I am gazing over the tarmac at Pittsburgh International Airport, on my way home from a conference about shale-gas (where I gave a presentation). Pittsburgh is in the heart of the Marcellus shale, where things are rockin’ and rollin’.
Shale-gas is natural gas that exists in shales, the most common of all sedimentary rocks. The gas has always been there, we knew that, but until now it refused to come out. Although shale-gas came on only 10 years ago, it has turned into a revolution: the USA has over 100 years supply, and through new technology we have become very successful at producing it…..so successful in fact that this has driven the price of natural gas down to a 15-year low. The story has created tremendous excitement, since the USA will become self-sufficient in natural gas, and eventually an exporter. Meanwhile, the hope is that soon we can convert the engines and motors of out transport systems to using CNG (compressed natural gas) or LNG (liquefied natural gas), and reduce our dependency on foreign oil. And as electrical generating stations switch from coal to cheaper gas, our greenhouse gas emissions will be cut in half.
But the hope doesn’t stop there. Geologists and drillers are now finding shale-oil deposits all over the USA. Shale-oil is hot, meaning there is a frantic land-grab for potential resources. Two existing shale-oil plays, the Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in south Texas may eventually become #5 and #6 of all-time greatest oil plays in the USA. Since the price of a barrel of oil is over $100, and could go even higher, this could be a sea-change for USA’s dependence on foreign oil, as well as providing millions of jobs across the land. The secret is the same new technology: long horizontal wells (up to 10,000 ft) that are hydraulically fractured up to 50 times along their length.
The hope for a more secure energy future got me thinking about Christian hope for a secure spiritual future. The hope for a shale-gas and shale-oil future depends on the new technology……if we don’t apply the technology, the wells won’t produce enough to be economical. There may be a Christian analog here……if hope in God is the desired security, the Gospels provide the “technology” to access it. What are the elements of this “Gospel technology”?
The Gospels mean Good News, and what is better news than that God loves us just as we are, with our individual foibles and failures. And forgiveness for our shortcomings comes through grace, a free gift that is ours for the asking. Secondly, we can come to God via his son, Jesus, with all the benefits of a personal relationship. Devout attendance at church, or strict attention to formal religion, will not get us there. The personal relationship leads to a liberating, uplifting adventure along the road of life. Since the road of life happens to be filled with potholes, the hope is a psychological support that will carry us through. This is real hope, strong hope, vibrant hope. Hope in tomorrow, because each day is a fresh start, and we are forgiven if we messed up yesterday. Hope in family and co-workers, whom we can believe in. Hope in the resources of God, when no-one else can help us. And looking beyond ourselves, we can also learn to help others to hope…..and there is a tremendous need for this, both in our own country and in overseas countries where thousands of children die each week from lack of decent water and food.
Let us not forget about the hope of heaven, which is of current interest because of a four-year old called Colton Burpo (a minister’s son) who apparently spent time in heaven, during a life-threatening operation**. It’s an amazing story. However, when we are young, we generally don’t spend much time thinking about heaven because it seems so far away (although we can never be sure of that). The coangel Michelle talks quite a bit about heaven in the book “Hiking Toward Heaven”, and makes clear to Darby the teenager just why it is worth looking forward to! As we age and our mortality comes into focus, heaven is certainly something to look forward to (unless we are not sure if we have left it too late).
“For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]” (Matthew chapter 16, Amplified Bible).
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The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers….
** “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo.