Friday, November 27, 2009

And speaking of confusion ...

If you Google "climate change emails" today -- and probably for the foreseeable future -- you'll find reams of items about the emails purportedly heisted from the University of East Anglia. That's more or less the centre for climate change research/activism, and the emails discuss things like suppressing contradictory views, discrediting scientists who hold those views and even altering data to support the notion of human-induced climate change.

Let me refer back to a previous posting a week ago, dealing with a possible schism in the Body of Christ over climate change and what to do about it. I don't take sides in this: the fact that there's a discussion at all, with the deep personal attacks, suppression of facts (truthful or otherwise) and the mammoth guilt trips and fear attached to it all, makes me look beyond the surface issue and find who's really pulling the strings here.

See, if you have taken a side, you need to realize that neither is Simon Pure here. Many of the nay-sayers about human-induced global warming have been linked to businesses and lobby groups. There have been suspicions about the motives and connections of the environmentalist causes. Now comes this -- a very environmentally unfriendly smoking gun, and I notice none of the principals involved has leapt up to accuse anybody of altering the actual emails.

For the ordinary person, just trying to get on with life and do what's right, discovering that the very data used to dictate our whole way of thinking may have been altered only ramps up the confusion level.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Cor. 14:33)

Take a look at some of the comments posted on various websites and blogs about this latest story, and see how much peace there is.

Confusion comes from not knowing whom to believe: it comes from wondering, "what is truth?"

But remember who said "what is truth?" and what he was doing at the time.

It was Pontius Pilate, and he was looking the Truth right in the face.

Praise God, He has given us His Word, so we can find the Truth! The enemy has very cunningly tried to get us to ignore the Word of God when it comes to environmental matters -- as if it's a completely separate area where the Word does not apply.

But instead, we need to look to the Word for answers in this issue, as in everything else.

"If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land."
-- 2 Chr. 7:14
Remember that Satan doesn't give a flying fish about climate change or taking care of God's Creation: he just wants to keep us at one another's throats so that we don't seek God's face in all things.
Blatant plug alert: if you want to purchase a copy of my book, A Very Convenient Truth - real hope in the face of environmental fears, you can find it at Pilgrim Book & Bible and El-Shaddai's Books in Vancouver, House of James in Abbotsford or Christian Book & Music Centre in Victoria. Or just contact me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

And who is the author of confusion?

Stuart Shepard continues to take advertisers, marketers and retailers to task in his latest Stoplight video, for wishing us Happy Unspecified Holidays at this time of year. It's considerably edgier than the one I mentioned in my posting a couple of days ago, and looks at how confused marketers must be, trying to pitch a holiday without actually discussing it.

Living in a city as wonderfully diverse and multi-cultural as Vancouver is, I can imagine another area of confusion: for the non-Christian immigrant, trying to decipher what the fuss is about.

Supposing, for example, you were to move to a country where many -- if not the majority -- of the people practise Foonism. Once a year, there's a big ol' festival called "Foonaria" and Foonites go to great lengths to celebrate it. Wouldn't you be curious to know about Foonism and why they're doing this?

But in my home and native land, we have a major holiday celebration, which occupies about 2-1/2 months -- from the runup to Hallowe'en to THE GIGANTIC BOXING WEEK EXTRAVAGANZA -- but if you look at the signage, there's no real indication as to what the holiday is and why it's being celebrated.

Imagine the immigrant, trying to get some answers.

