Lost in worshipping the created

I have some friends who are totally in lonature-man-in-tree-on-waterve with the beauty of the natural world. They ravenously consume nature documentaries and scientific discoveries, and relish the fascinating and amazing laws which exist in the universe. I must say I do share and rejoice in such a fascination! Yet it is possible to be lost, from God’s perspective, even with such an attitude. Linked to this love of creation is the exaltation of mankind, as the crown of creation. As mankind exalts, expresses, captures, ponders, reproduces, learns from and preserves all the wonder of creation, the wonder of the Creator (who in fact made, entered and sustains this creation!) can be, sadly, pushed aside.

Consider these words from John Piper:

“The tragedy of the world is that the echo is mistaken for the Original Shout. When our back is to the breathtaking beauty of God, we cast a shadow on the earth and fall in love with it. But it does not satisfy. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them. . . For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of the flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”
(from The Dangerous Duty of Delight)

His words remind me of those penned by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, chapter 1:  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. . . They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator

Piper comments further on this ‘exchange’:  How could I put my eye to some great telescope, designed to make me glad with visions of the galaxies, and notice in the glass a dim reflection of my face and say:”Now I am happy, I am loved?” How could I stand before the setting sun, between the mountain range and the vastness of the sea, and think that everlasting joy should come from making much of me? . . . “
(Don’t Waste your Life, John Piper, 2003, p.186.)

What this really boils down to is love of humanity, humanity exalting itself in bold denial of the Creator, saying ‘all this can exist and be sustained simply by the ingenuity of mankind’ – or by the evolutionary process, which apparently needs no initial designer (?!).

How sad to be so in love with the shadow of the Creator, that a relationship with the Creator is fortfeited, the Creator in whose image we are made, the Creator whose love and sense of right and justice and compassion lives in us as a testimony to his character – even if we deny him.

If this is a struggle for you, please check out my older post on a similar topic: https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2013/07/01/an-unwasted-life-makes-much-of-jesus/

I trust and pray you can see the God who created and sustains this universe, by His living and eternal Word, Jesus Christ. Faith in him will never disappoint!

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You are the Music – Book Preview

You are the Music demy.inddYou Are the Music: How Music Reveals What it Means to be Human
by Victoria Williamson

A deft, unique exploration of how music makes us who we are, throughout our lives.

This looks like an interesting book for anyone interested in music and the power it wields in the human experience.  I don’t yet have a copy, but I will certainly be seeking it out. Here is a little taste of the subject matter (taken from Good Reads):

‘You are the music / While the music lasts’
T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets

“Do babies remember music from the womb? Can classical music increase your child’s IQ? Is music good for productivity? Can it aid recovery from illness and injury? And what is going on in your brain when Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’, Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht or Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ transports you back to teenage years?

In a brilliant new work that will delight music lovers of every persuasion, music psychologist Victoria Williamson examines our relationship with music across the whole of a lifetime.
Along the way she reveals the amazing ways in which music can physically reshape our brains, explores how ‘smart music listening’ can improve cognitive performance, and considers the perennial puzzle of what causes ‘earworms’.

Requiring no specialist musical or scientific knowledge, this upbeat, eye-opening book reveals as never before the extent of the universal language of music that lives deep inside us all.”

Paperback, 272 pages
Expected publication: March 6th 2014 by Icon Books
original title:You Are the Music: How Music Reveals What it Means to be Human
ISBN13 9781848316539

Snowflakes – who knew?

macro-photography-snowflakes-alexey-kljatov-2While the Southern Hemisphere swelters in humidity and great overdoses of sunshine, our friends in the North get to enjoy a spectacular reminder of our Creator’s intricate designs. These snowflakes are magnificent – though at times I suppose they can cause chaos and lots of work. Whether you are neck deep in snow, or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these macro snowflake images!

“As fascinating as macro photography is, most of us think we can’t do it because it requires specialized equipment. Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov, however, is an inspiration to aspiring amateur photographers everywhere – he created a home-made rig capable of capturing stunning close-up pictures of snowflakes out of old camera parts, boards, screws and tape. His pictures give us an enchanting close-up view of snowflakes that we could never hope for without specialized equipment.

The wonderful thing about snowflakes is that no two are alike. Their extraordinary diversity diversity stems from the many small changes in temperature and humidity that they experience while freezing on their way down to the ground. Their six-sided symmetry occurs because the crystalline structure of ice is also hexagonal. All of these many factors come together to create beautiful shapes that are almost always unique.

Kljatov’s rig creates the sort of photos that might otherwise require lenses or other equipment worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. And the pictures he creates with this rig look absolutely amazing. For more information about how he did it, check out his blog post.

