Sep 6 2009

We Are Family

sea ottersOver the years biologists have come up with various names to identify groups of animals.  Alligators form a congregation, beavers a colony, birds a flock, frogs an army, gorillas a band, lions a pride, monkeys a troop, sea otters (like those above) a raft, owls a parliament, sharks a school, whales a pod, and wolves a pack.  Human groups go by different names: crowd, community, gang, mob, tribe, etc.  But what if we wanted to come up with a group name for all creatures, what would it be?  I’d like to suggest family.

Obviously there are many things that are distinctive for each animal group but there is also much that they all have in common, especially theologically.  For starters, we all owe our existence to God.  Every creature, including man, can say with the Psalmist “It is He who has made us and not we ourselves.” (Ps. 100:3)  Second, God has declared all of His creatures to be good.  Following the fifth and sixth days of creation (the days all creatures were made) we are told “God saw that it was good.”   Third, we have all been “blessed” by God.  This, too, has been made clear in Genesis 1 (see v. 22 and 28).

 There are still other things all creatures have in common.  Fourth, we have each been given the ability to reproduce and perpetuate our species.  For all of His creatures God said “Be fruitful and multiply” (once again see v. 22 and 28).   Fifth, we are all mortal.  No creature can live forever.  Finally, we all look forward to Creation’s fulfillment in the age to come.  This is the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 8.  He writes, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (vs. 19-21)

There truly is much that all God’s creatures, including man, share in common.  That being so, wouldn’t it help if we began to look at all creatures as family?  I cannot help but believe that is precisely what God intended “in the beginning.”


Jul 26 2009

Without Excuse

Gap Creek 028A couple of days ago I went to Middlesboro, Kentucky, for a photo assignment.  I was asked by the owners of Cumberland Gap Mountain Spring Water to come over and take a number of images for a magazine article and for their website.  During the course of the day we drove over to the creek which is the actual source of their water.  I took a number of pictures of the staff and their product at the creek.  At one point there was a lull in the action so I took a few images of just the creek (the image here is one of them).

While I was doing this, Neil Barry, a friend and my family physician, stopped by to talk.  As we looked at the beautiful setting and enjoyed the music of the stream, Neil made the comment, “I don’t know how anyone can look at a place like this and not believe that there is a God.”   That is a sentiment I have heard many people express over the years.  A lot of folks find strong evidence for God in Creation itself.

The apostle Paul was one of those persons. In Romans 1:20 he wrote: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.  So they are without excuse.”   I know that there are certainly many people who refuse to acknowledge God’s existence for one reason or another, but I concur with Paul.  I cannot help but believe that there is plenty of evidence in Creation itself for people to affirm the existence of God.  Those who fail to do so are “without excuse.”  Furthermore, they are missing out on an opportunity to not just witness the beauty of the world around them but to enjoy a relationship with the One who made it all.  It is sad that God has worked so hard to make Himself known to us through His Creation and His Son and yet so many people fail to discover Him.  They really don’t know what they are missing!


Jun 6 2009

As White as Snow

magnolia-4481A large magnolia tree grows in my backyard.  It is a southern magnolia, a widely recognized symbol of the South.  Despite the fact that the trees’ leaves have to be constantly raked and have a knack for finding their way into our swimming pool, I’m glad the tree is there.  The tree is a beauty to behold and each spring and summer its flowers remind me of an important spiritual lesson.

Even though I have been a Christian for 43 years and a minister for 33, I am still a sinner.   Maybe it’s because I am a minister who feels like he should know better, but when I do sin I feel really guilty.   If I’m not careful I can get quite discouraged and let my guilt drag me down.  Thankfully I find some reminders in nature that help me to recall a greater reality—my forgiveness. 

In Isaiah 1:18 God says “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”   It is indeed my conviction that because of what Jesus did for us at Calvary “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).  The beautiful white magnolia blossom (like the one pictured here and photographed yesterday) is for me a symbol not just of the South but of God’s amazing grace.  It, like snow, is there to remind me of my true status before God—I am a sinner saved by grace!  To quote the late Jerry Clower, “Ain’t God good?!”

–Chuck Summers