Politics or God — Whom do we trust?

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

A guest post by James Kushiner of Touchstone Magazine

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish
that which I please, and it shall prosper
in the thing whereto I sent it.

The future is the only thing in man’s field of vision that appears enticingly within his power to shape. So the present is dominated by plans for and promises about “the future.”

This is all grist for the rhetoric that will dominate media in another election year in the U.S. (where it officially began this past Monday) as well as in other countries. Candidates talk about what they will do in the future to change things for the better. The only problem is they can rarely deliver on their promises.

This does not stop the promises and predictions. Some of the predictions are also of what will happen if one’s political opponent is elected instead. Sometimes a candidate really believes he will be able to stop crime and lower taxes. At other times, a candidate will just say what he thinks he needs to say to get elected, and then, once in power, do what he wants, not keeping to his previous script.

In other words, “Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men in whom there is no salvation.” Even the best, honest, and wisest candidate cannot control the future. And any president or prime minister may find himself (and his country) in circumstances not previously envisioned or prepared for (e.g., George W. Bush on 9/11 or Benjamin Netanyahu on Oct. 7). We cannot announce the future—unless we are a prophet.

Our grasp of the future is illusory, unless we base it on the Word of God. By that I mean recognizing not only that God alone has the final say, but that he has also shown himself to be clear about what will happen in the future, unlike the sons of men and unlike their adversary, the devil, who lies about the future to deceive us.

The adversary told Eve “you will surely not die” if the forbidden fruit was eaten, and “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” A proposal was made with an assurance. Well, Man does, sort of, know good and evil in that he experiences them, but surely does not know what to make of evil or how to explain it to our satisfaction.

God, on the other hand, from Genesis on, clearly announced to man what he will do and what the consequences will be for man for the deeds man does. To Adam and Eve, he declared, “In the day the you eat of [the tree of knowledge] you shall surely die.”

Prior to the Fall, God needed to make no promise to mankind; only directives: “Be fruitful and multiply…I have given you every green plan for food.” It was all “very good.”

But after the disobedience, God began weaving a lifeline for man, who had severed himself from God like an astronaut drifting off into deep and deadly space. God began to speak of what he would do in the future; he made promises, in the form of covenants. “I will put enmity between you and the woman…her offspring…shall bruise your head.”

He made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; promised a scepter to Judah; promised deliverance from Egypt to Moses, and a ruler of the line of David to redeem and save us. In all cases, God is able to call the shot, make it happen, and retrieve mankind from the jaws of death.

We have a choice: to place full confidence in God or mammon; in the Lord or the rulers of the earth. God has announced that the end of men’s delusions will come and none of their schemes will abide, while the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of Christ.

Modern man denigrates all this as “pie-in-the-sky” religion. Perhaps he has it backwards: politics is pie-in-the-sky optimism. God delivers. He has not hidden his purposes. He warned Israel that they would suffer in the Land if they did not keep the commandments. That they would be exiled. The Lord said not one stone of the Temple would remain on another and all would be swept away. He said, and we confess, that he will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, that his kingdom shall have no end. That is our anchor.

Who are you going to believe? Trust? Jesus said he would build his church. He did that. It struggles when it is faithless and sins (as warned), and shines when faithful to the Word and commandments of God. No other ruler can claim such an influence on the world, and Christ is not done yet. He is coming to clean house and make a final end to the devil and his works.

That’s the only right side of history to be on.


James Kushiner is Director of Publications for Touchstone Magazine — A Journal of Mere Christianity.

This article was first published in First Things’ e-mail newsletter for subscribers, on Jan. 20, 2024.

Copyright C 2024 by James Kushiner and Fellowship of St. James. Used by permission.

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Christian Ministry vs Christian Church

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags ,

In conversation with a friend who leads a Christian ministry, she said that the ministry has now “shrunk to health”: Several employees had moved to another, similar service, and she found clear words for those others who were just followers without actually pulling their weight, leading to a further exodus. Now she has a small team of people who are all pulling together.

In many ways, a church and a Christian ministry are very similar, not only because they both represent Christian values and pursue Christian goals: they are a group of Christians; now and then some migrate to the “competition”; people engage at different levels and some can actually be described as mere hangers-on.

However, it would be fatal to want to “shrink to health” a church:

A Christian ministry has, beyond the hopefully present sense of fellowship among the employees, a clearly defined task that needs to be fulfilled. For this, it is important that all employees actually pull their weight, and a “shrinking to health” can actually be healthy.

In contrast, a church is primarily a community, a family, the body of Christ: a place, a fellowship where Christ’s love is lived and thereby made visible. In every family or human body, there are naturally stronger and weaker members – people who contribute more or less diligently, with more or less skill, to the life of the community, and it is part of the calling of the stronger to bear the weaker.

A few days ago, a brother told me he had been kicked out of a church because he is ill. He didn’t give me any details of his illness, I don’t really know the church, and therefore can’t determine what actually happened; but this brother does not feel carried but abandoned in this situation, he has not experienced God’s love but indifference and a lack of compassion.

“Performance thinking” has its place in a business, a company; in a family, it is out of place.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” says the Apostle Paul, and he also says that we should not judge or despise the weaker members but honour them.

When Christ talks about tearing out a member which offends or tempts us He was talking about our human bodies, and most of the time we do not literally tear off an arm or pluck out an eye; but, very importantly, he was not talking about His body, encouraging us to purge offensive members — as it is His body, only He gets to do this. On the contrary, He warns us not to try to distinguish wheat from weeds, and tells us to leave the weeds alone: He doesn’t say so, but seriously, He who changed water into the best wine can certainly change weeds into finest wheat.

“See how they love each other!” — that is what people outside the church should say about us, not “See how efficient they are.”

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Christmas Day

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

Collect for Christmas Day:

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take
our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin:
Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children
by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the same
Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

 

From the Book of Common Prayer (2019) of the Anglican Church in North America

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among
us; and as we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the
race that is set before us, let your bountiful grace and mercy
speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to
whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now
and for ever. Amen.

 

From the Book of Common Prayer (2019) of the Anglican Church in North America

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Third Sunday of Advent

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent:

Blessed Lord,
who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word
we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

 

From the Book of Common Prayer (2019) of the Anglican Church in North America

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Mary, Did You Know? (three takes)

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , , ,

There is a very well-known contemporary Christmas song, beloved of some but decried by others:

Mary, Did You Know?
by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene.

It’s been covered by many artists, including the acapella group Pentatonix.

Here are three takes on the song. First, a recording of the original version, sung by Mark Lowry and others from the Gaither Vocal Band; next, a parody of the song which asserts, in fairly strong language that of course Mary knew; and finally a cartoon version which has Mary mediating between a fan of the song and someone who is less enthusiastic.

As you listen to the parody and the cartoon, keep in mind that they do not aim to express profound theology but to entertain and make us think. One doesn’t have to agree with everything to find them entertaining.

First, the original song sung by the Gaither Vocal Band:

https://youtu.be/3fbgWa5pH3g

Then, a parody by Charissa the Cyberbard:

https://youtu.be/tqLz8nGdOn4

And finally a cartoon version by LutheranSatire:

https://youtu.be/oCiqTtjDhwc

My own view is that this is a catchy earworm of a song, and that of course Mary knew at least some of these things but probably not everything down to every detail. And keep in mind that while this song addresses Mary is not about her; rather it is about Jesus, and arguments about whether Mary needed to be saved rather miss the point.

Let me know in the Facebook comments what you think of both the song itself and the two satirical take-offs.

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Beware of Amazon (and other) Scams

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , ,

Because a friend just asked for advice:

Phone calls ostensibly from Amazon, asking to verify an order for an expensive gift card you supposedly ordered, are a scam, regardless of which confidential information the caller seems to have about you.

NEVER reveal information such a passwords credit card, CVV, or bank account numbers, and never send a copy of any form of ID. If the caller seemed to actually know your credit card nunber, immediately call your bank to block this card and ask them to replace it with a different card (and number), and also report this incident to the police. Also, book a support call-back from Amazon and report it to them.

NO REPUTABLE BANK OR ONLINE VENDOR will ever ask for such confidential information over the phone.

A few other popular scams:

• Calls ostensibly from Microsoft support. Microsoft makes NO unsolicited phone calls to customers.

• E-mails claiming to be from a friend or acquaintance who’s in major difficulties and immediately needs a large sum of money in cash.

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

West Bank Settler Violence Discredits and Harms Israel

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

Despite my support for Israel, and perhaps even because of it, I deplore the increase of Israeli settler violence against the local Palestinian population in the West Bank since the Hamas massacre.

While the desire to exact revenge for the atrocities committed against innocent men, women and children, even babies and old folks, on October 7 is humanly understandable, the folks in the West Bank were not the perpetrators, and vigilante-style violence unchecked by police and military is wrong and dangerous.

By tolerating it rather than cacking down on it Israel risks joining its enemies in the moral gutter, and also risks losing the support of its allies.

While Israel is currently a secular state, the settlers in the Westbank appeal to God’s promise of the Land to the people of Israel; they should not forget and ignore that the same God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Second Sunday of Advent

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent:

Blessed Lord,
who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word
we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

 

From the Book of Common Prayer (2019) of the Anglican Church in North America

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.

Erster Adventsonntag

Posted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , ,

Tagesgebet für den ersten Adventsonntag

Allmächtiger Gott,
verleihe uns die Gnade in diesem vergänglichen Leben, in das dein Sohn Jesus Christus in
großer Niedrigkeit uns zu besuchen kam,
dass wir die Werke der Finsternis ablegen
und die Waffen des Lichts anlegen,
damit wir am jüngsten Tag,
wenn er in seiner herrlichen Majestät wiederkommen wird, um die Lebenden und die Toten zu richten,
auch wir zum unsterblichen Leben auferstehen werden.
Durch ihn, der mit dir und dem Heiligen Geist
lebt und regiert, jetzt und allezeit und in Ewigkeit. Amen.

(Aus dem “Allgemeinen Gebetbuch” der Anglikanischen Kirche in Deutschland)

I do not permit comments on this blog. The reason for this and further information can be found on the page Privacy Policy.