HOW GREAT THOU ART!

We had the privilege to go on an extended vacation last summer.  We traveled throughout the western United States  and visited many of our national parks. 

The sights and sounds were incredible.  Often, the primary sound we heard was silence, as the beauty of the national park was mesmerizing in itself … words were impossible to describe the beauty and we just drank in the view.

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The Grand Tetons were magnificent in their snow-topped heights, and sprawling majesty.

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The colors and pillars (called “Hoodoos”) of Bryce Canyon became etched in our minds as we considered the beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork.

Monarch Pass in Colorado, at an elevation of 11,312 feet, was windy, cold and dizzying when viewing the mountaintops that surrounded the parking lot at the summit.

11 colorado 2 monarch pass 1 continental divide

Descending form the parking area, the mountains were up close and personal.  Visages of raw power, strength and rugged beauty. 

descending from monarch pass

We were praising God throughout our trip as we saw glorious, sculpted rock pillars in numerous variations of colors and shapes, and prevalent even along the highways.  We praised our God for the beauty of the mountains and for the wondrous provision of water, lakes, rivers, ponds and fountains throughout the hills and byways. 

The hymn “How Great Thou Art” does a good job of summarizing our reaction and wonder as we got a view of God’s creation that was different than we usually experience in East Tennessee. 

HOW GREAT THOU ART

[Verse 1]

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

[Refrain]
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

[Verse 2]
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

[Refrain]

[Verse 3]
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.

[Refrain]

[Verse 4]
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

[Refrain]

Of course, the hymn does not describe merely the creation that God has provided to us, it goes on to describe the glories of salvation that God has given when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Creation tells us that God exists.  Salvation tells us the magnitude of God’s love for His people in that He sent Christ to pay for our sin.  Praise is the our rightful response for both His creation and His gift of salvation.

The Book of Psalms in the Bible is the hymnbook of the Israelites, and it is full of exhortation to praise the Lord.  Here are just some of the verses that admonish us to praise Him:

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:” 

Psalm 102:18

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 106:1

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!”

Psalm 113:1

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!  For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 117:1-2

The book of Psalms ends with this same exhortation that applies to everyone:

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”

Psalm 150:6

Oh, that I would remember how great our God is even during the humdrum activities of life that so often seem to be frustrating and irritating.  When we consider all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ, His Son, we should be shouting our praise and love for Him from the housetops, in everything that we do and in all the ways we serve others. 

Praising the Lord is a matter of the heart.  We can have a settled heart and mind because we can praise the Lord through whatever comes our way.  Praise Him when good things happen, certainly.  That’s not hard!  But, praising Him when adversity may arise is difficult.  We know that pain will be present in our lives; difficulties will present themselves at unexpected and usually inconvenient times; heartache will interrupt our lives when malevolent activities cause grief and loss. 

Beloved, no matter what we may have to endure, nothing will take us out of the Hand of our God, the Almighty God who uses even these hard times to transform us into the image of His Son.  This is why we can praise the Lord even as we are in tears.

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Psalm 112:1

Praise the Lord.  I am challenging myself to make praise my “default position” before God.  Care to join me in this challenge? 

 

Father, I praise Your Name for the wonder and glory of salvation through Christ our Lord.  I praise You Name when I see the creation that You have placed before me, and when I think of Your steadfast love and mercy.  Enable me to praise You even more each day, and may I make praise my “default position” before You!

VISTAS, TIME AND THE NEW YEAR

Mountains – Oceans.  Some people love the ocean more than they do mountains.  I admit that I like to look at the ocean on occasion, but I love mountains!  Specifically, I love my mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.  What I truly enjoy is getting to an overlook or valley and then marveling at the vista splayed out around me.

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Great Smoky Mountains – vista from Cades Cove, Tennessee

I hasten to add that I am an equal opportunity mountain lover.  We have been privileged to see a number of mountains in our country, and I have loved every minute of it!

colorado-shelf-road-and-vista
Colorado “shelf road” and mountain vista.

When I stand looking out at the grandeur of the mountains and contemplate the forces that created them, my soul sings to the Creator God, my heavenly Father, in praise and worship.

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Yosemite National Park, Half Dome and surrounding vista.

What does this have to do with the new year?  A great deal. 

We are temporal, mortal, and our days are limited.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16

In fact, the Bible affirmatively states that all we have is this moment, and even it is a gift from God.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, says it like this:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-16

He advises us that we are not to think that we will be here on this earth forever, rather we are to make plans according to the will of our Father.  So, it is good for us to look back at the vista of 2016 and see how we did on that directive.  Use the beginning of this new year to consider the condition of our relationship with our God so we can more effectively grow in 2017.

  • When were we close to God;
  • When did we do His will;
  • When did we say “I will” when He prompted us to say something to an individual;
  • When did we learn from His Word;
  • When did we testify to others of His great mercy and grace,
  • Now, you add your own points to consider, as each of us will have different things to ponder.

The year 2016 is in the record books.  It is over and there is nothing we can do to change what was said, done, or experienced.  The stuff we planned to do, but didn’t, will not get done in 2016, it is over.  The relationships we intended to nurture, but didn’t, will not be stronger today because of anything we did in 2016, it is over.

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Clock in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

As Scripture points out, the only time we have is today.  We don’t even have any guarantee that we will see much of 2017 other than the moment we are in right now.

So, take the time to consider your life.  Renew your dedication to focus on the Lord God Almighty rather than on the temporal things of this world.  Those things that you were going to do in 2016 but then neglected — now is the time to get them accomplished.  

Write the letter, send the card, make the phone call, give the hug, encourage the fainthearted, reach out to those who are hurting.  

Whatever you need to do, do it in the name of our Lord and Savior.  Don’t wait until 2018 — now is the time to do that which our God has asked us to do.

Remember how the Lord blessed and protected you in 2016, how He secured your salvation through Christ our Lord, and how the Holy Spirit worked in your life during the year, and praise Him for it.

Then, as you look ahead to 2017, praise Him for what He is going to do in and through you as you rely on His strength, power, wisdom and love.

The great hymn “How Great Thou Art” details much and can provide a springboard for your praise to our God.  Here is the hymn sung on the Concordia Publishing House album Hymns for all Saints, Adoration, Praise, Comfort.  Daily, let your heart and soul sing out in praise to our gracious heavenly Father. You might even want to add your voice to that song!

 

Father, thank You for being with us throughout our life as You lead and guide Your children in Your will.  Thank You for sending Your Son to be our Redeemer and thank You for providing Your Spirit to indwell and empower us we grow into the likeness of Your Son.  As we look to the new year, may we always remember that You are the only living Almighty God and may we sing praises to You in all that we do.