Saturday, September 30, 2006

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

(Above: Are these kids the descendants of an ancient single-celled organism, or the beautiful work of a loving and skilled God?)

At first glance, the Biblical perspective of humankind's origins may appear no more glamorous than evolution's view of an amoeba-like inception...

"...the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
(Genesis 2:7)

"Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man."
(Genesis 2:22)

Ribs and dust do not necessarily affix more value to our lives than single-celled organisms——at least not on the surface. The primary difference between these two opposing views of mankind's beginnings rests in God's intentional nature. He formed life with His own hands, and there is both a present and a future purpose for this act of creation. Evolution does not account for any sort of reason as to why life began. It merely attempts to explain the details of how it began.

We humans will never fully understand the mechanisms by which life began, regardless of which viewpoint to which we subscribe. However, those who believe we were carefully conceived by the hands of a Heavenly Father can still proclaim...

"...I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
(Psalm 139:14)

Evolution's Worldly Appeal

(Above: The theory of evolution claims that we may have evolved from simple one-celled organisms, such as this amoeba)

Admittedly, there are times when it seems much easier to accept a theory that gives man no purpose or reason for existing. In the framework of this often appalling world the notion is put forth that an almighty and loving Creator could never allow the suffering that we humans daily endure. Rather, the current state of humanity would appear to confirm a legacy of futility and emptiness. Evolution fits this mindset quite nicely. After all, it leaves open the possibility that our ancestors were single-celled organisms that spontaneously existed without rhyme or reason, perhaps even spawning from rocks or pieces of coal. What a great history this theory paints for mankind! Imagine how our schoolchildren must feel as they learn about such facts in their science classes. Unfortunately, they are entering a hostile world armed with the belief that no one really matters—that we are all here because of a million chance events occurring in proper sequence. Instead of seeing the world's dire need for God's saving and redeeming grace they simply accept the depravity around them and become an integral part of it. They are taught not to seek God.

In Psalm 10, Israel's King David writes of a world ruled by a desire to follow its own sinful ways and reject God:

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked does not seek God; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, "God won't call me to account"? (v. 2,3,4,13)

Evolution instructs us that there is no God. The world in which King David lived a few thousand years ago suffered because of its denial of God and its refusal to answer to Him—not unlike our present-day world. Our legacy, therefore, is not one of worthlessness and futility, but sinfulness. Unfortunately, evolution does not teach about God's saving grace, which can free us from our bondage to sin and give us purposeful lives...

"...because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sin—it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Sky is His Canvas

Oh, Lord, when I gaze upon the skies, a living tapestry of celestial hues and shapes, I see Your infinite beauty and acknowledge Your tender presence.

The Sun bids farewell to the day, a trail of radiance in its wake. As the astral brushstrokes grow dim I behold the awakening of the evening sentinels—Luna, Venus, Sirius, and a host of sparkling heaven-bound jewels.

Thank you, Father, for sketching a new masterpiece each night. Amen.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Small and Sinful, but Loved Without Limits

The Earth as seen from Apollo17 on its way to the moon, December 7, 1972
(Above: The Earth as seen from Apollo 17 on its way to the moon, December 7, 1972)

We live on this relatively small globe of rock, water and flora that sits within a modest system of planets and moons. Surrounding us is a much more substantial environment composed of stars and nebulae known as the Milky Way Galaxy. Beyond the Milky Way there exist billions of other galaxies scattered throughout a boundless space known as the universe. It is rather easy to consider ourselves completely without significance in the midst of such grandeur.

Yet, our God does not see us this way.

Our world is defined by rampant expressions of sinfulness and evil, a place where the beauty of life is too often overshadowed by mankind's iniquities. Not only should we deem ourselves insignificant in the grand scope of Creation, but an unwanted brood of detestable creatures as well. What worth can we possibly have?

In God's eyes, more than we could ever begin to imagine.

