Worship the Creator or Creation?

rear view of man on mountain road against sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In my previous post I presented a case for using our recreational experiences as an opportunity to worship the triune God who, in His benevolence, has given us all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). The world is bursting forth with beauty, and every aspect of it is ours to steward and to explore. We do this through work and through leisure activities as we relate to each other in love and service.

We must be careful, however, to not allow this wonder and awe to degenerate into creature worship. Scripture is full of reminders that God sits enthroned above His creation. Nature is not God. God is not subservient to the laws of nature; rather, He authored those laws. God existed before light, He determined the pull of gravity, and the composition of water was His idea. Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, was the agent through which everything was designed, as the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the Colossians:

He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17

As we stand in awe of the created order, we use scripture as the lens through which we process our wonder and enjoyment of the things of this world. Our worship is directed to the Creator. His creation points to Him, revealing His “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). It is foolish to think that nature designed and created itself, and to fall into this way of thinking is to fall into idolatry.

Dr. Peter Jones, author of the book One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference explains there are two antithetical worldviews which he calls One-ism or Two-ism. They are defined like this:

One-ism:  All Is One. We worship and serve creation as divine.  All distinctions must be eliminated and, through “enlightenment,” we discover that we also are divine.

Two-ism:  All Is Two. We worship and serve the eternal, personal Creator of all things. God alone is divine and is distinct from His creation, yet through His Son, Jesus, He is in loving communion with it.

Christianity is, as defined in the Word of God, the true Two-ist faith. We worship God while we, His creatures, work, play, and love in the world He made. We are to reject anything that elevates nature to the level of the divine.

One other error into which even well-meaning Christians can stumble is to replace formal, Sunday morning worship with activities that are a substitute for fellowship with other believers. God has commanded us to gather regularly to offer to Him “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” in an established church setting. Those who claim that “the world of nature is my church” are not following Christ’s commands. 

Even so, it is appropriate to use our times of play as inspiration for offering praise and gratitude to the Creator God for His goodness to us. He is worthy of our praise in the sanctuary of our hearts, in the sanctuary of our church, and in the sanctuary of the great outdoors!

The Lord is high above all nations,
    and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the Lord our God,
    who is seated on high,
who looks far down
    on the heavens and the earth?

Psalm 113:6-8

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Recreation as Worship?

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I nudge forward, steadying my wing against the gentle breeze while keeping the angle of attack at nearly zero. The wooden ramp upon which I am perched is a masterpiece in form and function. Crafted for just this purpose at this mountain cliff location, it fairly beckons me to run forward and cast myself off its gentle downward curve while trusting the Dacron and aluminum structure into which I am securely hooked to carry me skyward.

The volunteers who are assisting me at my left and right wingtips call out conditions and notify me when the area is free of other hang glider traffic. A perfect nose-in headwind wafts by, I yell “Clear!” and commence my forward run. Immediately the wing begins tugging upward, but I remember to keep my nose at a neutral angle so as not to lift off and stall before gaining appropriate airspeed. The ramp falls off below. My feet lose contact with its surface and…I’m airborne! As my kite drifts out over the patchwork valley, and as I take note of the landscape almost 2,000 feet below, the magnitude of the moment begins to sink in. I initiate a gentle turn to the right while zipping into my harness as the search for some kind of lift captures my attention.

With this mountain launch I can check off one more item on the list of goals I wished to accomplish as a hang glider pilot. In addition to foot launching off a cliff site, I had already achieved numerous flights of more than an hour long, I had earned my aerotow rating (becoming airborne by towing behind an ultralight aircraft), and I had flown other sites outside my home state of Ohio. Still left on my list were two goals…making a flight of more than 10 miles from my takeoff point, and climbing to an altitude of at least 1 mile above the ground. The longest cross country flight I ever managed in my flying career was only 8 miles, but I did climb to 6,200 feet above the ground during another flight before I quit for good.

What’s the point? What does it matter? I’ve pondered this often, especially during those times that leaving home for a day of flying seemed to produce more anxiety than joy, and strained more relationships than it bolstered. Even so, during times of doubt, some force always seemed to pull me forward, and the satisfaction I felt after a successful (read non-eventful) day of flying was hard to match. Hang gliding can be a solitary sport even though it takes a community of dedicated enthusiasts to maintain a steady flying calendar. But a non-flying family member typically must sit through hours of mundane inactivity in order to accompany a pilot during an active day of hang gliding.

I have justified my passion for flight by striving to see it as a form of worship. One way to exalt the Lord as creator is to explore his handiwork in as many ways as possible. Ever increasing technological achievements have made it feasible for rank-and-file humans to experience aspects of the created world previously reserved for creatures whose frames were custom-built to inhabit these nether regions. It’s one thing to admire a soaring eagle as he circles to climb to the clouds; it’s another to “mount up with wings” (Isaiah 40:31) alongside him as if we were meant to be there.

One way to exalt the Lord as creator is to explore his handiwork in as many ways as possible.

Unfortunately, unlike the eagles, a hang glider pilot cannot flap his wings in order to gain altitude when lift is elusive. My search for thermal activity proved fruitless on this particular day so, with the loss of altitude, I began setting up for a landing in a field reserved for this purpose at the base of the mountain. Soon I’d be safely on the ground, disappointed that I was unable to extend the flight, but satisfied with the awesome experience.

