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Looking Beyond Ourselves

Photo by Phil Kenyon

Two weeks ago I visited Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh for a couple days. My friend and I toured about the cities primarily on foot enjoying the views of high-rises and stadiums. I enjoyed the varied architecture and time periods on display in each city. The picture above captures a small view of the grandeur of Pittsburgh’s skyline. The trip served to be another reminder to me of two things.

Man’s Creativity

First, how mankind throughout history has been incredibly creative whether it be in their building designs or business ventures. Walking through Pittsburgh we walked past buildings telling of the town’s past glories in the steel industry. Further we stepped into my favorite hockey team’s PPG Paints Arena. With each building in the city there is a testament of the hard-work and ingenuity of the men and women who developed the city. Incredible skills and talents of those who had gone before were displayed as we toured the cities.

I am always amazed by the beauty of a city’s downtown core, yet always a bit disheartened. I am discouraged when I see all the sinfulness at play and idolization of people’s abilities. For example, stepping into the Pittsburgh Penguins arena was pretty cool, but it is also a strong reminder that millions of NHL fans worship their favorite teams and players. Why is this discouraging for me? Because amidst all the successes of individuals we often fail to acknowledge God. This is no new thing. Genesis 11:1-9 tells the story of the Tower of Babel where the people left God out of the picture and attempted to find glory in themselves.

A Reflection of God’s Creativity

Anyways, the moral of the story does not have to be grim and this is where I get to the second reminder I garnered out of this trip: This is the reminder that we need to look beyond people’s skills and talents and see their origin. Some might point to the strong family heritage and attribute one’s skills to that. Yet as Christians, we recognize the origin of mankind’s abilities is so much more. Psalm 139 tells us how God is the one who forms us and creates us. Further that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I love this line from verse 14: “and that my soul knows very well.” I think the psalmist is saying here that he is well aware that every ability and talent we have comes from God. A bible study I attended recently reminded me of how important this is. As Christians we need to be looking beyond our successes and giving thanks to God for them, and praising God for allowing us to lead fruitful lives on this earth.

There was one building in downtown Pittsburgh that was a strong encouragement for my friend Simon and I. It is by the intersection of Liberty Ave. and Seventh Ave. in the downtown and is a testament that some of the founders of the city did look beyond their successes to God. In faded paint on the side of the building was a large inscription visible to all “Jesus is Lord.” We saw a few old plaques throughout the cities testifying of the founders reliance on God above all else. Yes, it is sad to see how far society has moved from God, but it can also serve to remind us to refocus and bring our abilities and talents to God in thanksgiving and ultimately give Him the glory.

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit may more and more work in us the ability to see God and his work behind everything we do.


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