Friday, February 15, 2008

Great Earnings part II

I have been closely examining my life lately to determine the where and what that God is calling me to be. I believe I'm at a very critical time in my spiritual growth right now so I'm focusing extremely close on this. I do this through the only way that I know how and that is using God's Word to examine my life. My wife and I are still fairly young in our walk but things are happening all around us and we are working to prepare our household and ourselves so that when God calls, we will be ready.

That said, I believe that God is calling me to something different than where and what I'm doing now. The where has not been determined yet... but that doesn’t affect the point I'm trying to make. My very nature and part of the nature of what I believe God to be calling me to, forces me to examine not only myself but also the world around me so that I can be aware of the state/culture that we live in.

A lot of what I have been seeing in the world around me, and within myself, really troubles my spirit. Let’s take prayer for example. I believe that prayer is a powerful tool and a wonderful gift that we’ve been given to communicate with our Father. When my spirit is troubled, I often go to God in prayer not only for those around me but also for myself. Where I have been disturbed is in the fact that I’ve come to realize that I often use prayer as an excuse to not take action. The easy answer for me is say “I will be praying for you or I have you in my prayers, etc… I say a quick prayer and that allows me to free myself from the quilt of complacency and continue on my way to fulfilling my own selfish desires.

I’ve been most disturbed by our ability to turn a blind eye to the needs of others. Jesus has called us to a level of love that dictates that we care for the needs of others beyond our own understanding of what we are doing. That even in our moments of loving someone and caring for them we do things, which are beyond our human reasoning.

Matthew 6:3
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

It’s this type of love that forces my heart to break when I read of how the hungry the World has become for more. We live in a world where the definition of success is to climb a ladder with total disregard for who we have to step on to get to the top. We live in a world that defines us by how many monetary things we have, the car we drive or the type of house we live in. We live in a world where you are not successful unless your one desire or goal in life is to gain more of what you already have. It saddens me deeply to live in a world where these types of attitudes are praised and expected while all around us God’s children and His people are dying from starvation.

Am I condemning Shell or others for desiring or gaining these types of exuberant profits? No, they have all the right in the “world” to make these types of profits. The Bible tells us there is no condemnation in Christ and to be careful how we judge other. Therefore if I wish to live a Christ-like life, then I am forced to view others through eyes that contain no condemnation or judgement. That does not mean that I’m not sad, frustrated and yes, sometimes angry (we all fall short ;) that we live in a world where someone can make that type of money while the very people on their doorstep are starving, sick and dying. It’s those emotions that call me to action, to prayer and beyond.

You see, it’s this worldly examination that always leads me right back to myself, what am I doing to alleviate world hunger? How can I take better care of those around me, healthy and sick? Am I spreading the Gospel of Christ and his message of love to others? Ultimately though, it eventually leads me right back to the toughest question of all… Am I living the life and fulfilling the purpose for which God created me?

Ephesians 4:1 (NIV)

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Great Earnings

Shell recently announced it’s 2007 earnings, which was 27.5 billion dollars.

After seeing this article, I did some searching on the Internet and ran across this.

I did some quick research so that I wouldn't be giving misleading info and found something that said only 6% of this "cities" revenue comes from oil. Now, I'm a little skeptical about that, and feel that if you looked long enough and deep enough, more revenue would probably tie back into oil somewhere.

Let's face it… we are dependent on oil. While it is a choice for me to own a car and to fill that car with gas, I live and work in an area where there are not many alternatives and riding a bike or horse 10 miles isn't really an alternative for me. I could make the point, that I could choose to not drive a car, but that choice would lead to my choosing not to eat, or own a home, have running water, etc. While this is a little exaggerated it’s not really that far off. The truth is that while we do have choices, we’ve backed ourselves into a corner to make these luxuries a necessity. I know for a fact that there is technology out there to save energy and make us less dependent on oil. I bet we would be shocked to see where the government gives money in pursuit/development of these other resources verses what is spent in the continued acquisition of oil.

I'm all for less government but... I'm not getting it anywhere else so why not use some of my tax dollars to regulate corporations who supply us with natural resources that we “need” to live our normal lives.

I guess in essence though, if I would get off my lazy butt and go start my own oil company, invest more wisely or develop a way to harness the oxygen in the air and then re-sale it to all those who need to breath, then I might could be that rich too. Shame on me!

Think a moment about the single Mom who has been working odd hours at the cash register of some grocery store trying to support her family. She’s already living paycheck to paycheck and now she has to pay more than twice as much for gas. Combine that with the fact that the food she needs to feed her family is continually climbing in price due to the cost involved to get those products to the shelves of the grocery store. While the numbers aren’t very huge, when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, ten dollars could be the difference between being fed and going hungry. I would bet that her priority is gas before food because without gas she cannot make money to buy more food or buy gas to make more money to buy food or gas to make more money to get food or gas….. get it? But still, maybe it is her fault. She should work longer hours, work a second job or find a different job and be away from her family more. There's always the furniture plants... wait a minute... those were all shut down and moved to Asia. I guess there's always manufacturing... oops, those are gone to Mexico. Textiles... gone.

