The world’s most powerful engine is mind blowing. It stands 44 feet tall, is 90 feet long and weighs 2,300 tons. It’s capable of producing 109,000 horse power, and over 5,000,000 foot pounds of torque. To say this is a powerful engine is an understatement.
You can take the most powerful engine in the world and it pales in comparison to the power of God. This engine could never speak a world into existence, this engine could never raise someone from the dead, and this engine could never forgive sins and give us the hope of eternal life.
Paul would tell us in Ephesians 1:19-20, “…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”
Notice Paul’s description of this power:
It is “exceedingly great”
It is shown toward those who believe
It is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of God.
Paul shows us how this power is given to those who believe in chapter 2:1-6. This power made us alive when we were dead. Colossians 2:12-13 tells us that those who were spiritually dead are now spiritually alive because of God’s power.
As Christians we must understand the power and might of God.
Do we understand what God could do to the world? Do we understand that God’s power is the only reason we are here today? Paul prays that we might know the power of God, and that that knowledge should shape our every thought and action here on earth.
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the “apple” on the tree that got us banned from paradise, it was the pair on the ground…anyway, I want us to take a trip back to the beginning. This is where our account takes place. In Genesis chapter one, God has just created the world as He intended for it to be. A place of peace and harmony. No pain, sorrow, and a perfect relationship with his creation. After this incredible account of creation, God concludes by creating man. He designed a perfect world for Adam and Eve. He placed them in the garden, a perfect home where they had everything they would need.
He gives them only one command in Gen. 2:15-17, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
The following account in chapter three is what I want to focus on. God gave Adam a helper suitable for him and her name was Eve. Everything was perfect. God even says after He looked upon his creation that everything was “very good.” But one decision changed the course of mankind forever.
In this account of the sinners at the tree, Adam and Eve are an example of what not to do when faced with temptation. This account also reveals the methods Satan uses to tempt us, and the choice that changed the course of the world.
Satan Sows Doubt (3:1-5)
Eve Felt Desire (3:6)
The Fall And Punishment (3:7-24)
One question that I’ve always had about this account is why God placed this forbidden tree in the garden. Genesis 2:9 says, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Did God set Adam and Eve up to fail? Was He hoping they would slip up and eat the fruit? On the contrary, God was giving Adam and Eve the power of free will. Without this free will to choose, Adam and Eve would’ve been puppets.
True love always requires a choice.
Our parents would make us hug and apologize when we fought with each other. And I can tell you, there is a big difference between a hug that is forced and a hug that is given out of love and concern. God wanted Adam and Eve to choose to love and trust Him. The only way to give this choice was to command something that was not allowed. Therefore Adam and Eve could decide whether or not they wanted to be in a relationship with God. What choice will we make today? Will we live in sin, or live for Almighty God?
It’s been said that the there are more stars in the known universe than all of the sand on earth combined. That being said, in just one grain of sand there are more atoms than all of the stars. That’s pretty amazing. Our planet is but a speck in the grandeur of space. Countless stars, planets, galaxies, lightyears and somehow God is well aware of the happenings of people. Have you stood on the mountain tops? Have you observed the power of the oceans as the waves crash on the shore? Has your heart almost stopped after the vibrating sensation of a thunder clap resonates in your chest? The might of the Creator is everywhere in the world around us and at times it just demands to be noticed. A section of scripture that is mysterious and fascinating is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13. The Lord of hosts is about to show Himself to a depressed and exhausted Elijah, but in a way that he would never forget. “The Lord said, ‘go out on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out to stand at the mouth of the cave. Then the voice said, ‘what are you doing here Elijah?’” In the solitude of Horeb, Elijah seeks to avoid the troubles of his world. The acoustics of the mountainous area along with the time spent in silence must have made the shattering rocks, raging fire, splitting hills, and rumbling earth all but deafening and definitely a terrifying display of divine power. Then in sharp contrast, a still whisper comes. This gentleness, no doubt, is the reason Elijah decides to cautiously emerge from his hiding place. God is teaching His worn-out servant a lesson that holds true for us today. The fact is, there is no more God, His wisdom, power, and presence in an earthquake than there is in the sweet breath of a blooming flower. The quiet ticking of a wrist watch reveals just as much intelligence and purpose as does the striking of a clock tower’s bell. One may walk out into an open field at night and stare up into the vast sky, lit up with numerous twinkling stars and declare, “I’ve found God!” But God is no more in the sky than He is in the blades of grass flattened beneath your feet. The question came to Elijah from that still voice, “What are you doing here?” To the prophet, his problems were too great and too large and his solution was to run and hide. God, in a magnificent way, is trying to remind Elijah of his place. Our place in life is not to take matters into our own hands or solve life’s many difficulties on our own. The answer is not to run away, but to walk humbly with our awesome God. He is strong enough to lift our burdens, wise enough to counsel us, patient enough to allow us to learn, and loving enough to constantly forgive.
