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Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 1

God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer:
Virtually all Christians are familiar with the creation account in Genesis through which God declares His creation to be “Good”.  Indeed, at the end of the sixth day, God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good (GEN 1:31).  In the book of Job, God admonishes Job and asserts His role as creator by asking:  Where were you [Job], when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell me if you have understanding (JOB 38:4).  So there is no doubt of God’s role as creator, and His intent to assert that role over us.

God’s glory is revealed in His creation.  The Psalmists call attention to this many times.  For example, in Psalm 8, the author writes - O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  (PS 8:9).  Psalm 104 expounds on the workings of God’s creation to declare - O Lord, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.  (PS 104:24).  So our ancestors clearly understood how creation revealed God’s goodness and authority over all creation.

Just as God is creator of all things, so Jesus fulfills the same role as God’s son.  John’s gospel conveys this as clearly as it can be said – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being (John 1:1-3).  And as quoted at the opening of this posting, Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians of Jesus Christ as creator and sustainer of all things, but also as redeemer – For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.  (COL 1:19-20)

God as creator, sustainer and redeemer of all things is foundational to Christian theology.  Yet Christians of today struggle with the notion that God’s creation warrants active stewardship – many adhere to the notion that, instead, the environment (God’s creation) is an exploitable commodity, given to us to use as we see fit.  Christian environmental stewardship, also known by a growing number of Christians as “Creation Care” takes a different view, reminding us that we cannot honestly declare that we love God, nor love Jesus, while at the same time destroying His creation, which He declared to be good and exists to glorify Him.

Closing Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father- Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all creation.  We gratefully acknowledge the bountiful blessings we receive through Your creation.  Guide and direct us in caring for Your glorious works that are manifest in creation.   Help us to know You and to serve You better through Your word, and through Your works. – Amen

 

 Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 2

Psalmists as Environmentalists

For our devotional today, I’d like to draw our attention to one of my favorite passages from Psalm 104 beginning at v. 10 and continuing to v. 18.                

You make the spring gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst.  By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.  From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.  You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.  The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.  In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees.  The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. 

A couple of side notes before we go on – The Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani ) that are referenced many places in scripture are today ranked as vulnerable to extinction because of extensive deforestation throughout the Mediterranean region.  The coney is also an interesting reference – this is the Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis).  The Rock Hyrax, which is not threatened or endangered, is found throughout Africa and is a close relative to the elephant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now back to the point – the pictures posted here are from my general ecology class field trip taken in September to the mountains of New Mexico (not far from Glorieta).  These are actually my old study sites from my doctoral research – an aspen forest at about 10,000 feet elevation.

I have made it a practice to have students present devotionals each day of these field trips.  The topic for the day these pictures were taken was Psalm 104!

The students did a wonderful job parsing out the meaning of the Psalm as far as they could from the written word and their very respectable knowledge of scripture.  But they missed a very important point – look where we were – we were in those high mountains – the “lofty abode.”  It rained while we were there so that “the trees of the Lord were watered abundantly…..”  The relevance of our location to what the Psalmist was feeling when he penned Psalm 104 didn’t quite sink in.

The next day our field trip took us to a very different environment – a desert spring on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, NM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our devotional that day focused on the 23rd Psalm that begins – The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.

And there we were in a setting not so very different from the holy lands – hot in the summer; dry; locally verdant but mostly dry and desert-like.  Imagine David returning to a familiar spring and enjoying a mid-day break, or perhaps relaxing in the evening after a long day of tending his flocks.  Can you see how this sort of respite would restore David’s soul and inspire the words we now know and love as the 23rd Psalm.  There very well may be no other set of verses more widely known than this Psalm – inspired by a location like this spring!

I was impressed with the devotional the students offered – very well formulated – but again missing the point of where we were and how relevant the experience of being in God’s creation was to the Psalmist.

