Read an Excerpt
Serving God, Saving the Planet Guidebook
By J. Matthew Sleeth
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2012 Blessed Earth and Dot&Cross
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSession 1
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."
—Genesis 1:1–3 NIV
This was the beginning of the beginning—the moment when god chose to create a universe for His own glory. God speaks the first sentence of a love story that will include all creatures and all people throughout all the ages ... and it all begins with light.
Everyone we know and everything we see starts with god speaking light into existence. Scripture is full of references to light: light is used to represent god's goodness (Psalm 56:13), a guide (Psalm 43:3), and the truth (John 3). God Himself is light (1 John 1:5). So, it's not surprising that when god sends His only begotten Son, He is called the "Light of the World" who conquers all darkness. And we, as followers of Jesus, are called to be children of light (Ephesians 5) and the light of the world (Matthew 5).
In choosing to follow Christ, we become new people with new priorities. God changes our hearts ... and our behaviors change, too. It's not about following a list of rules; it's about following the lifestyle of Jesus.
Just before Jesus left this earth, He said, "go into the world and preach the gospel to all the creatures, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I've commanded you." The very first commandment we were given in the Bible is recorded in genesis 2:15. We were told to tend and care for this garden—the earth. We can't go out and make disciples while simultaneously destroying the water, the air, and the creatures that god loves. If we don't respect the world around us, we're missing a major part of what god commanded us to do.
It's time for the church, as children of the light, to take a leadership role in caring for the planet. And it will be good.
REFLECTIONS ON LIGHT
My first scientific encounter with light occurred in kindergarten. I can't recall my teacher's name, but I remember the experiment we conducted.
Our class filled two clay pots with dirt. We planted bean seeds in both pots and watered them. We then placed one pot in a closet and shut the door and put the other outside in a courtyard, in the sunshine.
After a number of days, both plants sent up shoots—and for a short while they resembled each other. Both grew on the energy stored within the planted seed. As the days passed, the plant in the sun began to change. It turned green and beautiful. The plant in the dark closet continued to grow for awhile, but it looked pale and spindly. It never produced any fruit or seeds of its own.
What I learned in kindergarten is that life runs on sunshine. Irrespective of whether it's you, me, or a tree, life on earth is dependent on the element of light.
When we give ourselves over to God, we step from darkness into a great light. The light is necessary for beauty, growth, and bearing fruit. We cannot supply the light on our own any more than the plant in the closet can make itself green.
—Dr. Matthew Sleeth
SESSION NOTES: LIGHT
As you watch the first film session on Light, feel free to use the space below to jot down any notes, thoughts, and questions.
SESSION QUESTIONS: LIGHT
(1) Why do you think the creation story begins with light?
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." —genesis 1:3–4 NIV
(2) Can you recall an experience when light made you feel closer to God—through an inspiring sunrise, rainbow, light sheeting through the clouds, or sunset? Describe the scene and what it taught you about God.
"When we behold the light and brightness of the sun, the golden edges of an evening cloud, or the beauteous rainbow, we behold the adumbrations of His glory and goodness, and in the blue sky, of His mildness and gentleness." —Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), Reflections of Glory
(3) Dr. Sleeth explains, "As the light of the world, Jesus is a beacon for all of us. He's a model of how to live, how to conduct our everyday life." In what sense is Jesus a model for our everyday choices?
(4) What does it mean to become a "child of the light"? What actions are "light" and what actions are "dark" in terms of caring for creation?
"Jesus asks us to become children of light." —Dr. Matthew Sleeth
(5) A regular incandescent bulb wastes 90 percent of the energy it consumes producing heat instead of visible light. In what ways do we waste our energy and not produce the light that God wants us to?
(6) By contrast, an energy-efficient bulb uses about 90 percent of the energy going in to make light. It's light that we can do something by. In practical terms, how does stewarding our resources more wisely show our love for God and our neighbors around the world?
A CHANGED HEART = A CHANGED LIFE
Caring for god's creation intersects with every aspect of our Christian walk, including how we steward electricity and light. If we can do 10 percent better each year, we are headed in the right direction!
