Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Denial - or changing perspective?

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"Aren't you afraid you'll just get written off as one of those people who says 'just leave it to God'?"

The question came from talk-show host Frank Pastore back in 2008, as he gave me 10 minutes of air time to talk about A Very Convenient Truth, Version One. Frank's show is on KKLA Los Angeles, a Christian station, and he'd brought me on after I'd sent a note pointing out that diverting using grain to produce motor fuel rather than food was against God's plan -- Gen. 1:29 "it shall be food for you". (In other words: not for powering motor vehicles.)

The interview itself was a disaster, since Frank threw some curves at me (he is, after all, a retired baseball pitcher) that I wasn't able to handle and I think I came off looking likea kook (don't say it), but that question about "leave it to God" gave me something to think about and it's lurked in the back of my mind as I meditated more about God, the environment, and the obsession over global warming/climate change. It reminded me that a lot of people might think that -- and those just happen to be the very people who need to be reached with this message.

I believe I've managed to address that in writing Version Two.

For the record, I did have an answer to that question: "this is too important not to leave to God".

The fact is, once we consider the responsibility God placed on us right from the start to be His "branch managers" for the earth, considering the promises in His Word is a must. His Word calls us to draw close to Him and worship Him -- not some flighty, mythological witch called "Mother Nature" -- and that when we do, He will heal the land and give us the Grace to make proper use of the wonderful Creation He has given us. The current "green" obsession takes our focus off Him, as if He were irrelevant; yet without a focus on God, to whom are we accountable for our actions?

A Very Convenient Truth points out something else: for decades, we have been trying to solve man-made problems with man-made solutions.  (Regardless of whether climate change is man-made or no, or any alteration of man's behaviour will ultimately derail the changes in our environment, there are changes underway and Scripture tells us what we are supposed to do when we see them.) We have to come to terms with the fact that in spite of those efforts, the situation has grown worse (at least, according to the numerous studies and reports by scientific panels). Now is the time to remember that, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." (Psalm 127:1); if actions have not borne fruit, maybe we have to consider that God is not blessing those actions.

In other words, if we really want to see something positive out of this whole experience with climate change/global warming, it's time to get to know what the Maker has to say about what He has made.

Monday, October 31, 2011

If you love this planet ...

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... an excerpt from A Very Convenient Truth ...

(You hear that expression from time to time, "if you love this planet"; but really, how can we love a planet? It's a rock, and saying "I love a rock," -- no matter how beautiful it may be -- can get into a weird area really fast. But in this portion, we see how love does figure in the picture.)

What's the difference between “using and enjoying” and destroying?  Both involve consuming something, but to destroy something is to consume it so it can never be restored.  We are only to use and enjoy the rest of Creation to the extent that we can replenish it.  Does not pollution result from our using creation beyond our ability to replenish?

            That’s where love comes in. 

            If you love me, keep my commandments. 
            And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
-- John 14:15-16  

            People are Destroyers by nature: we burn, we kill, we pluck things in their prime; that's why we have to be commanded to replenish what we use of the earth.  God does not command us to do things that come to us naturally, and that includes the First Great Assignment. It’s part of the base animal “fight or flight” response in which we say, “I need to protect myself (or feed my family or get shelter), and no matter how many fish and birds are killed, I’m going to get it.” The underlying theme of God’s commandments is, “trust Me and no one else to meet your needs.” Failing to do that is the root of all sin. 

            Having dominion over the earth is not in our nature, which is why it’s so hard to comprehend.  We can be overwhelmed by the power of natural disasters and the size and ferocity of the beasts of the earth are overwhelming to us. God sees it otherwise. So it’s not a question of whether we love the earth: if we love Jesus, we will take care of the earth; as that relationship builds, it’s inevitable that our behavior will change. Consider Zacchaeus, the little tax collector described in Luke 19, who climbed a tree so he could get a better look at Jesus. Jesus invited Himself over for dinner, and by the time they reached Zacchaeus’ place, Luke tells us the tax collector, speaking of his renewed life in the present tense, had already repented.[i]

            Notice, too, that Jesus spotted Zacchaeus because Zacchaeus had made the effort to see Jesus directly. When we do the same, God honors that commitment by bringing the transformation we need.

