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Monday, February 24, 2020

How to Pray for 30 Minutes


Introduction
A couple weeks ago, Judy Forester came to me after church and said she was really concerned about so many things that are going on in our world--problems in our denomination, divisions in our nation.  It just seems there is so much darkness in our world.  And so Judy asked, "Is there some way we could have a day of prayer and just ask people to pray for all these things?"  I said, "Absolutely!"  And so, we have designated February 27 as a day of prayer and fasting.  This Wednesday at our , Ash Wednesday service, I will share a little about the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Today, I want to teach you how to pray for 30 minutes.

1 Timothy 2:1-4
1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

Why Pray?
Before I begin teaching you how to pray for 30 minutes, I need to convince you that you must pray.  At its heart, prayer is communion with God. Prayer is the lifeblood of Christianity. Prayer is not just something Christian's do, it is the soul of who we are.  Christians believe we were created by God for a real, personal relationship with God.  If you’re not praying, you’re not communing in an active, real, and personal relationship with God. 
Can you be real friend if you never talk to or spend time with your best friends?
Can you be a good husband or wife if you never talk to or spend time with your spouse?
Can you be a real parent if you never spend time with or talk to your children?  (Sure, you can create life and give birth, but you cannot be a legitimate parent unless you have a real, personal relationship with your kids.)

Prayer is the way we spend time with God.  As with most vibrant relationships, our prayer relationship with God usually involves talking.  You don’t have to use fancy language or try to make a speech.  You don’t even have to talk like the preacher when he prays on Sunday morning (actually, please don’t!).  You have to realize, the kind of prayer a preacher prays on Sundays in church is different from the prayers we offer when we are all alone and talking to God.  Prayers said at a church service are public prayers; they're for everyone and it requires the worship leader to pray on behalf of everyone.  But when I’m all by myself and praying, I’m just talking to God like a kid talks to their mom or dad. 

Sometimes, prayer is not talking at all.  It’s just being with God—maybe sitting quietly or reading a book together, watching a movie, listening to music, or riding in the car.  Friday and Saturday, my wife and I took a trip to Ashville, NC just to get away for a couple days.  It was a three-and-a-half-hour drive.  Do you think we talked the entire time? (Some people might be able to do that, but not me or Kelly.  We are relatively quiet people and that would frankly drive us crazy.  I’m so glad I married someone with whom I can just be quiet.)  Sometimes, spending time with God through prayer is just being quiet together or listening to what He has to say as you prayerfully read your Bible or listen to some music or take a walk together. 

How to Pray for 30 Minutes
Alright, enough explanation about prayer.  How do you do it?  And how can you do it for 30 minutes?  The following is one way you can pray for 30 minutes.  It’s adapted from a formula offered online by Athens First United Methodist Church.  If you struggle to pray for extended periods of time, perhaps this could help you.  I encourage you to give it a try.  In your bulletin, you will find an outline to help you follow this 30-minute plan for prayer.  The formula is broken down into sections that include: Praise, Reading Scripture, Meditation, Confession, Intercession, Listening, Recording, Petitions, Praying for Family, Praying for the Church, Praying for Government Leaders, and Giving Thanks.  If you pray each section for 2 and a half minutes, you will end up praying for 30 minutes.  You will need a few things to follow this formula:  A Bible, A Notebook and a pen or pencil, A quiet place where you can be a alone and uninterrupted for 30 minutes.

Praise
Start by praising God.  Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”  This is a great way to begin 30 minutes of prayer.  Call out to God. Praise Him for creation. Think about His love and wisdom and praise Him.  Think about the wonder of God’s creation and how they testify to the glory of God. And praise God for who He is.  Just revel in the wonder of the God of the universe.

Read Scripture
II Timothy 3:16–17 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good.”  Read a psalm of praise to the Lord. Here are some suggestions:  Psalm 100, Psalm 23, Psalm 121, or Psalm 34 (or pick another one you like).  Pray through a Bible passage using the words as your prayer. Ask God to help you understanding as you read His Word. Let the Scriptures fill your mind and impact your heart. 

