Saturday, September 9, 2017

Reasonable "Creation Care"

One last blast to the extreme environmental movement regarding making the earth into an idol, then some positive words about the subject of "Creation Care", a term I do not like but will use because it seems to be what reasonable Christians are settling on.

Perhaps the most distressing part of the environmental movement is the attempt to silence their critics. Oddly, this also a very religious thing as well. Those who are called "Climate Change Deniers" are actually being run out of universities and called anti-science by those who hold extreme views. (Do not think that only extremists believe in what they say. They have convinced politicians and others that they are right.) Some have even called for the prosecution of those who put forth an alternative view. Is this how science supposed to work? Hardly. This is little different from charges of heresy in times past. The Climate Change "heretics" must be punished!

So, am I suggesting, as the extremists would say, that we want to pollute until we ruin everything. Not at all. My attitude, I think, is very practical. If you own your own home and you want a nice environment, then you will keep it clean. If you do not keep it clean, then you will live in filth. I recall my grandmother, a very diligent cleaner. She said that in the old days if you did not keep your house clean you were inviting disease into your home. Today, we have products which prevent a lot of that so one does not have to clean as thoroughly sometimes, or as often. Still, she had a good point. The cleaner it is, the healthier it is.

The same thing is true in our neighborhoods, cities, states and the nation as a whole. We can work to keep things clean, at first at a local level. We have a wildlife refuge near where we live and many volunteer to make it a better environment for us all. I applaud that. We all want a nice place for ourselves and for the flora and fauna that live there.

But then we also must understand that if we are to have a prosperous economy we are going to have to do some polluting. "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." (Proverbs 14:14) This seems to be a little known scripture. God is saying that though oxen (their means of agricultural production) create a mess, it is better to have them so that we can prosper. And, of course, we have to clean up after them.

There is a tradeoff between productivity and pollution. The previous administration made a "war on coal". This greatly affected the economy of Appalachia which relies on coal for jobs and electricity. They wanted to shut down the coal plants, which are very cheap to run, but which pollute more than other kinds of power plants. The problem is that this disproportionately hurts the poor. First, the coal miners lose their jobs. Then, the price of electricity goes way up. So the effect is that the poorest region in the country becomes poorer still. Should it not be the decision of the people who live there whether or not they want cheaper electricity or less pollution? Why should politicians and bureaucrats in Washington make that decision?

Often, well-meaning politicians who care about the environment make foolish decisions that end up hurting people, especially the poor, and do nothing to help the environment. Germany recently decided to do away with the more polluting plants and replace them with environmentally "better" options like solar and wind. But at the same time, they got nervous about nuclear power (which is very clean and cheap to run) because of the nuclear plant in Japan that was hit by a tsunami. So they shut down those as well. They then had to ramp up the polluting plants again, but a higher cost. So, the net effect has been a doubling of electricity prices without any benefit to the environment. Who is hurt the most by this? The poor, of course. They cannot afford higher electricity rates. (Does Germany get a lot of tsunamis? I don't think so.)

So, the bottom line is this: let's be careful shutting things down thinking that we will be saving the planet or something, and remember who may be hurt by our good intentions. We always have to weigh the costs and benefits of any action we take. It is usually the poor who suffer from well-meaning people who care about our environment. This includes especially Christians who see it as our duty to take care of God's creation. I believe that the poor are a higher priority for us. (And please do not be fooled by the rhetoric by the extreme environmentalists to the effect that it is the poor who will be hurt the worst by climate change. That is easily refuted.)

So I am going to finish this series by recommending a website run by Christians who care both about the poor and about the environment. It is cornwallalliance.org . They are not just critics of the environmental extremists and their views on the climate. They offer good perspectives on current environmental issues and are constantly aware of what happen to the poor when environmentalists suggest extreme or unwise measures to solve problems that may or may not exist. So, check it out. It is very enlightening.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Environmentalist Apocalypse

This post is not about debating different end-times scenarios, but I am only putting forth what has become popular in the church today in order to compare it to the modern environmentalist movement. Since we are seeing that environmentalism has become something of a religion among many, it is noteworthy that we are constantly being warned of a coming environmental apocalypse. Global warming is supposed to cause catastrophes of biblical proportions! Crops burning up and sea levels rising to engulf heavily populated areas are frequently sited as the reason for us to make great changes to our lifestyle and industry. We are told that unless we take drastic action, life on earth is in danger.