As with Zacchaeus, Jesus does not stand over us, pointing out our every sin. He did not do that with the woman taken in adultery; He did not go into deep thought about what sin Lazarus might have committed, that he would have fallen ill and died; He flat-out rejected the idea that either the man who had been blind since birth or his parents had committed some terrible sin; for Jesus, it's all about glorifying God, not revisiting sin.

            And so it is in our relationship with Him and our impact on His creation. When we receive Jesus joyfully, as Zacchaeus did, we know what we've done wrong, and we're already moving in the right direction. 

            In other words, our current environmental crisis has less to do with SUVs or GHGs or CACs than it has to do with GOD. 

            In our repentance, we must move from being destroyers to being replenishers, but we can’t do that without changing our entire mindset. “Be not conformed to the world,” the Apostle Paul writes, “but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind ….” (Romans 12:2[ii])  Being conformed to the world means adopting solutions and attitudes that seem right to us or follow another person’s particular point of view or a consensus of like-minded individuals. Only when we allow ourselves to be led by God do we truly change our thinking. We pray, “how can we do this without destroying what You have created?” and then wait on the answer. He will show us: it may seem like a less dynamic or immediate response to the situation, but when we consult with God, the answer is both the right answer and the timely one.

[i] Zacchaeus is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. We meet him as Jesus is passing through Jericho en route to Jerusalem. Z. is a crooked tax collector who is so short, he has to climb a tree in order to get a look at Jesus. And Jesus … looked up and saw him and said unto him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. And he … received Him joyfully … and said “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” I think it’s significant that Zacchaeus is speaking in the present tense, despite his well-earned reputation for ripping people off. In the time between Jesus’ spotting him up the tree and arriving at his house for dinner, Zacchaeus has already repented and changed his whole way of thinking and living.
[ii] Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

GOOD NEWS! We're guilty of Original Environmental Sin!

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... excerpt from A Very Convenient Truth

If we have to shoulder responsibility for the environmental trauma we see today through our disobedience to God, does that mean we have yet another reason to beat ourselves up?

No. This is not a guilt trip. This is, in fact, good news in the same way that an EKG result is good news for someone with chest pains: we have identified sin.

Hooray! We’ve sinned! How is that “good news”, you ask?

Because in Christ, we hold a significant trump card called Calvary.

If our failure to nurture and protect Creation is a sin of disobedience, does it not stand to reason that this is just as redeemable in Christ as sexual sin, lying, cheating, murdering or any of the other acts of disobedience for which we have to repent?

Repentance means we humble ourselves and allow God back into the picture, giving Him room to increase as we decrease. The Grace God extends to us means that we can repent for dropping the ball on The First Great Assignment and then pick up that ball and run with it as we were supposed to. For His part, God promises to blot out altogether the things we’ve done to damage the environment (Col. 2:13-14) .

But if we simply throw up our hands and say, “What is truth?”, and walk away as if that's something we can never know, then Satan has just been allowed to come in and hold confusion over the situation, essentially leaving Jesus out there to be crucified again. For Evangelicals, it’s also a missed opportunity to bring more souls into the Kingdom of God by showing how the Word of God is true in all aspects of day-to-day life.

Jesus told us there’d be days like these …

Another reason why Satan is taking such an interest in climate change is because he knows what time it is. Again, we go back to Matthew 24:5-7, where Jesus foretells the signs of His return. Famines and pestilences can both be seen as climate change symptoms. Jesus spoke in language people could understand, and while “global warming”, “melting polar ice cap” or “ozone depletion” would have gone over their heads, they would definitely have known about “famine and pestilence”.

We also have plenty of false christs today – self-help gurus who claim to show people how to feel good about themselves without repenting; others who presume to “simplify” things by reducing Christ to Just Another World View and looking for ways other belief systems “agree” (“many paths to the top of the mountain,” as some say), when God has already simplified things by reducing the number of paths to one; men called “holiness” with beatific smiles, pronouncing that we are each our own universe.

We have the wars and rumors of war -- terrorism. Incurable diseases are cropping up, the moral rule book has been thrown out the window, “tolerance” has replaced “love” and “rights” have replaced “what’s right”; governments try to legislate things that can remedied if we were all walking in agape love for one another – truly, “the love of many (is waxing) cold” (Matt. 24:12).

