The “Fake” Good News

I keep hearing about, and seeing reports of “Fake” News.  Even the term “Fake” News is somewhat misleading–is it news?  Is it False News?  Is it “fake” because it never happened, or because it has been exaggerated or taken out of context?  Or because it doesn’t say what I want it to say?  How do I know what is “real” news anymore?

The biggest problem with “Fake” news is that it “feels” real, true, and important.  In reality, it may be none of those things.  Yet there if often a kernel of fact, or a dusting of truth that makes it hard to disprove or dispel.  And, if it had already been accepted as legitimate news by thousands, it’s even harder to stop it from being spread.

But the more insidious problem with “fake” news is the time wasted trying to sort truth from fiction, and plain fact from exaggeration and distortion.  If my friend sends me an article, or a video, or a photo, I may accept it as true on the strength of my friendship.  But what if they’re just passing it on from another source?  What if I see it from a recognized news source?  Do I dare question it?  And if so, where do I turn to verify it?  There are several fact-checking websites, but even they have biases that cause them to weigh facts differently in various situations.  Whatever assumptions we used to hold about “neutral” reporting have been proved wrong.  We are being conditioned to trust none of what we hear and less than half of what we see!

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What about the “Good” News that Christians carry into the world?  Is it like the “Fake” news we see on TV or read about on our tablets?  And if someone challenges our faith in God’s word, how can we prove that the Gospel is not “Fake”, and that our Faith is not just more hype with smoke and mirrors?  If we are pursuing prayer, shouldn’t we be confident that our prayers are not in vain and that our faith is sound?

The claim of “Fake” news makes an assumption that there is such a thing as “True” news.  Similarly, saying the Gospel is “Fake” assumes that there is an alternate truth.  But the real burden of proof is on those who want to push for the alternative.  The truths of the Bible have been time-tested, and shown to be real.  The challenges I hear most often are to the exceptions, not the rule.  I don’t hear anyone saying that “Thou shalt not steal” is a “fake” morality.  Instead, I hear that, “Christianity is fake because I know Christians who cheat and steal.”  I don’t hear people claim that “it is not morally wrong to kill.”  Instead I hear them justify exceptions.  “I’m not promoting abortion as a good thing.  I don’t think it’s right to kill another human being, but this is just a fetus, and anyway, I’m just protecting a woman’s right to her own body.”  “I don’t think it’s ethical to force someone to stay alive if they are in pain and they want to die.”  “You can’t go around just killing anybody, but I think it would be better for everyone else if ___________________ (insert the name of a group– Down’s Syndrome children, Jews, Sunnis, Hutu/Tutsi) didn’t exist.”  “I don’t believe the morals found in the Bible are wrong.  I just don’t think you need to believe the rest of it to “be moral.”

People point to single passages, single verses, even single words to “prove” that the Bible is racist, sexist,  intolerant, and promotes violence.  The Bible includes many examples of people NOT following God’s laws, and yes, the results are grisly.  And there are difficult passages when God calls for a wicked city to be destroyed completely.  Critics are not wrong to point out that the Bible is not about perfect people behaving perfectly.  And the same Loving God who frees the slaves from Egypt is the God who destroys Jericho, and Sodom and Gomorrah.  Taken out of context, these few examples may seem to cast doubt on the authority of God’s word.  Yet the same critics who pound away at the same few examples in the Bible discount hundreds of instances of  historical events that highlight human sacrifice, genocide, mass infanticide, slavery, torture, and all sorts of other evil that occurred without the Bible’s influence.  Moreover, I hear a lot about claims against “Christians” who fought in the Crusades or owned slaves–I hear a lot less about Christians who worked to end slavery and the slave trade, or Christians who founded universities, charitable institutions, or brought revivals that sparked decades of social progress throughout countries and continents.

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I don’t hear many people claim that there was no such person as Abraham, or King David, or Solomon, or Nebuchadnezzar, or Pontius Pilate or Caesar Augustus.  But they want to deny the historical reality of Adam and Eve, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Apostle Paul, who are found in the same Bible.  Why?  Because if Adam and Eve are real, there must be a creation and a creator.  If Jesus really lived and said the things that are attributed to him, we must deal with the claim that he was Messiah.  If the Apostle Paul really lived and wrote his letters to the churches of Asia Minor, we must deal with his claim that he encountered the risen Christ and his life was dramatically and eternally changed.

However, there is a “Fake” gospel– Good news that doesn’t match the Biblical account–a “Fake” Christ that only said or did or “would do” what we want him to say or do; a Christ that isn’t holy or righteous, but just loves us because it’s the “zen” thing to do; a Christ who is without power to save or to sanctify; a Christ who is without mercy and loves only those who look the part or say the right things.  How do you spot a “Fake” Christ and a “Fake” Gospel?  Get to know the real ones of the Bible.  You’ll soon be able to spot an “imposter.”

“Fake” News will always fail the test of time and the challenges of real evidence.  Good News will transcend the test of time and the challenges of faulty evidence.

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Christ Has Died, Christ Is Risen, Christ Will Come Again!  THAT’s the Good News!

 

 

Suffering from “Prayer’s Block”

Do you ever suffer from “prayer’s block”– those times when you bow down, and your prayers seem stilted, or your mind keeps wandering, and you find yourself coming to God with…less.  Not necessarily with nothing– you can always thank God for your daily bread, or worship the fact of his majesty or holiness or search your heart for confession or praise.  But you’re left feeling like you really want to bring more…
Am I the only one who ever feels this?  I don’t think so; and I don’t feel it often, but when I do, I just wish I had something like a prayer prompt to take the conversation to another level.

That’s when I find books extremely helpful.  I recommend a personal prayer journal– one that has pages for each day, and lots of space to write requests and reminders as you pray.  I’m on my third year through a journal, and it has names of people who are celebrating birthdays or anniversaries on that day– including sad anniversaries of losses or challenges.  But even if you don’t have a journal, there are other great and creative ways to jump-start a great conversation with God.  See the page on my ideas for a Prayer Journal, or search for other wonderful ideas online to get you started.

Have you ever prayed a page from the phone book? (or your personal address list? or another list?)  It can feel awkward and impersonal to pray for people simply by name and without knowing anything about them, but it can also be instructive.  How so?  It reminds you that:

  • You are one person in a larger community of people you may not even know.  We live in a world that is more connected than ever before; yet we can be more isolated than ever before.  Neighbors come and go, communities grow (or shrink) without our awareness, unless we make ourselves look around.
  • Your problems are part of a larger reality.  Sometimes, our prayer life becomes narrow as we focus on our own struggles and needs.  Looking around doesn’t mean that our struggles are any less painful, important, or real; it does remind us, though, that we live in a big world– and that we have an even bigger God!
  • You may be the only Jesus another person will ever know… your prayers for a stranger may have unexpected consequences for them, as well as for you.

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Similarly, you can pray through an old yearbook, or your friends list on Facebook or LinkedIn, the members of your favorite band or the cast of your favorite movie or TV show, the members of your local government..the list goes on.  Rummage through your closet or look at old photos– are you finding anything to be thankful for, or reminded of times when God or others blessed you?  Pray the newspaper (or your news feed)–there’s plenty of fodder there!

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There are days when my heart is just too full (or maybe too empty) to concentrate.  And it’s not that God doesn’t know or understand such times.  But in this pursuit, I want to bring my best, and if “prayer’s block” comes, I don’t want it to be an excuse for missing out on the best that God has for me.

Prayer In the Digital Age

Wilt thou love God, as He thee? then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In Heaven, doth make His Temple in thy breast.
The Father, having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting (for he ne’er begun),
Hath deigned to choose thee, by adoption,
Coheir to His glory and sabbath’s endless rest;
As a robbed man which by search doth find
His stol’n stuff sold must lose or buy again,
The Son of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom He had made, and Satan stol’n, to unbind.
‘Twas much that man was made like God before,
But that God should be made like man, much more.
John Donne, Holy Sonnets 1633, No. 11

 

In the Garden

1 I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain:
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

2 He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing. [Refrain]

3 I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling. [Refrain]

Baptist Hymnal, 1991

 

Sanctus Real– Pray (You Tube)

 

Times have changed– God has not.

God does not have a Facebook or Twitter account; he’s not in Pinterest or Instagram.  He doesn’t post selfies or have a blog.  But he is the same God that Adam and Eve walked with in the Garden of Eden; the same God who spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend.  He is the same God who listened to the impassioned Psalms of King David, and the lamentations of Jeremiah.  He is the same God who has inspired awe and fear in the hearts of apostles, poets, philosophers, songwriters, and evangelists over the centuries.

When we come before God, it is tempting to see him through the lens of our own times– we want him to be one of our “peeps”, accessible, someone who will answer a text or voice mail, “like” our post or “follow” us as we babble about our hours and days and show pictures of what we had for dinner or what we looked like heading out to the concert. We want him to be about US, instead of us laying down our lives for HIM.

Media– especially social media, can help or hinder our prayer life.  We can access all kinds of helpful tools to focus our prayers, link up with prayer partners and groups, listen to inspiring music or peaceful slide shows for meditation…  But more often than not, media becomes a distraction or even a substitution for real, serious, personal communication with God.

God is not our virtual friend; he’s not one of our “peeps” or “the man upstairs.”  He is the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe– every galaxy created at his command; every particle obedient to his whim.  And he has given us the privilege to come before him as his adopted and beloved children to lay our hearts before him and receive his wisdom, forgiveness, strength, and joy.  “Liking” your friends’ posts with Bible verses, sending a thumbs up or an emoji when someone puts up a picture of Jesus on their wall–if that’s the sum total of what you call worship, God has another name for it– Idolatry.

That may seem really harsh, but Idolatry is ANYTHING that we are worshiping in place of God himself.  There’s a reason we don’t have statues of God the Father in temples and churches, synagogues, and chapels around the world.  God warned us thousands of years ago about the dangers of creating substitutes.  Even things that are meant to remind us of him can become substitutes for worship.  That doesn’t mean that the crucifix necklace or the picture of Jesus knocking at the door are automatically evil– but when we stop reaching out to the real God, and focus on a false image, no matter how lovely or touching, we can fall into idolatry.  And the distractions of the digital age have been shown to create isolation and depression, and become impediments among our human relationships..  We don’t have meaningful meditation or intimate conversations online with people at the other end– what makes us think that wireless devices will bring us closer to God?

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use technology to enhance our worship–just don’t make it an entertaining substitute for the real thing.  You wouldn’t (or at least I hope you don’t) text and catch up on Twitter while having a face-to-face and heart-to-heart talk with your spouse or child..give God the honor, the time, and the respect he deserves.  You don’t have to live like a stone age hunter to get some alone time with God, but it is a great idea to set aside some time to unplug from media and the noise of this world, and plug into the wonder of meeting with God in the Garden.pexels-photo-130154.jpeg

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