Recently my wife and I took the opportunity to travel to Ireland and make a trip into Northern Ireland on a vacation. We rented a car once we landed in Dublin and made a giant clockwise circle around the Republic of Ireland and into Northern Ireland before returning to Dublin. This was an eye opening experience initially because it was quite a change to drive on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road from what I am accustomed—I may have unintentionally broken more than one traffic law when I first started driving. However, this was also an eye opening experience for me because it was my first time traveling to a European country and, thus, experiencing European culture. However, it was not the change in driving regulations, it was not my first time in Europe, nor was it the European culture that has resonated within my heart and soul since I have returned from Ireland. What has continued to resound in my thoughts and in my heart, you ask? Well, in my most humanly inadequate words, the resounding experience was that I came away with a greater understanding and a deeper appreciation for the greatness and beauty of God Almighty through observations of His creation.
Now, let me say that I live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Our beaches are incredibly white and within about 40 minutes one can travel from the beaches to fertile farmland and undisturbed hunting grounds. However, my words cannot begin to describe the pristine beauty of Ireland. While coming in for landing, I could not help but take note of how the deep shades of green seemed to be unending. Everywhere I looked the ground was clothed in the greenest grass I have ever seen. As we drove around, this undeniable theme of green resounded as we traveled through mountains, beside rivers and lakes, and along the Atlantic Ocean. Two locations in particular left me without words. These two locations were the Cliffs of Moher in the Republic of Ireland and the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher is located on the west coast of Ireland. This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the coastline of rock that rises some 400 feet above the ocean. To stand on the edge of the cliff and look down is humbling. As I felt the wind coming off the ocean, I watched the puffins flying around and living on the surface of the rocks, I watched the waves come to a sudden stop against the wall of rock, and took note of the lush grass that grows to the edge of the cliff. Standing in that place I could only give praise to the God of heaven and earth who created the incredible wonder before my eyes.
The second location was more of the same, yet altogether different. The Giants Causeway is located on the northern coast of Northern Ireland. It derives its name from a tale that a giant in Scotland and a giant in area of Northern Ireland formed this causeway of rocks so that they could reach each other and fight. In reality it is a collection of hexagonal columns of basalt that make a sort of stepping stone pattern from the cliffs into the sea. Despite what the exhibit in the visitor's center tried to proclaim, these formations came about by the natural process that God ordained upon His creation of the heavens and the earth. Thus, to look at these detailed elements of nature and understand this nature through the lens of a biblical outlook one cannot help but to praise God for His beautiful comprehension from which these creations came.
This principle is what continues to resound with me: the idea that the beautiful scenery that I marveled at and tried to capture in pictures came from the nature of its creator—God Almighty. If I marveled at these beautifully created things, how much more beautiful and glorious is the nature of God to be marveled at by me. Genesis 1:1 reads, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." What I was looking at on this trip was a result of the process God designed when He created the heavens and the earth. Moreover, David wrote, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV '84) These words of David reflect my thoughts correctly, when I observe the creation of God around me. With all the beauty that God spoke into existence it is humanity that God made as the crowning glory of that creation. This same human kind rejected its Creator by choosing its own desires above the will of God, but God still provided a way for redemption through Jesus Christ's offer of salvation. So I stand in amazement with David at the great beauty of creation, but I stand in humility when I consider that out of God's creation He offered salvation to those of His creation that rejected him. So I challenge you to take note of the natural organization of the world around you and appreciate the characteristics of God's beauty. But I also challenge you to reflect on the idea that God offered you salvation despite your rejection of Him.
James Christopher Powell has served as assistant minister in Northwest Florida for ten years.
He studies at The Baptist College of Florida where he is working on a Master's degree in Christians Studies.
He married his wife Jennifer in March 2014.