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Christian living Politics Scripture

Flee Like a Bird?

It is natural when we see a growing threat of evil to think that we should flee to somewhere safe. David in the Psalms is confronted with the same advice.

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains; for behold, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Psalm 11[10]:1-3 RSV2CE

David is responding against someone who is pointing out that the righteous are being targeted by evil forces who have destroyed the foundations of the culture. Therefore, we need to find a safe place to escape and protect ourselves and our families because there is nothing else that can be done in the present situation. Doesn’t that sound like what many are saying today?

David begins by saying that it is the Lord that is his refuge and not some safe place in the mountains, so why should he flee like a frightened bird? David elaborates on this in the following verses:

The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence.

vv. 4-5

God is on his throne and he is aware of all that is going on. He knows the hearts that love him, and he knows all of the secret schemes of those who want to prey on his people. What is God going to do about it?

On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and brimstone; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

vv. 6-7

Wow! People look at the political situation and think that nothing can be done, but they don’t take into account the power of God. Salvation history is not a story of the good guys being stronger than the bad guys. It is the story of God stepping in and saving the people who put their trust in him when there is no hope on earth for them to avoid destruction.

Now some people today may see God’s response in this psalm as overly severe. This is because we live in an age that wants acceptance of every point of view except for intolerance. While tolerance has a place in a society of sinners trying to live together, this state is not meant to last forever. At some point, judgment will come, and it is decisive. That is because until then, we are in a time of grace where all will be saved who respond to God’s call for salvation. It will become clear at the judgment that those who refuse God’s loving grace will deserve the punishment that they receive.

Okay then, why doesn’t God do something about this now? He is patient and delays judgment for many reasons. One reason is that God wants to give people time to repent. Many people who may be enemies of God today may convert and turn to God. Some may even become great witnesses for him like St. Paul the Apostle did.

Another reason for delay is to let the present evil come to “full flower,” so to speak. When this happens, the evil of rejecting God may be clearly seen.

What about the danger to me right now? If God is delaying judgment, shouldn’t I flee to protect myself? It is certainly possible that some people should flee persecution so that they can continue to accomplish good in the world in a place of safety. However, we shouldn’t be motivated by fear. Nothing can separate God’s people from his loving protection. Even if God lets us suffer or even die at the hands of evil doers, we can have confidence that such hardship will never reach us unless God in his loving care allows it. The truth is that hardship can be good for us, causing us to draw nearer to God as we seek his protection. Finally, Christians know that death is not the end for us, but instead is the beginning of our joyful reward in glory that will make the greatest trials of this present life seem like nothing in comparison.

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Christian living Scripture

It is enough

Today I read a passage in Luke’s Gospel that was interesting in light of present circumstances. People are worried about the political future of the world, we have had a year of corona virus fears, and today I am snowed in due to winter storm Uri. Because of all of this, there is a growing number of Preppers, who are trying to be prepared for future disasters.

In Luke 21:35-38, Jesus is attempting to prep his disciples for His upcoming arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Let’s go through this passage a piece at a time.

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.”

Luke 21:35

Jesus begins by reminding them about when He sent His disciples out to preach, and He instructed them to not take with them any of the things one would need when traveling. They were to be completely dependent on God to meet all of their needs. This shows us that God is certainly able to meet all of our needs, but they could only count on such miraculous provision because Jesus specifically commanded them to not provide for themselves.

He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

Luke 21:36-37

Jesus is going to be treated as a criminal, and so will his followers. Jesus is telling them that they need to be prepared with provisions and means to defend themselves. While it is true that God has the power to supernaturally defend them, it is not usually His plan to do so overtly. God usually wants us to do our part, and He supports us in more of an invisible way. This behavior of God is referred to as Divine Providence. I have never seen a spectacular miracle in my life, but I have seen Divine Providence at work throughout my life, working in such a way that unbelievers might describe as “lucky.” It is certainly not because of my brilliant planning, even though I try.

