Propaganda

Propaganda

‘Propaganda’ is an ugly word.   It conjures images of the Third Reich, Tokyo Rose, and the Soviet-era news agency, TASS.   The dictionary defines it as:

Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

As a boy, I pitied the Soviet people –oppressed by their own government and media through a systematic campaign of selective reporting, misinformation, and outright manipulation.   I was glad to live in a free society with a free press where government and media trafficked only in facts.   Propaganda was the tool of tyrants. Or so I thought.

But propaganda has a long and varied place in the history of communication.   Words have power even swords cannot wield.   Men are more easily compelled to yield freedoms and convictions to words, ideas, and slogans than brute force.   Especially when they believe these words, ideas, and slogans are unadulterated with bias or ulterior motives.

We pity those under the thumb of propaganda as we scroll mindlessly through highly curated social media, censored news feeds, Instagram influencers, and clairvoyant popup ads.   We decry media bias and quickly fall in line with whatever our feed feeds us to think.    The hubris that tells us ‘we are invulnerable to propaganda’ is what makes us even more vulnerable.  

What is worse, the more our lives are mediated by our devices, the more propagandized we become.    John Stonestreet recently noted in an interview on The World and Everything In It“we have been catechized by our devices – to react and not think.”   He explains.

Think of how many times a story makes everyone breathlessly angry. And just a few hours or days later, the larger context comes out, either through more video being released, and suddenly realize the entire story is wrong. Or the entire story that you reacted to was wrong. Now, I don’t know any way around that other than have better habits than everybody else. Don’t feel like you have to tweet about something because somebody, you know, says, anybody who doesn’t speak up is complicit. That’s bogus language, based on a society that is addicted to quick takes an outrage instead of the truth. 

Words are powerful.   Ideas have consequences.    Satan’s war against God, against Truth, and against the Church began in the Garden of Eden as a war of words.   As Adam and Eve stood gazing at the forbidden fruit, Satan voices a new possibility.  “Did God really say?”   Perhaps God did not mean it?  Perhaps God cannot be trusted?   Perhaps we must look elsewhere for truth? 

Satan’s tactics have not changed.  He is a liar and the father of lies.  Lying is his native speech.  He is not merely trying to win us to his position or gain our support by his propaganda, he wants us dead.   He hates us because we bear God’s image.   His repeated failure to secure God’s throne has not wearied him.   On the contrary, he is more enraged than ever.  

Revelation 13 unfolds this rage.   Two beasts emerge.  One from the sea and one from the earth.  An unholy Trinity of counterfeits to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit emerge in the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth.   They are poor counterfeits but they lead the world astray to make war against the Church.

The first beast is a wild brute.  He unleashes Satan’s fury by a frontal assault against the church — pursuing, crushing, and destroying.  But Satan also has a more subtle strategy.  A second beast arises from the earth.  He appears as a lamb with two small horns, but speaks with the voice of a dragon.  While he looks gentle, harmless, and trustworthy, his words are anything but.  Through this beast, Satan assaults the Church in the realm of ideas and words, forever working to foster suspicion of God.  

How careful are you to test the spirits of this age?   To view your world, not through your devices, but through the Word of God?   Join us this week as we examine Revelation 13:11-18 and consider the call to resist Satan’s ministry of propaganda.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Luminescence

Luminescence

We can’t resist it.   It draws us without fail.   Light was the first element of creation — the first thing spoken by God into the visible world.   Though sinful men love darkness, we were made for light.   We may scoff at the foolish moth, incapable of resisting it.   But we are the same.   Light draws us.  We can’t resist it.

Light reveals what the darkness conceals.   When we are afraid, we turn on the light.   When we are lost, we look for lights.   When we need safety, we find a well-lighted place.  All life on planet earth depends upon light.   And we are comforted by the fact that with God, even the darkness is light.   We are counseled to walk in the light as He is in the light.   Jesus described himself as the ‘light of the world.’  “If any man follows me,” he said, “he will never walk in darkness.”   And the Bible describes heaven as a place where, “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.”

Light brings life, comfort, clarity, truth.   But it sometimes brings danger as well.   For there are counterfeit lights, lights that are not what they seem.    When someone says they finally see the “light at the end of the tunnel” the pessimist opines, “I hope it is not a train.”   The Bible warns us of counterfeit lights when it tells us that the devil “masquerades as an angel of light.”   Ironically, the name Lucifer means ‘light-bearer.’   But the light he bears brings darkness and death to everyone who approaches.   He is like the deep-sea anglerfish.

The Deep-Sea Anglerfish is a deceiver.  In the deep dark places of the ocean, it attracts both prey and mates with a bioluminescent lure.   Unsuspecting victims are drawn to its light and beauty in a place where darkness makes all else invisible.   Yet this light is not a place of beauty or refuge, but a place of death.   Enormous teeth and a cavernous maw make this ‘Black Sea-devil’ a grotesque and lethal light post.    

Through trickery and deception, they lure and devour their prey.   Like many things in the physical world, the devilfish mirrors the spiritual world.   Satan is like the devilfish.   He appears as an angel of light only to devours us.   He draws us with subtlety and rationale.   Consuming us with his lies.   And when temptation and deceit falter, he tries despair.

The devil, tries repeatedly to overthrow God’s redemptive plan.  He fails at every turn.   Yet his failure never wearies his fury.   Revelation 12:17 warns us of his attacks.

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

Revelation 13 then unfolds what this fury looks like.   Two beasts emerge.  One from the sea and one from the earth.  An unholy Trinity of counterfeits to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit emerge in the persons of the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the Beast from the earth.   They are poor counterfeits indeed, but they lead the world astray and mobilize the cultures to make war against the Church.

In this well-known narrative, the Lord Jesus calls us to endurance and faith.   Conquest belongs to the Church, but it comes at a cost.   Satan’s fury is intense.  His warfare unrelenting.  When we face his rage, it is easy to despair.   Revelation 13 drives this home, but makes it clear that this counterfeit trinity will never conquer.  Martin Luther put it well.

And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed, His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

That Word above all earthly pow’r, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever!

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

We are all afraid of the dark, but sometimes what appears to be light is even darker.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 13:1-10 and unpack God’s comfort for trying times.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Pastoral Faithfulness

Pastoral Faithfulness

The Apostle Paul is often referred to as the greatest missionary in the history of the church.  It is also clear from the Scriptures that Paul was a loving pastor.  There were many churches with whom Paul had a close pastoral relationship, and the church in Thessalonica was one of these churches.  In chapter one of 1 Thessalonians, we see that Paul possessed a gospel thankfulness, and in  chapter 2 we see something of Paul’s gospel faithfulness. 

As Paul proclaimed his message to the Thessalonian Christians, he recognized that he was not ultimately bringing his own words to them, but God’s Word (see verse 13).  Faithfulness to God and His Word drove his ministry to them.  And, as noted in chapter one, this was effective because God’s Word is indeed powerful, and because the Spirit of God worked through the preaching of the Word to awaken the Thessalonians unto the grace and mercy of God.  We see this even more clearly displayed as Paul recounts not only his ministry to them, but also the fruit of that ministry among them.  The Thessalonian Christians had received Paul’s message and lived according to it.

But as is regularly the case with faithful ministry, there were those who sought to oppose the Gospel.  The Gospel message will see many responses—there are those who respond in faith.  There are also those who respond with apathy.  And there are those who respond with hostility.  It is in the context of great opposition to the gospel that Paul writes this letter, to encourage the Thessalonian Christians to remember his faithful ministry.  But again, it is not ultimately because it is his ministry that Paul writes this, but because he comes as an Apostle set apart by God, given a true message from the living God. 

As we consider this context of 1 Thessalonians, consider your own response to the Gospel message.  Consider what role that message plays in your life.  The Bible is the very Word of God.  Have you believed it, and have you seen the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in it?  And do you rest on Him as your eternal hope? 

Join us as this Lord’s Day at 5 at the Arkansas Dream Center located at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.  For the order of service, click here.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash.

Gospel Thankfulness

Gospel Thankfulness

The Apostle Paul was known as a thankful person.  This is undoubtedly due to the fact that he was aware of the grace of God shown to him in Christ Jesus.  He had been a persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ and an enemy of the Gospel, and yet by grace God had opened his eyes and his heart and made him an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s attitude of thankfulness flows through many of his letters and especially his greetings and introductions.  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy send greetings and write, “Grace to you and peace.”  (1 Thessalonians 1:1, English Standard Version)  The grace and peace of which they speak is that which is found in Christ Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the gracious Savior, has given His people peace with God by His work on their behalf.  It is by knowing the Person of Christ who has done this work that the people of God have grace and peace. 

The introduction to the letter goes on to commend the Thessalonians, with Paul noting his thankfulness.  While Paul is thankful for these believers themselves, we may note that the thanks he expresses is ultimately based upon what God has done in the lives of the Thessalonians.  This is a Gospel thankfulness, a thankfulness based on the Good News of Jesus Christ and the ways in which God Himself has transformed these believers.  Paul writes in verse 4,  “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”  Paul is thankful for what God has done.  The Thessalonians are faithful and an encouragement to the Apostle Paul because God has chosen them.  This is the same choosing grace that Paul himself knew well.  As Paul had at one time been opposed to Christ, God chose him and drew him unto himself.  Paul next references the way in which God has specifically saved and worked in  the Thessalonian Christians in verses 5-7, writing, “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,  so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”  When the Thessalonian Christians heard the Gospel preached by Paul and his company, the Lord called them irresistibly to Himself, changing them from the inside out.  Paul rejoices at their conversion that God wrought and also at their continued growth in grace. 

Are we marked by Gospel thankfulness?  Are we thankful for the work God has done in our lives and also in the lives of fellow believers?  Do we long, as did Paul, to see the lost converted? 

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.  For the order of service, click here.

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash.