Friday, January 19, 2018

Christian Outdoor Object Lesson 62: Arctic Tern



Key Verse

“…it is required of stewards, that they be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 WEB

Lesson

In the Arctic few animals can live. There is one hearty bird that braves the cold conditions called the Arctic tern. The Arctic tern is a medium sized bird that looks rather normal. Yet it is an exceptional bird and not only for its ability to handle the cold climate. The Arctic tern holds the record for the farthest flying bird. As the Arctic summer wanes this tern wings its way south along the coasts of the world’s continents all the way to the oceans of Antarctica.

The seasons of the Southern Hemisphere are opposite to those of the Northern. So, during the Arctic winter Antarctica experiences summer. This is why the tern makes a trip of such great length. It continually seeks the mild summer weather no matter how far it must go. The Arctic tern will literally go to the ends of the earth to stay close to the mild warmth. In this pursuit the Arctic tern flies more than the circumference of the earth each year, totaling 24,901 miles (40,075 km).1 Most terns live about 15 to 30 years. Over the course of their life an Arctic tern can fly as many as 1,000,000 miles (1,609,344 km)!

The Arctic tern offers an insightful example of faithfulness. As followers of God we are called to live according to His standard. Sadly, modern Christians often act more on their feelings than on faithfulness. Many examples throughout the Bible illustrate that it is possible to live a life faithful to the precepts of God such as Abraham, Job, Joseph, and others. Jesus called his followers to obedience to the will of God, no exceptions. When Jesus forgave a person’s sins, he told them to go and sin no more.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes faithfulness as: firm adherence to promises or observance of duty.2 Faithfulness is different from working hard. One can work hard without believing in what they are doing, especially if paid for it. But it is quite difficult to stay faithful to something you do not believe in. We cannot gain God’s favor no matter how hard we work. But the Bible tells us that God rewards faithfulness (1 Samuel 26:23a). Biblical faithfulness means continuing to believe in God’s promises even when we have doubt. It means spreading the gospel no matter what challenges are faced. And it means living righteously and without sin.

How do we remain faithful while still struggling against temptation? The Bible provides the answer. Hebrews 10:26 “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins.” We must not sin deliberately if we wish to remain faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, he remains faithful. He can’t deny himself.” When we are low on faith in the power of Jesus, we can pray and receive the power He offers, He can’t wait to help us. The only way to be faithful is to depend on the power of Jesus’ sacrifice every day! Finally, if we are faithful, we are promised the reward of eternal life. Revelation 2:10b “Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Questions

Can you describe what it means to be a faithful Christian?

If we stumble in sin does this mean we have been unfaithful?

What is the only way we can be truly faithful to God?

How far would you be willing to go to remain faithful to God?

Sources

1 Allan and Helen Cruickshank, 1001 Questions Answered About Birds. (1958). Grosset & Dunlap Publishers. New York. Print.

2 "Faithful." Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed December 26, 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faithful.

Written by David F. Garner

Photo Credit: adriankirby via www.pixabay.com

All verses were taken from the World English Bible (WEB) published 2000 in the public domain.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Christian Outdoor Object Lesson 61: White As Snow



Key Verse

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says Yahweh: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18 WEB

Lesson

There is an old hymn by James L. Nicholson that goes, “Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow, Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” It is curious to wonder what it is that makes snow white. Snow is water, which is clear. Ice is clear and so is water vapor that flows above a boiling pot. Why is snow any different? Snow is white no matter how you look at it. Look over a snow-covered field or mountain, it is white. Pick up a handful of snow, it is white. Pinch a bit of snow between your fingers, it is white.

Visible light appears as different colors. Each color of the rainbow consists of light waves vibrating at unique frequencies. Red light waves vibrate slowly. Blue light waves vibrate more quickly. When light hits an object, it may reflect some light waves, and absorb others. A blue object absorbs all light waves accept those that are blue. The blue light waves reflect and that is what we see making the object appear blue. It is the same for a yellow object and each color of the rainbow. A black object is slightly different, it absorbs all colors of light and so appears black.

A white object is exactly the opposite, it reflects all colors of light. A snow flake is a minute crystal with several surfaces. When the light hits these surfaces, it bounces in all directions. All colors of light reflect in every direction. When all the colors blend together the object appears white.

In the Bible sin is often described as a dark stain on our heart making it dirty. Thankfully Jesus came and sacrificed himself so that we can be forgiven of our sin. We are then pure and spotless again. Think of a clear sunny morning after a fresh snowfall and the blinding brilliant white that is so bright you can scarcely look at it. That is how pure Jesus promises to make your heart. In fact, when we receive the cleansing forgiveness of Jesus we become purer than snow. And then we can sing with Mr. Nicholson, “The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.”


Questions

What is your favorite snow related activity?

Why do you think purity is represented with the color white in the Bible?

What does it mean to have a pure and clean heart?

As a mostly good person, do you really need Jesus’ forgiveness?

Written by David F. Garner
 Photo Credit: Nick Mealey via www.flickr.com under a CC 2.0 license minor changes made.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Christian Outdoor Object Lesson 60: The Rest of Birds




Key Verse

“In peace I will both lay myself down and sleep, for you, Yahweh alone, make me live in safety.” Psalm 4:8 WEB

Lesson

How does a bird sleep in a tree? One may think they sleep in their nest. Most birds only live in a nest while they are raising young. They rest of the time they sleep perched on a branch. The mechanism God has given birds to stay in a tree during sleep is quite marvelous. As a bird begins to drift off to sleep its muscles relax just like you and I. As this happens the grip of the bird on the branch tightens increasingly. Birds have a special arrangement of tendons in their feet and legs that tighten as they lower into a resting position.

The large flexor tendons in the toes squeeze gradually so that the bird’s toes are automatically pulled in like a clamp creating an ever-tightening grasp. This enables the bird to stay supported upright in the tree without muscular effort. At the same time the bird lays its head on its back (as many birds do) for a nice feather pillow and drifts to sleep knowing it is perfectly safe even if a high wind rattles and shakes the tree. Most all birds have this unique clamp-like foot, even those that do not roost in trees, such as chickens.1

This amazing fact about birds holds a significant lesson for our spiritual life. Throughout the Bible God invites us to find rest in Him. He asks us to trust that he is in control of everything. He promises to give us rest, peace, and restoration. Resting in God’s promises can be very hard to do, especially when life seems to be going out of control. When life gets windy and tosses us about, we want to take more control of our life rather than resting more in Jesus and trusting Him. We must grow in our rest with God.

Learning to rest in God through the storms of life does not happen instantly, but it will happen if we continue to give our worry to God. King David, the author of Psalms, knew how to rest in God because he learned to through many difficult times. He knew he could sleep peacefully because Yahweh, or God, promised to make him live in safety. Birds know they can sleep peacefully in a tree even through a storm because God protects them. The very same promise is offered to each of us.

Questions

What is your favorite kind of bird?

Can you think of other ways God provides for the birds? (see Matthew 6:26-27)

How do we grow in our ability to rest in God?

Why do we experience hardship and trials if God promises us peaceful rest? (see James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28)

Sources

1 Allan and Helen Cruickshank, 1001 Questions Answered About Birds. (1958): 124-125. Grosset & Dunlap Publishers. New York. Print.



Written by David F. Garner

Photo Credit: Paolo De Marchi via www.flickr.com

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christian Outdoor Object Lesson 59: Shadowy Reputation




Key Verse

“Don’t judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” John 7:24 WEB

Lesson

This lesson is best done on a sunny day. A tree shadow works best but it can be adapted to any object with a large shadow.

Facing away from a large tree, look at the trees shadow. Describe the tree: how tall is it? how big around? what color? how old? what hardships has it faced in its life, drought, forest fire, lighting strike? You cannot give a precise description because you are not looking at the tree itself but rather how the sun and ground distort its image.

The shadow is a lot like a reputation. Other people can distort a person’s reputation or image. That’s why we are not to judge others by appearance, by their reputation, or by hearsay. Instead we are to judge with righteous judgement. Another translation says to judge with innocent judgment.

Jesus taught that people can be known by their fruits or actions. But man looks on the outside and only God knows what’s on the inside and knows what truly motivates a person to do the things he or she does. A tree is determined by the type of fruit it produces, not by its shadow. Turn around and describe the tree now: how tall is it? what color? how big around? what hardships has it faced in its life?

If we want to truly know a tree we must take time to get to know it. To interact with it. Foresters measure trees with tape measure and take core samples to see how drought, fire, or lighting has affected it. That is how God knows each of us. That is how He wants us to get to know others. Whenever you see a shadow think about how you can get to know people instead of judging them by reputation or appearance.

Questions

Have you ever been judged by your reputation or appearance? How did that feel?

How did Jesus treat people with a bad reputation or appearance?

Does Jesus know what it is like to be judged on reputation or appearance?

What does it mean to judge with righteous judgement?


