Monthly Archives: March 2007

Buying Off Eco Guilt

Do you feel guilty about your contribution to smog, ozone depletion, species extinction, water pollution and deforestation?

Good, you should. That’s the message that preservationists want you to believe. The good news is that some eco-entrepreneurs have developed Terrapass as a solution to your dilemma. 

You can find out more by visiting  http://www.terrapass.com/road/howworks.html

Oh, even better, hear what my friend Kevin Strait has to say about Terrapass. This is the first in what I hope are many recorded rants from Kevin on a variety of topics. His humor and insight are worth downloading. Kevin comments on the cartoons that explain just how Terrapass works.

Kevin’s Terrapass Rant

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Double Minded Prayers

For years, I have struggled with praying for healing. My religous pedigree includes Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Pentecostal church experiences. I have seen lots of bad theology played out as people pray for all sorts of things.

Healing has been a tough thing for me because I have seen people miraculously healed from all sorts of diseases and physical problems.  I have also had some people who are close to be experience the untimely death of a loved one due to disease. All of my easy answers went away as I discipled a young man who lost his father to cancer.

There are so many different views on divine healing. Some Christians believe that God doesn’t really heal today. Others pray for strength through their time of need. The pragmatic Christians pray for healing although they leave wriggle room for God to do whatever He wants. Others speak with authority and declare healing over somebody in faith. Some go to the point that they fight against the “demons” and evil spirits plaguing the person. Our experiences and personal journey tends to shape our belief about healing.

As people of faith, we attempt to discover what we really believe about God and His desire to heal. Most Christians believe that God can do anything. The big question is, “Does God always want to heal?” If He does, how do you explain all the people who never get healed on earth? If God doesn’t always want to heal, what does that show us about God as love and friend? We try to figure out which camp we are in. Sometimes the truth is between the camps. Sometimes the truth is hard to accept because it leaves so many unanswered questions.

Healing is a hard issue for my local fellowship because it hits so close to home for many families at the church. A few weeks ago, Pastor Fred Michaux honestly told the congregation about his struggle with healing and prayer. He admitted that God had changed his mind that week about the subject. Until that point, Pastor Fred had prayed for healing while adding the caveat that utmost he wanted God’s will to be done. This kept him from feeling like he was telling God what to do. It also gave him wiggle room just in case the person did not get healed.

For years, I had prayed much the same way. I knew that God could heal, but I didn’t know what to do when the person remained sick or died. I felt double minded and uncertain of what to pray.

Pastor Fred said that he was recently praying a healing/God’s will combo prayer when he stopped to listen and heard the Spirit impress on him a challenging though. Pastor Fred remembered the Scripture passage about Jesus giving his disciples the power to heal all kinds of diseases and sickness. Then Pastor Fred said that he heard Jesus ask him, “When did I ever give you the freedom to pray for anything other than outright healing?”  

In this moment, a godly pastor was convicted and encouraged at the same time. He talked in his sermon about faith and hope being the two wheels of a bicycle. We must have both to pray effective prayers. You can hear Pastor Fred’s complete message at MCC sermons.   

My journey with healing prayer has gone from skeptic to hope prayers to listening for God’s direction and then trying to pray what I sense the Spirit impressing on my heart. Now, I have something new to consider. And I am praying through this to fully grasp what God wants me to take from Pastor Fred’s message. At times in the past, I found myself at odds with other believers who always prayed for healing, especially those who seemed to almost demand it.

Pastor Fred’s message has further impressed on my heart that we don’t need to really worry about results. This is hard to accept in a society where the criteria for success is measured by if something works. In the Kingdom of God, all we need to do is pray in faith God’s will. Then, we trust God in the situation no matter what happens. The measure of our faithfulness in prayer is our obedience not the results.

A Life Worth Living

Should we really live for God? I am beginning to think that is not such a good idea.

Ok, before you stone me, consider what this looks like in your life. If you are Christian, you may discover how ungodly this “living for God” can be.

Turn off the screen, walk away from the computer and think about it for a moment. Then come back and read the rest of this entry to see why I made such a “brash” statement.

Ok, welcome back.  

Pastor Don Coleman, one of my spiritual mentors, talked to me about something better than just living for God. He said that this can still be far less than what God desires. This allows us to live the life that we think seems best and try to involve God in it or to somehow dedicate it to God.

God wants more than just His name put to our plans. God desires to work in His people. Ultimately, God wants to be Lord of everything. He wants to call the shots and direct us to His best plan. More than simply dedicate our work to God, He wants to do His work in and through us. Instead of living our lives for God, maybe the better reality is to surrender everything to God and to live the life that God truly wants us to live. The big difference between the two lifestyles is where we get our direction and where our focus is. The difference may be subtle, but it can have a major impact.  

