Something that has struck me in the response of churches to “re-opening”— after having their doors locked by governments in fear of a global pandemic— has been the seeming pushing away of the oldest age bracket and those that are sick.
I’ve heard of churches in Chicago checking temperatures of attenders and turning away those with low-grade fevers. I’ve heard churches warn that the elderly, the weak, the immunocompromised should stay home for the time being.
And nothing about that sounds like Christ. Not for a second. And it’s masked in language of “loving our neighbor,” while sounding like the way the lepers were treated in Christ’s day.
So I am overjoyed to see that Tim Challies, a preacher and author I greatly respect, has seen the same and they are trying to address it within their church’s plan. He writes:
We weren’t far into the planning when we realized the temptation to make plans that were premised upon youth and health—plans that did not account for those who are at the highest risk for COVID-19. We could default to messaging like, “If you are elderly or high-risk, please stay home for the time being.” And while that might be the safe play, isn’t church meant to be the place that deliberately and specifically welcomes the weak?
So they have started to flip the question:
For that reason we’ve begun to prioritize this question: How can we welcome the weak? Instead of assuming the weak should not factor into our plans, we are asking how they might factor first in our plans.
That’s the thing about Christianity. It is counter-cultural. If your plan to re-open church excludes the old, sick, weak, and weary, I might recommend that you dive back into your Bible, because they should be coming first.
How is your hope this week? How is your peace?
Satan is doing a great job trying to rip all hope from the world. Rip it out and replace it with despair and fear. Fear of our neighbor, fear of our fate, fear of our government, fear, fear, fear.
How is your hope this week?
Christian, we don’t find hope in this world. This world, apart from Christ, is hopelessly wretched. Men? Men fail. That is our defining trait. We cannot put hope in Man, in government, in scientists. Men fail.
No, we Christians find hope in Christ alone. When the world falls apart, Christ doesn’t. He still holds the whole world in His mighty hand. His voice spoke the world into creation! His voice calms the storms! He stood down Death and declared victory!
How is your hope this week?
If it is weak, you may be listening to the world too much. You may be spending too much time watching the news and not enough in the Word of God.
And I get it. I am struggling with this too. I’m now home 24/7. I’m not getting the human contact that my soul desires. My only view out into the world is online and it’s gotten so dark.
Here I type on a glowing screen that gives me access to so much despair. But right next to the app labeled Fear is the app labeled Bible. Go there, Christian. Bring a pillow and a blanket. A warm cup of coffee. Dive deep. Start a new reading plan. God speaks. He wrote this for you. You have no reason to despair. He is on the Throne.
Let’s start with something that no one can argue with. If I know all the variables going into an equation, I can know the outcome. This is an undeniable truth.
Could you imagine if you dropped a ball and instead of falling, sometimes it went straight up? No, no you couldn’t. The universe follows logical patterns. Outcomes are predictable and reproducible.
Sweet, let’s touch the touchy argument. Are people predictable?
We learned in grade school that everything works off cause and effect. Do people? Of course they do, says science. But philosophically, we desire to inject "free will" into the equation, don’t we?
I walk into a room. Three doors are in front of me. I must choose one. Can someone predict which one I’ll choose? Not easily. Now, if the doors are decorated with things and one is decorated in a way I am known to prefer, and I am a trustworthy person that doesn’t expect it to be a trap, I might have a high likelihood of choosing that door. But what if they are all just plain wooden doors? And I don’t believe in numerology. And I wasn’t coerced/lead to choosing a specific one.
I will always choose the one I choose. Why? Cause and effect. But what if a puppy is in the room? That’s a new variable. I might choose a different one. Given the same equation and the same variables, we can expect the same outcome.
But can someone predict which one I’ll choose? Only if they know all the variables.
Wait. So you are telling me that I don’t have free will?
No, that’s not what I said. Go back and read. I’ll wait.
You said I will always choose the one I choose! That means I couldn’t have chosen the other two doors. So I don’t have free will.
No, you do have free will. And you freely and willingly chose the door you chose. You were free to choose the others. You just never would have.
Free will is perception. I don’t get caught up on the term, personally, but others do. It is perception. Are you making a choice? You feel like you are, so I’d say you are. But the outcome is determined by all the variables going into the equation, so you are making an ultimately logical choice.
