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Thinking Biblically Commentary – Labor Day Weekend Special
Real Christianity and "Churchianity" in Light of a Hurricane

I think this is appropriate now…

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform (Isaiah 55:8-9)
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
Deep in His dark and hidden mines
With never failing skill
He fashions all His bright designs (Ephesians 1:11)
And works His Sovereign will (2 Chronicles 29:10-12, Daniel 4:34-35)

Oh fearful saints new courage take
The clouds that you now dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head (Romans 8:28)
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace (Philippians 1:27-29)
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face (Genesis 50:20)

God’s purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flower (1 Peter 1:6-9, 2 Cor. 4:17)
Blind unbelief is sure to err (Romans 9:16-18)
And scan His work in vain (1 Cor. 2:14)
God is His own interpreter (Romans 9:18)
And He will make it plain (Romans 9:19-23)

So God, we trust in you
Oh God, we trust in you (Proverbs 3:5-6)
When tears are great and comforts few (Romans 8:30-38)
When hope has faded from our view (Daniel 3:16-18)
We trust in you.

Listen to this song here. –

Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries taught this song (originally a poem by puritan William Cowper, but with an added chorus) to the Sunday morning congregation at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD on the first Sunday of 2005. Apparently, Bob was moved by the plight of the folks in southeast Asia and did up the music along with the added chorus and modernization of words. Praise God for Bob’s talent. I have listened to and worshipped privately with this song for quite a few months now since that time. It has also provided comfort to me in the times that I’ve been going through my own trials and tribulations (work associated and personal life).

See, this is real Christianity. Not the televangelism nonsense you see paraded in bookstores and in popular media. Not people rolling up and down the aisles, barking, laughing, and talking to the air, thinking they can speak something into existence. Not the ‘feel good about yourself’ fast-food Christianity that gets sold with a smiling face in front of crowds of thousands every weekend.

It’s not me centered. It doesn’t focus on what I will do, but moreso on what God has done. It’s not focused on me and how I am this and I am that and all I have to do is say a particular prescribed mantra and it all will come to pass. Instead it focuses on Who God is and how we are to trust Him, even though some of His ways seem to be the complete opposite of what we may consider ‘good’. It’s a real song – it reflects various aspects of the Christian life – joy, sadness, tragedy and triumph. It’s not a cotton candy Christian song – it doesn’t demand blessings, but instead focuses on afflictions and God’s providence in them.

It doesn’t say “We’ll meet up for a revival tent meeting and sing blessings down from heaven”, but instead realizes that both calamity and blessing equally come from the hand of God. Job acknowledged this when God allowed Satan to strike his whole family dead, afflict his body and more – “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20-21) and in all these things, Job did not sin with his lips (Job 1:22, 2:10). Joseph acknowledged this rightly in Genesis 50 when he told his brothers that it was not them who brought him to Egypt, but God.

Think of it.

His brothers beat him, sold him into slavery, he was wrongly accused and imprisoned for a few years and had his name and reputation besmirched. His physical being was tortured as a slave. He had nothing but the former memories of his multicolored coat and his father’s blessing upon him. But then he arose in power as an advisor to Pharoah to become second in command under Pharoah. And it was at this time that he, being warned by God in a dream, did what was necessary to preserve not only Egypt, but all the surrounding nations as well. And in both Genesis 45 and 50 when he reunites with his brothers, he reminds them that he holds no animosity toward them. Only a heart that acknowledged the Sovereign rule of God in all of his seemingly senseless calamities could forgive and realize the purpose for his being put through so much.

This is something sadly missing from most church pulpits today. It’s something missing from most bookstores today. While one author writes about ‘Your Best Life Now’ (the same author who can barely get a public proclamation of the gospel accurate) and another writes about your ‘Purpose Driven Life’, Biblical Christianity is miles away from all-upbeat and positive messages. While folks write about ‘releasing the money anointing’, ‘walking in your authority’ and other topics that give more power to humanity than we really have, the scriptures speak of the apostle to the Gentiles learning to be content in whatever situation he was placed in (Phil. 4:11-12).

You see, most of the songs we see sung in church on Sunday mornings (and I am purposely excluding most reformed churches here) doesn’t pass the reality test. Yes, a lot of what’s sung in church on Sundays can rile up your emotions, make you feel really good about being there, and give you an uplifted feeling so that you felt you’ve “done church” or “had church”. My African-American brethren know what I’m talking about.

But can “If you bind it on earth, I’ll bind it in heaven” pass the stake test ? Is it a song that you, if you were under persecution as the early church was, sing joyfully as Roman soldiers would be lighting the flames at your feet, your body being drenched in lamp oil ? Could it pass the test that many saints and sinners alike faced August 29-31, 2005 in Louisiana, Mississippi and other areas and you still sing it strongly and loudly as you see your home looking like little more than a pile of matchsticks with only a few discernable items being left ? As your loved one is swept from your hands by rushing waves of water, could you sing any of the popular gospel or contemporary worship songs with conviction of heart and clarity of mind ?

Think of the books you’ve spent time reading and the preachers you’ve listened to. Looking at the devastation in the gulf states, could you draw anything major of worth from the Christianity you’ve been exposed to on Sunday mornings, the various healing crusades and other ‘churchianity’ events ?

If you’re honest and really looked closely at it, some of you would probably answer no for the bulk of it. And if your answer is no, then you should be well aware that the ‘feel good’ Christianity you’ve been exposed to is really not Christianity at all, no matter how nice the people have been to you or how good and ‘empowered’ the messages made you feel.

If you’re consistent with a right view of the scriptures, you’d know it was blasphemous to attribute environmental calamities of this sort to Satan or think that these things were “somehow out of God’s control” or that “God was surprised by them and is just as sad as you are” as if He is wringing His hands in heaven, unable to act. No, the God of the scriptures is all-powerful and NO ONE (that includes you and your ‘confessions’) can stop His hand or question what He does (Daniel 4:34-35). So you’d have to come to the conclusion that it is the Lord who causes calamity (Isaiah 45:5-8) as well as blessing upon a city or a person.

Yes, it’s offensive to some of you. No one wants a God they can’t control. Or a God who acts differently than their nice sanitized view of a God who is never wrathful and who lets humans run around as they please. This is why many modern popular preachers are all up on the positive confession/word of faith movement. It sounds good and makes you feel important to think that your words create your reality. It also gives you a measure of the illusion of control. And a few misquoted Bible verses makes it all tie in together well. God becomes more of a coach or a buddy or a homeboy instead of the all-powerful El Shaddai who rules earth and sky and before Whom we should first bow in fear and reverence.

But it’s just that – an illusion.

Paul – a man with greater faith than probably all of you reading this (not just because of the revelations that God had given Him) – prayed repeatedly for his thorn in the flesh to be taken away (2 Cor. 13:8-10). God said no. That’s right – God said no. No positive confession here. No ‘speaking to those things which are not as though they were’. No ‘pray the answer’. God said no – and that settled the matter. His grace was sufficient and shown to be perfect in Paul’s weakness.

I bring all this up to remind folks of a great truth – the ‘Christianity’ you practice is only as good as the degree to which it’s true.

Simply believing something sincerely does NOT make it true, no matter how sincerely you believe it and how ‘real’ it feels to you. Folks have been sincerely wrong at various points in human history.

Practice a false faith, expect it to get washed away like the homes on the shore of Mobile, Alabama this past weekend. I use this illustration as a graphic example - your ‘Katrina’ is coming. It may not be a literal storm (although hurricane season isn’t over yet). And the strength and legitimateness of your faith will be tested.

I always cite an example from a friend of mine whose mother passed away back in 99. Her mother believed (as did she) that God would heal her. He ‘told her so’. So she forewent medical help…. And died. And while God did heal her by taking her out of this corruptible body with its’ pains, she (and everyone else) was expecting physical healing. They were brought up to believe‘by His stripes, we are healed, so all we have to do is claim our healing’.

Well, her momma claimed and claimed. So did she. They declined medical attention. Her mother died and the family was stunned. They declined an autopsy, so the exact cause of death was not even known. She was left disillusioned for a while, in and out of church and her faith in a shipwreck as a result of it.

