might be one or two nights left to catch a glimpse of this 3-mile wide space rock orbiting our sun. You can find it right below the Big Dipper. I’m reposting some illustrations the boys did back in 2019 of the various kinds of space rocks and a poem to help you remember each kind.

“Dirty snowball out in space

with smudgy tail making chase

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Ice melts off and leaves behind

Dirt and rocks that sometimes find

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Their way through Earth’s thick atmosphere

But burn all up before getting here

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Except for sometimes they crash on through

And hopefully don’t land on you!”

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The End.

Titus wasn’t interested in our childish bit of poetic nonsense so here are some more accurate definitions from him.img_3536

Anyway, hope your July has been star-spangled and that August will still find us all fighting for the land of the free and the home of the brave.

 

Devo 23: repost

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9

Have you ever heard verses like the one above used to explain why we can’t understand hard texts in scripture?  Or how about this one?

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Deuteronomy 29:29

What about the statement that we are too much influenced by the Enlightenment and that we need to read scripture with a Jewish mindset which was more accepting of mystery?

We might call it an acceptance of mystery.  Jesus called it spiritual blindness and rejection of what the prophets clearly foretold.

Just look at how that Deuteronomy text continues.  

BUT the things that are REVEALED belong to us and to our children forever, THAT WE MAY DO ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW.”  Moses then reiterates to the Israelites the blessing that would be theirs if they called to mind the commandments and the “statutes that are written in this Book of the Law” and the curse that would be theirs if they did not.  And then he makes this stunning statement in Deuteronomy 30:11-14,

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is NOT IN HEAVEN, that you should say, ‘who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it  to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  NEITHER IS IT BEYOND THE SEA, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hearit and do it?’  But the word is very near you.   It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do It.”  

Is Moses not saying that what the Lord has revealed in His word, He has not made unattainable to the understanding of His people? 

If the first 5 books of the Bible were meant to be understood by God’s people so that they would obey them, why are we so quick to dismiss other portions as too mysterious for human comprehension?

Now just listen to the rest of Isaiah 55:9!  The very next verses read,

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth  and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, SO SHALL MY  WORD BE THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH;  IT SHALL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY,  BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH  THAT WHICH I PURPOSE, AND  SHALL SUCCEED IN THE THING FOR WHICH I SENT IT.

God has sent us much more than a mystery.  He has sent us a manna -filled, purpose-succeeding Divine REVELATION!  Do you know why?

So that we would recognize in that revelation the life-giving glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.

AND SO THAT WE WOULD RENDER HIM THE WORSHIP HE IS DUE!

Oh, dear brothers and sisters, can’t you see that every time you relegate a “hard text” to the category of “unattainable mystery,” you are robbing God of the exaltation that He so deserves?

Just go back to the last post and read the texts for this week.  All of them proclaim the infinite “high-ness” of God’s thoughts and ways. 

In fact the whole Bible is the particular REVELATION OF HIS THOUGHTS AND HIS WAYS to ALL mankind concerning His son, Jesus Christ, by which WE MIGHT BE SAVED!  And where else was the magnitude of His high-ness and other-ness more on display than on the cross?

When Psalm 37:5,6 proclaims that God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens, His faithfulness to the clouds, His righteousness like the mountains, and His judgements like the deep.  Where else was the extent of His love, faithfulness, righteousness, and judgement more clearly seen than on the cross?

And again in Psalm 103:11,12 the Psalmist proclaims that not only is God’s steadfast love “as high as the heavens are above the earth” but also that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”  How was that removal of transgressions accomplished but through the cross?

Read 1 Corinthians 2.  Yep.  The whole chapter.  I know this violates every rule in the blogosphere but it really is THAT important.  

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

Did you catch that?  Yes, there is a secret and hidden wisdom of God which was so misunderstood by those willing to write all the hard stuff off as a mystery that they “crucified the Lord of glory!”  And yes, no-one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God… but we have the Spirit who was from God THAT WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND THESE SPIRITUAL TRUTHS AND INTERPRET THEM!

It is this Spirit that enables Paul in Ephesians to address mystery after mystery with confidence and clarity.  In every instance the mystery itself is accompanied by an assurance that it CAN BE UNDERSTOOD!

God lavished His grace “upon us in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will (1:8,9).”  “This mystery was made known to me by revelation…when you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ (3:3,4).”  “It has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs (3:5,6).”  Grace was given to Paul to preach and “bring to light for everyone the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (3:9,10).”  About the profound mystery of marriage Paul says confidently that it refers to Christ and the church (5:32).  He closes by asking for prayer that he would proclaim boldly the mystery of the gospel (6:19).  

Now, just listen to Paul’s prayer for the church in the same letter:

“[May] the Father of glory give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you (1:17,18).”  

Please, I urge you, when you come to a text you don’t understand, dig deeper, pray harder for enlightenment. In those depths you will only find more reason to worship the crucified and risen Christ.  The one who has been made spiritually alive need not settle for mystery.  For WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST!  Let us use it to see Him more clearly, know Him more deeply, and render Him more fervently the glory due His Name!