Are You Close to God? Your Answer Affects How You Read Scripture

A new study suggests that both men and women who seek spiritual intimacy view the Bible more literally.
Are You Close to God? Your Answer Affects How You Read Scripture

Sociologists have long suggested that Christian women are more religious than men, but Blake Victor Kent wondered if this discrepancy has something to do with gender differences and intimacy.

A former pastor who grew up in the evangelical church, Kent took interest in how gender roles were articulated abstractly but then lived out differently. He saw a disconnect. For example, he noticed that some evangelicals draw firm theological boundaries around formal leadership but then allow women to lead informally all the time.

During graduate school, some prominent research on gender caught Kent’s eye and made him wonder if sociologists were missing part of the story. A study by John Hoffmann and John Bartkowski found that women are more likely than men to view the Bible as the literal Word of God. The authors viewed this result as a comment on female social standing in the church, a woman’s way of asserting her faith in a culture that won’t accept her leadership. But Kent thought it might have more to do with a person’s belief in the simple biblical truth that God is near us.

There are some differences in how men and women relate to God, which Kent argues could be cultural. His analysis, however, found that men and women who experience an intimate relationship with God are more likely to have a literal view of the Bible.

Kent, now at Harvard Medical School doing postdoctoral research on religion and health, recently published this passion project along with Christopher Pieper, a colleague from his alma mater, Baylor University. Their study compared men’s and women’s answers on the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey on two sets of questions: how intimate they feel with God and how they view the Bible

Kent spoke to CT about what he thinks pastors and ministry leaders can learn from gender differences in the context of spiritual intimacy.

The survey results give three ways of viewing the Bible: skeptical, interpreted, and literal. Can you explain these orientations?

We want to make the categories a little more nuanced than the authors of the other study did. They collapsed multiple categories of answers into two options. Either you’re a full literalist, or if you say anything else, you’re a non-literalist. We expanded that into three categories instead of two. The first category is “The Bible is the literal word of God.” The interpreted category is “The Bible is entirely true, but it takes interpretation to fully understand its meaning.” The third category we call “skeptics,” which is two different categories combined into one. One is “The Bible contains some human error,” and the other is “The Bible is a collection of myths and legends.” There’s also a fifth one that says, “I don’t know,” but these answers were not included in the study.

How do you define a “literal” versus an “interpreted” understanding of the Bible?

Literalism is an interesting variable. In some ways, people are talking about their true views of Scripture, but in some ways, they are also making a statement about their religious or political identity. So most people who say they are literalists, when it comes down to it, aren’t actually literalists. They still choose to interpret portions of Scripture in a selective way. The New Testament talks about women not wearing jewelry and women wearing head coverings and literalists would say, “Oh, well, that’s a cultural thing, and we don’t do that anymore.” So literalism means something different to different people.

What did you find?

The main thing is: Yes, women are likely to report higher levels of literalism, but when we account for people’s attachment to God, we find that that relationship goes away. It’s not so much that women are more likely to be literalists, but people who experience a secure, personal, intimate relationship with God are more likely to be literalists. If you take a man and a woman who report the same level of closeness to God, there is no difference in their likelihood of being literalists. So then you get into questions of socialization: Why do we find that women are more likely to seek that intimacy than men?

So that gets into attachment theory. Can you explain how that relates?

Attachment theory, which is a psychological theory developed in the 1960s, posits that the dynamics of the relationship you have with your primary caregiver in the first four or five years of life tend to set the tone for how you relate to people for the rest of your life. If I have a warm, secure relationship with a primary caregiver, I’m likely to carry that into future friendships, workplaces, or a marriage, and I’m likely to carry that into how I perceive God. If I have this anxious or avoidant orientation, despite my best intentions, I’m wired to be not quite as trusting or open, so that carries into those close relationships, including my relationship with God.

You mentioned something particular about adolescence in the paper. Can you elaborate?

One of the interesting things about attachment theory is that at a young age, boys and girls don’t attach any differently. What we observe is that as kids get older, they start to diverge in how they attach and relate. We see this in contemporary Western culture. In a marriage that doesn’t have a huge amount of relational intimacy, the research shows that women are going to be more dissatisfied than men are. That hasn’t always been the case.