With those signs becoming more numerous and intense, Satan knows that the best way to keep people from turning their eyes towards God is to have them chasing straw men – like arguing over climate change. Like a magician using a “mis-direct” so we don’t see him slip the coin up his sleeve, Satan is using the debate as a sleight of hand.

The premise of A Very Convenient Truth is that Biblically, we're not to obsess on climate change/global warming, nor to deny it, but to see it as an incentive to get our own walk right with God. That may mean that our personal approach runs counter to conventional wisdom or the prescriptions demanded by certain advocates or interest groups; it also means we don't judge others for choices that may seem "environmentally-unfriendly": but if our actions are God-friendly, He promises to "heal the land".  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hallowe'en and the double standard

I remember when Hallowe'en was fun.
At my father's memorial in July, the guests included a woman I'd literally grown up with from babyhood -- we were born a few months apart, our families lived a few doors away from each other, our mothers were both friends through theatre and our dads were both TV producers. Naturally, we played together a lot. At the memorial, one of the recurring things mentioned was the photo of the two of us on Hallowe'en, 1958: Drew dressed as a bunny; Debra as a clown.
Over the years, my Hallowe'en costumes were along those lines: a hockey player, a clown, Tiny Tim (the singer - complete with ukulele), a Roman soldier (using a costume left over from a play mom directed that was set in ancient Rome), a duck-billed platypus (don't ask) ... my kids' costumes followed along those lines: Aidan as Robin Hood or Elvis Presley, Hannah as an angel, a princess, Snow White ... you get the picture.
In other words, the true meaning of Hallowe'en was more than somewhat obscured by the "fun" aspect: kids dressing up, going door-to-door, getting candies, then going to a neighbour's place for fireworks and hot chocolate.

But over the past decade or so, the tone of Hallowe'en has changed. Now, it's all about death and evil spirits and fright and foreboding -- probably the "true meaning of Hallowe'en", and in a reversal of Charlie Brown at Christmastime, who got depressed because he couldn't find what the True Meaning of Christmas was about, seeing the "true meaning of Hallowe'en" is depressing the heck out of me.

And signs are all about, saying, "Happy Hallowe'en".

REALLY? "Happy" Hallowe'en?
OK. Now I'm offended. Why? Because the same people who fatuously wish us that -- including retailers, broadcasters and public officials -- cannot spit out the words "Merry Christmas" for fear it will offend someone who might not subscribe to the point of view that the birth of the Saviour of Mankind is a happy occasion. Why is it politically correct to wish someone a happy time of celebrating evil and the dark side but not to ...... okay, I think the point is made.

As this is the kickoff to the shopping season for the Holiday That Dares Not Speak Its Name, I thought I'd bring back a portion of a posting I did in 2009, about the confusion that comes when you have a holiday season that appears to be all icing and no cake. Imagine, if you will, a non-Christian immigrant, trying to decipher what the fuss is about.
"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 above 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 shopping malls in Western Canada. Soon, it will be filled with 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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