In what ways do you worship God through recreational pursuits? Are you able to set aside periodic feelings of selfishness and guilt as you chase excellence in your quest for new and fascinating adventures? Do you believe that God is pleased with your efforts?

The Implications of “Whosoever”

The Apostle Peter, like all the other disciples of Jesus, was a Jew. He believed, as did all Jews, that the Hebrew nation was a special family group chosen by God to receive the blessings of His kingdom. Gentiles were considered unclean; they lived in a different world, so to speak, one that was outside the purposes of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

OCC ThailandWhen Jesus appeared and made claims about “the kingdom of God,” the Jews of His day tried to process His words within their Hebrew worldview. But Jesus soon fell into disrepute, partly because he called God His “father,” and partly because he said radical things like “God so loved the worldwhosoever believes in Him shall not perish but has everlasting life.” We love this verse because of its promise, but to the Jews of Jesus’ day this claim was nothing short of revolutionary…and blasphemous! Continue reading “The Implications of “Whosoever””

The “Foolishness” of God Sacrificing Himself

In an online discussion the other day, a Facebook friend who is an atheist was pointing out what he believes are inconsistencies with the Christian faith. He said the following:

Hell…was created for those who don’t return the unconditional love of a god who sacrificed himself to himself to save all humanity from himself.

FoolishCrossI have spent some time pondering his statement, which was really intended to point out what he saw as absurdities: a god sacrificing himself to save humanity from himself, and sending people to a place of eternal torment because they didn’t look past the absurdity and love him anyway. At face value these ideas do seem to be absurd, don’t they? Continue reading “The “Foolishness” of God Sacrificing Himself”

The Benefits of Gathering Together

In our new church facility, our pastor has spearheaded an effort to create “The Legacy Room.” It is a place in the lower level of the church where “relics” from our past are displayed to help remind us of our rich heritage. As I have pondered the various things on display, I’ve realized that each item represents some sort of gathering or event when God’s people were together, for short or long periods of time, to celebrate His goodness. Continue reading “The Benefits of Gathering Together”

Going Nowhere…Fast!

Yesterday a friend, Paul, and I went sailing on Buckeye Lake in my little 17 foot-long sailboat. Some boats are made for speed, with deep v-shaped hulls and big motors. Other boats, like my sailboat, are made to move easily through the water with as little propulsive energy needed as possible. But this trade-off involves the reality that these “efficient” watercraft do not do well at high speeds…they are made to go slow. Even so, Paul and I were very intent on trying to get my boat to go at its maximum hull speed (the speed up to which the boat is stable) which, for this particular model, is 5 knots, or 5.8 miles per hour. Buckeye Lake Sailing 10-18-13 Continue reading “Going Nowhere…Fast!”

“Seeing” the Gospel

When I was a little guy, we enjoyed playing and skating on the ice that would form on the canal in the winter (our home town has a branch of the Ohio-Erie Canal running through it). Near where we skated was an old barn-like shed that was gray and weathered, and the siding was riddled with gaps through which we would peer. Inside that shed was some kind of airplane. We could see the propeller, but that is about all we could see. We knew the wings were not attached because the shed was too narrow to enclose wings. Still, the thing intrigued us, and we longed to get a full revelation of what was inside. Continue reading ““Seeing” the Gospel”

The Throne of Grace

throne-of-graceSince then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV)

Continue reading “The Throne of Grace”

Our True North

photo of night sky
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Several years ago my son, Phil, and his wife, Sarah, accompanied Donna and me on a nighttime sailing adventure on Buckeye Lake in central Ohio. The evening was beautiful and breezy, with a nearly full moon lighting our way. The boat skimmed across the water as we enjoyed the evening scenery. Even though the lights from the surrounding villages and the glow of the moon muted the brightness of the stars, we were still treated to a lovely display of celestial splendor.

As we peered at the stars we began to talk about the North Star, Polaris, and how it could be found by using the “pointer stars” on the Big Dipper constellation.I explained that the North Star is the only star in the northern sky that doesn’t move as all of the other stars seem to travel in an arc around it as the earth rotates. Phil told Sarah that, as long as you could see the stars in the sky, you can always find north by first locating the Big Dipper, then using it to find the North Star and, thus, true north. Continue reading “Our True North”

Loving What Our Father Loves

At a family gathering recently, some of us were watching various funny and cute videos on YouTube. It all started when my two granddaughters said they wanted to do the “Chicken Dance,” and they recalled a clip from the Lawrence Welk show we had played for them a couple years earlier. One video led to the next, until my daughter-in-law suggested we search for “baby sings Elvis.”

baby sings ElvisThe 5 minute clip is of a 20 month-old baby, Ella, sitting in her car seat as her daddy drives. The dad must have suspected what would happen because he had mounted a video camera in the car pointed directly at the little girl. She obviously adores her daddy because initially she calls out “Daddy!” over and over as they begin their ride. But when the dad cues up Elvis singing “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” on the car’s audio system, Ella passionately sings along, even pounding her hand and swinging her head back and forth at key parts during the song. She has become very familiar with the song that her daddy must have played numerous times in her hearing. Ella loves what her daddy loves. You must watch the video linked here to fully appreciate how precious it is! Continue reading “Loving What Our Father Loves”