Our Bible verse for today: “Then he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.’ At that moment the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, a voice came to him …” 1 Kings 19:11-13 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “You can encounter God outdoors in His creation.”
A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with a pastor friend I hadn’t seen in a while. He is currently sensing the Lord calling him into a new ministry venture but he isn’t sure what it will be. He is a pastor with a heart for missions and he is an experienced mission-team leader. He has led missions to various places around the world and he recently took a team to Alaska for the fourth time. He is also an avid outdoorsman. He loves to fish, hunt, hike, and explore.
As we considered who he is, the things he loves to do, and the direction God might be calling him in now, I suddenly remembered a book I had read years ago called “Wild Men, Wild Alaska” by Rocky McElveen. Rocky is also an avid outdoorsman who loves Alaska, and he has a heart for discipling Christian men. So he created a ministry to take groups of men on outdoor adventures into the wilds of Alaska for the duel purposes of enjoying God’s creation in an adventurous setting, but also to engage in some deep discipleship at the same time. Rocky found that serious disciples of Christ can have very special encounters with God out in the middle of spectacular settings (like what happened to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13). I suggested to my friend that he consider doing something similar. Maybe not in Alaska, but perhaps here in Tennessee. Being outdoors enjoying God’s beautiful creation is a great way to encounter Him in special ways.
Franklin Graham has gone on some of those discipleship adventures with Rocky. In the forward to the book Franklin wrote, “When you crack the pages of “Wild Men, Wild Alaska”, you’ll be captivated by the true-to-life depictions of majestic mountains, pristine lakes and streams, wild animals, hair-raising brushes with death … and how that all relates to a person’s need for an adventurous connection with God.”
Even if you are not an “outdoors” person, it’s still important to spend time with God outside, appreciating His beautiful creation. For you that may involve a wilderness adventure in Alaska, or it might just be a walk in the city park. It doesn’t matter. I encourage you to spend some time with God outdoors this weekend and gain a new appreciation for the beautiful world He has created.
Our Bible verse for today: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1 (NIV)
Our thought for today: “Open your eyes to the beauty of God’s creation.”
I am so blessed to live where I do. Eastern Tennessee is one of the most beautiful places in the country. It is lush and green, with lots of lakes and rivers and streams, majestic mountains, rolling fields, thick woods and beautiful vistas. I can easily spend hours hiking through the woods, or sitting on a high rocky outcrop looking out over miles and miles of treetops. A day spent in a kayak on a crystal-clear lake or on a lazy river is hard to beat. And riding a motorcycle along winding country roads on a crisp autumn day when the colors are in full bloom is an experience you won’t soon forget.
I find that God is very real and very present to me in nature. I encounter Him in His Word and in prayer, as well as in worship and in many other ways also, but I’ve found David’s words in Psalm 19:1 to be powerfully true – the heavens (indeed all of creation), declare the glory of God.
Beginning next week, as we continue thinking about creation care, we’re going to address some of the sensitive and controversial environmental issues facing God’s people in the world we live in today. We’ll consider topics like the use of fossil fuels, the advantages and problems of plastics, and whether recycling programs are really helpful or not. We will talk about things like climate change, “The Green New Deal”, and much more.
Many of these topics have been exploited for political purposes and cloaked in exaggeration, bad science, deceit, and hypocrisy. That being the case, this can be a difficult discussion to have without it evoking irrational reasoning, hot emotions, and unbiblical responses.
To help guard against that it’s important for us, the people of God, to keep in mind some important Biblical truths as we approach this difficult subject. We need to remember first of all that this is our Father’s world. It is a beautiful and wonderful creation of His. He loves it, He cares about it, and He has charged us with taking care of it for Him. Remember also that creation care was a Biblical concern long before it was a political cause. The political left may have highjacked the issue for their own purposes, but it belonged to us first. It is Biblical first, political second.
And finally, as we prepare ourselves to think Biblically about the difficult and contentious environmental issues of our day, I encourage you to spend a little time outside in a beautiful setting and just soak-in the majesty and wonder of God’s creation.
Our Bible verse for today: “Then God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And so it was.” Genesis 1:11 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Thank God for the trees”
The other day I went hiking with my brother Bob. He lives in Dallas and was just passing through town on his way home after a business trip. Eastern Tennessee is beautiful and there are lots of great trails here. One of the features of the trails here in my community of Fairfield Glade is that they are maintained, well-marked, and many of the trees have been labeled to inform hikers as to the kind of tree it is and what some of its unique features are. Bob, being a Boy Scout and an amateur botanist, enjoyed stopping to read the labels.
