so...today is the first day of Lent. Observing Lent wasn't on my radar at all this year, but I have observed it in the past.

First...what is Lent?

From Michael Horton at White Horse Inn:

I believe an evangelical celebration of Lent affords an opportunity to reinforce rather than undermine the significance of Christ’s person and work.

Lent is a 40-day preparation for the observance of Christ’s passion and Easter. It gives us an annual opportunity to trace the history of redemption. We learn that the number 40 is associated with a trial, a preparation, even an ordeal that leads either to blessing or curse in the stories of Noah, Moses, and Jonah. Recapitulating Adam’s trial and Israel’s 40 years of testing, Jesus was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days, fasting instead of following Adam and the wilderness generation of Israelites in demanding the food they craved (Matt. 4:1-4). Resisting Satan’s temptation with God’s Word, Jesus was the Last Adam and Faithful Israel who fulfilled the trial not only for himself but also for us, as well as bearing the curse for our covenant-breaking.

Reformed folks take both sides of this. Not "you must or you must not: - but rather, "this is a matter of Christian liberty vs. no, it's not"

But...why do Lent?

I think that some observe Lent because their walk is lacking in other ways. When I was in a church that left me feeling dry and foundering, I observed Lent. I spent forty days focusing my devotional time on the coming Good Friday and Resurrection Day - it was time well spent. It took my eye off of what I was not getting in church, and what I already had In Christ.

Tim Challies has about the best take:

To those who plan to observe Lent, I wish you well and trust you’ll benefit from a time you’ve chosen to make special between you and the Lord. To those who plan not to observe Lent, I wish you well also and trust you’ll benefit equally from the so-ordinary, so-wonderful means of grace that are available to all of us all the time.

How do we harmonize praying curses with "love your enemy". How can we repay evil with good, yet pray that God's enemies "melt away like a slug on the sidewalk"?

Anathema

Anathema means "cursed" - but there's more than that. It carries a meaning of "laid before God."

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said,

Luke 21:5

As with all the imprecations, this is not about us carrying out personal revenge. This is about laying the enemies of God at His feet, praying that the God of the Covenant will carry out HIS justice on behalf of His people.

Follow the Leaders and pray the curses

When we look for those praying curses on the enemies of God...and God's people, we find Paul, telling Timothy about Alexander, "May God repay him on that day."

We find the perfect saints of God who have been martyred, crying out

“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Rev. 6:10

If the perfected saints in heaven pray curses against those who murder God's people pray for His perfect justice, we should be free to follow their example.

But Love!

Jesus said to love our enemies. Paul said to overcome evil with good and to try to be at peace with all men.

However, what is in view here is not praying for God's justice. We are not to pray curses in order to further our own sinful and malicious maltreatment of those who have wronged us.

Taking our own personal revenge is always wrong (and that brings us to the end of this post...

Read the Rest of the Imprecation Series here.

A "different norm"

In the Uighur Province of China, the communist government is running "reeducation camps", committing genocide against the population, including the Muslim minority in that province.

I'm leading off with this, so that you can keep it in mind as you read.

President Biden says,

"..I am not going to speak out against what he’s doing in Hong Kong, what he’s doing with the Uighurs in western mountains of China and Taiwan...Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow,”

New York Post

Yes, folks, our president sees the systematic rape, torture, and genocide as merely "different norms" and he does not intend to speak out against these heinous actions.

I am back to "how do we DO good and yet pray curses?"

For he did not remember to show kindness,
    but pursued the poor and needy
    and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.

from Psalm 109

Systematic torture and rape

Women are raped in these reeducation camps, not only by guards, but the men in the surrounding areas who pay the guards for the priviledge of raping young girls.

Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, said women were removed from the cells "every night" and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.

So, gang rape is simply a "different norm" so it's okay...according to President Biden.

People who do these things and politicians who publicly refuse to speak against these abuses of image bearers of God...are enemies of God.

Let curses come upon him!

He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
    He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!

from Psalm 109

1,000,000 Uilghurs from the region have been "removed" and some reports say 3,000,000.

He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones!
May it be like a garment that he wraps around him,
like a belt that he puts on every day!

From Psalm 109

May curses soak into his body like water

"The woman took me to the room next to where the other girl had been taken in. They had an electric stick, I didn't know what it was, and it was pushed inside my genital tract, torturing me with an electric shock."

There were "four kinds of electric shock", Sedik said - "the chair, the glove, the helmet, and anal rape with a stick".

O Lord, God of vengeance,
    O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth;
    repay to the proud what they deserve!

The rest of the Imprecation Series is here.

What the world has for Christians

Christians are being persecuted all over the world and here we are

In the last year

  • Over 340 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
  • 4,761 Christians killed for their faith
  • 4,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked
  • 4,277 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned
  • (source: Open Doors USA)

The groundwork is being laid in the United States and here we are.

We've looked at the "Do No Harm Act" and the "Equality Act".

James Coates has been arrested for holding church services in Canada.

The current administration is once again funding Planned Parenthood in the USA and funding abortion in other countries.

Leftist agendas abound and Christians risk their jobs if they speak up.

Kroger, one of the country's largest supermarket chains, is being sued in federal court after two former employees claimed they were wrongfully terminated for refusing to wear an apron with a rainbow symbol.

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/kroger-sued-allegedly-firing-workers-who-refused-wear-rainbow-symbol-n1240252

so here we are.

Imprecations

Is the church of Christ restricted to "love our enemy" and "turn the other cheek"? In other words, is there a way to love our enemies, while crying out for justice?

Can we turn the other cheek, while praying

Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,

Psalm 58:8

We must remember that the imprecations of Scripture are just as inspired as the rest of the words. There are 100 imprecations in the Psalms alone, plus other parts of the Old Testament, and many in the New Testament.

