Tag Archives: Environmental Stewardship

Experiencing the Kingdom through Environmental Stewardship

It is a sad but true reality that many of the followers of Jesus do not take care of the creation the Creator King made. Instead, they quote selected Bible verses, chosen to support their view that what they do to the environment (biological and geological) does not matter. After all, it is all going to burn anyway. Or so goes the standard view of a lot of Christianity today. In stark opposition to this view is the concept of Kingdom Theology which declares that the rule and reign of the King over every area of life and everything, created or uncreated, invisible or visible.

Time itself began with the Creator King declaring that everything was good. The dirt was good; the animals of the land, sea and sky were good; the trees, grass, and plants that covered earth was good. Everything that was made or would be made was good. This declaration of the King of Kings has never been revoked. It is a fact that God made this planet and all other planets across the galaxies of the vast skies, simply because he wanted to. He found joy in creating things that no eye, animal or human, would ever see. And he declared it all good. Things did change when Adam and Eve decided to try to rule things themselves, as we have seen. Despite the entrance of sin, evil and death into the creation, the essence of creation remained good.

Sadly, as the years rolled by, the creation was ground down by sin and evil. Things that were beautiful became deadly; elements that were to bring life, instead brought death. The struggle for survival overtook every plant, animal, and biological cell, as each fought for life. Each day since the entrance of sin and evil into the land, the land has groaned for the arrival of the day of the Lord when everything would be set right (Romans 8:19-25).

Into this messy world came the King himself, taking on the very flesh of his creation. In doing this, as we have seen, the Creator King ushered in the new age of life. Now, when his followers pick up a piece of trash on the side of the road, they are declaring that the kingdom of God has come and brought redemption to that piece of land, no matter how small. The selfless act of a child of the King has come against and defeated the selfish act of sin that caused someone to throw that piece of trash on the ground. It is a spiritual battle being fought in what looks like a simple act of picking up a piece of trash.

If this seems too radical, please consider that one of the reasons why God took the people of Israel out of the Promised Land was because they failed to give the land rest. One of the laws given to the people of Israel while in the desert with Moses was that every seven years they were to let the land rest. No plow was to turn the soil; no garden was to be planted or orchard pruned. This was to be the Sabbath year in which the people would trust the Creator King to provide the daily sustenance for them. Sadly, the people of Israel found this command too hard, so they as a group refused to follow it, leading them to the day when the King removed them from the land so that the land could rest (2 Chronicles 36:21).

The Book of Ezekiel also tells us that the Creator King was upset at the people of Israel for defiling the land through “their conduct and actions” (Ezekiel 36:17). Specifically, God was telling the people that their worship of idols and misconduct (i.e. the spilling of blood in the land through murder, human sacrifice, injustice and war), was harming the environment around them. The land itself had become defiled and, therefore, God was going to have them removed for a period of time. Later on, after the land had rested and the people have repented, the Creator King would bring the people of Israel back into the Promised Land and make it plentiful again with an abundance of grain, crops, and fruit (Ezekiel 36:24–36).

I tell you this because I want you to know how much the Creator King cares for his creation. He doesn’t just care for humanity, though humanity is his prime creation within whom he breathed his very soul. No, the heart of the King is for all his creation, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant. We, the followers of Jesus alive today, should be warned by the example of the people of Israel, and start taking care of the land and animals around us. We should be the people on the forefront of the environmental movements across the globe, planting trees, picking up trash, and finding sustainable ways of building things.

Sadly, people have bought into the lie that to take care of the environment is not to care for humanity. They think it is a zero sum game in which one side has to win no matter what. However, if we take a step back and look at the amount of resources we use in a given day or year, we will find that we typically consume way too much. This is especial true for us in the United States, where our very economy is built upon hyper consumption without a thought of waste or where those resources come from. This needs to change; it has to change as the Creator will protect his creation one way or another.

 

 An excerpt from my book, The Here and Not Yet (Vineyard International Publishing, 2017), pages 195-197.

Additional information on the topic of Environmental Stewardship can be found in the following three books:

Engaging the Community: Park Clean-Up

trashTwo months ago our family moved into the big city from our small rural village. While we are still adjusting to the background noises of the city live, we are enjoying being close to the different amenities of city.

One of which is a great city park walking distance from the house. Rare is the day that our son isn’t trying to get us to go over to the park so that he can play on the slides, swings and monkey bars.

The crazy thing about the park is that it seems that there is always trash scattered around the play area, tables and throughout the grassy fields nearby. I know the city park crew is trying hard to keep up with picking up the trash; yet it seems that folks are littering faster than the park crew can pick things up.

In chewing over this problem, our small group (i.e. our family and one other family with two young kids) decided to leave the comfort of our home Bible study and start picking up trash every other week. In doing so we are not only teaching our children the value of loving others and engaging the community around them, but we are also fighting the spiritual battle of selfishness, laziness, and waste that fuels the littering issue. In picking up trash we declaring that God’s rule of love, kindness and self-deny is entering that piece of earth.

kids picking up trashIt may sound strange to some ears, but to us the act of picking up trash goes beyond the physical world and deep into the spiritual. The two are interwoven and can never be unwound; hence the selfless act of a child of the King defeats the selfish act of sin that caused someone to throw a piece of trash on the ground.

