Apr 17 2013

Keeping Things in Perspective

BB0096“You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3

Bonita and I are spending a few days in Henderson, Kentucky. In a few weeks this will become our new home. We’re both here making preparations for our new jobs. I was asked to teach a Bible study on the parables while I was here and as I was doing some research on Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan I came across an interesting passage in a book by John Claypool. Claypool offers some important insights I’d like to share with you.

MR 269First, he notes that in the biblical perspective there are only two orders of reality–the uncreated, which has life in itself, and the created, which derives its life from the other. God is the only example of uncreated reality; everything else falls under the second category. Claypool makes this point so as to stress that ultimately God alone is to be worshipped.  He writes: “Everything that derives its life from Another is to be nurtured; only the Lord God is to be worshipped and recognized as Absolute.”  He goes on to say, “If you and I can get the distinction between the two realities clear in our minds and learn to relate appropriately to each of them, this would be ‘the secret of eternal life,’ and the key to fulfilling the destiny that was intended for us.”

Claypool cautions us about making an idol of any created thing.  He says, “Whenever we take something that isn’t God and relate to it in a worshipful stance; that is, expect from it everything that we humans need, such behavior leads to profound disillusionment.” “Mark it down,” he says, “that just as you can never get milk from a statue or wine from a stone, you can’t get your ultimate fulfillment from anything say your divine Source. Whatever on the created side of the line is elevated to a place of worship…is going to leave one profoundly unfulfilled. It doesn’t have in it that for which our hearts ultimately hunger. We were made to live worshipfully toward the uncreated alone.”

UP near Twin Lakes 481I share Claypool’s thoughts with you because I think it is important that we keep things in perspective. All of us are guilty at times of worshipping other people or things–even Creation–rather than the Creator. This is wrong. All the good things we have in life are gifts from God. As Claypool points out, they are to be nurtured but not worshipped.

People like me who dearly love nature are sometimes accused of worshipping the Creation instead of the Creator. I know that one can certainly do this but in my experience my love for nature or Creation only leads me to love God more and increases my desire to worship Him. I fully realize that nature cannot bring me ultimate fulfillment but it certainly does direct my thoughts and passions to the One who can. I hope you can say the same.


(I took the top image at Big Bend National Park, the middle image at Mt. Rainier National Park, and the bottom image in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)

Jul 11 2012

Walking a Tightrope

A few weeks ago I, along with millions of other people, watched on television as a high-wire artist named Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls.  Even though he was tethered to the wire (against his will), it was a remarkable feat.  A person has to have incredible balance to do something like this.

Good balance is also required when it comes to God and nature.  I was reminded of this recently while looking through a book I read years ago by James A. Nash called Loving Nature: Ecological Integrity and Christian Responsibility.  In this book Nash writes: “The Christian faith dedivinizes but also sacralizes nature.  No element of the biophysical world is divine; nothing in nature, therefore, is to be worshiped.  But all creatures and things are to be treated as sacred subjects and objects, used reverently and respectfully insofar as necessary, and otherwise to be left untouched.”

We live in a time when many people have trouble keeping their balance in these areas. There are, indeed, some who seem to worship nature instead of the Creator.  This is nothing new.  People from the earliest times have been moved by both awe and fear to worship what they see in nature.  For those not familiar with the biblical revelation this is understandable.  However, those who are familiar with the Scriptures should know that behind nature there is the Author of Creation and it is God alone who is worthy of our worship.  In the first of the Ten Commandments God stated, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3)

On the other side of our high-wire are those who do not recognize that nature, though not divine, is holy or sacred.  These people draw a line between the sacred and the secular that does not exist and there are many pitfalls that come from such a view.  One is such people will likely fail to experience God through His “other book.”  If you do not live in the recognition that God may be experienced and known through what He has made, you will miss countless opportunities to experience and worship God.  Another pitfall is such people are not likely to care for nature or the earth in a way that honors it as God’s good gift and source of revelation.  I cannot help but believe that many of the environmental problems we face today could have been avoided, or certainly lessened, if we viewed the earth as holy and sacred.

To worship nature instead of God is wrong.  To fail to recognize the sacredness of Creation is likewise wrong.  We must each find a healthy balance to walk between these two extremes.  In many ways, both spiritually and physically, our lives are dependent on learning to keep our balance on this tightrope called life.


(I took the top image at Red River Gorge in Kentucky, the middle image at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California, and the bottom image at Coyote Buttes in Arizona.)