Bad theology doesn’t work. It destroys hope, destroys lives and leaves folks in mental and spiritual disarray, untrusting and barely able to discern right from wrong because they now know they devoted their lives to a lie – a lie, that unfortunately, was made to look like the truth. So when the real truth comes along after a person has been a victim of bad theology, it’s not easy to trust and believe, much less live out. I’ll never forget reading about the story of the couple who took the body of their dead son to a Browsville, Florida healing crusade, thinking that the ‘profit’ could truly resurrect their child from the dead. And though stories of like this abound, folks continue to ignore the truth and feed the promulgators of a false gospel and bad theology like Benny Hinn, Ken Copeland, T.D. Jakes and others. People continue to sing the songs that reinforce the false theology (since most folks only read portions of their Bible now and only take it as seriously as they think it agrees with what they feel is right, instead of shaping what they think to fit what the scriptures teach). And when calamity strikes, they are left without a foundation.

Even the purveyors of these false gospels knows their theology is a sham. Fred K.C. Price’s wife was diagnosed in the mid-90’s with breast cancer. She received chemotherapy. That’s right – she gave in to ‘the lying symptoms of the enemy’ and received medical attention instead of ‘praying the answer’ or ‘confessing the cancer away’.

There’s a lesson here.

I can sing ‘God moves in a mysterious way’ in the midst of battering waves as well as in the quiet of my home on Sunday morning. It’s Biblical truth – all of it. God can stop the waves. Two years ago, Hurricane Isabel was a Category 5 storm out in the Atlantic Ocean and weakened to a Category 2 storm before making landfall in North Carolina. God had mercy. Forty years ago, hurricane Camille – designated as the worst hurricane to hit the US until Katrina this past weekend, slammed into the same area in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as a Category 5. And while it caused tremendous damage and loss of life and property, it left some areas untouched. God had mercy.

This time, He did not.

In the New Testament, He stepped out of a hull on a boat, said three words and a terrible storm suddenly STOPPED. On December 26, 2004, He did not stop a huge wave from hitting southeast Asia and other areas.

Earlier this hurricane season, Category 1 hurricane Irene was set to come ashore either in Maryland or near to it. God sent a high pressure front to push it back out to sea.

God had mercy. Three storms later with Katrina, God did not.

Do I trust Him less ? No. I am confident of the faith in which I live daily – and that faith is in the God of the Universe who became flesh and gave His life for me. He controls the land, the sea, the air, and every aspect of human history. It is He who declared the length of Sadaam’s rule. It is He who ordained that Clinton and George Bush would both serve two terms in office as president of the United States. Indeed, the apostle Paul made this same point in Acts 17 when he told the folks on Mars Hill “and He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (Acts 17:26).

So I do not fear death – I do fear being ‘caught’ with my work unfinished, so I seek to make the most of the time given to me by Him. Some of that, admittedly, may be my pride (God’s not done with me yet). But if He should call me while writing this commentary – either by gunman, storm, accident or natural causes, I will praise Him regardless. It’s not because I have talked myself into believing this, but because He has given me this incorruptible faith that I stand. It is not of myself. It is of Him – all of it.

And for this reason, I preach and teach on the Sovereignty of God. It is my honest hearts’ desire to see others come to repentance and belief in the Son of God as I have been granted. I know that true Biblical faith in Him brings salvation. I also know that true Biblical faith is the only sure ground to stand on in the midst of adversity.

No psychologizing from T. D. Jakes nor pep talks from Joel Osteen nor feel-good sermons that ignore the ‘sad parts’ of the Christian life will survive a hurricane, burning at the stake or standing up before soldiers with a gun to your head and being asked to curse Christ and live. Like fast food, it tastes good for the moment, but in the long term, it wreaks havoc on your body’s structure, does not provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs and does nothing to strengthen your body properly – in fact, it deposits things in your body which cause your body to break down faster. And when a situation arises where you need your strength, your body will fail you because you did not nourish it properly. And all of the ‘spiritual fat deposits’ in your ‘spiritual blood stream’ from imbibing fast-food Christianity that tastes good now, will reap a harvest of spiritual shipwreck when your Katrina/Tsunami/9-11 comes.

Let’s take this moment to truly reflect on WHO we believe in and why…. And if necessary, find a church that teaches the whole counsel of God and not just entertains us every Sunday.

Soli Deo Gloria. (to God alone be the glory)


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