In addition to fighting a spiritual war, we have the opportunity to pray over the park and the families that visit it as we walk around. So far we have only had two park-clean up days, but I am looking forward to doing this every other week throughout the summer. Who knows, perhaps one day someone will ask us what we are doing and we will have the chance to tell them that Jesus loves his creation. Perhaps no one will say a word.

Either way, I’m excited about what the Creator King will do within and through us. It should be a good summer. 🙂

 

Philippines 2014: Video

I-61 Ministries just released a cool video highlighting the work of some good friends of mine, Chris and Cathee Mapes, who are working with the tribal people of Kalinga Province, Philippines. The Mapes are not only helping strengthen the local church, they are also teaching people to become “self-sustaining by lowering the farming costs via organic fertilizers, livestock raising, and creating a community co-op as well as conduct health, sanitation and nutrition teachings.”

Check out their FB page and website.

 

Time To Do Something

I know I have talked about i-61 Ministries before…but I just can’t stop sharing their videos and articles as I think they are on the right track. As Tri says in the below video, it is easy to get overwhelmed when looking at the state of the world today – poverty, environmental decline, spiritual decay, etc., and etc…

However we have to start somewhere doing something.

Just like Matthew West states in his song “Do Something”:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

 

So, what are you going to?

Pakak Project: Organic Farming

Chris and Cathee Mapes, Vineyards missionaries in Pakak, Philippines, recently started an awesome organic farming project teaching farmers how to make and use “homemade natural fertilizers and pesticides.” This will save the farmers TONS of money that is usually spend on chemical fertilizers and pesticides – items that are normally bought on credit with a 10% monthly interest.

As one farmer said:

“…on a good harvest, which is May or June harvest, i get around 43 cavans, i set aside some for our consumption, and i sell the rest….sometimes i get paid 15,000 pesos…i use 10,000 to pay off the fertilizers, pesticides, etc that i get on credit with interest…2000 to 3,000 i use to pay for the hand tractor, fare, milling and other things….i barely have enough left to get basic necessities for my family….at least this time i don’t owe anyone fertilizers or pesticides.”

While this sounds good, the use of homemade natural fertilizers and pesticides is something really, really new in this area. This means that not everyone in the village is ready to make the switch as they are concerned with how good the organic products will work… as in are the fields going to be protected against rats, birds, insects and other such things…

Of course, there are additional measures that the farmers can take to protect their crops. For example, some farmers have found that using greenhouse plastic and other forms of heat shrink plastic can significantly inhibit insect propagation. There are other benefits of using poly film plastics in greenhouses too and therefore it is well worth researching these alternative options.

Accordingly, Chris and Cathee are asking for folks to pray for a good crop yield for these farmers and their fields. If things go good, then more farmers will be willing to make the switch, saving them necessary funds for their family.

Read more about Chris and Cathee’s ministry on their website, “Mapes Mission.”

Creation, Youth, And The Three Rs

Sorry, this isn't a picture of Peace Valley as I did not have a camera with me on this trip...however this is a picture of Idaho somewhere. =?

As mentioned in my last post, this weekend was the first (and hopefully ‘annual’) PRV youth retreat. We traveled about 30-miles north of Crouch, Idaho, to a place called Silver Creek Plunge, which was, appropriately enough, in a valley called “Peace Valley.” 😀

There were 12 of us on the retreat – seven young adults ranging from 12(?) to 19, four leaders and a two year old.  Granted, the two year old thought he was much, much older and kept insisting that he be allowed to join the others in their activities.  The teenagers, for their part, did an awesome job at including him in their activities; without, I might add, any requests or comments from us – they simply just loved hanging out and playing with him!  (how cool is that! I love our church family!)

Throughout the weekend we talked about creation and how God is continually active in creation, whether that be humanity, fauna, flora, dirt or rocks. St. Paul tells us in the first chapter of Colossians that all “things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible” was make through and for Jesus. Furthermore, not only was it made by the Creator, but it is sustained by Him – meaning, that He didn’t just make things and then went on vacation. Nope, He is right there in the midst of everything working and fighting against the injustice of the evil one, till that day comes when enough is enough and all things are renewed and evil is destroyed once and for all (oh, that it may come soon!).

Yet, I digress from the main topic…

Weaved into our chats about creation was the theme of our, humanities, responsible to ‘tend the garden.’ The very first job given to Adam at the beginning of the world was to take care of the land and help it produce good fruit (Gen 2:15).  Accordingly we, as Adam’s descendants, are to take care of the land and animals and help them flourish.