Stunning Close-Ups of Snowflakes by Alexey Kljatov

Don’t be ashamed to wear your crown

coronation

“I hate when I look in my closet and find clothes instead of Narnia.”  H.B. Bolton

The song GOLD by Britt Nicole carries a great message for her audience. In summary: for all the girls and boys all over the world, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been told, you are worth more than gold. In fact, you’re a king, a queen, inside and out. Don’t be afraid to hold your head up high and wear your crown. (Full lyrics and a great film clip are below)

I can’t help thinking that this is the very same message C.S.Lewis brings to children (of all ages) in his adventures to Narnia. In Aslan’s realm, the children are crowned as rulers over the kingdom, with special gifts and talents given them. They are afforded great power and respect from all creatures.

“To the glistening eastern sea, I give you Queen Lucy the Valiant. To the great western woods, King Edmund the Just. To the radiant southern sun, Queen Susan the Gentle. And to the clear northern skies, I give you King Peter the Magnificent. Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia. May your wisdom grace us until the stars rain down from the heavens.” C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Yet back through the wardrobe, back in ‘reality’ they are simply children, children who should be seen and not heard. In this reality we adult humans can see ourselves in this way, as very ordinary people, accidents of biology, mere vapours. We can be despondent about our very existence, and become dependent on the affirmations of others. We can think we must impress others to ‘justify our own existence’. (Have you seen that awful bumper sticker?) We need to remember the reality of the spiritual realm, of God, and the intent God had for us, for the creatures he made in his own image. We were designed to be his image-bearers, designed to give glory to him as we display his character for all to see. (If you are not yet convinced of the existence of a Creator and the spiritual realm, check out this book – “Rumours of another world” – Max Lucado)

The Lord has crowned us as rulers over creation:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”
(Hebrews 2:6-8)

He has Crowned us as co-heirs with Christ, if we are in Christ. We are stunningly individual and unique people who all play a vital role within His Body here on planet earth (see 1 Corinthians 12).

We are to shine like stars as witnesses to those in the heavenly realms:
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)

As Britt Nicole would say, we shouldn’t be ashamed to wear our crown. Don’t wait for the world to affirm your existence. God made you, for a reason.

GOLD crown

Oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh

You were walking on the moon, now you’re feeling low
What they said wasn’t true, you’re beautiful
Sticks and stones break your bones, I know what you’re feeling
Words like those won’t steal your glow, you’re one in a million years

This is for all the girls, boys all over the world
Whatever you’ve been told, you’re worth more than gold
So hold your head up high, it’s your time to shine
From the inside out it shows, you’re worth more than gold (Gold gold, you’re gold)
You’re worth more than gold (Gold gold you’re gold)

Well everybody keeps score, afraid you’re gonna lose
Just ignore they don’t know the real you
All the rain in the sky can’t put out your fire all the stars out tonight, you shine brighter

So don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not loved
And don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not enough
Yeah there are days when we all feel like we’re messed up
But the truth is that we’re all diamonds in the rough
So don’t be ashamed to wear your crown
You’re a king you’re a queen inside and out
You glow like the moon, you shine like the stars
This is for you, wherever you are

So don’t be ashamed to wear your crown You’re a king you’re a queen inside and out

You may also like Britt Nicole’s STAND

And these other posts:

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam – or maybe a firework                     It’s always a good time
shineImage created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkII

Science and God: still playing on the same team

While the “new athiest” movement is doing its best to persuade people otherwise, there remains an incredible amount of harmony between the world of scientific knowledge and the Christian faith. The main reason why this (perhaps unrecognised) harmony is possible is that science and faith are really asking different types of questions about the universe. This means that ultimately we don’t have to pick one team or the other! These thoughts are the subject of Scott Petty’s most engaging Little Black Book “Science and God” (part of a series published by Matthias Media, 2011).

Petty begins by asking us to consider whether or not fact and faith really are locked in a tenacious battle to the death, which is by and large the way popular culture presents the issue. And the winner of this battle, we are told, will be Science! with Faith backed only by rigid conservative moralists – and stupid people! We need to look beyond these popular portrayals of the issue to see that science and Christianity have in fact enjoyed a long friendship stretching back centuries. Petty cites evidence of many science-focused Christians, past and present, who have advanced scientific research and knowledge. And such findings in no way contradict the claims of the Bible.

This is the heart of the matter: science and faith are answering different questions. One answers the question of how the universe works – the other answers the question of why the universe exists. “Just because we think we have understood the mechanism or operation of something in the universe without bring in God does not mean that there was no God who designed the universe in the beginning.” Petty uses a great illustration of the Ford motor car: gaining knowledge of the workings of the car does not negate the fact that Ford designed it, even though, within the car, Henry Ford is no where to be found. God may not visible to the human eye, but it would be a big mistake to dismiss the Him as designer, without precious scientific evidence to prove his non-existence (if that is what you are placing your faith in).

This book has a great deal more to offer, particularly regarding how the Big Bang theory (not the TV show) matches well with God’s explanation for the Creation moment, that single definite point at which the universe was created, out of nothing! Petty shares recent evidence from Hubble telescope and other research to back this. “It denies plain reason to say that no-one created something out of nothing, and it demolishes the building blocks of science to say that when it comes to the universe, there is no cause”.

Chapter 3 of this little book explores all the factors which work together to support life on the planet, things like gravity and the atmosphere. Petty then moves onto the ultimate chicken and egg problem of human DNA: “if you believe life emerged from non-living things like chemicals and such” you have problem, says Petty. “DNA relies on proteins for its production. But proteins rely on DNA for their existence. So which came first? Each must be present for the other to be made. It seems neither proteins nor DNA could create themselves”.

Petty deals with each of these points in good detail and with appropriate references to reputable studies. He also tackles the big “challenge” of evolution in a clear and effective manner, diffusing the bomb that some people see it to be. He also discusses the language and purpose of the biblical Creation account in a refreshing way, offering perspectives you may not have previously considered. But rather than give all that away, I’ll leave it with you to get a hold of the book and read it for yourself. Make sure you then pass it on to someone who finds the whole Science/Faith debate to be a real challenge. It would be a great book for your church or council library, for youth groups, university or highschool students – or anyone like you or me who live on this planet and must wrestle with these issues. There are only 96 pages of reading (and the pages are small, size of a CD case), with a helpful Q and A section at the end. Petty concludes with a friendly challenge to the reader, to consider that while scientific knowledge is useful, it is the personal and relational knowledge of God, through his Son, that counts most.
“God is not afraid of science, and he also knows that it’s not enough if we are to know him. In the past he spoke through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son”.

You can buy a copy of the book directly from Matthias Media by clicking here.

No wonder there is no wonder

Yesterday I found these words scrawled on an old crumbly piece of paper in the bottom of my filing cabinet: (from Max Lucado, In the Grip of Grace – 1996, p15.)
The loss of mystery has led to the loss of majesty
The more we know the less we believe.
No wonder there is no wonder.
We think we have figured it all out.
Strange, don’t you think?
Knowledge of the workings shouldn’t negate the wonder.
Knowledge should stir wonder.
Who has more reason to worship than the astronomer who has seen the stars?
Than the surgeon who has held a heart?
Than the oceanographer who has pondered the depths”.

Now there was a reason I copied those words by hand from Lucado’s book quite a while ago. I was probably wanting to be reminded that the heavens declare the glory of God, that day after day creation pours forth speech about our Maker (Psalm 19). I wanted to be challenged not to allow my understanding of the universe, by virtue of my education, to deny me the pleasure of “wondering” at God’s ultimate creativity.

But the reason I am sharing them today is slightly different. Since I’ve being doing a few theological subjects lately, these words got me thinking about the wonder of our salvation, and the “danger” of theological study. When approached as a purely academic exercise, Bible students can easily lose some of the wonder of the Cross. The greatness of God, and the immensity of His grace to us in Christ, can become smaller in our eyes because we think we understand it! Worse still we can become proud of our ability to wrap our brains around the mystery of Christ. In some ways this is also the lot of a composer or professional musician who cannot enjoy the wonder of the symphony for their awareness of all the notes!

Then as I was thinking these thoughts, and preparing to wrestle with revising Numbers and Deuteronomy today, I read a great post on this very dilemma over at Mere Inkling (where C.S. Lewis’ thoughts are explored regularly) a post entitled Theological Training.

Here is how it begins: “I’m proud I graduated from a well-respected seminary. And I’m proud of following that Master of Divinity degree with an advanced Master of Theology degree in Patristics. And that’s precisely the problem . . . I’m proud. As a Christian, I recognize that pride is one of the most destructive and insidious sins. . .” Read more

As I do my own study today I pray that God will keep from me the sin of pride in understanding Him, and focus my thoughts instead on the grace that I am called His child. (Actually, writing this post has helped greatly with that!)

Creation sings the Father’s Song

Our church family is going through a rapid period of growth at the moment. This is not due to our evangelistic efforts, but by God’s gracious gifts. Four babies were born in the last few months (Alexis, Benjamin, Jackson, Jennifer). What a great opportunity this presents to be reminded of our Creator – the miracle of God’s design in creating new little people. We see it too in the relationship of love and care which grows between parents and their children.

Think of the way a baby’s cry wakens parents in the night, to alert them to their desperate need for food or attention. Think of the way that cry prompts a physical response in mum, to “let down” milk which will sustain her precious little one. She doesn’t have to even consciously think about the process. (Perhaps there are a few unconscious dads staggering about making up bottles as well!) Think of the way human relationships develop between a husband and wife so that they can share the intimate and difficult moments of childbirth, and care for a newborn through the small hours of the night. Think of the inner strength God has given mums to endure days and weeks of broken sleep and other emotional demands. Think of the tender strength of a dad to help everyone hold it all together (and change nappies)!

