Category Archives: In The News

Did Scientists Find Hell?

“Imagine if Earth were much, much closer to the Sun. So close that an entire year lasts only a few hours. So close that gravity has locked one hemisphere in permanent searing daylight and the other in endless darkness. So close that the oceans boil away, rocks begin to melt, and the clouds rain lava.”

This is how NASA describes 55 Cancri e, a planet fifty light-years away from us. In the coming weeks, the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to give scientists their first look at this fiery world.

However, you don’t have to turn to the skies to find a planet filled with hellish behavior.

There has been another mass shooting, this one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where at least four people were killed on a hospital campus. Several others were injured; the gunman apparently then took his own life. In other news, the man accused in the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, has been indicted on more than two dozen charges. And the victims in Uvalde are being remembered and honored as burials continue this week. I could go on.

But even in our fallen and broken world, there is a pathway to peace available to each of us today.

Why temptation is spiritual dopamine

In The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World, Andy Crouch explains addiction in a way I had not understood before. He cites Cambridge neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz, who reported that “drugs of addiction” such as cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine, and alcohol “generate, hijack, and amplify the dopamine reward signal.” However, Crouch notes that “the real power of these drugs goes beyond their ability to generate rewards.”

According to Crouch, Schultz and his collaborators discovered that “not only do these drugs unleash floods of rewarding dopamine, but they prevent us from learning that their rewards are fleeting. By interfering with ‘reward prediction,’ the most powerful hijackers of the dopamine pathway create the sensation, at a primal level of our brains, that their rewards are ever new and ever worth pursuing—even as our own self-awareness and reflection tell us they are damaging and degrading.”

Crouch warns that “everything from gambling to social media can grant us the same superpower sensation—and create the same learning-resistant illusion.”

Temptation works in the same way. Satan assures us that we can get away with whatever we are being tempted to do, that the benefits will outweigh the costs. Otherwise, we would not commit the sins we are being tempted to commit.

But Jesus warned us that Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). As I often warn, sin will always take us further than we wanted to go, keep us longer than we wanted to stay, and cost us more than we wanted to pay.

In a culture filled with conflict and confusion, what is the path to the peace our souls long to experience?

How to find “perfect peace”

The prophet Isaiah testified, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Keep translates a Hebrew word meaning to “watch, guard, protect.” Perfect peace translates shalom, which refers to “completeness, soundness, prosperity, being whole.” The mind refers to “forming a purpose through thought.” Stayed means to “support, lean on.” Trusts means to “be full of confidence.”

A literal translation of this assurance would therefore be: “You keep and protect in completeness and wholeness the person who forms his thoughts and purposes by depending on you, because he places his full confidence in you.”

Why should we trust God in this way? The text continues: “Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock” (v. 4). The prophet responded, “My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you” (v. 9a). For this reason: “For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (v. 9b).

However, if we seek this peace from any source but God, he cannot bless such idolatry: “If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD (v. 10). As we noted yesterday, God cannot encourage idolatry lest he participate in it and reward that which harms us.

By contrast, when we seek God, “O LORD, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (v. 12).

We may have committed such idolatry in the past, but it is not too late to repent: “O LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance” (v. 13). If we do not, judgment is inevitable: “Behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain” (v. 21).

“How can we be a blessing in this neighborhood?”

Let’s respond to this remarkable text in two ways.

One: Seek divine peace today.

Ask the Spirit to bring to mind any ways in which you are trusting someone or something other than the Lord for your peace. Then confess what comes to your thoughts, claim his forgiving grace (1 John 1:9), and make the intentional decision to rely on his peace and power.

Two: Extend the peace of Christ to others.

A church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asked its neighbors, “How can we be a blessing in this neighborhood?” Their response: “Help us close Rebels Bar,” a “nuisance bar” that had been used for prostitution, drug sales, and other criminal activity for decades. So the church bought the bar. Since that time, new businesses and restaurants have moved into the area. And the church has brought the peace of Christ into its community.

“Let that loving voice be my guide”

Let’s close with a prayer by Henri Nouwen that seeks the peace our Lord offers:

Dear God,

Speak gently in my silence.

When the loud outer noises of my surroundings

and the loud inner noises of my fears

keep pulling me away from you,

help me to trust that you are still there

even when I am unable to hear you.

Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying:

“Come to me, you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest

for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Let that loving voice be my guide.

Amen.

Do Christians Need Government?

Government was instituted by God to bring His laws to people and to carry out His will and purposes. In the Old Testament, government maintained the place of worship, provided judges to decide civil cases between the people, restrained and punished lawbreakers, and mobilized the nation for action against external enemies.

The first government was a theocracy, where God dealt directly with the people. When God was in charge of things, no other government was necessary.

He worked through the family, clan, or tribe. The father or patriarch acted as the agent of God for the rest of the family.

During the period of the judges the people became rebellious, and clear direction from God was lacking. Both religious and civil life became confused, and “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, Judges 21:25).

At the close of the period of the judges, God raised up Samuel, who was both a prophet and a judge. At that time, the formal religious life of the country was under the direction of the high priest. During Samuel’s administration, the people asked for a king, and God gave them a monarchy which rose to its height during the reign of David and his son Solomon (1 Samuel 8:4-5, 1 Samuel 19-20, 1 Kings 9:3-5, 1 Kings 10:23).

When the perfect government is established during the Millennium, Jesus Christ will combine in Himself the offices of prophet, priest, and king.

This will be a perfect theocracy, made possible because the perfect law of God will be universally accepted by all mankind, and “the earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Perfect government comes from God and is controlled by God.

Short of that, the next best government is a limited democracy in which the people acknowledge rights given by God but voluntarily grant government limited power to do those things the people cannot do individually. Contrast these forms of government with Communism, which maintains that the dictatorship of the proletariat is supreme and an essential evolution of history; that God does not exist; and that citizens have only those privileges granted by the state.

Local Clergy Speaks out on Uvalde School Shooting

I remember being 10. I had just discovered a passion for soccer and watched the entire World Cup for the first time alongside my father and my brother.

I embarked on my first mission trip with my church that year to the sierras of Chihuahua, Mexico, where I was fascinated by the idea of one day doing ministry full-time.

I remember being 18. I had graduated high school a semester earlier and had moved to Alabama for a few months before starting college in the fall. My family was no longer together, and my mother had to work all the time because she was now a single parent of two kids.

I knew I wanted to leave those difficult experiences behind and study college away from home. Today I can tell you that I did not know much more at 18 than I knew at 10.

As a journalist and minister who has found a home in Texas, I’ve reflected on these stages of my life as I’ve mourned the tragedy currently crushing the Latino community—an additional chapter to our often painful history. As we so dreadfully now know, on Tuesday, 19 children, ages 9, 10, and 11, were murdered by one who had reached 18 a little more than a week earlier.

The victims loved their moms, celebrated first Communions, and made honor roll. They were children who, just like me years ago, might have watched their first World Cup with their dads and brothers later this very year.

The person who murdered these children was a man barely on the other side of childhood—one who, as Brennan Manning writes, was “broken on the wheels of living.” We know only the surface of what Salvador Ramos’s life was like: a parent struggling with drug addiction, bullying that targeted his speech impediment, violence that intensified as he grew older.

As we grieve these outrageous deaths, we know that Christ was not indifferent to children. Matthew 18 and 19 reveal that Jesus, the very embodiment of God, loves and sees them.

These passages show that as we mature in Christ, we are expected not only to become more like children—as the disciples learned when they asked who would be the greatest in God’s kingdom—but also to protect and look after them.

While we struggle to seek solutions to an infuriatingly intractable problem, perhaps one area the church should take care to not neglect is the care and stewardship of the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society.

A little child shall lead them

Matthew 18:1–5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Our culture understands greatness not unlike the culture that Jesus was born into. Wealth. Power. Markers of status that people devote their entire lives to seeking. But Jesus has a different model for those who want to make it in his kingdom: children.

To make his point, Jesus beckons to a child and brings him or her into the circle of disciples. He wants them to consider the child’s smallness, fragility, dependence, humanity and to emulate it. In contrast to his own culture, Jesus’ words and actions tell us that children not only are people but are also the most important members of the eternal and holy kingdom of heaven.

But children are not a prop that Jesus wants to use as an object lesson. Our interactions with them are our interactions with God. Welcoming a child, Jesus says, is welcoming God. Shaping a culture that will hurt children, tear them to the ground, ignore their loneliness, and violate their vulnerability suggests something about how we worship the Lord.

Why is Abuse So Common in the Church?

This morning, I had a headline pop up on my phone:

“Bombshell 400-page report finds Southern Baptist leaders routinely silenced sexual abuse survivors”

I clicked on the link out of curiosity as to what this secular news agency had to say, knowing that there’s often a bias against Christianity. However, like most of you, I know there has been sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and all religious denominations.

How do I know? Because I’ve experienced it. Within my own marriage. To a Southern Baptist pastor. My experience is slightly different, but it is still abuse. He used scripture to manipulate me. He had an adulterous relationship (think about it–adultery IS a form of abuse).

But, let’s take it a step further. While the “other woman” made a conscious decision to have an affair with my then-husband, she could also be considered a victim of his abusive behavior. He took advantage of his position as a pastor to draw her in. She was enamored with his biblical knowledge, with his godliness, something she perceived her husband didn’t possess. How do I know? Because I read the emails and transcripts of their late-night chats. So much of it was her perception of who he was from his pulpit–not who he was behind closed doors. 

Why is abuse so rampant in the SBC? Why is abuse so rampant in the Church? While I am certain it is multi-factorial, I can share a few things that I have come to realize over the years.

1. We deal with fallible humans and not an infallible God.

I know many of us long to be like Jesus, but we simply are not. Our example was perfect in every way. He knew how to model grace and truth. He could read hearts and direct people. He could see the deceit in the hearts of men (Jeremiah 17:9) and direct them where He willed (Proverbs 21:1).

However, our earthly experiences are with sinful men, not our sinless Savior. Not one of us is without sin (Romans 3:23). And that includes the leaders who are supposed to be teaching us to be more like Christ Himself. They are sinners, and we can be certain that they will one day be judged more strictly (James 3:1). Even though we often put spiritual leaders on a pedestal, they are humans and sinners just like we are.

2. We are taught forgiveness and grace.

Our faith is one that emphasizes forgiveness and grace, which rightfully are key tenets of Christianity. We teach that women are to clothe themselves with gentleness, kindness, and patience (Colossians 3:11-13). These are good qualities, essential qualities.

The problem is that we fail to give any time to abuse and boundaries and toxicity. We fail to see that Jesus Himself wasn’t a doormat allowing others to walk on Him. When He faced the Pharisees, He recognized the toxicity in their hearts and called them out on it. His words were not kind and gentle but direct and truthful. He chose to put space between Himself and those who were toxic to Him and to His mission. 

We need to learn that boundaries and recognizing abusive, toxic behaviors are not contradictory to our faith. Instead, it can actually enhance our relationships with God.

3. Our love for God encourages us to always do the right thing.

We sincerely desire to walk in obedience to God, to bring glory and honor to Him. But sometimes, our desire to do right actually causes us to become entrapped in unhealthy situations. 

When my pastor-husband had an affair, I remember tearfully telling a friend my biggest concern was the damage that wehad inflicted on the name of Christ. The truth is that wehad not done anything to damage the name of Christ. Hehad done something to damage God’s name. But, I was connected to him. I was his wife. In my desire to do the right thing, I had forgiven and forgiven and forgiven again–and failed to stand up to my husband. I was so intent on staying in my marriage because it was the right thing that I failed to see how walking away could actually be God’s will.

So many of us are actually incredibly devoted to our faith, and we fear exposing our abusers will actually damage the name of Christ. It makes it so much harder to walk away.

4. Spiritual abuse includes twisting Scripture subtly to make it sound biblical.

Remember the serpent in Genesis? He didn’t come up with some outlandish claim to distract Eve. Instead, it was a subtle change to God’s words. “Did God really say…?” Genesis 3 

Abusive spiritual leaders often know scripture and are capable of subtly twisting it to make it seem sound and biblical. They have often already gained their victim’s trust through their charisma and the persona they portray. They usually have command of the scriptures. And, we rarely question or doubt their authority on the scripture. It makes it fairly easy for them to gently groom their victims and convince them their view of scripture is not fully correct.

Think about submission. How many times have we heard that a wife is to submit to her husband? The man who takes that scripture out of the greater context and uses it to control his wife is guilty of twisting scripture. The truly godly man will recognize that submission is a two-way street that must be tempered with all of the wonderful qualities of Christianity: forgiveness, grace, patience, and tender-hearted mercy. It’s not an opportunity for the man to exercise control but is instead an act of respect and putting others ahead of ourselves. 

Sadly, abuse in the SBC and the Church in general is real and damaging. It’s time we empower the faithful with the truth. The truth that people are sinners. The truth that our faith lends itself to missing toxic and abusive behaviors. The truth that we can get caught up in doing the right thing for God and failing to see how we are easily being led astray. 

We must learn that Jesus didn’t always offer grace. Sometimes He chose to walk away from those religious folks who were toxic and abusive.

Breaking Down Christ’s Ascension

For a long time, I never really understood the Ascension.

