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Indescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universeby Louie Giglio
Putting this powerful message into print for the first time, visionary pastor Louie Giglio and songwriter Matt Redman team up to write a heart-stirring book about the mysteries of God’s creation. Indescribable takes readers on a journey through the vastness of outer space and into the depths of the soul. Modern science allows viewers to see farther into space than ever before, and every step draws them closer to the God who breathed each star into existence. In Indescribable, the authors intertwine devotional insights with remarkable scientific facts that awaken both mind and spirit. As Giglio and Redman write, God turnswonderers into worshipers. Above all, Indescribable is a call to worship—an invitation to know and be known by the God of all creation and to become more passionate worshipers of Jesus Christ.
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ENCOUNTERING THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE BEAUTY OF THE UNIVERSE
By LOUIE GIGLIO, MATT REDMAN
David C. CookCopyright © 2011 Louie Giglio and Matt Redman
All rights reserved.
LOUIE GIGLIO LOST IN WONDER
WE ARE SURROUNDED BY A GRAND AND GLORIOUS COSMOS, HEAVENS BEYOND OUR COMPREHENSION.
Just how big we do not know, but we do know that even in light of humanity's great inventions, the stars have a way of drowning out our fuss—reducing our earthly clatter with their sheer immensity all while heightening a sense of mystery and wonder within our souls. You don't have to be an astronomer or have any scientific interest to be suddenly swept away by their vastness and beauty. All you have to do is look up.
Night after night, hosts of shimmering stars stretch our ability to comprehend their expanse. And at times, they literally take our breath away. For me, one of those times came on a winter night in Juneau, Alaska, when a phenomenon known as the northern lights roared into town in all its glory.
As we sat in a brightly lit mall restaurant, even the locals were stunned when we saw brilliant greenish lights dancing in the sky.
In an instant, we jumped up from the table and bolted for the car. We drove until we were beyond the reach of city lights, stopping at a place near the airport runway where pitch-black night enveloped us below and something difficult to describe in words hovered above.
It looked as if a superluminous LED screen had replaced the sky, projecting bold blasts of neon green across the black backdrop, brilliant colors shifting this way and that way in the blink of an eye. Random patterns and streaks of light whizzed above me, moving like nothing I had ever seen or imagined. To be honest, at first I was a little afraid, then speechless, but soon I started running and screaming at the top of my lungs.
When I finally made it back to my hotel, my heart was still beating so hard that I called my wife, Shelley, waking her up in the middle of the night. Yet I was unable to fully convey what I had just seen and experienced.
I remember another night, sleeping alongside the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, a mile-deep crevice in the Arizona dirt, where the darkest darkness made the stars so close I kept reaching out in awe to touch them, though I knew they were millions of miles away.
And I will never forget my sister's birthday in 1969, as our family huddled late in the night around our black-and-white console television anxiously watching as Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the Moon, stunning the world. It was somewhere around midnight, and the sky over suburban Atlanta was mostly clear as I walked out of our sliding-glass door and gazed in absolute wonder at the glowing ball of white that hung overhead. I'd seen it a thousand times before, but on this night, my mind could barely take it in as I kept repeating to myself, "There are people up there ... right now. There are people just like me walking on the Moon."
If you're old enough to remember that night, you know the feeling I'm talking about. But at some point all of us have leaned our heads back in amazement as we've tried to compute the starry host that surrounds us. A sense of smallness and awe invades our hearts while in reverent wonder we consider the expanse of the universe and our tiny estate. The feeling is that of falling up, the humility that settles on the soul when we consider the immensity of the world in which we live.
Matt and I are so glad you've picked up this book and have started to read, especially knowing that this cosmos stuff wows each of us to varying degrees. While we can all appreciate the beauty of the heavens, not everyone has the same threshold for the facts and figures of astronomy.
This was underscored for me a few years ago as Shelley and I were enjoying a stress-free afternoon under the Caribbean Sun. Clinging lazily to the float we shared as we bobbed in pristine waters, I couldn't help but notice the Sun sinking toward Earth's horizon as it finished its course for the day.
The night before I had dived headlong into a book about the many variables needed to sustain life on Earth—or on any planet. Looking up at the late-day Sun, I sat stunned by what I had discovered about the unique Earth-Sun-Moon relationship, which allows us to happily exist on our planet home and to observe the universe around us from the best vantage point possible.
Since Shelley and I weren't talking about anything in particular, I began to share some of the facts I had learned. For example: Both the Sun and the Moon appear the same size in Earth's sky because though the Sun is four hundred times larger than the Moon, it is also four hundred times farther away. Amazing. And this fact: The Moon is the perfect size to contribute to a habitable Earth. If the Moon were larger, it would cause Earth to tilt so far on its axis that the side facing the Sun would experience unbearable heat while the opposite side of Earth would know perpetual subzero winter. As it is, the Moon is just the right size to cause Earth to tilt at a very acceptable 23.4 degrees, bringing both winter and summer to the planet. A larger Moon would also slow Earth's rotation greatly (Earth is now slowing at a rate of 1.4 milliseconds a day per century), lengthening the day and creating a hostile climate.