Still though… it is Shell’s right to make whatever amount of money they want from others needs. It’s called capitalism or free enterprise. I’m trying hard not to judge them or have contempt for them. But something deep in my heart makes me want to cry knowing that they made that much money while that single mom faces the possibility of becoming homeless. My spirit aches at the thought that our world is so driven by our desire for more that we can applaud and even congratulate these types of excess while 1.4 million children die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. My heart breaks from the thought that we've become people so disillusioned by the worlds definition of success that we envy these CEOs and head executives so much that we fail to realize that most of the rest of the world would envy us.

Here is what I see when I read about a company making 27 billion dollars in earnings:

Number of children in the world: 2.2 billion
Number in poverty: 1 billion (every second child)
Shelter, safe water and health
For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:
640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
Children out of education worldwide
121 million
Survival for children
10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy)
1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
Health of children
2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized
15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom)

Statistics from:

I see the potential to do so much more but I'm saddened because we have become a people that walk around with blinders on.

To be continued….

Keep an open mind… Part II of my thoughts on this are to follow...

Sorry if this comes across as me having contempt for big corporations like Shell. My emotions are ones of sadness and frustration, not contempt. I wonder what emotions Jesus was feeling at the temple?

Mark 11:15-17 (NIV)

15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written:
" 'My house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Favorite Superbowl Moment

We often pray that God will bless us or give us the strength to get through something. Most often, he will not only give us the strenght to get by, but gives us the strength to go beyond.

One nation, under God... maybe?

The last two weeks, I’ve been talking about "Stuff". I’ve received some very good feedback from some of you about this and would like to encourage you to continue to share your thoughts with me as well. I really wanted to work my last two thoughts together into a conclusion that I came to about stuff and living simple but for some reason, God took me in another direction this week. I’m sure that we’ll get back to "Stuff" sooner or later, we always do, but this week I want to talk politics!

The first year that Sherlyn and I attended the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, Andy Stanley used a portion of a verse from Daniel 4:25 as his focus scripture.

"The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes."

This has since become a verse that I carry with me to remind me of God’s ultimate authority and that He is in control. It also helps me to remember to pray for those in leadership; church, work, state, federal, etc… That said, I often think about how this applies to our electoral system in the United States.

We (Christians) always talk about how God will never abandon us and I also believe this to be true because His Word says as much. While I believe this to be true, I've also been meditating on a verse for some time now and I also believe it holds a lesson that we need to learn and remember.

Judges 16:20 (English Standard Version)
20And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" And he awoke from his sleep and said, "I will go out as at other times and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

Now... I have the Holy Spirit that I know with certainty will never leave, abandon or depart from me. I also have other verses in the OT, which state that God will not abandon me, so, what does this verse mean by the "LORD had left him."

I believe that sometimes we can enter into a state where something in our life can become a barrier to our relationship with God. This means that we are not always able to call on the things that God has promised us we will have through our relationship with him. Things such as His strength, peace, blessings, etc… I believe that we can walk outside of God’s will and eventually we will find that we have been walking without God’s guidance towards a place far from God.

I equate this to an occurrence in my early Christian walk. I had just come to realize that God had given me the gift of intercession (prayer). While this discovery was an incredible and wonderful experience it quickly became something that I began to take too much pride in. I began seeking "others" admiration and I was constantly looking for praise from those people after prayer. In my pride, I began trying to be more elaborate and beautiful with my prayers and this lead to my leaning on my own knowledge and thoughts for prayer and eventually, it was as if God turned off the faucet. I began having trouble praying to the point where I began to look for ways to "duck out" of those opportunities or divert prayers to others that I knew would pray. I actually began to take control of some situations so that I could ask others to pray rather than being the one asked to pray. Now after some amount of time and self-examination with God’s word, I became humbled to the point of realizing that the gift I had been given came from God and was of God, therefore I was only the vessel and not the catalyst. Without God’s divine inspiration, my gift was meaningless.

In summary, I guess what I’m really saying is this. While God will not abandon us, he will allow us to make choices that can have a negative effect on our lives. If you look at the overall spiritual atmosphere of the United States then it seems clear to me that, while God is in control, that maybe the person we elect will not always make the wisest or most beneficial decisions for our lives and families. Our nation has "turned from God" to the point where God may leave us to our own consequences. The good thing is that our redemption will come through the sovereignty of our mighty and wonderful Father.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)
More Than Conquerors
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.