Observation

He's there, we just need to look.

The Mind of Christ in His World: Part 1 (2)

He does great things past finding out,
Yes, wonders without number.
If He goes by me, I do not see Him;
If He moves past, I do not perceive Him…
Job 9.10, 11

Did you see that?
Most of us are just like Job. We know that God is speaking to us everywhere, going on ahead of us, flashing forth from niches, nooks, and crannies, moving on before, beside, and behind us. We know this because we believe His Word, and His Word tells us that God is revealing His glory in His world.

But we don’t “see Him” or “perceive” His presence – not as much as we would like, at any rate. This is in part because we aren’t paying attention. We aren’t looking for His glory or paying attention to the workings of His mind in creation. Thus we fail to note His presence or to discern the revelation that He pours out, day by day and night by night, to tell us of His glory and love.

But it’s also because we don’t know how to read the revelation of God in the book of creation. We have to learn how to read the Word of God; it’s logical to expect that we should also have to learn how to read the revelation of God in the world of God.

Begin here
Creational theology is the discipline that can help us learn to read the book of creation and culture, and creational theology begins as we train our eyes to see and our ears to hear the words God is speaking to us everywhere.

Reading God’s world – practicing creational theology – involves learning to practice six disciplines. Just as we must learn how to read the Word of God – read it all, read for our souls and lives, read for the culture and times, and so forth – so we have to learn how to read the creation. And reading creation begins with the discipline of observation.

Just as, when we’re reading Scripture, we ask ourselves, “What’s going on here? What am I seeing?”, so it is with creational theology. When we understand that, as the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus in His Word, so the glory of God is revealed in His world, we will begin to look at the world with a different purpose. We’ll want to see God and His glory in created things, and to discover whatever we can about the mind of Christ.

So we need to pay attention. We need to practice the discipline of observation.

To observe anything closely, you have to pause, look, and get your mind in gear. To aid your observing, and if you want to remember what you’ve observed, so that you can think more about it later, you’ll probably write down your observations. So it is with the work of creational theology. In order to observe God’s glory and the mind of Christ in creation, we’ll need to observe the world with a different purpose and focus.

Here it can be helpful to have a notebook or a few 3 x 5 cards, and to keep them always at the ready. We won’t always remember or have the time to reflect deeply on what we observe, but if we jot down even the slightest impressions, these can lead to fruitful seasons of hearing the voice of God in the things He has made. Or, if you have a cell phone, use the camera to capture some image you’ll want to think about later in the day.

What to observe
But what should we observe?

First, sounds: “This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears, all nature sings…” The gurgle of coffee percolating, the ominous rumble of an approaching thunderstorm, the hum and whir of a well-tuned engine, the sweet whisper of a gentle breeze, the various songs of garden birds – all these and more can provoke us to ponder the wonder, mystery, majesty, and delight of God.

Next, sights: “the morning light, the lilies white, declare their Maker’s praise…” Note the gentle, sloping lines of a mountain ridge, the symmetry of a beautiful tree, the destruction of a natural habitat by flood or fire – reminders of the consequences of the fall – even the different smiles of the people we see each day. Write down colors – how many different shades of yellow, orange, and red can you note in an autumn forest? Note the shapes and sizes of birds, flowers, and foods. Then enlist your senses of taste, touch, and smell in this royal quest to discover the glory God has concealed in the things He has made (Prov. 25.2).

Together, our senses can become a research team for making notes, jotting down sketches, recording immediate impressions – all of which can become fodder for deeper meditation throughout the day or at more convenient times. Don’t worry about trying to discover something “theological” in your observations; simply get them down on paper or in a quick snapshot. There will be time later to layer on insights from Scripture and the thoughts of others.

Remember that, in a good painting, a well-crafted poem, or a powerful musical composition, nothing is included by chance. Every line, phrase, stroke, note, color, meter, and rest contributes to the glory of the whole.

So it is with the places God is everywhere speaking to us, every day of our lives. Begin observing God in His world, and let these times of observation contribute to the renewing of your mind each day.

For reflection
1.  Look around you until you find one thing you might like to observe. Write it down. Now ask, “What was it about this item that arrested my attention?” Jot down whatever comes to mind. Then carry this with you for the day.

2.  Why do you think believers, like Job, aren’t more observant of the presence of the Lord throughout the day?

3.  How can believers help one another to practice this discipline of observing the creation to discover the glory and mind of Christ?

Next steps – Conversation: Share with a Christian friend the item you wrote down, and that you will be meditating on this throughout the day to discern the glory of God in it. Ask your friend for any thoughts or suggestions.

T. M. Moore

This is part 6 of a multi-part series on the Christian mind. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here. To learn more about creational theology, order a copy of T. M.’s book, Consider the Lilies (click here).

Brush up on your Christian worldview, and stretch your mind to think about life and the world as Jesus does. Our free online course,
One in Twelve: Introduction to Christian Worldview, can provide the categories, terms, and framework for you to begin nurturing a more expansive Christian mind. For more information and to register, click here.

How’s your knowledge of the Bible, as to its primary themes, overall development, and Christ-centeredness? Order a copy of our workbook,
God’s Covenant, and spend 13 glorious weeks working your way through the whole of Scripture, examining key themes and tracing the development of God’s precious and very great promises (click here). Or sign up for our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, and discover the best ways of getting at, getting into, and getting with the Word of God. The course is free and online, and you can study at your own pace and depth. For more information or to register, click here.
The Lord uses your prayers and gifts to help us in this ministry. Add us to your regular prayer list, and seek the Lord concerning whether He would have you share with us. You can contribute to The Fellowship of Ailbe by using the contribute buttonat the website, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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