God does not see our sinfulness as a reason to cast us off, but as an opportunity to extend His grace and His mercy. He does not see us as tiny, useless beings sitting in the middle of a universe too large for us to comprehend. Rather, we are His prized possessions, and for us He gave His life that we might be saved. He came to redeem us. Let us therefore choose His way and celebrate His mercy.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

"But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed...the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Our Marvelous Backyard, Part 2

The Moon floats magically in the night sky and is our constant companion on a yearly journey around the Sun
(Above: The Moon floats magically in the night sky and is our constant companion on a yearly journey around the Sun)

Our solar system is home to a cast of captivating planets, each with its own set of unique characteristics and each providing evidence of God's masterful creativity and unimaginable scope. However, there are many objects in our midst that exist largely unknown, overshadowed by the planets they patronize or tucked away in the most remote regions of the solar system. A handful of these objects deserve special recognition for their uncommon allure, though let us begin with a very familiar and adoring face...

Moon - Also called "Luna" or even "Selene", the Moon maintains an orbit around the Earth at a distance of approximately 239,000 miles. It is one of the solar system's largest planetary satellites and is composed of a variety of primary elements. Besides the Earth it is the only celestial body upon which humans have tread and has been an object of great cultural significance (Moonlight Sonata and "Shoot for the moon", for example).

Ganymede - The king of Jupiter's moons, Ganymede has the largest diameter of any moon in the solar system (3,270 miles) and is larger than both Pluto and Mercury. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is the only planetary satellite besides our Moon that can be seen with the naked eye (under optimal conditions).

Jupiter's moon, Io, is the most massive moon in the solar system and resembles a block of moldy cheese more than it does a sphere of molten silicate rock
(Above: Jupiter's moon, Io, is the most massive moon in the solar system and resembles a block of moldy cheese more than it does a sphere of molten silicate rock)

Io - Another of Jupiter's 63 documented moons, Io is the fourth largest moon in the solar system and also the most massive*. The wide variations in color on Io's surface are likely the result of extreme volcanic activity which is constantly reshaping the terrain. In fact, Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

* The size of an object does not necessarily tell you anything about its mass (i.e. the amount of "stuff" contained within it). A beach ball can be several times larger than a bowling ball, but the latter is easily more massive. Just try dropping both of these items on your foot and you'll appreciate how the two concepts differ.

Miranda - The smallest of Uranus' major moons (293-mile diameter), Miranda is a patchwork of varying terrain seemingly broken up and haphazardly reassembled by intense geological activity. While the catalyst of this activity is not entirely clear, its effects on the tiny moon's surface are quite striking. Miranda is home to one of the solar system's highest cliffs, a 12-mile-high escarpment known as Verona Rupes.

(Above: A giant space sponge or one of the solar system's most unusual objects? Say hello to Saturn's moon, Hyperion)

Hyperion - One of the largest non-spherical bodies in the solar system (200 miles in diameter at its longest dimension), Hyperion is an oddity in more ways than one. This moon has an appearance not unlike a sponge, though no one is quite sure why. As it travels around its host planet of Saturn, its highly irregular shape is at least partly to blame for a rotation best referred to as "chaotic".

90377 Sedna - The most distant natural body that has been observed in the solar system, Sedna follows a highly elliptical orbit which takes it nearly 86 billion miles away from the Sun (compared to 93 million miles for Earth). This object has no official classification, but is not unlike Pluto and other so-called "dwarf planets". Although 900 times further from the Sun than Earth, Sedna is still within the gravitational influence of our beloved daytime companion.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Tools of the Trade

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover 'Spirit' captured this image of a martian sunset on May 19, 2005
(Above: NASA's Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit" captured this image of a Martian sunset on May 19, 2005)

I find it quite amazing what we have been able to accomplish as a human race, specifically with respect to our exploration of the solar system. Technological advancements continue to enable new frontiers of discovery and yield incredible views into the vastness that surrounds us. Enormous telescopes sitting atop mountain peaks have deferred to unmanned spacecraft scouring the landscape of space with precision photographic capabilities. Once appearing only as fuzzy, pale-colored forms our neighboring planets now resemble brilliant, lively worlds which we gaze upon with wonder and intrigue.

Truly, we are blessed with a God-given knowledge that allows us to glimpse an ever-widening and increasingly detailed view of His splendid Creation.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

How Old is the Universe?