I love trees. Trees are truly one of God’s amazing creations. A few months ago I read an interesting book with the title, “Reforesting Faith: What Trees Teach Us About the Nature of God and His Love for Us.” It was written by Matthew Sleeth. He is a medical doctor who was an avowed atheist and a very outspoken environmental activist. He was one of those on the extreme left who made environmental issues the centerpiece of his political activism.
Matthew ended up coming to faith in Christ and quickly became a fully committed Christian. When he began studying the Bible, he was startled to discover that his concerns for the environment were actually deeply rooted in Scripture. As I pointed out in a previous devotional, environmental concerns were a Biblical issue long before they were a political issue. Additionally, Matthew had always had a particular fascination with trees and he became an expert on them. When he began reading the Bible for the first time, he was dumbfounded to see how prominently trees feature into the story of God. Here’s what he wrote about that:
“I read from Genesis to Revelation, underlining everything the Bible has to say about trees. And here’s what I found: God has an astounding fondness for trees. Other than God and people, the Bible mentions trees more than any other living thing. There is a tree on the first page of Genesis, in the first psalm, on the first page of the New Testament, and on the last page of Revelation. Every significant theological event in the Bible is marked by a tree. Whether it is the Fall, the Flood, or the overthrow of Pharaoh, every major event in the Bible has a tree, a branch, fruit, seed, or some part of a tree marking the spot.”
In addition to providing shade, protecting against soil erosion, and providing food, trees also absorb carbon dioxide and other potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.
Trees are an important part of God’s amazing creation. They’re important to Him and therefore they need to be important to us too. When was the last time you thanked God for giving us trees?
Our Bible verse for today: “The earth is polluted by its inhabitants … Isaiah 24:5” (CSB)
Our thought for today: “There are simple things you can do.”
As we consider steps and strategies average Christians can employ to help take better care of the earth, we’re moving from the simple to the more complex. Yesterday we talked about putting your trash in a trashcan rather than throwing it on the ground. That’s easy. Today let me tell you a story about a car.
Many years ago I owned an Oldsmobile Delta 88. It was a big old tank. It had a V8 engine, a heavy steel frame, and lots of chrome and trim and fins. It was old by the time I owned it and it burned a lot of oil. At that time in our part of the country there was an initiative by some environmental group to get cars like mine off the road. They labeled such vehicles “gas guzzling gross polluters”. The group had received a large grant of money and they were offering to purchase those cars from the owners for above market value, just to get them off the roads.
I resisted. In fact, I mocked their efforts. As far as I was concerned those people were tree-hugging, Green Peace, liberal, left-wing environmental extremists and I wasn’t going to cooperate with them in any way. Not because they were wrong, they weren’t. I had to admit that my car did guzzle gas by the gallon, and it did belch smoke, spewing toxins into the air everywhere I went. And I did care about the environment, but I opposed the politics of the group promoting the idea and so I continued to drive my gas guzzling gross polluter out of spite.
I did finally get rid of that car but in retrospect, I’m not very proud of the attitude I had about it back then. I rejected an idea that was good and right, simply because I didn’t like the people proposing it.
Too many of us today do the same thing. We disagree with the politics of the environmental activists and so we automatically oppose their ideas, even if the ideas have merit and even if they could be easily implemented. I needed to get rid of that old car. In fact, I wanted to get rid of that old car – and I could easily have replaced it. But I held onto it out of stubbornness because I didn’t like the activists.
How about you? Are there some simple steps you could easily take to help take better care of the environment? Do you recycle your plastic and paper products? Do you avoid unnecessarily wasting water? Are you driving a gas guzzling gross polluter that really needs to come off the road?
Small things add up and make a difference. There are probably some simple steps you could take right now that would help to make things just a little bit better. I encourage you to do so.
Our Bible verse for today: “Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled my plot of land. They have turned my desirable plot into a desolate wasteland. They have made it a desolation. It mourns, desolate, before me. All the land is desolate, but no one takes it to heart.” Jeremiah 12:10-11 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Don’t trash God’s beautiful creation”
In the days and weeks to come we will think about some of the deep and difficult environmental issues facing our world today, and we will talk about steps and strategies Christians can use to be a part of the solution. But to begin with, let’s consider something simple and basic. Let’s talk about trash.
