Apr 18 2016

It’s God’s World!

_DSC5249Yesterday was Earth Stewardship Sunday at my church. We had a chance to sing hymns and offer prayers that honored God as Creator. We were even reminded during Communion that the bread and wine are gifts of the earth provided by the One who made it.  For my sermon I chose to focus on the words of the hymn “This Is My Father’s World.”  I did this so I could emphasize a very important biblical truth, this world doesn’t belong to you or me.  As the Psalmist boldly declared, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (24:1-2)  I like the way George McKinney, Jr. put it, “The creation of our Lord does not belong to the rich who possess it nor to the poor who need and want its resources. Neither the greedy nor the needy can claim ownership!”

So many of the environmental problems we face today have resulted from our failure to understand or remember that the earth is not ours to do with as we please. The earth belongs to God.  We do learn in Genesis 2:15 that we have a role to play in God’s Creation and that involves taking care of it.  Unfortunately we have been far more prone to abuse Creation than take care of it.  Many people see the earth and its resources as simply a means for getting rich.  Far too many people abuse the earth’s resources without any concern for others or for those who will come after them.  No wonder we find our planet in the shape it now is.

_DSC5227When I was a teenager I remember a television commercial that featured a lone Native American standing on a high precipice observing the decimation of this country’s natural beauty and as the camera zoomed in you saw a tear falling from his eye. It was a very powerful presentation and got a lot of people’s attention.  I have a feeling that if we could somehow get a close-up look at God’s face these days we might find a similar tear and for the same reason.  In essence, we have trashed the beautiful world God so graciously gave us.  We have failed to be the stewards of Creation God commissioned us to be.

In the final verse of “This Is My Father’s World” the writer says “God trusts us with this world, to keep it clean and fair.  All earth and trees, the skies and seas, God’s creatures everywhere.”  These may just be the words of a hymnist but they echo the teachings of the Bible.  God did, in fact, entrust us with this world, “to keep it clean and fair.”  Our heavenly Father expects us to honor the earth as His creation and to take the steps needed to reverse damage that has already been done and to work to preserve what we can for future generations.

_DSC7790Last week I spoke at the funeral of a friend whose favorite song was “Rocky Mountain High.” He wanted it played at his service so we did.  As I listened to the words one line in particular caught my attention.  It’s the one where John Denver sings “I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly.” I could relate to that.  I can honestly say my life is richer because I have seen, and here where I live now continue to see on a regular basis, eagles soaring above me.  But not that many years ago there were concerns about whether bald eagles would even exist in this country now.  The effects of the pesticide DDT seriously threatened their existence and had there not been tremendous pressure put on public officials to remove DDT I would likely not have the privilege I do here of seeing eagles on a regular basis.

Those who fought the battle to eliminate DDT made a difference. If we are going to take earth stewardship seriously, we need to be looking for places where we can make a difference too.  Got any ideas?

–Chuck

(I took the top two pictures on a recent trip to southeast KY.  The eagle was photographed near where I live in western KY.)


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.)