Here’s a major point to consider. It is impossible to live the life that God wants for you unless you stop to listen and sense His direction.

God may be asking, “Do you hear me now?”

A Devilish Good Time

Oh goody, I get an excuse to read The Screwtape Letters again. A student at church recently approached me about studying the book together. And I always learn something new each time I dive into this masterpiece.

The Screwtape Letters is a classic by C.S. Lewis. It is my favorite book of all time after the Bible. Although it is a work of fiction, I believe it to be an outstanding handbook on demonic and spiritual warfare. The language can be hard to read for modern readers. But it is well worth the psychological journey into the depth of despair that is the world of demons and temptation.

 C.S. Lewis once said that The Screwtape Letters was the hardest book for him to write. The subject matter forced him into a dark world that caused him much concern. Demons respect authority, yet they desire to undermine it. Demons are smart, but they don’t really understanding the ways of God. Demons know that the best lie is always coated with some truth.

Well, I’ll share some of my insights as I come along them. The first concept is from the introduction. Lewis wrote, “Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”

With that bit of confusing advice, let the mental and spiritual games begin. Yes, Satan is a liar, and he’s really good at it. Just because you think something doesn’t mean the thought came from you or is indeed something you should be thinking. I believe demons like to plant lies in our heads like little seeds of death. We have to dig those things out by the roots or else they keep growing back. We feel guilty for being tempted when that is a normal part of life in this fallen world. Being tempted is not sin, giving into temptation on the other hand is wrong.

The problem is that a lie can become truth to you if you believe it or hear it enough. And just because you think something is true doesn’t make it so.

Oh, speaking of Satan as a liar. You’ve got to see this little video by LifeChurch.Tv called Satan’s Sex Ed. It is really funny and yet sad at the same time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxABegyOjHw

Psalm 100

While visiting Union Theological Seminary recently, I had the pleasure of sitting in on Dr. Carson Brisson’s Hebrew class. It was fascinating to learn a little Hebrew, and his stories really added a lot to the text. We spent most of the class in Genesis.

At the end, the class read Psalm 100 in Hebrew and English. Dr. Brisson pointed to the progression of the Psalm. See if you notice anything when you read it.

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving thanks.

 1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

 2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
       come before him with joyful songs.

 3 Know that the LORD is God.
       It is he who made us, and we are his ;
       we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
       and his courts with praise;
       give thanks to him and praise his name.

 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
       his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Dr. Brisson said that the worshipper starts out with praise. This then leads to joy and an awareness of who God is. The declaration for why people praise God is at the end of the Psalm not the beginning. I have always thought that praise works best when we focus on God’s character and majesty and then praise Him based on that revelation. But in this Psalm, it works the other way too.

Sometimes we just need to come praise God no matter how we feel. As a spiritual act of obedience and worship, we take leaps of faith before our heart or mind is there. This act then engages the entire soul to respond to God and recognize His glory and majesty.

Psalm 100 shows that worship should be our first response to God even when we don’t feel like doing it. Worship should become such a second nature response that we don’t have to see or think about God’s character or greatness to shout loudly praises to God.

Just something to thing about as you start your week…

Hands Up

Some experiences are just hard to forget. I have had the opportunity of attending dozens of incredible concerts in my life. These memories include U2, DMB, Jimmie Buffett, Blue Men Group, Run DMC, INXS, B.B. King, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Newsboys, Switchfoot, Caedmon’s Call, Phil Keaggy, and many more. Some of these were “Christian” artists, many of them were not. All of those experiences had a spiritual element to them. Music is inherently other worldly, it goes down deep to the soul of a man.

I will never forget a moment during the U2 concert when everyone had their hands in the air. Even though the song never mentioned God, it was a moment of divine connectedness. The crowed moved in unity. Raising our hands felt like a natural thing to do. I believe that is because we are all made to be worshippers. Whether or not we want to admit it, we all worship something or someone. This is true even for the guy who never shows an emotion and lives a fairly bland life. That night I had my hands up to God even though I was severely struggling in my faith journey at the time.

Rock concerts touch on that part of us that desires to be free. We love to lose ourselves in the moment. Some see this as an escape while others believe it is a release. It really all depends on your experience and life journey.

Raising hands has become a big part of musical worship for me. When I connect with God, sometimes I raise my hands as an act of surrender. Sometimes I do it to touch God. Other times I lift my hands just as a child does to a parent when he wants to be picked up and held. Raised hands can also be simply a physical posture that shows reverence to God.

