Websites, Worship, and Wonder  

Have you ever stopped to think how we love to be dazzled? How we’re designed with 5 distinct “aesthetic detectors” to take in and enjoy a multitude of wonders?

We often take it for granted that we can:

  • smell and taste delicious foods
  • hear wonderful music and the voices of loved ones
  • see marvelous sunsets
  • feel smooth and textured surfaces - from another’s hand to a craftsman’s carvings

From sunsets to sonnets, symphonies to slam dunks, we’re built for wonder  – it’s how we’re made.

In addition, we are worshipping creatures; we can’t help but ascribe worth to something or someone (See Romans 1:24,25).

Making a meal? Changing a car tire? Designing a ministry website? You are engaging in worship.

The composer Bach knew it; it’s why he inscribed the letters “S. D. G.” (Soli Deo Gloria—“To God alone, the glory”) at the end of his compositions.  It’s also why Paul could write, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God” 1 Cor. 10:31.

If this is all true, an important question applies: should art and artistry play a role in worship? Or is mere functionality sufficient?

Dr. J. Frederick Davison, formerly of Fuller Theological Seminary, says,

“Once I was asked, “What do you have if you take the arts out of worship?” Though it sounded like the setup for a joke, I sensed there was a serious response coming my way, so I asked for the answer. “A lecture and a prayer meeting,” was the reply. I spent a considerable period of time thinking about that offhand comment. It was a revelation for me.”

Though speaking about formal worship, Davison is tapping into a larger, yet often overlooked truth: God is never boring, nor is he prosaic in his communications to us.

His revealed Word is a rich and unfolding tapestry; even a cursory look at the Psalms reveals his concern to invite us into a full range of human expression. 

As we engage in the Arts, then, we have the capacity to both worship and reflect the Great Artist who daily paints the skies and all creation with rich colors and textures; who makes lush forests and flowers, sparkling seas, and humans to image him. 

In this sense, as John Witvliet points out, the arts are both expressive and transformative.

How can you add such artistry to your website and ministry designs? Much could be said, but we’ll provide just two thoughts here:

1. Pursue excellence.

Have you noticed that God isn’t superficial or cheap in his creation? The heavens themselves “… declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” Ps. 19:1.

His elaborate and flawless designs reveal a myriad of birds, bees, flowers, and trees. 

As we study these works, we see that God’s designs are multifaceted and deep; aesthetically rich as well as functionally profound. They are designed to elicit praise, to provoke awe and wonder.

Or think of the structure and beauty of the human eye, for instance. Even a superficial look can provoke praise and contemplation. Truly, human beings are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).

We honor God and his artistry then as we skillfully, wisely, and beautifully create in whatever we do; in a sense, we become “co-creators” with him. Recognizing this helps us more winsomely “declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” 1 Chron. 16:24

Do our websites and ministries give visitors even a glimpse of such a God? 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to strive for the Sistine Chapel ceiling on every page of your site. There can also be beauty in simplicity, and sometimes less is more.

Keep in mind that too much clutter can also cause web pages to load slower and/or perform poorly on mobile devices.

2. Reveal Wonder

The central focus of God’s Word is the unfolding revelation of Christ (Lk. 24:27; 1 Cor. 2:2). Yet, Jesus Himself is more than just “a way to get saved.” He is the Creator-Artist as well as Redeemer: “All things were made through him; without him, nothing was made that has been made” (Jn. 1:3).

This means that the beauty of creation: people and plants, skies and seas, music and mountains, all bear his stamp, his goodness, his signature. (Any philosophy that implies a “matter is evil, spirit is good” dualism, therefore, should be rejected). 

As Creator and Sustainer, God cares deeply about this material world – so much so, that he is restoring all things even now. One day, the creation that now experiences the curse and sin’s corruption will be completely “liberated from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21). God’s children will inhabit a new, physical earth, rich with variety. Above all, we will “see his face” (Rev. 22:4). 

All of this goodness, beauty, and love should provoke wonder, a full-bodied appreciation of God’s goodness and manifold gifts.

May we strive to imitate him as we strive for excellence, avoid the superficial, and create for his glory!



When Faith Wanes: Solid Reasons for Trust

“I believe; help my unbelief.”

2. Second, notice the response of Jesus.

He doesn’t respond to him: “You struggle with unbelief? How dare you call yourself my follower! Be gone!” Instead, he moves toward the brokenness and heals his child.

This, too, is incredibly encouraging. We’re reminded that God isn’t ready to pounce on strugglers. On the contrary, he loves mercy — and he loves this man.

Our struggles with unbelief, then, must be included in the list of “Nothing” which can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8)

3. Third, this man’s recognition of unbelief and cry for help are signs of a redeemed heart.

No one would dare say this (or pray this) who isn’t alive to God, and hungry for more of him.

Yet believers will go through seasons where our sufferings and circumstances can cause us to question. It even happened to John the Baptist; one day he announced: “the lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world.” Later on, while in prison, he doubted Jesus’ identity (see Luke 7:19,20).

So, take heart!

If this is your prayer – and it is often mine – remember that it’s actually a sign of your family status.

Confession of doubt is part of honest conversations with our Father – our “Abba, Father.” He desires this, and like any good father, would never cast off his child when they’re struggling, or when things don’t make sense:

“…You saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” Deut. 1:31

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Roman 8

“But what about my sins? Can’t they break his grip on me?”

We all know (from experience) that sin and Satan are formidable foes. They work together to accuse us, to attempt to deceive our heart and blind; and ultimately, to destroy.

Until we’re with Jesus and fully redeemed, we’ll continue to struggle with sin (see Paul in Romans 7:15-25).

With such a potential for discouragement, an old adage from Robert Murray McCheyne is helpful to bear in mind:

“Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself — take ten looks at Christ.”

God knows how easy it is to feel we’re in a courtroom, under examination with our sins on display. Notice the legal imagery he then gives us:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1

“What about mixed motives?”

Finally, perhaps your mixed motives are troubling you. This man certainly appears to have had them. It’s easy for us to think, “How could a true Christian think some of the things I do?!”

Once again, we find it’s not some degree of perfect motives or obedience that’s the key. An old preacher named Horatius Bonar knew this well. We conclude with his excellent remarks from a message called God’s Way of Peace: 

“Do not keep back from Christ under the idea that you must come to him in a disinterested frame, and from an unselfish motive. If you were right in this thing, who could be saved?

You are to come as you are; with all your bad motives, whatever these may be. Take all your bad motives, add them to the number of your sins, and bring them all to the altar where the great sacrifice is lying. Go to the mercy seat.

Tell the High Priest there, not what you desire to be, nor what you ought to be, but what you are. Tell him the honest truth as to your condition at this moment. Confess the impurity of your motives; all the evil that you feel or that you don’t feel; your hard-heartedness, your blindness, your unteachableness. Confess everything without reserve.

“But I am not satisfied with my faith,” you say. No truly. Nor are you ever likely to be so…

The Bible does not say, “Being satisfied about our faith, we have peace with God,” but “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God;” and between these two things there is a wonderful difference…

You say, “I am not satisfied with my love.” What! Did you expect to be so? Is it your love to Christ, or his love to you, that is to bring you peace? God’s free love to sinners, as such, is our resting place… “We love him because he first loved us.” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.”

“I am not satisfied with my repentance,” you say. It is well. What should you have thought of yourself had you been so? What pride and self-righteousness would it indicate, were you saying, “I am satisfied with my repentance – it is of the proper quality and amount.”

…In short, you are not satisfied with any of your religious feelings; and it is well that you are not; for, if you were, you must have a very high idea of yourself…

All these difficulties of yours have their root in the self-esteem of our natures, which makes us refuse to be counted altogether sinners, and which shrinks from going to God save with some personal recommendation to make acceptance likely… give up these attempts to be satisfied with yourself in anything, great or small, faith, feeling, or action…

There is but one thing with which he is entirely satisfied – the person and work of his only begotten Son. It is with Him that he wants you to be satisfied, not with yourself…

… Satisfaction with yourself, even could you get it, would do nothing for you. Satisfaction with Christ would do everything; for Christ is ALL. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Be pleased with him in whom the Father is pleased, and all is well.

Christ is your medicine, the Spirit is your physician… As at the first, so to the last…

“When I begin to doubt,” writes one, “I quiet my doubts by going back to the place where I got them first quieted; I go and get peace again where I got it at the beginning; I do not sit down gloomily to must over my own faith or unbelief, but over the finished work of Immanuel; I don’t try to reckon up my experiences, to prove that I once was a believer, but I believe again as I did before; I don’t examine the evidence of the Spirit’s work in me, but I think of the sure evidences which I have of Christ’s work for me, in his death, and burial, and resurrection. This is the restoration of my peace. I had begun to look at other objects; I am now recalled from my wanderings to look at Jesus only.”

(The entire portion from Bonar’s God’s Way of Peace can be found here).