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Pastor Glenn McDonald: The Spirit Sustains and Renews

Your body is warm.

If your temperature is “normal” your tissues fairly glow, day in and day out, at 98.6 degrees. No wonder chocolate and butter have no choice but to melt in our mouths.

Have you ever wondered how your body stays warm? It all has to do with the molecule pictured above. That’s ATP, or adenosine triphosphate.

Almost all of the food we eat, and virtually all of the oxygen we breathe, is ultimately routed into tiny, jellybean-shaped bodies within our cells called mitochondria – “organelles” that can only be seen by means of microscopes. Think of mitochondria as factories. They have one abiding production goal, every hour of every day:

Make more ATP. Lots of it.

ATP molecules are the Duracell batteries of our cellular systems. They basically provide power for everything your body is doing right now.

At this moment, each of your 30 trillion cells is brimming with at least one billion ATP molecules. Two minutes from now, every one of those ATP molecules will have given away all of its power. And vanished. And one billion new ATP molecules will have taken their place.

The only way your body can keep up such an insane production quota is to generate, every day, about half your body weight in ATP. And then, just as quickly, consign the used-up molecules to the dust bin. It would be good for us to pause and take that in a second time: Every day you produce half your body weight in ATP molecules. You are simply amazing.

All that activity is why your hand feels warm to the touch.

Ideally, this ought to help us rethink our diet. Our bodies are so remarkable they can actually turn Doritos and Ding Dongs into ATP. But your mother and your science teacher were right: the process is wonderfully more efficient with apples, almonds and avocadoes.

Scientists, philosophers, and theologians have all taken turns at trying to explain the incomprehensible speed and complexity of what’s happening right now in our mitochondria.

Darwinism, the naturalistic worldview that dominates today’s academic scene, has a stock answer. The factory-like production, distribution, and elimination of ATP molecules emerged over millions of years by means of millions of random biochemical interactions – a process entirely without purpose or design. In other words, it happens all by itself for no particular reason.

A great many thoughtful people have concluded that it takes a greater degree of faith to believe that than to believe in a Designer.

But what kind of Designer?

Two hundred and fifty years ago (roughly the time of the American Revolution) the dominant philosophical option was deism. Deists believed in a god who had created the universe, set all of its moving parts into motion, then disappeared from the scene. This was akin to an inventor pushing a button to crank up all of his mechanistic creations, then taking a lunch break for the rest of his life.

Deism accounted for the design of the cosmos. And it seemed to solve the problem of evil – “God can’t be held responsible for suffering, since he apparently doesn’t notice or care about our pain.” But that proved to be cold comfort for people who were actually suffering. And it made a mockery of Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

But there’s a third option, one that has long been embraced by orthodox Judaism and Christianity.

God created this world and all of its details, down to the microscopic marvels that we are still just beginning to understand. That accounts for the reality of design in our bodies.

It also leads us to say that God is transcendent – “high and lifted up,” incomprehensively greater than the entire universe. Only a transcendent God could produce such wonders.

But Jews and Christians also affirm that God is immanent – intimately and pervasively present in every aspect of reality. Even though God is infinitely larger than anything we can imagine, our Designer is also nearby – closer even than our next breath.

Immanence means that God watches over, supervises, sustains, and renews everything he has made.

How does God accomplish this?

He works unceasingly through his Spirit, something affirmed in these poetic lines from one of the ancient psalmists:

“All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:27-30).

ATP is what keeps your hand warm.

The Holy Spirit is what keeps your heart warm – the part of you that relates to God and other people.

And the Spirit will be watching over you, sustaining your energy and renewing your hope, every minute of every hour this weekend.

May that same Spirit kindle within you the fire of God’s own love as we enter this season of Thanksgiving.

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