Historically, views of male friendship were very high. Aristotle talked about platonic relationships between men as the highest form of friendship. Aelred of Rievaulx, a monk and theologian, talked of spiritual friendship. In Scripture, we think about Jonathan and David and what we observe as their intimate friendship with one another.

Even in contemporary culture—I used to live in China, and it’s very common to see two men who are friends walking down the street armin-arm or holding hands. I recognize that not everything comes down to socialization. There may be some biology that exacerbates or promotes some behaviors, but in the paper, we primarily argue that there’s a differential in the socialization of men and women, and that results in adult men engaging with God a little differently than women.

Let’s talk about the implications. What does your research suggest about adult ministry?

First, as a sociologist, the data says what the data says. Anything we try to draw from the study is going beyond what it says. But as a person of faith and a former pastor, there’s a chance to try to draw some conclusions from here. I’ve engaged with a lot of people who have really benefited from thinking about these things in terms of attachment.

Let’s say a believer really strives to connect with God but for whatever reason never quite feels it. There can be self-recrimination: “Maybe I’m failing. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe if I do the following spiritual practices, it will all come together.” Insight from attachment theory says that in many ways, how we perceive God in an emotional way is a little bit out of our control. I’ve done training with churches on attachment to God and had lots of conversations with people one-on-one, and the general reaction is a sigh of relief.

Probabilistically, 60 percent of the population tends to be securely connected and 40 percent are in this anxious or avoidant category. So it’s a large minority of the population that tend to experience relationships in this way. This can be a starting point for growth and conversation.

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Given what we know about the socialization of boys, how can we think about their discipleship?

There are a couple of approaches. One is to try to minimize the differences—try to help boys see that it’s emotionally and spiritually healthy to connect with other people and to God and to be open and vulnerable about feelings. The other approach some people have taken is to accept that “hey, in this cultural moment, we have these differences, so let’s just try to gear ministry and programs toward meeting those approaches.”

For example, have you heard of “fight church”? There are people trying to connect with men by literally having fight club at church. It’s like we can punch each other in the face and wrestle and do it as a way of connecting and having a manly spirituality.

In the early- to mid 20th century, you had this movement called “muscular Christianity”—evangelists that were trying to emphasize the masculine qualities of faith, like fighting for the good, fighting social ills. More recently, you had John Eldredge and the Wild at Heart movement. Mark Driscoll has sort of fallen by the wayside, but a lot of his success at Mars Hill was taking young men and saying, “Hey, this is what faith is for men.”

Trying to connect with men in those ways isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But treating those behaviors as if they’re some kind of essentialized difference that cannot change is probably the wrong approach. We can say, “This is where we are culturally; let’s also talk about where we want to be culturally.” We can think about how we raise and socialize our kids to get to that place.

Will there be any follow-up studies looking at a different aspect of your data?

The follow-up I’m most interested in doing is not a survey analysis but a series of interviews. Essentially, I want to figure out the relationship between how people connect with God and how they connect with the people around them. And when you experience a deep, meaningful connection with God, does that in turn inform how you connect and relate with people around you? When you find connection with God, does it spill over to your friendships, your marriage?

Similarly, if you were feeling alienated from God but you get into a church or a relationship that helps you connect emotionally and be more vulnerable, does that in turn help you start reconnecting with God in a way that you’ve been missing? I suspect that probably happens both ways, but I’m interested in hearing people talk about it retrospectively from a young age.

That would be very interesting.

I think it would be very informative. There’s a word I love called concatenation. As something changes in one aspect, things change in parallel in another aspect. In a sermon I really love called “How to Change,” Tim Keller talks about the concatenation of the fruits of the Spirit. They tend to not happen in isolation. When you see changes in self-control, you also see changes in gentleness. I suspect that the types of attachments we have in relationships between parent, God, work, spouse, and children also work in that way.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september/close-to-god-your-answer-affects-how-you-read-scripture.html

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There’s More to Romans Than Personal Salvation

How Western readers miss the meaning of Paul’s letter—and how an Eastern perspective can correct the imbalance.