Continue reading Creation, Youth, And The Three Rs

“God of Wonder” Youth Camp

I am looking forward to a great youth camp this weekend. We are taking a group of young adults into the mountains for an amazing time of worship, teaching, fun, and fellowship. Some of the folks have never camped out in tents, so it should be quite the adventure. =P

During the weekend we are going to be talking about God has displayed His creativity within creation as well as how we are to response as stewards of the environment. As you all know, this is a theme that is close to my heart! (and I didn’t even pick the theme – our youth leader did!!!)

Vineyard Conference Tales: Recycling Woes

One of the saddest things about the Vineyard National Conference earlier this month was the lack of recycling. Hundreds of plastic water bottles were handed out like candy!

Still sadder was that the one day recycling bins were set up, everyone threw their food trash into them… sigh…

Having brought my trusty metal water bottle with me from Idaho, water was the least of my concerns. Nope, coffee was my bane.

Or, more specifically, the disposable coffee cup used to bring the liquid joy to my mouth.

At first, I started caring around an empty coffee cup and reusing it everything I could…yet that got annoying, and unhygienic…

Then I wondered into the Vineyard Church of North Phoenix’s coffee shop and noticed that they had reusable coffee mugs on sale. Having lost my good mug just before we left on the trip (i.e. Jadon dropped it on the floor and broke it), I decided to pick one up.

Problem solved.

I now could drink all the water and coffee/tea without feeling bad. 😀

Thinking UpStream: Fighting The Causes Of Poverty

Scott SabinScott Sabin  “messed up”.

Yep. I think he should have titled his new book “Thinking UpStream: Fighting The Causes Of Poverty” instead of “Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People.

Why? Because Scott’s book isn’t just about being good stewards of God’s creation – it is a book geared towards getting past the symptoms of rural poverty and focusing on the root causes. It is a fantastic book showing the holistic nature of poverty and all the factors attributing to it.

For example, farmers in Haiti can no longer grow crops on their land due to the land being depleted, which leads them to cutting down trees to make charcoal to sell in town. The removal of the trees weakens the soil, leading to erosion that further destroys the land which washes downstream to the ocean, where it becomes a ‘hazard to fisheries and coral reefs.’

Meanwhile, the deforestation of the area leads to a decrease in rainfall and changes in precipitation – not to mention the fact that if there are no trees, then the water in the ground cannot get filtered properly, leading to polluted drinking water. Polluted water in turn causes sickness and disease which places more pressure on the farmer to find some kind of income in order to buy food and medicine for his family. Putting us right back to the beginning of the cycle.

The crazy part is that these farmers know what they are doing. They know that by cutting down the trees they are causing long term problems. But they also have a proverb, “Either this tree must die, or I must die in its place” (Haitian proverb).

In an effort to break the cycle, Scott and Plant With Purpose (the organization he leads) focus on repairing five different relationships:

“To heal humanity’s relationship with creation, Plant With Purpose encourages reforestation and sustainable agriculture. Providing economic opportunities by encouraging local enterprise creation addresses the relationships between people, as it levels the playing field for the disadvantaged and helps families stay together. Discipleship focuses on our relationship with God. By helping others follow Jesus and obey his commandments, thus fulfilling the Great Commission, we help to create a foundation upon which future development can be built.”

In a nutshell, if you are interested in thinking upstream and seeing how rural poverty can be stopped, then I would recommend reading Scott’s book Tending To Eden.”  Then I would pick up Jayakumar Christian’s “God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power and the Kingdom of God.” Read those two books and you will have a good foundation.

After that – well, go DO something.

  • Go help those in your community that need help (i.e. food banks, homeless shelters, community gardens, etc).
  • Support those who are both sharing God’s message of hope and thinking upstream (i.e. Plant With Purpose or other such groups).
  • Be radical and change your lifestyle from a consumer driven one to a more sustainable one (i.e. buy less, use less, be happier)

And above all, pray. Pray for those in need and for those working along side them. Pray for His rule and reign to come on earth as it is in heaven.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Please note that I received this book free of cost from Plant With Purpose.  I was not required to write a positive review – meaning that all opinions expressed are my own and where not influenced by Plant With Purpose or Scott Sabin. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Green Guilt

“Green Guilt” is the title of an article published last month (Jan 10th) by The Chronicle Review and written by Stephen T. Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago.

The premise of the article is that humanity has a “natural propensity toward guilt and indignation.” Throughout history, this guilt over “our very existence” was challenged into aggression with each other. When that was not possible, due to social and religious rules, we “engage in a kind of self-denial, or self-cruelty.”

You can see our veiled value system better if you contrast it with the one that preceded Christianity. For the pagans, honor and pride were valued, but for the Christians it is meekness and humility; for the pagans it was public shame, for Christians, private guilt; for pagans there was a celebration of hierarchy, with superior and inferior people, but for Christians there is egalitarianism; and for pagans there was more emphasis on justice, while for Christians there is emphasis on mercy (turning the other cheek). Underneath all these values, according to Nietzsche, is a kind of psychology—one dominated by resentment and guilt.

With the decline of Christianity in the West, something had to rise up and take over the role of directing our “feelings of guilt and indignation”: Continue reading Green Guilt