Matthew has always been obsessed with light; our home has been the testing ground for lighting technology. We have tried every new kind of light bulb on the market, going back more than twenty years to those first energy-saving bulbs that buzzed and gave off a harsh light. When we moved the last time, a friend jokingly suggested that we start a museum of Light Bulb History. * Energy-saving light bulbs use about one-quarter the energy of standard light bulbs and last up to ten times longer.
If you have been reluctant to buy energy-saving light bulbs because you think they give off an unflattering light, give the new "soft" and "warm" bulbs a try. Their light is indistinguishable from regular light bulbs. Plus, the wide selection of bulbs available today makes it possible to find the right energy-saving bulb for every imaginable wattage and fixture. Several light bulb manufacturers even make CFLs designed for use in candelabras and on dimmer switches.
Energy-saving bulbs do cost more initially, but the average payback in energy savings takes less than a year—even sooner if you use rebates or find bulbs on sale. Conventional bulbs are the most energy-intensive, followed by halogens, then compact fluorescents. The most efficient bulbs are light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.
Turning lights off when not in use is the easiest way to save energy. Dimming your lights also can cut back on electricity bills. * About 90 percent of the electrical current used to power standard light bulbs creates heat instead of light.
This makes energy-saving bulbs not only vastly more efficient, but also much safer. According to an EPA Energy Star fact sheet, if every American home replaced just one standard light bulb with an energy-efficient bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes, retain more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent offgassing equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars. Simply changing our light bulbs can also save lives that would otherwise be lost due to respiratory illnesses and asthma attacks caused by air pollution from coal-fired power plants, especially among children and senior citizens.
One common question about CFLs concerns the mercury they contain. It's true: a CFL bulb contains a minuscule amount of mercury (4 mg on average), about one-fifth of the mercury found in the average watch battery and less than 1/600th of the mercury found in a home thermostat. However, the amount they contain is small compared to the amount of mercury that coal-burning power plants emit to power the much-less-efficient incandescent bulb. A power plant will emit four times as much mercury to power a 60W incandescent bulb as compared to an equivalent CFL.
Those signs you see when you go fishing warning children and pregnant women to avoid eating the catch are not because of toxins dumped into the water. The concern over mercury poisoning comes primarily because of the mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants that settles in our rivers and lakes. To properly dispose of a burned-out CFL, just drop it off at a local Home Depot or IkEA store, or check out earth911.org for other safe disposal options.
The bottom line: using compact fluorescents cuts back on your electric bill, is safer for the environment, and better for people.
Adapted with permission from Go Green, Save Green: A Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money, and God's Green Earth (Tyndale, 2009).
GOOD STEWARD ACTION PLAN: LIGHT
1. Pick two or more new actions from the suggested lists to commit to today and this year—or come up with your own ways to conserve light and electricity.
2. Go to blessedearth.org and join our community of good Stewards. Explore the website to find additional ideas for saving energy and becoming a better steward of god's creation.
3. We will send encouragements to you and help you stay on track with your goals. We're all in this together, so share your journey. Let us know what was easy, and what was difficult; inspire others with your story!
TODAY, LORD, HELP ME TO: Pick at least two of the following goals, or come up with your own actions.
* Turn off lights when I leave the room.
* Rely on natural light as much as possible. memorize at least one Scripture about light (use a Bible concordance if needed).
* Pray for the millions of people in the world who live without a reliable source of electricity.
* Pray for the millions of people in the world who exist in spiritual darkness.
THIS YEAR, LORD, HELP ME TO: Pick at least two of the following goals, or come up with your own actions.
* At night, walk through my house with a flashlight and note how many lights are left on 24/7 (computers, audio equipment, etc.). Eliminate as many as possible by plugging these appliances into power strips and turning them completely off when not in use.
* Switch at least seven incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient bulbs. (LED are best, then CFL, then halogen, then dimmable or lower wattage incandescent.)
* Encourage family and coworkers to turn off lights when they leave the room.
* Place at least one Scripture about light in a place that I see often (on the refrigerator, on my computer, next to an outlet or light switch).
"I love the symbolism of beginning our Genesis 2:15 journey by changing light bulbs." —Dr. Matthew Sleeth
Excerpted from Serving God, Saving the Planet Guidebook by J. Matthew Sleeth Copyright © 2012 by Blessed Earth and Dot&Cross. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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