That’s not how Sola Scriptura works. That’s not how any of this works.

Hear this episode here.


“Where do you even see that?” my friend said. “I can’t see that in the text.”

And that’s when I knew we were having two different conversations, the most recent I’ve had where the application of Sola Scriptura – the doctrine that Scripture is the sole infallible rule of Christian faith and practice – has been misunderstood.

I’m going to give three basic principles of interpreting Scripture. These aren’t the only ones, but they’re really good starting blocks.

Scripture in history

Like many things theological, when we define Sola Scriptura, we have to also include what it’s not. It’s not ignoring historical context – that a particular book was written to a particular people at a particular time. There are, in fact, things that don’t have to be explicitly said that the original audience would have clearly understood.

One oft overlooked example is Jesus’ healing of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. The man legitimately couldn’t walk but was always beaten to the supposed “healing” by people who walked or even ran there when the water was “stirred up.”

We know from history that this was in reference to the Greek faith healing Asklepius cult. No, you don’t get that directly from the words of the text, but John’s first readers would have understood that Jesus busted up into an ancient Benny Hinn healing event, went to the wheelchair bound guys and dying cancer patients that they keep hidden in the back, and actually healed the guy while Benny was busy helicoptering his $5,000 coat at people and healing exactly nothing but his bank account.

To put it another way, I wouldn’t have to explicitly spell out Bethel Church at 933 College View Drive in Redding, California, if I gave you hints about gold dust (read: glitter in the HVAC) in Redding. The cult wasn’t the point of the story; Jesus was.

Scripture interprets Scripture

Sola Scriptura also does not take books of the Bible in a vacuum. They’re to be interpreted in light of each other, with clear passages providing light for the more vague, and with the New Testament giving the substance and fulfillment of Old Testament types and shadows (John 5:39, Heb. 10:1, Col. 2:17).

This concept is outright abandoned by dispensationalists when it comes to the nation-state of Israel. They insist that Israel and the church are two different salvific programs, which is how they invented the doctrine of the Rapture.

The good news is that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Eph. 4:5), and there is one people of God (Matt. 16:18), the ecclesia, translated as church in English. When the New Testament was being written, the authors wrote and spoke Greek, and nearly every New Testament quotation of the Old Testament is of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This should shed tremendous amounts of light on their use of terms, and the cockroaches of faulty doctrine should scuttle away.

To put it simply, the Greek ecclesia means assembly or congregation, a corporate body. Every single time our English Old Testament reads “assembly” or “congregation,” the Septuagint renders it ecclesia. The Old Testament had a congregation or church of Yahweh, which is how “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” in Romans 9 makes sense, and how Galatians calls those who trust in Christ – the church – the true “Israel of God.”

Sometimes Scripture interprets Scripture in light of history

In a similar vein, a passage that has been abused to say that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are our spiritual siblings is 1 John 4:2, which reads in part, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Well, it says that Jesus had flesh, so I guess anyone who says he had flesh is good to go, right?

Since 1 John was written after the Gospels, it’s safe to assume that the original readers were familiar with both the Old Testament, which spoke of Yahweh coming to earth (Isaiah 7), and Jesus identifying himself as Yahweh (John 8:58). Therefore, it’s not a stretch for anyone familiar with Christianity to know that the claim was that God came to earth.

The issue is then the fleshy bits, and this ties into Scripture being written in history. 1 John was written at a time when the Gnostics were rampant. The cult of Gnosticism is rooted in gaining secret knowledge (hence its name being rooted in the Greek word for knowledge), and, depending on the sect, either a belief that all physical matter is evil or that Jesus only appeared to be man, though he was still divine. Some Gnostic groups went so far as to say that Jesus wasn’t even crucified and that he tricked the Jews into crucifying Judas instead.

The problem John was addressing was basically the opposite of what we deal with now. Then, they were cool with Jesus being God, but a man too? Why, that would lower God too much. These days, we can’t grasp there being a God in the first place, but we weren’t the primary recipients of 1 John, so we can’t import what’s going on in our culture.

Genre matters

The issue of literary genre may be the toughest sell for some who want to interpret passages such as the decreation/judgment language of Revelation literally. We understand metaphors and similes in the secular world, but God forbid we interpret anything in the Bible in a way that isn’t woodenly literalistic. Hear me out, and we’ll make this easier to grasp.

