Archive for March, 2007
Since we all enjoyed the last one, I thought it would be helpful to inform you that Daniel laid out his extensive plans for his fifth birthday party next year. In February, 2008.
His party will be, in his words: “A superhero underwater dinosaur race car party” held at the only venue that could contain such supercharged awesomeness, Chuck E Cheese’s. Mark your calandars now.
It will involve, of course, Tracey playing race car video games while the rest of us slide cars down slides into the mouths of dinosaurs, after which time we would all follow our cars into the dinosaurs mouths as well.
See you there.
March 31st, 2007
My apologies for the lack of content this week - things will be back to “normal” for me as of tomorrow. Well, fairly normal, for those of you who know what my life is like here. So…normal in terms of getting back to a regular writing schedule, as well as jumping back in with the fantastic comments that have come in this week over some of my posts.
Part Two of “What Does it Mean to be a Son of God” tomorrow.
March 29th, 2007
After a brief hiatus from the “Sermon on the Mount” series, I want to get back on track with a critical question that really should challenge me to the core of who I am and what it even means to be a Christian at the end of the age. My point is not that I want to give this challenge, but that Jesus Himself did, two thousand years ago. He raised the bar towards the end of the Beatitudes, when He invited us to become “peacemakers”. Jesus had something in mind when He spoke those words that goes well beyond how traditional theological streams define the blessing that comes to a peacemaker. It was His stated intention and awesome promise that those who lay hold of this heart reality would be called sons of God.
Five hundred years of protestant theology has taught us to think of this phrase in the “positional” sense, as an aspect of our identity that is “automatic” or bestowed to us in the moment of our new birth. The moment we said “yes” to Jesus as Lord and Savior is the moment we became “born again” into the family of God. “Behold!” John spoke in his first letter as he meditated on this stunning truth, “what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” John continues to develop this awesome sentence in a manner that was meant to provide insight into the manner in which God views us as he emphasizes, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
It’s a breathtaking statement that gives the believer a concrete definition of their present position before God as well as a future glimpse into the implications of that position. John’s words were meant to give us both confidence and hope. So I agree that to primarily view our identity as a son of God in a positional manner is correct and beneficial to our growth in God. Yet the scriptures consistently speak of the “already, but not yet” manner in which Jesus establishes His kingdom promises. Thus Peter could be called a “rock” of steadiness long before it was actually true of him. The kingdom of God was at hand in the days of the first advent, but the fullness of what Jesus proclaimed was yet to come. This is why John concludes his statement about our identity as chldren of God with this: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself, just as He is pure.”
In other words, John understood that there is more to being a “child of God” than simply a positional reality at the new birth or theological statement of identity regardless of our lifestyle. John identifies our coming transformation as a future hope that must stir us into present holiness and purity. In other words, one can be in the family yet not be a true spiritual son. A true son is not satisfied with the designation of sonship, but longs to be found in truth as one in whom God is “well-pleased” as we live before Him. A true son longs to be like his father - just as Jesus wanted to reflect His Father in heaven. Jesus did not simply call Himself a Son of the Living God, nor did He appeal to His identity as the Second Person of the Trinity. He actually embodied and exemplified the meekness and humility of His Father as a true and authentic Son - and thus the Father was well-pleased with Him.
This same princple holds true with the modern concept of “spiritual fathers” and “spiritual sons” that at times oversimplifies and waters down the high and rigorous call on those who endeavor to be one of those two things. Many want to be a father or a son - but it takes more than simply having an older man spend time talking about life with a younger man. It takes more than a younger man “carrying the bags” of an older man and making his life and ministry work better, while learning a few tips along the way.
To be a true spiritual father, one must have an rich inheritance in God to give to a true son. There are few true spiritual fathers around the nation today. Few give themselves to a life and pursuit of the things of God that ignite a fire in the inner man. Few are willing to endure the demands of such a life in God - to go somewhere in paving the way that others could emulate and follow. Even fewer are willing to do so in a manner that is exceedingly generous in spirit, that true sons could be (and would be) actually given the inheritance by a father who is not concerned with personal gain or honor but longs to honor his sons.
Again, so much of what passes for “spiritual fathering” today involves older men and women in ministry that are happy for gifted young adults to make their lives and ministries better. While I appreciate training and leadership development, this is not really “spiritual fathering”. Other times, this false reality is expressed in a relationship based mostly on entertainment without God’s purpose at the center. What is the issue? It is common and assumed as a right that is automatic by young and old alike without first exhibiting faithfulness. The spirit of entitlement often sets the culture of a ministry in a wrong place, hindering the process of fathering.
A spiritual father, first of all, must be faithful to God in order to be ministries with substance in God that young people are provoked to imitate. Spiritually boring older people will not be able to function as spiritual fathers, rather, they must have something to give. The test of a leader is to look behind to see if anyone is following you; if no one is following you, then another cannot make you a spiritual leader.
