Aug 1 2015

“The Maker”

WY Yellowstone NP Grand Prismatic SpringI like lots of different types of music but more often than not I listen to contemporary Christian music when I’m driving in my car. Recently I’ve been hearing a song by Chris August called The Maker playing on the station I listen to. This song focuses on God as Creator. Unfortunately, you don’t hear a lot of songs that emphasize this aspect of God these days. I recently wrote on this blog site how important I believe it is to hold on to the concept of God as “Maker of heaven and earth.” The notion of God as Creator is vital to our faith for many reasons so needless to say I was pleased to hear a song playing that emphasizes this.

_DSC7402The song begins with the words, “I see You in the sunrise, I see You in the rain. I see You in the laughter, I feel You through the pain.” Then there is this affirmation, “Everything that You have made is beautiful. Oh, my God, I can’t believe my eyes, but in all of this to think that You would think of me makes my heart come alive.” The second verse says, “I see You, You are creation, I see the grandness of Your majesty. The universe is singing all Your glory; I can’t believe You live inside of me.” This is followed by the same affirmation above noting that everything God has made is beautiful. In this song we are reminded that we can, in fact, see God in the Creation. For those with eyes to see God can be found anywhere—in sunrises, rain, laughter and pain. The song also reminds us that there is a close connection between God and Creation. “You are creation,” August sings, and he points out that the grandness of God’s majesty can be seen and heard in Creation. Finally, the song reminds us of the need to practice humility as we encounter God’s majesty in the world around us. We know from the Scriptures that this God who created all that is knows and loves each and every one of us very much. Realizing this truly should make our heart come alive.

_DSC6122There is a chorus to this song that says: “Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones; I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once. And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me; I love the Maker and the Maker loves me.” At this point in my life I am too old and fat to likely ever feel that I could climb one mountain, much less a thousand all at once. Still, I love the way the chorus ends. As we consider what the Scriptures tell us and what Creation reveals to us we never do have to wonder if somebody cares for us. Both of God’s Books make it clear that the Maker loves us and this love both beckons and enables us to love the Maker in return.

ME Acadia NP fall poolIn the final verse to Chris August’s song he sings, “More than just some words upon a page, You’ve shown me in a million ways, but there is one that stands above them all–hands of creation on a cross.” It seems rare to find people making the connection between Creation and the Cross so I applaud August for doing so here. Long ago someone else made that connection, the apostle Paul. In the first chapter of the Book of Colossians he speaks of Christ as being the “firstborn over all creation.” (v. 15)  He then adds, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all thing were created by him and for him.” (v. 16)  A few verses later Paul draws the connection by adding “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (vs. 19-20)

Here is one of the most incomprehensible and wonderful truths there is, the Maker of heaven and earth long ago entered Creation and went to a cross where he spread his arms open wide to show us just how much God loves us. Yes, the Maker loves us indeed! I know of only one appropriate response—to love the Maker back with everything that we’ve got.

–Chuck


Jan 26 2014

Are Natural Disasters “Acts of God?”

lightningI enjoy music.  I have a rather eclectic leaning, enjoying quite a variety of musical genres.  Still, because of my roots and faith I enjoy church music most.  I listen to both contemporary Christian music and hymns.  Each has a way of moving and inspiring me.  At times, however, I do get distracted by the words.  Part of this is due to my educational background; I spent ten years in graduate school studying theology.  For that reason I listen carefully to the words and sometimes find myself refuting them.  This happened recently when I was singing with a group at church Chris Tomlin’s song Indescribable.  I like Chris Tomlin and also this particular song.  I’ve even used it for one of my multi-media presentations.  But there is one line in the song that really bothers me.  It says God is the one “who has told every lightning bolt where it should go.”  When I sang those words the other night I couldn’t help but cringe for not all that long ago a beautiful and historic church in a nearby town was destroyed by lightning.  I asked the lady sitting next to me if she could imagine how the folks at that church might feel singing those words.  Does God actually aim lightning bolts at certain objects intentionally.  I prefer to think not.

Even in the wonderful hymn I wrote about in my last blog, Isaac Watts’ We Sing Your Mighty Power, O God, we read the words “clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from your throne.”  Are we to read into these words that when a huge arctic blast covers half of America that this storm was ordered from God’s throne?  Once again, I prefer to think not.