I was just beginning to tell Shelley about the importance of the Moon's gravitational pull—which helps create upper-level winds that aid in the distribution of rain throughout Earth—when Shelley interjected with a very serious look, asking, "And what year did scientists discover the Moon is made of cheese?" and totally cracked herself up. I kept a straight face as long as I could, but eventually succumbed to the irony of it all as we both laughed out loud.
Fair enough. Each of us have a different approach to science, and in this case, astronomy (not unlike our varying tastes in music, finance, fashion, sports, and the like). But everyone, everywhere, at some point in life, has gazed into the night sky and felt a sense of wonder. That's what this book is all about. Matt and I filled these pages with descriptions and images that overwhelm our senses and strain our comprehension. But they also do far more, stirring something inside the soul, beckoning us to something greater, Someone more. Socrates said, "Philosophy begins in wonder." I think it's true that worship begins in wonder as well.
The glorious darkness that so accentuates the lights of heaven lifts us upward and draws us into its chorus. The longer we look up, the freer we become, lost in the wonder and mystery that surround us, lost in praise of the One who set each star in place. Broken humanity has a ferocious gravitational pull, constantly shrinking us down to Earth. But as we lift our gaze to the skies, how can we not know in our hearts that there must be more?
The heavens are telling the glory of God, their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, and night after night they tell us what they know. There is no place where there is speech where their voices are not heard. (Psalm 19:1–3, author's paraphrase)
Looking up makes us feel small and shrouds us with a sense of awe, but that's never a bad thing. So let that feeling come (and stay) as you journey through these pages. And let the wonder of it all lift you up to see and embrace the face of God, the brilliant Maker of all.
MATT REDMAN MANY KINDS OF SPLENDOR
Spiral Galaxy NGC 1232
This spectacular image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 1232 is based on three exposures in ultraviolet, blue, and red light, respectively. NGC 1232 is located in the constellation Eridanus, about one hundred million light-years from Earth, but the excellent optical quality of the VLT and FORS allows us to see an incredible wealth of detail. NGC 1232 spans two hundred thousand light-years, or about twice the size of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Image and description: ESO
WHEN IT COMES TO LOOKING AT THE STARS, YOU AND I LIVE IN A PRIVILEGED AGE. A few hundred years ago, astronomers believed there to be only around six thousand stars out there in the universe. But in more recent times, these figures have been blown right out of the water—and we've come to realize just how short their estimations fell. Astronomers now believe there to be more stars in the visible universe (what we know to be there) than there are grains of sand on all of the world's beaches and deserts. As it turns out, we're even smaller than we thought we were. And our Creator God is far mightier than we ever imagined Him to be.
But the show is by no means over. Every cosmic discovery scientists make today underlines just how much is still to be seen. The newest evidence suggests that there are somewhere between one hundred and two hundred billion galaxies in the universe, each of them containing hundreds of billions of stars. And as most scientists agree, there still seems to be no end in sight.
The last twenty years have ushered us into the most privileged age of all. In April 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was unveiled, and with it a whole new era of seeing the wonders of God's handiwork. Not only has this telescope allowed us to see farther, but it has helped us see the majesty of these celestial creations in far greater detail.
In its orbit above the distorting effects of Earth's atmosphere, Hubble is allowing us to gaze upon some of the most awe-inspiring sights ever known to humanity. As one astronomer commented, "Literally every place [the Hubble Space Telescope] has looked, it has found something fantastic." Making one splendor-filled discovery after another, this instrument is turning out to be one of the world's best worship leaders, introducing us to scenes of such compelling majesty that to bow low before our Maker is the only fitting response.
In 1 Corinthians we read, "The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor" (15:41).
When we look up and begin to search out the wonders of the heavens, we find many kinds of splendor. We see countless stars like our Sun, burning violently in a process of nuclear fusion. We encounter supernovas—massive stars in the throes of death—blazing even more extravagantly. During their final stages, these dying stars can shine brighter than an entire galaxy. We find neutron stars—so compacted and dense that scientists predict one teaspoon worth would weigh a billion tons. Spinning around at speeds of up to six hundred revolutions per second, these stars are far beyond our imagining. We also find collections of stars—clusters and galaxies with hundreds, thousands, and billions of stars in beautiful formations. We discover other objects too, such as nebulae—stunning clouds of gas and dust, far larger than we could ever fathom.
Yes, when we survey the expanse of the universe, we encounter so many kinds of splendor. Throughout this book we'll journey through several of them, witnessing the beauty and the power of these inspiring creations. Along the way we pray you will find yourself caught up in the wonders of the God they reflect.
In the biblical account of the birth of Jesus, it was a star that led the wise men to find Him. But God had been using stars to point people to Himself long before this momentous event. Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God—and Louie and I hope that this book will lead you to do the same.
MATT REDMAN INDESCRIBABLE
The Trifid Nebula
The Trifid Nebula is a rare combination of three nebula types that reveal the fury of freshly formed stars and point to more star birth in the future.