As Paul said, “It is required in stewards (fathers & children) that one be found faithful.” (1 Cor 4:2) This works both ways in the concept of “spiritual fathering” - the reason for its rarity is also found in the corresponding need for faithfulness in the “children” as well. For sons or daughters to have a spiritual father requires that they be faithful, teachable and “able”, or gifted, who are committed to reproduce in others. Paul talked about this in regards to Timothy - who was one of the only men Paul called a “son” (Titus being the other) in all the years he ministered:
The things that you have heard from me…commit…to faithful men who will be able (gifted) to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)
For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own…You know his (Timothy) proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. (Phil. 2:20-22)
Paul lamented the lack of young men who were “like-minded” - which speaks of a faithfulness related to the scriptures and kingdom values that Paul embraced and embodied in life. There had to be “follow-through” on the part of his potential sons by which they gave themselves faithfully to the labors of Paul. As Paul prayed, fasted, taught, and lived, so those who endeavored to be a son to him had to do the same. This rarely happens! The result is that spiritual fathering is not real common because of the low numbers of faithful older people linked up to faithful younger people.
I have shared a little bit about what true spiritual fathering is, but not much about what a true father does. That is beyond the scope of this discussion - and beyond the scope of Matthew 5:8. The core issue is this - many want to rest in their identity as a child of God, yet few want to labor in faithfulness to be found blameless at His coming (1 Cor. 1:8), or confident and unashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28), having been perfected in love (1 John 4:17). Because my hope lies in the completion of His work in me, I purify myself - just as He is pure.
Why? I want to be like Him. I yearn to be a true son to my Father in heaven. There is much that He will give me as a member of His family - but I believe that He will give mor, both today and tomorrow, to those who are found faithful. The parable of the talents in Matt. 25:14-30 bears this out as true. I am not satisfied with a positional reality - I want to labor for internal and external reality as one who is called a “son of God”. I want to be authentic - and authentically like Jesus. I want my lilfe to be a reflection of what matters to Him and what He values. I want all of my heart attitudes to exude godliness and holiness. This is what I believe is knit to the heart attitude of the “peacemaker” - the one who is able to bring reconciliation will be known as an authentic son of God, through and through.
Of course, the depth and the extent of that reconciliation is the topic of tomorrow’s second part. An authentic son who receives an inheritance from His Father, knit to faithfulness, will partner with Jesus to shift and change regions.
March 26th, 2007
Tonight at dinner, Daniel informed us that -
“A long time ago, when I was two years old, I was in my mommy’s belly…and I heard her voice…IN HER GUTS!”
I thought you would want to know.
Side note: Daniel was sporting his camo pants with a blue Spider-Man t-shirt and work boots. Someone commented to my wife that he looked cute. To which my wife, who calls that his “forbidden outfit”, dryly replied -
“Sure. Now all he needs is a red kool-aid mustache and a BMX bike.”
March 24th, 2007
Hello to all! I hope you like the slight adjustments to help the readability of things. Thanks so much to Josh Hawkins for all he has done to help facilitate this little web journal and the overall look and feel of my website. I am thankful to have him as a friend and comrade. Let me (and Josh) know what you think!
I’m still working on my continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. As you may (or may not) recall, I left off at Matthew 5:9, which is an intensely personal passage for me at the moment. Every time I go back to that post and tinker a little, I get a bit messed up - as we like to say here in Kansas City. The cry of my heart to be a true son of God (and thus be a “peacemaker”) is causing me to continually stop, reevaluate my life, and pray. I can only get a few sentences out at a time when I write about that particular heart attitude before I am forced to pause and let it simmer a bit inside of me. I am still at the “yearning” phase of things, waiting for clear language to catch up with the things that my heart is stirred for at the moment. I am sure many of you know what I am talking about. It’s actually sort of a pleasurable place to be. The pleasure in the crucible of the pain of reaching for God comes in those tender moments when somehow, by grace, I just know that He hears me and loves the cry of my heart. Today is one of those days.
It’s one of those days where I am stirred by His kindness and His unbelievable leadership and must say again - “Your gentleness has made me great!” As David cried out in Psalm 18 after he was delivered from Saul and “all of his enemies”, he says this phrase in the midst of numerous unbelievable statements about the kindness and the goodness of God. Some of the other more well known phrases are, “He delivered me because He delighted in me;” and, “For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall.” It is one of the most stirring of all of David’s psalms. He is so gentle! He is so patient! I am stirred by that theme today.
What strikes me about His kindness and the incredible aspect of His patience is to juxtapose those perfect aspects of His love and leadership with His indescribable jealousy and zeal for our righteousness, purity, holiness, and fullness of life and love in our inner man. To ponder a fearsome, passionate, jealous God is to be stirred by a God who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. He is a God of action, of activity, of movement and fierce judgments. He is a God that stirs and speaks. He is a God that shakes and establishes. The incredible and awesome sound that surrounds His throne in Revelation 4 speaks to me of the constant movements and activities of the Holy Spirit in concert with His heart and His desires. O, continuous noise around the throne! He is a God who moves.
And yet, with all of His zeal to deliver me and establish me, He is indescribably patient with me. He is slow to anger. He is unbelievably restrained towards me. I cannot get over His restraint. How can Jesus be so zealous, so jealous, so fiery in His passion - yet so restrained in His mercies towards me? How can He be so patient in the slow and dull responses and reaches of my heart and my innermost longings? How can He be so willing to endure the failures and falls and the slowness of my response to His consistent invitations? How can He be so willing to wait for me to come into understanding and agreement - and slowly change and obey voluntarily, and willingly, frmo the overflow of love within me for Him that is slow in coming?
Yet He is. He is patient. He is perfect in the way that He loves me. He is precise in His leadership of my life. At the right time, He speaks. In the right moment, He acts. At just the right time, He convicts. He leads me gently, and kindly, and tenderly. I love it. I cannot fathom it. He is incredible. I love the way He loves me! I must say it again - His kindness has made me great!
One more thought - I am even more lovestruck and awestruck when I consider the time in history I live in. If there was any time in history that demanded acceleration and urgency on His part, it would seem to be this one. Yet He is continually portrayed as seated on His throne. He is not thrown off, surprised, or weak in His restraint. He is confident, glorious in holiness, fully in control in the awesomeness of His sovereignty. If there was any time in history where Jesus could be “excused” for being a little hard on me in my immaturity and weakness, it would be this one. Still He is so patient! There truly is no other God like Him - He stands alone as the only perfect leader, beautiful in holiness and glorious in the splendor of His love expressed towards me.
I pray that He will shine His glorious light and truth into my heart in a fresh way today, that I might enjoy Him all the more. That I would walk worthy of His calling! This is my prayer today - that I would be, as I said earlier, a true son of such a wonderful God. Amen.
March 23rd, 2007
In my last post, “The Danger of Consensus”, Jerry James left a comment that inspired me to post my response here rather than commenting. Here’s what he had to say:
“When Jesus rules and reigns as King of kings, and Lord of lords, there will be NO vote. Every decree will be made with perfect wisdom and love with not recount of the ballots. Democracy has served the United States well because we are a “Christian” nation, and so the majority have mostly from a Biblical viewpoint. It seems we are reaching a place where believers are no more in the majority and so a democracy becomes a very scary place.”
His comment is right on the money. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that Democracy as a political ideology is a more unmitigated disaster than Communism and Socialism. That sounds so anti-American, doesn’t it? This statement seems especially odd for students of the geopolitical climate of the sixties and seventies, during the height of what was known as the Cold War. Foreign policy during those decades focused in part on the democratization of third world nations in a race to establish stability and prevent what was then the aggressive threat of Communism. If that policy has echoes to our day, it should - the spirit of Communism has been, in essence, replaced by the spirit of Islam as we are now witnesses to what is essentially the same scenario. Thus, in Iraq, we find ourselves in the very “nation-building” scenario President Bush scoffed at while initially running for office against Al Gore. As such the President has committed to build the political infrastructure of that nation with a philosophy of “one-person, one vote.”
As such, he has sealed the fate of all of the “free-peoples” of that nation and handed them over to Shiite Muslim rule.
The reason for this is that, in its purest form, Democracy does not work. People are not by nature “free”. The framers of our constitution understood this and actually built into the constitution checks and balances that mitigated against the worst elements of human nature. The founding fathers, as you may recall, had no interest in establishing a democracy in the classic sense. They understood that “one person, one vote” was a disaster. Thus they established a Republic, or a system of representative rule that served the will of the people while assuring that the minority would be protected from the majority. If your keeping score, the founding fathers would have a sharp disagreement with Barack Obama’s definition of morality.
As John Adams said, a constitutional republic is “a government of laws, not of men.”
Thus the framers of the constitution handed over the actual voting power in their representative government to the landholders. The concept of the universal “right” to vote is a 20th century invention - and it is based on the assumption that all men are created equal and have certain inviolable rights. I agree with half of the previous sentence. It goes back to one of my initial premises, which I want to expand on now - the concept that men by their nature are created “free” and thus should be allowed by divine right to exercise their basic freedoms. Men are not by nature free. They are born into sin. They love, as Jesus noted, darkness. They are self interested, self-centered, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, content with a form of godliness that denies the power of a life lived according to the wisdom of God.