Written By David F. Garner


Friday, December 22, 2017

Christian Outdoor Object Lesson 58: Oh Christmas Tree




Key Verse

Evergreens will grow in place of thorn bushes, firs will grow in place of nettles; they will be a monument to the Lord, a permanent reminder that will remain. Isaiah 55:13 (NET©)

Lesson

The Christmas Tree is perhaps the most iconic symbol of Christmas, and one of the loveliest. Why do we decorate a tree in honor of the birth of the Savior of the world? Christmas trees are typically Evergreen trees (Latin: sempervirens). Evergreens include pines, firs, cedars, and cypress. Evergreens get their name because they are always green, even through long cold winters. Evergreens have been a symbol in many cultures of the promise that winter will end and spring and sunshine will come again.

The modern Christmas tree can trace its roots to the tradition of the “paradise tree” in the Middle Ages. These trees had fruit hung in them representing the lost Garden of Eden, paradise, which Christ came to restore. Over the centuries ornaments, candy, and candles slowly replaced the hanging fruit.1,2  Christmas trees have been topped with many things throughout history. The two most common tree toppers are the star and the angle. The star represents the Star of Bethlehem that appeared as a sign of the coming Messiah and led the wise men to Jesus (Matt. 2:2). The angle represents those angles in the story of Jesus that announced his birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14).

Christmas trees are often decorated with fabulous colors. These colors hold spiritual meaning: red represents the sacrifice of Jesus, green represents hope of coming spring and of Jesus’ soon return, gold symbolizes the majesty of Jesus, white represents the purity of Jesus, silver represents our redemption, blue symbolizes the royalty of Jesus as King.

At the center of Christmas decorations is the tree itself. This is the most important piece. It is the pillar that never dies; it offers hope in the deepest, darkest winter. Long before the Christmas tree, God, speaking through Isaiah, pointed to the evergreen tree as a permanent symbol of his promise, and Jesus is that promise.


Questions

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

What other parts of Christmas represent the story of redemption?

How does gift giving symbolize Jesus?

What can we do to keep Christ in Christmas?


Sources

1 Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait. “Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?” (December 11, 2008). Christianity Today. Accessed December 21, 2017 from http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/december/why-do-we-have-christmas-trees.html.

2 Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. “Christmas tree.” (October 10, 2017). Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, inc. Accessed December 21, 2017 from https://www.britannica.com/plant/Christmas-tree.

Written By David F. Garner
Photo Credit: cocoparisienne via www.pixabay.com

Friday, November 17, 2017

Christian Outdoor Object Lesson 57: Keep The Flame Burning



Key Verse

“So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12 WEB

Lesson

The Protestant Reformation was about telling people about salvation by faith alone. John 3:16 clearly states that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved. So why is there a verse in Philippians talking about working out your own salvation? We can not earn salvation, right? This is true, but there is more to it.

If you have ever built a fire, or seen one built then you know it takes some work. First you need a safe place to build a fire such as a fire ring. Next you need to gather all the materials. You will need to gather several different sizes of wood, some tinder, and a fire source such as a match. Once you gather all the wood you need to separate it into different sizes and make sure it is dry. Once this is done you are ready to begin building your fire.

First put the tinder down in the center. Tinder can be things such as lint, wood shavings, or dry grass. Next add the kindling. Kindling are small twigs and sticks that will catch fire quickly. Finally, you can position the fuel wood around the kindling. This is the big pieces that will keep the fire going for a long time. Now you can strike the match and light the fire. But as you probably already know, your job is still not done. Once the tinder is lit, you must blow and fan the flame so it can grow. You must constantly tend the fire to keep it alive or it will go out. Once you have a roaring fire you must still stoke it and add more fuel.

Following Christ is a lot like building a fire. We receive salvation in an instant and we can do nothing to earn that gift. It is a spark that sets a spiritual fire in our hearts. But as Paul says in Philippians 2:12 we must work to keep the flame alive. We must fight against the temptations of our sinful nature. We must make it a priority to spend time with Jesus. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness. It is free. But we must work to live the way God asks us after we receive salvation to keep the fire in our hearts alive as long as we live. The best part is God will freely give us the strength to do so!

Questions

What did Jesus mean when he said, “take up your cross and follow me” in Matt. 16:24?

How do we receive God’s free gift of salvation?

What is the spark that sets a spiritual fire in our hearts?

What happens if we die before we have a chance to work on living the way God expects?



Written by David F. Garner

Photo Credit: Alexas_Fotos via www.pixabay.com




Friday, November 10, 2017

Activities: Ideas To Get Your Kids Outside!



