Today’s Tuesday Tea-ology is up, on truth and Christian separation from the world. Check it out!
We will not fear.
Where do we find the strength and confidence to stand firm against opposition, to stand strong in times of fear and uncertainty?
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2, NIV).
We are small, fragile and easily frightened. But there is a blessed Therefore, because of which we can stand in the face of chaos. Wherefore? Because God is our refuge and strength. Because He is an ever-present help in trouble.
The children of God do not face life’s tragedies and terrors alone. We do not face the shaking of nations in our own strength. No, we can lean upon the arms of the Almighty. Wherever we are and whatever we face, we can call out to the omnipresent, omnipotent God.
And we are confident, knowing His loving care. The Father sent His own Son as a sacrifice for our redemption; won’t He hear us when we call?
What shall we say in times of fear and uncertainty? We will not fear. Why not? God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Just a quick list of a few things to help with the self-isolation of the pandemic:
- Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe (and everything else on Avrotros Klassiek)
- The Black Book of Carmarthen
- One-Star Reviews of National Parks (#11 is my favorite)
- Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories by Magpie Audio
- The paintings of Thomas Cole
- Most importantly, The Holy Bible
For there is no comfort to compare with the Word of God:
“The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, NIV)
…or, “AOC, Theologian?”
From Christianheadlines.com, “AOC Says Religious Liberty Advocates Are ‘Weaponizing Scripture’ to ‘Justify Bigotry’ against LGBTQ Community“:
In a House Oversight Committee hearing to discuss LGBTQ rights, Ocasio-Cortez called out those who use Scripture to take away rights from gay people. She also compared religious freedom advocates to white supremacists.
“It’s very difficult to sit here and listen to arguments in the long history of this country of using Scripture and weaponizing and abusing Scripture to justify bigotry,” she said. “White supremacists have done it. Those who justified slavery did it. Those who fought against integration did it, and we’re seeing it today.
The most foundational problem in the congresswoman’s analysis is buying into the whole framework of the LGBTQ movement, in which matters of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ are treated as fundamental identity characteristics on par with race and sex. That is the great con in this whole business, which has taken in all too many people. It is only through that ruse that activists are able to regard sensible people as bigots, to put advocating religious freedom in the same category as white supremacy, and to paint their sexual revolution as a civil rights movement.
But the most interesting problem in the congresswoman’s analysis is her understanding of religion, and particularly of the Bible. For her, religion would seem to be interpreted through the lens of secular liberation ideology; good religion, true religion, is as tolerant and non-judgmental (of liberal agendas) as she is. And the Scriptures are supposed to be a benign message of tolerance. For AOC, maintaining the Bible’s view of LGBTQ+ ideology, and wanting to live consistently with it, is somehow an abuse of Scripture.
Most interestingly, the congresswoman derides the use of Scripture in promoting sexual morality as “weaponizing” Scripture.
What? Weaponizing the sword of the Spirit?
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17, NIV).
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
One cannot weaponize a sword. A sword is already a weapon. The Scriptures cut us to the heart, exposing all of our wickedness and sin. The Bible is not a feather that strokes our self-esteem. It is not a tolerant cushion that accepts and affirms us just as we are. It is a sword that cuts through all lies and convicts us of sin–greed, pride, hatred, sexual immorality, all of it. The Bible speaks of God’s holiness and our wickedness, it speaks of the wrath of God upon the ungodly, it tells us what is good for human flourishing, and it points us to the only means of forgiveness, wholeness, and life–Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The problem in American Christianity is not that we are weaponizing the sword of the Spirit, but that we are neglecting it. We take it out for our quiet time, and then put it back in its sheath, as though we could tackle our desperate social issues without it. We blunt its edges, as though our soft words were wiser than God’s pointed conviction; it must be admitted that the Bible speaks more directly and severely of sin than many a Christian–and many a pastor–is willing to do.
Christianity calls for conviction. God gave us a sword, and He expects us to wield it. The stakes are higher than whether or not religious liberty will be preserved in this nation for awhile yet. The eternal destinies of men and women are at stake.
“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1, NIV).
God is a refuge and a fortress for those who seek Him.
Part of the life of faith is learning to turn to God with our troubles. This may seem like vanity, that we should think our little lives are of concern to the God of all the universe; but, actually, it is an act of faith. God adopts as His children those who come to Christ in faith, and He calls them to bring their needs to Him in faith. In prayer, we submit our lives to God and look to Him for deliverance.
What a privilege and a comfort it is to be able to entrust our futures to God. But that is what the life of faith is all about. Faith calls us to go against the world and trust God; faith calls us to surrender our hopes for prosperity in this life, and instead look to the future that God has promised. And faith calls us to turn to God in each and every situation and expect deliverance from Him, in His time, according to His wisdom.
So we take refuge beneath the wings of the Almighty. What, then, should we fear?
God is our security.
A historical warning for conservatives: If you keep making study groups, you’ll surrender eventually.
I think this is because the very creation of a study group suggests that God has not spoken clearly on the issue in question. I’ve not yet heard of a denomination forming a study group to examine and report on whether murder is compatible with Christian discipleship. But if you have an issue on which there is a more conservative and a more liberal view, authorizing a study group implies from the start that there are (at least) two faithful and legitimate positions on the matter. And if both positions are legitimate options, what grounds do you have for restricting it to the more conservative position?
From the Jacula Prudentum of George Herbert: “Valour that parleys, is near yielding.”
God of all wisdom, teach us to seek you and to conform our plans to yours. Even a righteous man, like Joseph, can lay plans that miss the wonder of your divine agenda. But you revealed to him the miracle of Christmas; teach us to place our plans before your revealed Word, so that we can walk in your light. Light in the darkness, Hope of the world, be my comfort and guide today.
When you get to the point where you’re changing the Scripture because you don’t like what it says, isn’t it time to admit you’re gunning for the Holy Spirit’s job? And, of course, that sort of thing never ends well.
What I mean is, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
So when you’re the ELCA, and you decide to quote Genesis 1:31 as “God saw everything that [God] had made…” because you can’t stand the use of masculine pronouns for God, it’s probably the sign that there’s another spirit at work in your agenda–the spirit of the age.
For being so resistant to taking the Scriptures literally, the ELCA is sure willing to take the task of eisegesis literally.
I was confronted this morning once more with the vexatious reality of evangelical commercialization and celebrity culture. Christianbook.com had kindly sent the church a catalogue, labeled “Pastor’s Resources Fall 2019.” Among the four books featured on the cover was The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, which I was exhorted to pursue on page 7.
Dutifully turning to page 7, I find that Charles Stanley, and his publisher Thomas Nelson, are not alone in carrying out this travesty. On pages 5-7, we discover also the Jeremiah Study Bible (that’s David Jeremiah, not the OT prophet), the MacArthur Study Bible, the Ryrie Study Bible, the Scofield Study Bible, the Maxwell Leadership Bible, and others.
Now, I know that in a sense these are just 1-volume Bible commentaries. And I think Bible commentaries are tremendously valuable. And I think it is fine, even desirable, for Bible commentaries to print the text of Scripture along with their commentary.
Nonetheless, it strikes me as irreverent towards the Word of God to print a Bible labeled with a popular teacher. This is one of many ways in which the evangelical publishing industry has been unduly influenced by celebrity culture and commercialization; but it is probably the worst.
As for me, I’ll take my Scripture plain, please.