Category  |  Christian Ministry & the Church

Creation’s Song

Using acoustic astronomy, scientists can observe and listen to the sounds and pulses of space. They’ve found that stars don’t orbit in silence in the mysterious night sky, but rather generate music. Like humpback whale sounds, the resonance of stars exists at wavelengths or frequencies that may not be heard by the human ear. Yet, the music of stars and whales and other creatures combine to create a symphony that proclaims the greatness of God. 

Psalm 19:1–4 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands; day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul reveals that in Jesus “all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15). In response, the natural world’s heights and depths sing to its Maker. May we join creation and sing out the greatness of the One who “with the breadth of his hand marked off the [vast] heavens” (Isaiah 40:12).

Worshiping with Questions

It’s not uncommon during a long (or short!) trip for someone in a group of travelers to ask, “Are we there yet?” or “How much longer?” Who hasn’t heard these universal queries coming from the lips of children and adults eager to arrive at their destination? But people of all ages are also prone to ask similar questions when wearied because of life challenges that never seem to cease.

Such was the case with David in Psalm 13. Four times in two verses, David—who felt forgotten, forsaken, and defeated—lamented “How long?” “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (v. 1). Psalms that include lament, like this one, implicitly give us permission to worshipfully come to the Lord with questions of our own. After all, what better person to talk to during prolonged times of stress and strain than God? We can bring our struggles with illness, grief, the waywardness of a loved one, and relational difficulties to Him. 

Worship need not stop when we have questions. The sovereign God of heaven welcomes us to bring our angst-filled questions to Him. And perhaps like David, in due time our questions will be transformed into petitions and expressions of trust and praise to the Lord (vv. 3–6). 

Plight of the Crawdads

When my cousin invited me to join him to fish for crawdads (crayfish), I couldn’t help but be excited. I grinned when he handed me a plastic pail. “No lid?”

 “You won’t need one,” he said, picking up the fishing rods and the small bag of chicken chunks we’d use for bait.

Later, as I watched the small crustaceans climbing over one another in a futile attempt to escape the almost-full bucket, I realized why we wouldn’t need a lid. Whenever one crawdad reached the rim, the others would pull it back down.

The plight of the crawdads reminds me how destructive it is to be selfishly concerned about our own gain instead of the benefit of a whole community. Paul understood the need for uplifting, interdependent relationships when he wrote to the believers in Thessalonica. He urged them to “warn those who are idle and disruptive” and to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak,” and “be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Commending their caring community (v. 11), Paul spurred them toward even more loving and peaceful relationships (vv. 13–15). By striving to create a culture of forgiveness, kindness, and compassion, their relationships with God and others would be strengthened (vv. 15, 23).

The church can grow and witness for Christ through this kind of loving unity. When believers honor God, committing to lift others up instead of pulling them down with words or actions, we and our communities thrive.

The Highest Place

My husband invited a friend to church. After the service his friend said, “I liked the songs and the atmosphere, but I don’t get it. Why do you give Jesus such a high place of honor?” My husband then explained to him that Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. Without Him, Christianity would be meaningless. It is because of what Jesus has done in our lives that we meet together and praise Him.

Who is Jesus and what has He done? The apostle Paul answered this question in Colossians 1. No one has seen God, but Jesus came to reflect and reveal Him (v. 15). Jesus, as the Son of God, came to die for us and free us from sin. Sin has separated us from God’s holiness, so peace could only be made through someone perfect. That was Jesus (vv. 14, 20). In other words, Jesus has given us what no one else could—access to God and eternal life (John 17:3).

Why does He deserve such a place of honor? He conquered death. He won our hearts by His love and sacrifice. He gives us new strength every day. He is everything to us!

We give Him the glory because He deserves it. We lift Him up because that is His rightful place. Let us give Him the highest place in our hearts.

In Abundance or Affliction

Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts encourages readers to search their lives daily for what the Lord has done for them. In it, she daily notes God’s abundant generosity to her in gifts both large and small, ranging from the simple beauty of iridescent bubbles in the dish sink to the incomparable salvation of sinners like herself (and the rest of us!). Ann contends that gratitude is the key to seeing God in even the most troubling of life’s moments.

Job is famous for a life of such “troubling” moments. Indeed, his losses were deep and many. Just moments after losing all his livestock, he learns of the simultaneous death of all his ten children. Job’s profound grief was evidenced in his response: he “tore his robe and shaved his head” (1:20) His words in that painful hour make me think Job knew the practice of gratitude, for he acknowledges that the Lord had given him everything he’d lost (v. 21) How else could he worship in the midst of such incapacitating grief?

