Hope in the storm

Hurricane Irma is scheduled to start her run Sunday up the spine of Florida–a State I have many ties to.  It’s a unique display of the destructive chaos of a fallen universe.  I don’t put much stock in leaders who often jump to declare individual disasters as specific judgments from God for specific failures of a group of people.  The Bible certainly confirms He has done so in the past.  And we live in an age literally hell-bent on thumbing our nose at God.  But I believe in this age of Grace we now live since the sacrifice of Christ, these “acts of God” are less often conscious action on His part than they are inaction to stop the built-in consequences of a creation frustrated under the weight of sin.

There are two things to consider here from God’s view.  First, the world increasingly rejects anything to do with Him.  Second, times of catastrophe focus us on what’s truly important and necessary far more than do times of calm and comfort.  So rather than seeing God as a cosmic killjoy looking for excuses to hurl lightning bolts at wrongdoers, I believe the better analogy is one of a rejected Lover who has sadly granted our world’s desire to leave His presence and prescriptions, and as a consequence lose His protection as well.

But that’s the “big picture,” so to speak.  The wondrous part of all this is that God doesn’t just deal with humanity.  Or a specific nation.  Or a specific city.  He treats with each of us individually, desiring a personal relationship based on reciprocal love.  This is unlike any “religious” conception on earth: the Creator desiring individual communion with His created.  Despite humanity’s sinful nature He cares for us and hears us — our needs, wants, fears, and confessions.  Just this week a family I know was stranded far from home with a broken car well after business hours.  Yet God answered their pleas for help with an amazing turn of events that brought the right people (including an off-duty mechanic) and provided the resources to get them safely on their way again.

So in the midst of the storm; in the midst of the effects of the rule of this present darkness, we all have the privilege to seek shelter through prayer in the love of the Father, made possible by His Son, Jesus Christ.  It’s not simply a “get out of jail free” card, or some kind of magic spell to ward off tragedy.  No, this presence He offers provides comfort, perspective, and strength regardless of what happens physically:

(King) Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.  But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

That is the comfort and strength I’m talking about: the confidence to trust God, obey Him, and let Him work all things for the good of those who love HimIt may not be the “good” we think we want.  “Unfair” things will happen.  We may lose our jobs.  Our earthly possessions.  Even our life.  But for those who love God and trust Him, any and all of that pales in comparison to the eternal joy that awaits us when we see Him face to face.

Everyone reading this is facing storms.  It may not be a Category 4 hurricane, but we each have pressures that threaten to crush us.  Know there is a God who cares for you, who is far more powerful than any storm you could face, and who desires what He knows is the best for you.  Ask Him for peace.  For calm in the midst of the storm.  And    *Even If*    it seems the storm has taken everything away from you, know that if your trust is in God you already have everything you need.  There is nothing that can take that away from you.

Nothing.

May the Lord bless and keep us all, according to His good will.

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Summoning the demons

(Note: this is a long post on a highly sensitive subject.  If you don’t have the time (or inclination) to carefully read and consider it all, please don’t read it AT all.)

Since Saturday, I’ve been trying to find the words to express how I believe we arrived at the tragic violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I have no sympathy for idiots who see Nazi paraphernalia as a statement.  History clearly shows where that road leads.

And yet, with all the focus on the swastikas why is it we never have criticism of the Hammer and Sickle often unfurled at various Leftist demonstrations?  Of the Che Guevara T-shirts worn by people who still think socialism or communism is a good idea? History also shows multiple examples of where THAT road leads.  Many of the gatherings of these supposedly “anti-fascist” groups are also violent — in the way that Hitler’s Brown Shirts were violent.  In fact, I think the wisest comment on Charlottesville is that is was a result of two groups descending on the city, looking for a fight.  It did not help matters that the police stood back and allowed the fists on both sides to start flying.  I wonder if anyone will be held to account for that…

We’re rapidly approaching 1930s Weimar Germany all over again – two brands of social collectivist thuggary duking it out for control.

There is more to this, however.  With higher academia firmly under Gramscian control, it’s easy to understand why many young people have a romanticized view of communism’s “liberation” movements and fail to realize “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  But what trend could be luring other young people towards neo-Nazism or the white supremacy ideas of decades past?

I think much of it’s a belated (though misdirected) defensive response.  Rod Dreher hits the nail on the head: it does no good for the Right to disavow the identity politics of neo-Nazism or George Wallace’s segregationism while the Left continues to make identity politics the center of everything:

Continue reading

Starting a slide?

My family has attended Southern Baptist churches our entire marriage (25 years next month), and I’ve frequently taught adult Bible study on Sunday mornings.

It now appears I will frequently have to point out how the translation favored in the study literature is no longer faithful to a literal translation of the ancient text.