If your brain hurts or you need to have an existential crisis, take five minutes to breathe.
People are totally depraved. No one is capable of good. This is a basic Christian premise. If you disagree, I urge you to press on. Only part of what I want to say has to do with very Christian concepts. That is one of them. If it makes you feel more comfortable, let me put it this way: within evolutionary science, the claim is made that all things we do are for survival. Survival of ourselves and survival of our species. If that is so, we are making all decisions, even good ones for selfish reasons. Better? Okay, let’s continue.
It would be correct to say that people are capable of all sorts of evil. It would be incorrect to say that all people are capable of all sorts of evil. One word difference, but massive implication difference.
So why? See point number one.
Are all people capable of all sorts of evil? What does that mean? Grab a sampling of people. Random— which is impossible because of point one, but I digress. Okay. Are all these people capable of all the same evil? No. That guy over there is capable of murder. So is that gal. But not the rest. Those three are capable of rape. But not the rest.
Note the tense. Capable of. Present tense. I cannot speak to the future. We can make predictions, but outside of a controlled environment, we cannot predict what variables will change the individual's character— an effect— that can lead to the capability of evil they are currently incapable of. With me? I’m not predicting the future. Only the present. Okay.
So why are these people capable and these people are not. Point number one was that everything is cause and effect. If we can know every variable going into an equation, we can know the outcome of the equation. Right? And people are ultimately predictable. They just are.
But only if you know all the variables.
Okay, so we know why these people are capable and these people are not. Based on their lives up to this point, through the course of billions, maybe trillions, of causes and effects, they are where they are. They can make no choice but the one they can make.
Please stop squirming. I gave you enough time to have that existential crisis earlier.
The real questions are how do we know which are capable and which are not. We are not omnipresent and omniscient. We are not everywhere and we don’t know everything. True. Can we know?
Character and Integrity
People are remarkably consistent. As one can assume based on what I have said thus far. But you know this from your own life. Your best friend is nearly predictable. You can finish each other’s sandwiches. You are seldom surprised by their actions and reactions.
Why? Don’t they have the free will to do the completely unpredictable? Okay, I’m picking on you. Free will is a lie.
But you see it don’t you? Why is this? Character and integrity. Character is the attributes and features that make up an individual. Integrity is their level of consistency with ethical and moral positions. Over time, the closer we get to someone, the more we learn their character and integrity. They become less spontaneous and less random. Because they never were.
And as we learn about and become closer to them, we can— with more and more confidence— expect their reaction to certain situations. I can ask you if you were stuck in a specific scenario, who would you want with you.
So can we predict what evil they are incapable of? Yes, with high probability, the closer we know them. Why? Because we know more and more of the variables.
It would be correct to say that people are capable of all sorts of evil. It would be incorrect to say that all people are capable of all sorts of evil. One word differences, but massive implication differences.
Is my best friend capable of evil? Yes, of course. But all sorts of evil? No. I know her better. I could have missed something. Or she could have been hiding something. Or I could just think the worst of people. But my perception doesn’t change the variables.
Believing that some people— maybe most people— are not capable of a specific evil doesn’t go against total depravity. It fits with everything we know about the universe.
But only if we know people can we see this. We can only know someone if we get to know them. And only if we build into people can we change the world.
As Republicans defend President Trump's language once more, I stand over here as a conservative without a party. These fake, ambulance-chasing Republicans are trying to defend a sitting president using language we wouldn't want our children repeating. I said after the election that I couldn't vote for President Trump because "I couldn't explain that to my daughter". I can't agree with them. This language is inappropriate for a world leader to be using to describe our allies.
But the Left wants this— too— to be about racism. It has to be about one of their -isms or -phobias. It always has to be. Why? Is it because victim identity is the new sacred? Had he called Norway, a predominantly white nation, a shithole, would so many Leftists be offended? Would they think he's talking about race?
I don't agree that this is about race. No, I think this is a case of a man that lacks control of his tongue. He described a poor, third-world nation as a shithole. He described a nation, not the people. Yes, there are, to quote a tweet, brown-skinned people living there. But it's a nation that you see no one aside from missionaries choosing to spend their vacation days on.
