A Berean Take on Fake News :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Sam J, from Texas
Information insulated. We’re encouraged regardless of our teams, to accept information that we like as truth and the information we don’t as fake. However, the Bereans remind us that there is no truth that is exempt from questioning, not even the words spoken by an authority like Paul. The deeper understanding, the stronger faith, the closeness with Jesus we long for comes through not just a willingness to question truth, but an insistence to do so.

Originally posted on October 16, 2017 with readings from 1 Kings 19 and 1 Thessalonians 2.

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. — 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15

Also…

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. — Acts 7:11

Reflection: A Berean Take on Fake News :: Readers’ Choice
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.

Prayer: The Greeting
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. — Psalm 19.14

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 50 (Listen – 8:42)
Psalm 28-29 (Listen – 2:41)

Additional Reading
Read More from N.T. Wright on Political Allegiance
Christian faith does not result in a doubling down on political ideology as a means toward “peace and security.”

Read More about The Seductive Idolatry of Politics
Politicians and the media (which serves them) provide an ecclesiastically complex structure of priests and prophets. Schisms, conspiracies, and scandals aren’t bugs in the system; they are features.

Readers’ Choice
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When Help Isn’t Help :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Michele, from Colorado
One can embrace a sense of confidence and peace. One can. It’s a voice. But do we? Can we embrace confidence and peace without sensing it? Maybe that’s a place to start.

Originally posted on February 5, 2018 with readings from Job 4 and Romans 8.

Think! What innocent person has ever perished?
When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?
As I’ve observed, those who plow sin
and sow trouble will harvest it.
When God breathes deeply, they perish;
by a breath of his nostril they are annihilated. — Job 4.7-9

Reflection: When Help Isn’t Help :: Readers’ Choice
By Jada Swanson

After seven days of silence, Eliphaz speaks to Job. Eliphaz is somewhat gentle and appears to sincerely attempt to bring comfort to his friend, Job. Yet, it doesn’t take long for one to see that his belief about his friend’s plight is that it is due to sin in Job’s life. In verse seven, he states, “Think! What innocent person has ever perished? When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?”

For we all reap what we sow, don’t we?

Unfortunately, this is a common view of pain and suffering, even in the Church today. No doubt, statements have been made such as, “I wonder what she did to bring this upon herself?” or “If you’re living right, you will surely have a blessed life.”

Yet, if this is an accurate assessment, it begs the question, “What had Job done to bring such pain and suffering into his life?” and “Wasn’t he ‘living right’?”

The reality is that God never promises that his children will have a life free of trial, hardship, pain, or suffering. In fact, James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face such situations and circumstances, because the hardships one endures brings about perseverance, which is needed to become mature and complete.

Most certainly, “Considering it all joy” does not mean one rejoices in the cruelty, suffering, shame, injustice, or destruction. It does not mean there will be no tears or sense of loss. Rather, amidst these constraining circumstances, one can embrace a sense of confidence and peace.

Although Eliphaz meant well, his response was insensitive to his friend’s plight. It bears considering if Job’s circumstance brought to the surface some of his own concerns and vulnerabilities. Perhaps, he thought he had matters of faith and God figured out. Yet, God does not fit into a neatly packed box of predictability. In fact, we are told his ways are mysterious (Isaiah 55:9).

Everything is not always what it appears on the surface. Most often, there is more to the story, necessary details and nuances that hover just below the surface to which the public is not privy. As such, one needs to be careful in expressing personal opinions about the circumstances another is facing, regardless if this person is a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

May we understand that times of trial and hardship will come into our lives. May we embrace peace amidst suffering. May we listen to understand, not merely to respond. And when we do respond, may it be with sincerity and sensitivity.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies. — Psalm 28.2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 49 (Listen – 7:15)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen – 3:13)

Additional Reading
Read More from Jada about For Such a Time
God calls us to obedience during the dark and the daring moments of our lives. In his word, he has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

Read More about Room For Hannah
Church staff and attendees often reflect an unspoken belief that Christian Life has no place for sadness.

