Monday, August 13, 2018

Stargazing last night

This weekend was the peak for the Perseid Meteor Shower in North America. For those who are night-owls, or early, I mean, EARLY morning risers, there was some wonderful star gazing happening this past weekend. There is something about laying on your back on the ground, and looking up at the stars, just waiting for that streak of a shooting star. In fact, they're not shooting stars at all, they are tiny debris remnants of the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet burning up in our atmosphere as the earth orbits into the comet's wake. This happens every August. Each streaking light is merely the size of a grain of sand, yet it makes that bright light we call a "shooting star". As I stared up into the sky last night past midnight, and watched the streaks of light on a moonless night, I couldn't help think of verses in the Bible about stars. I was reminded of how magnificent our God is, how awesome He is, and the privilege to observe the wonders He has created.

Isaiah 40:26 says: "Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.

And then, in Psalm 147:4 "He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names."

God can count the stars, he has named them each one by one! Wow!

What a joy to be in the quiet of the dark last night, hearing the crickets and cicadas, allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness and with each passing minute, to see more and more of those named stars. Now, granted, there WAS some light pollution from nearby Maryville, the town we live close to, but on the other side of the horizon is the Smoky Mountain National Park--no light pollution from there! Thankfully, in our neighborhood almost everyone leaves their lights off at night. It sure makes for a much more magnificent star-gazing experience.

When was the last time YOU gazed at the stars? No smartphone in your hand, no lights on, and maybe not even any conversation with those near you--just lay there and look up to the Heavens...and be in awe of the One who created all of them, and then realize, He loves YOU!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Bible and Ecology

This is the title of an excellent book I'm currently reading through. I've decided to write some of the highlights here, for a couple of reasons... First, because it helps me process and remember; second, it's great to have others interacting and thinking through this material too!

So, The Bible and Ecology really embarks on a biblical investigation to discover the relationship between humanity and the rest of creation. It's this "community of creation" that the author, Richard Bauckham is getting at. He's trying to get at the commonality that we humans have with other creatures, our dependence on them as well as our significance for them, in a life in which all creatures exist fo rthe glory of God. He states that although "climate change" has taken center stage in the conversation these days, there's a deeper crisis in the human relationship to the rest of creation that stems the modern technological project of mastering nature. The conversation about climate change, he says, and I agree, has distracted us from the other problems and their deeper issues in fundamental attitudes we have. This is why this book is so helpful in pointing us back to the biblical sources of our faith to rediscover God's intention with what Bauckham calls the "community of creation".

How about you? Do you agree with Bauckhams' perspective? What deeper issues and/or fundamental attitudes do you notice in your own life and in the Christian community that we need to get back to in the context of caring for God's creation?

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Speaking in Brazil

Speaking with Leadership

I had a very busy two weeks in AnĂ¡polis, Brazil at the beginning of this June. It was a great visit! I was booked most days with meetings, speaking engagements, or a trip to a property recently acquired by the university next to a national park.

As I had written in our previous update, I was to speak on "The Biblical Principles for Creation Care". The lecture (see their write-up by clicking on the link) was specifically for the academia of the institution, along with the chaplaincy and some invited pastors from the city. I spoke for about an hour, then opened our time up for questions and comments. There was a lot of interaction on the topic, not just from the pastors and chaplains, but also the professors and institutional leadership. In fact, the director of the Masters Program in Environmental Sciences said she had never before heard about the Biblical principles to care for this world and how it should impact our practices. She left the lecture excited to research more of what I was explaining and to put some of the principles I expounded on into their courses. I also challenged the pastors and chaplains present to bring this topic into their regular conversations as well as sermons. What would it look like if we, Christians--the Church--led the way in being good stewards of Creation, just as we were commanded to? One of my key questions was: "Do our practices as God's stewards of creation lead it to flourish, or do our practices bring degradation?"

In response to this last questions, what do you think?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wisdom as per Proverbs

In Proverbs 8:30-31 Wisdom herself says:
"Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind."

The Father and the Son delighted in the world they made and in us. We see beauty in things when they are rightly related to one another...the more we discern how the parts of a piece of music, or of a flower, all fit together, the more we delight in the music and the flower, not for what it can do for us but what it is in itself, as part of God's creation. Wisdom is essentially about discerning and forming the right relationships and rejoicing in them.

This snippet is from a devotional I'm reading, written by Tim and Kathy Keller, titled God's Wisdom for Navigating Life. I'm reminded how Scripture repeatedly points us to the beauty of Creation, and that it is a healthy thing for us to value it, not for what it can do for us (which is the common mindset), but just because it IS, because God created it. I find it sad that we have not discerned as The Church, the place of God's creation (nature, if you will) and formed the right relationship with creation in the last decades. Even our farmers back in the 40's and 50's understood it. A complete dependence on the land for a fullness of life. If you read anything by Wendell Berry, you'll get a fresh grasp of what many of us Americans understood back then, which is sorely missing in our society today.