How much this reminds us of certain Christian preachers who are constantly preaching gloom and doom scenarios. (We are supposed to preach the Good News so that we can escape judgement.) Now I believe in things like the Rapture of the Church and the rise of an Antichrist and subsequent judgments, including environmental disasters like waters being turned to blood and the grass all being burnt up. But that is not for the church age. And I am not suggesting that we ignore the book of Revelation or the warnings therein. What hurts the church is that someone is always predicting the date of the Rapture (which is always in error) or seeing everything in nature (eclipses and hurricanes, for example) as harbingers of judgement.

Now I don't think that you would find one extreme environmentalist who would not scoff at such things. But then they turn around and do the same things themselves. They make apocalyptic predictions of environmental disasters that will make the earth virtually uninhabitable and bring untold misery. We are told to "repent" of our "sinful" polluting lifestyle and join their program in the hopes that we can be saved. If you oppose their "solutions" then you are labelled a heretic, that is, "anti-science".

They seem to deliberately forget the false predictions made in the past about global cooling (remember the "new ice age"?) or what acid rain was going to do to our forests. People are catching on, though. The latest end-of-the-world scenario is like the boy who cried "wolf". These repeated predictions of environmental doom-and-gloom are beginning to fall on deaf ears. That's a good thing.

Any well trained scientist should know that there is a great deal of difference between observational science, where we get our technological advances from, and predictive science, which is very much a guessing game. Now we can predict certain things on a small scale, but to predict what the climate will be in a hundred years is well beyond our ability and knowledge and it might never be possible. Science has it limitations. We must take that into account. Scientists, however honest they may be, are human and they can be deceived as well as anyone. I have heard scientists, experts in their field, make fundamental errors about the nature of science and what it can and cannot do. It is not infallible and it cannot answer every question we have, especially about the future. For that, let's stick to the Bible.

What is really surprising to me (should I be surprised at anything anymore?) is that Christians often buy into these apocalyptic scenarios and the so-called solutions brought forth. Of course, they speak in more "spiritual" terms like "creation care" and such like. Now I realize that not everyone who uses the term "creation care" falls for the extreme environmentalist scenarios. But I do think that we ought to be careful not to confuse the desire to help our environment with the current extreme agenda put forth by the extreme environmentalism which is becoming a religion to many.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Environmentalism - The New Animism?

Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, care about our environment. But some who care about the environment have gotten a little carried away. They have gone beyond just caring about the health of our air and water to making the earth into an idol. I think that the apostle Paul's insights apply here. He wrote, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." (Romans 1:25) He is, of course, speaking about ancient paganism that worshipped idols that represented created things like the planets (Venus and Jupiter, for example).

An earlier form of earth worship that still exists today is 'animism'. That is the idea that everything is alive and has a spiritual essence. Native American culture was, and still is to some degree, animistic. That is why, traditionally, they did not believe that anyone could own a piece of land. The land was sacred to them. I often shake my head when I hear someone on television explain that some tribe opposes some project on their land. They always make that we "understand" that the land is "sacred" to Native Americans. This is seen as being deeply spiritual and something that we Christians should respect, or even hold in awe.

This is pure animism, and animism is idolatry. Now someone might complain at this point that monotheists has some places that are considered holy as well. Take the temple mount where the Jewish temple once stood. Both Jews and Muslims, with differing claims, say that it is holy, not to be used for common purposes. The Jews have the prior claim and they believe that this land belongs to God. It was a place that God chose to put Him Name and to place His temple. In other words, the land is not holy in and of itself, but because God chose it for a purpose. It is dedicated to the Creator. We should also note that King David purchased that land. It was afterward dedicated to the Lord. That is much different from the land being "sacred" simply because it is part of the earth.

You might be thinking, at this point, 'what does that all have to do with modern environmentalism?' Environmentalists are not worshipping the earth. Perhaps not directly in the old terms of the ancient animists and pagans. Not too many people perform acts of worship when it comes to the earth. But many have "served the creature rather than the Creator". They put the "environment" ahead of human good and human progress. Preserving some plant or animal becomes more important than the benefit that humans might get from not preserving them. So humans become less important than animals or even the earth itself.