And so that was the main point I brought up for our class in our closing devotional before coming back to Plainview.  Our society, and in particular Christians, suffer from what has been called “Nature Deficit Disorder.”   Coined to describe how the stresses of modern society can be dispelled by simply getting outdoors, Nature Deficit Disorder should have a deeper meaning for Christians.  Spending time in and studying God’s creation deepens our faith and understanding.   It was Paul who best described how God’s creation inspires faith in Him – as in Romans 1:20 – 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;……….

There is so much more from scripture and from the study of God’s creation that I find compelling and awe-inspiring, but there isn’t time.  So let me close with this thought – we should re-direct the energies of the No Child Left Behind programs – to programs through which there would be No Child Left Indoors!  If you have children – get them into God’s creation and help them learn of God’s incredibly beautiful creation; if you have grandchildren – do the same!  Encourage your congregations to get outdoors – old and young alike!  That which is understood and appreciated will be cared for.

Closing Prayer:

O Lord, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.  Guide and direct us in caring for all aspects of your creation so that we may grow in our understanding of You and worship you more fully. – Amen.

 

Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 3

Dominion is not for the faint of heart

Today is a special day in the context of our Creation Care Week.  In chapel we will hear from Dr. Katherine Hayhoe about climate change – specifically, is it real and should we as Christians care.  At 12:30 in UC room 211 she will continue to share her perspectives on faith and science during an informal question and answer period.  Finally, at 2:30 in the NUNN AUDOTORIUM (remember the change), Dr. Hayhoe will discuss the science of projecting climate change for Texas.  Everyone is encouraged to attend all three events!

As I contemplated an appropriate scripture to help us reflect on the significance of the issue of the day, and more broadly the issue of creation care, I was drawn to  Psalm 8 v. 3 to 9, as follows –

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.  You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I find this a very humbling passage.  God has entrusted us (even me!) with His creation and we have to ask ourselves - how is this dominion thing working out?  Unfortunately, I think the answer is – not as well as God might expect.  What are we to do?

Of course, there are many dimensions to the “dominion” issue.  My understanding is dominion actually means to care for something in a nurturing way – as a good and Godly King would have done in the era of the old testament.  Dr. Hayhoe will address the consequences of our dominion through her training as a climate scientist.  More important, she will also bring a message of hope through God’s grace and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people are skeptical not only of the findings of science, but also of scientists – some even find science and faith incompatible.  That Dr. Hayhoe is a devout evangelical Christian makes her message even more significant for us.  And Dr. Hayhoe is unashamed of professing her faith, as perhaps you learned if you linked to the NOVA clips the other day (http://video.pbs.org/video/1881274265/) .  She and her husband – Dr. Andrew Farley, himself a pastor of an evangelical congregation in Lubbock and a professor of linguistics at TTU – have written a book entitled “A Climate For Change” (see below).  In it, they work through the various sources of confusion and points of contention some people, especially Christians, have regarding global climate change.  So, to pique your interest in her presentation, let me quote from their preface to the book.

“Bike to work.  Hug a tree.  Eat granola.  Live off the grid.  Wear hemp.  Bathe in a stream.  And worship the earth.

 

We often find ourselves labeled- just because we think global warming is a serious problem people should know about. 

 

But here’s who we really are.

 

We’re Christians.  We don’t worship the earth.  We worship the Creator of the universe.  We believe that God spoke the world into existence and sustains it by His power.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the way to eternal life, that the Bible is God’s Word, and that nothing compares to the importance of the gospel message.

 

Now for what we don’t believe.  We don’t believe the universe came into existence through random chance.  We don’t believe that life came from nothing or that humans evolved from apes.

 

We don’t believe in government running our lives or in destroying the economy to save the earth.  We believe in common sense.  We believe in sensible progression from older to newer technologies.

 

Yes, we live in a house with air conditioning.  We drive cars.  We don’t have solar panels on our roof (too expensive), and we’re not vegetarians (meat is just too tasty).