A student recently asked Pastor Dave, my church’s youth pastor, why people raise hands during worship. The student said that it looked like this was the pinnacle of the experience for many of the people in the room. They had to work up to it. That comment made me stop and laugh. I don’t know if it is the peak of anything. And I certainly don’t have all the right moves down when it comes to worshipping God through music. But I do believe it is something we are instructed to do in the Bible. It is a physical expression of what is taking place on the inside. And that is the key to true worship – God cares about the heart and our inner response to His glory.

Something happens when we raise hands in worship to God. I believe it helps us overcome fear and worry about what the person next to us might think. It can take us to a place where we can be free . If you struggle to encounter God, maybe the next time you should put those hands up and see if your heart follows.

Psalm 134:2 – Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.

Psalm 28:2 – Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.

Psalm 143:6 – I spread out my handsto you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

1 Timothy 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.

Is An Inconvenient Truth Really True?

Ok, I’m a global warming skeptic. I think we would all agree that smog and pollution is a bad thing. But is your car really killing the planet?

It’s really an issue of how much CO2 is too much. When does progress actually cause things to regress?

One of the reasons why I am a skeptic is that I write about environmental issues for a living and have seen green groups do and say things that just reek of too much self interest. I don’t believe that timber and chemical companies are the only entities with questionable motives at times.

A few years ago, I interviewed Dr. Patrick Moore. He is a forestry ecologist and one of the original founders of Greenpeace. Dr. Moore has turned over a new leaf and has actually began promoting the use of trees as a better environmental solution to things like plastic. You can find out more about him from www.greenspirit.com.

Dr. Moore was one of the most truly fascinating people that I have ever had the chance to interview. I will never forget his honesty about his journey at Greenpeace. I asked him when did he decide to leave? He said, “I knew that we were in trouble when we got a pension fund. We stopped being about the mission and started doing things to foster our existence as an organization.” He said the lifelong politicos hijacked the organization.

Dr. Moore was tired of always being against stuff and wanted to be for something. He felt that Greenpeace had been successful because governments and corporations were willing to come to the negotiation table. There is a time when you have to put down your hammer and pick up a pen.

I asked him about global warming. He said the following:

“The people who are saying there is no longer any need for debate are the ones who would stifle debate. They think they’re right. The fact is that there is huge discussion about global warming. There are a lot of climatologists who do not accept that humans are the definite cause of the climate change. Most of them admit that humans could be part of it or maybe some or most of it, but we don’t know that. Then there are the people who say there is a consensus among scientists that we know for sure that humans are causing this climate change and we know for sure that it will be bad.

“Those are the two different questions of course; whether or not we are causing it on the one hand and on the other hand whether or not it will be all bad. I personally believe that we don’t know if we are causing it all. But even if we assume that we are causing it, some positive impacts will result. As usual, when there’s change there are going to be winners and losers. If you focus on the losers, like a lot of people seem to be doing, then certain island states will have the water level rise, and there may be drought in other places. But there may also be deserts blooming somewhere. There may be increased fishery productivity and a whole bunch of positive things, such as, longer growing seasons, shorter winters, reduced energy requirements, and forests growing in areas that are now just tundra.

“There are all kinds of possibly positive impacts from climate change. The activist groups and a lot of political people seem to think there’s an advantage for them to be accentuating the negatives, the climate catastrophes and the climate apocalypses. They talk about global warming plunging Europe into the dark ages when, in fact, we’re in a cold period right now compared to most of the earth’s history. During much of the earth’s history there was no ice at either pole. Then there was a time hundreds of millions of years ago when it froze nearly to the equator due to a real cold period. And for the last two million years we’ve been in the Pleistocene period, otherwise known as the Ice Age.”

Now, it appears that a number of scientists have come forward to question the science behind Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Even some supporters, feel that Gore presents an over the edge depiction, basically the worst case scenario.

Among the critics is Robert Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University, Queensland. Carter wrote, “Nowhere does Mr Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet,” Dr Carter wrote. “Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”

So here’s where I stand. I will work to do things to be a good steward and reduce my use of energy as much as possible. We can all probably cut our carbon footprint somewhat and not go back to the Stone Age. This is just about being a good steward. And that’s something that God has called mankind to do since the days of Adam and Eve.

But I refuse to jump on the sky is falling bandwagon. And I will remain skeptical. Why? Well, I have been burned too much in the past by experts. And we all tend to see what we want to see and overlook things that are inconvenient to our truth.