Sage advice for Dansby Swanson

Hear the audio at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Anchor.

Introduction

I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious, just like anybody who’s been around the game of baseball for any amount of time. Even in my church softball league, I have my routines, especially before hitting, and I don’t deviate from them. I don’t step on foul lines. I nag my teammates to not cross the bats when they’re resting against the fence in the dugout. I do not, however, care if you steal Jobu’s rum.

It saddens me, however, that the shortstop for my Atlanta Braves, Dansby Swanson (Dans-bae for those who have a crush on him) might as well have sacrificed a chicken, not a bunt, to Jobu when he burned sage throughout Truist Park to help the Braves break out of an offensive slump last month.

Most of the time, I would let this slide, assuming that Swanson was just another knucklehead athlete whose hippie mom suggested he run down to the nearest Bob Marley themed smoke shop to remedy his woes with the bat. Alas, Swanson is well spoken and frequently posts about his faith in Jesus.

Qualifications, disclaimers, and well wishes

Because of Swanson’s profession of faith, the rest of this blog will treat him as a brother in Christ, not an abject heretic or someone who holds to an entirely different religion, such as Buddhism or Islam. I will be blunt in the way a friend slaps his friend when he won’t wake up when his house is on fire, but any shot I take will be at the ideas, not Swanson himself. He has no reason to duck for cover from friendly fire. The wounds of a friend are faithful; it’s the flattery of the godless you have to look out for (Proverbs 27:6).

All theology is connected

Last month, Swanson made an Instagram post featuring song lyrics and a sweatshirt from Maverick City Music, which is a worship music cooperative that has recently exploded in popularity. In researching for this blog, I came across two disturbing findings, and I ask you to bear with me as I flesh out some things.

First off, Maverick City Music unabashedly works with Amanda Lindsey Cook. Cook is an enormous name in the worship music scene and is the embodiment of the modern Western church in her lack of doctrinal rootedness and discernment. A quick perusal of her Twitter features her talking about how worthy we are of God’s love (Romans 3:12 would like a word), sharing interviews in which she uses pantheistic language to describe God, and glowingly quotes the medieval Islamic mystic Rumi. This should already be causing alarm bells to sound in your mind.

But wait, there’s more!

A Google search for Maverick City Music reveals even more. Their site’s description on Google contains the text found at the bottom of their page, and it leads off with what they want you to know about themselves. The very first word boldly proclaims them in all caps to be “UNORTHODOX.” God forbid we try to think about the creator and sustainer of the universe rightly.

One can tell a lot about a person – but especially a Christian – by his influences. If I told you that I really like Billy Graham, then that probably means I value evangelism. If David Platt, then missions. If Karl Barth, being confused. But Maverick City Music? Well, they say they’re unorthodox, and this is just getting awkward.

Supplication over superstition

Unfortunately, another characteristic of modern Christianity is an immediate revulsion when using biblical language in a rebuttal to sin, and while Swanson burning sage may seem innocent enough, he said his goal was to “clean the air.” He wasn’t exactly being cute or doing some aromatherapy, so bear with me when I quote from Paul.

Every major translation renders the second word used in Galatians 5:20’s vice list as either witchcraft or sorcery. The fact that the Greek word, pharmakeia is used (where we derive our English word “pharmacy”), means we’re not only talking about funny hats, long beards, and/or Miss Cleo. We’re dealing with an entire realm that can include drug use and spells, including, yes, trying to purify the air of bad juju with sage.

But why? Why should we not learn to follow the abominable practices of the nations (Deut. 18:9-14) such as reading horoscopes, using tarot cards, thinking moon phases and the position of the stars affect our behavior and personalities, et cetera?

At root, it’s because it shows an unbelieving, untrusting heart. Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” A little secret – the Greek word translated as everything there means, well, everything. That includes job performance, including being among the 780 most elite baseball players on the planet, because, yes, God does care about the outcome of sporting events (Romans 8:28).

When we don’t take our needs to God in prayer and instead rely on superstition and rituals to get us out of a funk, what we really mean is that we don’t trust him with that particular need. I partially blame this on the pietistic notion that God only really cares about what’s going on in our “quiet times” and us keeping our noses clean by not murdering people or beating up hobos or committing tax fraud. But job performance, even sports? Nah, that totally doesn’t fit into the daily bread portion of the Lord’s Prayer. After all, we can’t have God governing the events and actions of humans in any meaningful way (Proverbs 21:1).

And about cleaning the air, as Swanson put it? Well, that already happened. If Satan is the “prince of the power of the air,” (Ephesians 2:2) and Jesus has defeated him, then it stands to reason that the air has already been cleaned. Our response should be gratitude to the one who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, which includes the air we breathe and use to make two-seamers cut in on righties.

2020, COVID, Trump, and false prophecies

Hear the audio version at Anchor, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

Introduction

Ah, yes. 2020. That year of healing, prosperity, Donald Trump being reelected, and racism being ended in the United States of America.

What was that? None of those things happened? Let me check with my personal prophet and get back to you.

Well, it seems like he got it wrong. He says he’s sorry and that he was tuning into FM frequencies when God was speaking on the AM dial.

Smoke, meet my friend, fire

Whether it was Kenneth Copeland decreeing and declaring the COVID-19 pandemic to be over in the name of God (Several times, I might add); or Shawn Bolz prophesying that COVID-19 would be over in a matter of a couple of weeks; or Bethel closing their healing rooms due to COVID-19 (I’m not sorry for finding that hilarious); or Bill Johnson and others decreeing and declaring that racism was over in America; or the late, IHOP-aligned Bob Jones prophesying that the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl last year was a sign of end times revival; or Pat Robertson, Paula White, Kris Vallotton, Kat Kerr, Greg Lock, Bolz again, Copeland again, and scores of others prophesying – saying that God told them – that Donald Trump would win reelection, or that the election results would be thrown out, or that God would miraculously intervene and Trump would be inaugurated on January 20 (Depending on what day it was, of course), 2020 proved to be a trust buster in terms of those who claim to be prophets.

