During the coronavirus pandemic, so much of our lives has become centered in the world of technology: zoom calls, online classes, and an endless feed of tweets/chats/videos/tik toks/memes. The goal of this week will be to “reset”: to take a step back from what has become normal and take advantage of the space we have been given. My hope is for us to all have a renewed sense of God’s presence and work in all areas of our life, so that we may re-enter everyday life, however it may look in coming months, with increased peace, more perspective, and renewed zeal in following Christ our Lord.
The structure of these devotions provides a simple outline to orient our time. I would especially encourage us for the first three days (Monday-Wednesday) to fast from ALL technology (except for this guide: you should print it off Sunday night!). Let your friends or family know you’ll be signing off for a few days to reconnect to God. And then through the rest of the week you can slowly reintroduce technology, but in minimal ways: I would suggest no more than 1 hour of screen time daily.
Let us radically reconnect to Jesus with fresh energy for the road ahead!
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
- Romans 12:11-12
Ceiling of Sistine Chapel (1508-1512) – Michelangelo
“All the earth worships you and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.”
- Psalm 66:4
Creation is good, because God made it, and God makes good things: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). Far from the notion of a capricious god who mindlessly flings together a jumble of atoms, or assembles a watch and then sits back to let it play its course, the God of the Bible is revealed as a God who is intimately involved with all of His creation, at every level (Psalm 33:5). God’s goodness is reflected in every good thing, and “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). When we rejoice in creation, we rejoice in the Creator.
Challenge: Spend 30 minutes outside, purely thanking God for His goodness reflected in creation. The natural world, created order, the gifts of family, friendship, hobbies we enjoy: all come from God and merit our continual thanks and praise. Open your mouth to thank your loving Maker!
Landscape with a Stone Bridge (c. 1638) – Rembrandt
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
- Isaiah 55:12
Our expectation as Christians is that Christ will return to finish what began at the resurrection: the New Creation. When Jesus returns, we are told that there will be “…a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1). Not just our minds, but our bodies, and all of the earth, will be made new:
For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:4)
We await this beautiful, eternal hom, and live now in preparation for this moment with expectant hearts, regardless of the tumult of our current circumstances.
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral)
Challenge: Spend an hour creating a piece of art (poem, music, painting, drawing – colored pencils work great in a pinch!) depicting the New Creation. No one ever needs to see it, so be free to create!
Wheat Field with Cypresses (1889) – Vincent Van Gogh
7“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
8 or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
9 Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.”
- Job 12:7-10
Scripture makes clear that the natural world reveals God: His power, His providence, His sustaining, His life-giving Spirit. “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 1:20). Our invisible God is made visible through his creation, and it reflects His Glory.
Bedřich Smetana: Ma vlast (My Fatherland): No. 2. Vltava (Moldau)
Challenge: Go for a 1 hour walk, stopping every 15 minutes to sit and look at a particular piece of creation: a stream, a tree, a well-built house, giving thanks to God for it and returning to praising Him for his presence in our lives.
The Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog (1818) – Caspar David Friedrich
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
– Psalm 96
The Westminster Shorter Confession declares “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” We are made to praise God, receiving the bountiful goodness of his mercy, loving-kindness, and complete faithfulness. We are made to enjoy God, rejoicing in His presence, love, and wonderful gifts. Life only makes sense if this is our first priority, our “chief end”, the bedrock of our existence. All other pleasures stem from that one pleasure, all good things are known through the One Good Thing: Jesus Christ our Lord.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
- Psalm 16
Johann Sebastian Bach: Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring
Challenge: Spend 30 minutes journaling, just writing down everything that God has given you. It can be really simple: “Thank you for clouds. Thank you for Cheez-Its.” After you’re done, spend another 30 minutes repeating back all the things you wrote out, and “Thank you Lord, for it is a reminder of how much I enjoy you.”
Wheatstacks (End of Summer) (1890-1891) – Claude Monet
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
- Colossians 1:16
Creation points to a Creator. In the Bible that Creator is given a name: Jesus. He was before the foundations of the world, for “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1). And it was created for him, to glorify him, to point back to him. Our enjoyment of the world in the light of Christ propels us into praise and thanksgiving. What a good God we have!
David Crowder Band: All Creatures of our God and King
Challenge: Go for a 1 hour silent walk. No phone, no earbuds, nothing but you and the outside world…just listen, see, enjoy, and thank God for it.
The Song of the Lark (1884) – Jules-Adolphe Breton
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!
1 My heart is steadfast, O God!
I will sing and make melody with all my being![a]
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
3 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
The Welcome Wagon: But For You Who Fear My Name
Challenge: Wake up for the sunrise, and as you watch recite Psalm 148, taking time after each line to add your own personal thanksgivings and praises.
Ceiling Mosaic, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork…
- Psalm 19: 1
If creation proclaims the glory of the Lord, and we are part of creation, then what are we to do? We ourselves, the pinnacle of God’s creation, have a deep and profound responsibility to respond to God’s goodness, if our life, in our actions, in our words. We, as part of creation, reflect God’s glory ourselves. Jesus says to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
…Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
- Psalm 19:14
Challenge: Write a letter of encouragement to someone you love or know could use the encouragement. Pray for them, and then write things about them you say as positive traits or God-given gifts: encourage them to keep walking in faith, or if they are not yet believers to take a step of faith!