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 17:11
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)

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)

The Idol of Immorality, Impurity, and Greed

Scripture: Ephesians 5:3, 5
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed…For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Reflection: The Idol of Immorality, Impurity, and Greed
By John Tillman

Paul, in Ephesians 5:3-6, describes three qualities that the church must not allow a “hint” of—immorality, impurity, and greed. (We have a tendency to ignore that greed is in there…)

Why is it, according to Paul, that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the kingdom? “Such a person is an idolater,” Paul says. Modern sophisticates that we are, we have trouble admitting to idolatry. We think of idolaters as foolish primitives staring into the light of a sacrificial fire, not children of the technological age staring into the lights of our devices.

We are correct when we assess idolatry’s primitive nature. Where we are wrong is in thinking that our modernity exempts us from its allure.

This past week many articles were written about the death of Hugh Hefner. There is much for our culture to idolize about him. His story of rising from impoverished roots to become the multi-millionaire-magnate of a publishing empire would be irresistible in our culture even without the added sex appeal.

Hefner was the high-priest of a uniquely American religion of erotica, venerating sex as the chief marker of identity, as the chief goal of individual self expression, and as the ultimate pathway to self-actualization and self-worth. There is nothing holier (worth protecting) in secular culture than sexuality and sexual expression. When it comes to sex, we have all become Cameron Frye.

“She will have given him, what he has built up in his mind as the end-all-be-all of existence.” — Ferris Bueller.

But Paul reveals to us that what is truly at the root of sexual immorality, is exactly the same thing that is at the root of greed—selfishness.

We worship this idol, by making an altar of our own bodies and sacrificing the bodies of others upon it. Yet just as with every other form of idolatry, the benefits we seek at the feet of an idol can only be found in the true God. Carved stone rain gods can’t bring rain, and our photoshopped gods of sexual expression leave us just as dry—alone in a loveless drought.

In the end we must recognize that the reason Paul connected sexual immorality and greed is that the two forms of idolatry are identical. They each are concerned with “getting mine” without regard to what the costs are to other humans.

Reclaiming sexuality as an honoring celebration of God’s image in our physical bodies and as a unique emotional and spiritual union for couples is a difficult, and narrow path. When we walk this path we will be marked as strangers and aliens in a foreign land.

A Reading
…not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you went home again justified… — Luke 18:13-14

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 8 (Listen – 10:23)
Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer From Argentina :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-17
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

This re-imagining and expansion of the Lord’s Prayer as a step-by-step confession of our weakness is a model for us to follow as we pray, not just the Lord’s Prayer, but the Psalms, Christ’s other prayers in Scripture, or prayers that we read from believers throughout history. May our insufficiencies always bring us to the feet of the sufficient Savior and may our hearts continue to be shaped by the indwelling and empowering Holy Spirit. — John

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer From Argentina :: Worldwide Prayer

Our Father in heaven

We want to pray, “Hallowed be your name.”
For we acknowledge your holiness.

We want to pray, “Your Kingdom come:
But we behave as if this was our kingdom!

We want to pray, “Your will be done”
But we so easily put our will before yours!

We want to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”
But we desire the bread for tomorrow as well!

We want to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”
But we do not even forgive unintentional debts!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Help us to follow your example of forgiveness.

And because “Yours is the Kingdom”
Give us concern for all human beings…

Because “Yours is the power”
Help us to proclaim your Word with power.

Because “Yours is the glory”
May our lives reflect that divine glory

In the name of Jesus, name above all names, we pray.

Amen.

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

The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let these who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70:4

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:10)
Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)

Putting To Death Racial Hostility

Scripture: Ephesians 2:15-16
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Reflection: Putting To Death Racial Hostility
By John Tillman

In the ancient world, every race and people claimed supremacy. Supremacy of race or of country is an ideology that is based on one of the oldest, perhaps first, sins: pride.

The secular vision of evolution does not posit equality as a trait or as a policy. In fact evolutionary biology is the source of much of the past century’s eugenics-based racist thought.

Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ as described in the above verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. The first voice in history crying out for racial equality and the end of slavery was a Christian one.

This is why it is such an enduring tragedy that throughout history the church has struggled to keep various strains of racism from infecting and crippling the church and its work. Every era of the church is touched—and sometimes scarred—with this struggle.

While it is true that without Christian abolitionists, the abomination of racial slavery would still be common, it is equally true that many Christians also stood on the other side. Many lent support to slavery as a legal institution—allowing economic needs and cultural norms to force an ungodly twisting of their theology. (Economic needs and cultural norms fuel today’s illegal slavery crisis—including sexual slavery and secular society still has no answer to the problem.)

Idolatry takes many forms and modern Christians are just as susceptible to them as our first century counterparts were. We must not let nationalistic pride become the idol that keeps us from pursuing the death of racial hostility through the cross of Christ. Only at the cross can we drop our pride, let our hostility die, and take up the new life of unity that Christ died to give us.

Christians must take the lead in racial issues because we have the only viable ideology that, if we let it, will counter the ideology of hate. We cannot grow weary. We cannot tire of addressing the issue. We have the only answer.

Because so many Christians haven’t yet learned, these words of Paul must continually be proclaimed—that in Christ the barriers of race, language, culture, and social class are all transcended. For man to put up these superficial fences truly reflects the superficiality of his humanity. — Dr. Nelson Hayashida

The Request for Presence
Be seated on your lofty throne, O Most High; O Lord, judge the nations. — Psalm 7:8

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 4-5 (Listen – 7:21)
Ephesians 2 (Listen – 3:04)

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