The Part of Psalm 91 That No One Likes

A favourite psalm of many is Psalm 91.  Everyone likes this part:

Praise of a Song, by David. He that dwells in the help of the Highest, shall sojourn under the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say to the Lord, Thou art my helper and my refuge: my God; I will hope in him. For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunters, from every troublesome matter. He shall overshadow thee with his shoulders, and thou shalt trust under his wings: his truth shall cover thee with a shield. Thou shalt not be afraid of terror by night; nor of the arrow flying by day; nor of the evil thing that walks in darkness; nor of calamity, and the evil spirit at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. (Psalms 91:1-7 Brenton)

It’s a favorite these days, and was one in the wake of 9/11 (and in the military during the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.  But there’s a part that most people are unaware of, and that’s this post’s subject.

Let’s go down towards the end of the psalm:

For he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up on their hands, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Psalms 91:11-12 Brenton)

If this looks familiar, it should.  We like to quote this psalm, but during the temptation in the wilderness so did Satan:

Then the Devil took him to the Holy City, and, placing him on the parapet of the temple, said to him: “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for Scripture says- -‘He will give his angels commands about thee, And on their hands they will upbear thee, Lest ever thou shouldst strike thy foot against a stone.'” “Scripture also says,” answered Jesus, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'” (Matthew 4:5-7 TCNT)

As it turns out this was the beginning of the conflict between Christ and Satan while Our Lord was on this earth.

During the passion, crucifixion and death of Our Lord, it certainly looked like Jesus should have taken Satan up on his bargain.  It’s for sure that Satan thought so.  But Satan’s apparent victory evaporated when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and won for us eternal life.

God has promised to protect us.  Sometimes, however, the road to victory and ultimate protection has some “bumps” in it, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost.  If Our Lord had to go through what he did, what can we expect?

No, the more you share the sufferings of the Christ, the more may you rejoice, that, when the time comes for the manifestation of his Glory, you may rejoice and exult. (1 Peter 4:13 TCNT)

Church of God Chaplains Commission 9/11 Ministry Presentation

As we come up on another anniversary of September 11, we present this, prepared for the Church of God Chaplains Commission:

This is a video version of the PowerPoint presentation first shown at the Church of God Chaplains Commission Honors Dinner and Awards Ceremony, Marriott Ball Room, Indianapolis, Indiana, 10 August 2002. This was in conjunction with the Church of God General Assembly.

In putting this together under the direction of Dr. Robert Crick, the Commission’s Executive Director, it was not the primary intention to put together a patriotic presentation, but to set the scene of 9/11, to show the ministry response of the Church of God, and to honor those affiliated with the Commission for their part of that response.

The Commission certifies chaplains for a wide variety of institutions, including military, prison, hospital and other institutions, and these are featured in the presentation. In parts this is a difficult presentation to watch, even after nearly twenty years. Without the music of the incomparable Adrian Snell it would not have had the impact on its original audience that it did.

This video is dedicated to the memory of Dave Lorency, one of the honorees, who passed away this past spring.

Dr. Alexander Vazakas: Early Greek-American Pentecostal, Philosopher, Linguist

Alexander Vazakas (1873-1965) began life in the Ottoman Empire, where his family suffered persecution on account of their evangelical faith. In 1902 he immigrated to America, where he became a linguist and philosopher. During the last years of his life, he served as a professor at Evangel College (now Evangel University) in Springfield, Missouri, and became well-known for melding his sharp mind with a passion for working with young people…

Dr. Alexander Vazakas: Early Greek-American Pentecostal, Philosopher, Linguist

US Christians increasingly departing from core truths of Christian worldview, survey finds

A new survey shows that the majority of Americans no longer believe that Jesus is the path to salvation and instead believe that being a good person is sufficient.

As part of the ongoing release of the Arizona Christian University-based Cultural Research Center’s American Worldview Inventory, the latest findings — exploring perceptions of sin and salvation — from George Barna, the group’s director, show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that having some kind of faith is more important than the particular faith with which someone aligns…

US Christians increasingly departing from core truths of Christian worldview, survey finds

Jim Wallis Gets Cancelled for Good

Sure looks that way:

Jim Wallis, age 72, is a venerable Religious Left patriarch, having founded what became Sojourners magazine, originally called The Post-American, in 1971. Now Wallis has stepped down as Sojourners editor after he tried to delete an article accusing Roman Catholicism of rampant racism. His attempt prompted two other editors publicly to resign. The now restored article is called “The Catholic Church Has a Visible White Power Faction.”

This has been coming for some time; it’s really an event waiting for an excuse to happen.  I’m surprised it didn’t happen when he pulled Sojourner’s punches on the Believe Out Loud campaign.  At the time he gave the following explanation:

But these debates (over LGBT issues) have not been at the core of our calling, which is much more focused on matters of poverty, racial justice, stewardship of the creation, and the defence of life and peace. These have been our core mission concerns, and we try to unite diverse Christian constituencies around them, while encouraging deep dialogue on other matters which often divide. Essential to our mission is the calling together of broad groups of Christians, who might disagree on issues of sexuality, to still work together on how to reduce poverty, end wars, and mobilize around other issues of social justice.

What Wallis finally succumbed to was the American left’s obsession with leaving class differences out of their agenda.  Like their counterparts on the aspirational right, who won’t discuss it out of shame-honor considerations, the left will divide society on anything–race, sexual orientation or reorientation, gender, you name it–rather than socio-economic differentiation.  It’s the same with the critical race theory types, who have simply taken white supremacists’ governing assumptions and flipped them to their own use.  You can accuse the left of many things, but originality isn’t one of them.

Wallis has found out that it’s easy to get left behind, as I predicted he would on LGBT issues:

His stance on same sex civil marriage–that we need same sex civil unions–may sound good to him but will not cut it with his LGBT friends, or at least their leadership. One thing he will find out the hard way–as many North American Anglicans have–is that the message of the LGBT community to the nation and the church is the same as Ulysses Grant’s to Simon Bolivar Buckner: no terms except unconditional surrender. I expect that, sooner or later, he will sell the pass on the Christian sexual ethic, as his Main Line counterparts have done, but that is something he will have to deal with.

And it’s the same now with race…

For those on the left, a question: when will they cancel you?  As Leon Trotsky, Lin Biao or even Mao Dun found out, it’s not a matter of if but when.

Azusa Street Participant George Studd: Seven Characteristics of Early Pentecostals — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

This Week in AG History — August 11, 1945 By Ruthie Edgerly ObergOriginally published on AG News, 13 August 2020 When the Pentecostal movement began to take root at the Azusa Street Mission in 1906 under the leadership of William J. Seymour, there were other missions springing up in Los Angeles that joined with what […]

via Azusa Street Participant George Studd: Seven Characteristics of Early Pentecostals — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

There’s Hope Outside of the “Perfect Will of God”

One of those Evangelical concepts that hasn’t quite resonated with me is that of the “perfect will of God” for your life, that it is imperative to find that will and to live it.  If you don’t, you’ll miss it big time.  It’s not that God’s will is not perfect, it’s that the creation isn’t, and achieving perfection just doesn’t happen on this side of eternity.

Probably the strongest refutation the Scriptures have on the whole concept of the “perfect will of God” can be found when Israel, after years of judges raised up by the Lord, opted to have a king.  God’s opinion of that decision–which has political implications as well–can be found in my post What Happens When You Want a King.  It’s worth pointing out that we eventually got to the Davidic monarchy, then to Jesus Christ in the line of David, so in spite of the mistake of this desire God moved us towards perfection anyway.

Samuel reminded Israel of their folly later:

And now stand still, and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat-harvest to-day? I will call upon the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain; and know ye and see, that your wickedness is great which ye have wrought before the Lord, having asked for yourselves a king. And Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunders and rain in that day; and all the people feared greatly the Lord and Samuel.

