Amazed By the Awesome Universe? What if it Had a Creator?

I was standing outside looking at the stars the other night, and it hit me again that the universe is utterly amazing. I hope I am never so jaded that I fail to be amazed by the world around me. Looking up at the infinite expanse of space, I wondered: is God the Creator of all of this, or just a figment of our imagination? Is it all made by God, or is God all made up? Is there a God who really does things?

The Bible contends that God exists, and that He is active in our universe. “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV) This sentence is something that has confounded skeptics and caused debates. Does God do amazing things?

Is God really even out there? Believers say He is. The academic intellectual doubts it. Atheists scoff at the notion. What do you think? Have you ever seen God work, or felt His presence?

Is There a Method to Decide?

Has God really ever done anything in our midst that we would not believe, even if we were told? It is easy to look the world around us and fail to see God. He doesn’t appear on command, and you can’t detect Him with your senses. On the one hand, there are those who say that the only acceptable evidence is purely empirical, based on what we can observe and analyze.

Just apply the scientific method to all that we see, and to our very existence. According to science, we came from random explosions in an expanding universe that somehow interacted to synthesize amino proteins which came together to form DNA. It’s all explainable using quantum physics and scientific analysis. You just have to allow enough time for that random process to work and evolve. (I mean, lots and LOTS of time… eons and eons of it, during none of which could we actually use the scientific method to observe.)

amazed

Amazed or Not?

But on the other hand, believers say God created the universe with a design and a plan. It was also not an observable event, but it makes more logical sense to me that a rational designer created the universe with an observable design…

On the one hand, you can try to talk to God, but you’ll receive no direct answer, and hear no vocal response. But on the other hand, people speak and listen to God with surety every day.

On the one hand, we live in a world where there is cause and effect, and the things that happen can all be explained; on the other hand, people see the hand of God at work. And on that one hand, technology is altering the way we get information, and people are living in tweets and sound bites, gravitating away from reflection and contemplation. Culture resides in the here and now, not the dusty past… But on the other hand, God revealed himself through the Word, and put his wisdom and his story into a book that has to be explored and meditated upon.

Seems kinda backward of God, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t he have waited to come when He could have made the news? Wouldn’t technology have provided a better communications base than the Bible? The intellectuals of this world shoot holes in faith, and many people could say they have not really seen God. Yet Habakkuk claims that God will do something utterly amazing, which “you would not believe, even if you were told.”

“I Wouldn’t Believe it if You Told Me”

You know what? Habakkuk’s prophecy came true. God did just that. He sent his Son to earth as a fragile infant. Jesus of Nazareth said things no one had ever said, and lived as no one else had ever lived. His love and humility astounded his followers and confounded the wise. He went to the cross, in the utterly amazing story of redemption. Habakkuk was right. God did something “in your days” that no one saw coming, even though they had been told about it… It changed the nations, reshaped history, and fulfilled prophecy from thousands of years before.

God not only made everything, but God showed up. He gave us his Word, and He gave us his Son. You’ve now been told; whether you believe it or not, and whether you choose to be amazed by it is totally up to you. (By the way, if you believe it, make sure you tell somebody else about it today! They might be amazed, too!)

The Amazing God

Habakkuk said that God would do some things among the nations
Which would be quite historical, and cause some big sensations.
He said that folks would look upon God’s work and be amazed,
Yet there some who still observe and really are not fazed.
They say that God is not at work, and they can’t really see
That God has ever been at work to alter history…

They might just note that calendars are dated from the birth
Of a baby from Judea who changed everything on earth.
Read his teaching, analyze his life, and then observe
That he came not to rule the world, but to ransom it, and serve.
Habakkuk said we’d be amazed at all that God could do:
Who knew that in a baby, his prediction would come true?
I’ve been amazed by Jesus; tell me, scientist, have you?

