Apr 18 2018

The Church’s Task

Psalm 5Gus Speth, an environmental lawyer and advocate, once said, “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with thirty years of good science we could address those problems.  But I was wrong.  The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy… and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.”  Speth acknowledged that these were beyond the realm of science.  He is, of course, correct but selfishness, greed and apathy are not beyond the realm of the church.  This is a needed reminder as we prepare to observe another Earth Day.

The biblical mandate is clear. Christians are called to be good stewards of the environment.  We are expected to do all we can to preserve and protect God’s Creation.  One of Christianity’s basic affirmations is that God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth, therefore, is sacred space.  In Genesis 1 God declares the goodness of the earth.  We later learn that God’s presence and power are made manifest in Creation. (Romans 1:20)  The earth is God’s gift to us on many different levels.  It was designed to meet both our physical and spiritual needs.  The earth is indeed holy ground.

Psalm 3The world today faces a number of environmental crises. Many of these are quite daunting.  Scientists are at work seeking solutions but as Gus Speth noted, behind the environmental crisis is a moral one.  Selfishness, greed and apathy truly are underlying causes and unless these are addressed by the religious community there is not much hope for improvement.

Somehow, someway, the church must encourage and model love for God’s Creation. We cannot fulfill the Greatest Commandment to love God with everything that we’ve got and love our neighbor as ourselves unless we do practice Creation Care.  These go hand in hand.  The Bible says “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)  How can we love God if we do not care for what God owns?  And how can we love our neighbor completely if we do not care for that which sustains us all?  Love is the only thing that will overcome selfishness, greed and apathy.  And love is the church’s specialty, is it not?

More than ever, the church needs to help people make the connection between loving God and loving the earth. More than ever the church needs to model that love for others.  There are numerous ways this can be done.  For the past five years my church has sponsored a free electronic recycling event for the community.  We have also sought to curtail the use of Styrofoam products.  These are just two examples of things that can be done.  Others include establishing community gardens, participating in litter pickups, and installing programmable thermostats to reduce the use of electricity.  Some churches have gone so far as to install solar panels to produce electricity for themselves and those in their neighborhoods.

Psalm 65Every church, regardless of its size, can do something to promote ecological stewardship and practice Creation Care. Individual Christians should strive to do the same.  We may not be able to make a big difference as individuals but we can make a difference.   That is important.  By just practicing the “three Rs”—Recycle, Reuse and Reduce—we can have an impact on the earth.  We do the same when we plant trees, keep our vehicle’s tires properly inflated, feed the birds, and limit the use of pesticides.

One way we can make a big difference is by supporting environmental causes and organizations. Perhaps an even more effective way is by notifying our elected officials about our concern for issues that affect the environment.   Our government is definitely an area where selfishness, greed and apathy must be confronted.  I encourage you to pay careful attention to what is happening at the Environmental Protection Agency and to monitor legislation that effects climate change, clean air, clean water, and the protection of natural resources.  Let your voice be heard.  Make your vote count.

Psalm 73If we truly love God, others and ourselves we will make Earth Day not a one day event but a year round priority. What does love have to do with it?  Everything! In the conclusion of his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson says “Maybe the environmental problem is ultimately spiritual.  If we put ourselves in order, perhaps we will do the same for the world.”  That is certainly my hope and prayer.

–Chuck

(This blog originally appeared on EthicsDaily.com.)


Jan 24 2017

My Awe-full Life

WY Yellowstone NP Grand Prismatic SpringI’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve had an awe-full life. Not awful, mind you, but awe-full or full or awe.  I was teaching a class a few days ago and I asked those in it if they could point to instances where they had experienced awe or wonder in nature.  Every single member could point to a time.  As we listed these out loud together I found myself coming up with example after example.  From my first glimpses of the Appalachian mountains and Atlantic ocean as a child until the present moment nature has continued to fill me with wonder and awe.  I can’t help but believe that is true for everyone.

