God gave us eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to discern and He intended for us to use them accordingly.
He gave us His Word by which we can evaluate what is being said to us and around us. In it we find commands to love the poor, care for the sick, be with the prisoner and immigrant. We are told blessed are the peacemakers, and those who mourn. There are warnings and calls to identify and turn away from false teachers. People’s whose words sound true but are leading us further and further from God.
In it we are given history. A remembrance of how God created it all, how He took His people out of captivity to a place He prepared for them. But they were stubborn and sinful and did not listen, so God let them be taken into captivity again and again. Their inability to let His commands sink into their hearts and affect who they were led to their repeated downfall.
We have to be careful of assigning additional context to the Bible, to taking it out of place and applying it to our lives in a way God never intended.
We are called to be shrewd and discerning, to test if what we hear and see matches what God says.
We are called to remember under what circumstances the text was written and under what context we are to apply it to our lives today.
In order to that, we have to know the Word for ourselves.
As I relayed yesterday, Garrett pointed out that one way spiritually abusive pastors work is to discourage you from truly verifying what they say. They are smooth-talking and take verses out of context to justify any number of sins and hidden agendas.
As someone wisely noted on Facebook, “Our only safety is to take ourselves to God and make Him and His will our only goal. I have to have God weigh my heart and its motives. It is so deceitful that it even deceives its owner…me!”
We are in a time when an entire Christian movement is alive and well based on ideals and agendas antithetical to the Word. We are not called to a holy war. We are not called to pursue our comfort first. We are not called to defend our rights as we oppress others. We are not called to establish God’s kingdom on earth.
We are called to love, to truth, to discern, to be salt and light. We are not called to violence, nationalism, crusades, and insurrection.
The sad reality is, a lot of the calls to find the truth are the same calls being put out by those manipulating scripture. But that is why we have to know the Word for ourselves. That is why we have to do the work of letting God work in our lives by spending time in His presence. That is the only way we will know, when we hear two calls using the same verse, which is correct.
This is not an academic exercise or simply parroting the words on the page. This is intentional time set aside to sit with a few verses and be still, letting God work in your heart and mind. This is not a religious exercise, or to verify a preconceived idea, but the chance to let the Word become living and breathing and wrestling to let God work it out in You. It’s laying down control and letting God show you what He meant.
It’s taking what is said from the pulpit, social media, an email, etc. and asking God if it is true. It is doing your due diligence to be discerning and verifying verses aren’t taken out of context and being manipulated. We were never meant to blindly follow a pastor, a movement, a church community, an influencer, but to constantly take what we hear back to God’s Word and let Him speak to us.
It is letting those questions in the back of your mind come forward and giving God space and time to answer you. And He will! As you are faithful to show up, Bible ready, heart open, leaving your phone, to do lists, fear, distraction aside, and give God time in your day, He will reveal who He is.
God’s ultimate desire is for relationship with us. He does not want religious obedience or simply church attendance. He wants to know YOU and for you to know HIM. But that really only happens as we block time in our day to be with Him.
(It can sound daunting. If so, please reach out to me! I’d love to help you get started.)
In the New Testament, Paul repeatedly wrote to his churches to be wary of false teachers in their midst. He repeatedly told them to go back to what they had been taught/told and not to let themselves be carried off by those who manipulate faith for their ends and gain.
God’s greatest command is to love the Lord and love your neighbor as you love yourself (see Matthew 22:36-40). How does that mesh with a nationalist, self-preservation, violent agenda?
Jesus says people will know His disciples by their love (see John 13:34-35). How does that blend into a call for a holy war? A modern day crusades? Using unlawful means to establish a dictator who is the opposite of all God calls us to be? Killing those who disagree this us?
We are not called to shove our religion, our way of life, our preservation down other people’s throats. We are not called to be antagonistic and power-hungry, to oppress, kill, toss aside other people. We are called to lives of service (see Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8; John 13:34-35; substituting “law” with calling).
