Issue #79

Thank You Your Majesty, Take Time to Be Unproductive, How Psalm 10 Guides Our Response to Injustice, and more...

Issue #79
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm / Unsplash

Consider the Culture 🎨

Died: Queen Elizabeth II, British Monarch Who Put Her Trust In God | Dudley Delffs 📃 →

Throughout the course of her unprecedented reign, Queen Elizabeth II spoke frequently about her personal Christian faith. Delivering her first Christmas Address in 1952, a tradition started by her grandfather, King George V, the Queen requested prayer for her upcoming coronation.

“I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day,” she said, “to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.”

Elizabeth was quite a private person, but one thing that shined through was her faith in God. By all accounts, it was a deep and genuine faith.

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Thank You, Your Majesty | Carl Laferton 📃 →

In her 70-year reign, Her Majesty only wrote one foreword. The book was published by the Bible Society for her 90th birthday celebrations in 2016, and it was titled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves 📚 (Affiliate Link).

It’s unlikely any eulogy will sum her up better than the title of that book. Though she was herself a queen, Her Majesty always knew she had a sovereign and that he loved her, died for her, had forgiven her, and now called her to live a life of loving service in response. She may have been a queen, but she saw herself first and foremost as the subject of the King.

What can we learn from her example?

She followed that example. In our era, when duty has fallen out of fashion and “being true to yourself” has become the lodestar for a generation, she marched resolutely to a different beat. Hers was a life of service, not self-actualisation.

she showed us a life of dutiful service in the interest of others, one that treats each person with dignity regardless of status. In that, she gave us a glimpse of the One who left the riches of heaven and made himself nothing, being born in the form of a servant and giving all he had to serve his people.

That challenges me to think of who I can serve today.

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Church History Corner ⛪️

The Two Men Who Invented the Science vs. Faith Conflict | Tim O’Neill, Dave Hutchings, James Ungureanu, and Justin Brierley 📽 →

It’s commonly understood that science and religious faith are in conflict. Many non-believers will say something like, “I don’t believe in God, I believe in science.”

But many of the great scientists of the last 300 years were Christians, so where did this idea come from? Two theists and an atheist discuss the "science and faith" conflict and the history behind that claim. All three agree that historically, Christianity and science have worked in harmony, and all three want to change the cultural idea among skeptics and Christians alike that they are not.

For More:

Read and Reflect 📖

The Lord’s Prayer: Antidote to Expressive Individualism | Brian Rosner 📃 →

In the last issue 🌳 I linked to an article called 6 Ways Christians Can Respond to Our Strange New World 📃 by Carl Trueman. In that article (and his book), Trueman argues that a concept called “Expressive Individualism” he thinks explains many of the changes to American culture (and the American church) in the last few decades. I’d recommend reading my summary and thoughts on that article there. Otherwise, Rosner will summarize even more quickly

This article by Brian Rosner argues that the Lord’s Prayer is a powerful tool to fight the culture’s expressive individualism in our lives and churches.

But strands of expressive individualism can creep into the prayers of even the most devout. There’s nothing wrong with praying for peace and safety or telling God how we feel—in fact, these are great privileges of prayer—but if these practices characterize most of our prayers, we may be more caught by the spirit of our age than we realize.

Thankfully, the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9–13) provides an antidote to both the overt philosophy of our age and the covert ways it may have snuck into our own hearts. It offers a critique of and substitute for expressive individualism in uncanny and prescient ways.

For More:

Explore the Scriptures 📖

12 Key Tools for Bible Study | Lydia Brownback and Matt Tully 🎧 →

What are some tools that are useful for beginners to get started with studying the Bible? Many of these you probably already have around the house.

For More:

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Take Time to Be Unproductive: How Busyness Can Waste a Life | Kelly M. Kapic 📃 →

This is a difficulty for me, and one that I’ve seen throughout the church.

But is our problem primarily that we are not more productive, or is it that we have allowed unrealistic expectations to distort our vision of faithfulness? While it’s very likely that we could become better organized and more efficient, pursuing those efforts may feed and hide the true problem rather than helping it. What if the heart of our trouble is not time management, but something else? What if the goal of Christian life isn’t merely to get more done? And if that’s true, why do many of us feel a need to fill every moment either with items we can check off a to-do list or with mindless distraction? Binge-watching television and hours spent on social media may be more symptoms than causes of our problems, signs of a deeper malady.

What if God doesn’t expect us to be productive every moment? What if growing comfortable with slowness, with quiet, with not filling every moment can help reconnect us to God, others, and even with our own humanity?

I think it’s a difficulty because our modern culture has created things that are so easy to consume and distract us. Slowness is no longer a part of our DNA. Talking with others is no longer a part of our DNA. Things like offline friendships, dinner parties, reading, and discussing books have been replaced by social media, texting, and Netflix.

But it’s not just unproductive busyness that fills us. Productive busyness without slowness can be near as damaging to our souls in the long term.

recently spoke with a pastor in the Midwest who told me that, when he was in college, he got so excited about the idea that he should “make every minute count” and “redeem the time” that he and his friends mapped out how they could live on four hours of sleep a night; this way, they could “do so much more for Christ.”

Twenty years later, this once strong and zealous servant of Christ was physically, emotionally, psychologically, and relationally broken. His faith, his family, and his ministry were all on the brink of collapse. He certainly wouldn’t trace all of his problems to his early zeal and oversized projects, but he does see how that pattern distorted his life, increasing his expectations not just for how much he should do in a day, but for how much he should accomplish in his life. We may easily dismiss his crazy idea of four hours of sleep per night, but my guess is many of us are living with similar assumptions, and it is hurting us.

One sign that unhealthy expectations are running our lives is a constant background frustration in our souls, hiding behind our smiling faces. We are exhausted by the kids, by the church, by the spouse, by the endless demands. We have no margin in life, so when someone says the wrong thing, or a child doesn’t move fast enough, or a neighbor needs help, this anger tries to burst through our kindness. People are keeping us from doing what we need to do! Efficiency and productivity have replaced love as our highest value.

If this resonates with you, read Kapic’s wonderful article in full.

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Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

How Psalm 10 Guides Our Response to Injustice | Amanda Duvall 📃 →

I am asking a lot of my own why questions these days. Why does our world feel like it is getting more dangerous, more confusing, more uncertain? Why can’t we go to our local parade without fear? Or send our kids to school, or go to the grocery store without worrying for basic safety? Why does it seem the most vulnerable among us keep paying the highest price? Why do our leaders— the very people charged with doing the right thing in the face of injustice— seem to lack fortitude?

Beneath all of those questions, my heart is asking along with the psalmist, “Why, Lord, are you far away when we need you most?” But I am so grateful to see my concerns included in Scripture. And in this way, we see God is not distant. He speaks to us right here in Psalm 10, right into the real pain of our lives, meeting us in the tension of how to live in a world not as it should be. We learn several things from this passage about how to face injustice.

Before we go further, I recommend going and reading the entirety of Psalm 10—it’s too long to reproduce here. It’s a great Psalm that deserves study and prayer.

1. How We Pray
The author gives us a lesson in how we pray for justice. He first spends nine verses detailing how a wicked man exploits the vulnerable for his own gain and laments the way evil seems to operate with impunity. But then, the author turns to God and says, “Arise, O Lord. Oh, God, lift up your hand” (v. 12).

What a request! The directness makes me uncomfortable. But should it?

In verse 14, the psalmist writes that God not only sees the injustice, but takes it into his own hands. Stop there for a second. This image contradicts every fear we could ever have that God is indifferent to human suffering. He cares, enough to take it into his hands and deal with it himself. What better evidence do we have for this claim than Christ?
2. How We Care
When we encounter injustice— on the news, on social media, or in our very neighborhood, what is our heart’s response? I confess that mine often cycles between detachment and vengeance. But we lose the ability to engage faithfully in justice work when we spiral into despair or rage. Psalm 10 offers a different model.

First, what stands out most in this entire passage is the heart of God for the helpless. His relationship with the vulnerable is beautiful. The wicked brag that God doesn’t care about their pain, but Psalm 10 affirms the truth: ‘you do see’. (v 14) God hears the cries of the afflicted, and he does not forget them.

Do we believe that our God is the God who sees? That he is not indifferent, even when it feels like he is? Do we maintain the same heart for the hurting as Christ’s hands and feet on earth?

3. How We Hope
Then, near the end, comes a change in verse 16. The psalmist breaks from speaking to God and makes a statement about God. “The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.” This is the truth claim on which everything else depends. All the power players of his day, and of ours— they are actually waning.

Those who exploit others for their benefit will not win. They cannot win. No matter what is seen in this life, we live in a world of ultimate justice.

The psalmist ends here, not with a declaration of vengeance or even resolution, but a promise. He writes of a future time when “the man who is of the earth will strike terror no more” (v 18). What a triumphant declaration! And it points forward to a promised time when Jesus will establish his rule of justice and righteousness and reign forevermore (Isa. 9:6-7).

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

“Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
— Matthew 12:48b–50 (CSB)

Joel Fischer