Dec 16 2016

A Seasonal Reminder

_dsc3637With the cold weather that has come our way the birds are flocking to my feeder. For that reason I’m checking the feeder regularly so that I can keep it filled with sunflower seeds for them.  Yesterday I pulled out a heated bird bath I purchased last year since the water was freezing in the one I had set out.  I know it’s important that birds have a good source of water this time of year.   I’ve seen a variety of woodpeckers around the feeder which has served as a reminder it’s time to put some suet out for them.  I really do try to take care of the birds that visit my yard.

_dsc3660As I watched my birds feed and drink earlier today I found some satisfaction in knowing that I am able to provide for them. This led my thoughts to reflect on how I, too, have someone who takes care of and provides for me.  This particular time of the year we cannot help but remember that in Christ God has graciously provided for our many needs. Although Genesis 1:1 teaches us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” the New Testament attributes the work of Creation to Christ or “the Word.” John 1:1-3 tells us that Christ has always existed with God as the Word and that “through him all things were made that has been made.”  In Colossians 1 Paul echoes this thought and says concerning Christ, “for by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” (v. 16)  Yes, the one whose birth we celebrate each Christmas is the one who created the world and in so doing provided for our many physical needs.

At Christmas, however, we tend to remember that Jesus came to provide for still other needs. The angels who spoke to the shepherds outside Bethlehem that first Christmas brought “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” and that good news was that “a Savior has been born to you.” (Luke 2:10-11)  Having already provided for our physical needs through Creation Christ came to earth to meet our spiritual needs, especially our need for salvation.

_dsc4993Yesterday I read an article on Facebook that a friend had shared which stated that Jesus is not “the reason for the season.”  The writer explained that Christ had always existed with God so we cannot look at his earthly birth as his beginning.  He went on to say that the real reason for the season was you and me.  It was our need for salvation and eternal life that caused God in His infinite love to send Jesus into the world.  God saw our need and responded.  That’s why there is a Christmas to celebrate.

_dsc4950As I watched my birds earlier today and thought about all I was doing for them I wondered if they were aware that someone was taking care of them. I also wondered if they appreciated my efforts.  The same questions can be asked on a different level.  Do most people realize that there is a God who is taking care of them?  Do they appreciate what God is doing for them?  Hopefully during this busy and exciting season each of us will pause long enough to remember Someone is, in fact, providing for our needs.  Hopefully we will also pause and offer thanks for the way those needs have been met.  That would certainly be the appropriate thing to do.  Wouldn’t you agree?

–Chuck

(I’ve included some pictures I’ve taken of the birds that come to my feeder.)


Jul 3 2015

On Still Seeing God as Maker of Heaven and Earth

_DSC5831The Hebrew Scriptures, also known as the Old or Older Testament, begin with an account of the creation of “the heavens and the earth.”  The strong affirmation here is that God spoke the world into existence.  Right at the start one learns that God is both mighty and extremely creative.  The world is viewed as God’s handiwork and remains evidence of God’s might and creativity.  Later in the Hebrew Scriptures God reveals Himself as a mighty deliverer, enabling the Hebrews to escape their bondage in Egypt.  Much later in time poets like David arose who sang God’s praises.  These poets frequently look back to these two revelations and refer to God as being the One who made the heavens and the earth or brought about Israel’s deliverance.

When one turns to the New Testament God reveals Himself in a most unexpected way.  The Gospel of John says “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  (1:14)  Through “the word,” or Jesus, the clearest picture of God we have was made manifest.  Christians now understand God first and foremost through Jesus.  Christ becomes the new deliverer and much is made of his role as such in the pages of the New Testament.  God’s role in Creation, however, also continues to be emphasized.

_DSC5964This year I have been teaching a study on the Book of Acts.  As we have gone through this book I’ve noticed how God’s role as Creator keeps popping up.  For example, in Acts 4:24 you find the disciples praying.  They begin their prayer with the words, “Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”  Even after the marvelous manifestation of God in Christ God continues to be addressed as the Creator.  In chapter 14 of Acts Luke tells the story of Paul and Barnabas being worshiped by the people of Lystra after they heal a crippled man.  The two urged the group to stop and directed their attention to “the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” (v. 15)  In Acts 17 we find Paul’s speech to the “men of Athens.”  Here he introduces them to “the God who made the world and everything in it.” (v. 24)

_CES2166Clearly, even after Christ came the early Christian leaders felt it was necessary to hold on diligently to the idea of God as Creator.  I suspect there are a variety of reasons for this.  As already noted, in Creation they saw the evidence of God’s power or might.  This evidence was something they encountered each and every day in nature.  Creation bore testimony to God’s power and was a reminder that this same power was available to believers.   I also think they continued to focus on God’s role as Creator because this gave them a point of entry as they sought to spread the gospel.  Practically everyone believed that the world was brought into being by divine forces of one kind or another; the early Christians hoped to help people understand that the God they believed in, and who was made fully known in Jesus Christ, was, in fact, “the Maker of heaven and earth.”

_DSC6889I believe that it is important that we continue to hold on to and emphasize God’s role as Creator of the heavens and the earth.  Some Christian groups do so each week as they recite the Apostles Creed.  Others don’t.  Continuing to focus on God’s role as Creator will help us connect better with the world around us and we will daily be reminded of God’s power and creativity.  Focusing on God as Creator also is still a good starting point when it comes to sharing our faith with others.  Although not everyone today believes the world was actually created, most still feel that the world didn’t just come into existence on its own.  As Christians we can help people make the connection between nature and the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  This connection is vital for understanding the goodness of Creation, its sacredness, and our responsibility to take good care of it.

