God Cares

Even when it looks like He doesn’t. 

The past week has given new meaning to  the words, “he shook my world.” And not in a positive way. With several earthquakes in excess of magnitude 7, and the loss of 100s of lives, how can I conclude that “God Cares?” Perhaps, just as the words “he shook my world” have taken on a seemingly sinister meaning, so too should the idea that “God Cares.”

Back in a time when the world wasn’t much different than it is today, people were searching for why bad things, catastrophic things happened to some people, and not to others. Here is what the Gospel writer Luke penned, and Jesus’ response. 

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
— Luke 13:1-5 NIV

Let me spell out what this means for us today. God cares enough to bring these earthquakes as a reminder that we need to repent. You might be thinking, I’m a pretty good person, compared to a murderer or a thief. That’s not the comparison God makes though. God’s standard is absolute perfection and His holiness. Even Billy Graham falls short, and so did Mother Teresa. I hope to meet them both one day, not because I’m as good as they are, but because, like them, I’ve repented. I’ve acknowledged that my good isn’t good enough, and trusted that Jesus paid the debt I could never pay, and because of what Jesus gives me, I now meet God’s standard. 

You see, God cares enough to send His Son, Jesus. Jesus loved me enough to die the death I should have died, and that death could pay the price for you too. Just repent. 

What could be worse than dying when a tower falls on you, or the earth shakes beneath your feet? Having any of that happen before you’ve repented and turned to Jesus. What is coming for this earth will make these earthquakes seem tame, and God cares enough to send these as warnings of what is to come.

The only question at this point is, will you listen? I’ve done my part. I’ve told you about your condition. And how Jesus is your only hope. Ridicule me if you must, but the day is coming when you will wish you listened, but it will be too late. On that day you will not be able to say, “I wish somebody told me.” Instead, you’ll say, “I wish I listened.”

Death, Lies and Falsehood

We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter — Isaiah 28:15

You might be thinking, “Who in their right mind would actually do this, let alone do it on purpose?”  If this didn’t describe what we are doing as a country, I would say nobody would do it.  I can hear the protests already, “we haven’t made a covenant with death.”  Oh, really?  Why don’t we ask the millions of aborted babies whose blood cries out from the ground just like Abel’s did?

Surely we haven’t made an agreement with Sheol.  What is Sheol exactly anyway?  If we go with “the grave”, are you still prepared to say that we haven’t attempted an agFameposterreement whereby we avoid it at all cost?  We’re doing research to cure disease, and people are living longer more productive lives.  We’re increasingly willing to destroy human life, and attempt to create it in the form of cloning.  All because we believe there may be some advance from embryonic stem cell research, that will cure cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s, and allow us to recover from spinal cord injuries.  Why perhaps we’ll experience in reality the song from the 80s.

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly — Fame 1980

The sad reality is that we make lies our refuge.  Don’t believe me?  We teach that God didn’t actually create everything.  That the theory of evolution is more accurate than God’s account of His creation.  We believe the lie that human influence on the climate is going to cause oceans to rise and overtake the land, unless we stop.

If that isn’t enough, we have taken shelter in the falsehood that government knows better than God.  We believe that  the laws they pass will make us safer, and the programs they put in place will protect us from cradle to grave.

We no longer turn to God unless we experience some disaster beyond our control, and then we blame Him for the destruction, and ask Him why, as if he needs to explain himself to us.

The real question is when will we wake up?  When will we turn to God?  When will we beg for forgiveness?  And the follow-up question is, will we do it before it is too late?

Remembering September 11, 2001

It is hard to believe that 11 years ago our nation came to a complete stop.  Well, not everyone.  A significant number of first responders sprang into action.  They went in as others were rushing out. Men and women in our Armed Forces did the same thing at the Pentagon.  And the heroes on Flight 93 took the first action in a conflict against a stealthy enemy.  Our world has not been the same since.  We watched our TVs in stunned disbelief.  We heard that the skies were being cleared of all civilian air traffic.  We witnessed military aircraft patrolling the skies over our homeland.  Many of us made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero to see for ourselves that the massive buildings were indeed no longer there.  And as a nation we turned to God.  Sadly, that didn’t even last a year.  Our own tax dollar supported PBS documentary asked the question just a year later, “Where was God?”  Where was God on that fateful day? How could God allow these events? Or, “Religion drove those buildings into the ground.”  Allow me to share my view.  Evil, wicked, God-defying people caused the carnage of that day.  And as for where God was?  How about limiting the loss of life on that day?  Just think, buildings that on a normal work day would contain upwards of 50,000 people, yet under 3,000 lost their life that day.  While we mourn the senseless loss of life, I choose to look at the miracle.  I choose to focus on those who bravely risked their own life trying to save others.  And I thank the brave men and women of our Armed Forces still putting it all on the line to give me the liberty to share my thoughts with you today. Don’t ever take this liberty for granted.