from A Very Convenient Truth: The Climate of Climate Change Discussion

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Satan stirs the pot

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled, for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places.
-- Matthew 24:6-7
The debate over climate change is brutal. What’s odd is that there’s any debate at all: the “brutal” part is the vicious ad hominem nature of the discussion. Whether it’s the vicious attacks faced by scientists who question the findings associated with conventional wisdom on climate change, a prominent activist’s demand that politicians who don’t take the action he prescribed be thrown in jail, or Richard Curtis’ infamous “blow up the children” video, the debate over climate change is especially vitriolic. 
There’s no question that something is going on. While “natural disasters” have always been around, there is an unusual intensity in their force and frequency. There have been unusually severe storms and some of the worst in recent years have had little or no warning. Seasons seem to be out of place: summers in some areas have been hotter and drier than normal, while other areas – like Vancouver, BC, where I live – have experienced harsher-than-usual winters (except during the Winter Olympics – go figure). Forest fires have become increasingly destructive, pushed along by unusually strong winds, coming from an unexpected direction. A variety of scientific predictions has missed the mark – from salmon runs to “surprise” heat waves. 
But is this a man-made situation with man-made solutions?  And why is “climate change” dominating the headlines?  Have you ever stopped to wonder why, with so many undeniable environmental issues to deal with like air and water pollution, loss of farmland, soil degradation and nuclear waste, the one with the shakiest foundations and greatest potential for controversy gets the majority of the attention? 
            This is one of many signs that Satan is driving this issue. Remember, all worldly battles may appear to be flesh-and-blood struggles, but are in fact, as the Apostle Paul tells us, wars in the spirit realm with the sole purpose of distracting our attention away from God. It’s important to recognize this in the environmental issue, particularly with what passes for debate over climate change/global warming: Satan has absolutely no interest in preserving God’s creation; he will do whatever it takes to keep us at one another’s throats and take our attention away from God.  Suddenly, the answer to the question above becomes strikingly clear.
Truth does not need to threaten or suppress its opponents.  Nor is truth a matter of consensus, a word used often when explaining how “the science is settled.” “Consensus” does not necessarily mean “truth”. If 20,000 experts agree on something that is wrong, does it become right? As Graham Cooke has said, “one person, plus God, is always the majority”. One person, plus Truth, trumps 20,000 scientists. 
One person, plus Truth, trumps an army of conservative talk-show hosts, too. And so long as he can keep us at one another’s throats, Satan has us right where he wants us. 
Truth is not about politics. It is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness can’t extinguish it.  Consider James’ words:  
           If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
           This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish.
           For where envying and strife [is], there is confusion and every evil work.
           But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle [and] easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
-- James 3:14 - 17
When a “debate” degenerates into a matter of “who wins” rather than “what’s right”, as this has, Truth is often sacrificed. As humans, we must be seen to be vindicated – to be seen as “right” or “right all along”. To do that, we feel that we have to attack our attackers if we can’t convince them with the facts. But when Jesus told us not to worry about what to say if forced to defend our faith, He was not just comforting us that we would not be alone, but calling us to overcome that fleshly desire. We are to let the Spirit do the talking, and if anyone doesn’t receive the message, we shake their dust off our feet and move on, trusting that we have planted seeds that will eventually take root and grow. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Very Convenient Truth - I may have to clarify ...

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I realized on re-reading it that Friday's excerpt from A Very Convenient Truth leaves the impression that I'm advocating that the Biblical response to global warming/climate change is to do nothing. Not so, but it takes the rest of the book to put it all into context.

So while I make no qualification to the statement that the changes we're seeing in the climate and other environmental issues like seismic and volcanic activity are all part of God's plan and that trying to "fight" them puts us in opposition to Him, that doesn't mean we do nothing. It just means we focus our attention in another direction and Scripture tells us what that direction is.

To begin with, we have to stop denying the human contribution to global warming/climate change and acknowledge that we, as a species, have violated the First Great Assignment (Genesis 1:28) by not replenishing the earth at the same time that we were being fruitful, multiplying and subduing it.

Next, we need to repent for that and let those sins be covered by the blood of Jesus -- the "trump card" we hold when we receive Christ.

Then, we go and sin no more.

But this all has to come under the umbrella of bringing our walk into line with God in all things: loving Him above all others, loving our neighbours as ourselves, and re-committing to Jesus' Great Commission, which is to be His witnesses all over the world. Indeed (and I go into this in more depth in the book), the Great Commission is the New Covenant version of the First Great Assignment, because it means propagating a spiritual Garden of Eden -- which is what we were supposed to do in the first place.

We are warned, repeatedly, not to observe signs. We are to take note of the signs and understand that when the signs appear, we turn to God, but we are not to observe, or study or obsess on, those signs. God's promise is that as we obsess on Him, He will take care of everything else.

The natural response is to see the "bad" implications of those signs and try to do something about them. God calls us to look beyond that natural response to something higher and place our trust in Him to do what He's supposed to do.

So "do something" about climate change/global warming? Yes ... but ...

Friday, October 14, 2011

from A Very Convenient Truth: is this a fight we should get into?

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After fear, the two biggest signs Satan is pulling the strings and God has been left out are failure and confusion 

            We have pointed out already that millions of earnest, well-meaning people have worked hard for decades to find solutions. They've organized recycling programs, promoted consumer boycotts, voted governments in and out and taken other actions to solve the growing problem.   