And all the people said to Samuel, Pray for thy servants to the Lord thy God, and let us not die; for we have added to all our sins this iniquity, in asking for us a king. And Samuel said to the people, Fear not: ye have indeed wrought all this iniquity; only turn not from following the Lord, and serve the Lord with all your heart. And turn not aside after the gods that are nothing, who will do nothing, and will not deliver you, because they are nothing. For the Lord will not cast off his people for his great name’s sake, because the Lord graciously took you to himself for a people. And far be it from me to sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will serve the Lord, and shew you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth and with all your heart, for ye see what great things he has wrought with you. But if ye continue to do evil, then shall ye and your king be consumed. (1 Samuel 12:16-25 Brenton)

Samuel reminded Israel in a very visible way that wanting a king was a mistake.  But he also exhorts Israel, in spite of their mistake, to follow the way that their God had set before them, which was more important than whether they had a king or not.  Failure to do that would result in disaster.

In these days when everyone is looking for an “ideal” ruler, it’s worth remembering that there are more important things and people than our earthly rulers and government.

The Sad Case of COVID and the Westmore Church of God

The reality of COVID 19–instead of just a dreary recitation of statistics–came home when an outbreak took place at the Westmore Church of God in Cleveland, TN.  Things haven’t gotten any better, with the passing of two of its members.  All of this led to this message from its pastor, Kelvin Page:

 

We are members at another Church of God in Cleveland, North Cleveland.  Westmore was formed in the late 1960’s when several members of our own church left to start it. The two churches are in many ways sister churches; members from one visit the other for special occasions, and not infrequently the two trade members.  We’ve been on road trips with their senior group, including the Billy Graham museum outside of Charlotte, NC.

The sanctuary that Westmore used for many years was nice but the property was very vertical; not only was expanding it difficult but it was a nightmare for handicapped people.  They had planned for many years to move (with commendable financial planning to go with it;) however, their move coincided with the full impact of COVID in March.  After years of work their new facility was idle.

Like most of the larger churches in the area, Westmore went in with an ongoing online outreach, which proved handy when things shut down.  Going through drive-in services through April, at the end of May they resumed in-person services while formally opening their new facilities.  It should be noted that resumption of in-person services varied among the Churches of God in the area, and that includes how things like how social distancing was handled.

Westmore had several large events in June.  We went to a couple of these, wearing masks, practicing social distancing.  The last one was an event organised by the Church of God state office (diocese, if you please) on 22 June.  Westmore had made provision for a remote room where those of us who wanted to be especially careful could go and spread out away from the sanctuary proper.  We opted for that, and were led up there by one of the young people of the church.  We got up there to find ourselves in a large room with a big screen tv to watch the service, large couch in front of it…and by ourselves.  We had the best seats in the house.

They were best all around; our diligence paid off, we avoided COVID, but many of those in the sanctuary for this and other meetings didn’t fare so well.  The disease is no respecter of persons: it got Cleveland’s mayor, many of our church’s officials (the “Vatican” for the Church of God is in Cleveland) and of course many of the members.  The fallout is ongoing and it has affected many people near and dear to us.  Our own church has shut down again, going back purely online.

It’s worth stopping and asking the question Evangelicals hate more than any other: why?  It’s hard to get to the bottom of things in a country which is having a nervous breakdown, the second in my lifetime.  But at least for the benefit of my Anglican and Catholic readers, who have supported this blog with visits, I think some kind of explanation is necessary.  There are two things going on here.

The first is the sacramental nature of Pentecostal/Charismatic worship.  I don’t know of any other word to describe it.  Catholics grieve at being barred from the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but for Pentecostals worship in churches like Westmore is a sacramental event.  It’s the special place where God’s real presence comes and dwells.  It’s not an understatement that our ministers are obsessed with our worship, and I have long lost count of the sermons on how important worship is, how we need to come together to it, and do it properly.  “Properly” can be tricky with the music wars; advocates of two styles of music and worship are as adverse to each other as TLM and Novus Ordo types.  But coupled with the convivial nature of Pentecostal churches (certainly more so than their Anglican and Catholic counterparts) Kelvin Page’s appeal to get back together again had a powerful appeal.