 

Don’t worry – we’re not going to try to convince you that the Earth is four billion years old or that it’s young, but with the appearance of age.  Even we, the authors, disagree on that one.

 

Climate change is about thermometers and temperatures.  It’s about what’s been happening on our planet since the Industrial Revolution.  It’s Chemistry 101.

 

Now let’s talk about global warming!”

 

Dr. Hayhoe’s work is about understanding how we humans affect the functioning of God’s handiwork.  We should listen – learn – evaluate – and prayerfully seek answers from the wisdom of scripture – then take action!  Dominion is not a trivial responsibility, and it’s not for the faint of heart or spirit.

So, let’s start now with prayer –

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  Be with Dr. Hayhoe as she shares her understanding of your creation with us.  Infuse her words with your wisdom and help us to know how to better serve you and to be responsible stewards of all you have placed in our care.  Amen.

Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 4

 Children and the Least of These

There was something that came up in the talks yesterday that I’d like to focus on for today’s devotional – the children!

As far as I can tell, Jesus never mentioned climate change in his sermon on the mount, or any of his other sermons or teaching sessions.  But he did mention the children, and that must have made quite an impression to the gospel writers because it appears in Mathew (19:13-14), Mark (10:13-16), and Luke (18:15-17).  When children were being brought to him by the crowds, Jesus’ disciples apparently tried to protect him from the throng, but he rebuked his disciples for trying to limit his accessibility by saying – “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  (MAT 19:13-14).  From this passage and others, it is clear that Jesus was trying to teach everyone that lest we become like children we would not enter the kingdom of heaven.

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I have a quiz for you.  In the pictures shown, which is my grandson, and which is a picture of children at Christ-Like Academy in Limuru, Kenya? 

I’m sure you made the right choice because you know me and the color of my skin.  But what if you didn’t know what I looked like and the only hint I gave you was to pick the happiest child and that would be my grandson.  Could you tell the difference then – just from the picture?  I think that would be more difficult. 

Both pictures are compelling – we see innocence, joy, expectation, curiosity, maybe even a hint of playful mischief.  What is different for these children?  My grandson (now 5 years old) lives in the metroplex; attends a Christian school where his mother is also a teacher; loves to play soccer with his dad as the coach; and has a seemingly bright future.  The children in Limuru live in a slum; their parents, if both are still living, probably have HIV (the children might also); the meals they are served at Christ-Like Academy might be the only meals they get all day; and their future is very much uncertain.  Yet, at this age, their expressions reveal open and kind hearts; a countenance of God’s love to us as they seek our nurturing care.  It is easy to see how “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I am an ecologist, so I have to admit that when I speak of creation care, I am usually referring to plants, birds, bees, and all those other critters forming the intricate web making up the biosphere.  Caring for the green things, furry things feathery things – even the creepy-crawly things - requires us to take the long view; to consider how our actions today affect the fabric of nature and try to anticipate the consequences of unraveling that fabric.  Global climate change is the most significant threat to the integrity of God’s creation, the fabric of nature as we know it. As we learned in yesterday’s talks, this threat is very real.

How does unraveling nature affect our children?  How is creation care tied to hindering the children as they pursue the kingdom of heaven?  We learned yesterday that there are three alternative responses to climate change – mitigation; adaptation; or suffering.  Mitigation means to take common sense actions to reduce our ecological footprint – in simple terms to be more conservation minded.  Adaptation means to move our cities; add air-conditioning to homes that didn’t need it in the past; and make many other changes so that human habitations will be more livable in a warmer, stormier world of extremes.  Suffering – obviously the least attractive of the responses means just that – to suffer!  Those who are likely to suffer the most will be the disadvantaged, whether they live in developed nations or in developing nations like Kenya – they are “the least of these.”

Jesus taught us about the “least of these” in Mathew 25:31-46, and it is a lesson that in my experience is well attended to by the Wayland family.  The lesson begins with reference to how shepherds separate sheep vs. goats (MAT 25:32-34) – the sheep representing those who have fed the hungry; quenched the thirst of those who were thirsty; comforted the lonely; and clothed the naked (MAT 25:35-40).  Those represented by the sheep in the lesson are blessed by the king and inherit the kingdom.  As for the goats, representing those to turn away from the “least of these” – well, the consequences are quite dire (see MAT 25:41-46).

So creation care is not just hugging trees, and it is certainly NOT worshiping nature.  It is in fact tending to the “children” and “the least of these” by seeing the connection between caring for God’s creation and caring for God’s children.  In my mind, taking common sense action to use resources wisely, tread softly on creation, conserve non-renewable resources and protect threatened or endangered species as creatures who glorify the creator, does much more than just preserve the fabric of nature – it helps to ensure that our children today and in the future will have opportunities to seek unhindered access to the Kingdom.  The least of these are served best by a healthy environment as well.

Closing Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, creator of all things, sustainer of all things, help us to recognize the things that we do that needlessly “hinders the children” from coming to you.  Help us also to recognize how to care for the “least of these,” – those we see in our daily lives, but also those who we cannot see, but know that they exist.  Amen.

Dr. Herb Grover Devotional 5

Bringing Closure to Creation Care Week

Again, thank you all for your patience and kind words regarding the devotionals offered this week.  My apologies for the gaffs I must have made citing scripture (I am most certainly NOT a biblical scholar), and even more so for idiosyncrasies in my writing style (nuff said!).  As we bring the week to a close I have tried to think of a way to bring it all into perspective, and in part I am incorporating feedback from various people I have talked to this week.

I think we are all in agreement that this week is about honoring our Creator.  We are indeed a part of his creation and we are entrusted with the responsibility to nurture and care for that creation – to till and keep the garden.  It is by His grace that we prosper, but how can anyone argue that those actions of ours that needlessly degrade His creation honors Him?  Although we sometimes think God’s creation is for us to exploit with abandon – the message from God’s word in Job, chapters 38 to 41 and elsewhere, dispels that as misguided thinking.

The problems we face that are linked to the integrity and functioning of God’s creation are enormous and impact the poor to a much greater degree than those of us who are privileged to live in the developed world.  There is nothing in scripture that counsels inaction in the face of seemingly overwhelming problems or obstacles (and the faith of a mustard seed will do what???), and there is nothing in scripture that condones complacency.  In fact, just the opposite, as in Luke 12:41-48.  In this passage, Jesus teaches us that “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” (v. 43).  And later in verse 48 Jesus closes this lesson with an even more compelling message – “….. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Through this week’s efforts, conversations regarding creation care have been re-kindled; the community garden project helped us understand the importance of soil fertility; student organizations active in recycling efforts have had the opportunity to highlight their efforts; we have seen the most recent evidence concerning global climate change; and tomorrow we close out the week with a community-wide electronics recycling project.  Perhaps it is overstating it a bit, but for me these efforts and accomplishments indicate a kind of spiritual growth for our campus that is bearing fruit, but there is so much more to do!  As Paul’s writings attest, patience and perseverance will win out when we are in service to the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are indeed blessed with very special opportunities at Wayland and I want to thank you all again for your support, kind words of advice, and patience.

For a closing prayer, let me draw from Psalm 19, which itself declares the glory of the Lord as Creator, but ends with –

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

And let us add to that – “the works of our hands to care and till your garden; care for your children, and care for the least of these, be acceptable to you, O Lord, as well.”  Amen.

PS – the picture is Echinocereus triglochiciatus – Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus from White Sands National Monument.  It’s here to remind us of the beauty in God’s creation, and how the perseverance of plants in harsh environments can produce such beauty to glorify our Creator!

 

Dr. Herb Grover

Dean, School of Mathematics and Sciences

Wayland Baptist University

1900 W 7th St, CMB 283

Plainview, TX  79072

806-291-1118