This is how Word of Faith clown Kenneth Copeland can claim that he knew a guy who said a sermon “blew him away” and then had his house destroyed by a tornado, because, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). You can apparently literally kill people, never mind the absurdity of that statement and the lack of context, leaving off “and those who love it will eat its fruits.” If you love death, you’ll use your words to wreck people, but you’ll also eat the fruit of that death.

As another example, John 10 features Jesus saying, “I am the door.” I’m sorry, Jesus. You make a better door than a window, but you are clearly God incarnate and not a door.

Do the hard work. It will pay off.

Matthew 24 is not about the Rapture

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

This is a little different from my normal blog format, and it’s partially because my normal podcast doesn’t have an episode this week, but it’s also because it wasn’t written as a blog.

What you’ll read below stems from a discussion I led in my small group a couple of months ago. We spent four weeks on how to read Matthew 24, with me making the case that the entire thing is prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and that it is not about a supposed rapture of the church. One of our members respectfully disagreed and said she didn’t see my points, so we set up our next discussion to be a non-debate of sorts. She presented her case, and we opened things up for questions, and then I presented mine and took questions. We didn’t have a back-and-forth exchange where we tried to demolish each other, but we did have a charitable exchange of ideas specifically addressing our interpretations of Mathew 24:36-51.

Here is my presentation, wherein I attempt to disprove the notion that Matthew 24 teaches a pre-tribulational rapture:

There are two ultimate points of disagreement here:

  1. Has all of Matthew 24 been fulfilled? My position is obviously that it has and that it doesn’t teach a rapture of the church.
  2. The driving force behind the doctrine of the rapture is rooted in a distinction between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church.

The system known as dispensationalism and the doctrine of the rapture were invented by John Darby in 1830s England and were popularized by the 1850s. Its core distinctives were that Israel and the Church have essentially nothing to do with each other, so God has to remove the Church from the world in order to finally deal with Israel again. Therefore, the rapture doctrine was developed.

What is important, however, is to let Scripture interpret Scripture, especially when the second person of the Trinity interprets it.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees in John 5 for not seeing that the Scriptures – which in his day only meant the Old Testament – were all about him. After his resurrection, he does a Bible study in Luke 24 with two disciples on the road to Emmaus about how the Old Testament points to him.

We get a window of what that looked like from Paul in Col. 2:17. The Old Testament is a shadow of the things to come, and the substance belongs to Christ himself. Gal. 3:7-10 tells us that the true children of Abraham are those born of faith and chapter 6 refers to the Church as the “Israel of God.” Romans 9 digs in even deeper: “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel;” those who belong to the true, spiritual Israel are those who belong to the promise of the Gospel. The Church did not replace Israel as the people of God. Rather, the true Israel was expanded to include those of all tribes, peoples, and nations.

What we see consistently is that Israel is the parenthesis to the global church. Dispensationalism gets this exactly backwards.

Charles Spurgeon, a contemporary of Darby’s in England, said this, which has been edited to tame some of his sarcasm: “Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ do not belong to the church of God!

“Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about.

“These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body.

“Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way —they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall.”

But how is it that the true Israel is the Church? Because the Church is in Christ (Romans 6) – we’re in or connected to the only faithful Israelite who ever lived, who wasn’t even 100% from the line of Abraham, as he was also descended from Gentile women – Rahab and Ruth the Moabite.

Just like Jesus is the second and true Adam, he’s also the second and true Israel.

Now, we have to remember that Matthew was written to a primarily Jewish audience. See if you can pick up on some themes.

Jesus goes to Egypt under a man named Joseph in chapter 2.

He comes out of Egypt and goes through the Red Sea of baptism in chapter 3

He then spends 40 days in the wilderness and actually obeys God in chapter 4, on the way to his conquest of the land promised to him, which is the entire earth.

And so we come to the beginning of Matthew 24:

The disciples ask 1) when will the temple be destroyed and 2) what will be the signs of the end of the old covenant age and the Lord’s coming.

This is all one thing in their minds, and Jesus responds as he has consistently taught them.

Remember: Scripture interprets Scripture. We’ve already (Author’s note: By already, I mean in previous weeks) talked about how the Old Testament uses the phrase, “The coming of the LORD,” but what about Matthew itself?” 

I’ve made a point to use the plural “y’all” in the following verses, so we know exactly who Jesus is talking to.

“When they persecute y’all in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to y’all, y’all will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” – Matt. 10:23

So, the Son of Man will come in some sense before the Apostles will have had the chance to fully evangelize first century Palestine. What else do we have?

