“When you behold beautiful scenes in the country or along the sea coast, or when you look at flowers or fruit, and are pleased by the sight or the perfume, say: For me God has created these lovely things in this world, that I may love Him. What delights has He not prepared for me in heaven?
There is a story told of a certain holy man, that in passing through the fields he would strike with a little stick the flowers and plants which he found on his way, saying, “Be silent; do not reproach me any longer for my ingratitude to God. I have understood you; be silent; say no more.”” (Excerpt from “How to Pray at All Times” by Alphonsus de Liguori)
I know I have shared this quote before, but it is one of my favorites. Two nights ago, we sat with our boys and we talked about the joyful and extravagant heart of God in Creation. I love reading through Genesis 1 and thinking about how the Godhead was feeling as the Holy Three set the stars in place, spoke the earth into being and whirled it into motion, brought forth light and water and land, put fish in the sea and birds in the air, and then painted every little thing with unfathomable detail and brilliant colors. In the last post, I talked about Jesus and how every part of His life, even His family tree, is the revelation of God. Creation is yet another way in which God continually reveals who He is and what He is like. Every day He unveils the majesty and love of His heart through the world around us.
For what can be known about God is plain to us, because God has shown it to us. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So we are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
We are without excuse. I love this, and if I’m completely honest, there are times when I hate this. All at once, the rose opening in springtime declares the wonders of God and reveals the dullness and ingratitude of my heart. Day after day, the heavens and every living (and non-living) thing on the earth declare the extravagant love of our Maker and if we have eyes to see, the weight and scope of that reality is absolutely mind-blowing and overwhelming.
If we believe the words of Genesis 1, that God created all things, and if we believe the truth that continues throughout the Bible, that it is the Lord who upholds all things and continues to govern and reign over every part of creation (Lev 26:3-4, Job 5:10, Job 37: 6 & 9-13, Neh 9:5-6, Ps 65:7-11, Ps 104:7-13, Ps 104:27-30, Ps 145:16, Ps 147:8 & 15-18, Mt 6:26-30, Mt 10:29, and many, many other verses), then something as simple as the grass growing in our backyard can leave us speechless before Him.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises to our God on the lyre,
Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who provides rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. (Psalm 147:7-8 NASB)
Have you ever asked the question why? When you look at the sky, have you wondered why God makes it beautiful? He could have made everything boring and gray or completely colorless and shapeless. He doesn’t have to make a rose smell sweet, the stars sparkle, or the grass green. But He does. And He could do all of that just for Himself, because He enjoys His own creations and masterpieces in and of Himself. But He went even further in Genesis. He created man and woman in His image to enjoy with our Maker all that He has made. And when the Holy Three formed us out of the dust and breathed the breath of God into our image-bearing bodies, He gave us senses with which to see and hear and taste and touch and smell the depth of the wonder in all that He has spoken into being. Our Creator is extravagant and He wants to share His extravagant heart with us.
Two nights ago, we watched the Planet Earth episodes about the depths of the ocean and the forests with Noah and Ephraim as part of our Advent time together. As we were looking at these crazy creatures of the ocean floors all lit up and brilliant with colors and wonder, Noah said, “it’s just crazy that God made all these things! I mean, no one even sees this stuff – He just made it because He enjoys it!” It’s so true… out of the mouths of babes, right? These crazy creatures of the deep are there because of the happy and joyful heart of our God. Humanity has barely begun to scratch the surface of the wonders of God in creation. Every day, we are discovering something new in the macro and micro worlds around us. And God lets us! He invites us into this wonderful world He has made and that He continues to uphold so that we might know Him and love Him and enjoy all of it with Him. Isn’t that stunning? The next time you look at a blade of grass or a tree or a cloud or a raindrop or your skin or your breath on a cold window pane, remember that all of those things are invitations into and revelations of the heart of our Maker and our Friend. All around us, the voice of the Lord is crying out to us to know Him and understand His ways. “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the earth.” (Psalm 19:2-4)
I just stumbled across these close up photos of snowflakes by a photographer in Moscow (pictured above) last night, and I had to share them in this post. I love the snow. There is nothing better than waking up to a landscape newly covered in white fluffy snow. I love how everything seems to come to a quiet hush and standstill when it snows as if to say, “Be still and know that I am God.” But when I look at the unique intricacy and beauty that lies within each of those millions of snowflakes that for the most part only God knows and sees, I am undone. It’s as if each snowflake has its own song to sing of this God who makes a beautiful spectacle out of the tiny and the fragile. Even the snowflakes are singing His praises!
They are miracles. They are signs. They are testimonies. They are instantaneous incarnations. They remind us of the same truth: The unseen is now visible. The distant has drawn near. His Majesty has come to be seen. And he is in the most common of earth’s corners.
In fact, it is the normality not the uniqueness of God’s miracles that causes them to be so staggering. Rather than shocking the globe with an occasional demonstration of deity, God has opted to display his power daily. Proverbially. Pounding waves. Prism-cast colors. Birth, death, life. We are surrounded by miracles. God is throwing testimonies at us like fireworks, each one exploding, “God is! God is!” (from God Came Near, Max Lucado)
“God is! God is! God is!” And He is good and extravagant and full of joy and love and He wants us to know Him and enjoy all of His goodness with Him. And if a snowflake can look this brilliant in such a broken world, can you even imagine what He has in store for us in heaven and in the New Earth?
Advent. Advenio. “I arrive. I come. I am coming.”
As we ponder the heart of God this Advent season and in all of our seasons, let us not walk through the corridors of Creation without pausing to gaze upon the beautiful artistry that surrounds us and the portrait of God’s heart revealed by the works of His hands. Let us rejoice and be glad, for the Lord is not the callous, distant God that the enemy of our joy has portrayed Him to be. It is God who causes that flower to push its way through mud and dirt to find the sun and your gaze. It is God who causes that tree to grow under which your children often rest on hot summer days. It is God who causes trees and diatoms to release the oxygen that every cell of your body needs for its very survival, and God who keeps the sun close enough to give us light and keep us thawed, but far enough that we are not consumed in an inferno. It is God who spins the earth and paints the pink and purple and orange sky above you at sunset, and the same God who brings the rain to the thirsty earth in spring and autumn, and the snows in winter. It is God who causes millions of unique and intricate snowflakes to cover the earth to remind us of the One who washes white as snow and bring us into the stillness and knowing that He alone is God. That beating you feel within your sweet toddler’s chest, that breath that just fell from your lips, those eyes with which you saw the snow-capped mountains in all their majesty, those taste buds which squealed with delight as you tasted that yummy Thanksgiving dinner… all that defines your world and your days… hear Him beckoning you with each beat of your heart, with each breath from your lungs… the Creator is calling you to see and to believe. And to give thanks with wholly grateful hearts… O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!