To me, the disciples’ question in Acts 1:6 seemed eminently reasonable. Why did Jesus have to go? Why not just usher in the fullness of the kingdom then and there, and start wrapping the whole thing up? Wouldn’t it be a great asset to our labors in missions and apologetics to have Jesus still around?

As it stands, the Ascension plays right into the skeptic’s darkest doubts about the gospel narrative. How convenient that the supposedly risen Messiah should vanish without showing himself to anyone other than his friends and family!

The Bible, however, stubbornly refuses to agree with my sensibilities. Far from treating the Ascension as a weird stage exit whose main function is to explain why Jesus isn’t around anymore, Scripture speaks of it as a necessary part of God’s plan. Not only is it necessary, but the disciples even refer to it as a primary proof of Jesus’ messianic identity.

Rather than trying to explain away his absence, they tout it with vigor. The Ascension stands on equal footing with the Crucifixion and Resurrection in the earliest declarations of the gospel (Acts 2:33–36; 3:18–21; 5:30–31).

Even Jesus connects the Ascension with his work of dying and rising again. When Mary Magdalene sees him in the garden after his resurrection, he’s not simply strolling about, enjoying the fact that everything has been accomplished. No, he’s a man on a mission, and there is still another: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (Jn. 20:17).

Yet in my experience within evangelical churches, I have seldom heard the Ascension preached with emphasis anywhere close to equal with that placed on the Cross or the empty tomb.

In trying to explain the Ascension, theologians are quick to point out the things Jesus does afterward: it is the gateway to his priestly work of intercession, a prerequisite for his sending of the Holy Spirit, and the commencement of his heavenly reign. That’s all true.

Still, I never quite understood why Jesus had to leave to do those things. Intercession, bestowing the Spirit, and even reigning—all these things could be realized in the earthly ministry of a vindicated, glorious Messiah. So why did he have to go?

Biblical theology offers us startlingly clear answers to that question, answers that enable us to see the Ascension in its proper context. The Ascension is not some strange vanishing act Jesus does at the end—like a magician finishing his show in a puff of smoke—but the capstone of everything he has done in his passion.

The Ascension is the triumphal act that crowns both the royal and priestly ministries of the Messiah: in which David’s heir ascends to reign, and the great high priest completes the presentation of the atoning sacrifice.

First, consider the royal angle. The Ascension appears to be an exact fulfillment of the prophetic vision of Daniel 7:13–14. In that vision, the Son of Man, surrounded with clouds, approaches the throne of the Ancient of Days and is given the dominion of an everlasting kingdom. Notice that the prophecy does not show the Messiah’s rule beginning with an earthly reign, but quite specifically with a heavenly one.

If Jesus had remained on earth and tried to claim his kingship, then he could not have been the Messiah—for the true Son of Man had been prophesied as ascending into the presence of God, there to be given his reign.

The Ascension is the triumphal coronation of the messianic king. Jesus has done what good kings in the ancient world were expected to do: he has saved his people from their enemies. He has defeated the powers of sin, Satan, and death, and now he makes his ascent to the throne—just as the Davidic kings of old made their ascent back to Jerusalem after a successful military campaign.

Having accomplished these kingly acts, Jesus approaches the Ancient of Days and is crowned with splendor and honor. And although we still await his return, along with the full and final manifestation of his reign, that reign has already begun.

Now that he is on the throne, seated at the right hand of the Father, the signs expected of the messianic age are being fulfilled before our eyes: the Spirit has been poured out and the nations have begun to turn their hearts to the worship of Israel’s God.

An even more compelling array of biblical images connects Jesus’ Ascension with the priestly work of the Messiah. Early Christians considered Jesus’ death on the cross to be a sacrifice of atonement (Rom. 3:25), an act whereby our sins are fully and finally forgiven.

However, coming from the context of Israel’s temple culture, it would have struck most Jewish believers as oddly incomplete to say that the Cross was all there was to Jesus’ ritual of sacrifice. As anyone in the ancient world knew, the penitent sinner needed a further step in the ritual of atonement: a sacrifice to be slain and a high priest to bear the sacrificial blood into the presence of God.

The clearest parallel is the annual ritual of the Day of Atonement, when the sacrifice for the people’s sin was killed on the great altar outside the temple doors. But that was only the first part of the ritual. To Jewish ears, the claim that the Crucifixion alone was the sacrifice of atonement would have sounded like saying that the sacrifice had been slain on the altar and no more.

What about the next step of the ritual? The high priest was to take the blood of the sacrifice and ascend the steps of the temple—to enter into the sanctuary of the Lord surrounded by billowing clouds of incense (Lev. 16:11–13).

The high priest would step up into that cloud, vanishing from the sight of the watching throngs in the temple courts, and then proceed into the Holy of Holies. There, in the presence of God, the high priest would present the blood of the sacrifice, completing the ritual of atonement and interceding for the people. Then he would emerge, coming back down through the cloud of incense in the same way the crowds had seen him leave, bearing the assurance of salvation back to the people of God.

This is precisely what the book of Hebrews says happened in Jesus’ heavenly ascent. Hebrews 6–10 paints a picture of the scene enacted when Jesus made his entrance into the presence of God, drawing on Day of Atonement imagery to portray Jesus as both the offering and the offerer. While the Holy of Holies was merely an earthly representation of the heavenly reality, Jesus enters the heart of that reality—into the very presence of the Father.

The theological implication here is that the Ascension was the next necessary step in the ritual after the Cross. This does not imply any insufficiency in what Jesus did in his saving work on the Cross—only that this completed sacrifice was always intended to be followed by another step in the process, which was bearing his sacrifice into the true Holy of Holies.

It’s not just Hebrews that paints this picture. If you know what you’re looking for, you can see priestly symmetries in most of the portrayals of the Ascension. The Ascension is preceded by a period of 40 days (Acts 1:3), just like the Day of Atonement in rabbinical Jewish tradition.

Before his ascent, Jesus lifts his hands to bless his disciples, and then goes up into the presence of God (Luke 24:50–51)—which is the same set of actions Aaron performed before entering the tabernacle to complete the first great ritual of sacrifice (Lev. 9:22–23).

Special mention is made of the cloud into which Jesus vanishes (Acts 1:9), which echoes both Daniel’s prophecy of the Son of Man and the visual imagery in the Day of Atonement. If Jesus was the Great High Priest presenting a sacrifice in the heavenly tabernacle, he would have to ascend to perform that very function.

This perspective adds a new layer of meaning to our current period of history. The Day of Atonement ritual wasn’t a matter of just going up into the temple and God’s presence, but also coming back again. The present age of Jesus’ absence, then, is the period of his active priestly service, as he continues to intercede for us in the presence of God the Father.