These verses support the idea that Christians should make some kind of preparation for difficult times in the future. We should not presume that God will provide for our needs if we refuse to do anything ourselves.

And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

Luke 21:38

When I read these words this morning, I was struck by the impossibility of the disciples knowing what was going to happen in the hours, days, and years to come, including Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and the beginnings of the Church. We don’t know what to expect in our future either, and we cannot adequately prepare for it. It is easy to get obsessed or overwhelmed when contemplating these things, so we must always seek God’s direction and His help. I believe He will call each of us to be prepared in our own way, and He will use our meager preparations in his plans, often in ways we never expected.

There are preparations that we know will always be beneficial no matter what happens. Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God, and all of the things we needed will be added (Matthew 6:33). Therefore, we should all seek God, repent of our sins, develop our prayer life, and build up the local church community.

I will close with a line from the 1970s Christian rocker Keith Green, who was a big influence on me in my early days as a Christian believer. “Just keep doing your best, and pray that it’s blessed, and Jesus takes care of the rest.”

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Scripture

God’s response

I began a meditation on Psalm 2 in my last post, where we saw a rebellion against God by the powerful people of the world. Now I want to finish the psalm by looking at God’s response.

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

Psalm 2:4-6 (RSV2CE)

We can get so worried when we see powerful people changing institutions and trying to erase our Christian heritage so that they can achieve what they think is freedom from accountability to God. As we can see here, God is not worried, and his answer is that he has established a king.

At the time this psalm was written, the king was David or one of his descendants reigning over God’s chosen people in Jerusalem, but Christians from the beginning of the faith saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this psalm, especially because of this next part.

I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Psalm 2:7-9 (RSV2CE)

Although we should vote and try to choose the best leaders for our government, that is not where our hope lies. The United States and all of the nations belong to Jesus Christ, and he will ultimately bring justice by destroying the forces of evil. This last part is what we need to be doing.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling rejoice, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:10-12 (RSV2CE)

Serve the Lord with your lives. Seek his wisdom in his Word. Do not be afraid of what you may hear in the news, but take refuge in the Lord and be blessed.

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Scripture

Why do the nations rage?

Many Christians are worried about the world today, and I believe a good answer to such worry is to pray using the Bible’s book of Psalms. This is something I first learned about 22 years ago, and it radically changed my prayer life. In the difficult year of 2020, I noticed several psalms to be especially relevant to the world situation, including Psalm 2.

In my favorite Bible translation, the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition (RSV2CE), Psalm 2 begins with, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?” This is likely a very accurate translation of the original Hebrew according to the latest scholarship, but I also want to point out how the traditional King James Version renders this verse: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” I’ve always been struck by the word “rage” in this version, and I think it’s a vivid description of what is going on now, so I used it in my title.

The next two verses tell us what is prompting this question.

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”

Psalm 2:2-3 (RSV2CE)

Although we don’t have many kings today, we can substitute any powerful people here, which brings us to a principle for praying with psalms. They were written thousands of years ago, so there are cultural details that were different back then, but we can translate them into similar details in our day. What we will find is that the basic human experience is the same. So when you pray the psalms, look for how you can translate them to your own personal situation.

So the meaning of these verses today could be that there are powerful and influential people today that want to rid the world of the influence of Christianity. We see this in politics, media, and education. Western civilization, which is another way of talking about the Christian heritage of Europe and the Americas, is being portrayed as an evil influence that must be eliminated. The European union has essentially removed Christianity from their governmental structures and puts pressure against expressions of Christianity in their member nations. In the United States, since the 1960s, there has been a steady push to remove Christian influence from public life, including the removal of prayer in schools, the display of the Ten Commandments in court houses, nativity scenes on public property, and even saying “Merry Christmas.”

Why do they want to get rid of Christianity? The words used in the psalm are very instructive. They want to burst bonds and cast off cords. They see Christianity as restricting them. They want to get rid of Christianity in the name of freedom. This is truly a mistake, as Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

What is God’s response to this? I will cover that in my next post.