Meditate on God’s Word
Psalm 119:11 says, “I treasure your word in my heart.” Take a few minutes to meditate on the Scripture you have just read (or on other passages that come to mind).  Mull them over again and again in your mind.  What is God saying to you through them?

Confess
I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Take some time to evaluate specific attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions that God brings to mind as you pray. Confess your sins to God and humbly ask for His forgiveness and cleansing. 

Intercede
I Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.” Pray to the Lord on behalf of others. Pray for renewal in the hearts of believers. Pray diligently for the needs that come to mind.

Listen
Next, quiet your heart and be still before God. Psalm 29:2, 4 says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; worship the Lord in holy splendor… the voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.”  Ask God to speak to you. Be quiet and listen.

Record your Prayers and Insights
Now, take out your notebook and something to write with.  Take a few minutes to write down some notes that come to mind.  Write down the insights and direction God gave you during your prayer time. You can even write out a prayer or something you think God wants you to do.  It takes a little bit longer to write words than to say or think them.  Writing forced you to slow down and dwell with God as He organizes your thoughts.

Petition for Daily Needs
Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So spend a few minutes sharing your personal requests with God.  What do you need?  What are you worrying about?  Talk to God about it.

Pray for Family
Psalm 133:1 says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
We want our family to live together in unity.  So, pray for your family. Pray for families in general. Ask the Lord to strengthen marriages and uphold family relationships.

Pray for the Church
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Pray for Pleasant Grove United Methodist church and all who seek to know the Lord there, and pray for our church leaders.  Go over the prayer list found in the bulletin.  Pray for the United Methodist Denomination as we prepare to tackle some very divisive issues at our next General Conference in May.  And pray for the universal Body of Christ, which is made up of believers all over the world of all different denominations.

Pray for Government Leaders
1 Timothy 2:2 says, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”  Spend a few minutes to pray that God will give our government leaders wisdom and understanding. Pray for local, national, and international concerns. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  We need God to heal our land.  So pray for it.

Give Thanks
Now it’s time to finish your 30 minutes of prayer.  You may now find that 30 minutes is not enough time.  If your schedule allows it, you can keep praying.  God would love that!  But, when it’s time to finish praying, think about the good gifts God has given you and express your gratitude for His care and provision. Praise God for all He has done and for all He will do.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Closing
If you follow this simple formula, praying each section for about two-and-a-half minutes, you will end up praying for 30 minutes.  It’s not that hard.  Perhaps the hardest part is making the time and committing to do it. 

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and it begins the 40-day season of Lent—a season for Christians to devote themselves to prayer in preparation for the Easter celebration coming up in April.  Perhaps you can use this formula to pray for 30 minutes each day throughout the 40-day season of Lent.  You might find you like it so much, you want to make it a regular part of your day even after Lent is over.  I challenge you to give it a try.

Prayer is the lifeblood of a person’s relationship with God.  You can know about God (just like you can know about a famous athlete or celebrity); but prayer is spending time with God.  It is essential for every Christian to be devoted to prayer.  Let’s begin today.

Monday, February 17, 2020

He Saves the Animals Too - God's Green Earth, part 2

Introduction
Although modern Evangelical Christians are sometimes accused of shying away from teaching and preaching about environmentalism,  creation care has been part of the Christian faith for a long, long time.  Environmental themes and theology saturate the great hymns of the Church in songs like "For the Beauty of the Earth", "This is My Father's World", "How Great Thou Art", and "All Creature of Our God and King" (the words of which were written in 1225 by Saint Francis of Assisi).  Though the theology is deeply embedded in our faith, we don't always give creation care the attention it deserves.

Last week I shared how God created the green earth and we are supposed to take care of it as good stewards.  The earth is the Lords and all that’s in it.  You may make use of it in your need, but you shall not abuse it in your greed.  And in order to be good stewards who take care of the environment, you must get to the core of the problem.  You must repent of your sin and turn to Jesus as Lord so that he can restore you to a right relationship with God. Then you will recognize the earth is the Lord’s and you will begin to treat the earth with the care it desires as one of God cherished creations. 

Last week, I didn’t talk much about animals; and that’s what I want to concentrate on today.  What about the animals?  The title of the message is, “He Saves the Animals Too.”  The title is inspired by the story of Noah.  You know this story, but have you ever thought of why God saved the animals on Noah’s Ark?
 
Genesis 6:17-19
17 “Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. 18 But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 19 Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood.

Why Did God Save the Animals?
Have you ever thought about why God saved the animals? I mean, if they’re not important (as some people seem to think), why didn’t God go to the trouble of gathering all the animals onto the Ark? They are important to God.
All creation suffers because humanity’s sinfulness.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they brought a curse on all creation, including the animals.  Even though the animals did nothing wrong, they were under the authority of people and so they suffer the curse right along with us.  The way God created the world reveals a hierarchy among creation and the animals.  As God's creating progresses, things move from more and more complex elements.  First God creates light, then  water, then sky, then land.  And now the life forms become more and more sentient:  plants then fish then birds then land animals and finally people.  We see in this a general hierarchy of sentience (the capacity to think, feel, perceive, and experience life). Plants are the least sentient, unable to think, feel, and perceive (except maybe at the most basic levels). Then there are fish, birds, land animals, followed by people, who are the most sentient of all animals.

As the most capable of reason and reflection and understanding, people are to govern everything God
created as faithful stewards.  Unfortunately, humans rebel against God and choose to do things their own way and sin enters the world. The curse of sin invades humanity and all creation suffers alongside people.  And so, God, in His mercy, saves the animals along with Noah.  God will save the animals and all creation in the end too.  Listen to what Paul said in the New Testament.

Romans 8:20-21
20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 

2 Points
So far, we’ve established two points. Let me review them:  First, God saved animals in the Old Testament, in the story of Noah.  Second, in the New Testament, we see that God will save all creation in the end (which includes animals). Romans 8:21 says creation "will join God’s children in glorious freedom form death and decay."  Animals have always been and will be part of God’s great salvation plan. Salvation is not just about people. Salvation is about all creation – the people, the animals, and the land.

Animals Have Souls
This may seem odd.  Because if you’re like me, you may have heard that animals don’t have souls; that only people have souls.  This is what I was taught growing up, but it’s not what the Bible teaches.  Listen to Proverbs 12:10.  "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel." (NASB)  

Just at face value, this Proverb teaches a great principle.  Humans should treat animals well and not misuse, abuse, or exploit them without proper care and dignity.  But if you understand a little about the original Hebrew of the Proverb, you can understand even more.  

The Hebrew word translated as "life" is Nepes and it means "soul".  So, in other words, the righteous man cares about his animal’s soul.  That doesn’t mean we bring them to church and preach to them.  It means we recognize that an animal is a living thing with a soul just like you and me.  And we must treat them with the respect and dignity of a living, soul-filled being.  

Nepes, or soul, is what Genesis 2:7 says God breathed into Adam when he formed Adam from the dust of the ground.  It is the same word God uses to describe the insects, fish, birds, and cows and dogs and cats He created as well.  Nepes is the same Hebrew word the Bible uses throughout the Old Testament to refer to the souls of people and animals who are alive because God imparted a soul to them.

Nepes is the soul word used to describe animals when God put the rainbow in the sky and made a covenant with Noah and all living creatures in Genesis 9:9-10 saying, “I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants, and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth.” Normally, God makes covenants with people; but, in this case, God makes a covenant with the animals and all creation.

Nepes is the same word God uses to describe the lifeblood that pumps through all living creatures.  This is lifeblood, the soul, which people are forbidden to eat.  Genesis 9:4, “You must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.”  In other words, don’t eat animals while they are still alive and their soul is still there.  Not only would this be cruel, it’s evil! It’s like eating the animal’s soul and God forbids it.  If anyone eats an animal that’s still alive (or drinks its blood), God says that person must be kicked out of the community! (Leviticus 7:27)  God says, people must first end the animal’s life by letting their lifeblood cease to flow.  God says we can still eat animals (we don’t have to be vegetarians). An animal’s soul departs when their lifeblood ceases to flow.  God gives us permission to eat animals properly and humanely slaughtered.

Animal Souls & God’s Plan
So yes, animals do have souls. And animal souls are sacred to God, just as the souls within you and me are sacred to God. I don’t understand everything about how animal souls work, but I do understand this:
Animals have souls,
Animal souls are sacred to God, and
God’s plan of salvation includes the souls of animals too.


Visions of Eternal Life Include Animals
We know animals will be among us in the Afterlife.  The Bible includes animals in many visions of eternity.  Such as:

Isaiah 11:6-7 - In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
    the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
    and a little child will lead them all.
The cow will graze near the bear.
    The cub and the calf will lie down together.
    The lion will eat hay like a cow.

Revelation 19:11Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

Revelation 5:13 - And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Practical Application
"Well, that's all great, Preacher, and way out there.  But what does this all mean for me?"  Treat animals as the sacred, soul-filled, living creatures loved by God that they are.  They are not disposable commodities that can be thrown away like trash.  There is a hierarchy in the animal kingdom. An insect is not the same as a bird. A bird is not the same as a dog or cat.  A dog or cat is not the same as a person.  However, they are all worthy of care, dignity, and respect.  Care for them as God's creatures.  And don't think so highly of yourself that you disregard the feelings of lower creatures.  

Furthermore, I suggest we not take for granted the food we consume.  It’s OK to eat meat. God gave us permission. However, we should never disregard or disrespect or take for granted the life of the animals we eat. In our modern world have lost touch with the sacredness of the food we consume. I'm a hunter; I sometimes kill animals.  Some may think that's cruel, but I don't.  I think it puts me more in touch with the sacredness of life, including the food we eat.  A few years ago, I was turkey hunting.  [Click here to read a poem I wrote about the experience.] I wasn't having any luck and had seen nothing all morning.  So I decided to just walk around the hunting property because it was a beautiful day.  Up ahead along the path, I heard some crows calling and thought it was odd they were being so noisy.  I just had a feeling maybe there were some turkeys gathered. So I put my shotgun to my shoulder and eased around the trees to see an open clearing where several turkey's we grazing.  I picked the one I wanted and pulled the trigger.  Boom! One of the turkeys was down and flopping around in its death throws as the rest ran off for the trees.  I walked up and stood over the turkey as its flapping wings slowed and became still as the lifeblood of the animal ceased to flow.  It was one of the most sacred moments I've experienced in life--to be with an animal as its soul departed from the justified actions of my hands.  Latter, as I ate the turkey for dinner, I had a truly spiritual understanding of the sacrifice it takes to consume the food we eat.  Some might think hunting and killing an animal is cruel.  However, you did the same thing if you ate turkey last thanksgiving.  The only difference is you were not present when the animal you ate lost its life to provide your turkey dinner.

Do you think about the sacred sacrifice that must be made anytime you eat meet.  Even if you are vegetarian, a plant likely lost its life to provide your meal.  We need to rediscover the sacredness of life and death that's played out every time we consume our food.  Never take this for granted.

The Most Important Thing – Repent
In order to make things right, to take care of the world and all the animals in it, we’ve got to go deep down to the core of the problem.  It won't do to only treat the symptoms.  What really needed it deep repentance.  We’ve got to turn away from our own sinful, selfish ambitions that thinks we are the center of everything and we've got to turn back to God through Jesus Christ.  We must recognize that Jesus is Lord.  If Jesus is your Lord, then we recognize that our Biblical mandate is to be good stewards of His creation.  Creation is sacred to God.  He loves the land and all the animals.  And our Lord has commanded us to be good stewards of it all.  It is not optional.  It is our Lord’s command.
Are you going to obey?
Is Jesus your Lord?