INTERVIEW BY JAYSON GEORGES| AUGUST 19, 2019

There’s More to Romans Than Personal Salvation

For much of church history, Christians have brought Western cultural assumptions to their reading of Scripture. But as the church’s geographic center of gravity has shifted from the West to the Majority World, believers across the globe have come forward to offer fresh insights on God’s Word. Jackson W. (a pseudonym), an American-born theologian teaching at an Asian seminary, builds on that work in his latest book, Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission, which reexamines the apostle’s famous letter. Missiologist Jayson Georges, coauthor of Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials, spoke with Jackson about the value of bringing East Asian perspectives to bear on the message of Romans.

The ideas in Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes emerged from both your research and overseas ministry experience. Can you share some of the story behind the book?

For some time, I’ve noticed confusion stemming from the way Western Christians evangelize and explain Christianity to people in China. Whether you talk about certain terms, concepts, or emphases, there is a basic disconnect. However, the Bible has several themes that make more sense to a typical person in East Asia: specifically, issues related to honor, shame, and group identity.

At the same time, many Westerners overlook the significance of honor and shame in the Bible and the Christian life. Their reading of Romans minimizes the importance of honor and shame. For them, Romans is definitive proof that legal categories trump all other metaphors and concepts in Scripture. So I figured I would make my case from perhaps the most so-called “legal” book in the New Testament. If we can see the pervasive influence of honor-shame dynamics in Romans, then clearly these are critical categories of thought that should shape how we read the entire Bible.

How does reading Paul’s letter through an “honor-shame lens” help us understand his argument?

One major theme is collective identity. For most readers, Paul is speaking to individuals about being saved from sin and then sanctified as they walk in the Spirit. But that oversimplification misses a more fundamental concern that underlies Paul’s letter—who is God’s family?

The Jew-Gentile divide is central to Paul. God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations is at the crux of Paul’s theology. God’s honor is at stake. Will he keep his promises? If Paul’s Jewish opponents are correct to say that people must become Jews as a prerequisite to becoming God’s people, then God cannot keep his promise from Genesis 12:3, which Paul explicitly calls “the gospel” in Galatians 3:8.

What’s more, reading Romans with an honor-shame lens helps us see more subtle dynamics at play. For instance, when Paul recounts Israel’s story and her presumption of divine favor, he makes a subtle yet superb argument against the mindset held by certain readers. Many Romans saw themselves as “Greek,” which implied that they were full of wisdom and the cultural envy of the world. They looked down on non-Greeks, who were derided as “barbarians.” However, it is this “backward” group of people in Spain to whom Paul professes a desire to preach the gospel (Rom. 15:24). He wants assistance from the Roman church but worries that the cultural pride of its members might discourage them from supporting his mission. So Paul recasts the Romans in the role of ancient Jews and the barbarians in the place of Gentiles.

Can you point to particular passages in Romans that an honor-shame lens helps us better interpret?

In Romans 9–11, Paul draws from multiple Old Testament passages that are heavily shaped by honor and shame. Many people are familiar with Romans 10:13, which quotes Joel 2:32: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But ask yourself, “Saved from what?” If you look closer at Joel 2, the prophet answers the question two times, saying, “never again will my people be shamed” (v. 26–27).

Also, Romans 9:33 and 10:11 are especially interesting. In a span of 12 verses, Paul twice draws from the same passage, Isaiah 28:16. In Romans 9, he renders it like this: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Paul’s letters weave together logically tight arguments. He tends to be rather economical with his words. It raises the question: Why does Paul repeat himself? Why does the language of “put to shame” appear in the context of so many passages he quotes in Romans? When we explore these observations, we find that honor and shame link several critical themes within Romans.

In recent decades, New Testament scholars have debated the purpose and theology of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Some align with the “New Perspective” on Paul, which emphasizes the corporate dimensions of salvation, while others prefer an older understanding that stresses individual guilt and atonement. How does your interpretation relate to these conversations?

I agree with several scholars who argue that both “perspectives” are right but in different ways. It’s not necessary for us to pick one over the other.

I believe Romans has a strong collectivist bent. Group identity is a fundamental theme throughout the letter. This point is consistent with the so-called “New Perspective.” However, there is much to affirm with respect to the “Old” or “Traditional” perspective. Paul’s message very much concerns individual salvation. While Romans certainly deals with the matter of church unity, that concern does not set aside questions about what it means to be justified through faith in Christ.

