Tag Archives: beauty

Nuggets of Hope 24 – The King’s Beauty

This morning I began my day with a walk to see the horses in the field at the end of our crescent. Although the weather forecast tells me a blast of winter is coming, this morning I can still taste, see and feel the glory of spring. It speaks to me of the Creator’s great wisdom.

The Biblical storyline tells us what young children often intuitively understand – we were made by a good Creator. Our lives come from His hand. The beauty and complexity of creation testifies to His goodness and power. He made humans for intimate fellowship with Himself.

That storyline goes on to tell us that a rebellious angel tempted our first parents to choose independence, and ever since there has been a curse on creation. But even when the curse was first pronounced, Eve was promised that her offspring would one day crush the serpent’s head. That offspring is Yeshua, who was, who is and who is to come. He came once to announce the coming Kingdom in words and deeds of great power, and to offer his life as a sacrifice for sins. He is coming again to restore all things.

Some ask why a good God would permit terrible things like the coronavirus to occur. There are many ways of answering that question, but anyone who has been paying attention to the message of the Kingdom shouldn’t be surprised. We know from Scripture that many things will be shaken before Jesus returns to bring in the Kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are currently experiencing one of those times of shaking.

Near the beginning of COVID-19 lockdowns, Marion and I watched a movie about World War II. It reminded me of my parents. They were 22 and 18 respectively when the Netherlands was invaded by the Wehrmacht in May 1940. They lived in an occupied nation for most of the next five years. Did they know how long it would last? No, but they held on to the hope that there would be life beyond the war, and in that hope they gave themselves to living for the day when the war would be over.

We are called to live with our eyes on an even greater Day – not just the day when the covid-19 crisis will subside, though that will be a day of great rejoicing, but the day when our eyes see the King in his beauty. Our response to Him in this age will determine whether that Day brings us the joy of sharing his reward or the horror of irreversible judgement. We are made to share in His glorious Kingdom that is coming, and to inherit a new heaven and a new earth. Don’t let the troubles of today cause you to lose sight of that hope. Let that hope anchor your soul. The King is coming.


Summer Reflections

In the coolness of a summer morning, I sit outside and sip my coffee and take in the beauty all around me.

A quiet breeze rustles the leaves of the majestic maple in my neighbour’s yard.

Wind chimes hint of faraway visions and unresolved mysteries.

The deep green leaves, bright blue sky and perfect temperature delight my senses.

For those with eyes to see, the glory of the creation points to the Glorious One.

He is coming to make all things new.


Glimpses of glory

A few days ago I was cycling along a pathway by the Ottawa River. I was perplexed about my current circumstances, and I stopped for a few minutes to sit on a bench and look at the river. As I told the Lord of my concerns, I sensed the Spirit prompting me to look at the fruit cluster on a sumac bush.

I went over to have a look, and was amazed. The Spirit reminded me of the thousands of cells of various types in each berry, each cell containing hundreds of complex organic molecules built with chains of atoms that are themselves fantastically complex. And this is just a single fruit cluster on a single sumac bush!  That’s not to mention the millions of other species of living things on earth, let alone the wonders of the mineral world and the vast galaxies that form outer space. My concerns fell into perspective as I realized that the God who made all this had a place for me in his plans.

All my life I have been enthralled by the wonder of God’s creation. The beauty of the created order – even in its fallen, marred state – reflects the glory, goodness and creative generosity of God, and brings rest to my soul. But more recently I have begun to find myself increasingly captivated by the beauty of God himself.

Several books of the Bible include descriptions of God’s throne room and the majestic splendour that surrounds him. Among the best known and most detailed visions are found in the Book of Revelation.

Sadly, many people tend to avoid Revelation. It’s an amazing book, written by a man with a deep love for God’s people. As a young man, John had been Jesus’ closest earthly friend. By the time he wrote the Book of Revelation, he was an old man, living in a prison camp on the Aegean Sea because of his faith in Christ. He was the overseer of several Christian communities in Asia Minor that were tasting intense persecution under the cruelty of the Emperor Domitian. John wrote to give them hope and encouragement.

Although John spoke a message of hope, it was also a sober message. The Lord would return to deliver his people, destroy evil and bring in the new age of righteousness and peace. But before his return, there would be a period of intense struggle. The Spirit revealed to John that there would be much turmoil and many painful trials before the final victory and the coming wedding feast.

