Monday, January 30, 2012

God, all nature sings Thy glory!

We sang this hymn in church yesterday--I hope it will help you worship the Creator as it did for us!

“God, all nature sings Thy glory, and Thy works proclaim Thy might;
Ordered vastness in the heavens, ordered course of day and night;
Beauty in the changing seasons, beauty in the storming sea;
All the changing moods of nature praise the changeless Trinity.

“Clearer still we see Thy hand in man whom Thou hast made for Thee;
Ruler of creation’s glory, image of Thy majesty.
Music, art, the fruitful garden, all the labor of his days,
Are the calling of his Maker to the harvest feast of praise.

“But our sins have spoiled Thine image; nature, conscience only serve
As unceasing, grim reminders of the wrath which we deserve.
Yet Thy grace and saving mercy in Thy Word of truth revealed
Claim the praise of all who know Thee, in the blood of Jesus sealed.

“God of glory, power, mercy, all creation praises Thee;
We, Thy creatures, would adore Thee now and through eternity.
Saved to magnify Thy goodness, grant us strength to do Thy will;
With our acts as with our voices Thy commandments to fulfill.”

(Words by David Clowney.  Can be sung to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy.")

Monday, January 23, 2012

Whether the weather

In my sunny home state, we are enjoying almost record-setting temperatures for January. It’s 76 degrees outside, and the sun is throwing long shadows off the Spanish moss on the oak trees. We just got home after visiting family on the other side of the country, and we’re still recovering from the dazzling brightness of sun on snow (and, for me, a cold). Both are so pretty–graceful shadows across the backyard and snow-covered fields and forests. God made both. His creation is so beautiful! 

Look out the window. Isn’t it amazing what He has made?! Who else could have possibly thought of creating all that He has made? We can’t even think of something new to "create" unless it’s first based off of what God has done. Try imagining a new, undiscovered color; you can’t! Everything we know or imagine is based off of His handiwork. All it took for Him was a single word, and it was. He didn’t stop with creating worlds, people, plants, and animals–He even created seasons! Even with your eyes closed, you can still feel the beauty of His creation. There is no way to escape the evidence of God’s hand in the world.

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous!
For praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
Make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

For the word of the LORD is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.

(Psalm 33:1-9)

No matter where you are today–whether you’re in the frozen tundra or someplace warmer–you can still see the beauty of God’s creation. Sometimes I get tired of the part of His creation that I see and wish I was somewhere else. Isn’t that wrong? Everything He has made is good; that’s what He said when He made it. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Who are we to complain? We should rejoice in His creation every day!

Psalm 29:2–Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happiness is...

People are always looking for happiness--where did they lose it?

Augustine said this about happiness in his book Confessions:
O Lord, far be it from the heart of your servant who confesses to you, far be it from me to think that whatever joy I feel makes me truly happy. For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not love you, but only to those who love you for your own sake. You yourself are their joy. Happiness is to rejoice in you and for you and because of you. This is true happiness and there is no other. Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs isnot true joy. Yet their minds are set on something akin to joy.
True happiness is not from things of this world–it’s from God.  In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). We can only be happy when we are in God. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). Augustine goes on to say that all men want happiness; everyone desires to be happy. People often go to the wrong places for happiness. The way to find happiness is in God. If you desire Him, you will find true happiness. He is the Giver of joy and pleasure.

I hope your day is full of true happiness and joy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Are you broke?

Recently, my sister was reading the forum board at a Christian college. Someone posted the question, "Why don’t we talk about sin in chapel?" Someone else posted back, "We do, but now we call ‘sin’ ‘brokenness.’ The word was changed back in 1979–you can check the chapel records."

Quick background information: This college always talks about the effects of sin (AIDS, poverty, racism, etc.) but often avoids talking about the cause of sin. So the question "Why don’t we talk about sin?" was really saying, "This world is subject to so many problems...let’s talk about them over coffee."

The answer to the question, though rather sarcastic, brought up a really good point. People today don’t want to talk about sin; they want to talk about brokenness. When you say the world is full of sin, what you’re really saying is that the world is full of sinners and you’re one of them. That’s not very nice; it hurts our self-esteem. But when you say the world is full of brokenness, then you become the victim of sin. We feel bad for you. We’re sorry that you’re suffering because of all the world’s problems.

Doesn’t that sound a little contrary to the Gospel? The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We aren’t innocent victims of sin–we’re sinners. Sin is a result of the Fall. After the Fall, there will be brokenness because there is sin. As Christians, we do need to go out in the world and care for the needy (James 1:27). However, we can’t fix what’s broken; only God can. Only God can take away sin, and until the root cause of sin is gone, there’s going to be brokenness. What we really need to talk about is the Gospel. People can see that there’s brokenness in the world; tell them the cause of the brokenness. Give them hope; Someone willingly took our sin upon Himself and gave us the promise of eternal life without sin if we remain faithful to Him during our time on earth. The world is full of sin, and we can’t escape what’s out there. But through God’s grace, what’s in each of our hearts can be fixed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A new year

Happy New Year! Looking back, it’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since we last said that. It seems like 2011 just started yesterday. Thinking back to everything that’s happened this last year, it almost feels like several years have elapsed instead of just one.

Towards the end of 2011, my family knew that 2012 was going to be a challenging year full of changes and decisions and would need a lot of family cooperation to make things work. By the last week of 2011, we received news that made challenging sound like an understatement. Things fall apart. Life is full of unpredictabilities and hurts. Yet through it all, God is always the same. He is always faithful. Hebrews 13:5b-8 says, "For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." A few verses later, the writer asked the recipients to pray for him. Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably (Hebrews 13:18). I was thinking about these verses as lots of things have been going on, and I wanted to share these words with you since they are a great comfort and challenge for all of us as we face a new year. None of us are going to have a "perfect" year; we’re all going to experience times when we want fall into anxiety and fear. But the correct reaction is to see that we’re not alone because we have God with us. Last year, this year, next year–He never changes. He will always be with us. As we begin a new year, we look to Him for the strength to live honorably with a good conscience and without fear.