"Excuse me? What is this holiday that people are talking about?"
"Oh! It's the most wonderful time of the year! It's a time when people get together and give each other presents and have a huge dinner and give a little something to the poor and families re-connect -- or try to -- and all the lights and colors and prezzies make you feel warm inside."
"Why? I mean, what's there to celebrate?"
"Well, because it's the holidays!"
"What holiday? I mean, doesn't 'holiday' mean 'holy day'? What's holy about it?"
"Well ... if you must know ... it's called Christmas ... and, uh, there's a particular religion that celebrates it."
"So why don't you call it that?"
"Because we're afraid 'Christmas' might offend some people."
"How can you offend someone with something that you're celebrating? What does this religion believe that's so offensive?"
"Well ... they believe that the way to peace is to get right with God."
"And that's offensive?"
"Well ... they figure that there's only one way to do that, and that's through the Son of God."
"And the Son of God is really bad, is He? What did He teach?"
"Well ... He said that we have to love God above everything else -- even ourselves."
"I'm waiting to be offended ..."
"And we have to love everybody else more than ourselves."
"Still waiting ..."
"Yeah, but the Son of God also said that we have to deal with the things we did wrong in our lives."
"Oh! Wow ... I've done a lot of things wrong. So I guess He went around and killed all the bad people, did He?"
"Heck, no! This religion says He never did anything wrong and then let Himself die to be the punishment for our wrongs. Even the bad people could turn to Him, and it would be like they'd never done those bad things."
"Why keep this a secret? Why not tell everyone you can?"
"Because people might get offended."
"Well ... you know ... people from other countries ... other religions."
"Look: in my religion, we say 'peace to you and your household'. Would you be offended if I said that to you?"
"Well ... no."
"Then why would I be offended if you said to me, 'Merry Christmas'?"
"Not following."


"Is there some high priest I can talk to, to find out more?"
"Not necessarily. There's a book called the Bible and that tells you the whole story so you can find out for yourself. Some people say it's like God speaking directly to you."
"Has this been on Oprah?"
"Don't be silly. That might hurt her ratings."
"Because people might be offended."

At which point, our immigrant friend either runs off, strumming his lower lip and making a noise like Lou Costello, trying to figure out who's on first, or races out to the nearest bookstore to try to find the book this local person was talking about.

"Where are you going? Don't you want to hear about Boxing Week?"

My office is adjacent to one of the biggest enclosed shopping malls in Western Canada. I see people of all different ethnicities, wading through the mall with children in tow. Happy-sounding music tells us Santa will be comin' down the chimney down and then tells the story of a reindeer nobody liked until he turned out to be useful for something. Children are often bawling their eyes out because they can't have something -- even though they know they're supposed to be excited about the Day Of The Great Gift-Getting while the parents have this bewildered look at what appears to be a tradition in this new country they've come to live in, but which doesn't appear to have a name or a purpose.

Confusion? Well, we know who the author of that is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

As sure as there's an "X" in Christmas ...

Stuart Shepard has posted another brilliant "Stoplight" feature in what's become something of a Christmas tradition: a humorous but firm reminder that "The Holiday Season" actually has a name (Christmas) and a meaning (the celebration of the birth of the Son of God and Saviour of all mankind).

I've already started watching out for the "Holiday" catalogues, so I can join in Stuart's activism, but it also got me thinking: in Vancouver, I'd say it's about a 50/50 split between those who celebrate the Unspecified Holiday Season and those who aren't afraid to use the X-word ... about the media and "official civic types" make a big deal about a lot of other, specified, celebrations.

(My daughter's student choir in Victoria -- made up of students from across her public school district -- puts on an actual Christmas concert each year: a couple of years ago, I went to one, which was also attended by the local Member of the Legislature (like a State Senator). She could not spit out the words, "Merry Christmas", if her life depended on it. Her boyfriend and I knew each other from somewhere (something in the media, I think), so we chatted a bit afterwards, and when I wished them a Merry Christmas, it almost felt like I was taunting her. As, indeed, I was. But I digress ...)

There's Vaisakhi for the Sikhs, Ramadan for the Muslims, Pride Week for alternative lifestylers ... a variety of Native Indian rituals ... and recently, kids in public schools got a day off to go to a conference where the Dalai Lama was speaking. You'll see media reports about the color and costumes, the ceremony and activities, without actually digging into the deeper meaning of the celebrations.

Personally, I'd like to know more about and discuss the deeper meaning of those celebrations, but the public treatment I see, while giving the appearance of "embracing other cultures", does have a certain patronizing quality, as if one is simply paying lip service to Quaint Cultural Traditions.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing that the celebration of the birth of the Saviour of all mankind has not been reduced to a Quaint Cultural Tradition -- say, a Page 3 photo spread of "Catholics Attend Midnight Mass At Holy Rosary Cathedral while Worship Team Rocks Up 'Joy To The World' at Sword of Zion Pentecostal Church"? "Stock brokers and lawyers in their traditional business attire gather for a noontime prayer meeting"? "Homeless people and drug addicts wear their traditional costumes -- donated, used clothes and new-to-them underwear for a Christmas dinner at Gospel Mission on Vancouver's Downtown East Side"?

Consider this: there's no real "traditional Christian costume", because when you "put on Jesus", as the Apostle Paul puts it, we wear Him on the inside.

Jesus told us there'd be days like this: days when we'd feel persecuted for our faith or feel like we're all alone. As Graham Cooke said in a message recently, one person, plus God, is always in the majority.

Something we have to remember is that the promotion of other cultures and religions has grown out of a worldly concept of "inclusivity", while Jesus is inclusivity: He came for everyone, and His last instructions to us were to be His witnesses all over the world. That doesn't take a PR department or having "the ear" of elected representatives: we are Jesus' PR department. By our lives, by our love, by our fruits -- by healing the sick, binding the brokenhearted and giving comfort to the poor -- we Christians should give others cause to celebrate Jesus, no matter what the catalogues say.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who's listening to whom?

There's an interesting piece in the Christian Post about a group of evangelical leaders and climate-change experts, banding together to convince Christians to join the fight against climate change. While it appears on the surface to be a breakthrough for climate-change activists in coming together with Christians, there's an underlying theme that the body of Christ is divided over the issue.

With that, we should see, once again, that God is nowhere to be found in this discussion -- aside from lip service from the activists' opponents, who say, "well, of course we have to take care of God's creation, but ..."

One of the points in my book, A Very Convenient Truth -- real hope in the face of environmental fears, is that the division and sharp, personal tone of the discussion over climate change is one of the indicators that God has been left out of the discussion. If "the science is settled", why are people who apparently have some expertise on the subject questioning it? If "the science is settled", why are these people subjected to personal attacks?

The apparent division within the church -- divided, I notice, between those who have President Obama's ear and those who don't -- can only spawn confusion, and God is not the author of confusion.

But He is the author of His Word, and in this article -- aside from the general platitude about caring for Creation -- I don't see Word One from Scripture.

Let me offer something.

"If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I look down from Heaven, and will hear their prayers, and will heal their land."
-- 2 Chron. 7:14

Were that the only passage in Scripture that tells us where God stands in this, that should be all we need. But (as you'd read in A Very Convenient Truth) His Word is peppered with these references. The state of the environment is dependent on the state of our relationship with Him. It's not a matter of GHG or CAC -- it's a matter of GOD.

Is there climate change? YES -- but ...
Are humans responsible? YES -- but ...
Can humans fix it? YES -- but ...

The "but ..." is this: climate change (the way I see it) is a combination of God playing out His plan and people falling away from Him, leaving His Creation unprotected. The ball started rolling in the first place when we failed to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it". The only way we can fix it is by turning back to Him, and praise God, He sent His Son that we can repent for that sin and be redeemed and get on with having life more abundantly.

Don't worry about the environment. Worry is a sin, because it assumes God is not going to fulfill His promise.

God promises to heal the land if we turn back to Him. We may not be able to see what "healing" looks like, but God does. And have you ever noticed that the activists haven't really presented a clear picture of what a "healed" planet looks like? There's a lot of talk about fighting climate change, but how do we know when we've won?

What we need to remember is that environmentalist solutions can be at cross-purposes to the Will of God -- and when that happens, whose word should take precedence?

To a Christian, that one should be a no-brainer.

After all, what we've done thus far, using our own intellect, hasn't worked -- and you'd think that, after about 60 years of concerted effort to turn things around by "leaning on our own understanding", we'd be out of the woods. Instead, we keep hearing things are getting worse.

So it's a challenge to the activists: do you want a healed planet, or don't you?

And it's a challenge to the churches. Deborah Fikes of the World Evangelical Alliance says churches "lack the spiritual will" to take action. Here's my question to the Deborah, the WEA and Christians in general: do you believe the Bible, or don't you?