The practice of daily gratitude cannot erase the magnitude of pain we feel in seasons of loss. Job questioned and grappled through his grief as the rest of the book describes. But recognizing God’s goodness to us—in even the smallest of ways—can prepare us to kneel in worship before our all-powerful God in the darkest hours of our earthly lives.

Mosaic of Beauty

Sitting in the courtyard of the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel, I was overwhelmed with the beautiful display of 67 mosaics containing the words of Luke 1:46–55 in as many languages. Traditionally known as the Magnificat from the Latin “to magnify,” these verses are Mary’s joyous response to the announcement that she will be the mother of the Messiah.

Each plaque contains Mary’s words, including: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior. . . . For the Mighty One has done great things for me” (vv. 46–49). The biblical hymn etched in the tiles is a song of praise as Mary recounts the faithfulness of God to her and the nation of Israel.

A grateful recipient of God’s grace, Mary rejoices in her salvation (v. 47). Mary acknowledges God’s mercy has extended to the Israelites for generations (v. 50). Looking back over God’s care for the Israelites, she praises God for exercising His mighty power to act on behalf of His people (v. 51). Mary also thanks God, recognizing that her daily provisions come from His hand (v. 53).

Mary shows us that recounting the great things God has done for us is a way to express praise and can lead us to rejoice. This Christmas season, consider the invitation to list God’s goodness as you reflect on the year. In doing so, you may create a mosaic of great beauty with your words of praise.

Heaven’s Love Song

In 1936, songwriter Billy Hill released a popular hit song titled “The Glory of Love.” Before long a nation was singing about the joy of doing even little things out of love for one another.  Fifty years later, lyricist Peter Cetera wrote a more romantic song with a similar title. He imagined two people living forever, knowing together, they did it all— for the glory of love.

Revelation, the last book in the Bible, describes a new love song that will someday lift the voices of everyone in heaven and earth (Revelation 5:9,13). The music begins, however, in a minor key of mourning. John, our narrator, cries, seeing no answer to all that has gone wrong with the world (vv. 3–4).  But his mood brightens and the music builds to a crescendo (vv. 12–13) as John learns the real glory and story of love.  Soon he hears all creation praising the powerful Lion-King of Judah (v. 5), who has won the hearts of His subjects by lovingly sacrificing Himself, like a Lamb, for our rescue (v. 13).

In the most moving lyrics ever sung, we see why even simple acts of kindness rise on the wings of a song. The glory we sing about reflects the heart of our God. We sing about Him because He gave us our song. 

Thanks for Being You!

When I served as my mom’s live-in caregiver at a cancer center, I got to know Lori, another caregiver who lived down the hallway from us with her husband, Frank. I would chat, laugh, vent, cry, and pray with Lori in the shared living areas. We enjoyed supporting each other as we cared for our loved ones.

One day, I missed the free shuttle that took residents to buy groceries. Lori offered to drive me to the store later that evening. With grateful tears, I accepted her offer. “Thanks for being you,” I said. I truly appreciated her for who she was as a person, not just for what she did for me as a friend.

Psalm 100 demonstrates an appreciation of God for who He is, not simply for all He does. The psalmist invites “all the earth” (v. 1) to “worship the Lord with gladness” (v. 2), being confident in knowing “the Lord is God” (v. 3). Our Maker invites us into His presence to “give thanks to him and praise his name” (v. 4). Yes, the Lord remains worthy of our ongoing thankfulness because He “is good,” His “love endures forever,” and His “faithfulness continues through all generations” (v. 5).

God will always be the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and our intimately loving Father. He deserves our genuine joy-filled gratitude.

Thanks for Who God Is

Among the thousands of sentiments printed on greeting cards, perhaps one of the most touching is this simple statement: “Thanks for being you.” If you receive that card, you know that someone cares for you not because you did something spectacular for that person but because you’re appreciated for your essence.

I wonder if this kind of sentiment might indicate for us one of the best ways to say “Thank you” to God. Sure, there are times when God intervenes in our lives in a tangible way, and we say something like, “Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to get that job.” But most often, we can simply say, “Thank You, God, for being who You are.”

That’s what’s behind verses like 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Thank You, God, for who You are—good and loving. And Psalm 7:17: “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness.” Thank You, God, for who You are—the holy One. And “Let us come before him with thanksgiving . . . for the Lord is the great God” (Psalm 95:2–3). Thank You, God, for who You are—the Almighty God of the universe.

Who God is. That’s reason enough for us to stop what we’re doing and praise and thank Him. Thank You, God, for just being You!

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