Readers’ Choice
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Doing All Things Well :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Zachary, from Raleigh
As a Christian who has an artistic calling, I often find myself caught between cultures. Knowing that Jesus was able to live and minister in multiple cultures is so refreshing and encouraging. Jesus truly is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Originally posted on July 25, 2018 with readings from Jeremiah 21 and Mark 7.

People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. — Mark 7.37

Reflection: Doing All Things Well :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Mark’s seventh chapter begins with Pharisees, who never seemed to think Jesus did anything right. It ends with Gentiles in the Decapolis who proclaimed with amazement that Jesus did all things well.

The Pharisees were a culture within a culture. Paul uses his pharisaical background as a superlative, calling himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” The Decapolis was a region of Gentile cities that many observant Jews would avoid.

Jesus models for us a comfortable and powerful confidence that allows him to move with freedom and authority between these two different cultures. He is equally comfortable exposing the inward sinfulness of the religious elite as he is exposing the bright light of the Gentiles’ faith and both groups’ desperate need for the gospel.

That Jesus would even spend time in Gentile territory would be scandalous to the Pharisees. That he would claim that the only true God is the God of Israel would be scandalous to the Gentiles. Christ’s teaching of the gospel shocked everyone. His gospel was not watered-down, feel-good niceties. It offended easily. But it was, and is, the only source of life.

As we follow Christ, we are meant to take on this mantle of confidence and comfort. This is not a confidence in our ability or a comfort in our own power, but an indwelling, filling, and freeing expression of the Holy Spirit with us.

The crowds in the Decapolis would have known Jesus as a source of transformation and life before he arrived because Jesus had already sent a missionary there to prepare the way. Though not recorded in scripture, it is not hard to imagine that Christ, upon arriving in the cities of the Decapolis, may have been greeted with crowds led by the former demoniac of Gerasene.

May we be so transformed. May we be so sent. May we undertake whatever task is asked of us for the cities to which God sends us. May they say of us as they say of Christ, that we “doeth all things well.”

Hymn:
All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well,
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well. — Fanny Crosby (recording by Rich Mullins)

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lesson
One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life… — Psalm 27.5

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 45-46 (Listen – 6:41)
Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 47 (Listen – 1:21) Psalm 23-24 (Listen – 2:03)
Jeremiah 48 (Listen – 7:31) Psalm 25 (Listen – 2:18)

Additional Reading
Read More about Thankful Workers for Peace
Just as Jesus left the Gerasene man to spread the gospel to the Decapolis, he would soon leave the disciples to spread the gospel to the world, and he has left us here to follow in their footsteps.

Read More about Kingdom Manifestation :: A Guided Prayer
Ask God to make you the answer to this prayer. You are called to make manifest the kingdom of God.

Readers’ Choice
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Lewis on Prayer Without Words :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jon Polk, from Hong Kong
Lewis’ description of praying without words is challenging and refreshing. Discovering new methods of contemplative prayer enriches my spiritual formation.

Originally posted on September 12, 2017 with readings from 2 Samuel 7 and 2 Corinthians 1.

On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. — 2 Corinthians 1.10-11

Reflection: Lewis on Prayer Without Words :: Readers’ Choice
By C.S. Lewis

For many years after my conversion I never used any ready-made forms except the Lord’s Prayer. In fact I tried to pray without words at all—not to verbalise the mental acts. Even in praying for others I believe I tended to avoid their names and substituted mental images of them. I still think the prayer without words is the best—if one can really achieve it. But I now see that in trying to make it my daily bread I was counting on a greater mental and spiritual strength than I really have.

To pray successfully without words one needs to be “at the top of one’s form.” Otherwise the mental acts become merely imaginative or emotional acts—and a fabricated emotion is a miserable affair. When the golden moments come, when God enables one really to pray without words, who but a fool would reject the gift?

But He does not give it—anyway not to me—day in, day out. My mistake was what Pascal, if I remember rightly, calls “Error of Stoicism”: thinking we can do always what we can do sometimes.

And this, you see, makes the choice between ready-made prayers and one’s own words rather less important for me than it apparently is for you. For me words are in any case secondary. They are only as an anchor. Or, shall I say, they are the movements of a conductor’s baton: not the music. They serve to canalise the worship or penitence or petition which might without them—such are our minds—spread into wide and shallow puddles.

It does not matter very much who first put them together. If they are our own words they will soon, by unavoidable repetition, harden into a formula. If they are someone else’s, we shall continually pour into them our own meaning.

*Excerpt from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lesson
I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. — Psalm 52.8

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 44 (Listen – 6:10)
Psalm 20-21 (Listen – 2:37)

Additional Reading
Read More from Lewis on Liturgiology — Part 1
Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore.

Read More from Lewis on Liturgiology — Part 2
Any tendency to a passionate preference for one type of service must be regarded simply as a temptation.

Readers’ Choice
We have a handful of spots left for your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post. Tell us about a post and what it meant to you.

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The Worst Churches in the Bible :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Heather Trowell
The seven churches in Revelation are a puzzle: God almost seems to damn them with faint praise. This reflection was an encouragement that God is loyal to His Church and is at work making her spotless and blameless.

Originally posted on May 31, 2018 with readings from Isaiah 32 and Revelation 2.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches… — Revelation 2.7

Reflection: The Worst Churches in the Bible :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

There are many strange and unfamiliar images in Revelation that we have no context for and do not easily understand. But one that has a very familiar ring is the description of scandal-filled churches.

In many recent articles, such as The Fall of the Village, by Jake Meador and The Wrath of God Poured Out, by Albert Mohler, Christian writers have been agonizing over recent revelations of sins from the past as well as current scandals.

In an article on moral failings, Ed Stetzer noted that of the leaders who spoke with him at a conference in 2010, half had stepped down for some kind of moral failing.

At a time when Evangelicals have changed their minds about whether leadership requires a moral private life (they no longer think it does) most still say a church leader’s private life should be morally upright. And Christians all over are justifiably upset both at the sins that had been covered up (or ignored) and the attrition of leaders and churches falling to scandal.

For those who picture themselves in the role of prophet, this can seem like a cause for celebration.

Down with the hypocrites. Down with the failures. Let rise the greater and wiser leaders of a more humble and sacrificial church. But this is just new idolatry to replace the old.

It is notable that the first things revealed to John in the book of Revelation are not heavenly wonders, but earthly sins. But the more shocking revelation is that Jesus loves and cares for sinful and dysfunctional churches and their leaders.

Despite the deep brokenness of most of the churches in Revelation, Jesus finds positive things to say about each of them. Not one is he willing to give up on without a fight.

He does not merely threaten them with punishment, but gives them a purpose, a path to redemption, and a reward for obedience.

Make no mistake. The redemption described is primarily for the church as a whole. Individual redemption from sin, does not require a restoration of position, power, or influence. Those individuals who have harmed others should not be back in the pulpit.

But if Christ can speak lovingly and redemptively of churches as corrupt as these, why can’t we?

When defending people from harm, may we intercede with the strength of Christ and his sword of truth.
But may we also not shirk from Christ’s call to reach out in redemption to even that most vile of sinners, the fallen leader.

Prayer: The Greeting
The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined from ore and purified seven times in fire. — Psalm 12.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 43 (Listen – 2:34)
Psalm 19 (Listen – 1:52)

Additional Reading
Read More about How to Read Prophetic Judgment
Judgment-filled prophecy is one case in scripture where it is safer to assume it’s about you than others.

Read More about Where Judgment Falls
Among non-believers and those leaving the church, some common reasons are corrupt, abusive, or just plain bad leadership.

Readers’ Choice
We have a handful of spots left for your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post. Tell us about a post and what it meant to you.

Support our Work
Over 4,000 people every week read an email devotional from The Park Forum. Support our work with a monthly or a one time donation.

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