A composite color image of the Horsehead Nebula and its immediate surroundings
(Above: A composite color image of the Horsehead Nebula and its immediate surroundings)

It is rather amusing to read scientific journals expounding on the age of the universe which, at best, are teeming with what-ifs and shot-in-the-dark assumptions. Of course, even Biblical scholars are at odds with respect to the timeline of Creation contained within the Scriptures.

The fundamental problem here is that we approach this question as simple-minded humans who prefer not to accept anything we can not prove in some definitive way. Researchers generally accept that time is a great equalizer, and that anything can happen given enough time. Therefore, if a process can not be adequately explained or proven it suddenly becomes palatable in the framework of, say, 5 billion years. Such a faithless approach has resulted in exorbitant timestamps of our universe, which have only conjectural support at best. Truthfully, I don't know the exact answer to the question posed above, but it is unwise to place limits on God's abilities with our own error-laden and grossly inadequate theories. Indeed, it is foolish to reject the possibility that Creation is much younger than we think simply because our relatively miniscule pool of scientific knowledge is aimed at disproving God's existence in the first place. In a strictly random, God-less environment an entire universe and its inhabitants can not be created in six days, and this is precisely the sort of near-sighted perspective underlying a vast majority of current research into the origin of the universe. Our lack of imagination and our refusal to give God His due credit result in the fabrication of numerous, almost desperate, theories and hypotheses. Over time, these theories and hypotheses constitute the basis of our "understanding". Such a haphazard and speculative approach is often viewed in a much more favorable light than simply conceding that a Higher Power might be responsible for everything we see. However, instead of filling the gaps in our comprehension with a faith in God's abilities we would rather put faith in our own.

Nothing that our minds can conceive will ever be capable of explaining God. He simply can not be contained by formulae, hypotheses and theories created by humans.

"My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine." (Isaiah 55:8)

His Ways Are Not Our Ways

"Can you hold back the movements of the stars? Are you able to restrain the Pleiades or Orion? Can you ensure the proper sequence of the seasons or guide the constellation of the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe and how God rules the earth?" (Job 38:31-33)

"When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers--the moon and the stars you have set in place--what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us?" (Psalm 8:3-4)

"He made the earth by his power, and he preserves it by his wisdom. He has stretched out the heavens by his understanding." (Jeremiah 51:15)

"You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you." (Nehemiah 9:6)

"To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it." (Deuteronomy 10:14)

"He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing..." (Job 26:7)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Are We Alone?

(Above: Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689—The immense gravity produced by this cluster is strong enough to bend light and acts to magnify distant objects sitting behind it...objects thought to be among the most remote in the universe)

Is it conceivable that within a universe of some one billion galaxies there exists not a single planet capable of sustaining life besides Earth?


I do not possess any scientific proof to support this claim (nor does anyone possess any proof to refute it), but I do stand by God's inspired Word. The Bible reveals God's overflowing love and adoration for His Creation, especially us humans whom He made in His own likeness. We are indeed special and unique, and despite our tendencies to sin God holds us in the highest regard. So high, in fact, that He would make us His only people in the entire universe, and the focal point of His purpose.

Heavenly us to understand just how special we are to You, and how You chose to make us the center of Your existence. May we glorify You by making You the center of ours. Amen.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Master of the Universe

A view of the Florida Keys from space
(Above: A view of the Florida Keys from space)

It may not be readily apparent why such an enormous universe exists. After all, with the exception of the Sun's life-sustaining energy, we are not dependent upon any distant stars, nebulae or other deep-space objects for our survival. It is likely that our only interaction with the universe will be the view through binoculars and telescopes. Modern technology has not afforded humans the experience of traveling beyond our own moon, let alone a cluster of stars 100,000 light-years away or a beautiful galaxy over 2,000,000 light-years away, and those are both modest distances by universe standards.

So, why does all of this "stuff" exist? In the first chapter of Genesis we quickly learn that God possesses a high degree of contentment and satisfaction with regards to His Creation, much as a craftsman takes great pride in his work. Sometimes, the finished product has only one purpose, and that is to showcase the dedication, love and skill of the One who created it.

Lord, may the wonders of the universe be constant reminders of the dedication, love and skill with which You have created all things. Amen.