So you might read the above and think I agree with the term as an adequate word to describe these nations, if one is not the President of the United States. And you might be right. But my church sends a lot of money to these nations, bringing food, water, and the Gospel of the Living God to these people. My God redeems prostitutes, dines with tax collectors, and makes the poor rich. The shitholes are just as much His as are the bastions of freedom and wealth.
In my opinion, is not our government's job to raise these people out of poverty, clothe them, feed them, and give them water. But, Christian, it is yours.
A young man was talking to me at church on Sunday about sports. He was bewildered that people pay to watch football when all the outcomes are planned ahead of time.
This got me thinking. Our Lord knows the outcome of every play in our life. Every misstep, every mistake, every error, every foul. Every success, every friendship made, every life saved, and every victory until time ends.
Yet, He paid the price so that we can play.
Just like God chose Saul. Just like God chose Caesar. Just like God chose Nero, and Stalin, and even Hitler. Our God is sovereign. Even when we don’t understand His choices, He is sovereign. It’s one of the comforts that comes with Christian faith.
But remember one thing: God can choose to punish as justly as God can choose to bless. Trump could be either. He could be neither. But God is sovereign no matter what.
There are many dorm room Voltaires, many privileged rebels. But here’s the thing: there are fewer atheists in the ER. Life has a way of humbling you.
But it is not only suffering that often pries open the human heart. Whatever took place in Zuckerberg’s heart and mind, the gift of children is a little worldview in itself, albeit one that comes to you with tightly-shut little eyes and a feeble cry. Though you may reject this discovery, having a child introduces you to a world beyond yourself. Suddenly, in a vigorous and unopposable coup carried out by a 7-pound baby, you are dethroned. You no longer have control of your life; you don’t get to be served by others; you can’t claim to be the priority of those closest to you.
Center for Public Theology
Mark Zuckerberg, like Steve Jobs, falls into a Myers-Briggs personality type of INTJ. I have read much about these two men because I too fall into that personality type. INTJs are one of the most rational, analytical types. Rational types are often least likely to find religion. INTJs are, I believe, the least likely.
This is why my faith, while radical and odd to many not in my head, is very rational and intellectually-driven.
But Zuckerberg has always been an outspoken atheist. Until Christmas, when he posted that “religion is very important”. Having a child can do that to you.
We’ve been told that we’re just all flesh and blood, atoms colliding in a purposeless dance. But that’s not what you feel—in your bones, in your heart—when you look at your sleeping child. That’s not what you sense when your tiny loved one is hurt or sick. That’s not why you get out of bed in the middle of the night to calm your two-year-old experiencing night terrors. It’s not because of atoms colliding. It’s not because of chance. It’s not because of chaos theory. It’s because of love. It’s because your heart has opened to another.
There is so much immaterial. So much that cannot be understood with science. What's more, science often tries to explain the most radically unscientific concepts with theories that are just cold and illogical.
Seeing my daughter’s face for the first time over two years ago stopped time. I only know two women that have caused time to cease. When I hear beneath the sound of our television our daughter cry out “Daddy, help!” from her bedroom upstairs, I’m often on my feet before I can think.
Rationality and God aren’t opposites.
“The leather-bound Bible owned by local man Kurt Ryder for over ten years reported Sunday that it was “super pumped” to participate in Ryder’s resolution to read his Bible every day, until he inevitably shelves it in the latter half of the first week of January, sources confirmed.”
Don’t be Kurt Ryder. Read your Bible this year. As I said on Christmas, I have not been as consistent as I want with this. Let’s work on this together.
Haven’t heard it put this way. I will need to internalize it and to use this.
Why are we hated? Why is it that we should be not surprised when the world turns against us?
Because Cain hated Abel. Just one verse earlier John has spoken of these two brothers and asked why one murdered the other. Cain murdered Abel “because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” Abel’s goodness exposed Cain’s badness. Abel’s righteousness convicted Cain of his unrighteousness. Abel’s love for God silently declared Cain’s disregard. Cain responded with the ultimate manifestation of hatred—he murdered his own brother.
[N]o matter how many flaming darts Satan fires against us, the shield of faith can extinguish them all. But that doesn’t happen automatically. Shields need to be picked up, and used.
Sometimes we need the reminder. Christian brothers, pick up your shield. This is your only way to extinguish the flaming darts of Satan.