            Consider the human sacrifice: thousands of people have had their lives turned upside-down for the sake of the environment. They’ve lost their jobs, their homes, their families; industries have shut down or re-tooled and whole communities have been thrown into disarray.   

            For all this, the problem keeps getting worse. Could it be that, for all these good intentions, God is not blessing these actions? Could it be that the whole way of thinking is wrong?  One has to wonder whether this “fight” is even winnable. It’s not even clear what “victory” looks like.
Is the “fight” against global warming/climate change a battle that can ever be won, or is it really, like Sisyphus endlessly pushing that rock up the hill only to have it roll back just when he gets to the top, a version of hell on earth?
As I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back, this may not even be a fight we want to get into, if we remember that Jesus told us there’d be days like these. In laying His cards on the table, God has told us, straight-up, what His plan is. If the “symptoms” of global warming/climate change are really the signs that Jesus foretold of His return, why on earth are we trying to stop them from happening?
That’s mighty dangerous ground; and when it comes to “victory”, Jesus already gave us that in a much greater battle. Like Cain after the Fall, we run the risk of spending our time wrestling against God and His plan, when we should be, like Abel, simply enjoying what He has given us and worshiping Him for it.  
Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
-- Psalm 127:1
Failure is a sign that God is not blessing the actions. 
And then there is confusion. 
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
-- I Cor. 14:33
As we’ve seen, there is nothing peaceable about the dialogue.  With what passes for “debate” becoming divisive and increasingly acrimonious, many people, including myself, have been left crying, “What is truth?” 
And that’s actually good news, because when that happens, we're actually on the verge of an answer.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Most Environmentally-Friendly Verse in the Bible

A Very Convenient Truth - US$3.99 on Amazon Kindle
... excerpt from A Very Convenient Truth.

The Word of God is shot through with references to and images of the love God has for His Creation, the love Creation has for Him and the responsibility He has placed on us to take care of it. What’s more, He’s given us guidelines to follow; the root of the current problem is that we have strayed away from those guidelines. 

            First, though, a Scripture Reality Check: 

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth.
-- Genesis 1:1

            “In the beginning ….” – the first thing we have to acknowledge is that God made this whole show, wrote the whole script and is moving everything along according to a Plan He’d already worked out before He ever said, “let there be light!” He takes credit for all things that have been made (John 1:3), and as Job pointed out, that includes the “bad” as well as the “good”; notice how He says, in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, that He will “shut up heaven” and bring other such natural disasters. 

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people;
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 sin, and will heal their land.

Genesis 1:1 is the most environmentally-friendly piece of Scripture in the whole Bible. How? Because it establishes that there is a well-defined Authority to whom we’re accountable. God created everything and for that reason alone, we need to subject ourselves to Him. As we’ll see shortly, there are lots of other reasons to subject ourselves to Him when it comes to the environment.

Why do I believe Genesis 1:1? Because it's written in His Word --the same Word that tells me I’m saved, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ and given a new chance at life.

All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.
-- John 1:3

And because God created all, we are answerable to Him, which is what makes Genesis 1:1 the environmentally-friendly verse. We have a very high Authority to answer to – certainly higher than any scientists, politicians, activists and celebrities who have spoken out on the issue. These are, after all, fallible human beings, just like anybody else. 
            Now consider this: “… and God saw that it was good.” 
            Throughout Genesis 1, that is the coda to every stage of Creation: the indelible stamp that God saw that what He had done was good. Now since, as Jesus says, there is “none good but God” (Matt. 19:17[i]), anything God has made is an extension of Him. That tells you just how high the stakes are in this game: our lives are surrounded by extensions of God and we (as we’ll see shortly) have been given the responsibility to care for and nurture those extensions.
Mind you, this is not to say that we regard Creation as being God Himself. Paganism and animism and similar philosophies take that fatal step, but in so doing, they deny the vital principle of accountability to an Authority. I believe that’s one of the reasons why alternate theories like evolution and natural selection become so popular – even in the absence of real scientific proof – humans, fallen creatures that we are, really don’t want to be accountable to anything but to our own conscience. 
            Strangely, many people who believe in Creation miss the point about accountability, themselves. The environment is repeatedly sacrificed either for the perceived need to feed one’s family or out of greed, plain and simple. Have you ever tried to convince someone – especially someone who thinks they’re “right with God” – that they’re committing sin? Yet we’ll see soon that destroying Creation without taking steps to replenish it is the “original environmental sin”.