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Locusts of Sin Destroy Everything they Touch

I remember seeing an old movie about some settlers on the prairie who were attacked by a swarm of locusts. The insects literally darkened the sky like a cloud and brought darkness and fear everywhere they went. These clouds of millions of bugs literally consumed all of the crops in their path. These kinds of swarms of Locusts came sweeping through Biblical lands from time to time, eating crops, consuming future food supplies and leaving devastation in their wake…

locusts

Why Judgment?

Here in the 30th book of the Bible, Joel compares the judgment day of the Lord to such an event, a time of fear and devastation. “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it? “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity…Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…“ (Joel 2:11-13; 21; 25, NIV)

Since you and I have probably never been swarmed over by millions of locusts, it’s instructive for us to consider what does indeed bring destruction into our lives, and what causes pain, loss, and devastation. It’s also what connects us irrevocably to God’s judgment. which the Minor Prophets are so good at pointing out. We live in a fallen, broken world, and we are subject to the Lord’s judgment because of sin. Our self-will and disobedience bring the locusts destruction into our lives even though (as Joel points out) our Father’s desire is to be gracious and compassionate.

Not so Minor

The “Minor” prophets delivered messages that warned about the impending Day of the Lord, a day of judgment and calamity brought about by the unfaithfulness of Israel. God’s intent to allow judgment to fall on Israel is a major theme in the Minor Prophets. Israel is warned that if they keep following little gods, they will indeed encounter justice at the hands of the Living God.

There is, however another theme that stands out like a beautiful flower growing alone on a rough mountain ledge: restoration. God sends the warnings repeatedly to call Israel back to Himself. We have the benefit of hindsight, and yes, Israel left God; they experienced the total devastation akin to locusts eating all of their crops. At the risk of trivializing calamity,  the warnings God gave are actually more significant than the real tragedies that befell Israel.

Truth and Consequences

God’s consistent message was: Sin has consequences, and if you choose to live in sin, you will experience devastation and death. Stay with me, and you’ll be safe and protected. Return to me in genuine, heart-felt repentance, and you will know nothing but grace and compassion. If you don’t choose the locusts of sin, you’ll have my blessing instead!
Two thoughts occur to me here: we all have a tendency to “rend our garments but not our hearts.” First, acting like a Christian for others to see is not the same thing as being yielded and sold out to God. (I know this from years of experience). Remember that He looks upon our hearts, not just our outward behavior.

Second, when we turn to our Father with genuine humility, God will restore us. In Old Testament times, people who felt compelled to repent made a public display of it, tearing their clothes and laying prostrate on the street. Joel tells us to turn to the Lord, to rend our hearts and not just our garments. He says that God intends to make us whole, and to rebuild what our sinful choices have torn down, what the locusts of sin have destroyed. (I also claim this is true, based on years of experience.)

After all that Job went through, after all of the devastation and loss, when he turned back to God, his life was restored. Job 42:10 says “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” His repentance resulted in restoration and revival. It didn’t undo all of the damage that had been done, but it did give Job restoration and a fresh start. So, rend your heart instead of your garments! If you are acting like a Christian but harboring locusts, clean house!

After Locusts, Restoration

Farmers labored every day to earn a living from their fields,
Applying muscle, toil and sweat to try to get the greatest yields.
And then the cloud appeared– you couldn’t even do the math–
As locusts by the millions brought destruction in their path.
They ate the crops, the flowers, and they even ate the grass;
They only thought of selfish appetite when they would pass.

Well, sin is just like that. It only thinks of selfish things,
And doesn’t even care about the destruction that it brings;
It comes into your life and can destroy your peace of mind,
Without regard to all the pain and death it leaves behind…
God said, “Turn to me with all your heart, and not for show–
And I will give you grace, and let compassion overflow.”

If sin has hurt and knocked you down, don’t think that you are beaten
For God says he’ll repay you for the lost years that were eaten!
If you can turn away from sin, and simply trust the Lord,
You may just be surprised to see the things that He restored.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Restoration for the Smitten Suitor and the Unfaithful Wife

Sin threatened to destroy the relationship between the Smitten Suitor and the wayward bride. Only one thing could bring them Restoration. The Book of Hosea is one of the most unusual and interesting in the Bible, and it tells a story about love and restoration that will expand whatever boundaries you have about both of those words.