Thus the constitution was framed and ratified with high language and glorious ideals in regards to its intentions, which are stated as follows: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The blessings of Liberty divorced from God can only sustain a people for a finite amount of time before even the best of Republics crumbles under the weight of its own bureaucracy, corruption, and avarice.
My worldview, you have to understand, includes a “biblical realist’s” view of the condition of man. I wonder if the founding fathers, despite their rhetoric aimed at the excesses of England, shared the same views. By giving the voting power to the landholders, the founding fathers gave the ability to appoint governmental representatives to the citizens of the United States that had the most to lose by bad representation. Thus the ones who cared the most about the process saw fit to educate themselves about the candidates - as well as actually, at times, overseeing the education of the candidates. Again, there is a reason why no one establishes a “direct democracy”, where the people vote on everything related to public policy. This is why Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s referendums and ballot initiatives were such a complete disaster a short while ago.
“One people, one vote” leads to the election of men like Adolph Hitler. That is why, in giving the Iraqi people the kind of government that we did led to the Shiite majority being elected into the role of oppressing the Sunni minority. Which is one of the reasons why the Sunnis are fighting so vehemently in their insurgency. They are fighting for their lives. It is one of the greatest expressions of foolishness to place power in the hands of 51% of the people. Anyone with charisma and a few radical ideas can hold sway over 51% of the people long enough to bring radical and destructive changes to a political system.
So, while I do not place my ultimate hope with the Electoral College and our quirky little governmental system, I am smart enough to call what Mr. Schwarzenegger did a year or so ago one of the most horrific kinds of foolishness. In taking power from elected officials and handing it directly to the people, he empowered the least educated, the most easily fooled, the selfish and dull of heart to have a direct role in establishing policy in the state of California. Thankfully, his “revolution” did not catch on elsewhere.
The moment it does, pray.
March 21st, 2007
One of the difficulties, currently, with living at the end of the age is how that paradigm has shifted the nature of my ministry. It has taken a course that I never could have anticipated when I began to explore and study what the Bible says about the end-times years ago. I am now, at times, given to what I distrust about those who preach about the dangers of global warming. I am an alarmist. I find that I have (according to what I believe is the grace of God to do so) retrained my mind to hear and perceive that which is going on around me differently than when I was younger. I believe, with great conviction, that when one gives themselves to a focused and biblical study of where history is going, one has a better chance of identifying the factors today that will contribute to the end of the story. Thus I endeavor to be a biblically informed alarmist.
In that I took note during the recent discussion when the word “consensus” emerged. I understood the context - scientific consensus is a powerful weapon in an argument. Few want to be listed in the annals of history alongside those who refused to believe that the earth was round and not placed in the center of our solar system. Often Christians are easily viewed in that light because of how often we seemingly rage against the consensus; thus in our desire to avoid being labeled as “unenlightened” in areas of obvious scientific proof we take the opportunity when possible to show that we can love Jesus and be reasonable. I understand that dynamic.
I still am wary of consensus as the guiding principle for fact and truth. Facts and truth are what they are regardless of human opinion. Objective truth is not in the eye of the beholder - it transcends argument and establishes a foundation and anchor point for knowledge that transcends our sensibilities. The reason that I am stating the obvious is because I am troubled today by where the argument for truth by consensus goes in a democratic society. The consensus - scientifically - in Nazi Germany was that the Jew had genetic inferiorities from birth. The consensus among much of today’s Islamic community, historically, is that the holocaust never happened and that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
This is how Barack Obama defines morality: “the standards and principles that the majority of Americans deem important in their lives, and in the life of the country”. This sounds, in his book “The Audacity of Hope”, so noble and excellent - particularly compared with the frustration many in our nation currently have with the “Christian Right” and their grating notions of antiquated morality. What a worthy goal - to contend for what the majority of Americans deem important! Hearing this definition, however, makes me cringe. Why? What the majority of Americans deem important, related to morality, is radically different today than what was considered unacceptable just a decade ago! The “consensus” changes so fast, that it is difficult to keep up with what constitutes morality today versus the morality of our fathers.
What Obama and others have not considered is that the Bible depicts the destination for the nations in their zeal to redefine morality by consensus rather than biblical truth. Great judgment is coming, and those who subscribe to the consensus will be swept away suddenly in its relentless power. This is what Jesus was describing in Matthew 24:36-44, when He compared the hour that is coming to one of the the last times there was a global consensus - the days of Noah.
What Obama can not promise, nor reconcile in his book or personal ideals, is that the Bible is clear about the cost of human consensus apart from God. I tremble at the consequences of his ideals and the manner in which many will hail with great joy his deceiving and sinful genius, disguised as a benevolent and conciliatory plea for togetherness and cooperation.