Reading Romans with an Eastern lens helps bring the two perspectives into balance. The two views complement one another, akin to a “yin-yang” relationship. Paul rebuts the notion that salvation is limited to a particular socio-ethnic identity. With the coming of Christ, belonging to one particular nation, like Israel, does not confer saving benefits that are denied to outsiders. Wedding the two “perspectives” in this way yields many other helpful insights.

People sometimes observe how honor and shame are becoming more prevalent in American culture, particularly among millennials. How might Western believers benefit from an Eastern perspective on Romans?

All cultures are infused with honor-shame dynamics, not merely East Asian cultures. However, it’s sometimes hard to see the cultural subtleties of our own context. By intentionally taking on an “Eastern” perspective, we become more attuned to similar aspects of honor-shame within an American setting.

Within an American context, several applications come to mind. For instance, we can express the meaning of faith in ways that reflect the ideas in Romans. We have faith in the One whom we want to honor and whose praise we seek. To have faith in Christ entails pursuing his glory and praise. Furthermore, the gospel transforms our perspective about what is worthy of praise or shame. Like Christ, we seek God’s glory in ways that redefine social honor or status.

Also, reading Romans from an Eastern perspective alerts us to the central importance of the church, our fundamental group identity as followers of Christ. In fact, we regain a long-forgotten truth among Christians, that salvation entails a change in collective identity. The gospel transforms how we distinguish insiders and outsiders. What’s more, if we really want to love others, we need a proper sense of shame and must grasp the importance of honoring others, as Paul explains throughout Romans.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september/reading-romans-eastern-eyes-jackson-w.html

5 Truths about God’s Design for Sex in Marriage

by Bonny

Living in an over-sexualized culture, we hear messages about sex, wrong messages.   These messages become more a part of us than God’s truth because we hear them repetitively and churches are scared to address sexuality.

For too long, I believed the world’s message about sex.   That it’s a superficial, feel-good avenue to self-satisfaction.   Wrong, partly.   God did design sex to feel good!

But, there is more than that.   He designed it for profound spiritual, physical, and emotional connection.   It is just a shadow of things to come.

God’s design of sex is too amazing to keep silent about.

Here are five truths about God’s design of sex in marriage.

God designed sex to be bonding.

Not only spiritually bonding, but emotionally and physically.   When the two become one flesh, biochemicals are released in our bodies like oxytocin and dopamine.   Oxytocin, especially, is a bonding chemical.   When I embraced this truth and started engaging in the marriage bed more, the tone of our marriage completely changed.

“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh,” Genesis 2:24 (NIV).

God designed sex for both husband and wife to experience pleasure.

It’s an equal opportunity activity.   Why else would there be a clitoris?   It’s only function is for pleasure.   The Song of Solomon is full of beautiful poetic language about the pleasures of physical love for both spouses.

If one spouse struggles with the ultimate moment, there are Christian resources available to help the couple understand how to achieve mutual enjoyment.

“The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my beloved,” Song of Solomon 7:13 (NIV).

God designed sex so that we would know yearning.

Before you were married, you yearned for your fianc.   Not only did you crave your fiance’s touch, you craved his/her presence and knowing him/her better.  Even after years of marriage, it is good to remember this yearning.  It mirrors how God desires us to yearn for him.   I believe this is one reason he frequently uses the marriage as a symbol of his relationship with us throughout the Bible.

“Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” James 4:5 (NIV).

God designed the marriage bed to be a place to show the fruit of the Spirit.

Peace, patience, love, joy, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control are the foundation of all Christian life, especially the marriage bed.   All conflict surrounding the marriage bed can be managed through employing these key traits.

My own marriage endured a long season of mismatched sex drives.   It was through these qualities and some wise communication tools that we overcame our conflict.

God designed sex as a powerful mystery.

Biblical stories of sex often confused me when I was young.   There was some nasty stuff in the old testament, the rape of Dinah, Lot and his daughters, the men of Gibeah  clammering for the male visitor, Leviticus 20.   And yet, there is the beautiful Song of Solomon.   The New Testament seemed to prefer celibacy, to be honest.   As a teenager, I couldn’t understand why I liked thinking about sex if it was disgraceful and violent.

But, as an adult, I realized the stories were teaching me that sexual intimacy is powerful and mysterious.   It’s OK not to have it all figured out, as long as you respect the power it holds to do good when it is aligned with God’s perfect design.

