God Loves Recycling

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The earth from space

God saw all that he had made and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

Larry Palmer, an elder in our church, really loves recycling. So much so that we have considered giving him the title “associate elder for the environment.”  If we were the sort of church that liked to hand out titles. Larry is a difficult man to pin down but a few weeks ago I managed to get him to sit still for 15 minutes and talk about his passion. Our short conversation became the material for this post.

Recycling.  It is not a topic we normally associate with the gospel and discipling children.  My hope is that by the end of this article, you will begin to see recycling, not as the obsession of leftover hippies, but an important part of following of Jesus.

During our conversation, I posed this question to Larry, “So why should Christian families care about recycling?” A number of ideas were thrown out, but in the end we settled on two:

  • Recycling is part of God’s command to humanity to care for and rule over His creation.
  • Recycling is wonderful way to raise money for the work of God’s kingdom.

Following Jesus and protecting the environment

Between sips of coffee, Larry’s voice begins to get animated. “It burns me up to see what fills our landfills. So much waste. So many things that could have been reused. Instead our town dump is filled with mounds of unwanted stuff, some of which slowly leaches into the ground and works its way into our water supply.” His passion is not rooted in a desire to worship nature, but a heart that reflects God’s love for His own creation.

The goodness of our world fairly leaps off the page when you read the account of creation in Genesis 1. In the story God speaks the  world into existence pausing only to admire his handiwork. He gazes at the dazzling  light and exclaims, “it is good.” The oceans, the continents, plants, animals, birds, fish, stars, the sun, the moon and human beings also earn similar praise.  My favorite part of the story is the end where God stops to admire all that he had created.

God saw all that he made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

The world, the environment, all that God has made takes His breath away. If He treasures it this much, shouldn’t we? After all we were created to rule over this world and take care of it.

Genesis 1:28 God blessed [Adam and Eve] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing creatures that moves on the ground.”

As sinful people we have twisted the word ‘rule’ into ‘exploitation.’  Rulers in our world are expected to exploit those under them for their own gain, just as human beings have exploited the earth and its resources for their own short term profit. But a ruler in God’s eyes is one who serves the good of those under his authority, just as King Jesus laid down his life for us, his subjects.

When we consume products and mindlessly throw them away; When we are careless with the stuff that God has given us;  When we treat the world as an ‘it’ to be exploited rather than a jewel that God treasures; we abdicate our God-given role as rulers over God’s creation. We violate our own purpose while heaping insults on One who made and treasures it all.

What better way to give your children a Christ-like attitude towards God’s creation than to teach them the principles of using less, reusing what we can and recycling what we are finished with. We do it, not to worship creation, but to honor the Creator and live out His purpose for us in the world.

Recycling and God’s Resources

Larry continued our scattered caffeine fueled conversation. “My neighbor died a few weeks ago and her son flew in from Texas to clean out the house to put it on the market. As time began to run short, he began to throw away stuff wholesale. I asked to take a look at what he was throwing away and the ‘trash’ in the first bag alone was worth well over a hundred of dollars. We’re literally throwing away money and it’s crazy.”

As Larry talked, my thoughts turned to our recent trips to Honduras. In a world of extreme poverty sums as little as $50 can change a family’s life forever. $50 builds an outdoor adobe oven and starts a young mother in the baking business. $35 a year gives an orphan in Kenya two meals a day and a quality education. It was Jesus who said, “sell your possessions, give the money to the poor and come follow me.” What if we started obeying Jesus’ command by selling the stuff we were going to throw away anyway? In your homes are old appliances, mounds of used batteries, broken electronics, scrap metal and unwanted jewelry all with the potential of changing someone’s life forever.

Recycling – a way to love God and your neighbor

Christianity is more than getting to heaven.  It is way of life that touches every aspect of life including how we treat our world and use the stuff we buy. Practiced in the proper perspective, recycling is a beautiful way to teach your family a love for God our Creator, love for neighbor and an appreciation for the abundance He has given us. So how do you get started? That’s the topic for next week’s article. Stay tuned.

