Christianity 201

December 30, 2015

2015 in Review: Well You Know What the Bible Says! . . .

Clarke Dixon’s piece today is a little more topical than usual, and the first item is uniquely Canadian, but I really appreciated his approach. Click here to read at his blog.

•••by Clarke Dixon

“Well you know what the Bible says! . . .” This was a constant refrain my brother and I heard as my Mum would rattle off a scripture verse relevant to whatever shenanigans we were getting into at that moment. While I appreciated the efforts of Sunday School teachers growing up, I found my Mum’s Biblical wisdom to be of far greater benefit as the Bible and faith were related to life as life unfolded. There is much that has unfolded, or perhaps we should say unraveled, this year so I thought I would borrow a page from my Mum’s book and rattle off a few “well you know what the Bible says!” insights related to some of the top stories from 2015. This will work best if you imagine “well you know what the Bible says!” said with a Belfast accent and considerable Irish passion. So here goes.

TOP STORY #5: A LIBERAL VICTORY IN CANADA

When the Liberal party celebrated great success in our federal election this Fall I announced that Justin Trudeau did so well that even the leaves were turning red. Some people were thrilled by the victory, but some were unsure. I heard quite a number of people express their concern over the youthfulness of the new Prime Minister. “He is just so young!!!” I was thrilled to hear that for I am the same age.

“Well you know what the Bible says! . . .”

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

This was written in a time when there was little choice as to who the kings and rulers would be. How much more, then, should we be willing to pray for rulers of our choosing, even those we may not have voted for. But what about the youthfulness of our Prime Minister?

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people. (1 Kings 3:7-9)

When told by God to make a request, the new king Solomon recognized his youthfulness and requested wisdom. I don’t know if Mr. Trudeau prays for wisdom, but there is nothing stopping us from praying that God will grant him such.

TOP STORY #4: THE ASHLEY MADISON HACK

Praise the Lord if you have not heard of Ashley Madison. Ashley Madison is a website designed to help people connect with other people who want to privately commit adultery. The hack is the assurance provided by some tech savvy types that there will be nothing private about it with thousands upon thousands of names released of people who signed up. There was a lot of explaining to do, unfortunately too often by Christians.

“Well you know what the Bible says! . . .”

14 You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)

That is really all that needs to be said. But the Bible says more with an entire chapter of Proverbs devoted to the topic. Consider these verses:

For at the window of my house
I looked out through my lattice,
7 and I saw among the simple ones,
I observed among the youths,
a young man without sense,
8 passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
9 in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness. (Proverbs 7:6-9)

Notice where the lack of wisdom is found in this young man “without sense”? He is “taking the road to her house,” he is heading straight into danger. Today you do not even need to leave your home to be “taking the road to her house.” That road can be found online, in the privacy of your own home. There is a need for great wisdom, in staying far away from such temptations as pornography or illicit online relationships. And there is a great need for integrity, for being the same person online as in person. We might add here the words of Jesus:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. ’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

17 For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. (Luke 8:17)

TOP STORY #3 THE MIDDLE EAST IS IN A MESS

This is not really news as The Middle East has been a mess for awhile now. But it seems to be getting messier. Part of the mess is the fact that there are so many different nations and peoples, all with different friends and enemies. Our friends are enemies of other friends and our enemies are friends with other enemies. As a top CIA official said recently to summarize in an interview (sorry I forget where): “Its complicated.” What to us might seem like a Facebook relationship status, to those on the ground, or those with loved ones on the ground in those lands, this is a horror story. There is no easy solution to this suffering. A defeat of ISIS in 2016 will not clear away the mess.

“Well you know what the Bible says! . . .”

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)

These words of Jesus summarize the foreign policy of the Christian. We are to be fully involved in foreign missions, especially making it a matter of prayer. Pray for the Christians of and in the Middle East to be used of God in reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Also, we are to be fully involved in missions to “foreigners.” Pray for the Christians in Canada to be used of God in reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ right here in Canada. Crucifixion was a messy business but the way of the cross in love and forgiveness is the best method of cleaning up a big mess.

TOP STORY #2 THERE IS A WAR ON TERROR AND WE CANNOT AGREE ON THE NATURE OF THE ENEMY

American politics has a habit of bringing the war of terror into focus. Or of making it even more convoluted than it already is. ISIS has expanded its reach, both in reaching out to new recruits, but also in reaching out with terror. Meanwhile there is a debate as to the nature of ISIS and other groups like it. Some will deny that violent “jihad” has anything to do with Islam, while others say it has everything to do with Islam. Is it Islamic or not? Is Islam a religion of peace or a religion of violent jihad? What is the correct interpretation of Islam?

“Well you know what the Bible says! . . .”

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

According to the Bible there is no correct interpretation of Islam. Islam demotes Jesus by describing him as merely a prophet. This is a denial of the central truth we celebrate at Christmas; the Incarnation, that Jesus is Emanuel, “God with us.” So for the Christian, finding the “correct interpretation” of Islam is a moot point. It is a false religion with no correct interpretation. While there is no correct interpretation, there are possible interpretations for its adherents, some of which are better for the peace of the world than others, none of which will lead a Muslim to peace with God. Only in Jesus does the justice of God and the mercy of God meet in love and grace. So what are we to do?

“Well you know what the Bible says! . . .”

7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)

This passage speaks of the time God’s people were stuck in exile and the best they could do was pray for the peoples among whom they lived to experience peace, so that they too could experience peace. With the global village of the 21st century, we are living among Muslims even when we think we are not. These are a people who are currently experiencing great division not only in the historic Shia/Sunni split, but now especially in the peaceful jihad/violent jihad split. In 2015 a great number of Muslims were killed by a great number of Muslims. As Christians we are to pray for the peace of the Muslim people, so that there can be greater peace on earth. But we ought also to be praying for peace with God for each Muslim:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

While we pray that Islam can be a religion of peace, we recognize that it will never be a religion of peace with God. Let us make 2016 a year of prayer!

TOP STORY #1 THERE IS REJOICING IN HEAVEN

In 2015 many, many, many, many people repented of their sin and turned to God, putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. These were people from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, from free nations, from lands where converting can get you killed, from all languages and backgrounds and coming from all kinds of religions including none.

“Well you know what the Bible says! . . .”

7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety- nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)

2015 has been a crazy year in many respects. Nevertheless it has been a year of great rejoicing in heaven. May 2016 see even greater rejoicing in heaven, and much rejoicing on earth too!

My family and I wish you a Happy New Year and God Bless!

(All scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

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