“For my thoughts  are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the  Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways  and my thoughts than your thoughts,” Isaiah 55:8-9.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let the world’s message of cheap sex destroy the meaningful sex in your marriage.   Sex may only be a small portion of the whole of your marriage.   However, sex matters.   It especially matters if one spouse is more interested than the other.   When we ignore its power and importance in marriage, the relationship suffers.

Now, granted chronic health issues can affect sexual function and that’s a more complicated story.

https://godinterest.com/2018/03/29/5-truths-about-gods-design-for-sex-in-marriage/

VIDEO 5 Things Pastors Need to Stop Doing Immediately

Shane Idleman
Contributor to ChristianHeadlines.com Sept 10, 2019

5 Things Pastors Need to Stop Doing Immediately

Pastors, we are not just cheerleaders, we are game-changers. We are called to stir and to convict so that change takes place. Granted, there are many wonderful pastors and churches—I appreciate their ministry, but, as a whole, the church has drifted off course. They have lost the compass of truth – many are more concerned about wine tasting and craft beers than truly seeking the heart of God.  

The pulpit regulates the spiritual condition of God’s people which affects the nation. A lukewarm, sex-saturated culture (and church) simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew.

Pastors and Christian leaders alike must take responsibility for the spiritual health of today’s church, and the nation. We don’t need more marketing plans, demographic studies, or giving campaigns; we need men filled with the Spirit of God.

This is not a letter of rebuke (I’m in no position to do that) – it’s a tear-stained plea that we once again seek the heart of God. Here are five issues we need to overcome:

1. Stop watering down the gospel. The truth is often watered-down in the hope of not offending members and building a large audience. Judgment is never mentioned and repentance is rarely sought. We want to build a church rather than break a heart; be politically correct rather than biblically correct; coddle and comfort rather than stir and convict. The power of the gospel is found in the truth about the gospel – the edited version does not change lives.

2. Stop focusing only on encouragement. We all need encouragement, that’s a given, but most people feel beaten down because they’re not hearing more about repentance – “repent and experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (cf. Acts 3:19). To truly help people, we must preach the difficult truths as well as the joyful ones; preach the cross and the new life; preach hell and preach heaven; preach damnation and preach salvation; preach sin and preach grace; preach wrath and preach love; preach judgment and preach mercy; preach obedience and preach forgiveness; preach that God “is love,” but don’t forget that God is just. It is the love of God that compels us to share all of His truth.

3. Stop getting your message from pop-psychology or the latest fad. All of us must return to the prayer closet where brokenness, humility, and full surrender take place. God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. Without prayer, “the church becomes a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching encourage sin, not holiness…preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death, and not life” (E.M. Bounds). “Without the heartbeat of prayer, the body of Christ will resemble a corpse. The church is dying on her feet because she is not living on her knees” (Al Whittinghill).

4. Stop trying to be like the world. If a pastor fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher” (E.M. Bounds). Who he is all week is who he will be when he steps to the pulpit. We are called to the separated life guided by the Holy Spirit not Hollywood.

When God brings change, separation and prayer have been the catalyst. The dry, dead lethargic condition of the church simply reflects our lack of being filled with the Spirit. While 5-minute devotionals and prayers are good, they aren’t going to cut it in these dire times. We need powerful times of prayer, devotion, and worship. Again, God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. It takes broken men to break men. Unplug the tv, turn off Facebook, and get back into the Word, prayer, and worship.

5. Stop asking, “Will this topic offend my audience?” and start asking, “Will my silence offend God?”A paraphrase that is often attributed to Alexis De Tocqueville—a Frenchman who authored Democracy in America in the early 1800s, helps to better understand this point: “I looked throughout America to find where her greatness originated. I looked for it in her harbors and on her shorelines, in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and in her gold mines and vast world commerce, but it was not there…It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Is your pulpit aflame with righteousness – it all begins here.

More at www.ShaneIdleman.com.

Watch, I Remember When the Church Prayed

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/4 Maksym

Video courtesy: Shane Idleman

https://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/things-pastors-need-to-stop-doing-immediately.html

Alabama curbs ‘state meddling’ in marriage

Ceremony, officiant no longer required under new law

WND Staff August 31, 2019

The ripples from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision creating same-sex marriage – a ruling the chief justice said was unrelated to the Constitution – continue to be felt.