Likewise, the promised second coming of Jesus is not some future event that stands on its own, but the long-awaited culmination of everything he has already been doing, just as was foreshadowed in the ancient priestly ritual (Heb. 9:24–28). The disappearance-and-return narrative of the Ascension and Second Coming thus ceases to be something odd or surprising. Rather, in the light of Scripture, it is precisely what one would expect the Messiah to do.

For Jesus to be the true messianic king—the prophesied one who comes to defeat humanity’s enemies and returns to claim his throne in the manner described in Daniel 7—then he must ascend. For Jesus to be the Great High Priest, foreshadowed in the rituals of Israel’s temple, he must complete the ritual by bearing his sacrifice into God’s presence.

The Ascension is no mere footnote to the gospel narratives; it is not an awkward absence to be explained away. It is nothing less than the climax of the Messiah’s passion—and the setup for the finale of his great drama of redemption.

Matthew Burden is a PhD candidate in theology and the author of Who We Were Meant to Be and Wings over the Wall. He pastors a church in eastern Maine, where he lives with his wife and three children.

What Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse?

They were right. I was wrong to call sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) a crisis. Crisis is too small a word. It is an apocalypse.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago what I expected from the third-party investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. I said I didn’t expect to be surprised at all. How could I be? I lived through years with that entity. I was the one who called for such an investigation in the first place.

And yet, as I read the report, I found that I could not swipe the screen to the next page because my hands were shaking with rage. That’s because, as dark a view as I had of the SBC Executive Committee, the investigation uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.

The conclusions of the report are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).

And then there is the documented mistreatment by the Executive Committee of a sexual abuse survivor, whose own story of her abuse was altered to make it seem that her abuse was a consensual “affair”—resulting, as the report corroborates, in years of living hell for her.

For years, leaders in the Executive Committee said a database—to prevent sexual predators from quietly moving from one church to another, to a new set of victims—had been thoroughly investigated and found to be legally impossible, given Baptist church autonomy. My mouth fell open when I read documented proof in the report that these very people not only knew how to have a database, they already had one.

Allegations of sexual violence and assault were placed, the report concludes, in a secret file in the SBC Nashville headquarters. It held over 700 cases. Not only was nothing done to stop these predators from continuing their hellish crimes, staff members were reportedly told not to even engage those asking about how to stop their child from being sexually violated by a minister. Rather than a database to protect sexual abuse victims, the report reveals that these leaders had a database to protect themselves.

Indeed, the very ones who rebuked me and others for using the word crisis in reference to Southern Baptist sexual abuse not only knew that there was such a crisis but were quietly documenting it, even as they told those fighting for reform that such crimes rarely happened among “people like us.” When I read the back-and-forth between some of these presidents, high-ranking staff, and their lawyers, I cannot help but wonder what else this can be called but a criminal conspiracy.

The true horror of all of this is not just what has been done, but also how it happened. Two extraordinarily powerful affirmations of everyday Southern Baptists—biblical fidelity and cooperative mission—were used against them.

Those outside the SBC world cannot imagine the power of the mythology of the Café Du Monde—the spot in the French Quarter of New Orleans where, over beignets and coffee, two men, Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, mapped out on a napkin how the convention could restore a commitment to the truth of the Bible and to faithfulness to its confessional documents.

For Southern Baptists of a certain age, this story is the equivalent of the Wittenberg door for Lutherans or Aldersgate Street for Methodists. The convention was saved from liberalism by the courage of these two men who wouldn’t back down, we believed. In fact, I taught this story to my students.

Those two mythical leaders are now disgraced. One was fired after alleged mishandling a rape victim’s report in an institution he led after he was documented making public comments about the physical appearance of teenage girls and his counsel to women physically abused by their husbands. The other is now in civil proceedings about allegations of the rape of young men.

We were told they wanted to conserve the old time religion. What they wanted was to conquer their enemies and to make stained-glass windows honoring themselves—no matter who was hurt along the way.

Who cannot now see the rot in a culture that mobilizes to exile churches that call a woman on staff a “pastor” or that invite a woman to speak from the pulpit on Mother’s Day, but dismisses rape and molestation as “distractions” and efforts to address them as violations of cherished church autonomy? In sectors of today’s SBC, women wearing leggings is a social media crisis; dealing with rape in the church is a distraction.

Most of the people in the pews believed the Bible and wanted to support the leaders who did also. They didn’t know that some would use the truth of the Bible to prop up a lie about themselves.

The second part of the mythology is that of mission. I have said to my own students, to my own children, exactly what was said to me—that the Cooperative Program is the greatest missions-funding strategy in church history. All of us who grew up in Southern Baptist churches revere the missionary pioneer Lottie Moon. (In fact, I have a bronze statue of her head directly across from me as I write this.) Southern Baptist missionaries are some of the most selfless and humble and gifted people I know.

And yet the very good Southern Baptist impulse for missions, for cooperation, is often weaponized in the same way that “grace” or “forgiveness” has been in countless contexts to blame survivors for their own abuse. The report itself documents how arguments were used that “professional victims” and those who stand by them would be a tool of the Devil to “distract” from mission.

Those who called for reform were told doing so might cause some churches to withhold Cooperative Program funding and thus pull missionaries from the field. Those who called out the extent of the problem—most notably Christa Brown and the army of indefatigable survivors who joined that work—were called crazy and malcontents who just wanted to burn everything down. It’s bad enough that these survivors not only endured psychological warfare and legal harassment. But they were also isolated with implications that if they kept focusing on sexual abuse people wouldn’t hear the gospel and would go to hell.

Cooperation is a good and biblical ideal, but cooperation must not be to “protect the base.” Those who have used such phrases know what they meant. They know that if one steps out of line, one will be shunned as a liberal or a Marxist or a feminist. They know that the meanest people will mobilize and that the “good guys” will keep silent. And that’s nothing—nothing—compared to what is endured by sexual abuse victims—including children—who have no “base.”

When my wife and I walked out of the last SBC Executive Committee meeting we would ever attend, she looked at me and said, “I love you, I’m with you to the end, and you can do what you want, but if you’re still a Southern Baptist by summer you’ll be in an interfaith marriage.” This is not a woman given to ultimatums, in fact that was the first one I’d ever heard from her. But she had seen and heard too much. And so had I.

I can’t imagine the rage being experienced right now by those who have survived church sexual abuse. I only know firsthand the rage of one who never expected to say anything but “we” when referring to the Southern Baptist Convention, and can never do so again. I only know firsthand the rage of one who loves the people who first told me about Jesus, but cannot believe that this is what they expected me to do, what they expected me to be. I only know firsthand the rage of one who wonders while reading what happened on the seventh floor of that Southern Baptist building, how many children were raped, how many people were assaulted, how many screams were silenced, while we boasted that no one could reach the world for Jesus like we could.