How can you get your kids outdoors? This is an important question! Recent research along with common sense suggests that today's kids spend too much time inside. Checkout these quotes from high profile sources:

“Increasing evidence demonstrates the many benefits of nature on children's psychological and physical well-being, including reduced stress, greater physical health, more creativity and improved concentration.” – American Psychological Association1

“research suggests that children disproportionately suffer the long-term developmental consequences of limited experiences in nature…” – National Institute of Health2

“The natural stimulation of being outside seems to replenish mind.... It re-energizes the part of the brain that controls concentration, checks urges and delays gratification.” – The Washington Post3

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Lack of outdoor time has become such an issue that governments and schools are acting to help get kids back outside. The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act included for the first-time Federal funding available for school programs that incorporate outdoor learning through environmental education. Many states have No Child Left Inside programs. Forrest Kindergarten programs are becoming more popular. Nearly every State and Federal Park and many local parks offer programs designed specifically for kids. Our kids seem to be going outside on their own less and less, so programs help to reverse that trend. Parents, teachers, and youth leaders can help to get kids outside. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

1. Create a Green Hour each day that your child spends outside, weather permitting.

2. Try different activities until your child finds something they really enjoy. Keep doing new activities from time to time.

Here are some activity ideas to try:

Take children to the park and go on a scavenger hunt. This is a great introduction for children who don't spend much time outside to show them it can be fun.

Get guidebooks that can be used to identify trees, birds, rocks, or other items in the yard. There are also apps that can help in identifying.

Start a photo album or PowerPoint of pictures taken outdoors of birds, flowers or the weather. Identify and label each one.

Build a fort in the yard. Learn about wilderness survival skills and practice them outdoors. Spend the night in the fort or emergency shelter.

Make a map of your yard or community. They can make it as detailed as they like in the sand or on paper. Help them use a compass to make it more accurate.

Put up a feeder, house, or bath for birds or squirrels or insects. Bat houses are also common. Research what type of feed or houses are best for different species in your area. Learn how to make your own feeders or houses.

Collect samples of natural objects. Make a poster identifying what was collected.

Learn to identify cloud types and predict the weather. Gather some weather tools such as a thermometer to track the weather and learn to predict it.

Star gaze at night. Learn to identify the them and their movements. Consider getting a telescope or joining an astronomy club and using theirs.

Plan a camping trip in your own yard or a local campground. Learn what all you need to go camping and pack everything. If camping in your yard, consider staying out of the house until the next morning. This will make it more realistic.

Get some typical outdoor toys like a bicycle, scooter, jump rope, frisbee, basketball hoop, or trampoline for your child. Ask them which they like. These items don't have to be new.

Go for an evening or morning walk for 20-30 minutes. This is another great family activity. Play I-spy along the way.

Let your child play in puddles or in the mud. Most kids love to do this especially after it rains. Be sure use old clothes.

Plant a garden of food or flowers in your yard or in pots. Consider getting your child involved in a local community garden.

Pick your own food. At certain times of the year many farms allow the public to come and pick their own produce such as berries. Afterword make a delicious recipe.

Create nature art. Let your child collect several natural items like leaves, rocks, shells. Then do an art project such as decorating a flower pot, making a collage, or preserving them. Similarly, create art outside with sidewalk chalk or painting.

Create a sensory journal. Try to see how many different colors, smells, sounds, or textures your child can find. Have them record and describe each one and identify what made it. Don't include taste, you don't want a child to lick something poisonous.

Learn some outdoor games like hide and seek or lawn games like corn hole. Play these once or twice a week with your child or teach them to play with others. There are hundreds of games that can be played outside. Look for new ideas online or in a book. Consider enrolling your child in an organized sport like soccer.

Get your child a magnifying glass kit. Have them log or journal their discoveries. They can also draw what they see. Alternatively try a microscope kit.



Give your child some outside chores like tending the lawn, weeding, picking up trash, washing the car, or raking leaves.

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Written by David F. Garner




References:

1 Amy Novotney. “Getting back to the great outdoors” (March 2008). Monitor. 2008;39(3):52. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/03/outdoors.aspx.

2 Susan Strife and Liam Downey. “Childhood Development and Access to Nature: A New Direction for Environmental Inequality Research.” Organization & Environment. 2009;22(1):99-122. doi:10.1177/1086026609333340. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3162362/.

3 Shannon Brescher Shea. “How gardening can help build healthier, happier kids.” The Washington Post. 28 July, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/on-parenting/how-gardening-can-help-build-healthier-happier-kids/2017/07/17/d9047164-6599-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html.