With the cold weather that has come our way the birds are flocking to my feeder. For that reason I’m checking the feeder regularly so that I can keep it filled with sunflower seeds for them. Yesterday I pulled out a heated bird bath I purchased last year since the water was freezing in the one I had set out. I know it’s important that birds have a good source of water this time of year. I’ve seen a variety of woodpeckers around the feeder which has served as a reminder it’s time to put some suet out for them. I really do try to take care of the birds that visit my yard.
As I watched my birds feed and drink earlier today I found some satisfaction in knowing that I am able to provide for them. This led my thoughts to reflect on how I, too, have someone who takes care of and provides for me. This particular time of the year we cannot help but remember that in Christ God has graciously provided for our many needs. Although Genesis 1:1 teaches us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” the New Testament attributes the work of Creation to Christ or “the Word.” John 1:1-3 tells us that Christ has always existed with God as the Word and that “through him all things were made that has been made.” In Colossians 1 Paul echoes this thought and says concerning Christ, “for by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” (v. 16) Yes, the one whose birth we celebrate each Christmas is the one who created the world and in so doing provided for our many physical needs.
At Christmas, however, we tend to remember that Jesus came to provide for still other needs. The angels who spoke to the shepherds outside Bethlehem that first Christmas brought “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” and that good news was that “a Savior has been born to you.” (Luke 2:10-11) Having already provided for our physical needs through Creation Christ came to earth to meet our spiritual needs, especially our need for salvation.
Yesterday I read an article on Facebook that a friend had shared which stated that Jesus is not “the reason for the season.” The writer explained that Christ had always existed with God so we cannot look at his earthly birth as his beginning. He went on to say that the real reason for the season was you and me. It was our need for salvation and eternal life that caused God in His infinite love to send Jesus into the world. God saw our need and responded. That’s why there is a Christmas to celebrate.
As I watched my birds earlier today and thought about all I was doing for them I wondered if they were aware that someone was taking care of them. I also wondered if they appreciated my efforts. The same questions can be asked on a different level. Do most people realize that there is a God who is taking care of them? Do they appreciate what God is doing for them? Hopefully during this busy and exciting season each of us will pause long enough to remember Someone is, in fact, providing for our needs. Hopefully we will also pause and offer thanks for the way those needs have been met. That would certainly be the appropriate thing to do. Wouldn’t you agree?
(I’ve included some pictures I’ve taken of the birds that come to my feeder.)
Yesterday I was driving into town when I saw a long line of people in front of a building. As I got closer I looked to see what the building was. The name on the front of it was “The Answer Center.” When I saw this I couldn’t help but chuckle. It made sense that a place where you can get answers would have a long line in front of it. In fact, I was tempted to get in line myself.
In this life we all have questions we’d like answers for. One question many people ask is “what is the secret to happiness?” Happiness tends to be one of humankind’s primary goals. Everyone wants to be happy. So what is the answer to the secret of happiness? Shortly before seeing the line in front of the building yesterday I had pulled out one of my favorite Thomas Merton books, No Man Is an Island. I was flipping through the pages when I came across a passage I had underlined a number of years ago. It reads: “It is for this that we account ourselves happy when we know His will and do it, and realize that the greatest unhappiness is to have no sense of His purposes or His designs either for ourselves or for the rest of the world.”
I happen to believe that there are answers indeed to be found in Merton’s words. If people want to experience true happiness they must come to know God’s will for their lives and do it. If a person doesn’t have a sense of God purpose or design on his or her life it creates both confusion and unhappiness. Our happiness is dependent on fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
I would have you note, however, that Merton also points out that it is imperative that we also have some sense of God’s purposes and designs “for the rest of the world.” I’ve read enough of Merton to know that he would include in this God’s purposes and designs for Creation. He knew that if we do not understand God’s intention for Creation then it will affect our happiness. How could it not? If we do not have a clear sense of the role the world or Creation has to play in God’s design then we are likely to miss out on much in life.
I have written several times about how the chief purpose of both humankind and Creation is to bring glory to God. Recently I pointed to an important passage in Colossians 1 where we are told that the world was created by and for Christ. (v. 16) In my own life I have discovered that I am most unhappy when I am centering everything on me. There’s a reason for that. The world does not center on me; it centers on Christ. If we keep trying to make everything about us then we will remain unhappy. But if we will live out our lives in the recognition that we, along with Creation itself, exist to bring glory to God it will end up bringing us a joy and happiness we will find nowhere else.
In Merton’s words I find the “answer center’ I need. Perhaps you will too.
(I took the top image of Akaka Falls in Hawaii, the middle image at Custer State Park in South Dakota, and the bottom image of lavendar on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
Today is both Palm Sunday and April Fool’s Day. There is a sermon I have in mind that draws the two together. I don’t remember exactly where I heard or read it but it concerns what has come to be known as Jesus’ “triumphant entry” on the first Palm Sunday long ago. The question eventually gets asked, “Do you think the donkey that carried Jesus up to Jerusalem that day thought all the cheering and excitement was about him?” The conclusion drawn in the sermon was how incredibly foolish the donkey would have been to think the praise and adoration was for him instead of the one who rode upon his back. The point made concerned the dangers of pride and our need for humility.
When Rob and I were at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada a few days ago we saw and photographed the three wild burros you see here. I told him that day about the sermon I had heard. We discussed how we humans often get ourselves in trouble because of our pride and how we should practice humility. A donkey would never think it was all about him but we humans often do. This flaw usually proves to be our downfall, confirming the biblical admonition, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
One area where I see much human pride these days concerns Creation. It seems like so many people think the earth belongs to us and it is ours to do with as we please. They may think this but the Bible clearly states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1) How arrogant, how foolish, for us to think the world exists for us! The apostle Paul echoed the Psalmist’s thoughts when he wrote concerning Jesus, “all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) Creation exists for God’s glory, not ours. To think otherwise would be just like the donkey Jesus rode believing the cheers were all for him.
Psalm 14:1 declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” According to statistics there are not a very high percentage of people who actually deny the existence of God. There are, however, a large percentage of people who live as though there is no God or who get confused and think they are Him. In the end, the biggest fool is the person who refuses to give God the glory He deserves. Unfortunately, I have been that person more times than I can count. Perhaps you are guilty too. Both the Bible and God’s “other book” (Creation) teach us that God deserves all the praise and honor and glory we can give Him. At the beginning of this Holy Week I encourage you to join me in striving to give God the glory He is due. If we fail to do so, what fools we will be!