Oil and Water, Republicans and Democrats, Right and Wrong

I am reminded of a line from the movie Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does”.  President Obama is accused of working halfheartedly at the problem in the Gulf of Mexico.  This sticks because he’s been entertaining, attending baseball games, and putting in appearances on the scene to make it look like he’s doing something.  The press is by and large quiet about this.  Then, somehow The Washington Times (along with the rest of the media) found it’s voice to say this:

Lawmakers from both parties on Sunday criticized BP PLC Chief Executive Tony Hayward for taking part in a yacht race along the English coast two days after testifying on Capitol Hill regarding his company’s role in the oil spill.

Before I go on to the matter of what Rep. Barton said, let me make note of the blatant double standard.  It is fine for the President to do other things besides spend every waking moment on the crisis.  But it is not appropriate for the BP Chief Executive to take a break?  Honestly, what can the BP Chief Executive, or the President really do beyond setting up their teams and providing leadership?  As far as that goes, based on what I can see, BP has taken ownership of this problem, and it is their key focus.  The President it seems is more interested in how things look.

In addition, have you ever stared at a problem for an extended period of time?  Have you ever found yourself running into the same challenges preventing you from solving your problems each time you tried?  I know I have, and history is replete with examples of how answers have come from the least expected places, and from getting away from the grind of the problem.  Take penicillin for example.  The Wikipedia entry contains this quote:

Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928.[14] It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he had mistakenly left open, which was contaminated by blue-green mould, which had formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould.

Resist the urge to think that I am saying we should pray for a “fortuitous accident” to solve the current crisis, although at this point any way of getting the problem resolved would help the Gulf ecosystems, and the lives and livelihoods that depend on it.

I also realize that people in elected positions from each party are saying things that are being parsed in every way imaginable.  I am currently thinking about the comments made by Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas.

Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, on Thursday accused the administration of extortion after it secured a $20 billion compensation fund from BP for victims of the oil spill, calling the move a “shakedown.”  – The Washington Times

I agree with the congressman!  But wait!  I do believe that BP should pay, and that the amount they pay should be substantial, perhaps even more than $20 billion.  But they should not do it because any government tells them to do it.  They should do it because it is the right thing to do.

Here are some facts and hard questions.

Natural disasters happen, and our hearts go out to the victims.  Sure, some people blame God for those, but in the end, blaming God does little to mitigate the human suffering.  Instead we mount global relief efforts and work to reduce the suffering.  What if this oil spill was the result of an earthquake in the Gulf of Mexico instead of an oil-rig explosion?  I submit that as difficult as capping this well is, it is easier than resolving the problem we would have if it wasn’t a man-made rupture.

Since “Life is like a box of chocolates–you never know what you’re going to get”, I figured I’d add my thoughts on solving the current crisis.

What do we know?  It will take months to plug the leak.  Oil will damage ecosystems.  How does oil damage ecosystems?  It coats feathers, sticks to marsh plants, and destroys the beauty of beaches.  My approach is simple.  We know what oil is attracted to.  We know what it doesn’t mix with.  Why not bring the things that oil is attracted to closer to where the oil is coming from.  Instead of dispersing it, work on containing it.  Currents move oil in water like lint moves in air.  We all have lint traps on our driers at home.  Why not build giant oil traps?

Now, some will say, what about the oil that has already damaged the coastal areas?  I don’t know.  That’s why I would look for ways to take the fight to the oil, instead of waiting for the oil to wash up on shore.  I would look for ways to move a more acceptable “shore” to the oil.  The oil is going to damage something… far better that it is something we are willing to sacrifice.

What would be even better is if the oil could then be separated back out of whatever was used to absorb it.  I know they extract oil from shale or tar sand.  Why not do this intentionally in reverse?  This would turn the oil into a solid, and keep it from damaging coastal ecosystems.

I hope this generates discussion with a view towards a solution to this crisis that makes the best out of a terrible situation.  I hope it also demonstrates the futility of placing blame.  There will be plenty of time for that… or maybe with the perspective of a decade, we will look back and see that we are all to blame.

How are we all to blame, you ask?  Well, we ask more of government than it can deliver with the resources that government has.  We fail to take personal responsibility.  We fail to demand accountability in government, and continue to elect the “lesser of two evils”, because a member of congress helped solve our personal problem with government, so we feel we owe them.

The bottom line is this.  What is right must prevail.  Perhaps the problem is, among other things, that we have things backward.  Instead of individuals trying things that may turn out to be wrong, we have policy that’s wrong preventing people from even trying things that turn out to be wrong in an attempt to find out what is right.  In the end, the destruction is an unnecessary self fulfilling prophecy.

It is time to rewrite the story.  It is time to do things right.  It is time to admit failed attempts, not as failure, but as yet something else that didn’t work, and keep trying.  It is time to stop the blaming, and simply get down to the business of solving the problem.

Talk is cheap, including what I’ve had to say in this piece.  Is it too much to hope that what I’ve said will make a difference?