Christianity 201

December 9, 2020

Tangled Up in the Web of Political Distraction

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

II Timothy 2.4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

I can’t remember the first time this verse was highlighted for me, but it’s often coming under the teaching of a gifted Bible teacher that the verses come to life. In my personal readings, I find they just don’t ‘jump off the page’ to the same degree. I think much depends on how our different personality types process information and learning.

While Paul’s instruction to Timothy has been quoted here four times, I was surprised to see it was quoted only four times. This year, while returning to past sources of devotional material, I was disappointed to see how many writers had got entangled — Apostle Paul’s word, not mine — the politics of the U.S. election and the related politicization of everything from the race protests to the virus vaccine.

It’s important to be aware of the times. Karl Barth is said to have told pastors, “Preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other;” though the actual quotation might have been, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

We cannot isolate in a Christian bubble and not know what’s going on in the wider world. In Matthew 16: 1-3 we read:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red, and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

And it may be that God has called a few of you to be active in what is called the public square; to run for a governmental position municipally, regionally, in your state/province, or federally. (But note I used the word few. This is not a widespread calling or commandment.) Looking at the words of Jesus in Matthew, I can more readily see Christians serving in journalism (making people aware of the times,  from a Christian perspective where opportunity arises) or in law (drafting legislation or being judges.)

When I checked back, the most recent look at Paul’s words to Timothy was just three months ago in September. At that time, our focus was on avoiding knee-jerk reactions (or feeling you need to say anything at all). James writes,

And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  (3:6 NLT)

Instead of starting fires, our words should be “a fountain of life.” That phrase is used in scripture to describe the Lord, but Proverbs 10:11 and 16:22 shows that it can be our descriptor, too:

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it,
But the discipline of fools is folly.

If our focus that time was avoiding knee-jerk reactions, our focus in June, 2018 was on the reality that we’re not really part of this world anyway. We don’t belong to it. We’re what the Bible calls strangers and aliens.

Philippians 3.20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We see this most clearly in I Peter 2:11 where we’re called

  • immigrants and strangers (CEB)
  • aliens and temporary residents (CJB)
  • visitors and strangers (ERV)
  • sojourners and exiles (ESV)
  • strangers and refugees (GNT)

Consider also Hebrews 11:13-16

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. (NRSV)

Shouldn’t our thoughts and our writing be focused on the place where we have our citizenship?

The summer previous, in August, 2017, we looked at how in Samuel’s day, the people didn’t want the distinct identity that God desired for them. The surrounding nations had kings. They didn’t have a king. They wanted a king. They asked for a king.

Interestingly enough, God accommodates this request. In I Samuel 8: 19-22a we read,

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

That article concluded: God’s ‘Plan A’ desire would be that his people would be a distinct society even in the middle of a foreign land; even when in exile. He wants us to focus on being the People of God. As Christians, we already have a King.

The oldest instance I could find of Paul’s words to Timothy here at Christianity 201 was one more year prior, in April, 2017. The context that day was spiritual warfare. Do we see this entanglement as a product of a spiritual battle? A battle for us to get stuck in the issues of the world? The political issues? The civic issues? The news-making issues?

I would argue, yes. The person whose writing and conversation has been captivated by political concerns in 2020 has lost a spiritual battle. Consider Philippians 4:8

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

To conclude, here’s how some newer translations (The Voice, and TPT) render our opening verse:

Remember that soldiers on active duty don’t get wrapped up in civilian matters because they want to satisfy those who recruited them.

For every soldier called to active duty must divorce himself from the distractions of this world so that he may fully satisfy the one who chose him.


For a different look at this subject, check out “Never Say the Bible Doesn’t Talk About Politics

To see if, or how often a particular verse has been covered here, type the reference into this blog’s search field.

 

January 23, 2017

Are Events Ever Out of God’s Control?