March 20th, 2007
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name….Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Rev. 3:7-12)
This little church with little influence, little wealth, and a little strength stayed steady under pressure - they would not forsake Jesus, even in the face of great trial, compromise, and apathy that was prevalent throughout the region. These faithful believers were like the “Sons of Zadok” in Ezekiel 44:15 - when everyone else was compromising their calling, they held the line - they kept charge of the sanctuary and did not lose heart.
Thus, Jesus identifies Himself to them by the designation “true” or “genuine”; two ways to interpret His identity in Rev. 3 is: “real” or “reality” – in the Greek context; “faithful and trustworthy” – in the Hebrew context. The One who is fully authentic, the very essence of reality itself, is the very definition of faithfulness and trust and has evaluated this little church with little influence and found it real, authentic, and faithful and true to their charge (His word and His command).
Thus, their incredible reward – while others will come and go in the assignments He will give, they will become an immovable pillar in the temple of His Father and “go out no more”; where the eternal assignments of others may change, theirs will never change – they will belong to God as a key part of the city, enjoying incredible honor, priestly dignity, and intimacy stewarding the very secrets of the heart of Jesus.
What an outrageous promise!
March 20th, 2007
I’m guessing that the last three posts appealed to a certain type of thinker, while others may have tuned out entirely because the time spent on the subject seems a little odd compared to the “missions statement” of this site. At the end of the day, almost everything I am writing in here is about the end of the age - specifically life in a prayer room at the end of the age. So why then, would I give so much attention to the issue (or non-issue, whatever the case may be) of global warming?
Now that the series is concluded, hopefully you discovered that these articles were not really about global warming at all. Again, that’s why I consciously avoided entering into a debate over the facts and statistics. This little series was really about the nature of man and the forces that motivate the heart as history approaches its dramatic climax. It is critical that we have an understanding of the manner in which sinful and wicked human beings are establishing a social context that rages against the Lord in our time (Ps. 2:1-3; Rom. 1:32).
This series was about being a people that watch and pray (Lk. 21:36). When it comes to these kinds of issues, I tend to watch for different cues and clues than what most observe. In poker, this is known as a “tell”. There are little “giveaways” that tip me off as I watch that something more is going on than what is being said. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks - and the heart is deceitful and wicked beyond measure. As sons of the light and sons of the day, we must not sleep as others do - but with sobriety we must lay hold of insight and clarity regarding the real issues that trouble the whole earth in this hour.
Again, if you connected with the analogy I made about AIDS/HIV, then you understood that global warming may truly be a serious issue that mankind needs to confront in the days to come. AIDS/HIV actually is a serious issue in some parts of the world that needs critical attention and resource. Socially, politically, and most importantly, biblically, human trafficking is one of the most serious issues that will condemn the nations before the Lord in judgment. Babylon is judged in Revelation 18:13 for trading “bodies and the souls of men”. Abortion, of course, is one of the most critical issues facing the nations in the days to come - again, murder in the book of Revelation being one of the four most critical issues facing the nations.
Since we’re there, what does the Bible tell us is the real “number one issue facing humanity”? If there is one thing I appreciate about the global warming debate, it’s that it identifies a key problem, or symptom of man’s sickness in his separation from God - man is a lover of self, a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God (2 Tim. 3:3-5). Man does not love what God loves, nor does he value true power from God in authentic godliness; instead, he is content with a form or outward appearance of godliness that masks the true ambitions that burn and rage beneath the surface. Our incessant and unyielding consumption of goods and resources is symptomatic of our insatiable lust. We lust and do not have. We murder and covet and cannot obtain.
James, in chapter four of his letter, is identifying the greatest problem facing humanity - we ask amiss, that we may spend what we receive on our pleasures (Jas. 4:3). We are in a state of enmity with God. We have made peace with a wicked world system that is corrupt and unredeemable. This world system is birthed out of man’s perpetual sin and pride; then men labor in vain to solve the issues that they themselves initiated and established. It is a seemingly unending cycle of brutality, callous indifference, conflict, and injustice. The nations have not (true peace, justice, and righteousness) because they ask not. For what? Heavenly wisdom, of God, from God, on His terms - not our own. James is appealing to men to ask God from a place of humility and recognition of His sovereignty and superiority.
Of course, this posture sets a whole chain of events in motion that exposes the irreconcilable nature of the problem facing men. Once we find ourselves in the place of weakness and need by which we would appeal to God for His answer, we must then (by necessity) submit to Him and His way (Jas. 4:7). We must say no to wickedness and renounce our sinful and self-centered lifestyles - or, “resist the devil”. It requires a radical lifestyle change that actually embraces the wisdom we must ask for. The lifestyle described in Matthew 5-7 is the wisest way to live in light of the issues facing the planet - I will get back to this point in a moment. Continuing in James 4:7-10, James then fires off a series of necessary changes in rapid succession - submit, resist, draw near, cleanse, purify, lament, mourn, weep, and humble yourselves. The greatest problem facing mankind is that he has no interest in doing any of these things.
It is far easier for the voices, power brokers, and celebrities to stand in judgment of the selfishness and ignorance of the rest of the planet. The post about Al Gore that is making the rounds related to his personal lifestyle is not about character assassination, it is about the realities of the heart divorced from God and the choices it refuses to make. One of the commenters in the last post (Stephanie) asked about the boundaries and limitations of an eco-friendly lifestyle. I thought it was a brilliant point, actually, touching on an issue intuitively that needs to be addressed: the prescribed lifestyle of Jesus to us who believe His words are true and His ways are righteous is a fasted, or simple lifestyle.
This is the solution that the nations of the earth refuse to entertain. The “wise” and the “strong” rage against the seemingly “weak” and “simple” solution that the Lord has presented the peoples. Using both the human body and the earth as our templates here, there are many who can relate to the manner in which diet, exercise, and health issues can become an all-consuming reality. The same holds true of “green-friendly” living - one can go so far in that philosophy of lifestyle that it consumes you. Your every choice, your every decision, your every meal becomes one in which you have to expend a great deal of time, money, and energy to maintain consistency philosophically. That’s why you can’t find anyone actually “living” the global warming message to its logical conclusion.
The solution for mankind’s greatest problem is the simple lifestyle prescribed in the sermon on the mount, empowered by grace and fueled by fasting and prayer. The solution for mankind in this hour is a free heart not bound to or dependent on the things of this world, reflected by a life wholly abandoned in love, loyalty, and devotion to God and His value system. Then, over time, we can learn to honor Him in the manner in which we care for our bodies and our home. Much of our “consumption crisis” would be taken care of if we conformed to biblical wisdom, which transcends eco-wisdom. The best of our time, energy, and money must go to kingdom things relating to prayer, fasting, giving, serving, and forgiving first - all other considerations must be secondary. Not unimportant, but secondary.
I love James’ solution to Stephanie’s (and my) dilemma. If we lack wisdom, we can ask God - and He will give to us liberally (Jas. 1:5). If we are concerned about what constitutes “overboard” in health and environmentalism, we can search the scriptures and be given in prayer and fasting for God’s answer to the question. I know that for me, I want to live simple, not obsessed. I want to be wholly given to God, not environmentalism or physical health. I love and appreciate the Holy Spirit’s leading and prompting as I grow in how to navigate these secondary issues that matter to Jesus. I want to walk worthy of the calling He has set before me, in every area I have understanding.
Thus, while the nations of the earth have an untenable crisis on their hands, I can walk in peace and confidence in the leadership of Jesus. There is no way to avoid what men are struggling mightily to stop - men will destroy themselves in their sin and wickedness, and the earth will suffer mightily as a result (i.e. Rev. 6:3-8). This is not fatalism - I do not want to leave the peoples of the earth to their own devices and wash my hands of their actions. I know, however, my limitations - I am not the one who is going to save the earth. I simply want to be obedient and humble in partnering with Jesus to do the part that I was called to. The manner in which I influence and affect my sphere matters to Him.
So I will give myself to that with all of my heart in the place of prayer. I will then be free to trust God with the rest that is beyond my control, ability, or sphere of influence to change. Great and marvelous are His works! Just and true are His ways! The One who is seated on the throne leading history is not threatened nor thrown off by the destructive ways of man - and so neither am I.
In other words, while the nations rage and the hearts of men are in great turmoil and storm over the issues facing us all, I will rest in Him in the place of prayer and dependency. I trust Him. I will not and can not imagine that I care more about the environment more than He does. So I will look to Him and follow as He leads.
March 16th, 2007
Imagine that the home you now live in is actually owned by your fabulously wealthy dad. The plan is simple - in the days to come, you’re going to inherit the home. Even better, you’re going to be given a fantastic mansion to live in - you are actually going to inherit a wonderful new home as well your old one, which you will manage when you move into your new space. Knowing that, how do you treat your current home - the one you’re going to inherit and manage from afar? Do you trash the home, with the understanding that it’s going to be someone else’s problem to clean up? Or do you actually care for and cultivate what you’re going to be given - labor to improve the home, landscape the yard, and make it nice for the people that will live in it next?
Remember - though there will be tenants in your home, it will still be your home. Secondly, how you treat your home now matters, even after you move out.
Of course, my analogy is speaking of the glorious promise Jesus made to His church in Matthew 5:5 - that the meek shall “inherit the earth”. This is the same promise given in Daniel 7:27 - that the “greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.” Even more critically, the scriptures establish a dynamic relationship between the people and the land - for example, Isaiah 62:4 speaks of the “marriage” between the people and the land. This is after Isaiah spoke of a millennial people rebuilding, restoring, and repairing the broken and shattered planet (Isa. 61:4). In Deuteronomy 28, obedience and righteousness had a direct connection with blessing released on the land itself; 1 Kings 8:36-37 speaks to the same idea. The well known 2 Chronicles 7:14 passage about humility and repentance ends with a promise to heal the land. That is not a colloquialism for revival amongst the people. God’s desire is to heal the actual land itself.
This is what Paul is talking about in Romans 8, in verses 19-22. The creation itself has been subjected to “futility”, or the curse, but not willingly. That which was precious and special to God - or what God created and called “good” in Genesis 1, is precious because it was made to be His dwelling place with man forever (Ezek. 43:7, Isa. 66:1-2). The One who subjected it did so in hope - that hope being knit to a people who would arise as “sons of God” who walk in agreement with God, authority, and power in glorified bodies. These children of God, who walk in “glorious liberty”, will partner with Jesus as a Bride to deliver the creation itself from the “bondage of corruption”. Presently, the sinful nature of man is defiling the earth - and the whole creation groans and labors in the meantime, waiting for the coming renewal of the earth under the leadership of Jesus.
Understanding this, we then understand that it is the believer who must now become the foremost environmentalists on the planet. Because of bad theology, many believers have an escapist mentality regarding their current home - they treat it poorly because it will seemingly be someone else’s problem when God takes them away. Others believe that God will simply return and burn up the home that they have been given, so any improvements that they would make would only be a huge waste of time. These mindsets are tragic - and it leads to a significant error in our dealings with “the creation” that God has given us authority over (and will give in greater measure).
In establishing our role as the caretakers of the earth from the days of Adam, it was never God’s intention that we care for the earth with an “attitude”. We are not to tend to the needs of the planet with arrogance, or disillusionment with the self-centered, self-absorbed nature of our fellow man. We are not called to manipulate others to walk with us in our God-given responsibilities. It’s not even our job to educate unbelievers in these biblical truths. We are simply called to serve in meekness, tenderness, and a gentle spirit as we love what He loves related to the creation itself. In regards to those who don’t know Christ, we plead with men in light of the gospel that men might be saved. We want to win men and women of the earth to Christ that they would escape the coming judgment. I have no interest in indoctrinating unbelievers into an environmentally-friendly lifestyle. I want them to escape the fires of hell.
One of the things I have consciously avoided in this discussion is the much debated and disputed data related to the issue of global warming. The reason for this is simple - I do not trust the agendas of confused, darkened, and wicked men. I do not trust the philosophical foundations of their world view. I do not buy, scripturally, into their inherent goodness and decency of motive. I’ll be even more blunt. Behind the zeal for global warming, and fueling the debate, lie ungodly environmentalists that are raging against Jesus in their inner man. As I said from the first post, environmentalism without Jesus is deceived, demonic, and deceptive. Again, to take it one step further, good works apart from the Living God is an abomination and a stench to Him. I have avoided tackling the actual statistics because the people behind the statistics are suspect. I want to pull back the curtain and take a hard look at the people and their need for a savior.
As with the issue of AIDS/HIV, encountering Jesus changes the conversation greatly. It is necessary for me to separate the issue of global warming from the issue of environmental responsibility - and again, I find that for many it is impossible to separate the two. Why does global warming need to be “undebatable” or no longer open for discussion? Why is the case “closed” in the minds of those who are convinced of its truth? Why can’t the need for environmental responsibility stand on its own merits?
It boils down then, to this for me: ungodly men motivated by hubris are looking to drive both policy and public opinion in an alarmist manner that constitutes an intelligent strategy to deal with the self-absorbed nature of man. At best, the manner in which intelligent and ambitious men are dealing with the global community is simplistic and slightly cynical. The issue of environmental responsibility cannot stand on its own merits simply because fallen human nature will not allow it. It is within the heart of sinful and wicked men to destroy the earth. In Revelation 11:18, part of the judgment of Jesus is connected to man’s self-destructive tendencies:
“The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
Man apart from God will devour himself and destroy everything that God delights in. He is longsuffering towards us in His lovingkindness, but He is not blind to the darkness within men hidden beneath the facade of benevolence, the self-interest and ambition hidden beneath the sheen of seemingly helpful intentions. Paul knew what he was talking about when he quoted Psalm 14 related to the condition of man - there is no one righteous. Unrighteous men are fueling debate for cynical reasons. Scientists who want funding, job security, and credibility amongst a certain community of influencers would naturally follow suit. Selective use of facts and apocalyptic scenarios are meant to target western self-centeredness and play on fears. We need more than truth and sound data in regards to the global warming debate - we need theology.
Let me use a different analogy again to illustrate what I am talking about, lest I sound more harsh than I mean to. Have you ever wondered why many of the modern peace protesters are among the most vile, violent, angry, and abusive people one could meet anywhere? Have you ever seen the look on the face of a peace protester as they shout at soldiers doing their duty? Has the dichotomy (and the irony) ever made you stop and wonder?
