We are excited to announce the winners of the photo contest, “Let All Creation Praise Him." There were many stunning images submitted including winter, summer, and spring landscapes, mosses, trees, flowers, birds, and insects all showing the creativity, providence, and power of our God! 

The accompanying essays showed thoughtful engagement with the theme and the images. More than 50 entries were received from across the country. We hope all of the participants enjoyed preparing their submissions as much as we enjoyed reading them!

First Place

Creation's role and our response
By Parker Cunningham from Helena, Alabama

Throughout history people have been captivated by creation. From a poet contemplating a landscape’s beauty to a child discovering a ladybug’s spots, we have all been impacted in some way. God has created nature to glorify himself. We respond rightly to creation when we praise God and care for what he has made.

Creation’s ultimate role is to glorify God. Psalm 19 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Creation testifies to the greatness of God. Everything it does points back to and glorifies him. Every time a bird takes off in flight, it is glorifying God. Every time a wave crashes against the shore, it is glorifying God. Every time the sun sets, it is glorifying God. John Piper perfectly sums up the role of creation. “Everybody looks (at creation) and their comes home a native sense that these things are a painting, they are not the painter, these things are a design, they are not the designer… And the second thing that comes home is, glory. This is beautiful. This is glory...my oh my what must be behind this creation.”

Our natural response when we observe the beauty and intricacy of creation should be to give thanks and praise to the One who made it all! As I was watching the Canadian Goose land, I had a worshipful moment. The power of its flight and the control of its movements called me to praise God. Psalm 148 commands all of creation from heavenly hosts to flying birds to praise him. This call to praise is eternal. Revelation 5:13 pictures a scene in heaven in which every creature in heaven and on earth are singing praises to God for ever and ever. God’s worth deserves eternal praise.

In addition to responding in praise, we should also care for creation. God gave us a mandate to rule, subdue, and have dominion over the earth. This does not mean we can take advantage of or carelessly use God’s handiwork. To rule as children of God is to rule rightly. How does God rule us? With great care, love, and wisdom! That, then, is how we are to rule creation. The Hebrew word for subdue implies the idea of tending and nurturing. God did not design the earth simply for man to use its resources. As stewards over God’s creation, we need to recognize that it serves a higher purpose and refrain from selfishly abusing it.

God orchestrates all of creation in a glorious symphony of praise. He inspires awe and thankfulness for everything that he has made. God has placed us as stewards over the earth. Therefore, we need to carefully nurture it. Never miss an opportunity to see God through what he has made because every aspect of creation invites us to praise him! “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!”

Second Place

Declare the Maker’s Praise
By Shelby Young from Pelham, Alabama

All creation praises God. When birds sing or plants sway in the breeze, it is a visual reminder that creation does praise him. In the midst of winter, when the trees are bare, the plants appear dead. On the inside, however, they are beginning to form new buds and leaves for the coming season. In Genesis 1:11, God says, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed.” Genesis 1:20 says, “Let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” Finally, Genesis 1:3 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” God says that all creation is good. Creation was made to praise him.

The tree in the photo is bare. It is winter and the tree is getting ready for spring. The human eye cannot see the growth occurring inside the branches. However, trees continually grow toward the sunlight, knowing that it will bring them new life. This alone shows that there is a creator. The eye is immediately drawn to the bluebird. It brings vibrant color to the photo. The colorful bird serves as a reminder that there is the promise of spring. Glorious Spring! When there will once again be colorful flower petals, bright green leaves, and joyful bird song. Of course, we would not be able to see any of this without light. Just like without God, we are nothing, without light, creation would not grow or thrive. The light in the photo allows us to see the bird and the dark, seemingly dead branches. Beneath the dark places, we know that there is new life waiting to appear. Psalm 104:24 says, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

As the hymn, This is My Father’s World, by Maltbie D. Babcock, says, “This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise!” We live in a world created by God and for his glory. Therefore, “Let all Creation Praise Him.”

Honorable Mention

Working Together
By Ellie Middendorf from Scotia, Nebraska

Everywhere we look, we see God's creation. I like to share my love for his creation through photography, capturing glimpses of how God has designed everything to work together in beautiful, symbiotic relationships.

My photo shows a bumblebee collecting nectar from a Cosmo flower we planted in our garden, and the flower spreading it's pollen to the bee. Both the bumblebee and the flower are doing what God created them to do. The flower gives off an electrical charge to tell the bumblebee it has nectar. Without this, the bee would not know which flower to visit. Without the bee to spread the pollen, the flower would not reproduce.

Bumblebees are an important pollinator of both crops and wildflowers. Without their God-given role in pollinating crops, the food chain would be greatly disrupted. It is estimated that pollinators provide $200 billion of "work" for agriculture each year. It is amazing that such a small creature could have such a big part in our world. “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalms 104:24). His creation praises him by doing what it was intended to do.

One of the jobs God gave to us when he created us, by which we can praise him, is to care for his creation. In recent years, there has been a huge decline in bumblebees due to diseases such as deformed wing virus (DWV). Researchers have reported that about 11% of tested bumblebees have DWV. So how can we help?

Bumblebees need food from early spring to late fall. We can plant flowers which have a greater amount of pollen and nectar. Some colors of flowers, such as pink, purple, and yellow, do a better job of attracting bees. We can also leave grass, hay and old logs for the bees to provide nesting habitats for them. When we help the bumblebee do what God created it to do, we help it fulfill God's Word spoken through Job, “Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7–10).

Honorable Mention

Unlikely Hero
By Ellie Jasper from Pine Island, Minnesota

Death loses. God wins. We live. What do these things have in common? Several things probably come to mind, but a mushroom is likely not one of them. Death tries to take hold of us and even ruin us forever, but we do not have to let it. God can turn even death into something marvelous. He took the death of this branch and transformed it into a gorgeous mushroom. This mushroom in its stunning array of beauty illustrates the nature of God in many ways and points people back to its creator. Its dazzling appearance echoes the many things the Bible says about God. But its use is not only in its appearance. The mushroom also rids this world of much debris and cleans it profusely. Without it, we would not be able to live, as garbage and dead remains would just pile on top of each other until we were buried alive. All of creation, even things we may not expect, glorify God.

Good things come out of death; Jesus gave us new life through his death. He took this dead branch and out of it, made a beautiful mushroom. Out of a forgotten dead branch, God brought life. He affectionately made something very beautiful and alive out of something seemingly hopeless and without use. God put so much detail on this mushroom; it is brightly colored, fuzzy, and round. How much more detail would he put into us? He cared enough about this mushroom to make it just the way he wanted it. How much more care would he take molding and creating us in his image?

Mushrooms decompose things. Without them, the world would be a mess of disgusting dead things. We'd be buried in debris. God designed a natural cleaner for dead things. The fact that he didn't "forget" anything is evidence to the fact that our creator is a perfect God. Mushrooms may be thought of as gross or disgusting, but they break down dead material and overall make this world much cleaner.

Through this mushroom we can learn other things about God. "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. 1" God created things for his glory. Everything exists for his glory. We clearly see that he is organized, extremely creative, follows through with his promises (rainbow), loving, and caring.

Mushrooms are an integral part of Gods creation and bring glory to him in many ways. They show how amazing things come out of death. Just as the dead branch gave way to a beautiful mushroom, Jesus died to give us new life. The mushroom also shows us what God is like and reiterates what the Bible says about him. In addition, mushrooms take care of dead things and show how God thought of everything. This unlikely hero truly brings glory to our God.

People's Choice

Glory in the Little Things
By Elizabeth Van Bruggen from Sheldon, Iowa

We all make choices in our lives. We choose to hate winter or to love it. To seize the day or let it pass by. To love and serve God or ignore his presence in our lives. The question is, do we choose to do what is right? Do we choose to see God’s glory in everything? When I say everything, I mean everything. God’s glory shines through everything; we just have to look for it.

When we look for his glory, we have to see things through God’s eyes. We have to see the world and know that he hand-crafted creation to be perfect. When we look at the world this way, we see things that amazes us. One of the things that amazes me is a snowflake.

The first sign of winter is white falling from the sky. White represents, purity, cleanliness, and a starting of something new. Winter brings a white blanket of snow that covers the ground. It covers up the black dirt, bare trees, and the dead of fall. It brings a new season and a magnitude of extraordinary little specimens. These specimens are known as snowflakes and are often over looked. In winter they are simply crumpled together as one word, snow. But a snowflake is so much more. A snowflake is unique, delicate, and crystalline. Every snowflake that makes up the blanket of snow is different and exclusive to itself.

God hand-crafted everything in the universe and made it to be just as he said it to be. From the largest star known to man, Canis Majoris, to a tiny snowflake, God made it all. We as humans are unique and made to carry out God’s plans for us. We are to be stewards of the earth.