Note: This is not going to be a quick read. Any answer to the question addressed is going to require some theological/philosophical consideration.
Stephen Fry is a well-known actor, activist, humanist, and athiest. When asked what he would say to God in a face-to-face, he replied, “Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? … How dare you create a world where there is such misery that is not our fault?” There’s more to the quote, but this sums it up.
“How can evil and a loving God coexist?” At some point, we have to confront this question in our own faith. Some can accept the problem of evil as being a byproduct of a fallen world. Others – especially those who have experienced evil firsthand – have a hard time justifying the two.
Most answers offered sound something like this: “The creation groans with the pains of childbirth up to now. Man, as a free moral agent, transgressed God’s law and brought the consequences of sin upon humanity. God cannot look upon evil, and certainly does not cause it. Every good thing and every perfect gift comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
While the principles in this explanation are correct, it fails to address the question on at least two levels. One, it does not answer how God could allow evil to affect humans. We exist, technically, against our will. Two, it utilizes jargon. It’s easier to say religious-sounding things to answer difficult questions, but anyone struggling with this problem knows how frustrating this answer can be. It doesn’t address the question, and sometimes comes across as avoiding it altogether.
The following is based on personal study, as I’d wrestled with this problem, too. To be very clear: God loves us, and the existence of evil does not change that at all. This question was answered for me through an unrelated study that put a few things into perspective. Here’s the condensed version:
God created reality, and it was flawless (Gen 1.31). In fact, Jesus described heaven as being a return to this flawlessness (Matt 19.28). The code of reality was intact. God didn’t force us to love him, he gave us freedom to choose for ourselves. According to Romans eight, nature was fundamentally affected by the choice we made. This choice essentially introduced a bug into the code of reality. God didn’t create evil, we did.
Even though our choice has consistently been rejection – and we’re solely responsible for messing everything up – he still gave up everything to give us a second chance. Yes, Jesus sacrificed himself on a cross. This was extremely selfless and loving in itself. But this was NOT the only sacrifice he made.
Jesus – the one who designed and built reality (John 1) – permanently demoted himself for humans. He gave up his status to die for us (Heb 2.7). He’s in the father’s chair right now, but will step back down after the end of time (Heb 1.14; 2.8-9). He is still God, but permanently lower because he’s still human, too (I Tim 2.5; I Cor 11.3; I Jn 3.1-3; Heb 2.11-18).
So, how can evil and a loving God coexist? We’re stuck with the way reality is now, but he fundamentally changed himself to give us a second chance. He works full-time to get his family home (Rom 8.27; I Tim 2.5; I Jn 2.1-2). We changed the terms, but he changed the consequences. The most powerful entity in the universe stepped down – forever – knowing most of us would ignore it. When we look at it that way, it puts our own culpability into perspective and demonstrates God’s infinite capacity to love.
Your version may use the word “hallelujah” to begin Psalm 135. Hallelujah means “praise the Lord.” While it is synonymous with giving thanks, it means to laud a superior quality or act, to acclaim and express joy in doing so. What is so noteworthy is that the psalmist does this in very specific ways, recounting times in history when God demonstrates His power and glory on behalf of His people. As we walk through the psalm, we see this. Why is He to be praised?
HIS CHOOSING OF HIS PEOPLE (4)
HIS NATURE (5)–Great, Above All
HIS WORK IN CREATION (6-7)–Heaven, Earth, Seas, All Deep, Vapors, Lightning, Wind, Rain
HIS DEFEATING OF THEIR ENEMIES (8-11)–Egypt, Amorites, Canaanites
HIS BLESSINGS (12)–Gave His People A Heritage (Possession)
HIS POWER (13)–His Name And Remembrance
HIS PROMISES (14)–Compassionate Judgment
HIS SUPERIORITY OVER HIS RIVALS (15-18)–Deaf, Dumb, And Blind Idols, Just Like Humans
The writer calls on God’s people to praise and worship Him in song, expressing their adoration (1-3). He ends with a threefold call to “bless the Lord” (19-21). May I suggest that you work through something both in your daily life and in your preparation before every time you assemble to worship? Call it setting the table for fellowship with the Divine. Either meditate on the specific works and ways of God that are worthy of admiration, praise and honor or pray to Him, expressing these matters in specific terms. Focus on how He’s demonstrated greatness in blessing your life and the lives of those around you. Perhaps it’s answered prayer, providence, deliverance, or relief. Focus on His power and might in the affairs of our nation, in the activities of our congregation, and the occurrences within your family and personal life. Let the worship flow as you look around at all you see in nature, from the universe to right out your window. Think about the gift of Jesus for your sins. All of this will surely cause you to echo the writer in Psalm 135 and call out to others, “Praise the Lord!”