You will find the same “symptoms” among many environmentalists. There is a reason “eco-terrorism” takes place in different pockets and regions. What fuels the activism? What propels the zealous to act in such a manner? There is a rage within different ones at their fellow man. There is a rage against others who are callous in their disregard for nature. The zeal is knit to what some environmentalists worship - you can call her “Mother Nature”, “Mother Earth”, or “Gaia” - but the zeal is knit to the foolishness Paul highlights in Romans 1:18-32. In verse 22-25, Paul exposes those who “profess to be wise”, yet have become fools. Why? They exchanged knowledge of the Creator to instead worship creation itself, exchanging truth for a lie. They did not love the truth (2 Thess. 2:12-13) in regards to the one issue that truly matters. Truth in the inward parts, from which all else (including activism and environmental responsibility) must flow - there is no way to get around the divine order of things.
If global warming is true, than let’s hear it from other sources than the ones Al Gore respects. I want to hear it from scientists that I trust, who profess to have more than knowledge but walk in heavenly (not earthly) wisdom - as a commenter aptly noted in an earlier post. Seemingly sincere yet corrupt and broken men applying earthly wisdom invariably leads to disaster - and much worse. Those who were in a rush to implement the Kyoto Protocols forgot about James 3:13-18, specifically verses 14-15:
“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.”
One must ask soberly the following - do these men, the ones driving the debate about global warming…do they have bitter envy and self-seeking in their hearts? From where, then, are their solutions coming from? From what source? James is unflinching and unsentimental in his answer. Their wisdom is earthly, sensual…and demonic. If their is a global warming problem, than I want to hear from someone else. I want someone loyal to another kingdom speaking into the thing with divine ideas and godly solutions that actually bless the nations rather than hurting third world development and economic growth. I do not want to make room for demonic wisdom and demonic ideas that subtly and secretly fuel agendas and plans that cannot be anything less than destructive in the end.
I want to say that again. If there is something demonic in regards to wisdom fueling the conversation, the very ones who endeavor to save the earth will destroy it. The scriptures are clear - in regards to human nature, and the course of human history, these men are not going to save the earth. They are creating the context to destroy it. The book of Revelation graphically depicts this scenario, in Revelation 6. Later, in Revelation 8, God burns a third of the trees and green grass with something other than carbon emissions. Without twisting and spiritualizing scripture, it is very difficult to find the actual scenarios described by those who believe in global warming; any scenarios that seem similar are actually being initiated supernaturally by God, not men. Most worst case scenarios presented have time-tables that move well beyond what I believe the earth as we know it presently will be around for, in regards to the current time frame of human history.
Does that absolve us from environmental responsibility? Again, no. My point is that the people behind the projections do not study the end-times. They do not care what God’s opinion is. They want to make adjustments and set policy in a way that cannot end well. I do not care who drives the policy - Republican or Democrat. Neither side has solutions that will endure. Both the Republican and Democratic philosophies that fuel current public policy have dire consequences for society if carried out to their logical conclusions - only the mercy of God as He gently intervenes in human affairs is saving us from ourselves.
Let no man or political party take any credit for the moderate success America has enjoyed over the past few hundred years. I want to be clear - I am not anti-America, anti-Gore, or anti-anyone. Romans 13 commands us to pray for and be subject to the governing authorities, godly or ungodly (Paul was speaking about Nero, after all). They are God’s ministers for my good. Behind them, however, is a sovereign God who is truly in control of history and is more zealous than I am about restoring the natural order into right alignment with His will.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize that I am not advocating putting our heads in the sand regarding global warming. I am advocating a departure from being naive about the nature of the human heart divorced from God and a fresh loyalty to the scriptures on this subject. There is no safer ground than standing on the rock of the word of God, and allowing our perspective to flow from that place. Remember (as another commenter noted), many of these same scientists that are providing global warming data are the same ones who are convinced that you evolved from a monkey. These are not infallible men, nor is their data foolproof. It is questionable at best - and I want to free us to ask questions boldly and unashamedly. I have a nasty habit of furrowing my brow when someone gets emotional about this subject and objects to dissent.
Let us be a people that are unafraid to look behind the curtain to unveil the true thing, pressing the envelope for clarity before we act as if there is certainty. As Paul said in 1 Thess. 5:21: “Test ALL things, hold fast to what is good.” Before you throw your voice behind a thing, test it to see what is there. If there is something good - something that God Himself would testify is good, then hold fast. If earthly wisdom is involved, don’t hold fast - hold on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride before we’re done.
I don’t care about global warming. No one has proven conclusively to me that I should. I care about the environment, and I care about people - and I care about seeing both reconciled to God.
March 14th, 2007