That’s more than a crisis. It’s even more than just a crime. It’s blasphemy. And anyone who cares about heaven ought to be mad as hell.

What if Satan Hacked Your Social Media?

The hijacking or cloning of personal accounts has been a regular occurrence since the explosion of social media. This most common form of identity theft either uses photos and available personal information to make an account purporting to be the new account of the victim, or obtains access to the person’s actual account via a breached password thereby taking over the legitimate page. Receiving these rogue account friend request and/or direct messages from fake pages are a daily happening. After being made aware of the hack, the victim then enters damage control mode by informing friends that his or her account was hacked and advises to disregard any strange or inappropriate messages.

The reasons for cloning a person’s identity on social media could range anywhere from the use for fraudulent purposes to the mere need of a supposedly legitimate account for other sinister intentions. The potential for embarrassment, humiliation, and personal harm is present for the victim if the messages or photos are sent to the wrong individuals and result in a chain of conversation. Thus, it depends upon the aim of the hacker and his or her character as to how far the identity theft is taken.

What if the devil hacked your Facebook account? Our presence online is seen as an extension of ourselves. What we post or distribute is attributed to us personally and we are judged accordingly by its recipient. Here are 7 consequences that are sure to happen if Satan got ahold of our social media:

1. Satan would ruin your testimony.

Just as Satan cannot take away the believer’s salvation because of the eternal sealing of the Holy Spirit, he cannot steal a person’s actual identity. He can, however, deceive and stain the witness of the believer. If demons have the power to influence a person’s behavior, Satan can certainly mimic his or her social media portrayal. We attempt to secure our online identity by fail-safe passwords, usernames, and encrypted firewalls. Spiritually we must use similar armaments to protect ourselves from deception.

Paul instructed the church in Ephesians 6:10 to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” This “whole armor” is the “belt of truth”, “breastplate of righteousness”, “shoes for [our] feet”, “shield of faith”, “helmet of salvation”, “sword of the spirit”, and fervent prayer. These protections protect the believer from day-to-day unhealthy exposures in the world. Similarly, our online accounts are affected by exposures from detrimental or sinful websites and the free distribution of our private information on them via cookies. Odds are we will not get pornography ads if we have never searched for such material in the past. We must, therefore, protect our reputation by not placing the initial footprints on potentially harmful websites.

2. He would recreate your cyber-life as a book of lies.

Satan draws no lines on his means and severity of evil. In John 8:44, Jesus spoke of the devil as “a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” The devil or the prince of this world is a master manipulator. Sometimes one may wonder if Satan has indeed compromised our smartphones when we mention a good or service in conversation and an ad for said good or service “pops up” on our social media page or browser.

Satan tempts us with the sins in the areas in which we are most susceptible. One of his oldest tricks of deception is to take the goodness of God and create a similar but deceptively evil equivalent for his purposes. Thus, by hijacking our account, he could manipulate the history and searches in such a fashion to bombard us with unwanted and unneeded enticements.

3. Satan would place a wedge of tension in your family.

Social media is a haven for the wiles of the devil. He uses it as a means for the cultivation of sexual exploitation, vanity, and greed in the minds of the irresponsible user. 1 Peter 5:8 tells the believer to always “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” A “sober-minded” Christian is spiritually aware of what he or she posts online and to whom he or she corresponds personally. In John 10:10, Jesus told that “the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill and destroy.” Let’s assume we regularly correspond with a friend of the opposite sex or a reacquainted ex. Imagine the harm if Satan sent said person messages purporting to be from you. It’s a 50/50 proposition that the recipient will be flattered and that your current spouse or significant other will not be. Satan plays this game of spiritual warfare dirty.

Jesus told Simon in Luke 22:31 to “behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Satan would love to masquerade as a believer sending provocative messages to those you have been corresponding with via messenger. Hacking gave Satan the means to send the message, but having the individual on your instant contacts gave him the names. Thus, we have adequate protection by the Holy Spirit who guides our correspondence and connections. Depending on how long it takes to get in front of the hacking incident, your relationships, employment, and standing in the community could be seriously jeopardized.

4. Satan would hinder and separate God’s people.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 wrote the church about his desire to visit them “but Satan hindered us.” One study concluded that an infant today will have spent over eight years of his or her life on social media before age 80.

We have made Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok a daily priority. If our accounts were compromised and had to get the issue resolved before we can return, how much time would we waste attempting to reconcile a useless social media account, fretting over the possibilities, reporting the incident, and creating a new account? Or how much time would be consumed attempting to explain the hack to the offended spouse, friend, pastor, or employer. Further, consider the amount of mental stress resulting from these needless conversations.

5. Satan would have unfettered access to your “open book” life.

The knowledge of your search history, correspondence, and “likes” would be invaluable to Satan. He would know all your worldly desires and “pet sins.” The writer of Hebrews at 12:1 labeled these indiscretions “the sin which doth so easily beset us.”

Sins that we conquered and left at the cross at the time of our salvation are the aspects of our spiritual life that we need to be especially conscientious of. If we had an issue with alcohol or drug addiction, odds are our social media account gives an account of that period in our life. Thus, the world would love to scan your account and see your possible return to this lifestyle. If the devil were to gain access and post similar content, it wouldn’t take long before numerous text messages were sent regarding “Johnny’s off the wagon again.”

6. He would create a seed of unnecessary doubt and insecurity.

Satan’s hacking of our personal accounts would bring forth fear, doubt, and a certain feeling of vulnerability. The necessity of a username and password gives us a feeling of security until we realize the frailty of worldly security.

In 2 Thessalonians, Paul wrote another letter to the early church there following one of the earliest incidents of hacking of a communication means. Commentators suggest that the fear and doubt among the church about missing the “day of the Lord” was caused by a forged letter purported to be written by Paul. He wrote in 2:2, “that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”

7. He would put the “test” in your “testimony.”

The devil has an intense desire to take away the sown word. In Mark 4:15, Jesus wrote, “and these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.”

When we were saved, the word had to be initially sown in our hearts. We are sowing seeds by what we post on our social media accounts whether it be seeds of the world or seeds of the Word by our testimony and faith in Christ. By taking control of our Facebook account, Satan would have the ability to “take away” our words by either deleting or posting content to harm our spiritual reputation. Would our friends immediately think, “she must have been hacked because there is no way she would post that” or consider the posing post as probably legitimate because of the different lives we portray on social media?

