Christianity 201

January 1, 2022

Sending Things of Lasting Value Across the Internet

Heaven and earth [as now known] will pass away, but My words will not pass away. – Matthew 24:35 Amplified Bible

True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God’s Word stands firm and forever. – Isaiah 40:8 The Message

Your word, O LORD, will last forever; it is eternal in heaven.  – Psalm 119:89 Good News Translation

In January of 2013, I didn’t know the word “meme.” Nobody I knew was sharing things on Facebook, and I was a few months away from ever retweeting something on Twitter. The medium of the day was email forwards.

We tend to think that online hoaxes and conspiracy theories are a recent development, because of their proliferation over the past 2-3 years, but they were a big part of email culture. I had friends who were especially susceptible to them, whose emails I would delete after reading the first paragraph.

At a wedding reception around that time, I was asked by someone how the removal of all the religious broadcasting from radio and television would affect interest in Christian books. He was, I think, serious.  It was so very strange to encounter this subject without either my keyboard or monitor close at hand. In a face-to-face conversation. (A similar email hoax proclaimed that all Bible portions were being removed from the internet.)

Someone had sent him the information and he had taken it at face value.  I assured him it was a hoax, and he was willing to believe me. (But that too he accepted at face value! Doesn’t anybody check anything?)

My other observation at the time about e-mail forwards which applies today’s memes concerns the ones that are sent containing philosophical platitudes combined with cute stories and breathtaking photography, and an encouragement to send it to everyone you know.

Back in the day one was a PowerPoint presentation containing the aforementioned high resolution pictures which fill the whole screen.   But it also contained practical advice for living.  Frankly, I’d rather see the photographs.  I don’t need a shot of the Grand Canyon spoiled by graphics reminding me to brush my teeth after every meal.

Yes, that was the nature of the ‘advice.’  I don’t think any of them actually said that, but there were forty of them, and for the life of me, I did not remember a single one.  It was sincere, but it was drivel. And it was wrecking the pictures.

All of these are sent by Christian friends, and it occurred to me at the time that very, very rarely did any of them contain scripture.  (That has improved over the years, thanks to people creating scripture slides for Instagram and Pinterest.) Back then I would have settled for a bad paraphrase.  Instead it was just empty, pop psychological advice splattered over shots of sunsets and oceans. A Biblical quotation would be a refreshing change.

That got me wondering how much time Christian people spend mentally ingesting somewhat shallow online content that could be spent reading the Bible online. Even if it short nuggets.

In a much, much earlier day, when people would send people actual printed letters — i.e. using stationary, and a postage stamp — it was customary for Christians to sign off a letter with a scripture reference. They weren’t all looked up, I’m sure, but today it’s possible to have a signature line in emails which contains a tag line, which could easily be a scripture verse quoted in full.

The Bible comes with a guarantee that its words don’t just bounce off the walls.  If we believe in the inspiration (God-breathed origin) of scripture, then this is what the Bible is saying about itself in Isaiah 55:11 where, speaking through the prophet, God says –

It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.   ( ~ NLT)

So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them  (  ~ Message)

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. ( ~ Amplified)

Thus it is of my word which leaves my mouth:  It does not return to me without effect;  without having carried out my will and achieving my intentions.   ( – Louis Segond, trans.)

If you really wanna ‘bless’ someone today, forward them a hand-picked Bible verse just for them. But do this quickly before all the Christian programs are taken off the air, and then they decide to remove all Bible portions from the internet.


Practical steps to choosing a Bible verse to send someone:

First, pick a theme, and then type “Bible verses about _______________” into a search engine. The sites Bible Study Tools, Knowing Jesus, and Daily Verses will offer you best results.

Second, if you’re looking for something different, start with a verse you know or one that has meant a lot to you, and type the reference into a search engine and then choose the result for Bible Hub (almost always one of the first three search results). Scroll down the right margin and take a look at the section headed “Cross References.”

Third, choose a translation of the verse that is best suited to the person to whom your sending it to, or doesn’t obscure the meaning relative to the specific intention you had in choosing that verse.

Fourth, if you end up with the ‘perfect’ verse, but it’s one you’re not as familiar with, read it in its longer context, to make sure you’re not simply proof-texting or cherry-picking a verse which was written to have an entirely different application.

Words spoken at the right time are like gold apples in a silver setting.- Proverbs 25:11 Common English Bible.

July 21, 2020

Grace for People We Disagree With

Today we’re letting Eugene Peterson have the last word. And the first word. If you’re not a fan of The Message you can review the passage in a Bible translation with which you are more comfortable.

Earlier today someone wrote,

How would you respond to Christians who truly believe that the vaccine, masks, etc., are from the devil, and are end time prophecies? Would like your insight on this?

I very quickly wrote back,

It’s part of the larger question as to why Christians (especially conservative Christians; Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics; etc.) are driven to accept conspiracy theories [rather than accepting the science]. But arguing for science is seen as a slippery slope, if (as an example) the science points to evolutionary theory and the person is a young-earth creationist.

There’s some good teaching in scripture on the idea of “the brother who is weak in faith.” That one person’s faith compels them to believe/act one way while another believes/acts differently. And then Romans 14v4 says “To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

Believe me, I get to hear all the conspiracies. The NIV removed the deity of Christ. Rick Warren is trying to merge Christianity and Islam. Hilary Clinton is a reincarnation of Jezebel. Etc. Etc. You have to ignore a certain percentage of these. But with grace.

As I considered my own advice, I decided that the Romans 14 passage is very applicable for our times. Since some of you know sections of it from memory, I thought I’d let a very different translation arrest us in our tracks!

MSG.Rom.14.1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.



Friday’s devotional here has been amended. It contained a link to a fundraising platform for one of our related ministries, but as the campaign reached its goal of $4,000 — for which are thankful — the information is no longer relevant.

Are you a giver? Many ministries are sustained by the generous and loving financial gifts of those whose ears are attuned to God when He prompts them to give. But the last several months have disrupted so many of our routines. Let me suggest that, if you are able during these unusual times, to consider how and who you might be able to help and encourage.

Do your giving
While you’re living
So you’re knowing
Where it’s going