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Celebrating the Good News of Christmas

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I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David as Savior has been born to you; he is the Christ the Lord.

The gospel stands at the very center of Christmas.  The trouble is we Christians have forgotten what the gospel is and because we’ve lost the gospel, we’ve lost Christmas.

The gospel is not advice.  It is not a warning to shape up. You know the song, “he sees when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he know if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.”  (This may have some limited effectiveness in getting kids to shape up, but as much as I wish it otherwise, it has nothing to do with the gospel.)

The gospel is not about working yourself into a frenzy to create the perfect memory for your family. In my opinion this is the saddest one. The gospel is about grace, unmerited favor, and yet somehow we take the holiday that celebrates God’s grace and turn it into a holiday that literally enslaves us.  We put in hours of work. We get stressed, tired, angry, and frustrated.  Didn’t God send Jesus to liberate us from being perfect? Isn’t God capable of creating for us beautiful Christmas memories even if we can’t find the perfect gift or we can’t find the time to prepare the perfect meal? How many times have you purchased an expensive gift only to watch your kids toss the toy aside, turn the box into a bobsled and play “olympics” down the stairs.

The gospel frees us from the endless pursuit of perfection. It is resting in God’s perfection. It is a celebration of what God has done for us, when would not and could not do it for ourselves. The gospel is good news! That’s it. That’s what Christmas is about. It is the announcement of a birth that has changed the course of history for good.  It is the story of God reaching down to us when we were incapable of reaching up to him. The heart of Christmas is the story of God graciously breaking into our world. Christmas is about what God did for us.

Luke 2:8-11 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news [gospel] of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David Savior has been born to you; he is Christ [Messiah], the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

I am going to pray really hard this year, that the joy and the good news of Christmas does not get drowned out in the noise of Christmas parties, shopping, and the stress of making everything perfect. Christmas is not about what we do, it is about what Christ has done and taking the time to enjoy it.

Sprinkled throughout the day, will be flashes of God’s grace all around you. The joy of having your family with you. The look of unspoiled delight and wonder on your child’s face. The feasting. As a parent, take inventory of all that the ways that God has been gracious to you. Ask God for a grateful heart as you roll out of bed at 4:30 AM.

Then, find some time in all the madness to stop everyone and have them listen to the story.  Our family likes to read Luke 1:5-2:12 and Matthew 1:18-2:12. Tell them that this is the story of what God for us.  Have them listen for the good news in the story and the reading is finished, discuss the good news as a family.

May Jesus break into the hearts of our family, just as he broke into our world 2000 years ago.

Merry Christmas.

Fourth Week of Advent – Some Ideas

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The Angel appears to Joseph revealing that Mary's baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

This is part of month long series on celebrating advent in your home.  For an introduction please read, What is Advent?

The traditions described here center around the lighting of the Advent wreath, scripture readings, and a few suggested activities. Do you have ideas to share? Please be sure to post a comment.

Advent Week #4

Introduction: I don’t think we can begin to imagine the shame that having a child out of wedlock would have meant to Mary and those around her. In middle eastern culture’s shame affected not only the guilty party, but their entire family.  Who would believe that Mary was pregnant and yet still a virgin? Joseph, in order to maintain his standing in the community, would have to break off his engagement to Mary.  If he goes ahead with the wedding, Mary’s shame is now his shame. The community would forever consider Joseph to be an unrighteous man. Breaking the engagement or “putting her away” was the only possibility. There was also a social expectation that Joseph publicly shame Mary in order to preserve his own reputation.  But Joseph truly loves her as this week’s story will reveal.

Theme: Waiting for a King: Joseph’s Story

Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Discussion: Joseph does not know that Mary has become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the story.  All he knows is that Mary is pregnant and that he is not the father. How do you know that Joseph is a good man and truly loves Mary? What is he willing to do for Mary and why? In the end, Joseph decides to go ahead and marry Mary at great risk to his own reputation. Why does he change his mind?