Now, the devil would make us believe that there's such an urgency to the climate change issue, that it's too important for us to leave to prayer.

I believe it's too important for us not to give to God.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We wrestle not ...

It was a terrorist bombing in Baghdad last month that got me thinking again about the way the current war(s) in Iraq and Afghanistan got started in the first place and something I heard from the Lord at the time.

It was in the days before blogging became a contact sport ... before Twitter or Facebook or YouTube and its Christian counterpart, Tangle ... but there was an email chain that started, so I shared that Word on the chain and for the efforts was roundly slapped down by the brother of a friend of mine who, it later transpired, has made quite a comedy career on TV, largely supporting our troops.

"Don't worry about my brother," my friend wrote. "He's an idiot."

Small consolation at the time ... and even smaller now, 8 years later, as the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan closes in on 6200 and three more of Canada's young and fair of face come home in boxes.

Don't get me wrong (and I'm surprised to think that I might have to explain myself): I do support our troops. There's a part of me that's awfully proud of the job they do over there, especially after hearing for years how the Canadian military is poorly trained and ill-equipped. When one unit took out a key Taliban position back in the fall of 2001, I remember saying to anyone who'd listen, "where have they been hiding these guys?" I'm also keenly aware of the freedoms we enjoy because men and women like them lay down their lives to protect it, and this being Remembrance Day, you bet I think about that.

But in the shock that followed the 9/11 attacks, with the world wondering what to do in response, the Word from the Lord was that the best response would be ... nothing.

Nothing military, at any rate. Why? Because this was an attack spurred by religious fervor: people believing they will be rewarded by their god for killing as many "enemies" of that god as possible. The spirit behind such fervor has only one source, and there is only one way to combat it: through prayer and faith and turning to God for protection and for Him to sort out our enemies. AND ... reaching out to those enemies with love.

No, I'm not talking about the lame let's-all-try-to-UNDERSTAND-the-people-who-did-it approach that many in the media -- particularly the Canadian media -- took. I'm talking about recognizing that the spirit behind the attacks was evil and the only way to overcome evil is with Good (Rom. 12:20-21). At the time, I pointed out in that email chain that the terrorists and their masters wanted a violent, military response and to drag the US and its allies into a long and costly war, diverting attention and resources away from important domestic issues and forcing Christians into that confusing position of claiming to believe the Bible on the one hand but not standing on it when the rubber meets the road.

Now, 8 years later, we have the fruits:
  • 133 Canadian soldiers, plus a diplomat and two aid workers, dead in Afghanistan (out of a total of 1,515 soldiers all-told)
  • a total of 4,680 soldiers (4,362 Americans) killed in Iraq
  • unknown number of casualties, many of them maimed for life, be it physically or mentally or both
  • who knows how many civilian casualties

And after all this, the alleged mastermind is still at large, and 123 people are killed in a terrorist bombing in Baghdad.

Indeed, you could argue that this most recent attack is "right on time": people who were children at the . of 9/11 would be in their prime now, having watched first hand as those who claimed to promote God -- in a different form from theirs -- killed and destroyed their homeland, became ready to do their part.

In other words, what have we accomplished?

We got Saddam. A cruel despot was removed from power and eventually executed. Was hanging him the right thing to do? Or should we not, as Christians, having de-fanged him and ended his reign of terror, been praying for him and giving him opportunities to see the One True God and repent? Think of Nebuchadnezzar, who was not above wiping out his opponents and whole races of people.

But beyond that, we seem to be into an endless cycle of killing and having our young people killed, and all through it all the spiritual forces that spawned 9/11 and bombings in London and Madrid, that inspire Iran's nuclear adventure and make it the stated goal of at least one recognized territory to wipe Israel off the map are still alive and well in the Heavenlies. The attack may have been quasi-military, but the response really can't be. As Einstein said, you don't solve problems with the same methods that caused them -- and that's just as true in a holy war as in anything else.

This is no disrespect for the sacrifices our soldiers have made and continue to make in the name of defeating the enemy and protecting the world we live in, but it's time to end the bloodletting. It's never too late to repent and fight this battle where it should be fought: on our knees, loving those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, and letting God FINALLY have His perfect will.