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
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’
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
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
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
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)