“Activist and Creation Pathways”
Pt. 4 of Series, “Spiritual Pathways”
November 15, 2020
Those of you who went to college know that not all classes are alike. Some classes, the 101 classes, are the introductory classes. Then, there are the 201 level classes. They are somewhat more advanced. But then most, if not all majors, have requirements for a certain number of 300 level classes. They are the advanced classes, the classes that are more specific in content, which will get you delving deeper into the topic. Our present series, Spiritual Pathways, is on the 300 level.
This material harkens back to what we studied at the beginning of September when Mike Barkau preached on Hebrews 6 which says, “let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” We are not leaving Jesus but we are going deeper, delving into who God is and how we can experience Him more. We are looking at some specifics of how each individual in their own distinctiveness can have a greater understanding of God’s presence. These we have called Spiritual Pathways. Our working definition of a Spiritual Pathway is;
We are covering 7 Spiritual Pathways which are;
7 Spiritual Pathways
|Intellectual||You experience God better by learning more about Him|
|Relational||You experience God better by being involved in significant relationships|
|Serving||You experience God better by helping others|
|Worship||You experience God better by expressing and celebrating your love for God|
|Activist||You experience God better by working for a cause and achieving change|
|Contemplative||You experience God better by being alone with Him for significant periods of time|
|Creation||You experience God better by experiencing the world He made|
So far, we have covered 5; Intellectual, Relational, Serving, Worship and Contemplative. Today, we will conclude this series with the Activist and Creation Pathways. First, we will look at the
- Activist Pathway
The Activist Pathway is something I know about first hand. It is my #1 pathway. Activists are fueled by the wrongs in our world. If they see a wrong in our society, they will want to address it. One exercise they might do is to ask themselves what in our world makes them angry. Once they identified that, then they will want to strategize how to address that. They figure that somebody has to address it and it is going to be them. Activists have a single-minded zeal to do something. They do zeal well. They are zeal junkies. When Jesus said, “Zeal for my house will consume me,” (John 2:17) those with the Activist Pathway are going, “Right on. I am with you, Jesus. When can we get going?”
Activists have a strong sense of vision. They can see a goal to strive for and it is as plain as day. Challenges don’t discourage them. People might say, “This can’t be done,” but Activists say, “You watch me.” They love to live a high-paced, problem-filled, complex, strenuous way of life. At the end of the day, they have used every ounce of energy for the cause. Some have said that because of that, Activists die of heart attacks at 50. Activists are the ones who have a passion to build the church. They are eager to see the potential God has placed in individuals and encourage people to live up to that potential.
And, as we have been saying about every one of the Pathways, Activists see these things as a pathway to grow closer to God. It is their Spiritual Pathway. They don’t just work for a cause for the sake of the challenge, they connect the dots and rejoice that God made them that way and it is in exercising their pathway that they grow closer to God. Listen to the connection between activism and a relationship with God in Psalm 7;
“Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. 7 Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high. 8Let the Lord judge the peoples. Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.9 Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.” Psalm 7:6-9
Do you sense the righteous anger of the psalmist? Do you hear the cause? Do you see the need for the author of the psalm to do something?
Moses might be an example of an activist. You might remember that one day while he served the Egyptian Pharaoh, he saw an Egyptian attacking one of the Israelites. Moses’ anger rose up and he killed the Egyptian. Moses also was recruited by God to go to the most powerful man in the world and demand that the pharaoh let his slave labor force of some 3 million go. Moses was an Activist. There are others. Nehemiah saw that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and that cause consumed him. Elijah confronted the 450 prophets of Baal. As I said, challenges don’t discourage activists. Elijah was figuring that 450 against 1 was about the right odds.
I told you earlier that this is my dominant pathway. I am an activist. I see a cause and, holy guacamole dip, I am all over that. You may have sensed in me that the greatest cause is for people to know Jesus. That has been foundational to my work here. Marriage and family ministry is another of those causes for me. I want so much for couples to have great marriages and great families and I want them to be the best parents they can be with Jesus in the center. These causes are things I have devoted my life to. They are Biblical and they are important. One other cause of mine that is also Biblical and important is the pro-life movement. You have heard that from me as well. Activists see a cause and they will work tirelessly on that cause. Now, for Activists, there are some
- You can end up not knowing yourself or your family
Activists can get so wrapped up in the cause that they lose sight of their physical, emotional or, worse spiritual condition. They may feel isolated and exhausted because they feel that there is too much apathy in our world and in the church. Why, they may even feel that God is working too slowly. Or, they will devote so much time to the cause that their marriage or family suffers. Now, and for the last number of years, I believe I have had pretty good balance between the cause and my family. I tried to have a balance life. Maybe that is why I didn’t die at 50 like some other Activists and I try to encourage our staff to have a balanced life, too. Not too many supervisors will encourage their staff to work less. I try to have a balanced life and I encourage our staff to have one too. But, I will admit that when I was first starting out as a pastor, I didn’t. I worked far too many hours. If I had it to do over again, I’d strive for more balance in the early years. That is why you have heard me encourage people in the earlier years of their careers to get the priorities straight; God first, spouse second, kids third, and then all of the rest. The cause is part of “the rest.” So, the first caution is that you can end up not knowing yourself or your family.
- You need to be careful not to run over or use people
You may be so engrossed in the cause that people become merely stepping stones en route to achieving the cause. Worse, they can become expendable. Activists need to be very careful there.
- You may need to have some thick skin
You may need to crucify your need to be liked. To identify with God and His Kingdom may mean you are hated. To His detractors, Jesus was. You’d better be ready for that and have some thick skin.