This biblical knowledge, WISDOM, really, is why I keep working with TEAM to develop Creation Care Efforts with our missionaries, even though we remain underfunded and many people misunderstand what Creation Care really is. I hope and pray that you, as you read this, will begin to grasp this biblical reality we are called to, and do your part to learn more about it, and, as the Proverbs exhort us: "Above all else, gain wisdom."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Conversations with Christians

At a recent missions conference, one woman came up to speak with me about the sermon I had just preached. I had mentioned the efforts I'm involved with at our mission in leading the Creation Care Initiative. She said she was a public high-school science teacher and was so glad to see us as an organization tackling some of the environmental issues of the day. In the public sector, it has been rare for her to find Christians willing to talk about environmental issues in a knowledgeable way. I don't shy away from having these discussions with Christians or non-Christians, because I'm confident in God's Word and what it teaches me regarding the decay of Creation and our role in bringing reconciliation to the world through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19-20). Look it up for yourself! We are to bring reconciliation to ALL THINGS, in Heaven (spiritual realms) and on earth (physical realm).

I reminded the teacher about the early scientists, all the discoveries they made... What did they have in common? Men like Copernicus, Pascal, Newton, and more...they were all followers of Jesus! They based their scientific discoveries on a God who established the world with a set of laws that governed how it works...gravity for instance! The carbon cycle, hydrologic cycle...all these are facts that God has established for His creation to function and to give Him glory! So, then, I remind her that it's God's world we live in...feel free to live like it's His world, and our job to be good stewards.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

California sea lions and Baja 1000 on foot

Tuesday we went to San Rafalito Island, a protected island that is part of the Balandra protected area of La Paz. We did what Steve calls Gorilla Diving. More precisely, Steve and Dr. Sluka gorilla dived, I "gorilla snorkeled". This is when you kayak out to the area you want to dive at, drop anchor (carefully, so as not to damage the coral reef, by finding a spot among rocks), and put your scuba gear on all from a kayak. It's much cheaper than paying a charter boat to take you out, in fact, it's free! And the joy of kayaking a little over 3.5 miles round trip from the beach to a 50x50 ft island with a small lighthouse on it in open water that is 60-80 ft. deep is half the fun! Oh, the beauty of enjoying God's creation! Wow! I wish everyone had the privilege of this. The fact it, there is so much of creation that we can enjoy if we will just take the time and praise God for His creation and the glory it brings Him!

It was a beautiful time of seeing sea lions up close and personal--more than most people are comfortable with--but they are curious animals. The important part it to let THEM approach you, not you them. We have to remember that they are much more graceful than we are in the water, quicker, and often weigh two times or more than it's always a good idea to be careful around them. What you DON'T see in this video is what I was holding my hands up at the beginning of this video: to the right of the view are hundreds of tropical fish along the reef which I spent close to two hours diving down (just with my own breath) to look and marvel at. I'm not sure which I was more impressed by: the sea lions or the hundreds of fish!

Later in the evening, we went out to Rancho El Camino, a ministry TEAM has outside the city of La Paz. This last year, they have had over 1200 people pass through the ranch--from kids in the surrounding area, or from La Paz, or adults and different groups coming for a retreat, the impact they have in the community is very significant.

Two things I want to write about here: the surprising benefit of a hurricane, and a faithful follower of Jesus.
First, the hurricane. Out at the ranch, water has always been an issue. You see, it's really a desert out there! In fact, the only reason they have had water since the day TEAM purchased the land for this ranch was because there was an earthquake that brought water to the surface and provided a means to have a well! Otherwise, it would be very challenging to live and do ministry out there! However, the well was getting quite low and since it rains very little in the desert, the well wasn't replenishing itself. Then came hurricane Lidia with heavy rains and did something amazing for the ranch, and in fact, the whole Baja peninsula which turned vibrant green and still is green today, when normally it would not be. As you can see from the pictures below, there is water in the "arroyo" behind the ranch. An Arroyo is simply the riverbed or creek where water "sometimes" flows. I say sometimes, because it's a desert, after-all.  When I visited the Ranch in October 2015, this was all sand, not even rocks. Plain old sand. Any water that existed was in the dam of the land owner up the creek from them. He had dammed the riverbed and trapped any water that might come to the ranch. All the ranch had was sand all the way to their dam lower down the river bed. What the hurricane did (a merciful act of God?) was to wash all the sand down from the mountains and fill the upstream neighbor's dam with sand, and push all the sand out of the ranch's riverbed downstream, and filled their riverbed with water! They used to play beach volleyball in the riverbed, but as you can see from the photos I took below...they'll have to find another place for that!

There were hundreds of little frogs because of the life the water brings! Praise God!
What a blessing then that the hurricane did bring some good to the ranch even though it was a hurricane!

Now, onto the Baja 1000. No, not the race coming up this month here in Baja, but the story of a faithful follower of Jesus, a man named May (pronounced "My"), who walked/hitch-hiked the Baja peninsula. I met him last night at the Ranch. I had heard about this call he says he received from Jesus to basically travel throughout the Baja peninsula telling other about Jesus. He is on staff at the Ranch and is a very kind, genuine person.
He told me stories of him traveling, hitch-hiking, and asking God to provide for him during the journey. It was amazing to recognize a young man who had matured so much and grown so close to Christ in faith through obedience. Through what he went through, he has learned more than the average pastor does in a lifetime pastoring a church: what it means to really have community, to depend on God for your daily bread, to truly show the love of God to others. He said his trip was sad and joyful in many ways. Joyful that he grew so close to the Lord through it, yet so sad because he saw the Christian churches act like a club, a private gathering of people that are like-minded but will not do what Christ commanded them, even when May showed them how and opened up many possibilities for outreach that were so simple. It was hard to listen to his stories and the sadness it brought him, but it was a joy to hear of God's faithfulness to May because of his faith. Oh, that more of us would be like this young man! I respect and look up to him (though I am indeed taller)!