A Surprising Vow

After both his heart and their wedding vows have been broken by an unfaithful bride, the groom pulls himself together and makes another vow: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’”. (Hosea 2:14-16, NIV).

Hosea’s prophecy compares Israel to an unfaithful wife who committed all manner of adulterous acts. (It’s interesting that Hosea chooses a wayward bride, since our stereotypes might suggest that husbands are far more likely to be unfaithful than wives…His prophetic allusion is probably driven by our role as the Bride of Christ, and the fact that the Lord referred to himself as a husband several times in the OT.) In this prophecy, the Lord is her wounded husband whose passion cannot stem the righteous indignation and judgment his wife deserves. And yet in the middle of his anger and grief, these verses remind us that God has something else in mind for his wayward wife: restoration.

restoration

Loving Groom or Vengeful God?

He not only promises to restore their relationship, he intends to woo her and speak tenderly to her. Just as I am often startled by the Old Testament promises of swift and certain judgment by a righteous God, I find myself equally surprised by this picture. God is the passionate and loving husband who has been cheated on and lied to, embarrassed and hurt to the core by his wife’s infidelities. This jealous and passionate God dispenses not swift and terrible judgment or even vengeance, but instead tender unfailing love.

God’s people (His wife, if you will) have stopped worshipping the Lord and started giving their affection to other things, like money, status, control, or power. Hosea points out that Israel has forgotten her first love and traded it for shallow pagan rituals and illicit unions. They are estranged, and their relationship cries out for restoration with their creator and deliverer.

Let me make two observations: First, God is an emotional God. I think we sometimes feel like He is enthroned remotely, dispassionately over the universe, but remember: we are made in his image. We tend to think of God as a Judge; He thinks of us as a beloved spouse. The emotional winds that blow through us are shadows of the powerful emotions the Lord feels. He loves us wildly, completely, and powerfully, which leads logically to the second point: God’s love for you may be far deeper than you realize.

More Than a Feeling

God’s love is not a theological construct, and it’s not a Bible verse. It’s not even a religious love story told on a grand cosmic scale. It’s a passionate romance that includes betrayal and restoration. God is a lover smitten with His beloved; even when she betrays him (and, oh, she betrays him all the time!) He is reaching out to call her back. He plans to allure her, to shower her with affirmation and gentleness, to speak tenderly to her.

The Lord will woo her with grace when He has every right to destroy her with judgment… He says that he loves her SO much that he will forgive her unfaithfulness and restore her as his one true bride, even though she hurt him so deeply. Stop now, for just a moment, and think about who the bride is in this story.

Israel was so callous as to turn her back on the Lord, to ignore His loving pleas, and to go off chasing other (little) gods… Think about Hosea’s message and reflect on Israel’s unfaithfulness. They traded love for something less; they pursued selfish temporary satisfaction in place of abiding affection. How foolish could they be? How could they fail to see the error of their ways? Certainly they should have realized what they were missing. Say… when’s the last time you cheated on God?

Closer Than You Think

We think of God as in command,
Enthroned out in some distant land,
The Righteous Judge who now condemns
The actions and the hearts of men.
And yet He sends us tender notes,
And fills His word with loving quotes,
Reminding us that His great love
Could never be expressed enough.

No matter what you think you’ve heard
Look deeper through His written word,
And then perhaps you’ll make a start
To see what’s written in His heart.
Look deep and see how much He feels!
You’ll find that He’s head over heels,
And even when you run away,
He’ll woo you every single day.
Discover, when you’ve gone off track,
Your Lover always wants you back.
Listen, now: His love is strong.
His love erases every wrong,
So listen: you can hear His song
Wooing you back where you belong…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread