Have you ever prayed for God’s creation? Day 27 of the Pray-May Challenge

When we hear groaning, we assume someone is in pain. We are empathetically moved to help or comfort those who are hurting, as we are able.

All of creation is itself groaning (Romans 8:22),  and that groaning can be heard if we have the ears to hear it. From songbird extinctions to topsoil loss, from habitat destruction to the increase in natural disasters, creation’s groaning is fever pitch. Are we willing to intercede on creation’s behalf?

Today’s prayer challenge is to pray for creation.

Have you ever done that? Praying for creation is an expression of our responsibility to care for God’s creation as his images. As royal priests within creation, we attend to the hurt and pain of creation, and cry out on its behalf to the creator.

Here’s what I encourage you to do today:

  1. Go outside. There’s just something about being in creation, praying for creation. Even sitting near a flower pot or standing in a tiny park helps.
  2. Read a Psalm of Creation, such as Psalm 104 or Psalm 19.
  3. Begin praising God for features of his creation that you love–name them to him, giving him glory for their wonder and beauty.
  4. As you praise God for his wonderful creation, begin to name areas of his creation that are hurting or groaning in some way. Depending on your particular knowledge, you may want to pray for the desperate state of our honeybees, the significant increase in natural disasters worldwide causing huge hurt to many of the world’s poorest people, local farmers striving to produce good food in earth-careful ways, or policy makers who affect how we conduct business and care for creation.
  5. Our role as God’s earth-keepers must include intercession, as we pray on behalf of creation to the God of all creation. Pray today as one human feeling the weight of your responsibility to serve and protect God’s good earth.
  6. Finish your prayer time by thanking God for the resurrection, recreation hope we have, hope that includes all of creation. Read Romans 8:18-28, taking heart in God’s promise to work out all things for the good of those who love him, and for the good of those he loves.
Praying for creation may seem new to you, but I can’t think of a better way to embrace our role as God’s care-taking stewards than to echo creation’s groans within our own, knowing the Spirit will take all these groans and intercede on behalf of us all.

Prayers on behalf of creation are increasing, and we need to join in. A Rocha Canada, a Christian conservation group, hosted a prayer room on behalf of creation at the 2017 Mission Fest in Vancouver. I encourage you to check it out this update, which includes a wonderful little prayer guide you’ll want to download. And there are more. I’ve been enjoying an amazing prayer guide for God’s creation called Earth Gospel by Sam Hamilton Poole. Poole breaks down this guide into four weeks of daily prayers, leading us toward loving intercession for the world God loves.

So go outside today and pray. Start simple, but start.

And as you do, this is my prayer: We believe in you, Father, Creator of heaven and earth. And today we pray that you would create in us a desire to intercede on behalf of your beautiful yet broken creation. May we hear the groaning, and may we echo that groaning within our own spirit, confident that you hear us and that you respond. Increase our commitment to care and our capacity to love all that you have made. For the earth is yours, and everything in it, the world, and all who love in it–we bless you and thank you for your good gifts, and for the blessing, privilege and responsibility to care for your good earth, as you made us to do. For your glory and earth’s good we pray, amen. 

 

Want to be a Peacemaker? Get ready for some pain.

When Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed, he didn’t mean their lives would be smooth sailing.

Far from it. Jesus got crucified as a peacemaker. He was slaughtered for his uncompromising call away from personal and political agendas, agendas that had and would continue to fail at peace. He was rejected for calling his own people away from violence and into the way of God’s flourishing shalom. People hated him and killed him for it.

Peacemakers live dangerously.

Rather than enjoying an idyllic life far from the fray, peacemakers witness at the very point of conflict, crushed between warring parties and often hated by both sides.

When Jesus called the peacemakers “blessed,” he linked their action with their identity–he said that they would be called “children of God.” (Matt. 5:9) And we find out that being a child of God means experiencing some of the family pain, the rejection, the violent crushing that the Father, Son and Spirit endured through the peace-making incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is when we pursue peace and wholeness–and suffering for it–that we look most like our Triune God. The Bible’s vision of peace is more fully captured in the Hebrew word “shalom,” which is a picture of full flourishing, wholeness and rightness, for all of God’s creation–humans, animals, and the very earth itself.  And when we pursue that vision, all the powers of the world opposed to God’s renewing and recreating vision rise up to fight.

What does this mean practically? When we speak truth in love to a spouse, we may experience anger for daring to raise our voice. When we identify an area of historic injustice and seek God’s righteousness, we will face opposition, sometimes from people we thought would support us. When we call estranged people together for reconciliation, we will be accused of meddling. When we pursue more earth-careful practices for the sake of local water, we can take heat from people who should know better. I could go on.

Being peacemakers invites the same response Jesus experienced. Could this be part of what Jesus meant when he said “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”? (John 15:18 NIV) Applied more broadly, people operating through non-gospel lens will respond strongly to overtures of peace, because peace always indicates changes in heart and practice. Even professed Jesus-followers could end up hating those who make peace because their own gospel-contrary patterns of life are being confronted and urged to be transformed to God’s perfect will. 

To be children of God, we must seek the wholeness and flourishing of God’s creation, from our marriages to our businesses to God’s good earth. But making peace comes at a cost–it always has.

Is the cost worth it? Yes. Just take a look at the cross.

 

 

Earthly Discipleship: What’s missing from Christian discipleship and needs to be recovered

Modern-day Christian discipleship is missing something central.

“Yeah, yeah,” I can hear you say. This comes as no surprise. I’m sure you could point out a lot of things that are missing. Perhaps we just don’t pray enough, haven’t learned how to read more critically, don’t care enough for others, aren’t serious about our faith, don’t this, don’t that, blah, blah, blah, and so on. But what if an entire category, a whole realm of discipleship, were missing, altogether? What then?

Because I think there is, and I think it’s earth care. To be a disciple of Jesus, we must care for God’s earth. If we don’t, our discipleship is missing something crucial, right alongside prayer or evangelism or worship or care for our neighbour.

Mother Hen and Chicks
A mother hen has tremendous instincts to lead and feed her chicks. It’s amazing to watch!

God created his human images to care for his good earth. In Genesis one, after a stunning creation start-up, God blesses his human images to “fill and govern” the whole earth, with special attention toward living creatures of sea, air and land; in chapter two, having placed the first man in a more localized garden, the Lord God tells him to “tend and watch over it.” These stories relay creation from different angles, yet both represent a basic, human calling: to be God’s images on God’s earth, expressing his ownership by helping the earth achieve its God-ordained potentiality. We were made to make God’s good creation greater. 

And yet, for some reason, caring for God’s earth isn’t even mentioned in most discussions of Christian discipleship. Many Christians, including pastors, don’t even bring in creation care when they are talking about stewardship, which I find mind-boggling. Why is this? I’m not sure but let me take a few guesses.

  • Maybe it comes from our cultural move away from an agrarian lifestyle into an industrial and now post-industrial world. We’ve become more and more disconnected from the earth, and it’s showing in our neglect.
  • It could be that our disregard of creation is the natural byproduct of a kind of spirit/matter dichotomy that has haunted Christian thinking for centuries. Matter = bad, Spirit = good, or so we’ve Platonized.
  • I suspect some Christians have bought an “end times” theology that’s led them to think this earth just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all gonna burn anyway, so why care?
  • I’m suspicious that, for some, earth care has been slighted because of its association with an environmental movement that has often been, if not explicitly anti-christian, then certainly critical toward Christianity.
  • And it could be that caring for the earth, or even admitting we should, will impact our lifestyle so much that we shy away from it, simply due to its financial implications. Like the Southern plantation owner of the 1830’s unwilling to consider humans as equals because it was bad for business, we are unwilling to care for creation because it might be bad for business, too.
Mother Goose on nest
A mother goose protecting her brood, down on Hwy 21 in Creston.

Whatever the reasons might be, the excuses are wearing thin.  If we really do believe the “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” then surely we must care for what he has made? And if God made us in his image for the purpose of caring for this world (a mandate God never rescinded), then how can we talk about following Jesus without some sort of concern for the world he is reconciling? If God’s promise of resurrection and recreation reveals his commitment to the world, then how can we ignore it any longer?

We can’t follow Jesus and then ignore his world, for it is “through him [Jesus] God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.”  (Colossians 1:16-17 NLT)

We follow the Jesus who holds all creation together. Therefore, we must recover earth care as essential to our discipleship.

Don’t get me wrong. Many Christians are starting to embrace our calling to care for God’s earth. I am myself barely waking up to it. Terrific organizations, such as A Rocha Canada, are leading us in good directions. But as a whole, we still have far to go. Earth care is seen as the province of a few “green” Christians who live in certain (hippy) places, viewed as fad by many others.  Let me just say: If earth care seems faddish to us, it’s because we’ve so utterly misplaced our basic calling that what should be normal now looks foreign. Earth care isn’t faddish–it’s foundational.

God has made us in his image to express his caring ownership of this world. As Jesus followers, being recreated into his image, we are given the mandate to continue expressing God’s caring ownership of this world, showing his love in the ways we care for all who live on God’s good earth, be they people, animals, birds or fish.

We’ve got to recover earth care as a vital expression of our Christian discipleship. And we’ve got to do it now.

How have you seen earth care included or ignored in Christian discipleship?

Why do you think Christians have resisted caring for the earth as an expression of their faith?