            And if people try to “clean up the mess” or prevent it from happening in the first place without acknowledging their accountability to God as Creator and in control of all things, they find the efforts are futile. In fact, if the object of the efforts is to “stop global warming,” they’re already doomed to failure.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy Vancouver: a cry for hope

October 15 is looming as the date for the Vancouver version of "Occupy Wall Street", the sit-in-on-steroids intended to ... well, it's hard to say what the protesters want: they're dissatisfied with the current world system, which they say is the fault of evil corporate greed; according to the Province newspaper, the Occupy Vancouver protesters plan to occupy first and decide what they want later.

My initial thoughts are rather negative, but on further consideration, I'm hearing a cry for hope, because that kind of nameless, directionless frustration only comes when you know something is wrong but you can't quite put your finger on it. The fall-back position for anyone in a situation like that is to find a convenient enemy and declare war. But people are missing the true source of Hope.

First, though, some of the negative thoughts -- which I think are still real concerns:
  • how many thousands of people and their families depend on corporations for their incomes? Many of these people belong to unions, which makes me wonder why some trade unions seem interested in getting involved?
  • what if some of these greedy corporations were to fight back by showing real greed and cutting off their philanthropic activities? Do you know how many millions of dollars the Jim Pattison Group donates to various endeavours (trust me: it's way beyond the ones that have Jim's name plastered on them)? Then there's the Weston family, owners of Weston Bakeries, Loblaw's, Superstore, and a whole whack of other grocery interests, whose Foundation actually increased its giving in 2009 when others were pulling in their horns because of the recession. (I know: The W. Garfield Weston Foundation gave Gospel Mission $15,000 out of the blue that year out of that special fund.) (Remember, too, that Weston's also markets No-Name food products, which help keep groceries affordable for many low-income families.)
  • there's a certain irony in the fact that the meeting was held in the Woodward's complex, which bears the name of one of the great corporate families in BC history. Also, many of the homeless, under-housed, reduced-circumstances people supposedly "represented" by the Occupy Vancouver movement hang out at and otherwise receive services from the Carnegie Centre, which is housed in the original Vancouver Library, given to the city over a century ago by that greedy coal baron, Andrew Carnegie.
In other words, one shouldn't be so quick to condemn corporations. A lot of people -- far more than the 1% the organizers claim to be battling -- depend on corporations in more ways than one would care to admit. Promoting the Us-versus-Them mindset and turning this into a quasi-war seems misguided, and statements like, "if you have to ask (what it's about), you're making too much money" (actual sound bite on CBC radio) only polarizes people. Makes you wonder if they want to accomplish anything, or just throw a tantrum.

Actually, my first thought was that the idea of a protest like this happening in Vancouver is cause for concern. No matter how "peaceful" everyone says it will be, the spirit of rebellion that sits over Vancouver makes that highly improbable. The Winter Olympics riot in February 2010 was a perfect example: there were protesters with seemingly legitimate causes to promote; but there were also the "Black Bloc", who were out more to make a lot of noise. It reached its nadir with the Stanley Cup Riot this past June, where it was apparent that people simply wanted to destroy things and taunt police at the same time. Add to that the fact that Vancouverites can't even obey traffic signals and you get a sense of the level of respect for the law in this region.

There's another thing to consider. Even if the protesters somehow got what they wanted -- whatever that is -- that's no guarantee of peace in Vancouver. A prime case in point is the situation with bicycles. For years, some cycling advocates have organized the "Critical Mass Ride", where hundreds of cyclists ride through city streets on a Friday rush hour, tying up traffic (causing an increase in exhaust emissions due to idling engines) and generally being a nuisance. The incessant drum-beating and chanting of slogans doesn't help the cause, either.

The current Mayor of Vancouver and his council launched a $25-million program to install bike lanes through city streets and improve cycling routes. TransLink, the transportation authority, has invested millions of dollars a year in cycling infrastructure, as have other municipalities in the region. And cyclists still ride on sidewalks, go the wrong way on one-way streets. And there are still Critical Mass rides.