One of the biggest impacts has been the prosecution of Christian florists, photographers and cake bakers who decline to promote same-sex marriage because of their religious beliefs.

Alabama lawmakers apparently have had enough.

A law went into effect Friday that eliminates the state’s role in approving marriages, making it largely a record-keeper.

AL.com reported the law makes obtaining a marriage license as simple as filling out a state form and returning it.

No ceremony or signature by an officiant, such as a minister or judge, is required. Applicants simply put their names on the form, have it notarized and return it.

At the Tenth Amendment Center blog, Mike Maharrey said that while the change in the law “may seem like semantics, it is quite significant.”

“It ends the requirement to get state permission before getting married. The state will now record signed contracts between consenting individuals. In effect, it removes the state from the approval process and relegates it to a mere record-keeper,” he said.

He pointed out the law will maintain a few state requirements governing marriage.

“Minors between the ages of 16 and 18 still must obtain parental permission before applying to record a marriage, the state will not record a marriage if either party was already married, and the parties cannot be related by blood or adoption as already stipulated in state law.”

But civil or religious ceremonies will no longer be required.

Maharrey said the law is “a step toward returning to the traditional Western custom in which the state had little to no involvement in marriage, even though it was a legal contract as well as a religious institution.”

“Marriage in medieval Europe technically fell under the legal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, with priests officiating weddings at the door of the community church,” he noted. “However, it was ultimately a private arrangement that did not require a third party in order to be considered legitimate.”

He noted the state’s role in defining and regulating marriage “has become a contentious issue and places a burden on government officials torn between the legal requirements of their jobs and their personal religious convictions.”

“By limiting the state’s role in marriage, the legislation will allow Alabamans to structure their personal relationships as they see fit without interference or approval from the government.”

He said that that removing “state meddling in marriage will render void the edicts of federal judges that have overturned state laws defining the institution.”

“The founding generation never envisioned unelected judges issuing ex-cathedra pronouncements regarding the definition of social institutions, and the Constitution delegates the federal judiciary no authority to do so.”

Original here

A force more powerful than a hurricane

Chuck Norris urges readers to be ‘God with skin on’

September 1, 2019

(Post-publishing note from the Norrises: Last night after I already completed this column,”A force more powerful than a hurricane,” Gena and I heard about another barbaric shooting in West Texas that took the life of seven precious souls as well as injuring 22 others. What a tragedy! Our hearts are broken and our prayers go out to our fellow Texans and the victims, families and friends. The heart of this column even addresses – maybe providentially – the best weapon to eliminate such evil from our planet, too.)

The whole country and news media is rightly on edge watching where Hurricane Dorian will hit and with what force. We can debate all day long the disastrous effects of a Category 3, 4 or 5 with its 100+mph winds, but if it’s our home and town that Mother Nature was bearing down on, it’s all bad news. And experts are saying that Hurricane Dorian could be more devastating than Andrew in 1992.

Many cities and whole islands have already been hit. Just few days ago, experts were estimating minimal damage from Dorian’s wake. On Friday, the stakes increased as weather services estimated “the total damage and economic loss caused by Hurricane Dorian will be $18-20 billion.” If the storm moves even slower than current expectations, that estimate could be exceeded.

AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers explained the $18-20 billion cost this way: “The estimate includes damage to homes and businesses, their contents and cars, as well as job and wage losses, infrastructure damage, costs to the Labor Day travel and tourism industry and [even] Disney World, as well as auxiliary business losses. Citrus crop and vegetable damages are likely to occur, as well as unexpected impacts such as possible tornadoes.”

And who can truly assess or put a value on the loss of life and limb in addition to the material and consumer loss by the exodus of myriad visitors and tourists from the coastal areas of Florida, Georgia, and South and North Carolina that will have grave consequences far beyond Labor Day?

My wife, Gena, and I live in Texas, and we’ve seen first-hand the devastating effects of hurricanes like Irma, Harvey and Katrina. What is often overlooked is the threat of water contamination, especially with the added danger of storm-surge flooding That is why we were honored to donate water to victims of Harvey from our new C-Force Water Bottling Co.

Anyone who has ever been through a natural disaster – or had a loved one or friend who has – you know there’s nothing easy about suffering through it or recovering from it. Depression can become one of your greatest foes. People even turn on God and blame Him. They ask, “Where was God when tragedy hit my home?”