I have to note here that sometimes Christians act as if we are here to serve the earth rather than the other way around. God made the earth for man. We are not here to care for this planet. He created it for us. He created a place where we could live and thrive and prosper. That is why He made us last. He had to have a good environment for us to live in. We ruined that environment through sin and I do not mean the fact that we often pollute. We live in a fallen earth which Christ died to redeem and which He will completely renew.
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)

Until He does that there will be environmental problems. This is point at which the environmentalists will say that I do not care about the environment and that this view will lead to environmental disaster. But that is not the least bit true. To say that something exists to serve us does not mean that we will abuse it. It means that we have the proper perspective. If a person owns a car, will he let it fall apart simply because it exists to serve him? Not necessarily. Some take better care of their cars and other not so much. (It also depends on how much you can afford to take care of it.)

So, understanding that the earth is here to serve us does not mean that "we do not care". It means that we can make choices about how we are going to care for it. A well-developed country like the USA may have stricter environmental regulations that less developed nations. The less developed nations want more economic development are willing to pollute more to accomplish this. We, on the other hand, already have a greater prosperity and want a better environment. There are trade-offs, and we have to make choices about where we want to come down.

Environmentalists are often absolutists who want to shut down industry and treat humans and human progress as a problem for the earth rather than the reason for the earth existing at all. God did not make the earth for His benefit but for ours. That is why He gave us dominion over it. We simply have to decide how to exercise that dominion.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Hold Fast To What You Have

The Bible tells us to "hold that fast which thou hast." (Revelation 3:11) I have quoted the King James here because of the word "thou". It is singular. So John is not telling the church as a whole to hold fast to something, but is telling individuals within the church to hold fast to what they have received from the Lord. Some people believe and teach that if God gives something to you that you cannot lose it. But if we have to hold fast to it, then it must be possible to lose it.

Let's look at divine healing. I am not talking about natural healing through doctors and medicine, but supernatural healing by the Spirit of God. Many people think that if God heals you, then that is it, you are healed forever. But that is not the case. We have to hold fast to it. Many people have lost their healing and, unfortunately, well-meaning Christians have thought that God did not really heal them after all. A person may receive their healing through a minister or in answer to prayer and experience divine healing. All the symptoms leave and even the doctors say they are healthy. Then the symptoms return and they think, "I thought God healed me, but I guess He didn't really. Otherwise, this would not have come back on me." This is erroneous thinking and it leads to folks losing their healing for good.

So let's look at some facts about divine healing and we will see what is really going on here. First, the New Testament is quite clear about where sickness and infirmity come from. They come from Satan. "How Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil." (Acts 10:38) Jesus healed those oppressed by the Devil, and since the gospels say over and over again that Jesus healed all who came to Him for healing, then sickness must be Satanic oppression.

In some cases, Jesus would cast out an evil spirit oppressing someone's body.

"And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God." Luke 13:11-13

Jesus then said that Satan had bound her. But even if there is not an evil spirit present, Satan is still the causal agent. That might be hard for some people to accept, but that is what the Bible teaches.

With that said, we can look at a passage in the gospels that show that whenever demons are forced to leave, they seek a way back in.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings back with itself seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they move in and dwell there; and the last condition of that person is worse than the first. Thus it will be with this evil generation.” Matthew 12:43-45

So when the Devil has been oppressing someone with sickness and then that person is healed, it only makes sense that he will try to oppress them again with the same thing. And it could even be worse. The Devil does not give up easily. I wish believers would be just as determined to be free as Satan is to oppress them.

So, what do we do when he tries to put that back on us again? We resist him, firm in our faith. "Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith." (1 Peter 5:8)

I recall a time when I had to resist the devil who tried to steal our daughter's healing. When she was little, our oldest daughter was allergic to citrus. If she even had a little bit, she would break out all over. It was very unpleasant. So I had prayed for her to be healed and, frankly, forgot about it. Then when someone else was watching her, they gave some orange juice or something. She had no reaction. For the next year or two, she had no reaction to citrus. Then one time my mother was watching her and she told me when I went to pick my daughter up that she had a reaction to citrus. I examined her and rebuked the Devil and told him to take his hands off of her - she was healed and is still healed! Now, were the symptoms real? Yes, they were, but I recognized that the Devil was trying to steal her healing and I refused to accept those symptoms. I resisted the Devil and he fled! She has not had a bad reaction to citrus and that was more than 30 years ago.

Of course, sometimes when it seems we have lost our healing, the Devil strikes us with fear. We think, "Oh, no, not again!" If we read in 1 Peter 5:7, just before the passage about resisting the Devil, it tells us, "Cast you care upon the Lord, for He cares for you." Then we can resist the Devil by rebuking him or by praying to God and receiving our healing again, knowing that we are already healed. "By His wounds, you are healed." 1 Peter 2:24

Let's do what Peter says and learn to resist the Devil and anything that is of the Devil and not let him steal from us any more.




Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eternal Life, part 3

[This is part three on a series regarding Eternal Life. We have found so far that God gives us His own Nature, called Eternal Life or Love. This message will be about the fact that God is light and that we have that light in us.]

"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth." Ephesians 5:8-9

These two verses tell us a lot about God and lot about being a new creation in Christ. We know that God is pure light, spiritual light and that there is no darkness in Him. Light is goodness and righteousness and truth; darkness is evil and sin and error.

We were darkness. Now we are light. Goodness and righteousness and truth have been put within us. We are born of the God who is Light. "For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6) God Himself has shown in our hearts.

We have the light of God in us. It is up to us to walk in that light. "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." God's Word is a light to us. As he reveals His Word to our hearts, we are able to walk in the light of it. If we choose not to, then we will walk in darkness, not light. "If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7) This verse very clearly states that we must walk in the light that we have.

If we walk in the light that we have, then we have fellowship with God and with one another. If we walk in the light that we have , then we have automatic cleansing from that sin we don't yet have light on. We don't know everything, so there are sins in our lives that we are unaware of. I don't know about you, but I used to do and say some things that were wrong, but I didn't know they were wrong. Yet I was still in fellowship with God. Once God made me aware of those things, I repented and walk in this new light that I had. And that is something that we must do continually throughout our lives. We have keep learning and growing and walk in the light. If we walk in the light we have, God will give us more light to walk in. It seems that just when I think I am doing pretty well and have it all together, that's when God begins to bring more light and I have to conquer something else in my life. That's with God's help, of course.

This leads us to another question. Can I be sure I am actually hearing from God? You can if you are born of Him. "They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." There is a Spirit of truth and a spirit of error. Since we are "from God", in other words, born of God, we know the truth when it comes out. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them." Since we have in us God's Nature, Eternal Life, we can hear His voice. The sheep know the Shepherd's voice. They follow Him.

So, by having God's Nature in us, we can hear Him and understand Him and walk in the light - in goodness, righteousness and truth.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Eternal Life - part 2

[This is part two of a series on the subject of eternal life. If you have not read part 1, I encourage you to do so before reading this.]

In part one, we discovered that "Eternal Life" is not just living forever, but is actually our receiving God's own Life and Nature in our spirits in the New Birth. Specifically, we found that the Greek word, "zoe", which is translated as "life" in the NT refers to the Nature of God that is imparted to us. That is how we can become children of God.

But there are two other words, "light" and "love" that also describe the Nature of God. 1 John 1:5 says that "God is light". That means that light, spiritual light, is what God is. In 1 John 4:16, the NT tells us that "God is love". The Greek word is 'agape' which is used almost exclusively as the kind of love that God possesses, and that which He gives to us.

The fact that we have the kind of love that God has is best described in Romans 5:5, "The love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." That love is the Divine Nature given to us in the New Birth. Notice 1 John 3:14. "We know that we have passed from (spiritual) death to (eternal) life because we love the brethren." I recall when I was in college, I came across a sister in the Lord who was doubting her salvation. She had struggled spiritually when she was away from Christian fellowship back when she was on break (I could relate) and came back to school wondering if she really was a true Christian. I asked her if she was happy to get back with the Christians in our college fellowship group. She said she was overjoyed. She had missed them so much! I shared with her this scripture to assure her that if she loved the brethren that was proof that she did know the Lord and had eternal life.

Some Christians doubt that we can even have the God kind of love. They fall short many times and figure they could never love as Jesus loves. "I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26) This is quite a statement by Jesus. He says that the love that Father has for the Son is in us. That should settle that issue once and for all. God's love, His Nature, is in us. That is not a hope but a fact.

Why do we still struggle? If we truly have God's love in us, why do we not seem to experience it. Once again, we must be aware of the fact that that love is in our hearts (spirits) and not in our flesh or our minds. Our flesh still must be kept under and our minds renewed with the Word of God so that the love of God can come out of us and bless others. "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him." (1 John 2:5) We have to do what the Word says so that God's love can be perfected in us. In other words, the love of God has to grow in us.