“Truly, I say to y’all, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” – Matt. 16:28

He’s already been teasing this conversation for some time, and he tells his disciples to not be led astray, to not be alarmed by wars and rumors of wars, that they will be delivered to tribulation and murdered. He tells them that when they see the military force spoken of by Daniel, which the original readers would have understood, to get out of town. Don’t turn back. 

If this is a rapture text, what sense would it make for Jesus to warn people to 1) get out of town and 2) not to go back and get extra clothing? If they were being raptured, they wouldn’t need either of those, and they wouldn’t even be able to because they’d be in midair. This is Jerusalem’s parallel to Sodom. The powers of the heavens will be shaken (more on that shortly), and the Son of Man will come on the clouds in glory. This equates him to being God and is parallel to passages like Exodus 34 and Isaiah 19. He then sends his angels out in gospel harvest throughout the world, which is still going on now.

In verse 34, Jesus tells his followers that the generation he was talking to wouldn’t pass away, putting a timeframe of about 40 years for these things to happen. If they didn’t, Jesus was a fraud and we shouldn’t worship him. We have to be careful with verse 35 about heaven and earth passing away. Jesus isn’t saying that heaven and earth will be destroyed and then recreated. Remember that in Romans 8, creation groans and anticipates the revealing of God’s people. It WANTS us to be revealed, not because the creation will be destroyed, but because it will be renewed by God working through his renewed people. We’re new creations, but we have the same bodies and souls as before.

There are two texts Jesus is referring to. The first is Jeremiah 33:25, where God equates his establishment of covenant with how surely heaven and earth are established. Jesus here isn’t talking about destroying and recreating everything that exists but establishing a new order – the new covenant that we’re in now. 

The second is Isaiah 65, where, after God pronounces judgement on covenant-breaking Israel and says he’ll save his elect, he says he creates a new heavens and earth but also says people will still die and sinners will still die and go to hell, so he’s not talking about literally recreating heaven and earth but the new covenant order. 

And on to our text for today, finally.

Concerning the day and hour of what? Of all the things he just spoke of. In his humanity, Jesus didn’t know the exact day or hour of his coming and Jerusalem’s destruction, but he DID know a timeframe – this generation.

In verses 37-39, He says the coming of the Son of Man, which I’ve already established has precedent for not being the Second Coming but judgement, will be like the days of Noah. By that, he means that the unbelievers swept away won’t have a clue about what’s coming. They’ll be doing their thing until verse 40 when one is taken and another left. Well, who was left in the days of Noah? Noah and his family were left. Everyone else had their lives taken. This takes us all the way to verse 44 with, “Therefore y’all must be ready,” because he’s still talking to the disciples, and he’s not telling Peter, James, and John to be prepared to be taken out of the world via rapture.

Who then is the faithful and wise servant/slave? The one who obeys Christ. The one who is in Christ, and our master and Lord Jesus has set us over all his possessions, which is everything. We currently reign with him over everything, though that hasn’t been totally realized. We’re in the already/not yet. 

Unbelieving Jews believed that Yahweh was delayed in sending his Messiah, and beat their fellow Jews who believed in Jesus, and they got drunk, and Christ came on a day they didn’t expect in AD 70, and he judged them with the harshest of condemnation. Remember that in Matthew 11 he said that it will be “more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for y’all.”

But there is good news. We don’t have to worry that we’ll be left behind, because we’re in Christ, and he doesn’t lose any of the sheep that the Father has given him. He has made the perfect sacrifice on our behalf in order to present his church as blameless before the Father, and our salvation is secure in him.

Let’s depoliticize sports

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The last year and some change has unleashed a tsunami of political statements during sporting events. George Floyd’s murder led to Black Lives Matter statements on fields and courts, along with myriad other team based slogans decrying racism. The football team formerly known as the Washington Redskins has changed its name, citing racial justice concerns. And now, the San Francisco Giants have gone rainbow clad for Pride Month, which used to be Gay Pride Month, but is now apparently a celebration of just one sin instead of two.

Regardless, whether it was the initial act of Colin Kaepernick staying seated and later kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality or Donald Trump saying he should be “fired” and calling him an SOB, the battle in the trenches is no longer between offense and defense but between progressivism and traditional values and/or patriotism. Many, myself included, have become exhausted of the barrage of virtue signalling and have called for at least a cease fire. Sports are a form of escapism, after all.

But at the same time, politics and sports have provided captivating storylines throughout the years. Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” call from the US hockey team’s defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics was a poignant moment during the height of the Cold War, when the Doomsday Clock read seven minutes to midnight before a nuclear war. The Brooklyn Dodgers signing Jackie Robinson and breaking baseball’s color barrier helped pave the way for the Civil Rights movement 15 years later. Pat Tillman gave up a $3.6 million contract in the NFL to serve in the army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where he would be killed by friendly fire (Or maybe was murdered) in Afghanistan.

A common thread

You may have noticed the common thread running through each set of events. The first list, which features BLM and sexual deviancy celebrations, has a starkly liberal bent to it. Meanwhile, beating the Commies, not being a racist (Despite what the media may tell you), and serving in the military all fall squarely within conservatism, but don’t tell anyone that Tillman was an atheist who had become disillusioned with the American war machine and regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal and that there may have been a military coverup of his killing.

So it’s not a stretch to say that the revulsion toward the more recent on-field political statements is simply the wrong kind of politics for conservatives. To a point, I agree with them. For one, the fact that anyone, much less the sports leagues I follow, would give money to an avowedly Marxist organization like BLM is beyond me. For two, the fact that the Giants expected all of their players and staff to play dressup to appease the LGBT+++ lobby should raise our eyebrows. Were there no protests to be heard internally? But I digress.

Let’s get uncomfortable

I’ve now come to the point in this particular blog where I will be both cheered and jeered by sides who normally do the opposite when I write. Just stick with me. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming in no time.

Now, I understand that it’s typically bad form to wait over 500 words to define terms, but from here on out I will use the Google definition of politics, so we’re all on the same page. It is as follows:

the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.

This seems simple enough, right? If it has to do with governance, it is definitionally political.

So let’s see how consistent we can be.

Military families being reunited at games.

“God Bless America.”

Anything regarding a thin blue line.

Camo and flag based merch and uniforms.

The national anthem.

If your politics skew conservative, did the thought of eradicating those things from professional and major college sports produce a knee jerk reaction strong enough to pull a hamstring? Then you, friend, may have an imbalance in how you define what passes as politics in sports. Like it or not, the military and police are government agents, so literally everything about them is political. And the “Star Spangled Banner” is the song specifically chosen by the federal government in order to provoke a sense of loyalty to the country.

Ergo, if we really want to extract politics from sports, those things have to go too. At best, we can nationally refocus on things that matter significantly more than the temporary experiment in self-government known as the United States of America. At worst, we run the reductio on the left and get sports to a politically neutral position.

I will show you a still more excellent way

Of course, I’m not advocating for hatred of the US or insulting it before sporting events, but we have to be honest that celebrating the fact that we live in the same general vicinity doesn’t cut it. Congratulations, we occupy portions of the same 3.8 million square miles, but that doesn’t mean we share the same core values or worship the same deity.

We also have to be honest that we’re going to use our platforms to talk about what matters most to us. The question isn’t whether a god is honored at a particular event. The question is instead a matter of which god is honored.

I’ll put it bluntly. To celebrate anything or anyone as the highest good or God above all other than Jesus Christ – who was crucified and rose on the third day and sits at the right hand of the Father – is sinful. It is wicked. It is idolatry. It is idolatry whether Ibram X. Kendi’s racist notions of “anti-racism” are touted or whether the American soldier dying for your freedom is conflated with Christ’s wrath-absorbing death on the Cross. Even with July 4 approaching this weekend, celebrating the liberty of the United States from England’s tyranny is abject evil if it stops with being grateful for the Founding Fathers without expressing gratitude to our heavenly Father (Ephesians 5:20).

Call me crazy, but if we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, put in the work, I believe we can see the day when we collectively say, “Sure, America is great and all, but let’s sing about Jesus instead of America before this ballgame.” Jesus is King of the universe (Revelation 19:16) and all authority has been given to him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). You will bow now, or you will bow later (Philippians 2:10-11). To harken back to our definition of political, one could make the case that stating the fact that Jesus is Lord isn’t political, because he already has that power. He’s not struggling with or against anyone.

With that, my proposal to rid sports of all things political, is that the game should be played to the glory of God, with the athletes playing as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). It should not reference whatever “mostly peaceful” protest is occurring, nor should it hop on some bandwagon morality for a pregame ceremony. Instead, every contest, in my ideal world, would begin with a prayer of thanksgiving to the triune God in the name of Jesus Christ, and the song we would rally around would be the Doxology.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Sage advice for Dansby Swanson

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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.


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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.