Is there anyone you know that if you were their friend, it would make you look bad? What would it take for you be kind to them? What do you think it took for Joseph to make Mary his wife? What crazy message did Joseph have the faith to believe? Why would trusting God make his life harder? So why did he do it?

The key thing to bring out in the discussion is that Joseph’s courage is rooted in what he knew and believed about God. The God Joseph trusted had the power to bring a miracle baby into the world, save the world from their sins, and was faithful to bring about all that He promised. It is good to admire Joseph for this faith and courage, but the most important point of this story is the power and faithfulness of God to keep all of his promises.

Activities:

  • Make a word search out of the words in Matthew 1:18-25. Add words that describe Joseph (courage, faith, loving, etc.).  Add words that describe God in this story (powerful, faithful, Savior, etc.).  As the kids finish up talk about what made Joseph such a good man and God such an awesome God.
  • Have a discussion about people in our communities who are despised and unloved as Mary and Joseph would have been for having a baby before they were married. (Some ideas: the homeless, ‘druggie kids’, teenage moms, …)  How should we treat people that no one else likes? What if they are different than Mary and Joseph and their shame comes from something wrong that they did (such as drugs, or getting pregnant out of wedlock)? Pray for the people you talked about by name and talk about simple ways you can show them kindness.
  • We’d love to hear about your activity ideas! Post them as a comment.


Third Week of Advent – Some Ideas

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Mary learns from the angel that she is pregnant with Jesus, the Son of God

This is part of month long series on celebrating advent in your home.  For an introduction please read, What is Advent?

The traditions described here center around the lighting of the Advent wreath, scripture readings, and a few suggested activities. Do you have ideas to share? Please be sure to post a comment.

Advent Week #3

Introduction: Mary was most likely a teenager, no more than 14 years old when she heard the startling news that she would become the mother of the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is a poor, insignificant, young woman who is now entrusted with the most sacred mission ever given to a human being. In the Bible, it is always the small, the weak, and unnoticed who get cast in the role of hero.  Mary, to me, is the greatest Biblical hero, outside of Jesus.

Theme: Waiting for a King: Mary’s Story

Reading: Luke 1:26-45

Discussion: In Mary’s day, if a girl got pregnant without being married, it probably ruined her life. No one would want to marry her. No one would want to be her friend. Can you imagine how scared Mary must have been? How does Mary demonstrate that she is a courageous young woman with great faith in God? Mary may have had more faith and courage than anyone in the Christmas story.

Reading: Luke 1:46-56

Discussion: Sometimes when people are really happy, they sing as Mary does here.  What has God done for Mary? Think about it, we are part of that story today.  Mary looked into the future and realized that people years later would call her blessed.  That is what we are doing right now, remembering and celebrating her great faith! What will God do for the humble, the poor, and the hungry through Mary’s baby? What will happen to rulers (like King Herod) and the rich? Some say that Jesus came to turn the “world upside down.”  What do you think that means?

Light the Advent Wreath

Song: What child is this?

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Activities

  • My friend Daryl Breda runs a local crisis pregnancy center in Fall River called A Woman’s Concern. Take a baby bottle and fill it this week with loose change and donate the money to this ministry, or give them a  call at 508-646-2665 to find out how your family could volunteer and help out a struggling young mother.
  • Draw a picture of the Angel appearing to Mary (Luke 1:26-34).
  • Make an angel ornament [We’ll be posting directions soon].
  • Other activity ideas? Post your idea by adding a comment.
Daily Bible Readings:  Here are some Bible readings you can share with your family during the week that go into more detail about this week’s story.
  • Isaiah 7:1-14.  The original prophecy concerning Mary.  Mary was the “virgin who will be with child” and Jesus was the son “Immanuel” which in Hebrew means “God with us.”
  • The Angel Gabriel was a chief angel and shows up at important times in the Bible.  Take some time to look up each of the times this important angel shows up: Daniel 8:16; 9:21-27; Luke 1:13; 1:26; Matthew 1:20; 2:13; 2:19-20; Luke 2:9-14; 22:43; Matthew 28:2; Acts 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7; 12:23; 27:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16