I enjoy pictures of beautiful landscapes. Microsoft puts up a new landscape photo on my screen almost daily from various places around the world. There are so many around this globe. We have a hymn in our hymnal entitled For The Beauty Of The Earth which highlights all of the joy and beauty our Lord gives us in life. “For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies…..for the joy of ear and eye, for the hearts and minds delight….for the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth and friends above….For thyself, best gift divine! To our race so freely given, for that great, great love of thine….” and each verse ends with, “Christ our God, to thee we raise this our sacrifice of praise” . It is easy to see all that is wrong in our fallen world sometimes making it heard to see the beauty. But our God has not and will not abandon us. “For the beauty of each hour, of the day and of the night….” God provides us something to give hope, and helps us look ahead to all the joy and beauty He yet has for us. Lift up your eyes and see what our Lord provides for this day, and offer that “sacrifice of praise”.
Angles are interesting. When one flies over the mid-west looking out at the farm fields everything is in perfect squares or rectangles. This is very efficient, and easy to drive around. It is not so in the east. There are all kinds of curves, and angles to the roads and fields. I must admit I find the squares and rectangles rather boring. Just the same as I miss the hills and valleys when I get out to the flatter lands. As far as the land is concerned, it’s all good. God gave us all of this for our benefit. It just reminds me that God in into variety, beauty, and many interesting things. If God had wanted to give us some pretty flowers He could have created a few, or a dozen or two. But He made many thousands, all different, many beautiful, some even whimsical. I learned yesterday that there are over 3000 kinds of mosquitoes! Angles are interesting, so are curves, squares, not to mention color variations in each thing we see. It is God’s gift of beauty and life. Look around and let it all return to our Father in praise.
I have written before about God being a God of beauty, and where we see something beautiful we can rejoice in God’s gift. But thinking further about this, it is important to foster that which is beautiful. This world gives us so much that is harsh, ugly, mean, exploitive, and explosive. Whether in entertainment, games, action toys for kids, or numerous other places, the very opposite of God’s beauty is promoted. I understand that we live in a rough world, and we can’t have our heads in the sand, but where it is up to us in where we go, what we buy, gifts we give, what we watch or listen to, we can strengthen that which is good and beautiful. Paul wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things….And the God of peace will be with you.”(Philippians 4:8)
Beauty is a quality of God. Whether it is in music or art, a field of wild flowers or a sunset, beauty points to the Lord. The creative desire that is in, I think, almost all people, is the desire to make something that is beautiful, functional, helpful, or in some way improves our surroundings. This is of God. We may not consider ourselves artists, or even very skilled at many things, but wherever we seek to make or do something good, that is a desire from God, and honoring of God. This is not pantheism where people says that God is in everything. But God, Himself, is beautiful, and wherever there is true beauty, whether in a well prepared meal, or a great symphony, that desire to create is from God. Let us give thanks and rejoice in our God of the greatest beauty.
A while back we watched a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic on PBS. It was a piano concerto by Listz. A very lengthy and complicated piece. Yet the pianist had it completely memorized. I marveled again at the mind that God has given man. This is only one man using his gift in this one area of music. There are equally brilliant minds using gifts in many other areas of endeavor. If this is what God has given, how infinitely greater is the mind that gave them! Further, we share in the beauty of the composer’s gift to write, each of the musicians gifts to play and direct, and all of the gifts working together to bring harmony and beauty to all those who listen. An accident? Merely the culmination of human ability? Not at all, but gifts of a gracious God, and a very small glimpse into the beauty He intends for us in His Kingdom. Even a Vienna concert should bring us to worship our gracious Lord, and a longing for the fullness of all God yet has for us.
I can be rather cynical and negative when I look at modern society. Certainly, we face a lot of problems. But we also need to look at what is positive. Paul writes to the Philippian church, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.”(4:8) It is easy enough to find the junk in our fallen world, and we do need to be aware of all that is happening. But there are many good things around as well. We can start by looking at the good in our closest family members, and friends. Not flattery, but truth. It doesn’t hurt to tell them, also. Then there are the acts of sacrifice and bravery others have made. There is much beauty in God’s creation. There are even positive things we can find in our government, and leaders. Above all, we have the abundant grace God sheds upon us in so many ways each day. I will continue to be a bit cynical at times, but my heart is set on the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest joy God has given us.
