In Which I Nerd Out Astronomically and Theologically

orionThe constellation Orion has returned to us.

Enough of a familiar sight to basically be the herald of winter to Northern Hemisphere dwellers, the Hunter, as Orion is often called, is known for its two brightest stars: Rigel at the lower right, Betelgeuse at the upper left. They’re the sixth and eighth brightest stars in the sky respectively, with absolute magnitudes of -7.84 and -5.85 (lower is brighter on that scale).

Next time you look at Orion, do so with this fact: the brighter star, Rigel, is over 200 light-years further from Earth and not even 10% the size.

Since learning those facts, I have never looked at Orion the same way. Rigel is an object of unbelievable luminosity.

Then consider that no created light can outstrip that of its creator.

And Orion is such a small sample of his work. Earth’s atmosphere, while a blessing, also does us a disservice towards understanding the breadth of his work, because it hides most of it. The stars of Orion appear to be relatively isolated objects floating in a sea of blackness, like chips of ice on a perfect sea. They are not isolated.

Shortly after moving to a rural town several years ago to teach math, I looked up one chilly but crystal clear December evening trying to pick out Orion and…could not locate it. That’s a different kind of chill. It took several seconds of confused scanning before I spotted it – it was right there, where it should be.

But it was now surrounded by so many stars that I had never seen before, only just now appearing in the absence of city glare, that the entire constellation of Orion had initially blended into the cosmos. No longer was the night sky a sparse collection of points; it more resembled a black canvas covered with fine dust, so numerous were the stars. Even the three collinear stars of Orion’s iconic belt had been able to hide at first amongst the galaxy’s sprawling glory.

Then consider that the stars visible from Earth are only an infinitesimal fraction of God’s work.

We are so alone among the stars…yet not alone at all.

This man is only one small step towards grasping the immensity of God.

 

His Peace Must Be Chosen

jordanEver heard psalmists and David Crowder sing unabashedly of God being “everything they need” and wondered, What on earth are they talking about?

Me, too.

One of the chief comforts of Scripture when we are disappointed, discouraged, or heartbroken, is that the Christian’s highest goal is not that dream or achievement or milepost you’ve fallen short of, but knowing God. Making him your peace, your joy, your contentment, your soul’s richest food and water. He, the Bible tells us repeatedly, is the only thing that will truly ever satisfy.

But you might have noticed it doesn’t just drop in with the mail.

Where is it then, God? Where are you?

Or as a friend put it recently, “Why can’t I appropriate for myself what God has promised me?”

We know God is faithful. His side of the deal is inerrant and unfailing; there is no lie or failure with him.

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Is God Opposed to Your Dreams?

soldierAs I was wrapping up Air Force basic training (never have seven weeks passed so swiftly and so slowly), one of the final bureaucratic details was the chance to tell the Air Force our preference of first posting, for them to promptly ignore.

We were given a “dream sheet” on which to list eight desired destinations. We could select a base, state, region, or country.

Some of us got an insider tip: wait until tech school to file your sheet. For whatever reason, sheets filed there tended to be actually seen by someone, whereas those filed at basic vanished into the same black hole that has probably consumed all my socks.

So I waited until tech school, filed my sheet, and waited with bated breath for the dorm sergeant to announce my posting. He did this weekly from his podium, usually triggering jeers of fake sympathy for anyone getting “Why Not Minot?”

Finally, my turn came. I got a posting in the…half of the country I’d requested.

Wrong border, though. 1,500 miles away.

Did the Air Force just not care?

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When You Dislike Being Needy for God

mistLong ago, I listened to a remarkably holy man, a cancer patient, sharing a conversation with God about what he was going through.

It was a naked, piercing, and heavy testimony of the “when you’ve finally just had it” variety. During a morning quiet time in his big easy chair, he is praying and listening for God and suddenly (for are not these things rather sudden?) just breaks into venting and protesting the story God is writing for him. It’s not just cancer. It’s the ongoing changes and the constant vigilance and the misunderstandings and the shame and fear that attend. All his anger and helplessness and isolation explodes before the throne in frustration. He lets God know. (Wouldn’t it feel good to do that yourself, if you dared?)

And the man described hearing God reply, “I understand you don’t like the story. How do you feel about the Author?”

Ugh.

It’s one of two things the man shared that cut me to the quick. Not a pleasant reveal, but an unmistakably holy one. A divine refocusing.

For we all know it’s not really about life’s circumstances. It’s about the sovereign One who’s controlling them, or letting them happen, or however you interpret that. And I could tell you exactly how my journey (e.g. my family history, my weird and glitchy personality) has made me feel about God.

The other thing he said was:

“I could just hear the clarity coming to myself, and I finally said it: ‘What I really don’t like is, I’m now living a life where I need you, God, on a day-to-day basis, just to get through it. And I don’t like being desperately needy for you, God.'”

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The Best Responses for Christians After the Election – Win or Lose

afterThere’s just no two ways around it – we can’t all get what we want on election week. After months of tiresome campaign ads that test all of our adherence to Matthew 6:34, we’re about to see which direction the government – most importantly, the Senate – swings.

We can’t control what happens, beyond our duty to vote (by the way, VOTE). But we can see to our reaction.

I’m no sage, but here’s what I have a conviction about come Tuesday – win or lose.

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Was Your Mind Made Up?

stormWe were expecting life to be pretty simple.

High school graduation, maybe a college degree, maybe the family route instead, but all of it falling into place in our early twenties without all that many bumps.

And when heartache started calling instead, when our plans for life folded like a cheap suit and God was nowhere to be seen, some of us just shrugged and walked away.

“If God won’t be there for me, why should I be there for him?”

It wasn’t quite that blase. We still love him…kinda. We certainly believe. We know he exists. We get riled up on his behalf when some atheist or Democrat starts talking.

But we’re not really on fire for him otherwise.

I don’t mean this as a guilt trip. Please hear me out.

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Don’t Cut Corners In Obedience

engediI don’t usually riff off sermons from my church, but 1 Samuel 24 is too chock full of good detail begging for extraction.

Quick background – David is on the run from a jealous Saul, who catches up in En Gedi. Saul chooses to relieve himself in the very cave David and his men are hiding in.

 

1. David’s men got the prophecy wrong.

Ever played the telephone game? One person whispers a phrase to another, and they to a third, and then a fourth, and down the row until the phrase is hilariously distorted.

This appears to be what happened to the prophecy that David would dethrone Saul. David’s men said this as, unseen, they (eww) watched a vulnerable Saul relieve himself:

…so they said to him, “Look, this is the day the Lord told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you so you can do to him whatever you desire.’” Then David got up and secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. (v. 4)

This is exaggeration. As best I can tell (and correct me if I’m wrong), no prophecy was ever given permitting David to do “whatever he desired” with Saul. The existing prophecies focused on David’s anointing.

It proves the importance of listening to God’s exact guidance. He doesn’t talk just to hear himself.

 

2. The robe scrap wasn’t necessary to prove David’s honor.

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