Unexpected Lessons in My Father’s World—Life Application for January 1, 2017

December 25, 2016 No Comments »
Unexpected Lessons in My Father’s World—Life Application for January 1, 2017

David Faust

faustDo you know that groundhogs can climb trees? I didn’t realize this was possible, but recently I saw a groundhog sitting on a limb about 15 feet off the ground in the plum tree behind our house. My wife, Candy, took a picture of it to prove we weren’t seeing things. For further verification I did an online fact-check and discovered that groundhogs climb trees when they are searching for something to eat or trying to escape from danger. This unusual experience left me with two questions: 1—Why aren’t they called “skyhogs” or “tree hogs”? 2—What other facts of nature have escaped my notice? Scientific knowledge abounds these days, but there’s still a lot to learn.

A Lot to Learn

While vacationing in northern Michigan last summer, Candy and I heard about Petoskey stones—smooth chunks of fossilized coral unique to the area around Lake Michigan. I walked the beach near the city of Petoskey and excitedly filled my pockets with 10 or 15 unusual-looking rocks.

Later I was disappointed and a little embarrassed when a friend pointed out that the treasures I collected are not really Petoskey stones at all. Lacking knowledge of geology, I had picked up what turned out to be some manmade leftovers from road construction along the beach. Rather than throwing away my phony Petoskey stones, I keep them as a reminder that I still have a lot to learn about my Father’s world.

The Earth Is Full

Psalm 33 reminds us, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (v. 6). “For he spoke, and it came to be” (v. 9). God not only created the earth; he filled it with light, water, rocks, plants, trees, and animals of all kinds for people made in his likeness to enjoy and to manage.

A minister named Maltbie D. Babcock loved God’s creation. On walks near his home in Lockport, New York, he enjoyed the majestic scenery along the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, often telling his wife he was “going out to see the Father’s world.” After his death in 1901, Babcock’s wife published some of his writings, and his love for nature lives on in a poem later put to music. You probably recognize the words:

“This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought / Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.”

There’s a dark side to the story, however. Babcock and his wife had two children who died in infancy. And at the height of his ministry career, Babcock died at the age of 42. The presidents of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University eulogized him at his funeral. Why did a gifted, respected preacher who expressed such deep love for God die so prematurely?

Life is filled with unsolved mysteries and painful sorrows. Paradoxically the same world that is full of beauty and exciting new discoveries is also full of danger and disappointment. Amid all the unanswered questions, God’s Word urges us to embrace a faith-stretching reality: “the earth is full of his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:5).

Life in our Father’s world is painful and complicated, but Maltbie Babcock got it right when he wrote:

“O let me ne’er forget / That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”

David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.

As you apply today’s Scripture study to everyday life, read Engage Your Faith by David Faust and the correlating Evaluation Questions.

Daily Readings

Dec. 26

M.

Psalm 146:1-4

Praise, Worship, and Trust

Dec. 27

T.

Psalm 146:5-10

Those Whose Help Is the Lord

Dec. 28

W.

Psalm 33:10-17

The Limits of National Power

Dec. 29

T.

Psalm 33:18-22

Hope in God’s Steadfast Love

Dec. 30

F.

Romans 1:16-20

Creation a Witness to God’s Plan

Dec 31

S.

Micah 6:6-8

Doing Justice and Kindness with Humility

Jan. 1

S.

Psalm 33:1-9

Hymn of God’s Greatness and Goodness

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