The title of our piece today (above) is written within the context of the political season which our American friends have one level just come through, and on another level is just beginning. Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement wrote this to appear on Friday when the “peaceful transfer of power” took place in Washington, D.C. It provides a great background for these thoughts. If you click through (link in title below) there is the option of listening to these thoughts on audio.

The Assurance of God’s Providence

“During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: ‘Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him'” (Daniel 2:19-22).

Unshakeable, immovable, faithful and true
Full of wisdom, strength and beauty
These things are true of You

Daily Encouragement dot Net banner…Inauguration Day… in the USA. Some people are happy and excited, others angry and fearful. In light of this important date in America’s history let us focus a few minutes on the Word of God and a teaching from some 2,600 years ago.

The daily Scripture portion is a powerful proclamation of the providence of God.  Here’s an historic definition of this theological term: “God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all His creatures and all their actions.”

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and God revealed to Daniel both the dream and the meaning, a panoramic sweep through hundreds of years into the future and the rise and fall of various kingdoms. We look back now and see how this has marvelously been fulfilled.

“Praise be to the name of God forever and ever.”  Before Daniel revealed the dream to the king he offers praise to God. He “blessed the God of heaven” (v. 19).

“Wisdom and power are His.” This timeless truth is so instructive and encouraging in light of the many issues of uncertainty we face; those things which cause us anxiety and fear. Some we commonly deal with such as the turmoil in the world and especially at this time here in America with a transition and uncertainty as to where the nation is headed. Others are personal and reflect our individual situation. It may be a health need, a job situation, a family matter or many other issues that trouble one’s spirit.

“He changes times and seasons.” We see the hand of God in the changing of the seasons as He ordained at creation. Following the great flood God made a covenant with Noah and seasonal changes have been an evidence of God’s faithfulness ever since.

“He sets up kings and deposes them.” History sure validates this. Some 2,600 years have passed since Daniel made this statement and history abundantly demonstrates that many kings and kingdoms have come and gone. We live out our lives in a tiny window in the scope of God’s providential dealings. Our perspective is narrowly skewed if we don’t constantly observe the bigger landscape of God’s dealings with humankind.

“He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things.” We must look to God as we direct our focus toward Him. A great need for the earnest follower of Christ in this information overload age is godly discernment. It seems that we are awash in fake news, outright lies, distortions, spins and misleading information. We need revelation from God’s Word concerning the deep and hidden things not revealed by man, but revealed to our hearts by the inner working of the Holy Spirit.

“He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.” This last phrase really, really blesses us as we prepare this message. Daniel needed the light of God’s revelation to interpret the king’s dream. God revealed the dream and its meaning to Daniel in the middle of the night. Rather than rushing to the king and boasting of his interpretive skills Daniel broke forth in praise to God and made this glorious declaration about our omniscient God: “He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.”

Since we’re unable to see “what lies in darkness” let us walk with God everyday of our earthly journey since “light dwells with Him.” Nothing surprises God! Since He knows what lies ahead let us be assured that the light of His glory will illumine our path and give us the needed light to see our way through the troubling and narrow passages that await us. God will replace our fear of the future with His promise of provision for that which lies ahead.

And as I turn my face to You
Oh Lord I ask and pray
By the power of Your love and grace
Make these things true of me too

Daily prayer: Father, we know that wisdom is given to those who submit to Your authority, honor You and reverence Your holiness. The opposite is true of fools since they despise wisdom and godly instruction. You grant a treasure of good sense to the godly, for You are our shield, protecting us as we walk in integrity. When we come under Your authority we will know how to find the right course of action when seeking answers, for wisdom will enter our hearts, and knowledge will fill us with joy. Wise planning will watch over us. Discernment and understanding will keep us safe. Father, You are the bright light that comes bursting forth when darkness seeks to blindside our view. All foes are rendered powerless in Your presence and at Your command.  Thank You for the marvelous wisdom available to us as Your children.

(See Proverbs 2: The Benefits of Wisdom)