The (Christian Standard Bible) now translates the term anthropos, a Greek word for “man,” in a gender-neutral form 151 times, rendering it “human,” “people,” and “ones.” The previous edition ((Holman Christian Standard Bible)) had done this on occasion; the new revision adds almost 100 more instances. “Men of Israel” becomes “fellow Israelites;” when discussing Jesus’s incarnation the “likeness of men” becomes “likeness of humanity.” The CSB translates the term adelphoi, a Greek word for “brother” in a gender-neutral form 106 times, often adding “sister.” “Brotherly love” is translated “love as brothers and sisters.”

The gender-neutralizing pattern is also present in its translation of the Old Testament…

The SBC is America’s largest Protestant denomination and one of its most conservative. If its leaders and members are tolerating a softer, more inclusive approach to gender, it might be a bellwether of things to come in the culture war over gender.

When the SBC was more about discipleship than it was about being “seeker friendly” (in other words, before Rick Warren), it took the time to teach scripture in the context of its era in history.  Yes, the past was largely male-dominated in terms of language; get over it.  That very fact showcases how Christianity, far from subjugating women, actually improved their status within Christian fellowship and eventually within society as a whole.

That will no longer be so apparent with the “new” translation.  I didn’t like it when SBC literature switched to the Holman Christian Standard version; now they’ve tipped their full hand with the revised in-house CSV.  Modifying scripture to conform to modern sensibilities is not a good sign.  We are told to call on God as “Father,” not as “Parent.”  I’m sure the CSV hasn’t changed that yet, but if it’s changing anything at all it’s only a matter of time.

A church either worships the God who created us in His image, or worships a god made in our image.  When a denomination starts to resemble the world in small ways, it’s usually not long before they start to resemble it in large ways.  The SBC already split once over this kind of thing.  Now it appears that the conservative side is no longer conserving as much.  .

I’ll continue with my English Standard Version and my wife’s parallel Bible — and now I’ll be watching my own denomination and its teachings very closely.  This may easily be a turn down a disastrous road.  If that becomes the case, my family will find an off-ramp to a fellowship that is “rightly handling the word of truth.”

We should seem odd

Apparently, it’s now scandalous to be careful about avoiding even the appearance of impropriety:

Recently, a Washington Post article about second lady Karen Pence has brought the Billy Graham Rule back into the public eye. The article cites a 2002 interview with Vice President Pence — who has called himself an “evangelical Catholic” — saying that he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife,” and that he doesn’t attend events serving alcohol unless she is with him as well. This will, no doubt, sound strange to the uninitiated. The Onion parodied the story with the headline, “Mike Pence Asks Waiter To Remove Mrs. Butterworth From Table Until Wife Arrives.” It is strange, as are many religious practices, and strange isn’t necessarily bad.

The impulse that led to the Billy Graham Rule — which was actually a solidification of principles guarding against several kinds of temptation — is a good and honorable one: to remain faithful to one’s spouse and to avoid the kind of behavior (or rumors of behavior) that have destroyed the careers of church leaders.

So far, so good – the author of the article appears to understand the motivation.  Then there’s the “but:”

…for men to categorically refuse to meet one-on-one with women is often dehumanizing and denies the image of Christ that each person bears.

The rule also promotes the preservation of men and exclusion of women in positions of leadership. If a woman at work cannot meet one-on-one with her boss or colleague, her options for advancement (or even being taken seriously as a colleague) are extremely limited.

The Billy Graham Rule also denies the reality of LGBT people. As a friend pointed out to me: Should a bisexual person refuse to ever be alone with anyone, full stop? Should a male pastor refuse to meet one-on-one with a gay man?…

Several female pastors I spoke with told me that they wouldn’t have a job if they abided by this rule because meeting one-on-one with men is part of what they have to do within their congregation.

There’s a lot to unpack here.  First of all, I tip my hat to Mike Pence for being so consistent about this that it draws attention.  But while the author makes a stab at seeming understanding, her real purpose is to taint the practice as somehow harmful and “unfair” (a favorite word on the Left).

As the author points out, the Christian belief system assumes “heteronormativity, furthering the idea that people who are LGBT are people “out there,” not an essential part of the church.”  Well, yes.  Continue reading

The “niceness” handicap

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this article is very much worth your attention:

I have long observed that an alarming swath of public evangelicals seems to be driven by a consuming desire to be liked by the world. ((note: link added to excerpt by me))

Now, that is my characterization, not theirs. To their minds, they are trying to be good representatives of Jesus. They are focusing on “kingdom” issues. They eschew evangelicalism’s past mistakes of tying itself to various moralistic fads such as outlawing alcohol or opposing nylons and lipstick. They want to be sure that unbelievers know that they love them, that the GOP is not the Kingdom of God. They want to be seen as scholarly, cautious, nuanced, careful, measured, and helpful. They shrink from the thought of being seen as dogmatic, triumphalistic, or narrow.

Are those bad motivations? As stated and as far as they go, most of them are not.

However, I’ve come to fear that they mask fatal flaws. For starters,  these sorts are willing to let their motivations be judged and dictated by the reactions of unbelievers…

I can’t say it any better.  Read the whole thing here.