I’m not a theologian, but I like the way our pastor said it: “No amount of theology or rational reasons can heal a broken heart. What we need to do in times of tragedy is be there for one another – to be the hands, feet and heart of God for others. We need to be God with skin on.”

Where’s God when a hurricane or tragedy hits home? He’s inside of us, wanting to break out in love, mercy and generosity to help. As we debate topics like, “Where’s God in the storm?” He’s just wondering how we’re going to love our neighbors, even when they’re in Florida or beyond.

If you’re at a distance, please donate to relief agencies like Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Purse or Salvation Army, which will no doubt both have boots on the ground in Florida. If you’re able to travel, consider volunteering your time in helping with one of these groups.

If you’re local or know people in the hurricane zone – especially the elderly and handicapped, check on them that they have all the essentials. Keep it simple. Keep it practical.

FEMA actually gives a great emergency list for hurricane preparedness:

At a minimum, you should have these basic supplies:

 

  • Water: one gallon per person, per day (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)

  • Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (three -day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)

  • Flashlight

  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)

  • Extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Medications (seven-day supply) and medical items

  • Multi-purpose tool, like a Swiss Army knife

  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items

  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)

  • Cell phone with charger

  • Family and emergency contact information

  • Extra cash (ATMs might be inoperable)

  • Extra fuel for generator and car

 

Depending on your family’s requirements, you may need to include: medical-care items, baby supplies, pet supplies and other things, such as extra car and house keys.

Additional supplies might include towels, plastic sheeting, duct tape, scissors and work gloves.

Resources that offer additional information on putting together emergency kits are online here and here.

If your life is safe, healthy and blessed, thank God for it. But remember, next time tragedy might be knocking on your door, and what you’ll need most is a loving hand to help (“God with skin on”). So it is that we should be the helping hands to others in their times of crises. There’s no greater unifier of people than being there for them in their difficulties.

Mother Teresa was right again: “Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same – with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”

Whether we’re facing the torrents of nature or the evils of a human heart in another brutal shooting, the Good Book says it well: “Perfect love cast out all fear.”

Love is a force more powerful than even a hurricane.

Original here


Hurricane Dorian Public Advisory

https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCPAT5+shtml/020257.shtml

Hurricane Dorian 11:00pm Update – Expanded Warnings and Watches on FL East Coast, A Few Miles Can Make a Big Difference…


 

We Love and Loathe God

If we can’t admit that, we won’t make much headway.
MARK GALLI| JULY 24, 2019

We Love and Loathe God

With this essay, I will stop introducing chapters of the book that will come out in the spring, When Did We Forget God? (Tyndale). The essays I’ve published here have been mostly critical in nature—it’s my inner prophet coming to the surface. Or maybe just my inner Scrooge. I have a couple more chapters analyzing the horizontal temptation in how we read the Bible and the small-groups movement, and the imaginative reader can probably guess what I might say in such chapters. Let’s just say the temptation to make our faith about ourselves and our feelings is with us always, even to the end of this moral, therapeutic, deist age.

But it would be irresponsible to not at least point some way forward, and the third part of the book attempts to do just that. But now that I’ve finished it, I realize I need to do a lot more reading and thinking about desire, and especially desire for God. So the third part is really just a few forays into a very complex topic.

This column will continue, but it will be more on an occasional basis. As I’ve been preparing these essays for online, I’ve been taking notes on topics that I have not addressed in the book but that might make for good reflections here. But I don’t think I’m smart enough to have something worth reading each and every week, so from this point on, this series will appear as the Lord inspires, or as hubris makes me think he’s doing so.

For now, here is a chapter from the third part of the book.

The Beginning of Desire

The writer of Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear he refers to is a healthy reverence and awe. But there is another type of fear we have to wrestle with in our relationship with God. In terms of that fear, I’d put it like this: The fear of God is the beginning of longing for him.

I ended the last chapter noting that we do,in fact, long to know and love God at some deep level. We do desire God. In spite of all the ways we have forgotten him, that is, marginalized God in our flurry of horizontal activity, we still want God. This appears to contradict what I’ve been arguing. Not really.

If I were to turn now and say all we have to do is make up our minds to start desiring God, I will have moved from hyperbole to fiction.

