By Matthew M. Billiot, student news writer, and Ariel C. Emberton, student news writer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – In the first of many activities celebrating Earth Day at Campbellsville University, Dr. Matthew Sleeth, founder and director of blessedearth.org, said at chapel April 3, “Sabbath keeping is not a condition to get into heaven, but it’s a condition that heaven is in if you get there.”
“What I have learned more than anything else is that the Sabbath is an act of trust.”
Sleeth was on campus for a Kentucky Heartland Institute on Public Policy (KHIPP) event April 2. Bill Hughes, who also works for blessedearth.org, led a mini-retreat at Clay Hill Memorial Forest April 4.
“Growing up, everyone kept the Sabbath,” Sleeth said.
“It was a law for things to be closed on Sunday. There was only one business in town that would take your money on Sunday, and they all had steeples.
“In one lifetime all that has changed. You are the first Christians to live life without keeping the Sabbath,” Sleeth said.
“When I meet a believer, who keeps the Sabbath, there’s something different about them,” Sleeth said.
“I have been keeping the Sabbath since I became a believer, and my wife was Jewish so she knew about the Sabbath, too.”
“The Sabbath is the longest commandment, and it applied to God before it applied to people,” he said.
“We should rest, our children should rest, immigrants should rest, animals should rest,” Sleeth said. “Every generation of Christians has kept the Sabbath but there is no condemnation if you do not keep it.”
Sleeth said, “Commandments one through three belong to God, commandments five to nine belong to humans. I believe the 10th commandment is a bridge between heaven and earth. It applies to both humans and God.”
Sleeth said, “We are hearers of the word on the Sabbath, and beautiful things happen on it. For me, going to church, then eating a meal with extended family and then taking a nap is how we spent the Sabbath.”
“The Old Testament is how far you can get away from God before you cross the line, and The New Testament shows you how close you can get to God,” he said.
“There is an extreme correlation between keeping the Sabbath and divorce,” Sleeth said.
“You will not fail, because God honors his promise,” he said.
“I invite you to try the Sabbath, do not try to start to keep the Sabbath during finals, though,” Sleeth told the students in the audience.
At the KHIPP forum, Sleeth’s lecture focused on trees and the role they play in scripture. Sleeth said approximately one-third of the first three chapters of Genesis mentions trees. Trees play a vital role as examples of God and Jesus in the Bible and are used as examples of life throughout scripture.
“God loves trees,” Sleeth said.
Trees provide humanity with one of the most important things related to our survival — oxygen.
Sleeth said they also provide us with more items such as medicine, furniture and food. It’s no wonder, Sleeth said, that we, as humans, are attracted to trees.
This is why children are often adamant about climbing trees and trees are admired for their shade.
When Sleeth was a child, he recalled his father and grandfather planting trees at his school in Maryland and this is why at such a young age he learned to plant trees.
Sleeth said throughout life, humanity will plant trees for a multitude of occasions from births to deaths and more often for decoration. He encouraged people to also plant trees when someone chooses to come to faith. When Sleeth was doing his residency, (he is a former emergency room doctor), he planted trees along the street where he lived and today he goes back to see their growth.
While Sleeth planted and loved trees throughout his youth and adult life, it wasn’t until his mid-’40s he became acquainted with God and became a believer. Sleeth said he began to question things and now tells people that “if you have a question read the scripture.”
During his reading of the scripture, Sleeth realized trees were mentioned frequently and said they are the most mentioned living object in the Bible.
Sleeth’s realization of the importance of trees has brought him to also realize they are being redacted from biblical teachings. Sermons about trees are a rare occurrence in church and part of this is because trees are losing their importance in today’s society.
The reason for this, Sleeth said, could be a multitude of reasons from relevance, economics and dualism. Churches have fewer and fewer windows which block out God’s earth and create a state of alienation between humanity and God’s physical world.
Sleeth compared Jesus and his faith to that of a tree.
“Jesus is the lamb’s blood who died and opened the door to heaven,” he said.
Sleeth urged people to pay more attention to trees and read the scripture. In closing, Sleeth said “Heaven is the place with trees.”
Campbellsville University is a widely-acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 12,000 students offering over 90 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The university has off-campus centers in Kentucky cities Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Hodgenville and Liberty with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Summersville, all in Kentucky two in California at Lathrop, near San Francisco, and in Costa Mesa, and a full complement of online programs. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.
Campbellsville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificates, associate, baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the status of Campbellsville University.