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Pastor's Pen

Photograph: For two and a half minutes on August 21st, this was my view of the sun in Crossville, Tennessee.

Dear Falling River Church Family,

He made the moon to mark the seasons;

the sun knows its time for setting.

You make darkness, and it is night…

—Psalm 104:19-20a; ESV

I’m addicted to wonder. A tasty meal, a child’s smile, or dewdrops in a spider’s web—simple things like these can overwhelm me with delight, awe, and gratitude. Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I’ve noticed some such ordinary miracle, and someone else looks at me with a dismissive expression which seems to say: “What’s the big deal? It’s just a ___(fill in the blank). This guy is weird.” Fortunately, I’m not as concerned about what others think of me as I used to be. For example, I recently drove to Tennessee to observe a total eclipse of the sun. This took months of preparation (I wanted to photograph the event), more money than I care to admit, and two days of frustrating traffic on Interstate 81. Why did I take this trouble? I didn’t go in the interest of science or financial reward; it was for the wonder of it all. On August 21st, the moon cut in on the sun’s daily dance with earth. The air cooled, birds started singing, and the afternoon plunged into deep twilight. Even a few stars came out, as if to see what was happening. I knew all this would occur—and why—but the eclipse still a gave me a rush of wonder that I can’t fully describe. “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14b; ESV).” Where is wonder in your life? What fills you with delight, awe, and gratitude which are difficult to explain?

O LORD, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom have you made them all…

—Psalm 104:24a; ESV

Why wonder? The world doesn’t have to be this way, you know. We could all live and reproduce without intense experiences of pleasure or beauty. The thrill of seeing a vivid sunset imparts no obvious survival advantage. Wonder appears unnecessary. Frederik Buytendijk must have been thinking along these lines when he said, “The birds sing much more than Darwin permits.” The Bible, however, constantly describes wonder as a key which opens one’s awareness to God. Although unseen, He has left His calling card in the universe He made. We have clues which help solve the mystery of existence. “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… (Romans 1:20a; ESV).” When we see a wonderful thing (even if it is commonplace), we can recognize our wonderful Creator. Wonder sets the stage for worship. Do you make a habit of acknowledging God as the source of all good things (James 1:17)?

May my meditation be pleasing to him,

for I rejoice in the LORD.

Let sinners be consumed from the earth,

and let the wicked be no more!

Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!

—Psalm 104:34-35; ESV

Wonder presents us with a choice. We can either “Praise the LORD,” or attribute such things to chance. This world, after all, contains many things that aren’t wonderful; where is God in these? Many refuse to recognize God because they resent his seeming unwillingness to stop suffering, accidents, and evil. They won’t give Him credit for the good if He won’t take blame for the bad. (Have you noticed how some people want nothing to do with God—perhaps even finding religion offensive—until they need someone to be angry at for life’s tragedies?) This life is indeed an odd mixture of pleasure/pain, good/evil, and beauty/ugliness. If the universe were all one or the other, worship might be either impossible or mandatory. As it is, this is exactly the sort of place which allows human beings to make truly free choices about God. I suspect that this freedom is an intentional aspect of the created order. We don’t love God because we must, but because we choose to. Wonder may make worship possible in a fallen world, but it does not force it. What choices have you been making lately about God? He has certainly already made His choice about you; the cross of Christ provides the most wonderful evidence of God’s love. But have you truly made your choice about Him? Wonder invites it.

In His Love,

Pastor Keith

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