Yet before showing John any of these gruesome details, the Spirit gave him several powerful encounters with the beauty and majesty of the Father and the Son. There’s a stunning vision of the Son of Man in Revelation 1, and an equally awe-inspiring description of the throne room of God in Revelation 4 and 5.

I am still very much a beginner when it comes to truly understanding these heavenly realities. But I am realizing in a fresh way why we need to feed our hearts on the beauty of God.

Of all the wondrous aspects of God’s glory, perhaps the most wondrous of all is that he is interested in us. The throne room contains not only the throne of the Ancient of Days but also the throne of the Lamb who was slain for us. Although God, He is also one of us, and he stands ready to open the seals of the scroll that will complete history and bring in a renewed, restored and glorified earth.

Over the past couple of weeks the world has been treated to the spectacle of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. These games were an amazing display of the glory of man. The Olympics showcase humanity’s drive to pursue and appreciate excellence, order and beauty in all domains of life. This drive is in us because we are made in the image of a great, glorious and creative God, who intended us to rule the earth on his behalf. Even in our fallen condition, having made quite a mess of things, we still bear His imprint. Yet if we pursue the glory of man without God, we end up empty, disappointed and frustrated.

I have known for a long time that I needed God. I know that I am daily dependent on His love, truth and power. But God is not just a source of gifts that I need to sustain my life. As long as I think of God that way, I still don’t really get it. I was made to worship and adore the Beautiful One. He is beautiful, delightful, exquisite in himself. You and I need to learn to feed our souls on his beauty. In the end, it is only His beauty that can satisfy us, sustain us, keep us from evil, and bring us through to the glorious destiny that we were made for.


Childhood Christmas memories

When I was a child, Christmas was my favourite time of year.  It wasn’t primarily because of the presents – although of course they were fun and exciting, especially the Christmas that we got a puppy and my parents let me in on the secret a couple of days before Christmas and enlisted me to keep the little pup quiet so as not to spoil the surprise for my younger sister.

I loved the seasonal foods, the smells and flavours of my mother’s baking, the Christmas turkey, the sounds, the lights, the songs, the anticipation, and of course the presents – but what I loved most of all was Christmas Eve.  When I think back to Christmas during my childhood, memories of this evening stand out as the undisputed high point of the season.

I grew up in a Dutch immigrant family, and although my parents weren’t particularly devout, on Christmas Eve we had a special family supper and carol service, partly in Dutch and partly in English.  The service was a tradition that my parents had brought with them from Holland.  We always read the same Scriptures and sang the same carols, and afterwards my father would read a Christmas story.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas we used a home-made Advent calendar as a family worship centre.  The calendar, made of stiff coloured cardboard, showed a view of the shepherds watching their flocks on the hills outside Bethlehem.  In the sky there were cutout stars, one for each day of Advent, with a larger star for each of the four Sundays of Advent.  The largest star of all was for Christmas Eve.   Candles were placed behind the Advent calendar so that when the room was dark, the light of the candles would shine through the places where cutout stars had been removed.  One star was punched out on each day of Advent so that as Christmas drew nearer the sky gradually became full of stars.   At least a couple of times each week we would light the candles and sing Christmas carols in anticipation of the birth of Christ.   This visual depiction of increasing light as the birth of Christ drew near had a powerful impact on me.  As a result, by the time Christmas Eve arrived I was full of anticipation.

I loved everything about Christmas Eve – the delicious smells of tourtière (a delicacy that my mother had learned to make during our years in Northern Québec) and other seasonal delights, the beauty of candlelight and greenery, the warmth of the fire, the family all being together – but what I loved most of all was the Christmas Eve service.  From the opening words Wij wachten op het licht, maar noch is er duisternis (We await the light, but still there is darkness) to the triumphant conclusion of O Come All Ye Faithful, the words of the Christmas story and the haunting beauty of the carols – some in Dutch, some in English – spoke to my child’s heart and stirred up my capacity for beauty, wonder and faith.  I have never forgotten the beautiful Dutch carol Er is een kindeke geboren op aard which speaks in simple poetic language of how the infant Jesus was already carrying his cross as he was rejected from birth, no place being found for him in the inn, and how he promises a glorious new day for those who trust Him.   I remember being deeply moved each year by the melody and words of Silent Night with its haunting message of the dawn of redeeming grace.  The Christmas story from the gospel of Luke stirred my heart and left a lasting imprint on me.  In addition, the stories that my father read by firelight as a conclusion to the evening usually focussed on themes of faith and love.

My parents were quite secular, skeptical people who did not usually speak much about matters of faith when I was growing up, although we did attend church.  In many ways this Christmas Eve service was an anomaly, speaking as it did in such plain and simple terms a message of salvation that we discussed rarely if ever during the rest of the year.   When I came to conscious, full-fledged faith in Jesus Christ years later,  I eventually realized that a seed of faith had been planted in my heart during those Christmas Eve services, and even though I had gone through a period of atheistic despair during my late teens and early twenties, that seed had never died – it had merely gone underground, only to awaken and bear fruit at a later time.

It’s been said that the most important lessons of our lives are the ones we learn in childhood.  Certainly it is possible to come to a robust faith in Christ even if you have never heard of Him as a child.   Around the world this happens millions of times every day as the gospel continues to spread rapidly in nations such as China, India, and many other parts of Asia and Africa, as well as increasingly in the Muslim world.  However, those who have heard of the Saviour as children are especially blessed.  Although we spoke very little about Jesus the rest of the year, our family’s annual Christmas Eve service planted seeds of longing, wonder and faith deep in the heart of a young boy who would many years later consciously yield control of his life to the Jesus that was spoken of in those carols, the same Jesus who is returning to reign on the earth.  As I reflect on my childhood Christmas memories, I am deeply grateful for the seeds of faith that were planted in my heart during those years.


Who made the hyacinth?

Last week I bought a hyacinth plant for my wife.  It was still in bud at the time, and we couldn’t tell what colour the blooms would be.   This morning she showed me, with great delight, that the buds were beginning to blossom into deliciously fragrant tiny white flowers.

Have you ever considered the amazing complexity of a flowering plant?  The visual design alone is astounding.   Our hyacinth boasts dozens of tightly-clustered blossoms, each one a tiny flower in its own right.   Looking a little deeper, the reproductive system of a flowering plant – pistils, stamens, pollen – is both delicate and elegant.   And that’s not to mention the myriad of interdependent systems and sub-systems which cannot be seen by the naked eye, but which are all required in order for the plant to function.   Each cell in even the simplest living thing is incredibly complex.  And of course each of these marvels of engineering depends on the design built in to the chemical molecules that allow it to function.  The molecules, in turn, depend on the consistency of design of their constituent atoms.  Digging a little deeper, we get into atomic structure and sub-atomic particles, and again we have amazing mysteries of complex design.  All this so that a simple flower can bloom!

Small children sometimes like to play with magnetized plastic letters and form words out of them.  Suppose I had a collection of several hundred of these plastic letters, and I painstakingly picked out just the right ones to create the text of this blog post, mixed them in a bucket, and dumped them out.   How likely is it that the letters would have arranged themselves into the words, sentences and paragraphs in this article?

We all know, of course, that this is extremely unlikely.   Probability theory shows that if a monkey were trained to type randomly on a keyboard, it would take about 113 billion years for the 23rd Psalm to emerge.  Astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, himself not a Christian, ridiculed the idea that the operating system of a living cell could be arrived at by chance, calling it nonsense of a high order.

Yet evolutionists would have us believe that this is the way flowers – or people, for that matter –  came into existence.   This conviction defies all logic, and cannot be proven (after all, no contemporary scientist was there to observe evolution from goo to you) but that’s what they believe.  The only kind of evolution that is observeable is natural selection within already-existing information (such as happens in breeding different strains of corn, for example).   No new information ever gets created in this process;  what happens is that the existing information is selected in particular ways to achieve a particular result, under the influence of either the breeder or (in nature) the natural environment.  But the very fact that natural selection works at all is actually further evidence for the amazing amount of intelligence built into the DNA of every living thing.

Of course, my wife’s lovely hyacinth did not come directly from the hand of God – it was produced by the labours of horticulturists.   But who created the amazingly well-ordered systems that allow these horticulturists to do their work?  Although I used to be among those who do not believe, I am more grateful than words can express to my God who opened my eyes and showed me His goodness in Creation, and supremely in Jesus, the Word made flesh.  I am now proud to say that no matter what popular opinion maintains, I know without any doubt that the hyacinth can only exist because an amazingly good Creator made it possible.   Nothing else makes any sense.