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Stewards of the Land - God's Green Earth, part 1


Grace’s Question
[Click here to listen to the podcast.]
My teenage daughter asked a simple question that sparked this blog.  She asked, “Why don’t preachers ever preach about taking care of the environment?  Why don't Christians talk about it more?”  Her question really got under my skin.  It bugged, because she’s right.  We don’t talk about the environment very much--at least not in the moderately conservative churches I've served.  We mention it and it's part of our social principles (and we recycle), but we don't dwell on it much.  I don't know if many people in my church would label themselves "environmentalist".

Environmentalism is a huge political issue in our times.  Politicians use the subject to garner votes because they either "care for the environment" or they are "not one of those radical tree huggers".  However,  I’m not interested in what politicians or people have to say about the environment.  I want to turn to God’s Word in the Bible.  The Bible is the unchanging Divine Truth of God.  It is the Christian’s foundation for how to believe and live.  What does God’s Word say about taking care of the Earth?  God’s charge to humanity to take care of His creation goes all the way back to the beginning of time.

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
27 So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Stewards of the Land
God’s charge to humanity to take care of His creation goes all the way back to the beginning of time.  Some people zero in on the phrase in verse 26 that says people will "reign over" the rest of creation.  And some have used this as an excuse for people to do whatever they please to the earth.  But a more accurate understanding is reflected by the phrase, "Fill the earth and govern it."  A good governor does not use the governed for their own selfish benefit.  A good governor does what is best for the governed--protecting and caring for them.  God charged humanity to be stewards of the earth.  What is a steward?

A steward is a person who manages or looks after another person’s property.  This is the core of what a Christian must understand when it comes to how we treat the earth.  Actually, it’s at the core of every part of life, not just the environment.  It is the recognition that the earth does not belong to us.  It belongs to God!  Psalm 24:1 – “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

Suppose a friend owns a mansion on the beach and says, “I want you to go down to Florida and enjoy a week’s vacation—free of charge—in my mansion on the beach!”  And they hand you the keys. Hopefully, you would be very grateful and you would go have a good time, but wouldn’t you also be very careful to take care of your friend’s house?  You wouldn't want to disrespect their property or damage it in any way so as damage your relationship with your friend.  Well, God has handed us the keys to His earth.  And He’s not just a friend.  He’s God.  He wants us to enjoy His earth, but we shouldn't do anything to damage His earth in a way that damages our relationship with God.

Avatar
After playing in the snow yesterday, my kids came inside to get warm and they watched the movie, “Avatar”.  Have you seen this movie?  It’s a spectacular 3D movie directed by James Cameron.  "Avatar" was noted at it’s release for the whopping $237 million it cost to make (which I think was a record at the time).  The story-line is a stereotypical summary of the modern, secular (NOT Christian) worldview of environmentalism.  (And this may be why evangelical preachers don’t preach about environmentalism very much).  In the movie, an evil alliance between the military and a big business corporation is stripping the resources of a futuristic planet, Pandora.  The a group of environmental friendly scientist are studyong the planet and oppose military/industrialists who are greedy and ignorant.  The even purer native Pandoran aliens are idealized as they worship nature as their god.  The trees and plants and animals are sacred and the planet is alive.  And it's no coincidence the story is portrayed this way; it's basically the underlying worldview pop-environmentalists of our age.  It's mysterious, intriguing, simplistic, and it attracts a large following in our age.

The modern, secular environmentalist movement often treats nature as if it were divine.  They sometimes even call her “Mother Earth”.  Environmentalists wrap their arm around science and say, “See!  Science is on our side too!”  Meanwhile, they simplistically romanticize Mother Nature and turn her into their goddess.  The plants and birds and trees are all interconnected and spiritual and we need to love nature (or some would even say worship her).  This is what turns many Christians and more rationally minded people off to the label “environmentalist”.

God Cares About the Earth
If we truly care about God’s Green Earth and want to take care of the environment, we’ve got to get back to God’s plan!  The earth is very important, but it is not god.  Tree frogs in the Amazon rain forest are very important, but they are not as important as people.  We’ve got to be very, very careful that we don’t make nature into an idol we bow down to worship in our hearts and through our worldly philosophies.