A couple of months ago I was in San Diego visiting my daughter. At one point I made a wrong turn and ended up in an undeveloped cul-de-sac. There were no homes on it, it was just vacant lots. However, it wasn’t empty. I was stunned and disgusted to see that people had used the vacant lots to dump all sorts of trash. There were old sofas and lazy boy chairs, a refrigerator, old tires, and lots of plastic bags of household garbage – much of it torn open and strewn around. This cul-de-sac was right off of a main road in a decent neighborhood, but it looked and smelled like a landfill. Why would people do that? Apparently they were too lazy to take their trash to a proper disposal site and they didn’t care about the cleanliness or sanitation of the neighborhood.
Years ago there was a public service commercial on television about this. As the commercial begins, we see an old American Indian Chief in traditional dress riding a horse across what appears to be empty land. But as the scene unfolds, we begin to see trash strewn on the ground as the horse walks by. There are empty bottles, fast food wrappers, and bags of trash. Soon the old Chief and his horse come to the edge of a busy highway. As they stand there watching the cars go by, someone in a passing car throws a fast food bag filled with trash out the window and it scatters on the ground. With a sad look the old Chief turns to the camera and says, “Please don’t spoil our beautiful land. Put your trash in a proper receptacle.”
Is that really too hard to do, put your trash in a proper receptacle? In Jeremiah 12:10-11 God lamented that His people had destroyed the land by not taking proper care of it. Mostly it was just laziness and failing to follow proper procedures. That’s often true for us too. In their case they didn’t use proper grazing and farming techniques. For us taking good care of the earth can be as simple as putting your trash in a trash can rather than throwing it on the ground.
Please don’t trash God’s beautiful creation. Put it in a trash can.
Our Bible verse for today: “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.” Colossians 3:23 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Take good care of it for God.”
This morning I want to spend a little more time thinking about the importance of taking proper care of the things that belong to God (which is everything). Continuing our theme from yesterday of this being my Father’s world, I would like to share with you several examples of people who have determined in their hearts to serve God well by taking care of what is His.
Here at Oak Hill Baptist Church the man who serves as our custodian has a great attitude. He is very detail oriented, he works hard, and our buildings have never been so clean. He doesn’t just do basic cleaning either (although that’s all we pay him for). He straightens the pictures on the walls; he does maintenance projects; he goes shopping for supplies; he cares for the church van; he does pretty much anything that needs to be done, and he goes over and above in his efforts to make sure our facilities are extremely well cared for. His attitude is like that, “These buildings belong to my Father and I will do everything I can to take excellent care of them.”
Our church secretary approaches her duties with the same attitude. She is like a mother hen watching over the affairs of the church, keeping things organized, and making sure nothing falls through the cracks. She counts it a privilege to care for God’s church.
We also have a great Treasurer and Finance Committee. God has blessed our church with abundant finances, more than a church our size would normally have. However, even though there is plenty of money, our Treasurer and Finance Committee members don’t allow it to be used in a casual or frivolous manner. The money belongs to God and they are committed to ensuring it is used well. Our Building and Grounds Committee applies the same attitude to their watch-care over all of our buildings and property, and for the same reason, it all belongs to God.
That kind of conscientiousness and protective attitude is the kind of thinking all of us need to bring to the subject of creation care. The earth and all that is in it belongs to our Father. This is His world. This is His earth. Our thinking should be, “This earth belongs to my Father and I’m passionate about taking care of it for Him.”
I encourage you to feel possessive of the earth and protective of it, because it belongs to our Father in heaven and He has charged all of us take good care of it.
Our Bible verse for today: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “The earth belongs to God.”
Before we begin considering contemporary environmental issues and the steps Christians should be taking to help care for our planet, I want to firmly establish in our minds the Biblical basis for creation care and the stewardship responsibility we as Christians have with respect to it.
As we see in Genesis 1:1, the very first words in the Bible establish God’s ownership of planet earth. He made it. It is His. And that’s not just some general Biblical principle or even just an historical fact, this is a real ownership issue. God designed the earth right down to the smallest details; He lovingly crafted every aspect of it – every rock, every tree, every creature. And as we will learn this month, God cares deeply for His creation. We people often give casual acknowledgement to the general idea of the earth belonging to God, but for God this runs deep. It’s more than just a casual matter.
In the “Baptist Hymnal” there’s an old hymn we sometimes sing entitled “This Is My Father’s World”. It’s a wonderful old song which helps to bring the singers to a sense of protective appreciation for our Father’s beautiful creation. It goes like this:
“This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and sea’s; His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise; the morning light, the lily white declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world, He shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world, O let me never forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world, the battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven one.”
This is our Father’s world. The earth is His creation. We need to love it as much as He does and we need to do our part to take care of it.