I will also point out that the only time Jesus rebuked anybody (ANYBODY!!!) was the religious elite who used religion to satisfy their own ends (see Matthew 23). That should be a warning to anyone who tries to bend scripture to satisfy their agenda.
Any message of faith, any teaching from a pastor, any call to Christian action that is not grounded in the truths above is simply wrong. It is wrong to call for a holy war because you did not get your way. And before you use the Old Testament to justify your actions, I ask that you put it back into context and look at the verses around it, the chapter, the book, the Bible and ask God if what you are being told is true.
We were given eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to discern, and the incredible gift of being able to come to God on our own and spend time letting Him remake us into who we are called to be.
Do not take the freedom Jesus gave on the cross and become enslaved to someone who is not teaching the truth. Do not become captive to false ideology, false narratives, lies that only play on your fear and turn you into a white-washed tomb.
There is no justification for war in the Bible.
There is no justification for nationalism, racism, exclusion, oppression, religious intolerance, or hate.
The Bible does not foretell America in 2020. Our president is nothing special. The Bible definitely did not call him to be dictator forever. Democrats are not evil, I promise. This is not some culminating point in history.
As you spend time with God one-on-one, I think you will find that America is not a part of the Bible at all. We are not a second Israel. Our exceptionalism in all in our heads. The pride and arrogance many in the faith community hide behind is their delusion. As you read the Word (please read it for yourselves!) you will see we are a people called to love, reconciliation, truth, and peace.
How to do a quiet time:
- Go to a place you feel safe and won’t be distracted. Maybe this is your favorite chair in your office, your closet, your bedroom. Silence your phone. Limit distractions as much as you can. If it helps to have some coffee or tea, or to cover yourself in a warm blanket, do it! This is about you being comfortable and open.
- Start with a simple prayer, “Lord show me what you would have me learn.” Take some deep breaths, really come into the moment. There is no need for anxiety here. Instead we want to approach our time with God with open hands and hearts, and that requires us to take a moment to calm our very frazzled beings.
- Start small. Don’t take on the whole Bible, or even a whole book. Take what you heard in church on Sunday. Read the entire break of text the verse was taken from. Or maybe start with one of the Gospels and read one section (between the headers).
- Read the verses more than once. If it helps, read it in another translation (I like The Message or The Amplified Version for getting a different perspective). Identify what stands out to you, what questions come up, how the verse makes you feel.
- Try not to read into the passage. Come to it as if to a blank canvas. As you read the verses, ask God to paint the picture for you. Go verse by verse slowly, let the words really seep in.
- Look at what you have noted from your readings. Write questions or responses from it. What questions do you have for God from this reading? What stood out to you? Do you feel God nudging you somehow?
- Give God some time. Set a timer on your phone. Close your eyes and breathe deep. If it helps, ask God your questions from the passage. And then listen. I promise other thoughts will come up. You might feel antsy. That is okay! Simply acknowledge it and then let it go. I visualize tying my thoughts to a balloon and releasing it into the sky. Re-focus on your breath.
- After your prayer, make note of what God brought up to you. What emotions came up, words, other passages? Did a person come to mind? Something still undone? Maybe nothing came up. That is okay too. This is a relationship. God is not an answer machine or a genie we get to command. It might take mulling over a verse for a few days (or weeks!) before an answer comes. But God is there.
- If throughout the day other ideas, questions, verses, responses come up within you, make note of them in your phone or on a notepad. Bring them with you tomorrow and ask God what they mean.
Once we see God as someone we can know like a good friend, it changes the dynamics. The American church largely treats God like someone we can control and dictate. We turn him into our yes-man advisor, or as too far off to be near us. But as I said above, God desires nothing more than to have a relationship with us. But like any good relationship it requires time, consistency, two-way communication, trust, and a willingness to learn about the other person for who they really are.
You can do this. It is our holy privilege and responsibility to check what we are being told about God. God is waiting. Let Him speak.
Again, if you want someone to talk this out with, if you have any other questions, want some accountability, or just don’t know where to start, contact me or post a comment. I would love to be there for you.