I’ve heard some say of a house left standing after a tornado or hurricane that God must have spared the structure’s owner from material loss because of their righteousness. But, unfortunately, such statements imply that the neighboring destroyed property belonged to the unrighteous. Yet Jesus said, “for He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.45, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated).
Even amongst the destruction, though, if someone is observant enough, he sees what he chooses to call miraculous. However, since a miracle is the suspension of God’s natural laws, we understand that the word “miracle” oft becomes an adjective to describe what defies human comprehension. In reality, laws of nature explain the “skipped” houses or why a decorated Christmas tree can remain amidst a room, missing its walls and a part of its ceiling.
For example, there can be what scientists call “suction vortices” within tornadoes. Within a more significant tornado, these many vortices move in a looping, cycloid pattern that will hit some things while completely missing others.1 In other words, the hand of God was in the creation of the natural laws resulting in the occasional formation of tornadoes, with their suction vortices, as opposed to directing storms into particular locations.
But did God originally intend for His natural laws to include such destructive phenomena? Think back to the world God initially created. God called it “very good” (Genesis 1.31). What changed? Humanity used its free moral agency to sin, bringing change to the world. In fact, things got so bad that God destroyed the original world. Peter says, “…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3.5-6).
Among those mechanisms that God put into place in the world emerging from the flood are the weather patterns that spawn tornadoes and hurricanes. The patient patriarch, Job, observed the following regarding the wisdom known to God: “…He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure…He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt…He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out” (Job 28.25-27).
Now, the point of our devotional today is not to increase the misery of those having suffered loss during what insurance companies euphemistically call “acts of God.” Yes, things like tornadoes and hurricanes do arise because of sin. However, it is not a part of the chastisement God sends upon us (cf. Hebrews 12.4ff). So, if you want to see God after a tornado, do not see it in a church building with no roof, but with all its hymnals and pew Bibles still safely secured in the pew racks. That is likely but a side effect of natural law.
No, look for God in His grace. As Fred Rogers often said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”2 Might I suggest that it is in the helpers that we see the actual hand of God? His Providence works through the people clearing debris, handing out food, and providing shelter to those who have lost everything. These fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2). Thus, God does not only shelter some in a storm. He provides for all of the weary through the agency of those whom He made in His image (Genesis 1.26-27).
Sources Consulted and Cited
1 Seman, Steven, et al. “Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths.” Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths | METEO 3: Introductory Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo3/l9_p8.html.
God speaks of Himself as simply “I Am.” This is one powerful statement depicts His infinite presence and His existence through every age. What does it mean to know Him? How do you know if you do? To know of Jesus is very different than knowing Him.
John is one of those books in the New Testament that will help us to become better aquainted with the Christ. John paints us a vivid picture of who He was and is on a deeper level than even the three previous books.
He’s the Bread of life, Light of the world, the Gate, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, the Truth, and the Vine. All of these titles found within the book teach us a little more about the Savior of the world. There are seven “I Am” statements in John referring to Jesus and three hundred throughout the entire Bible. They begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and in many books in-between. You just can’t read very far without discovering something very profound about it’s Writer.
He’s eternal. God’s desired response to this is simply for us to believe, respond, and live with our minds and hearts prepared to live with Him. When Jesus describes Himself as the “I Am” it makes the religious leaders want to kill Him in John 8. To know Jesus, to really know Him, is something that many people have not fully understood. Even as Jesus walked among us mortals and witnessed His miraculous power there were still several that didn’t realize what it meant to follow Him Luke 9:57-62.
While it’s true that everyone is made in the image of God, few reflect the Father’s image. Those that know Jesus introduce others to Him. With the knowledge that we are imperfect, let’s not forget that we also have the ability to have a relationship with Him. I am flawed and I am weak, but the Great I Am is interested in who I am.
By the grace of God, I am His child. He is the bread of life that sustains us, the light that guides us, the gate we’ll walk through, and the truth that will save us. It’s not how great I am, but how great the Great I Am is. Do you know Jesus?