A song I’ve been listening to lately contains a line which so aptly describes God’s command over creation: “He commands the newborn baby’s cry”. Without that God-given inbuilt response, a child would not demand food or be able to ask that any other need be seen to. Without all those ‘small hours’ moments, parents would not get to know the unique personality of their child so quickly and well, and form a lasting bond.

All these systems have been established by our loving God, to grow us physically and in relationship to each other – and in relationship to Him. They truly show His glory to the world, even to those people who choose to believe His truly amazing design is random and without purpose or meaning. May God help us to continue to be amazed at the wonder of His creation. Though marred by sin and human defiance, creation still points to God’s amazing mind that we cannot fully comprehend.

Make sure you keep your eyes open to the miracles of the God who is seen everywhere, but most especially in us! (Genesis 1:26, Romans 1:20)

Creation sings the Father’s Song (by Kristyn and Keith Getty & Stuart Townend)

Creation sings the Father’s song, He calls the sun to wake the dawn
And run the course of day Till evening comes in crimson rays.
His fingerprints in flakes of snow, His breath upon this spinning globe,
He charts the eagle’s flight; Commands the newborn baby’s cry.

Hallelujah!
Let all creation stand and sing,
“Hallelujah!”
Fill the earth with songs of worship
Tell the wonders of creation’s King.

2.Creation gazed upon His face; The ageless One in time’s embrace
Unveiled the Father’s plan Of reconciling God and man.
A second Adam walked the earth Whose blameless life would break the curse,
Whose death would set us free To live with Him eternally.

3. Creation longs for His return, When Christ shall reign upon the earth;
The bitter wars that rage Are birth pains of a coming age.
When He renews the land and sky, All heaven will sing and earth reply
With one resplendent theme: The glory of our God and King

We bear the creativity of a loving Creator

The only reason we can be creative people, who can make unique and beautiful designs in art, craft and music, is because we bear the image of an infinitely and extravagantly creative God. And when we observe how passionate some people get about their crafty creations, we are reminded of the Father’s passion for us, His new creations! Here are some thoughts I shared at a women’s Craft Day a little while ago:

Why do we treasure the things that we make? To other people it seems we place inordinate value on our creations, whether they be for ourselves or others. But we know all the thought and creative energy we have put into them. We have an intimate knowledge of their design and have blisters and sore eyes from the hours of careful manual work. We value them so much more highly than mass produced, shop bought items (just as we might value our child’s homemade card and craft so much more). Our finished creations take pride of place in our homes and on our bodies!  (One friend shared today how when she found a precious quilt she made someone scrunched up in the bottom of their cupboard; she quickly retrieved the object and decided to give it the love and care it deserves herself!) While others may admire the skill, the beauty and the design, it is their creator who holds them most highly valued. Since we know our creations so well, we also know their flaws, and are willing to work to improve them. We even treasure the broken, unfinished and seemingly useless creations, hoarding them away for the day when we will get around to finishing them.

The relationship between Creator and created is very unique, and how wonderful it is to remind ourselves that we are God’s treasured creation! He made us, He intimately knows our design, our flaws, our unfinished bits and He knows what He wants us to be when we are finished. God values us as His greatest treasure. Here are some of the phrases from God’s word which He uses to describe us. We are: His offspring, His prized possession, His handiwork, craftsmanship, masterpiece, the pinnacle of His creation and He rejoices over us with singing! This is the HOPE we have as Christians: that we are not biological accidents, but rather we are unique creations of a loving Creator. He knows us by name and by voice and fingerprint, and He has planned our days.

Rejoice! We are God’s treasure! He showed us this by sending his Son Jesus to save us from the punishment our rebellion deserved. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Here are two final points to ponder, which I believe you will find to be true as you follow your Creator:
1. We will be most satisfied in life when we treasure the One who treasures us most (Our Creator God!)
2. And He’s not finished making us yet! He is faithfully shaping us to be more and more like His son.

As the Message version of the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 our lives will be “. . . gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.”

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

The Music behind all music

how-great-is-our-lord_t_ntThis post comes courtesy of the DESIRING GOD blog. Here is how it opens:

“The creation surrounding us is the product of the triune God. That is incredible enough. But take one more profound step and we discover, as Pastor John explains in The Pleasures of God, that “creation is an expression of the overflow of that life and joy that the Father and the Son have in each other” (72).

To put this another way, we see a kaleidoscope of galaxies, animals, and music genres because the Father and Son enjoy a kaleidoscope of delight in each other, and it is a spilling-over delight. As the triune delight spills over in creation, it expands and radiates outward for us to share in. Out of this throbbing delight we have creation, a creation that speaks . . .

Read on here:  The Music behind all music