I hope we’ll never cease affirming God’s role as Maker of heaven and earth.  There is no reason not to and plenty of good reasons for doing so.

–Chuck

(I took the top two pictures in western Kentucky and the bottom two in southern Florida.)


Jan 9 2013

Understanding Creation

ANP 571Names are important.  One indication of this is how most parents spend a great deal of time trying to decide what to name each of their children.  Names are also necessary.  We need them to identify ourselves and others.  They become vital in our relationships with one another.  Everyone realizes this.  What many don’t realize is that in the Bible one’s name implied much more than it does today.  In biblical thought one’s name spoke of one’s character or personality.  One’s name truly meant something.  In fact, if a person’s character changed his or her name might be changed as well.  A classic example from the Hebrew Scriptures is Jacob.  After his wrestling match with the messenger of God he received the new name, Israel.  (Genesis 32:28)

There are many names for God throughout the Scriptures.  Often this goes left unnoticed because our English translations simply render the various names, “God.”  The different names for God, however, are very important for, as already noted, in biblical thought they conveyed God’s character.  Much is revealed about who God is simply by paying attention to the various names attributed to Him  throughout the Scriptures.

ANP 165In the very first verse of the Bible we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)  A more literal reading would be “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.”  This is the name for God that is used here.  This particular name goes a long way back and was used by pagans prior to being adopted by the Hebrews.  It referred to one who was chief among the gods.  Elohim was understood to be a deity of great power, as well as king and judge.  He was also viewed as one who was merciful and gracious.

ANP 119Understanding a bit of this background adds meaning to the Creation story.  It gives us a better grasp of the Who behind Creation.  The One who made the heavens and the earth was/is the supreme God.  God’s great power and sovereignty are underscored by the biblical insistence that Elohim spoke the world into being.  Just as important to me, if not more so, is the affirmation that the One who created the world is merciful and gracious.  Throughout the Creation story in Genesis one (where the name Elohim appears 26 times) we are told that what God made was deemed “good.”  Creation is, in fact, “good” because behind it stands One who is also good, merciful and gracious.  It is our anthropocentric tendency that makes us think we determine what is good or not.  When it comes to Creation, however, we do not get to make the call.  It has already been made.  Creation is good because Elohim has declared it to be.

ANP 835I truly believe that a proper understanding of Creation is necessary for a healthy world view.  Understanding the earth’s divine origin affects how we look at ourselves.  Because God created the world we know that life has purpose and meaning.  We are not here by accident.  Understanding the earth’s divine origin should also help remind us of our proper relationship to the earth.  First, it will reveal that we do not own the earth, God does. Psalm 24:1 insists that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  In the very next verse the Psalmist explains why the earth is the Lord’s: “for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”  Second, we are told in Genesis 2:15 that the first humans were placed in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it.”  This clearly reveals that one of God’s intentions for us is to be responsible stewards of the good earth He created.  Knowing this should definitely affect how we live our lives.

I’m not sure I could emphasize enough the importance of the doctrine of Creation.  What it says about God and about us is vital to our existence.  I encourage you in the days ahead to spend some time reflecting on your own understanding of Creation and on the One who was gracious and merciful enough to share it with us.

–Chuck

(All of the images used today were taken at Acadia National Park in Maine.)


Nov 20 2012

Created to be Creative

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

In my posting this past Sunday I gave thanks for people who give and noted that giving connects us to God.  Since humans are created in the image of God we are meant to give.  Today I want to give thanks for those who are creative and share their gifts of creativity with others.  And here, too, I would suggest that our creativity connects us with God, the ultimate Creator.  Inherent in our status as those created in the image of God is our capacity to be creative.

Last night a friend of mine, whom I happen to believe is one of the best photographers there is, sent me a link to a new project he is working on.  When I saw the work he has produced using his photographic and computer skills I was blown away.  The images I viewed were some of the most creative and beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever seen.  My soul was moved by viewing my friend’s creative genius and I found myself giving thanks that God has given to us mortals the capacity for creativity.

I just so happen to be reading a book by Matthew Fox entitled Creativity right now.  In this work Fox says “Creativity, when all is said and done, may be the best thing our species has going for it.”  Later he goes on to add, “We are creators at our very core.  Only creating can make us happy, for in creating we tap into the deepest powers of self and universe and the Divine Self.  We become co-creators, that is, we create with other forces of society, universe, and the Godself when we commit to creativity.” 

The first thing we learn about God in the Scriptures is that He created the heavens and the earth.  As we look at the heavens and the earth we quickly learn that God is not only the Creator but that He is also unbelievably creative.  All of Creation bears witness to God’s creativity.  To those made in His image God chose to bestow the capacity to likewise be creative.  Fox notes that humankind’s capacity for creativity has a dark side; it can be used for evil as well as for good.  Needless to say, God’s intention is that we use this gift, along with all His other gifts, for good.  After God completed His work on each day of Creation He declared “It is good.”  Hopefully we can do the same concerning own own creative efforts.

It is my desire to use my own capacity for creativity for good.  I certainly don’t have the same creative genius my photographer friend has but that will not keep me from trying to do the best I can.  I think that’s all God expects of us anyway—to take what gifts He has given us and use them to the best of our ability.  I know my life has been incredibly blessed by a lot of photographers, poets, painters, sculptors, musicians and writers who have done just that.  This Thanksgiving I will pause to offer thanks for their good stewardship of God’s wonderful gift of creativity.  You might want to do the same.

–Chuck

(I took the top image at a creek near Frankfort, KY; the middle image at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico; and the bottom image at Muir Woods in California.)