Know When Satan Breaches Your Life

It is important to identify or realize the breach. Imagine the harm if the devil has days, months, or years of unfettered access to your social media account life. Just as a virus on our computer infiltrates deeper and deeper with time, sin is a cancer within our spiritual lives. Unless detected and treated, more areas of our spiritual lives will be infected. In 2 Peter 3:14, we are told to “be diligent that ye may be found of him in peach, without spot, and blameless.” Our old pastor used to tell us not to fret or worry about what people say about you unless it’s true. If we don’t log in regularly, we allow such access to grow and infect deeper portions of our life. We must do the same with our spiritual life. Satan can’t take our real identity in Christ, but he can certainly control how others see our life.

Satan always has the intention of harming or hindering God’s people in any way possible. Our heavenly Father, however, can use all Satan’s devices for good and the growth of our spirituality. Our realization and correction of the infiltration allows us to secure our “accounts”. We then become stronger as we can identify possible areas of the account susceptible to an identity breach. We are talking about a social media account, but it also applies to our spiritual lives. Are we allowing Satan to hijack portions of our identity?

Are You Doing Satan’s Job for Him?

Honestly, why would Satan even want to gain control of our social media account? We are already doing his job for him. We voluntarily put our whole lives on the internet for the world to see. We divide our own families and friendships for the sake of petty arguments. In times of weakness, we turn to our past relationships and vices for comfort. In times of vanity, we post pictures of our “lives after dark.” We spend hours a day on it instead of valuable time spent in the Word of God. We can become our worst enemies in destroying our own witnesses.

Fighting Mental Illness with Faith

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 1-in-5 adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million people — experience mental illness in a given year, and 21.4 percent of adolescents age 13-18 will experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their lifetime.

Mental health problems are more common than we think —even in the church. For all of the things churches do well in loving and serving people, there are a few things we need to understand better. For many families dealing with mental illness within the Christian community, finding any kind of support or spiritual guidance can be challenging.

According to Lifeway Research, most Protestant senior pastors (66 percent) seldom speak to their congregation about mental illness.

Because of the way we have ignored mental illness, we are hurting people. We’ve created a stigma, says Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of LifeWay Research.

Here are four truths people with mental illness need the church to know:

1. Mental illness is not a character defect or a spiritual disorder.

It is often common practice in churches to treat mental illness differently than other illnesses. A cancer diagnosis is never accompanied by thoughts or questions of causation, yet somehow we immediately assume there is some underlying defect, or deeper spiritual sin causing an individual’s mental and emotional strain. 

Mental illness doesn’t equate with laziness, weakness, or lack of willpower; nor does it automatically imply a demonic attack or spiritual disorder. Mental illness can result from biological factors, such as genetics, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry. It can also be influenced by life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse as well as by a family history of mental health problems. 

What the church needs to know:
People with mental illness love God just like other Christians. They love to read the Bible and are ardent worshippers. They are ministry leaders, Sunday School teachers, and prayer warriors who believe God’s promises and cling to their faith as a source of strength in the midst of their journey with mental illness. The church can begin to embrace a holistic approach to mental health that doesn’t shame those suffering, but instead encourages individuals to pursue spiritual, emotional, and physical health.

2. People with mental illness don’t just need prayer.

LifeWay Research found that a third of Americans— and nearly half of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians—believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness. There are more than a few anecdotal stories from individuals in the church body who have been discouraged from taking psychotropic medications and/or attending therapy.

Such suggestions trivialize the gravity of suffering many experience and prevent individuals from getting the help they need.

While personal faith (including prayer) is shown to be a powerful component in helping ease symptoms of depression, studies also show that a combination of treatment options including therapy, psychiatric care, spiritual, emotional, and familial support, provides the greatest reduction of symptoms and long-term stability.

We would never encourage someone with cancer to forgo medical treatment in favor of prayer alone, so why would we routinely dismiss treatment for those suffering with mental illness?

What the church needs to know:
By offering shallow, over-simplistic messages, we heap more shame onto what is already an overwhelming and painful experience. Offer compassion to individuals, even when it is difficult to understand what they are going through. Listen, don’t dismiss their stories or their pain. Encourage them to pursue all of their treatment options. Love them right where they are.

3. Mental illness doesn’t reveal a lack faith in God.

Ed Stetzer notes, We can talk about diabetes and Aunt Mable’s lumbago in church—those are seen as medical conditions, but mental illness–that’s somehow seen as a lack of faith.

I’ve heard pastors and teachers tell people with mental illness to, get in the Word for two weeks and their problems will go away. Mental illness has no correlation with levels of faith or spiritual maturity.

Some of the greatest pastors, theologians, and founders of the faith like C.S.Lewis, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther among many others, struggled with depression and a host of other mental health disorders.

Thankfully, Scripture is full of broken, hurting individuals who were passionate in their faith and powerfully used by God to accomplish His purposes. He also uses individuals today who are suffering with physical and emotional illnesses.

What the church needs to know:
People with mental illness are some of the strongest individuals around, spiritually speaking —they’ve had to be. Rather than keep them away from their faith, their struggles have drawn them deeper in their faith. Do not judge them. Honor them. Respect them. Offer kindness to them.

4. People with mental illness don’t need to ‘get fixed’ before they can be used by God.

Many churches today often encourage those with mental illness to ‘get fixed’ before they can teach or volunteer. While it is important to make sure that volunteers are stabilized, for many the underlying message seems to be —getting healed is a prerequisite for turning one’s ‘mess into a message’ or their ‘trial into a testimony.’

In the process, the church as a whole misses out on everyday opportunities to see God use people right where they are, and to see the entire body of Christ strengthened.

I’m glad no one stopped C.S.Lewis from writing or teaching, or Mother Theresa from feeding thousands of children until they got better. 2 Cor 12:8-10 (NIV) says, Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Isn’t this the message we preach from the pulpit?

What the church needs to know:
Those with mental illness are not ‘less-than’ Christians and they don’t need to be hidden away. As long as they are stabilized and do not pose a threat to themselves or others, they are helped immensely from the structure and meaning that serving in ministry can offer. In addition, the church gets to witness the power of a living God working through the lives of everyday, hurting people who passionately pursue God in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Learning To Talk Openly About Mental Health

Churches need to become places where people feel welcomed to talk about mental health.

God wants the body to care for the whole person, and our emotional/mental struggles are a significant part of our individual and collective journeys. What those dealing with mental illness need most from the church is for us to be the hands and feet of Christ, ministering compassion, love and truth to a hurting world in need. 

In Matthew 11:29 (NIV) Jesus says, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus tells us that He is gentle and humble in heart. If we are to be His hands and feet, perhaps Jesus intends that we the church become gentle and humble in dealing with the mentally ill. He doesn’t intend for those in the body to add a heavier burden, but for us to be a safe refuge where the wounded and weary among us can find compassion and grace to strengthen them on their journey. 