At the same time, we’ve got to recognize that humanity is full of sin.  It is part of humanity's fallen, sinful nature that we selfishly think we are the only things that matter on this Earth.  Our selfish greed leads us to think we can use the earth’s resources however we want, even if it destroys the environment.  But the earth is not ours to use and abuse however we want.  The earth belong to God and the Lord allows us to use and enjoy His earth, but we must take care of it.

"But what can we do?"  Taking care of the earth is more than a philosophical debate.  What are some practical things you can undertake to do your part in taking care of the environment?  Perhaps you think I might say, "Reduce, reuse, and recycle!"  (That's a popular slogan these days for people who want to take care of the environment.)  And there's nothing wrong with those actions in and of themselves; they can be helpful.  But if we really want to make a difference, we've got to go deeper--all the way to the core.

The Most Important Thing – Repent
The most important thing you can do:  You must ask God’s forgiveness for rejecting His Lordship, repent of your sin, and follow Jesus Christ.  Please don't think these cliches that a preacher must say.  It is the very core of the what we must do.  You see, it's all about who's Lord.  If Jesus (God) is Lord and the earth belongs to Him, we must use it in ways of which He approves.  Jesus must be Lord of your life.  If you really want to make a real difference, you’ve got to change your worldview.  Recycling cans or protesting to save the whales just won’t cut it.  If humanity comes before God, then all is lost.  We will always do what we selfishly want to do regardless of what's best for the earth.  And if you treat nature as if it is god, it cannot deliver and you will be spiritually bankrupt.

When we accept the Jesus is Lord, and seek to worship and serve him, we find that middle road that leads us to truly love and care for all creation.  We will resist the extreme that worships nature and created things, elevating them to a status they were never designed to hold (and are not able to hold).  Neither will we abuse nature , thinking we can use it however we please, because we will strive to be the good stewards God created us to be.  We will know that God loves His creation and we will love it too, but love it for what it really is and not some romantic fantasy we've created in our own mind. 

Now what should you do to take care of God’s world?
Once you've got your heart right with God, is there anything else you can do to help others take care of the world?  Yes!  What did Jesus tell us to do?  He said, "Reduce, reuse, and recycle!" Wait? What? No! No!  He didn't say that!  Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of Jesus Christ, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  You see, you’ve got to change people’s hearts and minds.  Isn't it interesting, with all the problems we face in our world--poverty, slavery, racism, sexism, addiction, trashing the environment, and so much more, Jesus never instructed his disciples to go stamp out these problems?  He said, "Make disciples..." because he knew something we're so slow to understand.  If you only attack the symptoms of brokenness in our world, you will never really solve them because the real problem is deeper.  It's in our hearts.  We are rebels. We've turned our back on God.  We want things our own way.  And our own way leads to all these issues--slavery, racism, sexism, addiction, trashing the environment, etc.  Win people's hearts for God and it will lead true healing.

Save the Planet
God’s ultimate goal is to redeem and restore all of creation.  People get saved, but so does the whole planet.  God’s green earth will be perfect once more, as it was in the beginning.  This is the whole message of the Bible!  There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth!  So, God’s Green Earth is not disposable and it’s not something we are allowed to misuse and abuse for our own selfish pleasure.  If you've been doing that, it's a symptom you're heart is still not really right with God.  It's time to wake up and make a change.  We are to be good stewards who care for God’s land.  “The Earth is the Lord’s and all there in.  You may make use of it in your need, but you shall not abuse it in your greed.” (Sandra Richter, “Christians and Creation Care: Seven Minute Seminary”)  

Perhaps today is the day you bow your head in prayer and ask for God's forgiveness.  Perhaps today is the day you decide to follow Jesus as your true Lord, to let Him truly be in charge of your life.  Perhaps you've already done that before, maybe many years ago; but today, you realize you have not been a very faithful steward of the earth.  Then now is the time to repent and let the Jesus be the Lord of your life in this area too.  Christ came to save you as a whole person and that includes every area of your life.  When you realize any area out of accord with his will, you must turn it over to him and seek the Holy Spirit's help in following Him.  I invite you to do so right now.