God’s Creation is simply awesome! I’ve seen that awesomeness in giant trees and tiny flowers.  I’ve seen it in the Milky Way above and in marvelous creatures here below.  I’ve seen it in the heated desert and in the frozen tundra.  I’ve seen the awesomeness of nature in calving glaciers, steaming geysers and raging rivers.  I’ve seen it in mountains high and valleys low.  Near and far I’ve been blown away by the wonders and mysteries of Creation and led to moments of pure awe and worship.

WA Olympic NP Hoh RainforestThis awe-full life I’ve had comes as no surprise because the Bible teaches us that there is an awesome God behind all of this. Nature is awesome because it is a reflection of the awesomeness of God.  That awesomeness is found everywhere.  Isaiah 6:3 says “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Because this is true there are awe-full moments waiting for us all of the time.  If we will but use the eyes and ears that we have been given we cannot escape experiencing God’s glory.

VA Atlantic Ocean sunriseThe apostle Paul believed that God’s awesomeness in Creation was so great and evident he declared “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)  Having seen what I’ve seen, it would be difficult for me to argue with Paul concerning this matter.

I believe that the Creator made the world awesome on purpose so that it would lead individuals like you and me to God. The marvels of nature are signposts directing us to God.  Today I am thankful for those signposts and for this awe-full life I’ve been given.  It has brought me much joy and brought me closer to the Maker of heaven and earth.

–Chuck

( I took the pictures shown above at Yellowstone NP, Olympic NP, and the Atlantic ocean.)


Jun 10 2015

Contiguous and Complementary

_DSC1562I try not to go too long between posts without including one that reminds everyone that God has blessed us with two wonderful books through which we can get to know our Creator and Lord.  One is the Bible; the other is Creation.  Most believers take seriously the call to read and study the Scriptures.  I’m not so sure that many believers seriously study nature as God’s “other Book.”

_DSC0838In 1994 Philip Keller wrote a delightful book called Outdoor Moments With God.  I highly recommend it to you.  In the introduction to this work Keller addresses the question “Why this book?”  I’d like to share his answer with you.  He writes: “The simple answer to that blunt question is that often, often outdoors, flashes of inspiration come with brilliant illumination in a matter of moments.  Suddenly, swiftly, clear spiritual perception of profound truth sweeps into my own spirit like an artist’s painting in vivid colors.  The impression comes in an instant but endures forever.  These moving outdoor moments stir my spirit.  They parallel the parables Christ used to convey truth.  They are lessons learned from the realm of nature.  In actual fact our Father, through the creative work of Christ and by the agency of His Spirit, has produced two remarkable books.  One is His Word, articulated in human language we can comprehend.  The other is His creation, the remarkable and lovely natural realm around us which can be read clearly.  Because He is the genius behind both books, the Creator and the originator of both the natural and the supernatural revelations, the principles which apply in the one also function in the other. The two realms are contiguous, and they are complementary.”

_DSC2099Keller helps us understand the relationship between the two divine books–Scripture and Creation–when he refers to them as being “contiguous” and “complementary.”  My dictionary defines contiguous as “sharing an edge or boundary.”  It defines complementary as “serving to fill out or complete.”  I think what makes the two books contiguous is that they share a common author.   In both we find God’s self-revelation.  The two books are also complementary; Scripture helps us better understand Creation and Creation has a way of illuminating the Scriptures as well.

_DSC2170bI am extremely grateful for both of the books God has given us.  Both have richly blessed my life.  I know that there are some Christians who feel uncomfortable looking at nature or Creation as a divine book but the apostle Paul seemed to understand this.  In Romans 1:20 he wrote “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”   Long before Paul the Psalmist insisted that “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (19:1)  I am convinced that we will miss much that God is trying to tell us if we ignore either of the two divine books.  Are you taking time to read both?  I hope so.

–Chuck

(I took the pictures used above on my trip to Colorado last month.)