God has given us a marvelous gift in our physical bodies. As with any gift it can be used properly or misused. Yesterday I wrote about cosmetics and seeking to enhance one’s image. I had women mostly in mind, though men are by no means immune to wanting to created a positive image. But today I am writing particularly to girls and young women. Understand that you have a power in your beauty. Men are visual creatures, and a pretty girl will turn heads. For this reason girls need to be very careful about the kind of attention they want to attract. All attention is not necessarily good. The image I spoke of yesterday is an inward beauty of the heart. That is where true beauty must start. Understand that that beauty is a precious jewel. You are treasured in God’s sight. Do not give yourself away easily. You should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. If you are not treated properly by any man then he is not worthy of your time. God created men and women. Their relationship together is to be beautiful and joyful. The full giving of one’s self is to be reserved for the covenant bond of heterosexual marriage. Together the man and woman reflect something of the nature of God Himself. Tragically, we have messed up this relationship badly in our modern world resulting in much heartache, but it does not have to be so. There is always forgiveness for what is in the past, and a new beginning in Christ Jesus. Just know that you are very valuable in God’s sight. And that is the real attention you want to attract.
We live in a small community yet we have a proliferation of beauty shops, nail salons, spas, and even a cosmetic surgeon. There are today a myriad of pills, potions, products, and procedures to enhance one’s beauty. This has become a multi billion dollar industry. An acquaintance mentioned to my wife about her upcoming cosmetic surgery and how she wanted it to improve her self image. Now, I’m not at all opposed to wanting to look nice when we are out with others. There is nothing spiritual about being sloppy. But when it comes to the question of self image I think we are looking in the wrong direction. All of the various beauty techniques only work on the outside. It is the Lord who creates true beauty which comes from within. Think about it. Almighty God has created us. We are not accidents of nature. “It is He who has made us and we are His.”(Psalm 100:3) Further, He has declared His love for all mankind. Almighty God created us and loves us. How should that make us feel about ourselves? Still further, if you are a Christian, a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are called a child of God.(John 1:12) And still more, Almighty God knows you to the depth of your being, and whether you are aware of it or not, He is working within your heart to bring you closer to Himself. Now what about your self image? Beyond all potions and products you can be called a child of God for Jesus sake. There is no self image greater than that, and it doesn’t depend upon what anyone else sees or thinks.
When a person see a beautiful sight we sometimes hear the expression “it is breathtaking”. There is a sense of awe and wonder concerning the experience. I have a CD recording of Mozart’s Ave Verum that I will sometimes play through my computer while I’m working. I don’t understand the words of the composition but the music and vocals are wonderful. I’ve been in groups of Christians singing a majestic hymn of our faith. At times its beauty has been so great I’ve had to stop singing and let the sound surround me with its wonder. I hope you can identify with this in one form or another. It is more than an emotional experience. It is being enveloped in a beauty beyond words. We can’t live in those experiences continually while on earth, but I think they are windows that God gives for a brief look into the Glory of His kingdom. This is a small glimpse into the glory that awaits all who are in Christ Jesus.
One of many souvenirs on my book shelf is from the Statue of Liberty. It is a perfectly clear block of glass in the center of which is an etched, 3D picture of the statue. I have looked at this image from every angle, and haven’t the faintest notion of how the 3D etching was put inside. I could probably look it up on How Things Work, but I never have. It is much like the way God works in our hearts. That’s something not found on How Things Work. God’s unseen hand works in us, or in others through our prayers, and we have not the faintest idea how it is done. God also works sovereignly in the world by the power of His Spirit. There is so much in the realm of God’s Spirit, and our own human spirits, that is a mystery to us. Yet we do see the results, like the beautiful image in the glass block. All the works of God’s unseen hand are according to His perfect will and are good. We can give thanks in all things.