We don’t have to cure those struggling with mental health issues. We shouldn’t feel compelled to fix them. Yet we can surely pray for them. We can walk with them. We can offer a meal, a ride, a cup of coffee, or a listening ear to them. Maybe we could babysit for them while they are at their counseling appointments. We in the church body could even begin a conversation about mental health needs that have been hidden in the shadows for far too long.

God loves all of His children. He has a purpose for each and every one —even those with mental illness. Perhaps God wants to use them right where they are to teach the rest of us about perseverance, about courage, about faith. We would do well to learn and to listen.


Lisa Murray is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Jesus girl, and a recovering perfectionist. Her passion is to encourage and empower individuals —whether in their hearts, their marriages, or their faith —to cultivate healing and wholeness that will awaken a heart of peace. Her book, Peace For A Lifetime, is available on Amazon. She writes weekly at LisaMurrayOnline.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Christianity is Surging in Unlikely Country

On the eve of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections last weekend, Resurrection Church of Beirut (RCB) called for a prayer meeting. The short meditation focused on Psalm 147: heal the brokenhearted and sustain the humble—but cast the wicked to the ground.

Mired in economic crisis, many Lebanese blame a corrupt political class.

Three years ago, a massive popular uprising shouted “all of them means all of them” against the traditional sectarian parties. But within a few months, protests fizzled as COVID-19, the Beirut port explosion, and a World Bank-labeled “deliberate” financial depression drove many to despair.

For many, emigration seemed the only answer.

Hikmat Kashouh called out to God.

“Confuse many in the election booths, and encourage others,” prayed the RCB pastor. “Cause them to vote for those you desire.”

One of Lebanon’s largest evangelical churches, only 35 members from the main Baabda campus prayed along with him. The turnout mirrored that of the nation, which initially reported that participation dropped to 4 in 10 eligible voters. Very few expected significant movement in the political map.

“For three years we have cried out to God, reflecting his love as we ministered to everyone regardless of religion,” said Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, also known as the Baptist Society. “And then at the fourth watch of the night, when everyone was losing hope, God said, ‘I am still here.’”

Most evangelicals, he said, supported civil society candidates associated with the uprising. From a total of one member of parliament (MP) in 2018, their number surged this week to 14 in the 128-seat body, which is divided equally between Muslims and Christians.

It represents a “new opportunity,” said Costa.

The ruling political alliance, anchored by the Christian-led Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the “Shiite Duo” of Hezbollah and Amal, lost its legislative majority. While the Muslim component maintained its grip on its 27-seat sect-based share, the FPM fell from 24 to 17 seats as other Sunni and Druze allies also lost ground. Its place of Christian leadership was partially taken by the Lebanese Forces (LF), which rose from 15 to 19 seats.

Voters choose between several often multi-party electoral lists in their district, with candidates distributed according to their sectarian affiliation. A preferential vote can be given to one person on the chosen list, regardless of sect. Candidates appeal to their co-religionists, but allied others can help them.

Christians, however, gave 30 percent more votes to LF than FPM.

Riad Kassis had previously supported one of them.

“For many years, they didn’t live up to their vision,” said the international director of Langham Scholars, a global ministry founded by John Stott. “Sincerity, though important, does not build a nation.”

Refraining from naming his prior allegiance in order to avoid polarizing his ministry, Kassis appreciated their love for Lebanon and stated commitment to reform. Others would be less generous and would label FPM and LF among the corrupt traditional parties.

But required by Lebanon’s arcane system to travel 45 minutes to his village of family origin, Kassis cast his vote for a pro-uprising list of change—yielding a Sunni MP. His victory, and that of civil society representatives elsewhere, he said, was “almost a miracle.”

It is akin to the Exodus, he said, escaping from years of bondage in sectarian rhetoric, mismanagement, and corruption. While they may lose their way a bit before reaching Canaan, he hopes the journey will not take 40 years.

It has already been three decades since the end of the civil war.

Jean Moussa, therefore, had a different biblical comparison.

“Like in the book of Judges, without a king, everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” said the LF liaison to evangelical churches. “These new MPs may be a little like Saul, who could go good or bad.”

Lebanon’s 15-year conflict ended in 1990 with a political settlement that rebalanced the three sect-based centers of power: a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni prime minister, and a Shiite speaker of parliament. The system encourages consensus, but often produces gridlock.

During the 2019 uprising, LF ministers resigned from the cabinet in order to align with the protests. Positioning themselves on the side of change, the party is nonetheless rejected by many of the post-war generation as its head, Samir Geagea, was a militia leader.

But singled out for prison as other warlords divided the political pie, Geagea came out “clean,” said Moussa. In 2016, he made a deal with Michel Aoun, who as head of the army was his fierce Christian opponent during the civil war. But after granting him the presidency to end a two-and-a-half year vacuum, Geagea soured on the partnership as FPM increasingly gravitated toward Hezbollah.

With an Islamic orientation, their name means “Party of God.”

LF stands for secular national sovereignty, said Moussa, while the Shiite militia aligns Lebanon with Iran and Syria. In exchange for electoral support, FPM gives “Christian cover” to Hezbollah’s arsenal of weapons, considered “resistance” against Israeli aggression. LF sees it as a quid pro quo to protect corrupt politicians—and a threat to use against them.

Moussa expects the two ascending forces to form a cohesive parliament bloc, in the “same trench” fighting for political and economic reform. But he is wary that Hezbollah or others may pry them away, as they earlier did with the FPM.

Joe Costa fears an impasse.

“The new parliament will be welcomed by a catastrophe,” said the director of ShiBiFeed, an evangelical outreach to youth. “The economy was stable for a few months before elections, but this is a temporary illusion.”

Still officially pegged to the dollar, the national currency lost 90 percent of its value during the economic crisis. The central bank intervened for several months, but the lira plunged another 30 percent as electoral victors were being announced.

Joblessness has tripled since the crisis began, with 3 in 10 Lebanese now unemployed. Nearly 8 in 10 live below the poverty line, with 36 percent in extreme poverty.

But it may have been despair, paradoxically, that buttressed the fortunes of pro-uprising forces, Costa said. The primary Sunni leader boycotted elections, leaving a void. And while many ordinary citizens stayed home, it was the committed youth who remained dedicated at the polls.

The mindset is changing.

“The underdog mentality has replaced fatalism,” he said. “And instead of leaving, we’re fighting.”

Pleased with the results, he compared the new MPs to Nehemiah. Where the people once laughed, with unity, strategy, prayer, and humility, they can rebuild Lebanon—as the prophet once did for Jerusalem.

It was a position the FPM had in 2005, said Nicolas Haddad. Once an LF supporter, the Lebanese Cru leader flips the political Christian betrayal. The Cedar Revolution ended Syrian occupation, as Aoun and Geagea cooperated. But the latter then joined Sunnis and the Shiite Amal party to squeeze out the FPM, aligning Lebanon with Saudi Arabia.