To Vallotton’s credit, he has apologized for missing the mark, but the error he made in the apology was in the attempt to differentiate between prophesying falsely and prophesying wrongly. Many of these people would agree that they heard from God and just missed it. The problem is that Scripture’s standard for prophesy is perfection, not a pretty good batting average or completion percentage.

From Deuteronomy to Jeremiah 29:11

The Old Testament knows two tests for prophets, both of them in Deuteronomy as follows:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, “Let us go after other gods,” which you have not known, “and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. – Deuteronomy 13:1-7

And later, immediately after banning interpreting omens, something many of these so-called prophets love to do:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, “How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?”— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. – Deuteronomy 18:18-22

The first test is that if someone performs something miraculous, say, pretending to grow someone’s leg even though he won’t miraculously heal people at a hospital, but follows a false god, God takes that so seriously that under the Law, he would have been executed. While many mentioned here hold to heretical teachings such as kenosis and teach that Jesus went to hell to atone for sin, that is outside the scope of my main argument but is still vital to the overall tone. God’s name is not to be taken in vain by using the name of Jesus while describing someone who actually isn’t Jesus. I’m looking at you, Joseph Smith.

The second test is whether the thing actually happened or not. Did it happen? Cool. Did someone speak in God’s name and it didn’t happen? The standard in this case is to bat 1.000. A 4-for-5 day at the plate is a fantastic batting average, but four out of five or 99 out of 100 still falls short. God says he didn’t say anything to that supposed prophet. In fact, he’s not a prophet at all, and we shouldn’t listen to him.

Examples of false prophets being refuted abound through Scripture, like in Jeremiah 28 when Hannaniah falsely prophesies that Nebuchadnezzar would be overthrown in two years. Jeremiah responds by telling him that God didn’t say that and that Hannaniah would die that year. You can guess what happened that year and what didn’t happen in two years. That then leads into Jeremiah 29 and everyone’s favorite out of context memory verse, Jeremiah 29:11. The reason God reminded his people about his plans for them was because false prophets, whom God said he didn’t send, kept telling everyone that they were about to go home. God then tells them through Jeremiah that, no, it’s going to be 70 years, so go ahead and start a 401K.

Ezekiel 13 goes so far as to call false prophets jackals and says they’re not in the council of his people. Ergo, this is a salvation issue. For someone to say he is speaking for God when he really isn’t, excludes him from the flock and will send him to hell if he doesn’t repent.

The New Testament case is just as airtight. On top of Romans 16’s exhortation to mark and avoid false teachers, 2 Peter tells us that those who prophesy falsely deny God and that their destruction will be swift, much like what we just saw in Jeremiah. God will simply not stand for being slandered with words he never spoke.

Anticipating a common objection

One of the most common but most easily defeated objections comes from pitting Scripture against itself. It is claimed that Agabus falsely prophesied in Acts 21 when he said Paul would be bound hand and foot by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul is then accused in the Temple on false charges, beaten, and a mob forms before Roman soldiers arrested him and bound him with two chains. These parties will say that Agabus got it wrong, because the Jews didn’t specifically hand over Paul to the Romans, never mind the prophetic symbolism and the fact that Paul says, “I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans,” in Acts 28:17 and confirms Agabus’ accuracy. As an aside, see this blog for a more detailed treatment, but the short version is that saying the New Testament’s standards for allowing inaccurate prophecy are different than the Old Testament simply doesn’t hold water.

His sheep know his voice

We can take comfort that we don’t have to strain to hear God, nor do we have to perform some ritual to “get on his frequency.” He has spoken to us in these last days by his Son (Heb. 1:1), and the Word of God bears fruit and increases wherever it goes (Is. 55:11, Col. 1:6). This isn’t meant to wade into a continuation/cessation argument, but if God wanted you to hear something, you would probably have a similar reaction to Isaiah 6, and you wouldn’t have to guess. After all, Jesus said his sheep know his voice (John 10:27).

Not only do Jesus’ sheep know his voice; they actually listen and obey (John 10:16), so if the aforementioned parties are truly hearing and listening to God, they should obey his word in Deuteronomy 18 by resigning their ministerial posts, repenting of their sin and calling out to Christ for forgiveness for blaspheming his name and violating the Third Commandment. God doesn’t need them, and the Church will be healthier for it.

Christians should tell the truth about Antifa

Listen to the audio here:

Introduction

I won’t even tee up my main point before we get to examples and current events. Here it is.

If you make an assertion or truth claim, you must provide the objective proof for that assertion or truth claim.

Scripture is clear on this subject. If we are going to charge someone with a crime, it can only be admitted on the charge of two or three independent lines of witness and testimony (1 Tim. 5:19, Deut. 19:15). Of course, this doesn’t have to be two or three people but can include things like fingerprints, DNA, video, gloves that may or may not fit, and the like. But the point stands that if an accusation is made, proof must be given.

God also makes it clear that he detests false witnesses (Pr. 6:16-19), and the punishment for bringing forth a criminal charge on false grounds should be that the one making the false accusation is punished in the same fashion that the defendant would have been punished (Deut. 19:16-19). For example, if one lies to the police and accuses someone of capital murder and is found out, the accusing party would receive the penalty for capital murder.

This week’s example

There are many examples that I could cite for my Trump supporting friends, but I’ve narrowed it to just one. No sooner had the Capitol been breached by protestors-turned-rioters on Jan. 6 than accusations that it was actually Antifa started flying around social media. These claims were supported with side-by-side photos with captions purporting one side was at a BLM protest and the other in the Senate chamber, or some such thing.

The great irony is that the main photos that made the rounds were of this known white nationalist who live streamed himself in the Capitol and this goofy looking guy with the horns, who is a known QAnon cultist. For the uninitiated, QAnon is a conspiracy theory in the shady corners of the Internet claiming to get information from an above-Top Secret source in the government and that Donald Trump is secretly leading a war against a cabal of satanist, canibalistic pedophiles. Yeah, that’s who we’re dealing with here.

But, for the sake of the argument, even though the FBI has said they have no evidence to support the claim of Antifa involvement, let’s grant that a grand total of two Antifa members have been reported to have been present at the time of the breach by the New York Post. Two. Out of over 1,000. That’s lower than the COVID-19 infection fatality rate, and if somewhere between one and five external agitants are enough to turn a protest into a riot, that honestly says more about the main group’s lack of self control than anything else.

Put away falsehood

God calls us to put away falsehood and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15, 25), which in turn fulfills the Great Commandment of loving God and loving neighbor. When we bear false witness, we slander a fellow image bearer of God and misrepresent their actions. Even though Antifa’s positions stand in direct opposition to Scripture and human flourishing, we must deal with their shenanigans truthfully, lest we defeat ourselves in the process.

Let me put it this way. Christians ruin their witness to ultimate truth when they fudge on smaller truths. Remember, our entire religion is built on the second person of the triune God becoming a man, being brutally executed and coming back to life. Our claim is so outlandish that the Greek word used to describe the foolishness of the Cross in 1 Cor. 1:18 is where we derive our English word “moron.” We are morons to the world; let’s not give them more ammo.

This is not to say that the political sphere is unimportant, but it’s not of ultimate importance. We should be willing to take an L in regards to Trump if it means the furtherance of the Kingdom. To parse out more Greek, the word Paul uses in Phil. 3 to describe how worthless everything else is when compared to Christ would be closer to being translated as a giant, steaming pile of dog crap. When compared to the glory of Jesus Christ and when considering taking an earthly W for a Christocentric L, Trump being in the White House by hook or by insurrection should be as appetizing as a literal poo poo platter that has cooked all day in a crock pot, and the essence has filled your house with the aroma of a septic tank. It should make us gag. It should make us throw up in our mouths a little. It shouldn’t be a close contest in our minds in the slightest.

And if it is, don’t be surprised when God topples the idols in your life in order to draw you closer to himself.

2020 has exposed our legalism

Hear the audio version on iTunes!

The year of the legalism

The year 2020 will eventually be the subject of entire history courses and master’s degree thesis papers, with the death of Kobe Bryant, Australia on fire, the near miss on World War III, COVID-19, murder hornets, Saharan dust storms, George Floyd, et al, and I have a suggestion for future historians digging around in original sources, like this blog. This year has been the year that Christian legalism was exposed when it comes to current events.

I’ll start with the dense irony that American Christians eschew any amount of keeping God’s Law. “We’re under grace, after all, so we don’t need to worry about that Law stuff.” True enough, if we mean our justification, but has God spoken with finality and authority about the situations we face? As it happens, he sure has. But what we see so often in 2020 is Christians creating additional burdens in place of the light and easy burden Jesus has for us.

The longest running legalism of 2020 has been Christians demanding that other Christians must wear a mask during the COVID-19 panic, lest they have blood on their hands. I’m not exaggerating. There have even been Christians accuse churches of murder – yes, murder – because they never stopped meeting together during the pandemic.

More recently, some Christians have also insisted that other Christians must speak out about racial injustice. Not too much, of course, or you’re acting like a “white savior,” but sometimes you just need to shut up and listen, but silence is violence. Or something. Either way, you gotta speak out. You just have to, or you’re disobeying God. And by God, I really mean the mob.

And that’s the biggest issue. Our brothers and sisters are acting closer to Eve in the garden than Jesus in his obedience, because they are adding to God’s commands, which caused Eve’s deception and Adam’s rebellion (Genesis 3:2-3).

Indeed, God has given his standard for quarantine (more on that here), and we are to love our neighbors in considering our precautions while in public. Additionally, God has given his standard for justice, and we are to love our neighbors when we consider our responses to unequal weights and measures in our justice system. Both wearing a mask and speaking out against injustice are good things, provided that we’re doing it out of love for God and neighbor and not doing it to be seen as virtuous or out of selfish motives.

And while both of those things are good works, what we must not do is bind the consciences of other Christians to do them. We can encourage those works, yes, but to force a Christian brother or sister into doing something that God hasn’t explicitly commanded is actually sinful, because you’re alleging that to abstain from doing the thing is sinful when God hasn’t defined it as such.

Of course, I have Bible for this.

Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; – Romans 14:3-10

Yes, they are the same

In the mask debate, we have some who have weighed the evidence available and have come to the conclusion that wearing a mask while in public is in everyone’s best interests. This is absolutely acceptable for a Christian under the Lordship of Christ, provided it’s done in honor of the Lord. We have yet others who have also weighed the same evidence and concluded that COVID-19 isn’t as huge of a deal as many make it out to be and feel free to not wear a mask. This is also absolutely acceptable for a Christian under the Lordship of Christ, provided it’s done in honor of the Lord.

And in the social justice/”black lives matter” debate, we’ve had many Christians who posted a black box one Tuesday to show their support for equity under the law. This is absolutely acceptable for a Christian under the Lordship of Christ, provided it’s done in honor of the Lord. We also had Christians who did not post a black box and still haven’t said or posted anything in regards to racial inequities in society, some citing that they don’t want to be mixed up with the organization Black Lives Matter, whose founders claim to be trained Marxists. This is also absolutely acceptable for a Christian under the Lordship of Christ, provided it’s done in honor of the Lord.

So what’s the big deal? Far too many Christians who have eaten, so to speak, have passed judgement on those who have abstained. This is obviously not exclusively the case, but to accuse me of sin in my response is a big deal.

And before you say that I “get to show sacrificial love” by forcing me to wear a mask in church, let me remind you that sacrificial love as modeled by Christ is voluntary, not coerced. Christ laid his life down; no one took it from him (John 10:18).