The second is our “no fear” culture.  I’ve talked about the theodicy issue before and won’t belabour the point, but our culture has pushed for a long time that life should be perfect and without adversity.  The church has responded with things like prosperity teaching, we like to think of ourselves as invincible.  It’s the same mentality that drives people to crowd bars.  (Bars and churches are really both houses of worship, just to different deities.)  We’ve been conditioned to believe that it won’t happen to us.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that “it” can and will happen to us.  We’re at the beginning of a bumpy ride for our country, and for Christian churches in particular.  Beyond this present plague churches are going to have to prepare themselves for a different environment.  Many of our brothers and sisters overseas have experienced this for a long time (as this missionary to the Middle East attested) and now “it” has come for us.

If they can endure to the end, why can’t we?

 

J. Robert Ashcroft’s Remarkable Warning from 1957 about Secularism, Statism, and Paganism — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

This Week in AG History — July 14, 1957 By Darrin J. Rodgers Originally published on AG News, 16 July 2020 Sixty-three years ago, J. Robert Ashcroft delivered a remarkable address that encouraged the Assemblies of God to invest in Christian higher education. Pentecostals must train the next generation of “thinkers and doers,” he surmised, […]

via J. Robert Ashcroft’s Remarkable Warning from 1957 about Secularism, Statism, and Paganism — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Jonathan Merritt is Out of His League Fooling With an Anglican

Anne Carlson Kennedy’s post didn’t sit too well with him, and he responded as follows:

From top to bottom, this “essay” is a mess. The giant, unbroken paragraphs are a slog to read, and the grammar errors and made up words (what is “Tragical” exactly?) are impossible to ignore. But the worst part, perhaps, is that you couldn’t even get the premise right. I didn’t argue that “Evangelicals deserve to be cancelled.” I wrote a piece explaining how a movement sparked by evangelicals is coming for them. Which is why you weren’t able to actually quote me saying such a thing. If you’re going to use words in public–and particularly if those words are going to be weighted down with such bald self-righteousness–I would suggest that, at a minimum, you do not use those words to bear false witness against others. Unlike LGBTQ relationships, lying is one of the big 10. Do better.

But she is not to be outdone:

So, first of all, I am the Director of Better. If anyone can do better, it’s me. Rest your mind on that score. Second of all, I feel that if you have to go after the quality of my writing, it must be because I upset you in some way. Third, “tragical” is a word much loved by those who read girly books like Anne of Green Gables. Of course, it’s not the sort of term one would use in most online “spaces,” but I have carved out my own niche here, mostly full of people who don’t mind a little wordiness. It’s not for everyone, if it were, that would ruin it.

Anglican blogs and websites tend towards the extended monologue (verbose) with the vocabulary that follows.  That’s probably why (in addition to my background) I’ve gravitated towards the Anglican/Episcopal world for the last score or so, and why my Pentecostal and Evangelical friends find me mystifying and ignore me whenever they get the chance.  When going online for instruction, I promised my students that I would be as rambling and incomprehensible online as I am in person, and I plan to make good on that promise.

Merritt has picked the wrong person to characterise as a blindly triumphalistic evangelical.  She and her husband Matt have paid the culture war price in their own church, having gone up against a malicious opponent.  She’s also good (as the above quote will attest) at the Anglican Put-Down, responding to which (as any street evangelist who will level with you will attest) is nearly impossible.

I’ve recently pointed out the Anglican/Episcopal world’s elevated demographics in this country, and how it’s inappropriate for them to go down the CRT path.  In this case, however, it pays off: Merritt’s out of his league in taking on this reader of Anne of Green Gables.