A Berean Take on Fake News

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15
For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

Acts 7:11
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Reflection: A Berean Take on Fake News
by John Tillman

Bereans do not have a Pauline epistle in the canon of scripture and the Thessalonians have two. However, the Jews of Berea are described in Acts as being “more noble” than those in Thessalonica. This nobility is characterized by engaging Paul’s teaching with intellectual curiosity and scriptural research.

Paul’s opponents in Thessalonica used tactics that were anti-intellectual and anti-scriptural and we should recognize them from our own Facebook feeds—exaggeration and falsification. Then as now, people ate it up. After they succeeded in running Paul out of town, they followed him to Berea, doxing him as a heretic and a political agitator. Even amongst the “more noble” Bereans, they were still able to cause enough trouble to force Paul to move on.

If you think people today are more sophisticated, more cultured, or more intellectual than those of the ancient world, you have been paying attention neither to ancient history nor to Facebook.

In our day, both progressive-leaning and conservative-leaning publications profit by pot-stirring. While it would be easy to point the finger at the media, we are responsible to choose a “more noble” path as consumers of content. Our sinfulness is the reason that inspiring fervor is much more profitable than dispensing facts and sensationalism is more clickable than sensible reporting.

In our Internet-connected world, cries of “Fake News” reverberate in the insulated echo chambers that we stroll (or scroll) through. These echo chambers are built for us by algorithms whose intent is to keep us scrolling, viewing, and reading and whose strategy is explicitly to not offend us with contradictory data, stories, images, or opinions that we don’t “like.”

Christians shouldn’t rely on algorithms to tell us what is important in the world. That is why we have Scriptures, the Church, and the Holy Spirit. Christians have a responsibility to not get swept up in hysteria, to not spread rumor as fact, and to not react in denial or anger when the facts cast a bad light on us or those we support.

It is bad practice to only trust news from organizations we feel share our values. No news organization shares your values. They value your “shares.” As Ed Stetzer has said, “Facts are our friends.” We need to seek the facts in more places than those that pander to us.

Christians need to develop a more Berean attitude about not only the scripture we read, but the news we share. It’s hard to share the incredible news of the Gospel when the rest of what we share is in-credible

A Reading
…I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received. — Luke 1:3-4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 19 (Listen – 3:53)
1 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:53)

The Enemy of Pleasure

Scripture: Colossians 3.2
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

The pilgrim is not to despise the comforts which he may meet with by the way, but he is not to tarry among them, or leave them with regret. — John Eadie

Reflection: The Enemy of Pleasure
by Steven Dilla

Only when a person is not dependent on an object or experience for pleasure are they truly free to enjoy it. We know this, of course, because things we’ve built anticipation for regularly find a way of letting us down. On the other hand, things for which we have little—or low—expectations find ways of impressing us greatly.

In response, some people cultivate perpetually low expectations toward everything and everyone. It’s a compensatory mechanism in which they seek to avoid life’s disappointments and, if all goes well, find themselves “pleasantly surprised.” This soothes the symptoms, but leaves the cause to fester.

The problem is not in the objects and experiences themselves, but our dependence on them to cultivate joy and happiness. It is another manifestation of the root of pride—our desire to derive primary satisfaction, pleasure, and identity from our personal experiences and achievements.

“True humility,” says Timothy Keller, in summary of C.S. Lewis, “is not thinking less of yourself or thinking more of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” When our lives take on a posture of humility it affects not just our relationships with others, but our relationships with the objects and pleasures of this world.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. — C.S. Lewis

The Christian posture toward the objects and pleasures of the world is neither asceticism nor hedonism. Instead, our attention, passions, and desires have been so captured by the gospel that we are free to enjoy the many pleasures of this world without falling in love with them. Boasting in the cross makes us humble toward the world.

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. — Psalm 90:12

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 16 (Listen – 5:31)
Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 17 (Listen – 3:14) Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)
1 Kings 18 (Listen – 7:08) 1 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:27)

Choosing Christ

Scripture: Colossians 2.6-7
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. — C.S. Lewis

Reflection: Choosing Christ
by Steven Dilla

The words, Christ, Jesus, and Lord, in Colossians 2, were written with the intention of provocation.