Image and description: ESO
EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO RELAXING, I'M A MAN WHO LIKES TO MULTITASK. So, recently I found myself watching a music-awards show on TV, while at the same time reading a book on outer space. It wasn't too long before the bizarre contrast started to hit me. The fleeting and momentary applause lavished on the award winners compared with the enduring applause of the starry night sky lavished on the God of all creation. The brief and earthly "and the winner is ..." announcements of the ceremony versus the continuing nuclear-fused declarations of the heavens, radiating out for millions of miles around.
Throughout the evening, the announcements became bolder and bolder: "And now welcome to the stage the multimillion-selling, the one and only global superstar ...!" Yet, however hard the award presenters searched for words, they just couldn't compete with these fiery creations exploding off the pages of the book I was reading, announcing the glory of the true One and Only.
The point is this: These incomparable and unfathomable wonders above tell us of a God who is quite simply ... indescribable.
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name;
You are amazing, God.
On a clear night, from the best standpoints on Earth, it's possible for the human eye to see around two thousand stars—an impressive and inspiring sight. Yet through the eyes of modern science, we're realizing just how much more there is to see out there. Though ultimately we have no way of knowing, astronomers now estimate there to be around 70,000 million million million stars in the visible universe alone. And who knows how many more may be out there, beyond our current explorations and estimations? In the book of Genesis, God spoke to Abraham and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them" (15:5). This very same challenge, issued thousands of years ago, still stands strong today. For who can number the stars in this vast and expanding universe?
Astronomers are encountering objects heavier, denser, hotter, and brighter than our human minds can ever begin to comprehend. The biggest and brightest known star in our own galaxy is Eta Carinae, part of the Carina Nebula, NGC 3372 (also known as the Keyhole Nebula). The extreme brightness of this object, which is more than one hundred times more massive than the Sun, is attributed to the fact it's a star in the throes of death—exploding violently in a blaze of dust and gas during its final stages. As Werner Gitt writes,
If the sun and Eta Carinae were at the same distance from the earth, [Eta Carinae] would be 4 million times as bright as the sun.
But even this is not the brightest object out there. During its final stages, a supernova (a form of dying star) may shine brighter than the whole galaxy in which it's placed. Take, for example, Supernova 1987A, which during the peak of its luminosity was thought to be shining over one hundred million times brighter than the Sun! These figures are completely off the charts, once again filling us with reverence and awe for our indescribable Maker. He simply spoke ... and there they were.
The sheer size of stars can also floor us. Scientists have located a huge star called IRS 65. To demonstrate just how massive it is, they say that if our Sun were only eighteen inches high, then in comparison IRS 65 would stand as tall as Mount Everest.
Next up are neutron stars. Talk about the wow factor. Some astronomers estimate that neutron stars may actually be ten trillion times denser than steel. But it's not only their density that dazzles us—it's their frantic activity, too. Some neutron stars spin at rates of up to six hundred times per second. It seems that Annie Dillard was right when she looked up and concluded, "The creator loves pizzazz."
So often we'll view the wonders God has made and comment on His incredible creativity. And so we should—for we see colors, patterns, and order too beautiful for words. But through all that He has made, God is not just displaying the wonderful heights of His creative prowess. He is also showing us His mighty strength. These stars in all their furious and explosive glory convey the unrivaled power of a mighty Creator. In the book of Isaiah, for example, God keeps pointing us to the cosmos as a reminder of His great and unmatchable strength:
I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens. (44:24)
My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. (45:12)
He alone is God, and no one else is even near qualified for the job. But in case we need to check references, or examine His résumé, He stuns us with His creation. The book of Job drives the point home:
And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power? (26:14)
For as awe-inspiring as they are, even these nuclear-fueled stars and spiraled galaxies are not the heights of God's power. They are inutterably grand and overwhelmingly impressive. And yet even these are not the whole picture. They are not His pièce de résistance or the limits of His ability. Instead, they are tiny echoes of the might of who He really is. The faintest whispers of His thunderous power and strength. Who then can comprehend the full heights of His majesty?
Perhaps one of the most striking things is not all that we can see—but all that we can't. As we peer farther and farther into the reaches of the universe, our exploration has gone only to affirm that there's far more out there than we will ever know. The more we discover, the more it becomes apparent that in His divine extravagance, God made "extra."
Excerpted from INDESCRIBABLE by LOUIE GIGLIO, MATT REDMAN. Copyright © 2011 Louie Giglio and Matt Redman. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Louie Giglio is a pastor, an award winning author, and the founder of the Passion Conferences, through which he speaks to thousands of people around the world. Louie and his wife, Shelley, now reside outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Matt Redman is a songwriter and the author of several books, including Mirror Ball. Among his well-known songs are “Blessed Be the Name” and “The Heart of Worship.” Matt and his wife, Beth, have five children andlive on the south coast of England.
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An excellent and fast read this book is very enlightening for any Worship Leader and and individual.
Enjoyed it. What an inspired way to start your praise.
Absolutely outstanding! I was half way through when I accidentally deleted it from my Nook. Had to order a hardback copy and glad I did as I can now loan it out!
I love all matt redman books! The worship series was amazing as will this book be! I cant wait to read :)
HA! Shows how much you know.
These tedious godbotherers manage to spoil the awesomeness of modern scientific discovery by smearing their ignorance and superstition all over it.