Can the love of God grow? Paul taught that it can. "The fruit of the spirit is love ... ". (Galatians 5:22) Love is a fruit that grows. It grows in our spirits. We must bear the fruit of love. So we can grow in love and the other fruits of the spirit. If we let this love grow in us and yield to it, then we will experience the love of God in greater and greater measure.

God's life and love in us can grow. It will eventually dominate our beings until we are just like Jesus. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you can never live up to the high demands of the love commandment. "Love one another as I have loved you" and 1 Corinthians 13 is not some unattainable ideal. These things were not put in the Bible to show us how inadequate we are. On the contrary, they tell us who we are in Christ and what we can do. God would not tell us to do something we could not do. He would not tell us to love as He loves unless He provided that love to us.

Here is a suggestion that can help you along these lines: Read 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 4 through 8 every day for 30 days. Spend time thinking on these scriptures. Meditate on them. Let them sink into your consciousness. It will change you. I especially like the Amplified Classic translation of these verses. It brings out the fuller meaning of it.

Another suggestion for developing the love of God that is in you: Walk in love! That's how to grow it. Love is an action not a feeling. You can walk in love even if you feel nothing. Ask yourself in any situation, what would love do? Then do it.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Eternal Life, part 1

Most Christians seem to be unaware of what the term "eternal life" means. I was taught that it meant that we were going to live forever, but when I would point out that everyone, saved or unsaved, will live forever somewhere, then I would usually get a blank stare. Other times, it was "explained" to me that it means to live forever with Jesus. That did not satisfy me. Yes, of course we will live forever with Jesus but that leaves a lot of scriptures regarding eternal life unexplained.

I think people get tripped up with the word 'eternal'. 'Eternal' can mean to live forever, but it is also an attribute of God. God is eternal, His existence is independent of time. So, if we were to describe what kind of "life" that God has we would have to say that He has "eternal life". His Nature, His Life is beyond the natural realm. Yet Jesus came to give us this Life. "I came that they may have life." (John 10:10b) The word "eternal" does not appear in this passage but it means the same thing. To see this we will have to dig into the Greek words translated as "life".

First, there is the word "bios" and that means manner of life or how one lives their life. The church has majored a lot on that. Then there is the word "psuche" which means one's natural life. That is the word Jesus used when He said that He was going to lay down his life (psuche). And He did. But there is another word translated "life" and that is "zoe" (pronounced 'zo-ay'). It means life in the absolute sense. It is used as the word for the Life and Nature of God. "For as the Father has life (zoe) in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life (zoe) in himself." (John 5:26) Notice that "life" is said to be "in" the Father and the Son. It is a nature, a substance. And Jesus said that He came to give it to us!

So how does that work? If we received the Life and Nature of God, wouldn't we be like Him? The answer is yes! But you might say now that we must not have it yet because we are not like Him, we have a lot of sins and problems and stuff. “Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." (John 5:24) I like this passage because it tells us two things. First, it tells us that we do have eternal life and, second, it tells us that we are no longer dead. We weren't physically dead, were we? No. He is talking about being spiritually dead, having our spirits cut off from fellowship and relationship with God. "We were dead in trespasses and sins." Now that our sins have been washed away we have been made alive together with Christ. (See Ephesians 2:1,5) Our spirits, not our minds or our flesh, have been made alive with the Life and Nature of God. That's what it means to be born again and become a child of God.

God is the "Father of spirits". We were re-created in His image and likeness. We are, as Peter said, "partakers of the divine nature". (2 Peter 1:4) When we were joined together with Christ, His life flowed into us. His love came into our hearts. We want to do right now. We want to live 100% for God, but we still struggle with the flesh. Our flesh has not yet been redeemed. But there must be a way to walk in the light of eternal life and live as Jesus lives.

The church has tried to get us to live like Jesus told us to live, but we have failed most of the time. We have tried to correct our manner of life by trying to get our flesh to do what is right. Yet the flesh is contrary to God, it cannot obey Him. So, we struggle. We should have majored on eternal life (zoe) instead of manner of life (bios). The flesh cannot overcome itself. Our spirits, which have the life of God, have to become strong and overcome the flesh. We have to walk in the spirit so we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

So when Jesus said that He came to give us life, He was not recommending a new code of conduct or a new religion. He was offering us the life of God in our spirits so that we could live out that life so that it would change our manner of life. We can walk in newness of life. If we walk in the light of eternal life it will continually transform us to be like God wants us to be.

[The rest of this series will be about how this "zoe" can affect our lives.]