Stop the guilt trips

In closing, can we dispense with the guilt trips? Can we stop demanding that someone say, “Black lives matter,” in the exact formal sense you want? Can we instead be slow to speak and quick to listen, even to those who don’t agree with us? And by listen, I don’t mean the one-way street of only listening to woke voices telling me that I’m racist; I really mean a two-way street where voices are heard, opinions are weighed against evidence, and we really hash things out.

And if we come down with differing opinions on masks or social justice under the Lordship of Christ, maybe we should assume the best of our Christian brothers and sisters. They just might have a good reason for how they got there.

I’ll end with a Martin Luther quote, for good measure.

“Thus the apostle has given this mandate to the faithful: ‘Serve one another in love, bear each other’s burdens, forgive one another. If you cannot bear with each other and tolerate one another, it is impossible for peace and harmony to remain among Christians. Otherwise, it will always be like this: You will offend and be offended. You will see many things in me that will offend you. As for me, I see many things in you that I don’t like. In this case, if we cannot bear each other in love, there will be no end to the disagreements, discordance, envies, hatred, and ill will.’”

Christians, we need to talk about Plandemic

Listen to the audio version on Anchor and iTunes!

A frank discussion

One of the most viral videos of the year, Plandemic, has been sweeping through my Facebook feed lately. In what is apparently the first of several parts, Dr. Judy Mikovits makes earth shattering claims regarding COVID-19, government shadow groups, and vaccines.

Allow me to lay my cards on the table up front along with the disclaimer that what I’m about to say is not meant to insult anyone’s intelligence. But here’s my overarching thesis.

Plandemic is rife with falsehood, and Christians hurt their witness by believing and sharing it.

Of course, I can’t just make the claim and not provide evidence (something Plandemic does repeatedly), so I’ll take aim at two of Mikovits’ claims.

First, Mikovits claims that due to her research on chronic fatigue syndrome linking the condition to a virus, she was falsely discredited and arrested with no charges and not allowed legal representation.

The facts, which are available through a quick Google search, are that she along with two others did indeed publish a study linking chronic fatigue syndrome to a virus, but no one could replicate the study. It was then revealed that her blood samples had been contaminated in the lab, so the study was retracted. Mikovits was later fired for insubordination, and she stole data, a computer, and some other stuff from the lab she worked for. The company first filed suit to get their property back, and after she fled to California from Nevada, the company had her arrested as a fugitive from justice, which she was. Any news report from that time also shows quotes from her lawyer, which debunks her claim that she wasn’t allowed to have a lawyer.

Mikovits also makes the absolutely absurd claim that the ebola virus (which, for the record, there are several) wasn’t harmful to humans until she weaponized it in 1999.

We have records of ebola outbreaks killing humans since 1976. But what’s 23 years among friends?

You can find links to more rebuffed claims, which is basically every claim made in Plandemic, at the link.

Why is this important?

All truth is God’s truth, no matter how cringeworthy it may be. Jesus said the truth would set us free, and while he was talking ultimately about himself, there is great liberty in living honest lives sans proverbial or literal skeletons in our proverbial or literal closets.

And, yes, we need to be honest that the United States government has done some really shady stuff over its history, especially regarding the COVID-19 lockdowns. Governments tend to be corrupt because people are depraved. I’ll also grant that even though YouTube is a private company that can do what it wants, it only stokes more suspicion by removing the video over and over again.

But at the same time, gullibility is not a fruit of the Spirit. We are called to be wise and to fact check claims about God (My last blog covered this, and you can read it here), and it would follow that we should fact check what people are saying about God’s creation, whether in the scientific realm or in the political sphere.

God really does take this seriously

Proverbs 17:18 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him,” and we’re seeing that in motion right now. Mikovits made a boatload of claims, and they simply don’t stand up under scrutiny.

But what of her claims regarding the likes of Anthony Fauci? Well, if they are indeed false (Spoiler alert: they are), then she is bearing false witness against her neighbor. God hates this, so says Proverbs 6, and he hates it so much that if Mikovits were to legally accuse Fauci of these lies, she would take the punishment he would be due under God’s Law.

And instead of hearing these claims with any amount of critical thinking, I keep seeing Christians talk about what’s really going on and how so many people are profiting off [insert crisis or medical procedure here], taking their cues from people who claim that vaccines and cell phone towers are causing Alzheimer’s in children. Never mind that Mikovits just released a new book last month that is currently in the top 15 best sellers on Amazon. Nothing to see there. Move along.

Stop fearing man. Start fearing God.

God has great wisdom for us in Isaiah 8:12-13, which reads, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

While it is indeed true that governments have committed horrible atrocities, we must keep in mind that they will answer to Jesus one day, and they will be conquered and made his footstool. We have absolutely nothing to fear! God is for us and has us in the palm of his hand. This is incredible news.

At the same time, we’re told that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. That’s often softened and we’re told that it’s really about respect and reverence, which is not what you see when Isaiah meets Christ in Isaiah 6. While we love God, we should also have a holy fear about us in that we need to understand who we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with the one who lets us breathe only by his grace, and he would be absolutely right to snuff us out in a heartbeat because of our sin.

Fear God, not man. In doing so, you’ll show yourself to be sober minded in a time of panic, opening up doors for the furtherance of the Gospel.

Christian responses to COVID-19 government overreach

Listen to the audio version at Anchor and iTunes.

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way

Before I get started, allow me to put my disclaimer in the very first paragraph in bold print: I am not saying that COVID-19 is not a big deal, and I do not “want people to die.” If you feel that knee jerk reaction welling up inside you for the rest of this blog, smash the page up button and come back here. I am not saying that COVID-19 is not a big deal, and I do not “want people to die.”

Is it new or continued?

I don’t want people to die so much so, in fact, that I’m seriously concerned about the economic and civil rights consequences of actions taken by the federal and state governments, particularly those that affect me and mine the most in the form of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s executive orders. He issued a new one Monday to either extend the state of emergency or declare a new state of emergency, depending on which paragraph you read, regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s the problem. The Governor can’t extend a state of emergency over 15 days without the approval of the General Assembly, and he has now unilaterally done exactly that twice, citing South Carolina’s Code of Law 25-1-440.

In truth, the new executive order is violating the law and is not declaring a “new” state of emergency. The word “ongoing” appears nine times in the new order. Section 1H also declares that all the former COVID-19 related executive orders will continue in full effect. Ergo, McMaster has unilaterally, illegally extended the state of emergency, because the General Assembly did not give him the go ahead.

And, of course, the administration is arguing that since the General Assembly wasn’t in session and didn’t explicitly object, their consent was implied, which is emphatically not what the law says. Tell me that isn’t a can of worms.

Definitions matter

The governor’s previous work-or-home order, which is really a nicer name for a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order, is also problematic in that it violates the spirit of South Carolina law. Yes, the government avoided the words “isolate” and “quarantine” for the order and instead used the term “curfew,” but we all really know that this was a quarantine of the healthy because they explicitly said it was to mitigate a health threat. This is in direct contradiction with our legal code. Apologies for the legalese, but the full definition warrants reading, from SC Law 44-4-130.

(N) “Isolation” and “quarantine” mean the compulsory physical separation (including the restriction of movement or confinement) of individuals and/or groups believed to have been exposed to or known to have been infected with a contagious disease from individuals who are believed not to have been exposed or infected, in order to prevent or limit the transmission of the disease to others; if the context so requires, “quarantine” means compulsory physical separation, including restriction of movement, of populations or groups of healthy people who have been potentially exposed to a contagious disease, or to efforts to segregate these persons within specified geographic areas. “Isolation” means the separation and confinement of individuals known or suspected (via signs, symptoms, or laboratory criteria) to be infected with a contagious disease to prevent them from transmitting disease to others.

“And why does this even matter?” you may ask. “I thought that you were all about Jesus on this blog.” 

And, yes, I absolutely am! And because I’m all about Jesus on this blog, that means he’s Lord of the universe, and Henry McMaster answers to him. We don’t live in an autocracy; the executive branch does not wield all authority to do whatever they think is best in a given moment. We have checks and balances for a reason, and that concept is rooted in Scripture.

What God says about it

What God has defined as a just quarantine practice is essentially how South Carolina has defined it; it’s just that we chose to ignore both what God said and what the state has codified. While a better case than I can write can be found here, I will emphasize that quarantine is of the sick, not the healthy, and even United States Attorney General William Barr has strong words for this policy.

“These are unprecedented burdens on civil liberties right now. … The idea that you have to stay in your house is disturbingly close to house arrest,” Barr said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t justified. I’m not saying in some places it might still be justified. But it’s very onerous, as is shutting down your livelihood.”

Barr is correct. Lockdown can be a judicious practice under the right conditions, but it’s an uphill battle to say that what state governments have done is a good call.

This does not mean that we shouldn’t exercise prudence and that social distancing may be the best practice at the moment. It does mean, however, that these measures aren’t legitimately spelled out within our laws, which means that the government is not permitted to do them.

The Christian response

As Christians, our first response should not be to flout any illegal governmental act, but we are absolutely well within our rights to point a finger and sternly say, “I honor your position, but you can’t do that,” respectfully, of course.

And while this right is guaranteed in the First Amendment, I’ll provide biblical support.

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law basically tells him he’s doing everything wrong. The result is the foundation of representative government and federalism.

In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan calls out David for his affair with Bathsheba, abuse of power, and murder of Uriah.

The book of 1 Kings is rife with stories of conflict between the prophet Elijah and Ahab and Jezebel. The highlight, of course, is Elijah mocking and defeating the prophets of Baal. “Your god can’t hear you because he’s dropping a massive deuce. Instead of sending fire here, he’s using his match to clear out the stank.”

And in the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Sanhedrin for abuses of power and heretical self-righteousness. I won’t even link to a specific reference because there are so many scattered throughout the Gospels.

Acts 5 features Peter telling the authorities that he must obey God rather than men in regards to the preaching of the Gospel. Again, he wasn’t making the case for a full scale rebellion or initiating the boogaloo.

Paul makes bold use of his legal rights several times in Acts, both in regards to punishment and due process. He then used his due process to make an impassioned plea to Agrippa to repent and trust in Christ.

And that is my plea to the Governor of South Carolina. Though I’m not making any judgement of his current eternal state, the Governor needs to repent of this nonsense and look to God for true wisdom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Washing your hands is FAKE NEWS

Listen to the audio at Anchor and iTunes!

A revelation

God showed me something that I’ve never seen before. We actually don’t have to worry about washing our hands during the COVID-19 pandemic! Jesus even said so. 

You see, when he was owning the Pharisees, Jesus said that hand washing doesn’t matter and that what goes into the body doesn’t defile it. The only thing that matters is what is on the inside, and the real you is on the inside, and God thinks you’re awesome.

It’s that easy

No doubt, some of you are ready to fling your phone or computer monitor across the room, but the preceding two paragraphs had a point. It really is that easy to twist Scripture to say whatever you want, provided you yank a verse or even half a verse – Matthew 15 in this case – out of context. It’s even easier when it’s not even read out but merely driven by, waved at, and passed on for the next biblical tourist attraction before reaching our final destination of Sola Feels.

In the opening paragraph, I went from zero to “God told me” to modern headline to appealing to Jesus to ripping on Pharisees (read: “anyone with any shred of doctrinal standards”) to proto-Gnosticism to Pelagianism at a breakneck pace. So quickly, in fact, that those who haven’t connected certain dots within the Christian faith – whether by inexperience, immaturity, or both – could have fallen prey to any or all of those errors.