It's like the country song ("Daddy Never Was a Cadillac Guy") says, "The more I give [my kids], the more they want".

But having gotten all that off my chest, what the Lord started showing me is that this is a group of people -- and a rather large one, at that -- who are trying to fight a fleshly battle, trying to counter greed by stirring up envy in people and masking it as a sense of justice. That's using one sin against another: calling on Satan to cast out Satan.

In fact, we're seeing people who are bereft of hope. As I said at the beginning, they know something is wrong and can't put their finger on it, and in that frustration and desperation with ignorance of the Lord and His Word, they lash out.

How can we make them see that the solution in all these things is Christ? Get them to look at the Gospel not as "just another belief system" or the manifesto of self-righteousness -- an effect of Religious thinking over generations -- but as the Word of God and a guide to life itself? Indeed, how do we get people to read the Word, when The World keeps telling them they don't need to?

You want social justice? Jesus is social justice. You want caring for the poor? Jesus is about caring for the poor. You want healing for people? Jesus is about healing for people -- especially getting beyond cures or reducing harm and getting right to the root of whatever problem people face. You want environmental restoration? The word of God is all about environmental restoration and stewardship.

You want peace and an orderly society? Jesus is about peace and an orderly society.

You want truth? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

It requires a paradigm shift in thinking. It requires stripping away any preconceived notions of what "victory" looks like and accepting the Victory that God has already given us. It requires breaking away from the human/fleshly desire for revenge against people we think have wronged us. It requires shedding the self-righteous belief that you're better than those in big corporations and humbling yourself to the thought that we are all children of God, marginalized protester and have-it-all corporate mogul alike, and repenting for judging others. Then it requires seeking God and His righteousness and trusting that, as you brings yourself into line with His Word, He will watch over you and others who see the changes in you will be drawn to the same Light.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Now available on Amazon Kindle: A Very Convenient Truth

Now available on AMAZON KINDLE US$3.99
If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people;
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 sin, and will heal their land.
-- 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (KJV)

Former Vice-President Al Gore recently held a 24-hour TV event about the current state of global warming/climate change, and his former boss, Bill Clinton, told a gathering in New York City in September that “green” industries need billions of dollars of investment in order to succeed and, presumably, save the planet.

News about global warming/climate change is invariably bad, whether it’s coming from the scientists warning us that things keep getting worse and governments aren’t doing or spending enough to fight it, or from those who deny there’s a problem, who say the economy will tank if the measures the environmentalists demand are adopted. A Very Convenient Truth – now available on Amazon Kindle -- sets out to break us out of the cycle of Doomspeak, personal attacks and confusion. 

A Very Convenient Truth takes the position that Christians – in fact, anyone who believes in the One True God of Israel – hold a significant trump card, which makes all that Doomspeak and the worry and fear that goes with it an absolute non-starter. The Word of God, after all, is nothing but good news: you just have to look for it. The book neither denies the issue nor takes the position of the True Believer, but as you consider God’s promise about “the land”, you realize that God has already given us the answers. Anyone can pursue them, they don’t cost a cent and they don’t involve serving the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).

Part of this “very convenient truth” is that there is an original environmental sin that a lot of us have a hard time recognizing, largely for the same reason that people have a hard time recognizing any sin as their own; also because the world has made the effects of that sin appear to be insurmountable. But for someone who’s in Christ, there is also another Truth: just as with any other sin, Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary allows us to repent, have that sin wiped off the books, and get on the right track.  

There’s no question that something is going on. While “natural disasters” have always been around, there is an unusual intensity in their force and frequency. There have been unusually severe storms and some of the worst in recent years have had little or no warning. Seasons seem to be out of place: summers in some areas have been hotter and drier than normal, while other areas – like Vancouver, BC, where I live – have experienced harsher-than-usual winters (except during the Winter Olympics – go figure). Forest fires have become increasingly destructive, pushed along by unusually strong winds, coming from an unexpected direction. A variety of scientific predictions has missed the mark – from salmon runs to “surprise” heat waves.
But is this a man-made situation with man-made solutions?  And why is “climate change” dominating the headlines?  Have you ever stopped to wonder why, with so many undeniable environmental issues to deal with like air and water pollution, loss of farmland, soil degradation and nuclear waste, the one with the shakiest foundations and greatest potential for controversy gets the majority of the attention?
            This is one of many signs that Satan is driving this issue. Remember, all worldly battles may appear to be flesh-and-blood struggles, but are in fact, as the Apostle Paul tells us, wars in the spirit realm with the sole purpose of distracting our attention away from God. It’s important to recognize this in the environmental issue, particularly with what passes for debate over climate change/global warming: Satan has absolutely no interest in preserving God’s creation; he will do whatever it takes to keep us at one another’s throats and take our attention away from God. 
-- from A Very Convenient Truth