I have drawn a stark contrast between the vertical and horizontal dimensions of faith to bring some clarity and urgency to the problem. Such stark contrast is hyperbole, using language in a dramatic way to drive home a point. But if I were to turn now and say all we have to do is make up our minds to start desiring God, I will have moved from hyperbole to fiction. Because it’s not that simple.

Deep down we desire God still, yes, despite all the focus on the horizontal. And yet the reason for the horizontal focus is not just that we have forgotten God—as if we just got distracted, like going to the store to buy milk, then filling the shopping cart but going home without what we came for. No, we have forgotten God because we deliberately try to erase him from our memory. That’s because sometimes God is like a bad dream that leaves us confused and anxious.

It is crucial that we recognize this dimension of our relationship with God. If God doesn’t at times leave us confused and anxious, we have not yet met the living God.

Just ask Abraham, who could not for his life figure out how God was going to produce a great nation from his aged loins.

Ask Moses, whose whole purpose in life was to lead the people into the Promised Land, only to be denied entry himself.

Ask David, who in many a psalm complained that the Lord did not hear him.

Ask Jeremiah, who was furious with God for prodding him to preach.

Ask Jesus, who felt as if God had forsaken him on the cross.

Every believer sooner or later knows it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of this God. Which is why any believer worth his or her salt is deeply ambivalent about God. Yes, we yearn to be ruled by Unfailing Wisdom—and yet we resent having to submit to anyone or anything. We crave intimacy with Pure Benevolence—but we fear the loss of independence. We resent the one we long for, and we are afraid of the One we desire. In short, we love God and we hate God.

One reason we resent God and just as soon forget about him is that he refuses to come to us in the way we think we need him to come to us.

We can make no progress in the spiritual life until we acknowledge this. If we think we really do love God simply, and all we need is a gentle reminder to put him back on the throne of our lives, we’re kidding ourselves. We’re living a fantasy faith. That is simply not the sordid and splendid reality of the human heart.

One large reason we resent God and just as soon forget about him is that he refuses to come to us in the way we think we need him to come to us. We reason like this: God is magnificent and wondrous, who knows no limits; thus he will come to us in unmistakable splendor. Yet our prayers waft into the silent beyond. Worship feels like a mud puddle of words. We ask for healing and we end up paying medical bills. We long for love and file for divorce.

Where is the God of miracle and wonder when we need him? He does not seem very dependable. And rather than look to him and be disappointed time and again, we decide to forget the vertical and focus on the horizontal. We’re sensible enough not to abandon Christian faith because in spite of our confusion we still believe it the way to eternal life. Just don’t ask us to take seriously the presence of God.

Maybe the glorious God shows up other people’s lives. Maybe back in the Bible days. Maybe once in our life a long, long time ago. But not today, not here, not in the foreseeable future.

The God of miracle and wonder, of course, is in large part a figment of our imagination. It’s the way we want God to be. It’s not the way he is day to day, eternity to eternity.

Oh yes, there are miracles and wonders in the Bible. To be sure, some have experienced the power and the glory of God today. No question about it. But these are not nearly as obvious as we sometimes think. Remember that many saw and heard the resurrected Lord right before their very eyes and ears, and yet they still doubted (Matt. 28:17).

We are wiser to think of miracle and wonder as God’s defibrillator. We are sometimes so dead to God we need an electric shock to the heart to wake us up. But after that, things return to normal, and God returns to his normal mode of address. Man does not live by divine defibrillator alone, for a life of miracle and wonder would kill us. Instead, God comes to us as silently and subtly as the steady beating of our hearts.

If the first step in desiring God is to recognize how much we resent his presence, the second step is to accept how, in fact, he has chosen to be with us. We have to know what it is we desire. If we desire miracles, we will never find God. If we desire God, we must give up miracles and look for him in the mundane.

In the human and inadequate words of the preacher.

In the confusing language and idioms of the Bible.

In the bread and wine of Communion.

In the water of baptism.

In the gathering or two or three come together for prayer.

In the everyday experience of mystery, of not knowing, of wonder, of the perplexing—of which life is chock full.

If we look for God in any place but the mundane, we will not find him, because it is there that he comes and dwells among us, full of grace and truth.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/we-love-and-loathe-god.html