Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nature as a Source of Health

First Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Nature as a Source of Health”
For the week of March 13-19, 2011
The memory verse for this week says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Psalms 19:1-2). In nature we see the glory (power) of God’s creative supremacy and influence. We cannot help being amazed – whether we are religious or irreligious – by the vastness and power displayed in our universe.
For example, it has been calculated that the energy produced in one second by our sun could power all the earth’s energy needs for roughly one million years! 
Our sun is just an average sized star. Other stars (“suns”) are enormous in comparison to our sun! Furthermore, it is estimated that there are about 200 billion galaxies in our universe with an average of 100 billion “suns” per galaxy. The combined energy of all these stars is incomprehensible. Without a doubt, the heavens actually do declare the creative genius and power of God.
But we as Christians understand that God’s glory is much deeper and more significant than His ability to create in the physical realm. God’s creative ability may cause us to feel awe, and wonder, and probably some fear at His power, but God desires us to see all of this as a conduit for His love and goodness towards us. Raw power alone, can never lead someone to love and cherish the one who possesses the power, unless we see that power manifested in a safe, responsible, and caring manner.
Scripture shows that God’s glory is much greater than His creative and sovereign power. A deeper appreciation of God’s glory illuminates His character. When Moses asked to see God’s “glory” (Exodus 33, 34), he was not shown a display of raw power such as a volcano, an earthquake, a laser light show, or massive revelation of fire. Instead, he saw a revelation of God’s goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and justice. God’s greatest glory is not His power, but the inherent beauty and goodness of His character.
It is clear how the heavens and all of creation reveal to us God’s power. But how does creation reveal to us His glorious character? Where in nature and creation do we see the benevolence, mercy, and equity of God? This is not so readily perceived by weak, short-sighted mortals.
At times we see faint shadows of what the Garden of Eden must have been like. There are stories such as “Christian the lion,” which was a top YouTube video a couple of years ago. A lion cub was purchased at Harrods of London in the late 60’s by a couple of bachelors living in a London apartment. They named him Christian because they exercised him on the grounds of the local church. After a year or so, Christian became too big for them to care for. They sent him to Africa to be introduced to the wild through the care of the “Born Free” lion conservation team. After a year, and then again two years later, the men went to visit Christian in the wild. They were cautioned that Christian would probably have forgotten them and that the lion might attack them. Both encounters, recorded on video, show Christian running towards his old friends, jumping up, throwing his paws around them, and hugging them. Even the two females in Christian’s pride greeted the men without hostility! What a picture of the friendship and community that God originally intended should exist between man and all of the animal kingdom. 
1 John 4:16 tells us that love is the most fundamental attribute, the foundational reality, the most basic truth of who God is. All aspects of God’s glory, of God’s character, can be understood through the lens of love. 1 Corinthians 13 defines for us the essence of that love. It says that love “does not seek its own.” Love does not look out for, or have concern for the self. Love – expressed in positive language – looks out for the other. The essence of love – the very nature of God as stated in John 3:16 defines the love of God as the giving of His only begotten Son. God, because He is love, is motivated by the desire to bless and assist others, at any cost to Himself.
But where do we find this principle, this glory of God’s character in nature? “There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. No bird that cleaves the air, no animal that moves upon the ground, but ministers to some other life. There is no leaf of the forest, or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry. Every tree and shrub and leaf pours forth that element of life without which neither man nor animal could live; and man and animal, in turn, minister to the life of tree and shrub and leaf. The flowers breathe fragrance and unfold their beauty in blessing to the world. The sun sheds its light to gladden a thousand worlds. The ocean, itself the source of all our springs and fountains, receives the streams from every land, but takes to give. The mists ascending from its bosom fall in showers to water the earth, that it may bring forth and bud” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 20).
Everything in nature lives to give to another, just as God lives to give to others. Everything in nature expends itself for the benefit of other life forms, just as God expends Himself for our benefit. Plants receive water from the ground and carbon dioxide from us.  These are used to produce carbohydrates and oxygen for us, through the energy of sunlight. We give them carbon dioxide, and they give us oxygen; a perfect illustration of God’s circle of beneficence! Love comes from God to bless us.  A recognition of His constant and generous gifts of love leads us to return to Him our love and appreciation.
The oceans receive water from streams and rivers. Then they give that water back to the earth through clouds that rain down water to replenish those same streams and rivers. Here is another perfect circle of giving which results in receiving. Rightly understood, this principle of giving is the law of life for the universe. Life occurs, and is sustained, only in the giving of what I have, and what I am, for the building up and sustenance of another. This principle is as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the realm of nature.
"‘I seek not Mine own glory,’ ‘but the glory of Him that sent Me’ (John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18). In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father's life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 21). May we participate with God in this circle of beneficence - for each other, and for God Himself - and may the lessons of God’s character (glory) in nature move us to be changed into His image.
--Bob Hunsaker