A Very Convenient Truth also reminds us that things that are attributed to “global warming” have actually been foretold for thousands of years and that trying to fight against these signs puts us in opposition to God’s Will – very dangerous territory, indeed. 

            “So ...” you ask, “are we supposed to pray our way through climate change?”
            It may not seem like Dynamic Action or accords in Kyoto, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro or any of the myriad political agreements to Do Something About It, but those things are only soul-satisfying “feel good” exercises that give the impression of action while scoring political points. 
            Scripture tells us that Dynamic Action is highly over-rated. Consider Peter, the poster boy for Dynamic But Ineffectual Action. When he vowed to come against any attempt to kill Jesus, Jesus responded, “get thee behind me, Satan”: Peter, however well-intentioned, was trying to stand in the way of God’s plan. When Peter did take action and pulled his sword on the soldiers at Gethsemane, he missed and only got the ear. 
-- from A Very Convenient Truth

For Christians, the book contains a challenge; God’s promises are always yea and Amen: do you believe that when it comes to the environment, too? For environmentalists, the challenge is, are you broad-minded enough to consider a different approach?

A Very Convenient Truth is a re-working of a book I self-published in 2008. This version is considerably different from the original with a completely different tone, attitude and revelations from Scripture. It's available for US$3.99 on Amazon Kindle -- go to, click on Kindle, then "Kindle Books" and type "A Very Convenient Truth" into the "search" field.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where to Go in Vancouver

Vandals have broken into Scotland Yard and smashed all the toilets. Police say they have nothing to go on.
-- The Two Ronnies

One of the "causes du jour" in my day job as media relations guy for the BC Electric Railway Company is the desire for public restrooms at transit stations. I won't go into the entire debate here, but it leads to a broader issue: public restrooms in general. The City of Vancouver has again approached us at Gospel Mission about keeping The Lord's Rain open in the evenings, seven nights a week, to give people a place to go. We sent them a budget; we're waiting for their response. (A similar overture in 2009 came up short for lack of funding.)
I don't mind saying: if a politician were to add "public restrooms" to his or her platform, I think they'd be surprised at how that might turn the election. They'd get my vote, anyway. The heck with the current mayor's obsession on making Vancouver "the greenest city" or "wiping out homelessness by 2015" (as if!): providing a clean, safe place where someone can go to the bathroom is symbolic of actually caring about someone's comfort and well-being.

"Going green" more often than not implies giving up something: the car, creature comforts, warmth in the winter -- even a job in resource-based industries. I think people are getting tired of being told to give something up. Besides: I promise you that the majority of people on the Downtown East Side don't give a hang about being eco-friendly when they're living in substandard conditions, surrounded by drugs, crime and poverty. But turn the "greenest city" efforts towards providing said clean, safe place to go to the bathroom, and people will actually see that someone truly cares.

(How about a 21st-Century take on 1st Corinthians 13, from - ahem - my book A Very Convenient Truth, soon to be e-published?)
Though I speak with words of tolerance and use inoffensive terms for racial and gender descriptions, and have not love, I am like a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I understand all the implications of my carbon footprint and recycle diligently and use public transit and eschew my private auto for the sake of creating a greener city; and have not love, I am nothing.
And though I devote my spare time to fighting for social and ecological justice and quit my job even when I can’t afford to because I believe my employer does not use proper environmental practices, and have not love, it profits me nothing.
At any rate, we get so hung up on being "friendly". "Bike-friendly," "car-friendly," "business-friendly," or "family friendly", but the simple pledge to provide something as basic as a place to relieve oneself can put the city on track to something I haven't heard much lately:
People friendly.