And that’s how the prosperity preachers and theological liberals get you. “You will be the head and not the tail,” they say. “God will heal our land.” “He will deliver you from pestilence.” “God so loved the WORLD.” “Justification and life for all men.”

And before long, it’s declarations of, “COVID-19!” coupled with blowing a raspberry, and, “Substitutionary atonement is divine child abuse. What kind of god would be so petulant that he had to kill his own Son to stop being angry?” First they hook you with real phrases in the Bible that actually promise far more than how they apply them, then they reel you in with an emotional ploy, then they net you with heresy so egregious that they’ve actually invented a new religion.

But it’s not all doom and gloom

Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to refute nonsense like this or even the Fauci/Bill Gates/Wuhan lab/mark of the beast conspiracy theories. A quick Google search for the phrase in question – or an Accordance, Bible Hub, or Logos search for biblical references – will bring up the verses where the phrase is found. Put that in the chapter or chapters surrounding and voila, the context itself debunks the abuse of Scripture. And if it’s a particularly crafty abuse, free commentaries abound on sites like Bible Hub, and explanatory blogs can often be found on Desiring God, Ligonier, etc. You can even do the same with some of the terms I’ve thrown around here, all from the comfort of the supercomputer you carry in your pocket. The cat videos can wait.

And, yes, there is biblical support for this, and I invite you to fact check me on this. The Bereans were considered “more noble” than the Thessalonians because they fact checked Paul and Silas. They very much touched God’s anointed, to further twist yet another twisted Scripture (And I’m both surprised and disappointed that a Christian hair band hasn’t used that as their name). Though it’s not explicit in Acts 17, there’s a real possibility that Paul and Silas muffed a point here and there or occasionally didn’t speak with the greatest of clarity, so the Bereans likely had to ask clarifying questions and were ready to refute the Apostle if what he said contradicted the Scriptures, which was the Old Testament in their case.

This is a good and godly thing to do, and we would be wise to exercise this responsibility every time someone claims to speak for God.

What the COVID-19 stimulus package reveals about our society

Hear the audio version on Anchor and iTunes.

Introduction and disclaimers

Before we delve in and deal with the COVID-19 rescue deal, I’d like to make a disclaimer that those who know me will find surprising. I do believe that this stimulus is needed, but I say that with a caveat. I don’t like what is happening, but I think it was inevitable that this would happen because of the steps the United States has taken for decades. Effectively, this was one of several bad options, and it may have been the best of all the bad options.

That said, we’re basically looking at most Americans getting in the neighborhood of $1,200 and $500 for each dependent child. As I’ve already said, I’m not a fan of government stimulus or bailouts, but we basically have to do this, partially because of the fact that the virus and the government’s heavy handed response weren’t anyone’s fault, and partially because of how we got here. When we look at it, I see two main reasons why people must get $1,200 from the federal government, plus the beefed up unemployment program.

But prior to those reasons, allow me to make one more disclaimer. I intend to speak in general terms. I know that there are exceptions to the generality, such as people who have been ruined by extreme medical cases, fraud, the fact that they simply don’t have many skills, or plain old got into an industry at the wrong time, like my journalism degree in 2009. I am emphatically not calling them on the carpet in this blog.

Our nasty spending habit and government as deity

Now that I’m batting two-disclaimers-for-three-paragraphs, the first reason that this stimulus is needed is that Americans simply have a habit of living above our means and tend to not save any money for a rainy day (or a highly contagious day, as it were). Only 40 percent of our population can afford an unexpected expense of $1,000, and the average household carries over $7,000 in credit card debt. That noise you heard was Dave Ramsey shrieking in terror before locking himself in a closet and crying himself to sleep. We’re the richest nation in the world (Our median household income is north of $61,000), but we also have a massive debt and savings problem.

What I will not do is indict our country’s level of wealth – as previously stated, we’re literally the richest country in history by several orders of magnitude, and that has benefited everyone. Even our relatively poor are much better off than the poor around the world, and many of them carry supercomputers in their pockets. I will also not accuse those in debt of laziness; Americans by and large still have a remnant of the Protestant work ethic, and many other cultures see us as workaholics. I think, instead, this is a values issue, and our society has been materialistic for generations. This is basically keeping up with the Joneses. Again, if you feel your blood pressure rising on account of my callousness, please see the third paragraph again before dismissing the balance of this blog.

But one of the biggest concerns I have is that the federal government is further incentivizing irresponsibility. By that, I mean that we’re enabling our fellow citizens to live above their means on a consistent basis via stimulus and welfare systems.

And that gets into the second reason I believe the stimulus is needed. The government has overreached so far and consistently takes so much of our money that it becomes much easier to live above our means. In the United States, we are taxed when we earn money, when we spend money, when we save money and earn interest, when we sell stuff, when we own property, and if you die above a certain threshold of wealth, they’ll even take your money after you assume room temperature. Tell me that’s not wicked on its face.

The solution to both issues

As is the theme of this site, Jesus is Lord and has the answer to both of these problems.

Contrary to what some purport, Romans 13 is not a blank check for earthly governments to do whatever they want. That portion of Scripture refers to government both as God’s servant and his minister, and it gives government a very specific job – the restraint of evil. Evil comes in many forms, whether foreign invasion, domestic terrorism, date rape, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, and the list could go on ad nauseum. The restraint and punishment of these and by proxy the securing of God-given liberty is why we pay taxes, and, yes, some taxation is necessary. Excuse me while I go shower away my shame for saying such a thing.

While I rinse off, I’ll point you to the fact Samuel warned the Israelites of how heavy handed a king would be (1 Samuel 8). My goodness, he’s going to tax you 10 percent! The point of this? The earthly king that Israel begged for was going to put himself on par with God with how much he demanded from his subjects. Our current quasi-socialist system demands even more, and that should give us great pause. Anyway, back to Romans 13.

Many Bible-believing, well intentioned Christians will answer that Romans 13 and the rest of the passages about government were written in a different time when they didn’t have all these gadgets that will allow you to watch doggo videos filmed in Cambodia on a whim, nor did they have nearly as many people. They didn’t have any knowledge of epidemiology (everyone’s new favorite vocabulary word other than “expert”). Heck, they didn’t even know the earth was round. But God and his standards don’t change. Ever (Heb. 13:8).

These same, well intentioned people will then say that we can do so much good with the government. Indeed, as Jurassic Park taught us, we can, but that doesn’t mean we should. God has set up government in the same way he has set up the Church and the family. The government has its jobs; the family has its jobs; the Church has its jobs (Deut. 6, Deut. 11, 2 Tim. 4:1-2). And God is not a fan of when people deviate from what he has commanded (Deut. 4:2, Lev. 10).

As an aside to tack on to that argument, many also argue for a progressive form of taxation, which ratchets up the tax rate as one makes more money. Let me remind you that God in both the Old and New Testaments commands that we not show favoritism to the poor nor to the rich (Lev. 19:15, Ex. 23:3, James 2:1-12). Equity under the law must truly mean that, and envy of the rich must not drive us to punishing them for not sharing their goodies as much as we think they should.

But, in all honesty, the biggest concern I have is that while we should turn to the government for justice when someone breaks into our houses, steals our TVs, and kicks our dogs, we’ve also created an environment where we run to the government as our savior when we come upon hard times. And let me guarantee you, governmental soteriology leads to a pit of despair. Just look at all the hipsters wearing T-shirts with 20th century despots.

Instead, the Church needs to step up and be where people turn in times of help, where they get a healthy dose of both help and Gospel. And before you say that they’re not doing enough, I agree, but there’s this economic concept called the crowding out effect. Check out that link and then come back.

Until very recent times, if one ran into hard times within the confines of Western civilization, they sought out those belonging to the Way. It was even the case so much so in the early years of Christianity that the Roman emperor Julian had this to say:

“Atheism [what they called the Christian faith because they denied the Roman pantheon] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”

The Church, both then and now, both individually and corporately, did and does a much better job at caring for the poor than the government. We may not have as many resources as the government (the Constitution outlaws us printing our own money, after all), but we make up for that with efficiency and a Gospel presentation, and we don’t coerce people under threat of force to support the effort (2 Cor. 9). Come get bread and meet the Bread of Life.

And when those poor meet the Bread of Life, or when someone just plain old converts, or even when someone is raised in the church, they must be discipled, which is often where the American church has failed. We’ve kept our message to getting out of hell and being vaguely “nice” without understanding how God expects us to live. And don’t tell Andy Stanley, but a good deal of that comes from the Old Testament, which the American church avoids because it pulls exactly zero punches and often turns our 21st century sacred cows into Big Macs.

The American church has to do a better job at discipling people to handle their money wisely, which means more than offering a Dave Ramsey course every four years and reminding people to give, and it must disciple people to think about government wisely, which means more than handing out voter guides every four years and saying that we don’t have all the answers. Aside from Romans 13 and Financial Peace University, I put forward the following texts, which just scratch the surface, to be considered for further study, not to slap anyone around but to show how to live under the lordship of Christ.

“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12

“Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” – Proverbs 21:20 (The New Living Translation renders the latter half as, “but fools spend whatever they get.”)

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” – Psalm 20:7-8

“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” – Deuteronomy 8:3, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 4:4

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” – Galatians 6:9-10

Lastly, by way of clarity, I take the partial preterist view of Revelation, so I believe we’re living in the following reality and that this already happened.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
    and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
    but your wrath came,
    and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
    and those who fear your name,
    both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” – Revelation 11:15-18

I offer one more text in closing.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1-2

 

How Christians should respond to COVID-19

Hear the audio version here: Anchor, iTunes

COVID-19, at least temporarily, has upended the entirety of not just Western but global society. Nearly every nation on the planet has at least one positive case of the coronavirus, and the world’s response has been telling.

The mass media has engaged in its usual fear mongering, wherein they have published worst-case scenario after worst-case scenario headline, even though the much softer truth lies within the third paragraph of the article. The stock market has tanked because investors freaked out. The government has shown ineptitude at federal, state, and local levels. Florida’s beaches were still crowded until a day or two ago (Insert “Florida man” headline here). College kids are still partying for spring break, and unbelievers have shown the way they see the world to be abysmally hopeless. 

People have panicked and turned to their functional gods of government and good times, which have failed them, perpetuating the vicious cycle caused when our idols show themselves to be deaf and dumb. In most of the world’s eyes, God either doesn’t care or is too small to account for this virus. To some, God isn’t there in the first place; the virus is simply the product of evolution and the meat sacks known as homo sapiens are doomed to social isolation or face eradication for the foreseeable future.

On the other side of the same unbelieving coin, we have prosperity teachers making a mockery of Christianity by claiming “authority” over the virus and telling it that it’s illegal. We’ve seen false prophets falsely prophecy that the virus would basically evaporate in just a few days, and we’ve seen hucksters touch TV cameras with mineral oil on their hands, claiming that it would release healing and shields of protection because God either doesn’t or can’t send sickness. This is all Satan’s work, they claim.

The truth is that God not only created COVID-19; he also holds every individual virus’s molecules together by the word of his power. He’s sovereign over wherever it goes and uses it to his glory and the good of his people. He is directing all of the events throughout the course of human history in order glorify himself through the redemption of a particular people, the Church.

Of course, that still hasn’t proven that God’s will is to ever make people sick or otherwise cause them harm. That answer, according to Scripture, is a resounding “yes.” I’ll start my argument in Deuteronomy 28:21-22, in which God lays out how he will curse Israel if they violate the covenant.

“The LORD will make the pestilence stick to you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish.”