  • To the ancient Jewish elite, accepting Christ in the person of Jesus demanded a radical reorientation of how they understood faith.
  • To the Docetists, believing in Jesus as a man required an intellectual transformation. (They denied God would humble himself to the nature of a man, a view deemed heretical at Constantinople in 325 C.E.)
  • To the the secularists, submitting to Jesus as Lord—the one who holds authority over heaven and earth—would confront their illusion of control over their own lives.

Although the names of the groups have changed in today’s world, many of the confrontations of choosing Christ remain the same.

Though it is fairly palatable to accept Jesus as a man, or even an inspiring moral teacher, choosing him as Christ and Lord comes at a cost—socially, professionally, and otherwise. The path of least resistance is to settle for inspiration while maintaining functional control over our own heart, mind, and strength.

This dilemma famously provoked C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

This confrontation is not without an invitation, however. In accepting Jesus as Christ, our Lord, we find the richness and full depth of the human experience—a reality the rest of Colossians 2 explores in depth.

A Reading
…Heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical form, like a dove. And a voice came down from heaven, “You are my Son; today have I fathered you.” — Luke 3:21-22

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 15 (Listen – 5:30)
Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

A Prayer of Dependence on God From Ghana :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Colossians 1:15-18
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

This beautiful prayer acknowledges the supremacy of Christ and our dependence solely upon him, not just for salvation but for every eventuality of our lives. May this prayer set us free from the idea of our own sufficiency and turn our hands and eyes Godward in search of his kingdom above all else. — John

A Prayer of Dependence on God From Ghana :: Worldwide Prayer

Our God,
God of all creation,
God of the fierce and stormy wind that plucks the green leaves from the trees,
That enables the dead wood hanging on trees to fall and find their resting place on the ground.
God who allows the poor to find that wood to make fire.

Our God,
God of all creation
You are the rain-giving God, rain that produces an abundance of food.

Our God,
God of all creation.
You who provides in abundance.
Strong warrior, what you have provided we collect with our right hand.

Our God,
God of all creation.
You are friend to the disabled, glorious king of lepers, servant of the crippled, guide to the blind.
Lord Jesus, your eyes mix with the rays of the sun to bring light everywhere.

O God,
You are always there, and we listen to good news from you.
You are king of teachers who always imparts knowledge to your children.
Jesus, your beauty is like the moon rising from the sea.

O God,
Our king, when we come near you, it is as if we come to sleep in a room covered in gold.

We worship you in the name of Jesus.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at the noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me back…God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me.

— Psalm 55:17

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:22)
Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)

Escaping Discontent

Scripture: Philippians 4:12
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Reflection: Escaping Discontent
By Jon Polk

A commercial pilot flying over the Tennessee mountains pointed out a lake to his co-pilot. “See that lake down there? When I was a boy, I used to sit in a rowboat and fish for hours. Whenever a plane flew overhead, I pretended I was piloting the jet.”

The co-pilot responded, “You must be proud that you have achieved your boyhood dreams.” The pilot replied, “Not exactly. Now when I fly over that lake, I wish I was down there fishing.”

Contentment is an elusive pursuit. We want to believe there is something out there that we can find or achieve or buy that will finally make us happy.

It is difficult to find contentment in a culture that works hard to foster discontent. Consumer economies are designed to ensure we are never satisfied, in essence, monetizing our discontent. Businesses do their best to keep us constantly longing for the latest and greatest “Shiny Objects.” Enough is never enough.

If we are never satisfied, we are not fully able to enjoy the life that God has given us.

Notice that Paul didn’t write, “I’m so glad that it is easy to be content in every situation.” No, he says, “I had to learn to be content whatever the circumstances.”

First, Paul learned we should rejoice in the Lord. Even in the midst of difficulty we can rejoice that God sustains and cares for us. Second, be known for gentleness, not insisting on our own rights, but instead striving for the welfare of others. Third, don’t be anxious about anything. Recall the words of Jesus, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Finally, pray with thanksgiving. When we give thanks to God, we acknowledge that everything we have is a gift, a result of His goodness and generosity.

If we are pursuing these things, what are we not doing?

We’re not congratulating ourselves for how great we are. We’re not being proud or selfish or stingy with our resources. We’re not complaining or comparing ourselves to others. We’re not consumed by the insatiable quest for more.

Instead, we are free to focus on the only one who can provide for us, God himself, and when we find joy in the Lord, we can let go of our discontent and find contentment in his love and grace.

The Call to Prayer
Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done. — Psalm 9:11

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 13 (Listen – 5:14)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

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