24 November 2017

Something Has Always Been

Click on the photos for more information.

I loved astronomy when I was a kid. When I was in fourth grade, my class took a field trip to Fernbank Science Center. Dr. Staal, the host of the planetarium show, told us to go outside that night and look straight up in the sky and we would see a golden-yellow star named Altair in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle. I did; I looked, and I was hooked. Soon I ordered a book called Know the Stars. I remember lying in bed with the lights out studying a list of the heavens’ 15 brightest stars by the light of a full moon. As I studied the moon and the stars, I was filled with wonder as I pondered the vastness of the heavens.

No wonder David, who had countless hours to ponder the heavens when he was a shepherd boy, wrote in Psalm 8:3-5: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” He also wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalm 19:1

The awesomeness of the universe.

During this time I learned about the speed of light. In a vacuum like space, light travels at more than 186,000 miles per second. To give you an idea of how fast that is, a beam of light could travel around the earth’s equator seven times in one second. Since our sun is an average of 93 million miles away, it takes eight-and-a-half minutes for light to make the trip from the sun to the earth.

Even our closest celestial neighbor is a great distance away. Alpha Centauri is 26.5 trillion miles away. Even though light travels at 670 million miles per hour, it still takes four-and-half years for a beam of light to arrive here on earth. Instead of “miles” we use “light years” to describe distances beyond the Solar System. Alpha Centauri is four-and-half light years away.

If you go outside tonight and look into the southeastern sky, you will see the constellation Orion, the Hunter. Orion is easy to spot because of the three equally bright, equally spaced stars that form his belt. The reddish star that forms his right shoulder is Betelgeuse (beetle-juice), which is 520 light years away. The light that you see from Betelgeuse left in 1496, four years after Christopher Columbus’ first voyage. It is 14,000 times brighter than our sun. If Betelgeuse were placed in the center of our Solar System, it would extend beyond the orbit of Jupiter. The brilliant white star that represents Orion’s left foot is Rigel, which is 900 light years away; William the Conqueror was busy establishing earldoms along the Anglo-Welsh borders when tonight’s light left Rigel.

The most distant object you will ever see with your naked eye is also in tonight’s sky. It’s the Andromeda galaxy (get an expert to help you find this one). It’s 2.5 million light years away. Mastodons roamed around North America when the light we see tonight left the Andromeda galaxy 2.5 million years ago.

Andromeda is one of the closer galaxies to the earth. Scientists estimate that there are tens of billions of galaxies. When I told my kids, Leigh and Austin, about the vastness of space for the first time (they were nine and 12), it blew their minds – just as it did mine when I was their age, and as it continues to do today. Then I told them that God is present in the most distant galaxy, and he is present in our hearts. Their responses were “wow” and “awesome.”

For a really cool affirmation of faith, click on the picture of “Earthrise” above. To view video of this event, click here.

Added 6/24/2017: https://www.youtube.com/embed/dE-vOscpiNc … the story behind the photo.

Something has always been.

I became absolutely convinced of the existence of God at about the same time I became interested in astronomy. Our church was on its annual retreat to Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, Georgia. Jane Purdue, the pastor’s wife, took my Sunday school class on a walk in the woods. She asked all of us to close our eyes and use our imaginations. When everyone settled down she asked us to think about who created the towering trees around us. Then she asked who created the majestic mountains, the vast oceans, and the ancient dinosaurs. In every case, of course, the answer was “God.”

Then she took us back to the creation of the earth, the moon, the sun, the stars and the Milky Way galaxy. Now she asked us to really stretch our minds, “Who created the universe and everything that is?” “God.” And then she asked, “And who created God?” She let that sink in for several seconds. We were speechless. Then she said, “Something has always been.”

The gospel of John describes the One who has always been: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:1-5 and 14a

A mere 2000 years ago, Jesus – who has always been and always will be – became incarnate and lived among us: “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. He was with God in the beginning … Jesus became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The babe in the manger created the Star of Bethlehem all the stars in the heavens that shone above him.

Jesus came so that we might be reconciled to God, so that we can have an abundant life on earth and an eternal life in heaven. The Lord of All Creation took the form of a helpless baby – born to an unwed mother, into a poor family, in an unspectacular town, in an inhospitable time – to live and die as one of us, a perfect sacrifice for all mankind.

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emanuel.

Our salvation is dependent solely on our faith in Jesus Christ. Charles C. Ryrie says that faith (or belief) is mentioned nearly 200 times in the New Testament as the single condition for salvation. Our faith must be placed in Christ as a substitute for, and savior from, our sins. Ryrie says it’s not easy to believe someone you’ve never seen about the most important decision you will ever make.

That’s where faith comes in. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

Christmas is about God’s tangible presence in our lives. Now you have seen him; now you know the way; now you decide. Choose Christ; choose eternal life.

The Lord of All Creation wants not only to be your savior, he also wants to be The Lord of Your Life. Put your sinful, selfish ways behind you and submit your will to the will of Christ. Make him the Lord of your life.

Friends, God loves you. He wants the best for you, and he wants to spend eternity with you. He wants you to have a career that uses your gifts and abilities in a way that is pleasing to him, good for your family, and rewarding for you. He desires you with all his heart, and he wants you to feel the same way toward him. He loves you so much that he came down from Heaven. Love came down from Heaven, for God is love.

During the Christmas season, I sing the fourth verse from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” over and over. I love it because it focuses not only on the beauty and mystery of a newborn child, but also on the eternal purpose of His incarnation:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray,
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, their great glad tidings tell,
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emanuel.

May the love of the Holy Child of Bethlehem abide in your heart, and may the Prince of Peace fill you with hope and joy in this Christmas season. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved

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