- Ways to Grow
- Realize that you don’t just love God, you need Him
Activists can forget that God, and only God, gives the increase. They can think they know how to achieve the cause and forget that it is only by God’s power that anything good will come about.
- Find a team of people you can invest in and work to accomplish big goals
Finding the team forces you to admit you can’t do it alone, that you need others. It can also multiply the results. When your team is working for the same cause, more can be accomplished.
- Stretch yourself
Spend time in solitude and silence. Work on “being” rather than “doing.” Create balance. Alright, we need to save time for the last Spiritual Pathway, the
- Creation Pathway
There was a man in my last congregation who comes to mind regarding this pathway. He was taking a New Member’s class and we were talking about the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” If I am remembering correctly, which, for a man of my years is becoming increasingly more difficult, if I am remembering correctly, this man had been a professor at MIT in the area of Earth and Planetary Sciences, or some such thing. In teaching about creation, I thought I was going to have a fight on my hands. I thought he would come at me with all kinds of proofs that evolution and the Big Bang was correct and a 7 day creation was wrong. I was thinking he might even question the existence of God since that seems to be much of the thinking of many astronomers. However, I was surprised when he said that it was from looking at the stars that he came to believe in God. Creation proved to him that there is a God.
Those with the Creation Pathway don’t have a single doubt about that. They look out into space on a star-lit night and they see God’s hand. They stand at the crest of the Grand Canyon, as Nancy and I did last year, and they are drawn into a closer and closer relationship with the Father of all creation. Or, they sit on the shore of the ocean, see its vastness and give praise to a God who is even far more vast. They resonate with the Psalmist who was just overcome with what God had created and who proclaimed;
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Psalm 19:1-6
Those with the Creation pathway respond deeply to God through their experiences while being outdoors. Being outdoors replenishes them. They may have this experience by looking at the big stuff like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, or they may even find it in the colors of Fall, or the intricacies of a flower. They draw close to God by taking in God’s good creation. It is their pathway to God.
Perhaps the chief example of this pathway is Jesus. A good deal of the Gospel narratives has Jesus doing His ministry outdoors. He was all the time withdrawing from people to go up on a mountain to pray. He went off to be near a lake to commune with the Father. Jesus is an example of the Creation Pathway. Another example could be astronaut John Glenn. While he was in space, he said, “Looking at the earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible.” He saw the hand of God in creation. The antithesis of this could be Carl Sagan who, despite his years as a professor peering into space, declared that there is no God, that God is dead. Carl Sagan may have said, “God is dead.” To which God might have replied, “Carl Sagan is dead.”
- You may be quick to find God on the golf course
How many times has someone said that they are worshipping God on the golf course, or in a tree stand hunting or at a fishing stream. Let’s get real. When you miss that 3 foot putt, are you really thinking about God? Are you really worshipping Him then? I’m not trying to ding golfers or hunters or fishermen at all. After all, I am a golfer myself. But, people with the Creation Pathway need to not use these activities as a substitute for corporate worship. Which brings us to the second caution;
- God does not equal nature
The Bible says that the earth is the Lord’s. New Age philosophy or eastern religions might believe in pantheism which says that the earth is the Lord. They might say that that tree over there is God or that butterfly is God. Of course, that cannot be the case. You can know how false that belief is when they say that cat is God. That cat is God. You know that comes straight from the gates of hell. (You knew I wouldn’t leave without one more reference to cats. Gee, I have said nothing about Yankee Rooters. I’m getting weak in my old age.)
- You can’t find God’s love in nature
Think about that. What can you tell about God from peering into space or standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon? What you can experience about God is His power, His might. The Apostle Paul wrote;
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
Like the man at my previous church, you can come to the conclusion that there is a God and that He is vast and powerful, but you cannot know that that same God is a God of love. Creation will not tell you that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Creation will not tell you that Jesus died on the cross for the salvation of the world. Creation will not tell you that God chose you and predestined you and adopted you and gave you faith through the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Creation cannot tell you that. That is why those with the Creation Pathway need the Bible. They need corporate worship. You can’t find God’s love in nature.
- Ways to Grow
- Spend more time in nature
Be intentional about getting out there but do it to see God. Again, that is what makes this a spiritual pathway and not just an opportunity to commune with nature. Spend more time in nature because that will allow you to spend more time with God. Glorify God while you are playing golf or sitting in the tree stand. Praise Him for the beauty of creation or how all of the pieces of creation fit together so well. Make beauty a part of your spiritual life. Bring beauty indoors. Let your experience of nature draw you closer to God. The second way to grow flows from the first.
- Stay involved in a worshipping community
Again, you cannot find God’s love in nature. You need God’s Word to tell you that. You need the Sacraments to assure you of the forgiveness of all your sins. You need that message that God has an eternal home waiting for you. You cannot get that from nature so you need a worshipping community.
- Let the message of the cross open you to appreciate nature all the more
Martin Luther said, “Now if I believe in God’s Son and bear in mind that he became man, all creatures will appear a hundred times more beautiful to me than before. Then, I will properly appreciate the sun, the moon, the stars, trees, apples, pears, as I reflect that he is Lord over and center of all things.” Indeed, Paul said;
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” Colossians 1:15-16
So, there you have it, 7 Spiritual Pathways, 7 different ways that God uses where you can most naturally sense God’s presence and experience growth. I sure hope this has been helpful for you to rejoice in the distinct way that God has made you and that you can use your special Spiritual Pathway to grow closer to Him.
In Jesus’ name,