Even one of the American church’s favorite verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, supports this claim when put in its proper context. By itself, it reads, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” However, what many neglect is that literally the verse before talks about God sending pestilence. God brought disease upon even Israel, his covenant people.

One more example from the Old Testament, as many claim that disease is wrought by the unilateral workings of Satan.

The first chunk of the book of Job involves Satan accusing Job, a righteous man, of only following God because of his unbelievably good life. In those days, livestock was basically currency (Or toilet paper by today’s standards) and children were basically hired hands in an agrarian society, and Job had loads of both. Satan requests to harm Job in various ways, and God allows it. Don’t miss that. Satan had to get permission from God to do anything to anyone. Christianity is not dualistic, where God and Satan are equals or even quasi-equals. Instead, the book of Job portrays Satan as something closer to a mean mutt on a leash, which God can jerk back at any time. There is only one Sovereign. If God doesn’t will that Satan tempt or harm someone, it doesn’t happen, period.

Now, lest one say, “That’s in the Old Testament and doesn’t apply today,” never mind the questionable hermeneutic, Jesus Christ himself would like a word with you from Revelation 2 and his letter to the church at Thyatira.

“I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.”

We see here that bad theology hurts people, because people act upon what they’ve been taught, and God takes what people teach about him deadly seriously, even to the point of throwing this false prophet onto a sick bed and killing her children. The truth of God is simply not to be trifled with, and he will judge those who twist it.

But if all we have are blunt facts, we’re left with absolutely no hope. There must be a reason behind it.

The first reason is that the creation groans because of our sin. When we fell in Adam, creation then had to put up with our depravity until the Kingdom comes in its fullness. Sickness is part of God’s curse on the world, and while it would be inappropriate to single out a particular sin or three that God is judging humanity for, we can accurately say that God sent COVID-19 as part of the curse.

The second is illustrated beautifully by Jesus in Luke 13.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus makes it clear that people don’t get swept up in war crimes, sickness, etc., because they didn’t have enough faith or necessarily because they sinned. He points us instead to the fact that we’re all headed toward an even worse end unless we repent from our sin and toward God. Don’t fear the virus that can kill the body, but fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Sickness, natural disasters, and the like are reminders from God, meant to point us back to himself. In a sense, they are kindnesses, grace shown to rebellious people. God isn’t callous toward his creations; even within his command to repent is the demonstration of how powerless we truly are and how much we need him.

In this time, therefore, Christians must not water down the Gospel with presentations of, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That won’t cut it and honestly never has. We must instead give a robust presentation of the Gospel which exposes us in our sinful depravity and God’s just wrath for it, which then perfectly segues into God’s grace presented in his Son, who both fulfilled God’s requirements and provided the perfect sacrifice to pay our due penalty, and who was then raised from the dead for our justification. We are then saved only by God’s unmerited favor through the vehicle of trusting in what Christ has done, and only in what Christ has done. Our own good deeds, no matter how many COVID-19 GoFundMes we support, won’t save us.

Within the Christian life, God has promised that he will never leave us nor forsake us, so the Christian can rest in the assurance that whatever we are going through, God is there in our midst. He has promised that his word bears fruit wherever it goes and doesn’t return to him without accomplishing what he set out to do.

As Christians, we must remember that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus Christ. This means he is Lord over the coronavirus. He is Lord over who gets infected and who is immune. He has called us to live wisely, so wash your hands and don’t lick doorknobs, and we can show the rest of the 7.7 billion people in the world what true hope looks like.

A reintroduction of sorts

It has been far too long since I blogged with any regularity. I really have no good excuse, but it’s probably for the better. I’ve been pondering how to get this thing going again for some time, so I’ve decided to wipe out every blog I’ve previously written with the exception of one, simply because that blog addressed an important issue and got an enormous response.

The message of this blog from now on is simple. Jesus Christ is Lord.

I’m not so interested in simply spouting my own opinions (anymore, at least). What I want to do is to proclaim the lordship of Jesus and examine how that applies to anything and everything. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, and the church is to disciple the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ has commanded.

Over the last 100 or so years, the American church has largely settled into two camps (With exceptions, of course). On one side, we have churches that are thankfully Gospel-centered, but the message doesn’t seem to move beyond punching our heaven card. There’s not much application. On the other side, we have churches that claim to be relevant and harp on applying biblical principles – often out of context – to our daily lives, but there’s not much in the way of the fact that we are by nature wretched sinners in need of a Savior.

This blog will seek to provide an alternative to that. There will be times where I simply analyze Scripture and see what it tells us about God and ourselves, and what we should do about it. I also plan on occasionally looking at news and events from a Christian worldview, admittedly on a far lower skill level than what Al Mohler does on the Briefing. And other times, I may look at popular teachings or practices in the church and see whether it lines up with Scripture or not. We’ll look at issues that are black-and-white, grey with nuance but settled, and stuff that’s also totally nuanced where I may not even give you a hard answer as to a solution.

Throughout this effort, I have exactly two requests of you, the reader. Our society has gotten to a point where everything is read in the worst possible tone and with the worst possible intentions . If it can be read overly harshly, it will be read overly harshly. If it can be read condescendingly, it will be read condescendingly. I first ask that you read this blog in the best possible tone and the best possible intentions first. If I’m incorrect, let’s interact and discuss it, but I will do my best and expect you to do your best to read all blogs and comments in the best possible, most charitable tone first. Second, I ask for some charity as I knock the rust off and get back in a groove with writing. As previously stated, it’s been a while.

In order to help with this, I will provide an audio version of this blog on the same feed as the Westminster Effects Doxology Podcast. That’s my business’s podcast that already has a built-in following that is familiar with my tone and style. If you read something here and think something is off, have a listen to the audio version so you can hear my inflection; that may assuage some of your misgivings. The audio will be embedded at the top of every blog.

I look forward to sharing this endeavor with you.

Soli Deo Gloria.