October 31, 2010

Skyline Drive and John 3:16


utumn is here! So last Friday morning I grabbed my camera and headed up Skyline Drive to see if I could get a few pictures of the fall leaves in full color. I left early in the morning, shortly after the sun rose over the edge of the mountains. The low angle of the sun cast long and deep shadows, emphasizing the contours of the rolling hills in the Shenandoah Valley. It was a wonderful expedition.

Early morning sun hitting the valley

I didn’t stay up in the mountains for long. In fact, I was back home within two hours. But within those couple of hours I saw spectacular views with vivid colors, and I captured a few of them with my camera.

As is usually the case when I photograph beautiful natural scenes, I thought about how much God loves us to create so beautiful a world as the one we live in—even though we are sinful and undeserving of his love.

Although the colors of the leaves were amazing,
when the sun hit the leaves they burst into fiery colors that were hard to believe

When I turned my car back toward home, I began to think about this concept of God loving us so much that he put us into a beautiful world even though some would idolize the beauty and worship the creature rather than the creator. I considered how I might make sure that I am not placing my love of natural beauty above my love of the almighty God who created that beauty. And suddenly my thoughts took an odd turn—a turn I believe was prompted by God the Holy Spirit.

My son’s high school mascot is the Skyline Hawk – so I had to take this picture

There is no doubt that God showed his love to us in many ways. The beauty of the natural world is arguably one of those ways. And we should recognize this and praise God for this intense beauty that surrounds us all the time. But this was not the pinnacle of God’s display of love for us.

As the day turned brighter, the leaves simply glowed

To understand someone’s intentions, it is best to go to that person. So to understand what God sees as his ultimate show of love for his children, we must go to his written record about him, his plans, and his affections and intentions—we must go to the bible. And to find God’s mind regarding this situation we need to find out in which way God intended to show his love for us. Was it by creating a beautiful world for us? Was it by inventing music and poetry and the creative gifts that we love so much?

Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could look up in the bible a phrase that said something like, “God loved us just so...” and then went on to tell us what “just so” was? Well, in fact, it does.

I considered John 3:16 and 17 first:

John 3:16-17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Here’s a verse that says “God loved us just so....” And it described the “just so” by saying that he gave his only Son. And he goes on to describe the intention of this incredible concept, the incarnation of the holy God in human flesh, as not being what we would expect—an angry God coming to condemn sinful man— but in actuality being “that the world might be saved through him.” What wonderful and glorious news.

The view from the Front Royal ranger station

Sometimes we are not particularly bright—at least I’m not. So quite often the bible has to be abundantly clear or else I’ll miss the point.

Romans 5:6–9
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

There’s a whole lot about God’s love for us in those verses. God sent his son to die for us—and he didn’t die for us because we were such great people. He died for us in spite of the fact that we were still (at that time) enemies to him. We were sinners, in active sinful rebellion against him. And he died for us anyway.

And the result of this death is that we will be saved from his wrath. We won’t have to live under the anger that we would expect if God were to come to earth to deal with us. We won’t have to live (or die) under that anger because Jesus bore that anger against our sin himself. And he is God—the Creator of the universe.

My son’s high school (Skyline High School)
with the Shenandoah River running behind it

So I drove home, through the intensely beautiful leaves, I considered that this amazing display of love pales in comparison to the true way—the supreme way—that God displayed his love to us.

Thank you, Jesus, for your great love. I can’t wait to be with you and to spend eternity with the one who purchased for me the ability to enjoy this lesser display of your love—to enjoy it until I am able to experience the reality of my personal relationship with the ultimate expression of love.



  1. Thanks for sharing your photography AND your thoughts, Rich. God is indeed amazing. Each of us, when honest, knows what God REALLY got when He saved us, and the only value we have is the value HE gives us by creating us and then transforming us to the image of His dear Son. BUT WHAT VALUE THAT IS!! "Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God wouldst die for me!"

  2. Mary - That is one of my favorite hymns and was my father's absolute favorite. I remember singing that hymn with gusto back in the days when the saints gathered and sang hymns. I miss those days - and the songs we used to sing.


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