And then again in 2019.

“The uprising started out honest,” said Haddad. “But the LF jumped on board and turned it against the FPM, while the media joined the chorus.”

It is a “great achievement” they did so well, he added.

Now resident in Florida, Haddad was one of about 130,000 Lebanese voting from the diaspora—more than double the total from four years ago. Well aware of the American concern about Hezbollah, he wants to put the FPM alliance in context.

“Personally, I am not for their weapons, especially after they used them in Syria,” he said of the militia’s intervention on behalf of the regime. “But without them, does our army have the ability to defend us against Israel?”

Israel occupied Lebanon from 1985 to 2000, with a month-long war in 2006. The two nations dispute ownership of offshore natural gas reserves, adding to current tensions.

But FPM is likely to review its alliance, Haddad said. Since 2019 they felt abandoned as Hezbollah hewed more closely to Duo partner Amal, viewed by the Christian party as one of Lebanon’s most corrupt entities.

The approach toward Resistance weapons could be the crucial question facing new MPs—and all Lebanon. Some accuse activists in the pro-uprising movement of being soft on the Shiite militia; Hezbollah accuses them of carrying a US-Israeli agenda.

“They must navigate a very delicate line, said Martin Accad, founder of Action Research Associates (ARA). “It could split their ranks, and the traditional parties know this.”

Accad resigned as chief academic officer of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in late 2020, after the Beirut explosion, to join his life of faith to the public square. ARA worked with emerging political leaders, but also the previous MPs who resigned from the parliament at the time of the uprising. At times called in to arbitrate disputes and facilitate collaboration, Accad said they have good relations with two-thirds of the new opposition MPs, two of whom participated in ARA training workshops.

If his advice is taken, they will not provoke the Party of God.

“The top priority of change MPs must be to build a strong state,” said Accad. “If their primary objective is to disarm Hezbollah, it will reinforce the stalemate and will likely lead to violence.”

The best strategy, however idealistic, is rebuilding Lebanon’s failed institutions, winning the trust of grassroots Shiites. This includes the provision of social justice, Accad said, something which aligns perfectly with civil society movements.

And also, biblical injunction.

“It may be that God brought them here, for this purpose,” said Accad. “This is a unique chance in the history of Lebanon; we need prayer and wisdom not to miss it.”

Hope is high, but elation should be tempered. Sources said with no clear majority, there are no guarantees that polarized politicians can get anything done. This includes the next constitutional steps of electing a new speaker, prime minister, and president—let alone coming up with a plan to rescue the ailing economy.

In a late announcement, Lebanon revised the turnout figures to 50 percent.

But at RCB, Kashouh urged the three dozen faithful—and the many more praying in spirit. Cry out to God in repentance, he said, like the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears. And no matter how corrupt Lebanon’s politicians may still be, remember the unjust judge.

“Even he responded to the pleas of the widow,” said Kashouh. “How much more will God’s heart be moved, when his children pray with persistence.”

Is Alien Life Part of God’s Plan?

A US House of Representatives subcommittee will meet today for the first open congressional hearing on UFOs since 1970. The hearing is in response to a report delivered to Congress last June by the intelligence community and the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force.

That Task Force has since been reconstituted as the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, which exists to “detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in Special Use Airspace and to assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security.”

If you read all that and came away thinking that there are probably better ways our government could be spending their time and resources, well, you’re not alone.

Even the chairman of the House subcommittee holding the hearing, André Carson, confessed “I’ve gotten some chuckles” from others about the meeting. He went on to add, though, that “it’s something I’m passionate about and I think I can take the heat. This may be the very thing that brings Democrats and Republicans together, at least for an hour or two.”

He also argued, on a more serious note, that the hearing was important because “this is an area of high public interest” and “any undue secrecy can serve as an obstacle to solving the mystery, or it could prevent us from finding solutions to potential vulnerabilities.”

Regardless of what you may believe personally about aliens and UFOs, Rep. Carson is right that it’s an area of high public interest.

But if it’s not an area of personal interest to you, why should you still care?

What does the Bible say about alien life?

Let’s start with a basic, but necessary, point of clarification.

If your faith in God feels threatened or shaken by the prospect of life existing outside of our planet, then you should first consider wrestling with why that’s the case.

Nothing in the Bible expressly denies the existence of extraterrestrial life. Neither does anything in the Bible require us to believe it’s out there. Why? Because the Bible is far more concerned with your life and my life here on Earth—and, more specifically, how to live that life in relationship with God—than it is that speculative question.

Satan would love it if we became divided over or obsessed with an issue that, most likely, just doesn’t matter instead of focusing on the things that do.

That said, I do think it’s telling that so many in our culture are fascinated by this subject.

A poll taken last year around the time that the initial report was released found that roughly two-thirds of Americans believe that it’s more likely than not for intelligent life to exist on other planets. One of the most commonly cited reasons is that the universe is just so big that the odds of us being alone seem improbably low.

And that conclusion makes sense, from a certain point of view.

After all, the part of the universe we can see is an estimated 93 billion light-years across and still expanding. Beyond its sheer size, the universe is also filled with countless stars, planets, galaxies, and other cosmological phenomena.

When you couple that information with the fact that there are really only two accepted theories for how life started on Earth—either it evolved naturally or was created—it becomes easy to see why people on either side of that divide would believe there’s simply too much out there for us to be alone.

But what if, rather than starting with what we can observe, we instead start with what God has revealed in the Bible?

Why did God create such an expansive universe?

If, as Genesis 1 describes, God created everything that exists by merely speaking it into existence, then the size of that existence really shouldn’t matter. Whether it was one planet or a million, one sun or a million, it’s not like it was a struggle for him. Nothing in Scripture indicates that he would feel compelled to create life on other planets simply because he created other planets. It’s not like they’re going to waste by just orbiting around in the universe unoccupied.

The argument that intelligent life exists on other planets because the universe is too big for us to be alone is predicated on a mindset that—if the Bible is correct—simply is not necessary to hold.

Rather, what if the reason God created an ever-expanding universe filled with stars, planets, and mysteries we still haven’t even begun to grasp is to point us back to him?

What if that sense we get of feeling like an infinitesimal speck when we look up at the night sky was meant to remind us of our need for the one who holds all that we can see and more in the palm of his hand (Isaiah 40:12)?

And what if our universe was a gift that God intended to remind us of just how much he loves us and how special we are to him?

People have looked to the stars and have been drawn to the divine in most every culture across human history. That is not a coincidence.

So, as our national attention once again shifts to the expanse of space, ask God to help you use that focus to point people back to him and to remind them of his love.

After all, that’s why it’s there.