Paducah-storm-cloudsI remember even when I was young having problems with the idea that earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes could be considered “acts of God” by insurance agents.  If something bad happened from one of these natural disasters to a person’s home or to a community God got the blame.  It was almost like we all needed insurance just in case God got mad at us and ordered a natural catastrophe.  Is God that fickle and ill-tempered that we must buy insurance to protect ourselves from His fury?  One more time, I prefer to think not.

Actually, in the end it isn’t that I prefer not to think any of these things, I refuse to.  It is in the Scriptures that we come to understand who God is and nowhere is this revelation clearer than when we focus on Jesus.  Jesus once said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9) implying that we are to understand who God is by looking at him.  Now according to the New Testament it was Christ who created the world (John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-16) and he is also the one who sustains it (Colossians 1:17).  If that is indeed true then we can also see that it is highly unlikely that God intentionally sends earthquakes, hurricanes or other natural disasters on innocent, or even not so innocent, people.  That is not something we see Jesus doing during his time on earth.

Bisti 444When we do look at Jesus’ actions we see that his intentions were always to help people, not hurt them.  Everything that Jesus did was based on love.  At one point he was asked by a pair of his disciples if he wanted them to send fire down on a village that had not welcomed him.   Luke tells us that Jesus rebuked them for even asking. (9:56)  That was not his style then.  It is not his style today.

Some have claimed that the various natural disasters I’ve mentioned are the result of evil and not God.  Personally, I have no problem affirming that even things like tornadoes and earthquakes were part of God’s original plan.  All of the “natural disasters” I wrote of earlier have helped form and shape Creation one way or another.  They are “natural wonders” that have served useful and good purposes throughout the ages.  It is just when they affect human life that we tend to see them as disasters.

Hopefully in our conversations and in our songs we can come to affirm both the goodness of God and His Creation while at the same time refraining from the implication that God is behind every lightning bolt that strikes and every storm that rages.  God does in fact rule the universe but it is a rule based first and foremost on love.  If it isn’t an act of love it is not an “act of God.”

–Chuck

(I took the top image near Page, AZ, the middle one in Paducah, KY, and the bottom on in the Bisti Wilderness of N.M.)


May 29 2013

Time for an Attitude Adjustment?

CV4385Do you need an attitude adjustment? Sometimes I hear people tell others that they do. This implies that the attitude the other person is displaying is not appropriate and perhaps even harmful. I suspect we all find ourselves in this position at one time or another.  Our attitudes are certainly not always what they should be and therefore need adjusting periodically.  One area where a lot of people need an attitude adjustment these days concerns the care of the earth. For reasons I cannot fully comprehend they believe the earth and its resources are theirs to do with as they please. The practice of Creation Care or environmental stewardship is foreign to such folks. I believe the attitude of people like this is both inappropriate and harmful.  It is also foreign to the teachings of the Bible.

CV2367In the first chapter of the Book of Colossians the apostle Paul notes that Christ is “the firstborn over all creation.” (v. 15)  This does not mean that Christ was the first thing created. Rather the term “firstborn” was understood as a title of honor and here indicates Christ is supreme over Creation. Paul goes on to say “by him all things were created.” (v. 16) For some people this is surprising. They do not associate the creation of the world with Christ but both Paul and the author of the Fourth Gospel (see John 1:3) declare that Christ was the agent of Creation. Paul, however, does not stop there. He goes on to say “all things were created by him and for him.”  It is this latter word that calls for a major attitude adjustment in many.  The world was created for and exists for Christ himself–not us.

CV4301If what Paul says is true then we cannot continue treating the earth any way we choose.  It does not belong to us nor are we the primary reason it exists.  It exists for Christ.  That means we must look at things differently. It means we must strive to treat the world and the environment in a way that will bring glory to Christ. For a number of years you saw everywhere the letters WWJD, which stood for “What would Jesus do?”  In light of Paul’s words it would not be a bad question for all of us to ask as we think about our relationship to the earth and the environmental issues we face today. Once again, if the earth was created for Christ then what we want to do with it isn’t the primary issue; it is what Christ wants. Discerning what exactly that would be might not always be easy but it should definitely be our major concern.  If it is not, then it is definitely time for an attitude adjustment!

–Chuck

(I took the three images shown here during a visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park last month.)