The Imprecatory Psalms are the "war psalms of the Prince of Peace"

God does not view evil in the abstract and the imprecations are the cries of God's people, begging Him to intervene against evil and evil-doers.

Our pastor said, "one of the reasons we are repulsed by these Psalms is because we are not repulsed by evil."

Notes on the Imprecations

  • These Psalms remind us that we are in a spiritual war and praying judgement on the enemies of God is one of our weapons of war.
  • We should pray these Psalms if we love holiness and Biblical justice and hate evil.
  • We cannot remain indifferent to evil - and to politicians who do and promote evil things.

Follow this link for the rest of the series

Here is the link.

Andrew Torba founded Gab in 2016 as a free speech alternative to Facebook:

"We believe that the future of online publishing is decentralized and open," reads a description on its website. "We believe that users of social networks should be able to control their social media experience on their own terms, rather than the terms set down by Big Tech."

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2021/01/11/what-gab-social-network-gaining-popularity-amid-parler-crackdown/6620906002/

About Andrew Torba

Torba is unashamedly Christian and will not do interviews with organizations that are not Christian. (You can listen to the Cross Politic interview with him here, where he explains why). Basically, he doesn't wish to do interviews with those who are hostile to free speech platforms and to Christianity.

Gab was "blamed" for the 2018 synagogue shooting because the shooter had posted on there. The fact that he also posted on Facebook and Twitter was "overlooked" in the race to blame the platform. Torba cooperated with law enforcement agencies and that was also "overlooked". Furthermore, that Gab does not allow calls to or threats of violence was also "overlooked."

The New York Times claimed that the January 6, 2021 riots were organized on that platform. Here's the problem - the Feds say that it was on Twitter and Facebook.

"Big Tech" wants control and they have very deep pockets. Groups that have been cancelled are becoming numerous and Gab is a big target.

Torba's sites have lost their internet provider, are not allowed on the iTunes or Android app stores. They are banned from Visa or Mastercard, and one of the bitcoin companies. PayPal and Stripe have also blocked this group. In other words, Gab has been targeted.

Gab does not sell advertisements (you are not the product) and does not allow calls to violence or pornography on the platform. "Facebook was responsible for 94% of the 69 million child sex abuse images reported by US technology companies last year."

Torba has a grand vision for his companies, including a Christian marketplace, they already have a browser (Dissenter) and more.

Gab News...

See more of the "Free Speech Platforms" series

After listening to an interview with Andrew Torba (Gab) I've decided to do a series on Free Speech platforms.

Check out "Freedom Forum Institute"

The First Amendment protects individuals from government censorship. Social media platforms are private companies, and can censor what people post on their websites as they see fit. But given their growing role in public discourse, it’s important to ask ourselves–what exactly are their censorship policies? How do they compare to each other, and to the First Amendment’s protections?

https://www.freedomforuminstitute.org/first-amendment-center/primers/free-expression-on-social-media/

What is Gab?

The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed to protect the religious freedom citizens from the government. In order for the government to restrict a person from their "free exercise", a law had to pass two tests.

1) there had to be a compelling government interest.

2) the law had to be the least restrictive way to accomplish that interest. The "Do No Harm Act" (expected to be reintroduced in 2021) grants the government more authority to restrict religious liberty.

This bill prohibits the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to specified federal laws or the implementation of such laws. Currently, RFRA prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest when using the least restrictive means.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1450

Who Would This Affect?

This bill would only federally funded entities (for now) but, ANY government funding would be included. Attempts have been made to include any monies granted to parents that is paid to Christian day care facilities.

The Do No Harm Act “would preserve the law’s power to protect religious freedom, but also clarify that it can’t be used to cause harm,” said Maggie Garrett, vice president for public policy for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2021/1/8/22204893/religious-freedom-law-do-no-harm-act-congress-trump-administration-legal-conflict

Here's the thing...whoever is in power gets to define "harm".

Unrestricted government power is the one thing our founding fathers feared. Furthermore, the Constitution was written to restrict the government and the first thing protected was the freedom to exercise religion.

The proposal even says that RFRA should not allow any “party” to discriminate against others, “including persons who do not belong to the religion or adhere to the beliefs of that party.” Think about that. Today, RFRA allows churches or organizations to challenge federal laws or regulations that would force them to hire or include as members persons who oppose their beliefs. The Harris bill would allow the government to make that choice instead.

https://www.heritage.org/religious-liberty/commentary/diluting-the-substance-religious-freedom

Again, right now, a church can hire people who agree with what that church believes and teaches. There has been talk of punishing Bible-believing churches who don't toe the agenda line. Law suits are one way. Removing their non-profit status if they "discriminate" against "name that minority" is another.

The "Do No Harm" act is a step in that direction.

The first article: The Equality Act of 2020 is here.

I was at a work site and picked up a leaflet with the title “(Way More Than) 100 Things Every Religious Liberal Should Know” (note: I first published this in 2013, but as I accumulate series of posts, I'm trying to organize a bit differently)

My first thought was: Why is this church trying to limit the audience? Okay, maybe I read more into that than I need to…but then, the next paragraph...(A list of terms and ideas that every religious liberal should know, to be religiously literate.)

So they iterated twice, that the list is for religious liberals (a discussion for another day.) I’m a long way from liberal, but I’m pretty religiously literate. There are nearly 200 terms on this list and I’m at least passingly familiar with many, if not most of them.

Anyway...if I post once a week from this list, that's more than three years!

1. Sh’ma
2. Yin and Yang
3. Tanakh
4. Trinity
5. 4 Vedas

...continue reading