We’re impressed by the intricacies of craftsmanship or artistry. A well-made instrument or diorama or painting can sell for thousands or more. Watching the process of those things coming to life leaves an even more profound impression of the talent required! I’ve lost track of time while watching hyper-realistic dioramas take shape (by other artists, not me). The sheer effort involved is incredible. While those artists are very, very talented and impressive, they’re nothing compared to reality’s architect! Hours, weeks, or months are invested in breathtaking artwork, yet those pieces come from extant materials and are based on extant concepts. Humanity cannot create anything new. It took God less than a week to fabricate an unfathomably large universe. We explore and investigate our world, only to be blown away by its complexities. Even the simplest life forms require highly intelligent minds and sophisticated equipment to understand. The more we discover, the more we understand how little we know. For several years, science has been adopted by many as an explanation for reality. Besides the fact that science is merely our observations of what already exists, it still leaves plenty of questions unanswered. For example, look into how many medications say something like (paraphrased, of course), “We don’t know how this works, but we think it…” We can perform complex surgeries using robots, but we can’t cure the common cold. We can explore our galaxy, but we’re not sure how exactly some antidepressants work to alleviate symptoms. Humanity has accomplished some amazing things, but even the most “basic” issues continue to evade our understanding. Therefore, it isn’t entirely unreasonable to assume that something or someone intelligent was responsible for our incredible existence. Our greatest accomplishments pale in comparison to the magnitude of our universe. Every great piece of art has an artist behind it. Every piece of groundbreaking technology has a design team behind it. Our universe must have also had an immensely powerful, creative, compassionate designer. Far from somehow disproving the existence of God, our greatest accomplishments merely highlight how powerful God really is. He gave us a beautiful world and way more than we need to survive. The sheer beauty of this planet alone should tell us that our God is a loving God. “I look at the heavens you made with your hands. I see the moon and the stars you created and I wonder, ‘Why are people so important to you? Why do you even think about them? Why do you care so much about humans? Why do you even notice them?’ But you made them only a little lower than angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You put them in charge of everything you made. You put everything under their control…Lord our Lord, your name is the most wonderful name in all the earth” (Ps 8.3-9)!
Are there songs that really pump you up in your faith? While there are several that strike that chord in me, none do that more than the song, “Our God is an awesome God.” I know the melody helps, but just that short, sweet, and profound reminder puts wind in my spiritual sails. It reminds me that I can overcome because of who He is.
Psalm 104 is a much more detailed, exhaustive song that lays out how “very great” our God is. It is exciting to think about who we are serving, and sobering to think of the cost of rejecting Him. Look at the awesomeness of God.
LOOK UP (1-4)
My boys call me “sky guy.” I am known to take some pictures of sunrises, sunsets, and skies in general. I remember a night at the Ngorogoro Crater with our oldest son, Gary, when the sky looked, as the late Andrew Connelly once described it, like diamonds laying on black velvet. I remember looking over the Caribbean Sea with Kathy in Cozumel, Mexico, with the moon above us and reflected in the water as yellow as gold. But, I get the same sense on many nights when I cut off the porch light and walk out my front door. God did that!
God’s garments are splendor, majesty, and light (1-2). He stretches out heaven like a curtain, rides the clouds, and walks on the wings of the wind (2-4). How can anyone look up and fail to see God?
LOOK AROUND (5-23)
Where is the most beautiful place on earth? Often, we could say it is wherever we are at the moment. Creation’s beauty is so diverse and its complexity is so incredible. Look at its order and durability (5). Think back to how He changed it all through the flood, using water to raise up mountains, form valleys, and then prevent it from ever happening like that again (6-9; Gen. 9:11). Look at how he sustains us and all creation with water (10-11,16), food (13-15), habitat (12,17-18), seasons (19), and daylight and darkness (19-23). The earth is full of His possessions (24), the sea (25), animals (25), the sea and its wonders (26). He sustains and provides and He shows His power (27-30). On the first hike my family ever took as residents of Colorado, in Rocky Mountain National Park, we met a young woman on a trail. We had in common the fact that we had all just moved there from out of state. We told her why we had moved, to work with the church in Denver. She, though very polite, said that she moved out there to get away from God. We were all standing, facing such incredible grandeur, and I thought, “Good luck with that!” Where do you go to get away from God when His fingerprints are everywhere?
LOOK BEYOND (31-32)
As the psalmist begins to wrap up this tribute to God’s awesomeness, he speaks of God’s unlimited power. He makes earth tremble and mountains smoke (32). It gives Him glory and gladness (31). Really, this point is made throughout the entire psalm. Everything we see is a reflection of the One who is above all, through all, and in all (Eph. 4:6).
LOOK WITHIN (33-35)
In a psalm paying tribute to creation, what should be my response? How should it change and shape me? I will sing to Him as long as I am (33). I will meditate about Him (34). I will be glad in Him (34). I will follow Him, knowing what awaits the sinner and the wicked (35). Listen to the psalmist’s summary: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!” What I see above, around, and within me should melt my heart in praise. It should leave me singing every day, “Our God is an awesome God!”